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Opinion: Trump’s indictment hat trick takes America to the brink


Opinion by Jane Greenway Carr, CNN

(CNN) — Through much of human history, the number three has been imbued with power. In fairy tales, it connotes magic; for Greek philosopher Pythagoras, three — as the only number that equals the sum of previous numbers and is expressive of a beginning, a middle and an end — symbolized harmony, time and the cycle of life. In Christian tradition, it represents the Holy Trinity. It’s associated in astrology with wisdom and abundance and as Scottish writer Tobias Smollett put it in his 1751 picaresque novel “The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle,” which tracks the journeys of an egotistical dandy, “Number three is always fortunate.”

But as anyone who’s ever had a superstitious feeling knows, the number three also has a dark side — as the typical formation in which bad things travel, the odd person out with that happy couple who just won’t quit smiling at each other, the final strike called after the swing you don’t take at the plate.

The number three entered presidential history in a new way this week: former President Donald Trump’s third indictment, this one from a federal grand jury on four felony counts of conspiracy and obstruction stemming from special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election leading up to the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. “The ramifications of these charges for Trump and the country are enormous,” wrote legal scholar Michael Gerhardt. “The third and most recent set of indictments goes further than either of the other two, in showing how in several states, including Georgia, Michigan and Arizona, Trump attempted to undermine the integrity of the presidential election and thwart the will of the electorate.”

The charges against Trump (to which he pleaded not guilty on Thursday) have significant implications for American democracy and two are especially heavy with historical import, argued John Avlon: “Conspiracy to Defraud the United States” and “Conspiracy Against Rights.” The latter charge, brought under Section 241 of Title 18 of the US Code, dates to a series of laws known as the Enforcement Acts, or the Ku Klux Klan Acts, passed by Congress under former President Ulysses S. Grant to fight the Klan insurgency against Reconstruction and empower the federal government to enforce the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution that freed enslaved people, guaranteed equal protection of the laws and granted Black (male) citizens the right to vote.

Opined Avlon: “Attempting to overturn election results has the fundamental effect of denying the right of individuals to have their votes counted fairly. The historic context of these laws helps us appreciate the gravity of the crime, which Trump allegedly attempted to perpetrate on our democracy.”

“As we’re learning more about how…Trump plans to defend himself,” noted SE Cupp, it seems the former president is reaching for the so-called “Seinfeld defense,” George Costanza’s infamous adage, “It’s not a lie if you believe it.”

Whether or not Trump is convicted on these most recent charges, “there will be Americans who condemn the verdict,” assessed lawyer Eric Klein and historian Jeremi Suri, who asserted, “What will matter most, going forward, is whether the American people see the trial as fair; as such, public perceptions of the judge will be enormously important.” Klein overlapped with US District Judge Tanya Chutkan, the Obama appointee assigned to Trump’s case, when they were both public defenders in Washington, DC. Klein and Suri pointed to Chutkan’s impeccable credentials and experience as a public defender as reasons to respect the upcoming proceedings: “The  public should know that the current defendant will receive a fair opportunity to confront the evidence against him and he will have an open chance to raise reasonable doubts about his alleged motives and actions.”

For more:

Rev. Dr. Russell J. Levenson, Jr.: This throwback president is the kind of leader the GOP needs today

Julian Zelizer: How Trump’s indictment reverses a 50-year precedent

Dean Obeidallah: Why are Trump’s donors paying for his legal fees?

Hotter than hell

In Phoenix, Arizona, July was the hottest month ever observed in a US city. It reached temperatures of at least 110 degrees Fahrenheit for 31 consecutive days. For Jon Gabriel, who has lived in what he describes as the “aptly named ‘Valley of the Sun’” since he was a child, “it doesn’t take a climate scientist to recognize the rising intensity of our summers. Growing up on the northern edge of the sprawling city, the days were hot, but nights cooled off considerably.” But this July, even nighttime temperatures averaged over 90 degrees. In the absence of global leadership, his hometown has been turning to new practices, from xeriscaping to “cool” pavement and roof technology, to meet the crisis: “Phoenix doesn’t have the luxury to wait for world leaders to ‘fix’ the climate, whatever that might entail. The city’s rapid growth helped create the rising urban temperatures; it’s up to us residents to solve it,” contended Gabriel.

Women’s World Cup

As Olympic champions Canada and powerhouse Germany crashed out of the FIFA Women’s World Cup during the group stage of play, first-timers Morocco, South Africa and Jamaica advanced to the knockout round for the first time, punctuating an ascendancy of women of color and smaller nations in what may potentially be a tectonic shift in the power structure of this global sport. Aimee Phan, who grew up as a Vietnamese American kid whose immigrant father wouldn’t let her play sports (too big a distraction from academics) but who also loved watching the World Cup, wrote about following this bracket-buster of a tournament with her children, who now play the sport she never could.

Phan described her tears at the Philippines’ 1-0 win over co-host New Zealand and the unforgettable impression left by Morocco’s Nouhaila Benzina as she ran onto the pitch and became the first ever player to compete at this tournament in a hijab. It was “deeply personal” to her to watch Vietnam hold their own against the juggernaut United States (who had beaten Thailand 13-0 in the opening round of the 2019 tournament). “These profound connections — some individual, others international in scope — are a big part of why so many viewers, soccer fans or not, find the World Cup enthralling. … My children shouldn’t have to wait every four years to see so many brown and Black professional soccer players play at the elite level. … My hope, fostered by what I’ve seen in the Women’s World Cup so far, is they won’t have to wait much longer to see pros who look like them on teams all over the world,” she wrote.

Salad safety

In the wake of a listeria outbreak in Washington that killed three and hospitalized two more, CNN Opinion’s Kirsi Goldynia spoke with Dr. Catherine Donnelly, professor emeritus in the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences at the University of Vermont who has spent much of her career studying listeria, about how food contamination happens and how consumers can avoid it.

Leafy greens can be particularly susceptible to contamination that causes foodborne illness, a challenge to many Americans looking to foster healthful eating. Donnelly addressed that point in detail, along with another recent baby formula-related outbreak that caused nationwide chaos and fear, and offered her best guidance. “My advice is always: Buy products from places that you trust … Consider buying products closer to home – from farmer’s markets, for instance, where the time from the harvest to consumption might be narrower than for products that are centrally produced, bagged and shipped great distances. That can help reduce the risk of being exposed to pathogens,” advised Donnelly.

A tragic reminder

The horrific fatal stabbing of O’Shae Sibley, a 28-year old who was dancing to a Beyoncé song at a Brooklyn gas station last weekend, offers a chilling reminder about the brutal reality of being Black and queer in America, asserted Clay Cane. (A 17-year-old has been charged with murder as a hate crime and criminal possession of a weapon.)

Recalling a number of other killings in New York City over the last decade, Cane wrote: “As a Black gay man from Philadelphia who moved to New York City when I was 21, Sibley’s killing serves as a reminder that while progress is celebrated and some people cloak themselves in rainbows, the people in my community know we cannot allow ourselves to be too comfortable. We have been harassed, attacked and hunted in liberal cities on the coasts and in rural hamlets of the Deep South.”

Cane himself described being “constantly alert and hyper-aware of my surroundings” and empathized with those who are afraid to live an open life. “When you are LGBTQ, you live your best life and there is no tragedy in your identity, but you can never let down your guard,” he warned.

A sobering new study

A recent study has found that alcohol-related deaths are rising more quickly among American women than among American men. Jill Filipovic argued that this disturbing trend calls for social, political and cultural solutions: “Our culture treats alcohol-saturated fraternities as a normal part of the college experience, black-out drinking as entertaining comedy fodder and now, for women, getting white-wine wasted as a way to cope with the stress of raising children.”

At the same time, Americans are lonelier, more anxious and depressed than ever, complicating their already-problematic relationship with booze, noted Filipovic: “As women have moved toward greater equality with men — and lived lives that look more like men’s — women are engaging in more alcohol-related dysfunction.” Filipovic advocated for a “culture shift away from puritanism and toward pleasure — not pleasure as a guilt-inducing act of hedonism that must be atoned for, but part of a good, balanced, healthy life. And finally, we need to understand that this rise of alcohol-related deaths among women in particular tells us something about modern womanhood: namely, that a lot of women are badly struggling, and need vastly more support.”

Drug shortage danger

The punishing unavailability of some cancer drugs is shining a spotlight on widespread and increased shortages of multiple drugs. “Unprecedented drug shortages are pushing hospitals and clinics around the country to the brink. Physicians are being forced to choose who can receive the recommended treatment for their illness —  and who must wait,” lamented Dr. Eric Winer, the director of the Yale Cancer Center. He detailed the emotional toll the shortages take on patients, and the strain they put on the doctor-patient relationship: “When oncologists tell their patients that the standard, and usually best, therapy is unavailable, the conversation quickly becomes both challenging and heart-wrenching.”

The shortages have been tragically acute and long-lasting for drugs that treat cancer in children; according to Winer, “We do not know the full extent to which this has impaired our ability to cure children with cancer.” He argued, “To prevent these shortages, US regulators should expand on the existing essential medicines list to create a more comprehensive list of critical drugs — both for cancer and other conditions — needed for emergency responses and saving lives. Every drug on the list should be evaluated for availability, quality, manufacturer reliability and potential weaknesses in the supply chain.”

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A back-to-school question

“Does your child’s school have a full-time registered nurse on staff?”

All parents should be asking that question now that a new school year is on the horizon, wrote Sherrie Page Guyer, a registered nurse for more than 30 years and a school nurse for eight of them. Only around 40% of schools meet the recommendations of the National Association of School Nurses and the American Academy of Pediatrics for a full-time nurse, and around 25% of US schools “have no nurse on staff at all,” facts that are “difficult to reconcile at a time when more than 40% of school-aged children and adolescents have at least one chronic health condition, and the US faces a youth mental health crisis like never before.”

Page Guyer stressed that while “it is clear that schools with registered nurses are safer than those without, better health isn’t the only benefit. Research shows that for every dollar invested in a school’s full-time registered nurse, society nets $2.20 by preventing costly medical appointments and teachers’ and caregivers’ missed work. School nurses also increase equity and access to health resources and reduce absenteeism, helping students reach their full academic potential at a time when student test scores have plummeted nationwide. … No other single hire more significantly impacts the safety and well-being of our schools. Every child deserves a school nurse.”

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