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Columns
OTHER VIEW
Other View: Trump's Russia problems are getting worse

Jennifer Rubin

If President Donald Trump thought hiring outside counsel and trying to redirect the press corps’ questions to lawyers was going to turn down the heat on his Russia scandal, he miscalculated, to put it mildly. Consider what has occurred in the last week and what he has ahead of him:

- On Thursday, former FBI director James B. Comey will testify in public, reportedly recounting Trump’s attempts to shut down the investigation. The allegations, if true, would make out a case (maybe criminal, but certainly for impeachment purposes) of obstruction of justice.

- Trump pal Nigel Farage has been named as another person of interest, adding to the number of pro-Russia nationalists in Trump’s circle who may provide information to investigators. (Farage met with WikiLeaks head Julian Assange, who published the hacked emails from the Clinton campaign.)

- Senate Democrats are pressing for information to make out a case of perjury against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who originally said under oath that he had not met with the Russians during the 2016 campaign.

- Russian President Vladimir Putin engaged in some Class A trolling, suggesting that “patriotic” Russians might have been responsible for hacking into the Democratic National Committee.

- Upon entering office, the Trump team immediately set out to lift sanctions against Russia, according to a Yahoo News report. (“Unknown to the public at the time, top Trump administration officials, almost as soon as they took office, tasked State Department staffers with developing proposals for the lifting of economic sanctions, the return of diplomatic compounds and other steps to relieve tensions with Moscow.”)

- Worst of all, Jared Kushner’s meetings with the Russians have turned into their own mini-scandal and political mystery.

As to the latter, The Washington Post reports: “The White House and a Russian state-owned bank have very different explanations for why the bank’s chief executive and Jared Kushner held a secret meeting during the presidential transition in December.” Vnesheconombank (VEB) says the meeting was “with Kushner in his role as the head of his family’s real estate business.” The White House says it was a diplomatic outreach, which makes his failure to disclose it on his security clearance application very problematic. Either way, it looks bad. (“A business meeting between an international development bank and a real estate executive, coming as Kushner’s company had been seeking financing for its troubled $1.8 billion purchase of an office building on Fifth Avenue in New York, could raise questions about whether Kushner’s personal financial interests were colliding with his impending role as a public official.” Because VEB is under bank sanctions, an attempt to secure a loan would raise red flags.) Moreover, VEB’s chief executive, Sergey Gorkov, is a Putin ally who, records suggest, the day after the Kushner meeting may have flown to Japan to meet up with—you guessed it—Putin. For a guy who had multiple meetings with Russians (one with the CEO of a sanctioned bank and one about setting up a secret channel), Kushner’s failure to report his contacts begins to look less like absent-mindedness and more like evasion.

The more details emerge, the harder it is to maintain that these are isolated, innocuous events. It is even harder to justify allowing Kushner to remain in office without a full accounting of his meetings with Russians and subsequent failure to report them. In any normal administration, Kushner would have been fired for, at the very least, atrocious judgment. He, however, is the president’s son-in-law, which should spur passage of more stringent rules against nepotism. With the intelligence committees of both houses sending out batches of subpoenas and new revelations each day, Republicans are soon to be confronted with a dilemma: At what point do they defend American national security and turn against the president and the princeling? If not before 2018, the voters will have the chance to take away their majority in one or both houses and give the Democrats a green light to move toward impeachment.


Columns
OTHER VIEW
Other View: Despite everything, it is still necessary to obtain a Beach Body

We are withdrawing from the Paris Accords.

But also, it is apparently summer. Hundreds of years have shriveled up and crumpled into dust and blown away on the wind since January, but it is apparently summer now, and you must prepare.

It is necessary that you obtain a Beach Body.

The Beaches are coming inland, and your body must be ready when they come for you.

Consider whether what you are wearing is fit for the Beach.

For too long, coastal elites have hogged the Beach. But now the Beach is coming so that everyone’s body may be a Beach Body.

Have you made a playlist? Do not forget the champagne popsicles. You must be ready. The Beach will soon be here.

Is your hair styled in loose, carefree waves? Do you remember what it felt like to be carefree? Quickly. You must remember. The Beach is coming.

Can you be seen in a bikini? Dare you expose your tender underbelly to the sun and the scrutiny of strangers and be overcome with the same feeling that grips you when you see President Trump going to represent the country abroad, except that you cannot cover him in sunscreen and make the feeling stop?

Anyway, bring a towel. Bring a lot of towels. Absorbent ones.

Look, the ghost forests are creeping across the landscape. The Beach cannot be far behind. Do you have a helmet so that if a bald cypress that cannot live in brackish water falls, your head will be protected? Where is your helmet? You must obtain a helmet quickly.

Put on sunscreen.

Put on more sunscreen.

Whatever happens, you must cover yourself in sunscreen. Soon you will not have health care, either, and you cannot afford weakness. You had better cover your entire body in sunscreen, just to be safe. Any sign of weakness, and they will fall upon you. You must have discernible abs—or what will happen?

Relax. Soon you will be at the Beach. Relax. Let the water cover you.

You are standing on asphalt and the ocean seems far away. Too bad. The Beach is coming. Is your body ready?

Look at what you are reading. Consider whether it is a fit beach read. Climate data? It is much too heavy, probably. No time to furrow your brow and look gloomy. You are at the Beach. You must let go of those cares. Until the hurricane comes, at least. (You must also prepare your Hurricane Body.)

Mmm, smell that salt spray! There will be even more saltwater, soon.

Do not read the newspaper. It is not good beach reading. Newspapers tend to blow away and inconvenience plovers, not that many plovers’ nests will survive this, probably. Still.

Relax.

Maybe China and India will do something and it will be fine.

You should apply more sunscreen. Have you brought something to float on?

Close your eyes. Breathe. Hear those waves, nearer and nearer and higher and higher.

What if the water covers you? What if the water covers everything? Will you look your best then? Will your city look its best? You must consider these things.

Do not cry. Already there is too much saltwater.

The Beach is coming, and you must look your best.


Columns
READER COMMENT
Reader Comment: It is time to reevaluate Idaho's death penalty

No person in Idaho has been sentenced to die since 2004, but this hiatus may come to a close as some prosecutors seem poised to pursue new capital cases. Given the realities, it seems fitting to once again reevaluate Idaho’s current death penalty. When examining the effectiveness of capital punishment in Idaho, one must objectively measure the system’s efficiency in terms of risks, costs, and its ability to meet its purported goals.

Idaho has a poor record with the death penalty. Three people have been executed, and one has been released from death row because he was wrongly convicted. Based on this error rate, the risks are clearly far too high, especially when you consider that we are talking about people’s lives, but unfortunately these dangers cannot be sufficiently mitigated. Wrongful convictions often stem from mistaken eyewitness testimony, reliance on unscientific forensic methods, and official misconduct. Due to the human element, wrongful convictions can and do still happen.

In addressing the Idaho death penalty’s financial cost, a 2014 study found that Idaho’s capital cases are far more expensive and take much more time to resolve than similar non-capital cases. The study measured the death penalty’s costs in time rather than dollars. Researchers found that capital trials took 20.5 months to reach a conclusion while non-capital trials took 13.5 months. The appeals also require more time too. The State Appellate Public Defenders office spent about 44 times more hours on a typical death penalty appeal than on a life sentence appeal (almost 8,000 hours per capital defendant compared to about 180 hours per non-death penalty defendant).

Time is money. All the extra time spent on death penalty cases means higher costs to the state. Data gathered from neighboring states with the death penalty help quantify these costs. In Utah, for example, each death penalty case costs around $1.6 million more than a life-without-parole case. Washington state faces a similar problem according to a Seattle University study that found that each death penalty case costs an average of $1 million more than a similar case where the death penalty was not sought ($3.07 million versus $2.01 million). This is taxpayer money not well spent.

One of capital punishment’s alleged primary goals is to deter future crime, but does it actually achieve this goal in reality? In fact, recent studies find little evidence that the death penalty is an effective deterrent against crime. The murder rate in non-death penalty states has remained consistently lower than the rate in states with the death penalty, and the gap has grown since 1990. Furthermore, a 2008 poll of 500 police chiefs in the United States found that police chiefs ranked the death penalty last when asked to name what was “most important for reducing violent crime.” Again, we see that the death penalty falls short of living up to its purpose, but it fails in other ways too.

The death penalty is a lengthy process. It is as such because a life is on the line. Therefore, mistakes cannot be made. Although necessary for ensuring accuracy, this lengthy process only prolongs the grief and suffering felt by victim’s families. Capital punishment is often seen as a means of attaining retribution for the crimes committed against a family’s loved one. However, the long and stressful process ultimately delays the victim’s family’s efforts to begin healing. Additionally, because the death penalty is pronounced to be reserved only for truly ‘heinous’ crimes, a lesser sentence sends the message to victim’s families that their loss is not as important as others.

It is evident that the death penalty wastes taxpayer money and falls short of meeting its primary goals – deterring crime and helping victims’ families. In referring to their pledge for fiscal responsibility, the Idaho GOP platform states, “Programs which are not cost effective or have outlived their usefulness should be terminated”. The death penalty in Idaho certainly fits that description, and needs to go.


Mailbag
Letter: In a liberal world

In a Liberal World there is global warming. Where's the data to prove what the temperature was 500 years ago here in Twin Falls or anywhere on the planet? Where's the data to prove what the temperature will be 500 years into the future here in Twin Falls or anywhere on Earth? Global warming cannot be proven ... there is no data that indicates warming nor cooling ... only perfect idiots who have created the made-up carbon credits. In a Liberal World everyone will starve and die ... but don't worry ... in a Liberal World no one works and therefore no one to bury you!

Charles Lewis

Twin Falls