Kavanaugh accuser set to testify
[TW: This article includes graphic descriptions of sexual assault.]
On Sept. 14, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) disclosed that she had referred a sexual assault allegation made by Palo Alto University professor Christine Blasey Ford against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to the F.B.I. for investigation.
Ford first described the allegation in a letter to Feinstein, a ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Representative Anna Ashee (D-CA) in late July. Requesting anonymity, Ford claimed that Kavanaugh drunkenly pushed her into a bedroom and attempted to forcibly disrobe her at a party in the 1980s, when both parties were in high school. He allegedly covered her mouth with his hand when she attempted to scream. Kavanaugh has denied the allegations.
Ford also contacted The Washington Post in early July through a tip line when Kavanaugh was nominated to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. After consulting with Debra Katz, a lawyer known for her work on sexual harassment cases, Ford decided in August not to come forward, concluding that the story would negatively affect her life and would be ineffective in preventing Kavanaugh’s confirmation (The Washington Post, “California professor, writer of confidential Brett Kavanaugh letter, speaks out about her allegation of sexual assault,” 09.16.2018).
The story was soon leaked by online news publication The Intercept, which reported on Sept. 12 that Feinstein was withholding a document that the Senate Judiciary Committee requested describing a separate sexual assault incident involving Kavanaugh (United States Senator for California Dianne Feinstein Press Releases, “Feinstein Statement on Kavanaugh,” 09.13.2018).
The FBI redacted Ford’s name and sent the letter to the White House for inclusion in Kavanaugh’s background file, as requested by the Senate Judiciary Committee. After the White House sent the letter to the Committee, Ford began receiving inquiries about her involvement.
Feeling that her privacy had been compromised, Ford decided to come forward on Sept. 16 via a story published by The Washington Post. In it, Ford said that she had forgotten some key details of the incident. Ford did, however, take a polygraph test administered by a former FBI agent in early August. The results concluded that Ford was truthful when stating her allegations. However, psychologists have widely criticized the validity of polygraph tests (American Psychological Association, “The Truth About Lie Detectors (aka Polygraph Tests),” 08.05.2004).
Since coming forward, Ford has identified additional people at the party. Ford alleged that author and journalist Mark Judge, a former classmate of Kavanaugh, was in the bedroom at the time of the incident. She claimed that Judge encouraged Kavanaugh throughout the incident and that she was only able to escape when Judge jumped on top of the two, separating them. Judge denied the party and incident altogether in a statement via his lawyer. Patrick J. Smyth and Leland Keyser, two others identified by Ford as students at the party, have also denied her claims.
A new allegation has arisen from a former peer of Kavanaugh’s, describing an assault that occurred while they were freshmen at Yale University. The accuser, Deborah Ramirez, said that she remembers Kavanaugh exposing himself at a dorm party and thrusting his penis in her face (The New Yorker, “Senate Democrats Investigate a New Allegation of Sexual Misconduct, from Brett Kavanaugh’s College Years,” 09.23.2018).
According to a statement released by Ford’s lawyers on Sept. 23, Ford has committed to testifying in an open hearing on Sept. 27. Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley (R-IA) officially confirmed the hearing date later that day. The panel will hear Ford’s testimony, followed by Kavanaugh’s. The hearing will start at 10 a.m. and will be open to the public (CNN, “Kavanaugh accuser will testify in open hearing on Thursday,” 09.23.2018).
Florence ravages East Coast
On the morning of Sept. 14, Hurricane Florence touched down near Wrightsville Beach, NC. A few miles east of Wilmington, SC, and not far from the South Carolina border, the storm came ashore with 90 miles per hour winds and life-threatening surges. What started out as a Category 1 hurricane continued to decrease in power, nevertheless resulting in widespread flooding, destruction and health hazards (The New York Times, “At Least 5 Deaths Reported as Storm Dumps Rain on Carolinas,” 09.14.2018).
States of emergency had been declared in Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., North Carolina and South Carolina. Beforehand, the Carolinas issued mandatory evacuations to 1.7 million people on their coasts.
Meteorologists downgraded the system to a tropical storm by the night of Sept. 14, but it was still slowly making its way through the Carolinas. As of Sept. 25, authorities have linked 42 deaths to the storm (CBS News, “Hurricane Florence death toll rises to 42 as South Carolina expects more record flooding,” 09.20.2018).
By Sept. 15, Florence became a 350-mile-wide tropical storm. Some areas in the Carolinas experienced record rainfall and flooding, leading to eight deaths. Numerous roads were closed and North Carolina authorities warned of possible landslides, tornadoes and flash floods until Sept. 17. As rivers and creeks swelled, dams were increasingly at risk (CNBC, “Hurricane Florence hit 10 days ago and still hundreds of roads remain closed, thousands evacuated,” 09.24.2018).
By Sept. 16, authorities downgraded the system to a tropical depression with maximum sustained winds of 35 miles per hour. Some areas received as many as 34 inches of rain between Sept. 13 and 16. Forecasts predicted that rivers, including the Little, the Lumber, and the Pee Dee, would crest through Sept. 16–17 at record or near-record levels. The then-hurricane’s death toll in the Carolinas climbed to 17 lives. Around 15,000 people found refuge in temporary shelters and 760,000 people lost power (CNN, “Florence: Days of flooding ahead in the Carolinas as storm leaves at least 13 dead,” 09.15.2018).
Though Florence has subsided, South Carolinians are left to cope with the destruction of much of their state and to mourn the loss of 42 lives. Around 400 roads remain closed (CNBC).
According to Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Michael Regan, floodwaters have breached the open-air dam at a hog lagoon in Duplin County, NC. The hog lagoon contains feces and urine from the animals. In addition, waters have entered the cooling lake at the LV Sutton natural gas plant on the Cape Fear River. Two coal ash basins are also at the site; one of the basins, according to the owner of the facility, Duke Energy, contains 400,000 cubic yards of the heavy metal ash. The company has stated that flooding of the river has not resulted in coal ash contamination, according to their lab results. However, a third-party analysis has yet to be conducted (Vox, “Hog manure is spilling out of lagoons because of Hurricane Florence’s floods,” 09.21.2018).
In response to the structural damage caused by the system, Congress is currently considering allocating almost $1.7 billion to aid recovery efforts. According to Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), the money would be available as grants to states in order to help rebuild houses and public works and to assist recovering businesses (New York Post, “Hurricane Florence isn’t done with the Carolinas just yet,” 09.24.2018).