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The latest baddie in Flint River water is a likely carcinogen.

According to a May 2015 report from the Michigan Department of Community Health, tests showed elevated levels of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in the Flint River and 13 types of PFCs in total. According to the report, and as reported by The Intercept, the number of PFCs is “more than in any of the other water sources tested around the state.” Tests also revealed that for one compound, PFOS, 2013 concentrations were three times higher than in 2001.

PFCs are used to make products like non-stick pans grease- and stain-resistant. The compounds are endocrine disruptors and have been shown to increase the risk of certain types of cancer.

Though the department’s study did not test homes or drinking water for PFCs and makes no mention of possible impacts on Flint residents, the tests could indicate that after the city switched to using Flint River water in 2014, PFCs may also have found their way into the community’s lead-contaminated drinking water.

October 28, 2016

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The country’s largest LGBT rights group is standing by Mark Kirk.

Kirk has apologized for his racially charged dig at his Senate opponent, Rep. Tammy Duckworth. That probably won’t be enough to salvage his campaign, which is already flailing. But it also wasn’t enough to deter the senator’s strangest backer: The Human Rights Campaign.

The LGBT rights group endorsed Kirk back in March. On Twitter today, HRC spokesman Brandon Lorenz defended its decision:

The HRC’s thin justification for its endorsement rests on his support for marriage equality, which he announced in 2013long after many Democrats had already done so. (Duckworth, in fact, joined the House that same year as a pro-marriage equality Democrat.) Supporting Kirk appears to be a misguided attempt to shift the Republican Party to a more moderate stance on LGBT rights. But the Illinois senator is clearly an outlier; the GOP’s base sits much further to his right.

HRC’s refusal to rescind its endorsement won’t actually advance the cause of LGBT rights. It also provokes an obvious question: Whose rights are they actually defending? The LGBT community obviously includes many people of color, and their interests are hardly represented by a politician like Mark Kirk.

The FBI just gave Donald Trump a gift wrapped in an October surprise.

In a letter to members of Congress, Director James Comey said the FBI, through “an unrelated case,” has “learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent” to the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server—an investigation that the FBI had concluded in July with a recommendation not to pursue criminal charges against the Democratic nominee. Comey said the FBI is now taking steps to determine whether these emails contain classified information. The investigation, in the words of Speaker Paul Ryan, has been reopened.

Eleven days from the election, this is terrible news for Clinton. Perhaps no issue has hurt her more this cycle than her use of the private email server during her tenure as secretary of state, and she has apologized for it. In September, before the release of a tape showing Donald Trump bragging about sexual assault, her lead in the polls over Trump collapsed in large part because of questions about her trustworthiness. It didn’t help that media organizations tended to equate Clinton’s controversies with the far more egregious controversies that disqualify Trump from being president.

It also doesn’t help that Comey has thrown out a totally opaque description of this supplementary investigation to the public. (Some are debating whether, technically speaking, the investigation has been “reopened.” It remains unclear.) Trump and his surrogates will surely use Comey’s letter to stoke dark suspicions about Clinton that in all likelihood are unwarranted. If Clinton wants to be president, it looks like she’ll have to walk through the fire of yet another messy controversy to get there.

Update: Trump is already making hay of Comey’s letter, despite its lack of details. In a statement, he praised the courage of the FBI for “right[ing] the horrible mistake they made.”

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Joe Biden for secretary of state doesn’t entirely make sense.

Hillary Clinton is considering the vice president as her top diplomat if she wins the White House, Politico reported:

The vice president, who chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before joining the administration, is one of the most experienced and respected Democrats on the world stage. He’s also coming to what would be the close of a 44-year career in Washington, first with six terms in the Senate and then two terms as President Barack Obama’s closest adviser — and the keeper of the portfolio on some of the most difficult international issues, including Iraq and Ukraine.

He certainly has the experience, and some continuity with the Obama years could benefit the administration. But there are a host of reasons why this might be a bad idea—for Clinton and for Biden.

First, there’s the obvious: He’s not always the most diplomatic. Biden’s gaffes could have real consequences as secretary of state, resulting in embarrassing and even damaging international incidents. He can’t just say he’d like to take Vladimir Putin “behind the gym.”

Then there’s the fact that Biden and Clinton disagreed on major foreign policy issues over the past eight years. As Politico noted, “They differed over leaving troops in Iraq, the surge in Afghanistan, and whether to arm Syria’s rebels and bomb Libya — and Clinton took the more hawkish line in every case.” Biden reportedly opposed the military raid that killed Osama bin Laden, although he has since disputed that.

Serving in Clinton’s administration could also be a risky proposition for Biden’s legacy, burnished substantially by his vice presidency. Maybe it’s a call to service he has to answer, but writing a book and working on cancer research is definitely the safer bet.

Mark Kirk isn’t much better than Donald Trump.

In June, Kirk said Trump was “too bigoted and racist” to be president and “does not have the temperament” to serve as an effective commander-in-chief. Just a few weeks ago, amidst the fallout from the Billy Bush tape, he called on Trump to withdraw from the ticket. (Kirk has said that he plans on writing David Petraeus’s name on his ballot for president, for some reason.)

But the main reason Kirk opposes Trump is because he has the most vulnerable seat in the Senate. His opponent, Tammy Duckworth, has done a very good job of lashing him to Trump. The polling suggests that Duckworth, a veteran who lost both legs in the Iraq War, is leading Kirk by a fairly substantial margin.

In a debate on Thursday, Duckworth discussed the importance of service in her family—she was born to a Thai-Chinese mother and a U.S. Marine father whose family has been in the United States since it was a British colony. After Duckworth described herself as a “Daughter of the Revolution,” Kirk replied, “I forgot that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington.”

Ironically, given Kirk’s attempts to distance himself from Trump, this is the exact kind of racially charged comment that Trump has made again and again this election. Kirk is arguing that Duckworth’s background and appearance somehow make her less American. Kirk, who has a history of making racially charged statements, has not apologized. Duckworth, meanwhile, has taken the high road—she didn’t respond to Kirk’s dig but tweeted this after the debate:

October 27, 2016

Vine was good.

Today, Twitter announced that it is shutting down the Vine mobile app. For those of you dweebs who don’t know what Vine is, here’s a primer:

Started only three years ago, Vine has given us some of the internet’s best content and has proved that most videos shouldn’t be longer than six seconds. After all, that’s how long it takes to capture Jeb Bush’s entire presidential run:

Or the plight of being an animal in a human’s world:

And, as Doreen St. Felix has written in Fader, Vine has been an important creative outlet for black teens (although they’ve seen little of the profits). Take Peaches Monroee’s Vine that coined the term “on fleek”:

And aside from comedy, the app also served as an important tool for Black Lives Matter activists:

Vine was good. RIP Vine.

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The Clinton Foundation is going to keep causing Hillary Clinton problems.

Emails released by WikiLeaks have revealed that a number of Hillary Clinton’s staffers and others were concerned about potential conflicts between the Clinton Foundation’s fundraising, Hillary Clinton’s work at the State Department and her presidential campaign, and Bill Clinton’s personal ventures, which have made him a considerable amount of money since leaving office.

Looking through the emails, there’s a general sense of anxiety about Bill’s various projects, and how they could affect his wife’s presidential ambitions—and a sense that political aides were largely powerless when they tried to intercede. When greater control over the Clinton Foundation was exerted—largely by Chelsea Clinton—it often resulted in chaos because various high-level officials there, most notably Doug Band, felt that their own moneymaking efforts were threatened.

Back in 2013, Alec MacGillis wrote in The New Republic about Band’s efforts to use his proximity to the Clintons to build a fortune. Band, entranced by power and by wealth, repeatedly put the Clintons in compromising positions to benefit himself, bringing in shady figures like Anne Hathaway’s ex-boyfriend (and later convicted money launderer) Raffaello Follieri into their orbit, regularly using the Clinton name to land flashy dining reservations, and insisting on staying in luxurious locations, despite Bill’s seeming disinterest. At the time, the Clinton Foundation called MacGillis’s reporting baseless, but it is borne out by the WikiLeaks emails.

The Clintons have tried to sever their connection to Band in recent years, but he is, in many ways, indicative of the Clinton Foundation’s larger problems. It’s often hard to disentangle its philanthropic work from its fundraising activities, Bill’s work on its behalf from Hillary’s political ambitions, and some of its shadier figures from its noble ambitions. It’s a problem that continues to baffle Hillary and her closest aides, if the Wikileaks emails are to be trusted. It will continue to be a thorn in her side if she is elected.

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Paul Ryan better watch his back.

On Wednesday evening, Rep. Jason Chaffetz announced on Twitter that he would reluctantly vote for Donald Trump to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House, which marks the second time he has changed his mind about supporting the Republican nominee.

It’s a suspicious pivot from his statements earlier this month, in which he unequivocally condemned Trump following the leak of a tape in which he bragged about sexually assaulting a woman. “My wife, Julie and I, we have a 15-year-old daughter,” Chaffetz said on CNN. “Do you think I can look her in the eye and tell her that I endorsed Donald Trump for president when he acts like this and his apology? So I’m not going to put my good name and reputation and my family behind Donald Trump when he acts like this, I just can’t do it.”

Set aside for the moment whether Chaffetz has decided to never look his daughter in the eye again. What gives? Some pundits speculate that he might be jockeying for a promotion. He has been in the spotlight this week for announcing plans to launch “years” of House investigations into Clinton’s record, should she become president. And he was on the short list to replace John Boehner as speaker of the House back in 2015. If he still wants the job, he might be making a political calculus in tepidly supporting his party’s nominee.

A Ryan ouster isn’t unfathomable. FiveThirtyEight reported that his net favorability ratings have been rocky over the last few months as he has struggled to thread the needle of accepting Trump while preventing him from tainting the entire the GOP. And he’s facing an outright rebellion from pro-Trump members of his caucus. Trump himself might goad them on; according to the Times, Trump has “privately said that Mr. Ryan should pay a price for his disloyalty.”

Whether Chaffetz is the man to succeed Ryan is another question, given his previous statements against Trump. But at the very least, it appears that Ryan’s would-be successors detect blood in the water.


Donald Trump butchers Hindi in a desperate attempt to win the Indian-American vote.

“Ab ki baar Trump sarkar,” the Republican nominee says in a new ad, which translates the phrase as “This time Trump Government.” Business Insider reports that the phrase actually means “This Time, We’re With Trump’s Government.” But hey, Trump is too busy for trifling pronouns and prepositions.

According to BuzzFeed, the slogan is a spin on the one used in 2014 by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with whom Trump says he looks forward to working. Trump is also shown in the ad lighting a diya for Diwali—the festival of lights that begins this weekend—and speaking at a recent Bollywood event with the Republican Hindu Coalition. “We love the Hindus,” he says. “We love India.”

The 30-second spot, airing now on Indian-American channels, was produced in-house by Trump’s Indian-American Advisory Council, according to the group’s chairman. That makes sense, given that the erratically edited ad looks like something a middle-school student would produce on iMovie.

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Donald Trump has a Mormon problem. That means Lou Dobbs has a problem with Mormons.

To their credit, Republican Mormons are balking at the prospect of voting for the most profane presidential candidate in modern history. Utah, a state that Mitt Romney won handily in 2012, is now a tight race thanks to the insurgent campaign of Evan McMullin. So naturally Dobbs, one of Trump’s biggest supporters in the media, decides to pour gasoline on the fire by tweeting

“Globalist” is a very popular conspiracy term among Trumpkins, and often has an anti-Semitic connotation. But what’s interesting is the phrase “Mormon mafia.” Mormons aware of their history will know that they were long subject to xenophobic conspiracy theories of the sort used also against Jews and Catholics. According to these theories, Mormons were an alien element trying to subvert the American republic. 

Dobbs is a bellwether on the populist right, with his own anti-Latino rants being a forerunner of Trump’s campaign. It could well be that if Trump loses Utah, his movement will turn against Mormons just as they’ve already turned against people of color, Muslim-Americans, and many other groups.   

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Ted Cruz would rather neuter the Supreme Court than appoint Merrick Garland or any other Democratic nominee.

Poor Merrick Garland. Once upon a time, he was going to be a wedge issue in down-ballot races, but he’s spent the last few months largely being forgotten, presumably sitting at home watching baseball, waiting for the phone to ring. (It never rings.)

But slowly but surely, Garland has reemerged in the race, at least in the abstract. Eyeing defeat in November, Republicans are starting to panic about the future of the Supreme Court, which could very well have a liberal majority for the first time in five decades. There’s little that Republicans can do, which helps explain why they’ve started to come around to a permanent stonewalling of Garland’s nomination—their only hope of maintaining control of the Court.

Speaking in Colorado on Wednesday, death-mask lookalike Ted Cruz argued that there is precedent for starving the court of new justices for a sustained period of time. “There is certainly long historical precedent for a Supreme Court with fewer justices,” Cruz said. “I would note, just recently, that Justice Breyer observed that the vacancy is not impacting the ability of the court to do its job. That’s a debate that we are going to have.” In other words, the court can function just fine without a ninth justice, thank you.

This is not true, as having eight justices has one very obvious flaw—no one likes ties, as Sunday night’s Cardinals-Seahawks game testifies. But conservatives like Cruz nevertheless see gridlock as being better than the alternative.