News from the note…
A round up of the day’s news that might be of interest to you.
This is an OPEN THREAD, folks. Chat about any of the stories listed, share links to stories that caught your eye today, and generally have a good time discussing whatever you want.
DONALD TRUMP PLANS to text you Wednesday, whether you want him to or not. The first nationwide test of the government’s Presidential Alert system will unfold at 2:18 pm ET, when every cell phone user in the United States will receive a text message from FEMA saying, “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”
The test alert—which has already spawned numerous jokes about President Trump’s Twitter habits—is actually a rare public display of the classified side of FEMA’s daily work. The agency best known as the public face of the federal government’s response to major natural disasters originally started as—and continues to be—its secret doomsday planner, overseeing the so-called “continuity of government” efforts that would ensure the evacuation of key officials to mountain bunkers and airborne command posts after a catastrophe.
In fact, Wednesday’s test of the Wireless Emergency Alert System—the fourth nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System, and the first to use texting—is only the latest in the country’s odd history of national doomsday alerts, plans that over the years have included everything from special radio stations to pink balloons to TV entertainer Arthur Godfrey to, at least for the cable network CNN, the song the band played as the Titanic sank.Wired
The Defense Department’s top spokeswoman on Wednesday said the suspicious substance found in envelopes sent to the Pentagon earlier this week was castor seeds, which can be made into the toxin ricin.
“According to our preliminary analysis, the substance was castor seeds, from which ricin is derived. The FBI is still investigating,” Dana White said in a statement to The Hill.
Castor seeds are only dangerous if swallowed, but they can be used to make a poisonous pure form of ricin.The Hill
The Pentagon Force Protection Agency detected the suspicious substance in two letters during mail screenings on Monday at the building’s remote screening facility.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), key undecided votes on the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, criticized President Donald Trump on Wednesday for mocking a woman who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault, calling the president’s performance “appalling” and “just plain wrong.”
Trump, addressing a rally Tuesday night in Mississippi, imitated and ridiculed Christine Blasey Ford, who claims Kavanaugh assaulted her when they were in high school. Kavanaugh has vehemently denied the allegations.Politico
“To discuss something this sensitive at a political rally, it’s just not right,” Flake told NBC’s “Today” show. “I wish he hadn’t have done it. I just say it’s kind of appalling.”
Collins, meanwhile, said Trump’s comments were “just plain wrong” when asked Wednesday morning how the president’s comments would affect her vote. She did not directly answer the question about how it could impact her view on Kavanaugh.
Melania Trump visited a former slave holding facility in Ghana as part of her first major solo international trip as first lady.
NBC News reported on Wednesday that Trump said she “will never forget” her visit to the 17th Century castle, where she spent nearly an hour touring.
The castle was originally built for the trading of timber and gold by the Swedes but later became a warehouse for slaves from Africa with no hope of returning home.
“I will never forget (the) incredible experience and the stories I heard. The dungeons that I saw, it’s really something that people should see and experience,” Trump said of the visit.The Hill
The White House on Wednesday stood by President Donald Trump’s mocking impression of Christine Blasey Ford, with press secretary Sarah Sanders defending it as “stating the facts.” She also accused Senate Democrats of “exploiting” her, even as key Republican senators admonished Trump over his comments.
Sanders insisted Trump was simply “stating the facts” during his rally Tuesday night when he launched into a mocking impression of Ford’s testimony before Congress in which she accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her. Kavanaugh has denied the allegations.
Sanders instead sought to turn the tables on Democrats, accusing them of tarnishing the judicial confirmation process to the detriment of both Ford and Kavanaugh.CNN
Astronomers may have found the first moon outside our solar system.
Two Columbia University researchers presented their tantalizing evidence Wednesday. Plenty of planets exist beyond our solar system, but a moon around one of those worlds has yet to be confirmed.
The potential moon would be considerably larger than Earth — about the size of Neptune or Uranus. The planet it orbits is as big as mammoth Jupiter. This apparent super-size pairing of a gaseous moon and planet is 8,000 light-years away.AP
“After last night’s rally, it is important to remember we once had a President who spoke these words, ‘Live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly, and leave the rest to God.’ Ronald Reagan,” Comey said on Twitter.
Comey, who has become a vocal critic of the Trump administration, frequently takes to Twitter to share pointed quotes in response to Trump’s actions.The Hill
Peggy Sue Gerron was 17 years old, a senior at a Catholic girls’ school, when the world heard her name radiate through the airwaves over and over on its way to rock-and-roll immortality.
And she was in the crowd the night Buddy Holly and the Crickets played it for her for the first time at the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium, as she sunk down in her chair and blushed while dozens of people screamed her name.
“Peggy Sue, Peggy Sue,” Buddy Holly sang in the 1957 single, “Oh, how my heart yearns for you!”
The Peggy Sue of Buddy Holly and the Crickets fame would go on to become one of the most influential songs in rock history. But Peggy Sue herself — whose love interest was not Holly but Crickets drummer Jerry Allison — would drift out of the 1950s to trade poodle skirts for dental hygienist scrubs, going on to raise a family and start a business in California.Washington Post