Politics roundup: Election interference seems to be everywhere this week


It seems like people just can’t leave elections alone in the U.S. and elsewhere. Plus, the National Archives might stall a Supreme Court nomination.

At this point, who isn’t trying to influence U.S. elections?

If nothing else comes of Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian election tampering, we now know that U.S. votes are subject to interference from seemingly all quarters.

Mueller’s team has uncovered more and more evidence that foreign governments have significant sway in Washington. That’s thanks especially to lobbying, the business of swaying politicians to one side or another. Lobbying from domestic sources is often enough its own gray area. As it turns out, however, foreign lobbyists have more of a hand in matters than many previously suspected.

The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), long considered a do-nothing piece of legislation, has increasingly become a concern for anyone associated with foreign lobbying. Some speculate that FARA may become another piece of Mueller’s prosecutorial toolkit.

Meanwhile, Facebook remains a battleground for some of these agents. Indeed, they appear to be growing more sophisticated in their tactics to spread disinformation. Reportedly, they sometimes even pair up with real activists and organize actual events in an effort to sway voters. Facebook disclosed the presence of these false profiles just this week, saying that the company had deleted 32 suspicious profiles. Around 290,000 people were already following the accounts in question.

Politicians have expressed frustration with the White House’s reaction, or lack thereof, to the situation. Even phishing attempts directed at Senators’ emails have raised few, if any, presidential comments. Given the growing concerns over ties between the President and Russia, it is easy for critics to conclude that this is further evidence of either collusion or sloppy governance.

In general, it seems as if Russia, along with possibly other governments, still has a hand in the U.S. electoral process. Take the increasingly complicated story of Maria Butina, the alleged Russian agent who has some suspicious financial transactions related to various political figures. In late July, she was charged as a hostile foreign agent. She even reportedly attempted to set up a meeting between the U.S. President and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Zimbabwe elections take a violent turn

On Monday, Zimbabwe held its first elections after long-term President Robert Mugabe’s ouster. The votes were supposed to instill a sense of stability and the drive to move forward with the nation’s political machine. By Wednesday, however, things had become much worse.

It all began when early results showed a win for the governing party. Members of the opposition then gathered in the capital city of Harare to protest. This action was eventually judged violent enough for police intervention. Officers used live rounds to disperse the crowd, along with tear gas. Protestors responded by throwing rocks. Now, at least three people are reported dead.

The opposition — the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance — has accused the ruling ZANU-PF party of engineering the election. The violence comes as a surprise, after what had promised to be a peaceful vote and more level political field.

As of Friday, ZANU-PF candidate Emerson Mnangagwa was announced as Zimbabwe’s first post-Mugabe president.

U.S. takes a step back on fuel efficiency

On Thursday, the White House announced its intention to roll back a major piece of environmental legislation. Under Obama-era rules, automakers were required to make progressively more fuel-efficient cars, with a goal of vehicles that run 43 miles per gallon by 2025.

Under this new proposal, car manufacturers will instead operate under much less restrictive measures. They will be required to produce cars that average 29 miles to the gallon from 2021 to 2025.

Perhaps more significantly, the proposed rules will also revoke California’s ability to regulate auto emissions within its state boundaries. The Environmental Protection Agency, headed by acting administrator Andrew Wheeler, has also said that it will revoke the state’s Zero Emission Vehicle program. Under this program, California currently encourages both residents and businesses to purchase fuel-efficient electric and hydrogen vehicles.

The state used this policy to regulate not just emissions, but more general causes of air pollution via autos. This has been of particular concern for residents of the Los Angeles Basin, the unique geography of which can trap smog there for days.

The proposal remains just that — a proposal — for now. It is currently in its public comment phase. More information about the content of the proposal, plus how to access the public comment form, is available in the EPA’s statement on the matter.

Kavanaugh confirmation may be delayed by the National Archives

Whether or not bureaucratic delays will actually hamper a Supreme Court confirmation hearing remains to be seen. Still, when the number of document pages involved is creeping up towards a million, you never know.

This situation came about after the Senate Judiciary Committee requested what turned out to be a massive amount of documents. In particular, they asked the National Archives to produce all documents related to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s time in the White House. Kavanaugh served as an associate White House counsel during the administration of George W. Bush. According to Gary Stern, general counsel of the National Archives, that comes out to over 900,000 pages for review.

Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and his associates are not especially concerned. They claim that the Bush Presidential Library will be able to provide the documents more quickly, leaving everything on track for a September hearing. A legal team headed by Bill Burck, Bush’s records representatives, has already handed over 125,000 pages of documents to the Judiciary Committee.

And, finally, your palate cleanser

It’s weird to imagine maps being a selling point for a book, much less a cheaply made softcover book full of often overwrought murder and hysteria. Yet, ask any vintage mystery fan, and you’re sure to hear at least a few wax poetic about Dell mapbacks.

These books, which were generally made as cheaply as possible, featured one design feature that caught attention for nearly a decade. Yes, the maps. Though not all of Dell’s mapbacks were mysteries, the vast majority were. And what can be much more exciting than a lovingly rendered scene of the crime?

Dell published the mapback editions beginning in 1943. As the decade wore on, the appearance of the maps became more and more sporadic, until they were entirely phased out in 1951. Still, some collectors go positively gaga over vintage editions.

Next. Politics roundup: Michael Cohen wreaks havoc with a recording. dark

Check out detailed histories of this fondly remembered literary feature at CrimeReads, which also takes the time to feature some of the most eye-catching covers of the series, too. Then, head on over to The Paris Review for a shorter article with an important link to some digitized mapbacks, ready for your perusal. Grand Valley State University also has assembled an online exhibit of digitized mapback editions to view.