Dec. 2022

 

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

 Note: Excerpts are from the authors' words except for subheads and occasional "Editor's notes" such as this. 

 

Dec. 7

Top Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Economy, Governance

 

Top Global Stories

 

Trump, Finances, Insurrection, Allies, Disputes

 

Ukraine War

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Regulation

 

More World News, Human Rights

U.S. High Tech, Media, Culture

 

Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

 

Climate, Disasters, Energy

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Germany Arrests 25 Suspected of Planning to Overthrow Government, Katrin Bennhold and Erika Solomon, Dec. 7, 2022. Among those detained were a German prince, a former far-right member of Parliament, an active soldier and former members of the police and elite special forces.

The plan was to storm the German Capitol, arrest lawmakers and execute the chancellor. A prince descended from German nobility would take over as the new head of state, and a former far-right member of Parliament would be put in charge of a national purge.

german flagTo facilitate the coup, the electricity network would be sabotaged. Satellite phones to communicate off grid had already been bought.

That is what German prosecutors and intelligence officials say a nationwide far-right terrorist network was plotting before 3,000 police officers and Special Forces fanned out across the country on Wednesday to raid 150 homes and arrest 25 suspected co-conspirators. They included an active duty soldier, a former officer in the elite special forces, a police officer and at least two army reservists.

Among the items uncovered was a list containing 18 names of politicians considered enemies, possibly to be deported and executed, among them Chancellor Olaf Scholz, people familiar with the raids told The New York Times, requesting anonymity because the were not authorized to discuss the investigation.

 

wmr Reichburger Coup 12 7 2022Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Neo-Nazis on move in North Carolina and Germany, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 22 books and former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst, Dec. 7, 2022. In my The Rise of the wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallFascist Fourth Reich: The Era of Trumpism and the New Far-Right, this wayne madsen fourth reich coverauthor calls for governments around the world to cooperate in suppressing resurgent Nazism and Fascism.

Recent events in North Carolina, Germany, and elsewhere have shown that governments are beginning to take more seriously the threat of international Nazism.

Germany's action December 7 in arresting more than a score of far-right insurrectionists underscores the global threat, as described below. In addition, Russian support for far-right terrorists is coming into sharper focus.

The right-wing terrorist attack on two Duke Energy electrical substations in Moore County, North Carolina, which knocked out power to 45,000 homes, businesses, schools, hospitals, and nursing homes, is being investigated by federal, state, and local law enforcement.

The neo-Nazi plotters in North Carolina were in possession of a handwritten list of a dozen sites in Idaho and surrounding states that, according to the federal indictment, "contained a transformer, substation, or other component of the power grid for the northwest United States."

 

raphael warnock herschel walker

 In more than two dozen counties, thousands of voters came out to vote, some waiting for hours for the chance to cast their ballot early for the Dec. 6 runoff between Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D), above left, and Republican Herschel Walker, above right.

ny times logoNew York Times, Warnock Defeats Walker in Georgia Senate Runoff, Jonathan Weisman and Maya King, Dec. 7, 2022 (print ed.). Senator Raphael Warnock defeated his Republican challenger, Herschel Walker, in a runoff election on Tuesday that capped a grueling and costly campaign, secured a 51-seat Democratic majority and gave the first Black senator from Georgia a full six-year term. New York Times Projected Margin: 2.8%.

Mr. Warnock’s victory, called by The Associated Press, ended a marathon midterm election cycle in which Democrats defied history, as they limited the loss of House seats that typically greets the party that holds the White House and now gain a seat in the Senate.

georgia mapIn the final battle of the midterms, Senator Raphael Warnock dealt a blow to Donald Trump, whose handpicked candidate, Herschel Walker, was outmatched.

Christian Walker has just put out a couple of tweets criticizing his father’s campaign as the race is called for Warnock: “Don’t beat women, hold guns to people’s heads, fund abortions and claim you’re pro-life." He added, "and then maybe you can win a Senate seat."

senate democrats logoA pall settles over the Walker election night party as more news outlets call the race for Warnock. An impromptu prayer circle forms in the center of the ballroom. A preacher shouts: “Where there is lack, make up for it right now! Where there is disturbance, bring shalom, right now!”

Warnock’s margin of victory comes from the heavily Black, Democratic areas around Metro Atlanta. His victory again undercuts the thesis held by many in the G.O.P., that running a Black male conservative would cut into Democrats’ gains with the group.

The transformation of Atlanta’s suburbs from Republican to Democratic strongholds over the last decade is truly remarkable. In the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney won 56 percent of the vote in Cobb County and 54 percent in Gwinnett County. Tonight, Raphael Warnock is at 60 percent or more in both – margins that have turned Georgia from a safe state for Republicans to one Democrats can win.

 

 Donald Trump, as portrayed in a fictionalized portrayal of his leadership of the Trump Organization on the former top-rated TV show The Apprentice.

Donald Trump, as portrayed in a fictionalized portrayal of his leadership of the Trump Organization on the former top-rated TV show The Apprentice.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump Organization convicted in N.Y. criminal tax fraud trial, Shayna Jacobs, Dec. 7, 2022 (print ed.). Former president Donald Trump’s namesake company was convicted Tuesday of tax crimes committed by two of its longtime executives after a Manhattan trial that gave jurors a peek at some of the inner workings of the Trump Organization’s finances.

The real estate, hospitality and golf resort operation headquartered at Trump Tower on Fifth Ave. faces the possibility of a $1.6 million fine. New York Supreme Court jurors began their deliberations mid-day on Monday.

The company was charged with scheme to defraud, conspiracy, criminal tax fraud and falsifying business records.

Prosecutors built the case largely around longtime Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty in August to 15 counts including tax fraud, conspiracy and grand larceny. He was promised a steeply reduced sentence of five months in jail in exchange for testifying against the company. He had faced up to 15 years in prison.

Prosecutors claim to jurors that Trump knew of Weisselberg’s tax fraud

allen weisselberg croppedIn his testimony, Weisselberg, right, detailed how he and the company’s comptroller, Jeffrey McConney, schemed to cheat state and federal tax authorities over a 15-year period beginning in 2005. Weisselberg used the company to cover major personal expenses like rent for a luxury apartment on the Hudson River, Mercedes Benz leases for himself and his wife and private school tuition for his grandchildren.

In some instances, he paid the company back for his personal expenses, which allowed him to use pre-tax compensation illegally. Other expenses were paid for by the company but not reported as taxable income as required by tax laws.

McConney, who admitted in his testimony to committing crimes, was granted immunity under New York law because he was called by prosecutors as a grand jury witness in the case.

Prosecutors argued the conduct of Weisselberg and McConney made the company criminally liable. Two Trump Organization entities — the Trump Corporation and the Trump Payroll Corp. — were on trial. Both were found guilty on all charges.

Lawyers for the entities argued that Weisselberg had no intent to help the company — only himself — and that prosecutors did not successfully prove there was corporate liability. Prosecutors argued the company saved on their Medicare tax responsibility and benefitted in other ways from the scheme.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office also argued at the close of the case that Trump had personal knowledge of the tax cheating carried out by his executives. At one point in his summation, Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass pointed to a document that had been initialed by Trump and called it “explicit” proof of his knowing that his executives were tinkering with expenses to reduce their tax liabilities.

Trump has not been charged with wrongdoing. In a recent social media post, he denied having knowledge of the crimes Weisselberg and McConney committed.

 

capitol police

ny times logoNew York Times, Lawmakers awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor, to officers who protected the Capitol on Jan. 6, Stephanie Lai
Dec. 7, 2022 (print ed.). Lawmakers recounted the horrors of Jan. 6, 2021, as they granted the Congressional Gold Medal to officers of the Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police Department.

Lawmakers on Tuesday formally recognized law enforcement personnel who protected the Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack with the highest honor of Congress, granting officers from the Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police Department the Congressional Gold Medal for their service guarding the complex as pro-Trump rioters waged a deadly assault.

Members of the Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police force gathered in the Capitol Rotunda as Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, bestowed the award, proclaiming that the officers were in a “pantheon of patriots” for their actions that day.

“Capitol Police, Metropolitan Police and additional agencies bravely put themselves between us and violence,” Ms. Pelosi said.

The award came nearly two years after supporters of President Donald J. Trump stormed the Capitol while Congress was meeting to certify Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory, disrupting the count of electoral votes, brutalizing police officers and sending lawmakers and the vice president fleeing for their lives. One officer, Brian D. Sicknick, died after sustaining injuries during the riot, and four others died by suicide in the aftermath.

At the Capitol on Tuesday, Gladys Sicknick, Officer Sicknick’s mother, refused to shake hands with the Republican leaders who were present to mark the Mitchell_McConnellawarding of the medal, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, left, whom she called “two faced” because of their continued loyalty to Mr. Trump.

“I don’t want to give them any credit,” she said in an interview. “They don’t deserve any credit. They’re going to leave here today, get on a plane, go down and see Trump and kiss his ring.”

It appeared that several others who went up to receive the award passed Mr. McConnell, who had his hand outstretched, and Mr. McCarthy without acknowledging them or shaking their hands.

chuck schumer smileMs. Sicknick, however, greeted Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), right,  warmly, with a handshake and a kiss on the cheek.

Mr. McConnell led the effort to block the creation of an independent commission to scrutinize the Jan. 6 attack. Mr. McCarthy has fought the select committee that Democrats formed to investigate the riot at every turn, and he is now threatening to use the new House Republican majority in the next Congress to investigate the panel itself. And while Mr. McConnell laid responsibility for the riot at the feet of the former president, Mr. McCarthy has glossed over Mr. Trump’s role as his party has worked to downplay, deny or distort what happened.

In his remarks on Tuesday, Mr. McCarthy thanked the honorees for their service, but spent most of his address offering gratitude to law enforcement in general.

 

House Jan. 6 Select Investigating Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS.) (Photo via NBC News).

House Jan. 6 Select Investigating Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS.) (Photo via NBC News).

 ny times logoNew York Times, House Jan. 6 Committee to Issue Criminal Referrals, Chairman Says, Luke Broadwater, Dec. 7, 2022 (print ed.). Representative Bennie Thompson said no decision had been made on who would be the subject of the referrals or what the charges would be.

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol will issue criminal referrals to the Justice Department based on its inquiry, the panel’s chairman said on Tuesday, but has made no decision on who it will recommend charging or what offenses it will cite.

Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the Democratic chairman of the committee, told reporters on Capitol Hill that the panel had agreed to take the step and would meet later Tuesday to discuss the specifics. But within moments, he and his staff rushed to clarify his statement, reflecting a debate that is still underway within the panel about how far to go in formally accusing former President Donald J. Trump and some of his top allies of crimes.

“What we’ve decided is that we will probably make referrals,” Mr. Thompson told reporters a short time later.

Mr. Thompson, who is known for giving big-picture guidance about the investigation but being at times less involved in the granular details of its work, then suggested that that decision was no longer in question.

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Economy, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court majority questions massive shift of election authority, Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow, Dec. 7, 2022. A majority of Supreme Court justices on Wednesday seemed reluctant to conclude that state legislators may manipulate congressional district lines and set federal voting rules without any oversight from state courts, after nearly three hours of debate over what would be a fundamental change in the way elections are conducted.

But some justices also indicated they believed state courts could be restrained from becoming too big a player in election decisions — at some point when “the state court would not be acting as a court but would be acting more as a legislature,” in the words of Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

Under the theory advanced by North Carolina’s Republican legislative leaders, state lawmakers throughout the country could have exclusive authority to structure federal elections, subject only to intervention by Congress. The “independent state legislature theory” holds that the U.S. Constitution gives that power to lawmakers even if it results in extreme partisan voting maps for congressional seats and violates voter protections enshrined in state constitutions.
 
The case could have a major influence on results in the 2024 election. It has drawn attention in part because of the nation’s polarized politics, where former president Donald Trump and his allies still advocate to overturn the 2020 election, and the midterms showed that control of Congress can depend on the drawing of congressional district lines.

The court’s three most conservative justices — Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch — seemed receptive to a reading of the Constitution in line with that of the North Carolina legislators. The court’s liberals — Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson — did not.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh and Barrett seemed more conflicted, and perhaps looking for ways to ensure that state courts do not take over the supervision of election processes in which legislatures are the primary actors.

nancy pelosi nbc sept 26 19 impeachment

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: I’m proud to protect marriage as one of my last acts as speaker, Nancy Pelosi, Dec. 7, 2022. Nancy Pelosi, above, a Democrat from California, is speaker of the House of Representatives.

Since the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges seven years ago, same-sex couples have enjoyed the same marriage protections as other couples.

But right now, that fundamental freedom is under real, direct and urgent threat.

In June, the Republican supermajority on the Supreme Court eviscerated long-standing precedent and the right to privacy with its disgraceful decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Justice Clarence Thomas took explicit aim at marriage equality: urging the court to reconsider Obergefell and upend the lives of countless families across the country. While his legal reasoning is twisted and unsound, we must take Justice Thomas — and the extremist movement behind him — at their word.

Our Respect for Marriage Act combats this threat by requiring states to recognize same-sex marriages, as long as they are valid in the state where they were performed. It also finally repeals the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, so that no future MAGA majority in Congress or president in the White House can wield this policy as a weapon of bigotry.

We soon will send this vital legislation to President Biden for signature: a glorious triumph of love, of freedom and of dignity for all.

This action is the latest step forward in House Democrats’ longtime fight for full equality, waged alongside generations of fearless activists.

  ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Political Live Updates: “America is better off,” Senator Chuck Schumer said as Democrats on Capitol Hill took a victory lap after the Georgia runoff, Maggie Astor, Dec. 7, 2022. Senator Raphael Warnock’s victory in the Georgia runoff will give Democrats a 51-49 majority in the chamber. chuck schumer smileSenator Chuck Schumer, right, the majority leader, said the win gives Democrats a “lift.”

democratic donkey logoDemocrats awoke Wednesday to the promise of a 51st Senate seat come January, thanks to Senator Raphael Warnock’s victory over his Republican challenger, Herschel Walker, in a runoff in Georgia. The result officially ended the 2022 midterms, in which Republicans won a narrow House majority but lost ground in the Senate, falling short of expectations for the party out of power.

Here’s what to know:

  • Basking in cheers of “six more years,” Mr. Warnock evoked the civil rights movement after his victory late Tuesday night as he praised Georgians, whether they voted for him or not, for rising above the “folks trying to divide our country.” His fellow Democrats took a victory lap on Wednesday morning, with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, saying he had been brought to tears by Mr. Warnock’s win. “America is better off,” he said on Capitol Hill.
  • Across the aisle, Republicans stared down one of the worst days in years for their standard-bearer, former President Donald J. Trump, who had championed Mr. Walker against the advice of many other Republicans.
  • The difference between the current 50-50 split in the Senate and the incoming 51-49 Democratic majority is just one seat, but the implications are substantial. In addition to giving Democrats a little more leeway on tough votes and freeing them from the need to rely constantly on Vice President Kamala Harris as a tiebreaker, an absolute majority means more power over Senate committees, which will allow faster confirmations of judicial nominees, greater investigative authority and more.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Warnock’s Win Forges Democrats’ Path Through the New Battlegrounds, Lisa Lerer, Dec. 7, 2022. Forget Florida and Ohio: Senator Raphael Warnock’s victory shows how Georgia and Arizona are poised to be the next kingmakers of presidential politics.

For decades, Florida and Ohio reigned supreme over presidential politics. The two states relished their role crowning presidents and spawning political clichés. Industrial Cleveland faced off against white-collar Cincinnati, the Midwestern snowbirds of the Villages against the Puerto Rican diaspora of the Orlando suburbs.

But the Georgia runoff, the final note of the 2022 midterm elections, may have said goodbye to all that. The Marietta moms are in charge now.

Senator Raphael Warnock’s win over Herschel Walker — his fifth victory in just over two years — proved that the Democratic surge in the Peach State two years ago was no Trump-era fluke, no one-off rebuke of an unpopular president. Georgia, with its storied civil rights history, booming Atlanta suburbs like Marietta and exploding ethnic diversity, is now officially contested ground, joining a narrow set of states that will select the next president.

MeidasTouch,

, Ben Meiselas, Dec 7, 2022. Fox reporters couldn’t hold back their anger on national television after Senator Raphael Warnock was announced the winner of the Georgia runoff elections as other Murdoch properties sought to completely ignore the felony conviction of the Trump Organization. MeidasTouch host Ben Meiselas reports.

Palmer Report, Analysis: With all the votes counted, it turns out the Warnock-Walker runoff wasn’t that close after all, Bill Palmer, right, Dec. 7, 2022. Raphael Warnock was ahead of bill palmerHerschel Walker by just 0.6 points last night when the race was called. This put a narrative in motion that it was a surprisingly close race, along with the usual defeatist lamenting from those on our side who were too lazy to put in any work on this race to begin with.

bill palmer report logo headerBut as of today, with greater than 99% of votes counted, Warnock is now ahead of Walker by about three points. So the race wasn’t particularly close after all. So much for all that defeatist lamenting. This was a good solid win for the Democrats.

When a race gets called, it’s often because a candidate is slightly ahead at the time and the remaining uncounted votes are known to lean toward that candidate. But all we remember is the narrow margin from the moment race was called, and not the final (typically much larger) margin.

For instance, most of you aren’t aware that John Fetterman defeated Dr. Oz by five points once all the votes were counted. All you remember is that Fetterman was one point ahead at the moment the race was called. For that matter, most of you aren’t aware John Kelly won by five points. In swing state races, five points is a blowout.

raphael warnock“I can’t believe it was ever that close!” Well it wasn’t. Votes are counted in an arbitrary, asymmetric order. Just because Warnock, left, was only “ahead” by 0.6 points in the vote totals at one point, it doesn’t mean Walker was ever within 0.6 points of winning. Walker lost by three points once all the votes were counted, which means Walker was behind by three points the entire time, regardless of what weird order the votes were tallied in.

If Warnock-leaning batches of votes had been counted before Walker-leaning batches, then Warnock might have been “ahead by 6 points” when the race was called for him. But he wouldn’t have actually been that far ahead. It’s just a partial vote total at the time it’s called.

Yet because of the lopsided manner in which the votes were counted, and the explosively defeatist reaction over Warnock’s 0.6 point “lead” at the time the race was called, this race will be misremembered as an embarrassingly close 0.6 point win, when it was in fact a 3 point win.

I warned you all along that in spite of Warnock’s many advantages, it wasn’t possible for him to win this runoff by any more than about four points. Come on, it’s Georgia! Most people vote down party lines no matter what. In a race like this, both candidates were going to get 48% of the vote automatically. The winner was going to be decided by the remaining 4%.

washington post logoWashington Post, Drop in Republican turnout for Georgia Senate runoff meant a bigger win for Warnock, Adrian Blanco, Kevin Uhrmacher and Kati Perry, Dec. 7, 2022. Democrats padded their Senate majority on Tuesday night thanks in part to a rebuke of the Republican candidate in Georgia’s suburbs.

Turnout was somewhat lower in Tuesday’s runoff than in the November general election, by about 400,000 voters, but Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) more than doubled his lead over Republican Herschel Walker. The Democrat led by about 95,000 votes as of Wednesday, besting his 37,000-vote margin in the general election.

Both candidates fought to get voters back to the polls just a month after the Nov. 8 general election. Runoff elections, triggered when no candidate receives more than 50 percent, regularly have lower turnout. About 3.5 million voters showed up for the runoff versus 3.9 million in November’s general election.

Walker was seemingly unable to turn out the voters he needed to offset Warnock’s advantages in urban and suburban areas. While Warnock won suburban areas by 190,000 votes in November, he led them by 223,000 in the December runoff.

FiveThirtyEight.com, Analysis: Republicans Still Have A Clear Path To Retaking The Senate In 2024, Geoffrey Skelley, Dec. 7, 2022. Raphael Warnock’s victory in Georgia provides a small buffer for Democrats, but they still have a ton of vulnerable seats.

In a bit of electoral déjà vu, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock won Georgia’s runoff on Tuesday, almost two years after he won a special election runoff to help hand Democrats a narrow 50-50 majority in the Senate via Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote. This time around, Warnock topped Republican Herschel Walker to earn a full six-year term, which will have major ramifications for how the new Senate will conduct business in January. Warnock’s win gives Democrats 51 seats — including independent Sens. Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont — so the Democratic caucus will no longer have to constantly rely on Harris to break ties. Democrats will also now have majorities on each committee and will be able to more easily confirm President Biden’s judicial appointments.

Yet if we look even further into the future, it turns out the Georgia outcome could also play a role in deciding which party controls the Senate after the next election. The good news for Democrats is that they will have 51 seats instead of 50, which gives them a chance to maintain control even if they lose one seat, depending on whether the next vice president is a Democrat or Republican. The good news for Republicans, however, is that the 2024 Senate map puts them in a better position to take control of the chamber than it does for Democrats to hold onto it.

Democrats have more than twice as many Senate seats to defend in 2024 as Republicans, an imbalance that gives the GOP a clear path to capturing the Senate — even if the Georgia result has given Democrats a little breathing room. At present, 34 Senate seats will be up for election,1 and of those, Democrats (including the independent senators who caucus with them) hold 23 to the GOP’s 11, as the table below shows.

 

south carolina map

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Biden playing the long game by moving South Carolina up to first primary state, Wayne Madsen, Dec 6-7, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2022. Biden's decision to have the Democratic Party hold its first primary in 2024 in South Carolina, thus edging out traditional first primary state New Hampshire, as well as the first nominating process -- caucus -- state Iowa, is a political master stroke of genius.

As it now stands, South Carolina will lead the Democratic primary calendar on Saturday, February 3. Having the primary election on a Saturday will likely increase voter participation among two Democratic strongholds, African-Americans and college students.

wayne madesen report logoThe fact that Biden should never be taken for granted was recently echoed by an unlikely foe of the president -- former House Republican speaker Newt Gingrich. Writing on his own website, Gingrich opined the following about Biden: "Conservatives’ hostility to the Biden administration on our terms tends to blind us to just how effective Biden has been on his terms . . . Our aversion to him and his policies makes us underestimate him and the Democrats.”

Surely, Gingrich, who once represented a suburban Atlanta congressional district, understands that in pushing South Carolina to the first primary state, Biden is playing a long game in exciting Democratic voters in shared media markets in South Carolina and Georgia. Biden's move has more to do with playing political three-dimensional chess than in reciprocating the political life-saving support rendered to Biden's faltering 2020 campaign by South Carolina's Representative Jim Clyburn.

Joe Biden portrait 2Biden has twice-unsuccessful Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams to thank for reinvigorating the Democratic Party in the Peach State. Abrams' voter registration efforts among Georgia's black population has been directly responsible for the state being represented in the Senate by two Democrats. Depending on Warnock's margin-of-victory over the GOP's pathetic minstrel act, Herschel Walker, in today's run-off election, the Democrats can build upon their voter registration drive on behalf of Warnock.

Biden is very aware of the value of media markets to political campaigns. Representing Delaware in the Senate, Biden understood that it was the Philadelphia-Delaware Valley market that was the key to success for his multiple successful campaigns.

With the South Carolina and Georgia primaries only a week-and-a-half apart, Biden sees the media markets of Charleston, Columbia, and Myrtle Beach; Spartansburg, Greenville, and northeast Georgia; Metro Atlanta; Aiken and Augusta; and Savannah and the Low Country not two states. That is the mark of an expert politician who understands how to successfully market politicians and their campaigns.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Warnock’s win exposes the new geography of GOP weakness after Trump, Greg Sargent, Dec. 7, 2022. It’s easy to forget this greg sargentnow but, before 2020, there was widespread skepticism that Democrats could transform Georgia into a competitive state. Joe Biden’s presidential campaign invested resources there and won by a scant 11,000 votes, after which Democrats won both the state’s U.S. Senate seats, also by very tight margins.

Now that Sen. Raphael G. Warnock has been reelected in the Georgia runoff, Democrats will for the foreseeable future treat this state not just as competitive but as essential to their national strategy.

Warnock’s victory should be seen as part of a larger shift, in which Democrats are reconfiguring their national map — with regard to both the Senate and the White House — through gains in the New South and the Southwest. In two straight cycles — 2020 and 2022 — Democrats ran the table in key states in those regions for the first time in decades.

To understand this ongoing shift, I talked to Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg, who presciently predicted that the vaunted “red wave” of 2022 would not materialize. (Full disclosure: Rosenberg is a friend.) This interview has been edited for clarity and condensed.

 

pentagon dc skyline dod photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Fearing scandal, Air Force blocked generals’ foreign consulting deals, Craig Whitlock and Nate Jones, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). Two Department of Defense Sealgenerals who oversaw U.S. supply routes through corruption-plagued Azerbaijan sought to profit from their connections once they retired.

An Air Force lawyer objected. The Post sued to make the case public. More coverage:

  • Key findings from The Post’s series on veterans’ lucrative foreign jobs
  • Retired U.S. generals, admirals take top jobs with Saudi crown prince

 

david rivera

ny times logoNew York Times, Florida Ex-Congressman Arrested Over Secret Contract With Venezuela, Patricia Mazzei, Dec. 7, 2022 (print ed.). A former Republican congressman, above, who was secretly hired for $50 million by Venezuela’s state-run oil company to peddle the prospect of a thaw in U.S.-Venezuela relations to Washington was arrested on Monday and charged with conspiracy, failure to register as a foreign agent and other crimes, federal authorities said.

Law enforcement officers arrested former Representative David Rivera of Florida in the Atlanta area, said Marlene Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida. Mr. Rivera, who served in Congress from 2011 to 2013 after a career in the State Legislature, is Cuban American and known in Florida politics as a strident anti-communist.

But from 2017 to 2018, according to a federal indictment unsealed on Monday and signed by a South Florida grand jury last month, Mr. Rivera and a longtime associate, Esther Nuhfer, tried to lobby members of Congress and the White House on behalf of President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, a socialist.

For those lobbying efforts, the indictment said, the Venezuelan government paid Mr. Rivera at least $23.75 million from the $50 million contract that his consulting firm, Interamerican Consulting, had signed with PDV USA, an American subsidiary of the Venezuelan state-run oil company Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., or PDVSA. Mr. Rivera then split the money with Ms. Nuhfer and other individuals not named in the indictment.

 

 madison cawthorn resized hunting amazon

washington post logoWashington Post, House panel fines Cawthorn over $15,000 for promoting cryptocurrency, Azi Paybarah, Dec. 7, 2022. The House Ethics Committee has directed Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) to pay more than $15,000 in fines and fees for encouraging people to purchase a cryptocurrency in which he had a financial interest that was not properly disclosed.

According to the committee’s 81-page report released Tuesday, Cawthorn has until the end of the month to pay $14,237.49 — “reflecting the approximate value of the gift he received” — to “an appropriate charitable organization,” and an additional $1,000 in late filing fees to the Treasury Department within 14 days of the report’s release.

The congressman lost his primary in May and his term ends next month.

The House panel’s investigative subcommittee (ISC) “found substantial evidence that Representative Cawthorn promoted a cryptocurrency in which he had a financial interest in violation of rules protecting against conflicts of interest, and that he failed to file timely reports to the House disclosing his transactions relating to the cryptocurrency,” the report said.

According to the report, Cawthorn paid $150,000 for 180 billion “Let’s go, Brandon,” or LGB Coin, on Dec. 21, 2021. By that time, Republicans had adopted the phrase as a vulgar expression against President Biden. On the morning of Dec. 22, images could be found on social media of Cawthorn touting the coin.

On Dec. 30, 2021, LGB Coin announced that it would sponsor a NASCAR driver, Brandon Brown, in the 2022 racing season. The following day, Cawthorn sold a bunch of the LGB Coin he had just purchased.

The report is a capstone to the brief tenure of the one-term Republican whose status as a rising star in the party was quickly eclipsed by bizarre scandals and allegations of wrongdoing.

 Related Headlines

 

Top Global Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, German police arrest 25 in alleged far-right plot to overthrow government, Loveday Morris and Victoria Bisset, Dec. 7, 2022. German authorities on Wednesday arrested 25 people suspected of plotting to use armed force to storm parliament and violently overthrow the state, marking one of country’s largest ever raids targeting right-wing extremists.

german flagThe majority of those arrested are accused of being part of a “terrorist organization,” according to the public prosecutor’s statement, while the remaining three — including a Russian national — were detained on suspicion of being supporters.

In addition to the arrests, police searched the properties of a further 27 individuals who are being investigated on an “initial suspicion” of being a member or having supported the organization, the statement said. More than 3,000 police officers were involved in the raids, which took place in 11 of Germany’s 16 states.

“Democracy is well defended,” Justice Minister Marco Buschmann tweeted afterwards. “It’s suspected that an armed attack was planned against constitutional bodies,” he added. The accused subscribe to a range of conspiracy theories, including QAnon and the extremist Reichsbürger movement, which denies the existence of the modern German state, the prosecutor’s statement said.

ny times logoNew York Times, What Do We Know About Prince Heinrich XIII of Reuss? Christopher F. Schuetze, Dec. 7, 2022. Descended from an ancient aristocratic family, Heinrich now stands accused of being a leader of a far-right plot to overthrow the German government.

Prince Heinrich XIII of Reuss, a descendant of a 700-year-old noble family that once reigned over a tiny state in eastern Germany, was a relatively obscure figure — until Wednesday, when he was named as one of the leaders of a group accused of plotting to overthrow the German government.

Earlier this year, his family publicly distanced themselves from him, according to MDR, a local public broadcaster, after the prince met publicly with a local mayor who was known to be sympathetic to the Reichsbürger movement, a far-right group that denies the legitimacy of the modern German state. The mayor was suspended from office after attacking a journalist.

“I am afraid that he is now a conspiracy theorist, a confused old man,” Heinrich XIV of Reuss, who speaks for the House of Reuss, told MDR at the time, adding that Heinrich XIII, 71, had broken all ties to the family more than a decade earlier. (Male members of several branches of the family are traditionally all named Heinrich, and the spokesman is not the son of Heinrich XIII.)

The House of Reuss reigned until 1918 in a principality around Gera, in present-day Thuringia, that was incorporated into the German Empire. In modern Germany, hereditary nobles have no special legal standing; their titles carry no formal weight, but they are still sometimes used as parts of names.

The prince, whose professional website calls him Heinrich XIII Prinz Reuss and says he offers “Coordination of Business interest,” worked as a high-end real-estate broker. He was arrested in Frankfurt, where he has both an apartment and offices in the exclusive West End neighborhood.

Under Germany’s strict privacy laws, the authorities give only initials for suspects’ surnames, but the name they gave for him — “Heinrich XIII P. R.” — and photos and details of the arrests made his identity clear. A Russian citizen identified as Vitalia B., who according to German news outlets was the prince’s life partner, and another co-conspirator identified as Norbert G., were arrested closer to the ancestral home of the prince in the vicinity of Bad Lobenstein, in Thuringia.

Police officers also raided his castle there, where conspirators occasionally met, MDR reported. The prince is said to have funded some of the group’s activities, according to media reports.

Over the years the prince, whose great-grandfather was the last sovereign of the line until he abdicated at the end of World War I, had worked to maintain family history and burial sites. Born in West Germany during the German division, he became active in the region once ruled by his ancestors after reunification, supervising a dig in search of an ancestor’s tomb in 2014 and renovating a local theater.

But his interest in conspiracy theories and antisemitic tendencies were also well documented.

washington post logoWashington Post, China relaxes ‘zero covid’ policy in wake of protests, Christian Shepherd and Lyric Li, Dec. 7, 2022. China eased measures in a 10-point plan that also said people with less severe infections could quarantine at home rather than in centralized facilities.

china flag SmallChina announced on Wednesday that frequent coronavirus tests and digital health codes, two pillars of its “zero covid” policy, would no longer be required for daily life or to travel within the country — a significant relaxation of previously unyielding restrictions that were protested in more than a dozen cities across the country in recent weeks.

The State Council, China’s cabinet, released a 10-point plan that also said those with less severe infections could quarantine at home rather than in centralized facilities, unless they “volunteer” to go into care. Apartment stairwells or floors would no long be considered high-risk zones after five consecutive days without any new cases, and residents must be released from these zones in a timely fashion.

Digital health passes, region-specific apps that track movement and testing history, will no longer be required for access to most buildings or public transport. Developed by major Chinese technology firms on behalf of the government, the QR codes generated by the software have been a central part of China’s extensive contact tracing.

See what led protesters to a breaking point with China’s ‘zero covid’ policy

They became so essential to getting around that people speak with terror of being “pop-upped” when a sudden notification switches your code from green to red, identifying you as an at-risk person.

 

Leftist Pedro Castillo, right, narrowly defeated ultra-right candidate Keiko Fujimoro, left, in Peru's presidential elections in June 2021, according to official counts that Fujimoro is protesting.

Leftist Pedro Castillo, right, narrowly defeated ultra-right candidate Keiko Fujimoro, left, in Peru's presidential elections in June 2021, according to official counts that Fujimoro protested.

Bloomberg, Peru’s President Accused of Coup After Move to Dissolve Congress, Stephan Kueffner and Matthew Bristow, Dec. 7, 2022.
Castillo declares government of exception, imposes curfew; Surprising dissolution an illegal move, political analysts say.

Peru President Pedro Castillo announced the dissolution of congress and called for legislative elections to draft a new constitution hours before an impeachment debate, escalating a political crisis and putting the Latin American nation’s democracy under threat. Members of the constitutional court described the move as “a coup.”

pedro castillo“We took the decision of establishing a government of exception toward re-establishing the rule of law and democracy,” Castillo said in a televised speech Wednesday, adding that the incoming congress will draft a new constitution within nine months. “From today and until the new congress is established, we will govern through decrees.”

peru flag2Castillo also announced a curfew and the “reorganization” of Peru’s justice system including the top courts at the same time he pledged to respect private property and business freedom. He also said all illegal arms in possession of Peruvians must be handed back to the police within 72 hours.

He faced immediate pushback from the constitutional court, with members declaring that Castillo was no longer in charge of the country.

Washington Post, Peru’s congress removes President Castillo after he tries to dissolve it, Simeon Tegel and Diana Durán, Dec. 7, 2022. Pedro Castillo began Wednesday as the beleaguered but still lawful president of Peru. By the day’s end, he was out of office and behind bars, ousted by furious legislators after he tried to dissolve without the constitutional authority or the political support to succeed.

Castillo was arrested in Lima after lawmakers, including several erstwhile allies, voted overwhelmingly to remove him. Vice President Dina Boluarte was sworn as Peru’s first female president.

Castillo’s dramatic ouster — and the sight of him in custody — came as a relief to Peruvians ground down by the continuous fire hose of his corruption scandals, verbal gaffes and ineptitude. But in his 17 months in office, analysts say, he caused deep and lasting damage to this South American nation’s economy and institutions.

After running four campaigns in two years, Sen. Raphael Warnock won’t be on the ballot again until 2028 — but at least 23 of his Democratic colleagues are up for reelection in 2024, giving Republicans a leg up in their attempt to retake the chamber.

ny times logoNew York Times, Drone Attacks Hit Russia for 2nd Straight Day, Marc Santora, Mike Ives and Ivan Nechepurenko, Dec. 7, 2022 (print ed.). A blast at an oil facility near an airfield came a day after Ukraine used drones to hit two military bases in Russia, bringing the conflict closer to Moscow.

ukraine flagA drone attack on Tuesday struck near an air base in Russia, a local official said, a day after Ukraine used drones to hit two military bases deep inside the country in one of its most brazen attacks in the nine-month war. If Ukraine’s forces are confirmed to have been involved in the latest strike, it would add to signs that Kyiv is willing to bring the war closer to Moscow and to President Vladimir V. Putin.

Russian officials did not directly accuse Ukraine in Tuesday’s attack, which hit an oil facility near an airfield in the Kursk region, 80 miles from the Ukrainian border. The regional governor said on Tuesday that a fire caused by the strike had been extinguished and that there were no injuries.

Ukraine’s willingness to hit far inside Russia’s border has altered the geography of the war, shown failures in Moscow’s air defense systems and signaled Kyiv’s determination that Russia pay a heavier price for its unrelenting assault on Ukraine’s infrastructure. After Monday’s drone strikes, Russia launched a volley of missiles at Ukraine that left half of the capital region of Kyiv without electricity and worsened rolling power outages across the country. Many Ukrainians have been without heat and water in frigid temperatures.

Monday’s attacks struck two military installations hundreds of miles inside the Russian border — the Engels airfield and the Dyagilevo military base — according to Russia’s Defense Ministry and a senior Ukrainian official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to convey sensitive information. The drones were launched from Ukrainian territory, and in at least one of the strikes Ukrainian special forces working near the base helped guide the drones to the target, the senior official said.

Ukraine has not explicitly claimed responsibility for those strikes, as is its practice regarding military actions inside Russia. Yurii Ihnat, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force, said that the damage to the airfield at Engels appeared minimal. “But it is an alarming signal for them,” he said on Ukrainian national television.

washington post logoWashington Post, Argentine Vice President Cristina Kirchner found guilty of corruption, David Feliba, Dec. 7, 2022 (print ed.). Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, a prominent and polarizing figure in Latin America who served two terms as president of Argentina, was convicted Tuesday on corruption charges, sentenced to six years in prison and given a lifetime ban from holding public office.

A panel of three judges found the 69-year-old Peronista, perhaps the nation’s most influential politician of the past two decades, guilty of fraud during her tenure as president for directing millions of dollars in taxpayer money to a family friend. She was acquitted of charges that she headed an illicit organization that engineered bribes and overpricing tied to roadwork projects in Patagonia.

Kirchner has denied wrongdoing and is expected to appeal. She has called the court a “firing squad” engaged in political persecution that’s aimed at keeping her from running for a third term as president next year. As vice president and a senator, she enjoys immunity from incarceration and the ban from running for public office until her appeals are exhausted, which will probably take years.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Bodybuilders dying as coaches and judges encourage extreme measures, Jenn Abelson, Nate Jones and Ladka Bauerova, Dec. 7, 2022. A Washington Post investigation into the deaths of more than two dozen bodybuilders reveals the devastating consequences of a sport that for years has operated under the halo of health and fitness.

The lack of safeguards has led to sick and dead bodybuilders in different federations around the world, said Georgina Dunnington, who was involved in the bodybuilding industry for 30 years and judged top competitions such as the Arnold Classic in Columbus, Ohio.

She said the federations and a constellation of businesses around them are profiting off vulnerable athletes who rarely earn enough contest money to cover the thousands of dollars they spend to compete.

“You need to put the athletes before the money,” said Dunnington, who served as the chairperson of the Canadian Bodybuilding Federation until 2020. “We fail the athletes 110 percent on every aspect of the sport. We validated so many wrong things and made them acceptable.”

Those who survived the bodybuilding lifestyle described the lasting impact: kidney failure, stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, thyroid dysfunction, enlarged hearts, hormonal imbalances, hair loss, infertility, eating disorders, muscle dysmorphia and depression, along with various orthopedic injuries.

Sally Sandoe, whose 31-year-old son Luke died in the United Kingdom in 2020, said it’s inexplicable that so many bodybuilders are getting sick and dying and no one is confronting the problem.

“It is an absolute free-for-all,” Sandoe said. “There’s just real destruction and devastation and destroyed lives. How is that fair? How can that carry on? It can’t. It has to stop.”

 

Trump, Finances, Insurrection, Allies, Disputes

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s lawyers found items marked classified at his Fla. storage unit, Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey, Spencer S. Hsu, Devlin Barrett and Rosalind S. Helderman, Dec. 7, 2022. The former president’s lawyers have told federal authorities no classified material was found in additional searches of Trump Tower in New York and his golf club in Bedminster, N.J.

Lawyers for Donald Trump found at least two items marked classified after an outside team hired by Trump searched a storage unit in West Palm Beach, Fla., used by the former president, according to people familiar with the matter.

Those items were immediately turned over to the FBI, according to those people, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

The search was one of at least three searches for classified materials conducted by an outside team at Trump properties in recent weeks, after Trump’s legal team was pressed by a federal judge to attest that it had fully complied with a May grand jury subpoena to turn over all materials bearing classified markings, according to people familiar with the matter.

There has been a lengthy and fierce battle between Trump’s attorneys and the Justice Department in a Washington federal court in recent weeks, according to people familiar with the matter. Much of the legal wrangling remains under seal by a federal judge, but people familiar with the matter say the Justice Department has raised concerns about what prosecutors view as a long-standing failure to fully comply with the May subpoena by Trump’s team.

Emails released by the General Services Administration, which assists former presidents during their transition to private life, show that the government agency helped rent the storage unit at a private facility in West Palm Beach on July 21, 2021. The unit was needed to store items that had been held at an office in Northern Virginia used by Trump staffers in the months just after he left office.

The warrant authorizing the search of former president Donald Trump’s home said agents were seeking documents possessed in violation of the Espionage Act. (Video: Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

The emails show that the GSA and Trump staffers worked together to arrange to ship several pallets of boxes and other items weighing more than 3,000 pounds from Northern Virginia to the Florida storage unit in September 2021.

A person familiar with the matter said the storage unit had a mix of boxes, gifts, suits and clothes, among other things. “It was suits and swords and wrestling belts and all sorts of things,” this person said. “To my knowledge, he has never even been to that storage unit. I don’t think anyone in Trump World could tell you what’s in that storage unit.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats ramp up investigation of Kushner family business dealings, Michael Kranish, Dec. 7, 2022. Democrats on a pair of congressional committees have launched an aggressive new effort to obtain information about whether Jared Kushner’s actions on U.S. policy in the Persian Gulf region as a senior White House adviser were influenced by the bailout of a property owned by his family business.

Citing previously undisclosed emails and other documents related to former president Donald Trump’s son-in-law, the committees on Monday night sent letters to the State and Defense departments requesting material that they say could shed new light on whether “Kushner’s financial conflict of interest may have led him to improperly influence U.S. tax, trade and national security policies for his own financial gain.”

The letters, obtained by The Washington Post, focus on efforts by Kushner and his father, Charles Kushner, to bail out a troubled 41-story Fifth Avenue office building in New York City. The Kushner company in 2018 made a deal with a Canadian company, Brookfield Asset Management, which invested $1.2 billion for a 99-year lease. As a result, the Kushner family company avoided defaulting on a loan that was due the following year.

ron wydenDemocrats have long raised questions about the deal because the Qatar Investment Authority, a sovereign wealth fund, had a stake in one of Brookfield’s investment arms.

Brookfield said when it was negotiating its deal in 2018 that “no Qatar-linked entity has any involvement in or even knowledge of this potential transaction.” But Democrats have continued probing whether any Qatari money went into the project.

carolyn maloney oNow, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), in their roles as chairs of the Senate Finance Committee and House Oversight Committee, have broadened that inquiry, co-authoring letters to the State and Defense departments. They wrote that they are seeking an array of documents addressing their concerns that Jared Kushner’s role in Middle East policy could have played a role in the bailout.

Neither Jared Kushner, who now runs a private-equity company, nor Charles Kushner, who serves as chairman of the Kushner real estate company, responded to requests for comment.

The saga of the Fifth Avenue property has long been one of the darkest chapters in Jared Kushner’s career.

After his father went to prison for federal tax evasion and other charges after being convicted in 2005, Kushner — who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump — remade the family real estate business. He sold many of the company’s New Jersey apartments and paid $1.8 billion for the Fifth Avenue property, the most ever paid in the United States for an office building at that time. While Kushner called it a “great acquisition,” the purchase came just before the 2007 real estate crash, undercutting the value of the property and putting the family business at risk.

As Kushner recounted in “Breaking History,” his recent memoir: “There was no way I was going to let the investment fail. I had very little leverage, so I was willing to talk to anybody.” He called it the biggest challenge of his career.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Is Bedeviled by Company’s Conviction and Senate Candidate’s Defeat, Maggie Haberman, Dec. 7, 2022. The Trump Organization was branded a felon and Herschel Walker was defeated, in one of Donald Trump’s worst days since announcing his presidential candidacy.

Tuesday’s conviction of the Trump Organization on charges of financial impropriety, coupled with the loss by former President Donald J. Trump’s candidate in the Georgia Senate runoff, marked one of the worst days for Mr. Trump since he announced his presidential candidacy roughly three weeks ago.

First came the events in the city where he was born and raised.

In New York, the jury that heard the case brought by the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, deliberated over two days before returning guilty verdicts on all 17 counts related to a tax-fraud scheme, a sweeping condemnation of the company that bears Mr. Trump’s name.

A lawyer for the company said officials will appeal the verdict, which was due in part to testimony from its longtime chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty to failing to pay taxes on company perks.

Mr. Trump said that he was “disappointed” with the verdict and pointed the finger at Mr. Weisselberg, suggesting he was a lone wolf. But in a morning post on his social media website, Truth Social, Mr. Trump had criticized the district attorney and accused him of running a “Witch Hunt for D.C. against ‘Trump’ over Fringe Benefits, something that in the history of our Country, has never been so tried in Court before.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Conviction Won’t Be a Financial Death Sentence for the Trump Organization, Ben Protess and Jonah E. Bromwich Dec. 7, 2022.  Former President Trump’s family business will be forever tarred, but the maximum penalty it faces is relatively mild.

The conviction of Donald J. Trump’s family business on Tuesday represented a devastating blow to the former president, exposing what prosecutors called a “culture of fraud and deception” at his company and providing his political rivals with ammunition as he embarks on a third presidential campaign.

The Trump Organization itself, however, faces a much milder threat.

The maximum penalty the company could pay is $1.62 million, a drop in the bucket for the Trump Organization, which often raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue per year during his presidency. The company has spent more money paying its lawyers to fight the case.

The size of the potential punishment underscores that while the tax fraud conviction has forever tarred the Trump Organization’s name — and branded it a felonious enterprise — the company is facing far less than a financial death sentence.‌ ‌And it helps explains why the company was unwilling to plead guilty.

The Trump Organization resisted a deal even after its long-serving chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg, agreed to plead guilty and testify at the company’s trial, which was focused on off-the-books luxury perks that the company doled out to some of its executives.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office did not accuse Mr. Trump, or anyone in his family, of taking part in the scheme, though prosecutors named the former president and his adult children liberally at trial. In their closing arguments, they used a single exhibit to try to convince jurors that Mr. Trump had approved of the scheme.

Although the Trump Organization has maintained its innocence — and Mr. Trump has chalked up the case to a politically motivated witch hunt by the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg — the company might have been more willing to strike a deal if it ‌had been facing a harsher punishment.‌ ‌

It is unclear what changes Mr. Trump might make to the company in the wake of the verdict. The Trump Organization is a collection of more than 500 corporate entities, only two of which were on trial.

It is possible that he could shutter those corporations — the Trump Corporation and ‌the ‌Trump Payroll Corp. — without much effort.

A company, of course, cannot be imprisoned, and the two convicted Trump corporations are not publicly traded. As such, there are no financial regulators to punish them or public investors to flee from them.‌ ‌

The Trump Corporation and ‌the ‌Trump Payroll Corp. are‌ also‌ not central to Mr. Trump’s moneymaking enterprise. They largely perform back-office functions, employing and paying top executives, so they do not hold any loans, liquor licenses‌ or other privileges that might slip away in the wake of the conviction.
‌ ‌
That’s not to say that the reputational harm from the conviction won’t inflict some damage. It ‌could scare off potential lenders and business partners, or enable them to impose stricter terms on Mr. Trump. Local governments that do business with Mr. Trump — he operates public golf courses in Los Angeles and the Bronx — might use the verdict as leverage to wiggle out of their contracts, and it could discourage other government agencies from doing deals with him.

 

stormy daniels djt

ny times logoNew York Times, Michael Avenatti Gets 14-Year Sentence for Stealing Millions From Clients, Eduardo Medina, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). Michael Avenatti, the michael avenatti twitter photobrash lawyer known for representing the pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels (shown above) in lawsuits against former President Donald J. Trump, was sentenced on Monday to 14 years in prison for stealing millions of dollars from his clients and obstructing the Internal Revenue Service’s efforts to collect taxes from his coffee business, federal prosecutors said.

Mr. Avenatti, who rose to national prominence in 2018 while representing Ms. Daniels, was also ordered to pay nearly $11 million in restitution to the four clients he stole from, including a person who is paraplegic and has mental health issues, and to the I.R.S., the Justice Department said in a news release.

Prosecutors said Mr. Avenatti obstructed I.R.S. efforts to collect more than $3.2 million in unpaid payroll taxes, which includes money that he withheld from the paychecks of employees who worked for his coffee company, Global Baristas US LLC.

His 14-year prison sentence will run consecutively to the five-year prison term he is currently serving for two separate convictions in New York, prosecutors said. He has been in prison since Feb. 7.

 

djt rudy giuliani

washington post logoWashington Post, Giuliani ‘weaponized’ law license in Trump election suit, D.C. Bar argues, Keith L. Alexander, Dec. 7, 2022 (print ed.). Trump adviser should be disbarred over ‘frivolous’ lawsuit, prosecuting attorney says.

Former New York City Republican mayor Rudy Giuliani defended his role challenging the 2020 presidential election as President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Monday, after the D.C. Bar accused Giuliani of misusing his law license and called for it to be revoked.

During his testimony before the D.C. Board on Professional Responsibility of the D.C. Bar, Giuliani at times minimized his role in a lawsuit that falsely alleged the November 2020 general presidential election was wrought with fraud in the key state of Pennsylvania after President Biden was declared winner.

Hamilton “Phil” Fox III, the lead prosecuting attorney for D.C. Bar’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel, called Giuliani’s fraud allegations in Pennsylvania “unfounded” and said they misrepresented or took advantage of two unprecedented events affecting the state: Pennsylvania had just started using mail-in ballots for the election, and the coronavirus pandemic forced independent observers to be distanced from poll workers tasked with opening mail-in ballots and reviewing signatures.

Fox argued that although several courts in Pennsylvania found “kinks” in the new voting system in Pennsylvania, there was no evidence of fraud.

Despite such court assertions, Giuliani “weaponized his law license by filing a frivolous lawsuit” and as a result, should have his licensed suspended or revoked, Fox said.

“There was no case in law nor fact for which Mr. Giuliani set forth on grounds of fraud,” Fox said.

Giuliani’s lawsuit on behalf of Trump seeking to throw out votes cast in the state was rejected by a judge. A federal appeals court refused to let the campaign file a revised complaint.

Giuliani and his attorney, John Leventhal, argued that Trump asked Giuliani to join the case a day after the elections and to “quickly” get up to speed on election results in at least 10 other states, including Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin, Georgia, Nevada, North and South Carolina, and New Mexico.

Leventhal argued that because Trump’s legal challenge did not go forward, there was no legal reason for Giuliani to have his law license revoked.

“The complaint was not accepted. This was never accepted by the court,” Leventhal said.

Under cross examination by Fox, Giuliani said another attorney drafted the initial fraud complaint and that he added a “few paragraphs.”

Fox introduced a second complaint that was filed, in which Giuliani said the fraud allegations were removed. But then Giuliani admitted that he instructed to have the fraud allegations added back into the complaint.

Repeatedly during questioning, Fox argued that Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor, was not answering his questions.

Testimony in the Giuliani hearings is expected to continue through this week and can be viewed via live on the web. At one point during Monday’s hearing, more than 1,000 viewers were tuned into the YouTube channel.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jan. 6 special counsel subpoenas Ariz., Wis. and Mich. officials for Trump communications, Amy Gardner, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Patrick Marley, Dec. 7, 2022. The requests seek all communications with former president Donald Trump, his campaign, and his top aides and lawyers involved in efforts to overturn the 2020 result.

Special counsel Jack Smith has sent grand jury subpoenas to local officials in Arizona, Michigan and Wisconsin — three states that were central to President Donald Trump’s failed plan to stay in power following the 2020 election — seeking any and all communications with Trump, his campaign, and a long list of aides and allies.

The requests for records arrived in Dane County, Wis.; Maricopa County, Ariz.; and Wayne County, Mich., late last week, and in Milwaukee on Monday, officials said. They are among the first known subpoenas issued since Smith was named last month by Attorney General Merrick Garland to oversee Trump-related aspects of the investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, as well as the criminal probe of Trump’s possible mishandling of classified documents at his Florida home and private club.

The subpoenas, at least three of which are dated Nov. 22, indicate that the Justice Department is extending its examination of the circumstances leading up to the Capitol attack to include local election officials and their potential interactions with the former president and his representatives related to the 2020 election.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump team searches two of his properties amid court battle with DOJ, Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey, Spencer S. Hsu and Devlin Barrett, Dec. 7, 2022. The former president’s lawyers say no classified documents were found at Trump Tower in New York or at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J.

Lawyers for former president Donald Trump conducted a search of at least two of his properties for classified materials in recent weeks, after they were instructed by a federal judge to attest they had fully complied with a May grand jury subpoena to turn over all materials bearing classified markings, according to people familiar with the matter.

Trump’s legal team hired an outside firm to carry out the search of his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., and, more recently, Trump Tower in New York, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information.

The team also offered the FBI the opportunity to observe the search, but the offer was declined, the people said. It would be unusual for federal agents to monitor a search of someone’s property conducted by anyone other than another law enforcement agency. Federal authorities have already searched Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s primary residence, and he spends almost all of his time at those three properties, advisers say.

Trump’s lawyers have told the Justice Department that the outside team did not turn up any new classified information during their search, according to people familiar with the process, and have said they utilized a firm that had expertise in searching for documents.

Recent Headlines

 

Ukraine War

 

 

United Nations

ny times logoNew York Times, A U.N. report documented 441 killings of civilians around Kyiv early in the war, Andrew E. Kramer, Dec. 7, 2022. The United Nations has detailed extrajudicial killings by the Russian Army during the first month of the war that it described as likely war crimes, releasing a report on Wednesday that offered a harrowing, fine-grained examination of the risks to civilians in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine.

A report by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights documented 441 killings of civilians in areas along the Russian attack route toward the capital, Kyiv, on both the west and east banks of the Dnipro River. Of these, 28 were children, the report said. It said the total number of killings in the area was “likely considerably higher.”

The report, whose aim was to document war crimes and assist future prosecutions, arose from one of several international investigations into the macabre scenes discovered in the wake of the Russian Army’s retreat from Kyiv. Ukrainian prosecutors are also collecting evidence.

 washington post logoWashington Post, On east front with Ukrainian troops: Constant shelling, no heat or coffee, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Dec. 7, 2022. Battling mud and newly mobilized Russian reinforcements, Ukrainian forces are advancing slowly into occupied Luhansk, where Moscow is trying to avoid a new defeat.

Deep in the forest and less than a mile from enemy Russian positions, the sound of incoming artillery landing nearby thunders every few minutes. The landscape is littered with unexploded ordnance, so the Ukrainian soldiers don’t dare step anywhere they have not before. They pack light because they might be on the move quickly — forward, they hope.

In their cramped, hastily dug mud outpost, they apologize that they only have tea — no room for coffee.

Less than a month after Moscow withdrew its troops from the western bank of the Dnieper River and the city of Kherson — the sole regional capital Russia had captured in this invasion — the focus of the war has once again turned to eastern Ukraine, where Russia has stoked armed conflict since 2014.

Here, Ukraine is still on the offensive. But the gains are slower and harder-fought than the surprise counteroffensive that expelled Russian forces from nearly the entire northeast Kharkiv region in just one week in September.

The fight here epitomizes the grinding pace that military analysts and Western intelligence officials expect the war to slow to this winter. Ukrainians have refuted suggestions of an operational pause, saying that would just give Russia time to regenerate its forces at a moment they appear weakened.

But Ukrainian soldiers concede that the battles in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions, collectively known as Donbas, are tougher — perhaps reflecting the new priority of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his commanders: avoiding further defeats after the humiliating retreats from the north and south.

Putin has repeatedly said that the main goal of his war is to “liberate” all of Donbas, meaning losses in the region would mark a clear and obvious failure.

 

 vladimir putin puffy face

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Putin Acknowledges Fighting in Ukraine ‘Might Be a Long Process,’ Ivan Nechepurenko, Dec. 7, 2022. Speaking at a meeting with Russian journalists, activists and public figures, President Vladimir Putin, shown above in a file photo, also said there was no need to mobilize more troops.

President Vladimir V. Putin said on Wednesday that Russia’s war effort in Ukraine “might be a long process.” But despite mounting fears within Russia that the Kremlin might draft another wave of fighters, he said that as of now there was no need to mobilize more troops.

Russian FlagSpeaking at a meeting with members of the Kremlin’s human rights council — a loyal group of journalists, activists and public figures — Mr. Putin said that half of the 300,000 civilians conscripted to fight in Ukraine as part of a call-up announced in September were still training outside combat zones. About 77,000 of them are currently engaged in fighting in Ukraine, he said, with the rest serving in territorial defense units or training.

“In these conditions, the talk about some additional mobilization efforts make no sense,” the Russian leader said. “There is no need for this for the state and for the Defense Ministry.”

After suffering a series of setbacks in the war, Mr. Putin announced the “partial mobilization” of troops in late September. The decision shook Russian society, and thousands of men rushed to leave the country, some paying exorbitant prices for flights to whatever destinations they could manage to get tickets to.

The mobilization effort was hampered by chaos and inefficiency, with some enlistment offices trying to fill their quotas at any cost. Many conscripts have reported that little training was provided and that whole units were left without commanders. Some complained that they had to buy their own equipment and uniforms.

In the face of criticism, Mr. Putin announced the end of that draft in October, although he did not issue an official order to stop it. That has prompted fears that the Kremlin might announce another wave at any moment.

Adding to the worries is a continuing series of setbacks for Russian forces in Ukraine, including their recent retreat from the southern city of Kherson.

On Wednesday, Mr. Putin appeared to acknowledge that the war, now in its 10th month, is taking much longer that the Kremlin had expected, saying that the conflict “might be a long process.” But he also said that Russia had become bigger by annexing Ukrainian territory.

Here’s what we know:

  • Amid setbacks on the battlefield, and fears in Russia that more soldiers will be conscripted, the Russian leader says he is not mobilizing additional forces for now.
  • Putin says Russia doesn’t currently need to conscript more troops.
  • A U.N. report documents 441 killings of civilians around Kyiv.
  • How Russia’s campaign of terror in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha unfolded.
  • Ukraine escalates its offensive in Luhansk, aided by a winter freeze, officials say.
  • Zelensky is named Time’s person of the year.
  • The U.S. stops short of condemning attacks inside Russia, but says it didn’t encourage them.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Kyiv allies cautious after drone attacks on Russian military installations, Erin Cunningham, Missy Ryan, Jennifer Hassan and Emily Rauhala, Dec. 7, 2022. Ukraine’s allies are walking a fine line after a series of drone strikes targeting Russian military airfields this week, seeking to acknowledge Ukraine’s right to defend itself by hitting military targets, while also balancing concerns about escalating the conflict.

antony blinken o newSecretary of State Antony Blinken, right, told reporters Tuesday that the United States has “neither encouraged nor enabled” Ukraine to carry out attacks inside Russia. Separately, a Western official said in a background news briefing: “Attacks on legitimate targets would be legal, but that’s not to say that we support or endorse.”

Kyiv has not publicly claimed responsibility for the attacks, which are the most brazen and far-reaching inside Russia since its invasion in February. But a senior Ukrainian official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive operation, told The Washington Post on Tuesday that all three attacks were carried out by Ukrainian drones.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

Key developments

  • The recent strikes show that Ukraine “can operate in Russia at will — and that will scare the Russians,” the Western official said Tuesday, adding: “The Russians will be doubting their ability to defend their strategic assets in Russia.”
  • Asked whether the United States was working to prevent Ukraine from developing its own ability to strike inside Russia, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Tuesday: “No. Absolutely not.”
  • Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called a U.S. plan to deliver a further $800 million to Ukraine “extremely confrontational” on Wednesday. The measure was adopted by lawmakers Tuesday as part of a larger defense spending bill. The United States has pledged more than $19 billion in security assistance for Ukraine, including Stinger missiles, air defense systems, combat drones and artillery equipment.

Battleground updates

  • Russia is working to extend defensive positions along its international border with Ukraine and inside its Belgorod region, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Wednesday, noting that Russia was installing “more elaborate” defense systems.
  • The Russian military said Ukraine used a “Soviet-era made” drone in at least one of the attacks this week. Alexander Kots, a prominent military correspondent with the Kremlin-friendly newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, said the Engels air base was hit on Monday by a Soviet Tu-141 Strizh unmanned aerial vehicle, which uses technology from the 1970s.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited his country’s forces near the front line in the eastern Donetsk region on Tuesday. In an address marking Ukraine’s Armed Forces Day, Zelensky said the country “cannot be defeated and cannot be broken.” He continued: “Thousands of Ukrainians gave their lives for the day to come when not a single occupier remains on our land and all our people are free again.”
  • Russia and Ukraine carried out a prisoner swap Tuesday, exchanging 60 prisoners each, officials said. Andriy Yermak, Ukraine’s presidential chief of staff, told Reuters that some of the returned Ukrainian prisoners were those who held +out in the besieged city of Mariupol earlier this year. Russia’s Defense Ministry said the Russian prisoners would be flown to Moscow to receive medical care and psychological support, Reuters reported.

Global impact

  • The conditions for a peaceful resolution to the war in Ukraine are “not there now,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said. He blamed Russia for failing to participate in negotiations that respect “the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
  • The State Department approved a potential sale of more than 100 M1A1 Abrams tanks to Poland, the Pentagon said Tuesday. The deal, which includes munitions, combat recovery vehicles and other related equipment, is worth $3.75 billion. European nations have stepped up major weapons purchases this year to defend against Russian military aggression.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin “has no genuine interest in negotiation or meaningful diplomacy” to end the war in Ukraine, the United States told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday. Ambassador Lisa Carty, the U.S. representative to the U.N. Economic and Social Council, said Putin is “trying to break Ukraine’s will to fight by bombing and freezing its civilians into submission.”
  • Hungary vetoed an 18 billion euro ($19 billion) financial aid package to Kyiv, deepening the rift between the right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban and other European Union member states. David Pressman, the U.S. ambassador to Hungary, said Tuesday that he was traveling to Brussels “to consult with Hungarian officials and senior European Union and NATO counterparts on a range of pressing issues of shared concern,” the Associated Press reported.

Related Headlines 

 
U.S. Courts, Crime, Regulation

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Supreme Court Is Turning Into a Court of First Resort, Jamelle Bouie, right, Dec. 7, 2022. Last week, the Supreme Court granted a jamelle bouiewrit of certiorari “before judgment” in Biden v. Nebraska, which will determine the legality of the president’s student loan debt relief program.

What this means is that the court will hear this case on the merits before it makes its way through lower federal courts of appeal. This is unusual.

Traditionally, the Supreme Court hears a case only after it has gone through a federal trial court (the “district” court) and a federal appeals court, except for cases where it has original jurisdiction. As the legal scholar Steve Vladeck notes in an article on this subject in his Substack newsletter, “The longstanding statutory and normative preference is for appeals to be taken only after ‘final judgments,’ i.e., when all of the factual and legal issues have been resolved to the maximum extent possible.”

As the Supreme Court itself has often said in its own opinions, it is a “court of review, not first view.”

In 1925, Congress explicitly gave the Supreme Court the power to be a court of first view as part of a package of reforms meant to reduce the court’s workload. But in keeping with tradition, it used this authority sparingly. From 1925 to 1988, the court issued certiorari before judgment in just a handful of the cases it heard during that period. And from 1988, when Congress made additional reforms to the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction, to 2019, the court granted certiorari before judgment in three cases: Clark v. Roemer in 1991, Gratz v. Bollinger in 2002 and United States v. Fanfan in 2004.

Biden v. Nebraska marks the 18th time since 2019 that the court has granted certiorari before judgment. It is, as Vladeck writes, a “remarkable shift.”

He hazards a few guesses as to why the court has made this change. Perhaps it is a response to the rise of nationwide injunctions from district courts (although this accounts for only five of the 18 cases in which the court has granted certiorari before judgment). Perhaps it is a response to the rise of state lawsuits against the federal government, although, again, only a few of the cases involve the states as plaintiffs.

Or maybe it’s just a sign that the justices are in a “hurry” and have a “lower bar when it comes to the kind of ‘emergency’ that justifies such an early-stage intervention.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Hears Case That Could Transform Federal Elections, Adam Liptak, Dec. 7, 2022. The “independent state legislature theory” would give state lawmakers nearly unchecked power over federal elections. Listen to live audio.

The Supreme Court is hearing arguments on Wednesday about whether to adopt a legal theory that would radically reshape how federal elections are conducted. The theory would give state legislatures enormous and largely unchecked power to set all sorts of election rules, notably by drawing congressional maps warped by partisan gerrymandering.

The Supreme Court has never endorsed the “independent state legislature” theory, but four of its conservative members have issued opinions that seemed to take it very seriously.

The theory is based on a reading of the Constitution’s Elections Clause, which says: “The times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof.”

Proponents of the strongest form of the theory say this means that no other organ of state government can alter a legislature’s actions on federal elections. They say that state supreme courts cannot require state laws to conform to state constitutions, that governors may not use their veto power to reject bills about federal elections, that election administrators may not issue regulations adjusting legislative enactments to take account of, say, a pandemic and that voters may not create independent redistricting commissions to address gerrymandering.

 

samuel rappylee bateman polygamous town arrest 221204 69

washington post logoWashington Post, Polygamist leader claimed 20 ‘wives,’ including minors, FBI says, Marisa Iati, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). The self-proclaimed prophet claimed it was “impressions of Heavenly Father’s will” that spurred him to force his followers, including children, to engage in sexual acts, according to new allegations from the FBI.

samuel rappylee batemanSamuel Rappylee Bateman, right, a leader of an offshoot of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, allegedly counted his own daughter and other juvenile girls among his more than 20 “wives.” Many of them were younger than 15, an FBI agent wrote in a court document filed Friday.

Bateman’s alleged foray into polygamy began in 2019, when he was married to one woman and had a daughter who was roughly 14. While in the car one day, the daughter later told investigators, Bateman said that he felt like she was his wife and that he would make her have a child if his feelings turned out to be right.

When Bateman told his actual wife, she moved out of their home with their daughter and got a restraining order against him, according to the court filing, previously reported by the Salt Lake Tribune. But Bateman allegedly continued to tell his daughter that he wanted to kiss and touch her. From then on, the FBI agent wrote, he accumulated wives.

Bateman, 46, is in federal custody in Arizona on obstruction of justice charges for allegedly asking followers to delete his Signal phone app, which he used to communicate with them and his wives. He has pleaded not guilty to that charge and to state-level child abuse charges.

Bateman has not been charged with sex crimes, although the FBI agent said there is probable cause to believe that he engaged in criminal sexual activity with minors in 2020 and 2021. His attorneys did not respond to a message seeking comment Monday.

FBI logoThe FBI affidavit, filed in the Eastern District of Washington, paints a picture of a long-running setup in which Bateman tried to use God as a defense for repeatedly manipulating his so-called wives and some of his male followers into engaging in sexual acts. The allegations follow the escape — and subsequent discovery — of several girls who had been in state custody after being removed from the rest of Bateman’s roughly 50 followers.

Two people who talked with investigators — a woman who tried to help members of Bateman’s group and her husband, who was filming a documentary — told them that Bateman had driven to their home on the Arizona-Utah border in late 2020. He allegedly arrived in a large SUV filled with women and girls, the youngest of whom was roughly 9, and introduced them all as his wives.

In a separate incident, the FBI agent wrote, a recording captured Bateman saying God had told him to give “his girls’ virtue” to some of his male followers by forcing them to have sex while others watched.

 

washington post logoWashington Post, Elizabeth Holmes’s former Theranos business partner sentenced to nearly 13 years, Rachel Lerman, Dec. 7, 2022. Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, the former president and COO of the infamous blood testing start-up, was convicted on 12 fraud-related charges.

Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, the one time second-in-command to disgraced Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, was sentenced to nearly 13 years in prison Wednesday as the saga of the blood-testing start-up draws to a close.

Balwani, the company’s former president and chief operating officer, was convicted earlier this year on 12 counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Federal District Judge Edward J. Davila sentenced him in San Jose Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.

Balwani received a slightly harsher sentence than his former partner. Holmes, the once highflying CEO of Theranos, was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison last month after being found guilty on four counts of misleading investors about the company’s technology and business.

“It clearly sends a signal to Silicon Valley that puffery and fraud and misrepresentation will be prosecuted, there will be consequences and the end result is potentially decades in prison,” said Michael Weinstein, chairman of the white collar criminal defense group at law firm Cole Schotz, who has been following the case.

 

Colorado Springs shooting suspect Anderson Aldrich, shown with his mother Laura Voepel

Colorado Springs shooting suspect Anderson Aldrich, shown with his mother Laura Voepel

 ny times logoNew York Times, Suspect in Colorado Springs Attack Charged With Murder and Hate Crimes, Dave Philipps, Dec. 7, 2022 (print ed.). Prosecutors lodged a total of 305 criminal counts against the defendant who the police say opened fire in a nightclub serving L.G.B.T.Q. patrons.

The person accused of opening fire in an L.G.B.T.Q. nightclub in Colorado, in a rampage that killed five people and injured at least 17 others, was formally charged on Tuesday with 305 criminal counts, including 10 counts of first-degree murder, 86 of attempted murder and 48 of bias-motivated crimes.

anderson aldrich mugThe police say that the suspect, Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22 (shown battered in a mug shot after patrons sought to save lives by beating him into submission), walked through the front door of Club Q in Colorado Springs near midnight on Nov. 19, wearing body armor and carrying an assault-style rifle, and immediately started firing. The assailant was tackled and beaten into submission by two unarmed club patrons and was held until the police arrived.

The hearing on Tuesday was the first time the defendant appeared in court in person since the shooting. Wearing bright yellow jail scrubs, the defendant was upright and attentive, and appeared to have healed significantly since a video court appearance in the days immediately after the shooting. At that time, the suspect seemed to be slumped over, with eyes swollen shut and a bruised face, and struggled just to speak.

The defendant is being held without bond at the El Paso County jail. After the charges were filed on Tuesday, the judge overseeing the case, Michael McHenry, set a preliminary hearing in the case for February. At the request of prosecutors, the judge agreed to unseal the arrest affidavit by Wednesday.

No clear motive for the shooting has emerged publicly. But the inclusion of charges of bias-motivated crimes, commonly known as hate crimes, by prosecutors suggests that they believe the attack was motivated specifically by antipathy toward the L.G.B.T.Q. community.

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court to Hear Arguments on Far-Reaching Elections Case, Michael Wines, Dec. 7, 2022 (print ed.). In a North Carolina case, the court is being asked to decide whether to expand the authority that state legislatures have over election maps and voting laws.

It is a case “with profound consequences for American democracy,” said J. Michael Luttig, a former federal appeals court judge long a hero to conservatives.

Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht of the Texas Supreme Court, a Republican, has said it is “the biggest federalism issue in a long time, maybe ever.”

On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Moore v. Harper, a dispute between voting rights advocates and North Carolina’s General Assembly, which is controlled by Republicans, that could drastically increase the power that state legislatures have over voting issues.

Just how much power is at issue could become clearer as the arguments play out. But there is no arguing how high the stakes are in this lawsuit. The court is being asked to decide whether state election laws and political maps passed by state legislatures — specifically, a Republican gerrymander of North Carolina’s 14 House seats that the state’s Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional this year — should continue to be subject to judicial review in state courts.

 bureau of prisons logo horizontal

washington post logoWashington Post, Inmates knew of Whitey Bulger prison transfer before he arrived, report finds, Perry Stein, Dec. 7, 2022. An inspector general’s investigation found ‘incompetence’ and policy ‘deficiencies’ contributed to Bulger’s death in prison.

Bureaucratic incompetence and confusing policies contributed to the death of notorious Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger less than 12 hours after officials transferred him from a prison in Florida to another in West Virginia, according to a report released Wednesday from the Justice Department’s inspector general.

The inspector general determined that security protocols were breached and that many inmates knew Bulger would be arriving before his transfer, with some reportedly betting money on how long he would survive once he arrived.

Bulger, who used a wheelchair and had serious heart problems, died at the age of 89 in October 2018. He was found badly bludgeoned in his prison bed. Three people have been charged in connection with his death.

Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz wrote in the report that he found no evidence that Bureau of Prisons staff intentionally tried to put Bulger in harm’s way, though the report does not serve as a criminal investigation.

Whitey Bulger, Boston crime boss and elusive fugitive, dead in prison at 89

Ultimately, the lengthy report found that there were missteps at every step of the transfer and that existing policies were confusing and failed to protect inmates. The inspector general recommended that at least six Bureau of Prisons employees be disciplined for their actions leading up to the killing of Bulger.

“The fact that the serious deficiencies we identified occurred in connection with a high-profile inmate like Bulger was especially concerning given that the BOP would presumably take particular care in handling such a high-profile inmate’s case,” the report reads. “We found that did not occur here, not because of malicious intent or failure to comply with BOP policy, but rather because of staff and management performance failures; bureaucratic incompetence; and flawed, confusing, and insufficient policies, and procedures.”

Bulger, the report found, should never have been transferred to U.S. Penitentiary Hazelton in West Virginia because it was not designated as a medical facility equipped to meet his significant needs.

The report also found emails and at least one phone record showing how Hazelton inmates discussed Bulger’s arrival before his transfer — even though it’s against policy to release this information for security reasons. All the while, many of staff members interviewed said they did not know who he was when he transferred so did not take any additional precautions.

“If i [sic] dont [sic] call you tomorrow than we are locked down for probably 30 days cause we got word whitey bulger [sic] is coming to the yard tonight,” one Hazelton inmate wrote to someone before Bulger had arrived.

Bulger’s reign as Boston’s most brutal gangster spanned three tumultuous decades. He was an FBI informant, recruited to snitch on his Mafia rivals, and he later landed on the bureau’s Most Wanted list after fleeing ahead of an impending grand jury indictment. During his time as a fugitive, Bulger prompted a congressional inquiry and inspired Hollywood villains. He spent more than 16 years on the run before he was arrested in California in 2011.

He served much of his sentence at U.S. Penitentiary Coleman II in Florida. But officials there wanted him transferred after he threatened a nurse. Because of that, the report said, he spent eight months in what was could essentially be considered solitary confinement. Toward the end of his time at Coleman, he told a mental health worker during a suicide risk assessment that he had lost the will to live.

Officials, according to the report, failed to properly document his health issues when they filled out the paperwork to transfer him.

When Bulger filled out paperwork for the transfer, he said that he wanted to be in the general population instead of in solitary. He also said that he was not an FBI informant — something that was false and should have been caught by officials, the report said. Inmates reportedly knew of this and started calling him a “rat” for about an hour after he arrived.

ny times logoNew York Times, Border Patrol Agent Found Guilty of Killing Four Women, Edgar Sandoval, Dec. 7, 2022. Juan David Ortiz, a former supervisory intelligence officer on the border in South Texas, faces life in prison for the murder convictions.

A jury in San Antonio convicted a former Border Patrol agent on Wednesday in the shooting deaths of four women he had encountered in the city of Laredo.

The jury returned its verdict after five hours of deliberations, finding Juan David Ortiz, 39, a former supervisory intelligence officer with the U.S. Border Patrol, guilty of capital murder after a nearly two-week trial. Mr. Ortiz faces life in prison.

Prosecutors told jurors that Mr. Ortiz had picked up prostitutes over the course of 12 days in the fall of 2018 and had taken them to a remote area. The prosecutors said he used his service weapon to kill them.

The killings rattled the border city of Laredo and led to an intense manhunt. Investigators caught a break in the case after a woman who worked as a prostitute told the police that a client had threatened her with a gun and that she narrowly escaped with her life. The woman, Erika Peña, identified her attacker as Mr. Ortiz.

Relatives of the victims — Melissa Ramirez, Claudine Anne Luera, Guiselda Alicia Cantu and Janelle Ortiz — attended the hearings wearing T-shirts with images of their loved ones. At times they cried loudly when they heard graphic descriptions of the women’s last moments.

The prosecutor, Isidro Alaniz, said during closing arguments that Mr. Ortiz targeted his victims because he wanted to “clean up the streets.”

“Mr. Ortiz was a serial killer then and is a serial killer now,” Mr. Alaniz said. “Cold, callous, calculating, just like that. It is terrifying to have the enemy within the ranks of law enforcement.”

Joel Perez, who represented Mr. Ortiz, described his client to jurors as a stellar law enforcement agent, husband and father of three. Mr. Perez said his client had denied wrongdoing and only confessed because of coercion after nine hours of grueling questioning by the police.

“Police officers have a lot of power and we have to have checks and balances on them,” Mr. Perez told the jury in a closing argument. “It was improper inducement. He involuntarily gave that statement.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Letitia James Accused of Protecting Top Aide From Harassment Allegations, Jeffery C. Mays, Jonah E. Bromwich and William K. Rashbaum, Dec. 7, 2022. Sofia Quintanar said that her sexual harassment allegations against the aide were handled differently than similar ones lodged against former Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

leticia james todd heisler nytWhen her office’s investigation of sexual harassment at a Manhattan bar was settled this summer, the New York attorney general, Letitia James, shown at right in a New York Times file photo, was clear about her priorities.

“This settlement is a reminder that no matter the perpetrator, we will not tolerate sexual harassment,” she said in a July statement about the case, which attracted relatively little notice. It was one of many she had issued in which she emphasized the importance of believing women’s accounts of harassment.

But new details from a woman who has accused one of Ms. James’s top aides of harassment have raised questions about whether the attorney general lived up to her words when the accused was one of her closest associates.

The woman, Sofia Quintanar, a former aide to Ms. James, said in an interview that she decided to come forward because she believed that the attorney general was protecting her longtime chief of staff, Ibrahim Khan, and withholding any public finding of wrongdoing rather than aggressively pursuing the investigation.

“I find it just appalling to see how the office handled this publicly,” Ms. Quintanar, 33, told The New York Times in her first public interview about her interaction with Mr. Khan. She said that she decided to come forward because she believed that Ms. James’s office took more care to protect Mr. Khan than the women who accused him of abuse, allowing him to quietly submit his resignation in November with his reputation intact.

Ms. James, in a sit-down interview Wednesday night with Errol Louis of NY1, said that the allegations against Mr. Khan were substantiated and that she believed the women who had accused him of inappropriate touching and kissing.

Asked if the office was considering making a criminal referral, she said that “at this point in time, this is a personnel matter,” but added, “We will consider the possibility of a referral.”

Ms. James said she was angry and disappointed in her longtime aide.

washington post logoWashington Post, Unaccountable: As fatal police shootings increase, more go unreported, Andrew Ba Tran, Marisa Iati and Claire Healy, Dec. 7, 2022 (print ed.). Flawed FBI data has left thousands of deaths uncounted and complicates efforts to hold troubled police departments accountable. More than 1,000 people have been fatally shot by police in the past 12 months. Explore the data here.

Fewer fatal police shootings are recorded by the federal government every year, despite renewed scrutiny of police use of force and millions of dollars spent to encourage local law enforcement to report the data.

FBI logoEven though federal records indicate that fatal shootings by police have been declining nationwide since 2015, The Washington Post’s Fatal Force database shows the opposite is true: Officers have shot and killed more people every year, reaching a record high in 2021 with 1,047 deaths. The FBI database contains only about one third of the 7,000 fatal police shootings during this time — down from half when The Post first started tracking.

Fatal shootings by officers in at least 2,250 police and sheriffs’ departments are missing from the past seven years of federal records, according to an analysis of the database maintained by The Post, which began tracking the killings in 2015. The excluded data has created a misleading government picture of police use of force, complicating efforts at accountability.

The incomplete data also obscures a racial discrepancy among those killed by police that is larger than the federal data suggests. Black people are fatally shot by police far more often than is evident in the FBI data, The Post has found — at more than double the rate for White people.

ny times logoNew York Times, Man Charged With Killing Four Who Were Found Dismembered in Oklahoma, Michael Levenson, Dec. 7, 2022 (print ed.). The men’s remains were found in a river near Okmulgee, Okla., south of Tulsa, in October. All four were fatally shot after they planned to commit some kind of criminal act, the police said.

The owner of an Oklahoma salvage yard has been charged with fatally shooting four friends whose dismembered remains were found in a river in October after they set out to commit a crime together, the authorities said.

The man, Joseph L. Kennedy, 67, was charged with four counts of premeditated murder and was being held without bond in the killing of Mark Chastain, 32; his brother, Billy Chastain, 30; Mike Sparks, 32; and Alex Stevens, 29, according to Carol Iski, the district attorney for McIntosh and Okmulgee Counties in Oklahoma.

Mr. Kennedy and the victims, whose remains were found in the Deep Fork River on Oct. 14, were all from Okmulgee, Okla., a city of about 11,000 people about 40 miles south of Tulsa.

Court documents indicate that the daughter of a woman who was in a romantic relationship with Mr. Kennedy told investigators that he came to her mother’s house on Oct. 10 and told her mother that he “had caught men stealing from him and had shot them.” The daughter said that her mother had told her that “after killing them, he had cut them up,” the records state.

Ms. Iski said that even if the men had been trying to rob Mr. Kennedy, that was not a justification for shooting them.

“I would never be so bold as to predict what the defense might bring up,” Ms. Iski said at a news conference on Monday. “But the last time I checked, regardless of what happened, we don’t have a death penalty in Oklahoma for stealing.”

The district attorney’s office said on Tuesday that Mr. Kennedy did not yet have a lawyer.

The four friends were reported missing on Oct. 10 after they met up the previous night, the police said. Mark Chastain’s wife told the police that the men had been riding bicycles, possibly pulling trailers, court records show.

Other Court News Headlines

 

More World News, Disasters, Human Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Court Dismisses Suit Against Saudi Ruler in Khashoggi Killing, Edward Wong, Dec. 7, 2022 (print ed.). The court followed the Biden administration’s guidance that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, has immunity in a case over the death of Jamal Khashoggi.

Mohammed Bin Salman Al-SaudA U.S. federal court said in a filing on Tuesday that it was dismissing a lawsuit against the crown prince of Saudi Arabia over the murder of a Saudi columnist who lived in Virginia, after the State Department’s determination that the prince has immunity as a head of state or government.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of Hatice Cengiz, the fiancée of the columnist, Jamal Khashoggi, named Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as the most jamal kahshoggiprominent defendant. Mr. Khashoggi was killed by Saudi agents while visiting Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul in 2018 to get documents for his upcoming wedding.

This September, Prince Mohammed’s father, King Salman, made the prince the prime minister of Saudi Arabia. The move formalized his role as ruler of the kingdom, though the king remains the head of state.

Some U.S. officials and analysts said the king appeared to make the decision to ensure that the prince had immunity in the case. King Salman made the announcement six days before an October deadline set by the court for the U.S. government to advise whether Prince Mohammed had immunity. Soon after he received his new title, the prince told the court he had immunity based on legal precedent.

The State Department asked the court for an extension to make a legal determination, and then it filed a statement with the Justice Department on Nov. 17 that said Prince Mohammed should be “immune while in office.”

The letter said the State Department was not taking a position on the suit itself and repeated “its unequivocal condemnation of the heinous murder” of Mr. Khashoggi. Legal scholars said at the time that the determination was consistent with precedent.

In its 25-page filing on Tuesday, the court said: “Despite the court’s uneasiness, then, with both the circumstances of bin Salman’s appointment and the credible allegations of his involvement in Khashoggi’s murder, the United States has informed the court that he is immune, and bin Salman is therefore ‘entitled to head of state immunity … while he remains in office.’”

“Accordingly,” the court added, “the claims against bin Salman will be dismissed based on head-of-state immunity.”

The court also dismissed the cases against Saud al-Qahtani and Ahmed al-Assiri, senior Saudi officials at the time of the killing who were named as defendants in the lawsuit, saying the plaintiffs had not adequately established that the court should have jurisdiction over the matter.

Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now, an advocacy group that filed the lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Cengiz, wrote on Twitter that the court’s decision was “sad news for accountability.” She said that the group was consulting with lawyers on the next steps and that “our struggle for justice continues.”

Mr. Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident who wrote columns in The Washington Post criticizing the prince and the kingdom’s government, was strangled by Saudi agents and then dismembered. During the 2020 presidential campaign, President Biden vowed to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” for the killing and other human rights abuses. As one of his first foreign policy actions in office, Mr. Biden authorized the release of a U.S. intelligence report that said Prince Mohammed had approved the killing.

Mr. Biden kept his distance from the kingdom and criticized its human rights record, but this summer he bowed to suggestions from top national security aides that he should try to repair relations with Prince Mohammed. He reluctantly visited the kingdom in July and exchanged a fist bump with the prince, which drew widespread condemnation from senior Democratic lawmakers and human rights advocates.

In October, the prince led OPEC Plus, a cartel of oil-producing nations, in announcing a steep cut in production, which infuriated Mr. Biden and created a new rupture in U.S.-Saudi relations. Mr. Biden accused the prince of siding with Russia, which relies on high oil prices to support its spending during its war on Ukraine.

Top Biden aides thought they had reached a secret agreement with Saudi officials in May to increase oil production through the end of this year, though officials in Riyadh have denied making such promises.

ny times logoNew York Times, President Vladimir Putin of Russia signed a law banning expressions of L.G.B.T.Q. identity in public, Emma Bubola, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.).President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia intensified his crackdown on L.G.B.T.Q. people on Monday, when he signed new legislation that widely bans public expression of their identity in the country.

The new law makes it illegal to spread “propaganda” about “nontraditional sexual relations” in the media, advertising, movies or on social media. It had passed the Duma, Russia’s Parliament, by a vote of 397 to 0 on Nov. 24.

Demonstrations of “nontraditional relationships or preferences” will also be completely barred from advertising, and from any outlet visible to minors. Distributing to minors any information “that causes children to want to change their sex” was also prohibited.

The law is likely to put another strain on a community that has already been largely stigmatized in a country where officials have cast the repression of L.G.B.T.Q. expression as part of a wider struggle to protect Russia from Western interference.

Mr. Putin has long cast L.G.B.T.Q. life as a Western intrusion into Russia’s traditional society and values, and proponents of the new law recently likened the fight against L.G.B.T.Q. expression to Russia’s military actions in Ukraine, which they see as a broader civilization clash between them and the West.

“We have our own way of development, we do not need European imposition of nontraditional relations,” Nina Ostanina, chairwoman of the committee on family, women and children, said during parliamentary hearings on the legislation.

Russia has banned “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” among minors since 2013, with steep fines or suspension of business activities for Russians, and expulsion from the country for foreigners who were found guilty. The new law extends the ban on such propaganda to all adults.

ny times logoNew York Times, For Sunak, Like Biden, Dullness Could Be a Secret Weapon, Mark Landler and Stephen Castle, Dec. 7, 2022 (print ed.). For all their differences, President Biden and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain share a challenge: operating in the wake of a larger-than-life predecessor. They have tactics in common, too.

rishi sunakPresident Biden and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, left, met face to face for the first time as leaders in Bali, Indonesia, last month.

For years, Boris Johnson and Donald J. Trump were viewed as populist twins — flamboyant, scandal-scarred, norm-busting figures, acting in a trans-Atlantic political drama. With both out of office, at least for now, a more timely and intriguing comparison is between Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and President Biden.

joe biden twitterThough they differ by obvious metrics — young vs. old, conservative vs. liberal — Mr. Sunak and Mr. Biden, right, are using strikingly similar methods to govern in the wake of their larger-than-life predecessors. Both have tried to let the steam out of their countries’ hothouse politics by making a virtue of being, well, a little boring.

The similarities are more than stylistic: Both lead parties that are divided between centrist and more extreme forces, whether to the right, for United Kingdom flagMr. Sunak, or the left, for the American president. And both are dogged by poor poll numbers, in part because of economic ills but also because their pragmatic, undramatic style can seem ill-suited to the polarized politics of post-Brexit Britain and post-Trump America.

For Mr. Sunak, who took office in October amid an economic crisis and after months of political upheaval that left his Conservative Party exhausted and unpopular, Mr. Biden might offer a blueprint for political rehabilitation.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Macron’s Plan on Migrants: Deport More, Give Others Legal Status, Constant Méheut, Dec. 7, 2022 (print ed.). Under pressure, the government of President Emmanuel Macron, right, tries to balance a perceived immigration problem with a need for migrant workers.

emmanuel macronThe issue of immigration once again took center stage in French politics on Tuesday, as President Emmanuel Macron proposed a tougher stance on deportations, while also extending work opportunities for migrants with needed skills.

Mr. Macron’s government is trying to balance pressure from a rising far right to get immigration under control, against France’s need for immigrant labor. Its bill reflects his long-stated willingness to streamline both admissions and deportations, fulfilling a promise he made during his re-election campaign earlier this year.

French FlagRecent incidents — including a schoolgirl’s killing by an illegal migrant and the disputed docking of a migrant rescue vessel — have also pushed the government to try to take the heat out of a combustible issue.

Immigration has long been a fixation of politics in France — the president’s proposal would be the country’s 29th immigration and asylum law in four decades — where politicians and commentators, particularly on the right, often describe a country fending off an out-of-control influx of migrants. In reality, France has a smaller proportion of immigrants in its population than most of its neighbors, and in the past decade, immigration has grown less there than in the rest of Europe.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Netanyahu’s New Government Roils Israel Before It’s Even Formed, Isabel Kershner, Dec. 7, 2022 (print ed.). Efforts by Benjamin Netanyahu, below right, to appease his extremist coalition partners have been met with a backlash from Israeli liberals.

Benjamin Netanyahu smile TwitterFirst he agreed to hand control over Israel’s internal security to an ultranationalist. Then he pledged to give a party that opposes gay rights and liberal values wide powers over some programs taught in public schools. Finally, he promised a religious party that seeks to annex the West Bank authority over much of daily life in the occupied territories.

The backlash against efforts by Israel’s prime minister-designate, Benjamin Netanyahu, to form a new right-wing government has been swift, with liberal Israeli critics and even many conservatives saying that he is undermining the country’s democratic values.

Israel FlagWhile Mr. Netanyahu is returning to power in a position of strength after the Nov. 1 election — his right-wing and religious alliance won 64 seats, a majority in the 120-seat Parliament — his path back has been far from smooth as he maneuvers the political land mines that come with working with his new allies.

He has caused an uproar within the school system after last week promising Avi Maoz, the leader of the far-right Noam party who promotes policies that critics describe as homophobic, racist and misogynist, authority over extracurricular content and enrichment programs in the state school system. Within days, hundreds of teachers and hundreds of school principals, as well as dozens of city mayors and local councils publicly pledged to ignore any dictates from Mr. Maoz and to preserve the spirit of pluralism in their classrooms.

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U.S. High Tech, Media, Culture

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: ABC offers a masterclass in how not to handle workplace romance, Helaine Olen, Dec. 7, 2022. All rom-com protagonists need an obstacle to overcome. This week, newly revealed lovebirds T.J. Holmes and Amy Robach, co-anchors of ABC’s “Good Morning America” spinoff show “GMA3,” got a doozy of one, when the corporate suite announced they were taking the couple off the air.

But while network suits might have upped the dramatic tension, they also inadvertently offered up a master class in the wrong way to go about managing a workplace romance. No one needs the c-suite to weigh in on consensual behavior between equals that takes place outside the workplace — no matter how attention-getting it is.

The “GMA3” contretemps began last week, when the Daily Mail got a hold of the exclusive — make that “EXCLUSIVE” — news that the two anchors were an item, despite being married to other people, in a piece studded with private-investigator-style tabloid photos. The New York Post jumped in to confirm they were spotted “canoodling” in a local bar. (Word subsequently went out the couple both separated from their spouses this summer.) TikTok and Twitter went wild. After a few days, ABC decided this midlife romance was an “internal and external distraction,” as the ABC president, Kim Godwin, apparently said during an editorial call, and pulled the twosome from air.

Given the natural human inclination to gossip about celebrities and co-workers, that distraction may be real — and yet it’s unclear precisely how the romantic upgrade in Holmes and Robach’s relationship is otherwise a problem. The couple is not triggering any of the traditional red flags when it comes to workplace romances. They are co-anchors, so there is no issue of hierarchy, unlike when CNN’s head Jeff Zucker lost his position following an investigation into an ongoing relationship with network chief marketing executive Allison Gollust. No one has alleged favoritism or harassment as a result of the affair. In fact, it’s been reported that Godwin told staffers that the relationship is “not a violation of company policy.”

The fact is, workplace romances are incredibly common. People who work together often share mutual interests and spend a lot of time together, with predictable results. Surveys conducted find anywhere from one-third to half of us have dated a co-worker at least once. Somewhere between 10 and 30 percent of us will find ourselves in a long-term relationship with or married to that person. (In the interests of full disclosure, I need to say I am one of them.) A survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found 75 percent of respondents said they were comfortable if their co-workers became more than professional colleagues. And, yes, while we are on the subject, a 2017 Harris Poll found almost one-quarter of workplace relationships involved adultery.

Some social critics have even worried that remote work during the pandemic would compromise this key source of romantic connections for young people. But perhaps surprisingly, the SHRM survey found that remote work did nothing to slow the phenomenon: The incidence of office romance went up. When opportunities to meet new people were limited, Slack might have acted as an ad hoc dating app.

So why not tell co-workers to MYOB and let everyone get back to work? It’s not like there aren’t examples of a functional workplace romance between co-anchors. When Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski began co-hosting Morning Joe, they were married to other people. After they survived tabloid scandal about their affair and four years after they got married, the show goes on.

Some of the corporate overreaction may be due in part to #MeToo’s impact on television newsrooms. From Matt Lauer to the late Roger Ailes, there are examples aplenty of news anchors and executives using their position to sexually harass and manipulate women. But that’s not what’s going on here. As for the fact the two are married to others, their behavior might not be ethical, but it’s hardly a crime or grounds for firing.

Besides, it’s not like audiences objected to flirtatious banter and what was clearly a close friendship — the two even trained for a marathon together — before the news broke. If anything, the romance is a literalization of the fake-romantic dynamic on which shows such as GMA3 all too often depend, with a male and female host playing the part of a platonic couple sharing inside jokes and knowing looks. No doubt many would be cheering the couple on if they were both single and we could view them as a fairy tale rather than a soap opera.

ny times logoNew York Times, Twitter’s Rivals Try to Capitalize on Musk-Induced Chaos, Kalley Huang, Dec. 7, 2022. New start-ups and other social platforms are racing to dethrone Twitter as questions swirl about how viable it might be since Elon Musk took over. Last month, employees at Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, joined a virtual brainstorming session to discuss how to build the next Twitter.

twitter bird CustomAmong the ideas Meta’s workers talked over was a more extensive rollout of a feature called Instagram Notes, where people can share short messages on the photo-sharing site with their followers and friends, according to posts of the conversation that were viewed by The New York Times. Others said Meta should build a text-focused app using Instagram’s technology or add another feed to Instagram. They floated names for the features such as Realtime, Real Reels and Instant.

“Twitter is in crisis and Meta needs its mojo back,” one Meta employee wrote in a post. “LET’S GO FOR THEIR BREAD AND BUTTER.”

A race is on to dethrone Twitter and capitalize on the chaos of its new ownership under Elon Musk, the tech mogul who bought the social media company for $44 billion in late October. Since then, questions have swirled about how viable Twitter might be as Mr. Musk has laid off thousands of employees, started changing the platform’s content rules and proclaimed that the company is in such dire financial shape that bankruptcy is possible.

ny times logoNew York Times, Oversight Board Criticizes Meta for Preferential Treatment, Adam Satariano and Sheera Frenkel, Dec. 7, 2022 (print ed.). Influential users on Facebook and Instagram have been able to share posts that would otherwise be removed for violating company policies, the board said.

Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, was harshly criticized on Tuesday by a company-appointed oversight board for policies that give celebrities, politicians and business partners special treatment compared with the vast majority of its users.

meta logoUnder a program called cross-check, people with a high number of followers were able to say and share things on Facebook and Instagram that would otherwise have been quickly removed for violating company policies, according to the Oversight Board, which Meta had created to adjudicate thorny policy questions related to free speech, human rights and content moderation.

“The board is concerned about how Meta has prioritized business interests in content moderation,” the board said in a report. The cross-check program, it said, “provided extra protection for the expression of certain users.”

The oversight board recommended that Meta overhaul its cross-check system by “radically” increasing transparency over who is on the program’s list of VIPs and hiding their posts while they are reviewed. Meta should prioritize speech, which is “of special public importance,” it added. Recommendations made by the board, which includes about 20 academics, human rights experts and lawyers, are nonbinding.

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Climate, Disasters, Energy 

ny times logoNew York Times, The Texas Group Waging a National Crusade Against Climate Action, David Gelles, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). The Texas Public Policy Foundation is shaping laws, running misinformation campaigns and taking legal action in a bid to promote fossil fuels.

When a lawsuit was filed to block the nation’s first major offshore wind farm off the Massachusetts coast, it appeared to be a straightforward clash between those who earn their living from the sea and others who would install turbines and underwater cables that could interfere with the harvesting of squid, fluke and other fish.

The fishing companies challenging federal permits for the Vineyard Wind project were from the Bay State as well as Rhode Island and New York, and a video made by the opponents featured a bearded fisherman with a distinct New England accent.

But the financial muscle behind the fight originated thousands of miles from the Atlantic Ocean, in dusty oil country. The group bankrolling the lawsuit filed last year was the Texas Public Policy Foundation, an Austin-based nonprofit organization backed by oil and gas companies and Republican donors.

With influence campaigns, legal action and model legislation, the group is promoting fossil fuels and trying to stall the American economy’s transition toward renewable energy. It is upfront about its opposition to Vineyard Wind and other renewable energy projects, making no apologies for its advocacy work.

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Public Health, Pandemics

washington post logoWashington Post, Face masks may return amid holiday ‘tripledemic’ of covid, flu and RSV, Fenit Nirappil and Tara Parker-Pope, Dec. 7, 2022. While mask covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2mandates are unlikely in most parts of the country, health experts are renewing recommendations to wear a high-quality medical mask on public transportation, while shopping and in other crowded public spaces.

With three highly contagious respiratory viruses sickening adults and children around the country and holiday gatherings just weeks away, public health officials are beginning to talk about face masks again.

While mask mandates are unlikely in most parts of the country, health experts are renewing recommendations to wear a high-quality medical mask on public transportation, in airports and on planes, while shopping and in other crowded public spaces.

cdc logo CustomWhat’s notable is that the mask recommendations this time aren’t just about avoiding the coronavirus. Masks are advised to protect against what is being called the “tripledemic” — a confluence of influenza, coronavirus and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) that already is straining hospitals and forcing parents to miss work in record numbers.

As the country heads into its third pandemic winter, covid-19 cases are on the rise, and the 2022-23 flu season is shaping up to be the worst in a decade — there have already been 4,500 deaths from flu, including 14 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

washington post logoWashington Post, What you should consider when you attend or skip your company holiday party, Danielle Abril, Dec. 7, 2022. Experts weigh in on whether the pandemic created new rules for company holiday parties, including virtual ones.

ny times logoNew York Times, Congress Poised to Repeal Covid Vaccine Mandate for Troops, Catie Edmondson and John Ismay, Dec. 7, 2022 (print ed.). Both parties agreed to roll back the requirement as part of an $857 billion military policy measure, acting over the Biden administration’s objections.

Lawmakers unveiled an $857 billion military policy bill on Tuesday night that would terminate the Pentagon’s mandate that troops receive the coronavirus vaccine, a move that the Biden administration has resisted but that came after Republicans threatened to block the bill without it.

The decision to scrap the mandate, the product of negotiations between Senate and House leaders in both parties, was a victory for Republicans in a dispute that had added a politically charged and highly emotional issue to the annual military policy debate.

Top Republicans, especially Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader who is campaigning for speaker, have made getting rid of the mandate a top priority in the bill, arguing that the requirement amounted to federal overreach and eroded military readiness.

The bill, which authorizes a pay raise for American troops and is considered one of just a few pieces of must-pass legislation, perennially attracts a long list of proposals from lawmakers hoping to attach their pet project or policy.

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Dec. 6

Top Headlines

 

 Trump, Insurrection, Twitter, Musk, Bigotry

 

World News, Human Rights

 

 U.S. Politics, Elections, Economy, Governance

 

Ukraine War

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Regulation

 

U.S. High Tech, Media, Culture

 

Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy


Climate, Disasters, Energy

 

Top Stories

 

 In more than two dozen counties, thousands of voters came out to vote, some waiting for hours for the chance to cast their ballot early for the Dec. 6 runoff between Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D), above right, and Republican Herschel Walker, above left.

 In more than two dozen counties, thousands of voters came out to vote, some waiting for hours for the chance to cast their ballot early for the Dec. 6 runoff between Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D), above right, and Republican Herschel Walker, above left.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Warnock Defeats Walker in Georgia Senate Runoff Updated, Jonathan Weisman and Maya King, Dec. 6, 2022. Senator Raphael Warnock defeated his Republican challenger, Herschel Walker, in a runoff election on Tuesday that capped a grueling and costly campaign, secured a 51-seat Democratic majority and gave the first Black senator from Georgia a full six-year term. New York Times Projected Margin: 2.8%.

Mr. Warnock’s victory, called by The Associated Press, ended a marathon midterm election cycle in which Democrats defied history, as they limited the loss of House seats that typically greets the party that holds the White House and now gain a seat in the Senate.

georgia mapIn the final battle of the midterms, Senator Raphael Warnock dealt a blow to Donald Trump, whose handpicked candidate, Herschel Walker, was outmatched.

Christian Walker has just put out a couple of tweets criticizing his father’s campaign as the race is called for Warnock: “Don’t beat women, hold guns to people’s heads, fund abortions and claim you’re pro-life." He added, "and then maybe you can win a Senate seat."

A pall settles over the Walker election night party as more news outlets call the race for Warnock. An impromptu prayer circle forms in the center of the ballroom. A preacher shouts: “Where there is lack, make up for it right now! Where there is disturbance, bring shalom, right now!”

Warnock’s margin of victory comes from the heavily Black, Democratic areas around Metro Atlanta. His victory again undercuts the thesis held by many in the G.O.P., that running a Black male conservative would cut into Democrats’ gains with the group.

The transformation of Atlanta’s suburbs from Republican to Democratic strongholds over the last decade is truly remarkable. In the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney won 56 percent of the vote in Cobb County and 54 percent in Gwinnett County. Tonight, Raphael Warnock is at 60 percent or more in both – margins that have turned Georgia from a safe state for Republicans to one Democrats can win.

 

 Donald Trump, as portrayed in a fictionalized portrayal of his leadership of the Trump Organization on the former top-rated TV show The Apprentice.

Donald Trump, as portrayed in a fictionalized portrayal of his leadership of the Trump Organization on the former top-rated TV show The Apprentice.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump Organization convicted in N.Y. criminal tax fraud trial, Shayna Jacobs, Dec. 6, 2022. Former president Donald Trump’s namesake company was convicted Tuesday of tax crimes committed by two of its longtime executives after a Manhattan trial that gave jurors a peek at some of the inner workings of the Trump Organization’s finances.

The real estate, hospitality and golf resort operation headquartered at Trump Tower on Fifth Ave. faces the possibility of a $1.6 million fine. New York Supreme Court jurors began their deliberations mid-day on Monday.

The company was charged with scheme to defraud, conspiracy, criminal tax fraud and falsifying business records.

Prosecutors built the case largely around longtime Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty in August to 15 counts including tax fraud, conspiracy and grand larceny. He was promised a steeply reduced sentence of five months in jail in exchange for testifying against the company. He had faced up to 15 years in prison.

Prosecutors claim to jurors that Trump knew of Weisselberg’s tax fraud

allen weisselberg croppedIn his testimony, Weisselberg, right, detailed how he and the company’s comptroller, Jeffrey McConney, schemed to cheat state and federal tax authorities over a 15-year period beginning in 2005. Weisselberg used the company to cover major personal expenses like rent for a luxury apartment on the Hudson River, Mercedes Benz leases for himself and his wife and private school tuition for his grandchildren.

In some instances, he paid the company back for his personal expenses, which allowed him to use pre-tax compensation illegally. Other expenses were paid for by the company but not reported as taxable income as required by tax laws.

McConney, who admitted in his testimony to committing crimes, was granted immunity under New York law because he was called by prosecutors as a grand jury witness in the case.

letitia james o headshotProsecutors argued the conduct of Weisselberg and McConney made the company criminally liable. Two Trump Organization entities — the Trump Corporation and the Trump Payroll Corp. — were on trial. Both were found guilty on all charges.

Lawyers for the entities argued that Weisselberg had no intent to help the company — only himself — and that prosecutors did not successfully prove there was corporate liability. Prosecutors argued the company saved on their Medicare tax responsibility and benefitted in other ways from the scheme.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office also argued at the close of the case that Trump had personal knowledge of the tax cheating carried out by his executives. At one point in his summation, Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass pointed to a document that had been initialed by Trump and called it “explicit” proof of his knowing that his executives were tinkering with expenses to reduce their tax liabilities.

Trump has not been charged with wrongdoing. In a recent social media post, he denied having knowledge of the crimes Weisselberg and McConney committed.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Organization Found Guilty in Tax Fraud Scheme, Jonah E. Bromwich, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum and Lola Fadulu, Dec. 6, 2022. Remarkable Rebuke of Former President’s Company. The conviction is hardly a death sentence for the Trump Organization. The maximum penalty it faces is $1.62 million, a rounding error for Mr. Trump. Donald J. Trump’s family real estate business was convicted on Tuesday of tax fraud and other financial crimes, a remarkable rebuke of the former president’s company and what prosecutors described as its “culture of fraud and deception.”

The conviction on all 17 counts, after more than a day of jury deliberations in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, resulted from a long-running scheme in which the Trump Organization doled out off-the-books luxury perks to some executives: They received fancy apartments, leased Mercedes-Benzes, even private school tuition for relatives, none of which they paid taxes on.

ny times logoNew York Times, Lawmakers awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor, to officers who protected the Capitol on Jan. 6., Stephanie Lai
Dec. 6, 2022. Lawmakers recounted the horrors of Jan. 6, 2021, as they granted the Congressional Gold Medal to officers of the Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police Department.

Lawmakers on Tuesday formally recognized law enforcement personnel who protected the Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack with the highest honor of Congress, granting officers from the Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police Department the Congressional Gold Medal for their service guarding the complex as pro-Trump rioters waged a deadly assault.

Members of the Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police force gathered in the Capitol Rotunda as Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, bestowed the award, proclaiming that the officers were in a “pantheon of patriots” for their actions that day.

“Capitol Police, Metropolitan Police and additional agencies bravely put themselves between us and violence,” Ms. Pelosi said.

The award came nearly two years after supporters of President Donald J. Trump stormed the Capitol while Congress was meeting to certify Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory, disrupting the count of electoral votes, brutalizing police officers and sending lawmakers and the vice president fleeing for their lives. One officer, Brian D. Sicknick, died after sustaining injuries during the riot, and four others died by suicide in the aftermath.

At the Capitol on Tuesday, Gladys Sicknick, Officer Sicknick’s mother, refused to shake hands with the Republican leaders who were present to mark the awarding of the medal, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, whom she called “two faced” because of their continued loyalty to Mr. Trump.

“I don’t want to give them any credit,” she said in an interview. “They don’t deserve any credit. They’re going to leave here today, get on a plane, go down and see Trump and kiss his ring.”

It appeared that several others who went up to receive the award passed Mr. McConnell, who had his hand outstretched, and Mr. McCarthy without acknowledging them or shaking their hands.

Ms. Sicknick, however, greeted Mr. Schumer warmly, with a handshake and a kiss on the cheek.

Mr. McConnell led the effort to block the creation of an independent commission to scrutinize the Jan. 6 attack. Mr. McCarthy has fought the select committee that Democrats formed to investigate the riot at every turn, and he is now threatening to use the new House Republican majority in the next Congress to investigate the panel itself. And while Mr. McConnell laid responsibility for the riot at the feet of the former president, Mr. McCarthy has glossed over Mr. Trump’s role as his party has worked to downplay, deny or distort what happened.

In his remarks on Tuesday, Mr. McCarthy thanked the honorees for their service, but spent most of his address offering gratitude to law enforcement in general.

 

House Jan. 6 Select Investigating Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS.) (Photo via NBC News).

House Jan. 6 Select Investigating Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS.) (Photo via NBC News).

 ny times logoNew York Times, House Jan. 6 Committee to Issue Criminal Referrals, Chairman Says, Luke Broadwater, Dec. 6, 2022. Representative Bennie Thompson said no decision had been made on who would be the subject of the referrals or what the charges would be.

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol will issue criminal referrals to the Justice Department based on its inquiry, the panel’s chairman said on Tuesday, but has made no decision on who it will recommend charging or what offenses it will cite.

Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the Democratic chairman of the committee, told reporters on Capitol Hill that the panel had agreed to take the step and would meet later Tuesday to discuss the specifics. But within moments, he and his staff rushed to clarify his statement, reflecting a debate that is still underway within the panel about how far to go in formally accusing former President Donald J. Trump and some of his top allies of crimes.

“What we’ve decided is that we will probably make referrals,” Mr. Thompson told reporters a short time later.

Mr. Thompson, who is known for giving big-picture guidance about the investigation but being at times less involved in the granular details of its work, then suggested that that decision was no longer in question.

ny times logoNew York Times, Lawmakers awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor, to officers who protected the Capitol on Jan. 6., Stephanie Lai, Dec. 6, 2022. Lawmakers recounted the horrors of Jan. 6, 2021, as they granted the Congressional Gold Medal to officers of the Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police Department.

Lawmakers on Tuesday formally recognized law enforcement personnel who protected the Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack with the highest honor of Congress, granting officers from the Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police Department the Congressional Gold Medal for their service guarding the complex as pro-Trump rioters waged a deadly assault.

Members of the Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police force gathered in the Capitol Rotunda as Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, bestowed the award, proclaiming that the officers were in a “pantheon of patriots” for their actions that day.

“Capitol Police, Metropolitan Police and additional agencies bravely put themselves between us and violence,” Ms. Pelosi said.

The award came nearly two years after supporters of President Donald J. Trump stormed the Capitol while Congress was meeting to certify Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory, disrupting the count of electoral votes, brutalizing police officers and sending lawmakers and the vice president fleeing for their lives. One officer, Brian D. Sicknick, died after sustaining injuries during the riot, and four others died by suicide in the aftermath.

At the Capitol on Tuesday, Gladys Sicknick, Officer Sicknick’s mother, refused to shake hands with the Republican leaders who were present to mark the awarding of the medal, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, whom she called “two faced” because of their continued loyalty to Mr. Trump.

“I don’t want to give them any credit,” she said in an interview. “They don’t deserve any credit. They’re going to leave here today, get on a plane, go down and see Trump and kiss his ring.”

It appeared that several others who went up to receive the award passed Mr. McConnell, who had his hand outstretched, and Mr. McCarthy without acknowledging them or shaking their hands.

Ms. Sicknick, however, greeted Mr. Schumer warmly, with a handshake and a kiss on the cheek.

Mr. McConnell led the effort to block the creation of an independent commission to scrutinize the Jan. 6 attack. Mr. McCarthy has fought the select committee that Democrats formed to investigate the riot at every turn, and he is now threatening to use the new House Republican majority in the next Congress to investigate the panel itself. And while Mr. McConnell laid responsibility for the riot at the feet of the former president, Mr. McCarthy has glossed over Mr. Trump’s role as his party has worked to downplay, deny or distort what happened.

In his remarks on Tuesday, Mr. McCarthy thanked the honorees for their service, but spent most of his address offering gratitude to law enforcement in general.

david rivera

ny times logoNew York Times, Florida Ex-Congressman Arrested Over Secret Contract With Venezuela, Patricia Mazzei, Updated Dec. 6, 2022. A former Republican congressman, above, who was secretly hired for $50 million by Venezuela’s state-run oil company to peddle the prospect of a thaw in U.S.-Venezuela relations to Washington was arrested on Monday and charged with conspiracy, failure to register as a foreign agent and other crimes, federal authorities said.

Law enforcement officers arrested former Representative David Rivera of Florida in the Atlanta area, said Marlene Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida. Mr. Rivera, who served in Congress from 2011 to 2013 after a career in the State Legislature, is Cuban American and known in Florida politics as a strident anti-communist.

But from 2017 to 2018, according to a federal indictment unsealed on Monday and signed by a South Florida grand jury last month, Mr. Rivera and a longtime associate, Esther Nuhfer, tried to lobby members of Congress and the White House on behalf of President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, a socialist.

For those lobbying efforts, the indictment said, the Venezuelan government paid Mr. Rivera at least $23.75 million from the $50 million contract that his consulting firm, Interamerican Consulting, had signed with PDV USA, an American subsidiary of the Venezuelan state-run oil company Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., or PDVSA. Mr. Rivera then split the money with Ms. Nuhfer and other individuals not named in the indictment.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Drone Attacks Hit Russia for 2nd Straight Day, Marc Santora, Mike Ives and Ivan Nechepurenko, Dec. 6, 2022. A blast at an oil facility near an airfield came a day after Ukraine used drones to hit two military bases in Russia, bringing the conflict closer to Moscow.

ukraine flagA drone attack on Tuesday struck near an air base in Russia, a local official said, a day after Ukraine used drones to hit two military bases deep inside the country in one of its most brazen attacks in the nine-month war. If Ukraine’s forces are confirmed to have been involved in the latest strike, it would add to signs that Kyiv is willing to bring the war closer to Moscow and to President Vladimir V. Putin.

Russian officials did not directly accuse Ukraine in Tuesday’s attack, which hit an oil facility near an airfield in the Kursk region, 80 miles from the Ukrainian border. The regional governor said on Tuesday that a fire caused by the strike had been extinguished and that there were no injuries.

Ukraine’s willingness to hit far inside Russia’s border has altered the geography of the war, shown failures in Moscow’s air defense systems and signaled Kyiv’s determination that Russia pay a heavier price for its unrelenting assault on Ukraine’s infrastructure. After Monday’s drone strikes, Russia launched a volley of missiles at Ukraine that left half of the capital region of Kyiv without electricity and worsened rolling power outages across the country. Many Ukrainians have been without heat and water in frigid temperatures.

Monday’s attacks struck two military installations hundreds of miles inside the Russian border — the Engels airfield and the Dyagilevo military base — according to Russia’s Defense Ministry and a senior Ukrainian official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to convey sensitive information. The drones were launched from Ukrainian territory, and in at least one of the strikes Ukrainian special forces working near the base helped guide the drones to the target, the senior official said.

Ukraine has not explicitly claimed responsibility for those strikes, as is its practice regarding military actions inside Russia. Yurii Ihnat, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force, said that the damage to the airfield at Engels appeared minimal. “But it is an alarming signal for them,” he said on Ukrainian national television.

Here’s what we know:

  • A blast at a Russian airfield came a day after Ukraine used drones to target two military bases deep inside Russia, demonstrating a willingness to bring the conflict closer to Moscow.
  • The latest drone strike hits an air base 80 miles from the Ukrainian border.
  • Embassies in Denmark and Romania receive ‘dangerous parcels,’ Ukraine says.
  • Russia strikes Ukraine’s energy grid on one of the coldest days of the year.
  • Ukraine’s drone attacks suggest a more advanced ability to hit Russian targets.
  • A Russian missile leaves a crater in a school soccer field in eastern Ukraine.
  • Zelensky visits troops in a frontline city in eastern Ukraine.
  • Ukraine’s latest strikes prompt criticism from backers of Moscow’s war.

 

pentagon dc skyline dod photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Fearing scandal, Air Force blocked generals’ foreign consulting deals, Craig Whitlock and Nate Jones, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). Two Department of Defense Sealgenerals who oversaw U.S. supply routes through corruption-plagued Azerbaijan sought to profit from their connections once they retired.

An Air Force lawyer objected. The Post sued to make the case public. More coverage:

  • Key findings from The Post’s series on veterans’ lucrative foreign jobs
  • Retired U.S. generals, admirals take top jobs with Saudi crown prince

washington post logoWashington Post, Unaccountable: As fatal police shootings increase, more go unreported, Andrew Ba Tran, Marisa Iati and Claire Healy, Dec. 6, 2022. Flawed FBI data has left thousands of deaths uncounted and complicates efforts to hold troubled police departments accountable. More than 1,000 people have been fatally shot by police in the past 12 months. Explore the data here.

Fewer fatal police shootings are recorded by the federal government every year, despite renewed scrutiny of police use of force and millions of dollars spent to encourage local law enforcement to report the data.

Even though federal records indicate that fatal shootings by police have been declining nationwide since 2015, The Washington Post’s Fatal Force database shows the opposite is true: Officers have shot and killed more people every year, reaching a record high in 2021 with 1,047 deaths. The FBI database contains only about one third of the 7,000 fatal police shootings during this time — down from half when The Post first started tracking.

Fatal shootings by officers in at least 2,250 police and sheriffs’ departments are missing from the past seven years of federal records, according to an analysis of the database maintained by The Post, which began tracking the killings in 2015. The excluded data has created a misleading government picture of police use of force, complicating efforts at accountability.

The incomplete data also obscures a racial discrepancy among those killed by police that is larger than the federal data suggests. Black people are fatally shot by police far more often than is evident in the FBI data, The Post has found — at more than double the rate for White people.

 

congo democratic republic map formerly zaire

washington post logoWashington Post, Rebels killed hundreds in Democratic Republic of Congo, officials say, Erin Cunningham, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). Nearly 300 people were killed when rebels attacked villagers in the Democratic Republic of Congo last week, officials said Monday, raising the death toll from an earlier estimate of 50 as fighting intensified in the country’s east.

The government blamed the carnage in Kishishe in North Kivu province on the M23 rebel group, which denied responsibility for the attacks. M23 is largely made up of Congolese Tutsi, an ethnic group present throughout the Great Lakes region, according to the Brussels-based International Crisis Group. The congo democratic republic formerly zaire flagrebellion was long dormant but reemerged last year to threaten the Congolese government in Kinshasa.

Tens of thousands displaced by resurgence of fighting in eastern Congo

“We are looking at around 300 deaths” in the area, Julien Paluku, North Kivu’s former governor, said at a news briefing in the capital Monday, Agence France-Presse reported. Paluku and government spokesman Patrick Muyaya briefed reporters on the new casualty details, citing civil society and community groups.

“Every community has been able to record the people who died from units in Kishishe and its environs,” said Paluku, who now serves as industry minister, adding that “one community alone has more than 105 deaths.”

According to reports, including one from the United Nations Human Rights Office, the killings took place between Nov. 28 and Nov. 30, during and after clashes between M23 and other armed groups.

“Reports say some were killed in their homes, others at a church where they had sought refuge and some died fleeing the hostilities,” U.N. Human Rights Office spokesperson Marta Hurtado said in a statement Friday. “We fear that the number of civilian casualties might be higher, as dozens of people are still unaccounted for.”

Once a U.S. darling, Rwanda's Kagame hears concerns amid Blinken visit

The alleged massacre took place less than a week after African leaders agreed to an immediate cease-fire in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, releasing a joint statement after talks in Angola’s capital, Luanda.

 

Trump, Insurrectionists, White Nationalists, Election Deniers

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s political action committee paying for lawyers of key Mar-a-Lago witnesses, Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). Former president Donald Trump’s political action committee is paying legal bills for some key witnesses involved in the Justice Department investigation into whether Trump mishandled classified documents, obstructed the investigation or destroyed government records, according to people familiar with the matter.

The witnesses include Kash Patel, who has testified in front of the grand jury and is key to Trump’s defense, along with Walt Nauta, a potentially critical prosecution witness, according to these people, who like others interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing criminal probe. Nauta, a Trump valet, has told FBI agents he was instructed by the former president to move boxes at Mar-a-Lago, even as government investigators were trying to recover classified documents at that private club and residence, according to people familiar with the matter.

Both Patel and Nauta are represented by Brand Woodward Law, which according to public records has been paid more than $120,000 by Trump’s Save America PAC. Stan Brand, the top lawyer at the firm, said there is nothing improper about the PAC paying legal bills for witnesses in the investigation. Another lawyer not involved in the case, however, said it could encourage witnesses to not cooperate.

“There’s no bar against third parties paying for legal fees as long as it’s disclosed to the client. The ethical obligation of the lawyer is to the client,” Brand said. “This is a tempest in a teapot and another cheap shot at these people because of who they work for.”

But Jim Walden, a former federal prosecutor, said the payment arrangement raises concerns about whether the reimbursement of legal fees may influence what the witnesses say or do. And he noted that if Justice Department officials have ethical concerns, they could ask a judge to, at a minimum, question the clients about whether they are certain their interests are being protected.

“It looks like the Trump political action committee is either paying for the silence of these witnesses, for them to take the Fifth or for favorable testimony,” Walden said. “These circumstances should look very suspicious to the Justice Department, and there’s a judicial mechanism for them to get court oversight if there’s a conflict.”

djt rudy giuliani

washington post logoWashington Post, Giuliani ‘weaponized’ law license in Trump election suit, D.C. Bar argues, Keith L. Alexander, Dec. 6, 2022. Trump adviser should be disbarred over ‘frivolous’ lawsuit, prosecuting attorney says.

Former New York City Republican mayor Rudy Giuliani defended his role challenging the 2020 presidential election as President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Monday, after the D.C. Bar accused Giuliani of misusing his law license and called for it to be revoked.

During his testimony before the D.C. Board on Professional Responsibility of the D.C. Bar, Giuliani at times minimized his role in a lawsuit that falsely alleged the November 2020 general presidential election was wrought with fraud in the key state of Pennsylvania after President Biden was declared winner.

Hamilton “Phil” Fox III, the lead prosecuting attorney for D.C. Bar’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel, called Giuliani’s fraud allegations in Pennsylvania “unfounded” and said they misrepresented or took advantage of two unprecedented events affecting the state: Pennsylvania had just started using mail-in ballots for the election, and the coronavirus pandemic forced independent observers to be distanced from poll workers tasked with opening mail-in ballots and reviewing signatures.

Fox argued that although several courts in Pennsylvania found “kinks” in the new voting system in Pennsylvania, there was no evidence of fraud.

Despite such court assertions, Giuliani “weaponized his law license by filing a frivolous lawsuit” and as a result, should have his licensed suspended or revoked, Fox said.

“There was no case in law nor fact for which Mr. Giuliani set forth on grounds of fraud,” Fox said.

Giuliani’s lawsuit on behalf of Trump seeking to throw out votes cast in the state was rejected by a judge. A federal appeals court refused to let the campaign file a revised complaint.

Giuliani and his attorney, John Leventhal, argued that Trump asked Giuliani to join the case a day after the elections and to “quickly” get up to speed on election results in at least 10 other states, including Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin, Georgia, Nevada, North and South Carolina, and New Mexico.

Leventhal argued that because Trump’s legal challenge did not go forward, there was no legal reason for Giuliani to have his law license revoked.

“The complaint was not accepted. This was never accepted by the court,” Leventhal said.

Under cross examination by Fox, Giuliani said another attorney drafted the initial fraud complaint and that he added a “few paragraphs.”

Fox introduced a second complaint that was filed, in which Giuliani said the fraud allegations were removed. But then Giuliani admitted that he instructed to have the fraud allegations added back into the complaint.

Repeatedly during questioning, Fox argued that Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor, was not answering his questions.

Testimony in the Giuliani hearings is expected to continue through this week and can be viewed via live on the web. At one point during Monday’s hearing, more than 1,000 viewers were tuned into the YouTube channel.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Empty Gestures of Disillusioned Evangelicals, Michelle Goldberg, right, Dec. 6, 2022. There have been encouraging signs lately michelle goldberg thumbof influential evangelicals inching away from Donald Trump.

The Washington Post last month quoted a self-pitying essay by Mike Evans, a former member of Trump’s evangelical advisory board, who wrote: “He used us to win the White House.

We had to close our mouths and eyes when he said things that horrified us.” Religion News Service reported that David Lane, the leader of a group devoted to getting conservative Christian pastors into office, recently sent out an email criticizing Trump for subordinating his MAGA vision “to personal grievances and self-importance.” On Monday, Semafor quoted Bob Vander Plaats, a prominent Christian conservative activist in Iowa, saying that evangelicals weren’t sure that Trump could win.

Even Robert Jeffress, a Dallas televangelist whom Texas Monthly once described as “Trump’s Apostle,” is holding off on endorsing him again, telling Newsweek that he doesn’t want to be part of a Republican civil war.

Because I see the ex-president as a uniquely catastrophic figure — more likely to lose in 2024 than the current elite Republican favorite Ron DeSantis, but also more likely to destroy the country if he prevails — I’ve eagerly followed the fracturing of his evangelical support. But Russell Moore, the editor in chief of Christianity Today, told me he doesn’t yet take evangelical distancing from Trump seriously. After all, he pointed out, we’ve been in a similar place before.

At the start of Trump’s first campaign for president, few important evangelical figures backed him. “What changed was an increase in the number of grass-roots evangelical voters who started to support Donald Trump,” Moore said. “It’s not that the leaders embrace a candidate and therefore their followers do. It’s really the reverse.”

Moore is the rare evangelical leader who has consistently opposed Trump, a stance that nearly cost him his former job as president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. (He left the Convention in 2021 over its handling of sexual abuse and white nationalism in the church.) Moore suspects that if the base of the Christian right, which over the last six years has forged a quasi-mystical connection with the profane ex-president, decides to stick with Trump, the qualms of their would-be leaders will evaporate. “I just don’t read a lot into reluctance anymore, because I’ve seen reluctance that immediately bounces back, after ‘Access Hollywood,’ for instance, or after Jan. 6,” said Moore.

What matters, then, are the sentiments of ordinary evangelicals. A recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute found right-leaning white evangelical voters closely divided in their Republican primary preferences: 49 percent want Trump to be the nominee, while 50 percent want someone else. But Moore thinks most rank-and-file evangelicals aren’t focused on presidential politics yet, so it’s too soon to know which direction they’ll go.

The last six years, said Moore, has changed the character of conservative evangelicalism, making it at once more militant and more apocalyptic — in other words, more Trump-like. For some people, Trump may even be the impetus for their faith: a Pew survey found that 16 percent of white Trump supporters who didn’t identify as born-again or evangelical in 2016 had adopted those designations by 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinions: With his call to ‘terminate’ the Constitution, Trump spins out of control, Marc A. Thiessen, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). One of Donald Trump’s greatest achievements in office was his remaking of the American judiciary with the appointment of three outstanding Supreme Court justices and hundreds of lower court judges who defend the Constitution from the federal bench each day.

But now, with just a few bizarre social media posts, Trump has repudiated that entire legacy.

After the Supreme Court two weeks ago unanimously rejected his request to stop a congressional committee from obtaining his tax returns, Trump blasted the court, using the language of the left-wing critics who question the legitimacy of his judicial appointments. “The Supreme Court has lost its honor, prestige, and standing, & has become nothing more than a political body, with our Country paying the price. … Shame on them!” Trump declared on his Truth Social account — oblivious to the fact that these words could just as easily have been uttered by Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) or outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). If anything, the court’s actions in this case — and the refusal of any Trump judges or justices to embrace his election denial conspiracy theories — prove precisely the opposite: He appointed jurists whose only loyalty is to our laws and our Constitution.

But apparently, loyalty to our laws and our Constitution is not the standard Trump seeks to uphold. Quite the opposite. In a rant without precedent in the annals of presidential rhetoric, Trump called this weekend for the “termination” of the Constitution. “A massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution,” he thundered, adding, “Our great ‘Founders’ did not want, and would not condone, False & Fraudulent Elections!”

 washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s call for suspending the Constitution is too dangerous to ignore, Ruth Marcus, right, Dec. 5, 2022 (print ed.). ruth marcusThere was a time, in the naive spring and summer of 2015, when I deemed Donald Trump beneath my notice and refused to write about him: Why soil myself, I thought, and also: Surely he will fade away.

I finally caved, in July 2015, with this prescient sentence: “Do not worry about Donald Trump becoming president.”
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There was a time, in the increasingly appalling months and years that followed, that I deemed Trump too dangerous to disregard and I could not stop calling out his never-ending, ever-escalating outrages against American democracy. Mexican judges. Enemies of the state. Fake news. Muslim bans.

Even a columnist gets tired of repeating herself. And so, during his final stretch in office, and in the years since, I mostly averted my gaze. I called out Trump last August, when he warned darkly of “riots in the streets” after the Justice Department’s search of his Mar-a-Lago residence and before that, in December 2020, when he released a 46-minute video rant assailing the election.

But I mostly thought: Why bother? Shaming targets and convincing readers are the columnist’s goals. With Trump, no minds will be changed, and neither will his behavior.

And yet, there are times when attention must be paid — if only to lay down a marker, if only (grandiose as this may sound) so historians will understand: This went too far. This cannot be allowed to stand without being denounced.

I might have made this choice in the aftermath of Trump’s dinner with antisemites and Nazi sympathizers Ye (formerly known as Kanye West) and Nick Fuentes. Who could have imagined, in the time before Trump, that a former president of the United States and declared candidate for president would so sully himself and the office?

But I am moved, now, to write about Trump’s latest post, on his Truth Social network, because it is at least equally dangerous and even more insidious.

 

djt sedition graphic

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP lawmakers largely silent after Trump suggests ‘termination’ of Constitution, Amy B Wang, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). Donald Trump’s suggestion this weekend that the U.S. Constitution should be terminated in response to his baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen drew a largely muted response from Republicans, the latest sign that many GOP officials remain reluctant to take on the former president even as he challenges the country’s founding precepts.

Trump’s online posts Saturday — including a message in which he wrote that “UNPRECEDENTED FRAUD REQUIRES UNPRECEDENTED CURE!” — represented a significant escalation in his attacks on American institutions and democratic norms, one that scholars said must be heeded as a sign of how far he is willing to go to regain power.

“A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution,” Trump posted on the Truth Social platform. “Our great ‘Founders’ did not want, and would not condone, False & Fraudulent Elections!”

But only a handful of Republican lawmakers have joined the White House and Democrats in condemning Trump’s assertions. Representatives for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) did not respond on Sunday to requests for comment.

 

elon musk shadow cnnCNN, Opinion: Elon Musk’s Twitter is helping to normalize a neo-Nazi, Dean Obeidallah, Dec. 5, 2022. Elon Musk (shown above) apparently is trying his hand at creating a major media story by the release of what he called the “Twitter Files,” which included internal Twitter documents from October 2020 showing the social media company’s executives debating whether to allow postings on the platform of a New York Post article about a laptop Hunter Biden reportedly owned.

CNNAs CNN reported, Musk’s release on Friday pointed to tweets by journalist Matt Taibbi, who was provided “with emails that largely corroborated what was already known about the incident.”

But the Twitter story that demands coverage is not about something that happened more than two years ago but what we are seeing now on Twitter since Musk took control in October. There has been an “unprecedented” spike in hate speech as well as a resurgence of ISIS-linked accounts, The New York Times detailed in an article published Friday, citing findings from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, the Anti-Defamation League and other groups studying online platforms.

twitter bird CustomIn addition, Twitter just reinstated the account of self-professed White supremacist Andrew Anglin, founder of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer. Anglin, who was banned from Twitter in 2013, has called for tearing down Berlin’s memorial to the Holocaust (which he despicably calls a “hoax”) and replacing “it with a statue of Hitler 1,000 feet tall.”

I have firsthand experience with the neo-Nazi just reinstated on Twitter. Anglin targeted me in 2017 in response to an article I wrote at that time slamming then-President Donald Trump for refusing to denounce White supremacist violence. (This was months before the August 2017 White nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.)

Anglin first posted fabricated tweets on his White supremacist website that appeared to have been written by me claiming responsibility for an ISIS terrorist attack. (I’m Muslim.) He then instructed his followers to “confront me.” Given that readers of The Daily Stormer had in the past committed acts of violence dylann roof pistol flag— including apparently Dylann Roof, left, who murdered nine Black people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015 — they did what Anglin asked.

I was soon inundated with death threats. However, if Anglin thought I was going to cower in fear, he was wrong. I sued him in federal court for defamation and emotional distress, where I won a default judgment of $4.1 million. While I still have not recovered a penny, I have long pledged to donate all the proceeds to organizations that fight the type of hate Anglin spews.

I’m not alone. Anglin has orchestrated targeted harassment of other minorities, including African American student Taylor Dumpson who successfully sued Anglin, and Tanya Gersh, a Jewish real estate agent who also sued Anglin, resulting in a $14 million judgment.

In fact, the person who was reinstated on Twitter had an arrest warrant issued against him by a federal judge just last month over refusing to comply with court orders in the collection of those damages in Gersh’s lawsuit.

Alarmingly, Anglin’s dangerous influence continues. The White gunman who killed Black people in a Buffalo, New York, grocery store in a racist attack in May, reportedly cited Anglin’s Daily Stormer by name in a manifesto, crediting it as shaping his view that White people were being “replaced” by people of color.

Reinstating Anglin on Twitter not only helps normalize a neo-Nazi, but it also helps him recruit followers. One of Anglin’s first tweets on Friday said: “Trying to find my friends. I lost them in 2013.”

But Anglin is not the only problem. As laid out in the bone-chilling New York Times article, recent data from groups that study online platforms has documented that hate speech has exploded on Twitter in the first two weeks since Musk took over. Overall, the Times reported that researchers noted “they had never seen such a sharp increase in hate speech, problematic content and formerly banned accounts in such a short period on a mainstream social media platform.”

Some of the most jarring statistics include that slurs against Black Americans have tripled to 3,876 times per day, antisemitic posts are up more than 60% and slurs against gay men jumped from 2,506 a day to now nearly 4,000 comments per day, according to the article.

Forbes, Ex-Twitter Employees Begin Lawyering Up To Face Elon Musk, Cyrus Farivar, Dec 5, 2022. Judge Considers Whether To Hold Tesla Chief Executive forbes magazine l CustomElon Musk In Contempt Over Tweet

Tesla CEO Elon Musk arrives at federal court, April 4, 2019 in New York City. Getty Images

twitter bird CustomAfter a few tumultuous weeks since Elon Musk took over Twitter, fired former employees in ever-greater numbers are now taking the company to task over what they say are broken promises surrounding their severance from the company.

On Monday, Lisa Bloom, left, a well-known Los Angeles-based attorney, announced in a press conference that she is now representing three lisa bloomex-Twitter employees in arbitration claims — even going so far as to holding up a ceramic sink, nodding to the strange joke that Musk made when he took over the company in late October.

“Elon, you broke your promises and you violated the law, we are coming after you,” she said in a press conference held in her law offices and streamed online. “Let that sink in.”

Additionally, a New York-based lawyer is now threatening to bring new arbitration claims on behalf of 22 ex-employees, while a Boston-based lawyer has brought three lawsuits and claims before the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of three additional former Twitter workers.

Taken together, these represent a collective new legal front that the company must now face, given that Musk has fired more than half of the company’s workforce since he took over in late October.

At its core, the primary issue is that some employees say they are not receiving the level of severance and compensation, which includes bonuses and stock vesting, prior to the takeover. Additionally, others were given what Bloom called an “illegal ultimatum” — asking workers to take a three months severance deal if they weren’t willing to stay on as part of Musk’s “hardcore” workforce. Bloom said Twitter is in alleged violation of a federal labor law, known as the WARN Act, which requires advance notice of termination before separation from the company actually takes place. If found in violation of this law, Twitter could owe penalties of $500 per employee per day.

By seemingly evading the WARN Act and other alleged misdeeds, these lawyers say, the company seems to be trying to save tens or even hundreds of millions dollars in cash payments, bonuses, equity, vested stock and other payouts.

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steward rhodes kelly meigs jessica watkins kenneth harrelson thomas caldwell

 

World News, Disasters, Human Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Court Dismisses Suit Against Saudi Ruler in Khashoggi Killing, Edward Wong, Dec. 6, 2022. The court followed the Biden administration’s guidance that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, has immunity in a case over the death of Jamal Khashoggi.

Mohammed Bin Salman Al-SaudA U.S. federal court said in a filing on Tuesday that it was dismissing a lawsuit against the crown prince of Saudi Arabia over the murder of a Saudi columnist who lived in Virginia, after the State Department’s determination that the prince has immunity as a head of state or government.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of Hatice Cengiz, the fiancée of the columnist, Jamal Khashoggi, named Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as the most jamal kahshoggiprominent defendant. Mr. Khashoggi was killed by Saudi agents while visiting Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul in 2018 to get documents for his upcoming wedding.

This September, Prince Mohammed’s father, King Salman, made the prince the prime minister of Saudi Arabia. The move formalized his role as ruler of the kingdom, though the king remains the head of state.

Some U.S. officials and analysts said the king appeared to make the decision to ensure that the prince had immunity in the case. King Salman made the announcement six days before an October deadline set by the court for the U.S. government to advise whether Prince Mohammed had immunity. Soon after he received his new title, the prince told the court he had immunity based on legal precedent.

The State Department asked the court for an extension to make a legal determination, and then it filed a statement with the Justice Department on Nov. 17 that said Prince Mohammed should be “immune while in office.”

The letter said the State Department was not taking a position on the suit itself and repeated “its unequivocal condemnation of the heinous murder” of Mr. Khashoggi. Legal scholars said at the time that the determination was consistent with precedent.

In its 25-page filing on Tuesday, the court said: “Despite the court’s uneasiness, then, with both the circumstances of bin Salman’s appointment and the credible allegations of his involvement in Khashoggi’s murder, the United States has informed the court that he is immune, and bin Salman is therefore ‘entitled to head of state immunity … while he remains in office.’”

“Accordingly,” the court added, “the claims against bin Salman will be dismissed based on head-of-state immunity.”

The court also dismissed the cases against Saud al-Qahtani and Ahmed al-Assiri, senior Saudi officials at the time of the killing who were named as defendants in the lawsuit, saying the plaintiffs had not adequately established that the court should have jurisdiction over the matter.

Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now, an advocacy group that filed the lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Cengiz, wrote on Twitter that the court’s decision was “sad news for accountability.” She said that the group was consulting with lawyers on the next steps and that “our struggle for justice continues.”

Mr. Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident who wrote columns in The Washington Post criticizing the prince and the kingdom’s government, was strangled by Saudi agents and then dismembered. During the 2020 presidential campaign, President Biden vowed to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” for the killing and other human rights abuses. As one of his first foreign policy actions in office, Mr. Biden authorized the release of a U.S. intelligence report that said Prince Mohammed had approved the killing.

Mr. Biden kept his distance from the kingdom and criticized its human rights record, but this summer he bowed to suggestions from top national security aides that he should try to repair relations with Prince Mohammed. He reluctantly visited the kingdom in July and exchanged a fist bump with the prince, which drew widespread condemnation from senior Democratic lawmakers and human rights advocates.

In October, the prince led OPEC Plus, a cartel of oil-producing nations, in announcing a steep cut in production, which infuriated Mr. Biden and created a new rupture in U.S.-Saudi relations. Mr. Biden accused the prince of siding with Russia, which relies on high oil prices to support its spending during its war on Ukraine.

Top Biden aides thought they had reached a secret agreement with Saudi officials in May to increase oil production through the end of this year, though officials in Riyadh have denied making such promises.

ny times logoNew York Times, President Vladimir Putin of Russia signed a law banning expressions of L.G.B.T.Q. identity in public, Emma Bubola, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.).President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia intensified his crackdown on L.G.B.T.Q. people on Monday, when he signed new legislation that widely bans public expression of their identity in the country.

The new law makes it illegal to spread “propaganda” about “nontraditional sexual relations” in the media, advertising, movies or on social media. It had passed the Duma, Russia’s Parliament, by a vote of 397 to 0 on Nov. 24.

Demonstrations of “nontraditional relationships or preferences” will also be completely barred from advertising, and from any outlet visible to minors. Distributing to minors any information “that causes children to want to change their sex” was also prohibited.

The law is likely to put another strain on a community that has already been largely stigmatized in a country where officials have cast the repression of L.G.B.T.Q. expression as part of a wider struggle to protect Russia from Western interference.

Mr. Putin has long cast L.G.B.T.Q. life as a Western intrusion into Russia’s traditional society and values, and proponents of the new law recently likened the fight against L.G.B.T.Q. expression to Russia’s military actions in Ukraine, which they see as a broader civilization clash between them and the West.

“We have our own way of development, we do not need European imposition of nontraditional relations,” Nina Ostanina, chairwoman of the committee on family, women and children, said during parliamentary hearings on the legislation.

Russia has banned “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” among minors since 2013, with steep fines or suspension of business activities for Russians, and expulsion from the country for foreigners who were found guilty. The new law extends the ban on such propaganda to all adults.

ny times logoNew York Times, For Sunak, Like Biden, Dullness Could Be a Secret Weapon, Mark Landler and Stephen Castle, Dec. 6, 2022. For all their differences, President Biden and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain share a challenge: operating in the wake of a larger-than-life predecessor. They have tactics in common, too.

rishi sunakPresident Biden and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, left, met face to face for the first time as leaders in Bali, Indonesia, last month.

For years, Boris Johnson and Donald J. Trump were viewed as populist twins — flamboyant, scandal-scarred, norm-busting figures, acting in a trans-Atlantic political drama. With both out of office, at least for now, a more timely and intriguing comparison is between Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and President Biden.

joe biden twitterThough they differ by obvious metrics — young vs. old, conservative vs. liberal — Mr. Sunak and Mr. Biden, right, are using strikingly similar methods to govern in the wake of their larger-than-life predecessors. Both have tried to let the steam out of their countries’ hothouse politics by making a virtue of being, well, a little boring.

The similarities are more than stylistic: Both lead parties that are divided between centrist and more extreme forces, whether to the right, for United Kingdom flagMr. Sunak, or the left, for the American president. And both are dogged by poor poll numbers, in part because of economic ills but also because their pragmatic, undramatic style can seem ill-suited to the polarized politics of post-Brexit Britain and post-Trump America.

For Mr. Sunak, who took office in October amid an economic crisis and after months of political upheaval that left his Conservative Party exhausted and unpopular, Mr. Biden might offer a blueprint for political rehabilitation.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Macron’s Plan on Migrants: Deport More, Give Others Legal Status, Constant Méheut, Dec. 6, 2022. Under pressure, the government of President Emmanuel Macron, right, tries to balance a perceived immigration problem with a need for migrant workers.

emmanuel macronThe issue of immigration once again took center stage in French politics on Tuesday, as President Emmanuel Macron proposed a tougher stance on deportations, while also extending work opportunities for migrants with needed skills.

Mr. Macron’s government is trying to balance pressure from a rising far right to get immigration under control, against France’s need for immigrant labor. Its bill reflects his long-stated willingness to streamline both admissions and deportations, fulfilling a promise he made during his re-election campaign earlier this year.

French FlagRecent incidents — including a schoolgirl’s killing by an illegal migrant and the disputed docking of a migrant rescue vessel — have also pushed the government to try to take the heat out of a combustible issue.

Immigration has long been a fixation of politics in France — the president’s proposal would be the country’s 29th immigration and asylum law in four decades — where politicians and commentators, particularly on the right, often describe a country fending off an out-of-control influx of migrants. In reality, France has a smaller proportion of immigrants in its population than most of its neighbors, and in the past decade, immigration has grown less there than in the rest of Europe.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Netanyahu’s New Government Roils Israel Before It’s Even Formed, Isabel Kershner, Dec. 6, 2022. Efforts by Benjamin Netanyahu, below right, to appease his extremist coalition partners have been met with a backlash from Israeli liberals.

Benjamin Netanyahu smile TwitterFirst he agreed to hand control over Israel’s internal security to an ultranationalist. Then he pledged to give a party that opposes gay rights and liberal values wide powers over some programs taught in public schools. Finally, he promised a religious party that seeks to annex the West Bank authority over much of daily life in the occupied territories.

The backlash against efforts by Israel’s prime minister-designate, Benjamin Netanyahu, to form a new right-wing government has been swift, with liberal Israeli critics and even many conservatives saying that he is undermining the country’s democratic values.

Israel FlagWhile Mr. Netanyahu is returning to power in a position of strength after the Nov. 1 election — his right-wing and religious alliance won 64 seats, a majority in the 120-seat Parliament — his path back has been far from smooth as he maneuvers the political land mines that come with working with his new allies.

He has caused an uproar within the school system after last week promising Avi Maoz, the leader of the far-right Noam party who promotes policies that critics describe as homophobic, racist and misogynist, authority over extracurricular content and enrichment programs in the state school system. Within days, hundreds of teachers and hundreds of school principals, as well as dozens of city mayors and local councils publicly pledged to ignore any dictates from Mr. Maoz and to preserve the spirit of pluralism in their classrooms.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary on America's Immigrant Spies. Part 3: The Russians, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 22 books and former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst, Dec. 5-6, 2022. Donald Howard wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallHeathfield held down a typical job in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a town best known for its educational institutions.

Having graduated from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in 2000, Heathfield was the head of the management consulting firm FutureMap, which marketed strategic planning software to U.S. and international corporations. The company had branch offices in Paris and Singapore. Previously, Heathfield had worked for the consulting firm Global Partners Inc., whose clients included Boston Scientific, General Electric, wayne madesen report logoand T-Mobile. An active member of the World Future Society, Heathfield had become friends with Leon Fuerth, the national security adviser to then-Vice President Al Gore.

Unbeknownst to their friends and co-workers, the Heathfield family harbored a very dark secret. Donald Howard Heathfield was a real person, but this particular Donald Howard Heathfield had died in Montreal in 1962 at the age of 7 weeks. The Donald Howard Heathfield who worked as an international consultant in Cambridge and had rubbed shoulders at the Kennedy School of Government with such classmates as Felipe Calderon, the future president of Mexico, was, in reality, Colonel Andrei Olegovich Bezrukov of the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation, the SVR. As for Ann Foley, she was married to Bezrukov but as Elena Stanislavovna Vavilova.

The faux Heathfield couple were part of a classic KGB/SVR “Illegals Program,” the placement of sleeper agents abroad who are at the beck and call of Moscow Control (or “C”) to carry out various assignments.

Since 2015, it appears that in-country “Illegals” have been supplanted by the SVR and Russian military intelligence by “cyber-illegals” operating from either Russia or third countries and targeting Internet and social media users in the United States, Britain, Canada, and other countries. These “cyber-illegals” have operated under the aegis of such entities as the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, Russia; DCLeaks.com; and Guccifer 2.0.

Considering Putin’s threat and what befell the United States in 2016 with the election of one-time Czechoslovak intelligence asset Donald Trump as president, did Putin exact his revenge by activating Russian Illegals nested abroad in the U.S. military, civilian government, and private business?

michael flynn family qanonToday, we have a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and Trump’s short-lived national security adviser, retired Lt. General Michael Flynn (shown above at center at a QAnon gathering), singing the praises of Putin, calling for unconstitutional do-overs of the 2020 presidential election and the recent gubernatorial election in Arizona, supporting the failed Trump coup d’état on January 6, 2021, and echoing QAnon disinformation – much of it sourced to Russian propaganda websites – in tweets and public statements.

Flynn’s brother, Army Lt. General Charles Flynn, who was among the Pentagon officials who refused to deploy the National Guard in defense of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, now commands all U.S. Army forces in the Indo-Pacific region from Ft. Shafter, Hawaii.

Stop for a second and consider the Soviet and Russian Illegals who were caught. If the Illegals Program was as successful as the Russians would have us believe, and there is strong evidence that it was, how many of these sleeper agents were not only never exposed but continued on to positions of authority in the Trump administration?

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Ukraine War

ny times logoNew York Times, Inside the Face-Off Between Russia and a Small Internet Access Firm, Adam Satariano and Paul Mozur, Dec. 6, 2022. The cat-and-mouse experience of Proton, a Swiss company, shows what it’s like to be targeted by Russian censors — and what it takes to fight back.

After Moscow erected a digital barricade in March, blocking access to independent news sites and social media platforms to hide information about its unfolding invasion of Ukraine, many Russians looked for a workaround. One reliable route they found came from a small Swiss company based nearly 2,000 miles away.

The company, Proton, provides free software that masks a person’s identity and location online. That gives a user in Russia access to the open web by making it appear that the person is logging in from the Netherlands, Japan or the United States. A couple of weeks after the internet blockade, about 850,000 people inside Russia used Proton each day, up from fewer than 25,000.

That is, until the end of March, when the Russian government found a way to block Proton, too.

Targeting Proton was the opening salvo of a continuing back-and-forth battle, pitting a team of about 25 engineers against a country embarking on one of the most aggressive censorship campaigns in recent memory.

Working from a Geneva office where the company keeps its name off the building directory, Proton has spent nine pressure-packed months repeatedly tweaking its technology to avoid Russian blocks, only to be countered again by government censors in Moscow. Some employees took Proton off their social media profiles out of concern that they would be targeted personally.

 

 President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine (File photo).

 President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine (File photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukrainian Drones Hit 2 Bases Deep in Russia, Official Says, Andrew E. Kramer and Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). Kyiv used pilotless drones to strike two bases in the heart of Russia, a Ukrainian official confirmed, in Ukraine’s most brazen attack on Russia. The strikes signaled a new willingness by Kyiv to take the fight to Russian soil, raising the stakes in the war.

Ukraine executed its most brazen attack into Russian territory in the nine-month-old war on Monday, targeting two military bases hundreds of miles inside the country, using unmanned drones, according to the Russian Defense Ministry and a senior Ukrainian official.

The drones were launched from Ukrainian territory, and at least one of the strikes was made with the help of special forces close to the base who helped guide the drones to the target, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity to convey sensitive information.

ukraine flagThe strikes signaled a new willingness by Kyiv to take the fight to bases in the heart of Russia, raising the stakes in the war, and demonstrated for the first time Ukraine’s ability to attack at such long distances. Shortly after the attacks on the bases, Russia sent a barrage of missiles streaking toward Ukrainian cities.

The Kremlin said that the weapons launched by Ukraine were Soviet-era jet drones and were aimed at bases in Ryazan and Engels, about 300 miles from the Ukrainian border. It said that its forces had intercepted the drones, and that “the fall and explosion of the wreckage” had “slightly damaged” two planes, killing three servicemen and wounding four others.

The Engels airfield, on the Volga River in southern Russia, is a base for some of Russia’s long-range, nuclear-capable bombers, including the Tupolev-160 and Tupolev-95. Ukrainian officials say it is also a staging ground for Russia’s unrelenting campaign of missile attacks on infrastructure, which have left millions of Ukrainians with intermittent light, heat or water — or none at all — at the onset of winter. Security footage from an apartment complex near the base showed a fireball lighting up the sky.

The other explosion occurred at the Dyagilevo military base in the central city of Ryazan, only about 100 miles from Moscow, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry. It was there that the fatalities and injuries occurred, the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

Ukraine’s government declined to publicly acknowledge the strikes, in keeping with its practice with other attacks on Russia and Russian-occupied Crimea.

The Engels air base and the Ryazan military installation are between 300 and 450 miles from the Ukrainian border, which is beyond the range of any known missile in Ukraine’s arsenal.

 

Update from Ukraine,

, Denys Davydov (former Boeing 737 Captain), Dec. 6, 2022 (19:29 min. video)

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Russia reports third attack at airfield within 24 hours, David L. Stern, Erin Cunningham, Mary Ilyushina, Jeff Stein, Kelly Kasulis Cho and Jennifer Hassan, Dec. 6, 2022.  An oil tanker close to an airfield in Russia’s Kursk oblast, near the Ukrainian border, caught fire Tuesday following a drone strike, regional governor Roman Starovoit said on Telegram, adding that there were no casualties. This would be the third attack on or near a Russian airfield in 24 hours.

The strike comes a day after explosions at two military installations deep inside Russia, including an airfield that served as a base for bombers allegedly used in Moscow’s relentless strikes on civilian infrastructure in Ukraine. Three Russian service members died in those blasts, which marked the deepest strikes yet inside Russia. Russia’s Defense Ministry blamed Ukraine for the attacks and said it had intercepted low-flying drones in the area.

Kyiv did not publicly claim responsibility for the strikes Monday and Tuesday, but a senior Ukrainian official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive operation, told The Washington Post on Tuesday that all three attacks were carried out by Ukrainian drones.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

1. Key developments

  • “These were Ukrainian drones — very successful, very effective,” the senior Ukrainian official said of the strikes, which signal a potentially serious security lapse by Russia. The official added that Moscow has “sowed the seeds of anger, and they’ll reap the whirlwind.” He said he could not comment on whether the drones were launched from Ukrainian territory or whether special forces were involved.
  • Ukraine is carrying out emergency shutdowns of its power grid in key regions after another barrage of Russian missiles knocked out power and water supplies in cities including Odessa on Monday. About half of the Kyiv region will be without electricity in the coming days, Oleksiy Kuleba, the region’s military leader, said on Telegram. “We will do everything to restore stability,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address.
  • Russia said there are no direct negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv on the issue of a security zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, after Rafael Mariano Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said he was nearing an agreement between the two sides to safeguard the facility. “We are discussing the possible parameters of a declaration on the establishment of a zone of protection,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. But under no circumstances would Russian forces withdraw from the plant, she added.

2. Battleground updates

  • The Monday drone strikes on Russian military bases angered pro-Moscow military bloggers, who criticized officials for failing to anticipate and prevent the attacks, according to the Institute for the Study of War. “Several prominent Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance groups must have launched the strike against the Engels-2 air base from inside Russian territory,” the Washington-based think tank reported.
  • At least four people were killed in Russian missile strikes in Ukraine on Monday, Zelensky said. But air defense systems provided by Ukraine’s allies helped shoot down 60 of the 70 missiles fired by Russia, according to the Ukrainian armed forces. “Every downed Russian missile is concrete proof that terror can be defeated,” Zelensky said. The missile strikes on Ukraine came shortly after the explosions at the Russian military installations.
  • Russia appears to be capable of producing guided missiles despite heavy sanctions, weapons analysts say. Conflict Armament Research, an investigative organization based in Britain, examined two cruise missiles that struck Kyiv last month and concluded that they were produced in recent months, even after export controls prohibited vital components from reaching Russia. The group said Russia could be producing the weapons using a supply workaround or stockpiled components from the United States and Europe.
  • Russia attacked the outskirts of the Zaporizhzhia region on Monday, damaging critical infrastructure and residential buildings in a missile strike, the area’s governor, Oleksandr Starukh, said on Telegram. No deaths were reported.

washington post logoWashington Post, She fled Russian occupation by boat. Minutes later, she was shot, Samantha Schmidt and Serhii Korolchuk, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). For weeks, Dmytro Matiukha had urged his in-laws to leave their cottage on the east bank of the Dnieper River.

The shelling was getting worse on the Russian-occupied island where they lived, and the couple had lost power in their home. So over the weekend, when Ukrainian officials encouraged residents to flee across the river to the liberated city of Kherson, Matiukha’s in-laws decided to make the trip.
Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for the latest updates on Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Matiukha told them to be careful, he recalled, and waited in his car to pick them up on the Ukrainian-controlled side of the river. But just minutes after they left on Sunday, Matiukha received a call from his father-in-law.

“Mom was hit,” said Vladyslav Svitlov, 76. “What do I do?”

Ukraine live briefing

At least four bullets pierced through the side of their small motorboat. Tetiana Svitlova, 75, was crouching low in the boat when the gunfire struck her in the abdomen. She reached her arm toward her husband briefly before collapsing into the boat.

The gunfire also damaged the boat’s weak engine, so it would take two more hours for a passerby to tow the couple to shore. By the time they reached their son-in-law, Svitlova no longer had a pulse.
Dmytro Matiukha, 48, stands outside the morgue in Kherson, Ukraine, on Monday. His mother-in-law, Tetiana Svitlova, died while trying to cross the Dnieper River. (Heidi Levine for The Washington Post).

Her death, a day after Ukrainian regional officials invited residents to cross the river to Kherson, underscored a dilemma facing officials about when and how to move the residents closest to the fighting as battle lines shift. At what point is it more dangerous to flee than to stay?

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We can win a battle of production lines with Russia. But there’s a better way, Max Boot, right, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). The conflict in max boot screen shotUkraine has already lasted nearly 10 months, and it has turned into something the United States has not seen since World War II: a battle of production lines.

Both Russia and Ukraine have been expending munitions at a furious rate. “At the height of the fighting in Donbas, Russia was using more ammunition in two days than the entire British military has in stock,” notes the Royal United Services Institute, a British think tank.

Not surprisingly, both sides are now running low. Ukrainian intelligence estimates, for example, that the Russians have already expended 80 percent of their Iskander short-range ballistic missiles, which have been used to target Ukrainian cities and energy infrastructure.

It’s vital, but insufficient, for Congress to pass the Biden administration’s new aid request of $37.7 billion for Ukraine. Unfortunately, more funding alone won’t immediately bust through bottlenecks in defense production, raising the need to provide Ukraine with more potent weapons systems to maintain its battlefield progress.

The U.S. Army just awarded Raytheon a $1.2 billion contract to deliver six National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile (NASAMS) batteries to Ukraine, in addition to the two that are already shooting down Russian missiles. But it will take 24 months to build the additional batteries. Ukraine needs to protect its cities now — not in two years.

The best solution would be to help Ukraine win the war faster by providing it with higher-end weapons systems such as F-16 fighters, long-range Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS), Abrams tanks and Gray Eagle drones that the Biden administration has so far refused to supply. The Wall Street Journal just reported that the Pentagon even altered HIMARS supplied to Ukraine to prevent it from firing longer-range rockets capable of hitting Russia — even as Russian bases continue to be used for despicable and illegal attacks on Ukrainian civilians. That’s counterproductive self-restraint.

We can win a battle of production lines with Russia (the U.S. economy is 14 times larger), but we should be doing everything possible to minimize the cost and length of the conflict so that we don’t have to. If you think the supply strains are bad today, imagine what they will look like if the war is still raging at its current tempo a year from now. That’s a scenario we need to avoid if we can.

washington post logoWashington Post, Support slipping for indefinite U.S. aid to Ukraine, poll finds, Claire Parker, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). A strong majority of Americans continue to support sending arms and economic aid to Ukraine, according to a poll released Monday. But as the conflict drags into winter, Americans are divided over whether Washington should push Ukraine to reach a negotiated peace as soon as possible.

More than two-thirds of respondents back supplying Ukraine with weapons and economic assistance, and about three-quarters support accepting Ukrainian refugees and sanctioning Russia, according to the survey conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs last month.

While support among the American public for assistance to Ukraine remains robust, Republican backing for aid to Ukraine has slipped since the spring, with 55 percent of Republicans saying they support sending military aid, compared with 68 percent in July and 80 percent in March. Half of Republicans favored providing economic assistance to Ukraine last month, compared with roughly three-quarters in March, according to the Chicago Council’s findings.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Ukrainian drones hit two air bases deep inside Russia in brazen attack, Mary Ilyushina, Jeff Stein and David L. Stern, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). Blasts rocked two military installations deep inside Russia on Monday, including an airfield that served as a base for bombers allegedly used in Moscow’s relentless airstrikes on Ukraine’s critical civilian infrastructure. The attack marked Kyiv’s most brazen hit on Russian territory since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion nine months ago.

Russia’s airstrikes continued on Monday with a fresh barrage fired at targets across Ukraine just hours after reports of the explosions in Russia, which occurred at the Engels-2 strategic bomber base in Saratov, on the Volga River, and at the Dyagilevo military air base in Ryazan region.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Explosions rocked two Russian military bases, according to some Russian media. It was not clear what caused the blasts, Marc Santora and Ivan Nechepurenko, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). Explosions rocked two Russian military bases on Monday, according to some Russian media, including an airfield that Kyiv officials said has been used as a staging location for the bombers whose missiles have ravaged Ukraine’s energy grid.

It was not immediately clear what caused the explosion at either military installation, and the full extent of any damage was also unclear.

ukraine flagHours after the blasts were reported, Ukrainian officials said Russia had launched a volley of missiles at targets throughout the country. Two people were killed and two others wounded in a Russian strike in the southern region of Zaporizhzhia, according to Kyrylo Tymoshenko, a senior official in the Ukrainian president’s office.

Of the two explosions reported in Russia, one hit the Engels-2 air base, which is near the southwestern city of Saratov, hundreds of miles from the Ukrainian border, and hosts Russian strategic bombers, according to Astra, a Russian news outlet.

In Washington, a Defense Department official said that the Pentagon had seen evidence of an explosion at the Engels base. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Earlier on Monday, an explosion at a military base in the city of Ryazan killed three people and wounded six others, the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported. It said that a fuel truck had exploded, citing a statement from the local emergency services, but did not say what had caused the explosion.

Ukraine did not take responsibility for either blast. In the past it has remained deliberately ambiguous about its military’s involvement in strikes in Russian territory. But military and political officials took note of reports circulating in Russian news media.
Here’s what we know:

Hours after blasts were reported at two Russian bases, Ukraine’s Air Force said that a Russian missile attack was underway. The cause of the explosions in Russia was unclear.

Here's What To Know

  • Explosions rock two military bases in Russia, according to some Russian media.
  • An E.U. embargo of Russian oil and the G7’s price cap take effect.
  • A woman is shot and killed trying to cross into Ukrainian-held territory in Kherson.
  • Ukraine will auction a yacht seized from a Putin ally.
  • To help Ukraine, a widow parts with a rare emerald from a 1622 shipwreck.

The Hill, US secretly modified HIMARS for Ukraine to prevent Kyiv from shooting long-range missiles into Russia, Brad Dress, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). The Pentagon secretly modified advanced rocket systems it sent to Ukraine to make the weapons unable to fire into Russia and escalate the war.

Since June, the U.S. has supplied Kyiv with 20 of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), but the weapons are uniquely modified so they can’t fire long-range missiles, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing U.S. officials.

The Hill has reached out to the Pentagon for comment.

The HIMARS are wheeled vehicles equipped with rocket systems, which are attached to the back.

Along with the HIMARS, the U.S. has supplied Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) with a range of 50 miles, which have been used to strike Russian ammunition depots and command centers within Ukraine.

When President Biden announced the Defense Department was shipping the HIMARS and ammunition to Ukraine at the end of May, he said they would only be used for defense and the administration was “not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems that strike into Russia.”

The Hill, Opinion: The far-right’s pro-Russia posture endangers the nation and the world, Douglas E. Schoen, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). Throughout the 20th century, American leadership was paramount in pushing back against authoritarian and revisionist dictators who sought to undermine global peace and quash human rights. 

Both Democrats and Republicans alike recognized that the United States could ill afford to take a passive role on the world stage, as problems in Europe or republican elephant logoAsia would eventually make their way to our shores. It was an accepted principle that, when democracy was being threatened abroad, America would come to its defense. 

However, this ideal has come under fire since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Isolationist tendencies have become increasingly prominent on the political right, and Republicans have been leading the charge to curtail U.S. support for Ukraine, a sovereign and democratic nation that Russian President Vladimir Putin has brutalized and tried to lay claim to.  

kevin mccarthyIn the early days of the war, only far-right nationalists such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) were doing Putin’s bidding by lobbying for a reduction in American support for Ukraine.  

But as with other fringe views, this position quickly infiltrated the mainstream, and dozens of high-profile GOP officials have adopted a similarly pro-Russian posture. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), right, even called the U.S.’s current support level for Ukraine a “blank check.”  

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volodymyr zelenski t shirt siege

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Economy, Governance

 

 In more than two dozen counties, thousands of voters came out to vote, some waiting for hours for the chance to cast their ballot early for the Dec. 6 runoff between Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D), above right, and Republican Herschel Walker, above left.

 In more than two dozen counties, thousands of voters came out to vote, some waiting for hours for the chance to cast their ballot early for the Dec. 6 runoff between Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D), above right, and Republican Herschel Walker, above left.

ny times logoNew York Times, Reports of Short Poll Lines as Georgia Picks Warnock or Walker for Senate, Maggie Astor, Dec. 6, 2022. Election Day has so far gone smoothly, as the race between the Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker, his G.O.P. challenger, came to a close.

Election Day voting in Georgia has so far gone smoothly on Tuesday, as the race between Senator Raphael Warnock, the Democratic incumbent, and Herschel Walker, his Republican challenger, came to a close under overcast skies.

Here’s what to know as the last race of the midterms is decided:

The result will determine whether Democrats win an outright majority in the Senate, 51 seats to 49, or whether the chamber stays evenly divided. Just one seat could make a big difference for Democrats.

There were no widespread reports of the long lines that marred much of the early-voting period. But turnout seemed sluggish in some places, a worrisome sign for Mr. Walker. Democratic election modelers believe Mr. Warnock may have built a lead as large as eight percentage points in early voting. If that’s the case, Mr. Walker could need to win as much as 60 percent of Election Day votes to catch up — not impossible, but a high bar.

Mr. Walker began his morning by greeting voters in Marietta, in the Atlanta suburbs. He cut off a reporter who started to ask about his personal character, a reference to a series of accusations against him, including domestic violence and pressuring a former girlfriend to have an abortion. “The reason I’m not going to address that, because it don’t need to be addressed,” Mr. Walker said. “Right now, I’ll put my character up against Raphael Warnock any day.”

Mr. Warnock delivered remarks at a campaign office in Norcross, also near Atlanta, and offered this closing message: “Go out and vote.” He has no other public events scheduled before his results watch party in the evening.

ny times logoNew York Times, Warnock and Walker Race to Stoke Turnout on Last Day of Campaigning in Georgia Runoff, Maggie Astor and Reid Epstein, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). Recent polls have shown a tight race, with Mr. Warnock narrowly ahead.

More than 1.8 million Georgians voted early in the runoff between Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, and his Republican opponent, Herschel Walker. And with the early voting period now over, the focus has turned to the Georgians who will be heading to the polls on Tuesday.

georgia mapMr. Walker is making a last-minute push to get out the vote, traversing conservative northern Georgia as part of what he is calling an “Evict Warnock” bus tour. During a stop in Flowery Branch early Monday, he greeted voters at a popular diner, many of whom said they had already voted.

But the early vote is expected to favor Mr. Warnock, making Election Day turnout crucial to Mr. Walker’s chances. His Republican allies believe he needs to win about 60 percent of the in-person vote — about four percentage points more than his advantage in last month’s general election.

Mr. Warnock, too, has run into plenty of supporters who have already cast ballots, including when he preached on Sunday morning at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he is a pastor. And he is spending his final campaign swing through Atlanta urging supporters not to take anything for granted.

“We’ve got one more day to bring this thing home, and I want you to create a 9-1-1 emergency,” he told a group of students at Georgia Tech. “I want you to vote like it’s an emergency.”

The race will determine whether Democrats gain an absolute majority in the Senate, 51 seats to 49, or whether they maintain their current 50-50 split, in which they control the chamber but rely on Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaking vote. Winning a 51st seat would give the party more power on Senate committees, in addition to providing a little more wiggle room on votes.

Here are some other developments:

Mr. Warnock held a pair of campaign rallies Sunday night in Athens, home to the University of Georgia, including one at a student center named for Zell Miller, the last Georgia Democrat to win a Senate seat before 2021. The contest has already made history: Georgia has never had two Black major-party nominees compete for the Senate, according to political scientists.

Georgia Democrats are feeling optimistic and Republicans are wallowing ahead of Election Day, but Senator Raphael Warnock is spending his final campaign swing through Atlanta urging supporters (most of whom have already voted) to not take anything for granted. “We’ve got one more day to bring this thing home,” he told a group of students at Georgia Tech. “I want you to vote like it’s an emergency.”

ny times logopaul krugmanNew York Times, Opinion: Does ChatGPT Mean Robots Are Coming For the Skilled Jobs? Paul Krugman, right, Dec. 6, 2022. Will robots take away our jobs? People have been asking that question for an astonishingly long time.

The Regency-era British economist David Ricardo added to the third edition of his classic “Principles of Political Economy,” published in 1821, a chapter titled “On Machinery,” in which he tried to show how the technologies of the early Industrial Revolution could, at least initially, hurt workers. Kurt Vonnegut’s 1952 novel “Player Piano” envisaged a near-future America in which automation has eliminated most employment.

At the level of the economy as a whole, the verdict is clear: So far, machines haven’t done away with the need for workers. U.S. workers are almost five times as productive as they were in the early postwar years, but there has been no long-term upward trend in unemployment:

That said, technology can eliminate particular kinds of jobs. In 1948 half a million Americans were employed mining coal; the great bulk of those jobs had disappeared by the early 21st century not because we stopped mining coal — the big decline in coal production, in favor first of natural gas and then of renewable energy, started only around 15 years ago — but because strip mining and mountaintop removal made it possible to extract an increasing amount of coal with many fewer workers:

It’s true that the jobs that disappear in the face of technological progress have generally been replaced by other jobs. But that doesn’t mean that the process has been painless. Individual workers may not find it easy to change jobs, especially if the new jobs are in different places. They may find their skills devalued; in some cases, as with coal, technological change can uproot communities and their way of life.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: 'Soft landing’ is a terrible name for what’s coming, Heather Long, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). A year ago, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell finally said it was time to quit using the word “transitory” to describe inflation, which clearly wasn’t going to be a short-lived phenomenon. It would be equally wise to banish the term “soft landing” from our vocabularies.

Hardly a day goes by without a Wall Street expert or prominent economist weighing in on whether the United States will experience a soft landing or a recession in 2023. Powell has been asked about the likelihood of a soft landing at every one of his past five news conferences. In May, he said there was a “good chance” it would happen. Last month, he admitted that likelihood had “narrowed.”

The phrase is meant to describe a scenario in which the country avoids a recession in 2023 despite high inflation, the war in Ukraine and a rapid surge in interest rates. Given that the Fed has triggered a recession in eight of the last nine rate-hike cycles, it would be remarkable to avoid one this time. But the term “soft” makes it sound as if no one is going to get hurt.

The reality is that a substantial number of Americans will experience pain even if the country doesn’t technically fall into a recession. A more appropriate term is probably a “forced landing” or an “emergency landing.” Or, we should ditch the landing gear entirely and call this best-case scenario something more like a “stall session.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Facing a divided Congress, Biden should dust off a powerful but simple tool, Jane Harman, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). Jane Harman, a Democrat, represented California in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 to 2011, chairs the board of Freedom House and is president emerita of the Woodrow Wilson Center.

The midterms sent a message that voters are tired of crazy. They want Congress to get things done. Some members are taking this to heart, as evidenced by the 12 Senate Republicans who voted for the same-sex marriage bill. Other obvious priorities are amending the 135-year-old Electoral Count Act to prevent a constitutional crisis like the one we came close to on Jan. 6, 2021; passing the 2023 federal budget; and raising the debt ceiling to avoid default.

As he faces a divided Congress come January, President Biden should dust off one powerful but simple tool: the presidential office hour.

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U.S. Courts, Crime, Regulation

washington post logoWashington Post, Polygamist leader claimed 20 ‘wives,’ including minors, FBI says, Marisa Iati, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). The self-proclaimed prophet claimed it was “impressions of Heavenly Father’s will” that spurred him to force his followers, including children, to engage in sexual acts, according to new allegations from the FBI.

Samuel Rappylee Bateman, a leader of an offshoot of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, allegedly counted his own daughter and other juvenile girls among his more than 20 “wives.” Many of them were younger than 15, an FBI agent wrote in a court document filed Friday.

Bateman’s alleged foray into polygamy began in 2019, when he was married to one woman and had a daughter who was roughly 14. While in the car one day, the daughter later told investigators, Bateman said that he felt like she was his wife and that he would make her have a child if his feelings turned out to be right.

When Bateman told his actual wife, she moved out of their home with their daughter and got a restraining order against him, according to the court filing, previously reported by the Salt Lake Tribune. But Bateman allegedly continued to tell his daughter that he wanted to kiss and touch her. From then on, the FBI agent wrote, he accumulated wives.

Bateman, 46, is in federal custody in Arizona on obstruction of justice charges for allegedly asking followers to delete his Signal phone app, which he used to communicate with them and his wives. He has pleaded not guilty to that charge and to state-level child abuse charges.

Bateman has not been charged with sex crimes, although the FBI agent said there is probable cause to believe that he engaged in criminal sexual activity with minors in 2020 and 2021. His attorneys did not respond to a message seeking comment Monday.

The FBI affidavit, filed in the Eastern District of Washington, paints a picture of a long-running setup in which Bateman tried to use God as a defense for repeatedly manipulating his so-called wives and some of his male followers into engaging in sexual acts. The allegations follow the escape — and subsequent discovery — of several girls who had been in state custody after being removed from the rest of Bateman’s roughly 50 followers.

Two people who talked with investigators — a woman who tried to help members of Bateman’s group and her husband, who was filming a documentary — told them that Bateman had driven to their home on the Arizona-Utah border in late 2020. He allegedly arrived in a large SUV filled with women and girls, the youngest of whom was roughly 9, and introduced them all as his wives.

In a separate incident, the FBI agent wrote, a recording captured Bateman saying God had told him to give “his girls’ virtue” to some of his male followers by forcing them to have sex while others watched.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Suspect in Colorado Springs Attack Charged With Murder and Hate Crimes, Dave Philipps, Dec. 6, 2022. Prosecutors lodged a total of 305 criminal counts against the defendant who the police say opened fire in a nightclub serving L.G.B.T.Q. patrons.

The person accused of opening fire in an L.G.B.T.Q. nightclub in Colorado, in a rampage that killed five people and injured at least 17 others, was formally charged on Tuesday with 305 criminal counts, including 10 counts of first-degree murder, 86 of attempted murder and 48 of bias-motivated crimes.

The police say that the suspect, Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, walked through the front door of Club Q in Colorado Springs near midnight on Nov. 19, wearing body armor and carrying an assault-style rifle, and immediately started firing. The assailant was tackled and beaten into submission by two unarmed club patrons and was held until the police arrived.

The hearing on Tuesday was the first time the defendant appeared in court in person since the shooting. Wearing bright yellow jail scrubs, the defendant was upright and attentive, and appeared to have healed significantly since a video court appearance in the days immediately after the shooting. At that time, the suspect seemed to be slumped over, with eyes swollen shut and a bruised face, and struggled just to speak.

The defendant is being held without bond at the El Paso County jail. After the charges were filed on Tuesday, the judge overseeing the case, Michael McHenry, set a preliminary hearing in the case for February. At the request of prosecutors, the judge agreed to unseal the arrest affidavit by Wednesday.

No clear motive for the shooting has emerged publicly. But the inclusion of charges of bias-motivated crimes, commonly known as hate crimes, by prosecutors suggests that they believe the attack was motivated specifically by antipathy toward the L.G.B.T.Q. community.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Seems Set to Back Web Designer Opposed to Same-Sex Marriage, Adam Liptak, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). The Supreme Court tries to find the line between free speech and gay rights.

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority seemed prepared on Monday to rule that a graphic designer in Colorado has a First Amendment right to refuse to create websites celebrating same-sex weddings based on her Christian faith despite a state law that forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation.

But several justices leaning in that direction appeared to be searching for limiting principles so as not to upend all sorts of anti-discrimination laws.

A web designer in Colorado wants to limit her services to heterosexual weddings, but a state law prohibits discrimination by businesses.

They explored the difference between businesses engaged in expression and ones simply selling goods; the difference between a client’s message and that of the designer; the difference between discrimination against gay couples and compelling the creation of messages supporting same-sex marriage; and the difference between discrimination based on race and that based on sexual orientation.

The bottom line, though, seemed to be that the court would not require the designer to create customized websites celebrating same-sex marriage despite the state anti-discrimination law.

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court to Hear Arguments on Far-Reaching Elections Case, Michael Wines, Dec. 6, 2022. In a North Carolina case, the court is being asked to decide whether to expand the authority that state legislatures have over election maps and voting laws.

It is a case “with profound consequences for American democracy,” said J. Michael Luttig, a former federal appeals court judge long a hero to conservatives.

Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht of the Texas Supreme Court, a Republican, has said it is “the biggest federalism issue in a long time, maybe ever.”

On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Moore v. Harper, a dispute between voting rights advocates and North Carolina’s General Assembly, which is controlled by Republicans, that could drastically increase the power that state legislatures have over voting issues.

Just how much power is at issue could become clearer as the arguments play out. But there is no arguing how high the stakes are in this lawsuit. The court is being asked to decide whether state election laws and political maps passed by state legislatures — specifically, a Republican gerrymander of North Carolina’s 14 House seats that the state’s Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional this year — should continue to be subject to judicial review in state courts.

ny times logoNew York Times, Man Charged With Killing Four Who Were Found Dismembered in Oklahoma, Michael Levenson, Dec. 6, 2022. The men’s remains were found in a river near Okmulgee, Okla., south of Tulsa, in October. All four were fatally shot after they planned to commit some kind of criminal act, the police said.

The owner of an Oklahoma salvage yard has been charged with fatally shooting four friends whose dismembered remains were found in a river in October after they set out to commit a crime together, the authorities said.

The man, Joseph L. Kennedy, 67, was charged with four counts of premeditated murder and was being held without bond in the killing of Mark Chastain, 32; his brother, Billy Chastain, 30; Mike Sparks, 32; and Alex Stevens, 29, according to Carol Iski, the district attorney for McIntosh and Okmulgee Counties in Oklahoma.

Mr. Kennedy and the victims, whose remains were found in the Deep Fork River on Oct. 14, were all from Okmulgee, Okla., a city of about 11,000 people about 40 miles south of Tulsa.

Court documents indicate that the daughter of a woman who was in a romantic relationship with Mr. Kennedy told investigators that he came to her mother’s house on Oct. 10 and told her mother that he “had caught men stealing from him and had shot them.” The daughter said that her mother had told her that “after killing them, he had cut them up,” the records state.

Ms. Iski said that even if the men had been trying to rob Mr. Kennedy, that was not a justification for shooting them.

“I would never be so bold as to predict what the defense might bring up,” Ms. Iski said at a news conference on Monday. “But the last time I checked, regardless of what happened, we don’t have a death penalty in Oklahoma for stealing.”

The district attorney’s office said on Tuesday that Mr. Kennedy did not yet have a lawyer.

The four friends were reported missing on Oct. 10 after they met up the previous night, the police said. Mark Chastain’s wife told the police that the men had been riding bicycles, possibly pulling trailers, court records show.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hertz to pay $168M after falsely accusing customers of stealing rental cars, Bryan Pietsch, Dec. 6, 2022. Hertz said Monday it will pay $168 million to settle hundreds of claims by customers who were falsely reported by the rental car company as having stolen its vehicles, with some innocent renters arrested and jailed for weeks or months over the reports.

Hertz said in a brief statement that it was settling 364 claims, which it said amounted to 95 percent of the outstanding claims against the company over the false theft reports.

Dozens of customers had shared stories on social media and broadcast television programs of being arrested, “swatted” or stopped at border crossings after Hertz had incorrectly reported them to the authorities for stealing vehicles from its rental fleet.

Hertz claims thousands of renters steal cars. Customers argue they’ve been falsely accused.

In many of the cases, the customer had paid for and properly returned the car weeks or months prior — or had never rented a car at all.

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U.S. High Tech, Media, Culture

 

rupert murdoch 2009 world economic forumw

washington post logoWashington Post, Rupert Murdoch to be deposed in $1.6 billion defamation case against Fox, Jeremy Barr and Rachel Weiner, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). The Fox Corp chairman, shown above at the 2009 World Economic Forum, is the highest-profile individual to be questioned in the case, which hinges on Fox’s coverage of the 2020 presidential election.

fox news logo SmallRupert Murdoch, the 91-year-old chairman of Fox News parent company Fox Corp, will be forced to answer questions under oath next week about his network’s coverage of the 2020 presidential election.

Murdoch will be deposed on the mornings of Dec. 13 and Dec. 14 as part of election technology company Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, according to a filing in Delaware’s Superior Court. The lawsuit alleges that the network purposely aired false claims dominion voting systemsabout Dominion’s role in the 2020 presidential election to boost ratings and fight off competition from more-conservative-leaning television networks.

According to the filing, Murdoch’s deposition will be conducted remotely, via videoconference.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Oversight Board Criticizes Meta for Preferential Treatment, Adam Satariano and Sheera Frenkel, Dec. 6, 2022. Influential users on Facebook and Instagram have been able to share posts that would otherwise be removed for violating company policies, the board said.

Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, was harshly criticized on Tuesday by a company-appointed oversight board for policies that give celebrities, politicians and business partners special treatment compared with the vast majority of its users.

meta logoUnder a program called cross-check, people with a high number of followers were able to say and share things on Facebook and Instagram that would otherwise have been quickly removed for violating company policies, according to the Oversight Board, which Meta had created to adjudicate thorny policy questions related to free speech, human rights and content moderation.

“The board is concerned about how Meta has prioritized business interests in content moderation,” the board said in a report. The cross-check program, it said, “provided extra protection for the expression of certain users.”

The oversight board recommended that Meta overhaul its cross-check system by “radically” increasing transparency over who is on the program’s list of VIPs and hiding their posts while they are reviewed. Meta should prioritize speech, which is “of special public importance,” it added. Recommendations made by the board, which includes about 20 academics, human rights experts and lawyers, are nonbinding.

ny times logoNew York Times, Computer Science Students Face a Shrinking Big Tech Job Market, Natasha Singer and Kalley Huang, Dec. 6, 2022. A new reality is setting in for students and recent graduates who spent years honing themselves for careers at the largest tech companies.

Ever since she was a 10th grader in Seattle, Annalice Ni wanted to develop software for a prominent tech company like Google. So she went to great lengths to meet the internship and other résumé criteria that make students attractive hires to the biggest tech firms.

In high school, Ms. Ni took computer science courses, interned at Microsoft and volunteered as a coding teacher for younger students. She majored in computer science at the University of Washington, earning coveted software engineering internships at Facebook. After graduating from college this year, she moved to Silicon Valley to start her dream job as a software engineer at Meta, Facebook’s parent company.

Then last month, Meta laid off more than 11,000 employees — including Ms. Ni.

“I did feel very frustrated and disappointed and maybe a bit scared because all of a sudden, I didn’t know what to do,” Ms. Ni, 22, said of her unexpected career setback. “There’s not much I could have done, especially in college, more than I already did, better than I already did.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Kirstie Alley, Emmy-winning ‘Cheers’ actress, dies at 71, Kelsey Ables, Dec. 6, 2022. Kirstie Alley, who became an American sitcom fixture after playing high-strung bar manager Rebecca Howe on NBC’s long-running TV show “Cheers” and received numerous comedy-related acting accolades in the early 1990s, died on Dec. 5. She was 71.

washington post logoWashington Post, Kennedy Center Honors: Music-centric tributes hit all the right notes, Travis M. Andrews, Updated Dec. 5, 2022. Eddie Vedder and Patti LaBelle were among those recognizing George Clooney, Tania Léon, Gladys Knight, U2 and Amy Grant at the ceremony.

After five long years, the Kennedy Center Honors are finally back in full force. How can we be sure? Because almost no one mentioned its return to normal during a weekend of festivities that culminated Sunday in a slightly more than three-hour ceremony celebrating five new honorees.

Really, the only mention of the past five years at the 45th annual Kennedy Center Honors, which will be broadcast Dec. 28 on CBS, came from Sacha Baron Cohen. While speaking in character as fictional Kazakh journalist Borat, the actor/comedian made remarks that arguably stretched the audience’s comfort zone: “I’m told president of U.S. and A. is here. Where are you, Mr. Trump?” Wait, Borat? We’ll get to him. We promise.

This time last year, Washington Post theater critic Peter Marks hailed the ceremony, which featured a star-studded crowd in black tie and masks, as a “return to something like normal.” This year we can cut the “something like.” And indeed, President Biden and first lady Jill Biden were back for a second year after four “first couple”-less years thanks to a presidential boycott during the Trump years and the ensuing pandemic, which led to a mostly virtual show for the 2020 awards (held in May 2021). Joining them were Vice President Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff. Saturday’s medallion ceremony was back in its proper place at the State Department after being at the Library of Congress last year. And everyone — we mean everyone — seemed to be in the mood to celebrate.

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Pelosi attends Kennedy Center Honors in first public appearance since attack, Eugene Scott, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), made his first public appearance Sunday at the Kennedy Center Honors since being violently attacked at the couple’s San Francisco home in October.

The 82-year-old business executive was welcomed with a thunderous standing ovation as he accompanied his wife to the storied event in the Kennedy Center’s Opera House.

In the event honoring Americans who have made significant contributions to the arts, Paul Pelosi was seen sitting beside his wife in the balcony of the performing arts center’s Opera House, wearing a hat while applauding honorees. He had a black glove on one hand.

In October, an intruder broke into the couple’s home at night in the exclusive Pacific Heights neighborhood through a glass door, searching for the speaker, who was out of town at the time of the incident, and shouting “Where is Nancy?”

Paul Pelosi recovering as attack renews focus on toxic politics

Pelosi endured such severe injuries from a hammer that they required the business executive to undergo surgery to repair a skull fracture. Pelosi also suffered from “serious injuries to his right arm and hands,” according to the speaker’s office.

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: The #MeToo movies have finally arrived. Only one captures the truth, Monica Hesse, right, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). “She Said,” “Tár” and monica hesse“Women Talking” exemplify the challenges of dramatizing a moment and a movement we’re still living through.

In an opening scene of the astonishing new movie “Women Talking,” a young mother in Amish-style dress bursts into a farm shed and seizes a scythe, lunging toward a group of men who are penned inside.

Soon we learn the source of her fury: These men have been raping the female members of their conservative religious order, stealing into their bedrooms at night with sedative meant for livestock. Women would awaken the next morning bloodied and sore, unable to identify their attackers or even prove they had been attacked. The young mother, played by Claire Foy, was a victim of something terrible, and so were many of her friends. Now the men have been caught, and it’s time to figure out what to do with them.

The movie is based on true events at a Mennonite colony in the 2000s, but it was filmed in the shadows of #MeToo. It’s a movie that couldn’t exist without the movement.

  • Washington Post, Five years after #MeToo, Black survivors mobilize for themselves

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Climate, Disasters, Energy 

ny times logoNew York Times, The Texas Group Waging a National Crusade Against Climate Action, David Gelles, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). The Texas Public Policy Foundation is shaping laws, running misinformation campaigns and taking legal action in a bid to promote fossil fuels.

When a lawsuit was filed to block the nation’s first major offshore wind farm off the Massachusetts coast, it appeared to be a straightforward clash between those who earn their living from the sea and others who would install turbines and underwater cables that could interfere with the harvesting of squid, fluke and other fish.

The fishing companies challenging federal permits for the Vineyard Wind project were from the Bay State as well as Rhode Island and New York, and a video made by the opponents featured a bearded fisherman with a distinct New England accent.

But the financial muscle behind the fight originated thousands of miles from the Atlantic Ocean, in dusty oil country. The group bankrolling the lawsuit filed last year was the Texas Public Policy Foundation, an Austin-based nonprofit organization backed by oil and gas companies and Republican donors.

With influence campaigns, legal action and model legislation, the group is promoting fossil fuels and trying to stall the American economy’s transition toward renewable energy. It is upfront about its opposition to Vineyard Wind and other renewable energy projects, making no apologies for its advocacy work.

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Public Health, Pandemics

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How China can pivot from ‘zero covid’ while preventing calamity, Leana S. Wen, right, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). Amid growing unrest, leana wenthe Chinese government last week signaled that it will ease the strict lockdown measures that have defined its covid-19 response for nearly three years. Ending “zero covid” in the world’s most populous nation is long overdue, but if rushed without safeguards, it could result in more than 1.5 million preventable deaths in the coming months.

That’s because only a small proportion of China’s population has been exposed to the coronavirus and most elderly residents are not up-to-date with their vaccines. Its domestically produced vaccines are not as effective as the Western-produced mRNA vaccines, which China has shunned, and the country is unlikely to accept any direct U.S. assistance.

So what should China’s road map look like moving forward? Here are four key steps:

  • Vaccinate the elderly.
  • Ease restrictions gradually.

ny times logoNew York Times, Congress Poised to Repeal Covid Vaccine Mandate for Troops, Catie Edmondson and John Ismay, Dec. 6, 2022. Both parties agreed to roll back the requirement as part of an $857 billion military policy measure, acting over the Biden administration’s objections.

Lawmakers unveiled an $857 billion military policy bill on Tuesday night that would terminate the Pentagon’s mandate that troops receive the coronavirus vaccine, a move that the Biden administration has resisted but that came after Republicans threatened to block the bill without it.

The decision to scrap the mandate, the product of negotiations between Senate and House leaders in both parties, was a victory for Republicans in a dispute that had added a politically charged and highly emotional issue to the annual military policy debate.

Top Republicans, especially Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader who is campaigning for speaker, have made getting rid of the mandate a top priority in the bill, arguing that the requirement amounted to federal overreach and eroded military readiness.

The bill, which authorizes a pay raise for American troops and is considered one of just a few pieces of must-pass legislation, perennially attracts a long list of proposals from lawmakers hoping to attach their pet project or policy.

washington post logoWashington Post Magazine, When My Father Died, I Discovered the Unmentionable Stage of Mourning: Relief, Rosalie Metro, Dec. 5, 2022. I was troubled by this feeling. But it’s more common than you think.

In my dreams, my dad is alive. He appears beside me in the grocery store clutching a list of items he wants me to purchase for him. They’re always things that suit his esoteric taste but are difficult to find in Missouri, like teff flour or broccoli rabe. Or he calls me with complaints about the loud neighbors at his independent-living facility. But when I try to dial the manager to sort things out, the numbers on my phone start melting.

My dad died this past March, when my sister and I made the decision to withdraw life support after an unsuccessful cardiac procedure. I scattered his ashes beside the Pacific Ocean this spring.

In some Buddhist traditions, bardo, the liminal state between one incarnation and the next, is said to last up to 49 days. But it’s been six months, and my dreams still involve explaining to my dad that he’s dead. He’s incredulous. Once my sister was in the dream too, and I called on her for backup: “Zoe, Dad’s dead, right?” He always did accept truths from her that he wouldn’t from me.
magazine logo

Waking up from these dreams I feel something familiar: relief. It’s like swimming upward to a place where I can breathe again. I think Dad keeps returning to me in dreams because I feel guilty that my life is easier now that he’s gone.

“The dreaded freedom.” That’s what my friend Catey Terry called it when I told her my dad had died. Most friends had guessed, even if I hadn’t told them, that my dad had challenges. He had suffered from mental illness for most of his life and had moved to be closer to me five years prior as his overall health deteriorated. I was grateful for Catey’s phrase because it was my first indication that it was okay to feel anything other than sadness about his death. Catey had cared for her mother through a brutal decline into dementia, so she knew that death can mean many things, not all of them bad.

“Grief and Relief: Is it wrong to feel relieved when someone dies?” is the title of an online video by psychotherapist Joe Walz that caught my attention during a late-night Googling session. While speaking to Walz for this piece, I learned research indicates that relief is an extremely common reaction caregivers have to the death of a loved one who had dementia. But he noted that similar feelings may appear in those whose parents experienced other struggles particular to aging. “It’s very natural to think, ‘Hey, I don’t have to change my parent’s diaper anymore; I don’t have to do all these painful, time-consuming, tiring things,’ ” Walz told me.

washington post logoWashington Post, Students in despair: As experts sound the alarm on children’s mental health, the crisis deepens, Donna St. George and Valerie Strauss, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). There is too much need and too little help for kids. Even as federal covid relief money has let schools step up their efforts, they also have come up short.

ny times logoNew York Times, Who Will Care for ‘Kinless’ Seniors? Paula Span, Updated Dec. 5, 2022. Nearly one million Americans have no immediate family members to provide assistance if needed. The number is expected to grow.

Lynne Ingersoll and her cat, Jesse, spent a quiet Thanksgiving Day together in her small bungalow in Blue Island, Ill.

A retired librarian, Ms. Ingersoll never married or had children. At 77, she has outlived her parents, three partners, her two closest friends, five dogs and eight cats.

When her sister died three years ago, Ms. Ingersoll joined the ranks of older Americans considered “kinless”: without partners or spouses, children or siblings. Covid-19 has largely suspended her occasional get-togethers with friends, too. Now, she said, “my social life consists of doctors and store clerks — that’s a joke, but it’s pretty much true.”

Like many older adults, Ms. Ingersoll copes with an array of health problems: kidney disease, asthma, heart disease requiring a pacemaker, arthritis that makes walking difficult even with a cane. She’s managing, but “I can see a time when that’s not going to be true,” she said. “I’m not sure what I’m going to do about it.”

An estimated 6.6 percent of American adults aged 55 and older have no living spouse or biological children, according to a study published in 2017 in The Journals of Gerontology: Series B. (Researchers often use this definition of kinlessness because spouses and children are the relatives most apt to serve as family caregivers.)

About 1 percent fit a narrower definition — lacking a spouse or partner, children and biological siblings. The figure rises to 3 percent among women over 75.

Those aren’t high proportions, but they amount to a lot of kinless people: close to a million older Americans without a spouse or partner, children or siblings in 2019, including about 370,000 women over 75.

“We assume that everyone has at least some family, but that’s not the case anymore,” said Rachel Margolis, a sociologist at the University of Western Ontario and co-author of the study.

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Dec. 5

Top Headlines

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 Trump, Insurrection, Twitter, Musk, Bigotry

 

World News, Human Rights

 

 U.S. Politics, Elections, Election Deniers, Governance

 

Ukraine War

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Regulation


U.S. High Tech, Media, Culture

 

Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy


Climate, Disasters, Energy

 

Top Stories

 

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Fearing scandal, Air Force blocked generals’ foreign consulting deals, Craig Whitlock and Nate Jones, Dec. 5, 2022. Two Department of Defense Sealgenerals who oversaw U.S. supply routes through corruption-plagued Azerbaijan sought to profit from their connections once they retired.

An Air Force lawyer objected. The Post sued to make the case public. More coverage:

  • Key findings from The Post’s series on veterans’ lucrative foreign jobs
  • Retired U.S. generals, admirals take top jobs with Saudi crown prince

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Seems Set to Back Web Designer Opposed to Same-Sex Marriage, Adam Liptak, Dec. 5, 2022. The Supreme Court tries to find the line between free speech and gay rights.

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority seemed prepared on Monday to rule that a graphic designer in Colorado has a First Amendment right to refuse to create websites celebrating same-sex weddings based on her Christian faith despite a state law that forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation.

But several justices leaning in that direction appeared to be searching for limiting principles so as not to upend all sorts of anti-discrimination laws.

A web designer in Colorado wants to limit her services to heterosexual weddings, but a state law prohibits discrimination by businesses.

They explored the difference between businesses engaged in expression and ones simply selling goods; the difference between a client’s message and that of the designer; the difference between discrimination against gay couples and compelling the creation of messages supporting same-sex marriage; and the difference between discrimination based on race and that based on sexual orientation.

The bottom line, though, seemed to be that the court would not require the designer to create customized websites celebrating same-sex marriage despite the state anti-discrimination law.

washington post logoWashington Post, Students in despair: As experts sound the alarm on children’s mental health, the crisis deepens, Donna St. George and Valerie Strauss, Dec. 5, 2022. There is too much need and too little help for kids. Even as federal covid relief money has let schools step up their efforts, they also have come up short.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: 'Soft landing’ is a terrible name for what’s coming, Heather Long, Dec. 5, 2022. A year ago, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell finally said it was time to quit using the word “transitory” to describe inflation, which clearly wasn’t going to be a short-lived phenomenon. It would be equally wise to banish the term “soft landing” from our vocabularies.

Hardly a day goes by without a Wall Street expert or prominent economist weighing in on whether the United States will experience a soft landing or a recession in 2023. Powell has been asked about the likelihood of a soft landing at every one of his past five news conferences. In May, he said there was a “good chance” it would happen. Last month, he admitted that likelihood had “narrowed.”

The phrase is meant to describe a scenario in which the country avoids a recession in 2023 despite high inflation, the war in Ukraine and a rapid surge in interest rates. Given that the Fed has triggered a recession in eight of the last nine rate-hike cycles, it would be remarkable to avoid one this time. But the term “soft” makes it sound as if no one is going to get hurt.

The reality is that a substantial number of Americans will experience pain even if the country doesn’t technically fall into a recession. A more appropriate term is probably a “forced landing” or an “emergency landing.” Or, we should ditch the landing gear entirely and call this best-case scenario something more like a “stall session.”

 

Muslim female clothing, according to a graphic artist's representation.

Muslim female clothing, according to a graphic artist's representation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Iran Shutting Down Morality Police, Official Says, After Months of Protests, Vivian Yee, Dec. 5, 2022 (print ed.). The move appeared to be a concession to the protests that erupted after the death of a woman whom the force arrested over the strict Islamic dress rules.

Iran has abolished the morality police, according to remarks by the attorney general carried on state media, following months of protests set off by the death of a young woman who was being held by the force for supposedly violating the country’s strict Islamic dress laws.

iran flag mapThe decision, reported by state news outlets late Saturday night, appeared to be the government’s first major concession to the protest movement ignited by the death of the young woman, Mahsa Amini, 22, in September in the custody of the morality police. The unrest has amounted to one of the biggest challenges in decades to Iran’s system of authoritarian clerical rule.

The morality police “was abolished by the same authorities who installed it,” Attorney General Mohammad Javad Montazeri said in remarks during a meeting on Saturday where officials were discussing the unrest, according to state media reports. But he went on to suggest that the judiciary would still enforce restrictions on “social behavior.”

On Thursday, the attorney general said that the authorities were reviewing the law requiring women to cover their bodies in long, loose clothing and their hair with a head scarf or hijab and would issue a decision within 15 days. But it was not immediately clear whether the authorities were planning to relax the law, which remains in place.

 

Trump, Insurrectionists, White Nationalists, Election Deniers

 

 

elon musk shadow cnnCNN, Opinion: Elon Musk’s Twitter is helping to normalize a neo-Nazi, Dean Obeidallah, Dec. 5, 2022. Elon Musk (shown above) apparently is trying his hand at creating a major media story by the release of what he called the “Twitter Files,” which included internal Twitter documents from October 2020 showing the social media company’s executives debating whether to allow postings on the platform of a New York Post article about a laptop Hunter Biden reportedly owned.

CNNAs CNN reported, Musk’s release on Friday pointed to tweets by journalist Matt Taibbi, who was provided “with emails that largely corroborated what was already known about the incident.”

But the Twitter story that demands coverage is not about something that happened more than two years ago but what we are seeing now on Twitter since Musk took control in October. There has been an “unprecedented” spike in hate speech as well as a resurgence of ISIS-linked accounts, The New York Times detailed in an article published Friday, citing findings from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, the Anti-Defamation League and other groups studying online platforms.

twitter bird CustomIn addition, Twitter just reinstated the account of self-professed White supremacist Andrew Anglin, founder of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer. Anglin, who was banned from Twitter in 2013, has called for tearing down Berlin’s memorial to the Holocaust (which he despicably calls a “hoax”) and replacing “it with a statue of Hitler 1,000 feet tall.”

I have firsthand experience with the neo-Nazi just reinstated on Twitter. Anglin targeted me in 2017 in response to an article I wrote at that time slamming then-President Donald Trump for refusing to denounce White supremacist violence. (This was months before the August 2017 White nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.)

Anglin first posted fabricated tweets on his White supremacist website that appeared to have been written by me claiming responsibility for an ISIS terrorist attack. (I’m Muslim.) He then instructed his followers to “confront me.” Given that readers of The Daily Stormer had in the past committed acts of violence dylann roof pistol flag— including apparently Dylann Roof, left, who murdered nine Black people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015 — they did what Anglin asked.

I was soon inundated with death threats. However, if Anglin thought I was going to cower in fear, he was wrong. I sued him in federal court for defamation and emotional distress, where I won a default judgment of $4.1 million. While I still have not recovered a penny, I have long pledged to donate all the proceeds to organizations that fight the type of hate Anglin spews.

I’m not alone. Anglin has orchestrated targeted harassment of other minorities, including African American student Taylor Dumpson who successfully sued Anglin, and Tanya Gersh, a Jewish real estate agent who also sued Anglin, resulting in a $14 million judgment.

In fact, the person who was reinstated on Twitter had an arrest warrant issued against him by a federal judge just last month over refusing to comply with court orders in the collection of those damages in Gersh’s lawsuit.

Alarmingly, Anglin’s dangerous influence continues. The White gunman who killed Black people in a Buffalo, New York, grocery store in a racist attack in May, reportedly cited Anglin’s Daily Stormer by name in a manifesto, crediting it as shaping his view that White people were being “replaced” by people of color.

Reinstating Anglin on Twitter not only helps normalize a neo-Nazi, but it also helps him recruit followers. One of Anglin’s first tweets on Friday said: “Trying to find my friends. I lost them in 2013.”

But Anglin is not the only problem. As laid out in the bone-chilling New York Times article, recent data from groups that study online platforms has documented that hate speech has exploded on Twitter in the first two weeks since Musk took over. Overall, the Times reported that researchers noted “they had never seen such a sharp increase in hate speech, problematic content and formerly banned accounts in such a short period on a mainstream social media platform.”

Some of the most jarring statistics include that slurs against Black Americans have tripled to 3,876 times per day, antisemitic posts are up more than 60% and slurs against gay men jumped from 2,506 a day to now nearly 4,000 comments per day, according to the article.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s call for suspending the Constitution is too dangerous to ignore, Ruth Marcus, right, Dec. 5, 2022 (print ed.). ruth marcusThere was a time, in the naive spring and summer of 2015, when I deemed Donald Trump beneath my notice and refused to write about him: Why soil myself, I thought, and also: Surely he will fade away.

I finally caved, in July 2015, with this prescient sentence: “Do not worry about Donald Trump becoming president.”
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There was a time, in the increasingly appalling months and years that followed, that I deemed Trump too dangerous to disregard and I could not stop calling out his never-ending, ever-escalating outrages against American democracy. Mexican judges. Enemies of the state. Fake news. Muslim bans.

Even a columnist gets tired of repeating herself. And so, during his final stretch in office, and in the years since, I mostly averted my gaze. I called out Trump last August, when he warned darkly of “riots in the streets” after the Justice Department’s search of his Mar-a-Lago residence and before that, in December 2020, when he released a 46-minute video rant assailing the election.

But I mostly thought: Why bother? Shaming targets and convincing readers are the columnist’s goals. With Trump, no minds will be changed, and neither will his behavior.

And yet, there are times when attention must be paid — if only to lay down a marker, if only (grandiose as this may sound) so historians will understand: This went too far. This cannot be allowed to stand without being denounced.

I might have made this choice in the aftermath of Trump’s dinner with antisemites and Nazi sympathizers Ye (formerly known as Kanye West) and Nick Fuentes. Who could have imagined, in the time before Trump, that a former president of the United States and declared candidate for president would so sully himself and the office?

But I am moved, now, to write about Trump’s latest post, on his Truth Social network, because it is at least equally dangerous and even more insidious.

 

djt sedition graphic

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP lawmakers largely silent after Trump suggests ‘termination’ of Constitution, Amy B Wang, Dec. 5, 2022. Donald Trump’s suggestion this weekend that the U.S. Constitution should be terminated in response to his baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen drew a largely muted response from Republicans, the latest sign that many GOP officials remain reluctant to take on the former president even as he challenges the country’s founding precepts.

Trump’s online posts Saturday — including a message in which he wrote that “UNPRECEDENTED FRAUD REQUIRES UNPRECEDENTED CURE!” — represented a significant escalation in his attacks on American institutions and democratic norms, one that scholars said must be heeded as a sign of how far he is willing to go to regain power.

“A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution,” Trump posted on the Truth Social platform. “Our great ‘Founders’ did not want, and would not condone, False & Fraudulent Elections!”

But only a handful of Republican lawmakers have joined the White House and Democrats in condemning Trump’s assertions. Representatives for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) did not respond on Sunday to requests for comment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Republicans should have booted Trump long before he threatened the Constitution, Jennifer Rubin, right and author of the book Resistance, Dec. 5, 2022. Defeated jennifer rubin new headshotformer president Donald Trump, within the space of two weeks, sat down to dine with two antisemites (one of whom later declared his love of Hitler) and declared on Truth Social that the U.S. Constitution should be subject to “termination” so he could be installed as president. Rarely has an authoritarian insurrectionist under criminal investigation for attempting to overthrow the government issued so candid a confession.

jennifer rubin book resistanceThe White House responded, “You cannot only love America when you win. The American Constitution is a sacrosanct document that for over 200 years has guaranteed that freedom and the rule of law prevail in our great country.” Its statement continued: “The Constitution brings the American people together — regardless of party — and elected leaders swear to uphold it. It’s the ultimate monument to all of the Americans who have given their lives to defeat self-serving despots that abused their power and trampled on fundamental rights.”

In a healthy democracy with two sane, stable and pro-democratic parties, it never would have come to this. In such a world, Republicans never would have nominated and elected in 2016 an openly racist character who fanned birtherism; Republicans never would have renominated him and never would have acquitted him twice in impeachment hearings. Republicans in our parallel universe would have disowned him after Jan. 6, 2021. repudiated him when he issued antisemitic insults and continued to lie about 2020. They would have disowned him when he renounced fidelity to the Constitution.

It would hardly come as a surprise that a parade of spineless Republicans appearing on the Sunday shows refused to declare him unfit to be president. Rep. Michael R. Turner (R-Ohio), ready to claim the chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee, said that he “vehemently disagree[d]” with the remark and managed to acknowledge that Trump’s repudiation of the Constitution was “not consistent with the oath that we all take.” Though he finally agreed that he would condemn Trump’s comments, he insisted there was a “political process” to play out to determine the party’s 2024 nominee. In refusing to rule out Trump as the nominee, he personifies the moral cowardice of today’s GOP.

 

Lachlan Murdoch with his wife, Sarah Murdoch, at the White House in 2019 (Pool photo by Ron Sachs).

Lachlan Murdoch with his wife, Sarah, at the White House in 2019 (Pool photo by Ron Sachs).

ny times logoNew York Times, Defamation Suit Against Fox Grows More Contentious, Jeremy W. Peters, Dec. 5, 2022 (print ed.). Lachlan Murdoch is set to be deposed on Monday, part of a flurry of activity in the high-stakes case.

dominion voting systemsLachlan Murdoch, the chief executive of the Fox Corporation, is expected to be deposed on Monday as part of a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News for amplifying bogus claims that rigged machines from Dominion Voting Systems were responsible for Donald J. Trump’s defeat in 2020.

Mr. Murdoch will be the most senior corporate figure within the Fox media empire to face questions under oath in the case so far. And his appearance before Dominion’s lawyers is a sign of how unexpectedly far and fast the lawsuit has progressed in recent weeks — and how contentious it has become.

fox news logo SmallFox and Dominion have gone back and forth in Delaware state court since the summer in an escalating dispute over witnesses, evidence and testimony. The arguments point to the high stakes of the case, which will render a judgment on whether the most powerful conservative media outlet in the country intentionally misled its audience and helped seed one of the most pervasive lies in American politics.

Although the law leans in the media’s favor in defamation cases, Dominion has what independent observers have said is an unusually strong case. Day after day, Fox hosts and guests repeated untrue stories about Dominion’s ties to communist regimes and far-fetched theories about how its software enabled enemies of the former president to steal his votes.

“This is a very different kind of case,” said David A. Logan, dean of the Roger Williams School of Law, who has argued in favor of loosening some libel laws. “Rarely do cases turn on a weekslong pattern of inflammatory, provably false, but also oddly inconsistent statements.”

Dominion, in its quest to obtain the private communications of as many low-, mid- and high-level Fox personnel as possible, hopes to prove that people inside the network knew they were disseminating lies. Fox hopes to be able sow doubt about that by showing how its hosts pressed Trump allies for evidence they never produced and that Dominion machines were vulnerable to hacking, even if no hacking took place.

The judge, Eric M. Davis, has ruled in most instances in Dominion’s favor, allowing the voting company to expand the pool of potential evidence it can present to a jury to include text messages from the personal phones of Fox employees and the employment contracts of star hosts such as Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson, along with those of Suzanne Scott, the chief executive of Fox News Media, and her top corporate managers.

Recent Headlines

 

World News, Disasters, Human Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, President Vladimir Putin of Russia signed a law banning expressions of L.G.B.T.Q. identity in public, Emma Bubola, Dec. 5, 2022. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia intensified his crackdown on L.G.B.T.Q. people on Monday, when he signed new legislation that widely bans public expression of their identity in the country.

The new law makes it illegal to spread “propaganda” about “nontraditional sexual relations” in the media, advertising, movies or on social media. It had passed the Duma, Russia’s Parliament, by a vote of 397 to 0 on Nov. 24.

Demonstrations of “nontraditional relationships or preferences” will also be completely barred from advertising, and from any outlet visible to minors. Distributing to minors any information “that causes children to want to change their sex” was also prohibited.

The law is likely to put another strain on a community that has already been largely stigmatized in a country where officials have cast the repression of L.G.B.T.Q. expression as part of a wider struggle to protect Russia from Western interference.

Mr. Putin has long cast L.G.B.T.Q. life as a Western intrusion into Russia’s traditional society and values, and proponents of the new law recently likened the fight against L.G.B.T.Q. expression to Russia’s military actions in Ukraine, which they see as a broader civilization clash between them and the West.

“We have our own way of development, we do not need European imposition of nontraditional relations,” Nina Ostanina, chairwoman of the committee on family, women and children, said during parliamentary hearings on the legislation.

Russia has banned “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” among minors since 2013, with steep fines or suspension of business activities for Russians, and expulsion from the country for foreigners who were found guilty. The new law extends the ban on such propaganda to all adults.

 

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary on America's Immigrant Spies. Part 3: The Russians, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 22 books and former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst, Dec. 5, 2022. Donald Howard wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallHeathfield held down a typical job in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a town best known for its educational institutions.

Having graduated from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in 2000, Heathfield was the head of the management consulting firm FutureMap, which marketed strategic planning software to U.S. and international corporations. The company had branch offices in Paris and Singapore. Previously, Heathfield had worked for the consulting firm Global Partners Inc., whose clients included Boston Scientific, General Electric, wayne madesen report logoand T-Mobile. An active member of the World Future Society, Heathfield had become friends with Leon Fuerth, the national security adviser to then-Vice President Al Gore.

Unbeknownst to their friends and co-workers, the Heathfield family harbored a very dark secret. Donald Howard Heathfield was a real person, but this particular Donald Howard Heathfield had died in Montreal in 1962 at the age of 7 weeks. The Donald Howard Heathfield who worked as an international consultant in Cambridge and had rubbed shoulders at the Kennedy School of Government with such classmates as Felipe Calderon, the future president of Mexico, was, in reality, Colonel Andrei Olegovich Bezrukov of the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation, the SVR. As for Ann Foley, she was married to Bezrukov but as Elena Stanislavovna Vavilova.

The faux Heathfield couple were part of a classic KGB/SVR “Illegals Program,” the placement of sleeper agents abroad who are at the beck and call of Moscow Control (or “C”) to carry out various assignments.

Since 2015, it appears that in-country “Illegals” have been supplanted by the SVR and Russian military intelligence by “cyber-illegals” operating from either Russia or third countries and targeting Internet and social media users in the United States, Britain, Canada, and other countries. These “cyber-illegals” have operated under the aegis of such entities as the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, Russia; DCLeaks.com; and Guccifer 2.0.

Considering Putin’s threat and what befell the United States in 2016 with the election of one-time Czechoslovak intelligence asset Donald Trump as president, did Putin exact his revenge by activating Russian Illegals nested abroad in the U.S. military, civilian government, and private business?

michael flynn family qanonToday, we have a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and Trump’s short-lived national security adviser, retired Lt. General Michael Flynn (shown above at center at a QAnon gathering), singing the praises of Putin, calling for unconstitutional do-overs of the 2020 presidential election and the recent gubernatorial election in Arizona, supporting the failed Trump coup d’état on January 6, 2021, and echoing QAnon disinformation – much of it sourced to Russian propaganda websites – in tweets and public statements.

Flynn’s brother, Army Lt. General Charles Flynn, who was among the Pentagon officials who refused to deploy the National Guard in defense of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, now commands all U.S. Army forces in the Indo-Pacific region from Ft. Shafter, Hawaii.

Stop for a second and consider the Soviet and Russian Illegals who were caught. If the Illegals Program was as successful as the Russians would have us believe, and there is strong evidence that it was, how many of these sleeper agents were not only never exposed but continued on to positions of authority in the Trump administration?

washington post logoWashington Post, Ethiopian guards massacred scores of Tigrayan prisoners, witnesses say, Katharine Houreld, Dec. 5, 2022 (print ed.). The most egregious killings by Ethiopian guards occurred at the Mirab Abaya prison camp, where current and retired Tigrayan soldiers were detained.

ethiopia flag mapThe scent of coffee and cigarettes hung in the hot afternoon air in a makeshift Ethiopian prison camp, prisoners said, as detained Tigrayan soldiers celebrated the holy day of Saint Michael in November 2021. Some joked with friends outside the corrugated iron buildings. Others quietly prayed to be reunited with families they had not seen in a year, when conflict erupted in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region.

Then the killings began.

By sunset the next day, around 83 prisoners were dead and another score missing, according to six survivors. Some were shot by their guards, others hacked to death by villagers who taunted the soldiers about their Tigrayan ethnicity, prisoners said. Bodies were dumped in a mass grave by the prison gate, according to seven witnesses.

“They were stacked on top of each other like wood,” recounted one detainee who said he saw the aftermath of the slaughter.

 Related Headlines

 

Ukraine War

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Explosions rocked two Russian military bases, according to some Russian media. It was not clear what caused the blasts, Marc Santora and Ivan Nechepurenko, Dec. 5, 2022. Explosions rocked two Russian military bases on Monday, according to some Russian media, including an airfield that Kyiv officials said has been used as a staging location for the bombers whose missiles have ravaged Ukraine’s energy grid.

It was not immediately clear what caused the explosion at either military installation, and the full extent of any damage was also unclear.

ukraine flagHours after the blasts were reported, Ukrainian officials said Russia had launched a volley of missiles at targets throughout the country. Two people were killed and two others wounded in a Russian strike in the southern region of Zaporizhzhia, according to Kyrylo Tymoshenko, a senior official in the Ukrainian president’s office.

Of the two explosions reported in Russia, one hit the Engels-2 air base, which is near the southwestern city of Saratov, hundreds of miles from the Ukrainian border, and hosts Russian strategic bombers, according to Astra, a Russian news outlet.

In Washington, a Defense Department official said that the Pentagon had seen evidence of an explosion at the Engels base. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Earlier on Monday, an explosion at a military base in the city of Ryazan killed three people and wounded six others, the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported. It said that a fuel truck had exploded, citing a statement from the local emergency services, but did not say what had caused the explosion.

Ukraine did not take responsibility for either blast. In the past it has remained deliberately ambiguous about its military’s involvement in strikes in Russian territory. But military and political officials took note of reports circulating in Russian news media.
Here’s what we know:

Hours after blasts were reported at two Russian bases, Ukraine’s Air Force said that a Russian missile attack was underway. The cause of the explosions in Russia was unclear.

Here's What To Know

  • Explosions rock two military bases in Russia, according to some Russian media.
  • An E.U. embargo of Russian oil and the G7’s price cap take effect.
  • A woman is shot and killed trying to cross into Ukrainian-held territory in Kherson.
  • Ukraine will auction a yacht seized from a Putin ally.
  • To help Ukraine, a widow parts with a rare emerald from a 1622 shipwreck.

The Hill, US secretly modified HIMARS for Ukraine to prevent Kyiv from shooting long-range missiles into Russia, Brad Dress, Dec. 5, 2022. The Pentagon secretly modified advanced rocket systems it sent to Ukraine to make the weapons unable to fire into Russia and escalate the war.

Since June, the U.S. has supplied Kyiv with 20 of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), but the weapons are uniquely modified so they can’t fire long-range missiles, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing U.S. officials.

The Hill has reached out to the Pentagon for comment.

The HIMARS are wheeled vehicles equipped with rocket systems, which are attached to the back.

Along with the HIMARS, the U.S. has supplied Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) with a range of 50 miles, which have been used to strike Russian ammunition depots and command centers within Ukraine.

When President Biden announced the Defense Department was shipping the HIMARS and ammunition to Ukraine at the end of May, he said they would only be used for defense and the administration was “not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems that strike into Russia.”

The Hill, Opinion: The far-right’s pro-Russia posture endangers the nation and the world, Douglas E. Schoen, Dec. 5, 2022. Throughout the 20th century, American leadership was paramount in pushing back against authoritarian and revisionist dictators who sought to undermine global peace and quash human rights. 

Both Democrats and Republicans alike recognized that the United States could ill afford to take a passive role on the world stage, as problems in Europe or republican elephant logoAsia would eventually make their way to our shores. It was an accepted principle that, when democracy was being threatened abroad, America would come to its defense. 

However, this ideal has come under fire since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Isolationist tendencies have become increasingly prominent on the political right, and Republicans have been leading the charge to curtail U.S. support for Ukraine, a sovereign and democratic nation that Russian President Vladimir Putin has brutalized and tried to lay claim to.  

kevin mccarthyIn the early days of the war, only far-right nationalists such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) were doing Putin’s bidding by lobbying for a reduction in American support for Ukraine.  

But as with other fringe views, this position quickly infiltrated the mainstream, and dozens of high-profile GOP officials have adopted a similarly pro-Russian posture. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), right, even called the U.S.’s current support level for Ukraine a “blank check.”  

 

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia delivering an address Friday, March 25, 2022, on

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia delivering an address Friday, March 25, 2022 on "cancel culture” that was broadcast nationwide. (Pool photo by Mikhail Klimentyev.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: A week in the life of Vladimir Putin, David Ignatius, right, Dec. 5, 2022. All politics is local, as the saying goes, and that applies even david ignatiusto Russian President Vladimir Putin. That truth becomes evident from a close look at Putin’s publicly available calendar, which offers fascinating insight into a leader who oversees virtually every aspect of Russian life.

Putin is often portrayed in the Western media as something of a cartoon villain. But he’s also a skillful politician who has used the state-run media, a pliant bureaucracy and brutal repression to dominate Russian politics so totally that he appears to have no significant opposition. For many in the West, he’s a figure of derision, even hatred. But at home, he retains a bedrock of popular support, even amid the Ukraine fiasco.

The calendar shows Putin filling his days with a surprisingly mundane string of meetings, videoconferences and ceremonies that demonstrate how he tries to bolster domestic confidence even as he wages a failing war in Ukraine. He is peripatetic, talking with aides about animal husbandry one day and artificial intelligence the next. He knows that he rules a vast nation, and although he’s often seen as a Russian nationalist, he assiduously cultivates Russia’s other, disparate ethnic groups. And although the Soviet Union is gone, he stays in regular touch with fractious leaders of former republics. His nostalgia for the Soviet era is palpable.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Missile attack spurs air raid sirens across Ukraine; blasts reported at Russian air bases, Jeff Stein, Annabelle Timsit, Rachel Pannett, Emily Rauhala and Claire Parker, Dec. 5, 2022. Air raid sirens sounded across Ukraine as Russia launched a barrage of missiles at multiple cities, including the capital, Kyiv, Ukrainian officials said. They warned people not to ignore the sirens and urged residents to seek shelter. Social media filled with images of people sheltering underground.

Russian FlagThe attack is the latest to hit weary residents of Ukraine’s capital. Dmitry Gyrenko, 35, had already spent more than an hour out of his workday sheltering at the Klovska subway station in downtown Kyiv. His power and water went out last week and was just starting to come back Saturday and Sunday before Monday’s attacks forced him below ground yet again. “I’m so angry — so angry,” Gryenko told The Post. “It’s enough.”

Reports of two separate incidents at air bases in western Russia that killed or injured several people did not yield immediate claims of responsibility. Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

1. Key developments

  • Ukraine’s air force spokesman confirmed that Russia launched a new missile attack. There were unconfirmed reports of explosions in the center, east and south of Ukraine, as well as in Kyiv. Two people were killed and two others were injured in the town of Novosofiivska in Zaporizhzhia, according to a preliminary assessment shared by Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office. The northeastern Ukrainian region of Sumy was left without power as a result of the attack, the local provider said.
  • An official said Ukraine has been bracing in recent weeks for a large-scale attack against its infrastructure. “People are smart — we’re not ignoring this one,” Georgiy Yasinskiy, a member of the Kyiv city council, told The Post. “Everyone has been expecting this attack, but people are considering this one to be more serious.”
  • Water supply and electric transport have been cut off in Odessa due to a Russian attack that damaged two infrastructure sites, Ukrainian officials said. One person has been hospitalized.
  • In Russia, authorities sought to reassure residents after three people were killed and six were injured when a fuel tanker exploded at a Russian airfield near the city of Ryazan, state news agencies reported, citing emergency services. Also on Monday, a drone hit the runway of a different airfield in the Saratov region of Russia, injuring two service members and damaging two planes, according to the Baza Telegram channel, which is close to Russia’s security services and the Interior Ministry. It’s not clear whether the incidents are connected. The governor of Saratov region, Roman Busargin, acknowledged reports of “a loud pop and flash” at Engels Air Force Base, but he said “there is no cause for concern” and that “no civilian infrastructure was damaged.”
  • The European Union’s embargo on seaborne Russian crude and the Group of Seven’s oil price cap went into effect, sending oil markets into uncharted territory as the West seeks to hit Russia’s oil revenue without creating price spikes. The Kremlin will still sell oil to countries that “will work with us on market conditions,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak told the Russian news agency Tass. He added that Russia is “looking at mechanisms to ban the use of the price cap instrument, regardless of the limit it sets.” He did not provide any details of those plans.

2. Battleground updates

  • Russia is deploying fewer tactical combat aircraft in its war against Ukraine, Britain’s Defense Ministry said. This fleet “now probably conducts tens of missions per day,” down from a high of up to 300 per day at the start of Russia’s invasion, ministry analysts said in an intelligence update. The dip in sorties is “likely a result of continued high threat from Ukrainian air defences, limitations on the flying hours available to Russian aircraft, and worsening weather,” they added.
  • Ukrainian forces are indicating they plan to stay on the offensive this winter to capitalize on recent battlefield successes and prevent Russian troops from regrouping. Frozen ground allows heavy wheeled and tracked vehicles to maneuver, and a military spokesman told Ukrainian media that Kyiv is preparing troops and equipment for winter operations, equipping its forces with special clothing and ammunition.
  • A muddy fall hampered fighting through November, but the weather will likely become more conducive to fighting as the ground freezes starting in late December, according to analysts at the Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank. “Winter is usually the best season for mechanized warfare in Ukraine whereas spring is the nightmare season,” as rivers swell and fields turn to mud during the thaw, they wrote. However, U.S. National Intelligence Director Avril Haines predicted last week that fighting would remain slow over the winter months. She said it could pick up in the spring.

3. Global impact

  • China suggested it may still work with Russia to secure oil. Asked if China would join the oil price cap agreement, a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “China-Russia energy cooperation has always been and will continue to be carried out in the spirit of mutual respect, mutual benefit, and win-win,” according to Beijing Daily. The spokesperson called for “constructive efforts from all sides” to ensure the security of global energy supply, particularly of oil, the state-affiliated news outlet reported.
  • OPEC Plus, the coalition of oil-producing nations and their partners, opted against trying to stop the slide in gas prices with cuts to the world’s oil supply. Gasoline now costs less than it has in nine months, with consumers paying lower prices than they did just before the Russian invasion.
  • New data from NASA suggests Ukraine harvested a wheat crop much larger than expected, despite concerns about the Russian invasion’s effect on global food prices and hunger. The agency calculated that Ukrainian farmers harvested 26.6 million tons of wheat in 2022 — several million tons more than expected. However, continued fighting in the east means Ukraine cannot access nearly a quarter of that wheat.
  • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany must play a “new role” as “one of the main providers of security in Europe” in the face of Russia’s aggression. “Russia’s revanchist imperialism must be stopped,” Scholz argues in Foreign Affairs magazine, adding that the world faces an “epochal tectonic shift” that is changing the geopolitical order and globalization. However, he argues, the West and its allies should “avoid the temptation to once again divide the world into blocs. This means making every effort to build new partnerships, pragmatically and without ideological blinders.”
  • French President Emmanuel Macron is facing new criticism after suggesting in an interview this weekend that security “guarantees to Russia” would be an essential point in future peace talks. Macron has gone back and forth over the question of what concessions, if any, should be made to Russia to end the war, but he had maintained as recently as last week that it is up to Ukraine to decide the time and conditions for peace talks.

 

Ukrainian War Map,

, Jossie, Dec. 5, 2022 (12:59 min. video). A down to earth and simplified look at the day-by-day happenings on the ground in Ukraine.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How Putin’s war in Ukraine has moved Germany into a new era, Emily Haber, Dec. 5, 2022. Emily Haber, right, is the German emily haberambassador to the United States.

An American friend called me the other day, having just returned from Berlin. He told me he’d been struck by how deeply Russia’s war in Ukraine has affected Germany. He could trace its impact throughout his visit. One telltale sign he mentioned — dimly lit airports and streets in the late afternoon of his german flagarrival — seemed a bit superficial to me. That, after all, is almost nothing compared with Russia’s systematic attacks on the Ukrainian energy system and the hardships it is inflicting on the Ukrainian people. And yet his impression — as first impressions often do — had the ring of a more profound truth.

It is a fact that Germany and Europe are affected by the war in ways that the United States is not. First, the war is nearby — the drive from Berlin to Lviv, Ukraine, is a mere 10 hours. Ukrainian refugees, more than 1 million by now, are visible everywhere (as is the Ukrainian flag). Their status is comparable to that of a green card holder in the United States. They’re entitled to social benefits, work permits, housing. They enjoy full health insurance. Schools, which are tuition-free, are struggling to accommodate their children (more than 200,000).

ny times logoNew York Times, War and Sanctions Threaten to Thrust Russia’s Economy Back in Time, Valerie Hopkins and Anatoly Kurmanaev, Dec. 5, 2022. While Russia’s economy has not collapsed, an exodus of Western companies is eroding hard-won progress, and experts say the worst may be yet to come.

Valery Volodin, a welder at a sprawling Volkswagen plant in western Russia, relaxed for most of the summer at his dacha, or weekend house, planting his garden and looking after his children. Mr. Volodin, 41, had little choice: The car factory closed down in March, joining more than 1,000 multinational companies that had curtailed operations in Russia because of its invasion of Ukraine.

Since then, he has been sitting at home while Volkswagen looks for a buyer. He goes into the plant, in Kaluga’s industrial zone, once a month to collect 50,000 rubles, about $800, a payment required by Russian labor law that is the equivalent of two-thirds of his previous salary.

“We go into work, but the plant stands empty,” Mr. Volodin said in an interview. He does not mind a temporary break from the physically demanding work, but he is not sure how to plan for the future.

“We live day to day, for now,” he said.

His experience is playing out across Russia for hundreds of thousands of workers after the West imposed sweeping economic sanctions that were intended to hobble Moscow’s ability to wage war and to undercut public support for President Vladimir V. Putin.

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U.S. Politics, Elections, Election Deniers, Governance

 

 In more than two dozen counties, thousands of voters came out to vote, some waiting for hours for the chance to cast their ballot early for the Dec. 6 runoff between Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D), above right, and Republican Herschel Walker, above left.

 In more than two dozen counties, thousands of voters came out to vote, some waiting for hours for the chance to cast their ballot early for the Dec. 6 runoff between Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D), above right, and Republican Herschel Walker, above left.

ny times logoNew York Times, Warnock and Walker Race to Stoke Turnout on Last Day of Campaigning in Georgia Runoff, Maggie Astor and Reid Epstein, Dec. 5, 2022. Recent polls have shown a tight race, with Mr. Warnock narrowly ahead.

More than 1.8 million Georgians voted early in the runoff between Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, and his Republican opponent, Herschel Walker. And with the early voting period now over, the focus has turned to the Georgians who will be heading to the polls on Tuesday.

georgia mapMr. Walker is making a last-minute push to get out the vote, traversing conservative northern Georgia as part of what he is calling an “Evict Warnock” bus tour. During a stop in Flowery Branch early Monday, he greeted voters at a popular diner, many of whom said they had already voted.

But the early vote is expected to favor Mr. Warnock, making Election Day turnout crucial to Mr. Walker’s chances. His Republican allies believe he needs to win about 60 percent of the in-person vote — about four percentage points more than his advantage in last month’s general election.

Mr. Warnock, too, has run into plenty of supporters who have already cast ballots, including when he preached on Sunday morning at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he is a pastor. And he is spending his final campaign swing through Atlanta urging supporters not to take anything for granted.

“We’ve got one more day to bring this thing home, and I want you to create a 9-1-1 emergency,” he told a group of students at Georgia Tech. “I want you to vote like it’s an emergency.”

The race will determine whether Democrats gain an absolute majority in the Senate, 51 seats to 49, or whether they maintain their current 50-50 split, in which they control the chamber but rely on Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaking vote. Winning a 51st seat would give the party more power on Senate committees, in addition to providing a little more wiggle room on votes.

Here are some other developments:

Mr. Warnock held a pair of campaign rallies Sunday night in Athens, home to the University of Georgia, including one at a student center named for Zell Miller, the last Georgia Democrat to win a Senate seat before 2021. The contest has already made history: Georgia has never had two Black major-party nominees compete for the Senate, according to political scientists.

Georgia Democrats are feeling optimistic and Republicans are wallowing ahead of Election Day, but Senator Raphael Warnock is spending his final campaign swing through Atlanta urging supporters (most of whom have already voted) to not take anything for granted. “We’ve got one more day to bring this thing home,” he told a group of students at Georgia Tech. “I want you to vote like it’s an emergency.”

Axios, Analysis: The Georgia Senate runoff is Raphael Warnock’s to lose, Josh Kraushaar, Dec. 4-5, 2022. Polls and conversations with top strategists in both parties suggest Tuesday's Georgia Senate runoff will be close — but that Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) holds a small but resilient advantage over Herschel Walker.

axios logoWhy it matters: Runoffs are typically about turning out your base a second time. But in Georgia, both are targeting a critical mass of swing voters — independent-minded suburbanites just outside Atlanta.

What's happening: Walker's ties to former President Trump — and struggles communicating his positions on the campaign trail — have made him uniquely ill-suited to win over swing voters, who have made the difference in recent closely contested Georgia elections.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democratic governors riding high on election results as 2024 looms, Tyler Pager and Ashley Parker, Dec. 5, 2022 (print ed.). The November midterms broadened the party’s bench for potential presidential contenders, though none have said they would challenge Biden if he runs.

As Democratic governors descended on the Ritz-Carlton Hotel here for their annual winter meeting this week, the city’s reputation for bacchanalia felt particularly fitting.

The chief executives were celebrating a string of recent victories across the nation — flipping gubernatorial control in three states and holding off Republican challengers in critical battlegrounds like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

gretchen whitmer o smile CustomThe only moment of pause, it seemed, came when a handful of governors were asked at a Friday afternoon news conference who among their cadre was most likely to be the next Democratic president. The group just laughed as Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro (D-Pa.) jokingly pushed Gov. Roy Cooper (D-N.C.) in front of the lectern, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.), right, pantomimed sneaking offstage right.

“Joe Biden,” Cooper said as the tittering subsided. “C’mon.”

The tableau underscored the dynamic in the Democratic Party following their better-than-expected showing in November’s midterm elections. For months, donors and party operatives had quietly — and then sometimes publicly — worried whether President Biden should seek a second term, and if there was a strong enough Democratic bench ready to take over if and when he steps aside.

But Biden’s current plan to run for reelection in 2024 — when he will be 82 years old — has postponed the political ambitions of the future “generation of leaders” to whom candidate Biden promised to be a “bridge.” Nowhere is that more apparent than among the crop of reelected and newly elected Democratic governors, many of whom outperformed Biden in the states that are critical to winning the White House.

“The bench is here, in my opinion,” Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) said in an interview as he adamantly rejected the idea of ever running for president himself. “I mean, there is something to say about the executive branch experience. And it's not just the politics of running the government. I think there’s lots of good people in our party that are governors.”

No Democratic governor has said they plan to challenge Biden should he go through with a reelection effort, as many fully expect him to do. Instead, the governors — even the most ambitious ones — vow in both public and private to be full-throated supporters of Biden’s 2024 campaign.

washington post logoWashington Post, From chicken wings to used cars, inflation begins to ease its grip, David J. Lynch, Dec. 5, 2022 (print ed.). The price of gasoline is dropping like a rock. Chicken wings are suddenly a bargain. And retailers drowning in excess inventory are looking to make a deal.

After more than a year of high inflation, many consumers are finally starting to catch a break. Even apartment rents and car prices, two items that hammered millions of household budgets this year, are no longer spiraling out of control.

Global supply chains are finally operating normally, as more consumers spend more on in-person services like restaurant meals and less on goods like furniture and computers that come from an ocean away. The cost of sending a standard 40-foot container from China to the U.S. West Coast is $1,935 — down more than 90 percent from its September 2021 peak of $20,586, according to the online freight marketplace Freightos.

The moderation in inflation is just beginning to appear in government statistics. In October, the Federal Reserve’s preferred price gauge, the personal consumption expenditures index, posted its smallest monthly increase since September of last year, and is up 6 percent over the past 12 months. The better-known consumer price index is rising at an annual rate of 7.7 percent, down from 9.1 percent in June.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Guest Essay: Biden Is Putting South Carolina First. I Won’t Vote for That, Faiz Shakir (the presidential campaign manager for Bernie Sanders in 2020), Dec. 5, 2022. President Biden’s three-part plan to reform the Democratic presidential primary calendar was almost a home run — save for one flaw that dooms it entirely.

Our party’s lineup of states that nominate our presidential candidates every four years needs to change badly. The 2020 caucuses in Iowa — the state that has been first on the calendar for decades — were a disaster. But even more so, the sequencing of states must be transformed if we’re going to achieve the most important goal of the nominating process: to pick the strongest possible candidate to put before a national audience and to do so strategically in states that we must win in the general election.

The process should also mirror the democratic ideals underpinning our political system and the Democratic Party — grass-roots civic engagement through dnc square logorepresentative democracy. Candidates should be compelled to talk to ordinary Americans in conversational settings and persuasively earn their support. And the process needs to reflect the reality of the calendar, which exerts enormous influence on the kinds of candidates that parties select and on where they spend staggering resources.

Mr. Biden and the Democrats tasked with changing the calendar have made three central decisions in their proposal, which party Joe Biden portrait 2officials unveiled last week and will move through a series of procedural steps and votes this winter and would require the cooperation of states chosen to go early. The first is that the Iowa caucus would no longer begin the process. This is the correct decision.

But there’s another reason moving on from Iowa is the correct decision, and it dovetails with the second major, correct change Mr. Biden has proposed. The calendar makes the brilliant and important reform of elevating general election battleground states.

But the Biden nomination calendar contains a fundamental, dooming flaw: the replacement of Iowa with South Carolina as the first state. The change would be comical if it weren’t tragic.

As a D.N.C. delegate, I get to vote on the reform plan. As long as South Carolina remains first, I will vote no. I will urge other delegates to do the same. Let’s honor the principal goal of the primary calendar: to pick strong Democratic nominees who best represent our values and our principles. We’re so close to getting this right; let’s fix it.

ny times logoNew York Times, Arizona certified its midterm results, despite baseless doubts about the outcomes from some Republicans, Alexandra Berzon Dec. 5, 2022. Arizona’s top officials signed papers to certify the results of the state’s midterm election on Monday, completing a normally routine task that had become troubled in a state where Republican activists and candidates have claimed without evidence that the election results were irredeemably marred by widespread problems.

Two heavily Republican counties in Arizona initially delayed certifying their results but ultimately did so. In one case, in Cochise County, certification came only under order from a judge.

Finally, at an event on Monday that was closed to the public but broadcast live, the secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, a Democrat who won this year’s race for governor, signed documents to certify the results in all 15 counties.

Also signing the certifications were Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona’s attorney general, Mark Brnovich, both Republicans, along with Robert Brutinel, the chief justice of the State Supreme Court.

In a speech before the signing of the documents, Ms. Hobbs addressed some of the conspiracy theories that had been spreading and said that the election had been properly conducted.

“Powerful voices spread misinformation that threatened to disenfranchise voters,” she said. “Democracy prevailed, but it’s not out of the woods.”

Mr. Ducey, the departing governor, explained that state law required the certification as part of the democratic process.

“I swore an oath to uphold the law,” he said.

Ms. Hobbs’s opponent for governor, Kari Lake, who lost by more than 17,000 votes, ran a campaign heavily focused on false conspiratorial claims of stolen elections. She and her allies have vowed to continue fighting the outcome, sowing doubts about the results with public statements and social media posts.

The efforts have made Arizona the center of the national election-denial movement, attracting activists who have gained influence spreading conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election as they speak at protests and local government hearings.

Ms. Lake and the Republican nominee for attorney general, Abraham Hamadeh, have suggested that after the certification, they may file lawsuits challenging the election results. Mr. Hamadeh is trailing Kris Mayes, a Democrat, by about 500 votes in a race that has not yet been called and is headed to a recount.

Mr. Hamadeh previously filed a lawsuit asking a judge to declare him the winner, which was dismissed by the court as “premature” since under state law, a lawsuit challenging election results needs to be filed after the certification of an election, not before it. (Such a challenge must be filed within five days of certification.)

The Republican candidates and their allies, including right-wing activists and media figures like Steve Bannon, the former adviser to Donald J. Trump, have claimed for weeks without evidence that voters in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and is Arizona’s largest county, were “disenfranchised.”

They have pointed to technical problems on Election Day that led to long lines at some polling places. But in fact there has been no sign of widespread voter disenfranchisement, because voters who encountered problems were able to cast ballots via backup systems or at other polling locations.

A New York Times review of dozens of accounts from voters, poll workers and observers that were posted by Ms. Lake and her allies found that many voters acknowledged that, while inconvenienced, they had ultimately been able to cast their ballots.

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Jan. 6, Trump, Election Denier Probes

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutors tell jurors that Trump knew of Weisselberg’s tax fraud at Trump Organization, Shayna Jacobs, Dec. 3, 2022 (print ed.). The former president is not charged in the criminal trial of his namesake company. Jury deliberations are expected to begin Monday.

Donald Trump knew about a 15-year tax fraud carried out by longtime executives at his namesake company, a prosecutor argued Friday, saying the illegal activity ended when the company cleaned up its business practices around the time Trump entered the White House.

At the close of the Trump Organization’s criminal trial, prosecutors introduced the idea that Trump had knowledge of crimes committed by his top deputies. The claim was a way of supporting their theory that the real estate, hospitality and golf company is criminally culpable for and benefited from tax cheating.

“This whole narrative that Donald Trump was blissfully ignorant was just not real,” Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass said during his summation. He asked jurors, who are likely to begin deliberations in the case on Monday, to dismiss the idea that executives who committed crimes had simply gone “rogue.”

At the same time, Steinglass also told the jury that it “doesn’t matter” whether they believe Trump knew about the fraud, because the former president is allen weisselberg croppednot considered a conspirator in the case.

Trump has not been charged with wrongdoing. Allen Weisselberg, right — his former chief financial officer and a Trump family employee for a half-century — pleaded guilty to fraud this summer. Testimony about the fraud from Weisselberg and Trump Organization comptroller Jeffrey McConney — who was granted immunity automatically by state law when he appeared before the grand jury — were key elements of the prosecution’s case.

 

steward rhodes kelly meigs jessica watkins kenneth harrelson thomas caldwell

washington post logoWashington Post, Garland praises Oath Keepers verdict, won’t say where Jan. 6 probe goes, Perry Stein, Spencer S. Hsu and Devlin Barrett, Dec. 2, 2022 (print ed.). Justice Dept. will weigh seditious conspiracy conviction in deciding whether to pursue other high-profile Trump allies, people familiar with the matter said.

A day after a federal jury convicted two far-right extremists of leading a plot to unleash political violence to prevent the inauguration of Joe Biden, Attorney General Merrick Garland vowed that his Justice Department would continue to “work tirelessly” to hold accountable those responsible for efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors highlighted the defendants’ links to key allies of President Donald Trump, such as Roger Stone, “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani.

merrick garlandBut Garland, right, declined to say Wednesday if he expected prosecutors to eventually file charges against them or any other people who did not physically participate in the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

“I don’t want to speculate on other investigations or parts of other investigations,” Garland told reporters at a briefing where he also touted Justice Department efforts to establish federal oversight of the water supply system in Jackson, Miss.

Garland called the sprawling Jan. 6 investigation, and Jackson’s water crisis, “significant matters of public interest.”

“I’m very proud of the attorneys, investigators and staff whose unwavering commitment to rule of law and tireless work resulted in yesterday in these two significant victories,” he said.

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U.S. Courts, Crime, Regulation

 

 

The five most radical right Republican justices on the U.S. Supreme Court are shown above, with the sixth Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts, omitted in this view.

The five most radical right Republican justices on the Supreme Court are shown above, with the sixth Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts, omitted in this photo array.

ny times logoNew York Times, A New Clash Between Faith and Gay Rights Arrives at a Changed Supreme Court, Adam Liptak, right, Dec. 5, 2022 (print ed.). A Colorado graphic adam liptakdesigner says she has a First Amendment right to refuse to create websites for same-sex weddings despite a state anti-discrimination law. The court has shifted to the right since 2018 when it ruled on a similar controversy involving a baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.

Ten years ago, a Colorado baker named Jack Phillips turned away a gay couple who had asked him for a wedding cake, saying that a state law forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation must yield to his faith.

The dispute, a white-hot flash point in the culture wars, made it to the Supreme Court. But Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s narrow majority opinion in 2018 did not settle the question of whether the First Amendment permits discrimination by businesses open to the public based on their owners’ religious convictions. Indeed, the opinion acknowledged that the court had merely kicked the can down the road and would have to decide “some future controversy involving facts similar to these.”

That controversy has now arrived, and the facts are indeed similar. A graphic designer named Lorie Smith, who works just a few miles from Mr. Phillips’s bakery, Masterpiece Cakeshop, has challenged the same Colorado law on the same grounds.

“He’s an artist,” Ms. Smith said of Mr. Phillips. “I’m also an artist. We shouldn’t be punished for creating consistently with our convictions.”

The basic arguments in the case, which will be argued before the Supreme Court on Monday, are as familiar as they are polarizing.

On one side are people who say the government should not force them to violate their principles to make a living. On the other are same-sex couples and others who say they are entitled to equal treatment from businesses open to the public.

Both sides say that the consequences of the court’s ruling could be enormous, though for different reasons. Ms. Smith’s supporters say a ruling for the state would allow the government to force all sorts of artists to state things at odds with their beliefs. Her opponents say a ruling in her favor would blow a hole through anti-discrimination laws and allow businesses engaged in expression to refuse service to, say, Black people or Muslims based on odious but sincerely held convictions.

The court that will hear those arguments has been transformed since the 2018 decision. After Justice Kennedy’s retirement later that year and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death in 2020, the Supreme Court has shifted to the right and been exceptionally receptive to claims of religious freedom.

Moreover, when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, Justice Clarence Thomas filed a concurring opinion calling for the elimination of the right to same-sex marriage. Supporters of gay rights fear that a ruling for Ms. Smith will undermine that right, marking the marriages of same-sex couples as second-class unions unworthy of legal protection.

 

abidemi rufai mug

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: For prolific covid scammer, first came the cash. Then came the chase, Yeganeh Torbati and Ope Adetayo, Dec. 5, 2022 (print ed.). Ex-Nigerian official defrauded American taxpayers by stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in coronavirus relief benefits.

On a perfect spring day at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, Abidemi Rufai arrived at the international terminal ready for the long journey back home to Nigeria.

On his wrist, Rufai, 44, shown above, wore an expensive Cartier watch. Around his neck, he wore an 18-karat gold chain with a lion pendant. As he approached the check-in desk for his business class seat on the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines flight, Rufai had seven pieces of luggage, three smartphones, and seven debit and credit cards.

It was May 2021. A year earlier, Rufai had pulled off a spectacular heist of U.S. taxpayer money. The calm with which he moved through the airport belied the chaos he had left in his wake.

His brazen and repeated pilfering of coronavirus relief funds had helped freeze the entire unemployment system in the state of Washington, where he had obtained identifying information for unsuspecting residents. For months, state and federal officials struggled to get ahead of Rufai and other fraudsters, sparking investigations on two continents that culminated in a guilty plea. Eventually, they would discover in Rufai’s email accounts and phone the personal data of 20,000 Americans and voluminous stolen tax returns, as well as photos of Rufai with a powerful Nigerian governor and images of him dressed impeccably in dark sunglasses and royal-blue robes. In one, he sat on an ornate thronelike chair.

The Covid Money Trail

It was the largest burst of emergency spending in U.S. history: Two years, six laws and more than $5 trillion intended to break the deadly grip of the coronavirus pandemic. The money spared the U.S. economy from ruin and put vaccines into millions of arms, but it also invited unprecedented levels of fraud, abuse and opportunism.

In a yearlong investigation, The Washington Post is following the covid money trail to figure out what happened to all that cash.

Rufai had managed to escape the United States for relative safety in Nigeria in late 2020, just months after his heist. Remarkably, he later returned. Now, as he approached the ticket agent, six law enforcement officers were positioned nearby, watching him.

Since the coronavirus pandemic hit in early 2020, the U.S. government has spent more than $5 trillion to respond to the crisis and stabilize the American economy. Much of that money helped families and businesses survive a dire economic shutdown. But billions of dollars were stolen, and no one is sure, even now, exactly how much has disappeared.

Some of it was nabbed by U.S. criminals, but a chunk went to foreign nationals who had honed their tactics in defrauding people through identity theft and scams over years and saw in the pandemic a chance to hit it big. Rufai’s wild tactics and dramatic life story — laid out in vivid detail in court documents — offers a startling view of one of the many accused scam artists who siphoned riches from the huge money pot created by Washington in 2020 and 2021.
An image of Rufai found in court filings. (U.S. District Court)

This article is based on interviews with nearly 20 people in the United States and Nigeria, including state and federal officials. It is also based on a review of government records in both countries, including letters from Rufai and his friends and family members, details of bank account transfers, and transcripts of his jailhouse calls. Through his lawyer, Rufai declined to be interviewed. His lawyer also declined to answer questions about the case.

The details paint a portrait of how a seasoned identity thief hit the jackpot when covid funds began to flow, preying on a tremendous amount of money that was suddenly thrust into the economy in a way that made it very easy to steal. His previous efforts at defrauding the U.S. government amounted to less than $100,000 over three years, according to federal prosecutors. But in a span of six months in 2020, he was able to swipe more than half a million dollars, prosecutors said. He was one of the most prolific thieves but joined hundreds of others, both international and domestic, who overwhelmed government officials trying to protect billions of dollars.

Rufai emerged from a difficult and abusive childhood and rose to the upper echelons of Nigerian politics, where by his own telling he imbibed a culture of corruption. He adopted the tactics of Nigerian scam rings and honed his fraud skills in the years leading up to the pandemic, all the while burdened with a lingering gambling addiction. And once he committed his most dramatic theft of U.S. taxpayer funds, he indulged in a lavish and splashy lifestyle.

“Every time I reflect back to my actions, I feel so ashamed and so disgusted,” he said at his sentencing hearing on Sept. 26, according to a court transcript. “Why did I even get myself into this in the first place?”

ny times logoNew York Times, After Arkansas Trial, Judge Weighs Legality of Ban on Care for Transgender Youth, Eliza Fawcett, Dec. 5, 2022 (print ed.). The trial, the first over a challenge to a state ban on gender-affirming care, concluded last week; the judge has not indicated when he will rule.

For Dylan Brandt, a transgender teenager in Arkansas, two years on testosterone has meant that “my outside finally matches the way I feel on the inside.”

But that sense of relief was jeopardized last year when Arkansas lawmakers passed the country’s first ban on physicians administering hormone therapy or puberty blockers to transgender people younger than 18. In its wake, Dylan, 17, a plaintiff in a legal challenge to the ban, was confronted with the prospect of moving out of the state to continue his hormone therapy.

“It would mean uprooting our entire lives, everything that we have here,” Dylan testified in a federal courtroom in Little Rock in October, at the start of a trial over the legality of the ban. “I have a job, my mom has a business, we have family, friends. We have a house, we have a community, we have a life here.”

The trial, the first in the country over a challenge to a state ban on what has become known as gender-affirming care, concluded on Thursday after four days of testimony in October and four more last week. The landmark case is set to be decided at a time when violence against transgender people is on the rise and Republican-led efforts to restrict transgender rights have gained momentum in state legislatures across the country. United States District Judge James M. Moody Jr., who last year temporarily blocked the ban from taking effect while the lawsuit played out — a decision affirmed by a federal appeals court this past summer — has not indicated when he will issue a ruling.

The Arkansas ban was enacted in April 2021, overriding a veto by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, who criticized it as a “vast government overreach.”

Similar bans soon followed in Tennessee, which prohibited doctors from giving hormone treatments to prepubescent transgender minors, and in Alabama, where lawmakers approved a bill — later partially blocked by a federal judge — making it a felony to provide gender-affirming care to minors. In November, Florida effectively banned medications and surgery for new adolescent patients seeking gender transitions.

In recent years, greater numbers of transgender adolescents in America have sought treatments such as puberty blockers, which pause an adolescent’s physiological development, and hormone therapy, which increases levels of estrogen or testosterone, to align their bodies more closely with their gender identities.

Both therapies are also used to treat a range of medical issues, such as early puberty or hormone deficiencies, in minors who are not transgender. Leading medical associations, including the Endocrine Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend access to such care for transgender people under 18 and say that denying it can increase their risk of mental health distress.

MeidasTouchNetwork,

, Ben Meiselas, Dec. 5, 2022. (13:15 min. video).

washington post logoWashington Post, Law school revolt against U.S. News rankings gains steam, Nick Anderson and Susan Svrluga, Dec. 5, 2022 (print ed.). Whether universities will follow suit with a broader rebellion against the ranking giant is unknown.

First, Yale University’s top-ranked law school declared it would end cooperation with the U.S. News & World Report rankings. Within hours, Harvard University’s law school, ranked fourth, followed suit. Then, what began as a high-profile protest against the rankings became a mass revolt that now encompasses four University of California law schools, four from the Ivy League and several other big names in legal education.

On Friday, the University of Washington law school, ranked 49th, and the University of Pennsylvania’s, ranked sixth, became the latest to join the rebellion.

The U.S. News method for ranking law schools “is unnecessarily secretive and contrary to important parts of our mission,” the Carey Law School at U-Penn. said in a statement, citing increased investment in need-based financial aid and efforts to promote careers in public-interest law.

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U.S. High Tech, Media, Culture

washington post logoWashington Post, Kennedy Center Honors: Music-centric tributes hit all the right notes, Travis M. Andrews, Updated Dec. 5, 2022. Eddie Vedder and Patti LaBelle were among those recognizing George Clooney, Tania Léon, Gladys Knight, U2 and Amy Grant at the ceremony.

After five long years, the Kennedy Center Honors are finally back in full force. How can we be sure? Because almost no one mentioned its return to normal during a weekend of festivities that culminated Sunday in a slightly more than three-hour ceremony celebrating five new honorees.

Really, the only mention of the past five years at the 45th annual Kennedy Center Honors, which will be broadcast Dec. 28 on CBS, came from Sacha Baron Cohen. While speaking in character as fictional Kazakh journalist Borat, the actor/comedian made remarks that arguably stretched the audience’s comfort zone: “I’m told president of U.S. and A. is here. Where are you, Mr. Trump?” Wait, Borat? We’ll get to him. We promise.

This time last year, Washington Post theater critic Peter Marks hailed the ceremony, which featured a star-studded crowd in black tie and masks, as a “return to something like normal.” This year we can cut the “something like.” And indeed, President Biden and first lady Jill Biden were back for a second year after four “first couple”-less years thanks to a presidential boycott during the Trump years and the ensuing pandemic, which led to a mostly virtual show for the 2020 awards (held in May 2021). Joining them were Vice President Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff. Saturday’s medallion ceremony was back in its proper place at the State Department after being at the Library of Congress last year. And everyone — we mean everyone — seemed to be in the mood to celebrate.

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Pelosi attends Kennedy Center Honors in first public appearance since attack, Eugene Scott, Dec. 5, 2022. Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), made his first public appearance Sunday at the Kennedy Center Honors since being violently attacked at the couple’s San Francisco home in October.

The 82-year-old business executive was welcomed with a thunderous standing ovation as he accompanied his wife to the storied event in the Kennedy Center’s Opera House.

In the event honoring Americans who have made significant contributions to the arts, Paul Pelosi was seen sitting beside his wife in the balcony of the performing arts center’s Opera House, wearing a hat while applauding honorees. He had a black glove on one hand.

In October, an intruder broke into the couple’s home at night in the exclusive Pacific Heights neighborhood through a glass door, searching for the speaker, who was out of town at the time of the incident, and shouting “Where is Nancy?”

Paul Pelosi recovering as attack renews focus on toxic politics

Pelosi endured such severe injuries from a hammer that they required the business executive to undergo surgery to repair a skull fracture. Pelosi also suffered from “serious injuries to his right arm and hands,” according to the speaker’s office.

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: The #MeToo movies have finally arrived. Only one captures the truth, Monica Hesse, right, Dec. 5, 2022. “She Said,” “Tár” and monica hesse“Women Talking” exemplify the challenges of dramatizing a moment and a movement we’re still living through.

In an opening scene of the astonishing new movie “Women Talking,” a young mother in Amish-style dress bursts into a farm shed and seizes a scythe, lunging toward a group of men who are penned inside.

Soon we learn the source of her fury: These men have been raping the female members of their conservative religious order, stealing into their bedrooms at night with sedative meant for livestock. Women would awaken the next morning bloodied and sore, unable to identify their attackers or even prove they had been attacked. The young mother, played by Claire Foy, was a victim of something terrible, and so were many of her friends. Now the men have been caught, and it’s time to figure out what to do with them.

The movie is based on true events at a Mennonite colony in the 2000s, but it was filmed in the shadows of #MeToo. It’s a movie that couldn’t exist without the movement.

  • Washington Post, Five years after #MeToo, Black survivors mobilize for themselves

Related Headlines

 

Climate, Disasters, Energy 

ny times logoNew York Times, The Texas Group Waging a National Crusade Against Climate Action, David Gelles, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). The Texas Public Policy Foundation is shaping laws, running misinformation campaigns and taking legal action in a bid to promote fossil fuels.

When a lawsuit was filed to block the nation’s first major offshore wind farm off the Massachusetts coast, it appeared to be a straightforward clash between those who earn their living from the sea and others who would install turbines and underwater cables that could interfere with the harvesting of squid, fluke and other fish.

The fishing companies challenging federal permits for the Vineyard Wind project were from the Bay State as well as Rhode Island and New York, and a video made by the opponents featured a bearded fisherman with a distinct New England accent.

But the financial muscle behind the fight originated thousands of miles from the Atlantic Ocean, in dusty oil country. The group bankrolling the lawsuit filed last year was the Texas Public Policy Foundation, an Austin-based nonprofit organization backed by oil and gas companies and Republican donors.

With influence campaigns, legal action and model legislation, the group is promoting fossil fuels and trying to stall the American economy’s transition toward renewable energy. It is upfront about its opposition to Vineyard Wind and other renewable energy projects, making no apologies for its advocacy work.

Related Headlines

 

Public Health, Pandemics

washington post logoWashington Post, Protests noted? China’s covid czar says it’s time to ease out of ‘zero covid’ mode, Lyric Li, Dec. 3, 2022 (print ed.). China’s coronavirus czar said that the country would take “baby steps” in extricating itself from a three-year pursuit of “zero covid,” after authorities stepped up censorship efforts following rare mass protests, and ahead of a state funeral for a former leader.

“We should prioritize stability while pursuing progress: take baby steps, but don’t stop going, to optimize the covid policy,” Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, who heads China’s coronavirus response efforts, said during a panel discussion with health workers on Thursday.

Sun, widely regarded as the face of China’s lockdown measures, had said Wednesday that the country is facing a “new reality” as the virus now poses a lesser threat. She made the rare move of convening panel discussions on consecutive days amid widespread confusion over Beijing’s messaging, which had recently pushed local governments to loosen measures before imposing lockdowns again as infections continued to climb.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Who Will Care for ‘Kinless’ Seniors? Paula Span, Updated Dec. 5, 2022. Nearly one million Americans have no immediate family members to provide assistance if needed. The number is expected to grow.

Lynne Ingersoll and her cat, Jesse, spent a quiet Thanksgiving Day together in her small bungalow in Blue Island, Ill.

A retired librarian, Ms. Ingersoll never married or had children. At 77, she has outlived her parents, three partners, her two closest friends, five dogs and eight cats.

When her sister died three years ago, Ms. Ingersoll joined the ranks of older Americans considered “kinless”: without partners or spouses, children or siblings. Covid-19 has largely suspended her occasional get-togethers with friends, too. Now, she said, “my social life consists of doctors and store clerks — that’s a joke, but it’s pretty much true.”

Like many older adults, Ms. Ingersoll copes with an array of health problems: kidney disease, asthma, heart disease requiring a pacemaker, arthritis that makes walking difficult even with a cane. She’s managing, but “I can see a time when that’s not going to be true,” she said. “I’m not sure what I’m going to do about it.”

An estimated 6.6 percent of American adults aged 55 and older have no living spouse or biological children, according to a study published in 2017 in The Journals of Gerontology: Series B. (Researchers often use this definition of kinlessness because spouses and children are the relatives most apt to serve as family caregivers.)

About 1 percent fit a narrower definition — lacking a spouse or partner, children and biological siblings. The figure rises to 3 percent among women over 75.

Those aren’t high proportions, but they amount to a lot of kinless people: close to a million older Americans without a spouse or partner, children or siblings in 2019, including about 370,000 women over 75.

“We assume that everyone has at least some family, but that’s not the case anymore,” said Rachel Margolis, a sociologist at the University of Western Ontario and co-author of the study.

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U.S. Security, Privacy

washington post logoWashington Post, TSA now wants to scan your face at security. Here are your rights, Geoffrey A. Fowler, Dec. 3, 2022 (print ed.). 16 major domestic airports are testing facial-recognition tech to verify IDs — and it could go nationwide in 2023.

Next time you’re at airport security, get ready to look straight into a camera. The TSA wants to analyze your face.

The Transportation Security Administration has been quietly testing controversial facial recognition technology for passenger screening at 16 major domestic airports — from Washington to Los Angeles — and hopes to expand it across the United States as soon as next year. Kiosks with cameras are doing a job that used to be completed by humans: checking the photos on travelers’ IDs to make sure they’re not impostors.
Tech is not your friend. We are. Sign up for The Tech Friend newsletter.

The TSA says facial recognition, which has been banned by cities such as San Francisco, helps improve security and possibly also efficiency. But it’s also bringing an unproven tech, with civil rights ramifications we still just don’t understand, to one of the most stressful parts of travel.

American airports have been experimenting with so-called biometric technology for years, following the 9/11 attacks. You might have seen Customs collecting biometric information from passengers entering the United States. In 2019, I tested some of the ways airlines were using face scans to replace boarding passes for international flights. The TSA’s facial recognition pilot began at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) amid concerns about covid transmission through contact in August 2020.

Related Headlines

 

Dec. 4

Top Headlines

 

 Trump, Insurrection, Twitter, Musk, Bigotry

 

World News, Human Rights

 

 U.S. Politics, Elections, Election Deniers, Governance

 

Ukraine War

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Regulation

 

Twitter, Musk Controversies

 

Other U.S. High Tech, Media, Culture

 

Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy


Climate, Disasters, Energy

 

Top Stories

 

south carolina map

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats adopt Biden’s new 2024 nomination plan, Michael Scherer and Tyler Pager, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). Party leaders in New Hampshire and Iowa may defy the new rules, while Republicans in Georgia have not yet signaled whether they will allow an earlier primary date.

south carolina in us mapDemocratic leaders voted Friday to adopt the transformative early 2024 presidential nominating schedule proposed by President Biden, giving South Carolina the leadoff position, followed by a joint primary day for New Hampshire and Nevada, with later primaries by Georgia and Michigan.

dnc square logoThe chosen states were given until Jan. 5 to demonstrate that they can hold their primary contests on their assigned dates or risk losing their positions in the calendar.

The new calendar upends decades of tradition in which Iowa and New Hampshire held the first two slots for both Democratic and Republican nominating contests. Biden said the remaking of the primary calendar will better reflect the demographic, economic and geographic diversity of the Democratic Party.

Democratic chairman Jaime Harrison, a South Carolina native, who was informed of the decision Thursday night, reacted emotionally to the vote putting his state first, describing the decision as a way of honoring non-White, non-college educated and impoverished voters like his grandparents.

“These people have often been forgotten, many times voiceless and voteless,” he said. “The Democratic Party is the party of hope. This is the leadership that we have seen every minute of the Joe Biden presidency.”

Under the adopted rules, South Carolina would vote on Feb. 3, 2024, followed by a joint primary day in New Hampshire and Nevada three days later on Feb. 6. The Georgia primary would be Feb. 13, and the Michigan primary would be Feb. 27. The rest of the country would be free to set primaries between March 5 and June 4.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Biden shakes up the primary calendar and insulates himself from challengers, Dan Balz, right, Dec. 4, 2022. Iowa is out, South dan balzCarolina is up first and a new order is replacing a long tradition. The president set the table, and it is one very much to his liking politically.

President Biden had made it abundantly clear that he intends to run for reelection in 2024. Any doubt about that was removed when he surprised members of the Democratic National Committee with a proposal that dramatically reshapes the early primary season calendar and bends it in his favor. Absent a declaration of candidacy, it was the latest signal of a politically engaged president.

The DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee had been deliberating for many months about a new order for the early states, one that already was destined to eliminate Iowa from the list of early contests, but committee members were reluctant to move ahead without input from the leader of the party. When Biden weighed in, he did so with a proposal that calls for more change than anyone outside the White House had been considering.

Joe Biden portrait 2The old order for the starting weeks of the nominating process went like this: Iowa’s caucuses, followed by New Hampshire’s primary, followed by Nevada’s caucuses, followed by South Carolina’s primary. The new order, adopted on Friday, calls for the first month of the nomination process to go like this: South Carolina, followed three days later by both New Hampshire and Nevada, which would share the second spot on the calendar, followed by Georgia, followed by Michigan. All five contests would be conducted as primaries, and the proposal is contingent on the states meeting the DNC’s requirements.

The Biden plan throws out decades of tradition and addresses complaints that Iowa and New Hampshire, two predominantly White states, are not representative of the country or the party’s diverse coalition. In their defense, Iowa and New Hampshire voters have shown a civic culture over many years — a seriousness that went with their privileged status — that other states have yet to fully develop.

The changes also recognize, directly or indirectly, the degree to which the nominating process has changed in the past decade from one in which voters in the early states, especially the first two, acted as talent spotters for voters in other states to a process that is more nationalized from the start.

james clyburnAs much as anything, the new calendar reflects Biden’s experience in claiming the nomination in 2020. Iowa Democrats plunked him into fourth place (and guaranteed the end of caucuses with a night of disorderly counting). Granite State voters went one better by pushing Biden into fifth place. South Carolina’s Black voters, along with an endorsement from Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), left, saved his candidacy.

Biden outlined the principles behind his thinking in a letter to Rules and Bylaws Committee members released Thursday evening. He said he wants economic, geographic and demographic diversity, an end to caucuses, and regular reviews in the future of the calendar.

Perhaps most important, he said he believes it is essential to ensure that voters of color “have a voice” earlier in the process and especially noted that Black voters, “the backbone of the Democratic Party,” have previously been “pushed to the back of the early primary process.”

ny times logoNew York Times, How Democrats’ New Primary Calendar Changes the Chessboard, Blake Hounshell and Lisa Lerer, Dec. 4, 2022. President Biden’s push to abandon Iowa for younger, racially diverse states is likely to reward candidates who connect with the party’s most loyal voters.

When a panel of Democratic Party insiders endorsed President Joseph R. Biden’s preferred lineup of early presidential nominating states on Friday, they didn’t just shatter the exalted status of Iowa and New Hampshire voters.

They also formally aligned themselves with a demographic reckoning decades in the making, reflecting the growing clout of the racially diverse coalition that brought Mr. Biden to power — and implicitly rebuking two overwhelmingly white states that rejected him in 2020.

According to the proposal recommended by Mr. Biden and adopted by the party’s Rules and Bylines Committee, South Carolina would now go first, holding its primary on Feb. 3, 2024. Three days later, Nevada and New Hampshire would follow. Georgians would vote next on Feb. 13, then Michiganders on Feb. 27.

For political obsessives, the change — which must still be voted on by the whole committee — feels sweeping and swift.

 

Muslim female clothing, according to a graphic artist's representation.

Muslim female clothing, according to a graphic artist's representation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Iran Shutting Down Morality Police, Official Says, After Months of Protests, Vivian Yee, Dec. 4, 2022. The move appeared to be a concession to the protests that erupted after the death of a woman whom the force arrested over the strict Islamic dress rules.

Iran has abolished the morality police, according to remarks by the attorney general carried on state media, following months of protests set off by the death of a young woman who was being held by the force for supposedly violating the country’s strict Islamic dress laws.

iran flag mapThe decision, reported by state news outlets late Saturday night, appeared to be the government’s first major concession to the protest movement ignited by the death of the young woman, Mahsa Amini, 22, in September in the custody of the morality police. The unrest has amounted to one of the biggest challenges in decades to Iran’s system of authoritarian clerical rule.

The morality police “was abolished by the same authorities who installed it,” Attorney General Mohammad Javad Montazeri said in remarks during a meeting on Saturday where officials were discussing the unrest, according to state media reports. But he went on to suggest that the judiciary would still enforce restrictions on “social behavior.”

On Thursday, the attorney general said that the authorities were reviewing the law requiring women to cover their bodies in long, loose clothing and their hair with a head scarf or hijab and would issue a decision within 15 days. But it was not immediately clear whether the authorities were planning to relax the law, which remains in place.

 

Trump, Insurrectionists, White Nationalists, Election Deniers

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Distinguished persons of the week: The 11th Circuit renders justice against Trump, Jennifer Rubin, right, Dec. 4, 2022. Rarely does a jennifer rubin new headshotcourt demolish an argument as brutally as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit did on Thursday when it vacated District Judge Aileen Cannon’s appointment of a special master to review classified documents at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club.

Given Cannon’s ineptitude, the trouncing was entirely warranted.

The Justice Department served its warrant to search Mar-a-Lago with probable cause that the former president snatched the highly classified documents on the way out of office. Trump filed a civil suit to get the documents back, but the 11th Circuit reaffirmed there was zero evidence showing of any “callous disregard” of his rights during the search.

Specially, the 11th Circuit eviscerated Cannon for erroneously plunging ahead to grant relief to Trump through the doctrine of equitable jurisdiction, which requires a showing that his constitutional rights were violated. The three-judge panel wrote, “We have emphasized again and again that equitable jurisdiction exists only in response to the most callous disregard of constitutional rights, and even then only if other factors make it clear that judicial oversight is absolutely necessary.”

In considering the argument from Trump’s attorneys, the panel explained, “We are faced with a choice: apply our usual test; drastically expand the availability of equitable jurisdiction for every subject of a search warrant; or carve out an unprecedented exception in our law for former presidents. We choose the first option. So the case must be dismissed.”

In other words, Trump deserves no remedy because he suffered no constitutional violation. Without that, “there is no harm to be remediated in the first place.”
   

 

Lachlan Murdoch with his wife, Sarah Murdoch, at the White House in 2019 (Pool photo by Ron Sachs).

Lachlan Murdoch with his wife, Sarah, at the White House in 2019 (Pool photo by Ron Sachs).

ny times logoNew York Times, Defamation Suit Against Fox Grows More Contentious, Jeremy W. Peters, Dec. 4, 2022. Lachlan Murdoch is set to be deposed on Monday, part of a flurry of activity in the high-stakes case.

dominion voting systemsLachlan Murdoch, the chief executive of the Fox Corporation, is expected to be deposed on Monday as part of a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News for amplifying bogus claims that rigged machines from Dominion Voting Systems were responsible for Donald J. Trump’s defeat in 2020.

Mr. Murdoch will be the most senior corporate figure within the Fox media empire to face questions under oath in the case so far. And his appearance before Dominion’s lawyers is a sign of how unexpectedly far and fast the lawsuit has progressed in recent weeks — and how contentious it has become.

fox news logo SmallFox and Dominion have gone back and forth in Delaware state court since the summer in an escalating dispute over witnesses, evidence and testimony. The arguments point to the high stakes of the case, which will render a judgment on whether the most powerful conservative media outlet in the country intentionally misled its audience and helped seed one of the most pervasive lies in American politics.

Although the law leans in the media’s favor in defamation cases, Dominion has what independent observers have said is an unusually strong case. Day after day, Fox hosts and guests repeated untrue stories about Dominion’s ties to communist regimes and far-fetched theories about how its software enabled enemies of the former president to steal his votes.

“This is a very different kind of case,” said David A. Logan, dean of the Roger Williams School of Law, who has argued in favor of loosening some libel laws. “Rarely do cases turn on a weekslong pattern of inflammatory, provably false, but also oddly inconsistent statements.”

Dominion, in its quest to obtain the private communications of as many low-, mid- and high-level Fox personnel as possible, hopes to prove that people inside the network knew they were disseminating lies. Fox hopes to be able sow doubt about that by showing how its hosts pressed Trump allies for evidence they never produced and that Dominion machines were vulnerable to hacking, even if no hacking took place.

The judge, Eric M. Davis, has ruled in most instances in Dominion’s favor, allowing the voting company to expand the pool of potential evidence it can present to a jury to include text messages from the personal phones of Fox employees and the employment contracts of star hosts such as Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson, along with those of Suzanne Scott, the chief executive of Fox News Media, and her top corporate managers.

 

djt sedition graphic

Twitter, Analysis: Seditious Conspiracy by Trump? Seth Abramson, left, attorney, professor and best-selling author, Dec. 3, 2022. Calling for the overthrow of our government via “the termination of all rules, seth abramson proof logoseth abramson headshotregulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution” is Incitement to Sedition.

If Trump has taken any action in conjunction with anyone else to advance his goal [see announcement on Dec. 3 above] it is Seditious Conspiracy.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House rebukes Trump’s suggestion to suspend Constitution over 2020 election, Karoun Demirjian and Toluse Olorunnipa, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). Former president Donald Trump suggested that the country abandon one of its founding documents, drawing sharp criticism from the White House and politicians.

The White House issued a stern rebuke on Saturday after former president Donald Trump suggested suspending the Constitution in his ongoing crusade to discredit the results of the 2020 election.

“Attacking the Constitution and all it stands for is anathema to the soul of our nation and should be universally condemned,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement, calling the Constitution a “sacrosanct document.”

“You cannot only love America when you win,” he added.

Trump’s message on the Truth Social platform reiterated the baseless claims he has made since 2020 that the election was stolen. But he went further by suggesting that the country abandon one of its founding documents.

“A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution,” Trump wrote.

Elon Musk’s ‘Twitter Files’ ignite divisions, but haven’t changed minds

The post came a day after Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, claimed he would expose how Twitter engaged in “free speech suppression” in the run-up to the 2020 election. But his “Twitter Files” did not show that the tech giant bent to the will of Democrats.

“UNPRECEDENTED FRAUD REQUIRES UNPRECEDENTED CURE!” Trump followed up in another post on Saturday afternoon on Truth Social.

Trump, who last month announced he would run again for president, helped launch Truth Social after he was banned from Twitter following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Musk has said he would allow Trump back on Twitter but the former president has not rejoined the platform.

Before, During and After: An investigation of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection and its aftermath

Trump’s sustained and unfounded attacks on the 2020 election result culminated in the attack by his supporters on the U.S. Capitol. Many GOP candidates also echoed his false claims ahead of this year’s midterms, but lost their efforts to win key state posts.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just gave away that he knows it’s completely over for him, Bill Palmer, Dec. 4, 2022. It’s now completely over for Donald bill palmerTrump. If you don’t want to take our word for it, just check with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which just cleared the way for Trump to be indicted for stealing classified documents. Or check with the other federal criminal case against Trump, where Pat Cipollone and others have just testified to a DOJ grand jury after the courts ruled that executive privilege didn’t apply.

bill palmer report logo headerBut if you really want proof that it’s over for Trump, just ask Trump. After all of these things went horribly wrong for him, he called for the “termination” of the Constitution so he could be reinstated as President. It’s not just that Trump is saying something this infinitely deranged. It’s that he has to know that this kind of talk will merely help ensure that he really does spend the rest of his life in prison.

Good luck to Trump’s lawyers when he’s on trial for trying to overthrow the government and they have to convince the jury that he didn’t really mean it when he called for the “termination” of the Constitution. This is the kind of thing that proves intent and delivers convictions.

Donald Trump is clearly at a point where he sees no hope of escaping indictment and conviction, and is throwing it all away with a statement like this because he has nothing to lose anyway. If you’re a lock to spend the rest of your life in prison, what else is there to lose? Trump knows his life is over. He’s knows he’s done. And he’s yelling the kind of desperate gibberish a villain only yells when he knows there’s no hope of escape anyway.

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World News, Disasters, Human Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, Defaults Loom as Poor Countries Face an Economic Storm, Alan Rappeport, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). Debt-relief efforts are stalling as developing economies are being hit by higher interest rates, a strong dollar and slowing global growth.

Developing nations are facing a catastrophic debt crisis in the coming months as rapid inflation, slowing growth, rising interest rates and a strengthening dollar coalesce into a perfect storm that could set off a wave of messy defaults and inflict economic pain on the world’s most vulnerable people.

Poor countries owe, by some calculations, as much as $200 billion to wealthy nations, multilateral development banks and private creditors. Rising interest rates have increased the value of the dollar, making it harder for foreign borrowers with debt denominated in U.S. currency to repay their loans.

Defaulting on a huge swath of loans would send borrowing costs for vulnerable nations even higher and could spawn financial crises when nearly 100 million people have already been pushed into poverty this year by the combined effects of the pandemic, inflation and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The danger poses another headwind for a world economy that has been sputtering toward a recession. The leaders of the world’s advanced economies have been grappling privately in recent weeks with how to avert financial crises in emerging markets such as Zambia, Sri Lanka and Ghana, but they have struggled to develop a plan to accelerate debt relief as they confront their own economic woes.

 ny times logoNew York Times, The Chinese Dream, Denied: Harsh Measures Shake Beijing’s Social Contract, Vivian Wang, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). The world’s harshest Covid restrictions exemplify how Xi Jinping’s authoritarian excesses have rewritten Beijing’s longstanding social contract with its people that provided stability and comfort. Protests against the “zero-Covid” measures have erupted across the country, but even if they are quashed, disillusionment may remain.

china flag SmallThe narrow alleyways of Haizhu district have long beckoned to China’s strivers, people like Xie Pan, a textile worker from a mountainous tea-growing area in central China.

Home to one of the country’s biggest fabric markets, Haizhu houses worker dormitories and textile factories in brightly colored buildings stacked so close that neighbors can shake hands out their windows. Once a smattering of rural villages, the area became a manufacturing hub as China opened its economy decades ago. The government had promised to step back and let people unleash their ambitions, and millions flocked to Haizhu to do just that.

Mr. Xie made the hopeful journey last year, joining others from Hubei Province who had also settled in this dense pocket of the southern metropolis of Guangzhou. They toiled in cacophonous factories, peddled cloth or sold sesame noodles, a hometown favorite. But when I met him a few months ago, his hope had dimmed. Because of a slowing economy, he had been homeless for two weeks before stringing together money to rent a 100-square-foot room for $120 a month.

“There isn’t enough work for everyone,” Mr. Xie, 31, a soft-spoken man with hunched shoulders from years bent over sewing machines, said then. “You can’t go to bed every night having to look for work in the morning. It’s too tiring.”

It would get much worse, after a strict Covid lockdown silenced the factories and shuttered the noodle shops. In October, Mr. Xie was quarantined for nearly a month.

Several weeks later, Haizhu exploded in discontent. After a weekend of protests against “zero Covid” restrictions across the country, hundreds of workers defied lockdown rules and swarmed Haizhu’s streets on Tuesday, demanding freedom. They tore down street barricades and threw glass bottles. “End the lockdown!” they shouted as police officers in hazmat suits marched through the alleys, banging clubs against their shields.

ny times logoNew York Times, After Fanning Covid Fears, China Must Now Try to Allay Them, Keith Bradsher, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). Beijing warned that the only effective response was testing, lockdown and quarantine. Now, poised for a policy shift, it must change how it portrays the risks.

For nearly three years, the Chinese government deployed its considerable propaganda apparatus to fan fears about Covid to justify large-scale quarantines, frequent mass testing and the tracking of more than a billion people. As the authorities now shift their approach to the pandemic, they face the task of downplaying those fears.

china flag SmallUntil the past week, during which there were rallies voicing extraordinary public opposition to the stringent “zero Covid” rules, government officials and state media were still emphasizing the most ominous medical news about the pandemic. There were countless stories about the high death toll suffered elsewhere — especially in the United States — and about the months of respiratory problems, cognitive impairment and other difficulties associated with long Covid.

The official newspaper of the Communist Party, People’s Daily, warned on Nov. 15 that any loosening of Covid measures would endanger the lives and health of the Chinese people: “The relaxation of prevention and control will inevitably increase the risk of infection of susceptible groups.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Ethiopian guards massacred scores of Tigrayan prisoners, witnesses say, Katharine Houreld, Dec. 4, 2022. The most egregious killings by Ethiopian guards occurred at the Mirab Abaya prison camp, where current and retired Tigrayan soldiers were detained.

ethiopia flag mapThe scent of coffee and cigarettes hung in the hot afternoon air in a makeshift Ethiopian prison camp, prisoners said, as detained Tigrayan soldiers celebrated the holy day of Saint Michael in November 2021. Some joked with friends outside the corrugated iron buildings. Others quietly prayed to be reunited with families they had not seen in a year, when conflict erupted in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region.

Then the killings began.

By sunset the next day, around 83 prisoners were dead and another score missing, according to six survivors. Some were shot by their guards, others hacked to death by villagers who taunted the soldiers about their Tigrayan ethnicity, prisoners said. Bodies were dumped in a mass grave by the prison gate, according to seven witnesses.

“They were stacked on top of each other like wood,” recounted one detainee who said he saw the aftermath of the slaughter.

 

cyril ramaphosa reuters ny times logoNew York Times, Cyril Ramaphosa Vows to Fight Impeachment Report and Seek Re-election, John Eligon, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). The South African president (shown above in a Reuters photo) considered resigning after Parliament released a report last week accusing him of violating his oath of office.

President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa said on Saturday that he would not resign and would instead challenge a parliamentary report that suggests he may have illegally covered up a crime at his private game farm, ending days of speculation that he might step down rather than face impeachment.

south africa flag after 1994Mr. Ramaphosa’s spokesman, Vincent Magwenya, said in a statement that the president would heed the call of his supporters within the African National Congress and remain in office while continuing his effort to seek re-election as the party’s leader.

“The president has with humility and great care and commitment accepted that call to continue being of service to his organization, the A.N.C., and to the people of South Africa,” Mr. Magwenya said.

The decision by the president to stand his ground caps a roller coaster week, in which the report was released and Mr. Ramaphosa seemed to be leaning toward resigning. His closest advisers, however, encouraged him to fight back against the accusations that he violated his oath of office.

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President Biden told reporters he hosted President Emmanuel Macron of France for his first state dinner as president “because he’s my friend.” (New York Times Photo by Doug Mills).President Biden told reporters he hosted President Emmanuel Macron of France for his first state dinner as president on Dec. 1 “because he’s my friend.” (New York Times Photo by Doug Mills).

 

Ukraine War

washington post logoWashington Post, After Kherson, Ukraine’s military ponders new push south and east, Samantha Schmidt and Serhii Korolchuk, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). A logical step for Ukraine would be to press south through the Zaporizhzhia region and sever the "land bridge" between Russia and Crimea.

The path to a Ukrainian victory — or at least the most obvious path — will probably cut south, through the muddy and flat fields of the Zaporizhzhia region.

ukraine flagFollowing Russia’s retreat from the city of Kherson — the only regional capital captured by Moscow since the start of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion — Ukrainian forces have limited options for their next big push to continue recapturing occupied territory and, ultimately, to expel the invaders.

Much attention is now shifting here, to the southern front line less than 100 miles north of the Azov Sea, where Ukrainians are eager to sever the “land bridge” connecting mainland Russia to Crimea, which Russia invaded and illegally annexed in 2014. Kyiv is also intent on liberating cities such as Melitopol and Enerhodar, where the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is located.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Forests Full of Mines, Ukrainians Find Mushrooms and Resilience, Maria Varenikova, Photographs by Brendan Hoffman, Dec. 4, 2022. These misty and damp parts of the country have long beckoned to mushroom hunters, but now peril, too, lies beneath the surface.

Weighing the risk of mines and the allure of their quarry, thousands of Ukrainians in the first mushroom season since the Russian invasion hunted for mushrooms.

Now, they are in the post-picking phase of the season, tallying their spoils and setting out to preserve them for the hard winter ahead. The risk may seem extreme for what was so long seen as a pastoral pastime, but Ukrainian mushroom hunters view it differently. They are passionate about their tranquil walks in the forest, and see in them a sign of Ukraine’s resilience and a way to preserve ordinary life during wartime.

ny times logoNew York Times, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said the $60-a-barrel price cap set on Russian oil was too high, Matt Stevens, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). Ukraine’s president criticized the $60-a-barrel limit set by the Group of 7 nations, suggesting that the architects of the plan were “trying to avoid big decisions.”

ny times logoNew York Times, He Returned a Dazed Soldier to the Russians. Ukraine Calls It Treason, Jeffrey Gettleman, Photographs by Finbarr O’Reilly, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). No one knew what to do with a lost Russian pilot. The case has revealed the blurred line between pragmatism in a war zone and collaboration with the enemy.

Russian FlagA team of guards had encountered someone stumbling toward a checkpoint in a strange green uniform, slathered in mud, looking shellshocked. He wasn’t a looter. He was a lost Russian pilot.

It was a highly unusual prisoner of war situation — a band of civilians capturing an enemy officer in a city that the enemy controls. They couldn’t hand him over to Ukrainian forces — there were no Ukrainian forces in the city at that time. And there was no Red Cross. And the Russians were everywhere.

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U.S. Politics, Elections, Election Deniers, Governance

 

 In more than two dozen counties, thousands of voters came out to vote, some waiting for hours for the chance to cast their ballot early for the Dec. 6 runoff between Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D), above right, and Republican Herschel Walker, above left.

 In more than two dozen counties, thousands of voters came out to vote, some waiting for hours for the chance to cast their ballot early for the Dec. 6 runoff between Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D), above right, and Republican Herschel Walker, above left.

washington post logoWashington Post, In Georgia runoff election, GOP worries about Walker, Trump and party’s future, Sabrina Rodriguez, Hannah Knowles and Dylan Wells, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). The Senate runoff between Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) and Republican Herschel Walker caps a turbulent midterm election in which voters rejected many candidates tied to the former president.

georgia mapRepublicans have grown increasingly nervous about the final U.S. Senate election of the midterms, a runoff in Georgia that reflects larger concerns over candidate quality, infighting and ties to Donald Trump that loom over the party’s future.

us senate logoThe race between Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) and Republican challenger Herschel Walker caps a turbulent election season in which voters rejected many inexperienced Republican nominees tied to the former president and his ideas in favor of Democratic incumbents who tried to keep President Biden at arm’s length. Georgia, a purple state expected to factor heavily in the 2024 presidential election, is a final testing ground for these competing forces — and one that has generated plenty of GOP pessimism.

Seth Weathers, a Georgia director for Trump’s 2016 campaign, previously expressed confidence that Walker would win in a runoff. Now, he said, looking at early voting turnout, “I have more concern,” and he is unsure who will prevail.

 

greg palast logoGeg Palast Investigates, Analysis and Advocacy, Raphael Warnock is in real trouble, Greg Palast (shown above), Nov. 30, 2022. Don’t be fooled by the record long lines of Black voters in Atlanta.

Here’s the real story.

Two years ago Raphael Warnock won his Senate runoff because he got three-quarters of a million mail-in ballots. He won those mail-in ballots by 2:1.

georgia mapWithin weeks of his victory the Republican Party in the Georgia legislature passed a law (SB202) that made it all but illegal to vote by mail in a runoff election.

Part of the game was to shut 77% of the mail-in drop boxes in Atlanta. Two out of three Georgia mail-in ballots vote Democratic.

So when you see those long lines it's because Black people can’t mail-in or drop off their ballots. It's made way worse because the new law (SB202) slashes the number of early voting days from 17 statewide to just 5.

Now we’ve discovered that voters in the white-majority counties outside Atlanta have on average three times as many dropboxes per voter as Black Atlanta, a 314% difference imposed by Georgia’s new law SB202. Imposed by Jim Crow.

And Cheryle Moses, editor of Black Gwinnett Magazine won’t stand for it. This week, Moses teamed with the Palast Investigative Fund and filed a formal complaint with the US Department Of Justice Civil Rights Division. The legal action demands the reversal of severe restrictions on ballot dropboxes, a method of voting the state knows full well was used by over half a million African-American voters in 2020.

The complaint states: From the 2020/2021 elections to November 2022, mail-in ballots in Georgia plummeted by over 1 million, a breathtaking 81% loss of ballots — concentrated in Black-majority urban counties. A principal cause of this drop-off: SB202, signed into law last year, limits dropboxes to no more than one per one-hundred thousand active voters. This limit affects ONLY the four large Greater Atlanta counties which are 59.7% non-white. The law shuttered 77% of Atlanta-area dropboxes, declining from 107 to 25.

At the same time, small rural counties were required to ADD at least one dropbox. The result: a radical reduction in dropboxes in urban non-white counties to 55,862 voters per dropbox. In the remainder of Georgia, 65% white, only 18,000 voters must share a dropbox, a 314% difference.

Read the full complaint | Add your name to the complaint.

Axios, Analysis: The Georgia Senate runoff is Raphael Warnock’s to lose, Josh Kraushaar, Dec. 4, 2022. Polls and conversations with top strategists in both parties suggest Tuesday's Georgia Senate runoff will be close — but that Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) holds a small but resilient advantage over Herschel Walker.

axios logoWhy it matters: Runoffs are typically about turning out your base a second time. But in Georgia, both are targeting a critical mass of swing voters — independent-minded suburbanites just outside Atlanta.

What's happening: Walker's ties to former President Trump — and struggles communicating his positions on the campaign trail — have made him uniquely ill-suited to win over swing voters, who have made the difference in recent closely contested Georgia elections.

 

herschel walker informal

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate campaign hits fever pitch in final days of Georgia runoff, Hannah Knowles and Matthew Brown, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). Final efforts to reach voters in Georgia’s Senate runoff between Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) and Republican Herschel Walker, above, were everywhere at Saturday’s Southeastern Conference championship football game.

Republican Herschel Walker — known largely for his star football career with the University of Georgia Bulldogs — took pictures with fans near Mercedes-Benz stadium. Down the street filled with signs reminding people about Election Day, a “Dawgs for Warnock” booth gave out pins for Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) and urged people to commit to voting.

Both campaigns took advantage of Saturday’s Southeastern Conference championship game between Georgia and the Louisiana State University Tigers to appeal to voters ahead of Tuesday’s Senate runoff.

And in ads broadcast to millions of people watching Saturday night’s Southeastern Championship game, Walker’s former football coach praised his “drive” and work ethic — while Democrats showed footage of voters reacting with disbelief to Walker’s musings on the campaign trail, including a comparison of vampires and werewolves.

Those viral comments were a tipping point for Scott Hay, 55, who said he cast his ballot for Walker in November but has come to regret it, after learning more about the GOP candidate, including allegations from his past. He’ll vote for Warnock on Tuesday.

“I’m a Republican and I’ve never voted for anything but Republicans, and I cannot vote for Herschel Walker,” Hay said as he waited outside Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Backing Walker earlier this fall, Hay said, “I thought … I’m a Georgia fan. How bad can he be? Because I don’t like Warnock at all. But he’s pretty bad.”

The SEC Championship Game — just the latest intersection of Georgia sports and politics — exemplified the sprint to turn out base voters and change some minds in a close race that could cushion Democrats’ razor-thin majority in the Senate. Warnock, senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, is seeking his a full, six-year term after winning a runoff to replace a senator who stepped down amid health problems. He finished about 1 percentage point ahead of Walker in the Nov. 8 general election, but fell just short of the 50 percent threshold required to avert a runoff.

 

nancy pelosi gavel safe oen

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: As Pelosi bows out, chaos enters (stage right), Dana Milbank, right, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). She stood all of 5 feet 4 inches, not counting the dana milbank newestwhite stiletto heels, on the podium in the House television studio Thursday for one of her many valedictories. But a more towering figure hasn’t walked these halls in a generation.

Nancy Pelosi, shown above in a file photo, is closing two decades as party leader, and two stints as House speaker, on her own terms. Though her Democrats technically lost their majority, their better-than-expected showing in the midterms felt like a victory. With high-fives and hugs, they elected by acclamation a new generation of leaders this week. House Republicans, meanwhile, are acting as though they lost, bickering among themselves as their leader, Kevin McCarthy, sells his soul to extremists in hopes of eking out enough votes to become speaker.

Pelosi is leaving in a last burst of productivity, churning out bills before the chamber becomes a lawmaking dead zone next year. Landmark legislation codifying marriage equality will pass the House on Tuesday on the way to President Biden’s desk. Congress approved a deal this week averting a ruinous rail strike. Also making progress: a massive 2023 spending package, major defense legislation and a bill to avoid a repeat of Donald Trump’s 2020 election abuses.

Pelosi seemed at peace in her weekly news conference Thursday, one of the last of hundreds. Crossing her ankles behind the lectern and battling a cold with sniffles and a tissue, she joked with a Fox News correspondent and referred to Trump as “you know who” and he “who shall remain nameless here.” She volunteered a lesson from 18th-century economist Adam Smith. She made a passionate plea for paid sick leave.

And she offered this wish for her successors: “As one who has served so long, my dream is that they do better. And I think everybody who has a position of responsibility always wants their successors to do better.”

But that is one dream unlikely to come true.

Her immediate successor as speaker will be virtually guaranteed instant chaos, dysfunction and backstabbing from fellow Republicans. Her successor as Democratic leader, Hakeem Jeffries, will have an easier job at first — the opposition always does — but he could easily struggle to rein in “the squad” on the party’s far left. Both will soon know, if they don’t already, that Pelosi made a devilishly difficult job look easy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democratic governors riding high on election results as 2024 looms, Tyler Pager and Ashley Parker, Dec. 4, 2022. The November midterms broadened the party’s bench for potential presidential contenders, though none have said they would challenge Biden if he runs.

As Democratic governors descended on the Ritz-Carlton Hotel here for their annual winter meeting this week, the city’s reputation for bacchanalia felt particularly fitting.

The chief executives were celebrating a string of recent victories across the nation — flipping gubernatorial control in three states and holding off Republican challengers in critical battlegrounds like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

gretchen whitmer o smile CustomThe only moment of pause, it seemed, came when a handful of governors were asked at a Friday afternoon news conference who among their cadre was most likely to be the next Democratic president. The group just laughed as Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro (D-Pa.) jokingly pushed Gov. Roy Cooper (D-N.C.) in front of the lectern, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.), right, pantomimed sneaking offstage right.

“Joe Biden,” Cooper said as the tittering subsided. “C’mon.”

The tableau underscored the dynamic in the Democratic Party following their better-than-expected showing in November’s midterm elections. For months, donors and party operatives had quietly — and then sometimes publicly — worried whether President Biden should seek a second term, and if there was a strong enough Democratic bench ready to take over if and when he steps aside.

But Biden’s current plan to run for reelection in 2024 — when he will be 82 years old — has postponed the political ambitions of the future “generation of leaders” to whom candidate Biden promised to be a “bridge.” Nowhere is that more apparent than among the crop of reelected and newly elected Democratic governors, many of whom outperformed Biden in the states that are critical to winning the White House.

“The bench is here, in my opinion,” Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) said in an interview as he adamantly rejected the idea of ever running for president himself. “I mean, there is something to say about the executive branch experience. And it's not just the politics of running the government. I think there’s lots of good people in our party that are governors.”

No Democratic governor has said they plan to challenge Biden should he go through with a reelection effort, as many fully expect him to do. Instead, the governors — even the most ambitious ones — vow in both public and private to be full-throated supporters of Biden’s 2024 campaign.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Get ready for the House "Roland Freisler" show trials, Wayne Madsen, Dec. 2-4, 2022. The world should gird wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallitself for what can be expected to be the most vitriolic show trial seen since Nazi "People's Court" judge Roland Freisler's theatrics in humiliating from the bench the White Rose underground leaders in Germany and the Operation Valkyrie plotters who tried to kill Adolf Hitler in 1944. Freisler is best known for flying into fits of rage in order to psychologically disarm defendants brought before his court.

wayne madesen report logoThe incoming House Republican majority has their Freisler in the person of the jacketless Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio who is slated to assume the chairmanship of the House Judiciary Committee. Jordan is best known for delivering political rants during the impeachment hearings of Donald Trump while often targeting witnesses with personal insults. Jordan emulates to a tee the antics displayed by Freisler, who learned the practice of attacking defendants from attending the Soviet show trials of Chief Prosecutor Andrei Vyshinsky in Moscow in 1938.

Joining Jordan in staging show trials will be an assortment of other far-right MAGA devotees of Trump, including the House Oversight and Reform Committee chairman Jim Comer of Kentucky, House Financial Services Committee chair Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, and Intelligence Committee chair Mike Turner of Ohio.

washington post logoWashington Post, Former GOP congressman Jim Kolbe of Arizona dies at 80, Rachel Pannett, Dec. 4, 2022. Jim Kolbe, an Arizona Republican who served in the U.S. House of Representatives for more than 20 years and became an advocate for gay rights and the environment, died Dec. 3 at 80.

Mr. Kolbe served in the Arizona legislature before being elected to the U.S. House in 1984. During 11 terms in office, he was a social moderate and a fiscal conservative and sparred with fellow Republicans over his strong support of free trade. He became chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations.

washington post logoWashington Post, Why was paid sick leave such a sticking point in rail labor talks — and why didn’t workers get it? Julian Mark, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). Unions say rail carriers cut too much in the name of efficiency, leaving insufficient flexibility. Companies say workers already have sick leave options.

With an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote on Thursday, the Senate forced itself between freight railroad companies and their unions — an action that averted a national rail strike and potential economic catastrophe, but which failed to provide workers with a component they aggressively sought: paid sick leave.

On Wednesday, the House approved two versions of a deal meant to stave off a Dec. 9 strike by rail workers. One echoed the recommendations that union leaders and the White House agreed to in September. The other, pushed by liberal Democrats, included seven paid sick days for rail workers.

The Senate ultimately approved the option without the added sick leave, and President Biden signed it. The terms mirror those in the agreement the White House brokered in September, including a roughly 24 percent pay increase by 2024, more flexibility to take time off for doctor’s appointments, and a paid personal day.

After forcing rail deal, Biden works to smooth over labor relations

So why was paid sick leave such a sticking point — and why didn’t workers get it?

Rail carriers have said they need to maintain their attendance policies to ensure adequate staffing. Some industry experts and union officials say the companies no longer have enough workers to cover for absent colleagues because of the switch in recent years to “precision scheduled railroading,” a system designed to improve efficiency and cut costs. Instead of running trains that carried just one type of product — which left trains waiting for long stretches before they had enough load to depart — rail companies now have more trains carrying a mix of goods on a set schedule. Fixed scheduling allows them to use the same crew more often than they could have under the old system.

From November 2018 to December 2020, the rail industry lost 40,000 jobs, according to a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau described precision scheduling as possibly the “most widely accredited reason for the decrease in rail transportation employment,” although the pandemic, uncertainties in trade and a decline U.S. coal usage also hurt the industry.

Wall Street at the time cheered the transition to a new system. In 2019, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific stocks rose 30 percent, and shares of Kansas City Southern jumped more than 60 percent.

washington post logoWashington Post, From chicken wings to used cars, inflation begins to ease its grip, David J. Lynch, Dec. 4, 2022. The price of gasoline is dropping like a rock. Chicken wings are suddenly a bargain. And retailers drowning in excess inventory are looking to make a deal.

After more than a year of high inflation, many consumers are finally starting to catch a break. Even apartment rents and car prices, two items that hammered millions of household budgets this year, are no longer spiraling out of control.

Global supply chains are finally operating normally, as more consumers spend more on in-person services like restaurant meals and less on goods like furniture and computers that come from an ocean away. The cost of sending a standard 40-foot container from China to the U.S. West Coast is $1,935 — down more than 90 percent from its September 2021 peak of $20,586, according to the online freight marketplace Freightos.

The moderation in inflation is just beginning to appear in government statistics. In October, the Federal Reserve’s preferred price gauge, the personal consumption expenditures index, posted its smallest monthly increase since September of last year, and is up 6 percent over the past 12 months. The better-known consumer price index is rising at an annual rate of 7.7 percent, down from 9.1 percent in June.

NOLA.com (formerly New Orleans Times-Picayune), Chris Christie's niece kicked off New Orleans plane, injured 6 deputies, officials say, Gabriella Killett, Dec 3, 2022. She asked passengers she perceived to be Latino if they were 'smuggling cocaine.'

After getting forced off an airplane for asking passengers who appeared to her to be Latino whether they were drug mules, a niece of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie bit, kicked and spit on Jefferson Parish sheriff's deputies trying to detain her on Thanksgiving Day at Louis Armstrong International Airport, authorities said.

Shannon Epstein, 25, boarded the Spirit Airlines flight to New Jersey on Nov. 24 at about 6 a.m., and asked a family who were near her and whom she perceived to be Latino if they were "smuggling cocaine," said Capt. Jason Rivarde, a Sheriff's Office spokesperson. Airline workers requested Epstein be removed from the plane as she became increasingly irate, and the plane, which had started to taxi to the runway, returned to the gate, Rivarde said Friday.

When deputies arrived, Epstein refused to exit the jet bridge into the terminal, Rivarde said. When they tried to arrest her, she became "extremely combative," Rivarde said.

In the scuffle, she injured six deputies, biting one of the arm and breaking the skin, and kicking another in the groin, Rivarde said. They were treated there by paramedics.

All the while, Epstein shouted that the deputies were going to lose their jobs or end up in jail, boasting that she was related to powerful people and that her uncle is a friend of former President Donald Trump, Rivarde said. Chris Christie did not return messages left Friday at two telephone numbers associated with him.

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Jan. 6, Trump, Election Denier Probes

 

djt handwave file

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutors tell jurors that Trump knew of Weisselberg’s tax fraud at Trump Organization, Shayna Jacobs, Dec. 3, 2022 (print ed.). The former president is not charged in the criminal trial of his namesake company. Jury deliberations are expected to begin Monday.

Donald Trump knew about a 15-year tax fraud carried out by longtime executives at his namesake company, a prosecutor argued Friday, saying the illegal activity ended when the company cleaned up its business practices around the time Trump entered the White House.

At the close of the Trump Organization’s criminal trial, prosecutors introduced the idea that Trump had knowledge of crimes committed by his top deputies. The claim was a way of supporting their theory that the real estate, hospitality and golf company is criminally culpable for and benefited from tax cheating.

“This whole narrative that Donald Trump was blissfully ignorant was just not real,” Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass said during his summation. He asked jurors, who are likely to begin deliberations in the case on Monday, to dismiss the idea that executives who committed crimes had simply gone “rogue.”

At the same time, Steinglass also told the jury that it “doesn’t matter” whether they believe Trump knew about the fraud, because the former president is allen weisselberg croppednot considered a conspirator in the case.

Trump has not been charged with wrongdoing. Allen Weisselberg, right — his former chief financial officer and a Trump family employee for a half-century — pleaded guilty to fraud this summer. Testimony about the fraud from Weisselberg and Trump Organization comptroller Jeffrey McConney — who was granted immunity automatically by state law when he appeared before the grand jury — were key elements of the prosecution’s case.

 

steward rhodes kelly meigs jessica watkins kenneth harrelson thomas caldwell

washington post logoWashington Post, Garland praises Oath Keepers verdict, won’t say where Jan. 6 probe goes, Perry Stein, Spencer S. Hsu and Devlin Barrett, Dec. 2, 2022 (print ed.). Justice Dept. will weigh seditious conspiracy conviction in deciding whether to pursue other high-profile Trump allies, people familiar with the matter said.

A day after a federal jury convicted two far-right extremists of leading a plot to unleash political violence to prevent the inauguration of Joe Biden, Attorney General Merrick Garland vowed that his Justice Department would continue to “work tirelessly” to hold accountable those responsible for efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors highlighted the defendants’ links to key allies of President Donald Trump, such as Roger Stone, “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani.

merrick garlandBut Garland, right, declined to say Wednesday if he expected prosecutors to eventually file charges against them or any other people who did not physically participate in the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

“I don’t want to speculate on other investigations or parts of other investigations,” Garland told reporters at a briefing where he also touted Justice Department efforts to establish federal oversight of the water supply system in Jackson, Miss.

Garland called the sprawling Jan. 6 investigation, and Jackson’s water crisis, “significant matters of public interest.”

“I’m very proud of the attorneys, investigators and staff whose unwavering commitment to rule of law and tireless work resulted in yesterday in these two significant victories,” he said.

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steward rhodes kelly meigs jessica watkins kenneth harrelson thomas caldwell

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Regulation

 

 

The five most radical right Republican justices on the U.S. Supreme Court are shown above, with the sixth Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts, omitted in this view.

The five most radical right Republican justices on the Supreme Court are shown above, with the sixth Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts, omitted in this photo array.


ny times logoNew York Times, A New Clash Between Faith and Gay Rights Arrives at a Changed Supreme Court, Adam Liptak, right, Dec. 4, 2022. A Colorado graphic adam liptakdesigner says she has a First Amendment right to refuse to create websites for same-sex weddings despite a state anti-discrimination law. The court has shifted to the right since 2018 when it ruled on a similar controversy involving a baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.

Ten years ago, a Colorado baker named Jack Phillips turned away a gay couple who had asked him for a wedding cake, saying that a state law forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation must yield to his faith.

The dispute, a white-hot flash point in the culture wars, made it to the Supreme Court. But Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s narrow majority opinion in 2018 did not settle the question of whether the First Amendment permits discrimination by businesses open to the public based on their owners’ religious convictions. Indeed, the opinion acknowledged that the court had merely kicked the can down the road and would have to decide “some future controversy involving facts similar to these.”

That controversy has now arrived, and the facts are indeed similar. A graphic designer named Lorie Smith, who works just a few miles from Mr. Phillips’s bakery, Masterpiece Cakeshop, has challenged the same Colorado law on the same grounds.

“He’s an artist,” Ms. Smith said of Mr. Phillips. “I’m also an artist. We shouldn’t be punished for creating consistently with our convictions.”

The basic arguments in the case, which will be argued before the Supreme Court on Monday, are as familiar as they are polarizing.

On one side are people who say the government should not force them to violate their principles to make a living. On the other are same-sex couples and others who say they are entitled to equal treatment from businesses open to the public.

Both sides say that the consequences of the court’s ruling could be enormous, though for different reasons. Ms. Smith’s supporters say a ruling for the state would allow the government to force all sorts of artists to state things at odds with their beliefs. Her opponents say a ruling in her favor would blow a hole through anti-discrimination laws and allow businesses engaged in expression to refuse service to, say, Black people or Muslims based on odious but sincerely held convictions.

The court that will hear those arguments has been transformed since the 2018 decision. After Justice Kennedy’s retirement later that year and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death in 2020, the Supreme Court has shifted to the right and been exceptionally receptive to claims of religious freedom.

Moreover, when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, Justice Clarence Thomas filed a concurring opinion calling for the elimination of the right to same-sex marriage. Supporters of gay rights fear that a ruling for Ms. Smith will undermine that right, marking the marriages of same-sex couples as second-class unions unworthy of legal protection.

 

abidemi rufai mug

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: For prolific covid scammer, first came the cash. Then came the chase, Yeganeh Torbati and Ope Adetayo, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). Ex-Nigerian official defrauded American taxpayers by stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in coronavirus relief benefits.

On a perfect spring day at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, Abidemi Rufai arrived at the international terminal ready for the long journey back home to Nigeria.

On his wrist, Rufai, 44, shown above, wore an expensive Cartier watch. Around his neck, he wore an 18-karat gold chain with a lion pendant. As he approached the check-in desk for his business class seat on the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines flight, Rufai had seven pieces of luggage, three smartphones, and seven debit and credit cards.

It was May 2021. A year earlier, Rufai had pulled off a spectacular heist of U.S. taxpayer money. The calm with which he moved through the airport belied the chaos he had left in his wake.

His brazen and repeated pilfering of coronavirus relief funds had helped freeze the entire unemployment system in the state of Washington, where he had obtained identifying information for unsuspecting residents. For months, state and federal officials struggled to get ahead of Rufai and other fraudsters, sparking investigations on two continents that culminated in a guilty plea. Eventually, they would discover in Rufai’s email accounts and phone the personal data of 20,000 Americans and voluminous stolen tax returns, as well as photos of Rufai with a powerful Nigerian governor and images of him dressed impeccably in dark sunglasses and royal-blue robes. In one, he sat on an ornate thronelike chair.

The Covid Money Trail

It was the largest burst of emergency spending in U.S. history: Two years, six laws and more than $5 trillion intended to break the deadly grip of the coronavirus pandemic. The money spared the U.S. economy from ruin and put vaccines into millions of arms, but it also invited unprecedented levels of fraud, abuse and opportunism.

In a yearlong investigation, The Washington Post is following the covid money trail to figure out what happened to all that cash.

Rufai had managed to escape the United States for relative safety in Nigeria in late 2020, just months after his heist. Remarkably, he later returned. Now, as he approached the ticket agent, six law enforcement officers were positioned nearby, watching him.

Since the coronavirus pandemic hit in early 2020, the U.S. government has spent more than $5 trillion to respond to the crisis and stabilize the American economy. Much of that money helped families and businesses survive a dire economic shutdown. But billions of dollars were stolen, and no one is sure, even now, exactly how much has disappeared.

Some of it was nabbed by U.S. criminals, but a chunk went to foreign nationals who had honed their tactics in defrauding people through identity theft and scams over years and saw in the pandemic a chance to hit it big. Rufai’s wild tactics and dramatic life story — laid out in vivid detail in court documents — offers a startling view of one of the many accused scam artists who siphoned riches from the huge money pot created by Washington in 2020 and 2021.
An image of Rufai found in court filings. (U.S. District Court)

This article is based on interviews with nearly 20 people in the United States and Nigeria, including state and federal officials. It is also based on a review of government records in both countries, including letters from Rufai and his friends and family members, details of bank account transfers, and transcripts of his jailhouse calls. Through his lawyer, Rufai declined to be interviewed. His lawyer also declined to answer questions about the case.

The details paint a portrait of how a seasoned identity thief hit the jackpot when covid funds began to flow, preying on a tremendous amount of money that was suddenly thrust into the economy in a way that made it very easy to steal. His previous efforts at defrauding the U.S. government amounted to less than $100,000 over three years, according to federal prosecutors. But in a span of six months in 2020, he was able to swipe more than half a million dollars, prosecutors said. He was one of the most prolific thieves but joined hundreds of others, both international and domestic, who overwhelmed government officials trying to protect billions of dollars.

Rufai emerged from a difficult and abusive childhood and rose to the upper echelons of Nigerian politics, where by his own telling he imbibed a culture of corruption. He adopted the tactics of Nigerian scam rings and honed his fraud skills in the years leading up to the pandemic, all the while burdened with a lingering gambling addiction. And once he committed his most dramatic theft of U.S. taxpayer funds, he indulged in a lavish and splashy lifestyle.

“Every time I reflect back to my actions, I feel so ashamed and so disgusted,” he said at his sentencing hearing on Sept. 26, according to a court transcript. “Why did I even get myself into this in the first place?”

JFK Facts, Analysis: A CIA Officer's Take on JFK: A Rogue Plot, Jefferson Morley, Dec. 4, 2022. Former Moscow station chief Rolf Mowatt-Larssen rejects 'lone gunman' orthodoxy

“It’s pretty clear after 60 years the documents should be released,” former CIA officer Rolf Mowatt-Larssen told the “Breaking Points” newscast last month. He was referring to the CIA’s still-secret record related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November 1963.
“After 60 years the truth belongs to the American people and the American people should know the full truth,” Mowatt-Larssen said.
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I don’t entirely agree with Mowatt-Larssen’s theory of “CIA rogues,” but that’s no big deal. I think his methodology is incisive and his expertise in covert operations unparalleled.

Mowatt-Larssen and former JFK review board chairman Judge John Tunheim will comment on my next JFK scoop—which I believe is the most significant break in the assassination story in decades—at a Washington D.C. news conference on Tuesday, Dec. 6, at 9:30 am EST.

The media event is sponsored by the non-profit Mary Ferrell Foundation, which is suing President Biden for failure to enforce the JFK Records Act.
Watch the livestream of this historic press conference on YouTube on Tuesday, Dec. 6, at 9:30 am EST.

ny times logoNew York Times, After Arkansas Trial, Judge Weighs Legality of Ban on Care for Transgender Youth, Eliza Fawcett, Dec. 4, 2022. The trial, the first over a challenge to a state ban on gender-affirming care, concluded last week; the judge has not indicated when he will rule.

For Dylan Brandt, a transgender teenager in Arkansas, two years on testosterone has meant that “my outside finally matches the way I feel on the inside.”

But that sense of relief was jeopardized last year when Arkansas lawmakers passed the country’s first ban on physicians administering hormone therapy or puberty blockers to transgender people younger than 18. In its wake, Dylan, 17, a plaintiff in a legal challenge to the ban, was confronted with the prospect of moving out of the state to continue his hormone therapy.

“It would mean uprooting our entire lives, everything that we have here,” Dylan testified in a federal courtroom in Little Rock in October, at the start of a trial over the legality of the ban. “I have a job, my mom has a business, we have family, friends. We have a house, we have a community, we have a life here.”

The trial, the first in the country over a challenge to a state ban on what has become known as gender-affirming care, concluded on Thursday after four days of testimony in October and four more last week. The landmark case is set to be decided at a time when violence against transgender people is on the rise and Republican-led efforts to restrict transgender rights have gained momentum in state legislatures across the country. United States District Judge James M. Moody Jr., who last year temporarily blocked the ban from taking effect while the lawsuit played out — a decision affirmed by a federal appeals court this past summer — has not indicated when he will issue a ruling.

The Arkansas ban was enacted in April 2021, overriding a veto by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, who criticized it as a “vast government overreach.”

Similar bans soon followed in Tennessee, which prohibited doctors from giving hormone treatments to prepubescent transgender minors, and in Alabama, where lawmakers approved a bill — later partially blocked by a federal judge — making it a felony to provide gender-affirming care to minors. In November, Florida effectively banned medications and surgery for new adolescent patients seeking gender transitions.

In recent years, greater numbers of transgender adolescents in America have sought treatments such as puberty blockers, which pause an adolescent’s physiological development, and hormone therapy, which increases levels of estrogen or testosterone, to align their bodies more closely with their gender identities.

Both therapies are also used to treat a range of medical issues, such as early puberty or hormone deficiencies, in minors who are not transgender. Leading medical associations, including the Endocrine Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend access to such care for transgender people under 18 and say that denying it can increase their risk of mental health distress.

ny times logoNew York Times, FedEx Driver Charged in Kidnapping and Killing of Girl, 7, Officials Say, McKenna Oxenden, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). About 200 people in Paradise, Texas, searched for Athena Strand, who was taken near her home on Wednesday and found dead on Friday, the authorities said.

A search for a missing 7-year-old Texas girl ended with the discovery days later of her body and a FedEx contract driver being charged in her kidnapping and killing, the authorities said on Friday.

athena strandThe search for the girl, Athena Strand, began on Wednesday in Paradise, Texas, about 40 miles northwest of Fort Worth. Nearly 200 volunteers and numerous law enforcement agencies, using dogs and a helicopter with thermal imagining, participated in the search.

Her body was found on Friday but the authorities declined to specify where.

The authorities identified the FedEx driver as Tanner Lynn Horner, 31, and said he had been charged with aggravated kidnapping and capital murder of a person under 10 years old.

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI agent acquitted of attempted murder in shooting of Metro passenger, Dan Morse, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed, with surveillance video from inside a Metro training showing FBI agent shooting a fellow passenger who had confronted him on Dec. 15, 2000). Prosecutors argued that Eduardo Valdivia pulled his gun out too soon; the agent said he fired in self defense.

An FBI agent was acquitted of attempted second-degree murder and other counts Friday by a Maryland jury that found he was justified in shooting a panhandler who had confronted him aboard a moving Metro train outside Washington, D.C.

FBI logoEduardo Valdivia, 38, slowly nodded his head as the verdict was announced. He had faced as much as 40 years if convicted on the most serious charge. His family and supporters in the courtroom began crying as the verdict was read.

The four-day trial, held in Montgomery County Circuit Court, turned on surveillance video from the interior of a Red Line train on Dec. 15, 2020 — and whether the agent’s use of deadly force was justified in self-defense or was an overreaction that escalated too quickly.

On that morning, Valdivia was seated in a nearly empty train around 6:30 a.m. when he was approached by a man who was panhandling and got into a verbal altercation with him. The men eventually stood facing each other, just inches apart, with Valdivia’s back against an end of the train car. The two exchanged words that were not picked up by the recording.

But during the trial, Valdivia’s attorney, Robert Bonsib, established at least part of what the passenger told the agent — doing so through the questioning of a detective who had interviewed the passenger.

“I’ll throw you through this wall,” the man said during the encounter, according to trial testimony.

The man’s threats and aggressive posture, according to Bonsib, were enough to convince the agent he could get his gun taken and turned on him.

“Maryland law permits anybody — any ordinary guy on his way to work — to defend himself against the threat of imminent bodily harm,” Bonsib had told jurors.

Valdivia had spent years working undercover as an agent and could sense an imminent attack, his attorneys added.

The passenger did not testify. But Bonsib said the man was reputed to have a “propensity for violence” among Metro system police officers.

Prosecutors built their case around the notion that Valdivia, even if he felt threatened, failed to take steps to defuse the situation. He didn’t tell the man he was an FBI agent. He wasn’t willing to fight him physically, even though he had experience as a boxer and was trained in takedown tactics.

“He had no business firing a gun,” Assistant State’s Attorney Robert Hill told jurors. The man Valdivia shot was struck in his torso and arm and spent five days in a hospital.

On Wednesday night, the University of Idaho and fellow students honored during a vigil the lives of slain students Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle, Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves, shown below left to right.  On Wednesday night, the University of Idaho and fellow students honored during a vigil the lives of slain students Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle, Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves, shown above left to right.

On Wednesday night, the University of Idaho and fellow students honored during a vigil the lives of slain students Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle, Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves, shown above left to right.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Killer on the Loose Leaves an Idaho College Town Shaken, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). Many students living in the dorms at the University of Idaho have not returned after the Thanksgiving break, as residents worry about their safety.

The flood of calls to the Moscow Police Department is a sign of just how afraid people in this college town have become, three weeks after four University of Idaho students (shown above) were fatally stabbed by an unknown assailant in their bedrooms in the middle of the night.

Many students refused to come back to campus after Thanksgiving, and some classrooms at the university now sit half empty. Those who did return said they bought doorbell cameras, put rods in their windows to lock them shut or began hunkering down with roommates at night.

washington post logoWashington Post, Law school revolt against U.S. News rankings gains steam, Nick Anderson and Susan Svrluga, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). Whether universities will follow suit with a broader rebellion against the ranking giant is unknown.

First, Yale University’s top-ranked law school declared it would end cooperation with the U.S. News & World Report rankings. Within hours, Harvard University’s law school, ranked fourth, followed suit. Then, what began as a high-profile protest against the rankings became a mass revolt that now encompasses four University of California law schools, four from the Ivy League and several other big names in legal education.

On Friday, the University of Washington law school, ranked 49th, and the University of Pennsylvania’s, ranked sixth, became the latest to join the rebellion.

The U.S. News method for ranking law schools “is unnecessarily secretive and contrary to important parts of our mission,” the Carey Law School at U-Penn. said in a statement, citing increased investment in need-based financial aid and efforts to promote careers in public-interest law.

ny times logoNew York Times, Druggings, Deaths and Robberies Put New York City’s Gay Community on Edge, Liam Stack, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). At first, the men’s deaths were treated as overdoses, until tens of thousands of dollars were found drained from their bank accounts.

Julio Ramirez died in the back seat of a taxi in April after he left a popular gay bar in Manhattan with a group of men. They stole his wallet, phone and ID before they abandoned his body in the car with a distressed cabdriver.

One month later, John Umberger was found dead in an Upper East Side townhouse after he and a group of men left another popular gay bar just three blocks from the last place Mr. Ramirez was seen alive. Surveillance footage showed Mr. Umberger sandwiched between the men as they guided him into a car.

The Police Department and many in the L.G.B.T.Q. community at first regarded the deaths as isolated drug overdoses: men who partied too hard, quotidian tragedies in a gay nightlife scene that has roared back to life as the coronavirus pandemic has waned.

But the men’s families soon discovered something more sinister: Credit cards in the men’s names were maxed out and their bank accounts drained of tens of thousands of dollars. Now, their deaths are being investigated by the Police Department’s homicide unit.

The deaths of Mr. Ramirez and Mr. Umberger came at a fraught time for the city’s L.G.B.T.Q. community, which emerged from the pandemic into the jaws of a monkeypox outbreak, a landscape of struggling and sometimes shuttered bars and an increasingly hostile national political climate.

They have also spread fear and rumor, while starting a broader conversation about similar attacks that have quietly plagued the city’s gay nightlife for years.

washington post logoWashington Post, Man charged with murder in shooting of Migos rapper Takeoff, Helena Andrews-Dyer, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). The Houston police department announced Friday that a suspect has been arrested and charged in the fatal shooting of rapper Takeoff, one-third of the group Migos.

Patrick Xavier Clark, 33, was arrested Thursday night and charged with Takeoff’s murder, said Houston Police Chief Troy Finner in a Friday afternoon news conference. Cameron Joshua, 22, who was at the scene of the crime, was also arrested Nov. 22 and charged for unlawfully possessing a weapon as a felon. The police would not say whether that weapon was directly connected to the murder.

“We stood here a month ago and made a promise that we would get the individual or individuals that’s responsible for the murder of Takeoff into custody,” Finner said after thanking the public for its patience as the department worked through evidence.

“We lost a good man,” he added.

Takeoff wasn’t the most visible member of Migos. But he was its heart.

Takeoff, 28, whose real name is Kirshnik Khari Ball, was shot and killed on Nov. 1 after a private party at 810 Billiards and Bowling. Sergeant Michael Barrow referred to Takeoff during Friday’s conference as an “innocent bystander” after an argument ensued outside of the bowling alley following what was described as a “lucrative” dice game. Takeoff, Barrow said, was not involved in the dice game or the confrontation.

In other recent U.S. crime stories:

Other Court News Headlines

 

Twitter, Musk Controversies

washington post logoWashington Post, Surging Twitter antisemitism unites fringe and encourages violence, officials say, Julian Mark, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). Online comments often lead to real-world actions, social media experts warn.

Federal officials are predicting that Twitter will contribute to more violence, citing the proliferation of extreme content, including support for Nazis by certain celebrities and the reemergence of QAnon proselytizers and white nationalists.

Current and former federal officials are warning that a surge in hate speech and disinformation about Jews on Twitter is uniting and popularizing some of the same extremists who have helped push people to engage in violent protests including the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on Congress.

The officials are predicting that Twitter will contribute to more violence in the months ahead, citing the proliferation of extreme content, including support for genocidal Nazis by celebrities with wide followings and the reemergence of QAnon proselytizers and white nationalists.

Since billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk bought Twitter just over a month ago, he has slashed more than half the staff, including most of the people who made judgment calls about what counts as impermissible slurs against religious or ethnic groups.

Musk announced a broad amnesty for most previously banned accounts and has personally interacted with fringe activists and white nationalists on the site in the weeks since he assumed ownership. Other actors have experimented with racist and antisemitic posts to test Musk’s limits as a self-declared “free speech absolutist.”

Even before Musk’s takeover, some Twitter users were encouraging confrontations with transgender people and others who were falsely depicted as “groomers,” or predators who sexually target underage victims. But the new wave of antisemitism has reached millions of people in just days, brought new followers, and helped galvanize a broader coalition of fringe figures.

 

 

Elon Musk released what he called the “Twitter Files” on Friday, delving into the company's decision to block the Hunter Biden laptop story. In this 2019 photo, Musk speaks during a gaming convention (Photo by Mike Blake for Reuters).

Elon Musk released what he called the “Twitter Files” on Friday, delving into the company's decision to block the Hunter Biden laptop story. In this 2019 photo, Musk speaks during a gaming convention (Photo by Mike Blake for Reuters).

washington post logoWashington Post, Elon Musk’s ‘Twitter Files’ ignite divisions, but haven’t changed minds, Cat Zakrzewski and Faiz Siddiqui, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). It was billed as a bombshell: Elon Musk, after rifling through his new company’s internal files, would finally expose how Twitter engaged in “free speech suppression” in the critical run up to the 2020 election.

“This will be awesome,” Musk tweeted, teasing the announcement with a popcorn emoji.

twitter bird CustomBut by the time the dust settled Saturday, even some conservatives were grumbling that it was a dud. Musk’s Twitter Files produced no smoking gun showing that the tech giant had bent to the will of Democrats.

A handful of screenshots from 2020, posted over the course of two hours Friday evening in a disjointed, roughly 40-tweet thread, show the San Francisco company debating a decision to restrict sharing of a controversial New York Post story about the son of then Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

The Twitter thread, based on internal communications posted by Substack writer Matt Taibbi, left, showed the company independently decided matt taibbito limit the spread of the article, without Democratic politicians, the Biden campaign or FBI exerting control over the social media network. In fact, the only input from a sitting politician that Taibbi noted was from Silicon Valley Rep. Ro Khanna (D), who told Twitter executives they should distribute the story, regardless of the potential consequences for his party.

“I’m not persuaded these are anything close to a bombshell,” said Jameel Jaffer, the director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, in an interview.

In the process, Musk took the extraordinary step of promoting the leak of internal company communications to Taibbi, exposing the names of several rank-and-file workers and Khanna’s personal email address.

The online mob descended on the Twitter workers on the chain, threatening them and circulating their photos online.

“Publicly posting the names and identities of front-line employees involved in content moderation puts them in harm’s way and is a fundamentally unacceptable thing to do,” former Twitter Trust and Safety chief Yoel Roth, who was among the employees named in the tweets, said in a social media post.

Musk acknowledged on a Twitter Spaces audio chat Saturday afternoon some missteps, including “a few cases where I think we should have excluded some email addresses.”

“The idea here is to come clean on everything that has happened in the past in order to build public trust for the future,” Musk said during the Twitter Spaces which was plagued with technical difficulties. Musk said he joined via a Starlink satellite connection from his private jet.

Musk also criticized the media’s coverage of the files.

“Rather than admit they lied to the public they’re trying to pretend this is a nothingburger,” he said. “Shame on them.”

Musk and Taibbi both tweeted that they would reveal more information in a second chapter Saturday. Musk also said on the Spaces that he shared the documents with another Substack writer, Bari Weiss, and suggested he may share them with the public in the future.

The spectacle capped off another week of chaos at Musk’s Twitter, after the “chief Twit” spent Friday afternoon meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and batting back reports about the rise of hate speech on the Twitter platform.

 

 

Blogger Matt Taibbi and the erratic ultra-right corporate titan Elon Musk

Blogger Matt Taibbi and the increasingly erratic ultra-right corporate titan Elon Musk

Emptywheel, Analysis: Matty Taibbi’s Dick Pics, Emptywheel, (Marcy Wheeler, right), Dec. 3, 2022. Apparently, Elon Musk decided that the best person to marcy wheelerdisclose what he promised would show, “what really happened with the Hunter Biden story suppression by Twitter” was Matt Taibbi, someone who — by his own admission (an admission on which he has apparently flip-flopped) — apologized for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine because he was, “so fixated on Western misbehavior that I didn’t bother to take [the] possibility [of Russian invasion] seriously enough.”

Reverse chauvinism, Taibbi called it.

Taibbi’s own apologies for Russia didn’t just start with the Russian imperialism and war crimes, however.

He was long a critic of what he called “RussiaGate” based on the tried and true tactic of treating the Steele dossier and Alfa Bank allegations — and not the legal verdicts that confirmed Trump’s National Security Advisor, campaign manager, Coffee Boy, personal lawyer, and rat-fucker all lied to hide the true nature of their Russian ties — as the primary substance of the case.

Taibbi scolded others about shoddy reporting even while he adhered to the Single Server fallacy that not only assumed all the hacked material came from just one server, but ignored the hack of Amazon Web Services content and abundant other evidence attributing the hacks to Russia from other cloud companies. Then there was the time Taibbi tried to smack down on claims that Maria Butina used sex to entice targets, in which he made error after error, all without allowing his false claims to be disrupted by consulting the actual primary sources.

twitter bird CustomThat’s the guy Elmo decided would be a credible voice to tell us what happened with the “Hunter Biden” “laptop” story.

That matters because, as Andy Stepanian explained last night, Twitter had advance warning of a Russian information operation targeting Hunter Biden during the summer of 2020, months before the release of the “Hunter Biden” “laptop.”

Matt Taibbi is either woefully misinformed about this or cynically lying. How do I know? Because I attended two meetings with Twitter representatives in July and August 2020 wherein the Hunter Biden story was discussed within the larger framework of election integrity.

Matt Taibbi’s analysis has myriad problems but the biggest problem is his failure to underscore what initially prompted Twitter staff to designate the content in the Post story as “stolen” or “hacked” material. This came from conversations with law enforcement in summer of 2020.

Taibbi claims that he’s concerned about First Amendment implications of the government pressuring Twitter about content. And then … he ignores the evidence he presents about (what is probably shorthand for) the Trump White House pressuring Twitter about content. Let’s see those specifics, Matty!
Or rather he excuses it, using the old charade of campaign donations which show what a small portion of Twitter employees spend.

As numerous people have laid out — most notably Free Beacon reporter Andrew Kerr — a number of these takedown requests were of dick pics and other personal porn, a celebrity kind of revenge porn. Others were of Hunter Biden smoking crack — at least a violation of law. But none so far identified pertain to allegations of influence peddling.

Tabbi’s smoking gun amounts to takedown requests of stolen dick pics, precisely the kind of thing that content moderation should be responsive to.
“Handled,” Elmo responded with glee about proof that his predecessors had seen fit to remove leaked porn and dick pics.

hunter biden beard

Hunter Biden (file photo).

The Bulwark, Commentary: No, You Do Not Have a Constitutional Right to Post Hunter Biden’s Dick Pic on Twitter, Tim Miller, right, Dec. 3, 2022. Elon Musk and Matt tim miller twitterTaibbi’s First Amendment follies.

While normal humans who denied Republicans their red wave were enjoying an epic sports weekend, an insular community of MAGA activists and online contrarians led by the world’s richest man (for now) were getting riled up about a cache of leaked emails revealing that the former actor James Woods and Chinese troll accounts were not allowed to post ill-gotten photos of Hunter Biden’s hog on a private company’s microblogging platform 25 months ago.

bulwark logo big shipNow if you are one of the normals—someone who would never think about posting another person’s penis on your social media account; has no desire to see politicians’ kids’ penises when scrolling social media; doesn’t understand why there are other people out there who care one way or another about the moderation policies surrounding stolen penis photos; or can’t even figure out what it is that I’m talking about—then this might seem like a gratuitous matter for an article. Sadly, it is not.

Because among Republican members of Congress, leading conservative media commentators, contrarian substackers, conservative tech bros, and friends of Donald Trump, the ability to post Hunter Biden’s cock shots on Twitter is the number-one issue in America this weekend. They believe that if they are not allowed to post porno, our constitutional republic may be in jeopardy.

I truly, truly wish I were joking.

Here’s a synopsis for the blessedly uninitiated:

The offending material that Taibbi revealed was removed by Twitter at the Biden campaign’s request turns out to have been a bunch of links to Hunter Biden, right, in the buff.

There was a tweet from a Chinese account featuring a naked woman on top of Hunter Biden, as well as a family photo. Two pictures of Hunter Biden’s penis, one with another woman in the background. Taibbi’s next list of material was removed by Twitter after being flagged by the Democratic National Committee. They include a picture of Hunter Biden smoking crack and getting his feet rubbed and a link to a Hunter Biden sex tape.

And that’s the big hubbub. Social media company removes unwanted dick pics: News at 11.

elon musk collage twitterOn Friday, Elon Musk promised to reveal “what really happened with the Hunter Biden story suppression by Twitter.” It turns out that he had provided a trove of internal corporate documents to the Tulsi Gabbard of Substack, Matt Taibbi, who said they amounted to a “unique and explosive story”—revealing the juicy details inside Twitter’s decision to suppress the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story, which had previously been rejected by such liberal outlets as Fox News and the Wall Street Journal due to its suspicious provenance. Taibbi agreed to divulge these private emails on Twitter itself rather than via his Substack as part of a “few conditions,” which he does not detail, that were imposed on him, presumably by Musk or a Musk factotum.

twitter bird CustomThe documents Taibbi tweeted on Friday were titillating in the way that reading private correspondence revealing what people were really saying around a controversial subject always is, but nothing new was learned about the contours of the story. The leak mostly relitigates two facts that have already received much ink across the media: 1) How Twitter throttled the New York Post’s initial story about Hunter’s laptop based on what we now know was an incorrect assessment of its source; and 2) How political campaigns and government agencies have worked with social media companies—in this case Twitter—to flag troubling content.

On the first point, the emails confirm the essential consensus that has come into focus in reporting on the matter: Twitter got out over its skis on the ban and a typical corporate bureaucratic goat rope ensued as the company tried to “unfuck” the situation, as one employee put it. To say that this is not a new revelation would be an understatement given that Twitter’s former CEO Jack Dorsey admitted that this was a mistake over a year ago.

As such it was the latter point that drove the most hysterical discussion online on Friday.

The most retweeted installment in Taibbi’s thread (so far) was this, which purported to show the Biden campaign directing Twitter to delete specific tweets:

This supposed smoking gun resulted in Musk responding to his own journalistic stenographer on Twitter with a fire emoji and the comment “If this isn’t a violation of the Constitution’s first amendment, what is.” Musk was so impressed with this digital citizen’s arrest, that he made it his pinned tweet, after which the MAGA attaboys for Musky came hot and heavy.

Right-wing commentator Buck Sexton (real name), said this was a “bright red line violation” and that Biden, should be IMPEACHED for it. Rep. James Comer (R-TN) was on Fox promising that everyone at Twitter involved with this would be brought before the House Oversight committee. Rep. Billy Long retweeted several MAGA influencers praising Elon for, among other things, “exposing corruption at the highest levels of society” (Projection Alert). Meanwhile Kari Lake hype man Pizzagate Jack Posobiec declared this the “biggest story in modern presidential election history,” claimed that “we can never go back to the country we were before this moment,” and donned this “a digital insurrection.”

In reality, all they really had was a digital erection.

As someone who once consulted for social media companies on content moderation issues, let me tell you, the amount of eggplant-related terms of service violations that these platforms review in a given year is so voluminous that we have not yet invented an artificial intelligence machine capable of counting them.

Yet Taibbi and Musk are trying to turn this mundane moderation matter into the story of the century by emphasizing a few misconceptions about how platforms work with political campaigns and what First Amendment obligations they do or do not have. To debunk a few of them:

1. Campaigns of all ideological stripes have direct lines into social media companies and make requests about offending content. There is nothing at all strange about what is shown in these emails. If Jeb’s kid’s grundle was posted by a Chinese troll, we surely would’ve flagged that for the company in the hopes they deleted it, and I suspect their internal correspondence on the matter would’ve been identical. This would not have been a “demand” or a “dictate” from our campaign, mind you. Companies can do what they want.

2. In this specific instance, the requests came from a campaign that has absolutely no government authority at all. At the time of the correspondence in question, Joe Biden was a private citizen running for office, while Donald Trump was the president. Taibbi acknowledges that Trump’s White House made requests that “were received and honored” and that “there’s no evidence—that I’ve seen—of any government involvement in the laptop story.” So if there are any First Amendment issues at play here—and I don’t believe there are since neither Musk nor Taibbi have demonstrated that the government made any mandates on Twitter—they would, in this case, only relate to the material that Trump wanted removed.

3. Why MAGA Republicans and Elon Musk are so adamant that people be able to post photos of Hunter’s johnson is something that should probably be explored with their respective preachers or psychiatrists, but it is certainly not a matter for constitutional scholars or litigators.

To sum up what we learned: Big penis, little news, First Amendment not under threat.

Musk and Taibbi have promised more editions of the “Twitter Files” in the coming days, maybe next time they won’t come up so limp.

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large and the author of the best-selling book "Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell." He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump and communications director for Jeb Bush 2016.

 

Other U.S. High Tech, Media, Culture

ny times logofifa world cup qatar 2022 officialNew York Times, Dutch Win 3-1, Staff Reports, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). A Young American Team Faces the Pedigree of the Dutch

Christian Pulisic, who was injured in the U.S.-Iran game, is in the starting lineup. The U.S. is the underdog, but this World Cup has been unpredictable.

The Netherlands has been vulnerable at times in the World Cup, but fields some of soccer’s best players.

 Related Headlines

 

Former FTX Chief Executive Sam Bankman-Fried (shown in a Newshubweek photo).

Former FTX Chief Executive Sam Bankman-Fried (shown in a Newshubweek photo).

 

Climate, Disasters, Energy 

ny times logoNew York Times, The Texas Group Waging a National Crusade Against Climate Action, David Gelles, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). The Texas Public Policy Foundation is shaping laws, running misinformation campaigns and taking legal action in a bid to promote fossil fuels.

When a lawsuit was filed to block the nation’s first major offshore wind farm off the Massachusetts coast, it appeared to be a straightforward clash between those who earn their living from the sea and others who would install turbines and underwater cables that could interfere with the harvesting of squid, fluke and other fish.

The fishing companies challenging federal permits for the Vineyard Wind project were from the Bay State as well as Rhode Island and New York, and a video made by the opponents featured a bearded fisherman with a distinct New England accent.

But the financial muscle behind the fight originated thousands of miles from the Atlantic Ocean, in dusty oil country. The group bankrolling the lawsuit filed last year was the Texas Public Policy Foundation, an Austin-based nonprofit organization backed by oil and gas companies and Republican donors.

With influence campaigns, legal action and model legislation, the group is promoting fossil fuels and trying to stall the American economy’s transition toward renewable energy. It is upfront about its opposition to Vineyard Wind and other renewable energy projects, making no apologies for its advocacy work.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mauna Loa’s Eruption Gives Rare Glimpse Into Earth, Oliver Whang, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). The world’s largest active volcano erupted for the first time in 38 years, raising excitement among scientists who are eager to unlock its mysteries.

Notice that Mauna Loa, the largest active volcano in the world, was going to erupt — as it did this week for the first time in nearly four decades — came to people on the Big Island of Hawaii an hour before the lava began to flow. Public officials scrambled to alert nearby residents. Scientists rushed to predict which areas of the island might be in danger. The curious made plans to observe what could shape up to be an event of a lifetime: the exhalation of a massive mountain.

The eruption was years in the making, matched not quite in scale by the ongoing effort to monitor the volcano with seismometers, spectrometers, tiltmeters, GPS units and other state-of-the-art tools. “Mauna Loa is one of the most well-instrumented volcanoes in the United States,” said Wendy Stovall, a volcanologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. Even still, so much about the inner workings of the mountain is unknown, Dr. Stovall and other scientists said.

Weston Thelen, a volcanologist with the U.S.G.S. who monitored the mountain from 2011 to 2016, said that sheer size, mineral composition and heat all presented logistical difficulties for scientists and public officials hoping to predict its movements. “Mauna Loa is a beast,” he said.

 

colorado river w

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Officials fear ‘complete doomsday scenario’ for drought-stricken Colorado River, Joshua Partlow, Dec. 2, 2022 (print ed.). A once-unfathomable scenario — Lake Powell dropping to historic lows and shutting down power generators that serve millions — could start as soon as July.

The first sign of serious trouble for the drought-stricken American Southwest could be a whirlpool.

It could happen if the surface of Lake Powell, a man-made reservoir along the Colorado River (shown above and in other illustrative scenes) that’s already a quarter of its former size, drops another 38 feet down the concrete face of the 710-foot Glen Canyon Dam here. At that point, the surface would be approaching the tops of eight underwater openings that allow river water to pass through the hydroelectric dam.

colorado river in grand canyon pima point 2010 viewThe normally placid Lake Powell, the nation’s second-largest reservoir, could suddenly transform into something resembling a funnel, with water circling the openings, the dam’s operators say.

If that happens, the massive turbines that generate electricity for 4.5 million people would have to shut down — after nearly 60 years of use — or risk destruction from air bubbles. The only outlet for Colorado River water from the dam would then be a set of smaller, deeper and rarely used bypass tubes with a far more limited ability to pass water downstream to the Grand Canyon and the cities and farms in Arizona, Nevada and California.

Such an outcome — known as a “minimum power pool” — was once unfathomable here. Now, the federal government projects that day could come as soon as July.

Worse, officials warn, is the possibility of an even more catastrophic event. That is if the water level falls all the way to the lowest holes, so only small amounts could pass through the dam. Such a scenario — called “dead pool” — would transform Glen Canyon Dam from something that regulates an artery of national importance into a hulking concrete plug corking the Colorado River.

Anxiety about such outcomes has worsened this year as a long-running drought has intensified in the Southwest. Reservoirs and groundwater supplies across the region have fallen dramatically, and states and cities have faced restrictions on water use amid dwindling supplies. The Colorado River, which serves roughly 1 in 10 Americans, is the region’s most important waterway.

\The 1,450-mile river starts in the Colorado Rockies and ends in the Sea of Cortez in Mexico. There are more than a dozen dams along the river, creating major reservoirs such as Lake Powell and Lake Mead.

Related Headlines

 

Public Health, Pandemics

washington post logoWashington Post, Protests noted? China’s covid czar says it’s time to ease out of ‘zero covid’ mode, Lyric Li, Dec. 3, 2022 (print ed.). China’s coronavirus czar said that the country would take “baby steps” in extricating itself from a three-year pursuit of “zero covid,” after authorities stepped up censorship efforts following rare mass protests, and ahead of a state funeral for a former leader.

“We should prioritize stability while pursuing progress: take baby steps, but don’t stop going, to optimize the covid policy,” Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, who heads China’s coronavirus response efforts, said during a panel discussion with health workers on Thursday.

Sun, widely regarded as the face of China’s lockdown measures, had said Wednesday that the country is facing a “new reality” as the virus now poses a lesser threat. She made the rare move of convening panel discussions on consecutive days amid widespread confusion over Beijing’s messaging, which had recently pushed local governments to loosen measures before imposing lockdowns again as infections continued to climb.

Related Headlines

 

U.S. Security, Privacy

washington post logoWashington Post, TSA now wants to scan your face at security. Here are your rights, Geoffrey A. Fowler, Dec. 3, 2022 (print ed.). 16 major domestic airports are testing facial-recognition tech to verify IDs — and it could go nationwide in 2023.

Next time you’re at airport security, get ready to look straight into a camera. The TSA wants to analyze your face.

The Transportation Security Administration has been quietly testing controversial facial recognition technology for passenger screening at 16 major domestic airports — from Washington to Los Angeles — and hopes to expand it across the United States as soon as next year. Kiosks with cameras are doing a job that used to be completed by humans: checking the photos on travelers’ IDs to make sure they’re not impostors.
Tech is not your friend. We are. Sign up for The Tech Friend newsletter.

The TSA says facial recognition, which has been banned by cities such as San Francisco, helps improve security and possibly also efficiency. But it’s also bringing an unproven tech, with civil rights ramifications we still just don’t understand, to one of the most stressful parts of travel.

American airports have been experimenting with so-called biometric technology for years, following the 9/11 attacks. You might have seen Customs collecting biometric information from passengers entering the United States. In 2019, I tested some of the ways airlines were using face scans to replace boarding passes for international flights. The TSA’s facial recognition pilot began at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) amid concerns about covid transmission through contact in August 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Edward Snowden swears allegiance to Russia and receives passport, lawyer says, Natalia Abbakumova and Adela Suliman, Dec. 3, 2022 (print ed.). Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who leaked information about U.S. surveillance programs, swore an oath of allegiance to Russia and has collected his Russian passport, his lawyer told state media on Friday.

“Edward received a Russian passport yesterday and took the oath in accordance with the law,” lawyer Anatoly Kucherena said, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency. “He is, of course, happy, thanking the Russian Federation for the fact that he received citizenship,” he continued. “And most importantly, under the Constitution of Russia, he can no longer be extradited to a foreign state.”

Snowden, 39, is wanted by Washington on espionage charges. He considers himself a whistleblower.

Related Headlines

 

Dec. 3

Top Headlines

 

U.S. Insurrection, White Nationalist, Voter Suppression Advocates

 

Ukraine War

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

 

U.S. Jobs, Economy

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Regulation

 

On Wednesday night, the University of Idaho and fellow students honored during a vigil the lives of slain students Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle, Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves, shown below left to right.  On Wednesday night, the University of Idaho and fellow students honored during a vigil the lives of slain students Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle, Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves, shown above left to right.

 

Trump, Jan. 6 Probes, Supporters

 

World News, Human Rights

 

U.S. Security, Privacy

 

Jan. 6, Trump, Election Denier Probes

 

Climate, Disasters, Energy

colorado river w

 

U.S. High Tech, Media, Culture

 

Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

 

Top Stories

 

south carolina map

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats adopt Biden’s new 2024 nomination plan, Michael Scherer and Tyler Pager, Dec. 3, 2022. Party leaders in New Hampshire and Iowa may defy the new rules, while Republicans in Georgia have not yet signaled whether they will allow an earlier primary date.

south carolina in us mapDemocratic leaders voted Friday to adopt the transformative early 2024 presidential nominating schedule proposed by President Biden, giving South Carolina the leadoff position, followed by a joint primary day for New Hampshire and Nevada, with later primaries by Georgia and Michigan.

dnc square logoThe chosen states were given until Jan. 5 to demonstrate that they can hold their primary contests on their assigned dates or risk losing their positions in the calendar.

The new calendar upends decades of tradition in which Iowa and New Hampshire held the first two slots for both Democratic and Republican nominating contests. Biden said the remaking of the primary calendar will better reflect the demographic, economic and geographic diversity of the Democratic Party.

Democratic chairman Jaime Harrison, a South Carolina native, who was informed of the decision Thursday night, reacted emotionally to the vote putting his state first, describing the decision as a way of honoring non-White, non-college educated and impoverished voters like his grandparents.

“These people have often been forgotten, many times voiceless and voteless,” he said. “The Democratic Party is the party of hope. This is the leadership that we have seen every minute of the Joe Biden presidency.”

Under the adopted rules, South Carolina would vote on Feb. 3, 2024, followed by a joint primary day in New Hampshire and Nevada three days later on Feb. 6. The Georgia primary would be Feb. 13, and the Michigan primary would be Feb. 27. The rest of the country would be free to set primaries between March 5 and June 4.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Here comes the big 2024 shakeup for the Democrats, Bill Palmer, Dec. 3, 2022. The Democrats have voted to make South Carolina the bill palmerfirst primary state in 2024. Great! It’s diverse and accurately foretells Super Tuesday. We’ll no longer have to listen to the media spend next winter pretending that Iowa and New Hampshire are going to tell us anything about who’s going to be the nominee.

bill palmer report logo headerIowa and New Hampshire have solid roles. It’s good to see people who want to be the world’s most powerful person having to humbly win over people in rural coffee shops. But the nearly all-white Iowa and New Hampshire vote totals never point to who will actually be the nominee. Remember when Pete Buttigieg narrowly defeated Bernie Sanders in the Iowa Caucus in 2020? How did Super Tuesday go for either of them?

South Carolina should be first, both because it’s a more accurate indicator of how the rest of the nation will vote in the primary, and because it’s more fair to voters. It’s the first time Black people get to vote in the primary process. They’re the backbone of the Democratic Party. Representation matters.

But even making South Carolina first won’t solve the underlying problem: no matter how you set up the primary calendar, the media will still cover the proceedings dishonestly in the name of chasing ratings.

People still tell me they’re shocked that I knew Biden would be the nominee even while he was getting drubbed in Iowa and New Hampshire. It wasn’t difficult to foresee. He was way ahead in South Carolina the entire time, which always tells you how candidates will do on Super Tuesday.

In 2020, not only did the media pretend Biden was doomed because of the (nationally irrelevant) Iowa and New Hampshire results, it also dishonestly represented the South Carolina polls to make it look like Biden was in danger of losing there, when the polls actually had him way ahead.

Even before the Clyburn endorsement, most polls had Biden up by about 15 points in South Carolina. Yet major news outlets including MSNBC latched onto one ridiculous outlier poll that supposedly had South Carolina nearly tied, and hyped it as if it were the only poll, in order to build suspense and drive ratings. Then when Biden won South Carolina in a blowout, the media covered its tracks by pretending Biden only won South Carolina due to the last minute Clyburn endorsement.

So for all the strong reasons to change the order of the primary states, it still won’t protect us from the reality that the (entire) media will still spend the primary season lying to us about what’s going on, in the name of building hype and chasing ratings.

ny times logoNew York Times, Defaults Loom as Poor Countries Face an Economic Storm, Alan Rappeport, Dec. 3, 2022. Debt-relief efforts are stalling as developing economies are being hit by higher interest rates, a strong dollar and slowing global growth.

Developing nations are facing a catastrophic debt crisis in the coming months as rapid inflation, slowing growth, rising interest rates and a strengthening dollar coalesce into a perfect storm that could set off a wave of messy defaults and inflict economic pain on the world’s most vulnerable people.

Poor countries owe, by some calculations, as much as $200 billion to wealthy nations, multilateral development banks and private creditors. Rising interest rates have increased the value of the dollar, making it harder for foreign borrowers with debt denominated in U.S. currency to repay their loans.

Defaulting on a huge swath of loans would send borrowing costs for vulnerable nations even higher and could spawn financial crises when nearly 100 million people have already been pushed into poverty this year by the combined effects of the pandemic, inflation and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The danger poses another headwind for a world economy that has been sputtering toward a recession. The leaders of the world’s advanced economies have been grappling privately in recent weeks with how to avert financial crises in emerging markets such as Zambia, Sri Lanka and Ghana, but they have struggled to develop a plan to accelerate debt relief as they confront their own economic woes.

ny times logofifa world cup qatar 2022 officialNew York Times, Live World Cup Updates: Dutch Win 3-1, Staff Reports, Dec. 3, 2022. A Young American Team Faces the Pedigree of the Dutch

Christian Pulisic, who was injured in the U.S.-Iran game, is in the starting lineup. The U.S. is the underdog, but this World Cup has been unpredictable.

The Netherlands has been vulnerable at times in the World Cup, but fields some of soccer’s best players.

 

U.S. Insurrection, White Nationalist, Voter Suppression Advocates 

 

djt sedition graphic

Twitter, Analysis: Seditious Conspiracy by Trump? Seth Abramson, left, attorney, professor and best-selling author, Dec. 3, 2022. Calling for the overthrow of our government via “the termination of all rules, seth abramson proof logoseth abramson headshotregulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution” is Incitement to Sedition.

If Trump has taken any action in conjunction with anyone else to advance his goal [see announcement on Dec. 3 above] it is Seditious Conspiracy.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House rebukes Trump’s suggestion to suspend Constitution over 2020 election, Karoun Demirjian and Toluse Olorunnipa, Dec. 3, 2022. Former president Donald Trump suggested that the country abandon one of its founding documents, drawing sharp criticism from the White House and politicians.

The White House issued a stern rebuke on Saturday after former president Donald Trump suggested suspending the Constitution in his ongoing crusade to discredit the results of the 2020 election.

“Attacking the Constitution and all it stands for is anathema to the soul of our nation and should be universally condemned,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement, calling the Constitution a “sacrosanct document.”

“You cannot only love America when you win,” he added.

Trump’s message on the Truth Social platform reiterated the baseless claims he has made since 2020 that the election was stolen. But he went further by suggesting that the country abandon one of its founding documents.

“A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution,” Trump wrote.

Elon Musk’s ‘Twitter Files’ ignite divisions, but haven’t changed minds

The post came a day after Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, claimed he would expose how Twitter engaged in “free speech suppression” in the run-up to the 2020 election. But his “Twitter Files” did not show that the tech giant bent to the will of Democrats.

“UNPRECEDENTED FRAUD REQUIRES UNPRECEDENTED CURE!” Trump followed up in another post on Saturday afternoon on Truth Social.

Trump, who last month announced he would run again for president, helped launch Truth Social after he was banned from Twitter following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Musk has said he would allow Trump back on Twitter but the former president has not rejoined the platform.

Before, During and After: An investigation of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection and its aftermath

Trump’s sustained and unfounded attacks on the 2020 election result culminated in the attack by his supporters on the U.S. Capitol. Many GOP candidates also echoed his false claims ahead of this year’s midterms, but lost their efforts to win key state posts.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Get ready for the House "Roland Freisler" show trials, Wayne Madsen, Dec. 2-3, 2022. The world should gird wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallitself for what can be expected to be the most vitriolic show trial seen since Nazi "People's Court" judge Roland Freisler's theatrics in humiliating from the bench the White Rose underground leaders in Germany and the Operation Valkyrie plotters who tried to kill Adolf Hitler in 1944. Freisler is best known for flying into fits of rage in order to psychologically disarm defendants brought before his court.

wayne madesen report logoThe incoming House Republican majority has their Freisler in the person of the jacketless Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio who is slated to assume the chairmanship of the House Judiciary Committee. Jordan is best known for delivering political rants during the impeachment hearings of Donald Trump while often targeting witnesses with personal insults. Jordan emulates to a tee the antics displayed by Freisler, who learned the practice of attacking defendants from attending the Soviet show trials of Chief Prosecutor Andrei Vyshinsky in Moscow in 1938.

Joining Jordan in staging show trials will be an assortment of other far-right MAGA devotees of Trump, including the House Oversight and Reform Committee chairman Jim Comer of Kentucky, House Financial Services Committee chair Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, and Intelligence Committee chair Mike Turner of Ohio.

Law&Crime, Judge Sanctions Kari Lake’s Legal Team, Which Includes Alan Dershowitz, for ‘Recklessly’ Filing ‘False, Misleading, and Unsupported’ Claims in Election Lawsuit, Aaron Keller

 Kari Lake appears in a November 2020 YouTube screengrab. Alan Dershowitz was photographed near the Capitol on Jan. 29, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Arizona's Republican gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake, above left, appears in a November 2020 YouTube screengrab. Alan Dershowitz was photographed near the Capitol on Jan. 29, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Law&Crime, Judge Sanctions Kari Lake’s Legal Team, Which Includes Alan Dershowitz, for ‘Recklessly’ Filing ‘False, Misleading, and Unsupported’ Claims in Election Lawsuit, Aaron Keller, Dec. 1, 2022. An Arizona-based federal judge has ordered sanctions against the legal team assembled by gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake (R) and another plaintiff in a failed lawsuit against winning opponent Katie Hobbs (D) and other defendants from two Arizona county government boards.

The attorneys being sanctioned are not directly named in Thursday’s order, but according to the court docket, Harvard Law School Prof. Alan Dershowitz is Lake’s lead attorney in the matter. Also on her legal team are co-lead attorneys Andrew D. Parker, Jesse Hersch Kibort, and Joseph Alan Pull of Minneapolis. Further listed as a member of her legal team is attorney Kurt B. Olsen of Washington, D.C.

Parker, Olsen, and Dershowitz signed the original complaint, an amended complaint, and a opposition to a request for sanctions.

Those attorneys are presumably the ones sanctioned on Thursday for filing a complaint by Lake and Arizona State Representative Mark Finchem (R-11), another plaintiff.

arizona mapThe same legal team represented both plaintiffs, the docket indicates.

Dershowitz, when contacted by Law&Crime about the judge’s order, explained the litigation in these terms: "I have not challenged the results of any Arizona elections. I have given legal advice about the future use of machine counting by companies that refuse to disclose the inner workings of their machines. I support transparency in elections."

The Lake/Finchem lawsuit as a whole, according to its opening salvo, sought to question the Grand Canyon State’s use of electronic ballot-counting devices. The case was filed in April, and — as Dershowitz noted — that was long before the results of the November 2022 midterms:

This is a civil rights action for declaratory and injunctive relief to prohibit the use of electronic voting machines in the State of Arizona in the upcoming 2022 Midterm Election, slated to be held on November 8, 2022 (the “Midterm Election”), unless and until the electronic voting system is made open to the public and subjected to scientific analysis by objective experts to determine whether it is secure from manipulation or intrusion. The machine companies have consistently refused to do this.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosPlaintiffs have a constitutional and statutory right to have their ballots, and all ballots cast together with theirs, counted accurately and transparently, so that only legal votes determine the winners of each office contested in the Midterm Election. Electronic voting machines cannot be deemed reliably secure and do not meet the constitutional and statutory mandates to guarantee a free and fair election. The use of untested and unverified electronic voting machines violates the rights of Plaintiffs and their fellow voters and office seekers, and it undermines public confidence in the validity of election results. Just as the government cannot insist on “trust me,” so too, private companies that perform governmental functions, such as vote counting, cannot be trusted without verification.

The lawsuit elsewhere bemoaned what it called “glaring failures with electronic voting systems” and alleged that “[m]ost” voting “machines are over a decade old, have critical components manufactured overseas in countries, some of which are hostile to the United States, and use software that is woefully outdated and vulnerable to catastrophic cyberattacks.”

Hobbs was sued in her capacity “as Arizona Secretary of State and the chief election officer in Arizona.” Other named defendants besides Hobbs included individual members of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and the Pima County Board of Supervisors.

U.S. District Judge John J. Tuchi rubbished the lawsuit in August — again, before the Midterms — and on Thursday ascertained that sanctions were appropriate.

Tuchi, a Barack Obama appointee, noted in August that Arizona election equipment is rigorously tested before it is used to count votes.

“Before a single vote is cast, Arizona’s election equipment undergoes thorough testing by independent, neutral experts. Electronic voting equipment must be tested by both the Secretary’s Certification Committee and an Election Assistance Commission (“EAC”) accredited testing laboratory before it may be used in an Arizona election,” Judge Tuchi noted, citing various state laws and noting the specific firms which conducted the independent tests.

He continued:

In addition to the equipment certification process, Arizona’s vote tabulation results are subject to four independent audits — two audits occur before the election, and two audits after. The first of these audits is a logic and accuracy test, which is performed by the Arizona Secretary of State on a sample of the tabulation equipment.

[ . . . ]

The second required audit also takes place before election day. For the second audit, Arizona counties must perform a logic and accuracy test on all of their tabulation equipment. (Citation omitted.) In 2020, the second Maricopa County audit also took place on October 6, and the tabulators counted the ballots with 100% accuracy.

The third audit is a post-election hand count, the judge said. The fourth is a “post-election logic and accuracy test[] performed by the counties.”

A recitation of how the system was supposed to work was provided not just to buttress the opinion that Lake’s lawsuit was unwarranted — it was also used to cite the state-level nature of elections processes.

Judge Tuchi ruled that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue because her claims were “too speculative to establish an injury in fact.” And, even if the plaintiffs did have standing, the judge ruled that the 11th Amendment barred their claims because the core of the dispute arose under state law, not federal law, and therefore did not belong in federal court.

“Because the Constitution charges states with administering elections, Plaintiffs’ claims can only stem from an argument that Defendants are violating state law by using what Plaintiffs allege are insecure or inaccurate voting systems,” the judge wrote in August.

With the lawsuit dismissed, the judge addressed a request for sanctions on Thursdsay, Dec. 1. In a 30-page order, he wrote as follows:

The Court concludes that sanctions are warranted under Rule 11 and 28 U.S.C. § 1927. It finds that Plaintiffs made false, misleading, and unsupported factual assertions in their FAC and MPI and that their claims for relief did not have an adequate factual or legal basis grounded in a reasonable pre-filing inquiry, in violation of Rules 11(b)(2) and (b)(3). The Court further finds that Plaintiffs’ counsel acted at least recklessly in unreasonably and vexatiously multiplying the proceedings by seeking a preliminary injunction based on Plaintiffs’ frivolous claims, in violation of Section 1927.

Judge Tuchi wrote that only the attorneys — not the plaintiffs themselves — would be sanctioned, though he noted that the plaintiffs acted “far” from “appropriately” in the matter.

“Here, while there are reasons to believe that Plaintiffs themselves contributed to the violations of Rule 11(b)(3) in this case — including that they themselves apparently have voted on paper ballots, contradicting allegations and representations in their pleadings about Arizona’s use of paper ballots — there is not a sufficient record that compels the Court to exercise its discretion to sanction Plaintiffs under that part of the rule,” the judge wrote — leaving the plaintiffs’ attorneys themselves on the hook for the defendants’ fees.

While the judge generally suggested that the plaintiffs had connected themselves with a less than admirable piece of litigation, he was careful not to bash them repeatedly or entirely. For instance, the judge declined to agree with the government officials that the plaintiffs brought the case “for an improper purpose” — namely when it became “politically profitable” to do so “to further their political campaigns” among voters who believed the 2020 election was “stolen” from Donald Trump.

Despite that finding, the judge did criticize the general trend toward using the federal courts to attempt to settle grievances over allegedly “stolen” elections.

“The Court shares the concerns expressed by other federal courts about misuse of the judicial system to baselessly cast doubt on the electoral process in a manner that is conspicuously consistent with the plaintiffs’ political ends,” he noted.

As support for that premise, the judge cited a spate of Trump-related election lawsuits connected to the 2020 presidential contest, including Trump’s thus-far-failed racketeering lawsuit against Hillary Clinton and a bevy of other real or perceived political foes.

The judge agreed to award “the Maricopa County Defendants’ reasonable attorneys’ fees” as a sanction, but the precise calculation of those fees remains an outstanding question. It will be settled, the judge ruled, through future paperwork submissions that are due no later than 14 days from Thursday’s order.

The lawsuit, Judge Tuchi concluded, “forced Defendants and their counsel to spend time and resources defending this frivolous lawsuit rather than preparing for the elections over which Plaintiffs’ claims baselessly kicked up a cloud of dust.”

“Plaintiffs’ counsel are therefore held jointly and severally liable for the Maricopa County Defendants’ attorneys’ fees reasonably incurred in this case,” he said — meaning everyone is on the hook.

The judge concluded with this missive about the case:

Imposing sanctions in this case is not to ignore the importance of putting in place procedures to ensure that our elections are secure and reliable. It is to make clear that the Court will not condone litigants ignoring the steps that Arizona has already taken toward this end and furthering false narratives that baselessly undermine public trust at a time of increasing disinformation about, and distrust in, the democratic process. It is to send a message to those who might file similarly baseless suits in the future.

Five members of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors requested the sanctions; Hobbs — who has been declared the winner of the 2022 Arizona governor’s race against Lake — was not among those awarded sanctions on Thursday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Surging Twitter antisemitism unites fringe and encourages violence, officials say, Julian Mark, Dec. 3, 2022. Online comments often lead to real-world actions, social media experts warn.

Federal officials are predicting that Twitter will contribute to more violence, citing the proliferation of extreme content, including support for Nazis by certain celebrities and the reemergence of QAnon proselytizers and white nationalists.

Current and former federal officials are warning that a surge in hate speech and disinformation about Jews on Twitter is uniting and popularizing some of the same extremists who have helped push people to engage in violent protests including the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on Congress.

The officials are predicting that Twitter will contribute to more violence in the months ahead, citing the proliferation of extreme content, including support for genocidal Nazis by celebrities with wide followings and the reemergence of QAnon proselytizers and white nationalists.

Since billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk bought Twitter just over a month ago, he has slashed more than half the staff, including most of the people who made judgment calls about what counts as impermissible slurs against religious or ethnic groups.

Musk announced a broad amnesty for most previously banned accounts and has personally interacted with fringe activists and white nationalists on the site in the weeks since he assumed ownership. Other actors have experimented with racist and antisemitic posts to test Musk’s limits as a self-declared “free speech absolutist.”

Even before Musk’s takeover, some Twitter users were encouraging confrontations with transgender people and others who were falsely depicted as “groomers,” or predators who sexually target underage victims. But the new wave of antisemitism has reached millions of people in just days, brought new followers, and helped galvanize a broader coalition of fringe figures.

 

Ukraine War

 washington post logoWashington Post, After Kherson, Ukraine’s military ponders new push south and east, Samantha Schmidt and Serhii Korolchuk, Dec. 3, 2022. A logical step for Ukraine would be to press south through the Zaporizhzhia region and sever the "land bridge" between Russia and Crimea.

The path to a Ukrainian victory — or at least the most obvious path — will probably cut south, through the muddy and flat fields of the Zaporizhzhia region.

Following Russia’s retreat from the city of Kherson — the only regional capital captured by Moscow since the start of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion — Ukrainian forces have limited options for their next big push to continue recapturing occupied territory and, ultimately, to expel the invaders.

Much attention is now shifting here, to the southern front line less than 100 miles north of the Azov Sea, where Ukrainians are eager to sever the “land bridge” connecting mainland Russia to Crimea, which Russia invaded and illegally annexed in 2014. Kyiv is also intent on liberating cities such as Melitopol and Enerhodar, where the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is located.

ny times logoNew York Times, He Returned a Dazed Soldier to the Russians. Ukraine Calls It Treason, Jeffrey Gettleman, Photographs by Finbarr O’Reilly, Dec. 3, 2022. No one knew what to do with a lost Russian pilot. The case has revealed the blurred line between pragmatism in a war zone and collaboration with the enemy.

A team of guards had encountered someone stumbling toward a checkpoint in a strange green uniform, slathered in mud, looking shellshocked. He wasn’t a looter. He was a lost Russian pilot.

It was a highly unusual prisoner of war situation — a band of civilians capturing an enemy officer in a city that the enemy controls. They couldn’t hand him over to Ukrainian forces — there were no Ukrainian forces in the city at that time. And there was no Red Cross. And the Russians were everywhere.

ny times logoNew York Times, Scarred by War, a Ukrainian Children’s Choir Finds Hope in Music, Javier C. Hernández, Dec. 2, 2022 (print ed.). Members of the Shchedryk Children’s Choir have emerged from conflict determined to sing, including at Carnegie Hall this weekend.

washington post logoWashington Post, Western allies move to cap the price of Russian oil at $60 a barrel, Emily Rauhala, Catherine Belton, Karen DeYoung and Beatriz Ríos, Dec. 3, 2022 (print ed.). After months of lobbying by the United States and days of fraught negotiations, Ukraine’s allies are closer to implementing a plan to cap the price of Russian oil starting next week, but European ambassadors on Friday proposed a cap so close to current prices that it is not clear if it will hit the Kremlin’s war chest.

At meetings in Brussels, diplomats agreed to $60 per barrel as an upper limit, with regular reviews to make sure the ceiling stays at least 5 percent below average market prices for Russian oil. If the Group of Seven nations and Australia agree, the cap would be implemented starting Monday, the day the European Union’s embargo on Russian seaborne crude goes into force.

The idea of the cap, pitched hard by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, is to limit how much Russia can make on the oil it diverts elsewhere in the world without creating a massive disruption in global supply. Participating countries would ban the provision of maritime services — such as finance and insurance — for shippers transporting Russian oil that do not comply with the cap.

washington post logoWashington Post, Germany’s Scholz speaks with Putin; Ukrainian embassies in Europe mailed bloody animal eyes; Up to 13,000 Ukrainian troops killed, aide says; Biden outlines conditions for Putin meeting, Andrew Jeong, Ben Brasch, Adela Suliman and Claire Parker, Dec. 3, 2022 (print ed.).

The Kremlin responded to President Biden’s comment that he would meet Russian President Vladimir Putin if Moscow was willing to end the invasion, saying that Russia would not give up the Ukrainian territory it has declared to be Russian land. “The special military operation is continuing,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Friday.

ukraine flagPeskov added that while Putin remains open to negotiations, the United States’ refusal to recognize territories annexed by Russia “complicates the search for the ground for mutual discussion.”

Putin told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in a phone call Friday that “Western states, including Germany” were to blame for Kyiv’s refusal to negotiate with Russia, charging that they are “pumping up the Kyiv regime with weapons and training the Ukrainian military,” according to a Kremlin readout of the call. At a meeting Thursday in Washington, Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron affirmed their support for Ukraine and rejected Russia’s illegal annexations of Ukrainian territory.

A half-dozen Ukrainian embassies across Europe, as well as several consulates, have received “bloody packages” containing animal eyes, in what Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said Friday was a “well-planned” campaign of intimidation and terror. Those packages, combined with a spate of letter bombs detected in Spain, have raised suspicion about links to Russia, while prompting Kyiv to ask for increased security at its overseas offices. One of the letter bombs injured a staffer at the Ukrainian Embassy in Madrid.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

1. Key developments

  • Scholz’s call with Putin was the first conversation between a European Union leader and the Russian president since Russia’s recent attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure and its string of battlefield defeats this fall. Putin called for Germany to “reconsider its approaches” to the conflict and defended Russian missile strikes on “certain targets” in Ukraine. Germany plans to send seven additional Gepard self-propelled antiaircraft guns to Ukraine, according to the government’s latest update on military aid.
  • Up to 13,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in the war so far, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told state television. “We have official figures from the General Staff, we have official figures from the top command, and they amount to [between] 10,000 and 12,500 to 13,000 killed,” Podolyak told Kanal 24. The figures could not be independently verified by The Washington Post.
  • Senior U.S. defense officials are considering a major expansion in military training for Ukraine. The move could involve thousands of Kyiv’s fighters training with the U.S. military in Grafenwöhr, Germany, where the United States has instructed smaller numbers of Ukrainian troops for years.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for “spiritual independence” in Ukraine as he lambasted churches with Russian links. He said in his nightly address he met with national security and defense officials regarding the “connections of certain religious circles in Ukraine with the aggressor state.” A draft law is also being prepared, he added, to make it “impossible for religious organizations affiliated with centers of influence in the Russian Federation to operate in Ukraine.”
  • The United States and France “deplore Russia’s deliberate escalatory steps,” Biden and Macron said in a joint statement following their meeting in Washington. The statement highlighted Russia’s “irresponsible nuclear rhetoric” and misinformation about weapons of mass destruction. The leaders committed to providing “significant resources” to support Ukraine through the winter and pledged to hold Russia accountable for atrocities and war crimes.

2. Global impact

  • Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden swore allegiance to Moscow and received his Russian passport, his lawyer told state media on Friday. Snowden, 39, is wanted by Washington on espionage charges for his role in disclosing the existence of the NSA’s collection of millions of Americans’ phone records. Snowden was granted asylum in Russia in 2013 and became a citizen in September. Under Russia’s constitution, he cannot be extradited to another country.
  • Finland’s prime minister says Europe “would be in trouble without the United States” in dealing with the Ukraine war. On a visit to Australia, Sanna Marin said she had to be “brutally honest” that “Europe isn’t strong enough right now,” Agence France-Presse reported. She called for the development of European defense industry. “We should have listened to our Baltic and Polish friends much sooner,” she said. Finland, which shares a large land border with Russia, is in the midst of trying to join the NATO alliance.
  • European Council President Charles Michel urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to use Beijing’s influence over Russia to work for peace. Michel also told reporters that the leaders had agreed during a meeting that the use of nuclear weapons was not acceptable. Xi expressed support for preventing escalation or expansion of the war, Chinese state media reported.
  • The Disney Channel will stop broadcasting in Russia after Dec. 14, Russian newspaper Kommersant reported Friday. It will be replaced by a new channel for children called “Sun,” according to Kommersant. The Walt Disney Company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia and Ukraine are fighting the first full-scale drone war, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Mary Ilyushina and Kostiantyn Khudov, Dec. 3, 2022 (print ed.). The fight set off by a land grab befitting an 18th-century emperor has transformed into a digital-age competition for technological superiority in the skies.

A war that began with Russian tanks rolling across Ukraine’s borders, World War I-style trenches carved into the earth and Soviet-made artillery pounding the landscape now has a more modern dimension: soldiers observing the battlefield on a small satellite-linked monitor while their palm-size drone hovers out of sight.

Russian FlagWith hundreds of reconnaissance and attack drones flying over Ukraine each day, the fight set off by a land grab befitting an 18th-century emperor has transformed into a digital-age competition for technological superiority in the skies — one military annals will mark as a turning point.

In past conflicts, drones were typically used by one side over largely uncontested airspace to locate and hit targets — for example, in U.S. operations in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

In the battle between Russia and Ukraine, drones are integrated into every phase of fighting, with extensive fleets, air defenses and jamming systems on each side. It is a war fought at a distance — the enemy is often miles away — and nothing bridges the gap more than drones, giving Russia and Ukraine the ability to see, and attack, each other without ever getting close.

Ukrainian forces have also used drones to strike targets far from the fighting — in Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014, and in Russia’s Belgorod border region, according to multiple Ukrainian officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters but declined to say what type of drones were used. Russia has repeatedly struck Ukraine’s critical civilian infrastructure with self-detonating drones — a cheap substitute for high-precision missiles.

Drones have become so critical to battlefield success that at times they are used to take out other drones.

In early September, just days before Ukraine launched an offensive to expel Russian forces from its northeastern Kharkiv region, a Ukrainian reconnaissance drone flew through a gap between two jamming systems near the Russian border. It crossed into Russia and turned north across the Belgorod region, where Russia bases equipment to support its war in eastern Ukraine.

The drone spotted a base for Moscow’s own unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), according to overhead images captured by the Ukrainians that were later reviewed by The Washington Post.

In one frame, a Russian Orlan-10, with a trademark propeller on its nose, could be seen sitting in the field beside a house. Then in an “after” photo, the house had a hole in its roof, and an ambulance could be seen driving up. A Ukrainian attack drone had followed the same route as the reconnaissance drone — and delivered a strike on the fleet of enemy “eyes.”

The attack, which has not been previously reported, dealt a blow to the Russian forces’ ability to see the Ukrainian offensive coming and to counterattack.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainians deployed reconnaissance UAVs to mark the coordinates of Russian command posts, artillery batteries, electronic warfare systems and ammunition depots. Then, as Western-provided multiple-launch rocket systems fired on those targets, drones were flying again, redirecting the rocket fire in real time or confirming that it hit the mark. At times, combat drones delivered the blow themselves.

The Ukrainian strikes weakened the Russians and set the stage for Ukrainian soldiers to advance. When they did, drones were again hovering, allowing the operation’s commander to monitor the troops’ progress on a live stream. “We had the full picture of the fight,” said Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, commander of the Ukrainian ground forces.

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U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

 

 In more than two dozen counties, thousands of voters came out to vote, some waiting for hours for the chance to cast their ballot early for the Dec. 6 runoff between Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D), above right, and Republican Herschel Walker, above left.

 In more than two dozen counties, thousands of voters came out to vote, some waiting for hours for the chance to cast their ballot early for the Dec. 6 runoff between Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D), above right, and Republican Herschel Walker, above left.

washington post logoWashington Post, In Georgia runoff election, GOP worries about Walker, Trump and party’s future, Sabrina Rodriguez, Hannah Knowles and Dylan Wells, Dec. 3, 2022. The Senate runoff between Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) and Republican Herschel Walker caps a turbulent midterm election in which voters rejected many candidates tied to the former president.

georgia mapRepublicans have grown increasingly nervous about the final U.S. Senate election of the midterms, a runoff in Georgia that reflects larger concerns over candidate quality, infighting and ties to Donald Trump that loom over the party’s future.

us senate logoThe race between Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) and Republican challenger Herschel Walker caps a turbulent election season in which voters rejected many inexperienced Republican nominees tied to the former president and his ideas in favor of Democratic incumbents who tried to keep President Biden at arm’s length. Georgia, a purple state expected to factor heavily in the 2024 presidential election, is a final testing ground for these competing forces — and one that has generated plenty of GOP pessimism.

Seth Weathers, a Georgia director for Trump’s 2016 campaign, previously expressed confidence that Walker would win in a runoff. Now, he said, looking at early voting turnout, “I have more concern,” and he is unsure who will prevail.

 

herschel walker informal

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate campaign hits fever pitch in final days of Georgia runoff, Hannah Knowles and Matthew Brown, Dec. 3, 2022. Final efforts to reach voters in Georgia’s Senate runoff between Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) and Republican Herschel Walker, above, were everywhere at Saturday’s Southeastern Conference championship football game.

Republican Herschel Walker — known largely for his star football career with the University of Georgia Bulldogs — took pictures with fans near Mercedes-Benz stadium. Down the street filled with signs reminding people about Election Day, a “Dawgs for Warnock” booth gave out pins for Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) and urged people to commit to voting.

Both campaigns took advantage of Saturday’s Southeastern Conference championship game between Georgia and the Louisiana State University Tigers to appeal to voters ahead of Tuesday’s Senate runoff.

And in ads broadcast to millions of people watching Saturday night’s Southeastern Championship game, Walker’s former football coach praised his “drive” and work ethic — while Democrats showed footage of voters reacting with disbelief to Walker’s musings on the campaign trail, including a comparison of vampires and werewolves.

Those viral comments were a tipping point for Scott Hay, 55, who said he cast his ballot for Walker in November but has come to regret it, after learning more about the GOP candidate, including allegations from his past. He’ll vote for Warnock on Tuesday.

“I’m a Republican and I’ve never voted for anything but Republicans, and I cannot vote for Herschel Walker,” Hay said as he waited outside Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Backing Walker earlier this fall, Hay said, “I thought … I’m a Georgia fan. How bad can he be? Because I don’t like Warnock at all. But he’s pretty bad.”

The SEC Championship Game — just the latest intersection of Georgia sports and politics — exemplified the sprint to turn out base voters and change some minds in a close race that could cushion Democrats’ razor-thin majority in the Senate. Warnock, senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, is seeking his a full, six-year term after winning a runoff to replace a senator who stepped down amid health problems. He finished about 1 percentage point ahead of Walker in the Nov. 8 general election, but fell just short of the 50 percent threshold required to avert a runoff.

Project on Government Oversight (POGO) Weekly Spotlight, Advocacy: Senate Confirms Defense Dept. IG, Staff report, Dec. 3, 2022.This week, we got some pogo logo squarepositive news, which is always nice. The Senate finally confirmed a permanent inspector general for the Pentagon. The Department of Defense had gone nearly seven years without a permanent independent watchdog in place, which has been a travesty for accountability.

We’d been urging the Senate to confirm President Joe Biden’s nominee to fill the position, Robert Storch, for a while. Just one day after our most recent letter urging the Senate to act, the chamber voted on Storch’s nomination.

The Pentagon this year failed its fifth audit in a row, demonstrating just how desperately the agency needs keen independent oversight. Without a permanent inspector general in place at the Department of Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency watchdog was splitting their time between the EPA and the Pentagon. It’s clearly not ideal for an agency with a hefty, constantly growing budget to have a part-time inspector general.

Though the confirmation was woefully delayed, we’re grateful the Senate did act this week to bring more significant accountability to the Pentagon.

 washington post logokevin mccarthyWashington Post, How McCarthy could become speaker with fewer than 218 votes, JM Rieger, Dec. 3, 2022 (video). The Post’s JM Rieger breaks down how a narrow Republican House majority could deliver or block the House speakership from Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), right.

Steady, Commentary: Where's The Party? Dan Rather, right, and Elliott Kirschner, Dec. 2-3, 2022. On paper, the two-party system that has governed this nation since dan rather 2017the mid-to-late 19th century remains intact.

In local, state, and federal elections, candidates square off — Democrats with the (D) next to their names and Republicans with the (R). We speak of red states and blue states, donkeys and elephants. We look back in history at a run of presidents from one party or another and who controls Congress. We tend to place the present into an ongoing narrative.

But it is an illusion — the momentum from the past still driving the train forward even though we are off the tracks. In the Republican embrace of Donald Trump, a large segment of the party has morphed into a cult of personality. Its leader has sought to subvert the democratic process rather than win fairly or lose responsibly, much less gracefully.

The foundational premise of our system is that political parties compete for votes according to policy and preference. There is an understanding that in some areas of the country, for social, historical, or other reasons, one party might be strong and another weak. These allegiances can shift over time, and often have.

But what we are seeing now is something different. And it begins with a fundamental question: For what does the current Republican Party stand? Tax cuts for the wealthy and the interests of big business are a given. But what else?

This is a dangerous road we are traveling. It might not be popular to say with some, but we need a strong Republican Party, or something else to rise from its ashes.

As we look at the incoming House of Representatives and a Senate with Mitch McConnell still as minority leader, however, the prospect of a Republican Party as a partner in governance seems like a pipe dream. This is not sustainable, for the Republican Party or the nation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: As Pelosi bows out, chaos enters (stage right), Dana Milbank, right, Dec. 3, 2022. She stood all of 5 feet 4 inches, not counting the dana milbank newestwhite stiletto heels, on the podium in the House television studio Thursday for one of her many valedictories. But a more towering figure hasn’t walked these halls in a generation.

Nancy Pelosi is closing two decades as party leader, and two stints as House speaker, on her own terms. Though her Democrats technically lost their majority, their better-than-expected showing in the midterms felt like a victory. With high-fives and hugs, they elected by acclamation a new generation of leaders this week. House Republicans, meanwhile, are acting as though they lost, bickering among themselves as their leader, Kevin McCarthy, sells his soul to extremists in hopes of eking out enough votes to become speaker.

Pelosi is leaving in a last burst of productivity, churning out bills before the chamber becomes a lawmaking dead zone next year. Landmark legislation codifying marriage equality will pass the House on Tuesday on the way to President Biden’s desk. Congress approved a deal this week averting a ruinous rail strike. Also making progress: a massive 2023 spending package, major defense legislation and a bill to avoid a repeat of Donald Trump’s 2020 election abuses.

Pelosi seemed at peace in her weekly news conference Thursday, one of the last of hundreds. Crossing her ankles behind the lectern and battling a cold with sniffles and a tissue, she joked with a Fox News correspondent and referred to Trump as “you know who” and he “who shall remain nameless here.” She volunteered a lesson from 18th-century economist Adam Smith. She made a passionate plea for paid sick leave.

And she offered this wish for her successors: “As one who has served so long, my dream is that they do better. And I think everybody who has a position of responsibility always wants their successors to do better.”

But that is one dream unlikely to come true.

Her immediate successor as speaker will be virtually guaranteed instant chaos, dysfunction and backstabbing from fellow Republicans. Her successor as Democratic leader, Hakeem Jeffries, will have an easier job at first — the opposition always does — but he could easily struggle to rein in “the squad” on the party’s far left. Both will soon know, if they don’t already, that Pelosi made a devilishly difficult job look easy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Why was paid sick leave such a sticking point in rail labor talks — and why didn’t workers get it? Julian Mark, Dec. 3, 2022. Unions say rail carriers cut too much in the name of efficiency, leaving insufficient flexibility. Companies say workers already have sick leave options.

With an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote on Thursday, the Senate forced itself between freight railroad companies and their unions — an action that averted a national rail strike and potential economic catastrophe, but which failed to provide workers with a component they aggressively sought: paid sick leave.

On Wednesday, the House approved two versions of a deal meant to stave off a Dec. 9 strike by rail workers. One echoed the recommendations that union leaders and the White House agreed to in September. The other, pushed by liberal Democrats, included seven paid sick days for rail workers.

The Senate ultimately approved the option without the added sick leave, and President Biden signed it. The terms mirror those in the agreement the White House brokered in September, including a roughly 24 percent pay increase by 2024, more flexibility to take time off for doctor’s appointments, and a paid personal day.

After forcing rail deal, Biden works to smooth over labor relations

So why was paid sick leave such a sticking point — and why didn’t workers get it?

Rail carriers have said they need to maintain their attendance policies to ensure adequate staffing. Some industry experts and union officials say the companies no longer have enough workers to cover for absent colleagues because of the switch in recent years to “precision scheduled railroading,” a system designed to improve efficiency and cut costs. Instead of running trains that carried just one type of product — which left trains waiting for long stretches before they had enough load to depart — rail companies now have more trains carrying a mix of goods on a set schedule. Fixed scheduling allows them to use the same crew more often than they could have under the old system.

From November 2018 to December 2020, the rail industry lost 40,000 jobs, according to a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau described precision scheduling as possibly the “most widely accredited reason for the decrease in rail transportation employment,” although the pandemic, uncertainties in trade and a decline U.S. coal usage also hurt the industry.

Wall Street at the time cheered the transition to a new system. In 2019, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific stocks rose 30 percent, and shares of Kansas City Southern jumped more than 60 percent.

World Crisis Radio, Historical commentary and strategic advocacy: A coalition Speaker of the House must be webster tarpley twitterelected on January 3 to head off nightmare scenario under Speaker Trump! Webster G. Tarpley, right, author and historian, Dec. 3, 2022 (93:44 mins.). 

A realistic compromise. Speaker backed by a bipartisan majority to attain or exceed magic number of 218 is now the only alternative to two years of chaos, default, defeat, and sabotage by MAGA diehards!

McCarthy warns Republicans that Democrats could control House if ”Freedom Caucus” lunatics run wild over coming weeks; House currently estimated at 222 R, 213 D; If 5 current categorical no votes hang tough, McCarthy would be unelectable – and there may be more;

Likely formula would be all Democrats plus half a dozen dissident Republicans to block McCarthy’s power grab; GOP is grievously damaged by MAGA midterm failure, and losing control of House would seal party’s doom as a national force;

Under cover of corrupt media lies blaming Biden, Republicans block student loan relief and seven days of paid sick leave;

Other news: Biden administration dismantling many of the worst aspects of globalization era (c. 1990 to 2022); Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta ends the farce of Judge Cannon’s Special Master as indictments get closer;

Andrew Jackson had his Kitchen Cabinet of sycophantic advisers; his admirer Trump has raving antisemitic ideologues Kanye West and Fuentes; In broadcast, Ye endorses mass murderers Hitler, Stalin and Mao; Under massive backlash, Gym Jordan’s House Judiciary staff finally remove their ”Kanye. Elon. Trump.” slogan!

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U.S. Jobs, Economy

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. added 263,000 jobs in November, a strong showing amid tech slowdown, Abha Bhattarai, Dec. 3, 2022 (print ed.). The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.7 percent . Despite high inflation, the slowing but still-growing labor market remains one of the sturdiest pillars in an otherwise confounding economy, according to the latest data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The U.S. labor market showed little sign of slowing in November, with employers adding 263,000 jobs, a surprisingly robust pace amid a slowdown in the tech industry.

The unemployment rate, meanwhile, remained unchanged from 3.7 percent a month earlier, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The still-strong labor market continues to be one of the sturdiest pillars of an otherwise confounding economy. Americans are spending heavily, though they are saving less than they have in 15 years. Manufacturing activity contracted in November for the first time in more than two years. And although inflation is slowing, to 7.7 percent, it is still well over the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent target.

“The job market continues to chug along despite various headwinds,” said Daniel Zhao, lead economist at Glassdoor. “We are getting some mixed signals from the report — that isn’t a surprise at a time when the economy is at a turning point — but stepping back, this still points to a job market that is more resilient than we expected."

The latest report reflects an incredibly resilient labor market, as the Federal Reserve aggressively raises interest rates in hopes of stifling demand enough to contain inflation. Policymakers are hoping to chip away at the number of new hires and job openings without setting off a rise in unemployment — and at least for now, economists say, that appears possible.

ny times logoNew York Times, Congress Moves to Avert Rail Strike With Senate Vote, Emily Cochrane, Dec. 2, 2022 (print ed.). For the first time since the 1990s, Congress used its power to impose a labor agreement between rail companies and their workers, who had been locked in a stalemate. President Biden is expected to sign the bill, which aims to avert a potential holiday-season rail strike that would jeopardize shipping across the country.

The Senate on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to impose a labor agreement between rail companies and their workers who have been locked in a stubborn stalemate, moving with uncommon speed to avert a potential holiday season rail strike that would jeopardize shipping across the country.

USTR seal Custom 2Passage of the measure cleared it to be signed by President Biden, who just days ago made a personal appeal for Congress to act to impose a labor agreement that his administration helped negotiate earlier this year but that had failed to resolve the dispute. He was expected to sign the bill quickly, racing to stave off any economic fallout that could come from a work stoppage in the coming days.

It was the first time since the 1990s that Congress has used its power under the Constitution’s commerce clause, which allows it to regulate interstate commerce, to intervene in a national rail labor dispute to head off a strike. The step was a remarkable one for Mr. Biden, who vowed to be “the most pro-union president you’ve ever seen,” and for Democrats in control of Congress, who count organized labor among their most loyal constituencies.

In recent days, Mr. Biden and his allies on Capitol Hill have put aside those considerations in favor of a resolution that they have argued is needed to prevent painful consequences for Americans.

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Jan. 6, Trump, Election Denier Probes

 

djt handwave file

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutors tell jurors that Trump knew of Weisselberg’s tax fraud at Trump Organization, Shayna Jacobs, Dec. 3, 2022 (print ed.). The former president is not charged in the criminal trial of his namesake company. Jury deliberations are expected to begin Monday.

Donald Trump knew about a 15-year tax fraud carried out by longtime executives at his namesake company, a prosecutor argued Friday, saying the illegal activity ended when the company cleaned up its business practices around the time Trump entered the White House.

At the close of the Trump Organization’s criminal trial, prosecutors introduced the idea that Trump had knowledge of crimes committed by his top deputies. The claim was a way of supporting their theory that the real estate, hospitality and golf company is criminally culpable for and benefited from tax cheating.

“This whole narrative that Donald Trump was blissfully ignorant was just not real,” Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass said during his summation. He asked jurors, who are likely to begin deliberations in the case on Monday, to dismiss the idea that executives who committed crimes had simply gone “rogue.”

At the same time, Steinglass also told the jury that it “doesn’t matter” whether they believe Trump knew about the fraud, because the former president is allen weisselberg croppednot considered a conspirator in the case.

Trump has not been charged with wrongdoing. Allen Weisselberg, right — his former chief financial officer and a Trump family employee for a half-century — pleaded guilty to fraud this summer. Testimony about the fraud from Weisselberg and Trump Organization comptroller Jeffrey McConney — who was granted immunity automatically by state law when he appeared before the grand jury — were key elements of the prosecution’s case.

 

steward rhodes kelly meigs jessica watkins kenneth harrelson thomas caldwell

washington post logoWashington Post, Garland praises Oath Keepers verdict, won’t say where Jan. 6 probe goes, Perry Stein, Spencer S. Hsu and Devlin Barrett, Dec. 2, 2022 (print ed.). Justice Dept. will weigh seditious conspiracy conviction in deciding whether to pursue other high-profile Trump allies, people familiar with the matter said.

A day after a federal jury convicted two far-right extremists of leading a plot to unleash political violence to prevent the inauguration of Joe Biden, Attorney General Merrick Garland vowed that his Justice Department would continue to “work tirelessly” to hold accountable those responsible for efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors highlighted the defendants’ links to key allies of President Donald Trump, such as Roger Stone, “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani.

merrick garlandBut Garland, right, declined to say Wednesday if he expected prosecutors to eventually file charges against them or any other people who did not physically participate in the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

“I don’t want to speculate on other investigations or parts of other investigations,” Garland told reporters at a briefing where he also touted Justice Department efforts to establish federal oversight of the water supply system in Jackson, Miss.

Garland called the sprawling Jan. 6 investigation, and Jackson’s water crisis, “significant matters of public interest.”

“I’m very proud of the attorneys, investigators and staff whose unwavering commitment to rule of law and tireless work resulted in yesterday in these two significant victories,” he said.

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steward rhodes kelly meigs jessica watkins kenneth harrelson thomas caldwell

 

U.S. Security, Privacy

washington post logoWashington Post, TSA now wants to scan your face at security. Here are your rights, Geoffrey A. Fowler, Dec. 3, 2022 (print ed.). 16 major domestic airports are testing facial-recognition tech to verify IDs — and it could go nationwide in 2023.

Next time you’re at airport security, get ready to look straight into a camera. The TSA wants to analyze your face.

The Transportation Security Administration has been quietly testing controversial facial recognition technology for passenger screening at 16 major domestic airports — from Washington to Los Angeles — and hopes to expand it across the United States as soon as next year. Kiosks with cameras are doing a job that used to be completed by humans: checking the photos on travelers’ IDs to make sure they’re not impostors.
Tech is not your friend. We are. Sign up for The Tech Friend newsletter.

The TSA says facial recognition, which has been banned by cities such as San Francisco, helps improve security and possibly also efficiency. But it’s also bringing an unproven tech, with civil rights ramifications we still just don’t understand, to one of the most stressful parts of travel.

American airports have been experimenting with so-called biometric technology for years, following the 9/11 attacks. You might have seen Customs collecting biometric information from passengers entering the United States. In 2019, I tested some of the ways airlines were using face scans to replace boarding passes for international flights. The TSA’s facial recognition pilot began at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) amid concerns about covid transmission through contact in August 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Edward Snowden swears allegiance to Russia and receives passport, lawyer says, Natalia Abbakumova and Adela Suliman, Dec. 3, 2022 (print ed.). Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who leaked information about U.S. surveillance programs, swore an oath of allegiance to Russia and has collected his Russian passport, his lawyer told state media on Friday.

“Edward received a Russian passport yesterday and took the oath in accordance with the law,” lawyer Anatoly Kucherena said, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency. “He is, of course, happy, thanking the Russian Federation for the fact that he received citizenship,” he continued. “And most importantly, under the Constitution of Russia, he can no longer be extradited to a foreign state.”

Snowden, 39, is wanted by Washington on espionage charges. He considers himself a whistleblower.

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U.S. Courts, Crime, Regulation

 

abidemi rufai mug

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: For prolific covid scammer, first came the cash. Then came the chase, Yeganeh Torbati and Ope Adetayo, Dec. 3, 2022. Ex-Nigerian official defrauded American taxpayers by stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in coronavirus relief benefits.

On a perfect spring day at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, Abidemi Rufai arrived at the international terminal ready for the long journey back home to Nigeria.

On his wrist, Rufai, 44, shown above, wore an expensive Cartier watch. Around his neck, he wore an 18-karat gold chain with a lion pendant. As he approached the check-in desk for his business class seat on the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines flight, Rufai had seven pieces of luggage, three smartphones, and seven debit and credit cards.

It was May 2021. A year earlier, Rufai had pulled off a spectacular heist of U.S. taxpayer money. The calm with which he moved through the airport belied the chaos he had left in his wake.

His brazen and repeated pilfering of coronavirus relief funds had helped freeze the entire unemployment system in the state of Washington, where he had obtained identifying information for unsuspecting residents. For months, state and federal officials struggled to get ahead of Rufai and other fraudsters, sparking investigations on two continents that culminated in a guilty plea. Eventually, they would discover in Rufai’s email accounts and phone the personal data of 20,000 Americans and voluminous stolen tax returns, as well as photos of Rufai with a powerful Nigerian governor and images of him dressed impeccably in dark sunglasses and royal-blue robes. In one, he sat on an ornate thronelike chair.

The Covid Money Trail

It was the largest burst of emergency spending in U.S. history: Two years, six laws and more than $5 trillion intended to break the deadly grip of the coronavirus pandemic. The money spared the U.S. economy from ruin and put vaccines into millions of arms, but it also invited unprecedented levels of fraud, abuse and opportunism.

In a yearlong investigation, The Washington Post is following the covid money trail to figure out what happened to all that cash.

Rufai had managed to escape the United States for relative safety in Nigeria in late 2020, just months after his heist. Remarkably, he later returned. Now, as he approached the ticket agent, six law enforcement officers were positioned nearby, watching him.

Since the coronavirus pandemic hit in early 2020, the U.S. government has spent more than $5 trillion to respond to the crisis and stabilize the American economy. Much of that money helped families and businesses survive a dire economic shutdown. But billions of dollars were stolen, and no one is sure, even now, exactly how much has disappeared.

Some of it was nabbed by U.S. criminals, but a chunk went to foreign nationals who had honed their tactics in defrauding people through identity theft and scams over years and saw in the pandemic a chance to hit it big. Rufai’s wild tactics and dramatic life story — laid out in vivid detail in court documents — offers a startling view of one of the many accused scam artists who siphoned riches from the huge money pot created by Washington in 2020 and 2021.
An image of Rufai found in court filings. (U.S. District Court)

This article is based on interviews with nearly 20 people in the United States and Nigeria, including state and federal officials. It is also based on a review of government records in both countries, including letters from Rufai and his friends and family members, details of bank account transfers, and transcripts of his jailhouse calls. Through his lawyer, Rufai declined to be interviewed. His lawyer also declined to answer questions about the case.

The details paint a portrait of how a seasoned identity thief hit the jackpot when covid funds began to flow, preying on a tremendous amount of money that was suddenly thrust into the economy in a way that made it very easy to steal. His previous efforts at defrauding the U.S. government amounted to less than $100,000 over three years, according to federal prosecutors. But in a span of six months in 2020, he was able to swipe more than half a million dollars, prosecutors said. He was one of the most prolific thieves but joined hundreds of others, both international and domestic, who overwhelmed government officials trying to protect billions of dollars.

Rufai emerged from a difficult and abusive childhood and rose to the upper echelons of Nigerian politics, where by his own telling he imbibed a culture of corruption. He adopted the tactics of Nigerian scam rings and honed his fraud skills in the years leading up to the pandemic, all the while burdened with a lingering gambling addiction. And once he committed his most dramatic theft of U.S. taxpayer funds, he indulged in a lavish and splashy lifestyle.

“Every time I reflect back to my actions, I feel so ashamed and so disgusted,” he said at his sentencing hearing on Sept. 26, according to a court transcript. “Why did I even get myself into this in the first place?”

 washington post logoWashington Post, FBI agent acquitted of attempted murder in shooting of Metro passenger, Dan Morse, Dec. 3, 2022 (with surveillance video from inside a Metro training showing FBI agent shooting a fellow passenger who had confronted him on Dec. 15, 2000). Prosecutors argued that Eduardo Valdivia pulled his gun out too soon; the agent said he fired in self defense.

An FBI agent was acquitted of attempted second-degree murder and other counts Friday by a Maryland jury that found he was justified in shooting a panhandler who had confronted him aboard a moving Metro train outside Washington, D.C.

FBI logoEduardo Valdivia, 38, slowly nodded his head as the verdict was announced. He had faced as much as 40 years if convicted on the most serious charge. His family and supporters in the courtroom began crying as the verdict was read.

The four-day trial, held in Montgomery County Circuit Court, turned on surveillance video from the interior of a Red Line train on Dec. 15, 2020 — and whether the agent’s use of deadly force was justified in self-defense or was an overreaction that escalated too quickly.

On that morning, Valdivia was seated in a nearly empty train around 6:30 a.m. when he was approached by a man who was panhandling and got into a verbal altercation with him. The men eventually stood facing each other, just inches apart, with Valdivia’s back against an end of the train car. The two exchanged words that were not picked up by the recording.

But during the trial, Valdivia’s attorney, Robert Bonsib, established at least part of what the passenger told the agent — doing so through the questioning of a detective who had interviewed the passenger.

“I’ll throw you through this wall,” the man said during the encounter, according to trial testimony.

The man’s threats and aggressive posture, according to Bonsib, were enough to convince the agent he could get his gun taken and turned on him.

“Maryland law permits anybody — any ordinary guy on his way to work — to defend himself against the threat of imminent bodily harm,” Bonsib had told jurors.

Valdivia had spent years working undercover as an agent and could sense an imminent attack, his attorneys added.

The passenger did not testify. But Bonsib said the man was reputed to have a “propensity for violence” among Metro system police officers.

Prosecutors built their case around the notion that Valdivia, even if he felt threatened, failed to take steps to defuse the situation. He didn’t tell the man he was an FBI agent. He wasn’t willing to fight him physically, even though he had experience as a boxer and was trained in takedown tactics.

“He had no business firing a gun,” Assistant State’s Attorney Robert Hill told jurors. The man Valdivia shot was struck in his torso and arm and spent five days in a hospital.

On Wednesday night, the University of Idaho and fellow students honored during a vigil the lives of slain students Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle, Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves, shown below left to right.  On Wednesday night, the University of Idaho and fellow students honored during a vigil the lives of slain students Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle, Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves, shown above left to right.

On Wednesday night, the University of Idaho and fellow students honored during a vigil the lives of slain students Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle, Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves, shown above left to right.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Killer on the Loose Leaves an Idaho College Town Shaken, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Dec. 3, 2022. Many students living in the dorms at the University of Idaho have not returned after the Thanksgiving break, as residents worry about their safety.

The flood of calls to the Moscow Police Department is a sign of just how afraid people in this college town have become, three weeks after four University of Idaho students (shown above) were fatally stabbed by an unknown assailant in their bedrooms in the middle of the night.

Many students refused to come back to campus after Thanksgiving, and some classrooms at the university now sit half empty. Those who did return said they bought doorbell cameras, put rods in their windows to lock them shut or began hunkering down with roommates at night.

washington post logoWashington Post, Law school revolt against U.S. News rankings gains steam, Nick Anderson and Susan Svrluga, Dec. 3, 2022. Whether universities will follow suit with a broader rebellion against the ranking giant is unknown.

First, Yale University’s top-ranked law school declared it would end cooperation with the U.S. News & World Report rankings. Within hours, Harvard University’s law school, ranked fourth, followed suit. Then, what began as a high-profile protest against the rankings became a mass revolt that now encompasses four University of California law schools, four from the Ivy League and several other big names in legal education.

On Friday, the University of Washington law school, ranked 49th, and the University of Pennsylvania’s, ranked sixth, became the latest to join the rebellion.

The U.S. News method for ranking law schools “is unnecessarily secretive and contrary to important parts of our mission,” the Carey Law School at U-Penn. said in a statement, citing increased investment in need-based financial aid and efforts to promote careers in public-interest law.

ny times logoNew York Times, Druggings, Deaths and Robberies Put New York City’s Gay Community on Edge, Liam Stack, Dec. 3, 2022. At first, the men’s deaths were treated as overdoses, until tens of thousands of dollars were found drained from their bank accounts.

Julio Ramirez died in the back seat of a taxi in April after he left a popular gay bar in Manhattan with a group of men. They stole his wallet, phone and ID before they abandoned his body in the car with a distressed cabdriver.

One month later, John Umberger was found dead in an Upper East Side townhouse after he and a group of men left another popular gay bar just three blocks from the last place Mr. Ramirez was seen alive. Surveillance footage showed Mr. Umberger sandwiched between the men as they guided him into a car.

The Police Department and many in the L.G.B.T.Q. community at first regarded the deaths as isolated drug overdoses: men who partied too hard, quotidian tragedies in a gay nightlife scene that has roared back to life as the coronavirus pandemic has waned.

But the men’s families soon discovered something more sinister: Credit cards in the men’s names were maxed out and their bank accounts drained of tens of thousands of dollars. Now, their deaths are being investigated by the Police Department’s homicide unit.

The deaths of Mr. Ramirez and Mr. Umberger came at a fraught time for the city’s L.G.B.T.Q. community, which emerged from the pandemic into the jaws of a monkeypox outbreak, a landscape of struggling and sometimes shuttered bars and an increasingly hostile national political climate.

They have also spread fear and rumor, while starting a broader conversation about similar attacks that have quietly plagued the city’s gay nightlife for years.

washington post logoWashington Post, Man charged with murder in shooting of Migos rapper Takeoff, Helena Andrews-Dyer, Dec. 3, 2022. The Houston police department announced Friday that a suspect has been arrested and charged in the fatal shooting of rapper Takeoff, one-third of the group Migos.

Patrick Xavier Clark, 33, was arrested Thursday night and charged with Takeoff’s murder, said Houston Police Chief Troy Finner in a Friday afternoon news conference. Cameron Joshua, 22, who was at the scene of the crime, was also arrested Nov. 22 and charged for unlawfully possessing a weapon as a felon. The police would not say whether that weapon was directly connected to the murder.

“We stood here a month ago and made a promise that we would get the individual or individuals that’s responsible for the murder of Takeoff into custody,” Finner said after thanking the public for its patience as the department worked through evidence.

“We lost a good man,” he added.

Takeoff wasn’t the most visible member of Migos. But he was its heart.

Takeoff, 28, whose real name is Kirshnik Khari Ball, was shot and killed on Nov. 1 after a private party at 810 Billiards and Bowling. Sergeant Michael Barrow referred to Takeoff during Friday’s conference as an “innocent bystander” after an argument ensued outside of the bowling alley following what was described as a “lucrative” dice game. Takeoff, Barrow said, was not involved in the dice game or the confrontation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: The Senate ignores D.C., while judge vacancies pile up, Editorial Board, Dec. 3, 2022. Disenfranchising a city of more than 700,000 people, it turns out, requires a lot of work, if the contretemps between the D.C. municipal court system and the U.S. Senate is any indication.

The D.C. Superior Court and the D.C. Court of Appeals — which handle criminal, civil and administrative matters for D.C. residents — are once again running short on judges. The former is missing 14 of its 62 judges, while the latter is missing two of its nine judges — and one of those slots has stood vacant since November 2013.

Filling the vacancies isn’t as simple as tendering job offers to seasoned lawyers. Under D.C.’s Home Rule Act, the Senate must approve all appointees to the D.C. courts and the president chooses nominees from a list of candidates supplied by the D.C. Judicial Nomination Commission.
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If this sounds strange, that is because D.C. is the only jurisdiction in the country where local judges must clear the Senate’s “advice and consent” process. Unlike elsewhere, the federal government funds the local D.C. courts. Per a couple quirks of history — the city’s orphaned political standing and its dependence on Senate machinations under the Home Rule Act — the District’s provincial priorities are forced to compete for legislative attention against the country’s most pressing issues.

 

joel greenberg seminole county tax collector

ny times logoNew York Times, Former Gaetz Confidant Is Sentenced to 11 Years in Prison, Eric Adelson and Michael S. Schmidt, Dec. 2, 2022 (print ed.). Joel Greenberg, above, a tax collector in Florida, had been cooperating with the Justice Department in its investigation into Representative Matt Gaetz.

A Florida tax collector who has been cooperating with the Justice Department in its sex trafficking investigation into Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, was sentenced on Thursday by a federal judge to 11 years in prison.

The tax collector, Joel Greenberg, had faced up to nearly three decades in prison for a litany of crimes he had committed, including trafficking a 17-year-old girl, stalking a political rival and stealing $400,000 in taxpayer money to buy cryptocurrencies and sports memorabilia. But in the hope of receiving a lesser sentence, he had cooperated with the government in a series of investigations, including into Mr. Gaetz.

“He has provided substantial cooperation to the government — more than I’ve seen in 22 years,” Judge Gregory A. Presnell said.

But the judge also excoriated Mr. Greenberg’s behavior.

“In 22 years, I’ve never experienced a case like this,” Judge Presnell said, adding, “I have never seen a defendant who has committed so many different types of crimes in such a short period.”

It is not clear what the sentencing means for the Justice Department’s investigation of Mr. Gaetz, who is a close ally of former President Donald J. Trump and has been under investigation for over a year and a half but has not been charged with a crime.

Mr. Greenberg has told federal authorities that he witnessed Mr. Gaetz have sex with the 17-year-old girl and that she was paid. In documents filed in connection with Mr. Greenberg’s sentencing, the Justice Department said he had “provided truthful and timely information” that led to the charging of at least four other people and “provided substantial assistance on other matters” that the government would address only in a sealed filing.

But there are several hurdles to bringing a case against Mr. Gaetz, who has denied any wrongdoing. Among the challenges is that the girl has said she does not believe she was a victim, according to a person briefed on the matter.

In other recent U.S. crime stories:

  • Law&Crime, Texas Man Charged With Murder of Beloved Migos Rapper Takeoff Was Allegedly Heading to Mexico With a ‘Large Amount of Cash’
  • Law&Crime, Texas Woman Makes Bond After Allegedly Stabbing Boyfriend for ‘Not Helping Her with the Bills’ on Thanksgiving Day
  • Law&Crime, Kevin Spacey’s Accuser Owes House of Cards Star Nearly $40,000 After a Jury Rejected Sexual Abuse Claims, Court Finds
  • Law&Crime, Two Women Face Federal Charges After Kidnapping and Robbery of College Couple Left Boyfriend Dead: DOJ
  • Law&Crime, 10-Year-Old Shot His Mother to Death After She Refused to Buy Him VR Headset: Prosecutors
  • Law&Crime, Prosecutor Quits in Middle of Trial for Former Border Patrol Agent Accused of Being a Serial Killer

Other Court News Headlines

steward rhodes kelly meigs jessica watkins kenneth harrelson thomas caldwell

 

U.S. High Tech, Media, Culture

 

Elon Musk released what he called the “Twitter Files” on Friday, delving into the company's decision to block the Hunter Biden laptop story. In this 2019 photo, Musk speaks during a gaming convention (Photo by Mike Blake for Reuters).

Elon Musk released what he called the “Twitter Files” on Friday, delving into the company's decision to block the Hunter Biden laptop story. In this 2019 photo, Musk speaks during a gaming convention (Photo by Mike Blake for Reuters).

washington post logoWashington Post, Elon Musk’s ‘Twitter Files’ ignite divisions, but haven’t changed minds, Cat Zakrzewski and Faiz Siddiqui, Dec. 3, 2022. It was billed as a bombshell: Elon Musk, after rifling through his new company’s internal files, would finally expose how Twitter engaged in “free speech suppression” in the critical run up to the 2020 election.

“This will be awesome,” Musk tweeted, teasing the announcement with a popcorn emoji.

But by the time the dust settled Saturday, even some conservatives were grumbling that it was a dud. Musk’s Twitter Files produced no smoking gun showing that the tech giant had bent to the will of Democrats.

A handful of screenshots from 2020, posted over the course of two hours Friday evening in a disjointed, roughly 40-tweet thread, show the San Francisco company debating a decision to restrict sharing of a controversial New York Post story about the son of then Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

The Twitter thread, based on internal communications posted by Substack writer Matt Taibbi, showed the company independently decided to limit the spread of the article, without Democratic politicians, the Biden campaign or FBI exerting control over the social media network. In fact, the only input from a sitting politician that Taibbi noted was from Silicon Valley Rep. Ro Khanna (D), who told Twitter executives they should distribute the story, regardless of the potential consequences for his party.

“I’m not persuaded these are anything close to a bombshell,” said Jameel Jaffer, the director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, in an interview.

In the process, Musk took the extraordinary step of promoting the leak of internal company communications to Taibbi, exposing the names of several rank-and-file workers and Khanna’s personal email address.

The online mob descended on the Twitter workers on the chain, threatening them and circulating their photos online.

“Publicly posting the names and identities of front-line employees involved in content moderation puts them in harm’s way and is a fundamentally unacceptable thing to do,” former Twitter Trust and Safety chief Yoel Roth, who was among the employees named in the tweets, said in a social media post.

Musk acknowledged on a Twitter Spaces audio chat Saturday afternoon some missteps, including “a few cases where I think we should have excluded some email addresses.”

“The idea here is to come clean on everything that has happened in the past in order to build public trust for the future,” Musk said during the Twitter Spaces which was plagued with technical difficulties. Musk said he joined via a Starlink satellite connection from his private jet.

Musk also criticized the media’s coverage of the files.

“Rather than admit they lied to the public they’re trying to pretend this is a nothingburger,” he said. “Shame on them.”

Musk and Taibbi both tweeted that they would reveal more information in a second chapter Saturday. Musk also said on the Spaces that he shared the documents with another Substack writer, Bari Weiss, and suggested he may share them with the public in the future.

The spectacle capped off another week of chaos at Musk’s Twitter, after the “chief Twit” spent Friday afternoon meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and batting back reports about the rise of hate speech on the Twitter platform.

The Bulwark, Commentary: No, You Do Not Have a Constitutional Right to Post Hunter Biden’s Dick Pic on Twitter, Tim Miller, right, Dec. 3, 2022. Elon Musk and Matt tim miller twitterTaibbi’s First Amendment follies.

While normal humans who denied Republicans their red wave were enjoying an epic sports weekend, an insular community of MAGA activists and online contrarians led by the world’s richest man (for now) were getting riled up about a cache of leaked emails revealing that the former actor James Woods and Chinese troll accounts were not allowed to post ill-gotten photos of Hunter Biden’s hog on a private company’s microblogging platform 25 months ago.

bulwark logo big shipNow if you are one of the normals—someone who would never think about posting another person’s penis on your social media account; has no desire to see politicians’ kids’ penises when scrolling social media; doesn’t understand why there are other people out there who care one way or another about the moderation policies surrounding stolen penis photos; or can’t even figure out what it is that I’m talking about—then this might seem like a gratuitous matter for an article. Sadly, it is not.

Because among Republican members of Congress, leading conservative media commentators, contrarian substackers, conservative tech bros, and friends of Donald Trump, the ability to post Hunter Biden’s cock shots on Twitter is the number-one issue in America this weekend. They believe that if they are not allowed to post porno, our constitutional republic may be in jeopardy.

I truly, truly wish I were joking.

Here’s a synopsis for the blessedly uninitiated:

hunter bidenThe offending material that Taibbi revealed was removed by Twitter at the Biden campaign’s request turns out to have been a bunch of links to Hunter Biden, right, in the buff.

There was a tweet from a Chinese account featuring a naked woman on top of Hunter Biden, as well as a family photo. Two pictures of Hunter Biden’s penis, one with another woman in the background. Taibbi’s next list of material was removed by Twitter after being flagged by the Democratic National Committee. They include a picture of Hunter Biden smoking crack and getting his feet rubbed and a link to a Hunter Biden sex tape.

And that’s the big hubbub. Social media company removes unwanted dick pics: News at 11.

On Friday, Elon Musk promised to reveal “what really happened with the Hunter Biden story suppression by Twitter.” It turns out that he had provided a trove of internal corporate documents to the Tulsi Gabbard of Substack, Matt Taibbi, who said they amounted to a “unique and explosive story”—revealing the juicy details inside Twitter’s decision to suppress the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story, which had previously been rejected by such liberal outlets as Fox News and the Wall Street Journal due to its suspicious provenance. Taibbi agreed to divulge these private emails on Twitter itself rather than via his Substack as part of a “few conditions,” which he does not detail, that were imposed on him, presumably by Musk or a Musk factotum.

The documents Taibbi tweeted on Friday were titillating in the way that reading private correspondence revealing what people were really saying around a controversial subject always is, but nothing new was learned about the contours of the story. The leak mostly relitigates two facts that have already received much ink across the media: 1) How Twitter throttled the New York Post’s initial story about Hunter’s laptop based on what we now know was an incorrect assessment of its source; and 2) How political campaigns and government agencies have worked with social media companies—in this case Twitter—to flag troubling content.

On the first point, the emails confirm the essential consensus that has come into focus in reporting on the matter: Twitter got out over its skis on the ban and a typical corporate bureaucratic goat rope ensued as the company tried to “unfuck” the situation, as one employee put it. To say that this is not a new revelation would be an understatement given that Twitter’s former CEO Jack Dorsey admitted that this was a mistake over a year ago.

As such it was the latter point that drove the most hysterical discussion online on Friday.

The most retweeted installment in Taibbi’s thread (so far) was this, which purported to show the Biden campaign directing Twitter to delete specific tweets:

This supposed smoking gun resulted in Musk responding to his own journalistic stenographer on Twitter with a fire emoji and the comment “If this isn’t a violation of the Constitution’s first amendment, what is.” Musk was so impressed with this digital citizen’s arrest, that he made it his pinned tweet, after which the MAGA attaboys for Musky came hot and heavy.

Right-wing commentator Buck Sexton (real name), said this was a “bright red line violation” and that Biden, should be IMPEACHED for it. Rep. James Comer (R-TN) was on Fox promising that everyone at Twitter involved with this would be brought before the House Oversight committee. Rep. Billy Long retweeted several MAGA influencers praising Elon for, among other things, “exposing corruption at the highest levels of society” (Projection Alert). Meanwhile Kari Lake hype man Pizzagate Jack Posobiec declared this the “biggest story in modern presidential election history,” claimed that “we can never go back to the country we were before this moment,” and donned this “a digital insurrection.”

In reality, all they really had was a digital erection.

As someone who once consulted for social media companies on content moderation issues, let me tell you, the amount of eggplant-related terms of service violations that these platforms review in a given year is so voluminous that we have not yet invented an artificial intelligence machine capable of counting them.

Yet Taibbi and Musk are trying to turn this mundane moderation matter into the story of the century by emphasizing a few misconceptions about how platforms work with political campaigns and what First Amendment obligations they do or do not have. To debunk a few of them:

1. Campaigns of all ideological stripes have direct lines into social media companies and make requests about offending content. There is nothing at all strange about what is shown in these emails. If Jeb’s kid’s grundle was posted by a Chinese troll, we surely would’ve flagged that for the company in the hopes they deleted it, and I suspect their internal correspondence on the matter would’ve been identical. This would not have been a “demand” or a “dictate” from our campaign, mind you. Companies can do what they want.

2. In this specific instance, the requests came from a campaign that has absolutely no government authority at all. At the time of the correspondence in question, Joe Biden was a private citizen running for office, while Donald Trump was the president. Taibbi acknowledges that Trump’s White House made requests that “were received and honored” and that “there’s no evidence—that I’ve seen—of any government involvement in the laptop story.” So if there are any First Amendment issues at play here—and I don’t believe there are since neither Musk nor Taibbi have demonstrated that the government made any mandates on Twitter—they would, in this case, only relate to the material that Trump wanted removed.

3. Why MAGA Republicans and Elon Musk are so adamant that people be able to post photos of Hunter’s johnson is something that should probably be explored with their respective preachers or psychiatrists, but it is certainly not a matter for constitutional scholars or litigators.

To sum up what we learned: Big penis, little news, First Amendment not under threat.

Musk and Taibbi have promised more editions of the “Twitter Files” in the coming days, maybe next time they won’t come up so limp.

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large and the author of the best-selling book Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell. He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump and communications director for Jeb Bush 2016.

 

alex jones screen shot 2020 05 01 at 12.02.06 pm

Alex Jones, host and founder of the Texas-based Infowars show (file photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Alex Jones files for bankruptcy as he owes nearly $1.5B to Sandy Hook families, Justine McDaniel, Dec. 3, 2022 (print ed.). Infowars founder Alex Jones filed for bankruptcy Friday, weeks after courts ordered him to pay close to $1.5 billion in damages to the families of victims of the 2012 mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Jones, 48, has been ordered to pay $1.4 billion in a Connecticut case and $45.2 million in a Texas case for damage caused by his years of lies that the Sandy Hook massacre, in which 20 children and six adults were killed, was a hoax. Jones and his attorney have said he will appeal.

Filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the southern district of Texas, Jones said his assets were worth between $1 million and $10 million and that his debts were between $1 billion and $10 billion. He said his debts were primarily business debts and estimated that he owed between 50 and 99 creditors.

 

Infowars host Alex Jones at left, with (from left to right) guests Ye, formerly Kanye West, plus Nick Fuentes and Ali Alexander.

Infowars host Alex Jones at left, with (from left to right) ultra-right guests Ye, formerly Kanye West, Nick Fuentes and Ali Alexander.

washington post logoWashington Post, Elon Musk says Kanye West suspended from Twitter after swastika tweet, Ellen Francis and Rachel Lerman, Dec. 3, 2022 (print ed.). Ye’s account was also restricted earlier this year after an antisemitic post.

elon musk 2015Elon Musk, right, said Twitter suspended the rapper Ye on Friday after he shared an image of a swastika combined with the Star of David, weeks after his account was restored following a previous restriction.

It’s the latest fallout for Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, after he began making frequent antisemitic comments online and in interviews, which also caused him to lose several lucrative business deals. His tweets were a highly visible test of what new Twitter twitter bird Customowner Musk — who has extolled his commitment to “free speech” — would allow on the site.

Musk and Twitter did not immediately say how long Ye would be unable to tweet on the social media site, where he had more than 31 million followers. Ye appeared to post a screenshot on Truth Social saying that he had been suspended from Twitter for 12 hours, using a recently created but verified account on the right-wing site, which is backed by former president Donald Trump.

His Twitter account appeared with a message saying “Account suspended” on Friday.

Musk had previously welcomed Ye back to Twitter, but this time the musician seemed to go too far.

“I tried my best. Despite that, he again violated our rule against incitement to violence. Account will be suspended,” Musk wrote overnight to a Twitter user telling him to “fix Kanye.”

Musk bought Twitter in October after months of legal wrangling, and his ownership so far has been marked by mass layoffs and upheaval within the company.

kanye west twitter maga snlwashington post logoWashington Post, Rapper Ye draws fresh denunciation for Hitler praise in Alex Jones interview, Azi Paybarah, Dec. 2, 2022 (print ed.). The rapper Ye praised Adolf Hitler and Nazis in an interview Thursday with far-right provocateur Alex Jones, drawing a fresh round of condemnation for his incendiary antisemitism a week after he dined with former president Donald Trump alongside white nationalist Nick Fuentes.

“I like Hitler,” a fully masked Ye told Jones. Minutes later, the rapper said, “I love Jewish people, but I also love Nazis.”

Elon Musk says Ye, shown at right, suspended from Twitter after swastika tweet

Jones laughed and quickly added, “Well, I have to disagree with that.”

Ye’s comments prompted sharp denunciations from across the political spectrum, including from some onetime supporters of the rapper, formerly known as Kanye West.

The House Judiciary GOP Twitter account on Thursday deleted a tweet it posted in October that said simply: “Kanye. Elon. Trump.”

In a statement from the Republican Jewish Coalition, Chairman Norm Coleman, a former senator from Minnesota, and chief executive Matt Brooks called Jones, West and Fuentes “a disgusting triumvirate of conspiracy theorists, Holocaust deniers, and antisemites.”

Related Headlines

 

Former FTX Chief Executive Sam Bankman-Fried (shown in a Newshubweek photo).

Former FTX Chief Executive Sam Bankman-Fried (shown in a Newshubweek photo).

 

World News, Disasters, Human Rights

 

 

President Biden told reporters he hosted President Emmanuel Macron of France for his first state dinner as president “because he’s my friend.” (New York Times Photo by Doug Mills).President Biden told reporters he hosted President Emmanuel Macron of France for his first state dinner as president on Dec. 1 “because he’s my friend.” (New York Times Photo by Doug Mills).

washington post logoWashington Post, At state dinner, Biden and Macron stand ‘shoulder to shoulder, Dan Zak, Roxanne Roberts, Jada Yuan and Jura Koncius, Dec. 3, 2022 (print ed.). The French and U.S. presidents clinked crystal to cap a two-day whirl of bonhomie, spiced with slight disagreement.

On Thursday night, the youngest-ever French president and the oldest-ever American president toasted each other during the White House’s first state dinner in more than three years, since before the pandemic swept away millions of lives and froze Washington’s fancy rituals.

emmanuel macronEmmanuel Macron, right, three weeks from turning 45, raised a slender crystal Baccarat flute of California brut rosé to President Biden, freshly 80, whose vessel reportedly contained the French Flagdivine elixir of the teetotaler: ginger ale.

“To the history that binds and the values that still unite us,” Biden said on a dais in a monumental pavilion built for the occasion out of vinyl, glass and wood on the South Lawn.

Jill Biden’s twinkling state-dinner dress revived a first lady tradition

“Long live the United States of America, long live France and long live the friendship between our two countries,” Macron said in French, backdropped by an image of the Statue of Liberty, that copper colossus from France. He finished in English: “Cheers. Thank you.” Biden then asked if he could introduce Macron to his sister, Valerie Biden Owens. “I follow you,” Macron said, as the pair weaved past candelabras dripping crimson wax.

 

From left, U.S. First Lady Jill Biden, U.S. President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, French First Lady Brigett Macron. (New York Times Photo by Doug Mills.)

From left, U.S. First Lady Jill Biden, U.S. President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, French First Lady Brigett Macron. (New York Times Photo by Doug Mills.)

ny times logoNew York Times, After Fanning Covid Fears, China Must Now Try to Allay Them, Keith Bradsher, Dec. 3, 2022. Beijing warned that the only effective response was testing, lockdown and quarantine. Now, poised for a policy shift, it must change how it portrays the risks.

For nearly three years, the Chinese government deployed its considerable propaganda apparatus to fan fears about Covid to justify large-scale quarantines, frequent mass testing and the tracking of more than a billion people. As the authorities now shift their approach to the pandemic, they face the task of downplaying those fears.

china flag SmallUntil the past week, during which there were rallies voicing extraordinary public opposition to the stringent “zero Covid” rules, government officials and state media were still emphasizing the most ominous medical news about the pandemic. There were countless stories about the high death toll suffered elsewhere — especially in the United States — and about the months of respiratory problems, cognitive impairment and other difficulties associated with long Covid.

The official newspaper of the Communist Party, People’s Daily, warned on Nov. 15 that any loosening of Covid measures would endanger the lives and health of the Chinese people: “The relaxation of prevention and control will inevitably increase the risk of infection of susceptible groups.”

Just a week and a half ago, the vice premier overseeing the government’s Covid responses, Sun Chunlan, said that “anyone who should be tested must be tested, and no one should be left behind.”

But as local governments now hurry to dismantle testing requirements and start hauling away curbside test booths, Ms. Sun changed tack on Wednesday. “China’s pandemic prevention faces a new situation and new tasks, given the weakening severity of the Omicron variant,” she said.

ny times logoNew York Times, After Xi’s Coronation, a Roar of Discontent Against His Hard-Line Politics, Chris Buckley, Dec. 2, 2022 (print ed.). Protests in China have awoken a tradition of dissent that had seemed spent after 10 years under Xi Jinping. The effects may outlast the street clashes.

Striding out to speak to the Chinese nation just under six weeks ago, Xi Jinping exuded regal dominance. He had just won what was likely to be another decade in power. His new team of subordinates stood out as unbending loyalists. A Communist Party congress had cemented his authoritarian agenda and china flag Smallpromised a “new era” when China’s 1.4 billion people would stay in ever-loyal step with him and the party.

But a nationwide surge of protest has sent a stunning sign that even after one decade under Mr. Xi’s rule, a small and mostly youthful part of the population dares to imagine, even demand, another China: more liberal, less controlling, politically freer. A murmur of dissent that has survived censorship, detentions and official damnation under Mr. Xi suddenly broke into a collective roar.

“I can regain my faith in society and in a generation of youth,” Chen Min, an outspoken Chinese journalist and writer who goes by the pen name Xiao Shu, wrote in an essay this week. “Now I’ve found grounds for my faith: Brainwashing can succeed, but ultimately its success has its limits.”

Since the weekend, the police have galvanized to stamp out new protests. The authorities have been searching people’s phones, warning would-be protesters, interrogating detained participants and staging loud shows of force at potential protest sites. Vigilance will only grow after the death on Wednesday of Jiang Zemin, a former Chinese president who, more in retirement than in office, gained a political patina as a relatively mild leader. His memorial service will be held on Tuesday.

cyril ramaphosa reuters ny times logoNew York Times, Cyril Ramaphosa Vows to Fight Impeachment Report and Seek Re-election, John Eligon, Dec. 3, 2022. The South African president (shown above in a Reuters photo) considered resigning after Parliament released a report last week accusing him of violating his oath of office.

President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa said on Saturday that he would not resign and would instead challenge a parliamentary report that suggests he may have illegally covered up a crime at his private game farm, ending days of speculation that he might step down rather than face impeachment.

south africa flag after 1994Mr. Ramaphosa’s spokesman, Vincent Magwenya, said in a statement that the president would heed the call of his supporters within the African National Congress and remain in office while continuing his effort to seek re-election as the party’s leader.

“The president has with humility and great care and commitment accepted that call to continue being of service to his organization, the A.N.C., and to the people of South Africa,” Mr. Magwenya said.

The decision by the president to stand his ground caps a roller coaster week, in which the report was released and Mr. Ramaphosa seemed to be leaning toward resigning. His closest advisers, however, encouraged him to fight back against the accusations that he violated his oath of office.

  Paul Whelan at the Moscow City Court in January 2019. He was arrested in Moscow in 2018 and convicted on espionage charges in 2020 (Photo by Yuri Kochetkov for EPA via Shutterstock and the New York Times).

Paul Whelan at the Moscow City Court in January 2019. He was arrested in Moscow in 2018 and convicted on espionage charges in 2020 (Photo by Yuri Kochetkov for EPA via Shutterstock and the New York Times).

ny times logoNew York Times, Concern is growing about the health of Paul Whelan, an American who is imprisoned in Russia, Michael Crowley, Dec. 2, 2022 (print ed.). His family and the Biden administration are worried about his transfer to a prison hospital.

The Biden administration is “deeply concerned” about Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned in Russia who has been transferred to a prison hospital, a White House spokesman said on Wednesday.

Mr. Whelan’s brother, David, said in emails to supporters this week that his brother was moved on Nov. 17 to a hospital in the prison where he is being held.

His family, who have not heard from him in a week, grew particularly alarmed when Mr. Whelan missed a scheduled call home on Thanksgiving Day and further still when he failed to call home on Wednesday, his father’s 85th birthday.

“Paul was not complaining of any health conditions that required hospitalization, so has there been an emergency?” David Whelan wrote. He added that his brother “appeared healthy and well” to U.S. Embassy staff who visited him in November.

John Kirby, a National Security Council spokesman, told reporters in a telephone briefing on Wednesday that the U.S. government had been trying unsuccessfully to get information on Mr. Whelan’s condition and his whereabouts.

“As we speak this morning, regrettably, we do not have an update specifically about where he is or what condition he’s in,” Mr. Kirby said. He added: “We are deeply concerned about the lack of information and the lack of contact from Paul, and we’re working on this really as hard as we can through diplomatic channels.”

Speaking on MSNBC during a visit to Bucharest, Romania, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said that U.S. officials had visited Mr. Whelan on Nov. 16 and spoken to him by phone at “roughly” the same time but had not had contact with him since. “We are working every day to make sure that we have contact with him, that we understand what the exact situation is,” Mr. Blinken said.

David Whelan said in an email on Wednesday: “It could be nothing but, in this case, you always have to consider worst case scenarios.”

Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who later worked as a corporate security executive, was arrested at a Moscow hotel in December 2018 and was convicted in June 2020 on espionage charges that the U.S. government says were manufactured.

Related Headlines

 

Climate, Disasters, Energy 

 

colorado river w

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Officials fear ‘complete doomsday scenario’ for drought-stricken Colorado River, Joshua Partlow, Dec. 2, 2022 (print ed.). A once-unfathomable scenario — Lake Powell dropping to historic lows and shutting down power generators that serve millions — could start as soon as July.

The first sign of serious trouble for the drought-stricken American Southwest could be a whirlpool.

It could happen if the surface of Lake Powell, a man-made reservoir along the Colorado River (shown above and in other illustrative scenes) that’s already a quarter of its former size, drops another 38 feet down the concrete face of the 710-foot Glen Canyon Dam here. At that point, the surface would be approaching the tops of eight underwater openings that allow river water to pass through the hydroelectric dam.

colorado river in grand canyon pima point 2010 viewThe normally placid Lake Powell, the nation’s second-largest reservoir, could suddenly transform into something resembling a funnel, with water circling the openings, the dam’s operators say.

If that happens, the massive turbines that generate electricity for 4.5 million people would have to shut down — after nearly 60 years of use — or risk destruction from air bubbles. The only outlet for Colorado River water from the dam would then be a set of smaller, deeper and rarely used bypass tubes with a far more limited ability to pass water downstream to the Grand Canyon and the cities and farms in Arizona, Nevada and California.

Such an outcome — known as a “minimum power pool” — was once unfathomable here. Now, the federal government projects that day could come as soon as July.

Worse, officials warn, is the possibility of an even more catastrophic event. That is if the water level falls all the way to the lowest holes, so only small amounts could pass through the dam. Such a scenario — called “dead pool” — would transform Glen Canyon Dam from something that regulates an artery of national importance into a hulking concrete plug corking the Colorado River.

Anxiety about such outcomes has worsened this year as a long-running drought has intensified in the Southwest. Reservoirs and groundwater supplies across the region have fallen dramatically, and states and cities have faced restrictions on water use amid dwindling supplies. The Colorado River, which serves roughly 1 in 10 Americans, is the region’s most important waterway.

\The 1,450-mile river starts in the Colorado Rockies and ends in the Sea of Cortez in Mexico. There are more than a dozen dams along the river, creating major reservoirs such as Lake Powell and Lake Mead.

Related Headlines

 

Public Health, Pandemics

washington post logoWashington Post, Protests noted? China’s covid czar says it’s time to ease out of ‘zero covid’ mode, Lyric Li, Dec. 3, 2022 (print ed.). China’s coronavirus czar said that the country would take “baby steps” in extricating itself from a three-year pursuit of “zero covid,” after authorities stepped up censorship efforts following rare mass protests, and ahead of a state funeral for a former leader.

“We should prioritize stability while pursuing progress: take baby steps, but don’t stop going, to optimize the covid policy,” Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, who heads China’s coronavirus response efforts, said during a panel discussion with health workers on Thursday.

Sun, widely regarded as the face of China’s lockdown measures, had said Wednesday that the country is facing a “new reality” as the virus now poses a lesser threat. She made the rare move of convening panel discussions on consecutive days amid widespread confusion over Beijing’s messaging, which had recently pushed local governments to loosen measures before imposing lockdowns again as infections continued to climb.

Related Headlines

 

Dec. 2

Top Headlines

 

U.S. Jobs, Economy

 

Ukraine War

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Regulation

 

Trump, Jan. 6 Probes, Supporters

 

World News, Human Rights

 

U.S. Security, Privacy

 

Jan. 6, Trump, Election Denier Probes

 

Climate, Disasters, Energy

 

colorado river w

 

U.S. High Tech, Media, Culture

 

Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Congress Moves to Avert Rail Strike With Senate Vote, Emily Cochrane, Dec. 2, 2022 (print ed.). For the first time since the 1990s, Congress used its power to impose a labor agreement between rail companies and their workers, who had been locked in a stalemate. President Biden is expected to sign the bill, which aims to avert a potential holiday-season rail strike that would jeopardize shipping across the country.

The Senate on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to impose a labor agreement between rail companies and their workers who have been locked in a stubborn stalemate, moving with uncommon speed to avert a potential holiday season rail strike that would jeopardize shipping across the country.

Passage of the measure cleared it to be signed by President Biden, who just days ago made a personal appeal for Congress to act to impose a labor agreement that his administration helped negotiate earlier this year but that had failed to resolve the dispute. He was expected to sign the bill quickly, racing to stave off any economic fallout that could come from a work stoppage in the coming days.

It was the first time since the 1990s that Congress has used its power under the Constitution’s commerce clause, which allows it to regulate interstate commerce, to intervene in a national rail labor dispute to head off a strike. The step was a remarkable one for Mr. Biden, who vowed to be “the most pro-union president you’ve ever seen,” and for Democrats in control of Congress, who count organized labor among their most loyal constituencies.

In recent days, Mr. Biden and his allies on Capitol Hill have put aside those considerations in favor of a resolution that they have argued is needed to prevent painful consequences for Americans.

ny times logoNew York Times, Appeals Court Scraps Special Master’s Review in Trump Documents Case, Alan Feuer and Charlie Savage, Dec. 2, 2022 (print ed.). The decision removed a major obstacle that had hindered the Justice Department’s inquiry into former President Trump’s handling of sensitive material.

A federal appeals court on Thursday removed a major obstacle to the criminal investigation into former President Donald J. Trump’s hoarding of government documents, ending an outside review of thousands of records the F.B.I. seized from his home and freeing the Justice Department to use them in its inquiry.

In a unanimous but unsigned 21-page ruling, a three-member panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta shut down a lawsuit brought by Mr. Trump that has, for nearly three months, slowed the inquiry into whether he illegally kept national security records at his Mar-a-Lago residence and obstructed the government’s efforts to retrieve them.

The appeals court was sharply critical of the decision in September by Judge Aileen M. Cannon, a Trump appointee who sits in the Southern District of Florida, to intervene in the case. The court said Judge Cannon never had legitimate jurisdiction to order the review or bar investigators from using the files, and that there was no justification for treating Mr. Trump differently from any other target of a search warrant.

“It is indeed extraordinary for a warrant to be executed at the home of a former president — but not in a way that affects our legal analysis or otherwise gives the judiciary license to interfere in an ongoing investigation,” the court wrote.

Limits on when courts can interfere with a criminal investigation “apply no matter who the government is investigating,” it added. “To create a special exception here would defy our nation’s foundational principle that our law applies ‘to all, without regard to numbers, wealth or rank.’”

The panel’s ruling is set to take effect next Thursday. If there is no stay for an appeal before then, the review by the independent arbiter, or special master — Raymond J. Dearie, a judge who sits in the Eastern District of New York — would abruptly end. At that point, Judge Cannon would also be required to dismiss Mr. Trump’s lawsuit.

 

President Biden told reporters he hosted President Emmanuel Macron of France for his first state dinner as president “because he’s my friend.” (New York Times Photo by Doug Mills).President Biden told reporters he hosted President Emmanuel Macron of France for his first state dinner as president on Dec. 1 “because he’s my friend.” (New York Times Photo by Doug Mills).

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden’s Meeting With Macron Comes Amid Rising Trans-Atlantic Tensions, Alan Rappeport, Ana Swanson and Jim Tankersley, Dec. 2, 2022 (print ed.). President Biden’s “Made in America” plan has drawn accusations of protectionism from Europe as the U.S. tries to keep its Western allies aligned against Russia. The brewing tensions are expected to be a central topic of discussion on emmanuel macronThursday, when President Emmanuel Macron of France, right, visits the White House.

At a meeting with Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen in Bali, Indonesia, last month, French finance minister Bruno Le Maire raised objections about the Biden administration’s plan to bolster America’s clean energy industry through subsidies and other preferential treatment for U.S. automakers that make electric vehicles.

Mr. Le Maire made clear that France, a key U.S. ally, viewed the policy as a protectionist move that would benefit the United States at the expense of his nation’s economy and its car industry. He was not alone in his concerns.

President Biden’s “Made in America” plan has fueled anger across Europe at a critical moment, as the United States tries to keep its Western allies aligned against Russia’s war in Ukraine. Allies who are critical to supporting Mr. Biden in that fight are increasingly accusing the United States of undercutting them at the expense of domestic priorities.

French FlagThose frustrations have clouded what had been a trans-Atlantic effort to starve President Vladimir V. Putin of oil revenues needed to fuel his war in Ukraine. A looming European ban on Russian oil prompted the Biden administration to push for a workaround that would allow critical supplies of it to continue flowing in order to prevent a spike in global oil prices. European officials reluctantly agreed earlier this year to embrace a U.S. plan that would impose a cap on how much Russia could earn for each barrel it sells.

But determining that price has divided the European Union, leaving the issue in limbo just days before the embargo is set to take effect. A U.S. official on Wednesday pushed back against the rock-bottom price cap proposals that some European nations have been pitching and argued that a cap that falls between $60 and $70 a barrel would represent a meaningful reduction in Russian revenues. The Group of 7 nations is expected to finalize a cap on the price of Russian oil ahead of a Dec. 5 ban by the European Union.

 

From left, U.S. First Lady Jill Biden, U.S. President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, French First Lady Brigett Macron. (New York Times Photo by Doug Mills.)

From left, U.S. First Lady Jill Biden, U.S. President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, French First Lady Brigett Macron. (New York Times Photo by Doug Mills.) New York Times, This is what to expect at President Biden’s first state dinner: lobster, wine and a reset button

washington post logoWashington Post, At state dinner, Biden and Macron stand ‘shoulder to shoulder, Dan Zak, Roxanne Roberts, Jada Yuan and Jura Koncius, Dec. 2, 2022. The French and U.S. presidents clinked crystal to cap a two-day whirl of bonhomie, spiced with slight disagreement.

 On Thursday night, the youngest-ever French president and the oldest-ever American president toasted each other during the White House’s first state dinner in more than three years, since before the pandemic swept away millions of lives and froze Washington’s fancy rituals. Emmanuel Macron, three weeks from turning 45, raised a slender crystal Baccarat flute of California brut rosé to President Biden, freshly 80, whose vessel reportedly contained the divine elixir of the teetotaler: ginger ale.

“To the history that binds and the values that still unite us,” Biden said on a dais in a monumental pavilion built for the occasion out of vinyl, glass and wood on the South Lawn.

Jill Biden’s twinkling state-dinner dress revived a first lady tradition

“Long live the United States of America, long live France and long live the friendship between our two countries,” Macron said in French, backdropped by an image of the Statue of Liberty, that copper colossus from France. He finished in English: “Cheers. Thank you.” Biden then asked if he could introduce Macron to his sister, Valerie Biden Owens. “I follow you,” Macron said, as the pair weaved past candelabras dripping crimson wax.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Get ready for the House "Roland Freisler" show trials, Wayne Madsen, Dec. 2, 2022. The world should gird wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallitself for what can be expected to be the most vitriolic show trial seen since Nazi "People's Court" judge Roland Freisler's theatrics in humiliating from the bench the White Rose underground leaders in Germany and the Operation Valkyrie plotters who tried to kill Adolf Hitler in 1944. Freisler is best known for flying into fits of rage in order to psychologically disarm defendants brought before his court.

wayne madesen report logoThe incoming House Republican majority has their Freisler in the person of the jacketless Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio who is slated to assume the chairmanship of the House Judiciary Committee. Jordan is best known for delivering political rants during the impeachment hearings of Donald Trump while often targeting witnesses with personal insults. Jordan emulates to a tee the antics displayed by Freisler, who learned the practice of attacking defendants from attending the Soviet show trials of Chief Prosecutor Andrei Vyshinsky in Moscow in 1938.

Joining Jordan in staging show trials will be an assortment of other far-right MAGA devotees of Trump, including the House Oversight and Reform Committee chairman Jim Comer of Kentucky, House Financial Services Committee chair Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, and Intelligence Committee chair Mike Turner of Ohio.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Tech firms ‘facilitated’ covid aid fraud, collecting billions in fees, report finds, Tony Romm, Dec. 2, 2022 (print ed.). The findings, released Thursday and shared in advance with The Washington Post, come after an 18-month congressional investigation.

The probe revealed significant flaws that undermined the Paycheck Protection Program, a roughly $800 billion federal effort to support small businesses. Little-known firms such as Blueacorn and Womply allegedly collected taxpayer-funded fees as they overlooked signs of grift, according to a report released Thursday by congressional investigators

“The faster the better,” the workers were told at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, as the little-known financial technology company Blueacorn raced to review small businesses that sought federal loans.

Speeding through applications, Blueacorn employees and contractors allegedly began to overlook possible signs of fraud, according to interviews and communications later amassed by investigators on Capitol Hill. The company weighed whether to prioritize “monster loans that will get everyone paid,” as the firm’s co-founder once said. And investigators found that Blueacorn collected about $1 billion in processing fees — while its operators may have secured fraudulent loans of their own.

The allegations against Blueacorn and several other firms are laid out in a sprawling, roughly 120-page report released Thursday by the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, a congressional watchdog tasked to oversee roughly $5 trillion in federal pandemic aid. The 18-month probe — spanning more than 83,000 pages of documents, and shared in advance with The Washington Post — contends there was rampant abuse among a set of companies known as fintechs, which jeopardized federal efforts to rescue the economy and siphoned off public funds for possible private gain.

Some of the companies involved had never before managed federal aid, the report found. At the height of the pandemic, they failed to hire the right staff to thwart fraud. They amassed major profits from fees generated from the loans — large and small, genuine and problematic — that they processed and reviewed. And they repeatedly escaped scrutiny from the Small Business Administration, putting billions of dollars at risk, the probe found.

 

david ray griffin officeArchitects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, David Ray Griffin (1939-2022) The Man and His Work: A Synopsis, Elizabeth Woodworth, Dec. 2, 2022. How big can a mind be?

ae for 9 11 truth logoIf we’re lucky, we have threescore and ten years — in a very big wide world, full of history — to experience as much as we can take in.

Threescore-ten is not nearly enough, but some extraordinary people manage to encompass and give order to a lot of it.

And some even more extraordinary people manage to rise above their own lives to interpret creation and the fabric of the universe as having consistent meaning across cultures and throughout the ages.

David Ray Griffin was Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Theology, at the Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Graduate University, from 1973-2004. With his senior, Dr. John Cobb Jr., he co-founded the Center for Process Studies in 1973.

Griffin has stated that “the task of a theologian is to look at the world from what we would imagine the divine perspective, one that would care about the good of the whole and would love all the parts.”

Not only was David an outstanding theologian and one of the two best-known living scholars of Alfred North Whitehead’s process theology (the other being John Cobb): His books also spanned the related fields of postmodernism, theodicy (defence of God against evil), primordial truth, panentheism, scientific naturalism, parapsychology, Buddhist thought, and the mind-body interaction.

About the time that he retired in 2004, he was approached by some people who admired his candor, and pointed to evidence that the 9/11 event was highly suspicious.

At first David thought that 9/11 was simply blowback from the way America had treated the Middle East — but upon researching it more deeply he realized that there was indeed a very serious likelihood that the US had contrived 9/11 as a false flag operation to manufacture consent to occupy Afghanistan and Iraq for their oil.

This injustice fired his energy to research in depth, then write a dozen scholarly books on 9/11 — books that were not acknowledged in the media but which engaged in a cat-and-mouse game with the purveyors of the official 9/11 narrative, who continually adapted their story to cover up the weaknesses that David tracked and revealed as their tattered narrative evolved.

The first and most famous of these books was The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11, published by his much-appreciated Interlink press in March 2004.

That best-seller was followed in 2005 by a devastating takedown of the Bush Administration’s whitewash Commission titled The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions, which exposed 115 problems in “the 571-page lie”.

Following these early 9/11 works, David was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in both 2008 and 2009, and was named among “The 50 People Who Matter Today” by the New Statesman, on September 24, 2009.

In November, 2008, David’s seventh book about 9/11, The New Pearl Harbour Revisited, was one of only 51 books awarded as “pick of the week” that year by Publishers Weekly.

What followed was extraordinary.

As the foremost book reviewing tool in the English language, Publishers Weekly’s spotlight should have led to reviews in the New York Times, the Times Literary Supplement, Library Journal, and many other top reviewing sources — but the word was out in the narrative-controlled media to give it a pass.

In 2011, David and I founded an organization called the 9/11 Consensus Panel, comprised of more than 20 professionals expert in various aspects of the 9/11 attacks. In 2018, the 51 consensus points that were developed during this unique evidence-based reviewing project were published under the title 9/11 Unmasked: An International Review Panel Investigation (2018).

During that seven-year project, David addressed the existential crisis of climate change, penning his encyclopaedic 2015 reference, Unprecedented: Can Civilization Survive the CO2 Crisis? (I took that book to the COP21 Paris climate summit in 2015, and presented it there, following up with a YouTube documentary on that enormous gathering of humanity – the largest meeting since World War II.)

David then turned his attention to US imperialism – writing Bush and Cheney: How They Ruined America and the World in 2016, and producing the incredible work of scholarship, The American Trajectory: Divine or Demonic, in 2018.

David was at last able, in 2019, to turn to his long-planned The Christian Gospel for Americans: A Systematic Theology. It is a magnum opus of enormous breadth and depth.

In it, for example, he confronts the science vs religion issue, showing that some scientists – former atheists – have been overwhelmed by the extent of exceedingly precise ratios between the chemical elements of earth that are required for life, to now saying that the universe was “fine-tuned for life,” thus reflecting a “fine-tuner” (or divine creator).

In 2022, as he approached the end of his life, and following a long struggle with prostate cancer, David wrote the beautiful and crowning reflections of his maturing theology, James and Whitehead on Life after Death.

In the spirit of James and Whitehead, he explains that the universe is not separate from, but is within God, and is itself the very nature of God. This evolving world view requires a new understanding of the divine reality – panentheism, meaning “all in God”.

The causal principles of the universe exist naturally, being inherent in the nature of things, because they exist in the very nature of God.

This chapter on the infinitely fine-tuned nature of the universe to support life is a transporting gift.

But he was not done yet!

Forthcoming in March, 2023, from the publisher Clarity Press, is David’s America on the Brink: How the US Trajectory Led Fatefully to the Russia-Ukraine War – which was completed during the last days of his life.

In total David Ray Griffin has written 50 books and more than 200 essays. (He was once asked if he had ever had an unpublished thought!)

In all of his books – and most notably those on American imperialism – he read and cited recent scholarly investigations from top university presses, effectively overriding the propaganda that has passed down through many years.

Paul Craig Roberts wrote: “David has served truth to the hilt. He is a hero of our time.”

There is no question that his body of work will go down in history as providing some of the most elegant thinking our century has witnessed.

And at some point, his chronicling of historically suppressed truths must emerge into full daylight, to allow reality-based civilization to advance.

Let us keep his work alive, so that earth’s future peoples will inherit the great spectrum of wisdom he has left them: from a hopeful common-sense theology, to the exposés of imperialist propaganda and false flag operations, to the full extent of the climate crisis, to our evolving perception of the nature of the divine, to the evidence that our spirits will survive after death.

David Griffin stands with the greats – yet was quiet, humorous, down to earth, and unassuming.

Elizabeth Woodworth, a career medical librarian and author/co-author of five books, worked with David Ray Griffin in various capacities from 2006-2022. She did proof-reading/editing on about 12 of his books and many of his essays, co-authored two books with him directly, and has also written in-depth reviews of most of his books from the 2006-2022 period on Amazon.

 

 Paul Whelan at the Moscow City Court in January 2019. He was arrested in Moscow in 2018 and convicted on espionage charges in 2020 (Photo by Yuri Kochetkov for EPA via Shutterstock and the New York Times).

Paul Whelan at the Moscow City Court in January 2019. He was arrested in Moscow in 2018 and convicted on espionage charges in 2020 (Photo by Yuri Kochetkov for EPA via Shutterstock and the New York Times).

ny times logoNew York Times, Concern is growing about the health of Paul Whelan, an American who is imprisoned in Russia, Michael Crowley, Dec. 2, 2022 (print ed.). His family and the Biden administration are worried about his transfer to a prison hospital.

The Biden administration is “deeply concerned” about Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned in Russia who has been transferred to a prison hospital, a White House spokesman said on Wednesday.

Mr. Whelan’s brother, David, said in emails to supporters this week that his brother was moved on Nov. 17 to a hospital in the prison where he is being held.

His family, who have not heard from him in a week, grew particularly alarmed when Mr. Whelan missed a scheduled call home on Thanksgiving Day and further still when he failed to call home on Wednesday, his father’s 85th birthday.

“Paul was not complaining of any health conditions that required hospitalization, so has there been an emergency?” David Whelan wrote. He added that his brother “appeared healthy and well” to U.S. Embassy staff who visited him in November.

John Kirby, a National Security Council spokesman, told reporters in a telephone briefing on Wednesday that the U.S. government had been trying unsuccessfully to get information on Mr. Whelan’s condition and his whereabouts.

“As we speak this morning, regrettably, we do not have an update specifically about where he is or what condition he’s in,” Mr. Kirby said. He added: “We are deeply concerned about the lack of information and the lack of contact from Paul, and we’re working on this really as hard as we can through diplomatic channels.”

Speaking on MSNBC during a visit to Bucharest, Romania, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said that U.S. officials had visited Mr. Whelan on Nov. 16 and spoken to him by phone at “roughly” the same time but had not had contact with him since. “We are working every day to make sure that we have contact with him, that we understand what the exact situation is,” Mr. Blinken said.

David Whelan said in an email on Wednesday: “It could be nothing but, in this case, you always have to consider worst case scenarios.”

Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who later worked as a corporate security executive, was arrested at a Moscow hotel in December 2018 and was convicted in June 2020 on espionage charges that the U.S. government says were manufactured.

 

U.S. Jobs, Economy

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. added 263,000 jobs in November, a strong showing amid tech slowdown, Abha Bhattarai, Dec. 2, 2022. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.7 percent . Despite high inflation, the slowing but still-growing labor market remains one of the sturdiest pillars in an otherwise confounding economy, according to the latest data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The U.S. labor market showed little sign of slowing in November, with employers adding 263,000 jobs, a surprisingly robust pace amid a slowdown in the tech industry.

The unemployment rate, meanwhile, remained unchanged from 3.7 percent a month earlier, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The still-strong labor market continues to be one of the sturdiest pillars of an otherwise confounding economy. Americans are spending heavily, though they are saving less than they have in 15 years. Manufacturing activity contracted in November for the first time in more than two years. And although inflation is slowing, to 7.7 percent, it is still well over the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent target.

“The job market continues to chug along despite various headwinds,” said Daniel Zhao, lead economist at Glassdoor. “We are getting some mixed signals from the report — that isn’t a surprise at a time when the economy is at a turning point — but stepping back, this still points to a job market that is more resilient than we expected."

The latest report reflects an incredibly resilient labor market, as the Federal Reserve aggressively raises interest rates in hopes of stifling demand enough to contain inflation. Policymakers are hoping to chip away at the number of new hires and job openings without setting off a rise in unemployment — and at least for now, economists say, that appears possible.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Powell admitted he was wrong on interest rates. We need more officials like that, Catherine Rampell, right, Dec. 2, 2022. Investors closely catherine rampellwatched Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell’s remarks this week for hints about the next interest rate hike. They got a few. But if you paid attention, you may have noticed something much more significant Powell said.

Powell, one of the most powerful policymakers in the world, casually mentioned that he had gotten something wrong. That, in my view, is praiseworthy.

 

Ukraine War

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Says He Is Willing to Talk to Putin About Ukraine, With Conditions, Roger Cohen and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Dec. 2, 2022 (print ed.). During a state visit by President Emmanuel Macron of France, President Biden said he would talk to President Vladimir Putin if he showed he would end the war.

Standing beside the French leader who has championed the need for dialogue with Moscow, President Biden said he would talk to President Vladimir V. Putin, but only in consultation with NATO allies and only if the Russian leader indicated he was “looking for a way to end the war.”

Mr. Biden’s public expression of conditioned willingness to reach out to Mr. Putin gratified French officials and provided unexpected support for President Emmanuel Macron’s outreach. Mr. Biden noted that Mr. Putin had shown no interest yet in ending his invasion, but said that if that changed, “I’ll be happy to sit down with Putin to see what he has in mind.”

Evidently determined to present a united front during a White House news conference that at times resembled a love fest, Mr. Macron said that France would increase its military support for Ukraine and “will never urge Ukrainians to make a compromise that will not be acceptable for them.”

In effect, the two leaders met each other halfway, with Mr. Biden showing more openness to a negotiated settlement and Mr. Macron more unequivocal support for the Ukrainian cause. If partially choreographed, the meeting of minds appeared to exceed expectations on both sides.

It was a significant show of trans-Atlantic unity on the eve of a winter that will put immense strain on the Ukrainian people, as well as pressure on Western economies, especially European states scrambling to find new sources of energy as prices rise sharply.

French officials said that during a three-hour closed meeting, Mr. Biden and Mr. Macron agreed that more Ukrainian battlefield gains would constitute important leverage in any talks with Moscow. In practice, the idea of negotiation seems far-fetched at a time when Mr. Putin has nothing he can call victory, and Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, has military momentum.

“I’m not going to do it on my own,” Mr. Biden said of the possibility of talking to Mr. Putin, whose actions in Ukraine he called “sick.”

Mr. Macron was effusive in his support of Ukraine and its right to recover its full sovereignty, and there was no hint of his earlier calls for the need to avoid “humiliating” Russia. “If we want sustainable peace, we have to respect the Ukrainians to decide the moment and the conditions in which they will negotiate about their territory and their future,” Mr. Macron said.

  • New York Times, President Biden and President Emmanuel Macron enjoy a bond built on a birthday wish, ice cream and 30 phone calls, Dec. 1, 2022.

washington post logoWashington Post, Western allies move to cap the price of Russian oil at $60 a barrel, Emily Rauhala, Catherine Belton, Karen DeYoung and Beatriz Ríos, Dec. 2, 2022. After months of lobbying by the United States and days of fraught negotiations, Ukraine’s allies are closer to implementing a plan to cap the price of Russian oil starting next week, but European ambassadors on Friday proposed a cap so close to current prices that it is not clear if it will hit the Kremlin’s war chest.

At meetings in Brussels, diplomats agreed to $60 per barrel as an upper limit, with regular reviews to make sure the ceiling stays at least 5 percent below average market prices for Russian oil. If the Group of Seven nations and Australia agree, the cap would be implemented starting Monday, the day the European Union’s embargo on Russian seaborne crude goes into force.

The idea of the cap, pitched hard by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, is to limit how much Russia can make on the oil it diverts elsewhere in the world without creating a massive disruption in global supply. Participating countries would ban the provision of maritime services — such as finance and insurance — for shippers transporting Russian oil that do not comply with the cap.

washington post logoWashington Post, Germany’s Scholz phones Putin after diplomatic overture by Biden and Macron, Robyn Dixon, Loveday Morris and Emily Rauhala, Dec. 2, 2022. Russian President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday that Moscow’s relentless airstrikes on Ukrainian civilian infrastructure were “forced and inevitable” because of Ukraine’s attacks on the Crimean Bridge and other Russian targets, and he blamed Western nations’ “destructive” policy of supporting Ukraine for prolonging the war, which Russia started.

The hour-long call, which was initiated by Berlin, was Putin’s first with a Group-of-Seven leader since Russia suffered a string of battlefield defeats, and since Moscow initiated the wave of attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure using missiles and self-detonating drones. Those attacks have cut off electricity, heat and water service in many parts of Ukraine, raising the risk of a humanitarian disaster this winter.

The call took place the day after President Biden, at a news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron in Washington, indicated his willingness to speak to Putin, provided the Russian leader was really interested in “looking for a way to end the war.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Friday ruled out giving up any of the territory that Russia illegally claims to have annexed.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine War Live Briefing: Germany’s Scholz speaks with Putin; Ukrainian embassies in Europe mailed bloody animal eyes; Up to 13,000 Ukrainian troops killed, aide says; Biden outlines conditions for Putin meeting, Andrew Jeong, Ben Brasch, Adela Suliman and Claire Parker, Dec. 2, 2022.

The Kremlin responded to President Biden’s comment that he would meet Russian President Vladimir Putin if Moscow was willing to end the invasion, saying that Russia would not give up the Ukrainian territory it has declared to be Russian land. “The special military operation is continuing,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Friday.

Peskov added that while Putin remains open to negotiations, the United States’ refusal to recognize territories annexed by Russia “complicates the search for the ground for mutual discussion.”

Putin told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in a phone call Friday that “Western states, including Germany” were to blame for Kyiv’s refusal to negotiate with Russia, charging that they are “pumping up the Kyiv regime with weapons and training the Ukrainian military,” according to a Kremlin readout of the call. At a meeting Thursday in Washington, Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron affirmed their support for Ukraine and rejected Russia’s illegal annexations of Ukrainian territory.

A half-dozen Ukrainian embassies across Europe, as well as several consulates, have received “bloody packages” containing animal eyes, in what Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said Friday was a “well-planned” campaign of intimidation and terror. Those packages, combined with a spate of letter bombs detected in Spain, have raised suspicion about links to Russia, while prompting Kyiv to ask for increased security at its overseas offices. One of the letter bombs injured a staffer at the Ukrainian Embassy in Madrid.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

1. Key developments

  • Scholz’s call with Putin was the first conversation between a European Union leader and the Russian president since Russia’s recent attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure and its string of battlefield defeats this fall. Putin called for Germany to “reconsider its approaches” to the conflict and defended Russian missile strikes on “certain targets” in Ukraine. Germany plans to send seven additional Gepard self-propelled antiaircraft guns to Ukraine, according to the government’s latest update on military aid.
  • Up to 13,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in the war so far, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told state television. “We have official figures from the General Staff, we have official figures from the top command, and they amount to [between] 10,000 and 12,500 to 13,000 killed,” Podolyak told Kanal 24. The figures could not be independently verified by The Washington Post.
  • Senior U.S. defense officials are considering a major expansion in military training for Ukraine. The move could involve thousands of Kyiv’s fighters training with the U.S. military in Grafenwöhr, Germany, where the United States has instructed smaller numbers of Ukrainian troops for years.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for “spiritual independence” in Ukraine as he lambasted churches with Russian links. He said in his nightly address he met with national security and defense officials regarding the “connections of certain religious circles in Ukraine with the aggressor state.” A draft law is also being prepared, he added, to make it “impossible for religious organizations affiliated with centers of influence in the Russian Federation to operate in Ukraine.”
  • The United States and France “deplore Russia’s deliberate escalatory steps,” Biden and Macron said in a joint statement following their meeting in Washington. The statement highlighted Russia’s “irresponsible nuclear rhetoric” and misinformation about weapons of mass destruction. The leaders committed to providing “significant resources” to support Ukraine through the winter and pledged to hold Russia accountable for atrocities and war crimes.

2. Global impact

  • Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden swore allegiance to Moscow and received his Russian passport, his lawyer told state media on Friday. Snowden, 39, is wanted by Washington on espionage charges for his role in disclosing the existence of the NSA’s collection of millions of Americans’ phone records. Snowden was granted asylum in Russia in 2013 and became a citizen in September. Under Russia’s constitution, he cannot be extradited to another country.
  • Finland’s prime minister says Europe “would be in trouble without the United States” in dealing with the Ukraine war. On a visit to Australia, Sanna Marin said she had to be “brutally honest” that “Europe isn’t strong enough right now,” Agence France-Presse reported. She called for the development of European defense industry. “We should have listened to our Baltic and Polish friends much sooner,” she said. Finland, which shares a large land border with Russia, is in the midst of trying to join the NATO alliance.
  • European Council President Charles Michel urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to use Beijing’s influence over Russia to work for peace. Michel also told reporters that the leaders had agreed during a meeting that the use of nuclear weapons was not acceptable. Xi expressed support for preventing escalation or expansion of the war, Chinese state media reported.
  • The Disney Channel will stop broadcasting in Russia after Dec. 14, Russian newspaper Kommersant reported Friday. It will be replaced by a new channel for children called “Sun,” according to Kommersant. The Walt Disney Company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia and Ukraine are fighting the first full-scale drone war, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Mary Ilyushina and Kostiantyn Khudov, Dec. 2, 2022. The fight set off by a land grab befitting an 18th-century emperor has transformed into a digital-age competition for technological superiority in the skies.

A war that began with Russian tanks rolling across Ukraine’s borders, World War I-style trenches carved into the earth and Soviet-made artillery pounding the landscape now has a more modern dimension: soldiers observing the battlefield on a small satellite-linked monitor while their palm-size drone hovers out of sight.

With hundreds of reconnaissance and attack drones flying over Ukraine each day, the fight set off by a land grab befitting an 18th-century emperor has transformed into a digital-age competition for technological superiority in the skies — one military annals will mark as a turning point.

In past conflicts, drones were typically used by one side over largely uncontested airspace to locate and hit targets — for example, in U.S. operations in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

In the battle between Russia and Ukraine, drones are integrated into every phase of fighting, with extensive fleets, air defenses and jamming systems on each side. It is a war fought at a distance — the enemy is often miles away — and nothing bridges the gap more than drones, giving Russia and Ukraine the ability to see, and attack, each other without ever getting close.

Ukrainian forces have also used drones to strike targets far from the fighting — in Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014, and in Russia’s Belgorod border region, according to multiple Ukrainian officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters but declined to say what type of drones were used. Russia has repeatedly struck Ukraine’s critical civilian infrastructure with self-detonating drones — a cheap substitute for high-precision missiles.

Drones have become so critical to ba