By Robert A. Vella

In the news today, the first White House official is testifying in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump who attempted to coerce the Ukrainian government for personal political gain, the largest U.S. coal mining company has filed for bankruptcy in further indication of that industry’s progressing demise, Trump has reluctantly agreed to disclose documents concerning sexual misconduct allegations made by Summer Zervos, court rulings delivered setbacks to Republican gerrymandering efforts in North Carolina and anti-abortion measures in Alabama, high wind conditions that have caused devastating wildfires in California are linked to climate change, Lebanon’s government is collapsing in turmoil, and yet another Republican congressman is resigning ahead of the 2020 election.

Anecdotal notation:  As a native-born northern Californian who lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for 3 ½ decades, I can tell you that strong easterly “Diablo” winds were totally unheard of back then.  I cannot recall even one instance when that occurred or when that term was used.  It is now, however, completely consistent with global warming which is shifting normal weather patterns polewards.  So, it is not surprising that “Santa Ana” type winds – typical of Southern California – are migrating northwards.

From:  Army Officer Who Heard Trump’s Ukraine Call Reported Concerns

WASHINGTON — A White House national security official who is a decorated Iraq war veteran plans to tell House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that he heard President Trump appeal to Ukraine’s president to investigate one of his leading political rivals, a request the aide considered so damaging to American interests that he reported it to a superior.

Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman of the Army, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, twice registered internal objections about how Mr. Trump and his inner circle were treating Ukraine, out of what he called a “sense of duty,” he plans to tell the inquiry, according to a draft of his opening statement obtained by The New York Times.

He will be the first White House official to testify who listened in on the July 25 telephone call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine that is at the center of the impeachment inquiry, in which Mr. Trump asked Mr. Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

From:  Biggest private coal miner goes bust as Trump rescue fails

Robert E. Murray, the U.S. coal baron who pressed the Trump administration to help save America’s struggling miners, placed his company into bankruptcy as demand for the fossil fuel continues to weaken.

Murray Energy Holdings Co. filed for Chapter 11 protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Columbus, Ohio, to restructure more than $2.7 billion of debt. The miner — the largest privately owned U.S. coal company — reached a restructuring support agreement with a group of lenders that provides a new $350 million loan to keep operations going during the reorganization, according to the court filing.

The move comes more than a year after the Trump administration’s efforts to subsidize struggling nuclear and coal-fired power plants failed, shot down by Trump’s own appointed energy regulators. Some of those plants were Murray Energy’s customers. Robert Murray, a big donor to Trump’s campaign, was instrumental in setting his energy agenda and has hosted multiple fundraisers.

From:  Trump Agrees With Assault Accuser to Unseal Files in Lawsuit

(Bloomberg) — A former reality-TV star who claims Donald Trump forcibly kissed and groped her before he was president reached an agreement with the Trump Organization to unseal nine more pages of documents that she says corroborate her story.

Summer Zervos, a former contestant on Trump’s “Apprentice,” last week asked a New York judge to nullify the president’s assertion of confidentiality over the papers. But on Monday, the parties agreed that Trump will now do so voluntarily.

From:  State Court Bars Using North Carolina House Map in 2020 Elections

A North Carolina state court effectively threw out the state’s map of congressional districts on Monday, saying critics were poised to show “beyond a reasonable doubt” that it was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander favoring Republicans.

The ruling, by a three-judge panel in Superior Court in Raleigh, technically imposes a temporary ban on using the map in primary elections next spring. But the judges signaled that they were unlikely to change their minds by inviting plaintiffs in the case to seek a summary judgment ending the case in their favor. And the judges said they were prepared to postpone primary elections should that prove necessary to further litigate the case or draw new House districts.

The plaintiffs, North Carolina residents, were sponsored by the National Redistricting Foundation, an arm of a Democratic group led by former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. that is seeking to challenge Republican control of the next round of redistricting in 2021.

From:  Alabama Abortion Ban Is Blocked by a Federal Judge

A federal judge blocked Alabama’s near-total ban on abortions on Tuesday, stopping the legislation from taking effect next month.

The ruling, an early step in a legal confrontation that critics of abortion orchestrated to try to reach the United States Supreme Court, ensured that abortion services would remain available in the state, at least for now.

The Alabama law would have made it a felony for doctors to provide abortions in almost all circumstances, and it threatened them with up to 99 years in prison. The law did not include any exceptions for abortions in cases of rape or incest, allowing the procedure only when a woman’s health was at “serious” risk.

From:  What’s driving the historic California high-wind events, and worsening the wildfires

This is the third year in a row that these winds — known in the San Francisco Bay area as “Diablo winds” and as Santa Ana winds in Southern California — have fanned devastating blazes in the Golden State, raising fears that these fiery sieges are part of a new normal. Evidence continues to mount that climate change is worsening their effects.


Both the Diablo, or “devil,” winds in Northern California and Santa Ana winds to the south form during similar circumstances.

The stage is set when the jet stream, the high-altitude river of air along which weather systems track, plunges south from Alaska and Canada, and into the Mountain West.

Once low-pressure areas riding along the jet stream land in Colorado, high-pressure zones build in quickly to their north and west over northern Nevada and Utah, a region known as the Great Basin. The difference in pressure over this relatively short distance starts generating these winds.

The winds are then drawn westward toward California, where air pressure readings are lower (air flows from high to low pressure), and often, they gain speed passing through channels in the high terrain. Illustrating how powerful this weather phenomenon can be, wind gusts well above hurricane force were recorded over the weekend in the North Bay, near the Kincade Fire.

From:  PM Hariri resigns as Lebanon crisis turns violent

BEIRUT, Oct 29 (Reuters) – Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said he would submit his resignation on Tuesday, declaring he had hit a “dead end” in trying to resolve a crisis unleashed by huge protests against Lebanon’s ruling elite.

The Sunni politician addressed the nation in a televised address after a mob loyal to Shi’ite Muslim groups Hezbollah and Amal attacked and destroyed a protest camp set up by anti-government demonstrators in Beirut.

Lebanon has been paralyzed by the unprecedented wave of protests against the rampant corruption of the political class that has collectively led Lebanon into the worst economic crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.

Greg Walden to retire in latest sign of GOP doubts about retaking House

4 thoughts on “First White House official testifies in impeachment inquiry, plus other news

  1. Hey Robert,

    I realize this is off-topic or a bit off-topic with your bullet-points here. But did you happen to catch the excellent interview segment on PBS Amanpour & Company with Noah Feldman? They dove into the current problems of mass, MASSIVE mechanized propaganda machines/computerized-apps bombarding major social-media sites. Man!!! It was a great interview! That generation of Americans between 55 – 90 yrs old who are NOT electronic-technology savvy are super vulnerable to “virtual worlds” and psychologically-specific media-campaigning schemes as Feldman and Isaacson discuss. Feldman believes we now need a “Supreme Court for Facebook” and other mass social-media sites due to our GENERAL public ignorance concerning Opinion vs. Fact, or Propaganda vs. Scholarship, or my favorite (indirectly related topic) contrast… Knowledge vs. Ignorance (Agnotology). 🙂

    Here’s the link to the Noah Feldman interview:

    I highly recommend watching it.

    Liked by 1 person

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