Jesse Watters: Democrats are gnashing their teeth at the gates of the White House

Fox News host Jesse Watters argues President Biden is holding the Democratic Party “hostage” by vowing to stay in the 2024 race in his opening monologue on “Jesse Watters Primetime.”

JESSE WATTERS: Tonight, Washington’s in the middle of a hostage crisis after Joe Biden took the entire Democratic Party captive. This morning, he sent a ransom note. I mean, a letter, with a list of demands telling the Democrats he’s firmly committed to staying in this race, whether they like it or not. “Stick with me and no one gets hurt.” While Democrats are looking around saying, if we stick with you, we all get hurt. If they lose, they’re going to lose with him, not with anybody else. 


It wouldn’t be fair to the Democrats who have already voted, Joe says, as if the party cares about voter integrity. Like all hostage negotiations, you bring a family member in to talk the hostage taker down. This morning, “Morning Joe” tried to talk to the president into releasing the hostages and resigning. It didn’t go well.

Biden’s bunkered up with Hunter holding the party hostage, screaming at “Morning Joe” about the elites, the very people who put Joe in the White House and have been covering for him. Biden can still be a Delaware senator if it wasn’t for the CIA, Obama donors, FBI and the media who parachuted him into the presidency during Covid and hid his condition. Biden wanted to be Abe Lincoln so badly he got himself into a civil war. Like a bunch of Arab Spring breakers, Democrats are gnashing their teeth at the gates of the White House, demanding Joe come out with his hands up.



Huge retailers make key change to fight retail theft



Give someone a chance to steal along with plausible deniability about their actual intentions and many people take that chance.

Self-checkout allows companies to either save on labor or transfer that labor to elsewhere in their stores. Using it, however, puts the onus of scanning items on customers and mistakes can be made either intentionally or by genuine accident.

Related: Struggling coffee, cafe company files Chapter 11 bankruptcy

The problem is that it’s really hard for retailers to judge intent. Did a consumer attempt to scan an item and it did not go through? Or did they fake scanning it in order to steal the item?

In many cases, the theft is intentional and the shopper will do it again.

“While 95.9% of consumers have used self-checkout machines, statistics show theft increases by up to 65% at self-checkout compared to a traditional checker,” according to statistics shared by Capital One.

Self-checkout makes it easy to steal and get away with it, or at least to not get arrested if you get caught. That has made self-checkout retail theft something that’s too tempting for many American shoppers to pass up.

“15% of consumers admit to using self-checkout to steal; 44% of them plan to re-offend,” according to the Capital One report.

It’s a situation that has caused some large retailers to take clear action.

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Five Below executives have called shrink, part of which is shoplifting, a problem.

Image source: Shutterstock

Five Below makes major self-checkout cuts

Some major chains, including Walmart  (WMT)  and Target  (TGT) , have taken a mixed stand on self-checkout. Those two giant retailers have cut back or even eliminated self-checkout in some markets, but they have not given up on the idea.

Five Below (FIVE) , a national discount retailer where most items sold cost less than $5, is the latest large retail chain to make major self-checkout changes. CEO Joel Anderson talked about his company’s shrink-related moves during its fourth-quarter earnings call.     

“While we know shrink is industrywide and a societal problem that accelerated over the last year, I want to be specific about what we are doing at Five Below regarding the 2023 shrink results that we observed. We tested many shrink mitigation initiatives late in Q3 into Q4, including product-related tests, front-end initiatives, and guard programs,” he said.

The company landed on one key change.

“The most significant change we made across most of the chain was to limit the number of self-checkout registers that were open while positioning an associate upfront to further assist customers,” he added.

Five Below now has an associate assistant at its remaining self-checkout lanes in all of its stores.

“In addition, in our high-shrink stores, the primary option for checkout is more of the traditional over-the-counter associate checkout. We expect to have 75% of our transactions chainwide assisted by an associate with a goal of 100% in our highest-shrink, highest-risk stores to be fully transacted by an associate,” Anderson shared.

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Dollar General made self-checkout changes

Dollar General (DG) , a discount chain with more than 20,000 locations nationwide, has made large changes to combat its own shrink problems. That’s something CEO Todd Vasos talked about during the retailer’s first-quarter earnings call, where he acknowledged that self-checkout theft was not the only factor in increased theft.

“Shrink continues to be the most significant headwind in our business, and we are deploying an end-to-end approach to shrink reduction across the organization, including efforts in our supply chain, merchandising, and within our stores,” he said.

The chain’s shrink-prevention efforts do include major self-checkout changes.

“To help combat issues around shrink, our supply chain teams are primarily focused on ensuring deliveries are on time and in full and our merchants on reducing the amount of inventory we carry. Within our stores, we are focusing on delivering a more consistent front-end presence, broaden the reach of our high-shrink planograms, which include the removal of high-shrink SKUs and the elimination of self-checkout in the vast majority of stores,” he added.

Dollar General has removed self-checkout in about 12,000 locations and plans to continue the effort to remove them. 

More Retail:

Ulta CEO sounds the alarm on a growing problemLululemon releases a first-of-its-kind productTarget store introduces a new ‘over 18’ policyAmazon launches genius new subscription product

The chain’s stock has dropped by about 6% so far in 2024. While shrink may play a role in that, higher costs and customers opting for cheaper items likely played a larger role. Dollar General’s same-store sales increased by 2.4% in the first quarter.

Five Below’s stock has been hit much harder, dropping just over 50% year-to-date. That drop may be impacted by shrink, but the company forecasts a 3-5% drop in same-store sales for its fiscal 2024. Same-store sales dropped by 2.4% in the first quarter.   

Related: Veteran fund manager sees world of pain coming for stocks


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Royal Caribbean shares key advice for all cruisers



Cruise ships have a finite amount of space. 

A ship can actually cruise at more than what would be considered a full passenger load because capacity is based on double occupancy and some cabins can accommodate more than two people.

But at some point all cabins are sold and no more can be added even when demand from would-be passengers is heavy. Cruises growing in popularity have generally led to higher prices.

Related: Why Royal Caribbean’s cruise prices keep rising

In nearly all cases, the best time to book a cruise directly from a cruise line is as soon as possible. The days of last-minute deals and prices going down, at least for Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises ships, have largely gone away.

Your travel agent might be able to get you a deal if they booked blocks of rooms in advance, but prices generally go up, not down, when you book directly from a cruise line. 

And if you book a cruise and the price falls before the final payment is due, you can ask for your cruise to be repriced. (This is something a good travel agent checks regularly.)

ALSO READ: Top travel agents share how to get the best price on your cruise

Royal Caribbean has been selling out many of its cruises and that led Chief Executive Jason Liberty to discuss what can be taken as advice during his cruise line’s first-quarter-earnings call.

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RCL CEO Jason Liberty noted that the company’s cruise ships are filling up faster.

Image source: Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean cruises are filling fast

During the call Liberty said consumers have been very eager to cruise.

“All of our commentary around our bookings, the strength that we’re seeing, not only relates to 2024 but also to 2025,” he said. “And we’re getting close to the point where we’ll soon be taking more bookings for ’25 than we are for 2024.

“And so when we look into the booking behavior, … the booking window continues to extend. So guests are making their decisions much further out.”

He suggested that many passengers seem aware that booking early gives them the best chance to get the exact trip that they want.

“When we look at the repeat rates that are going on and the dreaming that our guests are doing to make sure that they’re getting the vacation experience that they [want, it’s] really all leading to very, very strong demand trends for 2024 as well as 2025,” he added. “And by the way, we’re also taking bookings into 2026.”

Cruise bookings generally enable you to pay over time — Royal Caribbean partners with the buy-now-pay-later company Affirm. That means that booking a cruise further out gives you not only more choices but also a longer time to pay.

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Royal Caribbean passengers booking on-board items sooner

Liberty also noted that passengers are booking everything from excursions to internet and drink packages sooner. The cruise line has encouraged these efforts and not just for the obvious economic reasons.

“We’re also seeing very strong booking behavior precruise and, again, making sure that our guests [are able] to get their first day of their vacation back by planning their on-board activities and shore-excursion activities well in advance,” he said.

If a customer makes specialty dining and excursion reservations before they board, they don’t have to stand in line to do so once they get on the ship. 

That’s an area Royal Caribbean has been seeking to improve, both for added-fee and included parts of the cruise (like being able to make show reservations in advance on Oasis-Class ships).

There are, of course, some financial benefits for the cruise line when people book their added-fee experiences early.

“And that’s also not only helping our ability to yield-manage on the on-board experience, but it’s also improving our customer deposits, which is also rising due to that,” Liberty said. 

“So all in all, things just continue to accelerate and the thirst or hunger for our brands and their experiences just continues to grow.”

Related: Get the best cruise tips, deals, and news on the ships from our expert cruiser



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Colorado Republican Greg Lopez to be sworn in as Ken Buck’s replacement

Just In News 

Republican Rep.-elect Greg Lopez will be sworn into the U.S. House on Monday night, filling the Colorado seat vacated by former Rep. Ken Buck (R), who retired this year.

Lopez, a former mayor of Parker, Colo., won the special election two weeks ago to represent Colorado’s eastern 4th congressional district and carry out the remainder of Buck’s term, which ends in January 2025.

Lopez did not run in the GOP primary for the next two-year term, meaning he’ll only be doing a temporary stint in Congress.

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), who currently represents the state’s 3rd congressional district, ran in and won the GOP primary in late June to represent the state’s 4th congressional district, which is more solidly conservative than her current district.

Boebert said she would switch districts after Buck announced he would not seek reelection. Boebert was facing a tough reelection campaign against Democrat Adam Frisch, who lost to Boebert in 2022 by just several hundred votes.

Buck announced late last year that he would retire at the end of his term. But in March, he expedited that process, saying he would leave the following week.

Buck, a founding member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, increasingly broke with his party on policy issues and was outspoken against the election denialism in the GOP conference.

Once Lopez is sworn in, just before 7 p.m. on Monday, House Republicans will have 220 members, while Democrats have 213 members.

​House, News, greg lopez, house majority, republicans Read More 

Defense secretary continues Sentinel nuclear missile program despite soaring costs

Just In News 

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s office on Monday certified the Sentinel nuclear missile program can continue after determining the effort is a major national security priority with no alternatives, despite its ballooning costs attracting increased scrutiny from Democrats on Capitol Hill.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense said it conducted a comprehensive and unbiased review of Sentinel after the program exceeded its cost projections by 37 percent in January, triggering a Nunn-McCurdy review that requires the Pentagon to consider whether to continue the program or axe it and to ensure it meets certain criteria to maintain funding.

The review found the program is vital to national security, has no alternative at a cheaper cost and is a higher priority than other programs that may be affected by continuing the funding for Sentinel. It also found the soaring costs to be reasonable and controllable if addressed.

But William LaPlante, the under secretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment, rescinded the program’s milestone B approval that allows it to enter the engineering and development phase, and he directed the Air Force to restructure Sentinel to understand the causes of the cost increases and to manage the effort more efficiently.

LaPlante said in a press release that his office is “fully aware of the costs” of Sentinel, which aims to replace the 400 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) scattered across rural western parts of the country.

“But we are also aware of the risks of not modernizing our nuclear forces and not addressing the very real threats we confront,” LaPlante said in the statement. “There are reasons for the cost growth, but there are no excuses. We are already working to address the root causes.”

He added the Pentagon is “on the right path to defend our nation [while] protecting the sacred responsibility the American taxpayer has entrusted us with.”

“The nuclear triad is the foundation of our national defense, and as our competitors modernize
their own nuclear forces, the urgency of pacing the threat is reflected in our Nuclear Posture
Review,” LaPlante said.

The decision had been expected as the Air Force and other Pentagon officials had argued Sentinel should continue receiving funding. The fiscal 2025 budget request also includes funding for the program.

The Pentagon was slated to deliver its Nunn-McCurdy decision to Congress this week on the program. It comes just a little more than two weeks out from a July 24 hearing from Democrats on a congressional nuclear working group who has criticized the program.

A growing number of Democrats are expressing concerns about Sentinel, which is now projected to cost around $141 billion, up from $131 billion in January and around $60 billion when the program was getting off the ground around 2015.

A group of Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to Austin last month calling for an unbiased review of Sentinel and raising a number of concerns about the cost and effectiveness of the program.

Also on Monday, more than 700 scientists representing institutions across the country sent a letter to President Biden and Congress calling the U.S. to drop the Sentinel program from the budget. They argued it was “expensive, dangerous, and unnecessary.”

Tara Drozdenko, director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, which organized the letter, said “there is no sound technical or strategic rationale for spending tens of billions of dollars building new nuclear weapons.”

“These weapons — stored in silos across the Plains states — place a target on communities and increase the risk of nuclear war while offering no meaningful security benefits,” Drozdenko said in a statement. “The U.S. could eliminate the land-based leg of the triad tomorrow and the U.S. public would only be safer for it.”

Much of the cost increase for Sentinel is related to the real estate aspects of the program, since it involves not just creating brand-new missiles but also modernizing the infrastructure to support them.

The Pentagon said in the Monday press release that the review process determined the majority of the cost is in the command and launch segment, including the modernization of launch facilities and centers.

The restructuring of Sentinel will include addressing the command and launch segment, improving systems engineering and adjusting the contract structure and execution, according to Andrew Hunter, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics.

“We do not take lightly the once-in-a-generation responsibility to modernize the ground leg of the nuclear triad, and are mindful of the scope and scale of this undertaking, which is unprecedented in contemporary times,” Hunter told reporters in a press call. “Over the coming months, we’ll develop a comprehensive plan for how the Air Force will restructure the program.”

The Air Force will scale back the size and complexity of the launch facilities as part of the restructure plan. Officials will bring a new program baseline, which could vary in projected costs as being higher or lower than current estimates, to the Pentagon after restructuring Sentinel.

Still, Sentinel is expected to take funding from other programs. Gen. James Slife, vice chief of staff for the Air Force, told reporters Monday that in the future they may have to “decide what trade-offs we’re going to need to make in order to be able to continue to pursue the Sentinel program.”

Critics have questioned whether ICBMs are necessary, pointing to them as sitting targets that lack the perks of the other legs of the triad — submarines are stealthy, and bomber planes are fast.

But supporters have argued the U.S. must maintain and modernize all three legs of its triad to keep up with nuclear threats from Russia and China. The Minuteman missiles that Sentinel aims to replace are more than 50 years old.

Gen. David Allvin, chief of staff of the Air Force, said the U.S. faces “an evolving and complex security environment marked by two major nuclear powers that are strategic competitors and potential adversaries.”

“While I have confidence in our legacy systems today, it is imperative that we modernize our nuclear triad,” he said in a statement shared in the Monday press release. “A restructured Sentinel program is essential to ensure we remain best postured to address future threats.”

The costs are eating into the program’s schedule. Defense contractor Northrop Grumman, which won an initial roughly $13 billion contract for Sentinel in 2020 and is expected to continue work on the program, has already delayed its initial flight test by two years until 2026.

The Air Force wants to field Sentinel by 2030 but is likely to have to life-extend the Minuteman missiles amid the delays, something it has previously said it could not do. The Pentagon review on Monday determined that there will likely be a delay of several years.

​Defense, David Allvin, intercontinental ballistic missiles, Sentinel, William LaPlante Read More 

White House spars with press over Parkinson doctor visits, Biden’s health

Just In News 

The White House on Monday tangled with reporters during heated exchanges over whether the administration had been forthcoming about President Biden’s health in the wake of a disastrous debate performance that has sparked calls from some Democrats for Biden to end his reelection bid.

Reporters grilled press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre during a press briefing over reports that indicated visitor logs showed a neurologist specializing in Parkinson’s disease was at the White House eight times over an eight month period, including for a meeting with presidential physician Dr. Kevin O’Connor.

They also took issue with Jean-Pierre’s evolving explanation around whether Biden met with a doctor before and after his debate on June 27, when the president frequently struggled to complete his thoughts and looked on with his mouth agape as former President Trump spoke. Aides at the time blamed Biden’s raspy voice on a cold.

Monday’s briefing was dominated by questions sparked by the report on the Parkinson’s doctor’s visit and whether it involved consultations with or about the president.

In response, Jean-Pierre was adamant about not naming the specialist, Dr. Kevin Cannard, even though his name was on a public log of visitors to the White House, citing privacy and security questions.

While answering one of the questions, Jean-Pierre was met with a chorus of reporters who pushed back on her response.

“We’re miffed around here about how information has been shared with the press corps around here,” CBS News correspondent Ed O’Keefe said, pressing Jean-Pierre about whether Biden was seen by the Parkinson’s expert.

“It doesn’t matter how hard you push me, it doesn’t matter how angry you get with me, I’m not going to confirm a name,” Jean-Pierre said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s even in the log. I’m not going to do that from here. What I can share with you is the president has seen a neurologist for his physical three times.”

She told reporters Biden is not being treated for Parkinson’s and is not taking medication for the disease. She also cited his February physical, during which his personal physician found Biden was fit for duty and wrote that a neurological exam found no evidence of Parkinson’s, stroke, or other condition.

Reporters also expressed frustration over the lack of clarity in the days after the June 27 debate as to whether Biden had seen a doctor for the cold he had during his halting performance either before or after the debate.

Last Wednesday, Jean-Pierre responded “no” when asked if Biden had any kind of medical exam. She also said “no” when asked if the president had any medical exams since his last annual physical in February.

But last Friday, Jean-Pierre told reporters Biden had a “verbal check-in” when asked about reports that surfaced indicating Biden told a group of governors he had a checkup. During an ABC News interview later that evening, Biden alluded to having taken a COVID test and being checked for an infection, which were both negative. He did not specify during the interview when those exams took place, but said doctors told him he merely had a bad cold.

Associated Press reporter Zeke Miller opened Monday’s briefing by asking Jean-Pierre about the “credibility of this White House in talking about the president’s health.”

Jean-Pierre said she “did not mean to steer anybody wrong” and suggested she was not incorrect in saying Biden did not have a “medical exam.”

She also took issue with the tone of the briefing at times, saying she “took offense” to those who suggested she was being intentionally misleading.

“I appreciate the back and forth that we all have. I try to respect you and I hope you try to respect me. And we literally do everything that we can…to make sure that we get the answers to you,” she said.

NBC News correspondent Kelly O’Donnell, who also serves as president of the White House Correspondents Association, told Jean-Pierre the press corps was “seeking clarity” amid broader questions about the president’s health as he seeks reelection.

“Part of the reason we are pressing here is that we are not clear on what has happened, and therefore the American people to whom we report don’t have a sense of it,” she said.

Questions about Biden’s health  have dominated coverage of his campaign amid the fallout stemming from Biden’s debate with Trump. Several elected Democrats have urged Biden to step aside as the nominee, citing concerns about his electability and whether he can campaign vigorously enough to defeat Trump in November.

Biden and his top aides have been defiant, saying he has no intention of dropping out of the race. In a “Morning Joe” interview on MSNBC earlier Monday, Biden dared those in the party who wanted him out of the race to challenge him at next month’s convention.

​Administration, News Read More 

Anti-abortion groups back RNC platform despite scaled-back language

Just In News 

Anti-abortion groups are backing the GOP’s official 2024 platform after previously warning former President Trump’s campaign against watering down language on abortion. 

The groups lauded some of the specific language regarding the 14th Amendment approved Monday by a Republican National Committee (RNC) panel, after spending months lobbying against it. 

The platform language echoes Trump’s leave-it-to-the-states approach. It doesn’t call for giving embryos or fetuses constitutional rights, nor does it endorse a national abortion ban.  

Major anti-abortion advocates previously argued weakening the platform would be abandoning all the progress the movement has made in limiting access to the procedure and would risk a divide among the party when it should be united.  

The Republican Party’s platform has long condemned abortion and expressed support for a national ban. This year marked the first time the party updated its platform since Roe v. Wade was overturned, and anti-abortion advocates were eager to make their mark.  

In 2016, the platform backed “a human life amendment to the Constitution and legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to children before birth.”  

It included language opposing any public funding to perform or promote abortion or to fund organizations such as Planned Parenthood. 

It also called for a national ban on abortion — with some exceptions — after about 20 weeks of gestation. 

But in an apparent nod to the Trump campaign’s desire not to be pinned down on endorsing specific limits, the new platform instead says states are “free to pass laws” protecting 14th Amendment rights. 

“After 51 years, because of us, that power has been given to the States and to a vote of the People. We will oppose Late Term Abortion, while supporting mothers and policies that advance Prenatal Care, access to Birth Control, and IVF (fertility treatments),” the platform states. 

Anti-abortion groups said the 14th Amendment language is key, despite the state-centric approach. 

“It is important that the GOP reaffirmed its commitment to protect unborn life today through the 14th Amendment. Under this amendment, it is Congress that enacts and enforces its provisions. The Republican Party remains strongly pro-life at the national level,” Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement.  

Last week, Dannenfelser had warned that moderating the 2016 language “would be a miscalculation that would hurt party unity and destroy pro-life enthusiasm between now and the election.” 

Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins said the explicit nod to 14th Amendment protections is “the most significant contribution that the GOP platform makes for life.” 

Hawkins said that because the platform was so state focused, she wants Trump to urge voters to reject state abortion rights ballot measures, “beginning in Florida where he visits tomorrow.” 

John Mize, CEO of Americans United for Life, in a statement noted the Republican platform “has historically stood for the rights of preborn children and we’re happy to see that this election cycle will be no different.” 

He said his group worked closely with the RNC on developing the platform language to reflect the post-Roe world. 

“We remain enthusiastic about the need to focus on winning hearts and minds on the abortion issue in the states, while at the same time uplifting women and families with federal policy that makes having and raising children an easier equation in our current economic and inflationary situation,” Mize said.  

​Campaign, Health Care, abortion, RNC platform Read More 

Here’s how the Supreme Court got the big free speech stuff right

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In what some saw as anticlimactic, the Supreme Court last Monday declined to decide whether Texas and Florida laws regulating social media moderation policies violate the First Amendment. But the big news from these consolidated cases was what the court did say.

Justice Elena Kagan’s majority opinion in Moody v. NetChoice (decided with NetChoice v. Paxton), made clear that the First Amendment “does not go on leave when social media are involved.”  

What does that mean? Kagan and a solid majority laid down the basic First Amendment principles that will govern the cases going forward in terms so plain that not even the Fifth Circuit can get it wrong the next time around.

The first amendment guarantees the freedom of press.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was ratified on Dec. 15, 1791, part of the first 10 amendments known as the Bill of Rights. (iStock)

The two cases were part of the political fallout after former President Trump was kicked off Twitter (now X), Facebook and YouTube following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.  


The Texas and Florida legislatures in 2021 responded by passing laws to prevent “Big Tech” from using moderation choices to discriminate against conservative politicians and pundits. The Florida law targeted so-called “deplatforming” of political candidates, speech about candidates, or news organizations, while Texas prohibited “viewpoint-based” moderation practices.

NetChoice, an industry trade association, challenged both laws, which promptly were enjoined before they could go into effect. But then things got interesting. 

The 11th Circuit, citing established precedents protecting internet speech, upheld the injunction in Florida. The Fifth Circuit, however, in NetChoice v. Paxton reversed the injunction of the Texas law, reasoning that regulating platforms’ moderation choices did not implicate the First Amendment at all because the companies were being censors.  


This explanation was surprising, to say the least. It is basic law that the First Amendment limits government power to restrict speech, not content selection by private publishers.  

As FIRE put it in our amicus brief to the Supreme Court, the Fifth Circuit’s “error is so stark, so obvious, and so flamboyantly wrong,” that Judge Leslie Southwick, who dissented, “was able to sum up the problem in eight words: ‘The majority’s perceived censorship is my perceived editing.’”

photo of Supreme Court building

The Supreme Court majority described the Fifth Circuit’s theory as “a serious misunderstanding of First Amendment precedent and principle.” (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

The Supreme Court majority agreed, describing the Fifth Circuit’s theory as “a serious misunderstanding of First Amendment precedent and principle.” Kagan wrote “it is no job for government to decide what counts as the right balance of private expression – to ‘un-bias what it thinks is biased, rather than to leave such judgments to speakers and their audiences.”


True, the court left an ultimate decision on the constitutionality of the Florida and Texas laws for another day.  The lower courts will have to conduct a searching examination of the two statutes to determine how far they reach and to what extent they regulate protected editorial activity. 

But the majority opinion left little doubt about what governing principles will control the outcome.

Supreme Court members

Members of the Supreme Court, from left, Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Neil M. Gorsuch, Sonia Sotomayor, and Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justices Ketanji Brown Jackson, Samuel A. Alito, Jr., Elena Kagan, and Brett M. Kavanaugh on Sept. 30, 2022. (Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States via Getty Images)

The court made clear, as it has in the past, that “whatever the challenges of applying the Constitution to ever-advancing technology, the basic principles” of the First Amendment “do not vary.” 

Social media may be relatively new and novel media of communication, but “the main problem in this case – and the inquiry it calls for – is not new.” Bottom line, the First Amendment bars the government from “tilting public debate in a preferred direction.”


It was necessary to provide such direct guidance, Kagan explained, “to ensure that the facial analysis proceeds on the right path in the courts below” and that the “need is especially stark for the Fifth Circuit.”  Otherwise, if she said nothing about the Fifth Circuit’s fundamental errors, “the court would presumably repeat them when it next considers NetChoice’s challenge.”

And just to nail the door shut, Kagan concluded “that the Fifth Circuit, if it stayed the course, would get wrong at least one significant input to the facial analysis,” that moderation decisions about Facebook’s News Feed and YouTube’s homepage are “editorial judgments” and “protected expressive activity.”

Supreme Court guidance to lower courts is rarely more direct – or pointed – than that. Time will tell if the lower courts take the hint.

Without a doubt, large social media companies can exert great influence and make bad moderation choices. But as Kagan’s opinion reminded us, “[h]owever imperfect the private marketplace of ideas, here was a worse proposal – the government itself deciding when speech was imbalanced, and then coercing speakers to provide more of some views or less of others.”


Yes, “private censorship” can be bad, but as the court observed, “[o]n the spectrum of dangers to free expression, there are few greater than allowing the government to change the speech of private actors in order to achieve its own conception of speech nirvana.”

FIRE’s amicus brief paraphrased the late humorist P.J. O’Rourke to say that giving state legislatures power over social media moderation decisions “is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” Last week’s Supreme Court decision promises to take away the keys and lock the bottles in the liquor cabinet.



Tropical Storm Beryl tracker: Millions without power in Texas, flood-prone communities in storm’s path

Just In News 

Tropical Storm Beryl is making a slow, ruinous passage out of Houston, where it is flooding highways and knocking out power lines. 

As of 3 p.m. local time Monday, as the eye of the storm moved over the western Houston suburbs, more than 2.7 million Texans were without power, according to tracking site

Much of the already flood-prone city has experienced 5 to 8 inches of rain, with some particularly unlucky neighborhoods experiencing more than 10, according to Harris County’s Flood Warning System.

Homes in Houston’s lower-income northeast have flooded, one nonprofit told The Hill, as have many of the city’s major freeways. One man was rescued from the cab of his truck as the water rose along Highway 288. Winds ripped trees from the ground, roots and all.

While the storm has weakened, its current path is set to bring it over more than a dozen flood-prone communities across the Ohio Valley and Upper Midwest before the week’s end.

Beryl has stood out for its early-season ferocity, fueled by a hot ocean and a warming world, as well as its passage over the nation’s petrochemical heartland.

Acting Texas Gov. Dan Patrick (R), who has assumed the role while Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is abroad, described Beryl as “a determined storm” and warned of “heavy rain and some localized flooding” from the coast to inland East Texas cities like College Station, Texarkana and Tyler.

“Do not ignore this storm,” Patrick added.

Here’s what you should know about Beryl as it makes its way across Texas and toward the Midwest.

High winds, heavy rain in the storm’s path

Beryl rumbled ashore as a Category 1 hurricane early Monday morning in Matagorda County, Texas, southeast of Houston.

By noon, the center of the storm had passed above Houston’s western suburbs, and the National Weather Service (NWS) downgraded Beryl to tropical storm status.

The coastal community of Freeport saw wind speeds of 97 miles per hour, according to Space City Weather; when the storm hit Houston, a sensor at the city’s Hobby Airport recorded a maximum wind speed of 84 miles per hour just before it stopped transmitting. 

As of 11 a.m., wind gusts were down to a maximum of 70 miles an hour.

But the agency noted that the risk is still considerable. “Flooding rains, strong tropical storm force winds and isolated tornadoes will continue to be possible as this system tracks further inland,” the NWS’s Houston office wrote on the social platform X. 

The disruptions at the storm’s fringes have put 4.5 million people at risk from “likely” tornadoes in a north-south band along the Texas-Louisiana border, the office added.

Outages and heat risk

Amid the harsh weather conditions, the Houston area was a mess of power outages as of 12 p.m. Monday. More than half of Harris County, home to most of Houston proper, as well as virtually all of neighboring Wharton and Brazoria counties had lost power. 

“That’s more than the May derecho,” which knocked out power for nearly 1 million customers, “and roughly 50 to 60 percent of the region,” Space City Weather meteorologists wrote. “It will take time to restore it. We have no idea how long. We know many of you are frustrated, and we’re just hoping for the best like you are.”

Lack of power also means a looming loss of cell service, as wires to cell towers have been knocked out and their backup batteries slowly lose power.

One small silver lining for Houstonians amid the destruction and outages: The storm has cooled off temperatures, leaving the metropolis with minimal heat risk throughout the week. 

But by Friday, temperatures will be creeping back up, with most of the region under a level 2 heat risk, threatening “individuals sensitive to heat, especially those without effective cooling,” according to the NWS. 

Heat sensitivity increases for those who are under 18 or over 65 (38 percent of Harris County residents) or obese (31 percent).

If power is not returned soon, many residents will also face another threat: running out of food as perishables rot in the absence of functional refrigerators or freezers. 

Flood danger for Texas communities 

With much of Houston receiving between 5 and 10 inches of rain, flooding stands out  as the dominant threat to the region. Bayous across the eastern half of Harris County escaped their concrete channels on Monday, and county data suggested flooding along Buffalo Bayou, Brays Bayou, Green Bayou and the San Jacinto River.

Many cities and neighborhoods in and around Houston are at stark risk of flooding, according to proprietary data shared exclusively with The Hill by First Street Foundation, a nonprofit climate technology company.

That data shows that 54 percent of the properties in Matagorda County, where the hurricane came ashore, are at perennial risk of flooding. 

In Bolivar and Galveston, barrier island cities at the mouth of the Houston Ship Channel, the danger is even more pervasive, encompassing 93 and 97 percent of properties, respectively.

While Houston as a whole is somewhat less exposed — just under a third of properties in the city face significant risk of flood, according to the data — certain neighborhoods are particularly flood-prone. 

About 83 percent of properties in the wealthy southwestern enclave of Bellaire — where nearly 10 inches of rain fell on Monday — are at perennial risk of flood, for instance.

Beryl is pummeling many outlying areas of Houston that had already been hit by May’s severe thunderstorms, which led to flooding bad enough that 400 people had to be rescued.

On X, Columbia University climate scientist Mona Hemmati posted videos of 6-inch-deep water at major Houston intersections flooding with rain on Saturday afternoon, more than a day before Beryl made landfall.

The problems, Hemmati argued, are chronic. “Urban development has added impervious surfaces, intensifying runoff with any excessive rainfall,” she wrote. “As the climate warms, more intense rainfall is expected, worsening existing flooding issues.” 

Ohio Valley next in storm’s sights

After passing over Houston, the storm is forecast to move at the speed of a running person up through Arkansas, heading for the tributaries of the Mississippi River — in particular the Ohio Valley and, ultimately, the Great Lakes. 

In Little Rock, Ark., where the storm is expected to arrive Tuesday morning, the NWS office warned that its “remants” could bring quarter-sized hail. The Memphis office warned of severe thunderstorms, as well as flash flooding across Arkansas and the Missouri Bootheel.

From there, the storm will gradually lose strength, but will still dump enough rain to be threatening. Indianapolis can expect up to 2.5 inches of rain along the Wabash River by Tuesday evening. So too, by Wednesday, could communities as far afield as Metro Detroit, where the NWS office predicts 1 to 3 inches of rain, and an elevated risk of flooding.

And by Wednesday night, the storm’s weakest remnants will bring rain showers as far afield as northern New Jersey and Boston.

Stark flood risk beyond Texas

By the time it reaches New Jersey, Beryl “won’t be a topical storm or hurricane … it will just be showers,” NWS meteorologist Allison Lancia told 

But in many communities in the storm’s path over the coming days, showers may be enough to cause significant upheaval. 

A Hill analysis of First Street data found several Midwestern communities within or just outside Beryl’s probable path that face significant flood risk, defined as more than 30 percent of their properties being at risk of flood. 

For example, on its path north the storm will likely graze the Louisville, Ky., suburb of West Point, where 40 percent of properties face such risk, and then the Cincinnati, Ohio, suburb of Elwood Place (46 percent) and the exurb New Miami (64 percent) on its way over northern Ohio. There, it could bring heavy rainfall to the towns of Defiance and Fostoria and the Cleveland neighborhood of Valley View, where a quarter to half of properties in each community are at risk of flood. 

From there, if the storm banks east along Lake Erie, it will head through or just beside a long line of flood-prone municipalities in upstate New York: the Lackawanna neighborhood of Buffalo, N.Y. (31 percent); the Rochester Institute of Technology (64 percent); the Syracuse suburb of Camillus (30 percent) and Ithaca (47 percent).

If Beryl swings wider west, meanwhile, it will pass over the Indiana towns of Logansport (40 percent) and Peru (56 percent), before heading toward Metro Detroit, where neighborhoods like Belleville (84 percent) and River Rouge (65 percent) stand out as particularly vulnerable to flooding.

As in Houston, the heightened risk of flood in Detroit — and many other cities on this list — stems from aging infrastructure unable to handle the throughput of a significant storm. About 46 percent of Detroit homeowners surveyed in one study dealt with flooding between 2012 and 2020, after federal investment in the region cratered from 60 percent in the 1970s to 10 percent in 2014.

Getting the region’s infrastructure ready for climate change is predicted to cost an estimated $5 billion per year — in Southeast Michigan alone, according to the regional planning body. “Now we are seeing the cost of not fixing it,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) told reporters in 2021, after a flood that year closed Interstate 94.

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