Salvaging SCOTUS nominee


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Brett Kavanaugh, with his wife Ashley Estes Kavanaugh, answers questions during a FOX News interview, Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, in Washington, about allegations of sexual misconduct against the Supreme Court nominee. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Brett Kavanaugh, with his wife Ashley Estes Kavanaugh, answers questions during a FOX News interview, Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, in Washington, about allegations of sexual misconduct against the Supreme Court nominee. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., returns to his office after speaking on the Senate floor about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Sept. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)


Brett Kavanaugh looks at his wife Ashley Estes Kavanaugh at the start of a FOX News interview with Martha MacCallum, Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, in Washington, about allegations of sexual misconduct against the Supreme Court nominee. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)


Trump leads aggressive, all-out GOP drive to save Kavanaugh

By ALAN FRAM and LISA MASCARO

Associated Press

Monday, September 24

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans mounted a combative, coordinated drive Monday to salvage Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination as they fought to keep a second woman’s allegation of long-ago sexual misconduct from derailing his confirmation. President Donald Trump leapt to his defense, the Senate’s top Republican accused Democrats of a “smear campaign” and an emotional Kavanaugh declared, “I’m not going anywhere.”

In the run-up to an appearance by Kavanaugh and his main accuser at a dramatic Senate hearing, the Republicans embraced their newly aggressive stance with his nomination dangling precariously. The similar tones and wording they used suggested a concerted effort to undermine the women’s claims, portray an image of unity among GOP senators and press ahead to a confirmation vote.

Trump called the accusations “totally political” and among “the single most unfair, unjust things to happen to a candidate for anything.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., angrily accused Democrats of slinging “all the mud they could manufacture.”

Unintimidated, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, retorted, “If you really believe they are a smear job, why don’t you call for FBI investigation?” Schumer accused the Republicans of “a rush job to avoid the truth.”

Trump has made clear he won’t order an FBI investigation of the allegations. And McConnell said that Thursday’s Judiciary Committee hearing would proceed and that full Senate consideration would follow “in the near future,” though he mentioned no date.

In a letter to the committee, which plans the climactic hearing featuring Kavanaugh and his first accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, the nominee accused his opponents of launching “smears, pure and simple.”

In an unusual strategy for a Supreme Court nominee, Kavanaugh, 53, now a judge on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, also sat for an interview along with his wife late Monday on the conservative-friendly Fox News Channel.

Careful not to assail Ford but firm in his denial, he said, “I am not questioning and have not questioned that perhaps Dr. Ford at some point in her life was sexually assaulted by someone at some place, but what I know is I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone.”

“I’m not going to let false accusations drive us out of this process and we’re looking for a fair process where I can be heard and defend my integrity, my lifelong record,” he said in an excerpt released by Fox before the telecast. “My lifelong record of promoting dignity and equality for women starting with the women who knew me when I was 14 years old. I’m not going anywhere.”

On Sunday, The New Yorker magazine reported that Deborah Ramirez described a 1980s, alcohol-heavy Yale dormitory party at which she said Kavanaugh exposed himself, placed his penis in her face and caused her to touch it without her consent.

Despite the forceful rhetoric by Kavanaugh and his GOP supporters, it remained unclear how three moderate Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Arizona’s Jeff Flake and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski — would react to the latest accusation. With the GOP’s Senate control hanging on a razor-thin 51-49 margin, defections by any two Republican senators would seal his fate if all Democrats vote “no.”

Proceeding with Kavanaugh seems to give Republicans their best shot at filling the Supreme Court vacancy — and giving the court an increasingly conservative tilt — before November’s elections, when GOP Senate control is in play.

Even if Republicans lose their Senate majority, they could still have time to confirm a nominee in a post-election lame duck session, but the GOP has not indicated that is under consideration. Delaying Kavanaugh’s confirmation could give time for doubts about him to take root or for any fresh accusations to emerge.

Pushing forward with Kavanaugh has risks of its own, besides an embarrassing defeat for Trump and the GOP. His nomination and the claims of sexual misconduct dating from his teenage years have stirred up women and liberal voters whose antipathy to Republicans has already been heightened by Trump’s policies and his own fraught history of alleged sexual transgressions.

Dozens of people protesting Kavanaugh were arrested Monday outside Collins’ Capitol Hill office. Many wore black “Be A Hero” shirts and chanted slogans including, “We will not be silenced.”

A week ago, Ford told the Washington Post that at a high school house party in the early 1980s, a drunk Kavanaugh forced her into a bedroom where he pinned her on a bed, tried removing her clothes and muffled her mouth to prevent screams before she escaped.

With increasing intensity, Republicans have attacked the credibility of both women’s accounts. They note that neither the accusers nor news organizations have found people willing to provide corroboration, even though Ford and Ramirez have both named people who they said were present at the alleged incidents.

Ramirez, who told The New Yorker that she had been drinking at the time, was initially reluctant to speak publicly “partly because her memories contained gaps,” the magazine said. After “six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney,” she felt confident enough to go public, the report said.

The Associated Press tried reaching Ramirez at her home in Boulder, Colorado. A sign posted on her front door indicated she would have no comment.

White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway held a conference call with supporters Monday morning during which, according to a participant who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the private call, she said there was a “vast left-wing conspiracy” to prevent Kavanaugh from winning confirmation.

Also jumping into the fray was the attorney who represents porn actress Stormy Daniels in her legal fight with Trump. Lawyer Michael Avenatti said he was representing a woman with information about high school-era parties attended by Kavanaugh and urged the Senate to investigate.

Avenatti, who has said he’s considering a 2020 Democratic presidential bid, told the AP that he will disclose his client’s identity in the coming days and that she is prepared to testify before the committee, as well as provide names of corroborating witnesses.

AP reporters Mary Clare Jalonick, Catherine Lucey, Jonathan Lemire, Kevin Freking, Padmananda Rama and Matthew Daly contributed.

OPINION: Cancel Kavanaugh

By Matthew Johnson

It is shameful that we are still talking about Bret Kavanaugh. He should be gone. Finished. Yesterday’s news.

After the latest allegation of sexual assault against him by one of his classmates at Yale, a clear pattern has been established that reveals the Supreme Court nominee to be a drunken partygoer who has gone at least as far as to expose his genitalia to a semi-conscious, inebriated female and attempt to force himself on another — apparently buoyed by positive affirmation from his meat-head male friends. It’s highly unlikely that this was the extent of his sexually aggressive behavior. After all, it is not as if he were ever held accountable for any of it (he may well not be held accountable it now) — and when has a powerful man ever changed for the better if not held accountable?

The good news is there’s a real opportunity to not only bring about justice for the survivors of his transgressions but also to bring about a political victory that goes beyond keeping him from becoming the next conservative ideologue on the court, establishing a clear 5-4 majority of reaction. This victory would also go beyond potentially blocking Trump’s vain attempt to escape his own comeuppance through packing the judiciary in his favor. This victory would be for women and for all those who support their rights.

I would see it as a victory for myself personally. I do not want to live in an America where a drunken frat boy who sexually assaults women can become a Supreme Court justice. I already live in an America where an ill-mannered, narcissistic moron (accused of sexual impropriety by more than a dozen women himself) is president. Enough is enough.

I am worried that boys will grow up and be told by their relatives: “Don’t worry, Jimmy, you can pull out your penis at a party, wave it at an unsuspecting woman, and still succeed in life. You can even go on to a position of power that will enable you to roll back women’s rights on a much larger scale.”

If Kavanaugh supported women’s rights in the legal and political sense while behaving badly toward them, he would still be an awful choice for the Court — but he’s guilty on both counts of being anti-woman. He has either been evasive or skeptical on Roe V. Wade, which is the established, enlightened law of the land that, at least legally speaking, liberates women from unwanted pregnancies — which could have been the result of Kavanaugh’s first reported assault had it not been inadvertently interrupted. This connection between his behavior and his politics seems lost on his Republican supporters and the old-white-male gentleman’s club that is the Republican side of the Senate. They insist that he’s a good man because to them a good man is anti-woman in his politics and legal opinions while masking this truth behind an adoring wife and children. That he drove his daughter to soccer practice is quite a low bar when judging a Supreme Court justice.

This cynical view of men by not only Republican diehards but some of the wider public (thinking of those who have said things like, ‘all 17-year-old boys assault women at parties on occasion’) is appalling. Men should be held to a higher standard and should, in turn, hold themselves to a higher standard. This will be more difficult to achieve if the Senate allows a corrupted member of our gender to become a potential role model — not to mention a powerful judge of the behavior of others. We must judge him accordingly and give his victims and the American people the justice they deserve.

Matt Johnson is an author and activist.

The Conversation

Six things to know about mass shootings in America

December 3, 2015/Updated October 2, 2017

Author

Frederic Lemieux

Professor of the Practice and Faculty Director of the Master’s in Applied Intelligence, Georgetown University

Disclosure statement

Frederic Lemieux does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

America has experienced yet another mass shooting, this time from the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on the strip in Las Vegas, Nevada. It is reportedly the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

As a criminologist, I have reviewed recent research in hopes of debunking some of the common misconceptions I hear creeping into discussions that spring up whenever a mass shooting occurs. Here’s some recent scholarship about mass shootings that should help you identify misinformation when you hear it.

#1: More guns don’t make you safer

A study I conducted on mass shootings indicated that this phenomenon is not limited to the United States.

Mass shootings also took place in 25 other wealthy nations between 1983 and 2013, but the number of mass shootings in the United States far surpasses that of any other country included in the study during the same period of time.

The U.S. had 78 mass shootings during that 30-year period.

The highest number of mass shootings experienced outside the United States was in Germany – where seven shootings occurred.

In the other 24 industrialized countries taken together, 41 mass shootings took place.

In other words, the U.S. had nearly double the number of mass shootings than all other 24 countries combined in the same 30-year period.

Another significant finding is that mass shootings and gun ownership rates are highly correlated. The higher the gun ownership rate, the more a country is susceptible to experiencing mass shooting incidents. This association remains high even when the number of incidents from the United States is withdrawn from the analysis.

Similar results have been found by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, which states that countries with higher levels of firearm ownership also have higher firearm homicide rates.

My study also shows a strong correlation between mass shooting casualties and overall death by firearms rates. However, in this last analysis, the relation seems to be mainly driven by the very high number of deaths by firearms in the United States. The relation disappears when the United States is withdrawn from the analysis.

#2: Shootings are more frequent

A recent study published by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center shows that the frequency of mass shooting is increasing over time. The researchers measured the increase by calculating the time between the occurrence of mass shootings. According to the research, the days separating mass shooting occurrence went from on average 200 days during the period of 1983 to 2011 to 64 days since 2011.

What is most alarming with mass shootings is the fact that this increasing trend is moving in the opposite direction of overall intentional homicide rates in the U.S., which decreased by almost 50 percent since 1993 and in Europe where intentional homicides decreased by 40 percent between 2003 and 2013.

#3: Restricting sales works

Due to the Second Amendment, the United States has permissive gun licensing laws. This is in contrast to most developed countries, which have restrictive laws.

According to a seminal work by criminologists George Newton and Franklin Zimring, permissive gun licensing laws refer to a system in which all but specially prohibited groups of persons can purchase a firearm. In such a system, an individual does not have to justify purchasing a weapon; rather, the licensing authority has the burden of proof to deny gun acquisition.

By contrast, restrictive gun licensing laws refer to a system in which individuals who want to purchase firearms must demonstrate to a licensing authority that they have valid reasons to get a gun – like using it on a shooting range or going hunting – and that they demonstrate “good character.”

The type of gun law adopted has important impacts. Countries with more restrictive gun licensing laws show fewer deaths by firearms and a lower gun ownership rate.

#4: Background checks work

In most restrictive background checks performed in developed countries, citizens are required to train for gun handling, obtain a license for hunting or provide proof of membership to a shooting range.

Individuals must prove that they do not belong to any “prohibited group,” such as the mentally ill, criminals, children or those at high risk of committing violent crime, such as individuals with a police record of threatening the life of another.

Here’s the bottom line. With these provisions, most U.S. active shooters would have been denied the purchase of a firearm.

#5: Not all mass shootings are terrorism

Journalists sometimes describe mass shooting as a form of domestic terrorism. This connection may be misleading.

There is no doubt that mass shootings are “terrifying” and “terrorize” the community where they have happened. However, not all active shooters involved in mass shooting have a political message or cause.

For example, the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina in June 2015 was a hate crime but was not judged by the federal government to be a terrorist act.

The majority of active shooters are linked to mental health issues, bullying and disgruntled employees. Active shooters may be motivated by a variety of personal or political motivations, usually not aimed at weakening government legitimacy. Frequent motivations are revenge or a quest for power.

#6: Historical comparisons may be flawed

Beginning in 2008, the FBI used a narrow definition of mass shootings. They limited mass shootings to incidents where an individual – or in rare circumstances, more than one – “kills four or more people in a single incident (not including the shooter), typically in a single location.”

In 2013, the FBI changed its definition, moving away from “mass shootings” toward identifying an “active shooter” as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.” This change means the agency now includes incidents in which fewer than four people die, but in which several are injured, like this 2014 shooting in New Orleans.

This change in definition impacted directly the number of cases included in studies and affected the comparability of studies conducted before and after 2013.

Some researchers on mass shooting, like Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox, have even incorporated in their studies several types of multiple homicides that cannot be defined as mass shooting: for instance, familicide (a form of domestic violence) and gang murders.

In the case of familicide, victims are exclusively family members and not random bystanders.

Gang murders are usually crime for profit or a punishment for rival gangs or a member of the gang who is an informer. Such homicides don’t belong in the analysis of mass shootings.

Editor’s note: this piece was updated on Oct. 2, 2017. It was originally published on Dec. 3, 2015.

The Conversation

Should I kill spiders in my home? An entomologist explains why not to

May 16, 2018

Author

Matt Bertone

Extension Associate in Entomology, North Carolina State University

Disclosure statement

Matt Bertone does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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North Carolina State University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

I know it may be hard to convince you, but let me try: Don’t kill the next spider you see in your home.

Why? Because spiders are an important part of nature and our indoor ecosystem – as well as being fellow organisms in their own right.

People like to think of their dwellings as safely insulated from the outside world, but many types of spiders can be found inside. Some are accidentally trapped, while others are short-term visitors. Some species even enjoy the great indoors, where they happily live out their lives and make more spiders. These arachnids are usually secretive, and almost all you meet are neither aggressive nor dangerous. And they may be providing services like eating pests – some even eat other spiders.

My colleagues and I conducted a visual survey of 50 North Carolina homes to inventory just which arthropods live under our roofs. Every single house we visited was home to spiders. The most common species we encountered were cobweb spiders and cellar spiders.

Both build webs where they lie in wait for prey to get caught. Cellar spiders sometimes leave their webs to hunt other spiders on their turf, mimicking prey to catch their cousins for dinner.

Although they are generalist predators, apt to eat anything they can catch, spiders regularly capture nuisance pests and even disease-carrying insects – for example, mosquitoes. There’s even a species of jumping spider that prefers to eat blood-filled mosquitoes in African homes. So killing a spider doesn’t just cost the arachnid its life, it may take an important predator out of your home.

It’s natural to fear spiders. They have lots of legs and almost all are venomous – though the majority of species have venom too weak to cause issues in humans, if their fangs can pierce our skin at all. Even entomologists themselves can fall prey to arachnophobia. I know a few spider researchers who overcame their fear by observing and working with these fascinating creatures. If they can do it, so can you!

An arachnologist’s story of growing up terrified of spiders but ultimately becoming fascinated by them.

Spiders are not out to get you and actually prefer to avoid humans; we are much more dangerous to them than vice versa. Bites from spiders are extremely rare. Although there are a few medically important species like widow spiders and recluses, even their bites are uncommon and rarely cause serious issues.

If you truly can’t stand that spider in your house, apartment, garage, or wherever, instead of smashing it, try to capture it and release it outside. It’ll find somewhere else to go, and both parties will be happier with the outcome.

But if you can stomach it, it’s OK to have spiders in your home. In fact, it’s normal. And frankly, even if you don’t see them, they’ll still be there. So consider a live-and-let-live approach to the next spider you encounter.

Brett Kavanaugh, with his wife Ashley Estes Kavanaugh, answers questions during a FOX News interview, Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, in Washington, about allegations of sexual misconduct against the Supreme Court nominee. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/09/web1_121428180-61469898c125452a8b66ee6748236e94.jpgBrett Kavanaugh, with his wife Ashley Estes Kavanaugh, answers questions during a FOX News interview, Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, in Washington, about allegations of sexual misconduct against the Supreme Court nominee. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., returns to his office after speaking on the Senate floor about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Sept. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/09/web1_121428180-4a2c4458b2a341598c19a70f715a5ae2.jpgSenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., returns to his office after speaking on the Senate floor about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Sept. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Brett Kavanaugh looks at his wife Ashley Estes Kavanaugh at the start of a FOX News interview with Martha MacCallum, Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, in Washington, about allegations of sexual misconduct against the Supreme Court nominee. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/09/web1_121428180-76f35a9df8084fa3bda1c773d3aa5707.jpgBrett Kavanaugh looks at his wife Ashley Estes Kavanaugh at the start of a FOX News interview with Martha MacCallum, Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, in Washington, about allegations of sexual misconduct against the Supreme Court nominee. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
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