In an unusual move, Justice Clarence Thomas attached to his annual financial disclosure form released today a response to reports that he had failed to disclose luxury trips, flights on a private jet and a real estate transaction with a Texas billionaire who has donated to conservative causes.
In his disclosure, Thomas addressed his decision to fly on a private jet belonging to the billionaire, Harlan Crow. Thomas said that he had been advised to avoid commercial travel after the leak of the draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade and eliminating a constitutional right to an abortion.
Thomas also defended his past filings, which did not include many of the trips with Crow and other wealthy friends, insisting that he had adhered to all judicial regulations.
This year, the justices have faced increased scrutiny about their financial dealings and about the court’s lack of an ethics code following a series of reports in ProPublica detailing Thomas’s decades-long close relationship with Crow. Unlike other federal judges, Supreme Court justices are not bound by formal ethics rules. Instead they follow what Chief Justice John Roberts has referred to as “ethics principles and practices.”
Another justice, Samuel Alito, has come under recent scrutiny for using a private plane on a luxury fishing vacation with a different billionaire who later had business before the court. Alito also released his newest financial disclosure today but did not offer an explanation of his disclosures.
At least 74 people were killed in a fire in Johannesburg
An early-morning blaze tore through a five-story building in Johannesburg that city officials said had become a dilapidated settlement for squatters. At least 74 people, including a dozen children, were killed in one of the deadliest residential fires in South Africa’s history.
The authorities, who are still trying to determine the cause, said that many residents had lit fires for warmth and light. The building, where electric cables dangled in corridors and trash spilled from windows, illustrated a political crisis that has resulted in a severe lack of affordable housing in the city.
My colleague Lynsey Chutel, who covers Johannesburg, described the scene: “There was a real sense of chaos,” she said. “You could see people sitting on the sidewalk looking confused, looking helpless.”
A Proud Boys leader was sentenced to 17 years in prison
A federal judge today sentenced Joseph Biggs, a onetime lieutenant in the Proud Boys, to 17 years in prison after his conviction on charges of seditious conspiracy for plotting to attack the Capitol and disrupt the peaceful transfer of presidential power on Jan. 6, 2021.
It was the second longest sentence so far in more than 1,100 criminal cases stemming from the attack.
Another member of the Proud Boys leadership, Zachary Rehl, was also sentenced to 15 years. Three additional members, including the former chairman Enrique Tarrio, are expected to receive lengthy sentences over the next two weeks.
Idalia is back out at sea
The remnants of Hurricane Idalia left the U.S. today and headed east into the Atlantic Ocean after a long night of heavy winds and flash floods in the Carolinas. Behind it, the storm left a roughly 700-mile trail — from the Gulf Coast to the Outer Banks — of downed trees, flooded towns and power outages.
Florida’s sparsely populated Big Bend region, where Idalia made landfall as a Category 3 storm yesterday, took the worst hit. But state officials said the structural damage appeared minor compared with that of other recent disasters.
Taylor Swift is coming to a theater near you
With her Eras Tour, Taylor Swift catapulted herself to the very peak of pop stardom. Her concerts were perhaps the biggest cultural juggernaut of the year, putting her on track for a record $1.4 billion in sales. But she’s not stopping.
Swift announced today that a concert film of her tour is hitting American theaters on Oct. 13. AMC Theaters promised that it had improved its ticketing servers in anticipation, but said that no system may be able to contain the Swiftie fandom.
The Dungeons & Dragons players of death row
In prisons across the U.S., there are thousands of people on death row. Decades ago, the average prisoner would wait six years before execution. Now, some languish there for two decades.
The world’s longest yard sale
For four days each August, the town of Addison, Mich., is lined with yard sales supplying glassware, dolls, VHS tapes, loose silverware and dresses. It can feel like an overload of offerings — but it is only the very, very tip of a gargantuan event considered the “world’s longest yard sale.”