THE FLINT COVER-UP

Wiped Phones and the Battle for Evidence in Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s Prosecution

Illustration: Noah MacMillan

Jordan Chariton
Jenn Dize

Jordan CharitonJenn Dize
July 21 2021, 9:33 a.m. (TheIntercept.com)

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IN OCTOBER 2015, then-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder finally announced that Flint’s water was contaminated with dangerous lead levels. That public admission had come after more than a year of pleading from the city’s residents to examine the situation. The city, Snyder promised, would immediately stop using water from the Flint River, which residents had been drinking for 18 months.

The public announcement raised as many questions as it answered and kick-started a yearslong investigation into how the decision that delivered the toxic water to Flint had been made in the first place, how many people were sickened and killed as a result, and when senior government officials first learned of the deadly consequences. 

Along the way, however, investigators who were part of a three-year Flint water investigation beginning in 2016 kept drilling dry holes. 

Dr. Eden Wells became Michigan’s chief medical executive in May 2015. By then, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services had been aware for at least seven months of a significant increase in the deadly waterborne Legionnaires’ disease throughout Flint.

But when investigators obtained access to Wells’s phone, they discovered something unusual. “For Dr. Wells’ phone the earliest message is from November 12, 2015,” then-Flint special prosecutor Todd Flood wrote in a subpoena petition obtained by The Intercept. During the key period that investigators were probing, no messages were found. In 2018, a judge ruled that Wells would have to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter, along with obstruction of justice, over her role in the water crisis. (Those charges were dropped by current Attorney General Dana Nessel in 2019; in January 2021, Nessel’s Flint water prosecutors recharged Wells with involuntary manslaughter, misconduct in office, and neglect of duty.)Join Our NewsletterOriginal reporting. Fearless journalism. Delivered to you.I’m in

Other searches turned up similar results. The phone of Tim Becker, MDHHS’s chief deputy director, had no messages on it prior to April 14, 2016, two months before he left his role with MDHHS. Becker testified to having first asked questions about Flint’s Legionella outbreak in January 2015.

Patricia McKane, an epidemiologist with MDHHS who testified that she was pressured to lie by Wells about elevated blood-lead levels in Flint’s children, was found to have only had four text messages on her phone from 2015 and seven total messages. (Wells denied pressuring her to lie.) Fellow MDHHS epidemiologist Sarah Lyon-Callo, director of the state Bureau of Epidemiology and Population Health, who Wells copied in an email responding to accusations by a Wayne State University professor that she was trying to conceal the link between the Flint River switch and the Legionella outbreak, had no messages prior to June 2016. 

“Again, for some strange reason the earliest text message in time on her device begins June 20, 2016,” Flood wrote. Wesley Priem, manager of the MDHHS’s Lead and Healthy Homes program, who emailed colleagues erroneously challenging the findings of high blood-lead levels in Flint children discovered by Flint pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, had just one text message found on his state-issued phone from January 22, 2016.

The lack of phone messages from top MDHHS officials was a major red flag to investigators and an obvious impediment to those investigating who knew what and when. Despite department epidemiologists hypothesizing in October 2014 that the source of Flint’s deadly Legionnaires’ disease outbreak was the switch to the Flint River six months earlier, Flint residents weren’t informed of the deadly outbreak until 16 months later, when Snyder announced it in January 2016. PBS found a 43 percent increase in pneumonia deaths in Flint during the 18 months the city received drinking water from the Flint River — and also found that scientists believed that some of those 115 pneumonia deaths could be attributed to Legionnaires’ disease, which has similar symptoms to pneumonia and is often misdiagnosed as such.

Gladyes Williamson holds up a discolored jug of water and chants along with other protestors outside the Farmers Market downtown on April 25, 2015, which marks the one year anniversary of the City of Flint switching from using Detroit water to Flint River water. Flint residents of all ages gathered outside Flint City Hall, located on S. Saginaw Street, with signs, t-shirts, and megaphones before walking throughout many streets downtown to voice their concerns with the public. (Sam Owens/The Flint Journal-MLive.com via AP)

A protestor holds up a discolored jug of water outside a farmers market on April 25, 2015, which marked the one-year anniversary of the city of Flint switching from using Detroit water to Flint River water.

Photo: Sam Owens/The Flint Journal-MLive.com via AP

Investigators also discovered that phone data belonging to a key official close to Snyder was completely erased shortly before the Flint criminal investigation was launched.

Sara Wurfel, Snyder’s press secretary during the water crisis in 2014 through fall 2015, told Flood her phone was “wiped” when she left her job at the end of November 2015, after a civil suit was filed against the Snyder administration and a month before the launch of the Flint water criminal investigation. 

“Do you have text messages from 2015 currently [on your phone]?” Flood asked Wurfel in a confidential interview obtained by The Intercept. 

“No. So when I left the governor’s office, everything got wiped. I mean, when — I turned in my phone, it got wiped,” Wurfel told Flood. Wurfel, who kept her state cellphone number when she left her government job, said she didn’t recall if she had been asked to hand in her phone at any other time in 2015 prior to leaving her job in November. She also said she didn’t think that she had used iCloud to back up her phone data.

When asked for comment by The Intercept, Wurfel said, “Not sure what you’re referring to — please share if there’s a specific document, item, etc.” When provided with what she told the special prosecutor regarding her phone being wiped when she left her state role, she did not reply. 

“That is not standard,” a former Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget, or DTMB, official who worked for the state during this period and was involved with state data preservation told The Intercept about Wurfel’s phone being wiped upon leaving her role as Snyder’s press secretary. “There are retention schedules that every agency, including the governor’s office, is supposed to adhere to,” said the ex-official, adding that for the governor’s office, data is supposed to be retained for at least a year after an official leaves. But with potential litigation looming, “it should’ve been held indefinitely,” the official concluded. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of professional retaliation.“We’ve said all along that we believe that there was a cover-up and that the governor knew more information than he was putting out publicly.”

Lonnie Scott, executive director of the progressive organization Progress Michigan, told The Intercept “it’s not entirely surprising to hear” that top officials’ phones lacked data or were wiped completely. Scott had seen something similar happen in 2014, when his organization had submitted Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, requests for state health Director Jim Haveman’s communications with Snyder’s chief of staff. After Haveman resigned from his job in October 2014, Progress Michigan discovered that his emails were deleted upon his resignation from his role. 

“We’ve said all along that we believe that there was a cover-up and that the governor knew more information than he was putting out publicly,” Scott said. Soon after Snyder’s October 2015 announcement about Flint’s toxic water, the heat intensified around the governor as calls for a federal investigation into the water crisis mounted along with heightened media attention. As the water crisis intensified and a criminal investigation was launched, criminal prosecutors and investigators would discover that messages were lacking from before October 2015 on phones belonging to top MDHHS officials.

The question of what Snyder knew and when, and what role he and his administration played in stymying investigations into the cause and cover-up of the outbreak, is of increasing importance as the former governor now faces trial in connection with his handling of Flint’s water crisis.

Wells’s lawyer did not respond to The Intercept’s request for comment. Neither did Becker, McKane, Lyon-Callo, or Priem. A spokesperson for Snyder declined to comment. 

On the lack of phone messages from top MDHHS officials, a department spokesperson told The Intercept via email, “The department does not care to comment other than to say that the department always cooperates with the Attorney General’s office in providing anything that office has asked for during its Flint water investigation.” 

Snyder’s legal team declined to comment.

THE INFORMATION concerning the missing data was detailed by the investigators in a petition for the issuance of a subpoena obtained by The Intercept. Flint special prosecutor Flood, who was appointed by then-Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette in 2016 to carry out the original Flint water investigation, sought to interview Jim Fick, a state information technology official with the DTMB. Though the petition was never filed, its contents are supported by the accounts of multiple sources familiar with the investigation as well as transcripts of interviews reviewed by The Intercept. Flood did not respond to The Intercept’s request for comment. In the subpoena petition, Flood referenced the top MDHHS officials from whom he had recently obtained phone data; 4 out of their 5 phones had “no records prior to October 2015.”

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The draft of a subpoena for prosecutors to interview Jim Fick, a state of Michigan IT official.

Image: Obtained by The Intercept

Flood also described an email that he and his criminal team received in May 2016 from Jim Henry, a supervisor with the Genesee County Health Department, who knew Fick through their children’s hockey team. In Henry’s email, obtained by The Intercept, he wrote: “Jim [Fick] explained to me that several MDEQ employee phones were returned to his office ‘wiped clean’ about the same time of George’s email below.” 

Henry was referring to George Krisztian, who served as MDEQ’s lab director involved with Flint’s water lead- and copper-testing data — data that Flint water investigators found MDEQ officials had “conspired” to alter in order to bury the true lead levels that showed Flint’s water was toxic. 

Former Gov. Rick Snyder stays silent as barrage of media asks questions after his video arraignment on charges related to the Flint water crisis, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021 outside the Genesee County Jail in downtown Flint, Mich. (Cody Scanlan/The Flint Journal via AP)

Former Gov. Rick Snyder stays silent as members of the media ask questions after his video arraignment on charges related to the Flint water crisis on Jan. 14, 2021, outside the Genesee County jail in downtown Flint, Mich.

Photo: Cody Scanlan/The Flint Journal via AP

Soon after Snyder’s October 8, 2015, press conference announcing that Flint’s water was toxic, Krisztian was named the MDEQ’s Flint action plan coordinator. Weeks later, on October 19, 2015, MDEQ Director Dan Wyant admitted that the state environmental department had erred when it failed to treat Flint’s water with corrosion-control chemicals that prevent lead from leaching off old distribution pipes into the city’s water supply. One day after MDEQ’s public mea culpa, Krisztian sent an email to colleagues announcing that he had a new cellphone and number. 

Henry told prosecutors that Fick explained “it was odd to have [received] several working phones that were ‘wiped clean’ and no information could be retrieved. The timing of [this] was soon after the governor’s press conference on the 8th.” It was at that press conference that Snyder had first spoken publicly of the alarming lead levels. (The Intercept does not know which MDEQ officials, including Krisztian, allegedly used these phones or whether they are connected in any way with the senior MDHHS officials’ phones described by Flood as missing any data prior to October 2015.)

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An email Genesee County health official Jim Henry sent to the Flint criminal team tipping them off to what state IT official Jim Fick allegedly told him about MDEQ officials’ phones being delivered “wiped clean” to IT.

Image: Obtained by The Intercept

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George Krisztian emails colleagues on October 20, 2015, informing them he has a new cellphone and new number.

Image: Obtained by The Intercept

Krisztian told The Intercept in an email that he got a new phone shortly after Snyder’s press conference because of “my new assignment as the Flint Action Plan Coordinator.”

“I needed a phone that was dedicated to that job so that the Lab could get their phone back and be used by the acting lab director,” he said. “Many parties had that phone number as a contact for the lab, and if I recall correctly that number was also used for emergency response efforts. As such, it was only logical that I be issued a new phone and number. In addition, the old phone was a flip phone that had very limited functionality and a smartphone was much better suited to handle the needs of the Flint assignment.”

Krisztian aside, Flood considered whether there was a connection between the “wiped clean” phones and the phones he described with missing data, writing, “The contents of the imaged data [from MDHHS officials’ phones] have given credence to the possibility that was articulated from James Fick to James Henry may have occurred.”

Flood’s team was never formally able to interview the information technology official under oath, The Intercept learned; the subpoena petition moved up the attorney general’s leadership chain, but the “brakes kind of got pumped” and efforts to subpoena Fick halted, a source familiar with the chain of events told The Intercept. Instead, an investigator spoke with Fick informally, the results of which are unknown.

Fick did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Intercept regarding Henry’s tip to investigators. Henry, too, did not respond.

At least one high-level MDEQ official was asked to hand in his state-issued phone in the same October 2015 period that Fick allegedly received several “wiped clean” phones, documents obtained by The Intercept reveal.

In a confidential 2016 interview, Jim Sygo, then-MDEQ deputy director, told Flood that sometime in October 2015 he was asked to give his phone to Mary Beth Thelen, the administrative assistant to MDEQ Director Wyant, documents obtained by The Intercept show.

“I don’t know where they took it or what they did with it,” Sygo told Flood in a confidential interview, adding that he believed they were taking his phone to have it imaged. When Flood asked him if he received his phone back after handing it in, Sygo answered no. He did not specify whether he was given a new phone.“I don’t know where they took it or what they did with it.”

Sygo, who died in 2018 — eight months after he testified in the pretrial of Wells, Michigan’s chief medical executive — was an MDEQ official who investigators questioned to find out what and when Wyant, and Snyder, knew about Flint’s deadly waterborne Legionnaires’ disease outbreak. 

When approached about the allegedly “wiped clean” phones delivered to Fick, a DTMB spokesperson told The Intercept via email: “Each agency has a designated smart device coordinator who is responsible for ensuring their agency devices follow all IT security policies, guidelines, procedures, practices and recommendations. When an employee departs state service, their device should be returned to the coordinator, who then ensures the phone is properly handled. State agencies and their smart device coordinators are responsible for determining when to securely wipe the device. DTMB provides technical guidance on how to securely wipe the devices. Questions about agency actions with mobile devices need to be addressed by the specific agency.”

A spokesperson for MDEQ, which has rebranded itself the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, pointed to the previous Snyder administration.

“The current administration [of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer] is neither in a position to confirm the actions of, nor speculate on the motives of, employees and former employees that occurred six years ago,” they said. The spokesperson declined further comment, citing the ongoing Flint criminal investigation.

Beyond the questions arising from the phone data, The Intercept uncovered more details behind multiple internal investigations that Snyder initiated into the Flint water crisis. One of the investigations — led by the Michigan State Police to investigate MDEQ’s culpability for the water crisis — was launched on the same day that Schuette announced Flood as the Flint criminal investigation’s special counsel in January 2016.

The other Snyder-launched investigation was led by the state auditor general and inspector general investigating MDHHS’s role in the water crisis. In a sharply worded May 25, 2016, letter Schuette sent to Snyder, the attorney general ridiculed the investigations, arguing that they “have compromised the ongoing criminal investigation” and “may effectively be an obstruction of justice.” After Schuette’s letter demanding that Snyder cease his own Flint investigations, the governor announced a halt to them.

Attorney Randall Levine, right, walks arm-in-arm with Richard Baird, former transformation manager and senior adviser to former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, after a video arraignment on charges related to the Flint water crisis, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021 at the Genesee County Jail in downtown Flint, Mich. Baird faces four felony counts, including perjury, official misconduct in office, obstruction of justice and extortion. (Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP)

Attorney Randall Levine, right, walks arm in arm with Richard Baird, who served as a senior adviser to former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, after a video arraignment on charges related to the Flint water crisis on Jan. 14, 2021, at the Genesee County jail in downtown Flint, Mich.

Photo: Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP

Snyder’s top adviser and self-described “fixer,” Richard Baird, was the point person for Snyder who engineered the state police and auditor general/inspector general investigations, multiple sources familiar with the criminal investigation told The Intercept. With this knowledge in mind, Schuette copied Baird on the letter to the governor, along with Snyder’s private attorney, chief legal counsel, and chief of staff.

In January, Baird was charged with obstruction of justice, misconduct in office, perjury, and extortion for his role in the Flint water crisis.

The attorney representing Baird did not respond to The Intercept’s request for comment.

The state police investigation’s report, obtained by The Intercept, minimized MDEQ’s culpability in the water crisis. In the report, Michigan State Police Lt. Lisa Rish wrote that MDEQ employees she interviewed “denied any wrongdoing” and claimed that they had followed federal drinking water regulations while making decisions related to Flint’s water. The Michigan State Police interviewed 11 MDEQ officials, four of whom ended up being charged by Schuette as part of the Flint water criminal investigation. 

In one example, Rish wrote that MDEQ supervisor Stephen Busch merely made a “misstatement” when he falsely told concerned Environmental Protection Agency officials that Flint had an “optimized corrosion control program” in February 2015. As the Detroit Free Press reported, Flint “disastrously” had no corrosion control program in place at all, the lack of which resulted in lead leaching off of the city’s older pipes into its drinking water.

Schuette did not respond to The Intercept’s request for comment, nor did Rish or the Michigan State Police. 

Snyder’s internal investigations weren’t the only red flags investigators discovered surrounding the governor and Baird.

The Intercept learned that departments, including MDEQ and MDHHS, were tasked with creating timelines for their respective actions during the water crisis. But like many other things inside the Snyder administration during the crisis, the timelines were routed through Baird, who was well known in state government as Snyder’s right-hand man and close friend dating back to when Baird gave the governor his first job out of college.

Baird’s power as the governor’s point man even drew jokes about him being a “shadow governor.”

Upon reviewing the timelines, Flood’s investigators determined that the state departments had omitted important facts and events, according to documents reviewed by The Intercept; more so, they learned that the timelines were routed through Baird. Documents related to Flood’s investigation include allegations by prosecutors that Baird falsified the timelines in order to provide state officials with an official story to tell if and when they were questioned about the water crisis.

More than just allegedly false information, the timelines seemed to be missing important events linked to the water crisis. “It appears that MDEQ has missed a few items,” Henry, the Genesee County Health Department supervisor who sent the tip about the “wiped clean” phones to investigators, wrote in a December 3, 2015, email to colleagues that attached the Flint water timeline MDEQ put together. 

“I doubt they want our help filling in the blanks,” Henry wrote.

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An email Genesee County Health Department official Jim Henry sent to colleagues inferring that the state environmental department’s timeline of its role in the Flint water crisis selectively left out important details.

Image: Obtained by The Intercept

IN 2013, BAIRD and other Snyder officials used their private emails to communicate about a secret, for-profit school model the Snyder administration planned on launching, ominously called “Skunk Works.”

The move was par for the course for Baird, according to the ex-DTMB official, who alleged that the governor’s right-hand man once chided them for sending an email about Flint to his official Michigan government email.

“Don’t ever email me there, always email me on my Hotmail account,” Baird allegedly told the ex-DTMB official on a call soon after the official emailed his government email address, the former official alleged to The Intercept. “He never replied to the email; I think he was mad that I mentioned Flint in an email.”

The alleged command by Baird was in sync with his overall aversion to leaving an official paper trail. 

“Trust me amigo. Emails are fodder for our enemies’ cannons,” Baird wrote to ex-Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley in a March 13, 2015, text message obtained by The Intercept. “Suggest you default to the phone call or gotta minute? drop by approach…I learned this the hard way!” 

A week later, Baird again texted Earley, who at that point had moved on from his role as Flint’s emergency manager to become emergency manager for Detroit public schools.

“Sent u a note to the other email,” Baird wrote, presumably referring to Earley’s nonstate government email. Earley responded, “on it.” Earley didn’t respond to The Intercept’s request about whether Baird was emailing state business to his personal email about the Flint water crisis or any other issues.

Baird and other officials involved in the Snyder administration’s use of private emails continued into the Flint water crisis. In December 2015, then-Snyder chief of staff Jarrod Agen scolded Baird and Meegan Holland, Snyder’s communications director at the time, for using their private emails to discuss Flint water matters. In fact, Snyder himself used private email to discuss Flint water matters, his then-spokesperson acknowledged at the same time the governor testified in front of Congress in 2016.

The Intercept learned of other internal Snyder administration turmoil during the water crisis among MDHHS officials who stewed over what they felt was the administration prioritizing its own political survival over the public health crisis in Flint.

In an April 2, 2016, text message obtained by The Intercept, MDHHS epidemiologist Tim Bolen messaged Jim Collins, his boss and the director of MDHHS’s Division of Communicable Disease. In the message, Bolen condemned Becker, the MDHHS chief deputy director, and Sue Moran, deputy director of the Population Health Administration.

“Morons all, they will all sink with their boss — and they will all deserve it,” Bolen wrote, seemingly referring to Nick Lyon, the MDHHS director. Soon after, Bolen texted Collins again: “No kidding send that last message ‘upstairs’ — they have no clue how this makes us look. Really tired of the games they’re playing — they appear to be more interested in ‘political health’ than public health.”

Collins responded: “Hang in there Tim. There are still good folks. Despite the crap.” Neither Bolen nor Collins responded to The Intercept’s request for comment.

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Text messages between MDHHS epidemiologist Tim Bolen and his boss Jim Collins, director of MDHHS’s Communicable Disease Division, criticize the Snyder administration’s prioritization of politics over public health during the Flint water crisis.

Image: Obtained by The Intercept

AS FLINT PROSECUTORS and investigators discovered the lack of phone messages, and Snyder’s questionable internal investigations, they were also waging a three-year, behind-the-scenes legal battle with Snyder and his attorneys. On June 10, 2016, Snyder was served with an investigative subpoena, documents obtained by The Intercept show. The subpoena sought documents and communications that the governor and his top officials had about Flint’s water dating back to when the governor entered office in 2011 through June 2016. 

Soon after, Snyder’s lawyer responded with 29 objections, documents obtained by The Intercept show, with Snyder’s lawyer pointing to the heavily redacted 117,000 pages of “responsive documents” that Snyder had already made public.

A few months later, in the fall of 2016, Snyder — with no court order in place that compelled him to provide the documents criminal investigators sought — continued to withhold the majority of documents and communications that he was subpoenaed for months earlier, according to multiple sources familiar with the criminal investigation and documents obtained by The Intercept. 

With Snyder and his attorneys stonewalling, special prosecutor Flood pushed to execute a search warrant on the governor’s office, multiple sources familiar with the criminal investigation told The Intercept. But Schuette — a Republican who would go on to announce a run for governor to succeed the term-limited Snyder in 2017 — denied the request.

FILE - In this June 14, 2017 file photo, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette fields questions from reporters in Flint, Mich., after announcing charges against five water officials with manslaughter related to their alleged failure to act during the Flint water crisis. In 2016, Schuette promised to investigate the Flint water scandal “without fear or favor” and pledged that state regulators would be locked up for fudging data and misleading the public about lead in the poor city’s pipes. Yet three years later, no one is behind bars. (Jake May/The Flint Journal-MLive.com via AP, File)

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette fields questions from reporters in Flint, Mich., after announcing charges against five water officials for manslaughter related to their alleged failure to act during the Flint water crisis on June 14, 2017.

Photo: Jake May/The Flint Journal-MLive.com via AP

“Flood’s hands were tied; Schuette said you cannot execute a search warrant on the governor,” a source familiar with the matter told The Intercept, adding that Schuette said the criminal team had to route all requests for documents through Snyder’s lawyer. 

“They weren’t giving things, they weren’t honoring subpoenas,” the source told The Intercept. Moreover, the documents that Snyder, and state departments under him, were providing to investigators were missing crucial metadata, multiple sources told The Intercept, including the full length and sequence of email chains, which state officials were copied and blind copied on emails, and who the emails might have been forwarded to. 

It’s the “document’s DNA,” a source told The Intercept. Essentially, Snyder was sending “screenshots of emails” to prosecutors. 

Flood moved to compel Snyder to comply with the original subpoena for documents in the fall of 2016, documents obtained by The Intercept show. Soon after, Flood withdrew the motion based on a “stipulated agreement” with the governor’s attorney; the agreement mandated that Snyder would begin producing the documents he was subpoenaed months earlier for on October 14, 2016. From there, the agreement said, the governor would continue producing documents “on a rolling basis approximately every two weeks from the date of its first production.” 

But still with no court order in place to force the governor to comply, Snyder and his attorneys didn’t honor the agreement, multiple sources told The Intercept, continuing to slow-walk the criminal investigation.  

Around the same time in October 2016, criminal prosecutors were tipped off that top officials in Snyder’s administration, including Baird, had approached other state officials before their interviews with criminal prosecutors, according to documents obtained by The Intercept and sources familiar with the matter.

“It’s come to my attention as recent as yesterday that some of the witnesses that we have been bringing in have been contacted by government or former government employees to talk about testimony that they may or may not give,” Flood told MDHHS official Jay Fiedler in a confidential interview in October 2016 obtained by The Intercept. (Fiedler responded that no one had approached him to influence his testimony.)

While interviewing Wurfel, Snyder’s press secretary, Flood also noted attempts by state officials to influence the testimony of other Snyder administration officials.

“There have been times where people have been contacted, after testimony that have sat in investigative subpoenas before, to talk about what they testified to,” Flood told Wurfel. “There have been — as disclosures have shown, people have been talked to in cases where witnesses have been talked to about what they should say in an investigative subpoena. … If someone were to do that, I would consider it tampering with evidence and an obstruction, and I would charge anybody that would do that to you.”

In the January 2021 indictment against Baird for perjury, extortion, misconduct in office, and obstruction of justice, prosecutors referenced Baird’s attempt “to influence/interfere with ongoing legal proceedings arising from the Flint water crisis.”

Prosecutors’ behind-the-scenes legal battle with the governor continued into 2017. As a result, Flood filed a second motion to compel Snyder to comply with the original 2016 subpoena. In a “Brief in Support of The People of The State of Michigan’s Second Motion to Compel Governor Rick Snyder’s Compliance With Investigative Subpoena,” obtained by The Intercept, Flood wrote that the governor was “now simply refusing to comply with significant requirements of the Subpoena.” 

Documents that Snyder had provided prosecutors were “patently noncompliant with the requirements of the subpoena,” Flood wrote, adding that the governor’s lawyer had “arbitrarily decided not to search for” large numbers of documents prosecutors had asked for. He argued that Snyder had “custody or effective control over massive amounts of information that is relevant to an ongoing investigation.” 

Some of the relevant documents that Snyder was withholding, Flood wrote, included “MDEQ Governor Briefings, Governor daily briefings, Executive Staff meetings, and Flint Water Crisis-related conference calls, updates, and reports” that were all “in the custody or effective control of the Governor.”

Snyder and his lawyers were particularly obstinate about not providing prosecutors with the governor’s daily briefings from the summer and fall of 2014, multiple sources familiar with the criminal investigation told The Intercept. Considering that Snyder’s health and environmental departments were already communicating about Flint’s Legionella outbreak in October 2014, access to the governor’s daily briefings would allow investigators to see if Snyder had received notice of the deadly outbreak during this time — nearly a year and a half earlier than the January 2016 period Snyder testified to Congress that he became aware.RelatedHow a Flurry of Suspicious Phone Calls Set Investigators on Rick Snyder’s Trail

As The Intercept previously reported, investigators found potential evidence that Snyder was notified much earlier: Notes from an October 22, 2014, MDEQ managers meeting included the blurb “Governor’s Briefings” with a corresponding mention of the Legionella outbreak in Flint. The memo, which came two weeks before Snyder’s reelection, seemed like a smoking gun — written notice to the governor 16 months earlier than he claimed to have learned about the outbreak. As The Intercept also reported, investigators had other reasons to believe that the governor knew about Legionnaires’ disease in Flint as early as October 2014 after finding a suspicious, two-day blitz of phone calls between Snyder, his chief of staff, and the MDHHS’s director in October 2014, calls that investigators speculated amounted to the trio working to prevent news of the outbreak from going public. 

But prosecutors were not able to obtain Snyder’s actual briefings from that time; instead, the governor provided investigators with daily briefings from less pertinent periods that were also heavily redacted, a source familiar with the matter told The Intercept. One such briefing provided to investigators, obtained by The Intercept, was from April 2013, a year before the Flint River switch, with most of the briefings unrelated to the topic of Flint’s water and heavily redacted.

Snyder “picked the most sanitized ones and redacted everything on every page almost,” the source said. 

Special Prosecutor Todd Flood looks over as former Flint Emergency Manager Gerald Ambrose works with his attorney in Genesee District Court, in Flint, Mich., on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, to waive the preliminary examination in the prosecution against him related to the Flint water crisis. (Jake May /The Flint Journal-MLive.com via AP)

Special prosecutor Todd Flood, left, looks over as former Flint emergency manager Gerald Ambrose works with his attorney in the Genesee District Court in Flint, Mich., on Jan. 25, 2018.

Photo: Jake May /The Flint Journal-MLive.com via AP

In Flood’s motion, he also made mention of “executive office cell phones that were not timely imaged or forensically preserved” — highlighted by Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, whose cellphone wasn’t forensically preserved until January of 2017, according to Flood.

Calley didn’t respond to The Intercept’s request for comment.

Flood also explained that he had relied on the “good-faith representations” from the governor’s attorney that Snyder’s subpoena response would be completed by “January or February of 2017” but that “it became clear by May of 2017 that the Governor had no intention of complying with significant requirements of the subpoena.”

On top of that, the documents that Snyder had given to prosecutors were fraught with technical issues, including “duplication issues, blank/withheld documents, missing custodians, unidentified custodians, and inconsistent and questionable redactions,” Flood wrote.

Furthermore, Flood stated that the governor’s attorney hadn’t produced any privilege logs, lists lawyers provide prosecutors with for each document they are withholding and the justification for doing so. But the special prosecutor had not received “a single privilege log reflecting thousands of otherwise responsive documents being withheld by the Governor,” he wrote in the motion.

By the end of 2018 — two years after Snyder was originally subpoenaed for Flint water documents — Flood petitioned a judge to allow any future motions he would file to compel the governor to be made public. Snyder’s lawyers objected, lobbying to keep review of all contested documents confidential, known in law as “in-camera review.”

In the motion, Flood revealed that Snyder’s lawyer had stated that he was now considering “whether the Governor would assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination as a basis in refusing to fully respond to the subpoena.”

Among other things, Flood wrote, he had evidence of “data stores and devices from key executive officials under the effective or actual control of the Governor that were not searched; relevant documents and data that were not preserved despite having notice of the OSC’s criminal investigation; and missing material information that was required to be produced.”

It would be “a travesty of justice” if Snyder were able to continue to not cooperate with the subpoena, Flood concluded.

Soon after the 2019 discovery of 23 boxes in the basement of a state building containing Flint water documents, hard drives, and cellphones, Nessel, the attorney general, fired Flood as special prosecutor in April 2019. Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud, who was appointed by Nessel to replace Flood as the top Flint water prosecutor, claimed that under Flood, legal discovery “was not fully and properly pursued from the onset of this investigation.”

Along with Flood, Nessel fired Andy Arena, the investigation’s chief investigator, and the majority of the criminal team responsible for charging 15 state and city officials with crimes over the Flint water crisis over a three-year investigation. In June 2019, prosecutors with Nessel’s revamped Flint water investigation issued search warrants to seize the cellphone Snyder had used while in office, along with other mobile devices belonging to him. With the seizure of Snyder’s devices, prosecutors also seized devices connected to dozens of members of his administration. Soon after, prosecutors dropped the remaining charges against eight state and city officials — including MDHHS Director Lyon, Michigan’s Chief Medical Executive Wells, and two of Snyder’s Flint emergency managers — citing flaws in the original three-year investigation and that “all evidence was not pursued.” 

A year and a half later, in January 2021, Nessel’s prosecutors charged Snyder with two counts of willful neglect of duty, a misdemeanor charge, for “willfully neglecting his mandatory legal duties under the Michigan constitution and the emergency management act, thereby failing to protect the health and safety of Flint’s residents.”

Eight other state and city officials — including Baird, Snyder chief of staff Agen, and two ex-Flint emergency managers appointed by Snyder — were faced with a slew of felony and misdemeanor charges related to the water crisis.

In March, a judge granted Snyder’s lawyers a several-month hold on the criminal case against him to allow Snyder’s defense time to go through what they claim to be 21 million documents.After two investigations spanning different attorneys general, no state of Michigan or city of Flint official has faced a jury or been convicted.

In April, the Flint water crisis entered its seventh year. After two investigations spanning different attorneys general, no state of Michigan or city of Flint official has faced a jury or been convicted. Beyond the search for justice, residents and activists on the ground have passionately challenged claims, often reported by the national media, that their water is safe to drink, telling The Intercept that residents are still experiencing rashes and receiving often odorous and discolored water.

“Since 2014, Flint residents have been posting photos and videos of rashes, discolored water, health questions, and concerns about high water bills,” Melissa Mays, a Flint resident and activist, told The Intercept. “For seven years we have been consistently dismissed and ignored. We are halfway through 2021, and we are still getting our water through corroded pipes and fixtures, but somehow those in charge have decided to tell the world everything is fine, but common sense tells us that our water still flowing through damaged and contaminated infrastructure means that our water is still not fixed.”

Peter Hammer, a Wayne State University law professor who produced a definitive report on the Flint water crisis that identified structural racism as its root cause, expressed serious concerns about Snyder’s evasion of prosecutors’ requests for years, as well as wiped phones belonging to state officials.

“If true, this is a disturbing pattern that goes far beyond the problems of having inadequate state laws requiring disclosure of public records,” Hammer told The Intercept. “All citizens have an obligation to comply with criminal processes; this is substantially more true for public officials. There can be no accountability without transparency.”

Hammer added that if he had the details The Intercept is revealing at his disposal from the very beginning of his analysis of the water crisis, his conclusion would have “shifted towards intentional forms of misconduct and criminal behavior.”

On whether Snyder was involved in efforts to cover up state officials’ knowledge of the Flint water crisis, Hammer was blunt.

“If the actions reported here are accurate, it is impossible for me to believe that the governor was not aware of the efforts to hide and destroy damaging information.”

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

Jordan Chariton

Jordan CharitonJordanChariton@​protonmail.com@JordanChariton

Jenn Dize

Jenn DizeJennElizabeth@​protonmail.com@JennElizabethJ

March For M4A LIVE!

Real Progress In Action Our live coverage of the M4M4All! We have volunteers in DC, New York, LA, Seattle, Chicago and Milwaukee to bring you coverage of the march, speakers, and interviews! Additionally, we have some fantastic segments from experts, and testimonials about our healthcare system. We’ll discuss the funding mechanisms, and how federal programs like M4A can help ease the ‘race to the bottom’ phenomenon among states. Learn more or support us: realprogressives.org

In-person SF events: Saturday, July 24 – Tuesday, July 27 (from Adrienne Fong)

March for Medicare for All

San Francisco

Saturday, July 24

10:00am – 1:00pm

Meet at:

Ferry Building

1 Ferry Building

San Francisco

March down Market St. to SF Civic Center

Register: March for Medicare for All (San Francisco) · Mobilize

Rally -11:30am – 1:00pm

Civic Center

Accessibility

This event meets ADA standards

Have accessibility questions? Reply to your registration email to confirm your requirements or request more information.

About this event

We are standing in solidarity with those marching across the country!

We will start our day at 10am at the Embarcadero Plaza (1 Ferry Building), march down Market Street to the Civic Center Plaza where the post-march rally will take place 11:30am to 1pm.

Confirmed Speakers (More to come….): Asm. Alex Lee; Chesa Boudin, District Atttorney of San Francisco; Janani Ramachandran, State Assembly Candidate in District 18; Daniel Hilsinger, Singer/Songwriter, Cancer Survivor/lead organizer for March for our Health (Oakland, 2018); Dr. Ana Maria Malinow; Jupiter Peraza, Director of Social Justice Initiatives, The Transgender District; Dr. Ahimsa Porter Sumchai; Aidan Rodriguez-Swanson, Field Representative, Office of Asm. Ash Kalra; Eric Curry (MC), Congressional Candidate, CA-12

Info: Pass M4A Now! San Francisco March & Rally for Medicare for All : Indybay

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MARIO WOODS DAY!

Saturday, July 24 ~ 2:00pm

1398 Hudson Avenue

San Francisco

Mario’s Birthday was, July 22nd. Celebration will be Saturday.

If you wish to leave a birthday greeting call: (415) 323-6009

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Sunday, July 25

11:30am – 2:00pm

San Francisco Caravan: End the U.S. Blockade of Cuba 

U.S. HANDS Off CUBA!

Gather at:

1875 Marin St.

SF

Info: (1) San Francisco Caravan: End the U.S. Blockade of Cuba – U.S. Hands Off Cuba! | Facebook

For endorsements and any questions you can email answer@answersf.org or call 415-821-6545

For 60 plus years, Cuba has remained under the criminal blockade of the United States government. The world sees the U.S. blockade of Cuba for what it is: an unjust and criminal attack on the sovereignty and rights of the Cuban people.

The Trump administration adopted 243 unilateral measures to further tighten the blockade and strangle Cuba, and the Biden administration has yet to reverse a single one of Trump’s measures.

On Sunday, July 25, Cuban-American anti-blockade travelers and supporters who are trekking 1,300 miles from Miami to Washington D.C. will rally in front of the White House at Lafayette Park to deliver demands and a petition signed by over 25,000 people to the Biden administration. Solidarity caravans and other actions will take place in many U.S. cities in support of this effort.

The impact of the blockade on Cuba is immense—immeasurable in many ways. The economic, financial, and commercial blockading of Cuba impacts all aspects of life for the Cuban people and poses many limitations for Cuban society from being able to reach its maximum potential. Access to building materials, technology, devices, and treatments is severely restricted. In 2020 alone, an estimated $5 billion is estimated in losses because of the blockade.

Sponsored by: ANSWER Coalition – Bay Area, Cuba and Venezuela Solidarity Committee, Bay Area Saving Lives Campaign + Venceremos Brigade – Bay Area

Endorsed by: AROC: Arab Resource & Organizing Center, CODEPINK, Democratic Socialists of America: San Francisco, International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity, Party for Socialism and Liberation – Bay Area, Task Force on the Americas

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Monday, July 26

END TYRANNY IN THE PHILIPPINES

P-SONA

*** People’s State of the Nation Address***

12Noon – Mural Painting

1:00pm Rally Program

Philippine Consulate General – San Francisco

447 Sutter St.

(nr. Powell St.)

San Francisco

RSVP: PSONA 2021 Interest Form (google.com)

Info: Northern California United People’s State of the Nation Address **LOCATION UPDATED** | Facebook

In solidarity with Bayan USA, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP), Malaya Movement, and grassroots Philippine organizations across the Nation, we would like to formally invite you to attend the People’s SONA, short for People’s State of the Nation Address.

People’s SONA (PSONA) functions as an alternative to the president’s State of the Nation Address, and aims to unveil the malicious nature of Duterte’s rule as President of the Philippines. We question Duterte’s competence as leader of the Filipino people and we condemn his administration for prioritizing military and police budgets over the wellbeing of our people back home, among other transgressions. Thus, in response to the rise of Rodrigo Duterte’s attacks on the people our proposed call is, End Tyranny in the Philippines: Duterte, Wakasan na! Through PSONA, we aim to bring together as many people as possible to show that we will not sit idly by as the Duterte regime kills, imprisons, and neglects the Philippine masses

PSONA is a worldwide event, with Filipino-led organizations and allies from all over the globe uniting to call out the lies and offenses of the Duterte regime. By uniting behind and centering the voices of those oppressed and dispossessed by Duterte’s administration, we address the true state of the Philippines, that which Duterte’s State of Nation Address hides behind faux nationalism and countless other falsehoods.

See more info below graphic.

If any of these details spark your interest and you would like to participate/contribute in any way, here are some of the best ways to get involved! 

1.    If you are interested in volunteering please fill out the attached google form that has all the information related to volunteers at PSONA 2021!

a.    Volunteer Google Form: tinyurl.com/NorCalPSONA2021 

1.    If you are interested in attending please fill out this google form to RSVP your attendance! 

a.           PSONA RSVP/Interest Form: https://forms.gle/xA6wbe3qRLi44atGA 

1.    If you are interested in purchasing a 2021 PSONA shirt, please fill out this google form and to also venmo. Shirts are $20-$30 sliding scale.

a.           Shirt Preorder Form: https://tinyurl.com/PSONA21ShirtOrder 

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Monday, July 26

1:30pm – 2:15pm

Protest for Voting Rights & Economic Justice  

Sen. Feinstein Office

1 Post St. (outside)

San Francisco

Info & Register: Season of Nonviolent Moral Direct Action in San Francisco – Action Network

Masks / social distancing required

Or online livestream with ASL & Closed Captions

Online actions & livestream/recording @ 5 pm PT herehttps://action.poorpeoplescampaign.org/

California Poor People’s Campaign will join more than 40 states across the country in a Season of Nonviolent Moral Direct Action in San Francisco demanding that the US Senator Dianne Feinstein pledge to:

1. End the filibuster
2. Pass all provisions of the For the People Act
3. Fully restore the 1965 Voting Rights Act
4. Raise the federal minimum wage to $15/hr

The Poor People’s Campaign is targeting all Senators regardless of party. Senator Dianne Feinstein has defended the filibuster. She has not committed to abolish it.

Info: San Francisco: Protest for Voting Rights & Economic Justice at Sen. Feinstein Office : Indybay

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Tuesday, July 27

11:00am – 12Noon

END TITLE 42 –Press Conference / Rally

Join us in personSan Francisco City Hall Steps1 Dr. Carleton B. Goodlett Pl.San Francisco
IM4HI is part of the national coalition, Welcome With Dignity.The San Francisco Board of Supervisors will vote on a city resolution to join the end Title 42 campaign.In the next 7 days, we urge the Biden-Harriss administration to rescind Title 42 and reimagine a more humane immigration system. Read more about  Welcome with Dignity Campaign. The U.S. government is blocking access to asylum by using public health authority under Title 42 to evade the refugee laws enacted by Congress, even though public health experts have said there’s no justification for it. We demand a complete end to Title 42 expulsions and announce a 42-day countdown with a deadline of July 28, 2021, calling on the Biden administration to remove all barriers to protection, restore asylum

Info from: Interfaith Movement For Human Integrity

The biggest win for the working class in generations is within reach

The Guardian logo

By Bernie Sanders
Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Now is the time.

At a time when the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider, when two people now own more wealth than the bottom 40% and when some of the wealthiest people and biggest businesses in the world pay nothing in federal income taxes, the billionaire class and large profitable corporations must finally start paying their fair share of taxes.

Now is the time.

At a time when real wages for workers have not gone up in almost 50 years, when over half our people live paycheck to paycheck, when over 90 million Americans are uninsured or underinsured, when working families cannot afford childcare or higher education for their kids, when many Americans no longer believe their government represents their interests, the U.S. Congress must finally have the courage to represent the needs of working families and not just the 1% and their lobbyists.

Now is the time.

At a time of unprecedented heatwaves, drought, flooding, extreme weather disturbances and the acidification of the oceans, now is the time for the US government to make certain that the planet we leave our children and future generations is healthy and habitable. We must stand up to the greed of the fossil fuel industry, transform our energy system and lead the world in combating climate change.

As chairman of the U.S. Senate Budget Committee I fought hard for a $6 trillion budget which would address these and other long-neglected needs. Not everyone in the Democratic caucus agreed with me and, after a lot of discussion and compromise within the budget committee, an agreement was reached on a smaller number. (Needless to say, no Republicans will support legislation which taxes the rich and protects working families.)

While this budget is less than I had wanted, let us be clear. This proposal, if passed, will be the most consequential piece of legislation for working people, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor since FDR and the New Deal of the 1930s. It will also put the U.S. in a global leadership position as we combat climate change. Further, and importantly, this legislation will create millions of good-paying jobs as we address the long-neglected needs of working families and the planet.

Why is this proposal so significant?

We will end the days of billionaires not paying a nickel in federal income taxes by making sure the wealthy and large corporations do not use their accountants and lawyers to avoid paying the massive amounts that they owe. This proposal will also raise the individual tax rate on the wealthiest Americans and the corporate tax rate for the most profitable companies in our country. Under this proposal, no family making under $400,000 a year will pay a nickel more in taxes and will, in fact, receive one of the largest tax cuts in American history.

We will aggressively reduce our childhood poverty rate by expanding the child tax credit so that families continue to receive monthly direct payments of up to $300 per child.

We will address the crisis in childcare by fighting to make sure that no working family pays more than 7% of their income on this basic need. Making childcare more accessible and affordable will also strengthen our economy by allowing millions more Americans (mostly women) to join the workforce.

We will provide universal pre-kindergarten to every three- and four-year-old.

We will end the international disgrace of the United States being the only major country on Earth not to guarantee paid family and medical leave as a right.

We will begin to address the crisis in higher education by making community colleges in America tuition-free.

We will address the disgrace of widespread homelessness in the United States and the reality that nearly 18 million households are paying over 50% of their incomes for housing by an unprecedented investment in affordable housing.

We will ensure that people in an aging society can receive the home health care they need and that the workers who provide that care aren’t forced to live on starvation wages.

We will save taxpayers hundreds of billions by having Medicare negotiate prescription drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry and use those savings to cover the dental care, hearing aids and eyeglasses that many seniors desperately need.

We will rebuild our crumbling roads, bridges, water systems, wastewater treatment plants, broadband and other aspects of our physical infrastructure.

We will take on the existential threat of climate change by transforming our energy systems away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy.

This effort will include a nationwide clean energy standard that moves our transportation system, electrical generation, buildings and housing and agriculture sector toward clean energy.

Through a Civilian Climate Corps we will give hundreds of thousands of young people good-paying jobs and educational benefits as they help us combat climate change.

We will fight to bring undocumented people out of the shadows and provide them with a pathway to citizenship, including those who courageously kept our economy running in the middle of a deadly pandemic.

In the midst of the many long-ignored crises that this legislation is attempting to address, we will not have one Republican senator voting for it. Tragically, many Republican leaders in Congress and around the country are just too busy continuing to lie about the 2020 presidential election, undermining democracy by suppressing voting rights, denying the reality of climate change and casting doubts about the efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccines.

That means that the 50 Democrats in the US Senate, plus the vice-president, will have to pass this most consequential piece of legislation alone. And that’s what we will do. The future of working families is at stake. The future of our democracy is at stake. The future of our planet is at stake.

Now is the time.

WILDFIRE SMOKE FROM WEST COAST HOVERS OVER NEW YORK CITY, CAUSING AIR POLLUTION

Issued on: 21/07/2021 – 03:23 (France24.com)

Boats make their way in front of the Statue of Liberty, which is seen through a cover of wildfire smoke in New York City, New York, U.S., July 20, 2021.
Boats make their way in front of the Statue of Liberty, which is seen through a cover of wildfire smoke in New York City, New York, U.S., July 20, 2021. © REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Text by:NEWS WIRES4 min

Wildfires raging across the western United States and Canada, including a “monster” two-week-old blaze in Oregon, on Tuesday belched smoke and soot that gusted eastward and caused harmful air pollution as far away as New York City.

In 13 western states, more than 80 large active wildfires have charred almost 1.3 million acres (526,090 hectares) of drought-parched vegetation in recent weeks, an area larger than Delaware, according to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise, Idaho.

Several hundred additional fires have burned in western and central Canada. They included 86 classified as out of control on Tuesday in British Columbia alone, leading officials there to declare a state of emergency.

The jet stream and other cross-continental air currents have carried smoke and ash thousands of miles. People in distant cities were feeling the air contamination in their eyes, noses and lungs.

In New York City, where a gray haze shrouded Manhattan’s skyline, the air quality index (AQI) for fine particulate matter reached 170, a level considered harmful even for healthy individuals and nine times above exposure recommendations of the World Health Organization. Philadelphia hit 172.

Other northeastern cities, including Boston and Hartford, Connecticut, had readings in the unhealthy zone above 150. Residents were advised to wear face masks outdoors to limit exposure.

Smoke drifting in the United States from Canadian wildfires in Manitoba and Ontario, likely pushed the AQI in Detroit and Cleveland above 125, considered unhealthy for sensitive individuals, NIFC meteorologist Nick Nauslar said.

Wildfire smoke from Canada’s western provinces reached as far east as Ontario, prompting widespread government air quality warnings.

In the U.S. West, parts of Idaho and Montana suffered from unhealthy levels of air pollution from 40 large blazes nearby and smoke from southern Oregon’s Bootleg fire, currently the largest in the United States.

Heavy exposure to wildfire smoke has been linked to long-term respiratory consequences for firefighters, including a sharply elevated risk of developing asthma, according to a University of Alberta study released this week.

The general population also faces severe health effects.

“Wildfire smoke exposure … increases susceptibility to respiratory infections including COVID, increases severity of such infections and makes recovery more difficult,” federal air resource adviser Margaret Key said by email.

‘Monster’ fire enters 3rd week

The wildfires themselves posed a more direct risk to life and property.

The Bootleg blaze has blackened 388,600 acres (157,260 hectares) of desiccated brush and timber in and around the Fremont-Winema National Forest, about 250 miles south of Portland, since erupting July 6. Only three other Oregon wildfires over the past century have burned more territory.

As of Tuesday, an army of some 2,200 personnel had managed to carve containment lines around 30% of the fire’s periphery, while the blaze expanded farther to the east and north.

Incident commander Rob Allen said in his daily report that tinder-dry fuels within the fire zone would “continue to burn and produce smoke for weeks.”

“Fighting this fire is a marathon, not a sprint,” Allen wrote. “We’re in this for as long as it takes to safely contain this monster.”

At least 67 homes have been destroyed and another 3,400 were listed as threatened, with an estimated 2,100 people under orders to evacuate or be ready to flee at a moment’s notice.

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The western conflagrations, marking a heavier-than-normal start of the wildfire season, have coincided with record-shattering heat that has baked much of the region in recent weeks and caused hundreds of deaths.

Scientists have said the growing frequency and intensity of wildfires are largely attributable to prolonged drought and increasing bouts of excessive heat that are symptomatic of climate change.

The Bootleg fire is so large that it has at times generated its own weather – towering pyrocumulus clouds of condensed moisture sucked up through the fire’s smoke column from burned vegetation and the surrounding air.

These clouds can spawn lightning storms and high winds capable igniting new fires and spreading the flames.

(REUTERS)

BUCKINGHAM PALACE SHUDDERS AT PROSPECT OF MORE OF PRINCE HARRY’S TRUTH

Past royal efforts are tame in comparison to what Duke of Sussex could unleash on his family

Harry smiles looking back
The Duke of Sussex at the unveiling of a statue of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, earlier this month. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Caroline Davies Tue 20 Jul 2021 09.39 EDT (theguardian.com)

Queen Victoria did it, as did a couple of her granddaughters. And her great-grandson, the Duke of Windsor, famously did so 15 years after his abdication.

So, the Duke of Sussex follows a well-trodden royal path with news that he is penning his “accurate and wholly truthful” memoirs, writing “not as the prince I was born but as the man I have become”.

As shudders, no doubt, convulse Buckingham Palace, the book has a planned publication date in autumn 2022, perfectly timed for the Christmas market, but perhaps not the finale the Queen would have hoped for her platinum jubilee celebrations.

Past royal memoirs are tame in comparison to what Prince Harry could unleash on his family, if his soul-baring screen interviews with Oprah Winfrey are a yardstick.

His efforts are unlikely to compare with Queen Victoria’s published journals, which were by no means scandalous, though she was dissuaded from writing a book about John Brown, the Scottish ghillie and personal attendant to whom she became close in widowhood.

Victoria’s granddaughters, Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, and Princess Marie-Louise, as well as Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, widow of the Queen’s cousin Prince Henry, all produced “terribly interesting” accounts of royal life, said the royal historian Hugo Vickers, though all non-controversial.

Harry’s musings can best be compared to those of the exiled Duke of Windsor; A King’s Story, published in 1951, and an international bestseller still available on Amazon. His wife, Wallis Simpson, also took up the pen.

“The Duke of Windsor’s was not terribly revelatory or scandalous,” said Vickers, adding that it was beautifully ghostwritten. “I don’t think his or the duchess’s caused any more ructions that you would imagine they would.”

Simpson consulted her former husband when writing her memoirs, though he never wrote his own. “He said: ‘As far as I’m concerned the truth lies at the bottom of the well and anyone who wants to go and look for it is welcome to do so.’ So he did not write anything at all, or ever tell his story,” said Vickers.

Though not especially revelatory, the Duke of Windsor’s account was frowned on given that his mother, Queen Mary, and brother, George VI, were still alive. “By today’s standards it might be regarded as pretty tame,” said Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine. “But 70 years ago, it was seen as all quite shocking, disrespectful and treacherous. I think he saw it as his opportunity to settle scores and did so.”

With Harry reportedly working with the Pulitzer-winning ghostwriter JR Moehringer and the deadline for a first draft rumoured to be in October, its contents are the subject of much speculation, though experts believe that he will be under pressure to up the ante.

“The pressure must be on him to come up with something even more sensational that what we learned from the Oprah interview,” said Little. “It’s hard not to think that Harry would want to redress the balance, as far as he’s concerned, in print, though it’s been done on screen.

“You would think hearts will continue to sink at Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and Kensington Palace. I suppose in an ideal world they would have liked a line to be drawn after the Oprah revelations. But clearly that isn’t Harry’s way of doing things. And so this won’t have been great news for Harry’s family.”

He could revisit the racism allegations he has levelled against the royal household. “Then there’s Meghan’s arrival into the spotlight, her becoming girlfriend, then fiancee, then bride. And, of course, he has a lot of demons still about his childhood and the treatment his mother got both at the hand of the establishment and the media. Also, having to leave the army much sooner that he would have liked might also manifest itself.”

Little added: “You would think it is going to be quite a troubled read in a way. You would hope that by the end of it there will be light at the end of the tunnel. He’s been in North America now for 15 months or so, so clearly he feels he’s turned a corner.”

Sarah, Duchess of York, was fiercely criticised when she wrote My Story, detailing her experience at the hands of the press and the breakdown of her marriage to Prince Andrew. She was accused of cashing in on her royal connections. Harry’s publisher, Penguin Random House, have said proceeds are going to charity.

For the Duke of Windsor, his memoirs brought him back into the spotlight after years of relative obscurity. And, as with any memoir, there are different versions of the story.

So, as Buckingham Palace awaits Harry’s book, it will no doubt think back to the Queen’s diplomatic words following the Oprah revelations, when she said: “Some recollections may vary.”

How do governments create money out of thin air?

Jonathan Smith|TED-Ed (ted.com)| July 2021

In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic rocked economies worldwide. Millions of people lost their jobs, and many businesses struggled to survive or shut down. Governments responded with some of the largest economic relief packages in history— the US alone spent $2.2 trillion on a first round of relief. So where did all this money come from? Jonathan Smith explores the strategy of quantitative easing. [Directed by Serin İnan, Kozmonot Animation Studio, narrated by Addison Anderson, music by Deniz Doğançay].

MEET THE EDUCATOR

Jonathan Smith · Educator

ABOUT TED-ED

TED-Ed Original lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators.

Guest Opinion: Why I oppose recall of DA Chesa Boudin

by Bevan Dufty Wednesday Jul 21, 2021 (ebar.com)

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. Photo: Rick Gerharter

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. Photo: Rick Gerharter  

In just about seven weeks, Californians will head back to the polls to vote whether to recall Governor Gavin Newsom. I appreciate our lieutenant governor, Eleni Kounalakis, for setting an expeditious date so we can swiftly move on from this Republican recall.

While there certainly have been Democrats and independents who signed recall petitions, the reality is that a flood of right-wing Republican money — much of it from Donald Trump donors and the Republican National Committee — fueled the process leading to the ballot. And now, California taxpayers must spend at least $276 million on an election that instead could actually help people and small businesses who continue to suffer from the impacts of COVID-19.

Has there been any legitimate reporting about the Newsom recall finding anything positive about this sideshow of a campaign? Or, with the prominence of Caitlyn Jenner, should we file this under another example of politics turned into a reality show à la Trump?

Unfortunately, the end of the gubernatorial recall won’t mark the end of Republican recalls. Here in San Francisco, there is another effort, similarly funded by Republican mega-donors, to recall District Attorney Chesa Boudin.

And while there are recall supporters who are not Republicans, the catalyst is again money coming from forces who fundamentally want to maintain the status quo of a deeply unjust justice system.

In 2019, Boudin ran on an agenda for criminal justice reform coupled with common sense policies that reduce crime. And the voters of San Francisco gave him a clear mandate to advance this work.

These reforms were desperately needed: disproportionate treatment of Black and Brown people in arrests, prosecutions, and lifetimes of incarceration isn’t just a trend of a few decades — it has taken place over centuries in America. Many in our LGBTQ+ community are in desperate need of criminal justice reform now.

The process to undo this unjust treatment has only begun — here in San Francisco and across the nation. Yet even as District Attorney Boudin set to do this hard work, he was confronted with tremendous challenges.

A backlog of 5,593 open cases — including 1,127 that were more than two years old — got even worse when COVID hit and courts largely shut down. Mandated shelter in place posed a challenge to every part of our government, and the loss of employment and business hit our most vulnerable residents hard.

The fact that almost the entirety of Boudin’s tenure has occurred under these circumstances speaks to how farcical this recall is.

To his credit, Boudin still managed to move forward on a number of priorities: expanding victims services, prosecuting public corruption, supporting survivors of domestic violence and holding perpetrators of sexual assault accountable, among other achievements.

And he’s worked to expand community outreach and programs that make our city safer, such as a community liaison program that connects prosecutors, investigators, and other staff in every supervisorial district.

In 2019, it happened that I had worked for many years with another candidate in the race for district attorney — Suzy Loftus. She had my vote, but I also respected the issues and fundamental change that Boudin’s campaign articulated.

Over the past year and a half, I have had the opportunity to work with our DA and he has been hard working, responsive, and thoughtful. His door is open, and I’ve seen him be active and go throughout this city, even when a group has been critical.

In two years, DA Boudin will come before the voters when he will be eligible for reelection. At that time, Boudin will have the opportunity to present his record of accomplishments and other candidates will have the opportunity to present their platforms and records.

Recall supporters want to short circuit that process — and divert our attention from the meaningful solutions that can make our city safer. The truth is that reform and change must come from so many areas of government. It’s not just the district attorney.

San Franciscans realize that we can’t arrest our way out of mental illness, addiction, and homelessness. This year’s city budget, agreed to by Mayor London Breed and the Board of Supervisors, represents the biggest change by dramatically increasing investments in crisis intervention, mental health services, and most of all, housing.

Our city should be accountable and transparent to show that we are doing our share to improve public safety. This recall will only distract from the hard work we need to do to achieve that.

Thank you for considering the reasons why I oppose the recall of our district attorney.

Bevan Dufty, a gay man, previously represented District 8 on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He is currently an elected member of the BART Board of Directors and an elected member of the committee that oversees the local Democratic Party. The views expressed here are his own.

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