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November 8, 2018

Gerrymandering — where one party draws legislative districts to stay in power and diminish the votes of the opposing party — doesn't appear to be very popular. In at least three states on Tuesday, voters approved ballot measures to take district drawing out of the hands of the state legislature and give it to nonpartisan or independent commissions — Michigan, Missouri, and Colorado passed their initiatives overwhelmingly, while an anti-gerrymandering measure in Utah is barely leading with votes left to count.

The reason for a party's temptation to gerrymander itself into power after every decade's census is probably pretty obvious, but it doesn't always work out as planned. Just ask Texas Republicans. While Democrat Beto O'Rourke and every other statewide Democrat lost in Texas on Tuesday, Democrats flipped two U.S. House seats, two state Senate seats, and an unexpectedly robust 12 state House seats. Five of those 12 state House seats were in Dallas County. That was a byproduct of aggressive gerrymandering, The Dallas Morning News reports.

After winning a supermajority in 2010, House Republicans gerrymandered Dallas County a little too thin to ensure they had a majority of the county's 14 House seats. But Republicans dropped from eight of those 14 seats to seven in the 2016 election, and on Tuesday they won two. Instead of opting for safer GOP districts in whiter parts of the county in 2011, "Republicans packed and cracked Latino voters across the county to diminish their voting strength overall and ensure a GOP majority," The Texas Tribune says.

"The lesson is you can get too clever in gerrymandering," redistricting expert Michael Li at NYU's Brennan Center for Justice tells the Tribune. Voting rights lawyer Jose Garza was more direct, saying Republicans "shaved those things off a little too close because they got greedy." You can read more about the perils of redistricting, and see the maps, at The Texas Tribune. Peter Weber

2:50 a.m.

Pacific Gas & Electric reached a settlement with 14 local California governments on Tuesday to pay $1 billion in damages for a series of wildfires that killed dozens of people and destroyed thousands of homes. PG&E, which declared bankruptcy in January in anticipation of tens of billions in wildfire-related damages, said Tuesday's settlement is "an important first step toward an orderly, fair, and expeditious resolution of wildfire claims." Baron & Budd, the Texas law firm representing the 14 California communities, said the settlement will cover "taxpayer losses."

"This money will help local government and taxpayers rebuild their communities after several years of devastating wildfires," Baron & Budd said in a statement. "The cities and counties will be in a better position to help their citizens rebuild and move forward." The town of Paradise, mostly destroyed in 2018's Camp Fire, will get $270 million, and other money will cover damages from a 2015 fire in Butte County and 2017 fires in Northern California wine country. PG&E's downed power lines have been linked to several wildfires in the state. Peter Weber

2:00 a.m.

Trash doesn't stand a chance near Florida's Deerfield Beach International Fishing Pier.

For 15 years, scuba divers have been meeting at the beach for an annual cleanup event, donning their masks and picking up trash from the ocean floor. Organizers decided it was time to break the Guinness World Record for the largest underwater cleanup, and 633 divers came out on Saturday to participate.

Guinness' Michael Empric counted as each diver entered the water, and for their time to count, they had to stay submerged for at least 15 minutes. Divers of all ages took part in the cleanup, with some coming from other states. They picked up signs, bottles, fishing weights, and other pieces of trash, and cheered when Empric let them know they shattered the previous record, set in Egypt in 2015. "Obviously, trash was collected, but the beauty of it is with 633 divers, we were able to do a very thorough cleaning," diver and environmentalist R.J. Harper told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. "I have 600 new friends just as a result of this." Catherine Garcia

1:20 a.m.

President Trump held a big re-election rally in Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday night, and for those Trump super fans unable to get into the venue, The Late Show explained the consolation prize:

Trump's "supporters started lining up nearly two full days before the event — apparently he hasn't brought all of America's jobs back, considering this is a Tuesday," Stephen Colbert said in his monologue. Trump tweeted about the pre-rally enthusiasm, with only a touch of vainglory. "He sees himself as a rock star!" Colbert said, combing his Trump voice with a Billy Idol classic: "You know, 'It's a nice day for a white rally.'" The actual band that played to warm up Trump's "45 Fest" crowd was called The Guzzlers, and Colbert gave them a bit of free publicity.

"Trump's rally tonight has added urgency because everyone's talking about how bad his poll numbers are — even Fox News' Bret Baier," Colbert said. "Ouch. Fox News, you pledged to be there for him for better or worse. You keep this up, he's going to leave you for a younger network. ... And Trump was watching Bret," tweeting that "polls are always bad for me," "More Fake News @BretBaier," and there's "something weird going on at Fox." Colbert agreed: "Something weird going on at Fox. They've started reporting — and I hope I'm pronouncing this right — the truth?"

At The Daily Show, Trevor Noah offered some thoughtful advice to Democrats hoping to be the target of the kind of insults Trump hurled during his actual Orlando rally: Don't try to roast Trump, because that's his game and he excels at it; focus on policy, because nothing intrigues swing voters more and deflates Trump quicker. Watch below. Peter Weber

1:18 a.m.

When you're the only student in the only school on a tiny island, your graduation draws a crowd.

Gwen Lynch lives with her family on Cuttyhunk, a Massachusetts island. On Monday, she finished the eighth grade and graduated from Cuttyhunk Elementary School, with about 100 people coming out to celebrate the milestone. One face stood out from the crowd: the commencement speaker, actress and comedian Jenny Slate.


Slate's boyfriend runs a writing workshop on the island, and she agreed to deliver a special message to Lynch. Before writing her speech, she chatted with the teenager, and learned all about her hopes, dreams, and life on the island. "I started to realize that you, who go to school by yourself on an island that is basically empty half the year, are still way cooler and more popular than I was as a teenager, who lived in a town and went to a school with lots of other people," Slate joked.

Lynch, who will attend a New Hampshire boarding school in the fall, wants to become an engineer, and Slate told her she was impressed by her moxie. "I hope you keep saying what you want to achieve and that you want to put your very own name on it," she said. "There is no shame in wanting to be recognized for your good work. Your no-frills confidence is pure and powerful." Catherine Garcia

12:05 a.m.

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) attended President Trump's re-election rally in Orlando on Tuesday night. Graham and Rubio, both of whom ran against Trump in the 2016 Republican primary, used to be critical of Trump's rhetoric and policies, employing language now used only by Democrats and #NeverTrump Republicans. Scott, when he was Florida's governor and running for Senate, skipped a Trump rally in Florida. These days Graham is Trump's golfing buddy and Rubio mostly supports Trump's polices.

During Trump's Tuesday night rally, which New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman described as "a bleak panoply of grievance and anger at Democrats, the media, and a reference to the Academy Awards," some journalists noted Rubio's previous critiques of Trump. Rubio tweeted back.

For a sense of how 2016 Rubio viewed Trump's divisive and ugly rallies, here's one example:

Rubio didn't seem entirely comfortable with Trump's rhetoric on Tuesday, but what's he supposed to do? Stay in Washington? Peter Weber

12:04 a.m.

During his May trip to Baghdad, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shared a message with Iraqi leaders that he wanted passed on to Iran: If any attacks by the country or its proxies killed any U.S. troops, there would be military action, U.S. officials told The Washington Post.

Pompeo has issued a few private warnings, the officials said. Tensions are mounting between the U.S. and Iran, with the U.S. accusing Iran of attacking oil tankers in the Middle East and Iran, which denies attacking the tankers, saying it will soon violate the 2015 nuclear deal by having too much low-enriched uranium in its stockpile. On Monday, the Pentagon announced it will send 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East, and while at U.S. Central Command headquarters in Tampa on Tuesday, Pompeo said President Trump "does not want war," and the U.S. is in the region to "deter aggression."

U.S. officials told the Post there are concerns that because there hasn't been a confirmed Defense Secretary in several months, the hawks advising Trump — including Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton — are pushing for the military to do more than its mission in the region, which is to eliminate the remnants of the Islamic State. Bolton, the officials added, is careful about what information gets to Trump, and has reduced the number of meetings where top officials discuss the Iran policy. Catherine Garcia

June 18, 2019

President Trump made some pretty big promises Tuesday night during a rally in Orlando.

The event marked the official launch of his re-election campaign, and during his nearly 90-minute speech, Trump vowed that if he gets a second term, "we will come up with the cures to many, many problems, to many, many diseases, including cancer. We will eradicate AIDS in America, and we're very close."

Trump made several false claims, including that he passed the largest tax cut in history — it was the eighth largest, and smaller than two of former President Barack Obama's tax cuts, The Washington Post has noted — and that the unemployment rate has never been lower (it was 3.6 percent in May, but as low as 2.5 percent in 1953).

Trump railed against socialism, said Democrats are "more unhinged" than they ever have been, and in a moment straight out of 2016, he criticized Hillary Clinton, which triggered the crowd to start chanting, "Lock her up! Lock her up!" In one sign that Trump might be ready to leave the past behind him, he asked the audience to help him decide between sticking with "Make America Great Again" as his slogan or switching to "Keep America Great." By the amount of cheers, The Guardian reports, it was apparent the crowd preferred KAG to MAGA. Catherine Garcia

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