Last month, new hope arrived in the form of a study that Venus may have been habitable and was home to “liquid water” for 2 to 3 billion years.
Now, that hope has seemingly been dashed, with the water replaced by lava, according to a new study.
The new research, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, suggests that the second planet in the solar system was filled with lava. This comes after they re-examined Venus’ Ovda Regio highlands plateau, which they believe was made up of basaltic lava.
“We know so little about Venus’ surface,” said the study’s co-author, Allan Treiman, in a statement. “If the Ovda Regio highlands are made of basaltic rock as is most of Venus, they were likely squeezed up to their current heights by internal forces, possibly like mountains which result from plate tectonics on Earth.”
Venus has been called Earth’s “evil twin.” (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)
The team found that the flow seen in the Ovda Regio highlands plateau was “not granitic as was expected from its location,” heightening the chances it was made up of basalt rock.
“The high‐altitude region of Ovda Fluctus is continuous with the lower‐elevation portions: the change in radar properties does not represent different flows,” the study’s abstract states. “Outlines of Ovda Fluctus flow lobes have fractal dimensions consistent with basaltic pahoehoe lavas. The margin of Ovda Fluctus is at significantly higher elevation than its center, a characteristic seen in basalt flows on Earth, but not on more silica‐rich flows.”
Skipping to the present day, Venus, which has been called “Earth’s evil twin,” has an extremely harsh climate, with a surface temperature of 864 degrees Fahrenheit.
The new study from Treiman and the other researchers follows one that was presented at the European Planetary Science Congress last month. This study indicated Venus may have had “liquid water” for 2 to 3 billion years until a “dramatic transformation” started happening more than 700 million years ago that completely reshaped the planet and resurfaced approximately 80 percent of it.
Artist’s representation of Venus with water. Credit: NASA
The dramatic transformation led to a mass explosion of carbon dioxide on the planet between 700 million and 750 million years ago, an event researchers say may be linked to the volcanic activity on the planet.
In case you’ve been living under a legal rock, let me inform you that most States and the federal courts require a unanimous 12 person jury to convict someone of a criminal offense. Now, the last couple States that allow super-majority verdicts (10-2) are being brought before the US Supreme Court on claims that a less than unanimous verdict is unconstitutional (specifically, it’s Ramos v. Louisiana). And if you look around, all the talking heads types are fairly confident that the court will take the power of determining jury use away from the States and mandate unanimous jury votes from here on out.
JURY REFORMS IN OTHER COUNTRIES
No matter how much the American legal system has come to cherish this unanimity (while at the same time doing everything it can to de facto eliminate jury trials), this is not a mandated outcome of the constitution as written. As is often the case, we can look to the development of jurisprudence in England in order to see see an equally valid version which could have developed in the United States. In Section 13 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967, later replaced by Section 17 of the Juries Act 1974, England and Wales codified conviction by super-majority. Under this system, the jury has two hours to reach a unanimous verdict under the statute and apparently ten minutes has been added for time to travel back and forth to the jury room. Crown Court Compendium Part I, 21-4 Majority verdicts. If they have not reached a unanimous verdict after two hours at any time thereafter (at the judge’s discretion) they get an instruction from the judge that contains these elements:
(1) They should still, if at all possible, reach a unanimous verdict. (2) If however they are unable to reach a unanimous verdict the time has now come when the court could accept a verdict which is not unanimous but one on which a majority of at least 10 of them agree; that is to say a majority of 10/2 or 11/1. Crown Court Compendium
Or if you prefer to see a version of this delivered (although fictionalized):
I would of course prefer a unanimous verdict, but I’m prepared to accept one upon which at least ten of you are agreed. Kavanagh QC, Season 1 Episode 1, 01:32:05 (here on Amazon)
The entirety of the mentions in the constitution having to do with criminal petit juries are:
Art. III, Sec. 2(3): The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.
Amendment VI: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law.
That in all capital or criminal prosecutions a man has a right to demand the cause and nature of his accusation, to be confronted with the accusers and witnesses, to call for evidence in his favor, and to a speedy trial by an impartial jury of twelve men of his vicinage, without whose unanimous consent he cannot be found guilty; nor can he be compelled to give evidence against himself; that no man be deprived of his liberty except by the law of the land or the judgment of his peers.VDR Section 8.
Of particular interest to this discussion is the fact that Virginia’s requirement “without whose unanimous consent he cannot be found guilty” was passed over in the federal version. We know that when the 6th Amendment was being put together by Congress language requiring unanimity was proposed:
The trial of all crimes . . . shall be by an impartial jury of freeholders of the vicinage, with the requisite of unanimity for conviction . . . 1 Annals of Congress 435 (1789)
Congress chose not to include the language requiring a unanimous verdict.
The strongest argument for the word “jury” including in its definition unanimity is that it was that way under the common law. As with all things common law, the go to place to find this is Blackstone:
UPON theƒe accounts the trial by jury even has been, and I truƒt ever will be, looked upon as the glory of the Engliƒh law. And, if it has ƒo great an advantage over others in regulating civil property, how much muƒt that advantage be heightened, when it is applied to criminal caƒes! But this we muƒt reafer to the enƒuing book of theƒe commentaries: only obƒerving for the preƒent, that it is the moƒt tranƒcendent privilege which any ƒubject can enjoy, or with for, that he cannot be affected either in his property, his liberty, or his perƒon, but by the unanimous conƒent of twelve of his neighbours and equals. 2 Blackstone’s Commentaries Chapter 23: Of the Trial by Jury, p. 379 (Book Three).
Of course, as with all things Blackstone, this is a cherry-picked section which provides support for a favored position. Remember, this is the same book that says:
WHEN the evidence is gone through on bothƒides, the judge in the preƒence of the parties, the counƒel, and all others, ƒums up the whole to the jury; omitting all ƒuperfluous circumƒtances, obƒerving wherein the main queƒtion and principal iƒƒue lies, ƒtating what evidence has been given to fupport is, with ƒuch remarks as he thinks neceƒƒary for their direction, and giving them his opinion in matters of law ariƒing upon that evidence.
I dare a trial judge out there to sum up the evidence only including what she thinks is relevant and to tell the jury what facts she thinks they should concentrate on. You could probably put a stopwatch on how quickly an appellate court would overturn that conviction.
Anyway, Blackstone provides the best legal argument for those wanting to declare that less than unanimous verdicts were unconstitutional from the beginning. Of course, it assumes that this part of the common law was constitutional and neither merely a law nor a part that has been ignored as not fitting in the current American legal framework. Clearly, the parts about “affected . . . in his property” and the twelve person requirement have both been found to be laws, not constitutional guarantees and this shouldn’t bode well for claiming the rest of the statement is something guaranteed. Other than that those arguing unconstitutionality are on even thinner ice. Those more disposed toward legal arguments rely on Blackstone combined with the ex post facto arguments above made by those who couldn’t get Congress to include their proposed condition in the 6th Amendment.
Unfortunately, a potentially powerful argument in favor of the unanimity requirement is that of majority rule. Of course, it’s not the job of the constitution to impose what a majority of states choose upon the minority of states, but let’s be realistic. It’s a powerful influence even when it shouldn’t be. ———————
ARGUMENTS AGAINST CONSTITUTIONALLY REQUIRED UNANIMITY
(1) CONGRESSIONAL CHOICE: The Congress by choosing not to include it in the 6th Amendment set unanimity of jury verdicts solidly in the “law” part of American jurisprudence rather than the “constitution” part. Thus, it falls within the realm of the Congress and the law making bodies of the various states to determine whether a jury verdict should be unanimous because every single body that determines law can change or outright override the common law. (2) CONGRESSIONAL KNOWLEDGE: Furthermore, it was well within the knowledge of a number of the writers of the Constitution and Bill of Rights that there were places in the world where a unanimous jury verdict was not required for conviction. Remember, the man who wrote the Constitution was born in Scotland. In fact, the members of Congress didn’t even have to look overseas to find this legal condition. Connecticut, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and South Carolina during colonial times developed jury systems that did not require unanimous verdicts (see note 45 here). The proposal for a unanimous verdict clause in the Constitution and its rejection did not occur in a vacuum.
(3) NEUTRALITY OF THE STATUTORY SCHEME: There is nothing inherently racist, sexist, or anti-religious about a super-majority verdict. While this case and the news coverage of it have concentrated on the problematic origins of Louisiana’s and Oregon’s rules allowing super-majority verdicts, you’ll notice that none of them comment on the military’s use of majority juries. It doesn’t fit the narrative. Neither does the adoption of super-majority verdicts in many (perhaps most) of the countries which have judicial frameworks that find their roots in the same British common law system as ours sprang from. Our system is the one that’s anachronistic. And, of course, California isn’t exactly known as a hotbed of laws based on racial bigotry and it considered changing to majority verdicts three times from 1980 to 1995. (4) TRYING TO FIX THE WRONG PROBLEM: The problem isn’t really super-majority verdicts. The argument proceeds as such: the requirement that only ten people have to vote for a finding of guilt allows African-American votes on the jury to be silenced. If this is true, the problem isn’t in the allowance of super-majority verdicts; it’s in jury selection.
32.18%of the residents of Louisiana are Black. As such, a twelve person jury should have at least three Black jurors and usually four. That means that a minimum of one or two Black jurors would need to vote for conviction in order to reach the super-majority. If the number of Black jurors on a jury aren’t representative then the problem isn’t the super-majority requirement – it’s the summoning and selection of jurors. Assuming bad intent, the problem is found in the biased creation of the list of potential jurors, or the over-liberal allowance of strikes for cause, or the poor enforcement of Batson. The problem here might be that none of that applies.I can’t find anything – including Ramos’ brief – that states the composition of the jury had two or less Black jurors. I would expect that to be the lead fact pointed to if it were so. It’s also of note that apparently Ramos identifies or at least was identified at trial as “Mexican or Hispanic” (Ramos’ brief) which calls into question whether the number of Black and White jurors is even relevant.
His lawyers had to work with what they had. If they couldn’t demonstrate actual prejudice they were left with an abstract argument that didn’t have any real personal emotional hooks. Obviously, they’ve done a good job to get it this far, but that doesn’t mean they’re right. ———————-
WHY WE ARE HERE
Because the controlling precedent in this area,Apodaca v. Oregon, is weak. It’s one of those 4/4/1 opinions you only see from the Supreme Court (because nobody else could get away with it). 4 justices wanted to make the states have unanimous juries, 4 justices didn’t think the 6th Amendment required unanimity, and Justice Powell struck out on his own deciding that the 6th Amendment required unanimity but that it didn’t apply to the states. As the Supreme Court has imposed more and more of the Amendments on the States through the 14th Amendment Justice Powell’s decision has become more and more tenuous. Back in the day, the justices chose which parts of the constitution applied to the states; now they just impose everything. —————————
I expect this will be a fairly shallow opinion. That doesn’t mean it won’t be between 25 to 40 pages, replete with tons of citations, and filled with repetitive circular reasoning (this is the Supreme Court after all). It simply means that I expect the justices to impose all of their 6th Amendment precedent on the states without a serious consideration of whether the precedent of unanimous juries should stand.
Even were they to consider it, I wouldn’t expect a decision based on solid constitutional grounds. Oh, sure, there’d be lots of legalistic sophistry, but this one is a rule of five situation where the Supreme Court has already sat and would sit as a super-legislature writing laws. It would be decided on the “feels.” Instead of recognizing the Constitution as a framework that allows different possibilities within the limits laid out in the 6th amendment, the Court would again impose the unanimous jury on every state. It would do so because it feels like they ought to. The vast majority of states already do it. Louisiana, the state specifically involved in this case, has changed its law to require unanimous verdicts. Extra-legal, American institutionalized guilt would weigh in. Whatever the legal excuse given, the feels are the real reason this Court would affirm another denial of the power of states to decide their own laws.
WHY IT IS IMPORTANT
America is behind in the jury reform movement. While we mouth words about how sacrosanct the jury is, in reality we are making it more and more like a unicorn: a beautiful creature of myth that is never seen. Drop in on your local felony court on any given day and you’ll almost never see a jury. Juries are heavily disfavored and discouraged to the point that the defendants who demand them are usually irrational or have nothing to lose. They are inconvenient, time consuming, expensive, and take matters out of the hands of legal professionals (the unforgivable sin). They were as well in the countries who have engaged in reforms.
This is not to say that super-majority verdicts would bring back the number of juries seen in previous eras. It’s just a start, but it’s a start that has been adopted almost everywhere with a jury system similar to ours. When you’re the odd man out, it’s not a bad thing to reconsider your position. However, once the Supreme Court has declared that the states no longer have the power to reconsider, this rule will be carved in stone until the end of time unless someone amends the Constitution. Since we now seem to consider the Constitution as Holy Writ (rather than merely foundational, and changeable law) that is highly unlikely.
PGA rookie golfer Maverick McNealy had one of his best rounds of the season at the Houston Open on Sunday, but that was after he received some advice from his girlfriend – LPGA golfer Danielle Kang.
McNealy said after his 7-under 65, that he did well because he “got a talking-to yesterday on the phone.” He said Kang gave him advice after he shot a 73 in the third round of the Houston Open, according to PGATour.com.
“My best round on tour,” McNealy said. “I can build on this.”
Maverick McNealy of the United States plays his shot from the 13th tee during the first round of the Houston Open at the Golf Club of Houston on October 10, 2019 in Humble, Texas. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Kang is no slouch golfer. The 26-year-old has two LPGA Tour wins, including the victory at the Women’s PGA Championship in 2017. She also finished fourth in the U.S. Women’s Open in 2018.
Kang told McNealy to do three things: “Don’t look at the leaderboards,” “be stronger and stricter with the mental scorecards” and “say two good things to himself after every shot.”
The advice helped McNealy sink five consecutive birdies. He finished tied for 17th at the tournament.
He expressed optimism for the rest of the season.
Danielle Kang of Team USA celebrates her putt on the thirteenth green in her match against Carlota Ciganda of Team Europe during the final day singles matches of the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles on September 15, 2019 in Auchterarder, Scotland. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
A UEFA European Championship qualifying soccer match between England and Bulgaria on Monday was marred by racist chant and Nazi salutes in the first half of the blowout.
The match was stopped in the 28th minute because of monkey chants that were aimed toward England’s black players, including defender Tyrone Mings and forward Raheem Sterling. The fans were warned by the stadium’s public announcer that the match would be called off if the chants continued. However, the match was again stopped in the 43rd minute.
Bulgaria fans in the crowd were also seen performing Nazi salutes and holding up shirts with the UEFA logo and words which read “No Respect” — a reference to the European governing body’s “Respect” campaign aimed at curbing racism in the sport.
England manager Gareth Southgate, third left, speaks with Referee Ivan Bebek during the Euro 2020 group A qualifying soccer match between Bulgaria and England, at the Vasil Levski national stadium, in Sofia, Bulgaria, Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
During the second stoppage in play, several Bulgaria fans involved in the chanting had left the stadium.
The FA issued a statement on the issue, saying the English players “were subjected to abhorrent racist chanting.”
“This is not the first time our players have been subjected to this level of abuse and there is no place for this kind of behavior in society, let alone in football,” The FA statement continued.
England fans celebrate during the Euro 2020 group A qualifying soccer match between Bulgaria and England, at the Vasil Levski national stadium, in Sofia, Bulgaria, Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
FA Chairman Greg Clarke added: “I would like to see a very stringent review by UEFA because I know they take racism very seriously. We should join a movement to drive racism out of our game and have zero tolerance for it.”
Bulgaria’s Ivelin Popov appeared to have a heated argument with some of the home fans and asked them to stop the chants, as the rest of the players went to the locker room at half time.
England manager Gareth Southgate, right, speaks with Referee Ivan Bebek during the Euro 2020 group A qualifying soccer match between Bulgaria and England, at the Vasil Levski national stadium, in Sofia, Bulgaria, Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)
On Tuesday, Bulgaria Prime Minister Boyko Borrissov condemned the racist fans and called on soccer federation president Borislav Mihailov to resign.
Biden told ABC News, in an interview that aired on Tuesday, that he never made a mistake “based on some ethical lapse,” but acknowledged he exercised “poor judgment” by getting involved in something he compared to a “swamp.”
EXCLUSIVE: Hunter Biden says he did nothing “improper” while serving on board of Ukrainian gas company, but may have showed “poor judgment” in joining.
Hunter Biden on Sunday announced he was stepping down from his position as a director for Chinese investment company BHR Partners as Trump continues to accuse him and his father of corrupt activity in Ukraine and China.
Trump has urged foreign leaders, including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the Chinese government, to investigate Hunter Biden and Joe Biden, his potential Democratic rival in the 2020 election.
House Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry into the president after a whistleblower complaint alleged he repeatedly pressured Zelensky and may have withheld U.S. military aid as leverage.
Trump claims Joe Biden, as vice president, called for the removal of a notoriously corrupt prosecutor in Ukraine for the purpose of impeding an investigation into Burisma, a Ukranian gas company where Hunter Biden served on the board of directors.
There’s no evidence Joe Biden or Hunter Biden did anything illegal. Hunter Biden told ABC News repeatedly that he never discussed his business dealings in Ukraine and China with his father.
Hunter Biden acknowledged that his last name helped him professionally, and that he likely wouldn’t have been asked to serve on Burisma’s board had he not been the vice president’s son.
“In retrospect, look, I think that it was poor judgment on my part,” he told ABC News of his foreign business deals. “When I look back on it, I know that [I] did nothing wrong at all. However, was it poor judgment to be in the middle of something that is … a swamp in many ways? Yeah.”
He denied Trump’s claim that he raked in $1.5 billion from an investment deal in China, saying it has “no basis in fact in any way.”
In recent weeks, Trump has gone after Hunter Biden during his political rallies and in appearances to reporters, bashing him for avoiding the media while his business dealings have been thrust into the national spotlight.
“Where’s Hunter?” Trump tweeted several times over the last week.
Where’s Hunter? He has totally disappeared! Now looks like he has raided and scammed even more countries! Media is AWOL.
“I’m here,” Hunter Biden told ABC News. “I’m working and living my life.”
Biden said he made a “mistake” in giving a “hook to some very unethical people to act in illegal ways to try to do some harm to my father,” an apparent reference to Trump and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani’s push for foreign leaders to investigate his family.
“Did I do anything improper?” Hunter Biden added. “No, not in any way. Not in any way whatsoever.”
WESTERVILLE, Ohio — Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son, acknowledged in an interview to be broadcast on Tuesday that he probably would not have been named to the board of a foreign company if his last name weren’t Biden, but he rejected suggestions by President Trump that he and his father had engaged in wrongdoing.
“Did I make a mistake? Maybe in the grand scheme of things,” Mr. Biden said in an interview with ABC News, which published excerpts from it on Tuesday morning. “But did I make a mistake based on some ethical lapse? Absolutely not.”
“I don’t think there’s a lot of things that would have happened in my life if my last name wasn’t Biden,” Mr. Biden told Amy Robach of ABC.
Mr. Trump has seized on the younger Mr. Biden’s work in Ukraine and China to launch a series of attacks against the former vice president, a leading Democratic presidential candidate, over the past month. There is no evidence for the president’s claims that Mr. Biden, while in office, improperly intervened to aid his son, but that has not stopped him and other Republicans from raising questions about possible conflicts of interest.
The younger Mr. Biden, who recently resigned from the board of a Chinese investment company, said his service there had become a “distraction, because I have to sit here and answer these questions. That’s why I have committed that I won’t serve on any board or work on any foreign entities when Dad becomes president. That’s the rule I’m going to adhere to.”
Mr. Biden, 49, said he had exercised “poor judgment” by getting involved in a situation that he compared to a “swamp.” But he blamed his father’s opponents, including Mr. Trump, for spreading a “ridiculous conspiracy idea” involving his work.
“I gave a hook to some very unethical people to act in illegal ways to try to do some harm to my father,” he said. “That’s where I made the mistake. So I take full responsibility for that. Did I do anything improper? No, not in any way. Not in any way whatsoever.”
Many Democratic strategists and officials have warned that the issue threatens to become a distraction for the former vice president. Hunter Biden’s interview will be aired just hours before his father is to appear at the fourth presidential primary debate on Tuesday night. There, Mr. Biden will stand at the center of the stage, along with Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who recently surpassed Mr. Biden in several polls.
The scrutiny on Mr. Biden and his family over the past month has injected a degree of risk and uncertainty into his campaign, making it all the more urgent for him to land the kind of consistently fluent, forceful debate performance that has so far eluded him, Democratic operatives and activists said.
A lawyer for Hunter Biden said Sunday in a statement that he planned to leave the board of the Chinese private equity company by the end of October, and that if the elder Mr. Biden were elected president, Hunter Biden would “agree not to serve on boards of, or work on behalf of, foreign-owned companies.”
Mr. Biden had previously served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company, Burisma Holdings, including during a time when his father was running American policy in that country, but he stepped down when the elder Mr. Biden announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination.
While Mr. Biden said he learned of the statement from his son’s lawyers, the move appeared to be the first acknowledgment that Hunter Biden’s overseas business dealings posed a threat to his father’s campaign.
For his part, the elder Mr. Biden on Sunday forcefully defended his son’s integrity and vehemently denied that there were conflicts of interest at play.
Instead, he took several barely veiled swipes at members of the Trump family, promising: “No one in my family will have an office in the White House, will sit in on meetings as if they’re a cabinet member, will in fact have any business relationship with anyone that relates to a foreign corporation or a foreign country.”
On Monday morning, Mr. Biden’s campaign released a plan centered on promoting ethics in government. His campaign and his allies have said that Mr. Biden would both push back forcefully against Mr. Trump and continue to discuss policy matters, like health care, on the debate stage and on the campaign trail.
Katie Glueck reported from Westerville, Ohio, and Stephanie Saul from New York.
A year after candidates of color flourished in Democratic primaries around the country during the midterm elections, the three leading candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination are all white, while Asian American, Black and Latino candidates are trapped in single digits in public polling.
Heading into the fourth presidential debate in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday evening, three of the leading candidates of color find their campaigns in varying degrees of peril. Former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro has suggested he may drop out of the race if he fails to qualify for the fifth debate in Georgia next month. Sen.Cory Booker (D-N.J.) just threatened to quit the contest unless he raised $1.7 million in 10 days. (He succeeded.) And Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who briefly ascended to the race’s top tier during the summer, is rejiggering her campaign with a focus on Iowa and a reworked stump speech.
In 2018, the picture was much different, with Democratic voters across the country eager to cast history-making ballots. Black candidates won gubernatorial primaries in Florida, Georgia and Maryland, and Arizona Democrats nominated a Latino. Democrats elected the first two Native American women to Congress, the first two Muslim women, the first Latina to ever represent Texas, and sent Rep. Lauren Underwood, an African American, to Congress from a district that is 86% white. Overall, 216 candidates for House, Senate or governor were people of color in 2018, which included a42% spikein the number of women of color running for those major offices. (The field for down-ballot contests in 2020 is still developing, but candidates of color could make similar gains this cycle.)
Interviews with voters, campaigns, candidates and operatives nationally and in the early primary states indicate there is no single cause for the struggles of the candidates of color. Many of the factors keeping them behind the three leading candidates in polling also affect white candidates who have failed to break into the race’s top tier. But the race’s focus on electability, the structure of the early nominating contests and differences in how the media treat candidates of color compared with white candidates are making things even more difficult.
The Electability Conversation
Scott Olson via Getty Images A poster advertises a Kamala Harris campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa. Harris has reworked her stump speech, which now includes a section asking voters to believe she can win the state’s crucial caucuses.
Democratic voters, in poll after poll and conversation after conversation, have indicated their priority when selecting a nominee in 2020 is someone who can beat Donald Trump. There’s plenty of reasons to think voters and pundits are bad at evaluating which candidates stand the best chance of defeating Trump, but that isn’t stopping the conversation.
“The conversation has been ‘Hmm, I don’t know if America is ready to elect a Black woman president of the United States,’” Harris told a crowd of about 50 at a block party in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday. “It’s been a conversation, ’Oh, I can see it, but I don’t know if my neighbors are ready. Maybe it’s not her turn, maybe it’s not her time, maybe it might be too hard. We got to play it safe. … Maybe we can’t take that bet.’”
The riff is a new one for Harris ― she also mentions her undefeated record in elections and her work to persuade an Iowa caucus-goer about Barack Obama’s electability in 2008 ― and it shows how she still needs to convince a broad swath of the electorate that she can win.
Booker, similarly, has argued that turning out younger and African American voters is as important as winning over the much-ballyhooed white working class when it comes to defeating Trump.
Not everyone is convinced electability is what’s holding back Booker, Harris and Castro. Adrianne Shropshire, the executive director of BlackPAC, which works to turn out Black voters, said Obama’s wins in 2008 and 2012 had largely quieted concerns about whether race was a barrier to winning the country. And Warren, who faced more concerns than any other candidate about her ability to beat Trump in the first half of the year, has managed to persuade voters.
But Ross Wilburn, an Iowa state representative who has endorsed Harris, said the constant barrage of news from Trump’s White House and the president’s willingness to engage in out-and-out racist rhetoric have made voters more cautious.
“Because of what President Trump is doing, and the hate he spews, and the chaos that he’s creating to divert our attention from illegal acts, people get cautious,” he said after Harris’ block party. “They want to go with the familiar. Part of her message is: ‘We can believe. We’ve believed before.’”
Mike Blake / Reuters Joe Biden and Julian Castro talk after the Democratic debate on Sept. 12 in Houston, where the pair clashed over health care.
The campaigns have also occasionally found themselves trapped in unfriendly media dynamics and dealing with a political press corps that still has a long way to go on the diversity front. Several operatives pointed to Castro’s showdown with former Vice President Joe Biden at the most recent debate. The first person voters heard from after the debate ended? It was former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who served with Biden in the Obama administration and criticized Castro for challenging Biden.
The post-debate pundits “overwhelmingly tend to be older, white and more moderate or conservative voices, which is absolutely crazy in a primary with this many diverse candidates, where the diversity of our base is going to be what propels us to victory,” said one operative working for a candidate of color, who requested anonymity to freely critique media coverage of the race.
All the candidates of color have also faced another trap: They’re expected to be both representatives of their race on the national stage while also appealing to the broader electorate. No small amount of coverage of businessman Andrew Yang’s campaign has focused on how Asian American voters are reacting to his candidacy. Coverage of Castro has focused on his bold immigration policy. But if his campaign had released a more by-the-numbers plan, the media likely would’ve zeroed in on that and questioned why he wasn’t more aggressive. Similarly, much of the coverage of Harris and Booker has focused on their criminal justice reform plans and records.
“If you don’t talk about it, it’s ‘why aren’t you talking about this when it impacts people who look like you?’ But if they do talk about it, it’s ‘She’s just going to be the president of Black people,’” Shropshire noted, while praising the candidates for unveiling expansive platforms regardless. “But they’ve done a good job managing it. None of these people are single-issue candidates.”
Harris and Booker have faced another problem. Both are running as candidates trying to find a sweet spot between progressives and moderates, neither embracing policies as liberal as those of Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), nor bashing those policies and tacking to the center in the style of Biden. That means they’re occasionally minimized or left out of stories about the race’s central ongoing narrative: the ideological clash within the Democratic Party.
“They just really haven’t defined their base yet,” Yvette Simpson, the president of the left-leaning group Democracy for America, said of Booker and Harris. “Biden is sucking all the air out of the room for anyone who’s not a pure progressive, while Sanders and Warren are winning over the votes of progressives.”
And generally the candidates’ lower standings in the polls mean they get less media attention. Another operative working for the campaign of a candidate of color complained about struggling to get coverage of major policy rollouts and campaign speeches, “while CNN and MSNBC cover Joe Biden eating an ice cream cone.”
The Inevitability Of Biden And Sanders
Mike Blake / Reuters Former Vice President Joe Biden participates in a televised Los Angeles town hall Thursday on CNN dedicated to LGBTQ issues.
Some of the challenges for Harris, Booker and Castro aren’t totally dissimilar from those facing white candidates like former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) or Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). Biden and Sanders, the 2016 runner-up who changed the Democratic Party, were always going to dominate media attention, early polling and fundraising. Warren’s steady rise has ensured she’s joined that group.
Now the three top candidates are in a self-fulfilling cycle of sorts: They get more media coverage, money and strong poll results than anyone else, helping them get even more money and media attention, which helps them keep their strong position in the polls. Breaking into this virtuous cycle has proved difficult for most of the candidates, except for Warren, Buttigieg and ― for a time over the summer ― Harris.
“There’s the idea of electability, and there’s the idea of anoint-ability,” said the second operative working for a candidate of color. “The media, the [Democratic National Committee], the benchmarks they set, the white candidates were always going to be able to meet them. It’s been a lot harder for candidates of color.”
But the early-state voting order ― Iowa, which is the nation’s fifth-whitest state, votes first; and New Hampshire, the nation’s third-whitest state, votes second ― is part of the problem. Much of the public polling, which influences donors, voters and who makes the debate stage, is focused on these two states. During the time period to qualify via polling for the third debate, only one public poll of Nevada, the most diverse of the four early-voting states, was released.
Still, it’s not unprecedented for Black candidates to triumph in either state. Obama won the 2008 Iowa caucus, and Deidre DeJear ― now Harris’ Iowa campaign chair ― won an upset victory to become the Democratic nominee for secretary of state in 2018.
How Things Could Turn Around
Mario Tama via Getty Images Andrew Yang’s campaign has succeeded in raising his profile and introducing voters to his signature campaign plan: a universal basic income of $1,000 a month.
So far, the lack of a candidate of the color in the top tier has bewildered some Democratic operatives and left some worried about generating sufficient Black and Latino turnout in order to win the nomination. But there is still time for the candidates of color to sprint to the nomination race’s upper ranks. More voters may tune into the race as voting nears, and Tuesday night’s debate stage provides them with another high-profile opportunity.
And if Harris or Booker, in particular, manage to break through, there could be immense political rewards. Black voters in South Carolina and in delegate-rich Super Tuesday states, several operatives noted, may flock to support a viable Black candidate.
“African Americans and voters of color tend to wait until they’re sure you can win,” said Simpson. “It’s a bit of a Catch-22 for these candidates.”
And even if the candidates fail to win, they can still point to personal and historical progress. Castro, little-known nationally before this race, has emerged as a favorite of progressives for his willingness to push the envelope on policy and sharply challenge more moderate Democrats. Few Democratic operatives give the unorthodox campaign of Yang much chance of success, but he’s managed to popularize the idea of a universal basic income and created a mini-movement at his back.
“When I began my career a decade ago, it was unimaginable we might one day have two Black candidates for president,” said Rosy Gonzalez Speers, the executive director of Forward Florida. “I’m excited for our party. It’s only October, and there’s a lot of race left to run, so I wouldn’t count any candidates out yet.”
Amanda Terkel contributed reporting.
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George Nelson Shaw Sr. died at a VA hospital in West Virginia in 2018. His death was ruled a homicide by an Armed Forces medical examiner. It’s one of 10 deaths under investigation by authorities. Jack Gruber, USA TODAY
CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – It was 1:55 a.m., and Felix “Kirk” McDermott was struggling to breathe.
He was cold and clammy. A doctor called to his bedside at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Clarksburg, West Virginia, noted white foam oozing from the 82-year-old’s mouth and a crackling sound coming from his lungs. McDermott’s heart was racing; his pupils were pinpoints.
Seemingly out of the blue, the Vietnam veteran’s blood sugar had plummeted dangerously – to one-sixth the level that triggers urgent treatment, medical records show.
That dramatic decline could have been a significant clue, since McDermott was not diabetic. But it was not recognized as such in the early morning hours of April 9, 2018.
It was just one in a string of oversights at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center that risked, and may have cost, other veterans’ lives. Now, those missed opportunities limit the evidence available to prosecutors as they seek to build a criminal case.
“When someone has intention to do harm in these settings, they will take advantage of any loopholes, any opportunities to exploit the system,” said Elizabeth Yardley, a criminology professor at Birmingham City University in England who has studied nurses convicted of murder. “It can be an investigative nightmare.”
Hospital spokesman Wesley Walls said officials notified authorities “immediately upon discovering these serious allegations” and put “safeguards in place to ensure the safety of each and every one of our patients.” The person has been removed from patient care.
Events before and after McDermott’s death suggest numerous lapses in medical diligence.
Nurses quickly began treating his symptoms, giving him glucose. But medical records do not indicate that anyone ordered a blood test that could have detected the unprescribed insulin investigators suspect coursed through his veins, killing him.
After he died, no one at the hospital ordered an autopsy despite the mysterious drop in blood sugar.
Insulin on the ward wasn’t adequately tracked, so there was no easy way to tell whether any was missing that night, employees said. In fact, they said, insulin was routinely left unsecured, violating the hospital’s own policies. Complicating matters further, Unit 3A had no video surveillance to document the movement of its insulin – or its employees.
McDermott was the second of three men to die under similar circumstances over three days. Yet no one tipped off authorities that something was amiss for two and a half months, even as the death toll continued to climb, on the same ward, in the same way.
High-risk insulin left out, violating policy
Insulin saves lives by keeping blood sugar in check, whether produced naturally in our bodies or administered, as with diabetics. But too much can be deadly.
Symptoms of overdose include cold sweats and a fast heartbeat, as well as confusion and loss of consciousness.
McDermott suffered from dementia, so confusion might have been hard to diagnose. But his heart was racing and, when his daughter arrived at his bedside before dawn, she found him drifting in and out of consciousness.
He was the only patient in a room near the end of a hallway, on the third-floor medical surgical unit known as 3A.
For four hours, McDermott’s blood sugar fluctuated, out of control. Nursing staff checked it every 15 minutes, his records show. When they gave him glucose, it shot up, then tanked again.
“You had like a couple minutes that he’d talk to you, then he’d be back like he was sleeping,” his daughter, Melanie Proctor, recalled. “Sometimes you could give his arm a shake, or, you know, ‘Hey dad, are you going to talk to us?’ and sometimes he would and other times, he wouldn’t.”
VA Inspector General Michael Missal has said his office is working with the FBI to investigate potential wrongdoing resulting in patient deaths at the hospital. His office declined to provide any details, as have the FBI and Department of Justice, saying they want to protect the integrity of the investigation.
Family members interviewed by investigators said they were told a person of interest may have been responsible for injecting the insulin that killed as many as 10 patients on Unit 3A, a scope confirmed by someone familiar with the investigation. The deaths under investigation span the last half of 2017 through July 2018.
“These guys were dying the exact same way, one after another,” said personal injury attorney Tony O’Dell. “It’s inconceivable that the hospital staff wouldn’t recognize this pattern and prevent the next one.”
But pinpointing where the insulin came from will be challenging.
The Joint Commission, which accredits a majority of hospitals across the country – including the more than 150 VAs that treat about 9 million veterans annually – flagged insulin nearly 20 years ago as a “high-alert” medication, one of five with the “highest risk of causing injury when misused.” The commission requires hospitals to manage the medications safely.
The agency lets each hospital create its own policies, so practices vary widely.
At the VA hospital in Clarksburg, policies dating to 2015 list insulin among high-risk medications that “must be stored in a locked area.” A memo signed by hospital director Glenn Snider on Feb. 10, 2018, directs that “all drugs stored in the ward and clinic areas will be kept locked in medication carts, cabinets or medication rooms.”
Yet on Unit 3A, insulin routinely was left unsecured on hallway medication carts, according to two hospital employees who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. One of them offered details: Insulin was left on top of the carts, the carts weren’t locked or the locks weren’t working.
Walls, the hospital spokesman, said it is not accurate that insulin was routinely left unsecured in violation of hospital policy. Insulin, he added, can be purchased at drug stores without a prescription.
“Also, it’s important to note that regulations and protocols can only do so much to protect against criminal activity,” Walls said.
Since the flurry of deaths last year, the Clarksburg VA has improved its insulin monitoring. A policy updated in September requires that two people be present when insulin is retrieved from locked medication cabinets, according to copies of internal directives obtained by USA TODAY.
Another, governing operation of medication carts, was issued April 2 and signed by Paul Carter, the hospital’s associate director for patient care services. It said nursing staff would be issued six-digit PIN codes for the carts.
“Once the medication(s) has been retrieved,” the policy warns, “you MUST ensure all drawers are closed and the medication cart is locked.”
Amid cluster of deaths, failure to detect a pattern
As McDermott’s body lay lifeless after the hours-long struggle to save him, staff placed a frame on his gurney and draped an American flag on top.
The hospital chaplain was summoned to say a prayer. A recording of taps played as workers slowly rolled the veteran away. Nursing staff and others stopped what they were doing. Some stood at attention, others offered their thoughts on the deceased.
“Anybody that had dealt with him that night … said something, you know, ‘I’m sorry for your loss,’ ” recalled Proctor, McDermott’s daughter. “I can remember one of them saying, ‘Your dad had one heck of a sense of humor.’ ”
The flag tradition is known as a “final salute.” It played out the same way the next day for George Nelson Shaw Sr., 81, an Air Force veteran and avid bowler, who also had suffered a bout of acute low blood sugar.
The VA follows many similar traditions. And it is bound by thousands of regulations, including strict protocols to avoid patterns of failure.
When a major incident causes a patient harm, hospital leaders are required to file a report in a national database. That information, kept confidential, is gathered to develop lessons for the nationwide health care system.
Such incidents are supposed to be designated “sentinel events.”
More than 1 million of these “root-cause” analyses and accompanying safety reports have been entered into the system since it was established, according to the VA.
At the Clarksburg hospital, the cluster of unexpected patient deaths after acute low-blood sugar episodes apparently triggered no such reporting or inquiry. In addition to Shaw and McDermott, William Alfred Holloway, 96, and Army veteran Archie Edgell, 84, all died within a 16-day period.
Weeks after the last of those deaths, inspectors visited the hospital for a routine care review. They noted the hospital had not designated a single event as sentinel in the prior 32 months.
The inspectors cited a half-dozen serious episodes over that time that they said should have been flagged as possible sentinel events. They said administrators failed to report other major medical problems and to disclose the information to patients and their families.
A month after that visit, in June 2018, a group of Clarksburg VA doctors brought concerns about the deaths to the hospital’s patient safety staff, according to a timeline released by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. The safety staff notified the hospital director, who called VA headquarters in Washington.
The inspector general’s office again sent out inspectors, who arrived at the beginning of July – as the suspected death toll reached 10.
When asked about reporting delays, Walls, the hospital spokesman, said, “VA’s independent inspector general has been investigating this issue for longer than it took (hospital staff) to identify it.” He referred questions about “specific timelines” to investigators.
Missal, the VA inspector general, said federal authorities “have been working with urgency to complete the investigation. The families and the public deserve nothing less.”
Insulin tests came months late, after blood evidence was drained
Proving homicides by insulin injection can be difficult with even the best evidence. At the Clarksburg VA, tests for insulin came months later when bodies were exhumed – after potential blood evidence had been drained and bodies embalmed. One veteran had been cremated.
The doctor called to McDermott’s bedside early on the morning of April 9 had ordered a chest X-ray and a diuretic in case of fluid buildup in his lungs, medical records show. He was placed on a machine to help him breathe.
The doctor ordered blood tests that confirmed McDermott’s sugar and oxygen levels were low. But, according to a copy of the medical records provided to USA TODAY, those tests did not measure insulin or a key amino acid – C-peptide – that specialists said could have detected the unprescribed insulin.
“If people don’t have diabetes, they should do that (test),” said Adrian Vella, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic and author of a literature review on the topic. “You’re supposed to check glucose … and you’re supposed to get an insulin and C-peptide.”
Other specialists said providers may not routinely order such tests if other factors could help explain low blood sugar levels, such as liver problems, infection or other medications.
Washington University School of Medicine professor emeritus Philip Cryer said such factors wouldn’t explain McDermott’s “profound hypoglycemia all of a sudden.”
“You could not explain that absent measurements of insulin and C-peptide,” said Cryer, who co-wrote clinical guidelines for evaluating low-blood sugar disorders. “Ideally, those should have been measured.”
McDermott had been admitted to Unit 3A three days earlier with a fever and cough. He had heart problems along with his dementia. Medical staff diagnosed him with pneumonia from inhaled food.
He had been responding to antibiotics and, the day before his death, a doctor noted in his chart that he was “much more alert and talking with family.” His blood-sugar level was normal – until suddenly it wasn’t.
By 6 a.m., after staff had tried for four hours to stabilize McDermott without success, Proctor and other family members told them to stop medical intervention, to let him go.
When he died three hours later, his daughter said, the family didn’t request an autopsy because “we thought he had passed on his own, natural causes.”
Possible autopsy criteria itemized in McDermott’s medical record include “unexpected or unexplained” death “when clinical course seemed to be improving.” Staff did not indicate that he met that criteria.
Even if the family had asked for an autopsy, it’s unclear whether an examination at the hospital would have revealed anything untoward. When Shaw passed away the next day, a hospital autopsy requested by his family concluded he had died from heart failure.
McDermott’s remains were exhumed six months after his death, in October 2018, and sent to Dover Air Force Base for an autopsy. An armed forces medical examiner identified an injection site in his abdomen that tested positive for insulin.
On Shaw’s body, exhumed and re-autopsied in January, the examiner found four insulin injection sites – two on the left arm, one on the right and another on his right thigh.
Like McDermott, Shaw had no history of diabetes or prescribed insulin. The examiner concluded both men had been killed by insulin injection.
Walls, the hospital spokesman, declined to comment on blood tests and autopsies performed at the hospital, again referring questions to investigators.
Michelle Aurelius, a member of the Autopsy Committee with the College of American Pathologists, said the scope of hospital and medical examiner autopsies differ, even though the methods are similar.
A hospital autopsy typically looks for evidence of disease in a natural death to provide explanations for physicians and families. A forensic autopsy focuses on sudden, unexpected and possibly violent death, with a goal of determining the manner and cause while gathering evidence for law enforcement.
Since insulin needles are tiny, Aurelius said, it “may be very difficult or impossible to find an injection site.”
Howard Robin, a California pathologist, said initial autopsies may detect needle marks, but pathologists “must have a significant level of suspicion to make the diagnosis” of homicide by insulin injection.
Clarksburg spellbound by ‘Twilight Zone’ whodunit
Signs outside the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center clearly state its mission. One notes that the hospital “honors our heroes,” another that “the price of freedom is visible here.”
Inside, there is no indication of the pall cast by the recent headlines. A lobby shop stocks black and gold Steelers gear, women’s shoes and snacks. Medical workers in scrubs counsel a veteran in the emergency room lobby and wish visitors in hallways a good day.
Nearly everywhere else, news of the deaths has gripped the city of Clarksburg since it became public in August when the first legal action, a wrongful death claim seeking $6 million on behalf of McDermott, was filed by Tony O’Dell.
The VA hospital has a huge footprint here. It is among the economically depressed area’s biggest employers, with 1,000 workers, and draws patients from across the region, serving about 70,000 veterans in north central West Virginia and nearby Maryland, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
O’Dell, a partner in a firm in the state capital, also represents other victims’ families in the case. He blames the Clarksburg VA for failures both systemic and pervasive. O’Dell says the hospital breached its duty to warn patients and their families.
“There is simply no excuse whatsoever for these deaths to have gone on for so long,” he said. “That is an insult to these veterans’ families, and they should be ashamed.”
At a Panera Bread restaurant on the edge of Clarksburg, Norma Shaw fights back tears as she talks about her husband’s death. She is angry – at the possible assailant, at the hospital, at the VA in general.
“I trusted those people, I did,” she said.
McDermott’s daughter feels the same way.
“I’m still very angry – still very, very angry,” she said.
Veterans who gathered to hear a band on a recent Thursday at the American Legion Post `3 lamented that the case turned a national spotlight on the town, for all the wrong reasons.
“It just breaks our hearts,” said Michael Greaver, the post’s commander. “It’s so bad for morale in our community.”
Behind the bar, Susie Jimenez doled out Budweisers and pull-tab raffle tickets. She sees the outside attention a little differently, saying she hopes the pressure continues until “justice is served for these veterans.”
Jimenez criticized the hospital for not telling the public for 14 months after the investigation was launched, saying, “It shouldn’t have been swept under the rug.”
Walls said investigators instructed the hospital not to share information with anyone outside the inspector general’s office. The hospital told employees not to speak with the news media either. Many doctors, nurses and nursing assistants who worked on 3A at the time of the deaths declined to comment or failed to respond to messages left at their homes.
When a reporter visited a residence listed for the person of interest in public records, a man outside accepted a handwritten note seeking comment, but no one got back in touch.
Speculation about the person ripples through conversations in town these days. USA TODAY is not identifying them because authorities have not named or charged anyone. But locally, pictures of a former hospital employee have been posted and discussed online.
Back at the American Legion hall, Greaver – an Iraq War veteran with 17 years’ active duty in the Army and Navy – said he has received medical care at the hospital for years.
“I walk the halls of that hospital, and there’s family members, friends everywhere,” he said.
“It’s very unfortunate that an Alfred Hitchcock episode – “Twilight Zone” episode – happened here,” he said. “Now everybody’s asking questions, across America.”
Contributing: Ken Alltucker
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