Monday, July 4, 2022
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Monday, July 4, 2022

Milwaukee Press Club 'Excellence in Wisconsin Journalism' 2020 & 2021 Award Winners

Kyle Rittenhouse Trial Day 2: The Prosecution Was a Train Wreck

Joseph Rosenbaum was “stating to Kyle and to Ryan Balch in each other’s presence, ‘If I get either of you two alone, I’m going to kill you”. – Defense attorney Mark Richards during opening statements

The prosecution’s presentation on the second day of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial in Kenosha, Wisconsin, was a train wreck. You wouldn’t know it from the rest of the media, of course, which focused on Rittenhouse yawning or other irrelevancies. How bad was it for the state? So bad that the prosecutor’s opening statement almost made the case for the defense.

Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger, given the unenviable prosecution assignment, made no persuasive argument to counter Rittenhouse’s self-defense claims.

Come to think of it, why isn’t Kenosha County DA Mike Graveley handling what is arguably the biggest trial in Kenosha’s history? Because it’s got “loser” all over it, and always has, which begs the question of why the case was charged in the first place and why it was charged this way (Rittenhouse was charged with first-degree INTENTIONAL homicide in the death of Anthony Huber, who was smacking him with a skateboard, rushing him, and trying to grab his gun). If anything, the prosecution seemed to be making a strong case for only the misdemeanor firearm charge, which could result in a conviction, but they’ve done nothing whatsoever to advance the case for murder.

If the case was overcharged to appease rioters or a political party, it’s almost prosecutorial misconduct.

The defense, in contrast, presented a very strong case for self-defense.

The prosecution’s chances of convicting Rittenhouse on homicide charges always rested on whether they had something new that the public wasn’t privy to. They did; but that new evidence – a grainy infrared photo from a secretive FBI spy plane – crumbled spectacularly, at least for now. In fact, the most compelling new piece of evidence came from the defense: an alleged threat to kill Rittenhouse from the first man he shot, Joseph Rosenbaum – a threat witnessed by a third party, although that third party has a problematic background.

Kyle Rittenhouse Trial Day 2:

Here were the big moments that emerged from day 2 and the opening statements:

Joseph Rosenbaum’s alleged threat to kill

To prove that Rittenhouse was legally justified in using self-defense, the defense must show that he reasonably believed that he, or others, were in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm when he shot Joseph Rosenbaum, Anthony Huber, and Gaige Grosskreutz, on Aug. 25, 2020, after nights of rioting and arson fires.

Rittenhouse trial day 2We already knew, from video and witnesses, that Rosenbaum, a convicted child molester out on bail for domestic violence battery (the jury won’t learn those details), was chasing Rittenhouse into the corner of a car lot parking lot, threw a hospital bag at him, and was reaching for his gun when Rittenhouse shot him. It’s hard to see how that’s not self-defense, and you can see a lot of it on video.

Defense attorney Mark Richards revealed during opening statements that Joseph Rosenbaum was “stating to Kyle and to Ryan Balch in each other’s presence, ‘If I get either of you two alone, I’m going to kill you. Flat out threats to murder.'” That’s a new claim.

That’s a very strong piece of evidence for self-defense, although Balch is surely to be controversial (he’s an Army veteran who has posted Nazi propaganda, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.) It should be noted that Balch, who is allegedly associated with the disturbing boogaloo-boi movement, said that Rittenhouse had no tie to it; no evidence has emerged of Rittenhouse being tied to militia or white supremacist groups before the shootings, and his lawyers previously revealed in court that a detailed analysis of his cell phone revealed as much. Rather, he randomly met up with people he didn’t know who came to Kenosha because they also said they wanted to protect businesses.

But the prosecution offered no counter-argument for a conversation (or argument) Binger said occurred between Rosenbaum and Rittenhouse. He said that no one knows what they said. But, of course, Rittenhouse can tell his account to the jury.

Furthermore, the journalist who was behind Rosenbaum, Richie McGinniss, revealed that Rosenbaum let loose “one of the scariest screams I ever heard, yelling ‘f*** you,” and dove for Kyle Rittenhouse’s gun,” right before he was shot, according to the Richards. That’s another new detail. Even accounting for Balch’s credibility problems, there are so many puzzle pieces that portray Rosenbaum as a threat that day, and day 1 just added more of them.

Since self-defense in the Rosenbaum shooting revolves around whether Rittenhouse reasonably believed that Rosenbaum, who had camouflaged his identity by wrapping his T-shirt around his head, was an imminent threat to him of great bodily harm or death, this alleged threat seems very relevant. But most of the media stories ignored or buried it.

Rittenhouse is likely to testify

Defense attorney Richards told jurors they would hear from Rittenhouse at one point. Since it’s his state of mind at issue, that seems inevitable. How the perhaps immature 18-year-old would fair under cross-examination remains a wildcard in the case.

The weird FBI spy plane video issue

The prosecution made a big deal out of an FBI spy-type plane video that captured figures in infrared during the shooting from up high.

In opening statements, Binger even claimed that Rittenhouse was the person who chased Rosenbaum first before Rosenbaum started chasing Rittenhouse, leading to the shooting. This sounds significant because it’s an attempt to paint Rittenhouse as an aggressor, which could weaken a self-defense argument and was previously unknown. The only thing known before day 1 of the trial was that Rosenbaum is seen on video CHASING RITTENHOUSE.

Except…

First of all, Binger’s infrared Rittenhouse-was-chasing-first argument seemed weak. What matters in determining self-defense is what Rittenhouse’s state of mind was when he opened fire, not minutes before he was chased down by Rosenbaum, who tried to grab his gun.

Rittenhouse trial day 2But… bizarrely… when the prosecutor called FBI agent Brandon Cramin to the stand, the agent’s testimony was cut off before anyone even established who the infrared figures were in the video. This is apparently so top secret that the judge cut off the audio and video to the FBI agent’s testimony. However, a pool report from a journalist in the courtroom gave the following bizarre account (in the pool reporter’s words):

Prosecutors said they were done questioning the FBI agent before they ever identified anyone in the grainy footage or explaining the significance of it to the Rittenhouse case.  They will likely circle back to the video later in the presentation.

The defense then began cross-examination. During cross-examination, when the defense asked for the tail number of the two-man plane, prosecutors objected. The judge then asked the attorneys to step forward for a sidebar on the issue.

The judge then asked jurors to leave the courtroom as they continued to discuss the video taken by the FBI agent in the surveillance plane. Defense lawyer Mark Richards told the judge he believes there was other video taken by the FBI that’s no longer available.

Richards said he was incredulous that the FBI could take video that captured alleged homicides and then got rid of that video.

“That is preposterous,” Richards added. The judge balked when prosecutor Binger told him regarding footage from the plane that “the federal government is not under our control.”

“I beg your pardon,” the judge said, interrupting Binger.

“I don’t get this,” the judge said. “This is a criminal prosecution … if there is going to be cloak and dagger stuff. What’s going on?”

He later said prosecutors should skip the FBI agent for now, call a different witness, and come back to the issue of the plane later.

It’s all bizarre, but it should be mentioned again that Binger made a big deal in opening statements about Rittenhouse supposedly chasing Rosenbaum first (he also said Rosenbaum was “very easy to see in the video,” and then didn’t back it up.

Other weak prosecution arguments

Binger also tried to repeatedly convince the jury that it was somehow relevant that Rittenhouse was the only person who shot and killed anyone in Kenosha.

What he left out and the defense swiftly reminded the jury: Only Rittenhouse was chased by Joseph Rosenbaum.

At any rate, just because you’re the only person who had to use self-defense during a situation doesn’t nullify the legal right to exercise it. It’s really a ridiculous argument.

Binger also made a big deal of the fact that the fourth shot that killed Rosenbaum hit him in the back. But the first shots didn’t; Rosenbaum was chasing Rittenhouse. What matters is whether Rittenhouse reasonably believed he was in danger when he started to fire, not how Rosenbaum was wounded as he fell.

He tried to make a big deal out of Rittenhouse not rendering aid to Rosenbaum, but that’s irrelevant to the self defense argument and, at any rate, other people were rendering aid.

Binger did not dispute key defense points.

In fact, Binger said in his opening statement that Rosenbaum was “running after the defendant.” Binger called it a “foot pursuit.” He said Rosenbaum “closes on the defendant.”

Rosenbaum was armed with a chain that night

We broke this story months ago. The defense wove it into opening statements and also revealed that Rosenbaum was seen lighting arson fires that night (a trailer) and a dumpster.

“He arms himself with a chain and goes up and down Sheridan Road, carrying this rather heavy chain,” Richards, the defense attorney, said of Rosenbaum. He said Rosenbaum “lit the fuse that night.”

Rittenhouse trial day 2He also played a video snippet for the jury of Rosenbaum using a racial slur and getting agitated in a gas station parking lot, telling people to shoot him. That was previously reported also.

The bottom line: We already knew Rosenbaum was an unsavory character, but his actions that night, including new details revealed by the defense, paint him thoroughly as an aggressor. In contrast, the prosecution did nothing to show Rittenhouse doing anything aggressive or violent before the shootings. He was cleaning up graffiti, acting as a medic, carrying a fire extinguisher, and offering to protect a business whose other location burned to the ground. The prosecutor didn’t dispute these things, but he did try to argue that people are more important than property. That’s true, but it also doesn’t nullify a person’s right to self-defense when confronted by an aggressive attacker.

The notion of Rittenhouse as a member of an organized, armed militia evaporated completely

Channel 12 falsely described the testimony of Rittenhouse’s friend, Dominick Black, saying he described Rittenhouse as being part of an armed militia. That’s false. What Black testified and what opening statements revealed was that Rittenhouse had ties to Kenosha (his dad lived there, and he worked in the area as a lifeguard). He was hanging out with a long-time Kenosha friend that day, Black.

They then went to try to protect businesses and help out, and eventually, they randomly ran across other people they didn’t know who had come to Kenosha for the same reason. That’s it.

In contrast, new video shows rioters were destroying vehicles at the gas station as Rittenhouse ran toward it, giving him no clear line of escape from Rosenbaum. Furthermore, another man fired a gun in the air right before Rittenhouse fired (we previously wrote about that man, Joshua Ziminski.)

Grosskreutz wasn’t honest with the police, the defense alleged

The defense attorney said Grosskreutz told police he lost his gun prior to confronting Rittenhouse; however, video and photos show he did have a gun when he confronted Rittenhouse. “He had a gun in his hand,” Richards said. He also told them that he was trying to stop Huber “from beating Kyle” with the skateboard. So was Grosskreutz, the People’s Revolution poster boy with a past prowling accusation, making the case FOR Rittenhouse on self-defense? Interesting.

Rittenhouse trial day 2More critically, even the prosecution admits Grosskreutz was moving toward Rittenhouse when shot and was armed. The prosecution really tried to make no argument for why this shooting was not self-defense. Furthermore, video showed that Grosskreutz approached Rittenhouse another time. That’s new.

Huber touched Rittenhouse’s gun

Rittenhouse trial day 2

Photos show that Huber got a hand on Rittenhouse’s gun. The defense is building a strong case that Huber (and Rosenbaum) were trying to disarm Rittenhouse. While it’s widely known that Huber struck Rittenhouse with a skateboard, it wasn’t as clear before that he actually had a hand on Rittenhouse’s gun, which Richards proved through photographic evidence on day 2.

Rittenhouse was struck by others 

How in peril was Rittenhouse? We learned new information about that. The defense said Rittenhouse was hit by a man’s hand or who had a rock in his hand; he eventually fell to the ground. “These individuals are running up on him,” Richards said. He was then kicked “square in the face” by a man still not identified who is being called “jump kick man.” A second, if that, later, Huber rushed Rittenhouse while Rittenhouse had fallen to the ground and was shot. He was in a very vulnerable position, yet still was able to discern between threats and non-threats (not shooting another man who backed off).

People were shouting things like “beat him up” and “get his ass” right before Rittenhouse shot Huber and Grosskreutz

This is also according to the criminal complaint: People were shouting what sounded like “beat him up” and “Hey, he shot him” and “Get him! Get that dude.” Another man had run toward Rittenhouse, swung at him, and made contact – he knocked his hat off. “Get his ass!” someone shouted.

Self-defense laws

For months, the prosecution bent over backward to get incendiary nonsense in front of the Kyle Rittenhouse jury (he posed with some Proud Boys months AFTER the shootings; the donors to his defense fund should be unmasked, etc.) There’s an obvious reason they’re doing this. The Rittenhouse prosecution was flawed from the start.

Their only hope was to cloud the jury with irrelevant nonsense, but non-nonsense Judge Bruce Schroeder wasn’t having it for months, the media have been invested in the politically biased narrative that the teenage Rittenhouse is a Trump and police-loving, MAGA-style caricature. Never have the media seemed less interested in exploring the presumption of innocence, due process, or the excesses of the court system.

The statute. Self-defense: “The actor may not intentionally use force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm unless the actor reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself.”

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Rittenhouse “need only make ‘some showing’ of self-defense.” If he does, prosecutors have the burden to show beyond a reasonable doubt that his belief  “was either dishonest or unreasonable.” The newspaper noted that in the Anthony Huber death, in which he’s charged with first-degree INTENTIONAL homicide, there’s also the possibility of an imperfect self-defense finding, meaning it was honest but unreasonable. This would reduce that charge to second-degree. A finding of reasonableness would result in acquittal. Jury instructions say, The law of self-defense allows the defendant to threaten or intentionally use force against another only if:

the defendant believed that there was an actual or imminent unlawful interference1
with the defendant’s person; and

the defendant believed that the amount of force the defendant used or threatened to
use was necessary to prevent or terminate the interference; and

the defendant’s beliefs were reasonable.

A belief may be reasonable even though mistaken. In determining whether the defendant’s beliefs were reasonable, the standard is what a person of ordinary intelligence and prudence would have believed in the defendant’s position under the circumstances that existed at the time of the alleged offense. The reasonableness of the defendant’s beliefs must be determined from the standpoint of the defendant at the time of the defendant’s acts and not from the viewpoint of the jury now.”

The jury instructions also say: “A person who engages in unlawful conduct of a type likely to provoke others to attack, and who does provoke an attack, is not allowed to use or threaten force in self-defense against that attack.””So, in Wisconsin, if you provoke an attack, you cannot then claim self-defense unless you truly feel your life is in danger. And even then, you must make every effort to escape the situation and give notice to the other actors that you are abandoning the fight,” Birdsall Law wrote in an analysis of this issue.

However, in addition to running away from Rosenbaum, video also showed Rittenhouse running toward police and trying to surrender with his hands up.

The Kyle Rittenhouse Trial Day 1 can be seen here:

 

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned Maine’s ban on state tuition assistance to students attending religious schools in an education case that could have big implications for schools around the country.

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in Carson v. Makin.

The dispute began when the state of Maine created a tuition assistance program for rural areas without public schools. The program, though, explicitly said that state funds could not be used at religious private schools, only secular schools.

A family sued the state of Maine saying they should be able to use the state funding at a religious school if they desired. They argued the program discriminates against religious schools and violates the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court sided with the challengers to Maine’s law Tuesday.

“Maine’s program cannot survive strict scrutiny,” the court’s ruling says. “A neutral benefit program in which public funds flow to religious organizations through the independent choices of private benefit recipients does not offend the Establishment Clause. Maine’s decision to continue excluding religious schools from its tuition assistance program after Zelman thus promotes stricter separation of church and state than the Federal Constitution requires. But a State’s antiestablishment interest does not justify enactments that exclude some members of the community from an otherwise generally available public benefit because of their religious exercise.”

The high court pointed to Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer, a 2016 ruling where the court sided with a religious school that was denied state grant funding assistance for a playground improvement because it was religious.

“The Department’s policy violated the rights of Trinity Lutheran under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment by denying the Church an otherwise available public benefit on account of its religious status,” the court ruled in that case. “This Court has repeatedly confirmed that denying a generally available benefit solely on account of religious identity imposes a penalty on the free exercise of religion.”

As The Center Square previously reported, critics of Maine’s anti-religious school provision also pointed to Espinoza v. Montana Dept. of Revenue, a Supreme Court case in 2020 in which the high court ruled in favor of a similar Montana program, saying students could receive state funds for education at a religious school.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, and Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the dissent. In the dissent, Breyer said the majority gave too little credence to the establishment clause and too much to the free exercise clause.

“The Court today pays almost no attention to the words in the first Clause while giving almost exclusive attention to the words in the second. The majority also fails to recognize the ‘play in the joints’ between the two Clauses," Breyer wrote.

Religious liberty advocates celebrated the ruling.

“We are thrilled that the Court affirmed once again that religious discrimination will not be tolerated in this country,” said Kelly Shackelford, Liberty Counsel’s president and chief Counsel. “Parents in Maine, and all over the country, can now choose the best education for their kids without fearing retribution from the government. This is a great day for religious liberty in America.”

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Several Republican senators are demanding a hearing saying they received documents from a Department of Homeland Security whistleblower about the agency’s new disinformation governance board that allegedly show DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas misled a Senate committee when he testified about the board last month.

The lawmakers sent a letter this week to Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee asking for a hearing on the issue where Mayorkas could come back for questioning.

“We write to request you convene a hearing with Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas as soon as possible to answer critical questions about apparently misleading testimony before the Committee on May 4 on the Department of Homeland Security Disinformation Governance Board (the Board),” the letter said. “We are deeply concerned that documents recently obtained by Senators Josh Hawley and Chuck Grassley contradict the Secretary’s testimony and public statements about the Board.”

This kerfuffle is the latest in a string of disputes around the board, not the least of which included Nina Jankowicz’ resignation from leading the board after controversial social media videos surfaced.

The Republican senators published the DHS documents online purporting to show documented evidence that Mayorkas misrepresented the purpose of the board.

“Responding to a question from a reporter ‘Will American citizens be monitored?’ Secretary Mayorkas responded unequivocally ‘No,’ adding that ‘We at the Department of Homeland Security don’t monitor American citizens,’” the letter said. “He went on to suggest the Board would be concentrating on foreign threats – ’addressing the threat of disinformation from foreign state adversaries [and] from the cartels.’ Yet talking points prepared by Ms. Jankowicz, the Board’s then–Executive Director appear to show that the Department does in fact monitor American citizens and that the Board’s work is concentrated on domestic threats.”

The documents also give evidence that the federal agency has been working on the disinformation board longer than Mayorkas let on in his testimony.

“At the May 4 hearing, Secretary Mayorkas testified that the Board ‘has not yet begun its work,’” the letter said. “Yet the documents indicate the Secretary had stood up the Board on February 24, 2022 – more than two months earlier. The Board’s charter, signed by the Secretary, required the Board meet ‘regularly’ and ‘no less than once per quarter.’ Another document dated only six days before Secretary Mayorkas appeared before the Committee provides preparatory materials for a meeting between Under Secretary for Policy Robert Silvers and Twitter. The document was prepared by Ms. Nina Jankowicz in her capacity as ‘Executive Director DHS Disinformation Governance Board,’ clearly evidencing that the Board had already begun its work.”

After the board was announced, critics quickly raised concerns about its implications for free speech and the Constitution.

“Any regime with an organized disinformation effort directed at its own people is one that is moving away from self-government and toward state control of the most basic aspects of liberty,” said Matthew Spalding, Constitutional expert and Dean of the Van Andel Graduate School of Government for Hillsdale College.

Now, the lawmakers are calling for a hearing, but whether that hearing will actually happen remains to be seen.

“The American public deserves transparency and honest answers to important questions about the true nature and purpose of the Disinformation Governance Board and it is clear that Secretary Mayorkas has not provided them – to the public or this Committee,” the letter said. “Therefore, we request you hold a hearing with Secretary Mayorkas and join us in insisting that all records related to the Board be provided to the Committee prior to the hearing.”

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U.S. Customs and Border Patrol published official data Thursday for apprehensions and encounters May: the highest monthly total in recorded U.S. history of 239,416.

CBP published the data after The Center Square published preliminary numbers received from a Border Patrol agent.

Official numbers include both Border Patrol and Office of Field Operations data of people entering the U.S. illegally at all ports of entry.

Despite President Joe Biden, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and CBP Chief Chris Magnus arguing that the border is closed, that Title 42 is being enforced, and that it is complying with the Remain in Mexico policy, more people entered the U.S. illegally in May 2022 than an any month recorded in U.S. history.

And the numbers are only going up.

In April, CBP reported 235,478 total encounters/apprehensions; in March, 222,239; in February, 165,902; in January, 154,816.

The last two months alone equals roughly the size of the population of Montana.

The southern border sectors that saw the most traffic last month, as in nearly all months, were in Texas in the Rio Grande Valley and Del Rio sectors.

The numbers are broken down by BP sector and categories, including apprehensions, turn backs, non-violations, outstanding, no-arrests, got aways (known/recorded), and deceased. Here are the numbers based on the preliminary data obtained by The Center Square.

RGV Sector

Apps - 46,527TBs - 4,284Got Aways (known/recorded) - 4,378Unresolved Detection - 133No Arrest - 2,887Deceased - 15Non-violation - 261Outstanding - 18

Del Rio Sector

Apps - 45,662TBs - 193Got Aways (known/recorded) - 15,006Unresolved Detection - 168No Arrest - 3,736Deceased -26Non-violation -176Outstanding -58

Yuma Sector

Apps - 36,568TBs - 204Got Aways (known/recorded) - 3,007Unresolved Detection - 20No Arrest - 62Deceased - 9Non-violation -54Outstanding - 63

El Paso Sector

Apps - 35,650TBs - 3,104Got Aways (known/recorded) - 9,856Unresolved Detection - 31No Arrest - 225Deceased -0Non-violation -104Outstanding -25

Tucson Sector

Apps - 27,554TBs - 995Got Aways (known/recorded) - 18,612Unresolved Detection - 1,655No Arrest - 3,344Deceased - 12Non-violation - 202Outstanding - 399

San Diego Sector

Apps - 17,797TBs - 756Got Aways (known/recorded) -5,437Unresolved Detection - 4No Arrest - 5,301Deceased - 1Non-violation - 7Outstanding - 150

Laredo Sector

Apps - 12,297TBs - 2,601Got Aways (known/recorded) - 3,113Unresolved Detection - 45No Arrest - 1,134Deceased - 11Non-violation - 246Outstanding - 0

El Centro Sector

Apps - 7,264TBs - 407Got Aways (known/recorded) - 679Unresolved Detection - 4No Arrest - 5Deceased - 0Non-violation - 2Outstanding - 5

Big Bend Sector

Apps - 3,309TBs - 54Got Aways (known/recorded) - 1,521Unresolved Detection - 41No Arrest - 184Deceased - 5Non-violation - 22Outstanding - 69

Apprehensions include those in the U.S. illegally who surrender or are caught by BP officers. Turn backs include those who entered illegally but returned to Mexico.

The categories of "no arrests" and "unresolved detection" aren’t part of 6 U.S. Code, which classifies how encounters are to be reported. These categories are used as a way to lower the number of got-aways being reported, the BP officer says.

No arrests mean someone “was detected in a non-border zone and their presence didn’t affect Got-Away statistics,” according to the official internal tracking system definition used by agents to record data. "Unresolved detection" means the same thing, but the officers, for a range of reasons, couldn’t determine citizenship.

Non-violations are “deemed to have committed no infraction and don’t affect Got-Away statistics,” according to the tracking system definition.

The categories of non-violations, no arrests and unresolved detection should actually be categorized as got-aways, the BP officer says, assuming all non-arrests were of non-citizens.

Preliminary data in other sectors show more than 1,600 people were apprehended in May, with Miami apprehending the most.

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(The Center Square) – There are new questions about who is running public schools in Wisconsin following the release of emails between Gov. Tony Evers and the state’s largest teachers’ union.

Empower Wisconsin on Wednesday broke a story showing the Wisconsin Education Association Council, or WEAC, was in regular contact with Gov. Evers’ office about the plan to reopen schools back in the summer of 2020.

“We at WEAC are getting pressure from the Senate Democrats to take a position on these bills from the School Administrators Alliance. We have been told the Senate Dems are working with the Governor’s office on a strategy relating to opening of schools,” wrote WEAC lobbyist Jack O’Meara in an August 21, 2020 email to Evers’ office.

The report doesn’t include Evers’ response, but the governor eventually told local schools to make their own decisions about reopening. WEAC encouraged local schools to stay closed in the fall of 2020.

Republican candidate for governor Rebecca Kleefisch on Wednesday ripped what she characterized as collusion between Evers and WEAC.

“Wisconsin needs a governor who spends time prioritizing kids and listening to parents, unlike Tony Evers who lets union bosses decide when to lock kids out of classrooms,” Kleefisch said in a statement.

Kleefisch, like the other two Republicans running for governor, have made it clear they support parental involvement in public school policies, and strongly support school choice for families across the state.

“Wisconsin parents deserve choices for their kids’ educations. We will no longer accept the backward one-size-fits-all educational monopoly that Evers and his union boss allies support,” Kleefisch added. “As governor, I will enact universal school choice and continue to support parents taking back control of their school boards.”

Wisconsin’s local-decision school reopening policy allowed some schools to open quickly in the 2020-2021 school year, and allowed others like Milwaukee and Madison schools to remain closed for the entire school year.

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The Federal Reserve announced a 0.75 percentage point rate hike Wednesday to help combat soaring inflation, the largest rate increase since 1994.

The Fed said it raised the rates "to 1‑1/2 to 1-3/4 percent and anticipates that ongoing increases in the target range will be appropriate."

"The committee seeks to achieve maximum employment and inflation at the rate of 2% over the longer run," the Federal Reserve said in a statement. "In addition, the committee will continue reducing its holdings of Treasury securities and agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities, as described in the Plans for Reducing the Size of the Federal Reserve's Balance Sheet that were issued in May. The committee is strongly committed to returning inflation to its 2% objective."

The decision is expected to curb inflation, but that comes at a cost to the economy. Federal data shows consumer prices have risen at the fastest rate in decades and producer prices spiked 10.8% in the last year.

"Overall economic activity appears to have picked up after edging down in the first quarter," the Federal Reserve said in its announcement. "Job gains have been robust in recent months, and the unemployment rate has remained low. Inflation remains elevated, reflecting supply and demand imbalances related to the pandemic, higher energy prices, and broader price pressures."

The Federal Reserve pointed to COVID-19 and the ongoing war in Ukraine when referencing the nation's economic difficulties. Experts have acknowledged those issues but also point to a major spike in the U.S. money supply and federal debt spending.

"Since early 2020, the Federal Reserve has printed nearly $5 trillion — using much of this to purchase government debt in addition to mortgage backed securities and other assets," said Joel Griffith, an economic expert at the Heritage Foundation, as the Center Square previously reported. "As this cash was injected into the economy, total money supply swelled by more than $75,000 per family of four. The Federal Reserve's complicity in financing Congress' outrageous spending spree of the past two years is largely to blame for the sky-high inflation, the new housing bubble, and rampant speculation [in] the financial markets."

Sex-Based Discrimination

26 Republican Attorney Generals Challenge New Sex-Based Discrimination Federal Guidance

Half of the state attorneys general in the country want the Biden administration to walk back new federal guidance on sex-based discrimination for schools and other organizations that receive federal money for food programs.

The AGs, 26 of the 27 Republicans in those offices across the country, claim in a letter to President Biden the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s guidance means states, local agencies and programs that receive federal food dollars through the Food and Nutrition Act and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program could lose funding if they don’t comply, including in hiring practices.

"Using hungry children as a human shield in a policy dispute violates basic decency," Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said. "Aren’t there any parents in the Biden administration that can see past the edges of their ideology?"

In May, the USDA announced it will interpret the prohibition on discrimination based on sex in Title IX to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“USDA is committed to administering all its programs with equity and fairness and serving those in need with the highest dignity. A key step in advancing these principles is rooting out discrimination in any form – including discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said. “At the same time, we must recognize the vulnerability of the LGBTQI+ communities and provide them with an avenue to grieve any discrimination they face. We hope that by standing firm against these inequities we will help bring about much-needed change.”

The AGs called the interpretation drastically broader than originally defined in Title IX.

The guidance applies to about 100,000 public and nonprofit-private schools and residential child care institutions that participate in the national school breakfast and lunch programs, which provide subsidized free or reduced-price meals daily for nearly 30 million children.

“We have long had a productive relationship with the federal government, managing various food and nutrition programs guided by the principles of cooperative federalism. We would like to continue this cooperative relationship. But the guidance flouts the rule of law, relies on patently incorrect legal analysis that is currently under scrutiny in the federal courts and was issued without giving the states the requisite opportunity to be heard,” the letter reads.

Attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wyoming and Virginia each signed the letter. The letter originates from Tennessee AG Herbert Slatery III.

The only Republican AG to not sign was New Hampshire's John Formula.

producer price index

Producer Prices Spike 10.8% in Past Year as Inflation Soars

New federal data show that the price of producer goods and services has spiked by 10.8% in the past year driven in part by higher gas prices.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Tuesday released producer price index data which showed the PPI increased by 0.8% in May, up from a 0.4% increase in April, and preceded by 1.6% in March.

The PPI report shows that almost half of the increase in prices for final demand goods in May results from an 8.4% increase in the index for gasoline, with the national average sitting at a record high $5.02 per gallon of regular gas.

"In May, nearly two-thirds of the rise in the index for final demand was due to a 1.4-percent advance in prices for final demand goods. The index for final demand services increased 0.4 percent," BLS said. "Over 70 percent of the increase in May can be traced to a 5.0-percent advance in prices for final demand energy."

This data comes at the heels of the Consumer Price Index, which showed last week a 1% increase overall in May, part of the fastest rise in consumer prices in decades.

The food and energy index increased by 1.2% and 3.9%, respectively, in the month of May alone.

"While almost all major components increased over the month, the largest contributors were the indexes for shelter, airline fares, used cars and trucks, and new vehicles," BLS said. "The indexes for medical care, household furnishings and operations, recreation, and apparel also increased in May."

Republicans have criticized President Joe Biden for his handling of inflation and its effects on the economy.

"Joe Biden's self-made inflation crisis is destroying the nation," U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., said. "He is failing hardworking Americans every single day. The worst part is he has no real plan to fix inflation."

Midcontinent Independent System Operators Life-Threatening Blackouts

Regional Electric Grid Sends Alert About Looming Energy Crunch

(The Center Square) – It’s not quite time for rolling blackouts, but an alert issued Tuesday by the Midcontinent Independent System Operators, which serves much of Illinois, could be the first step in preparing for such actions.

MISO’s “maximum generation alert” was issued for Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m for the market footprint, which also includes Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and North Dakota, most of Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana and South Dakota, and parts of Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana and Texas. A similar alert was sent Monday for the south region of MISO. The nation is split among several regional energy grids.

“The reason for the Event is because of Forced Generation Outages, Above Normal Temps, High Congestion,” the alert notification said Tuesday.

The announcement is just an advisory and is not the elevated “warning” or “event” stage. But the next advisories could require electric utilities to request energy conservation or implement rolling blackouts and power outages.

Springfield’s municipally owned City Water Light and Power said if “MISO upgrades its emergency and requests additional action, up to and including load reduction, CWLP will then issue a ‘Conserve Alert’,” which would ask utility customers to voluntarily reduce energy consumption during certain peak times to avert service disruptions.

Last month, CWLP chief engineer Doug Brown said such announcements prompt the utility to inform customers of how to conserve energy, and prepare them for the next possible phases.

“The rolling blackout is definitely a last resort,” Brown told WMAY last month. “It’s something that we don’t want to do but in order to support the regional grid, we’re really required to do that.”

There are several things that are causing coal-fired power plants to close, Brown said, adding to the energy crunch.

“When you have to invest over $50 million into those units to make them compliant with environmental regulations, that’s what happened,” Brown said. “Regulation after regulation has basically shut down coal plants and we’re starting to see those effects rather rapidly."

Gov. J.B. Pritzker contended last week that the green energy law he signed in Illinois last year that requires coal fired power plants in the state to close by 2045 isn’t the culprit. He said the law is meant to bring about more energy through investing in alternatives.

“So what we’re talking about this summer is the challenge of making sure that we bring online as much energy as possible,” Pritzker said at a political event. “We also are talking about other states, surrounding states, that aren’t producing enough energy.”

Here are some conservation steps CWLP electric customers could implement for energy emergencies during peak hours and hot temperatures:

Set thermostats to 78 degrees or higher;Use floor or ceiling fans to cool off in occupied rooms;Turn off lights where not needed and postpone major appliance use, such as with washing machines, dryers and dishwashers;Turn off and disconnect electronics not in use such as computers, printers, copiers, coffee makers, televisions and charging devices;Shade west-facing windows in the afternoon to reduce solar heat gain.

Most of Illinois geographically is covered by MISO. The northern part of the state is covered by PJM, or the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland grid. PJM issued a “Hot Weather Alert” for its western region through Wednesday.

“A Hot Weather Alert helps to prepare transmission and generation personnel and facilities for extreme heat and/or humidity that may cause capacity problems on the grid,” the alert said.

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