August 11, 2023

Let’s get the Trump update out of the way first. As this week ended, the number of indictments against Donald Trump stood at three, with tea-leaf readers predicting that we’re likely to see a fourth indictment as soon as next week. The first three indictments are for the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection case, the classified documents case and the hush money case. Next up would be the Georgia election interference case.

The newest revelation this week was the surfacing of a secret memo that prosecutors say is a crucial link to how the Trump team’s efforts evolved into a criminal conspiracy. A copy of the memo was obtained by the New York Times.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan held a hearing on the insurrection case and made it quite clear – to the prosecution and defense alike – that she isn’t going to put up with any nonsense. While a trial date has not been set, she closed the hearing with an ominous warning, aimed at Trump: that inflammatory statements will increase the urgency to move the case more quickly to trial, an outcome Trump would not prefer.

Our sincerest sympathy goes to the victims of the Hawaii hurricane and resulting wild fires, which decimated the town of Lahaina and much of the rest of Maui. As this is being written, 55 people have been confirmed dead, with at least 11,000 displaced. The National Weather Service explained that significant differences in atmospheric pressure between the hurricane and the air north of Hawaii formed a pressure gradient over the islands which, when combined with dry conditions, posed a serious threat of fires as well as damaging winds.

The Republican-led effort to make amending Ohio’s constitution more difficult failed by double digits in the Aug. 8 special election. Voters rejected the ballot issue 57% to 43%. The 13-point margin was seen as a resounding victory for a broad coalition of the issue’s opponents, led by abortion rights advocates. A November referendum that would protect abortion rights in Ohio will be decided by a simple majority, rather than by a 60% super majority.

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday elevated the prosecutor investigating President Biden’s son Hunter to special counsel status, signaling that the inquiry had entered a new stage. Garland said David Weiss, the U.S. attorney in Delaware, who has handled the case for years, would become the special counsel.

Having signed a $45.5 billion state budget bill last week, Governor Shapiro celebrated an initiative that enables public schools to provide a free breakfast to all K-12 students. The free meals will begin in the coming school year.

The Department of Labor reported this week that the consumer price index rose 0.2% in July, in line with expectations, and 3.2% in the past year compared to 3% in June. Despite that slight uptick, economists say that it’s still good news for the economy overall and for consumers.

In other economic news, Patrick Harker, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, told business executives on Tuesday at the Philadelphia Business Journal’s State of the Economy forum that he’s optimistic about the regional economy and expects a soft landing rather than a recession, but he doesn’t expect interest rates to decline anytime soon.

A plan to distribute $1.16 billion dollars in federal funds to build and expand broadband infrastructure across Pennsylvania has been approved by the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority. The plan now awaits final approval by the federal government.

A three-judge Commonwealth Court panel said the state’s Public Utility Commission erred in allowing Aqua Pennsylvania to buy the East Whiteland Township sewer system in suburban Philadelphia because the harm to consumers would be greater than the benefits. The commission has allowed private water companies to buy 20 local water and sewer systems since 2016, according to the Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate, leading to $68 million in additional annual charges on customers’ water bills.

A Brookings Institution report says states can take advantage of the growing Artificial Intelligence industry by training people to work with AI as it becomes more widely used in manufacturing. On the flip side, failing to do this will result in parts of the country being left behind while “the AI rich only get richer,” the report said.

Despite record-low unemployment, enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called SNAP or food stamps, reached a record level in June in Pennsylvania. This paradox was attributed to a loosening of eligibility requirements, allowing people to enroll by phone and increasing inflation.

A growing number of colleges and universities are settling up with students who paid tuition and fees but were blocked from attending classes due to the COVID pandemic. While students are receiving some refunds, they won’t be refunded for all the on-campus amenities they lost. Several major cases are said to have been settled in recent weeks.

Our We Can’t Make This Up segment takes us to South Texas, where a rodeo goat (whatever that is) named Willie was captured after being, um, on the lam since escaping July 15. Apparently, the goat had been hiding in sugarcane and corn fields. Its captors received $5,000 worth of prizes donated by local businesses.

And that’s what passes for news around here this week! Enjoy these final weeks of summer, and join us back here next Friday as we try to come up with some better puns. On the lam. Sheesh.