May 2022 News, Views

 

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Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative news and view in May 2022

 

 

 

May 18

Top Headlines

President Biden, accompanied by First Lady Jill Bidens, speaks in Buffalo following racist shooting massacre targeting Black shoppers (Associated Press Photo by Andrew Harnik on May 17, 2022). In his visit to a largely Black community where a mass shooting left 10 dead, President Biden criticized those who use hate speech for political gain. Mr. Biden shared the stories of each victim and called for stricter gun control, denouncing the attack as racist terrorism.


Virus Victims, Responses

 

Climate, Environment, Disasters

 

More On U.S. Media, Race, Shootings

 

More On Ukraine War

 

More On U.S. Midterm Primary Results

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

 

Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection, Elections Claims

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters


More On Media, Sports

 

Top Stories

 

President Biden, accompanied by First Lady Jill Bidens, speaks in Buffalo following racist shooting massacre targeting Black shoppers (Associated Press Photo by Andrew Harnik on May 17, 2022). In his visit to a largely Black community where a mass shooting left 10 dead, President Biden criticized those who use hate speech for political gain. Mr. Biden shared the stories of each victim and called for stricter gun control, denouncing the attack as racist terrorism.

President Biden, accompanied by First Lady Jill Bidens, speaks in Buffalo following racist shooting massacre targeting Black shoppers (Associated Press Photo by Andrew Harnik on May 17, 2022). In his visit to a largely Black community where a mass shooting left 10 dead, President Biden criticized those who use hate speech for political gain. Mr. Biden shared the stories of each victim and called for stricter gun control, denouncing the attack as racist terrorism.

 ny times logoNew York Times, White Supremacy Is ‘Poison,’ Biden Says in Emotional Speech in Buffalo, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Peter Baker, May 18, 2022 (print ed.). In his visit to a largely Black community where a mass shooting left 10 dead, President Biden criticized those who use hate speech for political gain. Mr. Biden shared the stories of each victim and called for stricter gun control, denouncing the attack as racist terrorism. Here’s the latest.

President Biden called on Tuesday for Americans to “take on the haters” and “reject the lie” of racial replacement that reportedly animated a white man to gun down Black shoppers on Saturday in the latest eruption of violence targeting people of color in the United States.“What happened here is simple and straightforward: Terrorism. Terrorism. Domestic terrorism,” Mr. Biden told mourners in this city in upstate New York. “Violence inflicted in the service of hate and the vicious thirst for power that defines one group of people being inherently inferior to any other group, a hate that through the media and politics, the internet, has radicalized angry, alienated, lost and isolated individuals into falsely believing that they will be replaced.”

This so-called replacement theory, the notion that an elite cabal of liberals is plotting to substitute immigrants or other people of color for white Americans, has become an increasingly common talking point on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show and among some Republican leaders. While Mr. Biden did not specify names, he accused certain politicians and pundits of deliberately promoting the conspiracy theory and stoking racial animus out of a cynical desire to score political points and make money.

washington post logoWashington Post, Victories by Mastriano, Budd show potency of Trump’s false stolen election claims in GOP, Annie Linskey and David Weigel, May 18, 2022. Incomplete results showed that Trump’s influence over the movement he started was uneven, winning some but not all the races where he backed a candidate; Tuesday’s primaries provided the biggest test to date of the effect of Donald Trump and his far-right movement on the midterm elections.

Republican candidates who sought to overturn the 2020 election won statewide primaries in Pennsylvania and North Carolina on Tuesday, reflecting the lingering influence in the GOP of former president Donald Trump’s false claims that the vote was rigged against him.

pennsylvania map major citiesIn Pennsylvania, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, a Trump-endorsed candidate who led an effort to overturn the election in his state and attended the Stop the Steal rally on Jan. 6, 2021, the day a pro-Trump mob attacked U.S. Capitol, won the Republican nomination for governor. He will face state Attorney General Josh Shapiro in November — a showdown Democrats were eager to embrace.

Rep. Ted Budd (R-N.C.), who was backed by Trump and among the 139 House members who supported at least one objection to certifying the election, will be the GOP Senate nominee in North Carolina. He will face former state Supreme Court chief justice Cheri Beasley, who made history as the first Black woman nominated for the Senate in the state.
Budd thanks Trump for endorsement in N.C. Senate race

Their primary victories, projected by the Associated Press, came on a day when the effect of Trump and his far-right movement on the midterm elections faced its biggest test to date. Incomplete results showed that Trump’s influence over the movement he started was uneven, winning some but not all the races where he backed a candidate.

john fetterman

washington post logoWashington Post, John Fetterman’s pitch as a different kind of Democrat pays off in Pennsylvania race for Senate nomination, Michael Scherer, May 18, 2022. It’s a chance for Democrats to find out whether they can arrest the building red wave and their declining White working-class support with a candidate who doesn’t fit easily into any partisan box.

Faced with a potentially campaign-ending crisis this weekend, Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, shown above, released a Sunday statement thanking the “kick ass staff and doctors” who treated his stroke.

The vernacular was not the stuff of parliamentary propriety — “I need to take a minute,” he wrote about stepping back from the trail — but that was the point, as is often the case with Fetterman. At 6-foot-8, with a shiny pate, a salt-and-pepper goatee, tattooed arms and a sports-bar fashion sense, Fetterman was announcing from a hospital bed that even in illness he remained a different kind of Democrat.

It’s a pitch that paid off Tuesday in a state primary that could set up the one-term lieutenant governor to lead his party into the marquee open-seat contest of the 2022 election — a chance for Democrats to find out whether they can arrest the building red wave and their declining White, working-class support with a candidate who does not fit easily into any partisan box.

ny times logoNew York Times, Primaries Show Enduring Allure of ‘Stop the Steal’ for Republican Voters, Reid J. Epstein, May 18, 2022. The Republicans who did best were those who most aggressively cast doubt on the 2020 election results and campaigned on restricting voting further. On the Democratic side, voters pushed for change over consensus. Here are a few key takeaways from Tuesday’s primaries.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosPennsylvania’s Republican Senate contest, the biggest and most expensive race of a five-state primary night, is a photo finish between David McCormick, a former hedge fund executive, and Dr. Mehmet Oz, the celebrity surgeon. It appears headed to a statewide recount.

djt maga hatThe night delivered a split decision for former President Donald J. Trump, with his choice for Idaho governor falling well short, Dr. Oz in a virtual tie and his candidates for Senate in North Carolina and governor in Pennsylvania triumphant.

On the Democratic side, voters pushed for change over consensus, nominating a left-leaning political brawler for Senate in Pennsylvania and nudging a leading moderate in the House closer to defeat in Oregon as votes were counted overnight.

Here are a few key takeaways from Tuesday’s primaries, the biggest day so far of the 2022 midterm cycle:

Republican voters mostly rewarded candidates who dispute the 2020 election results.

The Republican candidates who did best on Tuesday were the ones who have most aggressively cast doubt on the 2020 election results and have campaigned on restricting voting further and overhauling how elections are run.

supreme court headshots 2019

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Voters are finally seeing how political the Supreme Court really is, Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent, May 18, 2022.
paul waldmanThings are getting intense over at the Supreme Court, to the evident consternation of the conservative justices. When the leak of a draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade unleashed public anger, Justice Clarence Thomas warned darkly that if the public allowed itself to believe the court was getting politicized, civil breakdown would soon follow.

But here’s the reality: The Supreme Court has been extremely political for a long time. What has the justices upset is that the public may be finally getting wise to that fact.

New polls underscore the point. A survey just released by Quinnipiac University finds that 63 percent of Americans believe the Supreme Court is mainly motivated by politics, while only 32 percent think it’s mainly motivated by law. Perhaps as a result, 69 percent say the justices should be term limited.

This comes after a recent Yahoo News/YouGov poll found that 74 percent of respondents said the court had become “too politicized.” Confidence in the court has fallen by almost 20 percentage points since 2020.

Now imagine how public sentiment might be affected if and when the court strikes down Roe. The Quinnipiac poll finds that 65 percent agree with Roe; surely such a move would drag perceptions of the court further into the political mud.

In another reflection of how this could shift our politics, a coalition of state-based pro-choice groups will come out on Thursday in support for Supreme Court expansion.

Yevgeny Vindman, right, and his brother, Alexander, on Capitol Hill in 2019 (Associated Press photo by Julio Cortez).

Yevgeny Vindman, right, and his brother, Alexander, on Capitol Hill in 2019 (Associated Press photo by Julio Cortez).

washington post logoWashington Post, Army officer who reported Trump probably faced retaliation, inquiry finds, Dan Lamothe, May 18, 2022. Yevgeny Vindman suffered ‘swift’ reduction in responsibilities as White House adviser after raising alarm about the president’s actions toward Ukraine, inspector general says. eny Vindman, right, and his brother, Alexander, on Capitol Hill in 2019. (Julio Cortez/AP)

Army Col. Yevgeny Vindman, who along with his twin brother raised alarm about President Donald Trump’s actions toward Ukraine, precipitating the first of two impeachments, suffered a “swift” reduction in responsibilities advising the White House and probably was punished for speaking out, according to the findings of an investigation released Wednesday.

The Defense Department inspector general’s office determined it is “more likely than not” that Vindman, an Army officer who in 2019 was assigned to the National Security Council, “was the subject of unfavorable personnel actions and that these were in reprisal for his protected communications” with superiors.

The subject of Vindman’s concern was a call in which Trump implored Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to have the government in Kyiv open a corruption investigation of Trump political rival Joe Biden, who as vice president under President Barack Obama led much of the administration’s outreach to Ukraine and made numerous trips to meet with its leaders.

The inspector general’s office recommended no action be taken in Vindman’s case, noting that Army officials promoted him to his current rank last year and removed an unfavorable performance review that Trump administration officials had issued.

Inside Alexander Vindman’s ouster amid fears of further retaliation by Trump

Vindman and his brother, Alexander Vindman, were among those dismissed from their jobs by national security adviser Robert O’Brien in February 2020 shortly after Trump’s first impeachment trial ended with a Senate acquittal. Trump stood accused of abusing his authority, by seeking to withhold military aid intended for Ukraine when Zelensky declined to direct an investigation of Biden, and then obstructing Congress’s efforts to investigate those claims.

The inspector general’s findings are a remarkable declaration that the Trump administration’s treatment of impeachment witnesses was inappropriate. A separate Army investigation cited in the watchdog’s report found that Trump officials who issued Yevgeny Vindman a harsh performance appraisal lacked objectivity, saying it “would be difficult to justify” their negative assessment.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, How big is the latest U.S. coronavirus wave? No one really knows, Fenit Nirappil, Katie Shepherd and Dan Keating, May 18, 2022 (print ed.). Americans are navigating murky waters in the latest wave of the pandemic, with highly transmissible subvariants of omicron spreading as governments drop measures to contain the virus and reveal less data about infections. With public health authorities shifting their focus to covid-related hospitalizations as the pandemic’s U.S. death toll hits 1 million, people are largely on their own to gauge risk amid what could be a stealth surge.

The lucky few to never get coronavirus could teach us more about it

Experts say Americans can assume infections in their communities are five to ten times higher than official counts.

“Any sort of look at the metrics on either a local, state or national level is a severe undercount,” said Jessica Malaty Rivera, an epidemiologist at the Pandemic Prevention Institute housed at The Rockefeller Foundation. “Everyone knows someone getting covid now.”

 

fda logo

washington post logoWashington Post, FDA authorizes a coronavirus booster shot for children as young as 5, Carolyn Y. Johnson and Laurie McGinley, May 18, 2022 (print ed.). The Biden administration again urged Congress to authorize covid funding ahead of possible surges this summer and fall.

Federal regulators authorized a coronavirus booster shot Tuesday for school-age children, a key step toward making a third shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine available to 5-to-11-year-olds as cases rise nationally.

The Food and Drug Administration cleared the booster for use at least five months after children are fully vaccinated with the two-shot primary series.

FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf said in a statement that while covid-19 tends to be less severe in children, the wave of infections caused by the omicron variant has resulted in “more kids getting sick with the disease and being hospitalized, and children may also experience longer cdc logo Customterm effects, even following initially mild disease.” He said the agency was authorizing the booster to provide continued protection.

Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are scheduled to meet Thursday and are expected to recommend the booster, which was shown in laboratory tests to strengthen children’s immune defenses — particularly against the omicron variant.

washington post logoWashington Post, Third round of free coronavirus tests made available by U.S. government, Katie Shepherd, May 18, 2022 (print ed.). Households can now order eight more free at-home coronavirus tests, the White House said Tuesday, giving Americans access to an additional supply of rapid tests ahead of possible summer and fall surges.

“As the highly transmissible subvariants of Omicron drive a rise in cases in parts of the country, free and accessible tests will help slow the spread of the virus,” the White House said in a statement. The tests are available at covid.gov/tests.

The Biden administration previously committed to making 1 billion at-home tests available to American households at no charge and has so far distributed 350 million tests. Households were allowed to order four tests at a time in January and March.

Cases have been rising in some parts of the United States, though it is difficult to gauge how widely the highly transmissible omicron subvariants have spread. Home testing has become more common at the same moment that local health officials have dropped many mitigation efforts and scaled back data collection. Positive home tests are only included in the official case count when the test-taker reports their result or confirms it with a PCR test.

The Biden administration earlier this month warned that a summertime spike in cases across the South could exhaust the nation’s supply of tests and antivirals, and predicted that a possible fall surge could infect as many as 100 million Americans.

ny times logoNew York Times, North Korea Wants to Follow China’s Covid ‘Success.’ Its Plan May Backfire, Choe Sang-Hun, May 18, 2022. As infections spread, outside experts are warning that the country’s desire to learn from the Chinese model will worsen a coming disaster in the pandemic.

When North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, acknowledged an outbreak of Covid-19 last week, he ordered his government to learn from ​China’s “success” fighting the virus​.​ ​What he did not say is that an attempt to follow China’s pandemic response could send his impoverished country toward catastrophe.

North Korean flagChina has used strict lockdowns, mass testing and vaccinations to keep cases low throughout the pandemic. North Korea — which by its own admission is experiencing an explosive outbreak of the virus — lacks the basic therapeutics and food supplies that China has mobilized to enforce the extreme restrictions seen in cities like Wuhan, Xi’an and Shanghai.

Now, public health experts are warning that Mr. Kim’s desire to follow the Chinese model will only worsen the impact of a fast spreading disaster. Already the ​number of new suspected patients in North Korea has soared from 18,000 last Thursday to hundreds of thousands a day this week, though it is impossible to know the true scale of the outbreak.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated May 18, 2022), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2totals ere and some experts saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 524,254,495, Deaths: 6,292,918
U.S. Cases:      84,473,447, Deaths: 1,027,285
Indian Cases:   43,127,199, Deaths:    524,293
Brazil Cases:    30,728,286, Deaths:    665,277

Related Recent Headlines:

 

Climate

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Ford may have just changed our electric-vehicle future, David Von david von drehle twitterDrehle, right, May 18, 2022 (print ed.). In 1997, the first commercially successful hybrid, the Toyota Prius, entered the market in Japan. It solved the pesky problem of battery life by adding a small gasoline booster engine and an ingenious self-charging system that harnessed the energy of braking the car.

ford logoEngineers Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning conceived of an all-electric luxury sedan and persuaded a team of investors led by Elon Musk to bankroll a start-up they called Tesla Motors in 2003. With the help of generous federal subsidies, their sleek machines became a status symbol in the United States and China.

But the breakthrough moment — the event that turns gradual change into a seismic shift — might only now be at hand. Ford Motor Co., one of the oldest names in the transportation business, is coming out with an all-electric pickup truck. After nibbling at the edges of America’s car culture, the electric revolution is going after the main course.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sweltering summer heat in Texas to swell into eastern U.S., Matthew Cappucci, May 18, 2022. Atlanta, Charlotte, Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia should all hit 90 for the first time this year by Friday.

washington post logoWashington Post, One month in, New Mexico’s largest-ever fire fuels anger and despair, Karin Brulliard, May 18, 2022 (print ed.). Despair and frustration are simmering throughout this rural, low-income area as the megafire, which Monday became New Mexico’s largest ever and is now at more than 299,000 acres, continues to rip through parched forests with no end in sight.

The blaze has displaced thousands of people for more than a month, destroyed hundreds of structures, and scorched breathtaking landscapes and properties passed down through generations.

As the fire progressed, residents faced a wrenching choice — stay or go. Many who evacuated are hanging on by a thread, credit cards maxed-out on hotel rooms. Thousands of others have defied evacuation orders to defend land and animals that represent all they own, getting by on the limited supplies that make it past roadblocks — and puzzling over firefighting efforts some believe caused the conflagration and are now unable to tame it.

ny times logoNew York Times, 115 Degrees in India. 120 in Pakistan. Can We Even Call Deadly Heat ‘Extreme’ Anymore? David Wallace-Wells, May 18, 2022 (print ed.). It doesn’t take the end of the world to upend the way billions live in it. The punishing weather we are uneasily learning to call “normal” is doing that already.

  • Late last month, a heat wave swallowed South Asia, bringing temperatures to more than a billion people — one-fifth of the entire human population — 10 degrees warmer than the one imagined in the opening pages of Kim Stanley Robinson’s celebrated climate novel, “The Ministry for the Future,” where a similar event on the subcontinent quickly kills 20 million. It is now weeks later, and the heat wave is still continuing. Real relief probably won’t come before the monsoons in June.

    Mercifully, according to the young science of “heat death,” air moisture is as important as temperature for triggering human mortality, and when thermometers hit 115 degrees Fahrenheit in India and 120 in Pakistan in April, the humidity was quite low. But even so, in parts of India, humidity was still high enough that if the day’s peak moisture had coincided with its peak heat, the combination would have produced “wet-bulb temperatures” — which integrate measures of both into a single figure — already at or past the limit for human survivability. Birds fell dead from the sky.

    In Pakistan, the heat melted enough of the Shipsher glacier to produce what’s called a “glacial lake outburst flood,” destroying two power stations and the historic Hassanabad Bridge, on the road to China.

Recent Climate Headlines

 

U.S. Media, Race, Mass Shootings

 

Law enforcement authorities said Payton Gendron, an 18-year-old White man, approached the store in a predominantly Black neighborhood and opened fire on shoppers and employees, shooting 13 people including a security guard, Aaron Salter Jr., shown in a file photo.

Law enforcement authorities said Payton Gendron, an 18-year-old White man, approached the store in a predominantly Black neighborhood and opened fire on shoppers and employees, shooting 13 people including a security guard, Aaron Salter Jr., shown above in a file photo. Authorities gave this account: The gunman, who was heavily armed and wearing tactical gear, used a camera to live-stream the attack and shot several victims in the parking lot before entering the store. The grocery’s longtime security guard, a retired policeman, fired back, but the gunman’s body armor blocked the shot and the guard was killed.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘I lied to them for months’: Shooting suspect kept plans from family, he wrote, Shawn Boburg, May 18, 2022 (print ed.). For months, as 18-year-old Payton Gendron formulated a plan to kill dozens of Black people in Buffalo, he worked to keep his racist plot a secret from his family, according to Gendron’s postings online.

“I literally can’t wait any longer, my parents know something is wrong,” he wrote on April 15, musing about when to carry out a planned shooting that took place Saturday, leaving 10 people dead at a Buffalo supermarket.

The writings were uploaded to Internet file-sharing sites in two batches in recent weeks after apparently being posted on the messaging platform Discord from November through early May. They reveal a teenager intent on keeping his parents in the dark not only about preparations for mass murder but also about the quotidian details of his life. They help fill out a portrait of a young man who described himself as isolated from family and as someone who had few friends and found refuge in hate.

ny times logoNew York Times, Lawmakers in Albany Consider How to Make Tight Gun Laws Even Tighter, Grace Ashford, May 18, 2022 (print ed.). Gov. Kathy Hochul is expected to unveil a package as soon as Wednesday aimed at shoring up remaining weaknesses in the aftermath of the Buffalo massacre.

New York lawmakers are reviewing options to strengthen the state’s already muscular gun laws, with Gov. Kathy Hochul expected to unveil a package as soon as Wednesday aimed at shoring up remaining weaknesses in the aftermath of the Buffalo massacre.

At an appearance with President Biden in Buffalo on Tuesday, Ms. Hochul suggested that leaders should not merely blame “hateful philosophies” that she said had leached from dark corners of the web to mainstream cable news shows.

“You could have that hate in your heart, and you can sit in your house and foment these evil thoughts, but you can’t act on it — unless you have a weapon,” she said, adding: “That’s the intersection of these two crises in our nation right now.”

New York already has some of America’s strictest gun control laws, including requirements for background checks, restrictions on assault rifles, and red flag laws. New York has one of the lowest rates of gun death and injury in the country, according to the nonprofit New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.

  • Washington Post, Shooting challenges President Biden’s calls for unity

washington post logoWashington Post, Quick action allowed congregation to hogtie gunman, Meghann Cuniff, Kim Bellware and Amy B Wang, May 18, 2022. A 68-year-old Nevada man accused of killing one person and wounding five others in a Taiwanese congregation in Orange County, Calif., was allegedly motivated by anti-Taiwan sentiment in what law enforcement is calling a politically motivated hate crime.

Investigators are pursuing federal hate-crime charges against the suspect, identified as David Chou of Las Vegas. Chou already faces one felony count of murder and five felony counts of attempted murder for the Sunday shooting.

Officials have offered differing accounts on Chou’s background. A representative from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Los Angeles told The Washington Post that Chou was born in Taiwan in 1953.

taiwan flagDuring a Monday news conference, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes originally described Chou as a Chinese-born U.S. citizen who has lived in the United States for “many years” and who was “upset by political tensions between China and Taiwan.” However, late Tuesday, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office clarified that Chou had told them he was born and raised in Taiwan.

Barnes said notes written in Mandarin were found in Chou’s vehicle that supported “his hatred [of the] Taiwanese people” and his beliefs that Taiwan should not be an independent country. Barnes said he believed that hate manifested when Chou was living as a youth in Taiwan, where he was “not well-received.”

Congregation hogties shooter who opened fire in church, police say

China FlagBarnes and other officials described a dramatic scene of terror met with bravery, particularly hailing the actions of John Cheng, who was identified Monday as the lone person killed in the shooting at the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church. The small congregation worships in the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods.

“Dr. Cheng is a hero in this incident,” Barnes said. “Without the actions of Dr. Cheng, there is no doubt there’d be numerous victims in this crime.”

Cheng, a 52-year-old sports medicine doctor, spent the final moments of his life trying to protect fellow congregants after the shooter opened fire and struck several elderly churchgoers, Barnes said.

Cheng was shot, but the shooter’s pistol jammed before he could fire additional rounds; the delay gave the pastor enough time to swing a chair at the gunman, knocking him down as other members of the congregation moved to hogtie his legs with an extension cord until police arrived.

Cheng, of nearby Laguna Niguel, was pronounced dead at the scene. He is survived by his wife and two children, officials said.

Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said Cheng was one of the youngest congregants in attendance and he rushed to help, “understanding that there was elderly [people] everywhere and that they couldn’t get out of the premises because the doors had been chained.”

Houses of worship have been a recurring target for shootings over the past decade, including a 2012 shooting a Sikh temple in Wisconsin; a 2015 shooting at a historic Black church in Charleston, S.C.; and a 2018 shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. A 2017 shooting at a church service in Texas that killed 26 people remains the worst mass shooting in the state’s history.

 Recent Headlines

 

More on Ukraine War

More on War

ukraine olena kurilo 52 teacher Russian missile Chuhuiv amazon

52-year-old Ukrainian teacher Olena Kurilo following a Russian missile strike in Chuhuiv, Ukraine in April.

washington post logodavid ignatiusWashington Post, Opinion: The new balance of power: U.S. and allies up, Russia down, David Ignatius, May 18, 2022 (print ed.). Take a look at what Russians like to call the “correlation of forces” and you can see that there has been a significant change in the global balance of power: Simply put, the United States and its European allies are up, and Russia is down.

washington post logoWashington Post, China cut tech exports to Russia after U.S.-led sanctions hit, Jeanne Whalen, May 18, 2022. Chinese shipments of laptops, phones and other technology to Russia plummeted in March, U.S. Commerce secretary says.

Chinese technology exports to Russia plummeted in March after U.S.-led sanctions took effect, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Tuesday, calling it a sign of Beijing’s wariness about violating the trade prohibitions.
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Chinese shipments of laptops to Russia fell by 40 percent in March compared with February, while exports of smartphones were off by two-thirds, she said, citing the most recently available Chinese trade data. Exports of telecommunications network equipment fell 98 percent, she added.

Whether China is willing to help Russia withstand sanctions has been an open question for Western policymakers. The export figures, which were previously reported by The Wall Street Journal, suggest Beijing was at least initially reluctant to break the rules, perhaps out of fear of U.S. retaliation, which could involve restricting tech sales to Chinese companies.

The sanctions on Russia require companies worldwide to abide by the ban if they use U.S. manufacturing equipment or software to produce computer chips, which are also known as semiconductors. Most chip factories around the world, including those in China, use software or equipment designed in the United States, analysts say.

“I’m often asked, you know, are these export controls working? And I think the answer is an unmitigated, unqualified yes,” Raimondo said. “I think they’re working because we have such a strong coalition of countries around the world participating in enforcing.”

Computer chip industry begins halting deliveries to Russia in response to U.S. sanctions

The United States and 37 other countries designed the trade restrictions to cripple Russia’s military and high-tech economy after the country’s invasion of Ukraine. The rules ban the sale of computer chips, telecommunications equipment, lasers, avionics and maritime technology to many Russian buyers.

There are signs the restrictions also are undermining Russia’s ability to manufacture at least some military equipment. Last week, Raimondo told a Senate committee that Ukrainian officials had reported finding computer chips intended for household appliances in Russian military gear. Raimondo’s spokeswoman later clarified that the makeshift chips were found in tanks.

Douglas Fuller, a semiconductor expert at City University of Hong Kong, said that’s less strange than it might seem. A type of semiconductor known as a microcontroller is used to control various functions in both appliances and motorized vehicles, he said. Since tanks are essentially armored autos, the chips probably could be used to control the same functions they do in cars, such as braking and steering, he said.

  ukraine steelworks tunnels

ny times logoNew York Times, As Ukraine Fighters Are Told to Give Up Steel Plant, Their Future Is Uncertain, Marc Santora, May 18, 2022 (print ed.). Russia will interrogate Ukrainian fighters who have withdrawn from the Mariupol steel plant, the country’s top investigative body said. 

Hundreds of Ukrainian fighters who had held out for weeks at a steel complex in Mariupol are in Russian custody. Russian threats to prosecute them raise questions about the viability of the surrender deal.

Hundreds of die-hard Ukrainian soldiers who had made a last stand against Russian forces from a hulking Mariupol steel mill faced an uncertain future under Kremlin custody Tuesday after Ukraine’s military ordered them to surrender.

The surrender directive, issued late Monday, effectively ended the most protracted battle so far of the nearly three-month-old Russian invasion. Even as Russia has struggled on other fronts in Ukraine, the surrender solidified one of Russia’s few significant territorial achievements — the conquest of a once-thriving southeast port.

Still, Mariupol has been largely reduced to ruin, tens of thousands of its inhabitants have been reported killed, and the city has come to symbolize the war’s grotesque horrors.

By early Tuesday, more than 200 of the fighters ensconced in the Azovstal steel mill, besieged by the Russians for weeks, had surrendered as prisoners of war, evacuated to Russian-held territory aboard buses emblazoned with “Z” — the Russian emblem for what President Vladimir V. Putin has called his country’s “special military operation” in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian authorities said little about the terms of the surrender except to assert that the Ukrainian prisoners would soon be exchanged for Russian prisoners held by Ukraine.

But Russian officials said nothing about a possible exchange.

Russia’s Investigative Committee, the country’s equivalent to the F.B.I., said Tuesday that investigators would interrogate the captured fighters to “check their involvement in crimes committed against civilians.”

And the prosecutor general’s office asked Russia’s Supreme Court to declare the military unit to which most of the captured fighters belong, the Azov battalion, a terrorist organization. Russian news media has seized on the Azov batallion’s connections to far-right movements to provide a veneer of credibility to the Kremlin’s false claims that its forces were fighting Nazis in Ukraine.

The Russian threats against the prisoners raised questions about the viability of the deal Ukraine had made with Russia to surrender, and whether the hundreds of troops still remaining at the steel plant would abide by it.

The surrender, if it is completed, would end the last resistance preventing Russia from full control over a vast sweep of southern Ukraine, stretching from the Russian border to the Crimean Peninsula, which was seized by Russia eight years ago.

Even as Russia’s onslaught in eastern Ukraine struggles, the developments in the south underscore how much territory Moscow has captured and suggest that Ukrainian forces will face steep challenges in trying to regain it.

In other developments:

  • Leaders of Finland and Sweden confirmed on Tuesday that the Nordic nations would jointly submit their applications for NATO membership this week, and would travel to Washington to meet with President Biden. Mr. Putin has said that the alliance’s expansion poses “no direct threat to us,” but that Russia would respond “based on the threats that are created.”
  • After weeks of trying to hammer out a peace deal, negotiators for Russia and Ukraine appear farther apart than at any other point in the nearly three-month-long war.
  • There is continued concern about the potential for a cholera outbreak in Mariupol, World Health Organization officials said on Tuesday.
  • Buses carrying Ukrainian service members who surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, after holding out for weeks.
  • When Moscow signaled on Tuesday that it might level war-crimes charges against Ukrainian soldiers who were evacuated from the besieged steel plant in Mariupol, it cast a shadow over the negotiations that led to their surrender and raised fears for the fate of the remaining soldiers still holding out at the plant.
  • At least 264 soldiers were evacuated from the destroyed plant on Monday night and Tuesday — among them 53 gravely injured — after extremely delicate and secretive negotiations between Russia and Ukraine and taken to Russian-controlled territory.

washington post logoWashington Post, G-7 to unveil Ukraine aid plan to help offset losses from Russian invasion, Jeff Stein and Emily Rauhala, May 18, 2022. The aid to cover economic losses from Russia's war on Ukraine could reach $15 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia calls West’s idea to use frozen funds to rebuild Ukraine ‘theft,’ Amy Cheng, May 18, 2022. The Kremlin called a suggestion that frozen Russian foreign reserves be used to finance the rebuilding of Ukraine an act of “outright theft,” after Germany’s finance minister told reporters that a comparable move is being discussed among the Group of Seven nations and European Union members.

Russia has not been informed of any plans to appropriate its assets, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday, according to Reuters. Doing so would be “illegal, blatant” and would provoke an “appropriate response” from Moscow, Peskov added.

Germany is hosting a meeting for G-7 finance ministers this week, and Berlin’s finance chief, Christian Lindner, told four European news organizations that he is willing to consider confiscating the assets of Russia’s central bank. But he cautioned that seizing assets of private citizens, such as Russian oligarchs, could be legally more complicated.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, in a Facebook video posted over the weekend, said the idea of transferring seized Russian assets to Kyiv was gaining traction among the G-7, an assembly of economic powers.

“This is literally about hundreds of billions of euros,” he said.

West takes aim at Russian central bank reserves, threatening blow to economy

Russia stockpiled reserves domestically and in friendly nations after its 2014 annexation of Crimea, but its finance minister said Moscow had lost access to just under half of its roughly $640 billion in foreign reserves. Its ability to tap those funds was swiftly cut off as part of an international sanctions program following its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

Moscow’s inability to use its foreign funds has created challenges for its central bank, which imposed capital controls to prevent a run on the Russian ruble. (It recently eased some limits on moving foreign currency.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Hundreds More Ukrainian Fighters Surrender in Mariupol, Russia Says, Shashank Bengali, May 18, 2022. Russian soldier in Ukrainian custody pleads guilty in conflict’s first war crime trial; Turkey blocks start of talks on Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership; The Russian Defense Ministry said that nearly 1,000 fighters had surrendered to Kremlin custody at the Azovstal steel plant. Finland and Sweden formally asked to join NATO, potentially the alliance’s biggest expansion in decades.

antony blinken o newTurkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, was scheduled to meet on Wednesday with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, right, in New York, on the sidelines of forums at the United Nations on migration and global food security.

Long scheduled as part of an effort to improve strained United States-Turkey relations and tackle longstanding bilateral disputes, the meeting was also likely to focus on the war in Ukraine, as well as on Finland’s and Sweden’s applications to join NATO.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Curbing the fascist Magyar-Ottoman Axis in NATO, Wayne Madsen, left, May 18, 2022. wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallImagine for a moment a scenario in which the Allies during World War II had in their ranks two fascist-oriented nations having cozy relations with Nazi Germany. It seems far out but that is exactly the present situation regarding two NATO members -- Turkey and Hungary -- that are unabashedly doing Russia's bidding within the alliance. In order to accept new members, all NATO countries must agree to accept the applications.

wayne madesen report logoIn anticipation of Finland and Sweden joining NATO, wary eyes were on Hungary, where the fascist pro-Russian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, who scored a landslide electoral victory on April 3, seemed poised to raise objections to both applicants on Russia's behalf. Fortunately for NATO, Orban was checked by Hungary's President, Katalin Novak, who, on paper, is Orban's boss.

The country that stands most ready to block Finland and Sweden in NATO is Turkey. Erdogan essentially opposes Finland and Sweden in NATO because of their democracies. Yet, NATO supposedly exists to protect democracies from authoritarian countries, not embrace them as members. Erdogan objects to the fact that Sweden and Finland have large Kurdish populations and, in the case of Sweden, Kurds have been elected to parliament. Erdogan labels all Kurds wanting independence to be "terrorists." In doing so, Erdogan has taken a page from Russia's Vladimir Putin, who considers Ukrainians fighting for their independence to be terrorists.

ny times logoNew York Times, Sanctions grounded Russia’s plans to build its liquefied natural gas capacity. Analysts say it’s an omen of decline, Stanley Reed, May 18, 2022. It was to be a hugely ambitious project on the frigid Gulf of Ob, in Russia’s Far North, a steppingstone in Moscow’s rising ambitions to be a power in liquefied natural gas much as it is in oil and gas delivered by pipeline.

When President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia launched his war on Ukraine, the $21 billion project known as Arctic LNG 2 was well underway with dozens of wells drilled, an airport built and most of the equipment ordered.

Now, though, European Union sanctions that prohibit the sale of gas liquefaction equipment to Russia have thrown the giant complex into doubt. The sanctions mean, at best, that just one of three planned liquefaction facilities at Arctic LNG is likely to be completed anytime soon, analysts say.

The project’s key international backer, TotalEnergies, recently wrote off its $4.1 billion investment. It is “difficult to believe that it can be built with the sanctions,” Patrick Pouyanne, the TotalEnergies chief executive, told analysts in late April.

ny times logoNew York Times, Around Kharkiv, Ukrainians Emerge to Find Lives in Ruin, Photographs and Text by Finbarr O’Reilly, May 18, 2022. After sheltering since February, residents of the city have finally been able to venture out to assess the damage. The discoveries have been grisly.

washington post logoWashington Post, Global economic tremors complicate Western leaders’ Russia sanctions, Jeff Stein and Emily Rauhala, May 18, 2022. As world financial leaders meet in Germany, mounting recession fears pose new hurdles to financial attacks on the Kremlin.

Growing fears of a global economic slowdown are complicating Western allies’ economic campaign against Russia, as world leaders struggle to craft new punishments for Moscow without compounding inflation and other domestic financial challenges.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, American and European economic leaders believed their countries were on track for a successful rebound from the coronavirus pandemic and hopeful that inflation might abate. But three months later, the global finance ministers gathering in western Germany this week face a more worrying international economic outlook amid fears that central bank interest hikes could help push parts of the global economy into recession. These head winds are putting additional pressure on the United States and Europe to ensure their sanctions on Russia do not further tip the world into a new economic crisis.

   President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia meeting with leaders from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Armenia and Belarus at a summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization at the Kremlin in Moscow, on Monday (Pool photo by Alexander Nemenov).

 President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia meeting with leaders from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Armenia and Belarus at a summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization at the Kremlin in Moscow, on Monday (Pool photo by Alexander Nemenov).

ny times logoNew York Times, Among President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies, only Belarus supports him on Ukraine, Anton Troianovski, May 17, 2022 (print ed.). President Vladimir V. Putin met with his five closest allies on Monday. Only one of them spoke up to support him on Ukraine.

In a gilded hall at the Kremlin, Mr. Putin hosted a summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which is Russia’s answer to NATO. An alliance of six post-Soviet states, the C.S.T.O. was marking the 30-year anniversary of its founding. But what was supposed to be a celebratory meeting quickly turned into a demonstration of Mr. Putin’s isolation, even among Russia’s neighbors.

Speaking first in the televised portion of the summit, President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus — who has supported Mr. Putin’s war in Ukraine but has not sent troops — criticized other members of the alliance for insufficiently backing Russia and Belarus in the face of Western sanctions.

He noted how the C.S.T.O. had sent forces to Kazakhstan in January to prop up the country’s government in the face of protests — yet had left Russia largely on its own amid the war in Ukraine.

“Are we just as connected by bonds of solidarity and support now?” he asked, after mentioning the alliance’s support of the Kazakh government. “Maybe I’m wrong, but as recent events have shown, it seems the answer is no.”

Kazakhstan has said that it would not help Russia circumvent international sanctions. In a United Nations vote on March 2 condemning the invasion of Ukraine, Belarus was the only post-Soviet country to take Russia’s side.

“Look at how monolithically the European Union votes and acts,” Mr. Lukashenko said at Monday’s summit, sitting at a round table with the other leaders. “If we are separate, we’ll just be crushed and torn apart.”

As if to confirm Mr. Lukashenko’s point, the leaders of the other four C.S.T.O. members — Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan — did not even mention Ukraine in their televised remarks.

The Ukraine invasion has put those countries in a tough spot. They all have close economic and military ties to Russia, but Mr. Putin’s invasion of a sovereign neighbor sets a foreboding precedent for countries looking to diversify their foreign policy beyond Moscow.

nato logo flags name

 washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Updates: Sweden to make NATO bid as military exercises begin, Bryan Pietsch, Annabelle Timsit, Colby Itkowitz, Rachel Pannett and Paulina Firozi, May 17, 2022 (print ed.). McDonald's pulling out of Russia, says business ‘no longer tenable’; Belarusian forces could keep Ukrainian troops near border, Britain says; Updates from key cities: Russia fights to hold ground near Kharkiv.

Sweden announced it would formally request NATO membership after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — ending what its prime minister called 200 years of military non-alignment. Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson reportedly said Monday the country planned to hand in its application this week, in coordination with Finland.

“There is a broad majority in Sweden’s parliament for joining NATO,” Andersson said, according to Reuters. “The best thing for Sweden and the Swedish population is to join NATO.” Both Nordic nations both dispatched troops to participate in large-scale exercises by the military alliance, as Russia called their moves toward joining NATO a “mistake” that could have “far-reaching consequences.”

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the war in Ukraine “is not going as Moscow had planned,” citing Russia’s failure to take Kyiv, its pullback from around Kharkiv and a stalled offensive in the eastern Donbas region. Yet the presence of Belarusian forces near the border with Ukraine is likely to tie up Kyiv’s troops so they are unable to support operations in Donbas, British defense officials said Monday. Russia is continuing attacks elsewhere in the east as it seeks full control of the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

As the Western business exodus from Russia continues, McDonald’s said Monday that it “has initiated a process to sell its Russian business” and is seeking a “local buyer” for its portfolio there, which includes 850 restaurants. French automaker Renault Group also said it would pull out of Russia, and sell its shares there to Russian government entities.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Dept. Requests Transcripts From Jan. 6 Committee, Glenn Thrush and Luke Broadwater, May 18, 2022 (print ed.). The committee has interviewed more than 1,000 people so far, and the transcripts could be used as evidence in potential criminal cases or to pursue new leads.

The Justice Department has asked the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack for transcripts of interviews it is conducting, which have included discussions with associates of former President Donald J. Trump, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

Justice Department log circularThe move, coming as Attorney General Merrick B. Garland appears to be ramping up the pace of his painstaking investigation into the Capitol riot, is the clearest sign yet of a wide-ranging inquiry at the Justice Department.

The House committee has interviewed more than 1,000 people so far, and the transcripts could be used as evidence in potential criminal cases, to pursue new leads or as a baseline text for new interviews conducted by federal law enforcement officials.

Aides to Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and the chairman of the committee, have yet to reach a final agreement with the Justice Department on what will be turned over, according to a person with knowledge of the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the confidential nature of the investigations.

The Justice Department’s investigation has been operating on a separate track from the committee’s work. Generally, investigators working on the two inquiries have not been sharing information, except for at times communicating to ensure that a witness is not scheduled to appear before different investigators at the same time, according to a person with knowledge of the inquiries.

Thus far, the Justice Department’s investigation has focused more on lower-level activists who stormed the Capitol than on the planners of the attack. But in recent weeks, Mr. Garland has bolstered the core team tasked with handling the most sensitive and politically combustible elements of the inquiry.

Several months ago, the department quietly detailed a veteran federal prosecutor from Maryland, Thomas Windom, to the department’s headquarters. He is overseeing the politically fraught question of whether a case can be made related to other efforts to overturn the election, aside from the storming of the Capitol. That task could move the investigation closer to Mr. Trump and his inner circle.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Do kids really have a constitutional right to buy assault rifles? Charles Lane, right, May 18, 2022. There are poorly timed charles lanejudicial rulings — and then there is the ruling last week by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. It struck down California’s ban on semiautomatic rifle sales to anyone under 21, holding that it violates the Second Amendment.
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“America would not exist without the heroism of the young adults who fought and died in our revolutionary army,” Judge Ryan D. Nelson opined for the majority, composed of himself and another appointee of President Donald Trump, Judge Kenneth Lee. “Today we reaffirm that our Constitution still protects the right that enabled their sacrifice: the right of young adults to keep and bear arms.”

That was May 11. Three days later, an 18-year-old white supremacist allegedly fatally shot 10 people and injured three in a predominantly Black neighborhood of Buffalo, using a Bushmaster XM-15 semiautomatic weapon, which police say he purchased legally in New York state.

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutor says Sussmann used connections to share Trump dirt with FBI, Devlin Barrett, May 18, 2022 (print ed.). “This is a case about privilege,” prosecutor tells a D.C. jury on the first day of testimony in MIchael Sussmann's trial for allegedly lying to the FBI.

A lawyer working for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign used his connections with top FBI officials to fuel an investigation into Republican nominee Donald Trump, a prosecutor told jurors on Tuesday during opening statements at the attorney’s trial for allegedly lying to the bureau.

The lawyer in question, Michael Sussmann, is in D.C. federal court for the first trial to arise out of the work of special counsel John Durham, who has spent three years investigating whether the federal agents unfairly probed the 2016 Trump campaign for possible ties to Russian election interference.

Durham sat in the courtroom Tuesday but did not address the jury.

“The evidence will show this is a case about privilege — privilege of a well-connected D.C. lawyer with access to the highest level of the FBI,” said Assistant Special Counsel Brittain Shaw. Sussmann, she told the jury, believed "he could use the FBI as a political tool.”

Political partisans are closely tracking the trial as a reexamination of some of the more controversial events of the 2016 presidential race, including the role played by the FBI. Trump and his supporters claim Durham’s work shows the FBI mistreated Trump; Democrats charge Durham’s assignment has been tainted by a thirst for score-settling against the former president’s perceived enemies.

Politico, Judge mulls prospect of collision between Jan. 6 committee report and Oath Keepers trial, Kyle Cheney, May 18, 2022 (print ed.). The seditious conspiracy trial is slated to begin Sept. 26, and the committee is eyeing a September release of its final report.

A federal judge raised the prospect of the Jan. 6 select committee’s final report forcing a delay in the seditious conspiracy trial of Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and his co-defendants.

A federal judge raised that prospect during a hearing Tuesday amid a broader debate with Oath Keeper defense attorneys about whether to move the trial to another venue. U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta seemed deeply skeptical of that effort, but he pressed prosecutors about what should happen if the select committee releases its report right before or during the trial of the Oath Keepers.

A collision between those two efforts is possible. The seditious conspiracy trial is slated to begin Sept. 26. The select committee is eyeing a September release of its final report, as well as a potential hearing to review its findings, all of which could generate intense interest and media coverage in Washington.

A Justice Department prosecutor responded that it was too early to say what should happen if those two efforts intersected, and said that Mehta would “have to address that issue when it arises.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: This might explain why Paul Manafort was pulled off that plane while trying to travel with a revoked passport, Bill Palmer, right, May bill palmer18, 2022. Several weeks ago, Paul Manafort was pulled off an airplane while attempting to leave the country with a revoked passport. It was the first time Manafort’s name had surfaced in some time; he’d gone remarkably quiet for a guy who was rather loudly convicted and imprisoned and then pardoned by Donald Trump.

bill palmer report logo headerIt raised a number of questions at the time. Was his passport still revoked from his previous legal troubles, or was it newly revoked – and if the latter, by whom? Why was Manafort attempting to travel to UAE? Was it for more illicit business? Was he trying to flee the country? Did this mean the DOJ was attempting to work around his pardon and find new charges to indict him on?

tom barrackheadshotNow we may have some answers. On Tuesday the DOJ brought a superseding criminal indictment against Donald Trump’s Middle East money man, Tom Barrack, right. Not only do the new charges accuse Barrack of having essentially committed espionage on behalf of UAE, they also appear to directly involve Paul Manafort.

Manafort received a broad pardon from Trump – but it doesn’t appear to cover the specific crimes that he and Barrack are now accused of having committed. This suggests that Manafort could be on his way to indictment. In fact the DOJ may only be bringing this charge against Barrack first.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Supreme Court just made corruption a little easier, Ruth Marcus, right, May 18, 2022 (print ed.). Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Tex.) victory ruth marcusat the Supreme Court this week won’t be one of the blockbuster rulings of the current term. That’s precisely why it deserves attention. The court’s decision enables blatant political corruption in the supposed service of the First Amendment. That it is not bigger news is a measure of how inured we have become to this conservative court.

Conservative justices have been on a decades-long mission to dismantle campaign finance restrictions, which they view as a danger to free speech. Limits on how much individuals can contribute directly to candidates remain in place, but with ample ways for deep-pocketed donors to get around those constraints.

Remember Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the 2010 ruling in which the court said corporations could not be barred from spending unlimited amounts to help elect favored candidates, on the laughable theory that such independent spending wasn’t corrupting? That opened the door to multimillion-dollar campaigns by so-called super PACs.

Four years later, the court struck down overall limits on the amount that individuals could contribute directly to federal candidates, political parties and PACs. These “aggregate limits” — $123,200 in 2014 — interfered with donors’ freedom of speech, the court ruled, and weren’t justified by the need to prevent corruption. Now, a determined wealthy donor can give millions directly to a favored party and its candidates in the convenient form of one humongous check.

The campaign finance rule struck down in Federal Election Commission v. Ted Cruz for Senate, decided Monday, is more obscure, but the corruption it enables is even more sordid. The issue involves candidates who lend money to their campaigns. They can raise money even after an election to repay themselves, but only up to $250,000.

Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the three dissenting liberals, offered a succinct explanation of why: “Political contributions that will line a candidate’s own pockets, given after his election to office, pose a special danger of corruption. The candidate has a more-than-usual interest in obtaining the money (to replenish his personal finances), and is now in a position to give something in return. The donors well understand his situation, and are eager to take advantage of it. In short, everyone’s incentives are stacked to enhance the risk of dirty dealing. At the very least — even if an illicit exchange does not occur — the public will predictably perceive corruption in post-election payments directly enriching an officeholder.”

The conservative majority considered the repayment rule with its usual combination of determined myopia and instinctive hostility to campaign finance restrictions. The opinion, by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., both exaggerated the burden on candidates’ free speech rights and minimized the corrupting potential of such post-election donations.

amber heard leaves stand

washington post logoWashington Post, Depp attorney tries to discredit Heard as cross-examination concludes, Travis M. Andrews, May 18, 2022 (print ed.). Cross-examination of Amber Heard, above, by one of Johnny Depp’s attorneys concluded Tuesday afternoon in Fairfax County in the bitter defamation trial between the film celebrities. Depp attorney Camille Vasquez’s rapid-fire questions sought to discredit Heard’s testimony and continuously categorized her as abusive toward her ex-husband during their tumultuous relationship and marriage.

Depp sued Heard for $50 million over a 2018 op-ed she published in The Washington Post, which alleged domestic abuse from an unnamed person. He claims the piece has ruined his reputation and his career and contends that he never physically or sexually abused Heard. She countersued him for $100 million after his lawyers said her allegations were false. (The Post is not a defendant in the lawsuit.)

Vasquez presented the jury with a knife Heard gave Depp for his birthday engraved with the phrase “till death” in Spanish. “This is the knife you gave to the man who would get drunk and violent with you,” Vasquez said.

“I wasn’t worried he was going to stab me with it,” Heard said.

As she would throughout her cross-examination questions Tuesday, Vasquez then quickly pivoted, bringing up another, unrelated incident. She questioned Heard’s testimony concerning a particularly brutal incident she alleged took place in Australia, in which she claims she was sexually assaulted with a liquor bottle and the tip of Depp’s finger was severed. Depp alleges Heard cut his finger by throwing a vodka bottle at him, while the defense suggests Depp injured himself.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. sues to compel casino mogul Steve Wynn to register as agent of China, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Spencer S. Hsu, Lindsey Bever, May 18, 2022 (print ed.). The former RNC finance chairman was repeatedly advised to register as an agent of a foreign government but declined to do so, according to prosecutors.

The Justice Department on Tuesday sued Steve Wynn to compel the hotel and casino magnate and Republican megadonor to register as an agent of China.

steve wynn headshotThe suit, filed in U.S. District Court in D.C., argues that Wynn, right,former chief executive of Wynn Resorts, leveraged his relationship with President Donald Trump and members of his administration to advance Beijing’s interests in 2017. The government said the complaint is the first affirmative civil lawsuit under the Foreign Agents Registration Act in more than 30 years — a sign of stepped-up enforcement efforts under the 1983 law.

Wynn, a former finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, is accused of relaying a request from a senior Chinese official asking that the Trump administration remove a Chinese national who had sought asylum in the United States. His activities, prosecutors assert in the lawsuit, included discussing Beijing’s interests directly with Trump during a dinner in June 2017 and providing the Chinese national’s passport photos to the president’s secretary. Wynn, the government argues, was acting at the behest of the Chinese official, Sun Lijun, then-vice minister for public security, as well as of the Chinese government itself.

“In so doing, from at least June 2017 through at least August 2017, the Defendant acted as an agent for foreign principals Sun and the PRC [People’s Republic of China] and engaged in political activities on their behalf in the United States,” the complaint states.

The Chinese exile is not named in the complaint, but prosecutors have previously identified him as Guo Wengui, who had left China in 2014 and was later charged with corruption. Information detailing the exile in the lawsuit also align with descriptions of Guo.

At the time, Wynn had significant business interests involving China, owning and operating casinos in Macao, and acted out of a desire to protect his business interests, the Justice Department alleged.

Wynn attorneys Reid H. Weingarten and Brian M. Heberlig of Washington-based Steptoe & Johnson said: “Steve Wynn has never acted as an agent of the Chinese government and had no obligation to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. We respectfully disagree with the Department of Justice’s legal interpretation of FARA and look forward to proving our case in court.”

 

U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel John Durham, left, and defendant Michael Sussmann, a cyberlaw attorney and former federal prosecutor. split

U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel John Durham, left, and defendant Michael Sussmann, a cyberlaw attorney and former federal prosecutor whose trial begins on May 16 on a false statement charge in Washington, DC's federal court.

ny times logoNew York Times, Clashing Views of Cybersecurity Lawyer as Trial in Special Counsel’s Case Opens, Charlie Savage, May 18, 2022 (print ed.).  Michael Sussmann, a prominent lawyer with Democratic ties, is accused of lying to the F.B.I. in a case with broader political overtones.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers clashed in opening arguments on Tuesday in the trial of Michael Sussmann, a cybersecurity lawyer with links to Democrats who has been charged by a Trump-era special counsel with lying to the F.B.I. in 2016 when he brought the bureau a tip about possible Trump-Russia connections.

Deborah Shaw, a prosecutor working for the Trump-era special counsel, John H. Durham, told a federal jury that Mr. Sussman was in part representing Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign at the time. But he claimed to the F.B.I. that he was not bringing the tip on behalf of any client because he wanted to conceal his ties to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign.

Whether one loves or hates former President Donald J. Trump, Ms. Shaw said, the F.B.I. needs to know the truth “and should never be used as a political pawn.”

But a defense lawyer, Michael Bosworth, argued to the jury that Mr. Sussmann did not lie to the F.B.I. when he relayed the suspicions. No one at the Clinton campaign told Mr. Sussman to take the matter to the F.B.I., Mr. Bosworth said.

Mr. Bosworth did acknowledge that Mr. Sussmann was representing the Clinton campaign when he reached out separately to a reporter then at The New York Times about the suspicions. The move led the bureau, Mr. Bosworth said, to try to delay any news article while they investigated.

“The meeting with the F.B.I. is the exact opposite of what the campaign would have wanted,” Mr. Bosworth said, adding: “They wanted a big story that hurts Trump and helps them. He was there to help the F.B.I.”

The contrasting narratives were a highlight of the first day of the trial, which is expected to take about two weeks. Witnesses may include Marc Elias, who was then Mr. Sussmann’s law partner as well as the general counsel of the Clinton campaign, and James Baker, who was then the F.B.I.’s general counsel.

Recent Legal Headlines

 

More On U.S. Midterm Primary Results

 ny times logoNew York Times, Primary elections updates: Here’s who won, who lost and which primary races haven’t been called yet, Staff Reports, May 18, 2022.  The Republican primary battle between Dr. Oz Democratic-Republican Campaign logosand Dave McCormick, a hedge fund executive, could go to a recount.

The winner will face John Fetterman, who was had a stroke a few days before the primary election. In other races, 2020 election deniers thrived in North Carolina and the contest for governor in Pennsylvania.

washington post logoWashington Post, Midterms live updates Oz, McCormick neck and neck in Pa. GOP Senate race, John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro, Updated May 18, 2022. Mehmet Oz, celebrity physician and Republican Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, speaks during a primary election night event in Newtown, Pa. (Michelle Gustafson/Bloomberg News)

Pennsylvania’s bitterly fought Republican Senate race remained unresolved, with TV personality and heart surgeon Mehmet Oz, who has the backing of former president Donald Trump, and former hedge fund CEO and Army veteran David McCormick locked in a contest that could be headed to a recount. Kathy Barnette, a conservative media personality, was out of the running.

Following a day of balloting in five states, another notable contest also remained uncalled: Moderate incumbent Rep. Kurt Schrader (D) is facing a spirited challenge from his left from school board member Jamie McLeod-Skinner for the Democratic nomination in Oregon’s 5th Congressional District.

 

Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection, Election Claims

washington post logoWashington Post, Senior Trump State Department official met with ‘Stop the Steal’ activists on Jan. 6, Rosalind S. Helderman, May 18, 2022 (print ed.). The confirmation of the meeting provides new evidence of the success that the president’s allies had in gaining access to top administration officials. On Jan. 6, 2021, around the time that thousands of Donald Trump’s supporters swarmed the U.S. Capitol, a top Trump appointee at the U.S. State Department met with two activists who had been key to spreading the false narrative that the presidential election had been stolen.

The meeting came as Trump’s allies were pressing theories that election machines had been hacked by foreign powers and were angling for Trump to employ the vast powers of the national security establishment to seize voting machines or even rerun the election.

Robert A. Destro, a law professor at Catholic University of America then serving as an assistant secretary of state, confirmed to The Washington Post he met with the two men — Colorado podcaster Joe Oltmann and Michigan lawyer Matthew DePerno — in the midst of the tumultuous day.

The two men have previously claimed to have huddled on Jan. 6 with State Department leaders, who Oltmann has said were sympathetic to the claims that a “coup” was underway to steal the presidency from Trump. They have not identified with whom they met. Destro’s acknowledgment is the first independent confirmation that they successfully gained the high-level audience. It is unclear whether the meeting led to any action.

Oltmann and DePerno played important behind-the-scenes roles in crafting the baseless allegations that the election was stolen from Trump, a review of emails and public statements from Trump allies shows. The State Department meeting provides new evidence of the success that activists spreading false claims about the election had in gaining access to top administration officials. Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows was in close contact with activists pushing false fraud narratives, as were high-level officials at the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, F.D.A. and Abbott Reach Agreement on Baby Formula to Try to Ease Shortage, Christina Jewett, May 17, 2022 (print ed.). The company said if the agency approved reopening the plant, production could resume and store shelves would be restocked within several weeks.

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday reached an agreement with Abbott Laboratories on the steps needed to reopen the company’s shuttered baby formula plant, which could begin to ease the shortage of infant formula that has frightened and exasperated parents nationwide.

The F.D.A. said it expected Abbott to restart production in about two weeks, and was poised to review progress at the plant in Sturgis, Mich. It has been shut down since February after several babies who had consumed formula that had been produced there fell ill and two died.

The agreement stems from a U.S. Department of Justice complaint and consent decree with the company and three of its executives. Those court records say the F.D.A. found a deadly bacteria, called cronobacter, in the plant in February and the company found more tranches of the bacteria later that month.

According to the complaint, the same Sturgis factory had also produced two batches of formula in the summer of 2019 and 2020 on different production equipment that tested positive for the bacteria.

Abbott staff “have been unwilling or unable to implement sustainable corrective actions to ensure the safety and quality of food manufactured for infants,” leading to the need for legal action, the documents state.

In a release, Abbott said “there is no conclusive evidence to link Abbott’s formulas to these infant illnesses.”

The company said on Monday that production could begin within about two weeks and could translate to more formula on shelves in six to eight weeks. The company said it will continue flying formula in from a plant in Ireland.

As frustration at the crib side and in grocery aisles grew, the agency has been in a race to replenish depleted supplies that have become political fodder for Republicans against the Biden administration.

  • Washington Post, Gas prices pass $4 per gallon in every U.S. state for the first time, Bryan Pietsch, May 18, 2022.

washington post logoWashington Post, UFO hearing features historic testimony from Pentagon officials, Shane Harris, Lindsey Bever, May 18, 2022 (print ed.). Congress held a rare public hearing Tuesday into the existence of what the government calls unidentified aerial phenomena, more commonly known as UFOs, a subject of scrutiny by the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies following an increase in sightings by military personnel and pilots in recent years.

By taking testimony from senior government officials, lawmakers intended to bring “out of the shadows” a Defense Department organization that has been tracking the sightings, said Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.), chairman of the House Intelligence subcommittee on counterterrorism, counterintelligence and counterproliferation.

That effort, revealed in 2017, has collected eyewitness accounts, including from naval aviators who said they saw flying objects that seemed to lack any visible means of propulsion and defied human understanding of aerodynamics and physics.

The hearing was the first time in more than 50 years that U.S. officials have provided testimony for public consumption about their investigation of UFOs. The Air Force closed its inquiry into the subject, Project Blue Book, in 1970.

“We know that our service members have encountered unidentified aerial phenomena,” Ronald S. Moultrie, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence and security, told the bipartisan panel of lawmakers. “We are committed to an effort to determine their origins.”

While the hearing marked a significant moment in the government’s efforts to reveal more of what it knows about unexplained objects in the sky, it was short on revelations. Scott W. Bray, deputy director of naval intelligence, played a brief video of what he described as “a spherical object” with a reflective surface as it zoomed past the cockpit of a U.S. F-18 fighter jet.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Yellen warns of global ‘stagflationary’ risk from gas, food prices, Jeff Stein, May 18, 2022 (print ed.). Weak earnings, inflation fears send Dow skidding more than 700 points

The treasury secretary said energy prices should drop over the long term because of an increase in production. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said on Wednesday that Americans should not expect immediate relief from high gas prices but maintained that increases in global supply are eventually likely to provide long-term relief for motorists at the pump.

Yellen also warned of the potential for slower growth to combine with inflation worldwide: “Higher food and energy prices are having stagflationary effects, namely depressing output and spending and raising inflation all around the world,” she told reporters.

“We’re doing what we can to avoid further increases in energy prices … but we also want to make sure” Europe weans itself off dependence on reliance on Russian oil and gas, Yellen said. She added: “These pressures are not likely to abate in the very near future.”

Yellen stressed that she did not expect the U.S. economy to go into recession, arguing that it is well-positioned for economic risks, pointing to fast growth coming out of the coronavirus recession. But she said Europe is likely more “vulnerable,” citing its greater dependence on Russian energy than the United States.

“This is an environment that is filled with risk, both with respect to inflation and potential slowdowns,” Yellen said.

Yellen’s comments come as the cost of gas rose above $4 per gallon in every state in America for the first time. Nationally, the average price of a gallon of gas was $4.52, with much higher costs in some states, such as California. The higher energy prices come on top of a U.S. economy already racked by the highest inflation in roughly four decades, and this summer could bring gas prices up even further with increased demand as consumers hit the road.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Approves Plan to Redeploy Hundreds of Ground Forces Into Somalia, Charlie Savage and Eric Schmitt, May 17, 2022 (print ed.). President Biden also signed off on targeting some Shabab leaders in the war-torn country, from which former President Trump largely withdrew.

joe biden black background resized serious filePresident Biden has signed an order authorizing the military to once again deploy hundreds of Special Operations forces inside Somalia — largely reversing the decision by President Donald J. Trump to withdraw nearly all 700 ground troops who had been stationed there, according to four officials familiar with the matter.

In addition, Mr. Biden has approved a Pentagon request for standing authority to target about a dozen suspected leaders of Al Shabab, the Somali terrorist group that is affiliated with Al Qaeda, three of the officials said. Since Mr. Biden took office, airstrikes have largely been limited to those meant to defend partner forces facing an immediate threat.

Together, the decisions by Mr. Biden, described by the officials on the condition of anonymity, will revive an open-ended American counterterrorism operation that has amounted to a slow-burn war through three administrations. The move stands in contrast to his decision last year to pull American forces from Afghanistan, saying that “it is time to end the forever war.”

Mr. Biden signed off on the proposal by Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III in early May, officials said. In a statement, Adrienne Watson, the National Security Council spokeswoman, acknowledged the move, saying it would enable “a more effective fight against Al Shabab.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Poor Countries Face a Mounting Crisis Fueled by Inflation and Debt, Peter S. Goodman, Ruth Maclean, Salman Masood, Elif Ince, Flávia Milhorance, Muktita Suhartono and Brenda Kiven, May 18, 2022 (print ed.). The war in Ukraine is combining with a global tightening of credit and an economic slowdown in China to sow misery in low- and middle-income countries.

Before war ravaged Yemen, Walid Al-Ahdal did not worry about feeding his children. At his hometown near the Red Sea, his family grew corn, raised goats and relied on their own cow for milk.

But for the last four years, after fighting forced them to flee, their home has been a tent at a camp with 9,000 other families outside the capital city of Sana. Mr. Al-Ahdal has struggled to buy adequate food with his wages as a janitor at a hospital.

Now another war — this one more than 2,000 miles away — has upended their lives again. Food prices are soaring. Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the cost of wheat has more than doubled, while milk has climbed by two-thirds.

On many nights, Mr. Al-Ahdal, 25, has nothing to feed his 2-year-old daughter and his three boys, ages 3, 5 and 6. He consoles them with tea and sends them to bed.

“My heart hurts every time my child looks for food that is not there,” Mr. Al-Ahdal said. “But what can I do?”

The hunger gnawing at families in war-torn countries like Yemen highlights a broader crisis confronting billions of people in the world’s less-affluent economies as the consequences of Russia’s assault on Ukraine are compounded by other challenges — the continuing pandemic, a global tightening of credit and a slowdown in China, the second-largest economy after the United States.

“It’s like wildfires in all directions,” said Jayati Ghosh, an economist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “This is much bigger than after the global financial crisis. Everything is stacked against the low- and middle-income countries.”

The most direct repercussions are seen in the rising prices of cooking fuel, fertilizer and staple foods like wheat, disrupting agriculture and threatening nutrition in much of the world.

ny times logoNew York Times, How a Trash-Talking Crypto Bro Caused a $40 Billion Crash, David Yaffe-Bellany and Erin Griffith, May 18, 2022. Do Kwon, a South Korean entrepreneur, hyped the Luna and TerraUSD cryptocurrencies. Their spectacular collapse has devastated some traders.

Do Kwon, a trash-talking entrepreneur from South Korea, called the cryptocurrency he created in 2018 “my greatest invention.” In countless tweets and interviews, he trumpeted the world-changing potential of the currency, Luna, rallying a band of investors and supporters he proudly referred to as “Lunatics.”

Mr. Kwon’s company, Terraform Labs, raised more than $200 million from investment firms such as Lightspeed Venture Partners and Galaxy Digital to fund crypto projects built with the currency, even as critics questioned its technological underpinnings. Luna’s total value ballooned to more than $40 billion, creating a frenzy of excitement that swept up day traders and start-up founders, as well as wealthy investors.

Mr. Kwon dismissed concerns with a taunt: “I don’t debate the poor.”

But last week, Luna and another currency that Mr. Kwon developed, TerraUSD, suffered a spectacular collapse. Their meltdowns had a domino effect on the rest of the cryptocurrency market, tanking the price of Bitcoin and accelerating the loss of $300 billion in value across the crypto economy. This week, the price of Luna remained close to zero, while TerraUSD continued to slide.

The downfall of Luna and TerraUSD offers a case study in crypto hype and who is left holding the bag when it all comes crashing down. Mr. Kwon’s rise was enabled by respected financiers who were willing to back highly speculative financial products. Some of those investors sold their Luna and TerraUSD coins early, reaping substantial profits, while retail traders now grapple with devastating losses.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Crashing Crypto: Is This Time Different? Paul Krugman, right, May 18, 2022 (print ed.). Last week TerraUSD, a stablecoin paul krugman— a system that was supposed to perform a lot like a conventional bank account but was backed only by a cryptocurrency called Luna — collapsed. Luna lost 97 percent of its value over the course of just 24 hours, apparently destroying some investors’ life savings.

The event shook the crypto world in general, but the truth is that this world was looking pretty shaky even before the Terra disaster. Bitcoin, the original cryptocurrency, peaked last November and has since declined by more than 50 percent.

Here’s one way to think about that decline. Almost everyone is concerned about the rising cost of living; the Consumer Price Index — the cost of a representative basket of goods and services — has gone up about 4 percent over the past six months. But the cost of the same basket in Bitcoin has risen around 120 percent, which means inflation at an annualized rate of about 380 percent.

And other cryptocurrencies have performed far worse. Two cities — Miami and New York — have introduced their own cryptocurrencies, with enthusiastic support from their mayors. MiamiCoin is down more than 90 percent from its peak, and NewYorkCityCoin is down more than 80 percent.

Though cryptocurrencies are currently way down, boosters — and as anyone who’s played in this space can tell you, there are few boosters quite as boosterish — will reassure you that this has happened before. Bitcoin, in particular, has always bounced back from previous dips, and investors who HODLed (held on for dear life to their coins, despite falling prices) have ended up with huge capital gains. But there are reasons to believe that this time may be different.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Cryptocurrency a tool of Putin and his hackers? Wayne Madsen, left, May 17, 2022. Beyond wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallbeing a Ponzi scheme, cryptocurrency may be serving as a Russian weapon to destabilize Western nations.

The fading fortunes of digital currency at the same time Russia is experiencing disastrous results in its war against Ukraine has raised suspicions that cryptocurrency and Vladimir Putin have more in common than meets the eye.

wayne madesen report logoFinancial analysts have pointed out that Russian ransomware hackers, some linked to the Russian Internet Agency in St. Petersburg, have continuously demanded their ransom be paid in Bitcoin or other digital cash to free up targeted computer systems and networks. The Internet Research Agency, owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a catering business proprietor who is called "Putin's chef," was at the heart of the hacking of the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential campaign.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russian Hacking Cartel Attacks Costa Rican Government Agencies, Kate Conger and David Bolaños, May 18, 2022 (print ed.). A Russian hacking cartel carried out an extraordinary cyberattack against the government of Costa Rica, crippling tax collection and export systems for more than a month so far and forcing the country to declare a state of emergency.

The ransomware gang Conti, which is based in Russia, claimed credit for the attack, which began on April 12, and has threatened to leak the stolen information unless it is paid $20 million. Experts who track Conti’s movements said the group had recently begun to shift its focus from the United States and Europe to countries in Central and South America, perhaps to retaliate against nations that have supported Ukraine.

Some experts also believe Conti feared a crackdown by the United States and was seeking fresh targets, regardless of politics. The group is responsible for more than 1,000 ransomware attacks worldwide that have led to earnings of more than $150 million, according to estimates from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“The ransomware cartels figured out multinationals in the U.S. and Western Europe are less likely to blink if they need to pay some ungodly sum in order to get their business running,” said Juan Andres Guerrero-Saade, a principal threat researcher at SentinelOne. “But at some point, you are going to tap out that space.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Elephants in Mourning Spotted on YouTube by Scientists, Elizabeth Preston, May 18, 2022 (print ed., with video). It is difficult to catch Asian elephants responding to deaths of herd members in the wild, but online videos helped researchers observe the behavior.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. watchdog details collapse of Afghan security forces, Susannah George, May 18, 2022. Paranoia riddled the most senior levels of the Afghan government, and chaos overwhelmed the country’s security forces, according to a U.S. government watchdog report.

Paranoia riddled the most senior levels of the Afghan government, and chaos overwhelmed the country’s security forces in the days and months leading up to their collapse, according to a U.S. government watchdog report released Wednesday, one of the first since the Taliban takeover in August.

The latest assessment by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, examined the roots of the Afghan military’s demise at the end of America’s longest war. Many of the findings confirm previous reporting by The Washington Post and other outlets on Taliban-brokered surrender deals, but also shed new light on the intrigue and suspicion that consumed the Afghan leadership in its final days.

As Taliban forces closed in on Kabul, then-president Ashraf Ghani feared his own military would turn against him and suspected the United States was plotting to remove him from power, the report reveals, quoting former Afghan and U.S. officials.

Ghani also dismissed many of his senior security officials and key commanders on the ground, believing they were disloyal, moves that further undermined the morale of Afghan security forces, confused the war effort and culminated in the country’s fall, the report concluded.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. to Offer Minor Sanctions Relief to Entice Venezuela to Talks, Lara Jakes and Anatoly Kurmanaev, May 18, 2022 (print ed.). The Biden administration said Tuesday it would slightly loosen the crippling economic sanctions against Venezuela’s government to help restart stagnant talks between President Nicolás Maduro and opposition leaders aimed at easing the country’s political and humanitarian crisis.

Senior U.S. officials said resumption of the negotiations were expected to be announced by Venezuelan officials later Tuesday.

To entice Mr. Maduro back to the negotiating table, the Biden administration said it would permit discussions between his government and Chevron, the last major American oil company with significant operations in Venezuela. Under current sanctions, Chevron is prohibited from doing business with the Venezuelan government and is only allowed to carry out essential maintenance work in the country.

The U.S. Treasury will also remove sanctions on Carlos Eric Malpica, a former Venezuelan state oil official and nephew of the first lady, Cilia Flores, according to a senior Biden administration official familiar with the talks. The official discussed the policy change Tuesday on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized by the White House to speak on the record.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Elon Musk, notorious Twitter troll, is now trolling Twitter itself, Elizabeth Dwoskin, May 18, 2022. The stock price is plummeting, and executives are heading for the doors. Can the social media company withstand Musk’s takeover bid? Billionaire Elon Musk fired off yet another tweet Tuesday potentially sabotaging his $44 billion bid to buy Twitter. His scorched-earth campaign may also be sabotaging Twitter itself.

For weeks, Musk has needled the social media company on its own platform, driving down its stock price and alarming employees who live in fear of being attacked by Musk’s legions of online followers. Rank-and-file workers are polishing their résumés, saying they can’t get straight answers to basic questions, such as whether there would be layoffs, whether there would be a board of directors after the acquisition, and whether Musk would change the company’s content moderation policies. Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal’s firing of top executives and reduction in hiring have added to the sense of chaos.

Twitter has seen its share of disruption in 16 years, from absentee leaders to employee uprisings. But over the past six weeks, Musk has brought next-level dysfunction to the company’s San Francisco headquarters and beyond.

ny times logoNew York Times, Twitter Presses Ahead on Deal as Elon Musk Casts Doubt on It, Lauren Hirsch, Kate Conger and Adam Satariano, May 18, 2022 (print ed.). The company urged shareholders to vote in favor of the deal, even as Mr. Musk said he wouldn’t move ahead without more data on spam.

elon musk 2015Mr. Musk, right, the world’s richest man, continued creating confusion around his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter on Tuesday, even as the social media company tried to keep the deal on course. Early in the morning, the billionaire tweeted that “this deal cannot move forward” until he got more details about the volume of spam and fake accounts on the platform.

twitter bird CustomA few hours later, Twitter said it was “committed to completing the transaction on the agreed price and terms as promptly as practicable.” It urged its shareholders to back the bid by Mr. Musk, who appeared to be carrying out a public tweet-by-tweet negotiation even though he had struck the blockbuster deal to buy Twitter last month.

Mr. Musk’s increasingly skeptical — and erratic — comments about the takeover have kept investors, bankers and Twitter itself guessing about his motives. Some analysts figure that the 50-year-old is trying to drive down the acquisition price or walk away from the deal altogether. Many were unnerved by his methods, with market-moving pronouncements made off the cuff at conferences or in emoji-laden tweets in the middle of the night.

Yet his comments are in keeping with Mr. Musk’s longtime methods of operation, where he often wings it in the biggest moments, eschews experts and relies almost solely on his own counsel. Years ago, he said that he had stopped making business plans. And people close to Mr. Musk have said that he had no plan whatsoever when he piped up with an offer to buy Twitter last month.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. women’s and men’s national soccer teams close pay gap with ‘game-changing’ deal, Steven Goff and Molly Hensley-Clancy, May 18, 2022. The U.S. men’s and women’s national soccer teams struck a labor deal that closes the contentious pay gap between the squads, an unprecedented step that will equalize both salaries and bonuses, providing a substantial boost to the decorated women’s team.

The deal was part of new collective bargaining agreements with the U.S. Soccer Federation that were announced Wednesday morning. It was the culmination of a long battle between the women’s team and the sport’s national governing body, which included a high-profile lawsuit that was settled this year.

The USSF said the agreement makes the United States the first country to achieve equal pay for its men’s and women’s soccer teams.

washington post logoWashington Post, Google’s Russian subsidiary will file for bankruptcy, citing asset seizure, Aaron Gregg, May 18, 2022 (print ed.). The tech giant, which already paused most of its operations in the country, says it cannot pay workers or carry out other basic business operations.

Google’s Moscow-based subsidiary plans to file for bankruptcy, a company spokesperson said Wednesday, because Russia’s seizure of its assets has rendered basic business operations — including paying its staff — “untenable.”

The tech giant submitted a notice of intention to declare itself bankrupt, according to Reuters, which cited a filing in Russia’s federal register.

“The Russian authorities’ seizure of Google Russia’s bank account has made it untenable for our Russia office to function, including employing and paying Russia-based employees, paying suppliers and vendors, and meeting other financial obligations,” the Google spokesperson said in a statement.

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May 17

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President Biden, accompanied by First Lady Jill Bidens, speaks in Buffalo following racist shooting massacre targeting Black shoppers (Associated Press Photo by Andrew Harnik on May 17, 2022). In his visit to a largely Black community where a mass shooting left 10 dead, President Biden criticized those who use hate speech for political gain. Mr. Biden shared the stories of each victim and called for stricter gun control, denouncing the attack as racist terrorism.

President Biden, accompanied by First Lady Jill Bidens, speaks in Buffalo following racist shooting massacre targeting Black shoppers (Associated Press Photo by Andrew Harnik on May 17, 2022). In his visit to a largely Black community where a mass shooting left 10 dead, President Biden criticized those who use hate speech for political gain. Mr. Biden shared the stories of each victim and called for stricter gun control, denouncing the attack as racist terrorism.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: White Supremacy Is ‘Poison,’ Biden Says in Emotional Speech in Buffalo, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Peter Baker, May 17, 2022. In his visit to a largely Black community where a mass shooting left 10 dead, President Biden criticized those who use hate speech for political gain. Mr. Biden shared the stories of each victim and called for stricter gun control, denouncing the attack as racist terrorism. Here’s the latest.

President Biden called on Tuesday for Americans to “take on the haters” and “reject the lie” of racial replacement that reportedly animated a white man to gun down Black shoppers on Saturday in the latest eruption of violence targeting people of color in the United States.“What happened here is simple and straightforward: Terrorism. Terrorism. Domestic terrorism,” Mr. Biden told mourners in this city in upstate New York. “Violence inflicted in the service of hate and the vicious thirst for power that defines one group of people being inherently inferior to any other group, a hate that through the media and politics, the internet, has radicalized angry, alienated, lost and isolated individuals into falsely believing that they will be replaced.”

This so-called replacement theory, the notion that an elite cabal of liberals is plotting to substitute immigrants or other people of color for white Americans, has become an increasingly common talking point on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show and among some Republican leaders. While Mr. Biden did not specify names, he accused certain politicians and pundits of deliberately promoting the conspiracy theory and stoking racial animus out of a cynical desire to score political points and make money.

 ukraine steelworks tunnels

ny times logoNew York Times, As Ukraine Fighters Are Told to Give Up Steel Plant, Their Future Is Uncertain, Marc Santora, May 17, 2022. Russia will interrogate Ukrainian fighters who have withdrawn from the Mariupol steel plant, the country’s top investigative body said. 

Hundreds of Ukrainian fighters who had held out for weeks at a steel complex in Mariupol are in Russian custody. Russian threats to prosecute them raise questions about the viability of the surrender deal.

Hundreds of die-hard Ukrainian soldiers who had made a last stand against Russian forces from a hulking Mariupol steel mill faced an uncertain future under Kremlin custody Tuesday after Ukraine’s military ordered them to surrender.

The surrender directive, issued late Monday, effectively ended the most protracted battle so far of the nearly three-month-old Russian invasion. Even as Russia has struggled on other fronts in Ukraine, the surrender solidified one of Russia’s few significant territorial achievements — the conquest of a once-thriving southeast port.

Still, Mariupol has been largely reduced to ruin, tens of thousands of its inhabitants have been reported killed, and the city has come to symbolize the war’s grotesque horrors.

By early Tuesday, more than 200 of the fighters ensconced in the Azovstal steel mill, besieged by the Russians for weeks, had surrendered as prisoners of war, evacuated to Russian-held territory aboard buses emblazoned with “Z” — the Russian emblem for what President Vladimir V. Putin has called his country’s “special military operation” in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian authorities said little about the terms of the surrender except to assert that the Ukrainian prisoners would soon be exchanged for Russian prisoners held by Ukraine.

But Russian officials said nothing about a possible exchange.

Russia’s Investigative Committee, the country’s equivalent to the F.B.I., said Tuesday that investigators would interrogate the captured fighters to “check their involvement in crimes committed against civilians.”

And the prosecutor general’s office asked Russia’s Supreme Court to declare the military unit to which most of the captured fighters belong, the Azov battalion, a terrorist organization. Russian news media has seized on the Azov batallion’s connections to far-right movements to provide a veneer of credibility to the Kremlin’s false claims that its forces were fighting Nazis in Ukraine.

The Russian threats against the prisoners raised questions about the viability of the deal Ukraine had made with Russia to surrender, and whether the hundreds of troops still remaining at the steel plant would abide by it.

The surrender, if it is completed, would end the last resistance preventing Russia from full control over a vast sweep of southern Ukraine, stretching from the Russian border to the Crimean Peninsula, which was seized by Russia eight years ago.

Even as Russia’s onslaught in eastern Ukraine struggles, the developments in the south underscore how much territory Moscow has captured and suggest that Ukrainian forces will face steep challenges in trying to regain it.

In other developments:

Leaders of Finland and Sweden confirmed on Tuesday that the Nordic nations would jointly submit their applications for NATO membership this week, and would travel to Washington to meet with President Biden. Mr. Putin has said that the alliance’s expansion poses “no direct threat to us,” but that Russia would respond “based on the threats that are created.”

After weeks of trying to hammer out a peace deal, negotiators for Russia and Ukraine appear farther apart than at any other point in the nearly three-month-long war.

There is continued concern about the potential for a cholera outbreak in Mariupol, World Health Organization officials said on Tuesday.

Buses carrying Ukrainian service members who surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, after holding out for weeks.

When Moscow signaled on Tuesday that it might level war-crimes charges against Ukrainian soldiers who were evacuated from the besieged steel plant in Mariupol, it cast a shadow over the negotiations that led to their surrender and raised fears for the fate of the remaining soldiers still holding out at the plant.

At least 264 soldiers were evacuated from the destroyed plant on Monday night and Tuesday — among them 53 gravely injured — after extremely delicate and secretive negotiations between Russia and Ukraine and taken to Russian-controlled territory.

  President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia meeting with leaders from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Armenia and Belarus at a summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization at the Kremlin in Moscow, on Monday (Pool photo by Alexander Nemenov).

 President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia meeting with leaders from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Armenia and Belarus at a summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization at the Kremlin in Moscow, on Monday (Pool photo by Alexander Nemenov).

ny times logoNew York Times, Among President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies, only Belarus supports him on Ukraine, Anton Troianovski, May 17, 2022 (print ed.). President Vladimir V. Putin met with his five closest allies on Monday. Only one of them spoke up to support him on Ukraine.

In a gilded hall at the Kremlin, Mr. Putin hosted a summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which is Russia’s answer to NATO. An alliance of six post-Soviet states, the C.S.T.O. was marking the 30-year anniversary of its founding. But what was supposed to be a celebratory meeting quickly turned into a demonstration of Mr. Putin’s isolation, even among Russia’s neighbors.

Speaking first in the televised portion of the summit, President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus — who has supported Mr. Putin’s war in Ukraine but has not sent troops — criticized other members of the alliance for insufficiently backing Russia and Belarus in the face of Western sanctions.

He noted how the C.S.T.O. had sent forces to Kazakhstan in January to prop up the country’s government in the face of protests — yet had left Russia largely on its own amid the war in Ukraine.

“Are we just as connected by bonds of solidarity and support now?” he asked, after mentioning the alliance’s support of the Kazakh government. “Maybe I’m wrong, but as recent events have shown, it seems the answer is no.”

Kazakhstan has said that it would not help Russia circumvent international sanctions. In a United Nations vote on March 2 condemning the invasion of Ukraine, Belarus was the only post-Soviet country to take Russia’s side.

“Look at how monolithically the European Union votes and acts,” Mr. Lukashenko said at Monday’s summit, sitting at a round table with the other leaders. “If we are separate, we’ll just be crushed and torn apart.”

As if to confirm Mr. Lukashenko’s point, the leaders of the other four C.S.T.O. members — Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan — did not even mention Ukraine in their televised remarks.

The Ukraine invasion has put those countries in a tough spot. They all have close economic and military ties to Russia, but Mr. Putin’s invasion of a sovereign neighbor sets a foreboding precedent for countries looking to diversify their foreign policy beyond Moscow.

nato logo flags name

 washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Updates: Sweden to make NATO bid as military exercises begin, Bryan Pietsch, Annabelle Timsit, Colby Itkowitz, Rachel Pannett and Paulina Firozi, May 17, 2022 (print ed.). McDonald's pulling out of Russia, says business ‘no longer tenable’; Belarusian forces could keep Ukrainian troops near border, Britain says; Updates from key cities: Russia fights to hold ground near Kharkiv.

Sweden announced it would formally request NATO membership after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — ending what its prime minister called 200 years of military non-alignment. Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson reportedly said Monday the country planned to hand in its application this week, in coordination with Finland.

“There is a broad majority in Sweden’s parliament for joining NATO,” Andersson said, according to Reuters. “The best thing for Sweden and the Swedish population is to join NATO.” Both Nordic nations both dispatched troops to participate in large-scale exercises by the military alliance, as Russia called their moves toward joining NATO a “mistake” that could have “far-reaching consequences.”

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the war in Ukraine “is not going as Moscow had planned,” citing Russia’s failure to take Kyiv, its pullback from around Kharkiv and a stalled offensive in the eastern Donbas region. Yet the presence of Belarusian forces near the border with Ukraine is likely to tie up Kyiv’s troops so they are unable to support operations in Donbas, British defense officials said Monday. Russia is continuing attacks elsewhere in the east as it seeks full control of the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

As the Western business exodus from Russia continues, McDonald’s said Monday that it “has initiated a process to sell its Russian business” and is seeking a “local buyer” for its portfolio there, which includes 850 restaurants. French automaker Renault Group also said it would pull out of Russia, and sell its shares there to Russian government entities.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Approves Plan to Redeploy Hundreds of Ground Forces Into Somalia, Charlie Savage and Eric Schmitt, May 17, 2022 (print ed.). President Biden also signed off on targeting some Shabab leaders in the war-torn country, from which former President Trump largely withdrew.

joe biden black background resized serious filePresident Biden has signed an order authorizing the military to once again deploy hundreds of Special Operations forces inside Somalia — largely reversing the decision by President Donald J. Trump to withdraw nearly all 700 ground troops who had been stationed there, according to four officials familiar with the matter.

In addition, Mr. Biden has approved a Pentagon request for standing authority to target about a dozen suspected leaders of Al Shabab, the Somali terrorist group that is affiliated with Al Qaeda, three of the officials said. Since Mr. Biden took office, airstrikes have largely been limited to those meant to defend partner forces facing an immediate threat.

Together, the decisions by Mr. Biden, described by the officials on the condition of anonymity, will revive an open-ended American counterterrorism operation that has amounted to a slow-burn war through three administrations. The move stands in contrast to his decision last year to pull American forces from Afghanistan, saying that “it is time to end the forever war.”

Mr. Biden signed off on the proposal by Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III in early May, officials said. In a statement, Adrienne Watson, the National Security Council spokeswoman, acknowledged the move, saying it would enable “a more effective fight against Al Shabab.”

 

U.S. Media, Race, Mass Shootings

 

Law enforcement authorities said Payton Gendron, an 18-year-old White man, approached the store in a predominantly Black neighborhood and opened fire on shoppers and employees, shooting 13 people including a security guard, Aaron Salter Jr., shown in a file photo.

Law enforcement authorities said Payton Gendron, an 18-year-old White man, approached the store in a predominantly Black neighborhood and opened fire on shoppers and employees, shooting 13 people including a security guard, Aaron Salter Jr., shown above in a file photo. Authorities gave this account: The gunman, who was heavily armed and wearing tactical gear, used a camera to live-stream the attack and shot several victims in the parking lot before entering the store. The grocery’s longtime security guard, a retired policeman, fired back, but the gunman’s body armor blocked the shot and the guard was killed.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden took time to describe each of the victims of the racist massacre, May 17, 2022. He choked up as he said one of the victims was a father visiting the supermarket to buy a birthday cake for his 3-year-old son.
Audra Burch

ny times logoNew York Times, Lawmakers in Albany Consider How to Make Tight Gun Laws Even Tighter, Grace Ashford, May 17, 2022. Gov. Kathy Hochul is expected to unveil a package as soon as Wednesday aimed at shoring up remaining weaknesses in the aftermath of the Buffalo massacre.

New York lawmakers are reviewing options to strengthen the state’s already muscular gun laws, with Gov. Kathy Hochul expected to unveil a package as soon as Wednesday aimed at shoring up remaining weaknesses in the aftermath of the Buffalo massacre.

At an appearance with President Biden in Buffalo on Tuesday, Ms. Hochul suggested that leaders should not merely blame “hateful philosophies” that she said had leached from dark corners of the web to mainstream cable news shows.

“You could have that hate in your heart, and you can sit in your house and foment these evil thoughts, but you can’t act on it — unless you have a weapon,” she said, adding: “That’s the intersection of these two crises in our nation right now.”

New York already has some of America’s strictest gun control laws, including requirements for background checks, restrictions on assault rifles, and red flag laws. New York has one of the lowest rates of gun death and injury in the country, according to the nonprofit New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.

  • Washington Post, Shooting challenges President Biden’s calls for unity

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More on Ukraine War

More on War

ukraine olena kurilo 52 teacher Russian missile Chuhuiv amazon

52-year-old Ukrainian teacher Olena Kurilo following a Russian missile strike in Chuhuiv, Ukraine in April.

ny times logoNew York Times, Estonia’s Tough Voice on Ukraine Urges No Compromise With Vladimir Putin, Steven Erlanger, May 17, 2022 (print ed.). Kaja Kallas, the prime minister, remembers Soviet annexation and repression and sees the same brutality in occupied Ukraine.

Kaja Kallas, now 44, grew up in the Soviet Union, which had annexed her country, Estonia, after World War II.

She remembers the Soviet occupation and a visit to East Berlin in 1988, when she was 11, and her father told her to “breathe in the air of freedom” from West Berlin. And she remembers the stories of 1949, when her mother, Kristi, then a baby, was deported to Siberia in a cattle car with her own mother and grandmother and lived in exile there until she was 10 — part of Moscow’s effort to wipe out Estonia’s elite.

So it is perhaps little wonder that Ms. Kallas, now Estonia’s prime minister, has become one of Europe’s toughest voices against Russia for its war in Ukraine. Along with Latvia and Lithuania — countries also annexed by the Soviet Union — her country and its fellow Baltic States are some of the smallest and most vulnerable in Europe.

But their recent history has given them special standing and credibility as they press Europe’s larger countries to take a hard line against President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and to keep faith with Ukraine and its struggle for freedom.

ukraine steelworks tunnels

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Washington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Ukraine ends bloody battle for Mariupol, evacuates fighters in steel plant, Rachel Pannett and Reis Thebault, May 17, 2022. Hundreds of fighters sheltering in Mariupol’s Azovstal plant (shown above) were evacuated to Russian-held territory after Kyiv struck a cease-fire agreement with Moscow.

Ukrainian fighters have ended their weeks-long defense of a besieged steel plant in the strategic port city of Mariupol, as hundreds of combatants — dozens of them seriously wounded — were evacuated from the complex Monday.
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“Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes alive,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address, as the delicate operation continued. “We hope that we will be able to save the lives of our guys. Among them are the seriously wounded. They are being provided with medical aid.”

Mariupol’s Azovstal Iron and Steel Works and its network of underground tunnels have for weeks served as a shelter and final foothold for some 1,000 Ukrainian fighters, including many from the Azov Regiment, one of Ukraine’s most skilled — and controversial — military units.

Mariupol officials said in mid-April that as many as 1,000 civilians were also hiding in the subterranean network. They were trapped for weeks amid an intense Russian assault, before all women, children and elderly people were evacuated earlier this month. Those who made it to safety described the brutality of the long siege in the cold and fetid bunkers, where they lived without sunlight and with food and water supplies dwindling.

The Russian bombardment of the Azovstal plant appears to have persisted in recent days. Videos posted to Telegram by local officials over the weekend showed white, brightly burning munitions raining down on the plant. The type of munitions could not be independently verified, but a British military expert told Reuters it looked like an attack with phosphorus or incendiary weapons.

Ukrainian officials reached a cease-fire agreement with the Russian military on Monday, and dozens of buses were seen leaving the plant. The complex evacuation is being coordinated with the help of the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Moscow has not yet publicly responded to the developments in Mariupol, which were described by Russian state media as an order from Ukrainian military command for its troops to “surrender.”

Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, Anna Malyar, said 53 seriously wounded soldiers were taken to a hospital in Novoazovsk, a nearby town which is controlled by Russian-backed separatists. Another 211 were transported to another Russian-aligned village, Olenivka, she said. Moscow and Kyiv are brokering a prisoner swap to secure their release.

Malyar said officials were still working to rescue the remaining soldiers, though it is unclear how many are still inside. Ukrainian authorities said last week that nearly 1,000 holdout fighters were in the plant.

washington post logoWashington Post, McDonald’s seeks to sell Russian business that is ‘no longer tenable,’ Colby Itkowitz, Jonathan Edwards and Annabelle Timsit, May 17, 2022 (print ed.). After more than three decades, McDonald’s is pulling out of Russia and seeking to find a “local buyer” for its business there, which includes 850 restaurants in the country.

mcdonalds logoIn early March, McDonald’s temporarily closed its restaurants in Russia in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, and the precipitating unpredictable operating environment, have led McDonald’s to conclude that continued ownership of the business in Russia is no longer tenable, nor is it consistent with McDonald’s values,” the company said Monday in a statement.

McDonald’s didn’t just close 850 restaurants in Russia. It froze a whole 30-year investment.

Whoever buys its Russian restaurants will no longer be allowed to use the McDonald’s “golden arches” logo or brand, the company said, adding that it wants to protect its 62,000 employees in Russia.

washington post logoWashington Post, Buffalo shooting suspect wrote of plans months ago, online messages show, Jon Swaine and Dalton Bennett, May 17, 2022 (print ed.). A review of more than 600 pages of messages by The Washington Post found that Payton Gendron decided in February to target Buffalo’s Tops grocery store based on its local African American population.

payton gendron mugPayton Gendron, right, the 18-year-old accused of killing 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo on Saturday, wrote in increasing detail of his plans to murder dozens of Black people in statements posted online over the past five months, according to a compilation of messages by a writer who identified himself as Gendron.

A review of more than 600 pages of messages by The Washington Post found that Gendron resolved in December to kill those he slurred as “replacers,” and decided in February to target Buffalo’s Tops grocery store based on its local African American population. In March, he performed a reconnaissance-style trip to monitor the store’s security and map out its aisles, the messages show. When a store guard confronted him about why he had repeatedly entered that day, Gendron made excuses and fled in what he described as “a close call,” the messages state.

Having identified the supermarket as “attack area 1,” Gendron detailed two additional Buffalo locations as areas at which to “shoot all blacks,” according to the messages, which showed that he had charted routes to each location, worked out the times needed for each shootout and assessed that more than three dozen people in all could be fatally shot.

ny times logoNew York Times, Buffalo Updates: Accused Gunman in Buffalo Planned to Attack Second Target, Jesse McKinley, May 17, 2022 (print ed.). The city’s police commissioner said the man who killed 10 people in Saturday’s supermarket massacre intended to continue his shooting spree. The accused gunman in the mass shooting in Buffalo had planned a prolonged massacre after attacking a Tops supermarket Saturday, according to the Buffalo police commissioner, who said that the attacker wanted “to continue his rampage.”

The commissioner, Joseph A. Gramaglia, told CNN on Monday morning that the suspect had spoken “about possibly going to another store,” after Tops, potentially turning his fire on “another large superstore.”

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U.S. Law, Courts, Security

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Dept. Requests Transcripts From Jan. 6 Committee, Glenn Thrush and Luke Broadwater, May 17, 2022. The committee has interviewed more than 1,000 people so far, and the transcripts could be used as evidence in potential criminal cases or to pursue new leads.

The Justice Department has asked the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack for transcripts of interviews it is conducting, which have included discussions with associates of former President Donald J. Trump, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

Justice Department log circularThe move, coming as Attorney General Merrick B. Garland appears to be ramping up the pace of his painstaking investigation into the Capitol riot, is the clearest sign yet of a wide-ranging inquiry at the Justice Department.

The House committee has interviewed more than 1,000 people so far, and the transcripts could be used as evidence in potential criminal cases, to pursue new leads or as a baseline text for new interviews conducted by federal law enforcement officials.

Aides to Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and the chairman of the committee, have yet to reach a final agreement with the Justice Department on what will be turned over, according to a person with knowledge of the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the confidential nature of the investigations.

The Justice Department’s investigation has been operating on a separate track from the committee’s work. Generally, investigators working on the two inquiries have not been sharing information, except for at times communicating to ensure that a witness is not scheduled to appear before different investigators at the same time, according to a person with knowledge of the inquiries.

Thus far, the Justice Department’s investigation has focused more on lower-level activists who stormed the Capitol than on the planners of the attack. But in recent weeks, Mr. Garland has bolstered the core team tasked with handling the most sensitive and politically combustible elements of the inquiry.

Several months ago, the department quietly detailed a veteran federal prosecutor from Maryland, Thomas Windom, to the department’s headquarters. He is overseeing the politically fraught question of whether a case can be made related to other efforts to overturn the election, aside from the storming of the Capitol. That task could move the investigation closer to Mr. Trump and his inner circle.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Supreme Court just made corruption a little easier, Ruth Marcus, right, May 17, 2022.Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Tex.) victory ruth marcusat the Supreme Court this week won’t be one of the blockbuster rulings of the current term. That’s precisely why it deserves attention. The court’s decision enables blatant political corruption in the supposed service of the First Amendment. That it is not bigger news is a measure of how inured we have become to this conservative court.

Conservative justices have been on a decades-long mission to dismantle campaign finance restrictions, which they view as a danger to free speech. Limits on how much individuals can contribute directly to candidates remain in place, but with ample ways for deep-pocketed donors to get around those constraints.

Remember Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the 2010 ruling in which the court said corporations could not be barred from spending unlimited amounts to help elect favored candidates, on the laughable theory that such independent spending wasn’t corrupting? That opened the door to multimillion-dollar campaigns by so-called super PACs.

Four years later, the court struck down overall limits on the amount that individuals could contribute directly to federal candidates, political parties and PACs. These “aggregate limits” — $123,200 in 2014 — interfered with donors’ freedom of speech, the court ruled, and weren’t justified by the need to prevent corruption. Now, a determined wealthy donor can give millions directly to a favored party and its candidates in the convenient form of one humongous check.

The campaign finance rule struck down in Federal Election Commission v. Ted Cruz for Senate, decided Monday, is more obscure, but the corruption it enables is even more sordid. The issue involves candidates who lend money to their campaigns. They can raise money even after an election to repay themselves, but only up to $250,000.

Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the three dissenting liberals, offered a succinct explanation of why: “Political contributions that will line a candidate’s own pockets, given after his election to office, pose a special danger of corruption. The candidate has a more-than-usual interest in obtaining the money (to replenish his personal finances), and is now in a position to give something in return. The donors well understand his situation, and are eager to take advantage of it. In short, everyone’s incentives are stacked to enhance the risk of dirty dealing. At the very least — even if an illicit exchange does not occur — the public will predictably perceive corruption in post-election payments directly enriching an officeholder.”

The conservative majority considered the repayment rule with its usual combination of determined myopia and instinctive hostility to campaign finance restrictions. The opinion, by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., both exaggerated the burden on candidates’ free speech rights and minimized the corrupting potential of such post-election donations.

washington post logoWashington Post, Depp attorney tries to discredit Heard as cross-examination concludes, Travis M. Andrews, May 17, 2022. Cross-examination of Amber Heard by one of Johnny Depp’s attorneys concluded Tuesday afternoon in Fairfax County in the bitter defamation trial between the film celebrities. Depp attorney Camille Vasquez’s rapid-fire questions sought to discredit Heard’s testimony and continuously categorized her as abusive toward her ex-husband during their tumultuous relationship and marriage.

Depp sued Heard for $50 million over a 2018 op-ed she published in The Washington Post, which alleged domestic abuse from an unnamed person. He claims the piece has ruined his reputation and his career and contends that he never physically or sexually abused Heard. She countersued him for $100 million after his lawyers said her allegations were false. (The Post is not a defendant in the lawsuit.)

Vasquez presented the jury with a knife Heard gave Depp for his birthday engraved with the phrase “till death” in Spanish. “This is the knife you gave to the man who would get drunk and violent with you,” Vasquez said.

“I wasn’t worried he was going to stab me with it,” Heard said.

As she would throughout her cross-examination questions Tuesday, Vasquez then quickly pivoted, bringing up another, unrelated incident. She questioned Heard’s testimony concerning a particularly brutal incident she alleged took place in Australia, in which she claims she was sexually assaulted with a liquor bottle and the tip of Depp’s finger was severed. Depp alleges Heard cut his finger by throwing a vodka bottle at him, while the defense suggests Depp injured himself.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. sues to compel casino mogul Steve Wynn to register as agent of China, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Spencer S. Hsu, Lindsey Bever, May 17, 2022. The former RNC finance chairman was repeatedly advised to register as an agent of a foreign government but declined to do so, according to prosecutors.

The Justice Department on Tuesday sued Steve Wynn to compel the hotel and casino magnate and Republican megadonor to register as an agent of China.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in D.C., argues that Wynn, former chief executive of Wynn Resorts, leveraged his relationship with President Donald Trump and members of his administration to advance Beijing’s interests in 2017. The government said the complaint is the first affirmative civil lawsuit under the Foreign Agents Registration Act in more than 30 years — a sign of stepped-up enforcement efforts under the 1983 law.

Wynn, a former finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, is accused of relaying a request from a senior Chinese official asking that the Trump administration remove a Chinese national who had sought asylum in the United States. His activities, prosecutors assert in the lawsuit, included discussing Beijing’s interests directly with Trump during a dinner in June 2017 and providing the Chinese national’s passport photos to the president’s secretary. Wynn, the government argues, was acting at the behest of the Chinese official, Sun Lijun, then-vice minister for public security, as well as of the Chinese government itself.

“In so doing, from at least June 2017 through at least August 2017, the Defendant acted as an agent for foreign principals Sun and the PRC [People’s Republic of China] and engaged in political activities on their behalf in the United States,” the complaint states.

The Chinese exile is not named in the complaint, but prosecutors have previously identified him as Guo Wengui, who had left China in 2014 and was later charged with corruption. Information detailing the exile in the lawsuit also align with descriptions of Guo.

At the time, Wynn had significant business interests involving China, owning and operating casinos in Macao, and acted out of a desire to protect his business interests, the Justice Department alleged.

Wynn attorneys Reid H. Weingarten and Brian M. Heberlig of Washington-based Steptoe & Johnson said: “Steve Wynn has never acted as an agent of the Chinese government and had no obligation to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. We respectfully disagree with the Department of Justice’s legal interpretation of FARA and look forward to proving our case in court.”

 

U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel John Durham, left, and defendant Michael Sussmann, a cyberlaw attorney and former federal prosecutor. split

U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel John Durham, left, and defendant Michael Sussmann, a cyberlaw attorney and former federal prosecutor whose trial begins on May 16 on a false statement charge in Washington, DC's federal court.

ny times logoNew York Times, Clashing Views of Cybersecurity Lawyer as Trial in Special Counsel’s Case Opens, Charlie Savage, May 17, 2022. Michael Sussmann, a prominent lawyer with Democratic ties, is accused of lying to the F.B.I. in a case with broader political overtones.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers clashed in opening arguments on Tuesday in the trial of Michael Sussmann, a cybersecurity lawyer with links to Democrats who has been charged by a Trump-era special counsel with lying to the F.B.I. in 2016 when he brought the bureau a tip about possible Trump-Russia connections.

Deborah Shaw, a prosecutor working for the Trump-era special counsel, John H. Durham, told a federal jury that Mr. Sussman was in part representing Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign at the time. But he claimed to the F.B.I. that he was not bringing the tip on behalf of any client because he wanted to conceal his ties to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign.

Whether one loves or hates former President Donald J. Trump, Ms. Shaw said, the F.B.I. needs to know the truth “and should never be used as a political pawn.”

But a defense lawyer, Michael Bosworth, argued to the jury that Mr. Sussmann did not lie to the F.B.I. when he relayed the suspicions. No one at the Clinton campaign told Mr. Sussman to take the matter to the F.B.I., Mr. Bosworth said.

Mr. Bosworth did acknowledge that Mr. Sussmann was representing the Clinton campaign when he reached out separately to a reporter then at The New York Times about the suspicions. The move led the bureau, Mr. Bosworth said, to try to delay any news article while they investigated.

“The meeting with the F.B.I. is the exact opposite of what the campaign would have wanted,” Mr. Bosworth said, adding: “They wanted a big story that hurts Trump and helps them. He was there to help the F.B.I.”

The contrasting narratives were a highlight of the first day of the trial, which is expected to take about two weeks. Witnesses may include Marc Elias, who was then Mr. Sussmann’s law partner as well as the general counsel of the Clinton campaign, and James Baker, who was then the F.B.I.’s general counsel.

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U.S. Midterm Primary Results

washington post logoWashington Post, Midterm U.S. Primaries: N.C. Senate race set; Fetterman wins in Pa., Cawthorn loses seat in North Carolina, Mariana Alfaro, Amy B Wang, John Wagner and Eugene Scott, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the burly, 6-foot-8 liberal with a shaved head, won the Democratic nomination for Senate in Pennsylvania and will face the winner of a GOP primary that’s still too close to call. The primary win came on the same day that Fetterman had a pacemaker implanted after suffering a stroke last week. On the Republican side, former president Donald Trump is all-in for celebrity-turned-politician Mehmet Oz, who faces insurgent conservative candidate Kathy Barnette and businessman David McCormick.

In the governor’s race, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who acted prominently in attempting to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 victory in the Pennsylvania presidential race, secured the GOP nomination for governor, prevailing in a crowded field. He will face attorney general Josh Shapiro, the Democratic nominee.

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, F.D.A. and Abbott Reach Agreement on Baby Formula to Try to Ease Shortage, Christina Jewett, May 17, 2022 (print ed.). The company said if the agency approved reopening the plant, production could resume and store shelves would be restocked within several weeks.

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday reached an agreement with Abbott Laboratories on the steps needed to reopen the company’s shuttered baby formula plant, which could begin to ease the shortage of infant formula that has frightened and exasperated parents nationwide.

The F.D.A. said it expected Abbott to restart production in about two weeks, and was poised to review progress at the plant in Sturgis, Mich. It has been shut down since February after several babies who had consumed formula that had been produced there fell ill and two died.

The agreement stems from a U.S. Department of Justice complaint and consent decree with the company and three of its executives. Those court records say the F.D.A. found a deadly bacteria, called cronobacter, in the plant in February and the company found more tranches of the bacteria later that month.

According to the complaint, the same Sturgis factory had also produced two batches of formula in the summer of 2019 and 2020 on different production equipment that tested positive for the bacteria.

Abbott staff “have been unwilling or unable to implement sustainable corrective actions to ensure the safety and quality of food manufactured for infants,” leading to the need for legal action, the documents state.

In a release, Abbott said “there is no conclusive evidence to link Abbott’s formulas to these infant illnesses.”

The company said on Monday that production could begin within about two weeks and could translate to more formula on shelves in six to eight weeks. The company said it will continue flying formula in from a plant in Ireland.

As frustration at the crib side and in grocery aisles grew, the agency has been in a race to replenish depleted supplies that have become political fodder for Republicans against the Biden administration.

washington post logoWashington Post, UFO hearing features historic testimony from Pentagon officials, Shane Harris, Lindsey Bever, May 17, 2022. Congress held a rare public hearing Tuesday into the existence of what the government calls unidentified aerial phenomena, more commonly known as UFOs, a subject of scrutiny by the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies following an increase in sightings by military personnel and pilots in recent years.

By taking testimony from senior government officials, lawmakers intended to bring “out of the shadows” a Defense Department organization that has been tracking the sightings, said Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.), chairman of the House Intelligence subcommittee on counterterrorism, counterintelligence and counterproliferation.

That effort, revealed in 2017, has collected eyewitness accounts, including from naval aviators who said they saw flying objects that seemed to lack any visible means of propulsion and defied human understanding of aerodynamics and physics.

The hearing was the first time in more than 50 years that U.S. officials have provided testimony for public consumption about their investigation of UFOs. The Air Force closed its inquiry into the subject, Project Blue Book, in 1970.

“We know that our service members have encountered unidentified aerial phenomena,” Ronald S. Moultrie, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence and security, told the bipartisan panel of lawmakers. “We are committed to an effort to determine their origins.”

While the hearing marked a significant moment in the government’s efforts to reveal more of what it knows about unexplained objects in the sky, it was short on revelations. Scott W. Bray, deputy director of naval intelligence, played a brief video of what he described as “a spherical object” with a reflective surface as it zoomed past the cockpit of a U.S. F-18 fighter jet.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jeff Bezos Battles With President Biden Online Over Taxes, Ephrat Livni, May 17, 2022 (print ed.). Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is trolling President Biden on Twitter. After Mr. Biden on Friday connected lowering inflation with corporations paying “their fair share,” Mr. Bezos quipped, “The newly created Disinformation Board should review this tweet, or maybe they need to form a new Non Sequitur Board instead.” He said that conflating lower inflation with higher corporate taxes amounted to “misdirection.”

jeff bezos w Encore awards 2010Still bristling, Mr. Bezos (shown in a file photo), who owns the Washington Post, fired again on Sunday, the DealBook newsletter reports. He lauded Joe Manchin, the centrist West Virginia senator who has often declined to vote with other Democrats on economic issues, halting additional stimulus plans.

“Manchin saved them from themselves,” Mr. Bezos wrote, plunging the company into politics at a fraught time internally, amid an employee unionization push. Externally, many executives recently have been trying to stay out of difficult debates, given the backlash some companies have faced.

amazon logo smallWrangling with the government over taxes on Twitter means calling public attention to a touchy topic for Amazon. The company reported nearly $36 billion in U.S. pretax income in 2021 yet said it owed only about $2 billion in federal taxes. That’s a 6 percent tax rate — less than a third of the rates both corporations and workers must pay. When Mr. Biden unveiled plans to raise rates and close tax loopholes last year, he singled out Amazon, saying, “I don’t want to punish them, but that’s just wrong.” Amazon did not respond to DealBook’s request for comment.

Disney last month lost its special tax status in Florida after opposing a law limiting gender identity discussions in schools. Now, Republican lawmakers at the state and federal levels are drafting similarly retributive legislation for politically minded businesses.

But for executives, it’s a balance. Many workers, shareholders and customers are demanding that corporations speak up, and pressure could increase now that abortion rights have become a major midterm election issue. So Amazon’s current chief executive, Andy Jassy, is probably not looking for this fight right now.

Mr. Bezos, for his part, quietly butters up the government, just like Elon Musk. While both have been publicly critical of the Biden administration, Mr. Bezos’ Blue Origin and Mr. Musk’s SpaceX spend significant resources lobbying officials to pick up their space exploration tabs and to win NASA contracts. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has accused the two billionaires of using NASA like an A.T.M. He tweeted at Bezos on Saturday about Amazon’s labor issues and soaring profits.

ny times logoNew York Times, G.O.P. Senate Candidate in North Carolina Thrives as 2 Key Backers Squabble, Jazmine Ulloa and Michael C. Bender, May 17, 2022 (print ed.). Representative Ted Budd is proving the political potency of pairing endorsements from former President Trump and the Club for Growth.

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World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters 

ny times logoNew York Times, Twitter Presses Ahead on Deal as Elon Musk Casts Doubt on It, Lauren Hirsch, Kate Conger and Adam Satariano, May 17, 2022. The company urged shareholders to vote in favor of the deal, even as Mr. Musk said he wouldn’t move ahead without more data on spam.

Mr. Musk, the world’s richest man, continued creating confusion around his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter on Tuesday, even as the social media company tried to keep the deal on course. Early in the morning, the billionaire tweeted that “this deal cannot move forward” until he got more details about the volume of spam and fake accounts on the platform.

A few hours later, Twitter said it was “committed to completing the transaction on the agreed price and terms as promptly as practicable.” It urged its shareholders to back the bid by Mr. Musk, who appeared to be carrying out a public tweet-by-tweet negotiation even though he had struck the blockbuster deal to buy Twitter last month.

Mr. Musk’s increasingly skeptical — and erratic — comments about the takeover have kept investors, bankers and Twitter itself guessing about his motives. Some analysts figure that the 50-year-old is trying to drive down the acquisition price or walk away from the deal altogether. Many were unnerved by his methods, with market-moving pronouncements made off the cuff at conferences or in emoji-laden tweets in the middle of the night.

Yet his comments are in keeping with Mr. Musk’s longtime methods of operation, where he often wings it in the biggest moments, eschews experts and relies almost solely on his own counsel. Years ago, he said that he had stopped making business plans. And people close to Mr. Musk have said that he had no plan whatsoever when he piped up with an offer to buy Twitter last month.

ny times logoNew York Times, Poor Countries Face a Mounting Crisis Fueled by Inflation and Debt,  Peter S. Goodman, Ruth Maclean, Salman Masood, Elif Ince, Flávia Milhorance, Muktita Suhartono and Brenda Kiven, May 17, 2022. The war in Ukraine is combining with a global tightening of credit and an economic slowdown in China to sow misery in low- and middle-income countries.

Before war ravaged Yemen, Walid Al-Ahdal did not worry about feeding his children. At his hometown near the Red Sea, his family grew corn, raised goats and relied on their own cow for milk.

But for the last four years, after fighting forced them to flee, their home has been a tent at a camp with 9,000 other families outside the capital city of Sana. Mr. Al-Ahdal has struggled to buy adequate food with his wages as a janitor at a hospital.

Now another war — this one more than 2,000 miles away — has upended their lives again. Food prices are soaring. Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the cost of wheat has more than doubled, while milk has climbed by two-thirds.

On many nights, Mr. Al-Ahdal, 25, has nothing to feed his 2-year-old daughter and his three boys, ages 3, 5 and 6. He consoles them with tea and sends them to bed.

“My heart hurts every time my child looks for food that is not there,” Mr. Al-Ahdal said. “But what can I do?”

The hunger gnawing at families in war-torn countries like Yemen highlights a broader crisis confronting billions of people in the world’s less-affluent economies as the consequences of Russia’s assault on Ukraine are compounded by other challenges — the continuing pandemic, a global tightening of credit and a slowdown in China, the second-largest economy after the United States.

“It’s like wildfires in all directions,” said Jayati Ghosh, an economist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “This is much bigger than after the global financial crisis. Everything is stacked against the low- and middle-income countries.”

The most direct repercussions are seen in the rising prices of cooking fuel, fertilizer and staple foods like wheat, disrupting agriculture and threatening nutrition in much of the world.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. to Offer Minor Sanctions Relief to Entice Venezuela to Talks, Lara Jakes and Anatoly Kurmanaev, May 17, 2022. The Biden administration said Tuesday it would slightly loosen the crippling economic sanctions against Venezuela’s government to help restart stagnant talks between President Nicolás Maduro and opposition leaders aimed at easing the country’s political and humanitarian crisis.

Senior U.S. officials said resumption of the negotiations were expected to be announced by Venezuelan officials later Tuesday.

To entice Mr. Maduro back to the negotiating table, the Biden administration said it would permit discussions between his government and Chevron, the last major American oil company with significant operations in Venezuela. Under current sanctions, Chevron is prohibited from doing business with the Venezuelan government and is only allowed to carry out essential maintenance work in the country.

The U.S. Treasury will also remove sanctions on Carlos Eric Malpica, a former Venezuelan state oil official and nephew of the first lady, Cilia Flores, according to a senior Biden administration official familiar with the talks. The official discussed the policy change Tuesday on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized by the White House to speak on the record.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The tragedy of ISIS fighters’ families left behind in Syria, David Ignatius, May 17, 2022 (print ed.). Western disregard for the families of Islamic State fighters at the al-Hol refugee camp in northeast Syria is “unacceptable,” said the Swiss official who monitors compliance with international humanitarian law.

ny times logoNew York Times, Taking Aim at Left-Leaning Voters, Macron Names a Woman Prime Minister, Norimitsu Onishi and Aurelien Breeden, May 17, 2022 (print ed.). With President Emmanuel Macron’s appointment, Élisabeth Borne, the minister of labor, will be the second woman to hold the post in France.

President Emmanuel Macron appointed Élisabeth Borne, the low-key minister of labor and a former minister of the environment, as his new prime minister on Monday, in line with his promise to prioritize environmental issues in his second term and a long-expressed wish to select a woman for that role.

“The president of the Republic has appointed Élisabeth Borne prime minister and has tasked her with forming a government,” the French presidency said in a statement.

Weeks before legislative elections, the choice of a woman and particularly Ms. Borne, long regarded as close to the Socialist Party, was meant to appeal to left-leaning voters whose support will help determine control over Parliament. Ms. Borne is only the second woman to occupy that position.

Mr. Macron expressed his desire to appoint a woman as prime minister as far back as the presidential campaign of 2017. But his failure to do so until now — as well as the all-male cast in the first tier of power around him — was often cited as insufficient efforts by Mr. Macron to advance the place of women in politics.

 Recent Headlines

 

More On Media, Sports

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Democracy is at stake in the midterms. The media must convey that, Margaret Sullivan, right, May 16, 2022 (print ed.). We margaret sullivan 2015 photoournalists have to try harder and find new ways to convey to voters how badly things could turn out.

I was mesmerized this past week by two astonishing videos, watching them both multiple times.

One showed the stunning Kentucky Derby, where the little-known chestnut colt Rich Strike came out of nowhere to blast past the favorites and win the race by less than a length. The other showed an entire North Carolina beach house tumbling into the ocean, yet another indication of Outer Banks shoreline erosion and, more generally, the world’s catastrophic climate crisis.

And I couldn’t help but see both as metaphors for the precarious state of democracy in America and the news media’s role in helping to save the day or in succumbing to disaster.

Here’s what I mean. Since Jan. 6 of last year, a growing chorus of activists, historians and political commentators have spoken of “democracy on the brink” or “democracy in peril.” What they mean is that, thanks to a paranoid, delusional and potentially violent new strain in our nation’s politics, Americans may not be able to count on future elections being conducted fairly — or the results of fair elections being accepted.

And at least some news organizations are taking heed.

The Washington Post established a “democracy team” to expand reporting on the nationwide battles over voting rules, access to polls, and efforts to create unfounded doubt about the outcome of elections.

joe kahnAt the New York Times, soon-to-be executive editor Joe Kahn, right, is talking frankly about the need to investigate efforts to undermine the institutions that uphold democracy. (If they don’t, he told the Columbia Journalism Review, “we’re not doing our job as a leading news organization.”)

A number of regional journalists are beginning to push against industry norms to speak more clearly about the threat: The Philadelphia Inquirer boldly declined to use the euphemism word “audit” to dignify state Republicans’ endless probes for nonexistent voter fraud — essentially the GOP’s attempt to cast unwarranted doubt on the results of the 2020 election in Pennsylvania.

But the clearest recognition I’ve heard so far came last week from a managing editor for CNN. Alex Koppelman is not the editor overseeing the network’s political coverage; instead, he supervises business and media news. But CNN gave him a voice to lay out the harsh reality of what the nation is up against, and what we in the media need to do about it.

Mediaite, WHCA Threatens Reporter Who Interrupted Psaki Briefing With Possible Expulsion in Scathing Email, Jackson Richman, May 16, 2022. Reporter Simon Ateba Asks Jen Psaki if Biden Blames Her or Her Comms Team for Low Approval Ratings.

A reporter who interrupted Friday’s White House press briefing has been threatened with suspension or expulsion from the White House Correspondents Association were he to do the same again.

jen psakiDuring Jen Psaki’s last press briefing as White House press secretary, Simon Ateba of Today News Africa twice interrupted and called on Psaki, left, to call on the reporters in the back rows. He interrupted the Associated Press’ Zeke Miller and ABC News’ Mary Bruce.

In an email to Ateba, obtained by Mediaite, White House Correspondents Association President and CBS News Radio White House Correspondent Steven Portnoy chided him on Monday for the interruptions.

“Your disruptive behavior at last Friday’s briefing interrupted your colleagues and reflected poorly on the press corps,” he said. “There is no right of any reporter to be called on by any official. Preventing your colleagues from asking their questions is no way to seek relief.”

Portnoy warned that Ateba would be suspended or expelled were he to repeat his behavior from Friday.

“We note that you have been granted status as an Associate Member of our organization. With that comes a responsibility to act in a collegial manner with your fellow WHCA members,” he said. “If you again demonstrate disrespect for your colleagues in the manner you did last Friday, the WHCA Board will act on behalf of the collective. I am pasting Article X of our bylaws below for your reference.”

In a statement to Mediaite, Ateba said he received the email “with a heavy heart.”

fox news logo Small“I received the email from WHCA’s President Steven Portnoy with a heavy heart. I am the victim here and I am being treated so unfairly by WHCA. It is sad and it is heartbreaking,” he said. “America is the greatest country in the world and no country comes even close. Here in the United States, press freedom is respected, or so I thought, or so I was made to believe.”

Ateba, who is Black, said his rationale for interrupting was due to being discriminated against “due to his origins, being an African covering the White House and focusing on U.S.-Africa ties and interactions for Today News Africa” and since he questioned the White House about the Biden administration’s African travel bans in November. In light of this, Ateba made numerous appearances on Fox News and called out the administration for the bans.

 Other recent Media, Cultural Headlines

 

Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection, Election Claims

washington post logoWashington Post, Senior Trump State Department official met with ‘Stop the Steal’ activists on Jan. 6, Rosalind S. Helderman, May 17, 2022. The confirmation of the meeting provides new evidence of the success that the president’s allies had in gaining access to top administration officials. On Jan. 6, 2021, around the time that thousands of Donald Trump’s supporters swarmed the U.S. Capitol, a top Trump appointee at the U.S. State Department met with two activists who had been key to spreading the false narrative that the presidential election had been stolen.

The meeting came as Trump’s allies were pressing theories that election machines had been hacked by foreign powers and were angling for Trump to employ the vast powers of the national security establishment to seize voting machines or even rerun the election.

Robert A. Destro, a law professor at Catholic University of America then serving as an assistant secretary of state, confirmed to The Washington Post he met with the two men — Colorado podcaster Joe Oltmann and Michigan lawyer Matthew DePerno — in the midst of the tumultuous day.

The two men have previously claimed to have huddled on Jan. 6 with State Department leaders, who Oltmann has said were sympathetic to the claims that a “coup” was underway to steal the presidency from Trump. They have not identified with whom they met. Destro’s acknowledgment is the first independent confirmation that they successfully gained the high-level audience. It is unclear whether the meeting led to any action.

Oltmann and DePerno played important behind-the-scenes roles in crafting the baseless allegations that the election was stolen from Trump, a review of emails and public statements from Trump allies shows. The State Department meeting provides new evidence of the success that activists spreading false claims about the election had in gaining access to top administration officials. Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows was in close contact with activists pushing false fraud narratives, as were high-level officials at the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security.

Recent Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, How Often Can You Be Infected With the Coronavirus? Apoorva Mandavilli, May 17, 2022 (print ed.). The spread of the Omicron variant has given scientists an unsettling answer: repeatedly, sometimes within months.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated May 17, 2022), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2totals ere and some experts saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 523,357,366, Deaths: 6,290,998
U.S. Cases:     84,357,607, Deaths: 1,026,899
Indian Cases:  43,125,370, Deaths:    524,260
Brazil Cases:   30,701,900, Deaths:    665,056

Related Recent Headlines:

 

Climate

ny times logoNew York Times, Here Are the Wildfire Risks to Homes Across the Lower 48 States, Christopher Flavelle and Nadja Popovich, May 17, 2022 (print ed.). New data was used to calculate fire risk to residential and other properties throughout the lower 48 United States. The threats are rising.

ny times logoNew York Times, 115 Degrees in India. 120 in Pakistan. Can We Even Call Deadly Heat ‘Extreme’ Anymore? David Wallace-Wells, May 17, 2022. It doesn’t take the end of the world to upend the way billions live in it. The punishing weather we are uneasily learning to call “normal” is doing that already.

  • Late last month, a heat wave swallowed South Asia, bringing temperatures to more than a billion people — one-fifth of the entire human population — 10 degrees warmer than the one imagined in the opening pages of Kim Stanley Robinson’s celebrated climate novel, “The Ministry for the Future,” where a similar event on the subcontinent quickly kills 20 million. It is now weeks later, and the heat wave is still continuing. Real relief probably won’t come before the monsoons in June.

    Mercifully, according to the young science of “heat death,” air moisture is as important as temperature for triggering human mortality, and when thermometers hit 115 degrees Fahrenheit in India and 120 in Pakistan in April, the humidity was quite low. But even so, in parts of India, humidity was still high enough that if the day’s peak moisture had coincided with its peak heat, the combination would have produced “wet-bulb temperatures” — which integrate measures of both into a single figure — already at or past the limit for human survivability. Birds fell dead from the sky.

    In Pakistan, the heat melted enough of the Shipsher glacier to produce what’s called a “glacial lake outburst flood,” destroying two power stations and the historic Hassanabad Bridge, on the road to China.

Recent Climate Headlines

 

May 16

Top Headlines

 

More On U.S. Media, Race, Shootings

 

More On Ukraine War

 

 U.S. Law, Courts, Security

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

 

Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection, Elections Claims

 

Investigations

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters


Virus Victims, Responses

 

Climate, Environment, Disasters

 

More On Media, Sports

 

Top Stories

 

Law enforcement authorities said Payton Gendron, an 18-year-old White man, approached the store in a predominantly Black neighborhood and opened fire on shoppers and employees, shooting 13 people including a security guard, Aaron Salter Jr., shown in a file photo.

Law enforcement authorities said Payton Gendron, an 18-year-old White man, approached the store in a predominantly Black neighborhood and opened fire on shoppers and employees, shooting 13 people including a security guard, Aaron Salter Jr., shown above in a file photo. Authorities gave this account: The gunman, who was heavily armed and wearing tactical gear, used a camera to live-stream the attack and shot several victims in the parking lot before entering the store. The grocery’s longtime security guard, a retired policeman, fired back, but the gunman’s body armor blocked the shot and the guard was killed.

ny times logoNew York Times, Buffalo Live Updates: Accused Gunman in Buffalo Planned to Attack Second Target, Jesse McKinley, May 16, 2022. The city’s police commissioner said the man who killed 10 people in Saturday’s supermarket massacre intended to continue his shooting spree. The accused gunman in the mass shooting in Buffalo had planned a prolonged massacre after attacking a Tops supermarket Saturday, according to the Buffalo police commissioner, who said that the attacker wanted “to continue his rampage.”

The commissioner, Joseph A. Gramaglia, told CNN on Monday morning that the suspect had spoken “about possibly going to another store,” after Tops, potentially turning his fire on “another large superstore.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Buffalo shooting Live Updates: Victims’ names released; suspect allegedly made school threat, Jonathan Edwards, Jacob Bogage, Annie Gowen and Devlin Barrett, May 16, 2022. Tops employee rushed people to safety as shooter encroached; U.N. leader denounces Buffalo mass shooting as ‘vile act’ of racist violence.

Pearl Young volunteered every weekend at her church’s food pantry. Ruth Whitfield had just spent the day at a nursing home caring for her husband. And Andre Mackniel had popped into the grocery store to get a birthday cake for his son.

None of them escaped Tops supermarket in Buffalo on Saturday afternoon when a gunman in tactical gear opened fire on shoppers and employees, The Washington Post reported. On Sunday, police identified them as three of the 10 victims killed during the massacre.

The seven others who were killed: Roberta Drury, Margus Morrison, Aaron Salter, Geraldine Talley, Celestine Chaney, Heyward Patterson and Katherine Massey. Three more were injured.

payton gendron mugPayton Gendron of Conklin, N.Y., right, has been charged with and pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. Last year, law enforcement officials investigated a shooting threat made by the 18-year-old now accused of carrying out a racially motivated massacre at the Buffalo supermarket, authorities said Sunday.

Federal authorities are investigating the shooting as a hate crime and may file civil rights charges on top of the state murder case. Two people close to the investigation, who spoke to The Post on the condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to talk publicly, said investigators think Gendron wrote a 180-page document that outlined the motivation for his attack. In the diatribe, he allegedly identifies as a white supremacist and a terrorist.

Here’s what to know

  • The Buffalo Police Department released the names of the 13 victims late Sunday. The 10 people who were killed ranged in age from 32 to 86, while the three who were hurt are 20, 50 and 55.
  • Eleven of the 13 people shot were Black, The Post reported.
  • The gunman wrote a racial slur on one of his weapons and a coded reference to a slogan commonly used by white supremacists, officials said.

ny times logoNew York Times, F.D.A. and Abbott Reach Agreement on Baby Formula to Try to Ease Shortage, Christina Jewett, May 16, 2022. The company said if the agency approved reopening the plant, production could resume and store shelves would be restocked within several weeks.

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday reached an agreement with Abbott Laboratories on the steps needed to reopen the company’s shuttered baby formula plant, which could begin to ease the shortage of infant formula that has frightened and exasperated parents nationwide.

The F.D.A. said it expected Abbott to restart production in about two weeks, and was poised to review progress at the plant in Sturgis, Mich. It has been shut down since February after several babies who had consumed formula that had been produced there fell ill and two died.

The agreement stems from a U.S. Department of Justice complaint and consent decree with the company and three of its executives. Those court records say the F.D.A. found a deadly bacteria, called cronobacter, in the plant in February and the company found more tranches of the bacteria later that month.

According to the complaint, the same Sturgis factory had also produced two batches of formula in the summer of 2019 and 2020 on different production equipment that tested positive for the bacteria.

Abbott staff “have been unwilling or unable to implement sustainable corrective actions to ensure the safety and quality of food manufactured for infants,” leading to the need for legal action, the documents state.

In a release, Abbott said “there is no conclusive evidence to link Abbott’s formulas to these infant illnesses.”

The company said on Monday that production could begin within about two weeks and could translate to more formula on shelves in six to eight weeks. The company said it will continue flying formula in from a plant in Ireland.

As frustration at the crib side and in grocery aisles grew, the agency has been in a race to replenish depleted supplies that have become political fodder for Republicans against the Biden administration.

  President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia meeting with leaders from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Armenia and Belarus at a summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization at the Kremlin in Moscow, on Monday (Pool photo by Alexander Nemenov).

 President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia meeting with leaders from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Armenia and Belarus at a summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization at the Kremlin in Moscow, on Monday (Pool photo by Alexander Nemenov).

ny times logoNew York Times, Among President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies, only Belarus supports him on Ukraine, Anton Troianovski, May 16, 2022. President Vladimir V. Putin met with his five closest allies on Monday. Only one of them spoke up to support him on Ukraine.

In a gilded hall at the Kremlin, Mr. Putin hosted a summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which is Russia’s answer to NATO. An alliance of six post-Soviet states, the C.S.T.O. was marking the 30-year anniversary of its founding. But what was supposed to be a celebratory meeting quickly turned into a demonstration of Mr. Putin’s isolation, even among Russia’s neighbors.

Speaking first in the televised portion of the summit, President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus — who has supported Mr. Putin’s war in Ukraine but has not sent troops — criticized other members of the alliance for insufficiently backing Russia and Belarus in the face of Western sanctions.

He noted how the C.S.T.O. had sent forces to Kazakhstan in January to prop up the country’s government in the face of protests — yet had left Russia largely on its own amid the war in Ukraine.

“Are we just as connected by bonds of solidarity and support now?” he asked, after mentioning the alliance’s support of the Kazakh government. “Maybe I’m wrong, but as recent events have shown, it seems the answer is no.”

Kazakhstan has said that it would not help Russia circumvent international sanctions. In a United Nations vote on March 2 condemning the invasion of Ukraine, Belarus was the only post-Soviet country to take Russia’s side.

“Look at how monolithically the European Union votes and acts,” Mr. Lukashenko said at Monday’s summit, sitting at a round table with the other leaders. “If we are separate, we’ll just be crushed and torn apart.”

As if to confirm Mr. Lukashenko’s point, the leaders of the other four C.S.T.O. members — Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan — did not even mention Ukraine in their televised remarks.

The Ukraine invasion has put those countries in a tough spot. They all have close economic and military ties to Russia, but Mr. Putin’s invasion of a sovereign neighbor sets a foreboding precedent for countries looking to diversify their foreign policy beyond Moscow.

nato logo flags name

 washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Sweden to make NATO bid as military exercises begin, Bryan Pietsch, Annabelle Timsit, Colby Itkowitz, Rachel Pannett and Paulina Firozi, May 16, 2022. McDonald's pulling out of Russia, says business ‘no longer tenable’; Belarusian forces could keep Ukrainian troops near border, Britain says; Updates from key cities: Russia fights to hold ground near Kharkiv.

Sweden announced it would formally request NATO membership after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — ending what its prime minister called 200 years of military non-alignment. Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson reportedly said Monday the country planned to hand in its application this week, in coordination with Finland.

“There is a broad majority in Sweden’s parliament for joining NATO,” Andersson said, according to Reuters. “The best thing for Sweden and the Swedish population is to join NATO.” Both Nordic nations both dispatched troops to participate in large-scale exercises by the military alliance, as Russia called their moves toward joining NATO a “mistake” that could have “far-reaching consequences.”

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the war in Ukraine “is not going as Moscow had planned,” citing Russia’s failure to take Kyiv, its pullback from around Kharkiv and a stalled offensive in the eastern Donbas region. Yet the presence of Belarusian forces near the border with Ukraine is likely to tie up Kyiv’s troops so they are unable to support operations in Donbas, British defense officials said Monday. Russia is continuing attacks elsewhere in the east as it seeks full control of the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

As the Western business exodus from Russia continues, McDonald’s said Monday that it “has initiated a process to sell its Russian business” and is seeking a “local buyer” for its portfolio there, which includes 850 restaurants. French automaker Renault Group also said it would pull out of Russia, and sell its shares there to Russian government entities.

Here’s what else to know

  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken described broad support for Swedish and Finnish membership in NATO among foreign ministers. But all NATO countries must agree on new members, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has criticized the Nordic nations.
  • Republican U.S. senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), visited Helsinki after meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky over the weekend. The U.S. Senate is expected to advance the approval of a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine on Monday, with a final vote as soon as Wednesday.

Politico, NATO officials ‘confident’ on Swedish, Finnish membership bids despite Turkish reservations, Lili Bayer and Hans von der Burchard, May 16, 2022 (print ed.). Stoltenberg says Turkey ‘has made it clear’ it doesn’t intend to block applications by Sweden and Finland.politico CustomTurkish concerns will not derail the ambitions of Finland and Sweden to join NATO, senior alliance officials said on Sunday.

Ankara has accused the two Nordic countries of supporting Kurdish groups, throwing a spanner into the plans of Helsinki and Stockholm for quick NATO accession following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Countries supporting terrorism should not be allies in NATO,” Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Sunday following talks with the alliance’s foreign ministers in Berlin.
US delegation of Republican senators visits Kyiv

nato logo flags nameNATO membership requires support from all current 30 allies, including Turkey.

Speaking to reporters following the talks, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg sought to play down any risks to swift membership for Finland and Sweden. “Turkey has made it clear that their intention is not to block membership,” Stoltenberg said, speaking via videolink as he recovers from COVID.

“I’m confident that we will be able to address the concerns that Turkey has expressed in a way that doesn’t delay the membership or the accession process,” he said. “My intention is still to have a quick and swift process.”

Turkey’s Çavuşoğlu met on Saturday with Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde and Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto to discuss Ankara’s concerns, but the meeting did not lead to a significant shift in the Turkish leadership’s rhetoric. Speaking to Turkish media on Sunday, Çavuşoğlu said that Finland and Sweden “must stop supporting terror groups” and give security guarantees.

But Western officials in Berlin signaled that they believe Ankara can be convinced.

“This is a process, and NATO is a place for dialogue,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters after the ministers’ meeting.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Approves Plan to Redeploy Hundreds of Ground Forces Into Somalia, Charlie Savage and Eric Schmitt May 16, 2022. President Biden also signed off on targeting some Shabab leaders in the war-torn country, from which former President Trump largely withdrew.

joe biden black background resized serious filePresident Biden has signed an order authorizing the military to once again deploy hundreds of Special Operations forces inside Somalia — largely reversing the decision by President Donald J. Trump to withdraw nearly all 700 ground troops who had been stationed there, according to four officials familiar with the matter.

In addition, Mr. Biden has approved a Pentagon request for standing authority to target about a dozen suspected leaders of Al Shabab, the Somali terrorist group that is affiliated with Al Qaeda, three of the officials said. Since Mr. Biden took office, airstrikes have largely been limited to those meant to defend partner forces facing an immediate threat.

Together, the decisions by Mr. Biden, described by the officials on the condition of anonymity, will revive an open-ended American counterterrorism operation that has amounted to a slow-burn war through three administrations. The move stands in contrast to his decision last year to pull American forces from Afghanistan, saying that “it is time to end the forever war.”

Mr. Biden signed off on the proposal by Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III in early May, officials said. In a statement, Adrienne Watson, the National Security Council spokeswoman, acknowledged the move, saying it would enable “a more effective fight against Al Shabab.”

 

U.S. Media, Race, Mass Shootings

 

tucker carlson fox horizontal

washington post logoWashington Post, Racist ‘great replacement’ theory a popular refrain among Carlson, Ingraham and Coulter, Paul Farhi, May 16, 2022. The suspect in Saturday’s killing of 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket allegedly wrote a document endorsing “great replacement theory,” a once-fringe racist idea that became a popular refrain among media figures such as Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham of Fox News and conservative writer Ann Coulter.

Before the shooting rampage that also left three wounded, the suspect, Payton S. Gendron, 18, allegedly posted a lengthy document invoking the idea that White Americans were at risk of being “replaced” by people of color because of immigration and higher birthrates.

Gendron, who is White, allegedly indicated that he chose a neighborhood with a large number of Black residents for his alleged attack. In the document that Gendron is suspected to have written, he indicated that he was radicalized online. There’s no indication that he watched Carlson’s program.

fox news logo SmallThe theory was once confined to far-right White extremists, who cast immigration as part of a plot by “elites” to take political and economic power away from White people. It has gained broader circulation in recent years as a talking point among prominent conservative media figures.

Tucker Carlson twists Biden’s 2015 comments to push conspiracy theory

On Sept. 22, Fox News host Tucker Carlson misrepresented past immigration remarks by President Biden to suggest the existence of the “great replacement theory.” (Video: Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

Carlson, whose weeknight program is typically the most popular on Fox News, has been an especially avid promoter of the thesis. He has mentioned variations on the idea in more than 400 episodes since 2016, according to a New York Times analysis of his program. In April of last year, he said on Fox News that people from the “Third World” are immigrating to the United States “to replace the current electorate” and “dilute the political power of the people who live there” — language that essentially distills the replacement thesis.

He was more explicit in a video posted on Fox News’s YouTube account in September. Carlson said President Biden was encouraging immigration “to change the racial mix of the country, … to reduce the political power of people whose ancestors lived here, and dramatically increase the proportion of Americans newly arrived from the Third World.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Representative Liz Cheney said Republican leaders have “enabled white nationalism,” Luke Broadwater, May 16, 2022. Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming and a former member of G.O.P. leadership in the House, on Monday called out her party’s leaders for enabling the spread of white nationalism after a gunman who believed racist ideology killed 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket.

“The House GOP leadership has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-semitism,” Ms. Cheney wrote on Twitter. “History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse. @GOP leaders must renounce and reject these views and those who hold them.”

Her statement came as Republicans in Congress were angrily pushing back against accusations that their language and actions have perpetuated the kind of racism and xenophobia that were apparently behind the massacre.

Yet as of Monday morning, none of them had spoken out against the racist “white replacement theory” that motivated the killings or the white nationalism undergirding it.

elise stefanik hearing

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How Elise Stefanik and the GOP sanitize ‘great replacement’ ugliness, Greg Sargent, right, May 16, 2022. Nothing gets greg sargentRepublicans like Rep. Elise Stefanik (shown above in a file photo) angrier than reciting their own words back to them at a politically inconvenient moment.

So it is that the New York lawmaker is lashing out at critics who have noted her flirtation with “great replacement theory” in the wake of the horrific racist shooting in her home state.

The online screed of alleged Buffalo shooter Payton Gendron posits a conspiracy to exterminate and replace native-born Whites in Western nations. He explicitly labels this a planned “genocide."

Stefanik, meanwhile, declared in ads last September that Democrats would legalize undocumented immigrants in a “PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION." That’s a vile replacement trope pushed by the No. 3 in the House GOP leadership.

Confronted by this in the wake of Gendron’s alleged mass murder of mostly Black victims, a Stefanik adviser insisted she has “never advocated for any racist position,” while raging against “sickening” reporting and a “disgusting low for the left.”

Actually, the “disgusting low” was committed by Stefanik herself. Because in this episode we see how Republicans like Stefanik launder and sanitize these ideas in ways that insinuate them ever deeper into mainstream discourse.

The extent to which “great replacement” ideas have migrated from the fringe into something more routine among Republican lawmakers appears new. What’s different is the careful mainstreaming of fantasies about a deliberate plot to replace native-born Americans.

 

A Sheriff's sergeant displays a photo of Dr. John Cheng, who was killed in Sunday's shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church, during a news conference on May 16, 2022 (Associated Press photo by Jae C. Hong).

A Sheriff's sergeant displays a photo of Dr. John Cheng, who was killed in Sunday's shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church, during a news conference on May 16, 2022 (Associated Press photo by Jae C. Hong).

ap logoAssociated Press via Politico, Authorities: Hate against Taiwanese led to church attack, Staff Report, May 16, 2022. A gunman in a deadly attack at a Southern California church was a Chinese immigrant motivated by hate for Taiwanese people, authorities said.

The shooter killed Dr. John Cheng, 52, and wounded five others during a lunch held by Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, which worships at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, authorities said at a Monday news conference.

Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said the motive of the shooting was a grievance between the shooter, identified as a Chinese immigrant and U.S. citizen, and the Taiwanese community. China claims Taiwan is a part of its national territory and has not ruled out force to bring the island under its rule.

The suspect was identified as David Chou, 68, of Las Vegas. He has been booked on one count of murder and five counts of attempted murder and is being held on $1 million bail.

Chou is expected to appear in state court Tuesday and it was not immediately clear whether he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf. A federal hate crimes investigation is also ongoing.

Chou’s family was among many that were apparently forcibly removed from China to Taiwan sometime after 1948, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said. Chou’s hatred toward the island, documented in hand-written notes that authorities found, seems like it began when he felt he wasn’t treated well while living there.

Barnes, the sheriff, said Chou drove from Las Vegas to the Orange County church, where he was not a regular attendee, secured the doors with chains, super glue and nails and started shooting. The gunman had placed four Molotov cocktail-like devices inside the church.

Barnes said Cheng, a sports medicine doctor who is survived by a wife and two children, heroically charged at the shooter and attempted to disarm him, allowing others to intervene. Cheng probably saved the lives “of upwards of dozens of people,” the sheriff said.

A pastor hit the gunman on the head with a chair and parishioners hog-tied him with electrical cords. But Cheng was hit by gunfire.

“I will tell you that evil was in that church,” Spitzer said, who added that Chou had “an absolute bias” against Taiwan and its people.

A former neighbor, meanwhile, says Chou’s life unraveled after he was nearly beaten to death several years ago.

 

New White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre arrives to speak to reporters in the James S Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on May 16, 2022.

New White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre arrives to speak to reporters in the James S Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on May 16, 2022.

CNN, Karine Jean-Pierre holds first briefing as White House press secretary, Kate Sullivan, May 16, 2022. Karine Jean-Pierre held her first briefing as White House press secretary on Monday after making history as the first Black and out LGBTQ person to step into one of the most visible roles in the administration.

"I am a Black, gay, immigrant woman. The first of all three of those to hold this position," Jean-Pierre told reporters on Monday.
She said, "If it were not for generations of barrier-breaking people before me I would not be here. But I benefit from their sacrifices, I have learned from their excellence and I am forever grateful to them."

cnn logo"Representation does matter -- you hear us say this often in this administration, and no one understands this better than President (Joe) Biden," Jean-Pierre said.

Jean-Pierre has briefed reporters in her previous role of principal deputy White House press secretary many times, both from the podium in the White House briefing room but more often off-camera on Air Force One. Last May she became the second Black woman in history to hold the daily press briefing.

She has served on the White House's senior communications team since Biden took office, and prior to that was an adviser to his campaign and chief of staff to now-Vice President Kamala Harris. Jean-Pierre has traveled with the President on several occasions, including when she replaced Psaki at the last minute for Biden's four-day trip to Europe amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine after Psaki tested positive for Covid-19.
Jean-Pierre's family includes her partner, CNN national correspondent Suzanne Malveaux, and their daughter.

Psaki had long been public about her intention to leave the job after one year. CNN has reported Psaki will be joining MSNBC.

After Psaki's departure and Jean-Pierre's promotion was announced by the President, Psaki invited Jean-Pierre up to the podium and gave an emotional tribute to her colleague and friend. The two women embraced as Psaki went through Jean-Pierre's qualifications and the significance of her taking the job.

"She will be the first Black woman, the first out LGBTQ+ person to serve in this role, which is amazing because representation matters and she is going to, she will give a voice to so many and allow and show so many what is truly possible when you work hard, and dream big and that matters, and ... we should celebrate that," Psaki said.

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More on Ukraine War

More on War

ukraine olena kurilo 52 teacher Russian missile Chuhuiv amazon

52-year-old Ukrainian teacher Olena Kurilo following a Russian missile strike in Chuhuiv, Ukraine in April.

 

A ruined pontoon crossing with dozens of destroyed or damaged Russian armored vehicles on both banks of the Donets River at Bilohorivka in the eastern Luhansk region (Photo via Ukraine Armed Forces).

A ruined pontoon crossing with dozens of destroyed or damaged Russian armored vehicles on both banks of the Donets River at Bilohorivka in the eastern Luhansk region (Photo via Ukraine Armed Forces). 

 ny times logoNew York Times, Growing evidence of a military disaster on the Donets pierces a pro-Russian bubble, Anton Troianovski and Marc Santora, May 16, 2022 (print ed.). The destruction wreaked on a Russian battalion as it tried to cross a river in northeastern Ukraine last week is emerging as among the deadliest engagements of the war, with estimates based on publicly available evidence now suggesting that well over 400 Russian soldiers were killed or wounded.

And as the scale of what happened comes into sharper focus, the disaster appears to be breaking through the Kremlin’s tightly controlled information bubble.

Perhaps most striking, the Russian battlefield failure is resonating with a stable of pro-Russian war bloggers — some of whom are embedded with troops on the front line — who have reliably posted to the social network Telegram with claims of Russian success and Ukrainian cowardice.

“The commentary by these widely read milbloggers may fuel burgeoning doubts in Russia about Russia’s prospects in this war and the competence of Russia’s military leaders,” the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based research body, wrote over the weekend.

On May 11, the Russian command reportedly sent about 550 troops of the 74th Motorized Rifle Brigade of the 41st Combined Arms Army to cross the Donets River at Bilohorivka, in the eastern Luhansk region, in a bid to encircle Ukrainian forces near Rubizhne.

Satellite images reveal that Ukrainian artillery destroyed several Russian pontoon bridges and laid waste to a tight concentration of Russian troops and equipment around the river.

The Institute for the Study of War, citing analyses based on the publicly available imagery, indicated that there could have been as many as 485 Russian soldiers killed or wounded and more than 80 pieces of equipment destroyed.

As the news of the losses at the river crossing in Bilohorivka started to spread, some Russian bloggers did not appear to hold back in their criticism of what they said was incompetent leadership.

“I’ve been keeping quiet for a long time,” Yuri Podolyaka, a war blogger with 2.1 million followers on Telegram, said in a video posted on Friday, saying that he had avoided criticizing the Russian military until now.

“The last straw that overwhelmed my patience was the events around Bilohorivka, where due to stupidity — I emphasize, because of the stupidity of the Russian command — at least one battalion tactical group was burned, possibly two.”

Mr. Podolyaka ridiculed the Kremlin line that the war is going “according to plan.” He told his viewers in a five-minute video that, in fact, the Russian Army was short of functional unmanned drones, night-vision equipment and other kit “that is catastrophically lacking on the front.”

“Yes, I understand that it’s impossible for there to be no problems in war,” he said. “But when the same problems go on for three months, and nothing seems to be changing, then I personally and in fact millions of citizens of the Russian Federation start to have questions for these leaders of the military operation.”

Another popular blogger, who goes by Starshe Eddy on Telegram, wrote that the fact that commanders left so much of their force exposed amounted to “not idiocy, but direct sabotage.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Setbacks in Ukraine’s East Force Russia to Shift Its Ambitions, Marc Santora, May 16, 2022. Independent analysts and Ukrainian officials say Russian forces are focusing on securing a smaller portion of eastern Ukraine. As NATO holds military drills on Russia’s doorstep, the alliance is looking to fast-track admission for Finland and Sweden.

As President Volodymyr Zelensky saluted a small group of Ukrainian soldiers who reached the Russian border near Kharkiv — a powerful symbolic moment in Ukraine’s pushback against Russian invaders — President Vladimir V. Putin met with his five closest allies on Monday. Only one of them spoke up in support of his war.

Three months after launching its invasion of Ukraine, Russia has suffered repeated setbacks and Moscow’s isolation has deepened. After failing to seize the capital, Kyiv, and topple the government, Russian forces regrouped last month for what was meant to be a broad assault in eastern Ukraine, but they have yet to secure a single major strategic gain even as their losses mount.

In a sign of Russia’s struggles on the battlefield, analysts and Ukrainian officials said Moscow was aiming to secure a smaller portion of the east.
NATO held military drills in Estonia, on Russia’s doorstep, as it plans to fast-track admission of Sweden and Finland. Here’s the latest.

ny times logoNew York Times, Estonia’s Tough Voice on Ukraine Urges No Compromise With Vladimir Putin, Steven Erlanger, May 16, 2022. Kaja Kallas, the prime minister, remembers Soviet annexation and repression and sees the same brutality in occupied Ukraine.

Kaja Kallas, now 44, grew up in the Soviet Union, which had annexed her country, Estonia, after World War II.

She remembers the Soviet occupation and a visit to East Berlin in 1988, when she was 11, and her father told her to “breathe in the air of freedom” from West Berlin. And she remembers the stories of 1949, when her mother, Kristi, then a baby, was deported to Siberia in a cattle car with her own mother and grandmother and lived in exile there until she was 10 — part of Moscow’s effort to wipe out Estonia’s elite.

So it is perhaps little wonder that Ms. Kallas, now Estonia’s prime minister, has become one of Europe’s toughest voices against Russia for its war in Ukraine. Along with Latvia and Lithuania — countries also annexed by the Soviet Union — her country and its fellow Baltic States are some of the smallest and most vulnerable in Europe.

But their recent history has given them special standing and credibility as they press Europe’s larger countries to take a hard line against President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and to keep faith with Ukraine and its struggle for freedom.

washington post logoWashington Post, McDonald’s seeks to sell Russian business that is ‘no longer tenable,’ Colby Itkowitz, Jonathan Edwards and Annabelle Timsit, May 16, 2022. After more than three decades, McDonald’s is pulling out of Russia and seeking to find a “local buyer” for its business there, which includes 850 restaurants in the country.

mcdonalds logoIn early March, McDonald’s temporarily closed its restaurants in Russia in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, and the precipitating unpredictable operating environment, have led McDonald’s to conclude that continued ownership of the business in Russia is no longer tenable, nor is it consistent with McDonald’s values,” the company said Monday in a statement.

McDonald’s didn’t just close 850 restaurants in Russia. It froze a whole 30-year investment.

Whoever buys its Russian restaurants will no longer be allowed to use the McDonald’s “golden arches” logo or brand, the company said, adding that it wants to protect its 62,000 employees in Russia.

Politico, Sweden’s governing party backs NATO membership, Charlie Duxbury, May 16, 2022 (print ed.). Formal application to defense alliance could come as soon as Monday. Sweden’s governing Social Democrat Party on Sunday backed the idea of the country joining NATO in a historic policy U-turn that clears the way for a formal membership application in the coming days.

politico CustomThe move brings Sweden into line with neighboring Finland, where both the president and prime minister said last week that their country should join the Western military alliance.

Observers say Sweden’s official NATO bid could come as soon as Monday, with Finland likely moving on a similar timeline.

Sweden has avoided all military alliances for more than two centuries, with national luminaries like former Prime Minister Olof Palme famously heralding the way his country’s military independence allowed it to be a force for peace in the world.

But in recent decades, Sweden has become more overtly aligned with NATO, signing up to a cooperation agreement called Partnership for Peace in 1994 and ratifying a Host Nation Agreement in 2016, which allows troops from the alliance to operate more easily on Swedish territory.

Last week, a Swedish parliamentary report on the country’s security strategy suggested that NATO membership would “raise the threshold for military conflicts,” a position Social Democrat Foreign Minister Ann Linde repeated when she presented the report’s findings on Friday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: List of GOP lawmakers against Ukraine aid is quickly growing, Paul Kane, May 15, 2022 (print ed.). Two months ago, three voted against the first pro-Ukraine bill. This week, 57 opposed a request for weapons and humanitarian aid.

These Republicans sum up their world view in blunt, nationalist terms. “Let me ask you,” [U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor] Greene said during an interview Thursday. “Has Vladimir Putin stopped his war in Ukraine because of all these sanctions? No, not at all. It hasn’t done anything. So, you know what? I care about our country, United States of America and our people. That’s it.”

Greene (R-GA), a freshman with no background in foreign policy, often uses fiery terms that do not fully grasp the geopolitical issue at hand.

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U.S. Law, Courts, Security

 

U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel John Durham, left, and defendant Michael Sussmann, a cyberlaw attorney and former federal prosecutor. split

U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel John Durham, left, and defendant Michael Sussmann, a cyberlaw attorney and former federal prosecutor whose trial begins on May 16 on a false statement charge in Washington, DC's federal court.

Sinclair Broadcasting via WKRC-TV (Cincinnati), Former Clinton campaign lawyer in court for special counsel John Durham's probe, Kristine Frazao, May 16, 2022. A nearly three-year investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia probe turned a new page Monday with its first criminal trial.

sinclair broadcast logo customFormer Hillary Clinton campaign attorney Michael Sussman was in court as part of special counsel John Durham’s inquiry. The charge against Sussman is "lying to the FBI."

Prosecutors say that in 2016, Sussman passed on a tip to them about suspicious ties between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia and said he was not working on behalf of any client. Prosecutors say that in fact, he was and that those clients included the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Court filings detail a text message Sussman reportedly sent to an FBI lawyer saying, “I’m coming on my own — not on behalf of a client or company. Want to help the Bureau.”

The investigation was launched to see if another investigation conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller looking into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia was launched on a false premise.

But a 2019 inspector general report — while finding some errors in the handling of surveillance orders — determined that the Trump-Russia probe was legitimately opened and was not motivated by anti-Trump bias.

Fox News, Jury selected in Durham-Sussmann trial: Opening arguments, testimony from Democratic lawyer Marc Elias to come, Brooke Singman and Jake Gibson, May 16, 2022. Sussmann is charged fox news logo Smallwith making a false statement to the FBI and has pleaded not guilty.

A jury was seated Monday in the trial of former Clinton attorney Michael Sussmann — the first trial stemming from Special Counsel John Durham’s years-long investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia probe — and opening arguments are expected to be presented by both the government and the defense Tuesday morning, as well as testimony from Democratic lawyer Marc Elias.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper on Monday presided over the first day of the Sussmann trial, which consisted of nearly eight hours of jury selection.

Special Counsel John Durham was in the courtroom for the entirety of jury selection, but was not seated with the prosecution team. Instead, Durham sat in the first row of the courtroom, behind the government’s table.

The overwhelming majority of jurors selected told Cooper they had not heard of the case prior to jury service.

"Picking a jury is more of an art than a science," Cooper said Monday, urging the individuals who were not selected to serve on the jury to "take nothing from the fact that you’re being excused."

Cooper, in dismissing the jury Monday evening, instructed jurors against doing "any independent research about the case," and instructed them not to discuss the case even amongst fellow jurors.

Representing the government are federal prosecutors Andrew DeFilippis, Michael Keilty, Deborah Brittain Shaw, and Jonathan Edgar Algor IV.

Representing Sussmann are defense attorneys Sean Berkowitz, Michael Bosworth, Catherine Yao, and Natalie Hardwick Rao.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Trump-Era Prosecutor’s Case Against Democratic-Linked Lawyer Goes to Trial, Charlie Savage, May 16, 2022 (print ed.). The first case developed by the special counsel, John Durham, involves a lawyer who is accused of lying when he shared a tip with the F.B.I. about possible links between Donald J. Trump and Russia.

When the Trump administration assigned a prosecutor in 2019 to scour the Russia investigation for any wrongdoing, President Donald J. Trump stoked expectations among his supporters that the inquiry would find a “deep state” conspiracy against him.

Three years later, the team led by the special counsel, John H. Durham, on Monday will open the first trial in a case their investigation developed, bringing before a jury the claims and counterclaims that surrounded the 2016 presidential campaign. But rather than showing wrongdoing by the F.B.I., it is a case that portrays the bureau as a victim.

The trial centers on whether Michael Sussmann, a cybersecurity lawyer with ties to Democrats, lied to the F.B.I. in September 2016, when he relayed suspicions about possible cyberconnections between Mr. Trump and Russia. The F.B.I. looked into the matter, which involved a server for the Kremlin-linked Alfa Bank, and decided it was unsubstantiated.

In setting up the meeting, Mr. Sussmann had told an F.B.I. official that he was not acting on behalf of any client. Prosecutors contend he concealed that a technology executive and the Hillary Clinton campaign were his clients to make the allegations seem more credible.

The defense argues that Mr. Sussmann was not acting on their behalf at the meeting. The F.B.I. was aware that he had represented Democrats on matters related to Russia’s hacking of their servers, and subsequent communications made clear that he also had a client who had played a role in developing the data analysis concerning Alfa Bank, his lawyers say.

While the charge against Mr. Sussmann is narrow, Mr. Durham has used it to release large amounts of information to insinuate that there was a broad conspiracy involving the Clinton campaign to essentially frame Mr. Trump for colluding with Russia.

That insinuation also hangs over the other case Mr. Durham has developed, which is set to go to trial later this year. It accuses a researcher for the so-called Steele dossier — a since-discredited compendium of opposition research about purported links between Mr. Trump and Russia — of lying to the F.B.I. about some of his sources.

Both cases have connections with the law firm Perkins Coie, where Mr. Sussmann worked then. One of his partners, Marc Elias, was the general counsel of the Clinton campaign and had commissioned opposition research that led to the Steele dossier.

CNN, Who's who in the Michael Sussmann trial, Marshall Cohen, Updated May 15, 2022. The trial of Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann kicks off Monday in Washington, DC, and will feature a cast of characters related to the 2016 election.

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U.S. Law, Courts, Security

Politico Magazine, Landmark law for California women gets shut down in court, Lara Korte and Susannah Luthi, May 16, 2022. A landmark California law requiring corporate boards to include women resulted in California firms more than doubling the number of female company directors. Now, a Los Angeles County judge says it’s unconstitutional.

politico CustomSuperior Court Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis has ruled California’s requirement that corporate boards appoint at least one woman (and up to three by the end of this year) violated the Constitutional right to equal treatment. California’s Department of Justice could appeal the ruling, but if it stands, it could mean a return to male-dominated boardrooms.

Senate Bill 826, passed in 2018 amid the #MeToo movement, followed years of unsuccessful attempts to coax California executives into voluntarily hiring more women. The bill, signed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown, required publicly held companies headquartered in California to have at least one woman on their boards by the end of 2019.

And it worked.With the threat of a $100,000 fine hanging over their heads, corporations tapped more women for powerful positions.

At the time the law was passed, men far outpaced women in new appointments — 87 to 34 in the third quarter of 2018. But by the time the law went into effect, at the end of 2019, women made up the plurality of appointments, 73 to 60.

The number of women directors on California boards lept from 766 to 1,844 between 2018 and 2022, per a March report from California Partners Project, an organization co-founded by California First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom.

washington post logoWashington Post, Women settle lawsuit against Liberty University, Tara Bahrampour, May 16, 2022 (print ed.). Twelve women had accused Liberty University of fostering an unsafe environment and mishandling sexual assault and harassment cases.

A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit filed in federal court last summer against Liberty University by 12 women who accused the Christian institution of fostering an unsafe environment and mishandling sexual assault and harassment cases.

liberty university sealA notice of dismissal filed Wednesday by a lawyer for the plaintiffs and a statement by Liberty on Thursday said the case had been settled but did not provide details of the terms.

The women, former students and employees at the university in Lynchburg, Va., filed suit anonymously and were identified as Jane Doe 1-12. Their allegations, which spanned more than two decades, included descriptions of being raped or sexually harassed and having their cases mishandled or effectively ignored. One woman alleged pregnancy discrimination.

The evangelical university’s statement outlined recent changes it has undertaken to improve campus security and review its response to incidents of sexual harassment or violence. Liberty is facing other lawsuits with similar allegations. It recently acknowledged that the U.S. Education Department is reviewing its compliance with the federal Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities to maintain and disclose crime statistics and security information.

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U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Jeff Bezos Battles With President Biden Online Over Taxes, Ephrat Livni, May 16, 2022. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is trolling President Biden on Twitter. After Mr. Biden on Friday connected lowering inflation with corporations paying “their fair share,” Mr. Bezos quipped, “The newly created Disinformation Board should review this tweet, or maybe they need to form a new Non Sequitur Board instead.” He said that conflating lower inflation with higher corporate taxes amounted to “misdirection.”

jeff bezos w Encore awards 2010Still bristling, Mr. Bezos (shown in a file photo), who owns the Washington Post, fired again on Sunday, the DealBook newsletter reports. He lauded Joe Manchin, the centrist West Virginia senator who has often declined to vote with other Democrats on economic issues, halting additional stimulus plans.

“Manchin saved them from themselves,” Mr. Bezos wrote, plunging the company into politics at a fraught time internally, amid an employee unionization push. Externally, many executives recently have been trying to stay out of difficult debates, given the backlash some companies have faced.

amazon logo smallWrangling with the government over taxes on Twitter means calling public attention to a touchy topic for Amazon. The company reported nearly $36 billion in U.S. pretax income in 2021 yet said it owed only about $2 billion in federal taxes. That’s a 6 percent tax rate — less than a third of the rates both corporations and workers must pay. When Mr. Biden unveiled plans to raise rates and close tax loopholes last year, he singled out Amazon, saying, “I don’t want to punish them, but that’s just wrong.” Amazon did not respond to DealBook’s request for comment.

Disney last month lost its special tax status in Florida after opposing a law limiting gender identity discussions in schools. Now, Republican lawmakers at the state and federal levels are drafting similarly retributive legislation for politically minded businesses.

But for executives, it’s a balance. Many workers, shareholders and customers are demanding that corporations speak up, and pressure could increase now that abortion rights have become a major midterm election issue. So Amazon’s current chief executive, Andy Jassy, is probably not looking for this fight right now.

Mr. Bezos, for his part, quietly butters up the government, just like Elon Musk. While both have been publicly critical of the Biden administration, Mr. Bezos’ Blue Origin and Mr. Musk’s SpaceX spend significant resources lobbying officials to pick up their space exploration tabs and to win NASA contracts. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has accused the two billionaires of using NASA like an A.T.M. He tweeted at Bezos on Saturday about Amazon’s labor issues and soaring profits.

john fetterman

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Democrats on campaign trails must be wary of what they eat or drink at public events, Wayne wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallMadsen, left, author of 21 books, prolific columnist and former Navy intelligence officer, May 16, 2022. Political campaigns as we have known them may be coming to an end.

wayne madesen report logodavid ignatiusNot only must Democrats be wary of large crowds with Covid-19 and its mutations still affecting public health through high transmissibility, but with the Vladimir Putin regime's history of poisoning political opponents, Democratic Party candidates running for election or re-election should be wary of what they drink or eat at campaign events.

democratic donkey logoRecent strokes suffered just hours apart by Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, above, the favorite to defeat any one of a trio of far-right Republicans in the election for the Senate in November, and incumbent Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who is running for re-election this year, point to the danger that Democrats face in campaigning against candidates representing the party of Donald Trump and Putin.

ny times logoNew York Times, G.O.P. Senate Candidate in North Carolina Thrives as 2 Key Backers Squabble, Jazmine Ulloa and Michael C. Bender, May 16, 2022. Representative Ted Budd is proving the political potency of pairing endorsements from former President Trump and the Club for Growth.

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Investigations

 

dan christensen broward bulldog collageFloridaBulldog.org,  Investigative Commentary: A ‘state secret’ no more: New FBI report says Saudi government officials provided support network for 9/11 hijackers, Dan Christensen, shown above with a collage of photos of suspected 9/11 conspirators, May 15, 2022. A 130-page FBI report written only last July lays out the numerous connections of U.S.-based “personnel and entities controlled by the Saudi Arabian government” to the al Qaeda terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

It’s the first time since the public learned of the existence of a secret investigation into the Saudis’ role in 9/11 – code-named Operation Encore – that the Justice Department has declassified records previously declared to be “state secrets” that say Saudi government officials knowingly provided a support network for the first two al Qaeda hijackers to enter the U.S.

FBI logoThe new report lays out what it calls the FBI’s “investigations and supporting documentation” regarding the religious “militant network that was created, funded directed and supported by the KSA [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] and its affiliated organizations and diplomatic personnel within the U.S.”

That network, as described in the report, was intertwined with the hijackers.

“As Saudi government officials and intelligence officers were directly operating and supporting the entities involved with this network, their involvement with the activities of these organizations/individuals would logically be supposed to have the knowledge or concurrence of the KSA government. This knowledge and/or concurrence by the SAG [Saudi Arabian Government] is related to the 9/11 investigation not only [by] the direct involvement of some personnel but also via the creation of a larger network for such activities.”

The FBI report, dated July 23, 2021, was written and approved by FBI officials whose names are redacted. It states that it consolidates and highlights the findings of two decades of investigation now “deemed essential for future case agents of this program to understand the origin of the investigation.”

OPERATION ENCORE

joe biden resized oThe report is among thousands of pages of formerly secret documents about Operation Encore ordered reviewed, declassified and released by President Biden starting last September to “maximize transparency.” Encore was the FBI’s follow-up to its original 9/11 investigation, code-named PENTTBOM, and examined the Saudi role in 9/11. Encore’s existence was first reported by Florida Bulldog in late 2016.

The FBI refers repeatedly in the report to the existence of U.S.-based Saudi “support networks” for the 9/11 hijackers. Previously, the FBI had not acknowledged that such networks were found.

The new report goes on to provide an updated “analysis” about “the ties of some of these entities to Saudi Arabian intelligence services,” noting that much information has come to light since the 9/11 Commission published its report in 2004.

Much of the report zeros in on the apparently nefarious roles of a pair of religious offices operating within the Washington, D.C. Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – the Islamic Affairs Department and the Office of Da’wa (or Propagation).

“Investigation of the 9/11 hijackers and their support networks identified significant connections to these offices either directly or via the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Los Angeles,” the report says.

FBI REPORT NAMES PRINCE BANDAR

The report also names Prince Bandar, right, then Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.S., and the Saudi Embassy as being involved with the funding bandar bin sultan“of a multitude of Islamic organizations, imams and other religious figures within the U.S. – many of which were involved with militant ideology.

“Several of these were known to be tied directly to Prince Bandar. As the propagation of militant ideology would naturally provide justification for those who were in the hijacker’s support network, these organizations will also be listed below.”

Those passages, coupled with the report’s other details, seriously undermine what now appear to be outdated 9/11 Commission statements long cited by Saudi Arabia to bolster its contention that it had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

The Commission’s final report concluded it had found “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded” al Qaeda. Further, “Commission staff found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or as individual senior officials knowingly support or supported al Qaeda.”

At the same time, however, the commission also stated, “The intelligence community identified [Saudi Arabia] as the primary source of money for al Qaeda both before and after the September 11 attacks.” A 2013 report by the European Parliament on Saudi Arabia’s support for religious extremism around the world noted, “It has been estimated that Saudi Arabia has invested more than $10 billion to promote its Wahhabi agenda through charitable foundations.”

A sizeable slice of those funds was allegedly siphoned off by al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations like Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and the Haqqani network. “Al Qaeda and JI’s operatives were then diverting about 15-20 percent of the funds to finance their operations,” the 2013 report says.

Wahhabism is Saudi Arabia’s dominant faith, a fundamentalist sect of Sunni Islam akin to puritanical Salafism.

THUMAIRY, BAYOUMI AND JARRAH

A 2012 FBI status report on Encore released to Florida Bulldog in 2016 amid Freedom of Information litigation identifies a trio of Saudis “known to have provided substantial assistance to 9/11 hijackers Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar” after they arrived in Los Angeles in January 2000. Hazmi and Mihdhar were among the five al Qaeda hijackers that seized control of American Airlines Flight 77 after leaving Washington Dulles International Airport and crashed it into the Pentagon. Some 125 people in the building and 59 passengers and crew were killed.
fbiTop to bottom, Musaed al Jarrah, Fahad al Thumairy and Omar al Bayoumi

The names Fahad al Thumairy and Omar al Bayoumi had previously been public. Musaed al Jarrah’s name, originally redacted when the report was first released, was new.

Jarrah, then the Saudi Embassy’s director of Islamic Affairs, was said in the 2012 report to have “tasked” Thumairy – a diplomat at the Los Angeles consulate and imam at the nearby King Fahd mosque – and Bayoumi, a suspected Saudi spy, with aiding the future hijackers.

The 2021 report affirmatively identifies Jarrah for the first time as also working for Saudi Arabia’s primary intelligence agency, the General Intelligence Presidency (GIP). A heavily redacted section of the report states that as early as 2001 the embassy’s Islamic Affairs section was one of the largest spy operations in the world with approximately 50 officers.

“The above information helps verify the involvement of the GIP within the MIA [Ministry of Islamic Affairs] offices,” the report says. “This is significant considering the MIA/Dawa office’s involvement, and al Jarrah’s in particular, with the support network of the 9/11 hijackers as well as with the creation, funding, direction and support of the extensive Salafi proselytizing network that extended throughout the U.S.

“The purpose of the MIA/Dawa offices is also of relevance…to obtain intelligence on individuals and communities of value to Saudi Arabia intelligence or government purposes.” And Jarrah, “a key figure of the 9/11 investigation,” is described as having a “controlling, guiding and directing influence on all aspects of Sunni extremist activity in Southern California.”

FBI QUERIES OF ‘HIGHEST INTEREST’ TO SAUDIS

Further, the report notes Jarrah was close to Prince Bandar and later worked for him in Saudi Arabia at the National Security Ministry.

None of that was known, or confirmed, in January 2010 when one FBI report stated, “It has been uncovered that Musaed al Jarrah may have played a leadership role in the overall coordination of logistics support for 9/11 hijackers Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar…Al-Jarrah oversaw the handling of the hijackers through his subordinates Fahad al-Thumairy and Omar Ahmed al-Bayoumi and by personal contact with the hijackers on numerous occasions.”

Jarrah, who has denied any connection to 9/11, is identified in other declassified FBI reports written as early as 2003 as being “heavily connected/linked to Saudi Sunni extremists operating inside the U.S.’’
fbiLos Angeles’ King Fahd Mosque

In addition to his religious duties in Los Angeles, Thumairy was also an employee of the embassy’s Da’Wa office. “FBI queries [about him] were of interest to the highest levels of the Saudi government,” says the 2021 report. “Al Thumairy was a close contact of the 9/11 hijackers support network and may have known al Hazmi and al Mihdhar and/or arranged for their meeting key members of the support network.”

Thumairy and Jarrah, his supervisor, were in frequent telephonic contact, FBI records show.

A recently declassified January 2008 FBI report says agents interviewed a man whose name is redacted. Following a few lines blanked out “at the direction of another U.S. Government Agency or Department,” the report goes on, “At KFM [King Fahd Mosque] BLANK there was a phone call from overseas, possibly from Malaysia or Indonesia, and someone asked for Thumairy and stated that ‘the guys’ were coming in and needed to be picked up at the airport. ‘The guys’ in the community meant the two 9/11 hijackers that passed through Los Angeles before going to San Diego.”

TWO ‘VERY SIGNIFICANT’ GUYS

Hazmi and Mihdhar had attended the “al Qaeda summit” in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in early January 2000. The meeting, at which the U.S. attacks were reportedly planned, was headed by admitted 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Hazmi and Mihdhar flew to Los Angeles on Jan. 15.

Thumairy has denied knowing Hazmi or Mihdhar. But the 2008 report says agents were told Thumairy had an Arabic-speaking taxi driver who ran errands for him to pick up “the guys” at the airport and take them to an apartment complex that Thumairy had rented.
fbi9/11 hijackers Nawaf al Hazmi, left, and Khalid al Mihdhar

More information was obtained in March 2020 when Operation Encore agents interviewed a confidential source about the relationship between another unidentified man – apparently the taxi driver – and the hijackers. The source said the man told him Thumairy “asked him to look after two very ‘significant’ people,” who turned out to be Hazmi and Mihdhar. The source said he saw the man with Hazmi and Mihdhar at the King Fahd Mosque “almost every day, even sometimes in the company of al-Thumairy in the library of the mosque.”

Omar al Bayoumi, the third initial focus of Operation Encore, was a middle-aged student and allegedly one of about 50 “ghost” employees who were paid by the Saudi aviation company Dallah Avco but didn’t actually work.

Bayoumi helped Hazmi and Mihdhar with many day-to-day activities, like obtaining a place to live. Bayoumi has said he met the future hijackers by chance at a Los Angeles restaurant – a claim skeptical FBI agents did not believe.

 

World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters 

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The tragedy of ISIS fighters’ families left behind in Syria, David Ignatius, May 16, 2022. Western disregard for the families of Islamic State fighters at the al-Hol refugee camp in northeast Syria is “unacceptable,” said the Swiss official who monitors compliance with international humanitarian law.

ny times logoNew York Times, Taking Aim at Left-Leaning Voters, Macron Names a Woman Prime Minister, Norimitsu Onishi and Aurelien Breeden, May 16, 2022. With President Emmanuel Macron’s appointment, Élisabeth Borne, the minister of labor, will be the second woman to hold the post in France.

President Emmanuel Macron appointed Élisabeth Borne, the low-key minister of labor and a former minister of the environment, as his new prime minister on Monday, in line with his promise to prioritize environmental issues in his second term and a long-expressed wish to select a woman for that role.

“The president of the Republic has appointed Élisabeth Borne prime minister and has tasked her with forming a government,” the French presidency said in a statement.

Weeks before legislative elections, the choice of a woman and particularly Ms. Borne, long regarded as close to the Socialist Party, was meant to appeal to left-leaning voters whose support will help determine control over Parliament. Ms. Borne is only the second woman to occupy that position.

Mr. Macron expressed his desire to appoint a woman as prime minister as far back as the presidential campaign of 2017. But his failure to do so until now — as well as the all-male cast in the first tier of power around him — was often cited as insufficient efforts by Mr. Macron to advance the place of women in politics.

 Recent Headlines

 

More On Media, Sports

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Democracy is at stake in the midterms. The media must convey that, Margaret Sullivan, right, May 16, 2022 (print ed.). We margaret sullivan 2015 photoournalists have to try harder and find new ways to convey to voters how badly things could turn out.

I was mesmerized this past week by two astonishing videos, watching them both multiple times.

One showed the stunning Kentucky Derby, where the little-known chestnut colt Rich Strike came out of nowhere to blast past the favorites and win the race by less than a length. The other showed an entire North Carolina beach house tumbling into the ocean, yet another indication of Outer Banks shoreline erosion and, more generally, the world’s catastrophic climate crisis.

And I couldn’t help but see both as metaphors for the precarious state of democracy in America and the news media’s role in helping to save the day or in succumbing to disaster.

Here’s what I mean. Since Jan. 6 of last year, a growing chorus of activists, historians and political commentators have spoken of “democracy on the brink” or “democracy in peril.” What they mean is that, thanks to a paranoid, delusional and potentially violent new strain in our nation’s politics, Americans may not be able to count on future elections being conducted fairly — or the results of fair elections being accepted.

And at least some news organizations are taking heed.

The Washington Post established a “democracy team” to expand reporting on the nationwide battles over voting rules, access to polls, and efforts to create unfounded doubt about the outcome of elections.

joe kahnAt the New York Times, soon-to-be executive editor Joe Kahn, right, is talking frankly about the need to investigate efforts to undermine the institutions that uphold democracy. (If they don’t, he told the Columbia Journalism Review, “we’re not doing our job as a leading news organization.”)

A number of regional journalists are beginning to push against industry norms to speak more clearly about the threat: The Philadelphia Inquirer boldly declined to use the euphemism word “audit” to dignify state Republicans’ endless probes for nonexistent voter fraud — essentially the GOP’s attempt to cast unwarranted doubt on the results of the 2020 election in Pennsylvania.

But the clearest recognition I’ve heard so far came last week from a managing editor for CNN. Alex Koppelman is not the editor overseeing the network’s political coverage; instead, he supervises business and media news. But CNN gave him a voice to lay out the harsh reality of what the nation is up against, and what we in the media need to do about it.

Mediaite, WHCA Threatens Reporter Who Interrupted Psaki Briefing With Possible Expulsion in Scathing Email, Jackson Richman, May 16, 2022. Reporter Simon Ateba Asks Jen Psaki if Biden Blames Her or Her Comms Team for Low Approval Ratings.

A reporter who interrupted Friday’s White House press briefing has been threatened with suspension or expulsion from the White House Correspondents Association were he to do the same again.

jen psakiDuring Jen Psaki’s last press briefing as White House press secretary, Simon Ateba of Today News Africa twice interrupted and called on Psaki, left, to call on the reporters in the back rows. He interrupted the Associated Press’ Zeke Miller and ABC News’ Mary Bruce.

In an email to Ateba, obtained by Mediaite, White House Correspondents Association President and CBS News Radio White House Correspondent Steven Portnoy chided him on Monday for the interruptions.

“Your disruptive behavior at last Friday’s briefing interrupted your colleagues and reflected poorly on the press corps,” he said. “There is no right of any reporter to be called on by any official. Preventing your colleagues from asking their questions is no way to seek relief.”

Portnoy warned that Ateba would be suspended or expelled were he to repeat his behavior from Friday.

“We note that you have been granted status as an Associate Member of our organization. With that comes a responsibility to act in a collegial manner with your fellow WHCA members,” he said. “If you again demonstrate disrespect for your colleagues in the manner you did last Friday, the WHCA Board will act on behalf of the collective. I am pasting Article X of our bylaws below for your reference.”

In a statement to Mediaite, Ateba said he received the email “with a heavy heart.”

fox news logo Small“I received the email from WHCA’s President Steven Portnoy with a heavy heart. I am the victim here and I am being treated so unfairly by WHCA. It is sad and it is heartbreaking,” he said. “America is the greatest country in the world and no country comes even close. Here in the United States, press freedom is respected, or so I thought, or so I was made to believe.”

Ateba, who is Black, said his rationale for interrupting was due to being discriminated against “due to his origins, being an African covering the White House and focusing on U.S.-Africa ties and interactions for Today News Africa” and since he questioned the White House about the Biden administration’s African travel bans in November. In light of this, Ateba made numerous appearances on Fox News and called out the administration for the bans.

TMZ via Daily Beast, Rajon Rondo Accused of Terrorizing Family With Gun During Freakout, Anna Venarchik, May 16, 2022. The mother of Rajon Rondo’s two children filed an emergency protective order against the NBA All-Star on May 13, alleging she fears for her safety.

daily beast logoAshley Bachelor, 36, claims she was prompted to file the order after Rondo, a point guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers, went on a violent rampage through their home and uttered a death threat. During the confrontation, she claims he ripped a gaming console out of the wall and smashed items around the house. The tirade was allegedly prompted after Bachelor asked their son to quit playing video games to help with laundry.

Rondo then allegedly left the home and returned with a gun. He demanded their children be brought to him and allegedly proceeded to scream at them for being afraid of him while he still wielded the gun. Though the incident eventually deescalated, she says she feared Rondo would shoot her if she intervened.

 Other recent Media, Cultural Headlines

 

Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection, Election Claims

washington post logoWashington Post, Leading GOP candidates in Pennsylvania were in Washington on Jan. 6, Colby Itkowitz and Rosalind S. Helderman, May 16, 2022 (print ed.). Mastriano, Barnette among growing number nationally who have made false claims of election fraud a key part of their pitch. A top candidate for the Republican nomination for governor in Tuesday’s Pennsylvania primary — endorsed Saturday by former president Donald Trump — participated in the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, the day the U.S. Capitol was attacked.

So, too, did a surging candidate for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania.

And so did one of the Republican contenders to be the state’s lieutenant governor.

The trio are part of a phalanx of Republican candidates nationwide who so strongly embraced Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him that they traveled to Washington to participate in the rally that preceded the violent attack on the Capitol, temporarily disrupting congressional certification of Joe Biden’s victory.

Most of the candidates, including the Pennsylvanians, have said they did not enter the Capitol building that day. But they have made their commitment to Trump’s baseless claims key to their campaigns, and their rise shows the extent to which many in the party’s grass roots have embraced participation in Jan. 6 as a badge of honor.

Daily Beast, GOP Senate Candidate Kathy Barnette Spotted Marching With Proud Boys on Jan. 6, Anna Venarchik, May 16, 2022. Photos from Jan. 6 reveal that “ultra-MAGA” Pennsylvania Senate candidate Kathy Barnette marched alongside Proud Boys toward the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

daily beast logoThough there has been no evidence that Barnette ever entered the Capitol building, some Proud Boys in the photo were later arrested and indicted for breaking in and assaulting police, NBC News reports.

Barnette’s campaign told NBC: “Kathy was in DC to support President Trump and demand election accountability. Any assertion that she participated in or supported the destruction of property is intentionally false. She has no connection whatsoever to the proud boys.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jan. 6 Panel Subpoenas 5 Republican Representatives, Luke Broadwater and Emily Cochrane, May 13, 2022 (print ed.). The House committee investigating the Capitol attack is demanding documents and testimony from Representative Kevin McCarthy and four of his colleagues. The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol issued subpoenas on Thursday to five Republican members of Congress, including Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, who had refused to meet with the panel voluntarily.

Recent Headlines

 Recent Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, How Often Can You Be Infected With the Coronavirus? Apoorva Mandavilli, May 16, 2022. The spread of the Omicron variant has given scientists an unsettling answer: repeatedly, sometimes within months.

ny times logoNew York Times, How America Lost One Million People, Sergio Pecanha and Yan Wu, May 15, 2022 (print ed.). Understanding the coronavirus death toll — including who makes up the one million and how the country failed them — is essential as the pandemic continues.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated May 16, 2022), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2totals ere and some experts saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 521,378,049, Deaths: 6,288,713
U.S. Cases:     84,230,829, Deaths: 1,026,670
Indian Cases:  43,123,801, Deaths:    524,241
Brazil Cases:   30,688,390, Deaths:    664,967

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Climate

ny times logoNew York Times, Here Are the Wildfire Risks to Homes Across the Lower 48 States, Christopher Flavelle and Nadja Popovich, May 16, 2022. New data was used to calculate fire risk to residential and other properties throughout the lower 48 United States. The threats are rising.

Recent Climate Headlines

 

May 15

Top Headlines

 

Recent Abortion News, Reactions

 

More On Ukraine War

 

Investigations

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

 

Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection, Elections Claims

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security


Virus Victims, Responses

 

Climate, Environment, Disasters

 

Media, Media-Hyped Claims

 

Top Stories

 

Law enforcement authorities said Payton Gendron, an 18-year-old White man, approached the store in a predominantly Black neighborhood and opened fire on shoppers and employees, shooting 13 people including a security guard, Aaron Salter Jr., shown in a file photo.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Buffalo shooting that killed 10 was racially motivated hate crime, officials say, Aidan Joly, Joanna Slater, Devlin Barrett and Arelis R. Hernández, Updated May 15, 2022. Ten people were killed during a mass shooting Saturday afternoon at a Buffalo grocery store in what law enforcement officials described as a racially motivated hate crime.

Law enforcement authorities said Payton Gendron, right, an 18-year-old White man, approached the store in a predominantly Black neighborhood and opened fire on shoppers and employees, shooting 13 people including a security guard, Aaron Salter Jr., shown in a file photo.

payton gendron mugThe massacre ended when Gendron surrendered to police outside the store. Later Saturday, he was charged with first-degree murder and held without bail. He pleaded not guilty.

Stephen Belongia, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Buffalo field office, said law enforcement officials were investigating the shooting as a hate crime and a case of racially motivated violent extremism. Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said 11 of the 13 people shot were Black.

Gramaglia added that the gunman, who was heavily armed and wearing tactical gear, used a camera to live-stream the attack and shot several victims in the parking lot before entering the store.

The grocery’s longtime security guard fired back, but the gunman’s body armor blocked the shot, and the guard was killed in the encounter, Gramaglia said. He called the security guard a “hero.” Four of those killed were store employees and six were customers, law enforcement officials said.

One of the customers was 86-year-old Ruth Whitfield, who had stopped at Tops after spending the day taking care of her husband at his nursing home.

“There’s very few days that she did not spend time with him, attending to him,” said her son, retired Buffalo fire commissioner Garnell W. Whitfield. “She was his angel.”

Now the family is rallying around his father to make sure he’s cared for. “Something she would be proud of us for," Whitfield said. "So we’ve got a big task ahead of us.”

CNN, At least 1 dead and 4 critically wounded in shooting at California church, Joe Sutton, May 15, 2022. At least one person is dead and four are critically injured after a shooting at a church in Laguna CNNWoods, California, according to the sheriff's department.

"All victims are adults and are enroute to the hospital," the Orange County Sheriff's Department said in a tweet. "One victim is deceased at the scene." Another person has minor injuries, according to the tweet.

A suspect was detained at the scene, the department said. "We have detained one person and have recovered a weapon that may be involved," an earlier tweet said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Blinken discusses Ukraine military aid; Finland confirms NATO bid, John Hudson, Julian Duplain, Annabelle Timsit, Victoria Bisset, Rachel Pannett and Bryan Pietsch, May 15, 2022.  Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Sunday to discuss military aid for Ukraine and the continuation of food exports to the developing world.

“More weapons and other aid is on the way to Ukraine,” tweeted Kuleba after the Sunday morning meeting in Berlin. Possible ways of enabling exports of Ukrainian grain were also under discussion. The fighting from Russia’s war has blocked shipping routes through Ukrainian ports and has been linked to rising food prices worldwide.

Blinken is also meeting foreign ministers from NATO, Sweden and Finland in Berlin. Finland’s prime minister and president formally announced in Helsinki on Sunday that the country is seeking NATO membership. The Finnish Parliament will discuss the issue Monday, with a formal application expected as soon as Tuesday. “We have today a historic day. Finland will maximize its security,” said President Sauli Niinisto.

Ukrainian forces are continuing to repel Russian troops in the Kharkiv region, reclaiming towns and launching counterattacks, including near Izyum, to thwart Moscow’s goal of capturing the eastern Donbas region, analysts and local officials say. Britain’s Defense Ministry says Russia now appears to have suffered losses to a third of the ground combat force it committed in February, with the loss of equipment and low morale meaning it is unlikely to accelerate its rate of advance in the next month.

Here’s what else to know:

  • Four Russian missiles hit military infrastructure in the Lviv region early Sunday, the regional governor said, destroying military equipment but without causing fatalities or injuries. The claims could not be independently verified by The Washington Post.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with a U.S. Senate delegation led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Saturday in Kyiv, calling the visit “a powerful signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine from the U.S. Congress and the American people,” his office said. A $40 billion aid package for Ukraine will be up for full Senate debate in the coming week.
  • As the war raged on back home, the Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra won the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday night — a win that was secured by audience votes, highlighting the way Ukraine’s fierce resistance has galvanized public support around the globe.

 

A ruined pontoon crossing with dozens of destroyed or damaged Russian armored vehicles on both banks of the Donets River at Bilohorivka in the eastern Luhansk region (Photo via Ukraine Armed Forces).

A ruined pontoon crossing with dozens of destroyed or damaged Russian armored vehicles on both banks of the Donets River at Bilohorivka in the eastern Luhansk region (Photo via Ukraine Armed Forces). 

 ny times logoNew York Times, Growing evidence of a military disaster on the Donets pierces a pro-Russian bubble, Anton Troianovski and Marc Santora, May 15, 2022. The destruction wreaked on a Russian battalion as it tried to cross a river in northeastern Ukraine last week is emerging as among the deadliest engagements of the war, with estimates based on publicly available evidence now suggesting that well over 400 Russian soldiers were killed or wounded.

And as the scale of what happened comes into sharper focus, the disaster appears to be breaking through the Kremlin’s tightly controlled information bubble.

Perhaps most striking, the Russian battlefield failure is resonating with a stable of pro-Russian war bloggers — some of whom are embedded with troops on the front line — who have reliably posted to the social network Telegram with claims of Russian success and Ukrainian cowardice.

“The commentary by these widely read milbloggers may fuel burgeoning doubts in Russia about Russia’s prospects in this war and the competence of Russia’s military leaders,” the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based research body, wrote over the weekend.

On May 11, the Russian command reportedly sent about 550 troops of the 74th Motorized Rifle Brigade of the 41st Combined Arms Army to cross the Donets River at Bilohorivka, in the eastern Luhansk region, in a bid to encircle Ukrainian forces near Rubizhne.

Satellite images reveal that Ukrainian artillery destroyed several Russian pontoon bridges and laid waste to a tight concentration of Russian troops and equipment around the river.

The Institute for the Study of War, citing analyses based on the publicly available imagery, indicated that there could have been as many as 485 Russian soldiers killed or wounded and more than 80 pieces of equipment destroyed.

As the news of the losses at the river crossing in Bilohorivka started to spread, some Russian bloggers did not appear to hold back in their criticism of what they said was incompetent leadership.

“I’ve been keeping quiet for a long time,” Yuri Podolyaka, a war blogger with 2.1 million followers on Telegram, said in a video posted on Friday, saying that he had avoided criticizing the Russian military until now.

“The last straw that overwhelmed my patience was the events around Bilohorivka, where due to stupidity — I emphasize, because of the stupidity of the Russian command — at least one battalion tactical group was burned, possibly two.”

Mr. Podolyaka ridiculed the Kremlin line that the war is going “according to plan.” He told his viewers in a five-minute video that, in fact, the Russian Army was short of functional unmanned drones, night-vision equipment and other kit “that is catastrophically lacking on the front.”

“Yes, I understand that it’s impossible for there to be no problems in war,” he said. “But when the same problems go on for three months, and nothing seems to be changing, then I personally and in fact millions of citizens of the Russian Federation start to have questions for these leaders of the military operation.”

Another popular blogger, who goes by Starshe Eddy on Telegram, wrote that the fact that commanders left so much of their force exposed amounted to “not idiocy, but direct sabotage.”

 Politico, NATO officials ‘confident’ on Swedish, Finnish membership bids despite Turkish reservations, Lili Bayer and Hans von der Burchard, May 15, 2022. Stoltenberg says Turkey ‘has made it clear’ it doesn’t intend to block applications by Sweden and Finland.politico CustomTurkish concerns will not derail the ambitions of Finland and Sweden to join NATO, senior alliance officials said on Sunday.

Ankara has accused the two Nordic countries of supporting Kurdish groups, throwing a spanner into the plans of Helsinki and Stockholm for quick NATO accession following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Countries supporting terrorism should not be allies in NATO,” Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Sunday following talks with the alliance’s foreign ministers in Berlin.
US delegation of Republican senators visits Kyiv

NATO membership requires support from all current 30 allies, including Turkey.

Speaking to reporters following the talks, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg sought to play down any risks to swift membership for Finland and Sweden. “Turkey has made it clear that their intention is not to block membership,” Stoltenberg said, speaking via videolink as he recovers from COVID.

“I’m confident that we will be able to address the concerns that Turkey has expressed in a way that doesn’t delay the membership or the accession process,” he said. “My intention is still to have a quick and swift process.”

Turkey’s Çavuşoğlu met on Saturday with Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde and Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto to discuss Ankara’s concerns, but the meeting did not lead to a significant shift in the Turkish leadership’s rhetoric. Speaking to Turkish media on Sunday, Çavuşoğlu said that Finland and Sweden “must stop supporting terror groups” and give security guarantees.

But Western officials in Berlin signaled that they believe Ankara can be convinced.

“This is a process, and NATO is a place for dialogue,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters after the ministers’ meeting.

Politico, Sweden’s governing party backs NATO membership, Charlie Duxbury, May 15, 2022. Formal application to defense alliance could come as soon as Monday. Sweden’s governing Social Democrat Party on Sunday backed the idea of the country joining NATO in a historic policy U-turn that clears the way for a formal membership application in the coming days.

politico CustomThe move brings Sweden into line with neighboring Finland, where both the president and prime minister said last week that their country should join the Western military alliance.

Observers say Sweden’s official NATO bid could come as soon as Monday, with Finland likely moving on a similar timeline.

Swedish flagSweden has avoided all military alliances for more than two centuries, with national luminaries like former Prime Minister Olof Palme famously heralding the way his country’s military independence allowed it to be a force for peace in the world.

But in recent decades, Sweden has become more overtly aligned with NATO, signing up to a cooperation agreement called Partnership for Peace in 1994 and ratifying a Host Nation Agreement in 2016, which allows troops from the alliance to operate more easily on Swedish territory.

Last week, a Swedish parliamentary report on the country’s security strategy suggested that NATO membership would “raise the threshold for military conflicts,” a position Social Democrat Foreign Minister Ann Linde repeated when she presented the report’s findings on Friday.

 

 

lloyd austin o

 sergei shoigu.uniformed

washington post logoWashington Post, Austin asks Russian defense minister for cease-fire in first talks since Ukraine invasion began, Dan Lamothe and Karoun Demirjian, May 15, 2022 (print ed.). U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin urged his Russian counterpart Friday to consider a cease-fire in Ukraine during the first discussion between the two leaders since the Russian invasion began nearly three months ago, the Pentagon said.

Austin, shown above in a file photo, had not connected with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, also shown above, since Feb. 18 — six days before Russia commenced its assault on Ukraine — despite repeated attempts by U.S. officials to do so, said a senior U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the Pentagon. The two men spoke for about an hour, and the official characterized their conversation as “professional,” but declined to detail what was said.

“It wasn’t for lack of trying that we hadn’t been able to establish” communications, the official said. “We’ve been consistently asking for this conversation, and Minister Shoigu accepted for a call this week. But what motivated them to change their minds and be open to it, I don’t think we know for sure.”

The discussion occurred as Russia has expanded its military presence in Ukraine — particularly in the eastern regions of the country — after it earlier failed to seize the capital city of Kyiv and withdrew thousands of troops. Russia now has about 105 battalion tactical groups in Ukraine, the Pentagon said Friday, up slightly from a Defense Department count last week.

Shoigu and Austin also spoke as two countries, Finland and Sweden, are taking steps toward applying for NATO membership, a move that officials believe would bolster their security long-term but potentially leave them vulnerable to Russian retaliation. Each of NATO’s 30 current members must approve the applications for them to join, a process that can take months.

The majority of the Russian military’s efforts are now focused on Donbas, a section of eastern Ukraine that Moscow appears to want to seize. Russian forces have attempted in recent days to press south from the town of Izyum, which they already control, to the city of Slovyansk, but have encountered fierce Ukrainian resistance, the senior U.S. defense official said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia is furious that Finland is joining NATO but can’t do much about it, Liz Sly, May 15, 2022 (print ed.). Russia’s invasion of finland flagUkraine spurred Finland to set aside long-standing concerns about provoking Russia and seek NATO membership, a major strategic setback for Russia.

The invasion also means there’s little Russia can do about it.

The Russian military is ensnared in heavy fighting in Ukraine, its ranks depleted by steep losses of men and equipment. Russia withdrew troops from the border with Finland to send them to Ukraine, leaving Moscow with a significantly reduced capacity to threaten Finland militarily.

World Crisis Radio, Commentary: Kremlin responds with rocket-rattling to looming NATO membership for Finland and Sweden, Webster G. Tarpley, Ph.D., author and activist, right, May 14, 2022. Expansion of 1949 North Atlantic Pact is once in webster tarpley twittera century event made possible by Putin’s fanaticism and stupidity; Russians forced into humiliating retreat from Kharkiv, blowing up bridges as they go; Ukrainians close to border at Belgorod;

Weak and sickly Putin presides over low-budget May 9 nothing-burger commemoration under pall of defeat; Possible contenders for anti-Putin palace coup reputedly include Bortnikov of FSB, now eclipsed by GRU owing to unreliable Ukraine intel; National Security Council boss Patrushev, the foremost among the siloviki; and (less likely) the boyish Kremlin apparatchik Dmitri Kovalev;

Abortion now tied with inflation as top US voting issue;

Consternation at Fox News over next Tuesday’s Pennsylvania GOP primary marked by fratricide of negative ads: If extremism is the only coin of the realm, a bidding war among nihilist demagogues is likely; Troglodyte reactionares Mastroiano and Barnette could top PA GOP ticket!

Breaking: Hill GOP’s sabotage of Covid funding puts American lives at risk!

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: How an estimated $163 billion from pandemic unemployment benefits may have gone to waste, Tony Romm and Yeganeh Torbati, Identity theft and other sophisticated criminal schemes contributed to potentially $163 billion in waste, while inflicting harm on unwitting victims.

Sareena Brown-Thomas had just arrived home from her shift as a custodian when she noticed an envelope in the mail from the D.C. government. Bearing her name, address and the last four digits of her Social Security number, the letter inside said she had been awarded unemployment benefits — a problem, she later recalled, since she had never applied for them.

The 32-year-old soon notified her bosses, believing last summer that she had put the matter to rest. But the real trouble wouldn’t start until September: When Brown-Thomas did actually find herself out of a job, she couldn’t get the financial support she needed. Mired in bureaucratic battles, she said she faced a months-long struggle just to prove her identity to the city.

“I’m still trying to figure out how to get a lot of stuff paid,” Brown-Thomas, who warred at one point with the city over her eligibility, said in an interview this spring. “It was so easy for them to use my Social Security number to get unemployment.”

Brown-Thomas is part of a sprawling community of victims caught up in a massive series of attacks targeting the nation’s generous coronavirus aid programs. The more than $5 trillion approved since the start of the pandemic has become a wellspring for criminal activity, allowing fraudsters to siphon money away from hard-hit American workers and businesses who needed the help most.

The exact scope of the fraud targeting federal aid initiatives is unknown, even two years later. With unemployment benefits, however, the theft could be significant. Testifying at a little-noticed congressional hearing this spring, a top watchdog for the Labor Department estimated there could have been “at least” $163 billion in unemployment-related “overpayments,” a projection that includes wrongly paid sums as well as “significant” benefits obtained by malicious actors.

So far, the United States has recaptured just over $4 billion of that, according to state workforce data furnished by the Labor Department this March. That amounts to roughly 2.4 percent of the wrongful payments, if the government’s best estimate is accurate, raising the specter that Washington may never get most of the money back.

 

U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel John Durham, left, and defendant Michael Sussmann, a cyberlaw attorney and former federal prosecutor. split

U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel John Durham, left, and defendant Michael Sussmann, a cyberlaw attorney and former federal prosecutor whose trial begins on May 16 on a false statement charge in Washington, DC's federal court.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Trump-Era Prosecutor’s Case Against Democratic-Linked Lawyer Goes to Trial, Charlie Savage, May 15, 2022. The first case developed by the special counsel, John Durham, involves a lawyer who is accused of lying when he shared a tip with the F.B.I. about possible links between Donald J. Trump and Russia.

When the Trump administration assigned a prosecutor in 2019 to scour the Russia investigation for any wrongdoing, President Donald J. Trump stoked expectations among his supporters that the inquiry would find a “deep state” conspiracy against him.

Three years later, the team led by the special counsel, John H. Durham, on Monday will open the first trial in a case their investigation developed, bringing before a jury the claims and counterclaims that surrounded the 2016 presidential campaign. But rather than showing wrongdoing by the F.B.I., it is a case that portrays the bureau as a victim.

The trial centers on whether Michael Sussmann, a cybersecurity lawyer with ties to Democrats, lied to the F.B.I. in September 2016, when he relayed suspicions about possible cyberconnections between Mr. Trump and Russia. The F.B.I. looked into the matter, which involved a server for the Kremlin-linked Alfa Bank, and decided it was unsubstantiated.

In setting up the meeting, Mr. Sussmann had told an F.B.I. official that he was not acting on behalf of any client. Prosecutors contend he concealed that a technology executive and the Hillary Clinton campaign were his clients to make the allegations seem more credible.

The defense argues that Mr. Sussmann was not acting on their behalf at the meeting. The F.B.I. was aware that he had represented Democrats on matters related to Russia’s hacking of their servers, and subsequent communications made clear that he also had a client who had played a role in developing the data analysis concerning Alfa Bank, his lawyers say.

While the charge against Mr. Sussmann is narrow, Mr. Durham has used it to release large amounts of information to insinuate that there was a broad conspiracy involving the Clinton campaign to essentially frame Mr. Trump for colluding with Russia.

That insinuation also hangs over the other case Mr. Durham has developed, which is set to go to trial later this year. It accuses a researcher for the so-called Steele dossier — a since-discredited compendium of opposition research about purported links between Mr. Trump and Russia — of lying to the F.B.I. about some of his sources.

Both cases have connections with the law firm Perkins Coie, where Mr. Sussmann worked then. One of his partners, Marc Elias, was the general counsel of the Clinton campaign and had commissioned opposition research that led to the Steele dossier.

CNN, Who's who in the Michael Sussmann trial, Marshall Cohen, Updated May 15, 2022. The trial of Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Michael CNNSussmann kicks off Monday in Washington, DC, and will feature a cast of characters related to the 2016 election.

Sussmann was indicted last year by special counsel John Durham, the Trump-era prosecutor who has spent the last three years reviewing the FBI's Trump-Russia investigation.

Here's a breakdown of the key figures that will be featured prominently at Sussmann's trial.

 

More U.S. Abortion Law News, Reactions

 

supreme court Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, State constitutions loom as the next front in abortion battle, Kimberly Kindy, May 15, 2022 (print ed.). Several states are asking voters in coming months to amend state constitutions in hopes of permanently changing abortion rights.

With the Supreme Court poised to overturn Roe v. Wade this summer, state legislatures have already introduced hundreds of bills to establish new abortion laws. But several states are going further, asking voters in coming months to amend their state constitutions in hopes of permanently changing abortion rights.

Upcoming constitutional ballot measures in Kansas and Kentucky seek to eliminate state court challenges to laws restricting or banning abortion. Another in Vermont — the first of its kind — would protect the right to an abortion.

At least 12 state legislatures this year introduced bills to place constitutional amendments about reproductive rights on upcoming ballots. Those efforts are expected to grow in both red and blue states in the months ahead, abortion experts and advocates said.

Soon after a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion last week suggested an end to federally protected abortion rights, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said he will join Democratic lawmakers to seek a constitutional amendment in his state, pledging that “California will not stand idly by as women across America are stripped of their rights.”

The next frontier for the antiabortion movement: A nationwide ban

“It’s going to pick up on both sides,” said Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League. “Court battles over abortion are going to grow in state courts, so efforts to shore up state constitutions is also going to grow.”

Unlike a Supreme Court ruling or the dozens of abortion bills passed in statehouses this year, the constitutional amendments will directly test voters’ views on abortion rights.

That prospect has mobilized sizable campaigns, as more than $1 million has been disclosed by political action committees dedicated to the August ballot measure in Kansas, with antiabortion groups outpacing opponents by a 2-to-1 margin. Thousands more have been reported in Kentucky and Vermont, which vote in November. In all three states, antiabortion groups, including Catholic and Evangelical Christian organizations, are lining up against Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Unionand other organizations.

Enshrining abortion restrictions or rights within state constitutions makes the measures nearly intractable, experts say, unless Congress passes a national ban or protection law. Whereas state laws can be upended after a change in party control, constitutional amendments generally take years to get on the ballot.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Roe’s impending reversal is a 9/11 attack on America’s social fabric, Dana Milbank, right, May 15, 2022 (print ed.). dana milbank newestWashington’s reaction to the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade has been typically myopic.

Republicans first tried to make people believe that the issue wasn’t the opinion itself but the leak. Now they’re absurdly trying to portray Democrats as supporters of infanticide. Democrats, in turn, squabbled among themselves before a show vote on a doomed abortion rights bill. And the news media have reverted to our usual horse-race speculation about how it will affect the midterms.

This small-bore response misses the radical change to society that Justice Samuel Alito and his co-conspirators are poised to ram down the throats of Americans. Their stunning action might well change the course of the midterms — but more importantly, it is upending who we are as a people.

Assuming little changes from the draft, overturning Roe would be a shock to our way of life, the social equivalent of the 9/11 attacks (which shattered our sense of physical security) or the crash of 2008 (which undid our sense of financial security). As epoch-making decisions go, this is Brown v. Board of Education, but in reverse: taking away an entrenched right Americans have relied upon for half a century. We remember Brown because it changed us forever, not because it altered the 1954 midterms.

It’s impossible to say what will result from the trauma of overturning Roe, but the effects will be far reaching and long lasting. Americans are not prepared for this. Though people have been aware of the possibility of Roe falling, as recently as last month, just 20 percent thought it very likely or definite that it would be overturned, an Economist-YouGov poll found. Even now, after Alito’s draft, only 57 percent of voters in a Morning Consult-Politico poll believe it likely Roe will be overturned.

The political jockeying misses the overarching significance: that the expectation of reproductive freedom, of a woman’s autonomy over her own body, built into the American psyche over two generations, is about to be shattered. “This is intrinsically horrific,” says Neal Katyal, a Georgetown University law professor who served as acting solicitor general during the Obama administration. “This huge right is being taken away. Everyone has socialized expectations that have crystallized around this. … It totally disrupts social expectations.”

There is simply no precedent for such a court-induced shock. The 2013 Shelby County v. Holder case eviscerated enforcement of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, making it easier for states and counties to disenfranchise Black voters. But the impact of that case (involving “preclearance”), though devastating, is indirect and complex. Overturning Roe is dramatic, stark and clear.

I hope voters punish Republicans in November for this assault on Americans’ freedom, and there’s evidence they will. A new Monmouth poll shows abortion has leaped to being the top concern of 25 percent of voters, virtually tied with the economy. But it took years (and a stolen seat or two) to build this destructive Supreme Court. The building backlash will have to be just as sustained.

washington post logoWashington Post, With fear and fury, thousands across U.S. rally for abortion rights, Ellie Silverman, Kyle Swenson, Nicole Asbury and Karina Elwood, May 15, 2022 (print ed.). Lisa Branscomb marched on Saturday outside the Supreme Court among scores of abortion rights protesters and tried to hold back her tears.

All day she heard stories of women choosing abortion and saw others holding signs proudly declaring they had, too. She had listened to the crowd chant, “My body! My choice!”

“I’m not the only one,” said Branscomb, 52 of Capitol Hill, who had an abortion when she was 22. “I never talk about it but it’s important right now.”

Branscomb was among thousands who gathered in Washington and at hundreds of events across the country on Saturday to rally for abortion rights.

The demonstrations come as a direct response to the leaked draft of an opinion by the Supreme Court signaling that it is positioned to overturn Roe. v. Wade, the 49-year-old decision that guaranteed a person’s constitutional right to have an abortion.

 Recent 'Roe' News, Views

 

More on Ukraine War

More on War

ukraine olena kurilo 52 teacher Russian missile Chuhuiv amazon

52-year-old Ukrainian teacher Olena Kurilo following a Russian missile strike in Chuhuiv, Ukraine in April.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: List of GOP lawmakers against Ukraine aid is quickly growing, Paul Kane, May 15, 2022 (print ed.). Two months ago, three voted against the first pro-Ukraine bill. This week, 57 opposed a request for weapons and humanitarian aid.

These Republicans sum up their world view in blunt, nationalist terms. “Let me ask you,” [U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor] Greene said during an interview Thursday. “Has Vladimir Putin stopped his war in Ukraine because of all these sanctions? No, not at all. It hasn’t done anything. So, you know what? I care about our country, United States of America and our people. That’s it.”

Greene (R-GA), a freshman with no background in foreign policy, often uses fiery terms that do not fully grasp the geopolitical issue at hand.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: How an estimated $163 billion from pandemic unemployment benefits may have gone to waste, Tony Romm and Yeganeh Torbati, Identity theft and other sophisticated criminal schemes contributed to potentially $163 billion in waste, while inflicting harm on unwitting victims.

Sareena Brown-Thomas had just arrived home from her shift as a custodian when she noticed an envelope in the mail from the D.C. government. Bearing her name, address and the last four digits of her Social Security number, the letter inside said she had been awarded unemployment benefits — a problem, she later recalled, since she had never applied for them.

The 32-year-old soon notified her bosses, believing last summer that she had put the matter to rest. But the real trouble wouldn’t start until September: When Brown-Thomas did actually find herself out of a job, she couldn’t get the financial support she needed. Mired in bureaucratic battles, she said she faced a months-long struggle just to prove her identity to the city.

“I’m still trying to figure out how to get a lot of stuff paid,” Brown-Thomas, who warred at one point with the city over her eligibility, said in an interview this spring. “It was so easy for them to use my Social Security number to get unemployment.”

Brown-Thomas is part of a sprawling community of victims caught up in a massive series of attacks targeting the nation’s generous coronavirus aid programs. The more than $5 trillion approved since the start of the pandemic has become a wellspring for criminal activity, allowing fraudsters to siphon money away from hard-hit American workers and businesses who needed the help most.

The exact scope of the fraud targeting federal aid initiatives is unknown, even two years later. With unemployment benefits, however, the theft could be significant. Testifying at a little-noticed congressional hearing this spring, a top watchdog for the Labor Department estimated there could have been “at least” $163 billion in unemployment-related “overpayments,” a projection that includes wrongly paid sums as well as “significant” benefits obtained by malicious actors.

So far, the United States has recaptured just over $4 billion of that, according to state workforce data furnished by the Labor Department this March. That amounts to roughly 2.4 percent of the wrongful payments, if the government’s best estimate is accurate, raising the specter that Washington may never get most of the money back.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, greets World War II veterans and other audience members before speaking from Moscow’s Red Square on Victory Day (Reuters Photos).

Russian President Vladimir Putin, greets World War II veterans and other audience members before speaking from Moscow’s Red Square on Victory Day, May 9 (Reuters Photos via Washington Post).

 Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary:WMR, Russia: the coming collapse with Putin approaching death's door, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 21 books and former Navy intelligence officer, May wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small13-15, 2022.

Russia appears to be facing a perfect storm. Its armed forces continue to falter in their invasion of Ukraine, while dictator Vladimir Putin shows signs of receiving treatment for what some observers believe is blood cancer.

wayne madesen report logoAt Putin's recent May 9 appearance on Red Square marking the annual commemoration of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, his face was puffy, his legs were temporarily covered by a blanket, and he had a distinct limp while walking.

Medical experts have pointed out that Putin's face bore a typical "chemo glow" that often results from chemotherapy treatment for cancer. Radiation treatment in combination with chemo can also contribute to red blotches and bloating of the face, both noticeable in Putin's case.

If Putin does have terminal cancer, the jockeying among those to replace him will become as fierce as it was after the deaths of Brezhnev, Andropov, and Chernenko.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Updates: As Finnish and Swedish Officials Join NATO Meeting, Russia Punishes Finland, Marc Santora and Matthew Mpoke Bigg, May 15, 2022 (print ed.). Russia cut off electricity exports to Finland, which, along with Sweden, is moving toward joining the military alliance. Here’s the latest.

finland flagAfter Ukraine’s military drove Russia from Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, a Ukrainian military official announced the launch Saturday of a counteroffensive aimed at denying the Russians a key staging area just north of the Donbas region.

The head of Kharkiv’s regional military administration said Ukrainian forces had launched a counteroffensive on Russian forces around the northeastern city of Izium. The city is key to Russian efforts to try to broadly encircle Ukraine’s forces in the east of the country.

Even as Ukrainian forces reclaimed territory in the country’s northeast on Saturday, driving Russian forces away from the city of Kharkiv and going on the offensive near the occupied town of Izium, military and civilian leaders warned that the war was entering a new, slow-moving phase that could last a long time.

For weeks, Russia has been using Izium as a staging area for a broader offensive in the eastern Donbas region, trying to drive south from the city as other Russian forces push north from Donetsk to broadly encircle tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers defending the front lines.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Updates: Ukraine makes gains in Kharkiv, Julian Duplain, Amy Cheng, Andrew Jeong, Tobi Raji, Ellen Francis and Victoria Bisset, May 15, 2022 (print ed.). McConnell leads Senate GOP delegation to Kyiv, meets Zelensky; Kharkiv governor warns residents not to go home despite Russian retreat; Ukraine is readying 41 war crimes cases, prosecutor general says; Ukraine foreign minister urges G-7 to hand over seized Russian assets.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed a delegation of Republican senators headed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) to Kyiv on Saturday, praising the visit as “a strong signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine.” The other senators visible in a video, in which they were greeted by Zelensky on a Kyiv street, were John Barrasso (Wyo.), Susan Collins (Maine) and John Cornyn (Tex.). “I look forward to the United States’ support for further sanctions,” said Zelensky.

Ukrainian officials are negotiating with Russia to evacuate 60 “seriously wounded” people and medics from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Saturday. Zelensky described the negotiations as “very difficult” late Friday, adding: “We do not stop trying to save all our people from Mariupol and Azovstal.”

Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces have made gains in Kharkiv, pushing Russian troops north toward the border and reclaiming towns and villages in the area, a senior U.S. defense official told reporters Friday. The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, assessed that Ukraine “appears to have won the Battle of Kharkiv,” adding that the Kremlin has “likely decided to withdraw fully” from its positions around the city amid spirited Ukrainian counterattacks and limited Russian reinforcements.

Here’s what else to know

  • Sweden and Finland will join a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Berlin on Saturday, after leaders in both countries indicated they want to join the military alliance. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is traveling to Berlin to attend the NATO talks, which will set the stage for a leaders’ summit in June.
  • India, the world’s second-largest wheat producer, has banned exports of the grain amid its own food security concerns, as global food prices soar with Ukrainian grain exports heavily depleted.
  • Ukraine will compete in the Eurovision Song Contest final later Saturday. The country’s folk-rap group Kalush Orchestra is favored to win with its song, “Stefania.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Flood of weapons, vague U.S. assurances raise fears of arms smuggling in Ukraine, John Hudson, May 15, 2022 (print ed.).  President Biden is expected to sign in the coming days a $40 billion security-assistance package that will supercharge the flow of missiles, rockets, artillery and drones to a war-torn Ukraine.

But what remains unclear is Washington’s ability to keep track of the powerful weapons as they enter one of the largest trafficking hubs in Europe.

Ukraine’s illicit arms market has ballooned since Russia’s initial invasion in 2014, buttressed by a surplus of loose weapons and limited controls on their use.

This uncomfortable reality for the United States and its allies comes amid urgent pleas from President Volodymyr Zelensky to provide artillery needed to counter Russian forces in the country’s east and south. The Ukrainian leader’s appeals are credited with uniting House lawmakers behind the latest funding request in a bipartisan 368-to-57 vote on Tuesday. But the unprecedented influx of arms has prompted fears that some equipment could fall into the hands of Western adversaries or reemerge in faraway conflicts — for decades to come.

nato logo flags name

washington post logoWashington Post, Turkey’s Erdogan voices skepticism on Sweden and Finland joining NATO, Michael Birnbaum, Victoria Bisset, Andrea Salcedo and John Hudson, May 14, 2022 (print ed.). Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, below, voiced skepticism Friday about Sweden and Finland potentially joining the NATO defense alliance, a sign of dissension in efforts to revamp Europe’s security architecture after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

recep erdogan throneThe Turkish warning came a day after a landmark recommendation from Finland’s leaders that the country join NATO and as Swedish leaders appeared ready to follow their lead this weekend — a geopolitical earthquake following decades in which the countries resolutely stayed neutral.

The war in Ukraine transformed attitudes in both countries and has set off a broader discussion in Europe about how to defend against a more dangerous Russia. Leaders of most NATO countries have indicated they welcome Finnish and Swedish membership and believe it would strengthen the alliance. NATO leaders were expected to sign off on the expansion at a June summit in Madrid — or that was the plan until Friday’s comments from Erdogan.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sanctions forcing Russia to use appliance parts in military gear, U.S. says, Jeanne Whalen, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). With Western technology sales banned, Russia is using computer chips meant for household appliances in battlefield gear, Commerce secretary tells a Senate hearing.

Russian FlagU.S.-led sanctions are forcing Russia to use computer chips from dishwashers and refrigerators in some military equipment, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Wednesday.

“We have reports from Ukrainians that when they find Russian military equipment on the ground, it’s filled with semiconductors that they took out of dishwashers and refrigerators,” Raimondo told a Senate hearing, noting that she recently met with Ukraine’s prime minister.

U.S. technology exports to Russia have fallen by nearly 70 percent since sanctions began in late February, according to Raimondo, whose department oversees the export controls that form a big part of the sanctions package. Three dozen other countries have adopted similar export bans, which also apply to Belarus.

“Our approach was to deny Russia technology — technology that would cripple their ability to continue a military operation. And that is exactly what we are doing,” she said in a response to a question from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) about the impact of the export controls. cost of staff and space, the organization consolidated operations and now cooks meals out of one kitchen.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Updates: Kyiv holds war crimes trial for Russian soldier; Sweden eyes NATO benefits, David L. Stern, Marisa Iati, Ellen Francis, Andrew Jeong, Amy Cheng, Victoria Bisset and Andrea Salcedo, May 14, 2022 (print ed.). Brittney Griner’s detention in Russia extended by one month; U.S. seeks to ‘clarify’ Turkey’s stance on Nordic countries’ NATO membership; Swedish foreign minister says joining NATO would help stabilize country; Russian military ramps up attacks in Donbas amid losses, U.K. says.

A 21-year-old Russian soldier was brought before a Kyiv court Friday in the first war crimes trial of the conflict, Ukraine’s prosecutor general said. Now in custody, Vadim Shishimarin is accused of killing an unarmed 62-year-old civilian in the invasion’s first week.

In Sweden, a parliamentary report contends that joining NATO would help deter conflict in northern Europe. The security review outlined Sweden’s vulnerability to attack if it remains the only Nordic or Baltic country outside the alliance, while noting the risk of Russian retaliation if it applies for membership. Finland’s leaders, meanwhile, said their country must apply “without delay” — illustrating how the war in Ukraine has prompted a tectonic shift in two militarily nonaligned Nordic nations.

Britain also announced new sanctions Friday against the family of Russian President Vladimir Putin, along with his former wife, Lyudmila Ocheretnaya, and a former Olympic gymnast, Alina Kabaeva, long alleged to be his romantic partner.

Here’s what else to know

  • Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) stood by his objection to a Senate vote on sending $39.8 billion in aid to Kyiv. The move delayed passage of the bill and hampered a bipartisan push for steady assistance.
  • finland flagFinland and Sweden’s potential accession would boost NATO’s troop levels and firepower, and lengthen its shared border with Russia. Ukraine has unsuccessfully sought membership.
  • Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said a Russian armored battalion suffered heavy losses after Ukrainian forces thwarted it while it attempted to cross a river near Severodonetsk, the easternmost city still controlled by Ukraine.
  • Nearly 100 children were killed in Ukraine last month, the deputy director of UNICEF told the U.N. Security Council. He added that the true total is probably “considerably higher.”

 Recent Headlines

 

Investigations

 

 

dan christensen broward bulldog collageFloridaBulldog.org,  Investigative Commentary: A ‘state secret’ no more: New FBI report says Saudi government officials provided support network for 9/11 hijackers, Dan Christensen, shown above with a collage of photos of suspected 9/11 conspirators, May 15, 2022. A 130-page FBI report written only last July lays out the numerous connections of U.S.-based “personnel and entities controlled by the Saudi Arabian government” to the al Qaeda terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

It’s the first time since the public learned of the existence of a secret investigation into the Saudis’ role in 9/11 – code-named Operation Encore – that the Justice Department has declassified records previously declared to be “state secrets” that say Saudi government officials knowingly provided a support network for the first two al Qaeda hijackers to enter the U.S.

FBI logoThe new report lays out what it calls the FBI’s “investigations and supporting documentation” regarding the religious “militant network that was created, funded directed and supported by the KSA [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] and its affiliated organizations and diplomatic personnel within the U.S.”

That network, as described in the report, was intertwined with the hijackers.

“As Saudi government officials and intelligence officers were directly operating and supporting the entities involved with this network, their involvement with the activities of these organizations/individuals would logically be supposed to have the knowledge or concurrence of the KSA government. This knowledge and/or concurrence by the SAG [Saudi Arabian Government] is related to the 9/11 investigation not only [by] the direct involvement of some personnel but also via the creation of a larger network for such activities.”

The FBI report, dated July 23, 2021, was written and approved by FBI officials whose names are redacted. It states that it consolidates and highlights the findings of two decades of investigation now “deemed essential for future case agents of this program to understand the origin of the investigation.”

OPERATION ENCORE

joe biden resized oThe report is among thousands of pages of formerly secret documents about Operation Encore ordered reviewed, declassified and released by President Biden starting last September to “maximize transparency.” Encore was the FBI’s follow-up to its original 9/11 investigation, code-named PENTTBOM, and examined the Saudi role in 9/11. Encore’s existence was first reported by Florida Bulldog in late 2016.

The FBI refers repeatedly in the report to the existence of U.S.-based Saudi “support networks” for the 9/11 hijackers. Previously, the FBI had not acknowledged that such networks were found.

The new report goes on to provide an updated “analysis” about “the ties of some of these entities to Saudi Arabian intelligence services,” noting that much information has come to light since the 9/11 Commission published its report in 2004.

Much of the report zeros in on the apparently nefarious roles of a pair of religious offices operating within the Washington, D.C. Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – the Islamic Affairs Department and the Office of Da’wa (or Propagation).

“Investigation of the 9/11 hijackers and their support networks identified significant connections to these offices either directly or via the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Los Angeles,” the report says.

FBI REPORT NAMES PRINCE BANDAR

The report also names Prince Bandar, right, then Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.S., and the Saudi Embassy as being involved with the funding bandar bin sultan“of a multitude of Islamic organizations, imams and other religious figures within the U.S. – many of which were involved with militant ideology.

“Several of these were known to be tied directly to Prince Bandar. As the propagation of militant ideology would naturally provide justification for those who were in the hijacker’s support network, these organizations will also be listed below.”

Those passages, coupled with the report’s other details, seriously undermine what now appear to be outdated 9/11 Commission statements long cited by Saudi Arabia to bolster its contention that it had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

The Commission’s final report concluded it had found “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded” al Qaeda. Further, “Commission staff found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or as individual senior officials knowingly support or supported al Qaeda.”

At the same time, however, the commission also stated, “The intelligence community identified [Saudi Arabia] as the primary source of money for al Qaeda both before and after the September 11 attacks.” A 2013 report by the European Parliament on Saudi Arabia’s support for religious extremism around the world noted, “It has been estimated that Saudi Arabia has invested more than $10 billion to promote its Wahhabi agenda through charitable foundations.”

A sizeable slice of those funds was allegedly siphoned off by al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations like Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and the Haqqani network. “Al Qaeda and JI’s operatives were then diverting about 15-20 percent of the funds to finance their operations,” the 2013 report says.

Wahhabism is Saudi Arabia’s dominant faith, a fundamentalist sect of Sunni Islam akin to puritanical Salafism.

THUMAIRY, BAYOUMI AND JARRAH

A 2012 FBI status report on Encore released to Florida Bulldog in 2016 amid Freedom of Information litigation identifies a trio of Saudis “known to have provided substantial assistance to 9/11 hijackers Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar” after they arrived in Los Angeles in January 2000. Hazmi and Mihdhar were among the five al Qaeda hijackers that seized control of American Airlines Flight 77 after leaving Washington Dulles International Airport and crashed it into the Pentagon. Some 125 people in the building and 59 passengers and crew were killed.
fbiTop to bottom, Musaed al Jarrah, Fahad al Thumairy and Omar al Bayoumi

The names Fahad al Thumairy and Omar al Bayoumi had previously been public. Musaed al Jarrah’s name, originally redacted when the report was first released, was new.

Jarrah, then the Saudi Embassy’s director of Islamic Affairs, was said in the 2012 report to have “tasked” Thumairy – a diplomat at the Los Angeles consulate and imam at the nearby King Fahd mosque – and Bayoumi, a suspected Saudi spy, with aiding the future hijackers.

The 2021 report affirmatively identifies Jarrah for the first time as also working for Saudi Arabia’s primary intelligence agency, the General Intelligence Presidency (GIP). A heavily redacted section of the report states that as early as 2001 the embassy’s Islamic Affairs section was one of the largest spy operations in the world with approximately 50 officers.

“The above information helps verify the involvement of the GIP within the MIA [Ministry of Islamic Affairs] offices,” the report says. “This is significant considering the MIA/Dawa office’s involvement, and al Jarrah’s in particular, with the support network of the 9/11 hijackers as well as with the creation, funding, direction and support of the extensive Salafi proselytizing network that extended throughout the U.S.

“The purpose of the MIA/Dawa offices is also of relevance…to obtain intelligence on individuals and communities of value to Saudi Arabia intelligence or government purposes.” And Jarrah, “a key figure of the 9/11 investigation,” is described as having a “controlling, guiding and directing influence on all aspects of Sunni extremist activity in Southern California.”

FBI QUERIES OF ‘HIGHEST INTEREST’ TO SAUDIS

Further, the report notes Jarrah was close to Prince Bandar and later worked for him in Saudi Arabia at the National Security Ministry.

None of that was known, or confirmed, in January 2010 when one FBI report stated, “It has been uncovered that Musaed al Jarrah may have played a leadership role in the overall coordination of logistics support for 9/11 hijackers Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar…Al-Jarrah oversaw the handling of the hijackers through his subordinates Fahad al-Thumairy and Omar Ahmed al-Bayoumi and by personal contact with the hijackers on numerous occasions.”

Jarrah, who has denied any connection to 9/11, is identified in other declassified FBI reports written as early as 2003 as being “heavily connected/linked to Saudi Sunni extremists operating inside the U.S.’’
fbiLos Angeles’ King Fahd Mosque

In addition to his religious duties in Los Angeles, Thumairy was also an employee of the embassy’s Da’Wa office. “FBI queries [about him] were of interest to the highest levels of the Saudi government,” says the 2021 report. “Al Thumairy was a close contact of the 9/11 hijackers support network and may have known al Hazmi and al Mihdhar and/or arranged for their meeting key members of the support network.”

Thumairy and Jarrah, his supervisor, were in frequent telephonic contact, FBI records show.

A recently declassified January 2008 FBI report says agents interviewed a man whose name is redacted. Following a few lines blanked out “at the direction of another U.S. Government Agency or Department,” the report goes on, “At KFM [King Fahd Mosque] BLANK there was a phone call from overseas, possibly from Malaysia or Indonesia, and someone asked for Thumairy and stated that ‘the guys’ were coming in and needed to be picked up at the airport. ‘The guys’ in the community meant the two 9/11 hijackers that passed through Los Angeles before going to San Diego.”

TWO ‘VERY SIGNIFICANT’ GUYS

Hazmi and Mihdhar had attended the “al Qaeda summit” in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in early January 2000. The meeting, at which the U.S. attacks were reportedly planned, was headed by admitted 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Hazmi and Mihdhar flew to Los Angeles on Jan. 15.

Thumairy has denied knowing Hazmi or Mihdhar. But the 2008 report says agents were told Thumairy had an Arabic-speaking taxi driver who ran errands for him to pick up “the guys” at the airport and take them to an apartment complex that Thumairy had rented.
fbi9/11 hijackers Nawaf al Hazmi, left, and Khalid al Mihdhar

More information was obtained in March 2020 when Operation Encore agents interviewed a confidential source about the relationship between another unidentified man – apparently the taxi driver – and the hijackers. The source said the man told him Thumairy “asked him to look after two very ‘significant’ people,” who turned out to be Hazmi and Mihdhar. The source said he saw the man with Hazmi and Mihdhar at the King Fahd Mosque “almost every day, even sometimes in the company of al-Thumairy in the library of the mosque.”

Omar al Bayoumi, the third initial focus of Operation Encore, was a middle-aged student and allegedly one of about 50 “ghost” employees who were paid by the Saudi aviation company Dallah Avco but didn’t actually work.

Bayoumi helped Hazmi and Mihdhar with many day-to-day activities, like obtaining a place to live. Bayoumi has said he met the future hijackers by chance at a Los Angeles restaurant – a claim skeptical FBI agents did not believe.

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

RawStory, Trump allies suffer another legal blow in bid to get Dominion lawsuit dismissed: report, Tom Boggioni, May 14, 2022. According to a report from CNN, a bid by allies of former President Donald Trump to get a defamation suit filed against them by a former Dominion Voting Systems executive dismissed was shot down by a Colorado judge on Friday.

raw story logo squareThe report notes that Eric Coomer was accused by lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani --among others -- of involvement in a plot to rig the 2020 election against Donald Trump.

As CNN's Tierney Sneed reports, District Judge Marie Avery Moses ruled the trial can go forward and that more "extensive" discovery can also proceed.

dominion voting systemsIn the ruling, Moses wrote, "There is no constitutional value in false statements of fact or the deliberate spread of dangerous and inflammatory political disinformation designed to sow distrust in democratic institutions. The public has an active interest in ensuring that there are remedies for defamatory statements."

She added, "There is evidence that Giuliani's allegations against Coomer conformed to a preconceived storyline of fraud given his allegations of fraud after the election. Further, there is evidence that Giuliani had incentive to defame Coomer both in support of former President Trump and to maintain national attention. This evidence is sufficient to support a finding of actual malice."

According to CNN's Sneed, "Already, the case has revealed that Trump allies did little to investigate uncorroborated claims of election fraud before repeating them on the public stage. The discovery Coomer was entitled to at the motion-to-dismiss stage produced a Trump campaign memo -- written days before Giuliani and Powell held their infamous RNC news conference where they promoted election fraud claims -- that debunked several of the allegations the Trump lawyers went on to make," adding, "As part of the motion to dismiss, Powell, Guliani and others who boosted Trump's lies about election fraud sat for depositions in which they said they only minimally reviewed the claims about Coomer before touting those allegations in front of a national audience."

ny times logoNew York Times, Gearing Up for G.O.P. Gains, Biden Braces for a Barrage of Inquiries, Charlie Savage and Michael S. Schmidt, May 15, 2022 (print ed.). A divided government could soon take Washington to new levels of intensity, as some Republicans appear eager to target President Biden and his family.

joe biden resized oPresident Biden’s legal team is laying the groundwork to defend against an expected onslaught of oversight investigations by congressional Republicans, should they take one or both chambers in the midterm elections — including preparing for the possibility of impeachment as payback for the two impeachments of President Donald J. Trump.

As part of those preparations, Mr. Biden and his White House counsel, Dana Remus, have hired Richard A. Sauber, a longtime white-collar defense lawyer who is now the top lawyer at the Department of Veterans Affairs, to oversee responses to subpoenas and other oversight efforts, according to people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.

Mr. Biden’s personal lawyer, Bob Bauer, and Ms. Remus have also been meeting for months to work out potential divisions of labor between White House lawyers and outside counsel, according to people briefed on the matter.

The arrangement is said to be aimed at respecting the limits of what taxpayer-funded lawyers should handle and ensuring that Mr. Biden’s two sets of lawyers do not mix work in a way that could inadvertently undermine executive and attorney-client privilege protecting what lawyers know from any subpoenas for their testimony or notes.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: Student Debt Is Crushing. Canceling It for Everyone Is Still a Bad Idea, Editorial Board, May 14, 2022. The astronomical level of student debt accrued in the United States is inflicting lasting, generational damage on the lives of millions of Americans. More than 45 million people are now carrying more than $1.7 trillion in debt, most of it owed to the federal government.

The burden of that debt is crushing and follows borrowers throughout their lives: It is delaying marriage and home buying and the birth of children. It leaves some students broke on the day after graduation. Others labor for years only to find their balances larger than when they graduated. Lower-income students who must borrow heavily to obtain that degree can end up earning middle-class incomes without being able to lead middle-class lives. Around 40 percent of borrowers never graduate from school in the first place. And a third of the debt will never be paid off, according to the Department of Education.

The Biden administration should spend its finite resources and political capital on fixing the higher education system to make it more affordable while helping those borrowers in the most distress. There are already ways to do this, although they have not gotten nearly enough attention or resources.

Canceling student debt across the board is not one of them. Trying to fix such a shattered system with the flick of a pen on an executive order could even make it worse. Canceling this debt, even in the limited amounts that the White House is considering, would set a bad precedent and do nothing to change the fact that future students will graduate with yet more debt — along with the blind hope of another, future amnesty. Such a move is legally dubious, economically unsound, politically fraught and educationally problematic.

As a candidate, Mr. Biden said he supported congressional action to tackle student debt. Legal experts disagree about whether the president has the authority to cancel student loan debt through an executive order, as the White House is now considering. That raises the possibility that this issue could be dragged out in the courts for years.

All told, 79 million American adults have had student loans at some point. Nearly half have paid them off entirely. Waiving $10,000 in student debt, the amount Mr. Biden proposed during his presidential campaign, could clear the books of as many as 15 million of the more than 45 million Americans who still owe borrowed money for school. Proponents of debt cancellation argue that Democrats need to deliver on a campaign promise to a key constituency, and it may well be politically advantageous for them to do so before the midterm elections, when turnout of the Democratic base will be critical to the party’s success. But if the Biden administration puts forward a plan that voters do not regard as fair, the party could face a backlash at the polls.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Republicans working to undermine Trump candidates, Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey, May 14, 2022 (print ed.). Some GOP leaders have been actively campaigning — or quietly maneuvering — against Trump’s picks in a way that could threaten his sway over the party.

Before a roomful of Republican donors Monday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy praised Donald Trump as the “secret weapon” in the GOP’s quest to retake Congress, while Trump returned the favor by saying McCarthy had been with him from the beginning, according to two people in attendance at the event in Dallas.

But their united front disguised far more complicated relationships that have developed between the former president and elected Republican leaders like McCarthy — a fact that is now playing out in a series of primary proxy battles across the country. From Nebraska and Idaho to Pennsylvania and Georgia, Republicans have been actively campaigning — or quietly maneuvering — against Trump’s picks in a way that could undermine his sway over the party.

One prominent example came Tuesday when Trump’s endorsed candidate for Nebraska governor, Charles Herbster, lost in the GOP primary after significant opposition from Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) — the first of what could be several potential setbacks in coming weeks for the former president.

 

john fetterman

ny times logoNew York Times, How ‘Just a Dude’ in a Hoodie Became a Senate Front-Runner, Katie Glueck, May 15, 2022 (print ed.). John Fetterman, above, has used his shorts-and-hoodie image to connect with Pennsylvania voters in the Democratic Senate primary.

pennsylvania map major citiesJohn Fetterman’s latest ad boasts that his campaign has become a movement. Days before Pennsylvania’s primary on Tuesday, Mr. Fetterman is the front-runner for the state’s Democratic Senate nomination. But he insists that he is simply “doing my thing.”

“I’m just a dude that shows up and just talks about what I believe in, you know?” he said in an interview on Thursday in the deeply Republican county of York, standing across the street from The Holy Hound Taproom, a bar in his hometown where he hosted a packed campaign event.

democratic donkey logoMr. Fetterman, the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, does not sound like any other leading politician in recent memory. And standing roughly 6-foot-8, with his uniform of basketball shorts and hoodies bearing occasional schmutz, he plainly does not look like one.

But as Tuesday approaches in a contest to determine the general-election contenders in one of the most closely divided states in the country, Mr. Fetterman is in a far stronger position than many party officials and strategists in Pennsylvania and Washington had anticipated. And if he wins the Democratic nomination, his candidacy will offer a clear test of whether politicians with vivid personal brands can overcome crushing national headwinds at a moment of intense political polarization.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal Reserve is raising interest rates even as the global economy struggles, David J. Lynch, May 14, 2022 (print ed.). Fed leads central banks in raising borrowing costs, withdrawing emergency support. The Federal Reserve’s bid to calm inflation by raising interest rates and withdrawing emergency stimulus programs is gearing up just as the global economy is displaying worrisome signs of weakness, aggravated by the war in Ukraine and covid’s continuing hold on industrial supply chains.

The risk, some economists said, is that the Fed and other central banks that are implementing similar anti-inflation policies may adjust too slowly to a complex and fast-changing global landscape.

While the Fed is just starting to overhaul the loose monetary stance it adopted during the pandemic, global financial conditions already are tighter than at any time since the 2008 financial crisis, according to a Goldman Sachs index.

Faced with tighter money, war in Europe and fresh supply chain troubles in Asia, global growth may buckle. The Institute of International Finance, an industry group, said Thursday it expects global output to “flatline” this year.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. Politics News & Analysis: Bucking Trump, Pence to rally with Georgia’s Kemp, John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro, May 14, 2022 (print ed.). The latest: Conor Lamb was a rising Democratic star in the Trump era. Not anymore. Noted: Most Republicans say Biden should be impeached if GOP takes back House;

republican elephant logoToday, former vice president Mike Pence announced that he will hold a rally with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) on the eve of the state’s contested May 24 GOP gubernatorial primary. The move puts Pence at odds with former president Donald Trump, who pushed David Perdue, a former U.S. senator, to challenge Kemp, whom Trump has lambasted for not doing enough to overturn the 2020 presidential elections results in Georgia. In a statement, Pence called Kemp “one of the most successful conservative governors in America.”

democratic donkey logoWe’re also watching fallout from the decision by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol to subpoena five House Republican lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). President Biden, meanwhile, has a full day of events in Washington, focused on both foreign and domestic affairs. His schedule includes a meeting with local leaders and law enforcement officials.

Recent Headlines

 

World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters 

ny times logoNew York Times, Building Fire in India’s Capital Leaves Dozens Dead, Hari Kumar, May 15, 2022 (print ed.). Officials said that at least 27 people had been killed, most of them assembly line workers, and that the toll could rise.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Mini-Russia Gets Squeezed by War, Jeffrey Gettleman, Photographs by Cristian Movila, May 15, 2022. The self-declared republic of Transnistria, on the Ukraine border, has been steered by Moscow for decades. The Times made a rare trip inside.

ny times logoNew York Times, After Lebanon’s Collapse, Can an Election Fix the Country? Ben Hubbard, Hwaida Saad and Asmaa al-Omar, May 15, 2022.  On Sunday, Lebanese voters get their first chance to pass judgment on lawmakers since the economy fell apart. Few expect things to improve.

 Recent Headlines

 

Media, Media-Fueled Stocks, Sports

 llewellyn king photo logo

White House Chronicle, Many Newspapers Are on Death Row; Will They Be Reprieved? Llewellyn King (executive producer and host of "White House Chronicle" on PBS), May 14, 2022. Newspapers are on death row. The once great provincial newspapers of this country, indeed of many countries, often look like pamphlets. Others have already been executed by the market.

The cause is simple enough: Disrupting technology in the form of the internet has lured away most of their advertising revenue. To make up the shortfall, publishers have been forced to push up the cover price to astronomical highs, driving away readers.

One city newspaper used to sell 200,000 copies, but now sells fewer than 30,000 copies. I just bought said paper’s Sunday edition for $5. Newspapering is my lifelong trade and I might be expected to shell out that much for a single copy, but I wouldn’t expect it of the public to pay that — especially for a product that is a sliver of what it once was.

New media are taking on some of the role of the newspapers, but it isn’t the same. Traditionally, newspapers have had the time and resources to do the job properly; to detach reporters to dig into the murky, or to demystify the complicated; to operate foreign bureaus; and to send writers to the ends of the earth. Also, they have had the space to publish the result.

More, newspapers have had something that radio, television and the internet outlets haven’t had: durability.

I have a stake in radio and television, yet I still marvel at how newspaper stories endure; how long-lived newspaper coverage is compared with the other forms of media.

I get inquiries about what I wrote years ago. Someone will ask, for example, “Do you remember what you wrote in 1980 about oil supply?”

Newspaper coverage lasts. Nobody has ever asked me about something I said on radio or television more than a few weeks after the broadcast.

There is authority in the written word that doesn’t extend to the broadcast word, and maybe not to the virtual word on the internet in promising, new forms of media like Axios.

If publishing were just another business — and it is a business — and it had reached the end of the line, like the telegram, I would say, “Out with the old and in with the new.” But when it comes to newspapers, it has yet to be proved that the new is doing the job once done by the old or if it can; if it can achieve durability and write the first page of history.

Since the first broadcasts, newspapers have been the feedstock of radio and television, whether in a small town or in a great metropolis. Television and radio have fed off the work of newspapers. Only occasionally is the flow reversed.

The Economist asks whether Russians would have supported President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine if they had had a free media and could have known what was going on; or whether the spread of COVID in China would have been so complete if free media had reported on it early, in the first throes of the pandemic?

The plight of the newspapers should be especially concerning at a time when we see democracy wobbling in many countries, and there are those who would shove it off-kilter even in the United States.

There are no easy ways to subsidize newspapers without taking away their independence and turning them into captive organs. Only one springs to mind, and that is the subsidy that the British press and wire services enjoyed for decades. It was a special, reduced cable rate for transmitting news, known as Commonwealth Cable Rate. It was a subsidy, but a hands-off one.

Commonwealth Cable Rate was so effective that all American publications found ways to use it and enjoy the subsidy.

That is the kind of subsidy that newspapers might need. Of course, best of all, would be for the mighty tech companies to pay for the news they purloin and distribute; for the aggregators to respect the copyrights of the creators of the material they flash around the globe. That alone might save the newspapers, our endangered guardians.

  • Washington Post, Opinion: Democracy is at stake in the midterms. The media must convey that, Margaret Sullivan, May 15, 2022.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fact-Check Analysis: Republicans Wrongly Tie Biden Immigration Policies to Baby Formula Shortage, Linda Qiu, May 14, 2022 (print ed.). Republicans have misleadingly claimed that the Biden administration is sending formula to undocumented immigrants amid a national shortage. Here’s a fact check.

Republican lawmakers have misleadingly suggested that the Biden administration is sending baby formula to undocumented immigrants at the expense of American families amid a national shortage.

Around the country, more than 40 percent of formulas are out of stock, caused by supply chain issues and the closure of a major manufacturing plant in February. The limited availability has left parents desperate and scrambling for a solution. The Biden administration announced modest steps on Thursday to address the crisis, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Friday that the House would take action on the issue next week.

The shortage has become fodder for political attacks from Republicans, who have fused the issue with criticisms of the administration’s immigration policies. Democrats have countered that those opposed to providing migrant infants with formula belong to a “pro starvation caucus,” as one lawmaker put it.

But it is inaccurate to suggest that President Biden is choosing to prioritize the needs of immigrant children over those of American children. Providing food — like formula — and water to migrant children detained at the border is required by a lawsuit settlement, and the Trump administration also adhered to that requirement. And it is unlikely that the amount of formula in stock at detention facilities would meaningfully ease the shortage.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Twitter’s bots likely won’t be grounds for Musk to back out, Reed Albergotti, May 15, 2022 (print ed.). But the Tesla CEO can try to use the issue as leverage to open renegotiations. The up-and-down saga of Elon Musk’s bid to acquire Twitter took a turn this week that many long suspected: The Tesla CEO tweeted something declaring the deal was in jeopardy.

elon musk 2015Musk said in a tweet early Friday that the deal was temporarily on hold, pending an inquiry into the number of “spam/fake,” accounts that exist on Twitter. He later clarified he was still serious about the acquisition.

Two people close to the deal who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they’re not authorized to speak publicly said the tweet reflected an effort by Musk to bring down the $44 billion price tag. That amount was settled before the stock market tanked in recent weeks, making the acquisition price comparatively more expensive.

These so-called “bot” accounts he raised concerns about represent a financial risk for Twitter. Musk has said he intends to remove these accounts when he completes his acquisition of the company. But bots generate revenue just like normal accounts, thanks to viewing the same ads. If there are more fake accounts than Twitter lets on, that would mean a drop in revenue if they are removed.

Musk’s question about bots nothing new for Twitter

twitter bird CustomMusk, whose net worth dropped roughly $50 billion in recent weeks as the markets roiled Tesla and other tech stocks, is free to back out of the deal if he’s getting cold feet. Much of Musk’s wealth comes from his 17 percent stake in Tesla. The electric car company is now worth close to $800 billion. Musk has financed the majority of his Twitter acquisition but still needs to put up $21 billion, which he aims to offset with outside investments.

But even if Musk discovers that Twitter grossly underestimates the number of bots on its service, Musk will likely still be on the hook for a $1 billion fee for killing the deal, legal experts say. And, were he to pull out of the deal, he’d likely face a lawsuit from Twitter, which could claim heavy financial damages for the turmoil Musk has caused since agreeing to acquire it.

washington post logoWashington Post, Musk, Twitter and his goal of saving ‘all life on Earth,’ Marc Fisher, Christian Davenport and Faiz Siddiqui, May 15, 2022 (print ed.). Fresh out of college, Elon Musk built his first business around an early Web search technology to help struggling newspapers launch themselves into the digital world. Frenetic and combative, Musk struck the newspaper executives he was pitching as brilliant but weird.

“He slept under his desk and he didn’t smell very good,” said a former news executive who negotiated with Musk and spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of angering the world’s richest man. “He didn’t have any inherent interest in newspapers. He told me he wanted to do this so he could make money and then do what he really wanted to do, which was design spaceships.”

Musk made that money, then pumped much of it into the company that would become PayPal. His interest in facilitating online payments also turned out to be passing. What Musk really wanted was the big payday that would let him focus on his lifelong ambition: to save humanity through space exploration, electric vehicles and solar energy.
SpaceX propelled Elon Musk, shown in Los Angeles in 2008, toward a childhood goal. (Dan Tuffs/Getty Images)

His next ventures — SpaceX, Tesla, SolarCity, Neuralink — finally propelled Musk toward the goal he’d set when he was 14 to be at the cutting edge of making human life “exciting and inspiring.”

Now Musk is pivoting once more, taking on one of the most prominent and problematic symbols of the Internet age, Twitter. As was true at the start of each of his primary ventures over the past quarter century, he has been at once bold, brash and somewhat blurry about his purpose.

He has cast Twitter as a “de facto public town square,” essential to a functioning democracy. But it carries a legacy of intangible problems — misinformation, censorship, harassment, some starring Musk himself — far from the concrete realm of rockets and engines.

Early Friday, amid doubts that he could muster the cash, he tweeted that the $44 billion deal was “temporarily on hold.” The tweet said he was seeking “details” to support Twitter’s claims that fake accounts known as bots make up less than 5 percent of users. (Musk has made getting rid of fake accounts a centerpiece of his takeover bid.)

Two hours later, Musk tweeted four words: “Still committed to acquisition.”

Wayne Madsen Report, Hollywood Politrivia: How a 1966 TV show predicted the Jan. 6 insurrection and the MAGA cult, Wayne Madsen, left, May 15, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2022. In 1966, an episode of "The Wild Wild West," titled "The Night of the Skulls," was centered on a plot by a fictitious U.S. Senator named Stephen Fenlow and a secret cult led by him to launch an insurrection and seize the presidency in a coup d'état.

Secret Service agents Jim West, played by Robert Conrad, and Artemus Gordon, played by Ross Martin, concocted a sting operation under the orders of the Secret Service director to prevent the simultaneous assassinations of President Ulysses Grant, wayne madesen report logoVice President Schuyler Colfax, Secretary of State Hamilton Fish, and others in the line of succession to the presidency. In exposing the plot, the cult, and its mastermind, West and Gordon prevented the Senator from seizing power.

The episode seemed to predict the MAGA cult of Donald Trump and his congressional enablers of the January 6 plot to seize power.

Other recent Media, Cultural Headlines

 

Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection, Election Claims

 

U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jan. 6 Panel Subpoenas 5 Republican Representatives, Luke Broadwater and Emily Cochrane, May 13, 2022 (print ed.). The House committee investigating the Capitol attack is demanding documents and testimony from Representative Kevin McCarthy and four of his colleagues. The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol issued subpoenas on Thursday to five Republican members of Congress, including Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, who had refused to meet with the panel voluntarily.

The committee’s leaders had been reluctant to issue subpoenas to their fellow lawmakers. That is an extraordinarily rare step for most congressional panels to take, though the House Ethics Committee, which is responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct by members, is known to do so.

kevin mccarthyThe panel said it was demanding testimony from Mr. McCarthy, right, of California, who engaged in a heated phone call with President Donald J. Trump during the Capitol violence; Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, who coordinated a plan to try to replace the acting attorney general after he resisted Mr. Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud; Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, who was deeply involved in the effort to fight the election results; Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona, the former leader of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus; and Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama, who has said Mr. Trump has continued to seek an unlawful reinstatement to office for more than a year.

All five have refused requests for voluntary interviews about the roles they played in the buildup to the attack by supporters of the former president who believed his lie of widespread election fraud.

Recent Headlines

 

Investigations

BIG, The Politics of Monopoly, Analysis: The Baby Formula Nightmare, Matt Stoller, right, May 13-14, 2022. This is a true crisis that is a long-time coming. matt stollerThank the baby formula monopoly, its partner at the Food and Drug Administration, and the Department of Agriculture.

Today I’m writing about the nightmarish baby formula shortage. I’ll try to explain what the problem is, and how to fix it.

Big Bottle and the Baby Formula Apocalypse: As anyone with an infant knows, there is a major crisis in the feeding of America’s babies right now, because parents in some areas can’t get baby formula.

A few months ago, a major producer of formula -- Abbott Labs -- shut down its main production facilities in Sturgis, Michigan, which had been contaminated with the bacteria Cronobacter sakazakii, killing two babies and injuring two others. Abbott provides 43% of the baby formula in the United States, under the brand names Similac, Alimentum and EleCare. So removing this amount of supply from the market is the short-term cause of the problem. (Abbott and Mead Johnson produce 80% of the formula in the U.S., and if you add in Nestle, that gets to 98% of the market.)

The problem is not, however, that there isn’t enough formula, so much as the consolidated distribution system creates a lot of shortages in specific states.

First, it’s hard to convey what a nightmare this situation is for parents, especially those whose children require special kinds of formula because of gastrointestinal issues or food allergies. “The shortage has led us to decide to put a feeding tube in our child,” said one parent, who simply could not get the specialized formula her daughter needs.

Baby formula is not just food, but the primary or sole nutrition for a vulnerable person in a stage of life in which very specific nutritional requirements are necessary for growth. Baby formula was created during the 19th century as we developed modern food preservation techniques. Before this remarkable innovation, baby starvation was common if a mother couldn’t breastfeed her infant (which happens a lot). The invention of industrialized formula was one of those creations we take for granted, but like antibiotics and other medical and scientific advances, it was one that fundamentally changed parenthood and the family.

This shortage is showing just how reliant we are on industrialized formula. The causal factor behind the crisis is poor regulation and a consolidated and brittle supply chain. Imports from Europe are often prohibited, even if there were excess productive capacity elsewhere. I spent a bit of time calling around to people who work in formula, and the industry is basically on a war footing. Everyone is panicking, because the situation is, in short, a nightmare.

I’m going to try and lay out the situation, and explain the market structure. There are two basic mechanisms that have created a concentrated and brittle market. The first is that regulators are tough on newcomers, but soft on incumbents. And the second is that the Federal government buys more than half of the baby formula in the market, and under the guise of competitive bidding, it in fact hands out monopoly licenses for individual states. That makes it impossible to get newcomers of any scale into the market, along with the more resiliency that such competition brings. It also makes it hard to address shortages in one state with extra formula from elsewhere.

Recent Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

ny times logoNew York Times, How America Lost One Million People, Sergio Pecanha and Yan Wu, May 15, 2022 (print ed.). Understanding the coronavirus death toll — including who makes up the one million and how the country failed them — is essential as the pandemic continues.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated May 15, 2022), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2totals ere and some experts saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 521,010,516, Deaths: 6,287,990
U.S. Cases:      84,209,473, Deaths: 1,026,646
Indian Cases:   43,121,599, Deaths:    524,214
Brazil Cases:    30,682,094, Deaths:    664,920

Related Recent Headlines:

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

ny times logoNew York Times, At Least 17 Wounded in Downtown Milwaukee Shooting, Police Say, Dan Simmons, Amanda Holpuch and Sophie Kasakove, May 15, 2022 (print ed.). At least 17 people were wounded in a shooting in downtown Milwaukee on Friday night, blocks from the arena where an N.B.A. playoff game ended hours earlier, the police said.

The Milwaukee Police Department said that there were no fatalities in the shooting, which happened around 11:09 p.m. in a popular nightlife area. The victims were between 15 and 47 years old and were all expected to survive, the police said.

Ten people were in custody in connection with the shooting, including five who were armed and were wounded. The police also said they recovered 10 guns from the scene, which was near the arena, the Fiserv Forum. The police said the investigation was continuing and that they were still looking for others who might have been involved in the gunfire. What led up to the shooting was unknown.

ny times logoNew York Times, Dallas Salon Shooting May Be Linked to Wider Attacks on Asian Businesses, Staff Report, May 14, 2022. The Dallas police chief announced Friday that a recent shooting at an Asian-run hair salon that left three women wounded may be a hate crime and could be connected to a series of similar incidents at other local businesses run by Asian Americans.

A day after police had initially ruled out the possibility of a hate crime, Chief Eddie Garcia said during a news conference that when investigators started connecting the dots to two other recent shootings, it appeared that Wednesday’s attack at Hair World Salon “might be motivated by something other than a random act.”

“As in any other instance where we feel any part of our community is being attacked for a reason of hate, we’re going to take this abundance of caution,” Garcia said, noting Dallas police are working with partners, including the FBI, to investigate. “Hate has no place here.”

The long, ugly history of anti-Asian racism and violence in the U.S.

Police responded early Wednesday afternoon to the shooting at Hair World Salon, located in the city’s Koreatown. Three women had been shot and were rushed to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, police said in a statement.

ICE logo

 washington post logoWashington Post, Court rules against detained immigrants, says they have fewer rights, Rachel Weiner, May 15, 2022 (print ed.). The decision is “a radical outlier” from other appellate courts, an attorney supporting the immigrants said.

Jose de la Cruz Espinoza came to the United States when he was 14; he and his wife run a landscaping business in Delaware and have four children, all U.S. citizens. On Feb. 9, 2020, at his brother’s house in Bel Air, Md., Espinoza got into a loud argument. His daughter called 911.

Espinoza, 28, was ultimately released on his own recognizance. But he was immediately picked up by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and an immigration judge ruled that he would have to pay a $20,000 bond to stay out of jail while fighting deportation.

Unlike in criminal court, where the government has to prove that a person is a danger or a flight risk to keep them detained pending the adjudication of their legal case, the burden is on immigration detainees to convince a judge that they are neither. They also must make their case without a right to counsel, unlike defendants in criminal proceedings. If immigration detainees are granted bond, they must pay it all up front, and the court is not required to consider their ability to pay.

Those differences pushed Espinoza to sue, along with two other immigrants incarcerated in Baltimore while pursuing asylum, backed by civil liberties groups and the law firm Sanford Heisler Sharp. A U.S. district court judge in Maryland found that system unconstitutional in 2020 and issued an injunction requiring the government to carry the burden of proof and immigration judges to consider a detainee’s ability to pay for bond.

The judge was overruled Thursday by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.

“Aliens facing removal proceedings, although entitled to due process under the Constitution, are not entitled to the same process as citizens,” wrote Judges Julius N. Richardson and A. Marvin Quattlebaum Jr., both appointees of President Donald Trump. “Aliens are due less process when facing removal hearings than an ordinary citizen would have.”

 

Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (Pool photo by Erin Schaff via Getty Images).

Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (Pool photo by Erin Schaff via Getty Images).

washington post logoWashington Post, Clarence Thomas says Supreme Court leak has eroded trust in institution, Robert Barnes, May 15, 2022 (print ed.). ‘You begin to look over your shoulder. It’s like kind of an infidelity,’ he said in speech to conservatives.

The leak of a draft opinion regarding abortion has turned the Supreme Court into a place “where you look over your shoulder,” Justice Clarence Thomas said Friday night, and it may have irreparably sundered trust at the institution.

“What happened at the court was tremendously bad,” Thomas said in a conversation with a former law clerk at a conference of conservative and libertarian thinkers in Dallas. “I wonder how long we’re going to have these institutions at the rate we’re undermining them. And then I wonder when they’re gone or destabilized, what we’re going to have as a country.”

It was second time in a week that Thomas has decried declining respect for “institutions” — he made similar remarks at a conference of judges and lawyers last week.

Thomas says respect for institutions is eroding

Thomas, 73, said the leak has exposed the “fragile” nature of the court.

“The institution that I’m a part of — if someone said that one line of one opinion would be leaked by anyone, you would say, ‘Oh, that’s impossible. No one would ever do that,’” Thomas said. “There’s such a belief in the rule of law, belief in the court, belief in what we’re doing, that that was verboten.”

He continued: “And look where we are, where now that trust or that belief is gone forever. And when you lose that trust, especially in the institution that I’m in, it changes the institution fundamentally. You begin to look over your shoulder. It’s like kind of an infidelity, that you can explain it, but you can’t undo it.”

He made the remarks Friday night at a conference sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute, the Manhattan Institute and the Hoover Institution. In front of an approving crowd, he was pointed and accusatory; he seemed to blame law clerks who work at the court for the leak of a draft opinion by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. that would overturn Roe v. Wade, and he appeared distrustful of some of his colleagues.

“Anybody who would, for example, have an attitude to leak documents, that general attitude is your future on the bench,” Thomas said. “And you need to be concerned about that. And we never had that before. We actually trusted — we might have been a dysfunctional family, but we were a family.”

Just as Alito had done in a speech the night before at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University in Virginia, Thomas skipped past the usual bonhomie that justices express about their colleagues — that they disagree vigorously but respect and admire each other.

Asked about that by a questioner, who wondered how a friendly respect for ideological differences could be fostered in Congress and other institutions, Thomas replied:

“Well, I’m just worried about keeping it at the court now.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Buffalo Live Updates: Investigators Begin Building Case Against a Suspect Motivated by Hate, Jesse McKinley, Alex Traub, Troy Closson, Eduardo Medina and Jack Healy, Updated May 15, 2022. Vigils are planned for Sunday to remember the victims, including a security guard who died trying to stop the shooting.

The authorities identified the gunman as 18-year-old Payton S. Gendron of Conklin, a small town in New York’s rural Southern Tier. Mr. Gendron drove more than 200 miles to mount his attack, which he also live streamed, the police said, a chilling video feed that appeared designed to promote his sinister agenda.

Through the 180 pages of hate-filled writings that Payton S. Gendron posted online, a common theme emerged: The notion that white Americans are at risk of being replaced by people of color.

Gunmen have referenced the racist idea, known as “replacement theory,” during a string of mass shootings and other violence in recent years. It was once associated with the far-right fringe, but has become increasingly mainstream, pushed by politicians and popular television programs.
The high concentration of Black residents on Buffalo’s East Side — which the suspect in Saturday’s mass shooting said was his reason for targeting the area — is a direct result of decades of segregation and systemic racism, according to decades of research.

One analysis from the University of Michigan, based on data from the 2010 census, found that the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metro area was the nation’s sixth most segregated when ranked specifically by the distribution of Black and white residents.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Clarence Thomas gives away how afraid he is of what comes next, Bill Palmer, right, May 15, 2022. Supreme Court Justice bill palmerClarence Thomas, famous for having very rarely spoken over the past few decades, is now making a point of loudly complaining about how the recently leaked abortion memo has supposedly ruined the sanctity of the court.

This has brought about the usual lamenting about how awful it is that Thomas is on the court, how absurd it is that Thomas cast the lone vote to suppress January 6th evidence that just happened to incriminate his wife, and so on. Such lamenting is accurate, and bill palmer report logo headerperhaps well earned, but not productive – if only because it misses the point of what’s going on here.

Stop and ask yourself why Clarence Thomas, who entered the Supreme Court as a scandalous figure and then spent his career lying low in the hope of keeping heat off himself, is choosing now to run his mouth in such odious fashion. He has to know that talking like this just brings more attention to his wife’s sedition crimes, and for that matter the felony obstruction of justice he committed when he cast a vote that he secretly knew was aimed at preventing his wife from going to prison. Yet here’s Thomas anyway, running his mouth, and hanging a neon sign over his head that reads “Don’t forget that my wife and I are criminals.”

There’s only one reason for Thomas to be doing this: desperation. His blather about the sanctity of the Supreme Court isn’t some devious master stroke. It’s a panic move. It’s the stupid thing that desperate people do, when their emotions have gotten the best of them. Thomas and his literal partner in crime were fading out of the headlines. Now Thomas just put himself and his wife back in the headlines.

It’s important that we spot a desperate stupid panic move like this when we see it. It’s how we determine which villains are vulnerable, what they’re afraid of, how close they are to their breaking point, and which buttons we need to push in order to get them to implode in a way that takes them down.

Clarence Thomas is only pushing this stupid panicked narrative because he’s desperately hoping it’ll stick. But it’ll only stick if we let it stick, by passively sitting around and lamenting about it, instead of using it to our advantage. Now is the time to ramp up the pressure on Thomas, who is at least to some degree cracking. Clarence and Ginni Thomas are the ones who are on the ropes here, not us. Let’s keep that in mind as we move forward.

ny times logoNew York Times, Alabama’s Transgender Youth Can Use Medicine to Transition, Judge Rules, Rick Rojas, May 15, 2022 (print ed.).  A federal judge temporarily halted part of a new law that prevents doctors from prescribing puberty blockers and hormone therapies to transgender youth. He upheld a ban on sex-altering operations.

The severity of the punishment — which also includes threats of criminal prosecution for parents and educators who support a child in transitioning — has stood out even amid a wave of legislation by conservative lawmakers that has focused on transgender young people, including efforts to thwart access to what doctors call gender-affirming care and barring some transgender students from participating in school sports.

The Alabama law, which was signed by Gov. Kay Ivey and went into effect on May 8, was challenged in federal court by several families with transgender children, physicians who work with transgender patients and the U.S. Justice Department.

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Climate

 

colorado river w

washington post logoWashington Post, The Colorado River is in crisis and getting worse every day, Karin Brulliard, Photos by Matt McClain, Videos by Erin Patrick O'Connor, May 14, 2022. Demand for water is growing in the Southwest even as supply drops amid a climate change-driven megadrought and rising temperatures.

The Colorado River (above) is in crisis — one deepening by the day.

It is a powerhouse: a 1,450-mile waterway that stretches from the Rocky Mountains to the Sea of Cortez, serving 40 million people in seven U.S. states, 30 federally recognized tribes and Mexico. It hydrates 5 million acres of agricultural land and provides critical habitat for rare fish, birds and plants.

But the Colorado’s water was overpromised when it was first allocated a century ago. Demand in the fast-growing Southwest exceeds supply, and it is growing even as supply drops amid a climate change-driven megadrought and rising temperatures.

States and cities are now scrambling to forestall the gravest impacts to growth, farming, drinking water and electricity, while also aiming to protect their own interests.

In an emergency move this month, the federal government held back water from Lake Powell, the nation’s second-largest reservoir, where the water is at a historic low. Days before, Las Vegas turned on a low-level pumping station that will deliver water from fast-drying Lake Mead, the largest U.S. reservoir, even if the Hoover Dam fails.

The Washington Post traveled along the river, from its start to its finish, to examine how people and places are coping with a shrinking lifeline in a hotter and drier landscape.

ny times logoNew York Times, Beach Houses on the Outer Banks Are Being Swallowed by the Sea, Richard Fausset, May 15, 2022 (print ed.). A neighborhood of vacation homes off the coast of North Carolina has become a symbol of the effects of rising oceans.

Like millions of other people this week, Hien Pham marveled at the online video of the two-story, pea-green beach house as it collapsed into a rising sea, left to bob in the agitated surf like a giant cork.

This particular giant cork, formerly located at 24265 Ocean Drive, was Mr. Pham’s. He had purchased the four-bedroom place in November 2020 for $275,000.

“It’s definitely a feeling that you can’t explain,” said Mr. Pham, 30, a Knoxville, Tenn., real estate agent, in a phone interview. “Just to see something that once was there, and it’s not there anymore.”

The feeling, he added, “is pretty empty.”

Three prime beachfront lots are now empty on Ocean Drive, a small stretch of a charmingly scruffy Outer Banks subdivision called Trade Winds Beaches that has, to the chagrin of its property owners, become a sort of poster neighborhood for sea-level rise — particularly since the video of Mr. Pham’s house, which collapsed Tuesday, was shared widely on social media. The once-generous stretch of beach in front of the houses has largely vanished in recent months, leaving them vulnerable to the destructive power of the Atlantic Ocean.

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May 14

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colorado river w

washington post logoWashington Post, The Colorado River is in crisis and getting worse every day, Karin Brulliard, Photos by Matt McClain, Videos by Erin Patrick O'Connor, May 14, 2022. Demand for water is growing in the Southwest even as supply drops amid a climate change-driven megadrought and rising temperatures.

The Colorado River (above) is in crisis — one deepening by the day.

It is a powerhouse: a 1,450-mile waterway that stretches from the Rocky Mountains to the Sea of Cortez, serving 40 million people in seven U.S. states, 30 federally recognized tribes and Mexico. It hydrates 5 million acres of agricultural land and provides critical habitat for rare fish, birds and plants.

But the Colorado’s water was overpromised when it was first allocated a century ago. Demand in the fast-growing Southwest exceeds supply, and it is growing even as supply drops amid a climate change-driven megadrought and rising temperatures.

States and cities are now scrambling to forestall the gravest impacts to growth, farming, drinking water and electricity, while also aiming to protect their own interests.

In an emergency move this month, the federal government held back water from Lake Powell, the nation’s second-largest reservoir, where the water is at a historic low. Days before, Las Vegas turned on a low-level pumping station that will deliver water from fast-drying Lake Mead, the largest U.S. reservoir, even if the Hoover Dam fails.

The Washington Post traveled along the river, from its start to its finish, to examine how people and places are coping with a shrinking lifeline in a hotter and drier landscape.

 

lloyd austin o

 sergei shoigu.uniformed

washington post logoWashington Post, Austin asks Russian defense minister for cease-fire in first talks since Ukraine invasion began, Dan Lamothe and Karoun Demirjian, May 14, 2022. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin urged his Russian counterpart Friday to consider a cease-fire in Ukraine during the first discussion between the two leaders since the Russian invasion began nearly three months ago, the Pentagon said.

Austin, shown above in a file photo, had not connected with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, also shown above, since Feb. 18 — six days before Russia commenced its assault on Ukraine — despite repeated attempts by U.S. officials to do so, said a senior U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the Pentagon. The two men spoke for about an hour, and the official characterized their conversation as “professional,” but declined to detail what was said.

“It wasn’t for lack of trying that we hadn’t been able to establish” communications, the official said. “We’ve been consistently asking for this conversation, and Minister Shoigu accepted for a call this week. But what motivated them to change their minds and be open to it, I don’t think we know for sure.”

The discussion occurred as Russia has expanded its military presence in Ukraine — particularly in the eastern regions of the country — after it earlier failed to seize the capital city of Kyiv and withdrew thousands of troops. Russia now has about 105 battalion tactical groups in Ukraine, the Pentagon said Friday, up slightly from a Defense Department count last week.

Shoigu and Austin also spoke as two countries, Finland and Sweden, are taking steps toward applying for NATO membership, a move that officials believe would bolster their security long-term but potentially leave them vulnerable to Russian retaliation. Each of NATO’s 30 current members must approve the applications for them to join, a process that can take months.

The majority of the Russian military’s efforts are now focused on Donbas, a section of eastern Ukraine that Moscow appears to want to seize. Russian forces have attempted in recent days to press south from the town of Izyum, which they already control, to the city of Slovyansk, but have encountered fierce Ukrainian resistance, the senior U.S. defense official said.

CNN, 10 people killed in a racially motivated mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket, police say, Artemis Moshtaghian, Shimon Prokupecz and Emma Tucker, May 14, 2022. Ten people were killed in a racially motivated mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo on Saturday, law enforcement officials said during a news conference.

CNNThe shooting occurred Saturday afternoon at the Tops Markets on Jefferson Street. A suspect is in custody, police said. Two federal law enforcement officials told CNN investigators are reviewing a purported manifesto posted online in connection with the mass shooting.

The FBI is assisting in the investigation, Stephen Belongia, special agent in charge of the FBI Buffalo field office, said at the news conference. The shooting is being investigated as a hate crime Belongia said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: As Finnish and Swedish Officials Join NATO Meeting, Russia Punishes Finland, Marc Santora and Matthew Mpoke Bigg, May 14, 2022. Russia cut off electricity exports to Finland, which, along with Sweden, is moving toward joining the military alliance. Here’s the latest.

After Ukraine’s military drove Russia from Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, a Ukrainian military official announced the launch Saturday of a counteroffensive aimed at denying the Russians a key staging area just north of the Donbas region.

The head of Kharkiv’s regional military administration said Ukrainian forces had launched a counteroffensive on Russian forces around the northeastern city of Izium. The city is key to Russian efforts to try to broadly encircle Ukraine’s forces in the east of the country.

Even as Ukrainian forces reclaimed territory in the country’s northeast on Saturday, driving Russian forces away from the city of Kharkiv and going on the offensive near the occupied town of Izium, military and civilian leaders warned that the war was entering a new, slow-moving phase that could last a long time.

For weeks, Russia has been using Izium as a staging area for a broader offensive in the eastern Donbas region, trying to drive south from the city as other Russian forces push north from Donetsk to broadly encircle tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers defending the front lines.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Ukraine makes gains in Kharkiv, Julian Duplain, Amy Cheng, Andrew Jeong, Tobi Raji, Ellen Francis and Victoria Bisset, May 14, 2022. McConnell leads Senate GOP delegation to Kyiv, meets Zelensky; Kharkiv governor warns residents not to go home despite Russian retreat; Ukraine is readying 41 war crimes cases, prosecutor general says; Ukraine foreign minister urges G-7 to hand over seized Russian assets.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed a delegation of Republican senators headed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) to Kyiv on Saturday, praising the visit as “a strong signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine.” The other senators visible in a video, in which they were greeted by Zelensky on a Kyiv street, were John Barrasso (Wyo.), Susan Collins (Maine) and John Cornyn (Tex.). “I look forward to the United States’ support for further sanctions,” said Zelensky.

Ukrainian officials are negotiating with Russia to evacuate 60 “seriously wounded” people and medics from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Saturday. Zelensky described the negotiations as “very difficult” late Friday, adding: “We do not stop trying to save all our people from Mariupol and Azovstal.”

Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces have made gains in Kharkiv, pushing Russian troops north toward the border and reclaiming towns and villages in the area, a senior U.S. defense official told reporters Friday. The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, assessed that Ukraine “appears to have won the Battle of Kharkiv,” adding that the Kremlin has “likely decided to withdraw fully” from its positions around the city amid spirited Ukrainian counterattacks and limited Russian reinforcements.

Here’s what else to know

  • Sweden and Finland will join a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Berlin on Saturday, after leaders in both countries indicated they want to join the military alliance. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is traveling to Berlin to attend the NATO talks, which will set the stage for a leaders’ summit in June.
  • India, the world’s second-largest wheat producer, has banned exports of the grain amid its own food security concerns, as global food prices soar with Ukrainian grain exports heavily depleted.
  • Ukraine will compete in the Eurovision Song Contest final later Saturday. The country’s folk-rap group Kalush Orchestra is favored to win with its song, “Stefania.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Flood of weapons, vague U.S. assurances raise fears of arms smuggling in Ukraine, John Hudson, May 14, 2022. President Biden is expected to sign in the coming days a $40 billion security-assistance package that will supercharge the flow of missiles, rockets, artillery and drones to a war-torn Ukraine.

But what remains unclear is Washington’s ability to keep track of the powerful weapons as they enter one of the largest trafficking hubs in Europe.

Ukraine’s illicit arms market has ballooned since Russia’s initial invasion in 2014, buttressed by a surplus of loose weapons and limited controls on their use.

This uncomfortable reality for the United States and its allies comes amid urgent pleas from President Volodymyr Zelensky to provide artillery needed to counter Russian forces in the country’s east and south. The Ukrainian leader’s appeals are credited with uniting House lawmakers behind the latest funding request in a bipartisan 368-to-57 vote on Tuesday. But the unprecedented influx of arms has prompted fears that some equipment could fall into the hands of Western adversaries or reemerge in faraway conflicts — for decades to come.

nato logo flags name

washington post logoWashington Post, Turkey’s Erdogan voices skepticism on Sweden and Finland joining NATO, Michael Birnbaum, Victoria Bisset, Andrea Salcedo and John Hudson, May 14, 2022 (print ed.). Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, below, voiced skepticism Friday about Sweden and Finland potentially joining the NATO defense alliance, a sign of dissension in efforts to revamp Europe’s security architecture after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

recep erdogan throneThe Turkish warning came a day after a landmark recommendation from Finland’s leaders that the country join NATO and as Swedish leaders appeared ready to follow their lead this weekend — a geopolitical earthquake following decades in which the countries resolutely stayed neutral.

The war in Ukraine transformed attitudes in both countries and has set off a broader discussion in Europe about how to defend against a more dangerous Russia. Leaders of most NATO countries have indicated they welcome Finnish and Swedish membership and believe it would strengthen the alliance. NATO leaders were expected to sign off on the expansion at a June summit in Madrid — or that was the plan until Friday’s comments from Erdogan.

 

Media, Media-Fueled Stocks, Sports

 llewellyn king photo logo

White House Chronicle, Many Newspapers Are on Death Row; Will They Be Reprieved? Llewellyn King (executive producer and host of "White House Chronicle" on PBS), May 14, 2022. Newspapers are on death row. The once great provincial newspapers of this country, indeed of many countries, often look like pamphlets. Others have already been executed by the market.

The cause is simple enough: Disrupting technology in the form of the internet has lured away most of their advertising revenue. To make up the shortfall, publishers have been forced to push up the cover price to astronomical highs, driving away readers.

One city newspaper used to sell 200,000 copies, but now sells fewer than 30,000 copies. I just bought said paper’s Sunday edition for $5. Newspapering is my lifelong trade and I might be expected to shell out that much for a single copy, but I wouldn’t expect it of the public to pay that — especially for a product that is a sliver of what it once was.

New media are taking on some of the role of the newspapers, but it isn’t the same. Traditionally, newspapers have had the time and resources to do the job properly; to detach reporters to dig into the murky, or to demystify the complicated; to operate foreign bureaus; and to send writers to the ends of the earth. Also, they have had the space to publish the result.

More, newspapers have had something that radio, television and the internet outlets haven’t had: durability.

I have a stake in radio and television, yet I still marvel at how newspaper stories endure; how long-lived newspaper coverage is compared with the other forms of media.

I get inquiries about what I wrote years ago. Someone will ask, for example, “Do you remember what you wrote in 1980 about oil supply?”

Newspaper coverage lasts. Nobody has ever asked me about something I said on radio or television more than a few weeks after the broadcast.

There is authority in the written word that doesn’t extend to the broadcast word, and maybe not to the virtual word on the internet in promising, new forms of media like Axios.

If publishing were just another business — and it is a business — and it had reached the end of the line, like the telegram, I would say, “Out with the old and in with the new.” But when it comes to newspapers, it has yet to be proved that the new is doing the job once done by the old or if it can; if it can achieve durability and write the first page of history.

Since the first broadcasts, newspapers have been the feedstock of radio and television, whether in a small town or in a great metropolis. Television and radio have fed off the work of newspapers. Only occasionally is the flow reversed.

The Economist asks whether Russians would have supported President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine if they had had a free media and could have known what was going on; or whether the spread of COVID in China would have been so complete if free media had reported on it early, in the first throes of the pandemic?

The plight of the newspapers should be especially concerning at a time when we see democracy wobbling in many countries, and there are those who would shove it off-kilter even in the United States.

There are no easy ways to subsidize newspapers without taking away their independence and turning them into captive organs. Only one springs to mind, and that is the subsidy that the British press and wire services enjoyed for decades. It was a special, reduced cable rate for transmitting news, known as Commonwealth Cable Rate. It was a subsidy, but a hands-off one.

Commonwealth Cable Rate was so effective that all American publications found ways to use it and enjoy the subsidy.

That is the kind of subsidy that newspapers might need. Of course, best of all, would be for the mighty tech companies to pay for the news they purloin and distribute; for the aggregators to respect the copyrights of the creators of the material they flash around the globe. That alone might save the newspapers, our endangered guardians.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fact-Check Analysis: Republicans Wrongly Tie Biden Immigration Policies to Baby Formula Shortage, Linda Qiu, May 14, 2022 (print ed.). Republicans have misleadingly claimed that the Biden administration is sending formula to undocumented immigrants amid a national shortage. Here’s a fact check.

Republican lawmakers have misleadingly suggested that the Biden administration is sending baby formula to undocumented immigrants at the expense of American families amid a national shortage.

Around the country, more than 40 percent of formulas are out of stock, caused by supply chain issues and the closure of a major manufacturing plant in February. The limited availability has left parents desperate and scrambling for a solution. The Biden administration announced modest steps on Thursday to address the crisis, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Friday that the House would take action on the issue next week.

The shortage has become fodder for political attacks from Republicans, who have fused the issue with criticisms of the administration’s immigration policies. Democrats have countered that those opposed to providing migrant infants with formula belong to a “pro starvation caucus,” as one lawmaker put it.

But it is inaccurate to suggest that President Biden is choosing to prioritize the needs of immigrant children over those of American children. Providing food — like formula — and water to migrant children detained at the border is required by a lawsuit settlement, and the Trump administration also adhered to that requirement. And it is unlikely that the amount of formula in stock at detention facilities would meaningfully ease the shortage.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Twitter’s bots likely won’t be grounds for Musk to back out, Reed Albergotti, May 14, 2022. But the Tesla CEO can try to use the issue as leverage to open renegotiations. The up-and-down saga of Elon Musk’s bid to acquire Twitter took a turn this week that many long suspected: The Tesla CEO tweeted something declaring the deal was in jeopardy.

elon musk 2015Musk said in a tweet early Friday that the deal was temporarily on hold, pending an inquiry into the number of “spam/fake,” accounts that exist on Twitter. He later clarified he was still serious about the acquisition.

Two people close to the deal who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they’re not authorized to speak publicly said the tweet reflected an effort by Musk to bring down the $44 billion price tag. That amount was settled before the stock market tanked in recent weeks, making the acquisition price comparatively more expensive.

These so-called “bot” accounts he raised concerns about represent a financial risk for Twitter. Musk has said he intends to remove these accounts when he completes his acquisition of the company. But bots generate revenue just like normal accounts, thanks to viewing the same ads. If there are more fake accounts than Twitter lets on, that would mean a drop in revenue if they are removed.

Musk’s question about bots nothing new for Twitter

twitter bird CustomMusk, whose net worth dropped roughly $50 billion in recent weeks as the markets roiled Tesla and other tech stocks, is free to back out of the deal if he’s getting cold feet. Much of Musk’s wealth comes from his 17 percent stake in Tesla. The electric car company is now worth close to $800 billion. Musk has financed the majority of his Twitter acquisition but still needs to put up $21 billion, which he aims to offset with outside investments.

But even if Musk discovers that Twitter grossly underestimates the number of bots on its service, Musk will likely still be on the hook for a $1 billion fee for killing the deal, legal experts say. And, were he to pull out of the deal, he’d likely face a lawsuit from Twitter, which could claim heavy financial damages for the turmoil Musk has caused since agreeing to acquire it.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Abortion foes push to narrow ‘life of mother’ exceptions, Ariana Eunjung Cha and Emily Wax-Thibodeaux, May 14, 2022 (print ed.). Doctors warn women’s lives would be endangered and maternal deaths could increase.

Terminating a pregnancy to save a mother’s life has long been accepted as a moral imperative by those on both sides of the abortion debate. For decades, jurisdictions that restricted the procedure granted wide leeway to doctors to make exceptions for medical necessity. But now, with the U.S. Supreme Court potentially moving to overturn Roe, the landmark ruling affirming the right to abortion nationwide, emboldened conservatives in some states are pushing to narrow and in some cases eliminate such exceptions, arguing that they create loopholes that are easily exploited. Doctors say such restrictions will complicate medical decisions for pregnant women, increasing the risk of death in a country that already has the highest rates of maternal mortality in the industrialized world.

  • Washington Post, Abortion rights groups to rally today
  • Washington Post, Blue states pour millions into abortion access

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More on Ukraine War

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ukraine olena kurilo 52 teacher Russian missile Chuhuiv amazon

52-year-old Ukrainian teacher Olena Kurilo following a Russian missile strike in Chuhuiv, Ukraine in April.

ny times logoNew York Times, Sanctions are shining a light on President Vladimir Putin’s private life, something he has long tried to avoid, Jason Horowitz, Updated May 14, 2022. As Western nations place sanctions on people close to the Russian leader, including family members, the strict secrecy surrounding his private life is being punctured.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sanctions forcing Russia to use appliance parts in military gear, U.S. says, Jeanne Whalen, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). With Western technology sales banned, Russia is using computer chips meant for household appliances in battlefield gear, Commerce secretary tells a Senate hearing.

Russian FlagU.S.-led sanctions are forcing Russia to use computer chips from dishwashers and refrigerators in some military equipment, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Wednesday.

“We have reports from Ukrainians that when they find Russian military equipment on the ground, it’s filled with semiconductors that they took out of dishwashers and refrigerators,” Raimondo told a Senate hearing, noting that she recently met with Ukraine’s prime minister.

U.S. technology exports to Russia have fallen by nearly 70 percent since sanctions began in late February, according to Raimondo, whose department oversees the export controls that form a big part of the sanctions package. Three dozen other countries have adopted similar export bans, which also apply to Belarus.

“Our approach was to deny Russia technology — technology that would cripple their ability to continue a military operation. And that is exactly what we are doing,” she said in a response to a question from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) about the impact of the export controls. cost of staff and space, the organization consolidated operations and now cooks meals out of one kitchen.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Updates: Kyiv holds war crimes trial for Russian soldier; Sweden eyes NATO benefits, David L. Stern, Marisa Iati, Ellen Francis, Andrew Jeong, Amy Cheng, Victoria Bisset and Andrea Salcedo, May 14, 2022 (print ed.). Brittney Griner’s detention in Russia extended by one month; U.S. seeks to ‘clarify’ Turkey’s stance on Nordic countries’ NATO membership; Swedish foreign minister says joining NATO would help stabilize country; Russian military ramps up attacks in Donbas amid losses, U.K. says.

A 21-year-old Russian soldier was brought before a Kyiv court Friday in the first war crimes trial of the conflict, Ukraine’s prosecutor general said. Now in custody, Vadim Shishimarin is accused of killing an unarmed 62-year-old civilian in the invasion’s first week.

In Sweden, a parliamentary report contends that joining NATO would help deter conflict in northern Europe. The security review outlined Sweden’s vulnerability to attack if it remains the only Nordic or Baltic country outside the alliance, while noting the risk of Russian retaliation if it applies for membership. Finland’s leaders, meanwhile, said their country must apply “without delay” — illustrating how the war in Ukraine has prompted a tectonic shift in two militarily nonaligned Nordic nations.

Britain also announced new sanctions Friday against the family of Russian President Vladimir Putin, along with his former wife, Lyudmila Ocheretnaya, and a former Olympic gymnast, Alina Kabaeva, long alleged to be his romantic partner.

Here’s what else to know

  • Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) stood by his objection to a Senate vote on sending $39.8 billion in aid to Kyiv. The move delayed passage of the bill and hampered a bipartisan push for steady assistance.
  • finland flagFinland and Sweden’s potential accession would boost NATO’s troop levels and firepower, and lengthen its shared border with Russia. Ukraine has unsuccessfully sought membership.
  • Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said a Russian armored battalion suffered heavy losses after Ukrainian forces thwarted it while it attempted to cross a river near Severodonetsk, the easternmost city still controlled by Ukraine.
  • Nearly 100 children were killed in Ukraine last month, the deputy director of UNICEF told the U.N. Security Council. He added that the true total is probably “considerably higher.”

 

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U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

RawStory, Trump allies suffer another legal blow in bid to get Dominion lawsuit dismissed: report, Tom Boggioni, May 14, 2022. According to a report from CNN, a bid by allies of former President Donald Trump to get a defamation suit filed against them by a former Dominion Voting Systems executive dismissed was shot down by a Colorado judge on Friday.

raw story logo squareThe report notes that Eric Coomer was accused by lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani --among others -- of involvement in a plot to rig the 2020 election against Donald Trump.

As CNN's Tierney Sneed reports, District Judge Marie Avery Moses ruled the trial can go forward and that more "extensive" discovery can also proceed.

In the ruling, Moses wrote, "There is no constitutional value in false statements of fact or the deliberate spread of dangerous and inflammatory political disinformation designed to sow distrust in democratic institutions. The public has an active interest in ensuring that there are remedies for defamatory statements."

She added, "There is evidence that Giuliani's allegations against Coomer conformed to a preconceived storyline of fraud given his allegations of fraud after the election. Further, there is evidence that Giuliani had incentive to defame Coomer both in support of former President Trump and to maintain national attention. This evidence is sufficient to support a finding of actual malice."

According to CNN's Sneed, "Already, the case has revealed that Trump allies did little to investigate uncorroborated claims of election fraud before repeating them on the public stage. The discovery Coomer was entitled to at the motion-to-dismiss stage produced a Trump campaign memo -- written days before Giuliani and Powell held their infamous RNC news conference where they promoted election fraud claims -- that debunked several of the allegations the Trump lawyers went on to make," adding, "As part of the motion to dismiss, Powell, Guliani and others who boosted Trump's lies about election fraud sat for depositions in which they said they only minimally reviewed the claims about Coomer before touting those allegations in front of a national audience."

ny times logoNew York Times, Gearing Up for G.O.P. Gains, Biden Braces for a Barrage of Inquiries, Charlie Savage and Michael S. Schmidt, May 14, 2022. A divided government could soon take Washington to new levels of intensity, as some Republicans appear eager to target President Biden and his family.

President Biden’s legal team is laying the groundwork to defend against an expected onslaught of oversight investigations by congressional Republicans, should they take one or both chambers in the midterm elections — including preparing for the possibility of impeachment as payback for the two impeachments of President Donald J. Trump.

As part of those preparations, Mr. Biden and his White House counsel, Dana Remus, have hired Richard A. Sauber, a longtime white-collar defense lawyer who is now the top lawyer at the Department of Veterans Affairs, to oversee responses to subpoenas and other oversight efforts, according to people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.

Mr. Biden’s personal lawyer, Bob Bauer, and Ms. Remus have also been meeting for months to work out potential divisions of labor between White House lawyers and outside counsel, according to people briefed on the matter.

The arrangement is said to be aimed at respecting the limits of what taxpayer-funded lawyers should handle and ensuring that Mr. Biden’s two sets of lawyers do not mix work in a way that could inadvertently undermine executive and attorney-client privilege protecting what lawyers know from any subpoenas for their testimony or notes.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: Student Debt Is Crushing. Canceling It for Everyone Is Still a Bad Idea, Editorial Board, May 14, 2022. The astronomical level of student debt accrued in the United States is inflicting lasting, generational damage on the lives of millions of Americans. More than 45 million people are now carrying more than $1.7 trillion in debt, most of it owed to the federal government.

The burden of that debt is crushing and follows borrowers throughout their lives: It is delaying marriage and home buying and the birth of children. It leaves some students broke on the day after graduation. Others labor for years only to find their balances larger than when they graduated. Lower-income students who must borrow heavily to obtain that degree can end up earning middle-class incomes without being able to lead middle-class lives. Around 40 percent of borrowers never graduate from school in the first place. And a third of the debt will never be paid off, according to the Department of Education.

The Biden administration should spend its finite resources and political capital on fixing the higher education system to make it more affordable while helping those borrowers in the most distress. There are already ways to do this, although they have not gotten nearly enough attention or resources.

Canceling student debt across the board is not one of them. Trying to fix such a shattered system with the flick of a pen on an executive order could even make it worse. Canceling this debt, even in the limited amounts that the White House is considering, would set a bad precedent and do nothing to change the fact that future students will graduate with yet more debt — along with the blind hope of another, future amnesty. Such a move is legally dubious, economically unsound, politically fraught and educationally problematic.

As a candidate, Mr. Biden said he supported congressional action to tackle student debt. Legal experts disagree about whether the president has the authority to cancel student loan debt through an executive order, as the White House is now considering. That raises the possibility that this issue could be dragged out in the courts for years.

All told, 79 million American adults have had student loans at some point. Nearly half have paid them off entirely. Waiving $10,000 in student debt, the amount Mr. Biden proposed during his presidential campaign, could clear the books of as many as 15 million of the more than 45 million Americans who still owe borrowed money for school. Proponents of debt cancellation argue that Democrats need to deliver on a campaign promise to a key constituency, and it may well be politically advantageous for them to do so before the midterm elections, when turnout of the Democratic base will be critical to the party’s success. But if the Biden administration puts forward a plan that voters do not regard as fair, the party could face a backlash at the polls.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Republicans working to undermine Trump candidates, Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey, May 14, 2022 (print ed.). Some GOP leaders have been actively campaigning — or quietly maneuvering — against Trump’s picks in a way that could threaten his sway over the party.

Before a roomful of Republican donors Monday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy praised Donald Trump as the “secret weapon” in the GOP’s quest to retake Congress, while Trump returned the favor by saying McCarthy had been with him from the beginning, according to two people in attendance at the event in Dallas.

But their united front disguised far more complicated relationships that have developed between the former president and elected Republican leaders like McCarthy — a fact that is now playing out in a series of primary proxy battles across the country. From Nebraska and Idaho to Pennsylvania and Georgia, Republicans have been actively campaigning — or quietly maneuvering — against Trump’s picks in a way that could undermine his sway over the party.

One prominent example came Tuesday when Trump’s endorsed candidate for Nebraska governor, Charles Herbster, lost in the GOP primary after significant opposition from Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) — the first of what could be several potential setbacks in coming weeks for the former president.

 

john fetterman

ny times logoNew York Times, How ‘Just a Dude’ in a Hoodie Became a Senate Front-Runner, Katie Glueck, May 14, 20222. John Fetterman, above, has used his shorts-and-hoodie image to connect with Pennsylvania voters in the Democratic Senate primary.

pennsylvania map major citiesJohn Fetterman’s latest ad boasts that his campaign has become a movement. Days before Pennsylvania’s primary on Tuesday, Mr. Fetterman is the front-runner for the state’s Democratic Senate nomination. But he insists that he is simply “doing my thing.”

“I’m just a dude that shows up and just talks about what I believe in, you know?” he said in an interview on Thursday in the deeply Republican county of York, standing across the street from The Holy Hound Taproom, a bar in his hometown where he hosted a packed campaign event.

Mr. Fetterman, the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, does not sound like any other leading politician in recent memory. And standing roughly 6-foot-8, with his uniform of basketball shorts and hoodies bearing occasional schmutz, he plainly does not look like one.

But as Tuesday approaches in a contest to determine the general-election contenders in one of the most closely divided states in the country, Mr. Fetterman is in a far stronger position than many party officials and strategists in Pennsylvania and Washington had anticipated. And if he wins the Democratic nomination, his candidacy will offer a clear test of whether politicians with vivid personal brands can overcome crushing national headwinds at a moment of intense political polarization.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal Reserve is raising interest rates even as the global economy struggles, David J. Lynch, May 14, 2022 (print ed.). Fed leads central banks in raising borrowing costs, withdrawing emergency support. The Federal Reserve’s bid to calm inflation by raising interest rates and withdrawing emergency stimulus programs is gearing up just as the global economy is displaying worrisome signs of weakness, aggravated by the war in Ukraine and covid’s continuing hold on industrial supply chains.

The risk, some economists said, is that the Fed and other central banks that are implementing similar anti-inflation policies may adjust too slowly to a complex and fast-changing global landscape.

While the Fed is just starting to overhaul the loose monetary stance it adopted during the pandemic, global financial conditions already are tighter than at any time since the 2008 financial crisis, according to a Goldman Sachs index.

Faced with tighter money, war in Europe and fresh supply chain troubles in Asia, global growth may buckle. The Institute of International Finance, an industry group, said Thursday it expects global output to “flatline” this year.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. Politics News & Analysis: Bucking Trump, Pence to rally with Georgia’s Kemp, John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro, May 14, 2022 (print ed.). The latest: Conor Lamb was a rising Democratic star in the Trump era. Not anymore. Noted: Most Republicans say Biden should be impeached if GOP takes back House;

republican elephant logoToday, former vice president Mike Pence announced that he will hold a rally with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) on the eve of the state’s contested May 24 GOP gubernatorial primary. The move puts Pence at odds with former president Donald Trump, who pushed David Perdue, a former U.S. senator, to challenge Kemp, whom Trump has lambasted for not doing enough to overturn the 2020 presidential elections results in Georgia. In a statement, Pence called Kemp “one of the most successful conservative governors in America.”

We’re also watching fallout from the decision by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol to subpoena five House Republican lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). President Biden, meanwhile, has a full day of events in Washington, focused on both foreign and domestic affairs. His schedule includes a meeting with local leaders and law enforcement officials.

Recent Headlines

 

World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters 

ny times logoNew York Times, Building Fire in India’s Capital Leaves Dozens Dead, Hari Kumar, May 14, 2022. Officials said that at least 27 people had been killed, most of them assembly line workers, and that the toll could rise.

 

shireen abu akleh file

ny times logoNew York Times, Israeli Police Attack Mourners Before Funeral of Al Jazeera Journalist, Patrick Kingsley and Raja Abdulrahim, May 14, 2022 (print ed.). As hundreds gathered to witness the start of Shireen Abu Akleh’s funeral procession, riot police assaulted the people carrying her coffin.

In life, Shireen Abu Akleh, above, an acclaimed Palestinian American broadcaster, was one of the leading chroniclers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Her death, while covering an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, turned her into one of the conflict’s most prominent recent victims. Palestinian witnesses and officials said Ms. Abu Akleh, 51, long a leading television reporter for Al Jazeera, was shot by Israeli soldiers, though Israeli officials said she could have been struck by either Palestinian or Israeli fire.

Then, on Friday in Jerusalem, her funeral was marred by another burst of violence.

Early that afternoon, as thousands of people massed in East Jerusalem for one of the largest Palestinian funerals in recent memory, a phalanx of Israeli riot police assaulted a group of mourners carrying the coffin containing Ms. Abu Akleh’s body, causing them to almost drop it.

Israel FlagThe Israeli police later said they had intervened because the mourners, who wanted to carry the coffin by foot to the funeral, had refused to put it in a hearse, an arrangement the police said had previously been agreed to with Ms. Abu Akleh’s family.

But the police intervention drew shock and condemnation both in Israel and beyond, with the assault on mourners regarded as egregious regardless of its motive.

It was the latest and perhaps most startling salvo of the most violent period in Israel and the occupied territories, outside of full-scale war, in several years.

The assault occurred outside a hospital in East Jerusalem, where Ms. Abu Akleh’s body had been kept since another memorial on Thursday, and where hundreds had gathered to witness the start of her funeral cortege.

Tensions arose between Palestinians and Israeli police officers after the Palestinians began waving Palestinian flags and chanting nationalist slogans. They escalated after the police refused to allow mourners to take the coffin on their shoulders to the church, according to Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff, a senior foreign diplomat who witnessed the dispute.

At the White House, the press secretary Jen Psaki described video footage of the clash as “deeply disturbing” and said, “We regret the intrusion into what should have been a peaceful procession.”

East Jerusalem is mostly populated by Palestinians, and most of the world views it as occupied territory — but Israel has annexed the area, considers it part of its capital, and often prevents expressions of Palestinian nationalism there.

  • New York Times, Protests Set Off by Rising Food Prices Spread in Iran, May 14, 2022.

Recent Headlines

 

Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection, Election Claims

 

U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jan. 6 Panel Subpoenas 5 Republican Representatives, Luke Broadwater and Emily Cochrane, May 13, 2022 (print ed.). The House committee investigating the Capitol attack is demanding documents and testimony from Representative Kevin McCarthy and four of his colleagues. The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol issued subpoenas on Thursday to five Republican members of Congress, including Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, who had refused to meet with the panel voluntarily.

The committee’s leaders had been reluctant to issue subpoenas to their fellow lawmakers. That is an extraordinarily rare step for most congressional panels to take, though the House Ethics Committee, which is responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct by members, is known to do so.

kevin mccarthyThe panel said it was demanding testimony from Mr. McCarthy, right, of California, who engaged in a heated phone call with President Donald J. Trump during the Capitol violence; Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, who coordinated a plan to try to replace the acting attorney general after he resisted Mr. Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud; Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, who was deeply involved in the effort to fight the election results; Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona, the former leader of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus; and Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama, who has said Mr. Trump has continued to seek an unlawful reinstatement to office for more than a year.

All five have refused requests for voluntary interviews about the roles they played in the buildup to the attack by supporters of the former president who believed his lie of widespread election fraud.

Recent Headlines

 

Investigations

ny times logoNew York Times, Gearing Up for G.O.P. Gains, Biden Braces for a Barrage of Inquiries, Charlie Savage and Michael S. Schmidt, May 14, 2022. A divided government could soon take Washington to new levels of intensity, as some Republicans appear eager to target President Biden and his family.

President Biden’s legal team is laying the groundwork to defend against an expected onslaught of oversight investigations by congressional Republicans, should they take one or both chambers in the midterm elections — including preparing for the possibility of impeachment as payback for the two impeachments of President Donald J. Trump.

joe biden resized oAs part of those preparations, Mr. Biden and his White House counsel, Dana Remus, have hired Richard A. Sauber, a longtime white-collar defense lawyer who is now the top lawyer at the Department of Veterans Affairs, to oversee responses to subpoenas and other oversight efforts, according to people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.

Mr. Biden’s personal lawyer, Bob Bauer, and Ms. Remus have also been meeting for months to work out potential divisions of labor between White House lawyers and outside counsel, according to people briefed on the matter.

The arrangement is said to be aimed at respecting the limits of what taxpayer-funded lawyers should handle and ensuring that Mr. Biden’s two sets of lawyers do not mix work in a way that could inadvertently undermine executive and attorney-client privilege protecting what lawyers know from any subpoenas for their testimony or notes.

BIG, The Politics of Monopoly, Analysis: The Baby Formula Nightmare, Matt Stoller, right, May 13-14, 2022. This is a true crisis that is a long-time coming. matt stollerThank the baby formula monopoly, its partner at the Food and Drug Administration, and the Department of Agriculture.

Today I’m writing about the nightmarish baby formula shortage. I’ll try to explain what the problem is, and how to fix it.

Big Bottle and the Baby Formula Apocalypse: As anyone with an infant knows, there is a major crisis in the feeding of America’s babies right now, because parents in some areas can’t get baby formula.

A few months ago, a major producer of formula -- Abbott Labs -- shut down its main production facilities in Sturgis, Michigan, which had been contaminated with the bacteria Cronobacter sakazakii, killing two babies and injuring two others. Abbott provides 43% of the baby formula in the United States, under the brand names Similac, Alimentum and EleCare. So removing this amount of supply from the market is the short-term cause of the problem. (Abbott and Mead Johnson produce 80% of the formula in the U.S., and if you add in Nestle, that gets to 98% of the market.)

The problem is not, however, that there isn’t enough formula, so much as the consolidated distribution system creates a lot of shortages in specific states.

First, it’s hard to convey what a nightmare this situation is for parents, especially those whose children require special kinds of formula because of gastrointestinal issues or food allergies. “The shortage has led us to decide to put a feeding tube in our child,” said one parent, who simply could not get the specialized formula her daughter needs.

Baby formula is not just food, but the primary or sole nutrition for a vulnerable person in a stage of life in which very specific nutritional requirements are necessary for growth. Baby formula was created during the 19th century as we developed modern food preservation techniques. Before this remarkable innovation, baby starvation was common if a mother couldn’t breastfeed her infant (which happens a lot). The invention of industrialized formula was one of those creations we take for granted, but like antibiotics and other medical and scientific advances, it was one that fundamentally changed parenthood and the family.

This shortage is showing just how reliant we are on industrialized formula. The causal factor behind the crisis is poor regulation and a consolidated and brittle supply chain. Imports from Europe are often prohibited, even if there were excess productive capacity elsewhere. I spent a bit of time calling around to people who work in formula, and the industry is basically on a war footing. Everyone is panicking, because the situation is, in short, a nightmare.

I’m going to try and lay out the situation, and explain the market structure. There are two basic mechanisms that have created a concentrated and brittle market. The first is that regulators are tough on newcomers, but soft on incumbents. And the second is that the Federal government buys more than half of the baby formula in the market, and under the guise of competitive bidding, it in fact hands out monopoly licenses for individual states. That makes it impossible to get newcomers of any scale into the market, along with the more resiliency that such competition brings. It also makes it hard to address shortages in one state with extra formula from elsewhere.

Recent Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

ny times logoNew York Times, How America Lost One Million People, Staff Investigation and Analysis, May 13, 2022 (interactive). Understanding the coronavirus death toll — including who makes up the one million and how the country failed them — is essential as the pandemic continues.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP opposition leaves covid aid in peril as White House warns of surge, Tony Romm, May 13, 2022 (print ed.). Billions of dollars remain stalled as the Biden administration warns it needs more money for tests, therapeutics and vaccines.

A bipartisan push in Congress to adopt another round of coronavirus aid is in fresh political peril, as Republicans continue to block Democrats from swiftly approving as much as the Biden administration believes is necessary to prepare for an expected new surge.

Five days after federal health officials warned a new wave could infect 100 million people, lawmakers still find themselves struggling to overcome familiar partisan divides. There appears to be no immediate pathway in the Senate for a long-stalled agreement to spend $10 billion to boost the availability of tests, therapeutics and vaccines nationwide.

For weeks, the White House has sounded urgent alarms about the need for more aid, arguing it has already committed most of its existing public health dollars to specific uses. Some key federal initiatives even have run out of cash, leading the administration to slow purchases of critical supplies while shuttering a program that had provided free testing to uninsured Americans.

ny times logoNew York Times, Nations Pledge Billions in Pandemic Aid as U.S. Congress Blocks Efforts, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, May 13, 2022 (print ed.). President Biden and other heads of state at a virtual Covid-19 summit vowed to double down in the fight against the virus. Get Covid news.

President Biden and other heads of state vowed Thursday to redouble their efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic, and countries including Germany and Canada pledged large sums to finance tests, therapeutics and vaccines — a commitment Mr. Biden could not make because Congress refuses to authorize new emergency aid.

The pledges came at Mr. Biden’s second Covid-19 summit, a virtual gathering that the president he co-hosted with the leaders of Belize, Germany, Indonesia and Senegal. But some countries were notably absent. China did not attend, and Russia was not invited, senior administration officials said.

“Now is the time for us to act,” Mr. Biden said as he opened the virtual gathering, speaking by video. “All of us together. We all must do more. We must honor those we have lost by doing everything we can to prevent as many deaths as possible.”

Both Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who is representing the United States in the opening session with world leaders, used the gathering to mark a coming milestone: one million American lives lost to Covid-19.

Ms. Harris also appealed for a new set of “international norms” and “common understandings” — a set of principles, she said, that all countries should have access to lifesaving vaccines, tests and therapeutics, that leaders “should prioritize the most vulnerable and the overlooked and that we must recognize and address inequities.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Africa’s First Covid-19 Vaccine Factory Has Not Received a Single Order, Lynsey Chutel, May 13, 2022 (print ed.). Aspen Pharmacare, in South Africa, was hailed as an answer to Africa’s struggle to get access to vaccines. Here’s the latest on the coronavirus.

Massachusetts said it had agreed to pay $56 million after a deadly Covid outbreak at a veterans’ home. The first factory in Africa licensed to produce Covid-19 vaccines for the African market has not received a single order and may shut down that production line within weeks if the situation doesn’t change, according to executives of the company, Aspen Pharmacare.

The factory, in the coastal South African city of Gqeberha, formerly known as Port Elizabeth, was celebrated as a solution to the continent’s unequal access to vaccines when it announced a deal to start manufacturing Covid vaccines in November of 2021.

But no purchasers have appeared, as the slow distribution of vaccines in Africa has left health agencies with a backlog of supplies. Commercial production never started, in what officials say is an ominous sign for other African countries that had considered manufacturing Covid-19 vaccines.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, many African countries have lagged far behind much of the world in getting their people vaccinated — and some countries have had difficulty distributing what doses they did get.

Less than 20 percent of the total population in Africa is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. Officials and politicians blamed wealthy countries for hoarding vaccine doses when vaccines first became available. Countries reliant on donations of vaccines were at the back of the line. Building the capacity to manufacture vaccine doses in Africa was billed as a solution to this vaccine inequity as well as a way to prepare for future pandemics.

Aspen Pharmacare, in South Africa, was hailed as an answer to Africa’s struggle to get access to vaccines. Here’s the latest on the coronavirus.

ny times logoNew York Times, North Korea Reports Its First Covid Cases, Choe Sang-Hun, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). Pyongyang declared a “maximum emergency” and ordered all of the country’s cities and counties to lock down to fight the spread.

North Korea on Thursday reported its first outbreak of the coronavirus, declaring a “maximum emergency” and ordering all of its cities and counties to lock down to fight the spread.

North Korean flagOn Sunday, health officials tested residents in an unidentified organization in Pyongyang, the capital, who showed symptoms such as fever, and confirmed that they were infected with a subvariant, known as BA.2, of the Omicron variant of the virus, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said. The news agency did not reveal how many people were infected.

The report was the first time that the secretive country has confirmed any Covid-19 cases since the virus emerged in neighboring China more than two years ago.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated May 14, 2022), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2totals ere and some experts saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 520,492,954, Deaths: 6,286,965
U.S. Cases:     84,174,521, Deaths: 1,026,527
Indian Cases:  43,119,112, Deaths:    524,201
Brazil Cases:   30,664,739, Deaths:   664,830

Related Recent Headlines:

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

 

Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (Pool photo by Erin Schaff via Getty Images).

Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (Pool photo by Erin Schaff via Getty Images).

washington post logoWashington Post, Clarence Thomas says Supreme Court leak has eroded trust in institution, Robert Barnes, May 14, 2022. ‘You begin to look over your shoulder. It’s like kind of an infidelity,’ he said in speech to conservatives.

The leak of a draft opinion regarding abortion has turned the Supreme Court into a place “where you look over your shoulder,” Justice Clarence Thomas said Friday night, and it may have irreparably sundered trust at the institution.

“What happened at the court was tremendously bad,” Thomas said in a conversation with a former law clerk at a conference of conservative and libertarian thinkers in Dallas. “I wonder how long we’re going to have these institutions at the rate we’re undermining them. And then I wonder when they’re gone or destabilized, what we’re going to have as a country.”

It was second time in a week that Thomas has decried declining respect for “institutions” — he made similar remarks at a conference of judges and lawyers last week.

Thomas says respect for institutions is eroding

Thomas, 73, said the leak has exposed the “fragile” nature of the court.

“The institution that I’m a part of — if someone said that one line of one opinion would be leaked by anyone, you would say, ‘Oh, that’s impossible. No one would ever do that,’” Thomas said. “There’s such a belief in the rule of law, belief in the court, belief in what we’re doing, that that was verboten.”

He continued: “And look where we are, where now that trust or that belief is gone forever. And when you lose that trust, especially in the institution that I’m in, it changes the institution fundamentally. You begin to look over your shoulder. It’s like kind of an infidelity, that you can explain it, but you can’t undo it.”

He made the remarks Friday night at a conference sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute, the Manhattan Institute and the Hoover Institution. In front of an approving crowd, he was pointed and accusatory; he seemed to blame law clerks who work at the court for the leak of a draft opinion by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. that would overturn Roe v. Wade, and he appeared distrustful of some of his colleagues.

“Anybody who would, for example, have an attitude to leak documents, that general attitude is your future on the bench,” Thomas said. “And you need to be concerned about that. And we never had that before. We actually trusted — we might have been a dysfunctional family, but we were a family.”

Just as Alito had done in a speech the night before at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University in Virginia, Thomas skipped past the usual bonhomie that justices express about their colleagues — that they disagree vigorously but respect and admire each other.

Asked about that by a questioner, who wondered how a friendly respect for ideological differences could be fostered in Congress and other institutions, Thomas replied:

“Well, I’m just worried about keeping it at the court now.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Justice Thomas thinks he’s being ‘bullied’? He could use a history lesson, Colbert I. King, May 14, 2022 (print ed.). The leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade prompted some reactions here in Washington, all of which were on the periphery of the issue at hand — a constitutional right to abortion. But still worth noting, given what’s at stake.

D.C. Council member Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1) introduced a bill that would create a “human rights sanctuary” for anyone traveling to our nation’s capital to get an abortion.

Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) used Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s leaked draft to underscore the vulnerability of reproductive rights. The Democrats’ bill to codify abortion rights into federal law won 49 votes, well short of the 60 necessary to proceed under Senate rules. The move, however, was not about enacting the Women’s Health Protection Act. Schumer hopes to spur voters off their couches to elect more pro-choice legislators in the fall.

Another eye-widening occasion was Justice Clarence Thomas’s musings at the 11th Circuit Judicial Conference that respect for institutions is waning. Thomas bemoaned people who are unwilling to “live with outcomes we don’t agree with.” Said Thomas, clearly with Alito’s draft in mind, non-acceptance of the high court’s decisions “bodes ill for a free society.” It can’t be, he said, that institutions “give you only the outcome you want, or can be bullied” to do the same.

May I introduce, or reintroduce, Thomas and anyone else who thinks like he does, to the Southern Manifesto of 1956?

Talk about unwilling to “live with outcomes.”

The Southern Manifesto, signed by 19 senators and 77 House members, was a fullthroated condemnation of the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education school-desegregation decision, which it denounced as “a clear abuse of judicial power.” Those 96 federal lawmakers encouraged states to resist implementing the court’s mandates.

Thomas bleats about being “bullied.” What about “Impeach Earl Warren”?

Following the Brown decision, written by Chief Justice Warren, “Impeach Earl Warren signs” appeared across the South. The impact of the Warren court was felt not only on issues of racial equality but also on political and personal rights, as well as criminal justice. Warren was publicly vilified by right-wing groups across the country.

ny times logoNew York Times, Alabama’s Transgender Youth Can Use Medicine to Transition, Judge Rules, Rick Rojas, May 14, 2022. A federal judge temporarily halted part of a new law that prevents doctors from prescribing puberty blockers and hormone therapies to transgender youth. He upheld a ban on sex-altering operations.

The severity of the punishment — which also includes threats of criminal prosecution for parents and educators who support a child in transitioning — has stood out even amid a wave of legislation by conservative lawmakers that has focused on transgender young people, including efforts to thwart access to what doctors call gender-affirming care and barring some transgender students from participating in school sports.

The Alabama law, which was signed by Gov. Kay Ivey and went into effect on May 8, was challenged in federal court by several families with transgender children, physicians who work with transgender patients and the U.S. Justice Department.

ny times logoNew York Times, At Least 17 Wounded in Downtown Milwaukee Shooting, Police Say, Dan Simmons, Amanda Holpuch and Sophie Kasakove, May 14, 2022. At least 17 people were wounded in a shooting in downtown Milwaukee on Friday night, blocks from the arena where an N.B.A. playoff game ended hours earlier, the police said.

The Milwaukee Police Department said that there were no fatalities in the shooting, which happened around 11:09 p.m. in a popular nightlife area. The victims were between 15 and 47 years old and were all expected to survive, the police said.

Ten people were in custody in connection with the shooting, including five who were armed and were wounded. The police also said they recovered 10 guns from the scene, which was near the arena, the Fiserv Forum. The police said the investigation was continuing and that they were still looking for others who might have been involved in the gunfire. What led up to the shooting was unknown.

  • New York Times, Dallas Salon Shooting May Be Linked to Wider Attacks on Asian Businesses, May 14, 2022.

Recent Legal Headlines

 

Climate

washington post logoWashington Post, Fast-moving wildfire in California damages Orange County homes, Andrew Jeong, May 13, 2022 (print ed.). A fast-moving wildfire erupted in the Southern California city of Laguna Niguel on Wednesday afternoon, local authorities said, affecting about 200 acres, damaging several homes and forcing evacuations. No injuries or deaths had been reported as of Wednesday evening,

Recent Climate Headlines

 

Notable U.S. Deaths

ny times logoNew York Times, Robert McFarlane, Top Reagan Aide in Iran-Contra Affair, Dies at 84, Neil A. Lewis, May 14 2022 (print ed.). As national security adviser, he pleaded guilty in an illegal scheme to aid Nicaraguan rebels in the 1980s. Guilt-ridden, he attempted suicide.

Robert C. McFarlane, a former decorated Marine officer who rose in civilian life to be President Ronald Reagan’s national security adviser and then fell from grace in the Iran-contra scandal, died on Thursday in Lansing, Mich. He was 84.

Mr. McFarlane, who lived in Washington, was visiting family in Michigan at the time. A family friend, Bill Greener, said the death stemmed from an unspecified previous lung condition.

Mr. McFarlane pleaded guilty in 1988 to charges of withholding information from Congress in its investigation of the affair, in which the Reagan administration sold arms covertly to Iran beginning in 1985 in exchange for the freedom of Western hostages in Lebanon. Profits from the arms sales were then secretly funneled to the contra rebels in Nicaragua, who were trying to overthrow the country’s Marxist regime, known as the Sandinistas.

Both parts of the scheme were illegal; Congress had imposed an arms embargo against Iran and prohibited American aid to the contras.

Mr. McFarlane, Bud to his friends and associates, was one of many players in the operation, which was run out of the White House with the cooperation of the Central Intelligence Agency. But he distinguished himself in its aftermath by his full and unequivocal acceptance of blame for his actions. Everyone else involved had either defended the operation as just and wise or sought to deny responsibility.

The episode stained the Reagan administration and raised questions as to how much the president was aware of what was going on in his own White House.

And its fallout left Mr. McFarlane so ridden with guilt that he attempted suicide in his home in February 1987. While his wife, Jonda, a high school English teacher, was upstairs grading papers, he took an overdose of Valium and got into bed alongside her. When he couldn’t be roused in the morning, he was taken to a hospital and revived. He subsequently underwent many weeks of psychiatric therapy at the Bethesda Naval Hospital.

It was a stunning act in official Washington. Many considered it an unconcealed howl of pain by someone from whom they would have least expected it — one of the capital’s most self-contained of public and powerful men.

Killing himself, Mr. McFarlane believed at the time, was “the honorable thing to do,” he said in an interview for this obituary in January 2016 at his home in the Watergate complex in Washington.

ny times logoNew York Times, Randy Weaver, Who Confronted U.S. Agents at Ruby Ridge, Dies at 74, Clay Risen, May 14 2022 (print ed.). The 1992 standoff left his wife, his son and a U.S. marshal dead, and made him a reluctant hero of the anti-government far right.

The incident at a remote site in northern Idaho called Ruby Ridge left his son, his wife and a U.S. marshal dead and made him a hero to anti-government activists on the far right, died on Wednesday. He was 74.

His daughter Sara Weaver announced his death on Facebook but did not say where he died or give the cause.

Mr. Weaver was wanted by the government for trying to sell a pair of illegal sawed-off shotguns to a federal informant within the Aryan Nations, a white supremacist movement. The group’s compound lay not far from Ruby Ridge, and Mr. Weaver and his family often socialized with its members and shared at least some of their beliefs, white separatism and anti-government conspiracy theories among them. He also held to an apocalyptic form of Christianity.

He was arrested in late 1990 and released on bail in early 1991. After he failed to appear for a court hearing — he later said that he had been given the wrong date — federal marshals placed his cabin under surveillance, plotting a way to apprehend him peacefully.

Mr. Weaver was a former Green Beret who neighbors said kept more than a dozen firearms in his cabin, leaving marshals to assume that he was likely to respond violently to any arrest attempt.

Federal agents eventually brought in Lt. Col. Bo Gritz, himself a former Green Beret and right-wing luminary. He persuaded Mr. Weaver to let Mr. Harris leave the cabin, and eventually to surrender as well.

Mr. Harris and Mr. Weaver were arrested on several charges, including first-degree murder, but the government’s case fell apart at trial. The jury fully acquitted Mr. Harris and convicted Mr. Weaver on a single charge, that of violating his original bail conditions.

  

May 13

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Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection, Elections Claims


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nato logo flags name

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Kyiv holds war crimes trial for Russian soldier; Sweden eyes NATO benefits, David L. Stern, Marisa Iati, Ellen Francis, Andrew Jeong, Amy Cheng, Victoria Bisset and Andrea Salcedo, May 13, 2022. Brittney Griner’s detention in Russia extended by one month; U.S. seeks to ‘clarify’ Turkey’s stance on Nordic countries’ NATO membership; Swedish foreign minister says joining NATO would help stabilize country; Russian military ramps up attacks in Donbas amid losses, U.K. says.

A 21-year-old Russian soldier was brought before a Kyiv court Friday in the first war crimes trial of the conflict, Ukraine’s prosecutor general said. Now in custody, Vadim Shishimarin is accused of killing an unarmed 62-year-old civilian in the invasion’s first week.

In Sweden, a parliamentary report contends that joining NATO would help deter conflict in northern Europe. The security review outlined Sweden’s vulnerability to attack if it remains the only Nordic or Baltic country outside the alliance, while noting the risk of Russian retaliation if it applies for membership. Finland’s leaders, meanwhile, said their country must apply “without delay” — illustrating how the war in Ukraine has prompted a tectonic shift in two militarily nonaligned Nordic nations.

Britain also announced new sanctions Friday against the family of Russian President Vladimir Putin, along with his former wife, Lyudmila Ocheretnaya, and a former Olympic gymnast, Alina Kabaeva, long alleged to be his romantic partner.

Here’s what else to know

  • Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) stood by his objection to a Senate vote on sending $39.8 billion in aid to Kyiv. The move delayed passage of the bill and hampered a bipartisan push for steady assistance.
  • finland flagFinland and Sweden’s potential accession would boost NATO’s troop levels and firepower, and lengthen its shared border with Russia. Ukraine has unsuccessfully sought membership.
  • Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said a Russian armored battalion suffered heavy losses after Ukrainian forces thwarted it while it attempted to cross a river near Severodonetsk, the easternmost city still controlled by Ukraine.
  • Nearly 100 children were killed in Ukraine last month, the deputy director of UNICEF told the U.N. Security Council. He added that the true total is probably “considerably higher.”

On Saturday in Moscow, President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, left, and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia oversaw a test launch of nuclear-capable hypersonic missiles.

This spring in Moscow, President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, left, and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia oversaw a test launch of nuclear-capable hypersonic missiles.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Updates: Russia Sees Threat as Finland Moves Closer to Joining NATO, Shashank Bengali, Steven Erlanger and Ivan Nechepurenko, May 13, 2022 (print ed.). Finland’s president and prime minister endorsed joining the alliance, another sign of how Russia’s invasion has strengthened NATO instead of weakening it. Moscow said it would “take necessary measures” to protect itself, as Vladimir Putin shows no sign of backing down in Ukraine.

Here are the latest developments in the war in Ukraine.

Russian FlagAs Russia’s grinding war pulverizes eastern Ukraine and eats away at the global economy, it is also creating unintended consequences for President Vladimir V. Putin, whose aggression is bringing more European nations closer to NATO’s fold and strengthening Western ties, the very thing the Russian leader had hoped to weaken.

Finland’s leaders announced on Thursday that their country should “apply for NATO membership without delay,” while Swedish leaders were expected to do the same within days. It is a remarkable shift by two nations on Russia’s doorstep that had long remained nonaligned militarily — but where public opinion has lurched strongly toward joining the alliance in the 11 weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine.

ukraine flagThe Kremlin said that Finnish membership in NATO was “definitely” a threat, and that it was prepared to “balance the situation” to ensure Russia’s security.

nato logo flags nameNATO’s secretary general promised Finland a “smooth and swift” accession process if it applied, but that could take a year or longer, leaving it and Sweden vulnerable to Russian retaliation while not covered under the alliance’s collective defense pact. Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain sought on Wednesday to fill that gap, committing Britain, one of Europe’s strongest militaries, to defending Finland and Sweden if attacked — even if they ended up not joining NATO.

But the hardening of Western resolve has not persuaded Russia to ease its assault, which has occupied large chunks of southern and eastern Ukraine. It could also help Mr. Putin — who has described NATO’s eastward expansion as one of the reasons he was compelled to send troops into Ukraine — reinforce his argument to Russians that it is the West, not Russia, that is driving the conflict.

In other developments:

  • Ukrainian and Western officials say Russia is reportedly withdrawing forces from around Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, where it has been losing territory. They say it may redirect troops to the southeast, where Russian troops are making greater progress.
  • The U.S. Congress is likely to approve $40 billion in military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, the latest package of support intended to help Ukrainian forces bring the fight to the invading Russians.
  • New York Times journalists visited a volunteer unit of Ukrainian fighters on the front line in the east, where they are fighting to hold back Russian forces pushing down from their stronghold in the occupied city of Izium.

In February, only weeks before Russia attacked Ukraine, President Sauli Niinisto of Finland sent a message to Russia about the steep price of invading his country.

“Everybody understands that there is a threshold, if you try to come to Finland uninvited — it’s very expensive,” Mr. Niinisto, who has a reputation of speaking bluntly to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, said in an interview in the Presidential Palace.

Mr. Putin knows “from history that Finns are very stubborn, and we have lot of Sisu,” he added, translating the Finnish word loosely as “double guts.”

On Thursday, Mr. Niinisto announced that Finland is in favor of rapidly applying for NATO membership. But for decades his country has made clear that it would not shy from a fight brought by Russia.

Finland knows the feeling of Russian aggression first hand. In 1939 and 1940, it fought fierce battles against Russian soldiers in what is known as the Winter War. The Finns eventually lost, and gave up some of their territory, but their ability to temporarily hold off the Soviet Union became a central point of Finnish pride.

Now, Finland is well armed, recently purchasing 64 F-35 fighter jets from the United States. Their compatibility with NATO and American defense systems has put teeth behind its warnings to Russia that it could join NATO. There are also plans ready to protect Helsinki, the capital, if necessary by planting mines in shipping lanes, blowing up bridges and scrambling those jets to take out roads.

Finland’s army, 180,000 strong, is arguably the most powerful in the northern Baltic region and about 80 percent of the population says it is willing to take up arms if necessary.

Essentially since World War II ended, Finns have been preparing for the next invasion. While other countries stopped requiring men to take military training after the Cold War, Helsinki kept up the practice, and refrained from the defense budgets cuts of its neighbors in the 1990s and 2000s. About a third of adults, some 900,000 people, are trained members of its military reserves, the Civilian Defense of Finland. As part of their training, some men go into the woods and participate in war game exercises, including learning how to shoot down phantom Russian planes.

The country has at least six months of emergency reserves of all major fuels and strategic stockpiles of grains. Pharmaceutical companies are required to keep months worth of medicines on reserve. The country’s buildings are equipped with bomb shelters. Those without access to shelters can make use of car garages and ice skating rinks.

President Vladimir V. Putin has cited NATO’s spread eastward to countries on its borders as the primary national threat to Russia and has used Ukraine’s desire to join the alliance to justify his invasion of that country. Mr. Putin has accused the United States and its allies of fighting a “proxy war” by arming Kyiv’s forces.

Russian officials continued to harp on that theme after Finnish leaders expressed support for quickly applying for NATO membership, suggesting that Mr. Putin is likely to spin the move as evidence that the alliance is growing increasingly hostile.

dmitry peskovDmitri S. Peskov, right, the Kremlin’s spokesman, appeared to take a measured tone, telling reporters that Russia wanted to avoid a direct confrontation with the alliance. But, when asked about whether Finland’s joining NATO would pose a direct threat to Russia, he said, “Definitely. NATO expansion does not make our continent more stable and safe.”

He warned that Moscow’s response would be determined by how “NATO’s expansion plays out, the extent to which military infrastructure moves closer to our borders.” Russia’s Foreign Ministry later warned that if the Finns join NATO, it would force Moscow to “make retaliatory steps of military-technical and other character.”

Mr. Putin has insisted that he needed to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO — which has grown in recent years to include a host of ex-Soviet states, though the Biden administration says it has no immediate plans to help bring Ukraine into the alliance. If Ukraine were a NATO member, the alliance would be obligated to defend it against Russia and other adversaries.

So far, Mr. Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine has been a rallying point for NATO as it unites around a common cause. The decision by Finland, which shares a 810-mile-long border and a long and complicated history with Russia, has prompted criticism from Mr. Putin’s political opponents.

“Putin builds his militarism on the confrontation with NATO, that we cannot allow NATO toward our borders,” Ivan Zhdanov, a close associate of Aleksei A. Navalny, an imprisoned Russian opposition leader, said in a video on Thursday. “In the end, because of Putin’s policies, NATO appeared along the entirety of Russia’s western border.”

Dmitri A. Medvedev, Russia’s former liberal-minded president and now a top Kremlin hard-liner, returned to a familiar theme on Thursday. Underlining the Kremlin’s message that Western countries are waging a proxy war against Moscow, he said a potential direct conflict between Russia and NATO “risks turning into a full-scale nuclear war.”

 

United Nations

ny times logoNew York Times, More than 1,000 bodies have been found in the suburbs of Kyiv, the U.N. said, Nick Cumming-Bruce, May 13, 2022 (print ed.). The bodies of more than 1,000 civilians have been recovered in areas north of Kyiv, Ukraine, that were occupied by Russian forces, the United Nations human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, said on Thursday, including several hundred who were summarily executed and others who were shot by snipers.

“The figures will continue to increase,” Ms. Bachelet told a special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, the second in two weeks, focusing on abuses uncovered by investigators in Bucha, Irpin and other suburbs of Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, that were seized by Russia’s forces in the early stages of its invasion before its focus shifted east.

Russia did not attend the meeting. It withdrew from the council shortly after the United Nations General Assembly voted last month to suspend its membership and snubbed the opportunity to address a special session.

Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s ambassador in Geneva, instead released a statement dismissing the council’s debate as a “stunt” organized by the West to defame Russia.

A resolution backed by all but two of the council’s 47 members urged commission of inquiry to examine the events that unfolded in areas occupied by Russia with a view to holding people responsible for human-rights abuses to account. The commission was set up by the United Nations in March as allegations of war crimes began to emerge from Ukraine.

China told the council that the rising civilian casualties in the conflict were “heart-wrenching” and urged a negotiated end to the war, but it voted against the resolution on the ground that it lacked balance and would only inflame tensions. The only other country to oppose the resolution was Eritrea.

Belarus, a Kremlin ally, abstained from the vote after calling for a speedy end to the fighting and saying the war has turned into a lucrative business for American arms manufacturers. Other allies of Russia in the council, including Cuba and Venezuela, followed suit.

The United Nations, meanwhile, estimates that thousands of civilians have been killed in Russia’s assault on the southeastern port city of Mariupol, Ms. Bachelet told the session, expressing shock at the scale of destruction and the “unimaginable horrors” inflicted on its residents. “A once flourishing city lies in ruins,” she said.

Wounded and sick Ukrainian combatants in the Azovstal steel mill, the last bastion of resistance to Russia in Mariupol, “must be allowed” to evacuate and receive medical care, she said.

Emine Dzhaparova, Ukraine’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, addressed the council by video link from Kyiv. She accused Russia of trying to turn newly occupied areas around Kherson — the first major Ukrainian city to fall to Russian forces — into a “people’s republic” satellite of Moscow and of killing Ukrainians who refused to cooperate with newly appointed Russia-backed authorities.

On Wednesday, the Kremlin signaled that it could annex the strategically important region, a move that comes as its forces have stepped up repressive efforts amid a flurry of local protests.

In addition to the killings and destruction, Ms. Dzhaparova spoke of “women raped in front of their children, children raped in front of their mothers.”

The United Nations is investigating Russian troops’ sexual violence against women, girls, men and boys, Ms. Bachelet said. “Women and girls are the most frequently cited victims,” she said, “however, reports of men and boys being affected are starting to emerge.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine regains territory, and crime scene investigators move in, Isabelle Khurshudyan, May 13, 2022 (print ed.). To get to the crime scene, the police investigators drove about 30 minutes northeast of downtown Kharkiv — past neighborhoods in ruins, destroyed Russian military vehicles, a field littered with blast craters, and plumes of dark smoke rising a few miles in the distance, where fighting between the Ukrainian and Russian militaries was ongoing.

Russian FlagThe Ukrainians had expelled Russian forces from the town of Tsyrkuny, less than 20 miles from the Russian border, just three days earlier — part of a Ukrainian counteroffensive that has reclaimed a significant swath of territory in the Kharkiv region this month.

Now the police investigators were eager to visit the village, where they had a report of two civilian bodies lying on the side of a dirt road. The women had been killed by a Russian land mine weeks earlier, the police said. And just as forensic scientists would visit the site of a killing in prewar times to collect evidence, they needed to do the same here in their quest to gather evidence of potential Russian war crimes — a process taking place across the country that led to the announcement of a first prosecution on Wednesday, a 21-year-old Russian soldier who is in custody.

The catch: The area was still covered in booby traps and tripwires rigged to land mines, and Russia’s military positions were close enough that a reconnaissance drone could fly by at any moment and make everyone working on the ground a target for artillery bombardment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal Reserve is raising interest rates even as the global economy struggles, David J. Lynch, May 13, 2022. Fed leads central banks in raising borrowing costs, withdrawing emergency support. The Federal Reserve’s bid to calm inflation by raising interest rates and withdrawing emergency stimulus programs is gearing up just as the global economy is displaying worrisome signs of weakness, aggravated by the war in Ukraine and covid’s continuing hold on industrial supply chains.

The risk, some economists said, is that the Fed and other central banks that are implementing similar anti-inflation policies may adjust too slowly to a complex and fast-changing global landscape.

While the Fed is just starting to overhaul the loose monetary stance it adopted during the pandemic, global financial conditions already are tighter than at any time since the 2008 financial crisis, according to a Goldman Sachs index.

Faced with tighter money, war in Europe and fresh supply chain troubles in Asia, global growth may buckle. The Institute of International Finance, an industry group, said Thursday it expects global output to “flatline” this year.

 

Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection, Election Claims

 

U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jan. 6 Panel Subpoenas 5 Republican Representatives, Luke Broadwater and Emily Cochrane, May 13, 2022 (print ed.). The House committee investigating the Capitol attack is demanding documents and testimony from Representative Kevin McCarthy and four of his colleagues. The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol issued subpoenas on Thursday to five Republican members of Congress, including Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, who had refused to meet with the panel voluntarily.

The committee’s leaders had been reluctant to issue subpoenas to their fellow lawmakers. That is an extraordinarily rare step for most congressional panels to take, though the House Ethics Committee, which is responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct by members, is known to do so.

kevin mccarthyThe panel said it was demanding testimony from Mr. McCarthy, right, of California, who engaged in a heated phone call with President Donald J. Trump during the Capitol violence; Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, who coordinated a plan to try to replace the acting attorney general after he resisted Mr. Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud; Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, who was deeply involved in the effort to fight the election results; Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona, the former leader of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus; and Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama, who has said Mr. Trump has continued to seek an unlawful reinstatement to office for more than a year.

All five have refused requests for voluntary interviews about the roles they played in the buildup to the attack by supporters of the former president who believed his lie of widespread election fraud.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We’re in danger of losing our democracy, but most Americans are in denial, Max Boot, right, May 11, 2022. It has been max boot screen shotstirring to see so many Americans come together to support Ukraine’s fight for freedom. But it is dismaying to see that there is no similar consensus on defending democracy at home. Indeed, much of the country remains in denial about the threat.

A year after the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the Capitol, a CNN poll asked whether it’s likely “that, in the next few years, some elected officials will successfully overturn the results of an election.” Fifty-one percent of Republicans and 44 percent of Democrats said it’s not at all likely. Only 46 percent of Democrats and independents said that U.S. democracy is under attack, which helps to explain why Democratic candidates aren’t campaigning on defending democracy.

This reminds me of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denying before Feb. 24 that a Russian invasion was imminent and telling people not to “panic” even as Russian armies were massing in plain sight. Panic is generally a bad idea, but sometimes it is warranted. Now is one of those times for anyone who cares about the fate of U.S. democracy.

Republicans have succeeded in restricting voting rights in 19 states. Democrats have failed to protect voting rights at the national level because they can’t break a Senate filibuster. Meanwhile at least 23 supporters of the Big Lie – which holds that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump – are running for secretary of state posts to oversee elections in 19 states. Other election deniers are joining election boards.

mark esperFormer Defense Secretary Mark Esper, right, writes that Trump wanted to shoot peaceful protesters and launch missiles at Mexico. “He is an unprincipled person who, given his self-interest, should not be in the position of public service,” Esper concludes. Trump’s former National Security Adviser John Bolton says that having Trump back in the White House would threaten U.S. national security. Trump’s former communications director Anthony Scaramucci tweets, “Anyone who worked for Trump knows he is a maniac.”

Yet 70 percent of Republicans want this “maniac” to run again in 2024. If he does run, he will win the nomination – and on the present trajectory (with inflation spiking and Biden’s approval rating plunging) he has a good chance to win the White House.

ny times logoNew York Times, Hard-Liners Gain in Pennsylvania G.O.P. Races, Worrying Both Parties, Nick Corasaniti, Shane Goldmacher and Reid J. Epstein, May 13, 2022 (print ed.). Doug Mastriano and Kathy Barnette are amplifying former President Trump’s stolen-election lie in two key races. Follow updates on the midterm elections.

republican elephant logoRepublican voters in Pennsylvania, one of the nation’s most hotly contested political battlegrounds, appear to be rallying behind two hard-right candidates for governor and the Senate who are capturing grass-roots anger, railing against the party’s old guard and amplifying Donald Trump’s stolen-election myth.

With less than a week until the state’s primary election on Tuesday, polls show that State Senator Doug Mastriano — one of the state’s central figures in the former president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election — has emerged as the clear front-runner in the G.O.P. race for governor. The candidate for Senate, Kathy Barnette, an underfunded conservative commentator who has never held public office, has made a surprise late surge in the contest that had been dominated by two big-spending rivals, Dr. Mehmet Oz and David McCormick.

Mr. Mastriano has made claims of election fraud a central plank of his bid to lead a state that could be decisive in the 2024 presidential race. Ms. Barnette has a history of incendiary remarks, including repeatedly calling former President Barack Obama an adherent of Islam, which she said should be banned, and derisively writing about “the homosexual agenda.” Both candidates have endorsed each other, forging an important alliance.

Now, Republicans are concerned about losing both races in November if primary voters embrace such out-of-the-mainstream candidates.

Several Republican rivals to Mr. Mastriano have been gathering on private conference calls in recent days in a last-minute attempt to stop him. All agree that he would be a drag on the party, though Mr. Mastriano has yet to sustain any serious coordinated attacks. Two rivals, State Senator Jake Corman and former Representative Lou Barletta, have set a joint event on Thursday, suggesting that the field might soon consolidate, at least slightly.”

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Media, Media-Fueled Stocks, Sports

Daily Beast, Elon Musk Puts $44B Deal for Twitter ‘on Hold’ Over Bots, Barbie Latza Nadeau, May 13, 2022. The eccentric billionaire said Friday that the deal was “temporarily on hold” as he said he was sorting out an issue involving spam and fake accounts.

daily beast logoBillionaire Elon Musk tweeted Friday that his plan to buy Twitter for $44 billion is “temporarily on hold” over spam and fake accounts early Friday, and then appeared to walk that back by later tweeting he was “still committed to acquisition.”

The eccentric entrepreneur said that the issue is the actual percentage of bots running fake accounts on the platform, which has been estimated to account for around 5 percent of users. Musk tweeted the deal was in limbo “pending details supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users”—implying he didn’t quite believe it.
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The number of fake and spam accounts among Twitter’s current 229 million users could affect what Musk has laid out as an ambitious plan to monetize daily user tweets through targeted advertising and other strategies. Musk tweeted earlier in the week that his priority (presumably after reinstating former President Donald Trump) was to remove the so-called spam bots from the platform.

Analysts point to the latest hiccup as another sign of internal turmoil in the buyout, according to Reuters. On Thursday, Twitter fired two top managers, presumably in some sort of pre-sale condition.

Kayvon Beykpour, who had been with the company for seven years, tweeted that Chief Executive Officer Parag Agrawal “asked me to leave after letting me know that he wants to take the team in a different direction.”

Likewise, Bruce Falck, who led the company’s revenue and product arm, also got a pink slip—and quickly changed his Twitter bio to “unemployed.” After a series of tweets he deleted, according to the Associated Press, he wrote “I dedicate this Tweet to those engineers and thank you ALL for the opportunity to serve alongside you. It’s been awesome. There is a lot more to do so get back to work, I can’t wait to see what you build.”

Both Tesla and Twitter stocks reacted to the latest sideshow in the bombshell deal, with Twitter shares plummeting by 18 percent and Tesla’s jumping 5 percent on the news, reflecting Tesla supporters happy that the deal may not go through.

washington post logoWashington Post, Musk: Twitter deal ‘on hold’ as he looks into bots; shares slump, Faiz Siddiqui, Rachel Lerman and Reed Albergotti, May 13, 2022.  The Tesla CEO, who has been seeking Twitter investors as his EV company sheds $400 billion in value, later says that he’s 'still committed’ to the acquisition.

ny times logoNew York Times, Cryptocurrencies Melt Down in a ‘Perfect Storm’ of Fear and Panic, David Yaffe-Bellany, Erin Griffith and Ephrat Livni, May 13, 2022 (print ed.). A steep sell-off that gained momentum this week starkly illustrated the risks of the experimental and unregulated digital currencies.

The price of Bitcoin plunged to its lowest point since 2020. Coinbase, the large cryptocurrency exchange, tanked in value. A cryptocurrency that promoted itself as a stable means of exchange collapsed. And more than $300 billion was wiped out by a crash in cryptocurrency prices since Monday.

The crypto world went into a full meltdown this week in a sell-off that graphically illustrated the risks of the experimental and unregulated digital currencies. Even as celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and tech moguls like Elon Musk have talked up crypto, the accelerating declines of virtual currencies like Bitcoin and Ether show that, in some cases, two years of financial gains can disappear overnight.

The moment of panic amounted to the worst reset in cryptocurrencies since Bitcoin plummeted 80 percent in 2018. But this time, the falling prices have broader impact because more people and institutions hold the currencies. Critics said the collapse was long overdue, while some traders compared the alarm and fear to the start of the 2008 financial crisis.

“This is like the perfect storm,” said Dan Dolev, an analyst who covers crypto companies and financial technology at the Mizuho Group.

During the coronavirus pandemic, people have flooded into virtual currencies, with 16 percent of Americans now owning some, up from 1 percent in 2015, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Big banks like Northern Trust and Bank of America also streamed in, along with hedge funds, some using debt to further juice their crypto bets.

Early investors are still probably in a comfortable position. But the rapid declines this week have been especially acute for investors who bought cryptocurrencies when prices surged last year.

The fall in cryptocurrencies is part of a broader pullback from risky assets, spurred by rising interest rates, inflation and economic uncertainty caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Those factors have compounded a so-called pandemic hangover that began as life started returning to normal in the United States, hurting the stock prices of companies like Zoom and Netflix that thrived during lockdowns.

But crypto’s decline is more severe than the broader plunge in the stock market. While the S&P 500 is down 18 percent so far this year, Bitcoin’s price has dropped 40 percent in the same period. In the last five days alone, Bitcoin has tumbled 20 percent, compared to a 5 percent decline in the S&P 500.

The origins of cryptocurrencies trace back to 2008, when a shadowy figure calling himself Satoshi Nakamoto created Bitcoin. The virtual currency was portrayed as a decentralized alternative to the traditional financial system. Rather than relying on gatekeepers like banks to facilitate commerce, Bitcoin proponents preferred to conduct transactions among themselves, recording each one on a shared ledger called a blockchain.

Prominent tech leaders including Mr. Musk, Jack Dorsey, a founder of Twitter, and Marc Andreessen, an investor, embraced the technology as it grew from a novel curiosity into a cultlike movement. The value of cryptocurrencies exploded, minting a new class of crypto billionaires. Other forms of cryptocurrency, including Ether and Dogecoin, captured the public’s attention, particularly in the pandemic, when excess cash in the financial system led people to day trade for entertainment.

Daily Beast, Brittney Griner Caught ‘Red-Handed’ With Hash Oil, Russia Says, Barbie Latza Nadeau, May. 13, 2022. American basketball player Brittney Griner will stay in detention in Russia despite the U.S. calling her incarceration “illegal.”

daily beast logoRussia’s Foreign Ministry told CNN on Friday that the pro player, who stars for Russian UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA off-season, is facing as much as 10 years in prison for smuggling an illegal substance into the country. “She was caught red-handed while trying to smuggle hash oil,” it said in a statement. “In Russia, this is a crime.”

The statement went on to explain that the Khimki District Court in Moscow made the decision to detain her on Feb. 18 and that she is being held in one of Russia’s detention centers. “The charges are serious, based on objective facts and evidence that is available,” the statement continued. “Attempts by the State Department to cast doubt on the validity of the detention of B. Griner are explained solely by the desire to influence justice by politicizing a generally understandable situation.”

 Other recent Media, Cultural Headlines

 

Investigations

BIG, The Politics of Monopoly, Analysis: The Baby Formula Nightmare, Matt Stoller, right, May 13, 2022. This is a true crisis that is a long-time coming. matt stollerThank the baby formula monopoly, its partner at the Food and Drug Administration, and the Department of Agriculture.

Today I’m writing about the nightmarish baby formula shortage. I’ll try to explain what the problem is, and how to fix it.

Big Bottle and the Baby Formula Apocalypse: As anyone with an infant knows, there is a major crisis in the feeding of America’s babies right now, because parents in some areas can’t get baby formula.

A few months ago, a major producer of formula -- Abbott Labs -- shut down its main production facilities in Sturgis, Michigan, which had been contaminated with the bacteria Cronobacter sakazakii, killing two babies and injuring two others. Abbott provides 43% of the baby formula in the United States, under the brand names Similac, Alimentum and EleCare. So removing this amount of supply from the market is the short-term cause of the problem. (Abbott and Mead Johnson produce 80% of the formula in the U.S., and if you add in Nestle, that gets to 98% of the market.)

The problem is not, however, that there isn’t enough formula, so much as the consolidated distribution system creates a lot of shortages in specific states.

First, it’s hard to convey what a nightmare this situation is for parents, especially those whose children require special kinds of formula because of gastrointestinal issues or food allergies. “The shortage has led us to decide to put a feeding tube in our child,” said one parent, who simply could not get the specialized formula her daughter needs.

Baby formula is not just food, but the primary or sole nutrition for a vulnerable person in a stage of life in which very specific nutritional requirements are necessary for growth. Baby formula was created during the 19th century as we developed modern food preservation techniques. Before this remarkable innovation, baby starvation was common if a mother couldn’t breastfeed her infant (which happens a lot). The invention of industrialized formula was one of those creations we take for granted, but like antibiotics and other medical and scientific advances, it was one that fundamentally changed parenthood and the family.

This shortage is showing just how reliant we are on industrialized formula. The causal factor behind the crisis is poor regulation and a consolidated and brittle supply chain. Imports from Europe are often prohibited, even if there were excess productive capacity elsewhere. I spent a bit of time calling around to people who work in formula, and the industry is basically on a war footing. Everyone is panicking, because the situation is, in short, a nightmare.

I’m going to try and lay out the situation, and explain the market structure. There are two basic mechanisms that have created a concentrated and brittle market. The first is that regulators are tough on newcomers, but soft on incumbents. And the second is that the Federal government buys more than half of the baby formula in the market, and under the guise of competitive bidding, it in fact hands out monopoly licenses for individual states. That makes it impossible to get newcomers of any scale into the market, along with the more resiliency that such competition brings. It also makes it hard to address shortages in one state with extra formula from elsewhere.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: It was the Republicans who "groomed" underage teens for sex and WMR exposed it, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallWayne Madsen, left, author of 21 books, syndicated columnist and former Navy intelligence officer and special temporary FBI agent investigating sex trafficking in the military, May 12-13, 2022. Grooming Old Pederasts has been a thing in the Republican Party for over four decades.

wayne madesen report logoRepublicans across the country have been making spurious charges that Democrats are "grooming" students for LGBTQ lifestyles as part of public school curricula, selection of library book reading lists, or what teachers say in passing remarks to their students.

Such unfounded grooming charges have resulted in Florida Governor Ron DeSantis enacting a "Don't Say Gay" law, the result of which has resulted in sanctions by Florida against Disney World, which opposes the new law. Similar laws are being considered in other states, including Louisiana, Alabama, Texas, Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, Tennessee, and Ohio.

It is not Democrats who have groomed underage teens for sex. That distinction belongs to top Republican members of Congress. It was Republicans who invented equine terms like grooming and stabling for sexually preying on underage teens.

As WMR reported in 2006, it was a network of Republicans in the U.S. Congress who groomed male staffers by "stabling" them in Republican Senate offices for later assignment as pages for Republican members of the House. Such House Republicans included the then-Speaker, Dennis Hastert, who was later convicted on federal charges of making structured bank withdrawals to pay hush money to a high school student he molested.

As Speaker, Hastert was aware for eleven months that Representative Mark Foley (R-FL) was sending inappropriate messages regarding masturbation and erections to underage male pages for 11 months but refrained from taking any action.

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutors Pursue Inquiry Into Trump’s Handling of Classified Material, Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt, May 13, 2022 (print ed.). A federal grand jury has issued at least one subpoena in the case of sensitive documents that ended up at former President Trump’s Florida home.

Federal prosecutors have begun a grand jury investigation into whether classified White House documents that ended up at former President Donald J. Trump’s Florida home were mishandled, according to two people briefed on the matter.

Justice Department log circularThe intensifying inquiry suggests that the Justice Department is examining the role of Mr. Trump and other officials in his White House in their handling of sensitive materials during the final stages of his administration.

In recent days, the Justice Department has taken a series of steps showing that its investigation has progressed beyond the preliminary stages. Prosecutors issued a subpoena to the National Archives and Records Administration to obtain the boxes of classified documents, according to the two people familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.

The authorities have also made interview requests to people who worked in the White House in the final days of Mr. Trump’s presidency, according to one of the people.

nara logoThe investigation is focused on the discovery by the National Archives in January that at the end of Mr. Trump’s term he had taken to his home at the Mar-a-Lago resort 15 boxes from the White House that contained government documents, mementos, gifts and letters.

After the boxes were returned to the National Archives, its archivists found documents containing “items marked as classified national security information,” the agency told Congress in February. In April, it was reported that federal authorities were in the preliminary stages of investigating the handling of the classified documents.

The subpoena that was sent to the National Archives in recent days for the classified documents is one of a series of requests that the Justice Department has made to the agency for records from the Trump administration in recent months, according to the two people.

A spokesman for Mr. Trump, Taylor Budowich, said: “President Trump consistently handled all documents in accordance with applicable law and regulations. Belated attempts to second-guess that clear fact are politically motivated and misguided.”

Charges are rarely brought in investigations into the handling of classified documents. But the Justice Department typically conducts them to determine whether any highly sensitive information may have been exposed so the intelligence community can take measures to protect sources and methods.

The documents in question are believed to have been kept in the residence of the White House before they were boxed up and sent to Mar-a-Lago. The investigation is focused on how the documents made their way to the residence, who boxed them up, whether anyone knew that classified materials were being improperly taken out of the White House and how they were ultimately stored in Mar-a-Lago, according to a person with knowledge of the matter, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

An investigation in 2016 into Hillary Clinton over a similar issue involving her personal email account ended without her being charged. And in the case of Mr. Trump, legal experts said, presidents have the ability while in office to essentially declassify whatever information they want, further complicating any possible prosecution.

The classified documents in question are considered presidential records under federal law. Because of that distinction, Mr. Trump’s lawyers were notified of the Justice Department’s request, giving them the opportunity to block their release by going to court to quash the subpoena. It is unclear if the lawyers have responded.

Last year, Mr. Trump’s lawyer unsuccessfully went to court to stop the National Archives from handing over a range of presidential records to the special congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attacks on the Capitol.

 

More U.S. Abortion Law News, Reactions

 

supreme court Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: The war on rights that’s coming if Roe is overturned, Editorial Board, May 11, 2022. With the Supreme Court considering whether to overturn Roe v. Wade, Louisiana House Republicans advanced this past week an antiabortion bill of astonishing sweep.

The proposal would rewrite the state’s homicide statute to “ensure the right to life and equal protection of the laws to all unborn children from the moment of fertilization by protecting them by the same laws protecting other human beings.” In other words, not only would the bill empower Louisiana prosecutors to charge women who get abortions with murder, it appears to declare the use of in-vitro fertilization, intrauterine devices and emergency contraception to be homicide, too.Sign up for a weekly roundup of thought-provoking ideas and debates

For half a century, Americans could more or less take for granted their right to terminate their pregnancies, seek help starting families or get IUDs. Many might not realize how dramatically overturning Roe would reshape American life. Some deny this reality, arguing that, should the Supreme Court repudiate Roe, as a draft majority opinion that leaked earlier this month suggests it might, the United States would resemble Europe, where first-trimester abortion is legal nearly everywhere.

In fact, overturning Roe would result in the immediate banning of abortion in the 13 states that have antiabortion laws designed to kick in as soon as Roe is gone. Republican leaders in Nebraska, South Dakota and Indiana are calling for legislative special sessions to pass sweeping new abortion restrictions.

And Louisiana shows that, given the option, right-wing lawmakers are poised to wage a broad war against reproductive rights that would horrify most Americans. It might be that wealthy people in states run by antiabortion zealots would be able to cross state lines to terminate their pregnancies or to seek other family planning options. (Though some Republicans want to try to ban that, too.) But poor people would be unable to get safe, legal abortions. On top of the health risks they would face seeking illicit abortions, in Louisiana these individuals might also risk being prosecuted for murder. Given that many women seek abortions because they would struggle to carry their pregnancies to term while caring for the families they already have, the bill would be a particularly cruel twist that would threaten the families who are least capable of facing such hardship.

Other than the makeup of the court, the only thing that has changed in the past half-century is that Roe has become a keystone decision for Americans’ personal rights. Overturning it now would wound the nation, worsen the country’s politics and make some of the most vulnerable Americans more so. It would be the height of gratuitous judicial activism.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why the Justice Department Is Unlikely to Investigate the Supreme Court Leak, Charlie Savage, Annie Karni, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). The internal inquiry led by the court’s marshal has limited tools, but there are challenges to opening a criminal investigation.

After a leak of a draft opinion showed that the Supreme Court was poised to end women’s constitutional right to abortion, some Republicans and conservative commentators called for a criminal investigation.

But even as Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. condemned the disclosure by Politico as “egregious,” he instead directed the Supreme Court marshal to lead an internal investigation. According to a person familiar with the matter, the court has not asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation or to lend the marshal support and resources.

A Supreme Court spokeswoman this week declined to answer questions about the status of the inquiry, including the number of people assigned to it and what the rules are — like whether it is up to each justice to decide whether to make themselves, their clerks and their relatives available for any questioning or device inspection.

What difference could a criminal investigation make?

The Justice Department has a cadre of agents with experience investigating leaks. By contrast, the Supreme Court marshal, Gail A. Curley, is a former national security lawyer for the Army whose office of about 260 employees primarily provides physical security for the justices and the court building.

washington post logoWashington Post, Youngkin, Hogan ask Justice Dept. to halt protests at justices’ homes, Laura Vozzella, Erin Cox and Dan Morse, May 13, 2022 (print ed.). The governors of Virginia and Maryland called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to enforce a federal law prohibiting protests outside the homes of Supreme Court justices.

 Recent 'Roe' News, Views

 

More on Ukraine War

More on War

ukraine olena kurilo 52 teacher Russian missile Chuhuiv amazon

52-year-old Ukrainian teacher Olena Kurilo following a Russian missile strike in Chuhuiv, Ukraine in April.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sanctions forcing Russia to use appliance parts in military gear, U.S. says, Jeanne Whalen, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). With Western technology sales banned, Russia is using computer chips meant for household appliances in battlefield gear, Commerce secretary tells a Senate hearing.

Russian FlagU.S.-led sanctions are forcing Russia to use computer chips from dishwashers and refrigerators in some military equipment, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Wednesday.

“We have reports from Ukrainians that when they find Russian military equipment on the ground, it’s filled with semiconductors that they took out of dishwashers and refrigerators,” Raimondo told a Senate hearing, noting that she recently met with Ukraine’s prime minister.

U.S. technology exports to Russia have fallen by nearly 70 percent since sanctions began in late February, according to Raimondo, whose department oversees the export controls that form a big part of the sanctions package. Three dozen other countries have adopted similar export bans, which also apply to Belarus.

“Our approach was to deny Russia technology — technology that would cripple their ability to continue a military operation. And that is exactly what we are doing,” she said in a response to a question from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) about the impact of the export controls. cost of staff and space, the organization consolidated operations and now cooks meals out of one kitchen.

 

vicky ward investigates

Vicky Ward Investigates:"How Can You Win a War With the Whole World?” Vicky Ward, best-selling author and columnist, May 13, 2022. Boris Yeltsin’s former son-in-law on Russia, Ukraine, the West, and whether or not Putin has gone mad.

These past two weeks, I’ve had a series of conversations with Leonid Dyachenko, the former son-in-law of Boris Yeltsin, who lives in London but still has a Russian citizenship. He shared his thoughts on Russia, Ukraine, the West, and whether or not Putin (shown in a May 9 Reuters photo below right) has gone mad. (His answer is yes.)

imrs 010Below are our interviews, edited and condensed for clarity.

WARD: What, if anything, did you hear about the May 9 festivities in Moscow on Monday?

DYACHENKO: I chatted with my friends by WhatsApp about Putin’s speech. We thought it was quite a poor speech, and we thought it sounded like he was surrendering. It was a ten- minute-long speech about nothing. It was the first time I heard a speech like that. Where was this “special military operation”? Where was the talk of [the] Russian army’s achievements and victories? He looked quite sick. I now think maybe we should not be scared of nuclear war, which is not what I was saying a few weeks ago. Now, I think it’s clear that what happens next…

WARD: What happens next?

DYACHENKO: The Russian army will become weaker and weaker. The Ukrainian army, armed with the West[‘s] heavy arms, [will] get stronger.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Updates: Russia says Finland’s NATO plan ‘definitely’ a threat, Ellen Francis, Amy Cheng, Annabelle Timsit, Jaclyn Peiser, Rachel Pannett and Andrew Jeong, May 13, 2022 (print ed.). NATO members say they will welcome Finland’s membership bid; Finland’s leaders give green light for NATO membership; Updates from key cities: Ukraine pushes back around Kharkiv; Siemens suspends business in Russia, ends industrial operations; Former Chinese envoy to Ukraine rebukes Russia’s war and is censored.

finland flagFinland’s leaders announced Thursday that they would seek NATO membership for the Nordic nation in response to Russia’s war on Ukraine, which would be a tectonic shift to the military alliance and Europe’s security order.

The Kremlin said Finland’s accession would “definitely” pose a threat to Russia’s security and warned against a NATO expansion near its border. The Russian foreign ministry said Moscow would have "to take retaliatory steps...to stop the threats that arise.” The green light from Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin is the first step toward a formal application from a country with a long-standing military nonalignment. Sweden is considering a similar move, and Washington has said it would strongly support both.

NATO and European leaders welcomed Finland’s announcement on Thursday. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said its inclusion would strengthen both the country and the Western alliance, promising a “smooth and swift” process. On the battlefield, Ukraine said its troops were pushing back Russian forces around the second-largest city of Kharkiv, as airstrikes hit the Chernihiv region further north.

Here’s what else to know

  • U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet told the Human Rights Council on Thursday that “the scale of unlawful killings,” in Ukraine, including signs of summary executions north of the capital, “is shocking.”
  • Many Ukrainian refugees who have fled the fighting into Russia are reportedly being forced to submit to strip searches and interrogations, put through “filtration camps” or stripped of their documents. Moscow has dismissed the allegations.
  • With the conflict disrupting European crop exports and driving up food costs around the globe, President Biden has unveiled new policies to ramp up U.S. agricultural production.

 

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia-Ukraine war live updates: Ukraine to try Russian for alleged war crime; Europe’s gas could be disrupted, Rachel Pannett, Annabelle Timsit, Amy Cheng, Andrew Jeong, Ellen Francis, Jennifer Hassan, Paulina Firozi and Brittany Shammas, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). Occupied Kherson wants to join Russia, state media says; Ukraine says Russian forces being pushed away from Kharkiv.

Ukraine’s prosecutor general announced that a 21-year-old Russian soldier in custody will be the first to stand trial for an alleged war crime during Russia’s invasion. Vadim Shishimarin is accused of killing an unarmed 62-year-old civilian by the side of a road in a village in the Sumy region of northeastern Ukraine in late February.

ukraine flagThe conflict appeared poised to disrupt some gas supplies via pipeline from Russia, as Ukraine said it would stop the transit of some Russian gas running through its borders into Europe starting Wednesday morning local time. “The interference of the occupying forces in technical processes” meant Ukraine could no longer ensure the transit of gas through territories occupied by Russia, and would impede the flow of about one-third of Russian gas running through Ukraine, according to the country’s state-owned energy company Naftogaz.

Russian forces continued to pummel eastern Ukraine on Wednesday, while Ukraine’s military said it successfully repelled a dozen Russian attacks. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said late Tuesday that Russian forces “are gradually being pushed away” from the Kharkiv region. Meanwhile, the Moscow-backed leadership of the occupied Kherson region in southern Ukraine plans to ask President Vladimir Putin to make Kherson part of Russia, the state-owned news agency Tass said Wednesday, citing a pro-Moscow official in the region. Ukraine responded by vowing to liberate Kherson.

Here’s what else to know

  • The Senate is expected to vote this week on an aid package for Ukraine that the House overwhelmingly approved Tuesday night — raising total U.S. military, economic and humanitarian support provided during the conflict to more than $50 billion
  • Ukrainian fighters remaining inside the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol are pleading for the wounded among them to be evacuated. Russia may be attempting to reopen steel plants to produce military equipment, according to the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank.

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking from Moscow’s Red Square on Victory Day

Russian President Vladimir Putin, greets World War II veterans and other audience members before speaking from Moscow’s Red Square on Victory Day, May 9, 2022 (Reuters Photos via Washington Post)

 washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Updates: Missiles strike port city of Odessa, causing damage, Annabelle Timsit, Amy Cheng, Andrew Jeong, Rachel Pannett, Ellen Francis, Jennifer Hassan and Adam Taylor, May 11, 2020 (print ed.). Images from a prewar Ukraine seem all the more poignant now; Ukrainian foreign minister: ‘The picture of victory is an evolving concept’; European nations back call for WHO to consider closing Moscow office; Database of 231 videos exposes the horrors of war in Ukraine.

Russian FlagRussia struck key Ukrainian cities in the south and east overnight, including the strategic port of Odessa — as Congress is set to begin debating a nearly $40 billion aid package for Ukraine on Tuesday.

President Biden, who separately signed a historic bill into law that will expedite the process of sending military aid to Kyiv, urged lawmakers to approve the aid — which is now almost $7 billion more than what his administration requested. Biden said he was concerned that Russian President Vladimir Putin “doesn’t have a way out” of the war despite failing to divide the NATO military alliance or European Union.

The volley of Russian missiles resulted in casualties in Odessa and included three Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, a Ukrainian official said. But the Pentagon assessed that Russian forces do not have the capability to launch a ground or maritime offensive against the Black Sea gateway.

Russian forces continued to assault the embattled Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukrainian officials said, estimating that about 1,000 of the shattered port city’s last remaining fighters are still holed up there, with hundreds injured.

Here’s what else to know

  • A U.N. official said Tuesday that thousands more civilians have been killed in the conflict than confirmed figures suggest. A regional official in Kharkiv said 44 bodies were pulled from the rubble of a building in Izyum that Russia destroyed in March.
  • European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen made a surprise visit to Budapest on Monday to try to persuade Hungarian PrimeMinister Viktor Orban to drop his objection to a proposed European Union embargo on Russian oil. However, their talks ended without a deal.
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel.

washington post logoWashington Post, Overview: President Biden signs bill, reviving World War II-era ‘lend-lease’ program, Amy B Wang, May 11, 2020 (print ed.).  President Biden signed into law on Monday afternoon a bill that will expedite the process of sending military aid to Ukraine, as the Eastern European country presses into its third month of fighting off a Russian invasion.

Flanked by Vice President Harris and members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, Biden vowed the United States will continue to support Ukraine “in their fight to defend their country and their democracy” against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war.

“Every day Ukrainians fight for their lives,” Biden said. “The cost of the fight is not cheap, but caving to aggression is even more costly.”

After signing the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022 into law, Biden handed his pen to Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.), the first Ukrainian-born member of Congress. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Live U.S. Politics News & Analysis: Bucking Trump, Pence to rally with Georgia’s Kemp, John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro, May 13, 2022. The latest: Conor Lamb was a rising Democratic star in the Trump era. Not anymore. Noted: Most Republicans say Biden should be impeached if GOP takes back House;

republican elephant logoToday, former vice president Mike Pence announced that he will hold a rally with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) on the eve of the state’s contested May 24 GOP gubernatorial primary. The move puts Pence at odds with former president Donald Trump, who pushed David Perdue, a former U.S. senator, to challenge Kemp, whom Trump has lambasted for not doing enough to overturn the 2020 presidential elections results in Georgia. In a statement, Pence called Kemp “one of the most successful conservative governors in America.”

We’re also watching fallout from the decision by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol to subpoena five House Republican lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). President Biden, meanwhile, has a full day of events in Washington, focused on both foreign and domestic affairs. His schedule includes a meeting with local leaders and law enforcement officials.

Recent Headlines

 

World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden-hosted Americas summit facing boycott over invitation list, Karen DeYoung, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). In a potential embarrassment for his administration, a growing number of hemispheric leaders have said they will not attend an Americas summit, to be hosted by President Biden next month in Los Angeles, if the meeting excludes Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

andrés lópez obrador w“If everyone is not invited, I will not go,” Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, right, told reporters Tuesday in Mexico City. Bolivian President Luis Arce tweeted that “if the exclusion of brother nations persists, I will not participate.”

A number of Caribbean leaders have taken the same stand, and more are expected from South and Central America. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s participation, according to a statement emailed from his office Wednesday, is “currently under evaluation, and is yet to be confirmed. “

The Summit of the Americas, held every three years in a different country, is the premier event for hemispheric bonding. The June 6-10 Los Angeles meeting will be the first hosted by the United States since President Bill Clinton held the inaugural session in Miami in 1994.

For the administration, the event is designed to promote democracy, address common economic problems, and reverse a widespread perception in the region of U.S. disinterest in their existence beyond stemming illegal immigration, drug smuggling and Chinese influence.

Mexican governments have traditionally maintained warm relations with Cuba, in part to demonstrate their independence from the United States. López Obrador, who visited Cuba last week and reiterated his strong condemnation of the U.S. trade embargo of the island, has made no secret of his fondness for the Cuban government.

But even for the many in Latin America with no love lost for the three nondemocratic regimes, the summit has become yet another reminder of what they see as U.S. hubris when it comes to the hemisphere.

Repeated hints in recent months that the three governments would be excluded have brought repeated administration insistence that no decisions had been made and no invitations yet issued. But its intentions appeared to have been outed last week, when Brian A. Nichols, the assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere was asked in a Colombian television interview if Cuba, Nicaragua and the Venezuelan government of President Nicolás Maduro would be invited.

“No,” Nichols answered succinctly. “That decision is for the president,” he added in Spanish. “But I believe the president has been perfectly clear that ... countries that, by their own actions, do not respect democracy, are not going to receive invitations.”

jen psakiOn Tuesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki, right, and State Department spokesman Ned Price repeated the “no decisions” formulation.

“President Biden hopes all the hemisphere’s democratically elected leaders will join him in honoring a collective responsibility to forge a more inclusive and prosperous future. The decision to participate in the summit is, of course, the decision of each invited country,” a White House official , who spoke on the condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the administration, said Wednesday.

“President Biden hopes all the hemisphere’s democratically elected leaders will join him in honoring a collective responsibility to forge a more inclusive and prosperous future. The decision to participate in the summit is, of course, the decision of each invited country,” a White House official , who spoke on the condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the administration, said Wednesday.

Biden’s public indecision has brought a flood of commentary from both sides of the issue.

robert menendez offSens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), left, and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the powerful chairman and ranking minority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, among others, have made clear their opposition to allowing the three to attend. “This is like inviting the fox into the hen house,” Menendez told the Hill. “The Summit is an opportunity for democracies — not authoritarian thugs” to advance “our shared prosperity and democratic values.”

López Obrador said Tuesday that he raised the matter in his April 29 telephone conversation with Biden. “I put this to Biden, and he told me he was going to analyze the situation,” the Mexican president said. “How can you have a Summit of the Americas without all the countries of America? Where do these uninvited come from? Another country? Another galaxy? An unknown planet?”

Ambassador Ronald Sanders of Antigua and Barbuda, the former coordinator of CARICOM, the community of 20 Caribbean nations, said in an interview that “CARICOM countries take the view that the Summit of the Americas is not a United States summit, which it isn’t. It is a summit of all the countries of the Americas, of which the United States is only one.

“Does hosting the summit give you the right to decide who should or should not be representing countries of the Americas? ... Many have come to the conclusion that ... everybody should be there. That must include Cuba.”

  

shireen abu akleh file

washington post logoWashington Post, American journalist killed by Israeli forces in West Bank, network says, Steve Hendrix, Sufian Taha and Shira Rubin, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). The network and Palestinian officials said journalist Shireen Abu Akleh (shown above in a file photo in Jerusalem) was killed by Israeli fire. Israel said Palestinian gunmen may have been responsible.

Israel FlagIsraeli forces killed a Palestinian American journalist for the Al Jazeera news network in the West Bank early Wednesday, according to the network and the Palestinian Health Ministry. Israel said the journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, was killed in an exchange of gunfire and called for an investigation.

Abu Akleh, 51, a longtime Al Jazeera correspondent, was shot in the head while covering Israeli raids in the Jenin refugee camp, according to the network and the ministry. She was taken to a hospital before dying from her wounds.

In a statement, Al Jazeera accused Israeli forces of killing Abu Akleh “in cold blood” and said she had been “clearly wearing a press jacket that identifies her as a journalist.” Two journalists who were standing next to Abu Akleh said in interviews that the area had been relatively calm before she was shot.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hong Kong police arrest 90-year-old cardinal on foreign collusion charges, Theodora Yu, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). The Hong Kong national security police arrested 90-year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen, the most outspoken senior Catholic cleric in Hong Kong and the city’s bishop emeritus, along with at least three others on Wednesday for their involvement in a humanitarian relief fund, according to lawyers involved in the case.

hong kong flagThe arrests signal a new wave of detentions under the national security law since John Lee was elected as the new chief executive of Hong Kong. He has emphasized that maintaining stability and safeguarding national security would be one of his main goals.

Zen, along with renowned barrister Margaret Ng and academic Hui Po-keung, were arrested under the law for collusion with foreign forces by helping out as trustees for the now-disbanded 612 humanitarian relief fund, according to local media reports.

The three were trustees of the fund, which provided financial assistance to those arrested in the 2019 pro-democracy protests and which pay for their legal fees. The fund disbanded in September, after the national security police issued a statement saying it would investigate whether the fund has violated the security law.

ny times logoNew York Times, Major Donation to U.K. Conservative Party Was Flagged Over Russia Concerns, Jane Bradley, May 13, 2022 (print ed.). The cash was part of a fund-raising blitz that helped propel Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s party to victory in 2019. Records track $630,225 to a Russian bank account.

One of the biggest donors to Britain’s Conservative Party is suspected of secretly funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to the party from a Russian account, according to a bank alert filed to Britain’s national law enforcement agency.

The donation, of $630,225, was made in February 2018 in the name of Ehud Sheleg, a wealthy London art dealer who was most recently the Conservative Party’s treasurer. The money was part of a fund-raising blitz that helped propel Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his party to a landslide victory in the 2019 general election.

But documents filed with the authorities last year and reviewed by The New York Times say that the money originated in a Russian account of Mr. Sheleg’s father-in-law, Sergei Kopytov, who was once a senior politician in the previous pro-Kremlin government of Ukraine. He now owns real estate and hotel businesses in Crimea and Russia.

“We are able to trace a clear line back from this donation to its ultimate source,” Barclays bank wrote in a January 2021 alert to the National Crime Agency. The bank, which maintained some of the accounts used in the transaction, flagged the donation as both suspected money laundering and a potentially illegal campaign donation.

A lawyer for Mr. Sheleg acknowledged that he and his wife received millions of dollars from his father-in-law in the weeks before the donation. But they said that was “entirely separate” from the campaign contribution.

“There is absolutely no basis for suggesting that Mr. Kopytov’s gift for his daughter was intended as, or for the purpose of making, a political donation to the Conservative Party,” the lawyer, Thomas Rudkin, wrote in response to questions from The Times.

washington post logoWashington Post, Why do journalists in Mexico keep getting killed? Alejandra Ibarra Chaoul and Kevin Sieff, May 11, 2020 (print ed.). With the shooting deaths this week of a cameraperson and a director in Veracruz state, the number of journalists killed in Mexico this year is now up to 11. That’s more than in Ukraine, where the world’s press corps is covering a war.

Mexico has long been one of the world’s most dangerous countries to be a journalist. But 2022’s killing rampage is on pace to more than triple last year’s total. The increase has left many here wondering what has changed — how to explain the epidemic of violence against reporters, editors and photographers.

Sheila Johana García Olivera and Yesenia Mollinedo Falconi of the online news outlet El Veraz were shot Monday night while sitting in a car outside a convenience store. Neither survived. Mollinedo Falconi had received threats for her journalistic work, her brother said.
A relative of Sheila Johana García Olivera shows her photo on a cellphone. (Felix Marquez/AP)

A closer look at this year’s killings suggests no single reason explains the uptick. No one criminal organization or arm of the government is responsible. Instead, the deaths point to the wide range of threats that journalists here face daily — and the impunity that allows their killers to act without fear of consequence.

Recent Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, How America Lost One Million People, Staff Investigation and Analysis, May 13, 2022 (interactive). Understanding the coronavirus death toll — including who makes up the one million and how the country failed them — is essential as the pandemic continues.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP opposition leaves covid aid in peril as White House warns of surge, Tony Romm, May 13, 2022 (print ed.). Billions of dollars remain stalled as the Biden administration warns it needs more money for tests, therapeutics and vaccines.

A bipartisan push in Congress to adopt another round of coronavirus aid is in fresh political peril, as Republicans continue to block Democrats from swiftly approving as much as the Biden administration believes is necessary to prepare for an expected new surge.

Five days after federal health officials warned a new wave could infect 100 million people, lawmakers still find themselves struggling to overcome familiar partisan divides. There appears to be no immediate pathway in the Senate for a long-stalled agreement to spend $10 billion to boost the availability of tests, therapeutics and vaccines nationwide.

For weeks, the White House has sounded urgent alarms about the need for more aid, arguing it has already committed most of its existing public health dollars to specific uses. Some key federal initiatives even have run out of cash, leading the administration to slow purchases of critical supplies while shuttering a program that had provided free testing to uninsured Americans.

ny times logoNew York Times, Nations Pledge Billions in Pandemic Aid as U.S. Congress Blocks Efforts, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, May 13, 2022 (print ed.). President Biden and other heads of state at a virtual Covid-19 summit vowed to double down in the fight against the virus. Get Covid news.

President Biden and other heads of state vowed Thursday to redouble their efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic, and countries including Germany and Canada pledged large sums to finance tests, therapeutics and vaccines — a commitment Mr. Biden could not make because Congress refuses to authorize new emergency aid.

The pledges came at Mr. Biden’s second Covid-19 summit, a virtual gathering that the president he co-hosted with the leaders of Belize, Germany, Indonesia and Senegal. But some countries were notably absent. China did not attend, and Russia was not invited, senior administration officials said.

“Now is the time for us to act,” Mr. Biden said as he opened the virtual gathering, speaking by video. “All of us together. We all must do more. We must honor those we have lost by doing everything we can to prevent as many deaths as possible.”

Both Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who is representing the United States in the opening session with world leaders, used the gathering to mark a coming milestone: one million American lives lost to Covid-19.

Ms. Harris also appealed for a new set of “international norms” and “common understandings” — a set of principles, she said, that all countries should have access to lifesaving vaccines, tests and therapeutics, that leaders “should prioritize the most vulnerable and the overlooked and that we must recognize and address inequities.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Africa’s First Covid-19 Vaccine Factory Has Not Received a Single Order, Lynsey Chutel, May 13, 2022 (print ed.). Aspen Pharmacare, in South Africa, was hailed as an answer to Africa’s struggle to get access to vaccines. Here’s the latest on the coronavirus.

Massachusetts said it had agreed to pay $56 million after a deadly Covid outbreak at a veterans’ home. The first factory in Africa licensed to produce Covid-19 vaccines for the African market has not received a single order and may shut down that production line within weeks if the situation doesn’t change, according to executives of the company, Aspen Pharmacare.

The factory, in the coastal South African city of Gqeberha, formerly known as Port Elizabeth, was celebrated as a solution to the continent’s unequal access to vaccines when it announced a deal to start manufacturing Covid vaccines in November of 2021.

But no purchasers have appeared, as the slow distribution of vaccines in Africa has left health agencies with a backlog of supplies. Commercial production never started, in what officials say is an ominous sign for other African countries that had considered manufacturing Covid-19 vaccines.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, many African countries have lagged far behind much of the world in getting their people vaccinated — and some countries have had difficulty distributing what doses they did get.

Less than 20 percent of the total population in Africa is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. Officials and politicians blamed wealthy countries for hoarding vaccine doses when vaccines first became available. Countries reliant on donations of vaccines were at the back of the line. Building the capacity to manufacture vaccine doses in Africa was billed as a solution to this vaccine inequity as well as a way to prepare for future pandemics.

Aspen Pharmacare, in South Africa, was hailed as an answer to Africa’s struggle to get access to vaccines. Here’s the latest on the coronavirus.

ny times logoNew York Times, North Korea Reports Its First Covid Cases, Choe Sang-Hun, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). Pyongyang declared a “maximum emergency” and ordered all of the country’s cities and counties to lock down to fight the spread.

North Korea on Thursday reported its first outbreak of the coronavirus, declaring a “maximum emergency” and ordering all of its cities and counties to lock down to fight the spread.

North Korean flagOn Sunday, health officials tested residents in an unidentified organization in Pyongyang, the capital, who showed symptoms such as fever, and confirmed that they were infected with a subvariant, known as BA.2, of the Omicron variant of the virus, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said. The news agency did not reveal how many people were infected.

The report was the first time that the secretive country has confirmed any Covid-19 cases since the virus emerged in neighboring China more than two years ago.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated May 13, 2022), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2totals ere and some experts saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 520,284,229, Deaths: 6,286,519
U.S. Cases:      84,172,342, Deaths:1,026,527
Indian Cases:   43,117,836, Deaths:    524,190
Brazil Cases:    30,664,739, Deaths:    664,830

Related Recent Headlines:

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

 

 trump hotel

ny times logoNew York Times, The Trump family completed the sale of its hotel in Washington, D.C., to a Miami investor group, Eric Lipton, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). The Trump International Hotel in Washington is now officially out of business after the Trump family on Wednesday completed its sale to a Miami investor group, which plans to reopen it as a Waldorf Astoria.

The sale formally ended the Trump family’s business presence in Washington, although the family company still owns a golf course in Northern Virginia. The deal with the investor group, CGI Merchant Group, for a reported price of $375 million covers only the operation of the hotel, which is housed in a building leased from the federal government.

The new owners moved quickly to take control of the hotel, sending a crew out after dark on Wednesday to begin taking down the Trump signs, starting with the gold-plated family name above the main entrance.

Hotel industry executives have said the hotel had underperformed compared with other luxury hotels in the city, particularly since President Donald J. Trump left office, in part because some companies and travelers were reluctant to book rooms or hold events at the hotel given the controversies surrounding Mr. Trump. Those factors most likely contributed to the decision to sell the lease, they said.

But the 263-room hotel still pulled in an exceptionally high sale price, given its location on Pennsylvania Avenue, between the White House and the Capitol, and its presence inside a Washington landmark, the Old Post Office Building, whose clock tower makes it one of the tallest buildings in the capital.

The average sales price for hotels in Washington in 2020 was $354,000 per room, according to a survey by JLL, a real estate firm. The reported price for the Trump hotel deal suggested a per-room price of more than $1 million, a level that surprised some veteran real estate executives in Washington.

The hotel, which opened just a few weeks before Mr. Trump was elected president in 2016 after a $200 million renovation of the once-decrepit building, became a gathering place for his supporters, members of his cabinet, lobbyists, Republicans in Congress and foreign leaders, some of whom were on their way to see Mr. Trump.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just tipped off that he isn’t really planning to run in 2024, Bill Palmer, May 12, 2022. Donald Trump officially sold off his ownership in the management of the Trump bill palmerInternational Hotel today, which will reopen under a new name without his involvement. It was believed to be his only remaining profitable property, but he sold it anyway.

This suggests that Trump must be in truly dire economic straits, as selling off profitable properties means forfeiting your ongoing revenue from them in exchange for short term cash. It also gives away that Trump is, rather obviously, not really going to run for President in 2024. After all, this is the hotel that’s down the street from the White House.

bill palmer report logo headerWhile he was in office, Donald Trump routinely abused the presidency to steer guests and revenue toward his hotel. If Trump were truly going to run again in 2024, he’d be hanging onto the property in case he wins, because it would once again become an easy way to steer money into his own pocket. Trump (or whoever is making his financial decisions at this point) is clearly not banking on a 2024 run.

But Trump will continue spending 2022 and 2023 strongly implying that he will run, so that he can keep raking in unofficial campaign donations that he can then easily stick in his pocket, because they’re not regulated like actual campaign donations to a candidate who’s actually running.

And of course the media (on the left, right, and center) will continue playing up the ruse that Trump is going to run in 2024, because the media intends to spend 2022 and 2023 milking the “Trump 2024” narrative for ratings. But come on, the guy just sold off his prized hotel down the street from the White House. Take a hint.

washington post logoWashington Post, When the sheriff waged a war on drugs in a Mississippi county, Jenn Abelson and Reena Flores, May 12, 2022. No-knock raids were the rule rather than the exception, and they led to allegations against the department. The sheriff defended his tenure, saying “we cleaned this county up.”

This story is part of our reporting for the investigative podcast “Broken Doors.” Hosted by Jenn Abelson and Nicole Dungca, the six-part audio series examines how no-knock warrants are deployed in the American justice system — and what happens when accountability is flawed at every level.

SMITHVILLE, Miss. — It was a Saturday night in November not long before Thanksgiving when Joe Wade Jr. called his girlfriend with a threat.

Eva York had left him after another fight and was staying with a friend, Bengie Edwards.

“You need to leave and take your kids with you, or I’m going to call the sheriff and tell him that Bengie’s selling drugs,” Wade said.

York, watching a movie with Edwards and her two children in the living room, refused to leave.

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Edwards had already gone to bed by the time York’s son got a bizarre text from Wade — a recording of the song from the television show “Cops”: “Whatcha gonna do when they come for you.”1

Suddenly, around 9:30 p.m., Monroe County deputies smashed a battering ram into Edwards’s front door and stormed inside.
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Edwards shot up in bed. He started putting on his socks when someone shined a flashlight into his eyes and pointed a gun at his head. Deputies threw the wiry 53-year-old to the floor and handcuffed him.

York and the kids watched in silence as deputies pulled out dresser drawers, emptied kitchen cabinets and tore down wood paneling. Edwards said he heard officers laugh as they ransacked the mint green home his parents had built in the 1960s.

Deputies took about $15 of loose cocaine sitting on a dresser in plain sight. But they were also looking for something else.

“Where’s the money? Where’s the money?” they yelled. “Where’s the money?”

Edwards, handcuffed and shirtless, had no idea what was happening. He could barely pay his bills after working long hours at a furniture factory.

[What to know about no-knock warrants]

He couldn’t figure out why Sheriff Cecil Cantrell — the county’s most powerful law enforcement officer — was standing in his living room. Edwards didn’t know that Eric Sloan, the head narcotics officer, had obtained a search warrant for his home.

Deputies emptied Edwards’s wallet and a jar of silver dollars he had been saving — about $96 total. They also took two cars from his front yard and his father’s old revolver. But deputies found no other drugs. Then they shoved Edwards out the front door and into the back of a cruiser, bound for the county jail.2

That same night, Wade said he sent Edwards, who is Black, a text: “That’s what you get messing with a white girl.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside the race to find the gunman raining bullets on a D.C. school, Peter Hermann, May 12, 2022. The April 22 shooting cast a pall of terror across the nation’s capital and plunged the area into lockdown. Students and staff launched into a well-rehearsed drill, racing for offices, barricading doors, hiding in closets and diving under desks.

No one has died, but four people were struck and one remains hospitalized. The school reopened the first week of May. Now, nearly three weeks after the shooting, new details are emerging about how the day unfolded, both on the ground and in the instant investigation law enforcement launched to find the shooter.

washington post logoWashington Post, Black communities are last in line for disaster planning in Texas, Tracy Jan, May 11, 2022 (interactive). Texas steered federal disaster grants toward Whiter, less populated areas over urban communities of color, HUD investigation finds.

Lawrence Hester worries every time it rains.

During heavy storms, water overflows the dirt drainage ditch fronting his yard and the bayou at the end of his block — flooding the street, creeping up his front steps, pooling beneath the house, and trapping his family inside.

“We are always underwater here,” said Hester, 61.

And yet, the state of Texas allocated none of the $1 billion in federal funds it received to protect communities from future disasters to neighborhoods in Houston that flood regularly, according to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

HUD has now found the exclusion of those majority Black and Hispanic urban communities to be discriminatory. The state “shifted money away from the areas and people that needed it the most,” disproportionately benefiting White residents living in smaller towns, the agency concluded.

Houston has faced seven federally declared disasters in the last seven years and suffered an estimated $2 billion in damage from Hurricane Harvey in 2017. That storm devastated Kashmere Gardens, where Hester has lived his entire life. The floodwaters from Harvey deposited black mold throughout Hester’s home and left his daughter chronically short of breath.

The state, which is appealing HUD’s findings, denied discriminating, saying the Texas General Land Office administered the federal grant program based on HUD approval.

The situation in Texas illustrates the challenge facing the Biden administration, which has pledged to focus on racial equity but is struggling to protect low-income communities of color from the growing threat of climate change. Even after HUD’s finding of discrimination, the agency said it does not have the power at this time to suspend the rest of the $4.3 billion in disaster mitigation money awarded to the state under criteria approved by the Trump administration.

“What is happening here with these federal dollars going through the state and not one dime coming to the City of Houston post-Hurricane Harvey is absolutely crazy, and it cannot be justified,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “What do I say to the people in Kashmere Gardens when these storms keep coming, and we are not putting in the infrastructure that they desperately need to mitigate the risk of future flooding?”

ny times logoNew York Times, A judge released former President Trump from a contempt order but said it would be reinstated if he didn’t pay a fine, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). The former president must pay a $110,000 fine that accumulated during the two-week contempt period and meet other conditions or the order will be reinstated, a judge said.

Donald J. Trump was released from a judicial order holding him in contempt of court on Wednesday, ending an embarrassing two-week period for the former president, whose business practices are under civil investigation by the New York state attorney general.

djt march 2020 CustomA New York State judge, Arthur F. Engoron, held Mr. Trump in contempt late last month after finding that he had failed to comply with the terms of a December subpoena sent by the attorney general, Letitia James, requesting documents from his personal files. The judge ordered Mr. Trump to pay $10,000 a day until he complied, leading to a $110,000 penalty.

On Wednesday, Justice Engoron withdrew the contempt order, but set a few conditions, including requiring Mr. Trump to pay the fine. The judge ruled that if Mr. Trump and his company did not meet the conditions by May 20, he would reinstate the contempt order and retroactively apply the $10,000-a-day fine.

In an effort to cooperate with the judge’s original contempt order, lawyers for Mr. Trump filed a number of recent court documents attesting to a thorough search of his records.

An outside company also assured the judge that it had reviewed a vast number of files — more than 1,300 boxes — including Mr. Trump’s hard-copy calendars, records in file cabinets at the Trump Organization’s offices in Midtown Manhattan and boxes of documents at off-site storage facilities.

The sweeping search for evidence in Mr. Trump’s records did not appear to turn up much information. Mr. Trump’s lawyers asserted that they did not locate any new records responsive to the subpoena from Ms. James.

Still, the battle over the records — and the contempt order against Mr. Trump — set the stage for Ms. James to potentially take legal action against the former president.

Ms. James, a Democrat, said in a court filing earlier this year that the Trump Organization had engaged in “fraudulent or misleading” business practices.

But she argued then that she needed to obtain additional records and testimony, including the documents sought from Mr. Trump’s personal files, before taking any legal action.

Because Ms. James’s investigation is civil, she cannot file criminal charges but she can file a lawsuit. In the contempt hearing last month, a lawyer from her office, Kevin Wallace, indicated that a suit could come soon, saying that the office was preparing to file an action against Mr. Trump in the near future.

In a statement, Ms. James celebrated the order for the fine to be paid, and said her office would “continue to enforce the law and seek answers as part of this investigation.”

Ms. James’s inquiry is focused on whether Mr. Trump’s annual financial statements falsely inflated the value of his real estate properties and other assets so that he could secure favorable loans and financial benefits.

That area of focus overlaps with a separate criminal investigation being conducted by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which had been moving toward an indictment of Mr. Trump early this year before prosecutors developed concerns about proving the case.

Mr. Trump has denied wrongdoing and called Ms. James a “Radical Left Racist.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Court Must Reconsider Case of Woman Sentenced to 5 Years for Voter Fraud, Eduardo Medina, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). Crystal Mason has insisted that she did not know she was ineligible to vote when she cast a provisional ballot in Texas in 2016. She was sentenced to five years in prison, but a court ruling on Wednesday raised questions about the conviction.

ny times logoNew York Times, Surfside Condo Collapse Victims Reach $997 Million Settlement, Patricia Mazzei and Livia Albeck-Ripka, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). The settlement, which includes insurance companies, developers and other defendants, comes nearly a year after the tragedy killed 98 people.

Families of the victims of the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Fla., that killed 98 people last year have reached a $997 million settlement to compensate them for their staggering losses of life.

The settlement, revealed at a court hearing on Wednesday and still pending final approval, includes insurance companies, developers of an adjacent building and other defendants in the extensive civil case. It comes six weeks before the first anniversary of the tragedy on June 24.

“I’m shocked by this result — I think it’s fantastic,” said Judge Michael A. Hanzman of the Circuit Court in Miami-Dade County. “This is a recovery that is far in excess of what I had anticipated.”

Before Wednesday’s surprise announcement, the judge had approved a far smaller settlement of $83 million to be split among condo unit owners for their property losses. No compensation had been determined for the families of the dead, who would now receive the $997 million.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Heir accused of killing his mom ‘on the high seas’ to access trust fund, Jonathan Edwards, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). He’s also suspected in his grandfather’s killing, according to federal investigators. Linda Carman thought she and her son were going on an overnight fishing trip as they chugged out of a marina in South Kingstown, R.I., one night in 2016, federal prosecutors said.

Nathan Carman had other plans, the prosecutors added in an indictment unsealed Tuesday.

Before shoving off about 11:15 p.m. on Sept. 17, 2016, Nathan Carman had stripped his 31-foot fishing boat of several parts, preparation that would allow him to intentionally sink the vessel, the indictment said.

After leaving the marina, he killed his mother, according to prosecutors. He then allegedly scuttled his boat, taking refuge on an inflatable life raft until a passing freighter found him at sea eight days later.

washington post logoWashington Post, Homicides by gun rose in 2020 to highest level in a quarter-century, CDC says, Mark Berman, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). The surge in gun violence across the United States in 2020 pushed the firearm homicide rate that year to its highest level in a quarter-century, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday.

This rise in fatal shootings affected communities nationwide, but there were wide gaps across racial, ethnic and economic lines, with the increases in 2020 broadening already existing disparities, the CDC found.

In a new report, the CDC said the spike in deadly gun violence was “not equally distributed” in 2020.

“Young persons, males, and Black persons consistently have the highest firearm homicide rates, and these groups experienced the largest increases in 2020,” the report found. “These increases represent the widening of long-standing disparities in firearm homicide rates.”

As shootings mount, anger grows that it’s ‘happening over and over’

The report comes as communities across the country have been struggling with an increase in gun violence since 2020. In some cities, the bloodshed is well below what they saw a generation ago, while other communities have experienced record numbers of killings.

washington post logoWashington Post, DOJ alleges Haiti gang kidnapped Christian missionaries to free leader, Amanda Coletta, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). U.S. authorities on Tuesday charged a leader of a violent Haitian gang with conspiracy to commit hostage-taking for his alleged role in the brazen kidnapping of 16 American missionaries with an Ohio-based charity in the Haitian capital last year.

Germine Joly, who also goes by “Yonyon,” was indicted by a federal grand jury in Washington, nearly a week after he was transferred to the United States from a Port-au-Prince prison to face charges over his alleged participation in a separate criminal conspiracy to violate U.S. export laws by smuggling firearms to Haiti.

U.S. prosecutors said Joly, a leader of the notorious 400 Mawozo gang, is the first person to be charged in connection with the kidnapping of the missionaries from Christian Aid Ministries in October. The plight of the group drew global attention to a surge in kidnappings by armed gangs that has roiled the Caribbean nation.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a news release that the charge reflects that the Justice Department will be “relentless” in its efforts “to track down anyone who kidnaps a U.S. citizen abroad” and will use “the full reach” of law enforcement authorities to hold those who undermine the safety of Americans accountable.

400 Mawozo demanded $1 million for each of the 17 missionaries — a group that included one Canadian and several children — who were kidnapped in October while returning from a visit to an orphanage. Five hostages were released in November and early December, while the rest escaped around Dec. 16, the release said.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. surpasses record 100,000 overdose deaths in 2021, Meryl Kornfield, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). The sobering tally is a 15 percent increase from the previous year. More than 1 million Americans have now died of drug overdoses in the 21st Century, according to federal data released Wednesday.

More Americans died of drug overdoses in 2021 than any previous year, a grim milestone in an epidemic that has now claimed 1 million lives in the 21st century, according to federal data released Wednesday.

More than 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2021, up 15 percent from the previous year, according to figures released Wednesday by the National Center for Health Statistics. The sobering tally reflects challenges exacerbated by the pandemic: lost access to treatment, social isolation and a more potent drug supply.

‘Cries for help’: Drug overdoses are soaring during the coronavirus pandemic

More than 80,000 people died using opioids, including prescription pain pills and fentanyl, a deadly drug 100 times as powerful as morphine and increasingly present in other drugs. Deaths from methamphetamine and cocaine also rose.

Since the start of the 21st century, an overdose epidemic led by prescription pain pills and followed by waves of heroin, fentanyl and meth has killed more than 1 million people, or roughly the population of San Jose, according to the provisional data.

Recent Legal Headlines

 

Climate

washington post logoWashington Post, Fast-moving wildfire in California damages Orange County homes, Andrew Jeong, May 13, 2022 (print ed.). A fast-moving wildfire erupted in the Southern California city of Laguna Niguel on Wednesday afternoon, local authorities said, affecting about 200 acres, damaging several homes and forcing evacuations. No injuries or deaths had been reported as of Wednesday evening,

washington post logoWashington Post, Temperatures soar to new highs in central states — with more hot days ahead, Matthew Cappucci, May 11, 2022 (print ed.). Records have fallen in the Lone Star State, where readings spiked as high as 112 degrees. The Weather Service predicts scores of records will fall throughout the central U.S. through Thursday.

The calendar says May, but the atmosphere has fast-forwarded at least a month. A sprawling dome of summerlike heat is parked over the central United States, bringing temperatures 20 degrees or more above normal, with scant rainfall. Tornado chances have flatlined across the southern Plains, but the risks of wildfire and heat-related illness are surging instead. And many more hot days are ahead.

 

May 12

Top Headlines

 

Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection, Elections Claims


Investigations

 

Recent Abortion News, Reactions

 

More On Ukraine War

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Climate, Environment, Disasters

 

U.S. Media, Investments, Bubbles

 

Top Stories

 

Trump Defense Secretary Mark Esper, shown in a file photo at right with then-President Trump, has published a harsh assessment of Trump's willingness to break law and other norms to retain power and punish his perceived opponents..

Trump Defense Secretary Mark Esper, shown in a file photo at right with then-President Trump, has published a harsh assessment of Trump's willingness to break law and other norms to retain power and punish his perceived opponents.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump wanted to court-martial prominent retired officers, former defense secretary’s book says, Dan Lamothe, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). In A Sacred Oath, former defense secretary Mark Esper details his often uneasy tenure in Trump’s Cabinet.

mark esperPresident Donald Trump wanted to court-martial two prominent retired military officers for their perceived slights and disloyalty, his former defense secretary Mark T. Esper, right, alleges in a new book, the latest insider account to raise claims about the combative commander in chief and his attempts to upend government institutions.

Department of Defense SealTrump, Esper recounts in A Sacred Oath, had developed a disdain for Stanley McChrystal and William H. McRaven, popular and influential leaders who, in retirement, criticized the president.

When Trump informed Esper and Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (below right,, of his wish to see McChrystal and McRaven court-martialed, the two Pentagon leaders “jumped to their defense,” Esper writes, arguing that both completed distinguished military careers and that taking such action would be “extreme and unwarranted.”

“Doing this ‘will backfire on you, Mr. President,’ we said,” Esper writes. “The discussion went back and forth a little while longer in the Oval Office, with Milley finally figuring out a way to get the president to back down by promising that he would personally call the officers and ask them to dial it back.”

mark esper bookThe alleged episode highlights Esper’s often uneasy tenure in Trump’s Cabinet, a fraught 15 months when, according to his memoir, he endeavored to serve as a guardrail on Trump’s most alarming and inappropriate impulses.

White House intensifies effort to install Pentagon personnel seen as loyal to Trump

Elsewhere in the book, Esper describes a campaign to purge officials deemed insufficiently loyal to Trump in favor of others thought to be more pliable.

mark milley army chief of staffA White House liaison assigned to the Pentagon “expressed an interest in ‘interviewing’ the DOD’s senior officers, which we saw as a code for loyalty tests,” Esper recalls. “We shut this down immediately.”

In an interview, Esper said Trump’s desire to punish McChrystal and McRaven was “obviously disconcerting” and that he considers the two men to be heroes.

“If I wasn’t there and Milley wasn’t there, what would have happened?” he said. “And what would it have done to the military profession for a president to call back to active duty two … retired four-stars and to try and court-martial them for publicly expressing their views?”

 

United Nations

ny times logoNew York Times, More than 1,000 bodies have been found in the suburbs of Kyiv, the U.N. said, Nick Cumming-Bruce, May 12, 2022. The bodies of more than 1,000 civilians have been recovered in areas north of Kyiv, Ukraine, that were occupied by Russian forces, the United Nations human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, said on Thursday, including several hundred who were summarily executed and others who were shot by snipers.

“The figures will continue to increase,” Ms. Bachelet told a special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, the second in two weeks, focusing on abuses uncovered by investigators in Bucha, Irpin and other suburbs of Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, that were seized by Russia’s forces in the early stages of its invasion before its focus shifted east.

Russia did not attend the meeting. It withdrew from the council shortly after the United Nations General Assembly voted last month to suspend its membership and snubbed the opportunity to address a special session.

Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s ambassador in Geneva, instead released a statement dismissing the council’s debate as a “stunt” organized by the West to defame Russia.

A resolution backed by all but two of the council’s 47 members urged commission of inquiry to examine the events that unfolded in areas occupied by Russia with a view to holding people responsible for human-rights abuses to account. The commission was set up by the United Nations in March as allegations of war crimes began to emerge from Ukraine.

China told the council that the rising civilian casualties in the conflict were “heart-wrenching” and urged a negotiated end to the war, but it voted against the resolution on the ground that it lacked balance and would only inflame tensions. The only other country to oppose the resolution was Eritrea.

Belarus, a Kremlin ally, abstained from the vote after calling for a speedy end to the fighting and saying the war has turned into a lucrative business for American arms manufacturers. Other allies of Russia in the council, including Cuba and Venezuela, followed suit.

The United Nations, meanwhile, estimates that thousands of civilians have been killed in Russia’s assault on the southeastern port city of Mariupol, Ms. Bachelet told the session, expressing shock at the scale of destruction and the “unimaginable horrors” inflicted on its residents. “A once flourishing city lies in ruins,” she said.

Wounded and sick Ukrainian combatants in the Azovstal steel mill, the last bastion of resistance to Russia in Mariupol, “must be allowed” to evacuate and receive medical care, she said.

Emine Dzhaparova, Ukraine’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, addressed the council by video link from Kyiv. She accused Russia of trying to turn newly occupied areas around Kherson — the first major Ukrainian city to fall to Russian forces — into a “people’s republic” satellite of Moscow and of killing Ukrainians who refused to cooperate with newly appointed Russia-backed authorities.

On Wednesday, the Kremlin signaled that it could annex the strategically important region, a move that comes as its forces have stepped up repressive efforts amid a flurry of local protests.

In addition to the killings and destruction, Ms. Dzhaparova spoke of “women raped in front of their children, children raped in front of their mothers.”

The United Nations is investigating Russian troops’ sexual violence against women, girls, men and boys, Ms. Bachelet said. “Women and girls are the most frequently cited victims,” she said, “however, reports of men and boys being affected are starting to emerge.”

 

nato logo flags name

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Russia says Finland’s NATO plan ‘definitely’ a threat, Ellen Francis, Amy Cheng, Annabelle Timsit, Jaclyn Peiser, Rachel Pannett and Andrew Jeong, May 12, 2022. NATO members say they will welcome Finland’s membership bid; Finland’s leaders give green light for NATO membership; Updates from key cities: Ukraine pushes back around Kharkiv; Siemens suspends business in Russia, ends industrial operations; Former Chinese envoy to Ukraine rebukes Russia’s war and is censored.

finland flagFinland’s leaders announced Thursday that they would seek NATO membership for the Nordic nation in response to Russia’s war on Ukraine, which would be a tectonic shift to the military alliance and Europe’s security order.

The Kremlin said Finland’s accession would “definitely” pose a threat to Russia’s security and warned against a NATO expansion near its border. The Russian foreign ministry said Moscow would have "to take retaliatory steps...to stop the threats that arise.” The green light from Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin is the first step toward a formal application from a country with a long-standing military nonalignment. Sweden is considering a similar move, and Washington has said it would strongly support both.

NATO and European leaders welcomed Finland’s announcement on Thursday. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said its inclusion would strengthen both the country and the Western alliance, promising a “smooth and swift” process. On the battlefield, Ukraine said its troops were pushing back Russian forces around the second-largest city of Kharkiv, as airstrikes hit the Chernihiv region further north.

Here’s what else to know

  • U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet told the Human Rights Council on Thursday that “the scale of unlawful killings,” in Ukraine, including signs of summary executions north of the capital, “is shocking.”
  • Many Ukrainian refugees who have fled the fighting into Russia are reportedly being forced to submit to strip searches and interrogations, put through “filtration camps” or stripped of their documents. Moscow has dismissed the allegations.
  • With the conflict disrupting European crop exports and driving up food costs around the globe, President Biden has unveiled new policies to ramp up U.S. agricultural production.

 

 

On Saturday in Moscow, President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, left, and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia oversaw a test launch of nuclear-capable hypersonic missiles.

This spring in Moscow, President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, left, and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia oversaw a test launch of nuclear-capable hypersonic missiles.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Russia Sees Threat as Finland Moves Closer to Joining NATO, Shashank Bengali, Steven Erlanger and Ivan NechepurenkoFinland’s president and prime minister endorsed joining the alliance, another sign of how Russia’s invasion has strengthened NATO instead of weakening it. Moscow said it would “take necessary measures” to protect itself, as Vladimir Putin shows no sign of backing down in Ukraine.

Here are the latest developments in the war in Ukraine.

Russian FlagAs Russia’s grinding war pulverizes eastern Ukraine and eats away at the global economy, it is also creating unintended consequences for President Vladimir V. Putin, whose aggression is bringing more European nations closer to NATO’s fold and strengthening Western ties, the very thing the Russian leader had hoped to weaken.

Finland’s leaders announced on Thursday that their country should “apply for NATO membership without delay,” while Swedish leaders were expected to do the same within days. It is a remarkable shift by two nations on Russia’s doorstep that had long remained nonaligned militarily — but where public opinion has lurched strongly toward joining the alliance in the 11 weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine.

ukraine flagThe Kremlin said that Finnish membership in NATO was “definitely” a threat, and that it was prepared to “balance the situation” to ensure Russia’s security.

nato logo flags nameNATO’s secretary general promised Finland a “smooth and swift” accession process if it applied, but that could take a year or longer, leaving it and Sweden vulnerable to Russian retaliation while not covered under the alliance’s collective defense pact. Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain sought on Wednesday to fill that gap, committing Britain, one of Europe’s strongest militaries, to defending Finland and Sweden if attacked — even if they ended up not joining NATO.

But the hardening of Western resolve has not persuaded Russia to ease its assault, which has occupied large chunks of southern and eastern Ukraine. It could also help Mr. Putin — who has described NATO’s eastward expansion as one of the reasons he was compelled to send troops into Ukraine — reinforce his argument to Russians that it is the West, not Russia, that is driving the conflict.

In other developments:

  • Ukrainian and Western officials say Russia is reportedly withdrawing forces from around Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, where it has been losing territory. They say it may redirect troops to the southeast, where Russian troops are making greater progress.
  • The U.S. Congress is likely to approve $40 billion in military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, the latest package of support intended to help Ukrainian forces bring the fight to the invading Russians.
  • New York Times journalists visited a volunteer unit of Ukrainian fighters on the front line in the east, where they are fighting to hold back Russian forces pushing down from their stronghold in the occupied city of Izium.

In February, only weeks before Russia attacked Ukraine, President Sauli Niinisto of Finland sent a message to Russia about the steep price of invading his country.

“Everybody understands that there is a threshold, if you try to come to Finland uninvited — it’s very expensive,” Mr. Niinisto, who has a reputation of speaking bluntly to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, said in an interview in the Presidential Palace.

Mr. Putin knows “from history that Finns are very stubborn, and we have lot of Sisu,” he added, translating the Finnish word loosely as “double guts.”

On Thursday, Mr. Niinisto announced that Finland is in favor of rapidly applying for NATO membership. But for decades his country has made clear that it would not shy from a fight brought by Russia.

Finland knows the feeling of Russian aggression first hand. In 1939 and 1940, it fought fierce battles against Russian soldiers in what is known as the Winter War. The Finns eventually lost, and gave up some of their territory, but their ability to temporarily hold off the Soviet Union became a central point of Finnish pride.

Now, Finland is well armed, recently purchasing 64 F-35 fighter jets from the United States. Their compatibility with NATO and American defense systems has put teeth behind its warnings to Russia that it could join NATO. There are also plans ready to protect Helsinki, the capital, if necessary by planting mines in shipping lanes, blowing up bridges and scrambling those jets to take out roads.

Finland’s army, 180,000 strong, is arguably the most powerful in the northern Baltic region and about 80 percent of the population says it is willing to take up arms if necessary.

Essentially since World War II ended, Finns have been preparing for the next invasion. While other countries stopped requiring men to take military training after the Cold War, Helsinki kept up the practice, and refrained from the defense budgets cuts of its neighbors in the 1990s and 2000s. About a third of adults, some 900,000 people, are trained members of its military reserves, the Civilian Defense of Finland. As part of their training, some men go into the woods and participate in war game exercises, including learning how to shoot down phantom Russian planes.

The country has at least six months of emergency reserves of all major fuels and strategic stockpiles of grains. Pharmaceutical companies are required to keep months worth of medicines on reserve. The country’s buildings are equipped with bomb shelters. Those without access to shelters can make use of car garages and ice skating rinks.

President Vladimir V. Putin has cited NATO’s spread eastward to countries on its borders as the primary national threat to Russia and has used Ukraine’s desire to join the alliance to justify his invasion of that country. Mr. Putin has accused the United States and its allies of fighting a “proxy war” by arming Kyiv’s forces.

Russian officials continued to harp on that theme after Finnish leaders expressed support for quickly applying for NATO membership, suggesting that Mr. Putin is likely to spin the move as evidence that the alliance is growing increasingly hostile.

dmitry peskovDmitri S. Peskov, right, the Kremlin’s spokesman, appeared to take a measured tone, telling reporters that Russia wanted to avoid a direct confrontation with the alliance. But, when asked about whether Finland’s joining NATO would pose a direct threat to Russia, he said, “Definitely. NATO expansion does not make our continent more stable and safe.”

He warned that Moscow’s response would be determined by how “NATO’s expansion plays out, the extent to which military infrastructure moves closer to our borders.” Russia’s Foreign Ministry later warned that if the Finns join NATO, it would force Moscow to “make retaliatory steps of military-technical and other character.”

Mr. Putin has insisted that he needed to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO — which has grown in recent years to include a host of ex-Soviet states, though the Biden administration says it has no immediate plans to help bring Ukraine into the alliance. If Ukraine were a NATO member, the alliance would be obligated to defend it against Russia and other adversaries.

So far, Mr. Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine has been a rallying point for NATO as it unites around a common cause. The decision by Finland, which shares a 810-mile-long border and a long and complicated history with Russia, has prompted criticism from Mr. Putin’s political opponents.

“Putin builds his militarism on the confrontation with NATO, that we cannot allow NATO toward our borders,” Ivan Zhdanov, a close associate of Aleksei A. Navalny, an imprisoned Russian opposition leader, said in a video on Thursday. “In the end, because of Putin’s policies, NATO appeared along the entirety of Russia’s western border.”

Dmitri A. Medvedev, Russia’s former liberal-minded president and now a top Kremlin hard-liner, returned to a familiar theme on Thursday. Underlining the Kremlin’s message that Western countries are waging a proxy war against Moscow, he said a potential direct conflict between Russia and NATO “risks turning into a full-scale nuclear war.”

ny times logoNew York Times, In a first, a Russian soldier will stand trial in Ukraine on war crimes charges, Anushka Patil, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). A 21-year-old Russian soldier accused of shooting a civilian on a bicycle and leaving him dead on the side of the road will be the first Russian service member to stand trial in Ukraine for war crimes since the invasion, Ukraine’s prosecutor general said on Wednesday.

The soldier is in Ukrainian custody and was identified by the prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova, as Sgt. Vadim Shysimarin.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine regains territory, and crime scene investigators move in, Isabelle Khurshudyan, May 12, 2022. To get to the crime scene, the police investigators drove about 30 minutes northeast of downtown Kharkiv — past neighborhoods in ruins, destroyed Russian military vehicles, a field littered with blast craters, and plumes of dark smoke rising a few miles in the distance, where fighting between the Ukrainian and Russian militaries was ongoing.

Russian FlagThe Ukrainians had expelled Russian forces from the town of Tsyrkuny, less than 20 miles from the Russian border, just three days earlier — part of a Ukrainian counteroffensive that has reclaimed a significant swath of territory in the Kharkiv region this month.

Now the police investigators were eager to visit the village, where they had a report of two civilian bodies lying on the side of a dirt road. The women had been killed by a Russian land mine weeks earlier, the police said. And just as forensic scientists would visit the site of a killing in prewar times to collect evidence, they needed to do the same here in their quest to gather evidence of potential Russian war crimes — a process taking place across the country that led to the announcement of a first prosecution on Wednesday, a 21-year-old Russian soldier who is in custody.

The catch: The area was still covered in booby traps and tripwires rigged to land mines, and Russia’s military positions were close enough that a reconnaissance drone could fly by at any moment and make everyone working on the ground a target for artillery bombardment.

ny times logoNew York Times, Bill to Guarantee Abortion Rights Fails in Senate, Annie Karni, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). After a Supreme Court draft opinion put a spotlight on the issue, the vote showed that a Senate majority to support legal abortion nationwide does not exist. All Republicans voted no, as did Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat. But Democrats hoped the high-profile failure would help them at the polls in November.

senate democrats logoDemocrats tried and failed on Wednesday to push forward legislation to guarantee abortion rights nationwide, as Republicans and one Democrat in the Senate blocked an effort to enshrine the landmark Roe v. Wade precedent in federal law.

With 51 senators opposed and 49 in support, Democrats fell short of the 60 votes they would have needed to take up sweeping legislation to ensure abortion access and explicitly bar a wide array of restrictions.

The action came after a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion thrust the issue into the political spotlight, suggesting that the court may be on the brink of overturning the nearly 50-year-old ruling that legalized abortion, and leaving states to decide whether women would have the right to terminate their pregnancies.

Republicans, who unanimously opposed the measure, were joined by one Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia. Mr. Manchin, who opposes abortion rights, said the legislation was overly broad, noting that it would go substantially further than simply codifying Roe and warning that it would “expand abortion.”

 

Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection, Election Claims

 

U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jan. 6 Panel Subpoenas 5 Republican Representatives, Luke Broadwater and Emily Cochrane, May 12, 2022. The House committee investigating the Capitol attack is demanding documents and testimony from Representative Kevin McCarthy and four of his colleagues. The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol issued subpoenas on Thursday to five Republican members of Congress, including Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, who had refused to meet with the panel voluntarily.

The committee’s leaders had been reluctant to issue subpoenas to their fellow lawmakers. That is an extraordinarily rare step for most congressional panels to take, though the House Ethics Committee, which is responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct by members, is known to do so.

kevin mccarthyThe panel said it was demanding testimony from Mr. McCarthy, right, of California, who engaged in a heated phone call with President Donald J. Trump during the Capitol violence; Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, who coordinated a plan to try to replace the acting attorney general after he resisted Mr. Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud; Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, who was deeply involved in the effort to fight the election results; Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona, the former leader of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus; and Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama, who has said Mr. Trump has continued to seek an unlawful reinstatement to office for more than a year.

All five have refused requests for voluntary interviews about the roles they played in the buildup to the attack by supporters of the former president who believed his lie of widespread election fraud.

 

greg palast logo

dinesh dsouza 2000 mules

BuzzFlash and GregPalast.com, '2,000 Mules': Belly Laughs, Belly Aches from Film’s “Proof” that Trump Won, Greg Palast, May 11, 2022. Don’t laugh. Yet.

A Black man walks from his car to the ballot drop box (as shown above). Dark music plays. The Black man puts ballots in the drop box then gets back in his car.

“This is a smoking gun! This is OJ Simpson being seen leaving the scene of the crime!”

A crime?

larry elder screenshotNo less an expert than radical right radio kook Larry Elder, right, is convinced he has seen a crime.

It looks to me like a Black man putting ballots in a drop box. (In Georgia, as just about everywhere, you can drop off ballots for family members.)

In this film 2000 Mules, heavily promoted by Donald Trump (who hosted the release at Mar-al-Lago), front man Dinesh D’Souza sets out to prove the Black man is a “mule,” part of a giant criminal conspiracy to stuff ballot boxes with fraudulent votes. The proof? Well, you can see it with your own eyes! The evidence is in your face: There’s a BLACK man and he is dropping off BALLOTS in a ballot drop box. Case closed! Guilty!

OK, you can laugh now. But crying time is coming. I predict that 2000 Mules will create the platform for Trump’s loss of the election in 2024 — and Trump’s inauguration in 2025.

But for now, back to the film.

D’Souza’s “expert” tells us they tracked the Black mule. “So, in one night this person, this mule went across six counties to 27 different drops.”

Wow!

Does D’Souza have the film to prove it? Yes, of course he does, you liberal jerk! D’Souza worked with a courageous group, True the Vote, that obtained ALL the security footage of every ballot drop box in Atlanta — 4 million minutes of film and they looked at all of it!

They have the damning film — they just won’t show it

They have the film, but they … just don’t, uh, show it. Why not show us at least a couple of film clips of the 27 times this Black felon repeated his crime? Well, that’s the problem with you liberal jerks: You see a Black man with a ballot and you, Mr. Liberal, assume he’s voting, when he’s obviously committing a crime. And he does it dozens of times! Why do we have to show you the evidence? We just need Elder, the Chubby Checker of right wing nuttery, to blubber his amazement at seeing the footage on D’Souza’s computer. Case closed! Guilty!

I was so angry at this criminal voter, I wanted to bust him! Expose him. Arrest him. They have his photo, his car, his license plate number. In fact, their “expert” says these ballot mules have, “bad backgrounds, bad reputations, …violent guys.”

Whoa! So, If D’Souza identifies their “backgrounds,” they must have their names. So why don’t they show us the files? Name the names? Show us their faces? Confront them. Call the cops, the feds!

dinesh dsouzaBut D’Souza, left, and True the Vote didn’t bust anyone. Didn’t name a single mule — though they supposedly can identify them. They even fuzzed over the mules’ faces so we can’t see who it is. Nice of D’Souza to protect the guilty. Unless, of course, the Black men weren’t guilty. Or just guilty of Voting While Black. They don’t show us the files of their “bad reputations" because these files don't exist.

Why did the Black man with the ballots commit a crime on camera that will get him five years in prison? For the money, of course! Did D’Souza know for certain the Black man took money? Of course! D’Souza shows a film of money being handed to someone. OK, it’s a reenactment — the actor gets a credit at the end of the film. But hey, it could have happened. Case closed! Guilty!

D’Souza knows the Black man was paid by a “non-profit” group. They showed a photo of Black candidate Stacey Abrams. But he doesn’t actually say that she or her group, Fair Fight Georgia, made the payments. In fact, he doesn’t say who made the payments. Why?

And what about those “non-profits” that paid the mules — 2,000 mules casting nearly a million illegal votes — 817,765 illegal ballots (we toted up their claims) in just five cities — i.e. Black cities. D’Souza tracked the mules to the offices of these “non-profits,” even had an Arizona bbc news logo2whistleblower say she herself gathered the ballots and paid the mules out of one office.

But the whistleblower is in shadow, unnamed…and D’Souza, oddly, conceals the name of this criminal “non-profit.” He won’t reveal the group because … well, that’s odd. When I reported investigations for BBC Television, not once did I say, “We have the proof — witnesses, film, documents — of felony crimes committed by … well, that’s our secret!”

He knows who paid hundreds of millions to the mules — but he won’t tell us.

D'Souza says, “We know that the mules got their stashes of ballots from these activist organizations.” He “knows,” but won’t say how he knows, what evidence he has. Hell, he doesn’t name even one evil organization (and he claims there are many) because… well, maybe they didn’t do it.

Why didn’t he confront this unnamed group or groups with the evidence? I do that in every report I’ve ever filmed (in fact, it’s required by British law for UK reporters). Maybe because D’Souza has no evidence. He certainly didn’t show us any evidence, zero, of a single payment to a single mule.

When the Palast team finds a crime or malfeasance or vote manipulation, we name the perps — Chevron, Katherine Harris, whomever, and I confront them.

A still from our last major report from Georgia, "New Mass Voter Challenge by GOP Exposed", in which I confront Pam Reardon, a GOP operative who challenged the right to vote of tens of thousands of Black and young Georgians on false evidence.

Take a look at our last major report from Georgia. We discovered that GOP operatives challenged the right to vote of tens of thousands of Black and young Georgians on false evidence. We named the key operatives — Pam Reardon is the Republican challenger-in chief. Here’s a photo of me confronting Reardon with the evidence. We didn’t fuzz out her face. And we named and confronted the group who gave her the phony, racially poisonous purge list: True the Vote. Yep, the same characters who provided the bogus info for 2000 Mules.

Yes, there is vote theft — votes stolen from people of color and the young. We’ve got the proof and, unlike D’Souza, we will show you the evidence and name the perps.

And when we say True the Vote receives Dark Money for these voter roll hits, we name the perp: The Bradley Foundation, the uber-right-wing billionaires from Milwaukee.

Why does the Palast team, whether for the BBC or Rolling Stone or Democracy Now! always names the perps? Well, that’s kind of point of investigative reporting. We do it because we can: we have the evidence, so we show it.

D’Souza and True the Vote don’t name the perps nor the evil groups nor their funders because… they don’t have the evidence. Period.
Stuffing the drop box from 93 feet away

But Mules is slick. Real slick. With an air of science and hard statistics. They use the new tool of “geo-tracking”. They bought (as anyone can) “pings” from cell phones in five cities, trillions of pings. D’Souza shows a satellite in space, shows all kinds of flashing lights on a computer screen and the damning evidence — photos of Black men casting ballots.

They say (but don’t show us) that these Black men, inexplicably, went to drop boxes "on average 23 times”. That’s pretty damning, if true.
But it’s not true. The commercial geo-tracking services that True the Vote used can only identify a phone moving within 30 meters (93 feet) of a location. That is, if someone is jogging by a couple of drop boxes, although they are on the other side of a highway, they are “mules.” D’Souza shows dramatic fluorescent lines on a computer showing the path of two “mules” — who go by several drop boxes. Case closed! Guilty!

Now, who would go by the same boxes day after day? Maybe they aren’t “mules.” In fact, a more accurate name for the film would be “2000 Mailmen”.

The commercial geo-tracking services that True the Vote used can only identify a phone moving within 30 meters (93 feet) of a location. Now, who would go by the same boxes day after day? Maybe they aren’t “mules.” In fact, a more accurate name for the film would be “2000 Mailmen”.

With thousands of “mules,” somehow they didn’t name a single one. As a former professor of statistics and investigator for several Attorneys General, I can tell you it would be damn easy to locate a bunch of them. True the Vote has license plates, film of faces, and the list of voters whose ballots were dropped off. They could match the photos to the date stamp on the ballots.

They even had a detective hired by the Republican Party who said he saw and filmed men stuffing the ballot boxes late at night. But he didn’t show the film nor call the cops nor tag the suspects (nor did the GOP). Why not? Because it didn’t happen.

And where did these 817,765 ballots come from? A ballot cannot simply be printed and stuffed into a box: every mail-in ballot is assigned and coded to an individual voter (your vote choice is secret but not the ballot envelope nor the fact you voted). So, it would have been easy to call the voters whose ballots were supposedly stolen and used to vote without their consent to prove these were fraudulent votes. (Yes, it’s time consuming: Our Georgia investigation required 1,200 phone calls.)

Since proving ballots are stolen is easy (though time-consuming) why didn’t D’Souza prove his case? Provide a list of the names on the fraudulent ballots? Because he can’t.

D’Souza and True the Vote insist that tens of thousands of ballots in Georgia alone were stolen — yet there were no reports of ballot thefts. Voters would have found that someone cast their ballot when they tried to vote. They can’t prove a million ballots were stolen or illegally bought (“trafficked” in True the Vote’s terminology) because it didn’t happen.

D’Souza’s charge is mind-blowing. He claims that there are as many 54,000 mules that were organized and paid in at least five big cities. In Fulton County (Atlanta), he tells us 92,670 ballots were stuffed illegally into drop boxes.

That’s astonishing — because there were only 79,000 ballots cast in drop boxes in Fulton County!

And in Detroit, it was worse. “Mules” stuffed 226,590 ballots into Detroit area drop boxes — way more than the total number of all mail-in ballots — about three times the number of ballots in drop boxes.

True the Vote’s “expert” tells us he identified mules in Detroit, “That went to more than a hundred drop boxes.” That’s also amazing because there were only 30 drop boxes in all of Detroit.

And with over three-quarters of a million ballots stolen or “trafficked,” not one voter claimed that someone stole their ballot. Because, maybe, it didn’t happen. We can conclude: Walking 50 feet from a ballot box does not mean you were paid to stuff that box, Mr. Elder.

Don’t laugh. The guy next to me sure wasn’t laughing. As the credits rolled, he shouted, “I’M A VETERAN! YOU HAVE TO TELL EVERYONE TO WATCH THIS FILM!”

When I asked the shouter — his name is Steve — why D’Souza didn’t name the “non-profits” spending millions on ballot trafficking, Steve said, “Yeah, I was kind of wondering ‘bout that.” But then Steve added his own explanation: “These people [Clintons, Obama and the mule-driving “non-profits”] have an arrangement with the Devil.” I guess D’Souza did not want to upset Satan.

So, who put up the hundreds of millions of dollars of Dark Money to hire the mules and organize this national operation? D’Souza features a right wing “expert” who tells us Mark Zuckerberg, George Soros and Warren Buffet have the money to do it. But did they? Well, two out of three are Jewish. What other proof do you need, Liberal?

Am I saying there are no election crimes? Of course not. Example: Dinesh D’Souza was convicted of the felony crime of concealing election campaign contributions in 2014, served a 5 month sentence in a halfway house, was fined and given five years' probation — and was later pardoned by Trump for his service to the cause.

Why hire "mules" at all?

And two more things. First, every single drop-box ballot (and mail-in ballot) must be signed by the voter and the signature verified against the registration signature. D’Souza doesn’t tell us how over a quarter million ballot signatures were forged—yet not one forgery was caught.

Really?

And second, and most devastating: Why hire mules at all? Why in the world would these unnamed "non-profits" pay tens of millions to Black men to drive all over the county to stuff them into drop boxes, committing a felony crime on camera — when anyone can simply dump them into a mail box, no cameras, no time stamps, no evidence.

This “evidence” will allow Republican Legislatures to claim the electoral votes of those states are in question and, on January 6, 2025, those Electoral College votes will not be certified by a Republican Congress.

2,000 Mules will elect Trump in 2024

Still laughing? Prepare for the unhappy ending. This film will be the excuse for massive new vote suppression trickery all in the name of preventing “voter fraud.” In Georgia, under SB202, devised by Gov. Brian Kemp, Stacey Abrams’ likely opponent, Fulton County’s 38 drop boxes will be reduced to just eight and will be locked inside state buildings. True the Vote’s hit list of Georgia voters has expanded, without a word in the national press, to block over 300,000 ballots cast by voters of color.

Thirty-five states are purging several million voters from the rolls using a method pushed by True the Vote’s funders, the Bradleys, all to prevent chimerical fraudulent voters.

Now, jump into my time machine to 2024. Let’s say a Biden-Trump race produces the same electoral count as in 2020. But in 2024, the GOP will have the “evidence,” bogus though it may be, of “mules” stuffing ballot boxes in Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona and Michigan. This “evidence” will allow Republican Legislatures to claim the electoral votes of those states are in question and, on January 6, 2025, those Electoral College votes will not be certified by a Republican Congress.

At that moment, the 12th Amendment to the Constitution will kick in and, in place of the Electoral College, each state will have one vote for President. Do the math: As the majority of state delegations are Republican, a 12th Amendment procedure will insure that, on January 20, 2025, Trump will be inaugurated again.

While the band strikes up, Hail to the Thief. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: ‘2000 Mules’ offers the least convincing election-fraud theory yet, Philip Bump, right, May 12, 2022. There’s one scene in philip bumpparticular that I think summarizes the irredeemable flaws of Dinesh D’Souza’s new movie 2000 Mules, in which he purports to demonstrate rampant illegality surrounding the 2020 presidential election. The film has become a central part of Donald Trump’s assertions about the election, with the former president hosting a screening last week at his Mar-a-Lago resort. But, interestingly, the most revealing scene doesn’t have anything to do with the election at all.

dinesh dsouzaIn it, D’Souza, left, is hearing from a man named Gregg Phillips about how cellphone geotracking works. In short, your phone has various tools that allow it to know roughly where it is at any given moment, data that is often collected through apps and shared with companies that aggregate data for marketers. Phillips uses that data, which also includes time stamps, to show that only a few phones were in the vicinity of a fatal shooting in Atlanta — an incident that Phillips’s colleague Catherine Engelbrecht describes as “ebbing on cold-case status.”

“You could see, visually, that there were only a handful of unique devices that could possibly have pulled the trigger,” Phillips says. He shows a circle overlaid on a map, within which five dots of different colors are visible — dots indicating “the only potential legitimate shooters,” he says. He explains that, having done this analysis, his team turned information about those devices over to the FBI.

“Now, I read, they've arrested two suspects,” D'Souza says.

“They have,” Phillips says, somberly.

There’s a reason for this scene. Phillips and Engelbrecht’s analysis of geotracking data is the crux of D’Souza’s claims about there being an army of people who were dispatched to collect ballots before the presidential election. If data can be used to identify and arrest criminals in one case, the movie would have us believe, it can be similarly used in the case of all this alleged election fraud.

But looking at the case more closely, you see how the impression you’re meant to have is wildly misleading. The shooting led to the death of Secoriea Turner on July 4, 2020. It was far from a “cold case” — police arrested a suspect about two weeks later after he turned himself in. A second suspect was arrested in early August 2021 — not by federal law enforcement but by state officials. There is no indication that geolocation data played a role in either arrest, much less data provided by Phillips’s team.

In other words, D’Souza is elevating shaky, misrepresented, incomplete claims to bolster his rhetoric — as I said, an apt summary of the movie overall.

D’Souza declined to comment for this article.

2000 Mules can be broken out into three basic components. There’s the geolocation-based material that’s the heart of D’Souza’s assertions about the election. The second half of the movie is a broader effort to undergird the geolocation claims, an attempt to build a foundation of how and why a rampant ballot collection scheme might have been undertaken. And then there’s the third part, a sort of cable-news-style panel conversation with D’Souza and several other conservative and right-wing pundits. (All of those pundits, incidentally, have shows with Salem Media Group, which served as executive producer of the film.) By the end, the pundits have been convinced that rampant fraud occurred, with former Trump administration official Sebastian Gorka outlining all of the evidence that had been presented “empirically” in support of the claim.

There is no such empirical evidence, by a long shot. That geolocation data from Phillips and Engelbrecht’s group, True the Vote, which also has executive-producer credits on the film, is used as a purportedly data-driven latticework on which everything else hangs. But beyond lots of harrumphing about how revealing this data is, we see very little of it.

The theory that Phillips and Engelbrecht present is that nonprofit organizations employed people to collect ballots and then drop them into drop boxes in various cities. They call this “ballot trafficking,” a term meant to connote illegality akin to the transport of narcotics. The people carrying the ballots, then, become “mules” and the nonprofit groups “stash houses.” To test this theory, they obtained a large amount of anonymized cellphone geolocation data and tried to figure out how often individual phones appeared near drop box sites or near those nonprofit groups.

By itself, this is a dubious approach. As the Associated Press pointed out in a fact check of the film, there’s no way by just using cellphone data to know whether someone visited a ballot drop box, particularly since those boxes were installed in high-traffic areas. Last month, I spoke with an expert on geolocation who made clear that the imprecision of phone geolocation would make specifying that a phone was actually near a drop box (and not, say, 10 feet from it) nearly impossible. The film makes repeated comparisons to federal law enforcement’s ability to identify people who entered the Capitol on Jan. 6, but even if the phone’s location is off by 20 feet, it’s still obvious when you’re inside a large building. (In one shot, the film shows geolocated data inside the Capitol — with positions surrounded by large circles of uncertainty that make this point clearly.)

In essence, we're just asked to trust that True the Vote found what it says it found. That by itself is probably not wise.

Phillips first rose to national attention in 2016 when he claimed, without any evidence, that millions of people had voted illegally in that year’s presidential election. Trump jumped on the claim, but Phillips never presented any evidence it had occurred. There was no reason to assume it had.

So we get sweeping claims about how many “mules” True the Vote identified in each city and the average number of drop boxes each visited. We’re shown one map of the travels of one “mule” throughout one city on one day, but even that is simply offered by Phillips as representing “a smoothed-out pattern of life” that we’re asked to assume is accurate. Everything else is just offered in the aggregate.

To bolster the claim, though, the movie spends a lot of time showing video from ballot drop boxes, obtained with public records requests. Phillips and Engelbrecht narrate what we're seeing, framing all of it as evidence in support of their theory.

In one bit of footage, we see a woman come and use a drop box. She puts in “a small stack” of ballots, Phillips says, “maybe three, maybe four,” and then removes latex gloves that she had been wearing and throws them away. This happened at 1 a.m., the True the Vote team says, making it more suspicious.

 

djt jan 6 twitter

Donald Trump rouses supporters in a speech outside the White House just prior to the mob's assault on the U.S. Capitol, which contained elected members of Congress giving final certification of November election results on Jan. 6, 2021 in advance of President-elect Joe Biden's planned Inaugution.

washington post logoWashington Post, Elon Musk says he would reverse Twitter ban on Donald Trump, Faiz Siddiqui, Drew Harwell and Josh Dawsey, May 11, 2020 (print ed.). Musk, who is buying Twitter for $44 billion, said he would restore the former president to the social media platform.

elon musk 2015Elon Musk said he would reverse Twitter’s ban on former president Donald Trump, articulating for the first time his stance on one of the most consequential decisions before him at the social media site he is acquiring.

“I do think it was not correct to ban Donald Trump. I think that was a mistake,” Musk said at an event Tuesday hosted by the Financial Times. “It alienated a large part of the country and did not ultimately result in Donald Trump not having a voice.”

The ban, he added, “was a morally bad decision, to be clear, and foolish in the extreme.” Twitter had banned Trump’s account shortly after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, citing the “risk of further incitement of violence.”

Musk — one of Twitter’s most prolific users, with more than 90 million followers — has agreed to purchase the social media company for roughly $44 billion, arguing that the site should host unfettered free speech and function as a “de facto town square.” He has broadly criticized Twitter’s content moderation decisions, arguing that the company’s permanent bans for rule-breaking accounts should have instead been temporary removals, so as not to suppress their use of the site long-term.

What Elon Musk has said about Twitter

Musk’s decision to un-ban Trump would not only overturn one of the most significant and widely debated corporate rulings in American tech. It could also hand the former president back a megaphone he had used for years to capture the world’s attention — and shout down his adversaries — at a moment when he is boosting allies during the 2022 midterm elections and preparing for an expected presidential run in 2024.

 Recent Musk / Twitter Headlines

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We’re in danger of losing our democracy, but most Americans are in denial, Max Boot, right, May 11, 2022. It has been max boot screen shotstirring to see so many Americans come together to support Ukraine’s fight for freedom. But it is dismaying to see that there is no similar consensus on defending democracy at home. Indeed, much of the country remains in denial about the threat.

A year after the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the Capitol, a CNN poll asked whether it’s likely “that, in the next few years, some elected officials will successfully overturn the results of an election.” Fifty-one percent of Republicans and 44 percent of Democrats said it’s not at all likely. Only 46 percent of Democrats and independents said that U.S. democracy is under attack, which helps to explain why Democratic candidates aren’t campaigning on defending democracy.

This reminds me of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denying before Feb. 24 that a Russian invasion was imminent and telling people not to “panic” even as Russian armies were massing in plain sight. Panic is generally a bad idea, but sometimes it is warranted. Now is one of those times for anyone who cares about the fate of U.S. democracy.

Republicans have succeeded in restricting voting rights in 19 states. Democrats have failed to protect voting rights at the national level because they can’t break a Senate filibuster. Meanwhile at least 23 supporters of the Big Lie – which holds that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump – are running for secretary of state posts to oversee elections in 19 states. Other election deniers are joining election boards.

mark esperFormer Defense Secretary Mark Esper, right, writes that Trump wanted to shoot peaceful protesters and launch missiles at Mexico. “He is an unprincipled person who, given his self-interest, should not be in the position of public service,” Esper concludes. Trump’s former National Security Adviser John Bolton says that having Trump back in the White House would threaten U.S. national security. Trump’s former communications director Anthony Scaramucci tweets, “Anyone who worked for Trump knows he is a maniac.”

Yet 70 percent of Republicans want this “maniac” to run again in 2024. If he does run, he will win the nomination – and on the present trajectory (with inflation spiking and Biden’s approval rating plunging) he has a good chance to win the White House.

ny times logoNew York Times, Hard-Liners Gain in Pennsylvania G.O.P. Races, Worrying Both Parties, Nick Corasaniti, Shane Goldmacher and Reid J. Epstein, May 12, 2022. Doug Mastriano and Kathy Barnette are amplifying former President Trump’s stolen-election lie in two key races. Follow updates on the midterm elections.

republican elephant logoRepublican voters in Pennsylvania, one of the nation’s most hotly contested political battlegrounds, appear to be rallying behind two hard-right candidates for governor and the Senate who are capturing grass-roots anger, railing against the party’s old guard and amplifying Donald Trump’s stolen-election myth.

With less than a week until the state’s primary election on Tuesday, polls show that State Senator Doug Mastriano — one of the state’s central figures in the former president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election — has emerged as the clear front-runner in the G.O.P. race for governor. The candidate for Senate, Kathy Barnette, an underfunded conservative commentator who has never held public office, has made a surprise late surge in the contest that had been dominated by two big-spending rivals, Dr. Mehmet Oz and David McCormick.

Mr. Mastriano has made claims of election fraud a central plank of his bid to lead a state that could be decisive in the 2024 presidential race. Ms. Barnette has a history of incendiary remarks, including repeatedly calling former President Barack Obama an adherent of Islam, which she said should be banned, and derisively writing about “the homosexual agenda.” Both candidates have endorsed each other, forging an important alliance.

Now, Republicans are concerned about losing both races in November if primary voters embrace such out-of-the-mainstream candidates.

Several Republican rivals to Mr. Mastriano have been gathering on private conference calls in recent days in a last-minute attempt to stop him. All agree that he would be a drag on the party, though Mr. Mastriano has yet to sustain any serious coordinated attacks. Two rivals, State Senator Jake Corman and former Representative Lou Barletta, have set a joint event on Thursday, suggesting that the field might soon consolidate, at least slightly.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge bars indicted Colo. official, Tina Peters, from overseeing 2022 elections, Timothy Bella and Emma Brown, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). A Colorado judge on Tuesday ruled that Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters (R), a supporter of former president Donald Trump who has embraced election-fraud conspiracy theories, is banned from overseeing elections in her home county because of her indictment for allegedly tampering with voting equipment.

Peters, who is running for the GOP nomination for secretary of state in Colorado, had already been prohibited by a judge from overseeing last year’s local elections. Mesa County District Judge Valerie Robison ruled on a lawsuit brought this year by Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold (D) that called for Peters and deputy Belinda Knisley to be barred from overseeing this year’s midterm elections and the upcoming Mesa County primary.

The embattled clerk is facing multiple investigations, including 10 felony and misdemeanor counts from a grand jury indictment, stemming from allegations of election equipment security breach and campaign finance violations. Knisley was also indicted by the grand jury and suspended from her county position last year.

“Based on the circumstances of this case … the Court determines that the Petitioners have met the burden of showing that Peters and Knisley have committed a neglect of duty and are unable to perform the duties of the Mesa County Designated Election Official,” Robison wrote in her ruling.

Another Peters deputy named in the lawsuit, Julie Fisher, is also barred from overseeing this year’s elections, according to the ruling. Robison appointed Brandi Bantz, the county elections director, to oversee this year’s elections in Mesa County because she is “clearly more qualified” than Fisher, the order says.

Griswold, who is running for reelection in November, said in a written statement that Robison’s ruling “bars Peters from further threatening the integrity of Mesa’s elections and ensures Mesa County residents have the secure and accessible elections they deserve.”

Recent Headlines

 

Investigations

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: It was the Republicans who "groomed" underage teens for sex and WMR exposed it, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallWayne Madsen, left, author of 21 books, syndicated columnist and former Navy intelligence officer and special temporary FBI agent investigating sex trafficking in the military, May 12-13, 2022. Grooming Old Pederasts has been a thing in the Republican Party for over four decades.

wayne madesen report logoRepublicans across the country have been making spurious charges that Democrats are "grooming" students for LGBTQ lifestyles as part of public school curricula, selection of library book reading lists, or what teachers say in passing remarks to their students.

Such unfounded grooming charges have resulted in Florida Governor Ron DeSantis enacting a "Don't Say Gay" law, the result of which has resulted in sanctions by Florida against Disney World, which opposes the new law. Similar laws are being considered in other states, including Louisiana, Alabama, Texas, Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, Tennessee, and Ohio.

It is not Democrats who have groomed underage teens for sex. That distinction belongs to top Republican members of Congress. It was Republicans who invented equine terms like grooming and stabling for sexually preying on underage teens.

As WMR reported in 2006, it was a network of Republicans in the U.S. Congress who groomed male staffers by "stabling" them in Republican Senate offices for later assignment as pages for Republican members of the House. Such House Republicans included the then-Speaker, Dennis Hastert, who was later convicted on federal charges of making structured bank withdrawals to pay hush money to a high school student he molested.

As Speaker, Hastert was aware for eleven months that Representative Mark Foley (R-FL) was sending inappropriate messages regarding masturbation and erections to underage male pages for 11 months but refrained from taking any action.

 

First-term Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorne, who represents Western North Carolina and professes an ultra-conservative family-values brand of politics, is shown above wearing women's undergarments in one of several recently disclosed unflattering if not scandalous news accounts afflicting him after he complained publicly about alleged drug and sex orgies involving unnamed older political colleagues. He has described the above photos as a harmless prank on a cruise.

First-term Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorne, who represents Western North Carolina and professes an ultra-conservative family-values brand of politics, is shown above wearing women's undergarments in one of several recently disclosed unflattering if not scandalous news accounts afflicting him after he complained publicly about alleged drug and sex orgies involving unnamed older political colleagues. He has described the above photos as a harmless prank undertaken while on a cruise. Also released have been sex-oriented tapes, one with graphic nudity, each involving another man, including one of his House staffers

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside the Republican campaign to take down Madison Cawthorn, Isaac Arnsdorf, May 11, 2022 (print ed.). The freshman congressman picked a fight with top GOP leaders in his state. They gave it to him.

Last November, Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) texted his state’s junior senator, Thom Tillis, about a tweet from the senator’s wife. Cawthorn had just announced that he was planning to switch districts, and Susan Tillis took to Twitter to criticize the move.

“Why is your wife attacking me on Twitter?” the House freshman demanded in his text exchange obtained by The Washington Post.

The senator replied that he hadn’t seen his wife’s tweet, but suggested Cawthorn didn’t need to look far for a possible reason.

“Just spit ballin here,” Tillis wrote, “but maybe because you’ve attacked her husband?”

“I don’t feel like I’ve attacked you that much,” Cawthorn replied. “I think I’ve said I don’t think your conservative enough, did not realize that made us enemies.”

In fact, Tillis isn’t the only powerful enemy Cawthorn has made in his own party. The 26-year-old congressman has, in his few years in politics, sparked public outrage with his support for former president Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, inflammatory speeches, repeated driving and gun infractions, and even a nude video. But his falling-out with top Republicans in North Carolina and Washington also arose from more humdrum blunders such as neglecting constituent services and insulting party elders, according to GOP officials and operatives in the state.

Now, those Republican enemies are openly lining up to take him down.

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutors Pursue Inquiry Into Trump’s Handling of Classified Material, Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt, May 12, 2022. A federal grand jury has issued at least one subpoena in the case of sensitive documents that ended up at former President Trump’s Florida home.

Federal prosecutors have begun a grand jury investigation into whether classified White House documents that ended up at former President Donald J. Trump’s Florida home were mishandled, according to two people briefed on the matter.

Justice Department log circularThe intensifying inquiry suggests that the Justice Department is examining the role of Mr. Trump and other officials in his White House in their handling of sensitive materials during the final stages of his administration.

In recent days, the Justice Department has taken a series of steps showing that its investigation has progressed beyond the preliminary stages. Prosecutors issued a subpoena to the National Archives and Records Administration to obtain the boxes of classified documents, according to the two people familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.

The authorities have also made interview requests to people who worked in the White House in the final days of Mr. Trump’s presidency, according to one of the people.

nara logoThe investigation is focused on the discovery by the National Archives in January that at the end of Mr. Trump’s term he had taken to his home at the Mar-a-Lago resort 15 boxes from the White House that contained government documents, mementos, gifts and letters.

After the boxes were returned to the National Archives, its archivists found documents containing “items marked as classified national security information,” the agency told Congress in February. In April, it was reported that federal authorities were in the preliminary stages of investigating the handling of the classified documents.

The subpoena that was sent to the National Archives in recent days for the classified documents is one of a series of requests that the Justice Department has made to the agency for records from the Trump administration in recent months, according to the two people.

A spokesman for Mr. Trump, Taylor Budowich, said: “President Trump consistently handled all documents in accordance with applicable law and regulations. Belated attempts to second-guess that clear fact are politically motivated and misguided.”

Charges are rarely brought in investigations into the handling of classified documents. But the Justice Department typically conducts them to determine whether any highly sensitive information may have been exposed so the intelligence community can take measures to protect sources and methods.

The documents in question are believed to have been kept in the residence of the White House before they were boxed up and sent to Mar-a-Lago. The investigation is focused on how the documents made their way to the residence, who boxed them up, whether anyone knew that classified materials were being improperly taken out of the White House and how they were ultimately stored in Mar-a-Lago, according to a person with knowledge of the matter, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

An investigation in 2016 into Hillary Clinton over a similar issue involving her personal email account ended without her being charged. And in the case of Mr. Trump, legal experts said, presidents have the ability while in office to essentially declassify whatever information they want, further complicating any possible prosecution.

The classified documents in question are considered presidential records under federal law. Because of that distinction, Mr. Trump’s lawyers were notified of the Justice Department’s request, giving them the opportunity to block their release by going to court to quash the subpoena. It is unclear if the lawyers have responded.

Last year, Mr. Trump’s lawyer unsuccessfully went to court to stop the National Archives from handing over a range of presidential records to the special congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attacks on the Capitol.

 

More U.S. Abortion Law News, Reactions

 

supreme court Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: The war on rights that’s coming if Roe is overturned, Editorial Board, May 11, 2022. With the Supreme Court considering whether to overturn Roe v. Wade, Louisiana House Republicans advanced this past week an antiabortion bill of astonishing sweep.

The proposal would rewrite the state’s homicide statute to “ensure the right to life and equal protection of the laws to all unborn children from the moment of fertilization by protecting them by the same laws protecting other human beings.” In other words, not only would the bill empower Louisiana prosecutors to charge women who get abortions with murder, it appears to declare the use of in-vitro fertilization, intrauterine devices and emergency contraception to be homicide, too.Sign up for a weekly roundup of thought-provoking ideas and debates

For half a century, Americans could more or less take for granted their right to terminate their pregnancies, seek help starting families or get IUDs. Many might not realize how dramatically overturning Roe would reshape American life. Some deny this reality, arguing that, should the Supreme Court repudiate Roe, as a draft majority opinion that leaked earlier this month suggests it might, the United States would resemble Europe, where first-trimester abortion is legal nearly everywhere.

In fact, overturning Roe would result in the immediate banning of abortion in the 13 states that have antiabortion laws designed to kick in as soon as Roe is gone. Republican leaders in Nebraska, South Dakota and Indiana are calling for legislative special sessions to pass sweeping new abortion restrictions.

And Louisiana shows that, given the option, right-wing lawmakers are poised to wage a broad war against reproductive rights that would horrify most Americans. It might be that wealthy people in states run by antiabortion zealots would be able to cross state lines to terminate their pregnancies or to seek other family planning options. (Though some Republicans want to try to ban that, too.) But poor people would be unable to get safe, legal abortions. On top of the health risks they would face seeking illicit abortions, in Louisiana these individuals might also risk being prosecuted for murder. Given that many women seek abortions because they would struggle to carry their pregnancies to term while caring for the families they already have, the bill would be a particularly cruel twist that would threaten the families who are least capable of facing such hardship.

Other than the makeup of the court, the only thing that has changed in the past half-century is that Roe has become a keystone decision for Americans’ personal rights. Overturning it now would wound the nation, worsen the country’s politics and make some of the most vulnerable Americans more so. It would be the height of gratuitous judicial activism.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why the Justice Department Is Unlikely to Investigate the Supreme Court Leak, Charlie Savage, Annie Karni, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). The internal inquiry led by the court’s marshal has limited tools, but there are challenges to opening a criminal investigation.

After a leak of a draft opinion showed that the Supreme Court was poised to end women’s constitutional right to abortion, some Republicans and conservative commentators called for a criminal investigation.

But even as Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. condemned the disclosure by Politico as “egregious,” he instead directed the Supreme Court marshal to lead an internal investigation. According to a person familiar with the matter, the court has not asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation or to lend the marshal support and resources.

A Supreme Court spokeswoman this week declined to answer questions about the status of the inquiry, including the number of people assigned to it and what the rules are — like whether it is up to each justice to decide whether to make themselves, their clerks and their relatives available for any questioning or device inspection.

What difference could a criminal investigation make?

The Justice Department has a cadre of agents with experience investigating leaks. By contrast, the Supreme Court marshal, Gail A. Curley, is a former national security lawyer for the Army whose office of about 260 employees primarily provides physical security for the justices and the court building.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Leaky Supreme Court Starts to Resemble the Other Branches, Adam Liptak, Annie Karni, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). The disclosure of a draft opinion on Roe v. Wade, legal experts said, was evidence that the court is not much different from other Washington institutions.

The Supreme Court used to be a magisterial temple of silence, capable of guarding its secrets until it was ready to disclose them. It leaked less than intelligence agencies, old hands in Washington would say, in a tone of awe and envy.

Members of the court, too, took pride in running a very tight ship.

“Those who know don’t talk,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg used to say. “And those who talk don’t know.”

Now, as the court appears to be on the cusp of eliminating the constitutional right to abortion, it looks sparsely different from the other branches: Rival factions leak and spin sensitive information in the hope of gaining political advantage, at the cost of intense scrutiny of internal operations and questions about whether its decisions are the product of reason or power.

“The court is now no better than the other institutions of government,” said Sherry F. Colb, a law professor at Cornell.

The bare-knuckled partisan fights over recent Supreme Court confirmations appear to have followed the justices to their chambers. The disclosure of a draft opinion that would overrule Roe v. Wade, along with related reports of the court’s internal workings, has transformed a decorous and guarded institution into one riven by politics.

The justices are scheduled to meet in a private conference Thursday morning, their first meeting since Politico published a draft opinion last week that would overrule Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.

As at all such conferences, no one else is allowed to enter the room. The idea is to do everything possible to shield the privacy of the justices’ deliberations.

That idea has been undermined by a series of disclosures that appear to be happening in almost real time.

They started in a carefully couched and conditional but nonetheless knowing editorial on April 26 in The Wall Street Journal. It expressed concern that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. was trying to persuade Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett to join him in upholding a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks but to stop short of overruling Roe outright.

“Our guess,” the editorial said, was that Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. would be assigned the majority opinion if the chief justice did not gain an ally. Good guess.

The Politico bombshell followed six days later. In addition to posting the draft opinion, which was dated Feb. 10, Politico reported that five members of the court — Justices Alito, Kavanaugh, Barrett, Clarence Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch — had voted to overturn Roe shortly after the challenge to it was argued in December.

“That lineup remains unchanged as of this week,” Politico reported last week. On Wednesday, it provided an update: “None of the conservative justices who initially sided with Alito have to date switched their votes.”

Politico added that Justice Alito has not circulated a revised version of his draft and that no other justice has circulated a concurring or dissenting opinion.

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: The Supreme Court: Unreachable, inaccessible and frightening, Robin Givhan, May 11, 2022 (print ed.). The Supreme Court has shut itself off from the public. At a time when the country needs this judiciary of last resort more than ever, it has been surrounded with black, non-scalable fencing from which hang signs announcing that the area is closed. Just above the building’s stately pillars on its east side, etched into the stone, one can read the words, “Justice The Guardian Of Liberty.”

But for now, both justice and liberty are inaccessible by order of the marshal. And just now, it’s unclear precisely what the court is guarding other than its own flank in the face of a disconsolate populace.

The draft opinion that overturns Roe v. Wade leaked more than a week ago, and those who support abortion rights remain in a state of dismayed horror as they realize something they knew in their gut was coming might actually have arrived. Those who have spent the decades since the landmark 1973 decision, which affirmed a constitutional right to abortion, working to nullify a pregnant person’s bodily autonomy, now seem flustered and verklempt as they vacillate between delight and an existential what-now.

The Supreme Court, which sits just across the street from the U.S. Capitol complex, is of course just a building. The nine justices therein hold the authority. Nonetheless, the sight of this edifice surrounded by slick metal with law enforcement officers admonishing even joggers and dog walkers to keep to the far side of the street, just adds to the sense of relentless mayhem and disintegration that the country just can’t seem to shake. The security measures are yet another reminder that the we no longer fight fair. We engage in violence instead of debate. We prefer ad hominem attacks. We deny facts. Our institutions aren’t reassuring and above the fray. They’re part of the problem.

washington post logoWashington Post, Some Democrats warn abortion demonstrators not to go overboard, Ashley Parker and Annie Linskey, Annie Karni, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). On Monday morning, White House press secretary Jen Psaki sent out a 42-word tweet.

“@POTUS strongly believes in the Constitutional right to protest. But that should never include violence, threats, or vandalism. Judges perform an incredibly important function in our society, and they must be able to do their jobs without concern for their personal safety,” she wrote.

The Twitter missive was unremarkable — President Biden and his team have long denounced violence at protests — but for the fact that it seemed penned in response to recent abortion rights demonstrations, an attempt to head off what Republicans are trying to weaponize as a political issue.

After a leaked draft opinion one week ago indicated that the Supreme Court is preparing to overturn Roe v. Wade, abortion rights supporters have organized protests at the homes of some of the conservative Supreme Court justices, and the headquarters of an antiabortion group in Madison, Wis., was vandalized.

Two molotov cocktails were found inside the headquarters of Wisconsin Family Action, which was set on fire Sunday, as well as defaced with graffiti reading, “If abortions aren’t safe then you aren’t either.” The same evening, two molotov cocktails were thrown at the Oregon Right to Life office in a suburb of Salem, and last week, two Catholic churches in Colorado, including one known for its antiabortion stance, were vandalized.

Republicans were quick to pounce, with GOP lawmakers sending more than a dozen tweets attacking Biden and Democrats and calling on them to condemn the abortion rights demonstrators.

“Joe Biden should call on his supporters to stand down,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) wrote in a tweet. “Stop burning prolife offices, stop threatening violence against Supreme Court Justices. These are Biden’s people. Do something about it.”

Many Democrats and abortion rights activists say the complaints are a willful distraction from the real issue — that the high court seems poised to roll back rights that have been in place for a half-century. Disruptive abortion rights demonstrations have been minimal, they add, especially in comparison to the hostile demonstrations that targeted abortion clinics for decades.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters Tuesday he was comfortable with activists demonstrating outside the justices’ homes, as long as they are not violent. “If protests are peaceful, yes,” Schumer said. “There’s protests three or four times a week outside my house. That’s the American way.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Republicans as ‘compassionate consensus builders’? E.J. Dionne Jr., right, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). It’s still early, but my ej dionne w open necknomination for the three most revealing words of the month are “compassionate consensus builder.”

That phrase comes from a memo leaked from the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), the group charged with helping the GOP win U.S. Senate races. In the wake of Politico’s publication of Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, the memo’s architects were trying to help Republican candidates protect themselves from the growing backlash.
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The committee advises every Republican candidate to “be the compassionate, consensus builder on abortion.” The document stresses that most Americans believe “we should care for and support pregnant women in difficult circumstances.”

Missing from the memo is anything concrete about what policies offering “care” and “support” might look like. And its use of capital letters in advising Republicans on what they should deny demonstrate the party’s defensiveness. It said: “Republicans DO NOT want to take away contraception” and “Republicans DO NOT want to take away mammograms or other health care provided specifically to women.” Yes, and they “DO NOT want to throw doctors and women in jail.”

washington post logoWashington Post, She worked for years to overturn Roe, but now worries over next steps, Michelle Boorstein, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). The possibility of Roe’s fall has made it harder for antiabortion advocates to ignore their differences. What does it mean to be for life now?

 washington post logoWashington Post, Youngkin, Hogan ask Justice Dept. to halt protests at justices’ homes, Laura Vozzella, Erin Cox and Dan Morse, May 12, 2022. The governors of Virginia and Maryland called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to enforce a federal law prohibiting protests outside the homes of Supreme Court justices.

 Recent 'Roe' News, Views

 

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More on Ukraine War

More on War

ukraine olena kurilo 52 teacher Russian missile Chuhuiv amazon

52-year-old Ukrainian teacher Olena Kurilo following a Russian missile strike in Chuhuiv, Ukraine in April.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sanctions forcing Russia to use appliance parts in military gear, U.S. says, Jeanne Whalen, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). With Western technology sales banned, Russia is using computer chips meant for household appliances in battlefield gear, Commerce secretary tells a Senate hearing.

Russian FlagU.S.-led sanctions are forcing Russia to use computer chips from dishwashers and refrigerators in some military equipment, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Wednesday.

“We have reports from Ukrainians that when they find Russian military equipment on the ground, it’s filled with semiconductors that they took out of dishwashers and refrigerators,” Raimondo told a Senate hearing, noting that she recently met with Ukraine’s prime minister.

U.S. technology exports to Russia have fallen by nearly 70 percent since sanctions began in late February, according to Raimondo, whose department oversees the export controls that form a big part of the sanctions package. Three dozen other countries have adopted similar export bans, which also apply to Belarus.

“Our approach was to deny Russia technology — technology that would cripple their ability to continue a military operation. And that is exactly what we are doing,” she said in a response to a question from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) about the impact of the export controls. cost of staff and space, the organization consolidated operations and now cooks meals out of one kitchen.

ny times logoNew York Times, Leader of Pussy Riot Band Escapes Russia, With Help From Friends, Valerie Hopkins and Misha Friedman, Updated May 11, 2022. After more than a decade of activism, Maria Alyokhina disguised herself as a food courier to evade the police — and a widening crackdown by President Vladimir Putin.

Maria V. Alyokhina first came to the attention of the Russian authorities — and the world — when her punk band and performance art group Pussy Riot staged a protest against President Vladimir V. Putin in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral.

For that act of rebellion in 2012, she was sentenced to two years in prison for “hooliganism.” She remained determined to fight Mr. Putin’s system of repression, even after being jailed six more times since last summer, each stint for 15 days, always on trumped-up charges aimed at stifling her political activism.

But in April, as Mr. Putin cracked down harder to snuff out any criticism of his war in Ukraine, the authorities announced that her effective house arrest would be converted to 21 days in a penal colony. She decided it was time to leave Russia — at least temporarily — and disguised herself as a food courier to evade the Moscow police who had been staking out the friend’s apartment where she was staying. She left her cellphone behind as a decoy and to avoid being tracked.

A friend drove her to the border with Belarus, and it took her a week to cross into Lithuania. In a studio apartment in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, she agreed to an interview to describe a dissident’s harrowing escape from Mr. Putin’s Russia.

 

vicky ward investigates

Vicky Ward Investigates:"How Can You Win a War With the Whole World?” Vicky Ward, best-selling author and columnist, May 13, 2022. Boris Yeltsin’s former son-in-law on Russia, Ukraine, the West, and whether or not Putin has gone mad.

These past two weeks, I’ve had a series of conversations with Leonid Dyachenko, the former son-in-law of Boris Yeltsin, who lives in London but still has a Russian citizenship. He shared his thoughts on Russia, Ukraine, the West, and whether or not Putin (shown in a May 9 Reuters photo below right) has gone mad. (His answer is yes.)

imrs 010Below are our interviews, edited and condensed for clarity.

WARD: What, if anything, did you hear about the May 9 festivities in Moscow on Monday?

DYACHENKO: I chatted with my friends by WhatsApp about Putin’s speech. We thought it was quite a poor speech, and we thought it sounded like he was surrendering. It was a ten- minute-long speech about nothing. It was the first time I heard a speech like that. Where was this “special military operation”? Where was the talk of [the] Russian army’s achievements and victories? He looked quite sick. I now think maybe we should not be scared of nuclear war, which is not what I was saying a few weeks ago. Now, I think it’s clear that what happens next…

WARD: What happens next?

DYACHENKO: The Russian army will become weaker and weaker. The Ukrainian army, armed with the West[‘s] heavy arms, [will] get stronger.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia-Ukraine war live updates: Ukraine to try Russian for alleged war crime; Europe’s gas could be disrupted, Rachel Pannett, Annabelle Timsit, Amy Cheng, Andrew Jeong, Ellen Francis, Jennifer Hassan, Paulina Firozi and Brittany Shammas, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). Occupied Kherson wants to join Russia, state media says; Ukraine says Russian forces being pushed away from Kharkiv.

Ukraine’s prosecutor general announced that a 21-year-old Russian soldier in custody will be the first to stand trial for an alleged war crime during Russia’s invasion. Vadim Shishimarin is accused of killing an unarmed 62-year-old civilian by the side of a road in a village in the Sumy region of northeastern Ukraine in late February.

ukraine flagThe conflict appeared poised to disrupt some gas supplies via pipeline from Russia, as Ukraine said it would stop the transit of some Russian gas running through its borders into Europe starting Wednesday morning local time. “The interference of the occupying forces in technical processes” meant Ukraine could no longer ensure the transit of gas through territories occupied by Russia, and would impede the flow of about one-third of Russian gas running through Ukraine, according to the country’s state-owned energy company Naftogaz.

Russian forces continued to pummel eastern Ukraine on Wednesday, while Ukraine’s military said it successfully repelled a dozen Russian attacks. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said late Tuesday that Russian forces “are gradually being pushed away” from the Kharkiv region. Meanwhile, the Moscow-backed leadership of the occupied Kherson region in southern Ukraine plans to ask President Vladimir Putin to make Kherson part of Russia, the state-owned news agency Tass said Wednesday, citing a pro-Moscow official in the region. Ukraine responded by vowing to liberate Kherson.

Here’s what else to know

  • The Senate is expected to vote this week on an aid package for Ukraine that the House overwhelmingly approved Tuesday night — raising total U.S. military, economic and humanitarian support provided during the conflict to more than $50 billion
  • Ukrainian fighters remaining inside the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol are pleading for the wounded among them to be evacuated. Russia may be attempting to reopen steel plants to produce military equipment, according to the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank.

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking from Moscow’s Red Square on Victory Day

Russian President Vladimir Putin, greets World War II veterans and other audience members before speaking from Moscow’s Red Square on Victory Day, May 9, 2022 (Reuters Photos via Washington Post)

 washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Updates: Missiles strike port city of Odessa, causing damage, Annabelle Timsit, Amy Cheng, Andrew Jeong, Rachel Pannett, Ellen Francis, Jennifer Hassan and Adam Taylor, May 11, 2020 (print ed.). Images from a prewar Ukraine seem all the more poignant now; Ukrainian foreign minister: ‘The picture of victory is an evolving concept’; European nations back call for WHO to consider closing Moscow office; Database of 231 videos exposes the horrors of war in Ukraine.

Russian FlagRussia struck key Ukrainian cities in the south and east overnight, including the strategic port of Odessa — as Congress is set to begin debating a nearly $40 billion aid package for Ukraine on Tuesday.

President Biden, who separately signed a historic bill into law that will expedite the process of sending military aid to Kyiv, urged lawmakers to approve the aid — which is now almost $7 billion more than what his administration requested. Biden said he was concerned that Russian President Vladimir Putin “doesn’t have a way out” of the war despite failing to divide the NATO military alliance or European Union.

The volley of Russian missiles resulted in casualties in Odessa and included three Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, a Ukrainian official said. But the Pentagon assessed that Russian forces do not have the capability to launch a ground or maritime offensive against the Black Sea gateway.

Russian forces continued to assault the embattled Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukrainian officials said, estimating that about 1,000 of the shattered port city’s last remaining fighters are still holed up there, with hundreds injured.

Here’s what else to know

  • A U.N. official said Tuesday that thousands more civilians have been killed in the conflict than confirmed figures suggest. A regional official in Kharkiv said 44 bodies were pulled from the rubble of a building in Izyum that Russia destroyed in March.
  • European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen made a surprise visit to Budapest on Monday to try to persuade Hungarian PrimeMinister Viktor Orban to drop his objection to a proposed European Union embargo on Russian oil. However, their talks ended without a deal.
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel.

washington post logoWashington Post, Overview: President Biden signs bill, reviving World War II-era ‘lend-lease’ program, Amy B Wang, May 11, 2020 (print ed.).  President Biden signed into law on Monday afternoon a bill that will expedite the process of sending military aid to Ukraine, as the Eastern European country presses into its third month of fighting off a Russian invasion.

Flanked by Vice President Harris and members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, Biden vowed the United States will continue to support Ukraine “in their fight to defend their country and their democracy” against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war.

“Every day Ukrainians fight for their lives,” Biden said. “The cost of the fight is not cheap, but caving to aggression is even more costly.”

After signing the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022 into law, Biden handed his pen to Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.), the first Ukrainian-born member of Congress. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D.

Recent Headlines

 

First lady Jill Biden and Olena Zelenska, spouse of Ukrainian's President Volodymyr Zelensky, join a group of children at School 6 in making tissue-paper bears to give as Mother's Day gifts in Uzhhorod, Ukraine, Sunday, May 8, 2022 (Photo by Susan Walsh of the Associated Press).

First lady Jill Biden, center, and Olena Zelenska, right, spouse of Ukrainian's President Volodymyr Zelensky, join a group of children at School 6 in making tissue-paper bears to give as Mother's Day gifts in Uzhhorod, Ukraine, Sunday, May 8, 2022 (Pool photos above and below left by Susan Walsh of the Associated Press).

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Inflation edged down in April compared to previous month, but remains high, data shows, Rachel Siegel, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). Prices rose 8.3 percent in April compared with a year ago, giving policymakers some nascent hope that soaring inflation may be starting to slow down, even as households continue to feel the pain.

Prices rose 8.3 percent in April compared with a year ago, giving policymakers some nascent hope that soaring inflation may be starting to slow down, even as households continue to feel the pain.

Data released Wednesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows prices rose 0.3 percent in April compared to the month before. In the past few months, the war in Ukraine, along with coronavirus shutdowns in China, have roiled global energy markets and dealt the latest blow to supply chains, pushing prices even higher as families struggle to pay for the basics.

Fed hikes rates by half a percentage point in fight against inflation

Economic officials agree that it will take months of data to assess which way prices are heading. High inflation has been a scourge on a recovery that has been strong by many other measures, hurting President Biden’s approval ratings and intensifying pressure on the Federal Reserve. It has also tested Americans’ ability to absorb more expensive rent, groceries or gas, with little sense of when the strain will fade away.

Rachel Reynolds, director of marketing at Atlanta Mission, a homeless shelter, said rising prices are routinely cited as a top reason people seek help. The shelter serves around 800 men, women and children every day, and its food costs are projected to double this year.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Florida has already experienced its successful far-right coup, Wayne Madsen, left, May 11, 2022. wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallFlorida is currently suffering under a ruthless dictatorship of a Latin American-style caudillo, who, by his words and actions, is no different than Cuba’s Fulgencio Batista, the Dominican Republic’s Rafael Trujillo, Chile's Augusto Pinochet, or Panama’s notorious Manuel Noriega.

What is more, far-right Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is propped up financially by Latin American expats in the state whose wealth was derived from the regimes of those very same dictators and others like them.

bernie sanders 2020 button croppedFlorida did not have to be in this position. The only reason DeSantis is governor is because of the tiring and pedantic “Socialist” Senator Bernie Sanders, right, a non-member of the Democratic Party who strives to insert as many un-electable candidates as possible into Democratic general election campaigns. It is almost as if Sanders is playing the other side of the Russian political influence operations game that attacks democracies from both the far-right and far-left.

In 2018, the far-right in Florida, namely the Panhandle political machine that was run by former Florida State Senate President Don Gaetz and his sex pervert son, U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz, who acted as DeSantis’s campaign manager, took political control.

With the support of President Donald Trump, DeSantis eked out a narrow 49.6 to 49.2 percent victory over the Democratic candidate, the African-American Mayor of Tallahassee Andrew Gillum. DeSantis would have never been governor had it not been for Sanders interference in the Democratic primary by backing Gillum, who had been tainted by criminal activity in Tallahassee’s municipal government and was hiding his gay lifestyle from everyone, including, apparently, his wife.

Recent Headlines

 

World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden-hosted Americas summit facing boycott over invitation list, Karen DeYoung, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). In a potential embarrassment for his administration, a growing number of hemispheric leaders have said they will not attend an Americas summit, to be hosted by President Biden next month in Los Angeles, if the meeting excludes Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

“If everyone is not invited, I will not go,” Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador told reporters Tuesday in Mexico City. Bolivian President Luis Arce tweeted that “if the exclusion of brother nations persists, I will not participate.”

A number of Caribbean leaders have taken the same stand, and more are expected from South and Central America. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s participation, according to a statement emailed from his office Wednesday, is “currently under evaluation, and is yet to be confirmed. “

The Summit of the Americas, held every three years in a different country, is the premier event for hemispheric bonding. The June 6-10 Los Angeles meeting will be the first hosted by the United States since President Bill Clinton held the inaugural session in Miami in 1994.

For the administration, the event is designed to promote democracy, address common economic problems, and reverse a widespread perception in the region of U.S. disinterest in their existence beyond stemming illegal immigration, drug smuggling and Chinese influence.

Mexican governments have traditionally maintained warm relations with Cuba, in part to demonstrate their independence from the United States. López Obrador, who visited Cuba last week and reiterated his strong condemnation of the U.S. tr