* Louisiana: "The forecast for Louisiana on Wednesday was for more rain -- and more pain. With the state still swamped by historic flooding that has left at least 11 dead and displaced tens of thousands more, the National Weather Service warned the deadly deluge was far from done."
* A striking related detail: "The country has not seen a natural disaster this bad since 2012, when Hurricane Sandy pummeled the East Coast, according to the American Red Cross."
* California: "More than 82,000 people were under mandatory evacuation orders Wednesday as a fast-moving fire near San Bernardino, Calif., roared across 15,000 acres in several directions."
* Quite a shift: "A prominent Iranian lawmaker has confirmed that Russia is using Iran's Shahid Nojeh Air Base for airstrikes in Syria.... The announcement from Russia marks the first significant stationing of its troops in Iran since World War II."
* NSA: "Some of the most powerful espionage tools created by the National Security Agency's elite group of hackers have been revealed in recent days, a development that could pose severe consequences for the spy agency's operations and the security of government and corporate computers."
* Defection: "A high-ranking diplomat from North Korea who was based in Britain has defected to South Korea, officials in Seoul said Wednesday, making him one of the most prominent North Koreans in recent years to abandon their reclusive government."
* Good call: "The Obama administration on Tuesday issued aggressive new emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks. The rules are expected to achieve better fuel efficiency and a bigger cut in pollution than the version that was first proposed last year."
For the third time in five months, Donald Trump has overhauled his presidential campaign's leadership team. As of this morning, Kellyanne Conway is now the Republican candidate's campaign manager -- a post that was apparently vacant since June -- and Stephen Bannon, of Breitbart News notoriety, is Trump's campaign CEO.
But the closer one looks at why this shake-up happened, the harder it is to believe. Consider this tidbit, for example, from the Washington Post's reporting:
While Trump respects [campaign chairman Paul] Manafort, the aides said, he has grown to feel "boxed in" and "controlled" by people who barely know him. Moving forward, he plans to focus intensely on rousing his voters at rallies and through media appearances.
Trump's turn away from Manafort is in part a reversion to how he ran his campaign in the primary with then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Lewandowski's mantra was "let Trump be Trump" and Trump wants to get back to that type of campaign culture, the aides said.
That's right, as far as the Republican nominee is concerned, Americans have seen a constrained version of Donald J. Trump in recent months. This has been the GOP candidate at his most guarded.
In other words, with his new team in place, Trump intends to stop pulling his punches and start being even more outlandish in the presidential campaign's final 12 weeks.
It's not quite an acceptance of defeat, but it's something similar: a decision to stop caring what might appeal to a broad national audience and start doing what makes the candidate feel good.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* In Florida, the nation's largest battleground state, the latest Monmouth University poll found Hillary Clinton with a nine-point lead over Donald Trump, 48% to 39%. That margin includes third-party candidates in the mix.
* The same poll found Sen. Marco Rubio (R) leading Rep. Patrick Murphy (D), 48% to 43%.
* For all the talk about an inevitable Trump "pivot" to expand his appeal for the general election, the Republican nominee told WKBT-TV in Wisconsin that's not likely to happen. "I don't want to change," he said. "Everyone talks about 'oh are you gonna pivot?' I don't want to pivot."
* Four years ago, Mitt Romney won Texas by about 16 points. According to a PPP poll in the Lone Star State released yesterday, Trump only leads Clinton in Texas by six, 44% to 38%.
* During the GOP presidential primaries, Sen. Cory Gardner (R) described Trump as a "buffoon." This week, the conservative senator nevertheless announced his support for the Republican ticket.
* For some reason, Trump continues to use his social-media accounts to promote polls that show him losing.
* With two weeks remaining before Arizona's Senate primary, former state Sen. Kelli Ward, taking on Sen. John McCain in a Republican contest, has now picked up endorsements from two GOP House members.
In 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Cairo for some diplomatic talks when her motorcade was confronted with angry protesters. An unfortunate scene unfolded, with people throwing shoes and tomatoes at the U.S. delegation.
What was the protest all about? The protesters had apparently heard conspiracy theories from American extremists, who said the Obama administration "harbors a secret, pro-Islamist agenda" and backs the Muslim Brotherhood. It wasn't in any way true, of course, but Republicans like Michele Bachmann and Louie Gohmert said it, the comments were picked up by U.S. skeptics in the Middle East, and it wasn't long before many confused people came to believe the nonsense, unaware of the GOP lawmakers' lack of credibility.
"I guarantee you nobody in Egypt really knows who Louie Gohmert is or what he's about," said Steven A. Cook, senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, explained in 2013. "So they could very well point to this and say 'Look! He's a member of Congress. This must be serious. There must be something to it.'"
Now, of course, there's a related problem that takes the entire dynamic to the next level. The problem's name is Donald Trump.
In the New York Times yesterday, there was an interesting piece from Michael Wahid Hanna, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and at the Center on Law and Security at N.Y.U.'s School of Law, and Daniel Benaim, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. They made the point that when the Republican presidential hopeful shares one of his many conspiracy theories -- including his recent assertion that President Obama and Hillary Clinton are the original "founders" of ISIS -- Americans aren't the only folks who notice.
Public opinion has a profound impact on American interests in the Middle East and around the world. The United States' military strategy against the Islamic State depends on mobilizing local actors to lead the fight on the ground. Imagine how much harder that is when people have been led to believe that President Obama created the group. Or think of the added danger to American troops in Iraq, where Shiite militant groups who are fighting the Islamic State remain deeply wary of the United States military.
Just this weekend, Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, publicly endorsed Mr. Trump's remarks: "This is an American presidential candidate. This was spoken on behalf of the Republican Party. He has data and documents."
I can think of a few GOP lawmakers who likely winced after seeing that "spoken on behalf of the Republican Party" comment.
While nearly all of the recent news surrounding the Affordable Care Act has been positive, this week brought an important setback: Aetna, one of the nation's largest private insurers, announced that it's losing money through "Obamacare" plans. As a result, Aetna said it will now "sell individual insurance on the government-run online marketplaces in only four states next year, down from the current 15 states."
For the ACA system, this was clearly a step in the wrong direction. For the exchange marketplaces to be effective, consumers need private insurers to compete for their business. The more insurance companies scale back, the less effective the law.
To be sure, this isn't a complete disaster -- as the New York Times' editorial board explained, the Affordable Care Act can certainly survive this -- but there's no denying the fact that it's bad news for the system overall.
What's less clear is why, exactly, Aetna made this decision. As Mother Jones' Kevin Drum noted this week, "Aetna did a lot of business on the Obamacare exchanges, and until recently claimed that it was a good investment. Now they've suddenly changed their mind. Why? No one can say for sure, but the skeptical among us suspect it's payback. The Obama administration blocked their proposed merger with Humana, so now they're going to exit Obamacare. Nyah nyah nyah."
There's fresh evidence Kevin may have been onto something. The Huffington Post's Jonathan Cohn and Jeffrey Young published a rather striking report overnight.
[Aetna's] move also was directly related to a Department of Justice decision to block the insurer's potentially lucrative merger with Humana, according to a letter from Aetna's CEO obtained by The Huffington Post. [...]
[J]ust last month, in a letter to the Department of Justice, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini said the two issues were closely linked. In fact, he made a clear threat: If President Barack Obama's administration refused to allow the merger to proceed, he wrote, Aetna would be in worse financial position and would have to withdraw from most of its Obamacare markets, and quite likely all of them.
The report added that for ACA supporters, this suggests the insurer "was using its participation in Obama's signature domestic policy initiative as a bargaining chip in order to secure approval of a controversial business deal."
If you think what's missing from Congress is a member of the Cheney family, you'll be pleased with yesterday's primary results out of Wyoming.
Liz Cheney has won Wyoming's Republican primary for U.S. House. Cheney beat seven challengers for a chance at the job her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, first won 40 years ago.
Her campaign focused on national security and rolling back federal regulations affecting Wyoming's beleaguered coal industry.
Incumbent Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R), who has served as Wyoming's sole representative for the last eight years, is stepping down at the end of this Congress. There was a large GOP primary field, which Cheney ended up leading with relative ease.
Yesterday's results don't guarantee Cheney's place in Congress, but given Wyoming's status as a ruby-red state, it's widely assumed that the winner of the Republican primary is well positioned to win the U.S. House seat in the fall.
What's especially notable about Cheney's victory is the degree to which the former Fox News pundit and State Department official had to undo the damage done by her last congressional bid.
In April, in the face of broad criticisms about his campaign's direction, Donald Trump shook up his leadership team and implemented a "massive restructuring." Two months later, in June, the Republican presidential candidate made another major staffing change, ousting campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
Donald Trump is shaking up his campaign's leadership amid flagging poll numbers, NBC News has learned.
Kellyanne Conway -- already a senior adviser to the campaign -- told NBC News she has been promoted to the role of campaign manager. She confirmed that Paul Manafort will stay on as campaign chair but said Stephen Bannon, the co-founder of conservative Breitbart News, will come on board as campaign CEO.
The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the staffing changes, said Manafort will stay on, though his power will clearly be diminished. The Washington Post's report added, "Trump's stunning decision effectively ended the months-long push by campaign chairman Paul Manafort to moderate Trump's presentation and pitch for the general election."
And just when it seemed things couldn't get much worse for Manafort, the Associated Press reported this morning that the Republican lobbyist "helped a pro-Russian governing party in Ukraine secretly route at least $2.2 million in payments to two prominent Washington lobbying firms in 2012, and did so in a way that effectively obscured the foreign political party's efforts to influence U.S. policy."
If accurate, a report like this will raise questions anew about why Manafort is maintaining any kind of leadership role in the Republican nominee's presidential campaign.
Rachel Maddow looks back at Roger Ailes' history as a Republican strategist before he became the guiding Republican force shaping Fox News, and notes reports that he is now working with the Trump campaign. watch
* Louisiana flooding: "The death toll for the Louisiana Flood of 2016 climbed to 10 Tuesday (Aug. 16) and eight more parishes were declared federal disaster areas. Roads are still closed across the state and at least 11,000 people are in shelters after a slow-moving weather system dumped as much as two feet of rain in 48 hours on parts of East Baton Rouge, Livingston and St. Helena parishes."
* Following up on the report from last night's show: "Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who was convicted Monday of perjury and other crimes, announced she will resign Wednesday."
* New York: "Two days after an imam and his assistant were gunned down after afternoon prayers in Queens, the police said late Monday that a man they had in custody had been charged in the killings."
* Discouraging ACA news: "Aetna, the nation's third largest health insurer, announced Monday night the most significant departure yet from the marketplaces set up by President Obama's signature health care law. The company, citing $430 million in losses selling insurance to individuals since January of 2014, will slash its participation from 15 states to four next year."
* Climate crisis: "Earth just broiled to its hottest month in recorded history, according to NASA. Even after the fading of a strong El Nino, which spikes global temperatures on top of man-made climate change, July burst global temperature records."
* FBI: "Responding to requests from House Republicans, the FBI sent members of Congress the notes from its July interview with Hillary Clinton about her private email server on Tuesday."
* Worth watching: "Russian bombers flying from an Iranian air base struck rebel targets across Syria on Tuesday, Russian and Iranian officials said, dramatically underscoring the two countries' growing military ties and highlighting Russia's ambitions for greater influence in a turbulent Middle East."
Launched in 2008, “The Rachel Maddow Show” follows the machinations of policy making in America, from local political activism to international diplomacy. Rachel Maddow looks past the distractions of political theater and stunts and focuses on the legislative proposals and policies that shape American life - as well as the people making and influencing those policies and their ultimate outcome, intended or otherwise.