Feb. 2022 News, Views

 

 

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

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

 

 

Feb. 28

Top Headlines

 

Nuclear Threat

 

New U.N. Climate Change Warning

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime, Race

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

More Ukraine Coverage

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: After a Fumbled Start, Russian Forces Hit Harder in Ukraine, Steven Erlanger, Feb. 28, 2022. After days of miscalculation about Ukraine’s resolve to fight, Russian forces are turning toward an old pattern of opening fire on cities and mounting sieges. Russia appeared to miscalculate Ukraine’s resolve to fight. But the war was already changing quickly on Monday.

When Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine with nearly 200,000 troops, many observers — and seemingly President Vladimir V. Putin himself — expected that they would roll right in and the fighting would be over quickly. Instead, after five days of war, what appears to be unfolding is a Russian miscalculation about their own tactics and about how hard the Ukrainians would fight.

ukraine flagNo major cities have been taken after an initial Russian push toward Kyiv, the capital, stalled. While Russia appeared to pull its punches, Ukraine marshaled and armed civilians to cover more ground, and its military has attacked Russian convoys and supply lines, leaving video evidence of scorched Russian vehicles and dead soldiers.

But the war was already changing quickly on Monday, and ultimately, it is likely to turn on just how far Russia is willing to go to subjugate Ukraine. The Russian track record in the Syrian civil war, and in its own ruthless efforts to crush separatism in the Russian region of Chechnya, suggest an increasingly brutal campaign ahead.

 

ukraine russian convoy north kyiv maxar technologies

A huge convoy of Russian armour, about 40 miles long, is advancing on Ukraine's capital Kyiv, satellite images show. Satellite imagery company Maxar Technology says that earlier reports indicating the column of Russian armour advancing on Kyiv is 17 miles (27km) long are inaccurate.

BBC, Daily Summary: Dozens of civilians were killed earlier on Monday in Russian missile strikes on Ukraine's second city, Kharkiv, the interior ministry says, Staff Reports, Feb. 28, 2022. Air raid sirens are once again heard in Kyiv with reports of a Russian strike on the outskirts of the city.

Negotiators for Kyiv and Moscow have held talks in Belarus in a bid to end the conflict. Russia says both sides have agreed to continue talking and will meet again "in the next few days." Before the meeting, Ukraine's President Zelensky urged Russian troops to lay down their weapons and called for immediate EU membership. Fifa and Uefa have suspended Russian football clubs and national teams from all competitions. The UN says more than half a million refugees have now fled Ukraine for neighbouring countries.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Talks begin on Belarus border as casualties in Russia’s invasion mount, Steve Hendrix, Robyn Dixon, Rachel Pannett, Bryan Pietsch, Annabelle Timsit and Jennifer Hassan, Feb. 28, 2022. More than 500,000 have fled Ukraine, which is demanding ‘immediate ceasefire.’

Russian and Ukrainian delegations began talks Monday for the first time as Russia’s multi-front assault on the country entered its fifth day, as casualties in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine mounted and tensions between Moscow and NATO escalated dangerously. They met near the border with Belarus as the U.S. and Western countries sought to tighten their financial stranglehold on Russia’s banking system and the continuing stream of refugees pouring into neighboring countries rose to more than half a million, according to a United Nations agency.

volodmyer zelinsky graphicUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, left, dispatched a delegation that included Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov and other key officials, including a close adviser to the president and the deputy foreign minister. But the sides seemed far apart: the Ukrainians would demand an immediate cease fire and the withdrawal of Russian troops, according to Zelenky’s office. The Kremlin had said it was willing to talk — on the condition that Ukraine “demilitarize and denazify,” making it clear it expected Ukraine’s capitulation.

Belarus is preparing to send soldiers into Ukraine in support of the Russian invasion as soon as Monday, a U.S. official said, in a move that increases tensions. “It’s very clear Minsk is now an extension of the Kremlin,” said the U.S. administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive security development.

Russian forces pushed into Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, but it remains under Ukrainian control. According to the Pentagon, Russia is facing more resistance in the capital, Kyiv, than it was expecting. Russian forces remained about 19 miles to the north of Kyiv, according to the British government, and some shops and transport services were operating Monday, giving residents a chance to stock up after a 36-hour curfew. Russian troops have moved into Ukraine from the north, south and east.

  • As Ukrainian officials ask foreigners to join their fight, some governments appear to be on board
  • Former college basketball standout blames his Ukrainian pro team for stranding him
  • Israel to support U.N. General Assembly resolution condemning Russia

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Ukraine and Russia Meet as Kyiv Remains in Cross Hairs; U.S. Escalates Sanctions as Russia’s Economy Staggers, Staff Reports, Feb. 28, 2022. The Treasury Department announced a freeze on Russian Central Bank assets. Delegations from Kyiv and Moscow were meeting for talks in Belarus, even as Ukraine said dozens were killed in a Russian rocket attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city.

  • New York Times, See where the fighting is taking place across Ukraine.
  • New York Times, Delegations from Kyiv and Moscow were meeting in Belarus, but President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said he feared the talks would not result in peace.
  • New York Times, President Vladimir Putin of Russia showed little interest in de-escalation.
  • New York Times, Ukrainian officials accused Russian forces of launching rockets on a residential neighborhood in Kharkiv, killing dozens of civilians.
  • New York Times, Russia’s bombardment of Kharkiv, Ukraine, followed attempts by Russian forces on Sunday to enter the city.

ny times logoNew York Times, The West’s Plan to Isolate Putin: Undermine the Currency, Patricia Cohen and Jeanna Smialek, Feb. 28, 2022. Measures announced over the weekend aimed at restricting the Russian central bank’s ability to support the ruble appear to be having an immediate impact.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ruble Crashes and Russian Stock Market Closes, Anton Troianovski, Feb. 28, 2022. The hectic moves were the first signs that Western sanctions were shaking the foundations of Russia’s economy. The ruble cratered, the stock market froze and the public rushed to withdraw cash on Monday as Western sanctions kicked in and Russia awoke to uncertainty and fear over the rapidly spreading repercussions of President Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

As the day began, Russia’s currency lost as much as a quarter of its value within hours. Scrambling to stem the decline, the Russian Central Bank more than doubled its key interest rate, banned foreigners from selling Russian securities and ordered exporters to convert into rubles most of their foreign-currency revenues. It closed the Moscow stock exchange for the day because of the “developing situation.”

Russian President Vladimir V. Putin chairing a meeting with members of Russia’s Security Council in Moscow, on Monday, Feb. 22, 2022 (Pool photo by Alexei Nikolsky).“The economic reality has, of course, changed,” the Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, told reporters, announcing that Mr. Putin, right, had called an emergency meeting with his top finance officials.

Even as Russian and Ukrainian delegations met for talks at the Belarus border, Moscow’s military offensive showed no sign of letting up, and the hectic moves offered the first signs that the sanctions imposed on Russia by the West over the weekend were shaking the foundations of Russia’s economy. The decisions by the United States, Britain and the European Union restricting the Russian Central Bank’s access to much of its $643 billion in foreign currency reserves have undone much of the Kremlin’s careful efforts to soften the impact of potential sanctions.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S., European allies freeze ‘Putin’s war chest’ as Russia careens toward economic crisis, Jeff Stein, Feb. 28, 2022. The U.S. Treasury Department on Monday morning released details of its new economic restrictions against Moscow. The U.S. government and its European allies put into effect on Monday sweeping new penalties aimed at crippling Russia’s economy, as the west escalates its financial war against the Kremlin over the invasion of Ukraine.

Russia’s economy was already showing signs of severe distress before the new measures were implemented, with crowds of Russians rushing to withdraw cash from ATMs and the value of the nation’s currency plunging dramatically.

european union logo rectangleOvernight, European leaders imposed new measures that effectively cut Russia off from its financial reserves. The U.S. Treasury Department followed suit with similar steps on Monday morning. Under the new regime, all people in the United States and European Union are banned from trading with Russia’s central bank. The sanctions also apply to Russia’s finance ministry and its sovereign wealth fund, to prevent the Kremlin from using loopholes to continue to access the reserves.

The restrictions amount to choking off Russia from the international financial system, depriving the country of assets that are likely necessary to stabilize its economy. Such a step has never been taken before against a country with nuclear weapons or one with as powerful a military as Russia, according to sanctions experts.

Treasury also announced sanctions Monday morning on entities tied to Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, including its management company and one of the sovereign wealth fund’s subsidiaries. It also sanctioned the leader of that management company.

“The unprecedented action we are taking today will significantly limit Russia’s ability to use assets to finance its destabilizing activities, and target the funds [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and his inner circle depend on to enable his invasion of Ukraine,” Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said in a statement. “Today, in coordination with partners and allies, we are following through on key commitments to restrict Russia’s access to these valuable resources.”

  • Washington Post, Historic sanctions had roots in emotional appeal from Zelensky
  • Washington Post, Russia’s central bank doubles key interest rate

ny times logoNew York Times, Germany will strengthen its military and help arm Ukrainians in its latest foreign policy about-face, Melissa Eddy, Updated Feb. 28, 2022. Germany agrees to strengthen its military in the latest foreign policy about-face, amid pressure from allies and horror at Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

It took an invasion of a sovereign country nearby, threats of nuclear attack, images of civilians facing off against Russian tanks and a spate of shaming from allies for Germany to shake its decades-long faith in a military-averse foreign policy that was born of the crimes of the Third Reich.

But once Chancellor Olaf Scholz decided to act, the country’s about-face was swift.

“Feb. 24, 2022, marks a historic turning point in the history of our continent,” Mr. Scholz said in an address to a special session of Parliament on Sunday, citing the date when President Vladimir V. Putin ordered Russian forces to launch an unprovoked attack on Ukraine.

He announced that Germany would increase its military spending to more than 2 percent of the country’s economic output, beginning immediately with a one-off 100 billion euros, or $113 billion, to invest in the country’s woefully underequipped armed forces. He added that Germany would speed up construction of two terminals for receiving liquefied natural gas, or LNG, part of efforts to ease the country’s reliance on Russian energy.

“At the heart of the matter is the question of whether power can break the law,” Mr. Scholz said. “Whether we allow Putin to turn back the hands of time to the days of the great powers of the 19th century. Or whether we find it within ourselves to set limits on a warmonger like Putin.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Ukraine and Russia Meet as Kyiv Remains in Cross Hairs; U.S. Escalates Sanctions as Russia’s Economy Staggers, Staff Reports, Feb. 28, 2022. The Treasury Department announced a freeze on Russian Central Bank assets. Delegations from Kyiv and Moscow were meeting for talks in Belarus, even as Ukraine said dozens were killed in a Russian rocket attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city.

About half a million refugees have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began last week, according to the United Nations refugee agency. About half of them crossed Ukraine’s western border to Poland. Others have gone to Hungary, Moldova, Romania and Slovakia. Ukraine enacted martial law at the beginning of the conflict that requires men ages 18 to 60 to remain in the country.

ukraine flagFor many refugees, these bordering countries could be a first stop of their journey. Romanian authorities said about half of those who had entered the country so far had already left for other European countries, as reported by Reuters.

According to the refugee agency, an additional 129,000 people have reportedly migrated to Russia from Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region since Feb. 18, when Russian-backed separatists there called for residents to evacuate to Russia as tensions escalated.

The refugee crisis is the most intense week of human flight within Europe’s borders since at least the Balkan wars of the 1990s. But in contrast to previous crises in Europe over the past decade, these refugees are being welcomed.

There are also reports of people who are unable to leave Ukraine. About 15,000 Indian citizens remained stranded at the start of the conflict, India’s foreign secretary told reporters late Sunday. The Indian government has managed to evacuate about 2,000 of them through border crossings with Ukraine’s neighboring countries.

ny times logoNew York Times, See where the fighting is taking place across Ukraine, Agnes Chang, Marco Hernandez, Denise Lu and Scott Reinhard, Feb. 28, 2022. About half a million refugees have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began last week, according to the United Nations refugee agency. About half of them crossed Ukraine’s western border to Poland. Others have gone to Hungary, Moldova, Romania and Slovakia. Ukraine enacted martial law at the beginning of the conflict that requires men ages 18 to 60 to remain in the country.

For many refugees, these bordering countries could be a first stop of their journey. Romanian authorities said about half of those who had entered the country so far had already left for other European countries, as reported by Reuters.

According to the refugee agency, an additional 129,000 people have reportedly migrated to Russia from Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region since Feb. 18, when Russian-backed separatists there called for residents to evacuate to Russia as tensions escalated.

The refugee crisis is the most intense week of human flight within Europe’s borders since at least the Balkan wars of the 1990s. But in contrast to previous crises in Europe over the past decade, these refugees are being welcomed.

There are also reports of people who are unable to leave Ukraine. About 15,000 Indian citizens remained stranded at the start of the conflict, India’s foreign secretary told reporters late Sunday. The Indian government has managed to evacuate about 2,000 of them through border crossings with Ukraine’s neighboring countries.

Thousands of citizens of African countries, many of them medical and science students at Ukrainian universities, are also trapped in several Ukrainian cities. Somalia’s foreign minister said that his office had contacted countries such as Poland in an effort to provide legal entry to about 300 Somalis.

The United Nations says it is preparing for up to four million refugees from Ukraine in the coming days and weeks.

washington post logoWashington Post, The U.S. has been rushing to arm Ukraine, but for years it stalled on providing weapons, Karen DeYoung, Feb. 28, 2022 (print ed.). The current rush by the West to send weapons to Ukraine is in stark contrast to years of hesitancy that often had as much to do with domestic U.S. and allied politics, and concerns about their own relations with Moscow, than with an assessment of the Russian threat to Ukraine.

Russia’s launch last week of a full-scale invasion, with land, air and sea attacks on Ukrainian cities and military installations, has been met with what U.S. officials have described as a surprisingly robust defense. Officials in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, claim they have destroyed hundreds of Russian vehicles, including an entire column of T-72 tanks in the northeast Ukrainian town of Glukhov, near the Russian border.

Ukraine has pleaded for more help, including additional Javelin antitank weapons, and Stinger antiaircraft missiles. The Kremlin has gone “beyond all bounds and crossed all the red lines,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov beseeched Congress last week on YouTube. “It is not going to stop if we will not stop it.”

President Biden has authorized nearly $1 billion in military assistance over the past year for Ukraine, including $350 million in weapons such as antitank german flagand antiaircraft missiles last week, and $200 million in drawdowns from U.S. arms stocks approved in December. The new package includes more Javelins, although Stingers are likely to wait until a further tranche, defense officials said.

Germany, in a major break from its post-World War II aversion to involvement in overseas military entanglements, said Saturday that it would send 1,000 antitank weapons and 500 Stinger missiles to Ukraine and released other countries from export restrictions on German-manufactured weapons. That release allowed the Netherlands to pledge German-made antitank and air defense rockets.

 

Nuclear Threat

washington post logoWashington Post, Overview: Putin puts nuclear forces on alert as Ukrainian civilian deaths mount, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Drew Harwell, Robyn Dixon and Miriam Berger, Feb. 28, 2022 (print ed.). Though Ukraine has agreed to diplomatic talks and soldiers fought off invaders in its biggest cities, fears of a refugee and humanitarian crisis have grown. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian soldiers “are fighting against everything alive.”

washington post logoWashington Post, With Russian nuclear forces on alert, crisis enters a more dangerous phase, Missy Ryan, Karoun Demirjian, John Hudson and Shane Harris, Feb. 28, 2022 (print ed.). President Vladimir Putin’s decision to put Russian nuclear forces on alert thrust the crisis over Ukraine into a more volatile phase on Sunday, fueling the potential for deadly miscalculation as the West’s campaign of economic reprisal increases the chances the Russian leader could see his survival and that of the Russian state at risk.

U.S. officials were scrambling in the hours following Putin’s order, issued as Russian troops face stiff resistance in the fourth day of their invasion of Ukraine, to decode what the enigmatic leader’s decision meant in practice. Experts said it was the first time the Kremlin, which has the world’s biggest nuclear stockpile, had made such an announcement since the Russian Federation was established in 1991.

Putin described the move as a response to what he called “aggressive statements” from the West and its escalating package of economic retaliation. The sanctions, including new steps unveiled Saturday that would cut off Russia’s financial institutions from the global economy and cripple its central bank, have already sent the ruble tumbling to a record low, raising questions about how Russia’s economy can hold on.

ny times logoNew York Times, When President Vladimir Putin declared a nuclear alert, President Biden sought a different path, David E. Sanger and William J. Broad, Feb. 28, 2022 (print ed.). When the Russian leader ordered his nuclear forces into “special combat readiness,” the U.S. could have gone on high alert. Instead, the administration tried not to inflame him.

They could match the move and put American forces on Defcon 3 — known to moviegoers as that moment when the Air Force rolls out bombers, and nuclear silos and submarines are put on high alert. Or the president could largely ignore it, sending out aides to portray Mr. Putin as once again manufacturing a menace, threatening Armageddon for a war he started without provocation.

For now, at least, Mr. Biden chose to de-escalate. The American ambassador to the United Nations reminded the Security Council on Sunday afternoon that Russia was “under no threat” and chided Mr. Putin for “another escalatory and unnecessary step that threatens us all.” The White House made it clear that America’s own alert status had not changed.

But to many in the administration, who spoke on Sunday on the condition of anonymity, it was a stark reminder of how quickly the Ukraine crisis could spin into a direct superpower confrontation — and how it may yet do so, as Mr. Putin tests how far he can go and threatens to use the ultimate weapon to get there.

Recent Top Ukraine Headlines

 

New Climate Change Warning

 

climate change photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Humanity has a ‘rapidly closing window’ to avoid a deadly future, U.N. climate report says, Sarah Kaplan and Brady Dennis, Feb. 28, 2022. In the hotter and more hellish world humans are creating, parts of the planet could become unbearable in the not-so-distant future, a panel of the world’s foremost scientists warned Monday in an exhaustive report on the escalating toll of climate change.
10 steps you can take to lower your carbon footprint

Unchecked greenhouse gas emissions will raise sea levels several feet, swallowing small island nations and overwhelming even the world’s wealthiest coastal regions. Drought, heat, hunger and disaster may force millions of people from their homes. Coral reefs could vanish, along with a growing number of animal species. Disease-carrying insects would proliferate. Deaths — from malnutrition, extreme heat, pollution — will surge.

These are some of the grim projections detailed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body dedicated to providing policymakers with regular assessments of the warming world.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Here are five takeaways from the U.N. report on climate hazards, Raymond Zhong, Feb. 28, 2022. Global warming is affecting every part of the planet. Humans should have started preparing yesterday.A body of experts convened by the United Nations has put out its most comprehensive look to date at how climate change is affecting our homes, health, livelihoods and infrastructure, as well as the natural systems upon which they all depend.

United NationsThe picture is not a cheery one. The report, which was approved by 195 governments, shows how widespread and severe the impacts of human-caused global warming are becoming worldwide — and how hard it will be for societies and ecosystems to manage if nations do not bring greenhouse gas emissions down sharply.

“Any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action,” the report says, “will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all.”

Here are five main findings: Climate hazards have worsened significantly in the past decade.

This group of experts, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, put out its last big survey of the impacts of climate change in 2014. (It put out a separate report last year on the physical drivers of climate change.) Back in 2014, its report said there was “limited evidence” that nations needed more money to cope with the dangers than was being allocated. Global warming was having a “relatively small” effect on human health, the panel’s report said, compared with other stressors.

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Considers Limiting E.P.A.’s Ability to Address Climate Change, Feb. 28, 2022. Members of the court’s conservative majority voiced skepticism that Congress had given the agency vast power to set national economic policy.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

joe biden black background resized serious file

ny times logoNew York Times, 10 Consequential Days: How Biden Navigated War, Covid and the Supreme Court, Michael D. Shear, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Katie Rogers, Feb. 28, 2022 (print ed.). The past week’s events have sidelined congressional squabbling over President Biden’s domestic agenda, and are already redefining the arc of his presidency.

Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff, gave a pep talk early on Feb. 18 at the daily gathering of the president’s most senior aides: The next 10 days, he said, will be the most consequential of the Biden presidency.

President Biden’s military and intelligence chiefs had told him that a Russian invasion was all but inevitable. Mr. Klain, a veteran of Washington and one of Mr. Biden’s closest advisers, also reminded them of what they already knew: A coming land war in Europe was about to collide with some of the most critical moments of Mr. Biden’s time in office.

The president had completed his review of candidates for the Supreme Court and was determined to make the announcement by week’s end. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was about to unveil guidelines that would herald a new phase of the pandemic that had dogged him during the first year of his presidency. And Mr. Biden needed to start practicing for his first State of the Union speech, just 11 days away.

All presidents are confronted by episodes that are out of their control, forced to react to the world around them more often than they are able to shape it. But the dizzying events of the past week have for now pushed to the sidelines the congressional squabbling over Mr. Biden’s domestic agenda, and are already redefining the arc of his presidency.

This account is based on interviews with a dozen current and former administration officials, most of whom agreed to describe internal deliberations on the condition of anonymity.

Mr. Biden’s aides say his actions in recent days were an example of the caution and consensus-building that have always been at the heart of his sales pitch to voters. In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Mr. Biden is expected to focus on inflation and the still-recovering economy, a primary concern to the public.

But drafts of the speech have been revised repeatedly throughout the week to take account of Mr. Biden’s challenge to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and the sweep of events in Europe, all with an eye firmly fixed on Mr. Biden’s place in history.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Romney is right: MAGA Republicans are ‘almost treasonous,’ Jennifer Rubin, Feb. 28, 2022. Donald Trump spent four years jennifer rubin new headshot(plus a year campaigning) cozying up to and helping further the geopolitical aims of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

If Putin had handpicked an agent to be president of the United States, he could hardly have expected better results; Trump certainly exceeded any expectations Putin might have had with his disparaging NATO, extorting Ukraine by withholding military aid, leaving Russia’s election-meddling unpunished, inviting Putin back into the Group of Seven and attacking our own intelligence community. To this day, the defeated former president continues to praise Putin (“smart”), and continues to denigrate the United States (“dumb”) and our allies.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), ridiculed as a presidential candidate in 2012 for identifying Russia as our primary international foe (he was premature but prescient), on Sunday called out Putin’s admirers in his own party as “almost treasonous”:

Romney hit on an uncomfortable truth: The GOP’s Putin apologists include also the loudest and most odious Trump supporters.

The divisions within the GOP are stark and becoming unsustainable. In the first group are a tiny handful of Republicans who opposed Trump, supported his impeachment (at least the second one), condemned his assaults on the NATO alliance and denounced his Putin-worship. Other than Romney, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) has remained a consistent defender of democracy and opponent of Trump and Putin — and Cheney has been merciless when it comes to their apologists. (“As Russian forces invade Ukraine, Russian TV features Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo and Tucker Carlson praising Putin,” she tweeted on Friday. “Putin is evil. Every American watching what’s happening in Ukraine should know that.”)

On Sunday, she declared on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that we have seen “impressive progress” with sanctions on Russia and praised the unity of the alliance, while making constructive suggestions for further steps (e.g., freezing out the Russian central bank and sanctioning oligarchs’ families).

It is noteworthy that Romney and Cheney avoid any anti-Biden gibberish, a cheap way for Republicans to appear pro-Trump and pro-MAGA by implication but at the risk of once more undercutting democracies and weakening a united front against Putin.

Palmer Report, Opinion: We’re watching Joe Biden’s finest hour, Bill Palmer, right, Feb. 28, 2022. President Biden has been three steps ahead of Putin, and one bill palmerstep ahead of the world, the entire time. Biden was the one who acted on solid U.S. intel that Putin was moving to invade. Biden was the one who made the decision to begin publicly announcing that intel in real time, flustering Putin out of the gate.

bill palmer report logo headerBiden is the reason all of these worldwide sanctions, frozen assets, disconnected banking systems, and consequences against Russia have come together behind the scenes. Ukrainian President Zelensky has been very publicly pushing various European nations to get on board with freezing out Putin, and he deserves all the credit you can heap on him. But you can bet your bottom ruble that the reason Zelensky has been able to push all these other nations into getting on board is that they’ve been privately hearing the same message from the President of the United States.

It’s as tough as ever to try to figure out precisely how this Russia crisis is going to play out. But we know this much: Russia is losing, and Ukraine is heroically hanging in there. Zelensky deserves every award you can possibly give him. But save a Nobel prize for Biden as well. The two of them might just end up single handedly saving the world and taking down Putin. We’re watching Joe Biden’s finest hour.

  • New York Times, Competitive districts are disappearing as lopsided new voting maps deepen America’s political divide, Feb. 28, 2022.

 

Law, Courts, Crime, Race

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr calls prospect of Trump running for president again ‘dismaying,’ says GOP should ‘look forward’ to others, Matt Zapotosky and Josh Dawsey, Feb. 28, 2022 (print ed.). Former attorney general William P. Barr says in a new book that the prospect of Donald Trump running for president again is “dismaying” and urges the Republican Party to “look forward” to other candidates, concluding after a searing, behind-the-scenes account of his time in the president’s Cabinet that Trump is not the right man to lead the country.

In the book, One Damn Thing After Another, Barr takes shot after shot at Trump, especially over his leadership during the coronavirus pandemic and his false claims that the election was stolen from him. Barr, who had a famous falling-out with Trump late in his presidency, writes that Trump’s “constant bellicosity diminishes him and the office,” and that in the final months of the administration, he came to realize that “Trump cared only about one thing: himself. Country and principle took second place.”

“We need leaders not only capable of fighting and ‘punching,’ but also persuading and attracting — leaders who can frame, and advocate for, an uplifting vision of what it means to share in American citizenship,” Barr writes. “Donald Trump has shown he has neither the temperament nor persuasive powers to provide the kind of positive leadership that is needed.”

Barr styles the book, to be published March 8, as a memoir of his life. He recounts events as far back as his childhood on the Upper West Side of New York City. He launches blistering attacks on liberals and the news media — whom he views even more dimly than the former president — while outlining his conservative views on crime, religion, gender and sexuality. He also defends his handling of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report, and details how the Justice Department navigated allegations that Trump had committed a crime in pressuring Ukraine’s president to investigate Joe Biden.

Most notably, he unloads on Trump, casting him as an “incorrigible” narcissist who, “through his self-indulgence and lack of self-control,” blew the 2020 election and then did “a disservice to the nation” in falsely claiming his defeat was due to fraud.

“The election was not ‘stolen,’” Barr writes. “Trump lost it.”

Other Headlines:

  • New York Times, Retail Theft Rises, and N.Y.C. Small Business Owners Are Paying the Price, In New York City, neighborhood stores are struggling to confront the crimes that have stemmed from the disruptions of the pandemic.
  • New York Times, First Jan. 6 Trial to Open, Allowing Prosecutors to Set Out Broad Case.

 

Virus Updates, Reactions

ny times logoNew York Times The mask mandate in the Capitol is being lifted in time for President Biden’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, Jonathan Weisman, Feb. 28, 2022. The House of Representatives is lifting the House floor mask mandate in time for President Biden’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, ending a requirement that had allowed some Republicans to express their defiance, but at a personal cost.

Congress’s attending physician, Brian P. Monahan, delivered the news on Sunday, saying coronavirus cases had dropped so much in Washington that mask wearing should become optional, not mandatory.

“People with symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with Covid-19 should wear a properly fitted, high-quality filtration mask,” Dr. Monahan said, but even that was advisory.

It was yet another mask mandate being lifted, as others are being eliminated in states and cities across the country.

For months now, compliance with the mandate in the Capitol complex has been spotty and partisan. But on the House floor, the House sergeant-at-arms has diligently enforced the mask mandate and reported scofflaws to the House Ethics Committee. It has levied fine after fine, especially on Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Andrew S. Clyde, both Republicans of Georgia, who racked up more than $100,000 combined in fines while declaring the mandate authoritarian.

Compliance on the Senate side of the Capitol was far looser, with no real consequences to ignoring the mandate. The date for the president’s State of the Union address is later this year than is traditional — it will be the first to be delivered in March. And, unlike last year’s event, it will be open to all members of Congress, who will be required to produce a negative coronavirus test before entering the chamber for the president’s annual message.

Last year, the president spoke to a socially distanced audience of fewer than 200 officials, a small fraction of the packed crowd of lawmakers that is typically present for the speech. Those who were allowed to attend were instructed to wear masks, and they sat with several empty seats separating them from other audience members.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: New York City is dropping school mask mandates and indoor vaccination rules, Staff Reports, Feb. 28, 2022. The restrictions will end on March 7 if case numbers remain low. In Hong Kong, the worst outbreak of the pandemic is overloading hospitals.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • New York City says it will end the school mask mandate and indoor vaccination requirements.
  • Hong Kong hospitals can’t keep up with the deaths amid an Omicron surge.
  • Kyrie Irving still won’t be able to play in Brooklyn if the mayor lifts some Covid restrictions next week.
  • The mask mandate in the Capitol is being lifted in time for the State of the Union.
  • South Korea tries to free up workers to battle a surge in cases.

ny times logoNew York Times, Pfizer Shot Is Far Less Effective in 5- to 11-Year-Olds, New Data Show, Feb. 28, 2022. While protection against hospitalization is still strong, the vaccine offered almost no protection against infection, even just a month after full vaccination.

ny times logoNew York Times, Three West Coast States to Lift School Mask Mandates, Feb. 28, 2022. California, Oregon and Washington will stop requiring masks in schools after March 11, the governors of the three states said. Here’s the latest.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Feb. 28, 2022), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 436,326,318, Deaths: 5,970,066
U.S. Cases:     80,567,757, Deaths:    973,119
Indian Cases:   42,924,130, Deaths:    513,843
Brazil Cases:   28,768,104, Deaths:    649,195

Related Recent Headlines:

 

More Ukraine Coverage

 

Ukrainian service members pass by a downed aircraft on Feb. 25, 2022 (Photo by Oleksandr Ratushniak via the Associated Press).

 Ukrainian service members pass by a downed aircraft on Feb. 25, 2022 (Photo by Oleksandr Ratushniak via the Associated Press).

Guardian, EU to ban Russian state-backed channels RT and Sputnik, Patrick Wintour, Jennifer Rankin and Kate Connolly, Feb. 28, 2022 (print ed.). The EU has announced it will ban the Russian state-backed channels RT and Sputnik in an unprecedented move against the Kremlin media machine.

The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “Russia Today and Sputnik, as well as their subsidiaries, will no longer be able to spread their lies to justify Putin’s war and to sow division in our union. So we are developing tools to ban their toxic and harmful disinformation in Europe.”european union logo rectangle

The move, which was not trailed or widely discussed, came as part of a package of tougher sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s government and the regime of the Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko, which Von der Leyen described as “complicit in this vicious attack against Ukraine”.

European foreign policy taboos have been smashed in just a few days. European foreign policy taboos have been smashed in just a few days, after Russia invaded its neighbour, provoking fears of the biggest war in Europe since 1945.

rt logoFor the first time in its history, the EU will finance the purchase and delivery of weapons to a country under attack, Von der Leyen said. EU foreign ministers are expected to approve the use of funds from the European Peace Facility to finance lethal and non-lethal aid to Ukraine at a meeting on Sunday evening. While a handful of countries may hold back, because of policies against sending weapons into a conflict zone, the plan is expected to pass.

Ministers are also set to agree to ban Russian airlines from EU skies, after more than a dozen countries took the decision unilaterally. “Our airspace will be closed to every Russian plane – and that includes the private jets of oligarchs,” Von der Leyen said.

Reuters, Monaco clamps down on Russian assets after Ukraine invasion, Staff Report, Feb. 28, 2022. Monaco, a tax haven often favoured by the super-wealthy, will proceed with freezing assets and imposing sanctions on certain Russians following President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, the Monaco Royal Palace said on Monday.

Prince Albert of Monaco supported all efforts aimed at halting the fighting in Ukraine and encouraging the withdrawal of Russian armed forces from Ukrainian territory, the palace said.

"The Principality has adopted and implemented, without delay, procedures for freezing funds and economic sanctions identical to those taken by most European States," the palace said in a statement.

Foreigners, including rich Russians, have for years been attracted to Monaco, a tiny Mediterranean principality, by its warm climate and generous tax rules. During the summer months, Monaco's marina and bay are filled with the superyachts of international billionaires, celebrities and oligarchs. The Monaco Royal Palace did not say whose assets would be frozen.

washington post logoWashington Post, Western businesses’ flight from Russia continues with Shell, GM and others ending or suspending dealings, Jeanne Whalen, Feb. 28, 2022. Companies cut ties to comply with sanctions or to express outrage over Russia’s Ukraine invasion. 

Russia’s business rupture with the West grew wider Monday as Shell, General Motors and others announced plans to end or freeze their dealings with the nation after its invasion of Ukraine.

The string of exits — planned or immediate, permanent or temporary — began to erase decades of business ties, with no clear reconciliation in sight.

Many of the announcements sprang from Western companies attempting to comply with U.S. and European sanctions on Russia, which have banned a range of trade in recent days. Other companies attributed their moves to disgust over the Kremlin’s attack on a sovereign neighbor.

Some of the relationships have survived big ups and downs over the past 30 years or more, but they “just broke in the last week,” said Nick Tsafos, an expert on energy and geopolitics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank. “Companies are basically saying, ‘We don’t want to be part of this.’”

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook and TikTok ban Russian state media in Europe, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Cat Zakrzewski, Facebook also took down a Russian disinformation campaign targeting Ukraine. Facebook and TikTok said Monday that the companies would shut down access to Kremlin-controlled media sites RT and Sputnik in Europe, setting the stage for retaliation from Russia.

facebook logoIn blocking Russian state media in the region, the companies are complying with requests from the European Union and individual governments there to punish the media outlets for sharing misinformation and propaganda about Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine.

Facebook’s announcement came in a tweet from its president for global affairs, Nick Clegg. TikTok confirmed its decision to The Washington Post late Monday.

Clegg’s announcement came after Facebook disclosed late Sunday that it had disrupted a Russian disinformation operation targeting Ukraine, one of the first official confirmations of such a campaign since the invasion of Ukraine last week. In addition, it said it blocked efforts by a hacking group that in recent days attempted to compromise the accounts of prominent Ukrainians.

Ukraine Battlefields

 

World Impacts, Reactions To Russian Invasion

 

U.S. Reactions To Ukraine Crisis

 

Probes Of Trump, Allies

 

djt looking up

ny times logoNew York Times, House Panel Widens Investigation of Trump’s Handling of Documents, Luke Broadwater, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). The Oversight Committee is demanding more information about classified material that former President Trump took with him when he left office.

A House committee on Friday expanded its investigation into former President Donald J. Trump’s destruction and removal of White House documents, demanding more information about classified material found at Mr. Trump’s property in Florida and reports that aides had discovered documents in a White House toilet during his time in office.

In a letter to the national archivist, Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York and the chairwoman of the Oversight Committee, said the panel was seeking a detailed description of the contents of 15 boxes recovered from Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s Palm Beach compound, including their level of classification, and all records that he “had torn up, destroyed, mutilated or attempted to tear up, destroy or mutilate.” She also said the panel wanted documents “relating to White House employees or contractors finding paper in a toilet in the White House, including the White House residence.”

The letter also sought information about the findings of any federal inquiries into the classified material and any communications with Mr. Trump about the Presidential Records Act or White House policies on record-keeping.

“The American people deserve to know the extent of what former President Trump did to hide and destroy federal records and make sure these abuses do not happen again,” Ms. Maloney said in a statement.

washington post logoWashington Post, Backstage drama at Jan. 6 rally for Trump draws interest of House committee, Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey and Beth Reinhard, Feb. 26, 2022. A previously unreported Park Police recording and text exchanges reveal more about the tensions and turf battles among Trump supporters jockeying to influence him as he preached his falsehoods about the election and sought to overturn its results.

At roughly 8:15 a.m. on Jan. 6, 2021, a few hours before President Donald Trump and his allies whipped up thousands of supporters with false claims of election fraud, law enforcement was summoned to the rally grounds to deal with a “possible disorderly.”

The incident threatening to disrupt the event at the Ellipse wasn’t happening in the crowd. It was happening backstage.

A simmering feud between rally organizers, including longtime Trump adviser Katrina Pierson and Republican fundraiser Caroline Wren, over who should speak that day was boiling over, culminating in a call to the U.S. Park Police, according to interviews with people familiar with the incident as well as text messages and police radio recordings reviewed by The Washington Post.

The call to police was made by Kylie Jane Kremer, executive director at Women for America First, a pro-Trump group that held the permit for the rally, who was aligned with Pierson in trying to keep some of Wren’s proposed speakers from addressing the crowd. Kremer confirmed in a statement to The Post that she called the Park Police.

Wren, who was listed on the permit for the rally as a “VIP ADVISOR,” had with others organized an initial spreadsheet of potential speakers that included far-right conspiracy theorists such as Alex Jones and Ali Alexander, planning documents obtained by The Post show. The final list of Jan. 6 speakers was personally approved by Trump and did not include Jones and Alexander, according to those documents and people involved in the planning, who like others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity.

But on the morning of the event, Kremer grew concerned that Wren was rearranging seats and trying to move Jones and Alexander closer to the stage, according to several people involved in the rally.

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More On U.S. Elections, Governance, Economy

 

djt cpac 2022 uncredited

ny times logoNew York Times, Fact Check Analysis: At CPAC, Trump Misleads About Biden, a Russian Pipeline and Gas Prices, Linda Qiu, Feb. 28, 2022 (print ed.). Former President Trump, shown above, made inaccurate claims about his border wall, the Biden administration and a Russian pipeline, among other topics.

Former President Donald J. Trump repeated familiar boasts and grievances in a keynote speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Saturday.

Mr. Trump repeatedly invoked the lie that the 2020 election was “rigged” and mounted exaggerated attacks on President Biden. Even as he condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as an “atrocity” and praised the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, as a “brave man,” he repeated his misleading claim that the Obama administration had merely provided Ukraine with “blankets.”

Here’s a fact-check.

What Mr. Trump Said

“The wall will be quickly competed. We’ll build the wall and complete the wall in three weeks. It took two and half years on the wall, two and half years just to win all the litigation, over 11 lawsuits that they threw at us. And we have it just about finished, and I said they can’t be serious. They don’t want to close up the little loops.”

False. During his campaign in 2016, Mr. Trump promised to construct a 1,000-mile-long border wall that would be paid for by Mexico. By the time he left office, his administration had constructed 453 miles of border wall, most of which replaced or reinforced existing barriers. In places where no barriers previously existed, the administration built a total of 47 miles of new primary wall.

Mr. Trump’s vow that he would have been able to complete the wall within three weeks also does not track with the initial construction pace. Construction of replacement barriers in Calexico, Calif., began in February 2018, the first border wall project under Mr. Trump. Construction of the first new section of wall in the Rio Grande Valley began in November 2019. That amounts to 12.9 miles of replacement wall and 3.3 miles of new wall per month.

What Mr. Trump Said

“Just one year ago, we had the most secure border in U.S. history, record low gas prices.”

False. When Mr. Trump left office in January 2021, the national average price of a gallon of gasoline for that month was $2.42. That is not a record low. Gas prices fell to $2.21 in January 2015 under former President Barack Obama, $1.13 under former President George W. Bush and $0.96 under former President Bill Clinton.

washington post logoWashington Post, McConnell indirectly chides Reps. Greene, Gosar after they attended white nationalist’s conference, Jonathan Edwards and Mariana Alfaro, Feb. 28, 2022. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday that there is no place in the Republican Party for “white supremacists or anti-Semitism” after two House Republicans participated in a conference organized by a white nationalist who encouraged a chant supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin.

McConnell issued a statement in response to reports that Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul A. Gosar of Arizona addressed the America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC) in Orlando. The event was organized by Nicholas Fuentes.

Fuentes, a white-nationalist activist, rose to prominence after attending the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017 and then dropping out of Boston University because of “threats” he said he received, according to the Anti-Defamation League. He once hosted the “America First” podcast.

“There’s no place in the Republican Party for white supremacists or anti-Semitism,” said McConnell, who did not identify the lawmakers.

McConnell’s statement comes a week after Greene told right-wing podcast host Alex Jones that McConnell and his wife, former transportation secretary Elaine Chao, are “fully bought and paid for by China.”

“Mitch McConnell, he lies to your face,” Greene told Jones. “He says he’s a Republican. He’s the leader in the Senate of the Republican Party, but he’s married to Elaine Chao, and they’re fully bought and paid for by China on record. And everyone knows it, but no one does anything about it.”

Chao, who served as transportation secretary in the Trump administration and as labor secretary under the George W. Bush administration, was born in Taiwan. She was the first Asian American woman to be a member of a president’s Cabinet.

Las Vegas Review-Journal, VIDEO: Nevada governor, first lady accosted, threatened at Las Vegas restaurant, Bill Dentzer, Feb. 28, 2022. Governor Sisolak threatened at local restaurant. Gov. Steve Sisolak and his wife Kathy were accosted and threatened at a Las Vegas restaurant Sunday by at least two men who shouted racial and anti-government epithets at them in an incident captured on cell phone video.

steve sisolakThe governor (shown at right in a file photo) released a statement Monday decrying the incident but declined additional comment, noting it was under investigation by state police. The governor was without his security detail at the time he was confronted.

A minute-long video, sent to news outlets and posted on social media, shows the encounter at a restaurant identified as Lindo Michoacan in Summerlin. It begins with a man appearing to want a selfie with the governor before unleashing a stream of profanities at him.

“I can’t tell you what a piece of f—-ing s—- you are,” the man says.

“Sorry to hear that,” Sisolak says, stepping away.

The oral assault continues as the man and at least one other follow the governor through the restaurant and outside as the Sisolaks leave.

A statement from the governor’s office Monday said Sisolak had arrived Sunday at the restaurant for dinner with his wife and a daughter when he “was approached by a customer in the establishment who asked to take a photo with him. The Governor often greets Nevadans in public with a quick handshake, conversation or a picture – talking to Nevadans is one of the Governor’s favorite parts of his job.”

The governor was “deeply disappointed in how this incident unfolded, particularly with the language used to talk about First Lady Kathy Sisolak’s heritage. We can disagree about the issues, but the personal attacks and threats are unwarranted, unwelcome and unbecoming behavior for Nevadans.”

The man in the video has been identified through social media as Justin Andersch, a self-described “digital creator” whose website and podcast promote extreme-right anti-government conspiracy theories. A second video posted to social media, taken from the table where Andersch was sitting in the restaurant, shows him rising from the table to approach the governor.

“Sisolak, right?” the man says. “This is amazing.”

“Right,” the governor responds, posing for the photo before the encounter takes a bad turn.

The man identified as Andersch continues to scream threats and profanities at the governor and his wife as they leave.

“You’re in here without security?” he shouts. “I’m surprised you have the balls to be out here in public, punk.”

The altercation continues outside and the language becomes more threatening, with a second man joining in.

“You running into a patriot now. Huh? Huh?” the first man says.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Post-ABC poll finds a deeply pessimistic nation, worried about the economy and Biden’s leadership, Dan Balz, below right, Scott dan balzClement and Emily Guskin, Feb. 28, 2022 (print ed.). The president’s approval rating hits a new low, as voters indicate more trust in Republicans than Democrats as they approach November’s midterm elections.

President Biden will deliver his State of the Union address on Tuesday to a deeply pessimistic nation, one that largely sees the economy worsening under his watch, disapproves of his leadership on key issues and currently prefers that Republicans control Congress after the November elections, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Biden will be dealing with multiple problems when he speaks to the nation in prime time from the House chamber. Russian troops have invaded Ukraine, disrupting the stability of Europe and challenging the Western alliance. The sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and its allies could hike oil prices even as the country continues to labor under inflationary costs. Meanwhile, Biden faces the fallout from remaining pieces of a domestic agenda that have been stalled for months.

The poll finds Biden’s presidential approval rating at a new low, with 37 percent saying they approve of the job he is doing and 55 percent saying they disapprove. Overall, 44 percent say they strongly disapprove. Predictably, Republicans overwhelmingly disapprove (86 percent) of his job performance, but most independents (61 percent) also rate him negatively. Among Democrats, 77 percent give Biden positive marks.

Asked whether they would prefer the next Congress to be in the hands of Republicans acting as a check against the president or in Democratic hands to support Biden’s priorities, 50 percent of adults say they would rather have Republicans in charge on Capitol Hill while 40 percent prefer the Democrats.

On the question of how they would vote in House races if the election were held today, 49 percent of registered voters say they would support the Republican candidate while 42 percent say they would vote for the Democratic candidate. For comparison, just ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, which saw Democrats score big gains and capture control of the House, it was Democrats who enjoyed a seven-point advantage on this same question.

ny times logoNew York Times, Texas’ Attorney General Faces a Tough Primary. Will Trump’s Nod Suffice? J. David Goodman, Feb. 28, 2022 (print ed.). The litany of ken paxton mugpolitical vulnerabilities facing the Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, right, would appear to seriously imperil his bid for a third term.

There is the indictment in state court for securities fraud. Accusations of bribery and corruption. Senior aides turned whistle-blowers. An ongoing federal investigation.

Altogether, it has been enough to attract primary challenges from three heavy hitters in Texas Republican politics: George P. Bush, the Texas land commissioner and grandson of former President George H.W. Bush; Representative Louie Gohmert, the outspoken East Texas congressman; and Eva Guzman, a former Texas Supreme Court justice.

But whether Mr. Paxton can survive the Republican primary may be the biggest test yet of the power still wielded with voters by an even better-known name: Donald J. Trump.

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U.S. Media, Education, Sports, Religion

washington post logoWashington Post, RT was Russia’s answer to CNN. Now its pro-Putin spin on Ukraine is sparking new outrage, Paul Farhi, Feb. 28, 2022 (print ed.). Whether defending Putin or downplaying the war, the Kremlin-backed global news organization is drawing louder accusations of propaganda.

As Russian military forces began their broad assault on Ukraine, the top news stories on RT’s English-language website weren’t about missiles, airborne troops or the deaths of civilians.

Instead, Thursday’s most prominent headlines included, “Firm admits selling potentially tainted rocket fuel to NASA” and “U.S. investigating complaints of self-braking Hondas.”

As for Russia’s deadly aggression against its neighbor? That story was literally off to the side, dressed up in benign, pro-Russian spin: “Russia ready to negotiate with Ukraine — Kremlin.”

The latest on the war in Ukraine

It was, in short, a predictable display for RT, the Kremlin-funded media organization. Long denounced as Russia’s propaganda megaphone to the world by the Western nations where it broadcasts, the multilingual network has routinely echoed Vladimir Putin’s criticisms of NATO and the United States, and championed his dubious rationales for attacking Ukraine.

This week, Russia’s aggression against Ukraine sparked a new round of outrage and condemnation of RT, whose initials once stood for “Russia Today.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Top Estée Lauder Executive Is Forced Out for Racist Instagram Post, Feb. 28, 2022. John Demsey, an executive vice president, was a powerful figure at the company, which has been scrutinized for its diversity efforts.

ny times logoNew York Times, Andrew Cuomo Portrays Himself as a Victim in a Costly TV Ad Blitz, Feb. 28, 2022. Mr. Cuomo’s campaign spent $369,000 to recast the sexual harassment case against him, saying that he was driven out of office by “political attacks.”

 

Feb. 27

Top Headlines

 

Ukraine Battlefields

 

World Impacts, Reactions To Russian Invasion

 

U.S. Reactions To Ukraine Crisis

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters

 

Probes Of Trump, Allies

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime, Race

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

 

Media, Sports, Education, Consumers

 

Top Stories

 

Ukrainian service members pass by a downed aircraft on Feb. 25, 2022 (Photo by Oleksandr Ratushniak via the Associated Press).

 Ukrainian service members pass by a downed aircraft on Feb. 25, 2022 (Photo by Oleksandr Ratushniak via the Associated Press).

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Ukraine announces talks with Russia as Putin puts nuclear forces on high alert, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Robyn Dixon, Chico Harlan, Rachel Pannett, Annabelle Timsit and Jennifer Hassan, Feb. 27, 2022. Ukraine holds key cities Kyiv, Kharkiv.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday said that Ukraine and Russia would conduct the first diplomatic talks since the Kremlin-launched invasion, with delegations from both countries meeting at the Ukrainian border with Belarus. The two countries would meet near the Pripyat River “without preconditions,” Zelensky’s office said in a Telegram message.

The announcement, which came after Zelensky had rejected a Russian offer to hold talks in Belarus, did not specify when the meeting might occur. However, the Kremlin said the talks would take place in the Gomel region, in the south of Belarus; Ukraine previously called talks in a country supporting the invasion a non-starter.

But hostilities remained intense, with street fighting in Ukrainian cities and an announcement from Russian President Vladimir Putin Sunday that he had put his nuclear deterrence forces into high alert, attributing the move to “aggressive statements” from the West against Russia. The White House called the order an example of “manufacturing threats that don’t exist.”

Earlier Sunday, Russian forces pushed into Kharkiv, sparking a battle for control in Ukraine’s second-largest city. By afternoon local time, the city was quieter, with the sounds of bombardment fading from downtown and Kharkiv’s governor announcing the city remained under government control.

Over four days of fighting, the United Nations’ refugee agency said Sunday that 368,000 people have fled Ukraine. In a sign of how the war is quickly upending Europe’s status quo, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced a major boost in defense spending, saying it was time to “invest significantly more” in security and protecting democracy.

How Russia’s attack on Ukraine is unfolding on the ground

Here’s what to know

  • BP says it will ‘exit’ $14 billion stake in Russia oil giant
  • U.S. Embassy in Russia says Americans should leave ‘immediately’ as airlines cancel flights
  • Ukraine asks U.N.'s 'World Court’ to intervene against Russia
  • E.U. may grant temporary asylum to fleeing UkrainiansThe Biden administration and its European allies vowed Saturday night to block the Kremlin’s access to its sizable foreign currency reserves in the West and to cut off Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system, a network that connects banks around the world. The actions could send Russia’s financial market into free fall and cripple the Kremlin’s ability to pay for its new war, which has intensified in recent days.
  • Russian troops have moved into Ukraine from the north, south and east. Russian successes in the south contrast with difficulties to take Kyiv, which is resisting more than Russia was expecting.
  • Zelensky also called on Russia to lose its seat at the United Nations Security Council and said he had spoken with the U.N.’s secretary general, António Guterres, about the possibility.

washington post logoWashington Post, As over 100,000 rally for Ukraine, Germany announces vast defense spending increase that may upend European security policy, Rick Noack, Emily Rauhala and Griff Witte, Feb. 27, 2022. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday announced a major increase in the country’s defense spending, marking one of the most significant changes in decades to the country’s post-World War II approach to security and possibly upending European defense policy.

German lawmakers were still debating the plans as over 100,000 protesters assembled just a few meters away in front of the Brandenburg Gate to rally for peace. The scale of the protest — one of the largest in years — took authorities by surprise, and provided a visible display of just how deeply Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shaken Germans this week.

Germany, Europe’s biggest economy and the most populous nation in the E.U., had long frustrated the United States and allies across the continent with its hesitation to invest more in its military. Its stance obstructed numerous attempts to formulate a more ambitious European security strategy, including repeated efforts from French President Emmanuel Macron to form a European army.

The dramatic escalation in Europe’s response has been cheered by European foreign policy hawks who had long advocated that the continent get serious in its response to the Russian threat. But reactions have been tinged by deep regret that the toughened stance didn’t come sooner.

“What has happened in the last few days has been a serious wake up call for Europe, a serious wake up call for the NATO alliance and, tragically and very sadly for Ukraine, a wake up call too late in the day,” said Richard Dannatt, a retired general and former British army chief. “We should have seen what Vladimir Putin has been up to.”

Speaking in the German parliament on Sunday, Scholz called Russia’s attack on Ukraine “a turning point in the history of our continent” and announced a set of new measures. The German military will receive a one-off additional payment of over $110 billion, he said — about twice the amount of Germany’s defense budget last year.

washington post logoWashington Post, 368,000 Ukrainians flee to European neighbors, U.N. refugee agency says, Miriam Berger, Feb. 27, 2022 (print ed.). The scale of the exodus has not been seen in Europe in years.

Some 368,000 Ukrainians have fled to European neighbors — mainly to Poland, as well as to Hungary, Moldova, Slovakia and Romania — since Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday, the United Nations refugee agency said Sunday.

Thousands more are still trying to get through the clogged borders, waiting in the cold for hours on end in cars or on foot with just the bare minimal belongings. As of Saturday, there was a nearly nine-mile backlog at the crossing into Poland, with some people waiting for 40 hours in 28-degree temperatures at night, according to a spokesperson with the U.N. refugee agency, Chris Melzer.

The scale of the exodus has not been seen in Europe in years. What could become Europe’s biggest humanitarian emergency since 2015 — when more than 1 million refugees mainly from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan arrived and triggered a continentwide crisis over whether to accept or reject those fleeing — is swiftly unfolding.

So far, European leaders and communities say they are ready to welcome Ukrainian refugees — including countries such as Slovakia, Hungary and Poland, which have previously hardened their borders and policies in the face of other waves of refugees amid a backlash from the far-right.

In contrast to 2015 when many European countries were hostile to sharing the burden of so many refugees, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said Sunday that Germany was ready to offer Poland and other Eastern European countries support to handle the sudden surge in Ukrainians.

mikhail fridman

Reuters, Two of Russia's billionaires call for peace in Ukraine, Guy Faulconbridge and Catherine Belton, Feb. 27, 2022. Two Russian billionaires, Mikhail reuters logoFridman, above, and Oleg Deripaska, called for an end to the conflict triggered by President Vladimir Putin's assault on Ukraine, with Fridman calling it a tragedy for both countries' people.

Billionaire Fridman, a citizen of Israel who was born in western Ukraine, told staff in a letter that the conflict was driving a wedge between the two eastern Slav peoples of Russia and Ukraine who have been brothers for centuries.

"I was born in Western Ukraine and lived there until I was 17. My parents are Ukrainian citizens and live in Lviv, my favourite city," Fridman, a co-founder of Alpha Bank and Alpha Group among many business ties, wrote in the letter, excerpts of which Reuters saw.

alpha bank logo russia"But I have also spent much of my life as a citizen of Russia, building and growing businesses. I am deeply attached to the Ukrainian and Russian peoples and see the current conflict as a tragedy for them both."

oleg deripaskaRussian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, right, used a post on Telegram to called for peace talks to begin "as fast as possible".

"Peace is very important," said Deripaska, who is the founder of Russian aluminium giant Rusal (RUAL.MM), in which he still owns a stake via his shares in its parent company En+ Group.

On Feb. 21, Deripaska said there would not be a war.

Washington imposed sanctions on Deripaska and other influential Russians because of their ties to Putin after alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, which Moscow denies.

Russia's so-called oligarchs, who once exercised significant influence over President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s, are facing economic chaos after the West imposed severe sanctions on Russia over Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

Putin, after consulting his security council of senior officials, said he ordered the special military operation to protect people, including Russian citizens, from "genocide" - an accusation the West calls baseless propaganda.

The Ukrainian president's office said negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow would be held at the Belarusian-Ukrainian border.

"This crisis will cost lives and damage two nations who have been brothers for hundreds of years," Fridman said.

"While a solution seems frighteningly far off, I can only join those whose fervent desire is for the bloodshed to end. I’m sure my partners share my view."

One of Fridman's long-term partners, Pyotr Aven, attended a meeting at the Kremlin with Putin and 36 other major Russian businessmen last week, the Kremlin said.

Another Moscow billionaire told Reuters on condition of anonymity that the war was going to be a catastrophe. "It is going to be catastrophic in all senses: for the economy, for relations with the rest of the world, for the political situation," the billionaire said.

The billionaires who gathered for a meeting with Putin in the Kremlin on Thursday were silent, he said. "Businessmen understand very well the consequences. But who is asking the opinion of business about this?"

washington post logoWashington Post, Russian flights will be banned from the airspace of 20 European nations, Annabelle Timsit, Feb. 27, 2022. About half of the countries announced the move ahead of a meeting of European foreign ministers to discuss further measures to punish Moscow.

Twenty European countries have closed — or have said they will close — their airspace to Russian flights and flight operators, amid a coordinated pushback against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

About half of the countries announced the move on Sunday, ahead of an extraordinary meeting of European foreign ministers to discuss further measures to support Ukraine and punish Moscow. Other countries, including Estonia and Romania, had previously announced their intention to ban Russian flights.

“Our European skies are open skies,” said Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo on Twitter. “They’re open for those who connect people, not for those who seek to brutally aggress.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Ukraine holds Kyiv, second-largest city Kharkiv as Putin intensifies invasion, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Chico Harlan, Rachel Pannett, Robyn Dixon, Annabelle Timsit and Jennifer Hassan, Feb. 27, 2022. 

Russian forces pushed into Kharkiv on Sunday, sparking a battle for control in Ukraine’s second-largest city that included heavy street fighting and back-and-forth rocket firing. As Russia mounted its most significant urban incursion to date, it was facing fierce resistance elsewhere, including Kyiv, where the Ukrainian government maintained control as residents sheltered underground and air raid sirens sounded.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky squashed a Russian proposal for negotiations to be held in Belarus. Though the Kremlin said that Russian officials had already flown to the Belarusian city of Gomel for talks, Zelensky said he wanted to meet in a neutral location — not in a country supporting Russia’s attack. Zelensky accused Russia of attacking civilians and warned that Russian actions in Kyiv and other areas showed “the sign of genocide.” He said Ukraine had submitted a complaint against Russia’s actions to the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

ukraine flagOver four days of fighting, the United Nations’ refugee agency said Sunday that 368,000 people have fled Ukraine. In a sign of how the war is quickly upending Europe’s status quo, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced a major boost in defense spending, saying it was time to “invest significantly more” in security and protecting democracy.

Here’s what to know

The Biden administration and its European allies vowed Saturday night to block the Kremlin’s access to its sizable foreign currency reserves in the West and to cut off Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system, a network that connects banks around the world. The actions could send Russia’s financial market into free fall and cripple the Kremlin’s ability to pay for its new war, which has intensified in recent days.

Russian troops have moved into Ukraine from the north, south and east. Russian successes in the south contrast with difficulties to take Kyiv, which is resisting more than Russia was expecting.

Zelensky also called on Russia to lose its seat at the United Nations Security Council and said he had spoken with the U.N.’s secretary general, António Guterres, about the possibility.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Weapons to anyone’: Across Ukraine, militias form as Russian forces approach their cities, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Siobhán O'Grady and Loveday Morris, Feb. 27, 2022 (print ed.). In a downtown government office building, men and women in military fatigues carried rocket-propelled grenades through hallways lined with ornate white crown molding. Others had AK-47s with loaded clips slung over the shoulders. Sandbags rested along windows as protection in case of potential blasts. A public bus pulled up to the building. There were hundreds of boxes of bullets inside.

This was the scene of the makeshift headquarters of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces in the eastern city of Kharkiv on Saturday morning, right around the time artillery strikes from the Russian military hit the area for a third straight day. Even as the smell of sulfur wafted through the streets, more than 100 people waited in line to join the civilian reserve force.
Documents are checked before Ukrainians join the Territorial Defense Forces in Kharkiv on Saturday. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)
Ukrainians gather in line as to join the Territorial Defense Forces in Kharkiv over the weekend. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

The Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces, which is believed to have more than 130,000 volunteers, has been conducting weekend training sessions for months in preparation to help defend its turf from Russia. Now that the attack has started, Ukrainians across the country are mobilizing and turning to the Territorial Defense Forces to arm them and send them into the fight. Anyone between 18 and 60 can join.

“What’s there to be afraid of?” said 19-year-old Yevgeniy Belinkyi, who was waiting to enlist in Kharkiv. “When I’m sitting around, I’m scared. And here there’s nothing to fear. Here, I know what’s happening, and I hope my loved ones will be all right. I will make sure they are all right.”

 

volodmyer zelinsky graphic

washington post logoWashington Post, In streets of war-rattled city, Zelensky seen as hero, Sudarsan Raghavan and Siobhán O'Grady, Feb. 27, 2022 (print ed.). Yuri Shuklin has never fired a gun, not a real one at least. His war experience, he said, comes from playing video games such as “Call to Action.” “Maybe it’s funny, but in some movies and video games, they have nice [battlefield] tactics,” he said.

By Saturday, he had signed up to fight the Russian forces pressing on this capital.

In Ukraine, there’s precedent for Shuklin’s screen-to-reality sense of confidence: President Volodymyr Zelensky was an actor and comedian, whose only political experience before getting elected was playing the role of Ukraine’s president in a satirical TV series.

Now, those savvy communication skills, his ability to sway audiences via social media, a healthy dose of grit and defiance — and not least of all, his readiness to die if necessary — has transformed him into an unlikely champion for Ukrainians and the world.

Shuklin, who once never cared about politics, is among Zelensky’s devotees.

“This man did not jump away to some other country like previous presidents,” said the tall and lean 31-year-old mechanic. “He can show us the way.”

Until three days ago, when the Russians invaded, Zelensky’s political tenure was mixed, even considered by many on the decline. He was criticized for not pushing forward essential anti-corruption and judicial reforms. Ukrainians felt he was weak in his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and too quick to seek compromise with Moscow.

olena zelensky wifeZelensky, 44, at times downplayed the threat of Russia crossing into Ukraine and at others warned of Russia seizing Ukrainian cities. He denounced the United States and European governments as alarmist in their repeated warnings of an impending assault. There was no meaningful effort to bolster defenses along Ukraine’s border with Russia. Nor was there preparation for evacuations and other contingencies to protect Ukrainians.

His wife, Olena, is shown at right.

As a wartime president, however, Zelensky has risen remarkably to the challenge. His messaging has been consistent and sharply directed at Moscow. In videos posted on social media he has appealed directly to Russian citizens, gracefully urging them to protest Putin’s onslaught on Ukrainian democracy.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Ukraine’s President Rejects Kremlin’s Offer for Talks in Belarus, Staff Reports, Feb. 27, 2022. As Russian forces pressed into Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, Ukraine’s defense forces and civilian volunteers battled to hold off Russia’s invasion for a fourth day on Sunday as President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said his country’s fighters had “successfully repelled enemy attacks.”

Here are the latest developments:

  • Fighting drew closer to the center of Kharkiv, in eastern Ukraine, according to videos and photographs analyzed by The New York Times. The footage showed Ukrainians firing rockets toward Russian troops, as well as some Russian military vehicles burning and others being ransacked by Ukrainian troops.
  • As Ukraine’s armed forces targeted Russian supply lines, the Kremlin’s offensive seemed likely to intensify, as U.S. officials said that most of the more than 150,000 Russian troops who had massed around Ukraine were now engaged in the fighting.
  • Mr. Zelensky rejected the Kremlin’s offer to hold talks in Belarus, saying the country was not neutral territory because Russia had carried out part of its invasion from there.
  • The Biden administration and key European allies announced on Saturday that they would remove certain Russian banks from the SWIFT financial messaging system, essentially barring them from international transactions.
  • The Ukrainian Army said it was targeting Russian supply lines while fighting to keep control over Kyiv and Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city.
    President Volodymyr Zelensky said he would have talks with Russia only in a neutral country.
  • The U.S. and its key allies announced plans to remove some Russian banks from SWIFT, the global financial transaction system.

washington post logoWashington Post, Allies ready strong sanctions against Russia as bombardments of Kyiv grow fierce, Siobhán O'Grady, Karoun Demirjian, Ellen Nakashima and Paul Sonne, Feb. 27, 2022 (print ed.). The United States and key Western allies on Saturday announced severe new sanctions on Russian banks as the Ukrainian capital came under bombardment with some of the fiercest shelling since the start of the Russian invasion.

The Biden administration, Canada and European allies will impose major restrictions on Russia’s central bank, freezing its ability to use its $640 billion in foreign reserves. They also announced that they would remove certain Russian financial institutions from the SWIFT messaging network that connects banks worldwide, a move that to date has been taken against only Iran and North Korea.

The latest steps to economically choke Moscow and its ruling class come as Kyiv is under attack from Russian forces encroaching on Ukraine’s largest city. A massive fireball was visible to the southwest of Kyiv following a pounding explosion that rocked the city in the early-morning hours local time on Sunday. At least one high-rise apartment building had been struck directly Saturday, fueling skepticism of Russia’s claim that it was targeting only military facilities.

Meanwhile, civilians have been fleeing westward in droves to escape the worsening fighting. The United Nations said more than 150,000 Ukrainians have fled the country already, while U.S. officials noted that the lines of those trying to cross into Poland and other nations were extremely long.

 
Source: New York Times reporting; Institute for the Study of War (Russian-occupied areas). Data as of 1 p.m. Eastern on Feb. 26. The New York TimesMap sources: New York Times reporting and Institute for the Study of War (Russian-occupied areas). Data as of 1 p.m. Eastern on Feb. 26, 2022.

Ukraine Maps: Tracking the Russian Invasion of Ukraine, Updated Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. The situation now: Russian troops have entered Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, as residents of Kyiv take up arms to defend the capital. Follow our live coverage.

Three regions where Russian forces are pushing into Ukraine. Russia has established attack lines into three regions of Ukraine: toward Kyiv, the capital, from the north; toward Kharkiv, from the northeast; and fanning out from Crimea in the south. Ukraine has also fought Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas region to the east.

Russian forces pushed toward Kyiv from the north and east, but had yet to take the capital on Saturday after heavy shelling and intense fighting. After failing to capture Chernihiv, Russian troops moved around the city toward Kyiv, according to an analysis by the Institute for the Study of War, a research group in Washington.

Politico, Western leaders agree new Russia sanctions, including SWIFT curbs, Lili Bayer, Ben Lefebvre and Alexander Ward, Feb. 26, 2022. U.S., EU, U.K. and Canada announce further crackdown on Moscow for invasion of Ukraine.

Western leaders agreed Saturday to impose more financial sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, including removing “selected Russian banks” from the SWIFT international payments system.

politico CustomThe measures were part of a broader ratcheting-up of international support for Ukraine and pressure on Moscow over Russia’s all-out military assault on its western neighbor. Earlier on Saturday, in a historic reversal of policy, Germany announced it would send 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine. Other countries also announced increases in military aid to Kyiv.

In a joint statement, the leaders of the United States, the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and Canada vowed to “hold Russia to account and collectively ensure that this war is a strategic failure” for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“As Russian forces unleash their assault on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities, we are resolved to continue imposing costs on Russia that will further isolate Russia from the international financial system and our economies,” they added.

“We commit to ensuring that selected Russian banks are removed from the SWIFT messaging system. This will ensure that these banks are disconnected from the international financial system and harm their ability to operate globally,” the leaders said.

In a separate statement, the German government said the measure would apply to “Russian banks that are already sanctioned by the international community and, where necessary, additional Russian banks.”

In a brief late-night media appearance to announce the new measures, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described the conflict in Ukraine in stark terms.

“Only a few dozen kilometers from the EU’s eastern border, the Russian army is committing barbaric actions during its invasion of Ukraine. It is bombing and launching missile strikes, killing innocent people,” she said.

“At the same time, the entire world is witnessing the determined and brave resistance by the Ukrainian army and population.”

joe biden 2 24 2022

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden authorizes $350 million more in defense aid for Ukraine, Andrew Jeong, Karoun Demirjian, Timothy Bella and Jeff Stein, Feb. 26, 2022. President Biden authorized a $350 million defense aid package for Ukraine, the White House announced late Friday, as Washington rushes to send more assistance to the pro-Western government.

The package includes anti-armor missiles, including antitank Javelin missiles; small arms; body armor; and various other munitions “in support of Ukraine’s front-line defenders who are facing down Russia’s brutal attack,” a senior defense official told reporters Saturday. The Biden administration intends to provide support as long as there is a viable Ukrainian government fighting off Russian forces, The Washington Post previously reported.

ukraine flagSecretary of State Antony Blinken said in a Saturday statement that it was the third drawdown of money from the United States to Ukraine in the past year, totaling more than $1 billion. The secretary of state described the third drawdown as “unprecedented.”

“Ukraine is a sovereign, democratic, and peace-loving nation,” Blinken said. “The United States and Ukraine have been partners since Ukraine declared its independence from the Soviet Union more than 30 years ago.”

He added, “It is another clear signal that the United States stands with the people of Ukraine as they defend their sovereign, courageous, and proud nation.”

Biden directed that the funding designated for Ukraine’s defense be allocated through the Foreign Assistance Act, according to a memorandum published by the White House.

The move comes as outmanned Ukrainian forces are holding on to control of the capital of Kyiv, after resisting an overnight onslaught from the Russians that included explosions and bursts of gunfire. As fighting receded during daylight hours, Kyiv was still in Ukrainian government hands.

 

Ukraine Battlefields

ny times logoNew York Times, Intense Battles Across Ukraine; Leader Vows to Fight, Michael Schwirtz, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). Ukrainian troops dug in around the nation’s second-largest city a day after a fight to push back advancing Russian forces. Ukrainian troops dug in around the city after a fight littered a highway with burned-out Russian troop carriers. Our reporter was on the scene in Kharkiv.

The thuds of artillery start as a low-decibel rumble, but rattle the rib cage as you get closer. A crossroads at the northern entrance of Kharkiv is about as close to the front lines as anyone would wish to be on Friday, as Ukrainian soldiers waged a fierce battle to push Russian forces away from the city.

The empty carcasses of burned-out Russian armored personnel carriers and a Ukrainian police jeep littered the roadway, along with the scattered belongings of their former occupants — water bottles, a soldier’s boot, camouflage clothing. Nearby, the body of a Russian soldier, in a drab green uniform, lay on the side of the road, dusted in a light coating of snow that fell overnight.

The position was held, as of Friday, by a group of lightly armed Ukrainian soldiers who had hastily dug trenches into the wet mud beside the road, diving into them periodically when the artillery boom was especially loud.

Behind them, huge blue and yellow letters spelled KHARKIV, marking the entrance to Ukraine’s second-largest city, home to 1.5 million people, in the northeastern part of the country.

 

Ukrainian service members pass by a downed aircraft on Feb. 25, 2022 (Photo by Oleksandr Ratushniak via the Associated Press).

 Ukrainian service members pass by a downed aircraft on Feb. 25, 2022 (Photo by Oleksandr Ratushniak via the Associated Press).

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia’s Assault in Ukraine Slows After an Aggressive Start, Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.).  The invading forces have faced stiff resistance, but President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia could quickly send in more troops, Pentagon officials said.

For the Russian military, the difficult part came quickly.

On the first day of President Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, his generals and troops followed a textbook strategy for land invasions. They attacked the country’s military installations and air defense systems with missiles launched from the air, sea and land, seeking to take ownership of the skies, and sped forces to Kyiv, the capital, with the goal of decapitating the government of the democratically elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

ukraine flagBut then, things slowed. It is one thing to cross the border of another country with tanks and artillery, protected by warplanes above, Pentagon officials and analysts say. It is another thing entirely to lay siege to cities and an army populated by people willing to put their lives on the line to protect what they view as their sovereign right to self-determination.

Within a day of entering Ukraine, Russian forces lost some momentum, senior American and British officials said, as Ukrainian fighters mounted a resistance. No population centers had been taken, a senior Defense Department official told reporters at the Pentagon on Friday. Nor had Russia yet managed to achieve air superiority over Ukraine, partly because the Ukrainians are using mobile systems and partly because Russian missiles have hit old air defense sites, which could show a flaw in Russia’s intelligence. The Ukrainian air defense and missile defense systems were degraded, he said, but the country’s air force was still flying planes and denying air access to Russia.

washington post logoWashington Post, In maps, videos and photos, how Russia’s attack is unfolding on the ground, Staff Reports, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). What you need to know about Russia and Ukraine. Russian forces are closing in on Ukraine’s capital. In the early morning hours of Saturday, dozens of explosions echoed across Kyiv, a city of nearly 3 million. Hours earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned “this night will be harder than the day. We can’t lose the capital.”

volodymyr zelenski t shirt siege

huffington post logoHuffPost, ‘THE NIGHT WILL BE HARD’ — DIRE WARNING — ‘VILE’ ATTACK SET FOR KYIV, Sara Boboltz, Feb. 25, 2022. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy Posts Video Saying He's Still In Kyiv Amid Russian Attack. The Ukrainian leader, shown above the evening of Feb. 25, warned that the coming hours would be "very difficult," with "vile, cruel and inhuman" attacks.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy posted a social media video Friday evening to reassure Ukrainians that he and other top government leaders were still in Kyiv amid Russia’s attack on the capital city.

He warned in a subsequent message that the fighting could soon become severe, with Russian troops attacking the city in a “vile, cruel and inhuman” manner.

“We have to persevere tonight. The fate of Ukraine is being decided right now. The night will be hard, very hard, but there will be a morning,” Zelenskyy said, according to a translation by Financial Times reporter Max Seddon.

Rolling Stone Magazine, White Nationalists Raid CPAC But Find Themselves Right at Home, Steven Monacelli, Feb. 27, 2022.

The bigoted Groyper-backed America First Political Action Conference aimed to upstage its neighbor. They succeeded instead in blurring the lines.

The Conservative Political Action Conference, the nation’s premier gathering of right-wing, pro-Donald Trump die-hards is here this year. The American First Political Action Conference, the nation’s premier gathering that includes right-wing, pro-Donald Trump die-hards who are also overt and public white nationalists, is here this year too. In theory, the two events are separate, hosted at different hotels, selling different tickets, and separated by 10 miles of Florida highway. In practice, and in ideology, the lines are a bit blurry, and it’s unclear whether anyone in CPAC leadership cares enough about the white nationalist presence to

volodymyr zelensky helmetThe Atlantic Magazine, Russia's Invasion of Ukraine: A Prayer for Volodymyr Zelensky, Franklin Foer, Feb. 26, 2022. History has found the Ukrainian president (shown above), and his courage is remarkable to witness.

Before he became the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky played the part on television. He created and starred in a comedy series, Servant of the People. His character, a high-school history teacher, is surreptitiously recorded by one of his students as he passionately rants against the tyranny of corruption in his nation. Without his knowledge, the video goes viral. Without campaigning or even wanting the job, the teacher is improbably elected president of Ukraine. The humble everyman, out of his depths in nearly every respect, goes on to become a heroic leader of his country.

Entertainers who enter politics are rightly treated with suspicion, because they are experts at the most dangerous part of the job, the manipulation of mass emotion. And in Ukraine, any outsider who rises to power engenders even greater suspicion because the assumption is that they must be doing the bidding of some shadowy force or other. As Zelensky has stumbled through his actual career in politics, those doubts have dogged him. It sometimes seemed as if he governed as an amateur doing his middling best, someone simply playing the part.

But in life, as in the fictional version he created, Zelensky, slightly diminutive and gravelly-voiced, has been subjected to the most intense stress test of character. In the course of the past terrible week, he revealed himself.

Yesterday, Zelensky told a videoconference of European leaders that they would likely not ever see him again. The whole world can see that his execution is very likely imminent. What reason does he have to doubt that Vladimir Putin will order his murder, as the Russian leader has done with so many of his bravest critics and enemies? Zelensky’s fate is so clear that Washington offered to extricate him from Kyiv, so that he could form a government in exile. But Zelensky swatted away the promise of safety. He reportedly preferred that Washington deliver him more arms for his resistance: “The fight is here. I need ammunition, not a ride.”

His willingness to die is testimony to the new Ukraine, which its people are now rallying to protect.

A week ago it wasn’t at all obvious that the world would rally to Ukraine’s cause. Nor was it clear that the Ukrainian people would mount a collective resistance to the invasion of their country. There are many reasons why the tide has turned like it has, of course. But it is hard to think of another recent instance in which one human being has defied the collective expectations for his behavior and provided such an inspiring moment of service to the people, clarifying the terms of the conflict through his example.

Last night, Zelensky posted a video of himself standing on the street, speaking into the humble recording device of the smartphone, stubble crusting his face, surrounded by the leadership of the nation, stripped bare of all the trappings of office. “We are still here,” he told the nation. I pray that will be the case tomorrow.

Franklin Foer is a staff writer at The Atlantic. He is the author of "World Without Mind" and "How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization."

ny times logoNew York Times, Russain Troops Enter Kyiv, Shashank Bengali, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). Ukrainians Brace for a Battle for Their Capital; Live
Putin Claims He’s Willing to Negotiate.

Ukrainians on Friday braced for a violent battle for their capital, Kyiv, as officials warned residents to stay indoors and “prepare Molotov cocktails” to defend against advancing Russian forces who had entered a northern district of the city. Russia signaled that it was open to talks with the Ukrainian government, but it was unclear what the conditions were.

As missile strikes hammered Kyiv and a rocket crashed into a residential building, President Volodymyr Zelensky, shown above in a file photo, urged Ukrainians to defend the country, saying that no foreign troops were coming to their aid.

President Vladimir Putin said he was open to talks after Kyiv said it would discuss adopting “neutral status.” Earlier, Russia’s foreign minister said Moscow would not negotiate until Ukraine stopped fighting.

 

ukraine NATO wpost

washington post logoWashington Post, Russian forces press closer to Kyiv; U.S. fears capital could soon fall, David L. Stern, Robyn Dixon, Chico Harlan, Amy Cheng, Dan Lamothe, Ellen Francis and Timothy Bella, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). Russian forces pressed closer to the Ukrainian capital Friday as air raid sirens blared and people huddled for shelter in deep subway stations. The Defense Ministry reported “saboteurs” just miles from Kyiv’s center, and the city was jolted by predawn explosions. The Biden administration cautioned lawmakers that the capital could soon fall.

volodymyr zelenskii cropped headshotUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, right, announced that 137 Ukrainians have been killed and 316 wounded after the first day of fighting, and he said Russians were targeting civilian areas, not just military sites. He addressed Russian President Vladimir Putin directly Friday, saying: “There are fights all over the country. Let’s sit down.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia was ready to send a delegation to the Belarusian capital, Minsk, for talks with Ukraine. But Peskov said Putin would send his hawkish defense and foreign ministers and made it clear that Russia still insists on Ukraine’s “denazification and demilitarization,” meaning Kyiv’s capitulation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Civilians are dying in Ukraine. But exactly how many remains a mystery, Isabelle Khurshudyan and Griff Witte, Feb. 26, 2022. Accurate counts have been difficult as international observers have fled or taken cover and the battlefield expands.

Although images of smoldering apartment buildings and unsuspecting cyclists cut down by incoming fire have ricocheted across social media, the cumulative toll has been obscured by a bevy of factors, including the inability of international observers to do their work, a sprawling conflict zone in Europe’s largest nation, a government in disarray as it fights for survival, and a steady drip of misinformation.

To those tasked with helping to protect the lives of noncombatants, the result has been a frustrating void at a time when civilian casualties are undoubtedly increasing.

“It’s an incredibly worrying situation. We don’t have any idea of the full scale of the consequences right now,” said Mirella Hodeib, spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Kyiv. “Only that they’re rising exponentially.”

Ukraine’s health minister, Viktor Liashko, said in a statement posted to Facebook on Saturday that a total of 198 Ukrainians had been killed in the fighting, up from 137 a day earlier, with more than 1,000 wounded. Three children, he said, were among the dead.

But the statement was short on details, and it may undercount the true toll. One senior Western intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, described Ukraine’s tally as “awfully low.”

“My sense is there are a lot more losses all around,” he said.

The scale of suffering in just one relatively small community in eastern Ukraine gave a glimpse Saturday of the potential toll nationwide.

At the Okhtyrka Central District Hospital, in a city of less than 50,000 people, an official said doctors had treated more than 200 patients — all of them civilians. Most, said hospital deputy chief Khoruzhenko Vita, had “severe injuries such as fragment penetration wounds and severe burns.”

The hospital, he said, was experiencing a shortage of medicine and other supplies. In three days of war, at least 10 people had died. “Today we lost a little girl, 8 years old,” he said.

In this war, Russia has claimed it is not targeting civilians, aiming only for Ukraine’s government and military. But Zelensky has insisted that’s a lie, and the evidence suggests that civilians have paid a heavy price.

 

World Impacts, Reactions To Russian Invasion

ny times logoNew York Times, Two Children of the Cold War Face Off in a New Conflict, Peter Baker, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). Not since John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev confronted each other have a U.S. president and a Russian leader gone head-to-head in such a dramatic fashion.

 

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin talk to each other during their meeting in Beijing, Feb. 4, 2022. China is the only friend that might help Russia blunt the impact of economic sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, but President Xi Jinping’s government is giving no sign it might be willing to risk its own access to U.S. and European markets by doing too much. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

ap logoAssociated Press, China is Russia’s best hope to blunt sanctions, but wary, Joe McDonald, Feb. 26, 2022. China is the only friend that might help Russia blunt the impact of economic sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, but President Xi Jinping’s government is giving no sign it might be willing to risk its own access to U.S. and European markets by doing too much.

Even if Beijing wanted to, its ability to support President Vladimir Putin by importing more Russian gas and other goods is limited.

Russian FlagRelations with Moscow have warmed since Xi took power in 2012, motivated by shared resentment of Washington, but their interests can conflict. While their militaries hold joint exercises, Putin is uneasy about the growing Chinese economic presence in Central Asia and Russia’s Far East.

“China-Russia relations are at the highest level in history, but the two countries are not an alliance,” said Li Xin, an international relations expert at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.

china flag SmallIn response to the invasion, Washington, Britain, the 27-nation European Union and other Western allies have announced or promised sanctions against Russian banks, officials, business leaders and companies, as well as export controls aimed at starving Russia’s industries and military of high-tech products.

Xi’s government might support Putin within those limits — and Chinese companies might use the situation to pursue better deals — but will balk at openly violating sanctions and being targeted for penalties, experts said.

“China doesn’t want to get so involved that it ends up suffering as a result of its support for Russia,” said Mark Williams, chief Asia economist for Capital Economics.

Chinese trade with Russia rose to $146.9 billion last year, but that is less than one-tenth of China’s total $1.6 trillion in trade with the United States and EU.

“It all hinges on whether they’re willing to risk their access to Western markets to help Russia, and I don’t think they are,” said Williams. “It’s just not that big a market.” China, the world’s second-largest economy, is the only major government not to have condemned the invasion.

Metro, Now Russia threatens Finland and Sweden with ‘military consequences’ over NATO, James Hockaday, Feb. 26, 2022. Russia has issued an ominous warning to Sweden and Finland should they decide to join NATO.

It said the countries will face ‘serious military and political repercussions’ if it became a member of the defensive alliance.

After weeks of denying plans to invade Ukraine while amassing as many as 190,000 troops on its border, Russia demanded legal guarantees that the nation is never allowed to join NATO.

It argued the alliance has expanded too far eastwards and poses a threat to national security, but Ukraine was not immediately close to joining.

For the latest updates on the Russia-Ukraine war, visit our live blog: Russia-Ukraine live

While Russia has blamed the pact for current tensions, others have pointed to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s longstanding obsession with returning Ukraine to Moscow’s fold.

Still the Kremlin is keen for NATO not to expand further, as Russia appeared to turn its attention to Sweden and Finland.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the two nations ‘should not base their security on damaging the security of other countries’.

ap logoAssociated Press, India walks tightrope over calls for Russia’s isolation, Ashok Sharma and Aijaiz Hussain, Feb. 26, 2022. India’s decision to abstain from voting on a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding that Russia cease its invasion of Ukraine does not mean support for Moscow, experts said, but reflects New Delhi’s reliance on its Cold War ally for energy, weapons and support in conflicts with neighbors.

india flag mapIndia on Friday regretted countries giving up the path of diplomacy but refrained from voting along with the United States on the resolution that would have meant altering its ties with Russia spanning over seven decades. Russia vetoed the resolution while China and the United Arab Emirates also abstained.

“We have not supported what Russia has done. We have abstained. It is the right thing to do under the circumstances,” said G. Parthasarthy, a retired Indian diplomat.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday appealed for an “immediate cessation of violence.” Modi called for efforts to return to diplomacy, saying the “differences between Russia and the NATO group can only be resolved through honest and sincere dialogue.”

washington post logoWashington Post, E.U. plans to freeze assets of Putin, Lavrov, Emily Rauhala, Quentin Ariès and Michael Birnbaum, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). The European Union plans to freeze assets of Russian President Putin and his foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, according to people familiar with the talks.

european union logo rectangleNeither would be banned from travel in the E.U., the sources said. The move, which comes as the bloc puts final touches on its second round of sanctions and starts working on a third, is expected to be approved Friday afternoon.

European Council President Charles Michel said Friday that there was “urgent preparation” for more sanctions on Russia for invading Ukraine. “The senseless suffering and loss of civilian life must stop,” he tweeted.

“Second wave of sanctions with massive and severe consequences politically agreed last night,” he continued. “Further package under urgent preparation.”

It was not immediately clear if the asset freezes would go in the second or potential third package.

 

ukraine war protest russia 2 24 2022 Saint Petersberg ap

washington post logoWashington Post, Attack brings rare sight in Russia: Protests in cities against Putin and invasion, Robyn Dixon, Feb. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Thousands of people protested President Vladimir Putin’s attacks on Ukraine in cities across Russia on Thursday (including St. Petersburg, shown above in a photo via Associated Press), a striking show of anger in a nation where spontaneous mass demonstrations are illegal and protesters can face fines and jail.

More than 1,700 people were arrested in at least 47 cities across the nation, according to rights group OVD-Info. The group was declared a foreign agent last year, when Putin launched a sweeping crackdown on activists, rights groups and opposition figures.

The protests came with an outpouring of horror from liberal Russians, social media influencers, athletes, actors, television presenters and others.

How the Russian attack is unfolding on the ground in Ukraine

alexey navalny 2017Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, right, on Thursday spoke out against the attacks during a court hearing, as members of the Russian political elite either remained silent or celebrated.

Navalny appeared via video link in court on charges of fraud, one of several cases against him, after he was nearly fatally poisoned with a chemical weapon by Russian security agents in 2020 and jailed in 2021 upon returning to Russia following medical treatment for the poisoning in Germany. His political organization was banned as extremist last year. He calls the charges against him political.

“I have no method of communicating with the outside world,” Navalny said at the Lefortovo District Court hearing. “I ask that my appeal to the court and to the world be recorded,” he said. “I am against this war. I believe that this war between Russia and Ukraine is being waged to cover up the robbery of Russian citizens and to distract their attention from the problems that exist within the country from the degradation of the economy,” Nalvany added.

 

vladimir putin security council 2 21 2022 alexey nikolsky sputnik afp getty

President Vladimir V. Putin meeting with members of Russia’s Security Council in Moscow on Monday (Photo: Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images).

washington post logoWashington Post, At great risk for Russia, Putin signals a dark endgame, Robyn Dixon and Paul Sonne, Feb. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Russian President Vladimir Putin, posing one of the biggest security threats to Europe since World War II, is staking his legacy on an irredentist invasion of Ukraine that poses significant risks to his own country and raises worrisome questions about his ambitions to bring Kyiv to heel.

Putin’s defiant decision to use full-fledged military force represents an unprecedented level of risk-taking for the Russian leader and threatens to isolate his country even further from the West and its allies. Punishments being leveled by Western nations could land Washington in an escalatory cycle with Moscow, if Russia responds to the measures in kind.

The attack also carries a direct challenge to the post-Cold War global order. Putin’s sweeping ambition involves hammering out a new international balance, setting the scene for a club of powerful nuclear powers to dominate smaller states and carve out spheres of influence — by force if they see fit.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine says Chernobyl radiation levels ‘exceeded,’ as Russia confirms its forces seized the nuclear plant, Adela Suliman and Mary Ilyushina, Feb. 25, 2022. The Ukrainian government warned Friday that radiation levels near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant site have “exceeded” control levels, as the Russian military confirmed it has captured the area but insisted that radiation levels remained “normal.”

“The control levels of gamma radiation dose rate in the Exclusion zone were exceeded,” the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine, a government body, said in a statement early Friday.

Local experts “connect this with disturbance of the top layer of soil from movement of a large number of radio heavy military machinery through the Exclusion zone and increase of air pollution,” it added. However, it noted that “the condition of Chernobyl nuclear facilities and other facilities is unchanged.”

Earlier Friday, the body said that although data “from the automated radiation monitoring system of the exclusion zone” indicated that the control levels of gamma radiation had risen, it was “currently impossible to establish the reasons for the change in the radiation background in the exclusion zone because of the occupation and military fight in this territory.”

ny times logoNew York Times, The war threatens to strain economies across the Middle East already burdened by the pandemic, drought and conflict, Vivian Yee and Aida Alami, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). Egypt imports most of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine, and is looking for alternative suppliers. And Tunisia was struggling to pay for grain imports even before the conflict.

On the way to the bakery, Mona Mohammed realized Russia’s war on Ukraine might have something to do with her.

Ms. Mohammed, 43, said she rarely pays attention to the news, but as she walked through her working-class Cairo neighborhood of Sayyida Zeinab on Friday morning, she overheard a few people fretting about the fact that Egypt imports most of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine.

War meant less wheat; war meant more expensive wheat. War meant that Egyptians whose budgets were already crimped from months of rising prices might soon have to pay more for the round loaves of aish baladi, or country bread, that contribute more calories and protein to the Egyptian diet than anything else.

“How much more expensive can things get?” Ms. Mohammed said as she waited to collect her government-subsidized loaves from the bakery

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this week threatens to further strain economies across the Middle East already burdened by the pandemic, drought and conflict. As usual, the poorest have had it the worst, reckoning with inflated food costs and scarcer jobs — a state of affairs that recalled the lead-up to 2011, when soaring bread prices helped propel anti-government protesters into the streets in what came to be known as the Arab Spring.

In a region where bread keeps hundreds of millions of people from hunger, anxiety at the bakeries spells trouble.

In Egypt, the world’s top importer of wheat, the government was moving in the wake of the Russian invasion to find alternative grain suppliers. In Morocco, where the worst drought in three decades was pushing up food prices, the Ukraine crisis was set to exacerbate the inflation that has caused protests to break out. Tunisia was already struggling to pay for grain shipments before the conflict broke out; the war seemed likely to complicate the cash-strapped government’s efforts to avert a looming economic collapse.

washington post logoWashington Post, Catching up on the Russia-Ukraine crisis? Here’s the background you need to know, Rachel Pannett, Erin Cunningham, Claire Parker and Maite Fernández Simon, Updated Feb. 25, 2022. Russia has said that it wants guarantees Ukraine will be barred from joining NATO — a non-starter for the Western alliance, which maintains an open-door policy. But for years, Russia has backed separatist fighters in the eastern part of the country, helping stir a simmering insurgency to undermine the Ukrainian government.

The current offensive could ignite wider conflict and upend decades of peace in Europe, as tens of thousands of Ukrainians flee to neighboring countries. But the invasion is already coming at a steep cost to Russia, which is now the target of sweeping international sanctions that could cripple its economy.

 

U. S. Responses To Russian Invasion

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. will sanction Putin as Russian forces close in on Kyiv, David L. Stern, Robyn Dixon, Chico Harlan, Amy Cheng, Dan Lamothe, Marisa Iati, Lateshia Beachum, Meryl Kornfield and María Luisa Paúl, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). More than 50,000 Ukrainians have fled the country in less than 48 hours.

The United States plans to sanction Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Friday, as Russian forces pressed closer to the Ukrainian capital Friday.

Russian President Vladimir V. Putin chairing a meeting with members of Russia’s Security Council in Moscow, on Monday, Feb. 22, 2022 (Pool photo by Alexei Nikolsky).The announcement came after E.U. foreign ministers agreed to freeze the assets of Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov amid continued rocket attacks in Kyiv, where air raid sirens blared, people huddled for shelter in subway stations and a residential building was hit.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky posted a defiant video from Kyiv in which he said that he and his government were “defending our independence” from the Russian invasion. A senior U.S. defense official said Friday that the Russian military has lost momentum in its offensive, while cautioning that this could change in the coming days.

Here’s what to know

  • Putin has called on Ukraine’s armed forces to “take power” from Zelensky and a group in Kyiv that the Russian president described as “neo-Nazis.”
  • Radiation levels at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant site in Ukraine remain in a safe range after Russian forces captured the facility Thursday, the International Atomic Energy Agency said.
  • Local employees of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv made an appeal for urgent American assistance this week, accusing the U.S. government of abandoning them.
  • The Council of Europe, the continent’s main human-rights watchdog, suspended Russia’s representation rights in the organization’s decision-making body and debate forum.
  • More than 50,000 Ukrainians have fled the country in less than 48 hours, mostly to Poland and Moldova, according to the United Nations’ high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi.

washington post logoWashington Post, How Republicans moved from Reagan’s ‘evil empire’ to Trump’s praise for Putin, Marc Fisher, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). For decades, the Republican Party’s stance on Russia’s dictators and expansionist tactics was rock-solid: From Dwight D. Eisenhower to Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan, Russia — then the Soviet Union — was America’s chief enemy, untrustworthy, anti-freedom. It was, in Reagan’s famous formulation, the “evil empire.”

This week, while many Republicans blasted Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s all-out assault on Ukraine, former president Donald Trump and some of his allies urged the United States to stay out of the conflict and praised Putin, even presenting him as a “peacekeeper,” as Trump put it.

“Don’t look for consistency in Republican policy,” said Craig Shirley, a Reagan biographer and longtime Republican political consultant. “The Republican Party right now is a little schizophrenic. Anti-communism and love of freedom used to be the glue that held the party together, but now the attitudes toward Russia have gotten all mixed up with domestic politics.”

In Congress, across conservative media and on the social media battlegrounds where so much of right-leaning America thrashes out its differences, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine seemed to open a gap between Trump and some of his erstwhile loyal supporters.

On Capitol Hill, GOP senators usually quick to agree with most anything Trump says issued statements that aligned with Republican reactions to Russian aggression through the past seven decades. One of Trump’s most vocal allies, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), praised the sanctions that Trump’s successor levied against Putin. “President Biden has now taken positive steps,” Cruz said, adding that “much more still needs to be done to deter and counter the threat that Putin poses to our allies in Ukraine and across Europe.”

Sen. Todd C. Young (R-Ind.) similarly praised Biden’s sanctions and said “Putin is attacking the democratic, rules-based order that has benefited countless Americans and millions around the globe since World War II. The United States must stand with the Ukrainian people by immediately providing additional assistance, including military equipment and lethal aid.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: President Biden is reviving a Cold War strategy called containment against Russia, updated for a new era, David E. Sanger, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). President Biden’s plan to counter Russia faces obstacles in an interconnected world. Russia also has a new, if not very enthusiastic, partner in standing up to the West: China. .

ny times logoNew York Times, Pro-Russia sentiment has increasingly penetrated social platforms, right-wing podcasts and some conservative media, Davey Alba and Stuart A. Thompson (tech reporters based in New York, reporting on online information flows), Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). After marinating in conspiracy theories and Donald J. Trump’s Russia stance, some online discourse about Vladimir Putin has grown more complimentary.

The day before Russia invaded Ukraine, former President Donald J. Trump called the wartime strategy of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia “pretty smart.” His remarks were posted on YouTube, Twitter and the messaging app Telegram, where they were viewed more than 1.3 million times.

Right-wing commentators including Candace Owens, Stew Peters and Joe Oltmann also jumped into the fray online with posts that were favorable to Mr. Putin and that rationalized his actions against Ukraine. “I’ll stand on the side of Russia right now,” Mr. Oltmann, a conservative podcaster, said on his show this week.

And in Telegram groups like The Patriot Voice and Facebook groups including Texas for Donald Trump 2020, members criticized President Biden’s handling of the conflict and expressed support for Russia, with some saying they trusted Mr. Putin more than Mr. Biden.

The online conversations reflect how pro-Russia sentiment has increasingly penetrated Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, right-wing podcasts, messaging apps like Telegram and some conservative media. As Russia attacked Ukraine this week, those views spread, infusing the online discourse over the war with sympathy — and even approval — for the aggressor.

The positive Russia comments are an extension of the culture wars and grievance politics that have animated the right in the United States in the past few years. In some of these circles, Mr. Putin carries a strongman appeal, viewed as someone who gets his way and does not let political correctness stop him.

“Putin embodies the strength that Trump pretended to have,” said Emerson T. Brooking, a resident senior fellow for the Atlantic Council who studies digital platforms. “For these individuals, Putin’s actions aren’t a tragedy — they’re a fantasy fulfilled.”

Recent Headlines

 

Virus Updates, Reactions

ny times logoNew York Times, New Research Points to Wuhan Market as Pandemic Origin, Carl Zimmer and Benjamin Mueller, Updated Feb. 27, 2022. Scientists released a pair of extensive studies over the weekend that point to a large food and live animal market in Wuhan, China, as the origin of the coronavirus pandemic.

Analyzing a wide range of data, including virus genes, maps of market stalls and the social media activity of early Covid-19 patients across Wuhan, the scientists concluded that the coronavirus was very likely present in live mammals sold at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in late 2019 and suggested that the virus spilled over into people working or shopping there on two separate occasions.

The studies, which together span 150 pages, are a significant salvo in the debate over the beginnings of a pandemic that has killed nearly six million people across the world. The question of whether the outbreak began with a spillover from wildlife sold at the market, a leak from a Wuhan virology lab or some other event has given rise to pitched debates over how best to stop the next pandemic.

“When you look at all of the evidence together, it’s an extraordinarily clear picture that the pandemic started at the Huanan market,” said Michael Worobey, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona and a co-author of both new studies.

Several independent scientists said that the studies, which have not yet been published in a scientific journal, presented a compelling and rigorous new analysis of available data.

“It’s very convincing,” said Dr. Thea Fischer, an epidemiologist at the University of Copenhagen, who was not involved in the new studies. The question of whether the virus spilled over from animals “has now been settled with a very high degree of evidence, and thus confidence.”

But others pointed to some gaps that still remained. The new papers did not, for example, identify an animal at the market that spread the virus to humans.

“I think what they’re arguing could be true,” said Jesse Bloom, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. “But I don’t think the quality of the data is sufficient to say that any of these scenarios are true with confidence.”

In a separate study published online on Friday, scientists at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed genetic traces of the earliest environmental samples collected at the market, in January 2020.

By the time Chinese researchers arrived to collect these samples, police had shut down and disinfected the market because a number of people linked to it had become sick with what would later be recognized as Covid. No live market animals were left.

The researchers swabbed walls, floors and other surfaces inside the market, as well as meat still in freezers and refrigerators. They also caught mice and stray cats and dogs around the market to test them, while also testing the contents of the sewers outside. The researchers then analyzed the samples for genetic traces of coronaviruses that may have been shed by people or animals.

Although the Chinese researchers conducted their study over two years ago, it was not until Friday’s report that they publicly shared their results. They reported that the Huanan market samples included two evolutionary branches of the virus, known as lineages A and B, both of which had been circulating in early Covid cases in China.

These findings came as a surprise. In the early days of the pandemic in China, the only Covid cases linked to the market appeared to be Lineage B. And because Lineage B seemed to have evolved after Lineage A, some researchers suggested that the virus arrived at the market only after spreading around Wuhan.

But that logic is upended by the new Chinese study, which finds both lineages in market samples. The findings are consistent with the scenario that Dr. Worobey and his colleagues put forward, in which at least two spillover events occurred at the market.

“The beauty of it is how simply it all adds up now,” said Jeremy Kamil, a virologist at Louisiana State University Health Shreveport, who was not involved in the new studies.

  • The Huanan market was the epicenter of SARS-CoV-2 emergence, Michael Worobey et al., Preprint, Feb. 26, 2022 • 67 Pages
  • SARS-CoV-2 emergence very likely resulted from at least two zoonotic events, Jonathan E. Pekar et al., Preprint, Feb. 26, 2022, 82 Pages

ny times logoNew York Times, Over 5 Million Children Lost Caregivers to the Virus, Study Says, Staff Reports, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). The study covered the first 19 months of the pandemic and was based on data from 20 countries, including India, the U.S. and Peru. The C.D.C. is expected to loosen its guidance on masks Friday. Mass migration from the crisis in Ukraine leaves little room for pandemic considerations.

cdc logo CustomA new study estimates that at least 5.2 million children around the world lost a parent or other caregiver to Covid-19 in the first 19 months of the pandemic.

“Children are suffering immensely now and need our help,” said Susan Hillis, a senior researcher at the University of Oxford and a lead author of the study, which was published in the medical journal The Lancet on Thursday.

The study was based on data from 20 countries, including India, the United States and Peru, and was completed by an international research team that included experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and several colleges and universities.

It warns that a child who loses a parent or a caregiver could suffer negative effects including an increased risk of poverty, sexual abuse, mental health challenges and severe stress.

An earlier study, focused on the first 13 months of the pandemic, arrived at an estimate of 1.5 million affected children. The new figure is much higher not just because it adds data for six more months, researchers say, but also because the first estimate was a significant undercount. Using updated figures on Covid-related deaths, the researchers now calculate that at least 2.7 million children lost a parent or caregiver during the first 13 months.

The new study covers data through October 2021, and does not include the latest surge in cases from the Omicron variant, which have undoubtedly added to the toll.

“It took 10 years for five million children to be orphaned by H.I.V./AIDS, whereas the same number of children have been orphaned by Covid-19 in just two years,” Lorraine Sherr, a professor of psychology at University College London and an author of the study, said in a statement.

Davyon Johnson, 11, from Muskogee, Okla., is one of the millions of children to have lost a parent — in his case, his father, Willie James Logan, who died two days after being hospitalized with Covid in August 2021.

“It’s been a rocky road, I’ll say it like that,” Davyon’s mother, LaToya Johnson, said in an interview.

  • First-time vaccination rates in the U.S. are at a new low.
  • Covid, inflation and a loss of aid crimped American incomes in January.
  • Covid has surged through nursing homes in Hong Kong.
  • Another casualty of Russia’s invasion: Ukraine’s ability to contain the coronavirus.
  • Is the BA.2 version of Omicron worse? Here’s what you need to know.
  • The White House is mulling a pandemic strategy for ‘the next normal.’
  • ‘The world was in monochrome’: a Broadway conductor on his ongoing recovery from long Covid.
  • Follow Covid news.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘I Don’t Dare Get the Shot.’ Older Hong Kongers Are Unvaccinated and Worst Hit, Alexandra Stevenson and Austin Ramzy, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). A Covid surge has ravaged nursing homes in Hong Kong, but older residents are still among the city’s least vaccinated and the most skeptical.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Feb. 27, 2022), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 435,206,411, Deaths: 5,965,310
U.S. Cases:     80,560,293, Deaths:   972,930
Indian Cases:   42,916,117, Deaths:   513,756
Brazil Cases:   28,744,050, Deaths:   648,989

Related Recent Headlines:

 

Probes Of Trump, Allies

 

djt looking up

ny times logoNew York Times, House Panel Widens Investigation of Trump’s Handling of Documents, Luke Broadwater, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). The Oversight Committee is demanding more information about classified material that former President Trump took with him when he left office.

A House committee on Friday expanded its investigation into former President Donald J. Trump’s destruction and removal of White House documents, demanding more information about classified material found at Mr. Trump’s property in Florida and reports that aides had discovered documents in a White House toilet during his time in office.

In a letter to the national archivist, Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York and the chairwoman of the Oversight Committee, said the panel was seeking a detailed description of the contents of 15 boxes recovered from Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s Palm Beach compound, including their level of classification, and all records that he “had torn up, destroyed, mutilated or attempted to tear up, destroy or mutilate.” She also said the panel wanted documents “relating to White House employees or contractors finding paper in a toilet in the White House, including the White House residence.”

The letter also sought information about the findings of any federal inquiries into the classified material and any communications with Mr. Trump about the Presidential Records Act or White House policies on record-keeping.

“The American people deserve to know the extent of what former President Trump did to hide and destroy federal records and make sure these abuses do not happen again,” Ms. Maloney said in a statement.

washington post logoWashington Post, Backstage drama at Jan. 6 rally for Trump draws interest of House committee, Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey and Beth Reinhard, Feb. 26, 2022. A previously unreported Park Police recording and text exchanges reveal more about the tensions and turf battles among Trump supporters jockeying to influence him as he preached his falsehoods about the election and sought to overturn its results.

At roughly 8:15 a.m. on Jan. 6, 2021, a few hours before President Donald Trump and his allies whipped up thousands of supporters with false claims of election fraud, law enforcement was summoned to the rally grounds to deal with a “possible disorderly.”

The incident threatening to disrupt the event at the Ellipse wasn’t happening in the crowd. It was happening backstage.

A simmering feud between rally organizers, including longtime Trump adviser Katrina Pierson and Republican fundraiser Caroline Wren, over who should speak that day was boiling over, culminating in a call to the U.S. Park Police, according to interviews with people familiar with the incident as well as text messages and police radio recordings reviewed by The Washington Post.

The call to police was made by Kylie Jane Kremer, executive director at Women for America First, a pro-Trump group that held the permit for the rally, who was aligned with Pierson in trying to keep some of Wren’s proposed speakers from addressing the crowd. Kremer confirmed in a statement to The Post that she called the Park Police.

Wren, who was listed on the permit for the rally as a “VIP ADVISOR,” had with others organized an initial spreadsheet of potential speakers that included far-right conspiracy theorists such as Alex Jones and Ali Alexander, planning documents obtained by The Post show. The final list of Jan. 6 speakers was personally approved by Trump and did not include Jones and Alexander, according to those documents and people involved in the planning, who like others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity.

But on the morning of the event, Kremer grew concerned that Wren was rearranging seats and trying to move Jones and Alexander closer to the stage, according to several people involved in the rally.

 Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Crime, Law, Courts, Race

 

 

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris introduce at a White House ceremony Supreme Court nominee Kentaji Brown Jackson, center, a judge on the U.S. District of Columbia Court of Appeals (pool photo, Feb. 25, 2022).

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris introduce at a White House ceremony Supreme Court nominee Kentaji Brown Jackson, center, a judge on the U.S. District of Columbia Court of Appeals (pool photo, Feb. 25, 2022).

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court Live Updates: Biden touts Jackson’s integrity as he names Supreme Court pick, John Wagner, Mariana Alfaro, Felicia Sonmez and Eugene Scott, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). Jackson, who would be the first Black female justice, says U.S. is ‘greatest beacon’ of democracy.

President Biden on Friday announced his historic pick of federal judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve on the Supreme Court, following through on a campaign pledge to nominate the first Black woman to the nation’s highest court in its 223-year history.

During an event at the White House, Biden said Jackson is “someone with extraordinary character” and “will bring to the Supreme Court an independent-minded, uncompromising integrity.” After being introduced, Jackson said the United States is “the greatest beacon of hope and democracy.”

If confirmed, Jackson would replace Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who announced last month that he would retire when the court term ends this summer. Democrats are determined to move swiftly to confirm Jackson, whom Biden elevated last year to the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Here’s what to know

  • Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) has publicly set a goal of confirming Biden’s nominee before the Easter recess, which is scheduled to begin April 8.
  • Although Biden made history with his choice, it will not change the court’s 6-to-3 conservative majority.
  • Biden’s pick comes amid the unusual circumstances of an ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russia that has dominated the news for several days.
  • Biden interviewed at least two other candidates for the job: J. Michelle Childs, a federal judge in South Carolina, and Leondra Kruger, a justice on the California Supreme Court, according to people familiar with the process.
  • Black activists and women’s groups that banded together to protect Vice President Harris from racist and sexist attacks before and after the 2020 election are remobilizing for the battle over Biden’s nominee.

 

More On Supreme Court Pick

 

supreme court Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, D.C. Circuit judge would be third African American in Supreme Court history, Tyler Pager, Sean Sullivan, Seung Min Kim and ketanji brown jackson robeAnn E. Marimow, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson, right, would be the first Black woman on the high court, and the first justice since Thurgood Marshall with significant experience as a criminal defense attorney, Robert Barnes and Emily Guskin, Feb. 25, 2022.  

washington post logoWashington Post, What you need to know about Ketanji Brown Jackson, Marc Fisher, Ann E. Marimow and Lori Rozsa, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). How Jackson found a path between confrontation and compromise. Biden’s Supreme Court nominee was a ‘child of the ’70s’ who overcame obstacles by finding middle ground.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: 4 issues to watch in the confirmation fight, Aaron Blake, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). Jackson has been considered the front-runner throughout much of the process. Although the hearings are expected to be contentious, given the stakes and the 50-50 Senate — another finalist, J. Michelle Childs, was the preferred pick for some Republicans — Jackson was confirmed to a federal appeals court just last year, and she has had some bipartisan support.

What to know about Ketanji Brown Jackson

It’s not clear at this point how much resistance Republicans will put up to her nomination, given it won’t change the balance of power on the court and Democrats have the necessary 50 votes.

But it’s worth looking at any potential hurdles she might face. Although both of Jackson’s confirmations — last year and in 2012 to a federal-district court — were relatively amicable, Republicans have isolated a few things that could come up.

Her work on Guantánamo detainee cases. One line of potential attack spanned both her confirmations, but without Republicans going at it too hard: her representation of a Guantánamo Bay detainee, Khi Ali Gul.

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside Biden’s pick of Ketanji Brown Jackson for the Supreme Court, Seung Min Kim, Sean Sullivan and Tyler Pager, Feb. 26, 2022. While the White House sought to portray a deliberative process, few in Washington expected the president to choose anyone other than the appellate court judge.

washington post logoWashington Post, For Black women, this is ‘magic on such a profound level,’ Vanessa Williams and Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Feb. 26, 2022. Three years ago, a photo of 19 African American women — all candidates for judgeships in Harris County, Tex. — went viral. The image seemed to capture the hearts and hopes of Black women across the country.

Judge LaShawn A. Williams, one of the women in that photo, recalled the sisterhood she felt as part of that “Black Girl Magic” campaign. When asked about President Biden’s decision to nominate Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman nominated to the Supreme Court, she felt something even more powerful, she said.

“This is angelic,” she said. “This is magic on such a profound level.”

Williams, who serves on the county’s civil court, didn’t get to see the ceremony in which Biden introduced Jackson. She was on the bench Friday, presiding over cases. But she described herself as being “over the moon” about the president’s choice to fill his first vacancy on the high court.

“She’s a real sister,” Williams said, noting that Jackson wears her hair in Sisterlocks. “A beautiful Brown sister. So smart, so eloquent … I have been beaming all day.”

If she is confirmed by the Senate, Jackson would become the third Black person and sixth woman to serve on the Court since its 1789 founding. The 51-year-old currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Recent Headlines:

 

U.S. Elections, Governance, Economy

 

djt cpac 2022 uncredited

 ny times logoNew York Times, Fact Check Analysis: At CPAC, Trump Misleads About Biden, a Russian Pipeline and Gas Prices, Linda Qiu, Feb. 27, 2022. Former President Trump, shown above, made inaccurate claims about his border wall, the Biden administration and a Russian pipeline, among other topics.

Former President Donald J. Trump repeated familiar boasts and grievances in a keynote speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Saturday.

Mr. Trump repeatedly invoked the lie that the 2020 election was “rigged” and mounted exaggerated attacks on President Biden. Even as he condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as an “atrocity” and praised the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, as a “brave man,” he repeated his misleading claim that the Obama administration had merely provided Ukraine with “blankets.”

Here’s a fact-check.

What Mr. Trump Said

“The wall will be quickly competed. We’ll build the wall and complete the wall in three weeks. It took two and half years on the wall, two and half years just to win all the litigation, over 11 lawsuits that they threw at us. And we have it just about finished, and I said they can’t be serious. They don’t want to close up the little loops.”

False. During his campaign in 2016, Mr. Trump promised to construct a 1,000-mile-long border wall that would be paid for by Mexico. By the time he left office, his administration had constructed 453 miles of border wall, most of which replaced or reinforced existing barriers. In places where no barriers previously existed, the administration built a total of 47 miles of new primary wall.

Mr. Trump’s vow that he would have been able to complete the wall within three weeks also does not track with the initial construction pace. Construction of replacement barriers in Calexico, Calif., began in February 2018, the first border wall project under Mr. Trump. Construction of the first new section of wall in the Rio Grande Valley began in November 2019. That amounts to 12.9 miles of replacement wall and 3.3 miles of new wall per month.

What Mr. Trump Said

“Just one year ago, we had the most secure border in U.S. history, record low gas prices.”

False. When Mr. Trump left office in January 2021, the national average price of a gallon of gasoline for that month was $2.42. That is not a record low. Gas prices fell to $2.21 in January 2015 under former President Barack Obama, $1.13 under former President George W. Bush and $0.96 under former President Bill Clinton.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Post-ABC poll finds a deeply pessimistic nation, worried about the economy and Biden’s leadership, Dan Balz, below right, Scott dan balzClement and Emily Guskin, Feb. 27, 2022. The president’s approval rating hits a new low, as voters indicate more trust in Republicans than Democrats as they approach November’s midterm elections.

President Biden will deliver his State of the Union address on Tuesday to a deeply pessimistic nation, one that largely sees the economy worsening under his watch, disapproves of his leadership on key issues and currently prefers that Republicans control Congress after the November elections, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Biden will be dealing with multiple problems when he speaks to the nation in prime time from the House chamber. Russian troops have invaded Ukraine, disrupting the stability of Europe and challenging the Western alliance. The sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and its allies could hike oil prices even as the country continues to labor under inflationary costs. Meanwhile, Biden faces the fallout from remaining pieces of a domestic agenda that have been stalled for months.

The poll finds Biden’s presidential approval rating at a new low, with 37 percent saying they approve of the job he is doing and 55 percent saying they disapprove. Overall, 44 percent say they strongly disapprove. Predictably, Republicans overwhelmingly disapprove (86 percent) of his job performance, but most independents (61 percent) also rate him negatively. Among Democrats, 77 percent give Biden positive marks.

Asked whether they would prefer the next Congress to be in the hands of Republicans acting as a check against the president or in Democratic hands to support Biden’s priorities, 50 percent of adults say they would rather have Republicans in charge on Capitol Hill while 40 percent prefer the Democrats.

On the question of how they would vote in House races if the election were held today, 49 percent of registered voters say they would support the Republican candidate while 42 percent say they would vote for the Democratic candidate. For comparison, just ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, which saw Democrats score big gains and capture control of the House, it was Democrats who enjoyed a seven-point advantage on this same question.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Forget partisan scorekeeping. Our Ukraine policy isn’t about instant results, Jennifer Rubin, right, Feb. 27, 2022. It should come jennifer rubin new headshotas no surprise that the largest ground war in Europe in 80 years and a shift in the entire geopolitical terrain got reduced to partisan scorekeeping and petty blame-casting by many in the media.

Did President Biden misread Russia? (Actually, thanks to brilliant intelligence work, the administration knew the die was cast but had an obligation to try everything and spent months preparing a response.) Didn’t he fail? ( Russian President Vladimir Putin was not one to be deterred, as we learned last week from his bellicose public rant, bizarre justification for war and grandiose scheme to remake Europe.)

We are all too familiar with the journalistic inclination to make every story into a political sporting contest denuded of moral content or policy substance. Who does this help? How did Biden fail? Aren’t the Republicans clever?

This sort of framing is unserious and unenlightening, failing to serve the cause of democracy, which is under assault around the globe. (If you think the media’s role is pure entertainment and coverage must be morally neutral in the struggle between democracies and totalitarian states, this critique may be mystifying.)

Let’s get some perspective. Russia’s invasion was decades in the making. Under three presidents, two Republican and one Democratic, we failed to address the threat Russia posed to democracy and the international order. President George W. Bush’s response to the invasion of Georgia in 2008 was entirely insufficient; President Barack Obama’s reaction to the seizure of Crimea in 2014 was equally feckless.

Then came Putin’s dream president, who could amplify Russian propaganda, divide the Western allies, abandon democratic principles, extort Ukraine in wartime, vilify the press and interrupt the peaceful transfer of power. Donald Trump and Putin had a sort of call-and-response relationship, damaging democracies and bolstering autocrats.

No wonder Putin got the idea that he could erase national borders, stare down the West and reconstruct the Soviet empire. (If you think this all came about because Biden withdrew from Afghanistan, you’ve missed decades of Putin’s deep-seated paranoia and crazed ambition to reassemble the U.S.S.R.)

NATO should have been beefing up forces for decades, the European Union and United States should never have become so dependent on Russian energy, and we should have helped Ukraine become a world-class military power.

In one year, Biden sent more than $650 million in military aid to Ukraine (now approaching $1 billion), applied sanctions for Russian cyberattacks, reestablished close ties with NATO and identified the central challenge of our time as a struggle between liberal and illiberal regimes. That’s as dramatic a redirection from a predecessor in a year as you are likely to see in national security policy. (By comparison, Obama’s caution in breaking from Bush policy was evident in his February 2009 troop surge in Afghanistan and expanded drone warfare.)

With eerily accurate intelligence, Biden warned that Putin was dead set on going into Ukraine. (“My guess is he will move in. He has to do something,” Biden said in January.) Biden worked diligently for months to create the most cohesive Western alliance since World War II and prepare severe sanctions.

ny times logoNew York Times, Texas’ Attorney General Faces a Tough Primary. Will Trump’s Nod Suffice? J. David Goodman, Feb. 27, 2022. Attorney General Ken Paxton is likely to end up in a runoff after the Republican primary on March 1. But it remains uncertain who among his big-name challengers will join him there. The ability of Paxton to survive the primary may be the biggest test yet of former President Trump’s continued power over voters.

The litany of political vulnerabilities facing the Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, would appear to seriously imperil his bid for a third term.

There is the indictment in state court for securities fraud. Accusations of bribery and corruption. Senior aides turned whistle-blowers. An ongoing federal investigation.

Altogether, it has been enough to attract primary challenges from three heavy hitters in Texas Republican politics: George P. Bush, the Texas land commissioner and grandson of former President George H.W. Bush; Representative Louie Gohmert, the outspoken East Texas congressman; and Eva Guzman, a former Texas Supreme Court justice.

But whether Mr. Paxton can survive the Republican primary may be the biggest test yet of the power still wielded with voters by an even better-known name: Donald J. Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, A MAGA gala, a far-right rally, and a plea for justice for the Jan. 6 attack: Trio of summits tests GOP’s future, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Josh Dawsey, Feb. 27, 2022 (print ed.). At the Conservative Political Action Conference and two alternatives, the question was how much the American right should orient itself around cultural grievances harnessed by former president Donald Trump.

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washington post logoWashington Post Sunday Magazine, ‘You Just Got the World According to Spike Lee,’ Interview by KK Ottesen, Photos by Satchel Lee, Feb. 27, 2022 (print ed.). The seminal filmmaker on the power of storytelling, conspiracy theories and the endless reach of racism.

spike lee imdbSpike Lee, 64, right, is an award-winning filmmaker, cultural icon, social critic and die-hard New York Knicks fan whose career includes directing, producing, writing and acting in feature and documentary films, most recently the HBO documentary “NYC Epicenters: 9/11➔2021½.” His vast body of work — close to 40 films — has won numerous awards, including an Academy Award (best adapted screenplay) for “BlacKkKlansman” and an Emmy Award for the documentary “When the Levees Broke.” Lee’s book “SPIKE,” a career-spanning monograph of his work and life, was released in late 2021.

Through his bold and provocative storytelling, Lee has been an important voice on race, racism and other social issues for three decades, and he will receive the Director’s Guild Lifetime Achievement Award in March. Lee’s company, 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, is based in his home borough, “Da People’s Republic of Brooklyn,” and he lives in Manhattan with his family.

The following is based on two conversations, which have been edited and condensed.

Can you talk about what shaped your desire to become a filmmaker? When did that first take root?

I grew up in a very artistic household. So you might say the seeds were planted there.

When envisioning your projects, your joints, how much do you think about the audience: who your audience is, who you want it to be, what they will tolerate, what they won’t?

The first thing is: Do I want to make this film? For me. What’s the next film I want to do, what I’m going to say? And then the audience.

The original cut of [your recent documentary] “NYC Epicenter” reportedly featured debunked 9/11 conspiracy theories, and you caught a lot of flak for including them. So I wanted to ask you about why you chose to include them in the first place — and then why you decided to cut them?

Thank you for asking that question. First of all, just because somebody says it’s debunked does not mean it’s not true. The Warren Commission said the motherf---ing magical bullet did a 360-change midair and killed — that was the bullet that assassinated JFK! It defies physics. Bullets don’t do that. So just because somebody says “debunked” does not mean that it’s false. I mean, I was taught in school that that motherf---ing terrorist Christopher Columbus discovered America!

So where do you fall on that? Do you think those [9/11 theories] are true? Or do you think that they may be true?

I think that there’s things that need to be discussed. In all my work, I put the information out there, whether it be documentaries or feature films, and I leave it up to the audience to decide. Simple. They make up their own minds. People, before they come to my theaters, they’ve lived a life. They’ve been impacted where they grew up, the education — all those factors. So I don’t expect everybody to have the same reaction to the film. People today still stop me in the street and say, “Spike, who did the right thing in ‘Do the Right Thing?’ ” And I say, “Who do you think?”

I would not be the filmmaker I am today if just because someone says it’s not true you can’t do it.

So then why did you decide to make the cuts, ultimately?

Well, I really wasn’t given a choice, to be honest.

By HBO, or …

I wasn’t given a choice. But, that too shall pass. I’ll leave it at that.

washington post logoWashington Post, RT was Russia’s answer to CNN. Now its pro-Putin spin on Ukraine is sparking new outrage, Paul Farhi, Feb. 26, 2022. Whether defending Putin or downplaying the war, the Kremlin-backed global news organization is drawing louder accusations of propaganda.

As Russian military forces began their broad assault on Ukraine, the top news stories on RT’s English-language website weren’t about missiles, airborne troops or the deaths of civilians.

Instead, Thursday’s most prominent headlines included, “Firm admits selling potentially tainted rocket fuel to NASA” and “U.S. investigating complaints of self-braking Hondas.”

As for Russia’s deadly aggression against its neighbor? That story was literally off to the side, dressed up in benign, pro-Russian spin: “Russia ready to negotiate with Ukraine — Kremlin.”

The latest on the war in Ukraine

It was, in short, a predictable display for RT, the Kremlin-funded media organization. Long denounced as Russia’s propaganda megaphone to the world by the Western nations where it broadcasts, the multilingual network has routinely echoed Vladimir Putin’s criticisms of NATO and the United States, and championed his dubious rationales for attacking Ukraine.

This week, Russia’s aggression against Ukraine sparked a new round of outrage and condemnation of RT, whose initials once stood for “Russia Today.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Some conservative media hosts ridiculed Biden’s warnings of an attack on Ukraine. Now they say it’s his fault, Jeremy Barr, Feb. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Many top hosts for Fox News and other conservative media voices are blaming the White House for supposedly enabling Russia’s attack on Ukraine — even some of the same personalities who previously ridiculed President Biden’s warnings that an invasion was imminent.

“It’s just extraordinary what this president has allowed our adversaries to do,” Fox Business Network anchor Maria Bartiromo told viewers Thursday morning, as reports of Russian incursions across Ukraine poured in. She argued that Biden “has not been tough enough on Russia” and, “so far, anything that this administration has said has been weak.”

But days earlier, Bartiromo had sounded confident the Biden administration was inflating the threat of Russian aggression to distract from bad political news at home — particularly, a motion filed by special counsel John Durham that was described by many Fox News hosts as a massive scandal.

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Politico, Western leaders agree new Russia sanctions, including SWIFT curbs, Lili Bayer, Ben Lefebvre and Alexander Ward, Feb. 26, 2022. U.S., EU, U.K. and Canada announce further crackdown on Moscow for invasion of Ukraine.

Western leaders agreed Saturday to impose more financial sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, including removing “selected Russian banks” from the SWIFT international payments system.

The measures were part of a broader ratcheting-up of international support for Ukraine and pressure on Moscow over Russia’s all-out military assault on its western neighbor. Earlier on Saturday, in a historic reversal of policy, Germany announced it would send 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine. Other countries also announced increases in military aid to Kyiv.

In a joint statement, the leaders of the United States, the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and Canada vowed to “hold Russia to account and collectively ensure that this war is a strategic failure” for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“As Russian forces unleash their assault on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities, we are resolved to continue imposing costs on Russia that will further isolate Russia from the international financial system and our economies,” they added.

“We commit to ensuring that selected Russian banks are removed from the SWIFT messaging system. This will ensure that these banks are disconnected from the international financial system and harm their ability to operate globally,” the leaders said.

In a separate statement, the German government said the measure would apply to “Russian banks that are already sanctioned by the international community and, where necessary, additional Russian banks.”

In a brief late-night media appearance to announce the new measures, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described the conflict in Ukraine in stark terms.

“Only a few dozen kilometers from the EU’s eastern border, the Russian army is committing barbaric actions during its invasion of Ukraine. It is bombing and launching missile strikes, killing innocent people,” she said.

“At the same time, the entire world is witnessing the determined and brave resistance by the Ukrainian army and population.”

BBC, West to cut some Russian banks off from Swift, Staff Report, Feb. 26, 2022. The EU, US and their allies have agreed to cut off a number of Russian banks from the main international payment system, Swift; The assets of Russia's central bank will also be frozen, limiting Russia's ability to access its overseas reserves.

oan logoThe intention is to "further isolate Russia from the international financial system", a joint statement said. Russia is heavily reliant on the Swift system for its key oil and gas exports.

The joint sanctions are the harshest measures imposed to date on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Swift, or the "Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication," is a secure messaging system that makes fast, cross-border payments possible, enabling international trade. Based in Belgium, it facilitates transactions between more than 11,000 banks and financial institutions across the globe.

european union logo rectangleIt plays a pivotal role in supporting the global economy, but has no authority to make sanction decisions itself. The banks affected are "all those already sanctioned by the international community, as well as other institutions, if necessary", the German spokesman said.

Removing banks from Swift is deemed to be a severe curb because almost all banks use the system. The measures were agreed by the US, UK, Europe and Canada.

BBC Analysis by Katie Prescott: Excluding certain Russian banks from the Swift system used for trillions of dollars-worth of transactions will hit the economy hard -- and in the words of the White House, it will make the country rely on "the telephone or a fax machine" to make payments.

This is only a slight exaggeration. There are workarounds to Swift but none which are as efficient. Only one country has been cut out in the past -- Iran -- which resulted in it losing 30% of its foreign trade.

Picking certain Russian banks will ensure the sanctions have the maximum impact on Russia, while preventing too much impact on Europe. European businesses will be able to continue to collect money owed and buy Russian energy.

Other measures are equally powerful. Curbs on Russia's central bank will stop it using its currency to limit the effect of sanctions. Russia has been building up a cushion of foreign currency to protect its banks, but this new measure will significantly decrease the reserves available.

The impact of these measures may take a while to show -- but they do express an immediate intent from Western nations.

  • BBC, France seizes Russian ship over Ukraine sanctions, The Russian-flagged cargo ship is suspected of breaching sanctions imposed because of the Ukraine war.
  • BBC, Kyiv imposes curfew amid sabotage fears in Ukraine, Citizens of the capital are told to stay indoors until Monday morning as Russian forces close in.
  • BBC, Powerful pictures of Ukrainians' lives turned upside down by war, Powerful photos and maps reveal the devastation caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

ny times logoNew York Times, RUSSIAN FIGHTERS CLOSE IN ON 3 CITIES, Staff Reports, Feb. 26, 2022. Battle Intensifies in Kyiv as Ukraine’s Leader Vows to ‘Protect Our Country.’ Ukraine’s defense forces, outmanned and outgunned, waged a ferocious resistance to the Russian invasion on Saturday, battling to keep control of the capital, Kyiv, and other cities. There was intense street fighting, and bursts of gunfire and explosions could be heard across Kyiv. Here are the latest developments:

The Kremlin said that Russian forces were resuming their advance on Ukraine on Saturday, claiming that President Vladimir V. Putin had ordered a pause on Friday while possible talks with Ukraine were being considered. Russia has established attack lines into three cities: Kyiv in the north, Kharkiv in the northeast and Kherson in the south.

Videos and photos showed a residential building struck by a missile in southwestern Kyiv, about 1.5 miles from Sikorsky Memorial Airport. At least six volodmyer zelinsky graphicpeople were injured and dozens more evacuated, according to emergency services.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, left, said in a video that his country’s fighters had “withstood and successfully repelled enemy attacks.”

Mayor Vitali Klitschko of Kyiv imposed a curfew from 5 p.m. local time Saturday until 8 a.m. on Monday as the battle for the capital rages. He warned that “all civilians who are on the street during the curfew will be considered members of the enemy’s sabotage and reconnaissance groups.”

Across Ukraine, people huddled in air-raid shelters, lined up at bank machines and stocked up on essentials.

 

joe biden 2 24 2022

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden authorizes $350 million more in defense aid for Ukraine, Andrew Jeong, Karoun Demirjian, Timothy Bella and Jeff Stein, Feb. 26, 2022. President Biden authorized a $350 million defense aid package for Ukraine, the White House announced late Friday, as Washington rushes to send more assistance to the pro-Western government.

The package includes anti-armor missiles, including antitank Javelin missiles; small arms; body armor; and various other munitions “in support of Ukraine’s front-line defenders who are facing down Russia’s brutal attack,” a senior defense official told reporters Saturday. The Biden administration intends to provide support as long as there is a viable Ukrainian government fighting off Russian forces, The Washington Post previously reported.

ukraine flagSecretary of State Antony Blinken said in a Saturday statement that it was the third drawdown of money from the United States to Ukraine in the past year, totaling more than $1 billion. The secretary of state described the third drawdown as “unprecedented.”

“Ukraine is a sovereign, democratic, and peace-loving nation,” Blinken said. “The United States and Ukraine have been partners since Ukraine declared its independence from the Soviet Union more than 30 years ago.”

He added, “It is another clear signal that the United States stands with the people of Ukraine as they defend their sovereign, courageous, and proud nation.”

Biden directed that the funding designated for Ukraine’s defense be allocated through the Foreign Assistance Act, according to a memorandum published by the White House.

The move comes as outmanned Ukrainian forces are holding on to control of the capital of Kyiv, after resisting an overnight onslaught from the Russians that included explosions and bursts of gunfire. As fighting receded during daylight hours, Kyiv was still in Ukrainian government hands.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Ukraine fights to hold Kyiv amid street battles, gunfire and explosions, Chico Harlan, David L. Stern, Amy Cheng, Andrew Jeong and Ellen Francis, Feb. 26, 2022. While some Ukrainians flee, others rush back to fight.

Outmanned Ukrainian forces are holding on to their capital after hours of street fighting that included explosions and bursts of gunfire. Smoke was billowing from the sites of some clashes, but as the Kremlin assault entered its third day, Kyiv was still in Ukrainian government hands.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that fighting continues in many cities across the country and that the fate of the nation is “being decided right now.” He posted a video of himself at daybreak Saturday, unshaven, on the capital’s streets, appearing resolved to remain in Kyiv even though Western officials have warned that Russia plans to capture or kill him. He said in a video posted at midday that Ukraine was “successfully repelling” the Russian attacks.

But in an invasion with the apparent goal of regime change, Russia has a substantial advantage in military power, and its Defense Ministry said Saturday its forces have seized Melitopol, a city of 150,000 north of the annexed Crimean Peninsula. Ukraine has not commented on the claim, and Britain’s defense minister said the city was “still in Ukrainian hands.” French President Emmanuel Macron warned that the conflict could be long-lasting.

While some Ukrainians have picked up arms and created improvised weaponry, there are already signs of a mass exodus — and 100,000 have fled to Poland alone, with at least as many displaced internally.

Ukraine has accused Russia of targeting civilian infrastructure, which the Kremlin denies. Unverified video Saturday showed a damaged residential building, which Ukraine’s foreign minister said was struck during a night of missile attacks.

Here’s what to know

  • Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said 35 people, including two children, were wounded during a “difficult” night. Ukraine’s health minister said a total of 198 Ukrainians have been killed in the fighting, up from 137 a day earlier, with more than 1,000 wounded.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin called on Ukraine’s armed forces to “take power” from the democratically elected Zelensky and a group in Kyiv that the Russian leader described as “neo-Nazis.”
  • Russia vetoed a U.S.-backed U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the country’s invasion of Ukraine. China’s decision to abstain was seen as a diplomatic achievement for the United States.
  • NATO will deploy troops from its alliance Response Force for the first time, as the Western military bloc seeks to respond to Russia’s invasion. NATO said “thousands of troops” would be deployed to member countries on its eastern flank.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukrainians resist Russian onslaught as tanks, planes dig deeper toward Kyiv, Siobhán O'Grady, John Hudson, David L. Stern and Ellen Nakashima, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). Ukrainian forces desperately fought back against a Russian military onslaught Friday, firing U.S.-made missiles at aircraft and tanks as the Kremlin’s rockets, artillery and missiles rained down on population centers from Kharkiv to Mariupol to the capital of Kyiv.

As Moscow’s vastly superior air, naval and ground forces dug deeper into the country, Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared bent on regime change, calling on Ukraine’s armed forces to “take power” from Ukraine’s democratically elected leaders, whom he called “drug addicts and neo-Nazis.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed to defend the capital alongside his country’s soldiers and citizens, who have armed themselves with pistols, rifles and homemade molotov cocktails. “This was a hard, but brave day,” Zelensky said in a video address late Friday. “This night they will begin to storm. … We have to withstand. The fate of Ukraine is being decided right now.”

World Crisis Radio, Commentary: Putin goes full Hitler against Ukraine! Webster G. Tarpley, right, Feb. 26, 2022. Russians continue attack on Kiev, but no big webster tarpley 2007cities taken yet; NATO activates Rapid Response Force for first-ever collective defense effort.

Free world joins punitive sanctions, but no SWIFT expulsion yet; Putin and Lavrov hit by personal economic sanctions; Putin tries conquest on the cheap: Subjugation of Ukraine’s 44 million people with fewer than 200,000 soldiers (1 invader per 220 Ukrainians) is an even worse blunder than G.W. Bush’s failed bid to conquer 26 million Iraqis with 250,000 troops (1 invader per 104 Iraqis)!

Pentagon notes that Putin’s Bliztkrieg is losing its vim; Russians driven back from Kherson Bridge; soldatesca suffers considerable losses; Policy of understating the danger of attack to soothe hot money investors is mistaken, since this prevents military readiness; US allies should stop public complaining about tactics and timing, since this conduct only provides raw material for pro-Putin GOP propaganda;

The collapse of the Russian Federation and the extinction of the Republican Party now linked!

 

vladimir putin joseph

ny times logoNew York Times, Putin’s War Ushers in Crisis for Russia, Anton Troianovski and Ivan Nechepurenko, Feb. 26, 2022. Despite the Kremlin’s efforts to obscure the offensive in Ukraine, the costs of the war were already evident in both economic and social turmoil.

The emphasis on hiding the war’s true extent was a sign that the Kremlin fears that Russians would disapprove of a violent, full-scale invasion of Ukraine, a country where many millions of Russians have relatives and friends.

Even so, more public figures with ties to the state spoke out against the war, including a lawmaker in Russia’s rubber-stamp Parliament. Business owners tried to assess the consequences of an economic crisis that appeared already to be beginning, even before sanctions were fully in place.

Facing the greatest test yet of its reality-distorting prowess, the Kremlin’s propaganda machine for the moment appeared to be keeping widespread opposition to the war in check. There were no signs that the war could undermine Mr. Putin’s hold on power, and in the event of a speedy victory, analysts noted, it could end up strengthening it.

But the enormous risks of the war, along with the economic pressure the country was suddenly under, have created a new and more treacherous reality for both the Kremlin and Russia’s 145 million people. Russians have been stunned at how quickly the economic impact of the war was being felt. The ruble hit its lowest level ever against the dollar, which traded at about 84 rubles on Saturday compared to 74 a few weeks ago. That sent prices for imports surging, while sanctions on Russia’s largest banks wreaked havoc in the financial markets and new export restrictions promised to scramble supply chains.

“Those who shout that Putin is great and bravo to him are no longer shouting as loud,” said Lalya Sadykova, the owner of a chain of beauty salons in St. Petersburg. “They’re in shock from what is happening, from how quickly prices are changing and how suppliers are stopping deliveries.”

The chief executive of one of Russia’s biggest electronics retailers, DNS, said on Thursday that a supply crunch had forced his chain to raise prices some 30 percent. Days earlier, the chief executive, Dmitri Alekseyev, had posted on Facebook: “For the life of me I can’t understand why Russia needs a war.”

 

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris introduce at a White House ceremony Supreme Court nominee Kentaji Brown Jackson, center, a judge on the U.S. District of Columbia Court of Appeals (pool photo, Feb. 25, 2022).

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris introduce at a White House ceremony Supreme Court nominee Kentaji Brown Jackson, center, a judge on the U.S. District of Columbia Court of Appeals (pool photo, Feb. 25, 2022).

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court Live Updates: Biden touts Jackson’s integrity as he names Supreme Court pick, John Wagner, Mariana Alfaro, Felicia Sonmez and Eugene Scott, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). Jackson, who would be the first Black female justice, says U.S. is ‘greatest beacon’ of democracy.

President Biden on Friday announced his historic pick of federal judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve on the Supreme Court, following through on a campaign pledge to nominate the first Black woman to the nation’s highest court in its 223-year history.

During an event at the White House, Biden said Jackson is “someone with extraordinary character” and “will bring to the Supreme Court an independent-minded, uncompromising integrity.” After being introduced, Jackson said the United States is “the greatest beacon of hope and democracy.”

If confirmed, Jackson would replace Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who announced last month that he would retire when the court term ends this summer. Democrats are determined to move swiftly to confirm Jackson, whom Biden elevated last year to the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Here’s what to know

  • Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) has publicly set a goal of confirming Biden’s nominee before the Easter recess, which is scheduled to begin April 8.
  • Although Biden made history with his choice, it will not change the court’s 6-to-3 conservative majority.
  • Biden’s pick comes amid the unusual circumstances of an ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russia that has dominated the news for several days.
  • Biden interviewed at least two other candidates for the job: J. Michelle Childs, a federal judge in South Carolina, and Leondra Kruger, a justice on the California Supreme Court, according to people familiar with the process.
  • Black activists and women’s groups that banded together to protect Vice President Harris from racist and sexist attacks before and after the 2020 election are remobilizing for the battle over Biden’s nominee.

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, D.C. Circuit judge would be third African American in Supreme Court history, Tyler Pager, Sean Sullivan, Seung Min Kim and ketanji brown jackson robeAnn E. Marimow, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson, right, would be the first Black woman on the high court, and the first justice since Thurgood Marshall with significant experience as a criminal defense attorney, Robert Barnes and Emily Guskin, Feb. 25, 2022.  

washington post logoWashington Post, What you need to know about Ketanji Brown Jackson, Marc Fisher, Ann E. Marimow and Lori Rozsa, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). How Jackson found a path between confrontation and compromise. Biden’s Supreme Court nominee was a ‘child of the ’70s’ who overcame obstacles by finding middle ground.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: 4 issues to watch in the confirmation fight, Aaron Blake, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). Jackson has been considered the front-runner throughout much of the process. Although the hearings are expected to be contentious, given the stakes and the 50-50 Senate — another finalist, J. Michelle Childs, was the preferred pick for some Republicans — Jackson was confirmed to a federal appeals court just last year, and she has had some bipartisan support.

What to know about Ketanji Brown Jackson

It’s not clear at this point how much resistance Republicans will put up to her nomination, given it won’t change the balance of power on the court and Democrats have the necessary 50 votes.

But it’s worth looking at any potential hurdles she might face. Although both of Jackson’s confirmations — last year and in 2012 to a federal-district court — were relatively amicable, Republicans have isolated a few things that could come up.

Her work on Guantánamo detainee cases. One line of potential attack spanned both her confirmations, but without Republicans going at it too hard: her representation of a Guantánamo Bay detainee, Khi Ali Gul.

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside Biden’s pick of Ketanji Brown Jackson for the Supreme Court, Seung Min Kim, Sean Sullivan and Tyler Pager, Feb. 26, 2022. While the White House sought to portray a deliberative process, few in Washington expected the president to choose anyone other than the appellate court judge.

washington post logoWashington Post, For Black women, this is ‘magic on such a profound level,’ Vanessa Williams and Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Feb. 26, 2022. Three years ago, a photo of 19 African American women — all candidates for judgeships in Harris County, Tex. — went viral. The image seemed to capture the hearts and hopes of Black women across the country.

Judge LaShawn A. Williams, one of the women in that photo, recalled the sisterhood she felt as part of that “Black Girl Magic” campaign. When asked about President Biden’s decision to nominate Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman nominated to the Supreme Court, she felt something even more powerful, she said.

“This is angelic,” she said. “This is magic on such a profound level.”

Williams, who serves on the county’s civil court, didn’t get to see the ceremony in which Biden introduced Jackson. She was on the bench Friday, presiding over cases. But she described herself as being “over the moon” about the president’s choice to fill his first vacancy on the high court.

“She’s a real sister,” Williams said, noting that Jackson wears her hair in Sisterlocks. “A beautiful Brown sister. So smart, so eloquent … I have been beaming all day.”

If she is confirmed by the Senate, Jackson would become the third Black person and sixth woman to serve on the Court since its 1789 founding. The 51-year-old currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

 

Ukraine Battlefields

 

ukraine snake island file

washington post logoWashington Post, On Ukraine’s Snake Island, a defiant last stand, Dan Lamothe and Paul Sonne, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). As the Russian military pounded targets across Ukraine with an array of bombs and missiles, a small team of Ukrainian border guards on a rocky, desolate island (shown above) received an ominous message: Give up or be attacked.

“I am a Russian warship,” a voice from the invaders said, according to a recording of the communications. “I ask you to lay down your arms and surrender to avoid bloodshed and unnecessary deaths. Otherwise, you will be bombed.”

The Ukrainians responded boldly.

“Russian warship,” came the reply, “go f--- yourself.”

The Russians opened fire, eventually killing the 13 border guards.

News of the defiant last stand on the Black Sea went viral Thursday, highlighting the grim decisions that Ukrainians have faced during the largest attack on a European nation since World War II. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said hours later that the island’s defenders will be bestowed with the title “Hero of Ukraine,” the highest honorific the Ukrainian leader can award.

In defiance of the West, Russia presses military invasion deeper into Ukraine

A copy of the recording was posted on the website of the Ukrainian news outlet Ukrayinska Pravda, and a Ukrainian official confirmed its authenticity to The Washington Post. A separate recording, posted on TikTok, shows what appears to be a border guard in a helmet and balaclava on the atoll, also known as Zmiinyi Island, or Snake Island, cursing after coming under fire. His profile lists him as a 23-year-old from Odessa, a port city on the Black Sea.

Stories of resistance amid bloodshed came from all over Ukraine. Zelensky, speaking at a news conference, said the border guards had attempted to protect the island for much of Thursday before they were killed. At least 137 Ukrainians were killed in less than a day of fighting, with operations continuing, he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukrainian border guards may have survived reported last stand on Snake Island, Dan Lamothe, Feb. 26, 2022. Ukrainian border guards who insulted Russian forces this week in a recorded exchange that went viral may not have been killed, Ukrainian officials said Saturday, contradicting an earlier claim by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The State Border Guard Service of Ukraine said in a statement posted to its Facebook page that the guards may be alive, after Russian media reported that they were taken as prisoners from their base on Snake Island in the Black Sea to Sevastopol, a port city that Russia controls on the Crimean Peninsula.

Zelensky cited the guards’ story Thursday while highlighting Ukrainian resistance to a Russian invasion, saying that 13 guards had “died heroically.” He said he would recognize each with the title Hero of Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials said in the Facebook post Saturday that the border guards were attacked by both Russian aircraft and weapons from the ship, and that Ukrainian officials lost communication with the atoll — known as Zmiinyi Island in Ukraine — after infrastructure was destroyed. It now appears it was assumed the guards were killed.

Ukrainian officials on Saturday said they were working to determine what happened to the guards and praised them for digging in. It was not clear how many guards were on the island when the attack began or if any were killed.

ny times logoNew York Times, Intense Battles Across Ukraine; Leader Vows to Fight, Michael Schwirtz, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). Ukrainian troops dug in around the nation’s second-largest city a day after a fight to push back advancing Russian forces. Ukrainian troops dug in around the city after a fight littered a highway with burned-out Russian troop carriers. Our reporter was on the scene in Kharkiv.

The thuds of artillery start as a low-decibel rumble, but rattle the rib cage as you get closer. A crossroads at the northern entrance of Kharkiv is about as close to the front lines as anyone would wish to be on Friday, as Ukrainian soldiers waged a fierce battle to push Russian forces away from the city.

The empty carcasses of burned-out Russian armored personnel carriers and a Ukrainian police jeep littered the roadway, along with the scattered belongings of their former occupants — water bottles, a soldier’s boot, camouflage clothing. Nearby, the body of a Russian soldier, in a drab green uniform, lay on the side of the road, dusted in a light coating of snow that fell overnight.

The position was held, as of Friday, by a group of lightly armed Ukrainian soldiers who had hastily dug trenches into the wet mud beside the road, diving into them periodically when the artillery boom was especially loud.

Behind them, huge blue and yellow letters spelled KHARKIV, marking the entrance to Ukraine’s second-largest city, home to 1.5 million people, in the northeastern part of the country.

 

Ukrainian service members pass by a downed aircraft on Feb. 25, 2022 (Photo by Oleksandr Ratushniak via the Associated Press).

 Ukrainian service members pass by a downed aircraft on Feb. 25, 2022 (Photo by Oleksandr Ratushniak via the Associated Press).

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia’s Assault in Ukraine Slows After an Aggressive Start, Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.).  The invading forces have faced stiff resistance, but President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia could quickly send in more troops, Pentagon officials said.

For the Russian military, the difficult part came quickly.

On the first day of President Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, his generals and troops followed a textbook strategy for land invasions. They attacked the country’s military installations and air defense systems with missiles launched from the air, sea and land, seeking to take ownership of the skies, and sped forces to Kyiv, the capital, with the goal of decapitating the government of the democratically elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

ukraine flagBut then, things slowed. It is one thing to cross the border of another country with tanks and artillery, protected by warplanes above, Pentagon officials and analysts say. It is another thing entirely to lay siege to cities and an army populated by people willing to put their lives on the line to protect what they view as their sovereign right to self-determination.

Within a day of entering Ukraine, Russian forces lost some momentum, senior American and British officials said, as Ukrainian fighters mounted a resistance. No population centers had been taken, a senior Defense Department official told reporters at the Pentagon on Friday. Nor had Russia yet managed to achieve air superiority over Ukraine, partly because the Ukrainians are using mobile systems and partly because Russian missiles have hit old air defense sites, which could show a flaw in Russia’s intelligence. The Ukrainian air defense and missile defense systems were degraded, he said, but the country’s air force was still flying planes and denying air access to Russia.

washington post logoWashington Post, In maps, videos and photos, how Russia’s attack is unfolding on the ground, Staff Reports, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). What you need to know about Russia and Ukraine. Russian forces are closing in on Ukraine’s capital. In the early morning hours of Saturday, dozens of explosions echoed across Kyiv, a city of nearly 3 million. Hours earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned “this night will be harder than the day. We can’t lose the capital.”

volodymyr zelenski t shirt siege

huffington post logoHuffPost, ‘THE NIGHT WILL BE HARD’ — DIRE WARNING — ‘VILE’ ATTACK SET FOR KYIV, Sara Boboltz, Feb. 25, 2022. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy Posts Video Saying He's Still In Kyiv Amid Russian Attack. The Ukrainian leader, shown above the evening of Feb. 25, warned that the coming hours would be "very difficult," with "vile, cruel and inhuman" attacks.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy posted a social media video Friday evening to reassure Ukrainians that he and other top government leaders were still in Kyiv amid Russia’s attack on the capital city.

He warned in a subsequent message that the fighting could soon become severe, with Russian troops attacking the city in a “vile, cruel and inhuman” manner.

“We have to persevere tonight. The fate of Ukraine is being decided right now. The night will be hard, very hard, but there will be a morning,” Zelenskyy said, according to a translation by Financial Times reporter Max Seddon.

Rolling Stone Magazine, White Nationalists Raid CPAC But Find Themselves Right at Home, Steven Monacelli, Feb. 27, 2022.

rolling stone logoThe bigoted Groyper-backed America First Political Action Conference aimed to upstage its neighbor. They succeeded instead in blurring the lines.

The Conservative Political Action Conference, the nation’s premier gathering of right-wing, pro-Donald Trump die-hards is here this year. The American First Political Action Conference, the nation’s premier gathering that includes right-wing, pro-Donald Trump die-hards who are also overt and public white nationalists, is here this year too. In theory, the two events are separate, hosted at different hotels, selling different tickets, and separated by 10 miles of Florida highway. In practice, and in ideology, the lines are a bit blurry, and it’s unclear whether anyone in CPAC leadership cares enough about the white nationalist presence to

volodymyr zelensky helmetThe Atlantic Magazine, Russia's Invasion of Ukraine: A Prayer for Volodymyr Zelensky, Franklin Foer, Feb. 26, 2022. History has found the Ukrainian president (shown above), and his courage is remarkable to witness.

Before he became the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky played the part on television. He created and starred in a comedy series, Servant of the People. His character, a high-school history teacher, is surreptitiously recorded by one of his students as he passionately rants against the tyranny of corruption in his nation. Without his knowledge, the video goes viral. Without campaigning or even wanting the job, the teacher is improbably elected president of Ukraine. The humble everyman, out of his depths in nearly every respect, goes on to become a heroic leader of his country.

Entertainers who enter politics are rightly treated with suspicion, because they are experts at the most dangerous part of the job, the manipulation of mass emotion. And in Ukraine, any outsider who rises to power engenders even greater suspicion because the assumption is that they must be doing the bidding of some shadowy force or other. As Zelensky has stumbled through his actual career in politics, those doubts have dogged him. It sometimes seemed as if he governed as an amateur doing his middling best, someone simply playing the part.

But in life, as in the fictional version he created, Zelensky, slightly diminutive and gravelly-voiced, has been subjected to the most intense stress test of character. In the course of the past terrible week, he revealed himself.

Yesterday, Zelensky told a videoconference of European leaders that they would likely not ever see him again. The whole world can see that his execution is very likely imminent. What reason does he have to doubt that Vladimir Putin will order his murder, as the Russian leader has done with so many of his bravest critics and enemies? Zelensky’s fate is so clear that Washington offered to extricate him from Kyiv, so that he could form a government in exile. But Zelensky swatted away the promise of safety. He reportedly preferred that Washington deliver him more arms for his resistance: “The fight is here. I need ammunition, not a ride.”

His willingness to die is testimony to the new Ukraine, which its people are now rallying to protect.

A week ago it wasn’t at all obvious that the world would rally to Ukraine’s cause. Nor was it clear that the Ukrainian people would mount a collective resistance to the invasion of their country. There are many reasons why the tide has turned like it has, of course. But it is hard to think of another recent instance in which one human being has defied the collective expectations for his behavior and provided such an inspiring moment of service to the people, clarifying the terms of the conflict through his example.

Last night, Zelensky posted a video of himself standing on the street, speaking into the humble recording device of the smartphone, stubble crusting his face, surrounded by the leadership of the nation, stripped bare of all the trappings of office. “We are still here,” he told the nation. I pray that will be the case tomorrow.

Franklin Foer is a staff writer at The Atlantic. He is the author of "World Without Mind" and "How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization."

ny times logoNew York Times, Russain Troops Enter Kyiv, Shashank Bengali, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). Ukrainians Brace for a Battle for Their Capital; Live
Putin Claims He’s Willing to Negotiate.

Ukrainians on Friday braced for a violent battle for their capital, Kyiv, as officials warned residents to stay indoors and “prepare Molotov cocktails” to defend against advancing Russian forces who had entered a northern district of the city. Russia signaled that it was open to talks with the Ukrainian government, but it was unclear what the conditions were.

As missile strikes hammered Kyiv and a rocket crashed into a residential building, President Volodymyr Zelensky, shown above in a file photo, urged Ukrainians to defend the country, saying that no foreign troops were coming to their aid.

President Vladimir Putin said he was open to talks after Kyiv said it would discuss adopting “neutral status.” Earlier, Russia’s foreign minister said Moscow would not negotiate until Ukraine stopped fighting.

 

ukraine NATO wpost

washington post logoWashington Post, Russian forces press closer to Kyiv; U.S. fears capital could soon fall, David L. Stern, Robyn Dixon, Chico Harlan, Amy Cheng, Dan Lamothe, Ellen Francis and Timothy Bella, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). Russian forces pressed closer to the Ukrainian capital Friday as air raid sirens blared and people huddled for shelter in deep subway stations. The Defense Ministry reported “saboteurs” just miles from Kyiv’s center, and the city was jolted by predawn explosions. The Biden administration cautioned lawmakers that the capital could soon fall.

volodymyr zelenskii cropped headshotUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, right, announced that 137 Ukrainians have been killed and 316 wounded after the first day of fighting, and he said Russians were targeting civilian areas, not just military sites. He addressed Russian President Vladimir Putin directly Friday, saying: “There are fights all over the country. Let’s sit down.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia was ready to send a delegation to the Belarusian capital, Minsk, for talks with Ukraine. But Peskov said Putin would send his hawkish defense and foreign ministers and made it clear that Russia still insists on Ukraine’s “denazification and demilitarization,” meaning Kyiv’s capitulation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Civilians are dying in Ukraine. But exactly how many remains a mystery, Isabelle Khurshudyan and Griff Witte, Feb. 26, 2022. Accurate counts have been difficult as international observers have fled or taken cover and the battlefield expands.

Although images of smoldering apartment buildings and unsuspecting cyclists cut down by incoming fire have ricocheted across social media, the cumulative toll has been obscured by a bevy of factors, including the inability of international observers to do their work, a sprawling conflict zone in Europe’s largest nation, a government in disarray as it fights for survival, and a steady drip of misinformation.

To those tasked with helping to protect the lives of noncombatants, the result has been a frustrating void at a time when civilian casualties are undoubtedly increasing.

“It’s an incredibly worrying situation. We don’t have any idea of the full scale of the consequences right now,” said Mirella Hodeib, spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Kyiv. “Only that they’re rising exponentially.”

Ukraine’s health minister, Viktor Liashko, said in a statement posted to Facebook on Saturday that a total of 198 Ukrainians had been killed in the fighting, up from 137 a day earlier, with more than 1,000 wounded. Three children, he said, were among the dead.

But the statement was short on details, and it may undercount the true toll. One senior Western intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, described Ukraine’s tally as “awfully low.”

“My sense is there are a lot more losses all around,” he said.

The scale of suffering in just one relatively small community in eastern Ukraine gave a glimpse Saturday of the potential toll nationwide.

At the Okhtyrka Central District Hospital, in a city of less than 50,000 people, an official said doctors had treated more than 200 patients — all of them civilians. Most, said hospital deputy chief Khoruzhenko Vita, had “severe injuries such as fragment penetration wounds and severe burns.”

The hospital, he said, was experiencing a shortage of medicine and other supplies. In three days of war, at least 10 people had died. “Today we lost a little girl, 8 years old,” he said.

In this war, Russia has claimed it is not targeting civilians, aiming only for Ukraine’s government and military. But Zelensky has insisted that’s a lie, and the evidence suggests that civilians have paid a heavy price.

 

World Impacts, Reactions To Russian Invasion

 

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin talk to each other during their meeting in Beijing, Feb. 4, 2022. China is the only friend that might help Russia blunt the impact of economic sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, but President Xi Jinping’s government is giving no sign it might be willing to risk its own access to U.S. and European markets by doing too much. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

ap logoAssociated Press, China is Russia’s best hope to blunt sanctions, but wary, Joe McDonald, Feb. 26, 2022. China is the only friend that might help Russia blunt the impact of economic sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, but President Xi Jinping’s government is giving no sign it might be willing to risk its own access to U.S. and European markets by doing too much.

Even if Beijing wanted to, its ability to support President Vladimir Putin by importing more Russian gas and other goods is limited.

Russian FlagRelations with Moscow have warmed since Xi took power in 2012, motivated by shared resentment of Washington, but their interests can conflict. While their militaries hold joint exercises, Putin is uneasy about the growing Chinese economic presence in Central Asia and Russia’s Far East.

“China-Russia relations are at the highest level in history, but the two countries are not an alliance,” said Li Xin, an international relations expert at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.

china flag SmallIn response to the invasion, Washington, Britain, the 27-nation European Union and other Western allies have announced or promised sanctions against Russian banks, officials, business leaders and companies, as well as export controls aimed at starving Russia’s industries and military of high-tech products.

Xi’s government might support Putin within those limits — and Chinese companies might use the situation to pursue better deals — but will balk at openly violating sanctions and being targeted for penalties, experts said.

“China doesn’t want to get so involved that it ends up suffering as a result of its support for Russia,” said Mark Williams, chief Asia economist for Capital Economics.

Chinese trade with Russia rose to $146.9 billion last year, but that is less than one-tenth of China’s total $1.6 trillion in trade with the United States and EU.

“It all hinges on whether they’re willing to risk their access to Western markets to help Russia, and I don’t think they are,” said Williams. “It’s just not that big a market.” China, the world’s second-largest economy, is the only major government not to have condemned the invasion.

Metro, Now Russia threatens Finland and Sweden with ‘military consequences’ over NATO, James Hockaday, Feb. 26, 2022. Russia has issued an ominous warning to Sweden and Finland should they decide to join NATO.

It said the countries will face ‘serious military and political repercussions’ if it became a member of the defensive alliance.

After weeks of denying plans to invade Ukraine while amassing as many as 190,000 troops on its border, Russia demanded legal guarantees that the nation is never allowed to join NATO.

It argued the alliance has expanded too far eastwards and poses a threat to national security, but Ukraine was not immediately close to joining.

For the latest updates on the Russia-Ukraine war, visit our live blog: Russia-Ukraine live

While Russia has blamed the pact for current tensions, others have pointed to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s longstanding obsession with returning Ukraine to Moscow’s fold.

Still the Kremlin is keen for NATO not to expand further, as Russia appeared to turn its attention to Sweden and Finland.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the two nations ‘should not base their security on damaging the security of other countries’.

ap logoAssociated Press, India walks tightrope over calls for Russia’s isolation, Ashok Sharma and Aijaiz Hussain, Feb. 26, 2022. India’s decision to abstain from voting on a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding that Russia cease its invasion of Ukraine does not mean support for Moscow, experts said, but reflects New Delhi’s reliance on its Cold War ally for energy, weapons and support in conflicts with neighbors.

india flag mapIndia on Friday regretted countries giving up the path of diplomacy but refrained from voting along with the United States on the resolution that would have meant altering its ties with Russia spanning over seven decades. Russia vetoed the resolution while China and the United Arab Emirates also abstained.

“We have not supported what Russia has done. We have abstained. It is the right thing to do under the circumstances,” said G. Parthasarthy, a retired Indian diplomat.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday appealed for an “immediate cessation of violence.” Modi called for efforts to return to diplomacy, saying the “differences between Russia and the NATO group can only be resolved through honest and sincere dialogue.”

washington post logoWashington Post, E.U. plans to freeze assets of Putin, Lavrov, Emily Rauhala, Quentin Ariès and Michael Birnbaum, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). The European Union plans to freeze assets of Russian President Putin and his foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, according to people familiar with the talks.

european union logo rectangleNeither would be banned from travel in the E.U., the sources said. The move, which comes as the bloc puts final touches on its second round of sanctions and starts working on a third, is expected to be approved Friday afternoon.

European Council President Charles Michel said Friday that there was “urgent preparation” for more sanctions on Russia for invading Ukraine. “The senseless suffering and loss of civilian life must stop,” he tweeted.

“Second wave of sanctions with massive and severe consequences politically agreed last night,” he continued. “Further package under urgent preparation.”

It was not immediately clear if the asset freezes would go in the second or potential third package.

 

ukraine war protest russia 2 24 2022 Saint Petersberg ap

washington post logoWashington Post, Attack brings rare sight in Russia: Protests in cities against Putin and invasion, Robyn Dixon, Feb. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Thousands of people protested President Vladimir Putin’s attacks on Ukraine in cities across Russia on Thursday (including St. Petersburg, shown above in a photo via Associated Press), a striking show of anger in a nation where spontaneous mass demonstrations are illegal and protesters can face fines and jail.

More than 1,700 people were arrested in at least 47 cities across the nation, according to rights group OVD-Info. The group was declared a foreign agent last year, when Putin launched a sweeping crackdown on activists, rights groups and opposition figures.

The protests came with an outpouring of horror from liberal Russians, social media influencers, athletes, actors, television presenters and others.

How the Russian attack is unfolding on the ground in Ukraine

alexey navalny 2017Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, right, on Thursday spoke out against the attacks during a court hearing, as members of the Russian political elite either remained silent or celebrated.

Navalny appeared via video link in court on charges of fraud, one of several cases against him, after he was nearly fatally poisoned with a chemical weapon by Russian security agents in 2020 and jailed in 2021 upon returning to Russia following medical treatment for the poisoning in Germany. His political organization was banned as extremist last year. He calls the charges against him political.

“I have no method of communicating with the outside world,” Navalny said at the Lefortovo District Court hearing. “I ask that my appeal to the court and to the world be recorded,” he said. “I am against this war. I believe that this war between Russia and Ukraine is being waged to cover up the robbery of Russian citizens and to distract their attention from the problems that exist within the country from the degradation of the economy,” Nalvany added.

 

vladimir putin security council 2 21 2022 alexey nikolsky sputnik afp getty

President Vladimir V. Putin meeting with members of Russia’s Security Council in Moscow on Monday (Photo: Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images).

washington post logoWashington Post, At great risk for Russia, Putin signals a dark endgame, Robyn Dixon and Paul Sonne, Feb. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Russian President Vladimir Putin, posing one of the biggest security threats to Europe since World War II, is staking his legacy on an irredentist invasion of Ukraine that poses significant risks to his own country and raises worrisome questions about his ambitions to bring Kyiv to heel.

Putin’s defiant decision to use full-fledged military force represents an unprecedented level of risk-taking for the Russian leader and threatens to isolate his country even further from the West and its allies. Punishments being leveled by Western nations could land Washington in an escalatory cycle with Moscow, if Russia responds to the measures in kind.

The attack also carries a direct challenge to the post-Cold War global order. Putin’s sweeping ambition involves hammering out a new international balance, setting the scene for a club of powerful nuclear powers to dominate smaller states and carve out spheres of influence — by force if they see fit.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine says Chernobyl radiation levels ‘exceeded,’ as Russia confirms its forces seized the nuclear plant, Adela Suliman and Mary Ilyushina, Feb. 25, 2022. The Ukrainian government warned Friday that radiation levels near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant site have “exceeded” control levels, as the Russian military confirmed it has captured the area but insisted that radiation levels remained “normal.”

“The control levels of gamma radiation dose rate in the Exclusion zone were exceeded,” the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine, a government body, said in a statement early Friday.

Local experts “connect this with disturbance of the top layer of soil from movement of a large number of radio heavy military machinery through the Exclusion zone and increase of air pollution,” it added. However, it noted that “the condition of Chernobyl nuclear facilities and other facilities is unchanged.”

Earlier Friday, the body said that although data “from the automated radiation monitoring system of the exclusion zone” indicated that the control levels of gamma radiation had risen, it was “currently impossible to establish the reasons for the change in the radiation background in the exclusion zone because of the occupation and military fight in this territory.”

ny times logoNew York Times, The war threatens to strain economies across the Middle East already burdened by the pandemic, drought and conflict, Vivian Yee and Aida Alami, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). Egypt imports most of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine, and is looking for alternative suppliers. And Tunisia was struggling to pay for grain imports even before the conflict.

On the way to the bakery, Mona Mohammed realized Russia’s war on Ukraine might have something to do with her.

Ms. Mohammed, 43, said she rarely pays attention to the news, but as she walked through her working-class Cairo neighborhood of Sayyida Zeinab on Friday morning, she overheard a few people fretting about the fact that Egypt imports most of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine.

War meant less wheat; war meant more expensive wheat. War meant that Egyptians whose budgets were already crimped from months of rising prices might soon have to pay more for the round loaves of aish baladi, or country bread, that contribute more calories and protein to the Egyptian diet than anything else.

“How much more expensive can things get?” Ms. Mohammed said as she waited to collect her government-subsidized loaves from the bakery

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this week threatens to further strain economies across the Middle East already burdened by the pandemic, drought and conflict. As usual, the poorest have had it the worst, reckoning with inflated food costs and scarcer jobs — a state of affairs that recalled the lead-up to 2011, when soaring bread prices helped propel anti-government protesters into the streets in what came to be known as the Arab Spring.

In a region where bread keeps hundreds of millions of people from hunger, anxiety at the bakeries spells trouble.

In Egypt, the world’s top importer of wheat, the government was moving in the wake of the Russian invasion to find alternative grain suppliers. In Morocco, where the worst drought in three decades was pushing up food prices, the Ukraine crisis was set to exacerbate the inflation that has caused protests to break out. Tunisia was already struggling to pay for grain shipments before the conflict broke out; the war seemed likely to complicate the cash-strapped government’s efforts to avert a looming economic collapse.

washington post logoWashington Post, Catching up on the Russia-Ukraine crisis? Here’s the background you need to know, Rachel Pannett, Erin Cunningham, Claire Parker and Maite Fernández Simon, Updated Feb. 25, 2022. Russia has said that it wants guarantees Ukraine will be barred from joining NATO — a non-starter for the Western alliance, which maintains an open-door policy. But for years, Russia has backed separatist fighters in the eastern part of the country, helping stir a simmering insurgency to undermine the Ukrainian government.

The current offensive could ignite wider conflict and upend decades of peace in Europe, as tens of thousands of Ukrainians flee to neighboring countries. But the invasion is already coming at a steep cost to Russia, which is now the target of sweeping international sanctions that could cripple its economy.

 

U. S. Responses To Russian Invasion

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. will sanction Putin as Russian forces close in on Kyiv, David L. Stern, Robyn Dixon, Chico Harlan, Amy Cheng, Dan Lamothe, Marisa Iati, Lateshia Beachum, Meryl Kornfield and María Luisa Paúl, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). More than 50,000 Ukrainians have fled the country in less than 48 hours.

The United States plans to sanction Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Friday, as Russian forces pressed closer to the Ukrainian capital Friday.

Russian President Vladimir V. Putin chairing a meeting with members of Russia’s Security Council in Moscow, on Monday, Feb. 22, 2022 (Pool photo by Alexei Nikolsky).The announcement came after E.U. foreign ministers agreed to freeze the assets of Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov amid continued rocket attacks in Kyiv, where air raid sirens blared, people huddled for shelter in subway stations and a residential building was hit.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky posted a defiant video from Kyiv in which he said that he and his government were “defending our independence” from the Russian invasion. A senior U.S. defense official said Friday that the Russian military has lost momentum in its offensive, while cautioning that this could change in the coming days.

Here’s what to know

  • Putin has called on Ukraine’s armed forces to “take power” from Zelensky and a group in Kyiv that the Russian president described as “neo-Nazis.”
  • Radiation levels at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant site in Ukraine remain in a safe range after Russian forces captured the facility Thursday, the International Atomic Energy Agency said.
  • Local employees of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv made an appeal for urgent American assistance this week, accusing the U.S. government of abandoning them.
  • The Council of Europe, the continent’s main human-rights watchdog, suspended Russia’s representation rights in the organization’s decision-making body and debate forum.
  • More than 50,000 Ukrainians have fled the country in less than 48 hours, mostly to Poland and Moldova, according to the United Nations’ high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi.

washington post logoWashington Post, How Republicans moved from Reagan’s ‘evil empire’ to Trump’s praise for Putin, Marc Fisher, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). For decades, the Republican Party’s stance on Russia’s dictators and expansionist tactics was rock-solid: From Dwight D. Eisenhower to Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan, Russia — then the Soviet Union — was America’s chief enemy, untrustworthy, anti-freedom. It was, in Reagan’s famous formulation, the “evil empire.”

This week, while many Republicans blasted Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s all-out assault on Ukraine, former president Donald Trump and some of his allies urged the United States to stay out of the conflict and praised Putin, even presenting him as a “peacekeeper,” as Trump put it.

“Don’t look for consistency in Republican policy,” said Craig Shirley, a Reagan biographer and longtime Republican political consultant. “The Republican Party right now is a little schizophrenic. Anti-communism and love of freedom used to be the glue that held the party together, but now the attitudes toward Russia have gotten all mixed up with domestic politics.”

In Congress, across conservative media and on the social media battlegrounds where so much of right-leaning America thrashes out its differences, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine seemed to open a gap between Trump and some of his erstwhile loyal supporters.

On Capitol Hill, GOP senators usually quick to agree with most anything Trump says issued statements that aligned with Republican reactions to Russian aggression through the past seven decades. One of Trump’s most vocal allies, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), praised the sanctions that Trump’s successor levied against Putin. “President Biden has now taken positive steps,” Cruz said, adding that “much more still needs to be done to deter and counter the threat that Putin poses to our allies in Ukraine and across Europe.”

Sen. Todd C. Young (R-Ind.) similarly praised Biden’s sanctions and said “Putin is attacking the democratic, rules-based order that has benefited countless Americans and millions around the globe since World War II. The United States must stand with the Ukrainian people by immediately providing additional assistance, including military equipment and lethal aid.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: President Biden is reviving a Cold War strategy called containment against Russia, updated for a new era, David E. Sanger, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). President Biden’s plan to counter Russia faces obstacles in an interconnected world. Russia also has a new, if not very enthusiastic, partner in standing up to the West: China. .

ny times logoNew York Times, Pro-Russia sentiment has increasingly penetrated social platforms, right-wing podcasts and some conservative media, Davey Alba and Stuart A. Thompson (tech reporters based in New York, reporting on online information flows), Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). After marinating in conspiracy theories and Donald J. Trump’s Russia stance, some online discourse about Vladimir Putin has grown more complimentary.

The day before Russia invaded Ukraine, former President Donald J. Trump called the wartime strategy of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia “pretty smart.” His remarks were posted on YouTube, Twitter and the messaging app Telegram, where they were viewed more than 1.3 million times.

Right-wing commentators including Candace Owens, Stew Peters and Joe Oltmann also jumped into the fray online with posts that were favorable to Mr. Putin and that rationalized his actions against Ukraine. “I’ll stand on the side of Russia right now,” Mr. Oltmann, a conservative podcaster, said on his show this week.

And in Telegram groups like The Patriot Voice and Facebook groups including Texas for Donald Trump 2020, members criticized President Biden’s handling of the conflict and expressed support for Russia, with some saying they trusted Mr. Putin more than Mr. Biden.

The online conversations reflect how pro-Russia sentiment has increasingly penetrated Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, right-wing podcasts, messaging apps like Telegram and some conservative media. As Russia attacked Ukraine this week, those views spread, infusing the online discourse over the war with sympathy — and even approval — for the aggressor.

The positive Russia comments are an extension of the culture wars and grievance politics that have animated the right in the United States in the past few years. In some of these circles, Mr. Putin carries a strongman appeal, viewed as someone who gets his way and does not let political correctness stop him.

“Putin embodies the strength that Trump pretended to have,” said Emerson T. Brooking, a resident senior fellow for the Atlantic Council who studies digital platforms. “For these individuals, Putin’s actions aren’t a tragedy — they’re a fantasy fulfilled.”

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Virus Updates, Reactions

ny times logoNew York Times, Over 5 Million Children Lost Caregivers to the Virus, Study Says, Staff Reports, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). The study covered the first 19 months of the pandemic and was based on data from 20 countries, including India, the U.S. and Peru. The C.D.C. is expected to loosen its guidance on masks Friday. Mass migration from the crisis in Ukraine leaves little room for pandemic considerations.

cdc logo CustomA new study estimates that at least 5.2 million children around the world lost a parent or other caregiver to Covid-19 in the first 19 months of the pandemic.

“Children are suffering immensely now and need our help,” said Susan Hillis, a senior researcher at the University of Oxford and a lead author of the study, which was published in the medical journal The Lancet on Thursday.

The study was based on data from 20 countries, including India, the United States and Peru, and was completed by an international research team that included experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and several colleges and universities.

It warns that a child who loses a parent or a caregiver could suffer negative effects including an increased risk of poverty, sexual abuse, mental health challenges and severe stress.

An earlier study, focused on the first 13 months of the pandemic, arrived at an estimate of 1.5 million affected children. The new figure is much higher not just because it adds data for six more months, researchers say, but also because the first estimate was a significant undercount. Using updated figures on Covid-related deaths, the researchers now calculate that at least 2.7 million children lost a parent or caregiver during the first 13 months.

The new study covers data through October 2021, and does not include the latest surge in cases from the Omicron variant, which have undoubtedly added to the toll.

“It took 10 years for five million children to be orphaned by H.I.V./AIDS, whereas the same number of children have been orphaned by Covid-19 in just two years,” Lorraine Sherr, a professor of psychology at University College London and an author of the study, said in a statement.

Davyon Johnson, 11, from Muskogee, Okla., is one of the millions of children to have lost a parent — in his case, his father, Willie James Logan, who died two days after being hospitalized with Covid in August 2021.

“It’s been a rocky road, I’ll say it like that,” Davyon’s mother, LaToya Johnson, said in an interview.

  • First-time vaccination rates in the U.S. are at a new low.
  • Covid, inflation and a loss of aid crimped American incomes in January.
  • Covid has surged through nursing homes in Hong Kong.
  • Another casualty of Russia’s invasion: Ukraine’s ability to contain the coronavirus.
  • Is the BA.2 version of Omicron worse? Here’s what you need to know.
  • The White House is mulling a pandemic strategy for ‘the next normal.’
  • ‘The world was in monochrome’: a Broadway conductor on his ongoing recovery from long Covid.
  • Follow Covid news.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘I Don’t Dare Get the Shot.’ Older Hong Kongers Are Unvaccinated and Worst Hit, Alexandra Stevenson and Austin Ramzy, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). A Covid surge has ravaged nursing homes in Hong Kong, but older residents are still among the city’s least vaccinated and the most skeptical.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Feb. 26, 2022), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 433,928,215, Deaths: 5,959,439
U.S. Cases:     80,532,307, Deaths:    972,200
Indian Cases:   42,905,844, Deaths:    513,512
Brazil Cases:   28,671,194, Deaths:    648,267

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Probes Of Trump, Allies

 

djt looking up

ny times logoNew York Times, House Panel Widens Investigation of Trump’s Handling of Documents, Luke Broadwater, Feb. 26, 2022 (print ed.). The Oversight Committee is demanding more information about classified material that former President Trump took with him when he left office.

A House committee on Friday expanded its investigation into former President Donald J. Trump’s destruction and removal of White House documents, demanding more information about classified material found at Mr. Trump’s property in Florida and reports that aides had discovered documents in a White House toilet during his time in office.

In a letter to the national archivist, Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York and the chairwoman of the Oversight Committee, said the panel was seeking a detailed description of the contents of 15 boxes recovered from Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s Palm Beach compound, including their level of classification, and all records that he “had torn up, destroyed, mutilated or attempted to tear up, destroy or mutilate.” She also said the panel wanted documents “relating to White House employees or contractors finding paper in a toilet in the White House, including the White House residence.”

The letter also sought information about the findings of any federal inquiries into the classified material and any communications with Mr. Trump about the Presidential Records Act or White House policies on record-keeping.

“The American people deserve to know the extent of what former President Trump did to hide and destroy federal records and make sure these abuses do not happen again,” Ms. Maloney said in a statement.

washington post logoWashington Post, Backstage drama at Jan. 6 rally for Trump draws interest of House committee, Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey and Beth Reinhard, Feb. 26, 2022. A previously unreported Park Police recording and text exchanges reveal more about the tensions and turf battles among Trump supporters jockeying to influence him as he preached his falsehoods about the election and sought to overturn its results.

At roughly 8:15 a.m. on Jan. 6, 2021, a few hours before President Donald Trump and his allies whipped up thousands of supporters with false claims of election fraud, law enforcement was summoned to the rally grounds to deal with a “possible disorderly.”

The incident threatening to disrupt the event at the Ellipse wasn’t happening in the crowd. It was happening backstage.

A simmering feud between rally organizers, including longtime Trump adviser Katrina Pierson and Republican fundraiser Caroline Wren, over who should speak that day was boiling over, culminating in a call to the U.S. Park Police, according to interviews with people familiar with the incident as well as text messages and police radio recordings reviewed by The Washington Post.

The call to police was made by Kylie Jane Kremer, executive director at Women for America First, a pro-Trump group that held the permit for the rally, who was aligned with Pierson in trying to keep some of Wren’s proposed speakers from addressing the crowd. Kremer confirmed in a statement to The Post that she called the Park Police.

Wren, who was listed on the permit for the rally as a “VIP ADVISOR,” had with others organized an initial spreadsheet of potential speakers that included far-right conspiracy theorists such as Alex Jones and Ali Alexander, planning documents obtained by The Post show. The final list of Jan. 6 speakers was personally approved by Trump and did not include Jones and Alexander, according to those documents and people involved in the planning, who like others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity.

But on the morning of the event, Kremer grew concerned that Wren was rearranging seats and trying to move Jones and Alexander closer to the stage, according to several people involved in the rally.

 Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Crime, Law, Courts, Race

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-Minneapolis officers found guilty of violating George Floyd’s civil rights, Holly Bailey, Feb. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Three former Minneapolis police officers who were at the scene with Derek Chauvin as he pressed his knee into George Floyd’s neck were convicted Thursday of violating Floyd’s civil rights in a case that is likely to increase scrutiny over how officers are trained to intervene with rogue colleagues.

Prosecutors had argued that former officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas K. Lane and Tou Thao knew Floyd was in medical danger beneath Chauvin’s knee but put their “discomfort in questioning a colleague” above their sworn duty to save a life.

After a month-long trial that cast a harsh light on police training and practices in Minneapolis, a jury found Kueng, Lane and Thao guilty of violating Floyd’s civil rights by failing to provide him medical aid. Kueng and Thao were also found guilty of failing to intervene with Chauvin. The jury found that the actions of all three men caused Floyd’s death.

U.S. District Judge Paul A. Magnuson, who presided over the case, did not order the officers to be taken into custody, citing a separate trial scheduled for June on state charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death. Magnuson said he would announce sentencing in the civil rights case at a later date.

The courtroom was silent as Magnuson read the verdicts for each former officer. A limited number of friends and family of the former officers had sat in the socially distanced courtroom during the proceedings, but on Wednesday, just one woman sat behind the defense tables. Thao and Kueng showed no visible reaction as they were found guilty. Lane shook his head and appeared to toss something on the table in reaction to the decision, causing a noise that echoed across the courtroom.

At least one of the female jurors appeared to be crying as the verdicts were read.

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U.S. Elections, Governance, Economy

washington post logoWashington Post, A MAGA gala, a far-right rally, and a plea for justice for the Jan. 6 attack: Trio of summits tests GOP’s future, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Josh Dawsey, Feb. 27, 2022 (print ed.). At the Conservative Political Action Conference and two alternatives, the question was how much the American right should orient itself around cultural grievances harnessed by former president Donald Trump.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Media, Education, Sports, Religion

washington post logoWashington Post, RT was Russia’s answer to CNN. Now its pro-Putin spin on Ukraine is sparking new outrage, Paul Farhi, Feb. 26, 2022. Whether defending Putin or downplaying the war, the Kremlin-backed global news organization is drawing louder accusations of propaganda.

As Russian military forces began their broad assault on Ukraine, the top news stories on RT’s English-language website weren’t about missiles, airborne troops or the deaths of civilians.

Instead, Thursday’s most prominent headlines included, “Firm admits selling potentially tainted rocket fuel to NASA” and “U.S. investigating complaints of self-braking Hondas.”

As for Russia’s deadly aggression against its neighbor? That story was literally off to the side, dressed up in benign, pro-Russian spin: “Russia ready to negotiate with Ukraine — Kremlin.”

The latest on the war in Ukraine

It was, in short, a predictable display for RT, the Kremlin-funded media organization. Long denounced as Russia’s propaganda megaphone to the world by the Western nations where it broadcasts, the multilingual network has routinely echoed Vladimir Putin’s criticisms of NATO and the United States, and championed his dubious rationales for attacking Ukraine.

This week, Russia’s aggression against Ukraine sparked a new round of outrage and condemnation of RT, whose initials once stood for “Russia Today.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Some conservative media hosts ridiculed Biden’s warnings of an attack on Ukraine. Now they say it’s his fault, Jeremy Barr, Feb. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Many top hosts for Fox News and other conservative media voices are blaming the White House for supposedly enabling Russia’s attack on Ukraine — even some of the same personalities who previously ridiculed President Biden’s warnings that an invasion was imminent.

“It’s just extraordinary what this president has allowed our adversaries to do,” Fox Business Network anchor Maria Bartiromo told viewers Thursday morning, as reports of Russian incursions across Ukraine poured in. She argued that Biden “has not been tough enough on Russia” and, “so far, anything that this administration has said has been weak.”

But days earlier, Bartiromo had sounded confident the Biden administration was inflating the threat of Russian aggression to distract from bad political news at home — particularly, a motion filed by special counsel John Durham that was described by many Fox News hosts as a massive scandal.

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Feb. 25

Top Headlines

 

More On Supreme Court Pick

 

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Virus Victims, Responses

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters

 

Probes Of Trump, Allies

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime, Race

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

 

Media, Sports, Education, Consumers

 

Top Stories

 

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris introduce at a White House ceremony Supreme Court nominee Kentaji Brown Jackson, center, a judge on the U.S. District of Columbia Court of Appeals (pool photo, Feb. 25, 2022).

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris introduce at a White House ceremony Supreme Court nominee Kentaji Brown Jackson, center, a judge on the U.S. District of Columbia Court of Appeals (pool photo, Feb. 25, 2022).

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court Live Updates: Biden touts Jackson’s integrity as he names Supreme Court pick, John Wagner, Mariana Alfaro, Felicia Sonmez and Eugene Scott, Feb. 25, 2022. Jackson, who would be the first Black female justice, says U.S. is ‘greatest beacon’ of democracy.

President Biden on Friday announced his historic pick of federal judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve on the Supreme Court, following through on a campaign pledge to nominate the first Black woman to the nation’s highest court in its 223-year history.

During an event at the White House, Biden said Jackson is “someone with extraordinary character” and “will bring to the Supreme Court an independent-minded, uncompromising integrity.” After being introduced, Jackson said the United States is “the greatest beacon of hope and democracy.”

If confirmed, Jackson would replace Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who announced last month that he would retire when the court term ends this summer. Democrats are determined to move swiftly to confirm Jackson, whom Biden elevated last year to the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Here’s what to know

  • Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) has publicly set a goal of confirming Biden’s nominee before the Easter recess, which is scheduled to begin April 8.
  • Although Biden made history with his choice, it will not change the court’s 6-to-3 conservative majority.
  • Biden’s pick comes amid the unusual circumstances of an ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russia that has dominated the news for several days.
  • Biden interviewed at least two other candidates for the job: J. Michelle Childs, a federal judge in South Carolina, and Leondra Kruger, a justice on the California Supreme Court, according to people familiar with the process.
  • Black activists and women’s groups that banded together to protect Vice President Harris from racist and sexist attacks before and after the 2020 election are remobilizing for the battle over Biden’s nominee.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: U.S. will sanction Putin as Russian forces close in on Kyiv, David L. Stern, Robyn Dixon, Chico Harlan, Amy Cheng, Dan Lamothe, Marisa Iati, Lateshia Beachum, Meryl Kornfield and María Luisa Paúl, Feb. 25, 2022. More than 50,000 Ukrainians have fled the country in less than 48 hours.

The United States plans to sanction Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Friday, as Russian forces pressed closer to the Ukrainian capital Friday.

Russian President Vladimir V. Putin chairing a meeting with members of Russia’s Security Council in Moscow, on Monday, Feb. 22, 2022 (Pool photo by Alexei Nikolsky).The announcement came after E.U. foreign ministers agreed to freeze the assets of Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov amid continued rocket attacks in Kyiv, where air raid sirens blared, people huddled for shelter in subway stations and a residential building was hit.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky posted a defiant video from Kyiv in which he said that he and his government were “defending our independence” from the Russian invasion. A senior U.S. defense official said Friday that the Russian military has lost momentum in its offensive, while cautioning that this could change in the coming days.

Here’s what to know

  • Putin has called on Ukraine’s armed forces to “take power” from Zelensky and a group in Kyiv that the Russian president described as “neo-Nazis.”
  • Radiation levels at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant site in Ukraine remain in a safe range after Russian forces captured the facility Thursday, the International Atomic Energy Agency said.
  • Local employees of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv made an appeal for urgent American assistance this week, accusing the U.S. government of abandoning them.
  • The Council of Europe, the continent’s main human-rights watchdog, suspended Russia’s representation rights in the organization’s decision-making body and debate forum.
  • More than 50,000 Ukrainians have fled the country in less than 48 hours, mostly to Poland and Moldova, according to the United Nations’ high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi.

 

Ukrainian service members pass by a downed aircraft on Feb. 25, 2022 (Photo by Oleksandr Ratushniak via the Associated Press).

 Ukrainian service members pass by a downed aircraft on Feb. 25, 2022 (Photo by Oleksandr Ratushniak via the Associated Press).

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia’s Assault in Ukraine Slows After an Aggressive Start, Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, Feb. 25, 2022. The invading forces have faced stiff resistance, but President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia could quickly send in more troops, Pentagon officials said.

For the Russian military, the difficult part came quickly.

On the first day of President Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, his generals and troops followed a textbook strategy for land invasions. They attacked the country’s military installations and air defense systems with missiles launched from the air, sea and land, seeking to take ownership of the skies, and sped forces to Kyiv, the capital, with the goal of decapitating the government of the democratically elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

ukraine flagBut then, things slowed. It is one thing to cross the border of another country with tanks and artillery, protected by warplanes above, Pentagon officials and analysts say. It is another thing entirely to lay siege to cities and an army populated by people willing to put their lives on the line to protect what they view as their sovereign right to self-determination.

Within a day of entering Ukraine, Russian forces lost some momentum, senior American and British officials said, as Ukrainian fighters mounted a resistance. No population centers had been taken, a senior Defense Department official told reporters at the Pentagon on Friday. Nor had Russia yet managed to achieve air superiority over Ukraine, partly because the Ukrainians are using mobile systems and partly because Russian missiles have hit old air defense sites, which could show a flaw in Russia’s intelligence. The Ukrainian air defense and missile defense systems were degraded, he said, but the country’s air force was still flying planes and denying air access to Russia.

 

volodymyr zelenski t shirt siege

huffington post logoHuffPost, ‘THE NIGHT WILL BE HARD’ — DIRE WARNING — ‘VILE’ ATTACK SET FOR KYIV, Sara Boboltz, Feb. 25, 2022. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy Posts Video Saying He's Still In Kyiv Amid Russian Attack. The Ukrainian leader, shown above the evening of Feb. 25, warned that the coming hours would be "very difficult," with "vile, cruel and inhuman" attacks.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy posted a social media video Friday evening to reassure Ukrainians that he and other top government leaders were still in Kyiv amid Russia’s attack on the capital city.

He warned in a subsequent message that the fighting could soon become severe, with Russian troops attacking the city in a “vile, cruel and inhuman” manner.

“We have to persevere tonight. The fate of Ukraine is being decided right now. The night will be hard, very hard, but there will be a morning,” Zelenskyy said, according to a translation by Financial Times reporter Max Seddon.

volodymyr zelensky helmet

ny times logoNew York Times, Russain Troops Enter Kyiv, Shashank Bengali, Feb. 25, 2022. Ukrainians Brace for a Battle for Their Capital; Live
Putin Claims He’s Willing to Negotiate.

Ukrainians on Friday braced for a violent battle for their capital, Kyiv, as officials warned residents to stay indoors and “prepare Molotov cocktails” to defend against advancing Russian forces who had entered a northern district of the city. Russia signaled that it was open to talks with the Ukrainian government, but it was unclear what the conditions were.

As missile strikes hammered Kyiv and a rocket crashed into a residential building, President Volodymyr Zelensky, shown above in a file photo, urged Ukrainians to defend the country, saying that no foreign troops were coming to their aid.

President Vladimir Putin said he was open to talks after Kyiv said it would discuss adopting “neutral status.” Earlier, Russia’s foreign minister said Moscow would not negotiate until Ukraine stopped fighting.

 

ukraine NATO wpost

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Russian forces press closer to Kyiv; U.S. fears capital could soon fall, David L. Stern, Robyn Dixon, Chico Harlan, Amy Cheng, Dan Lamothe, Ellen Francis and Timothy Bella, Feb. 25, 2022. Russian forces pressed closer to the Ukrainian capital Friday as air raid sirens blared and people huddled for shelter in deep subway stations. The Defense Ministry reported “saboteurs” just miles from Kyiv’s center, and the city was jolted by predawn explosions. The Biden administration cautioned lawmakers that the capital could soon fall.

volodymyr zelenskii cropped headshotUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, right, announced that 137 Ukrainians have been killed and 316 wounded after the first day of fighting, and he said Russians were targeting civilian areas, not just military sites. He addressed Russian President Vladimir Putin directly Friday, saying: “There are fights all over the country. Let’s sit down.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia was ready to send a delegation to the Belarusian capital, Minsk, for talks with Ukraine. But Peskov said Putin would send his hawkish defense and foreign ministers and made it clear that Russia still insists on Ukraine’s “denazification and demilitarization,” meaning Kyiv’s capitulation.

Here’s what to know

  • Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said saboteurs have reached an area several miles north of Kyiv, and it encouraged citizens to fight with molotov cocktails.
  • Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered about 7,000 U.S. service members to deploy to Germany in the coming days to help buttress NATO, according to a senior defense official.
  • The U.S. will seek a condemnation of Russia at the United Nations Security Council on Friday, setting the stage for a Russian veto. The European Union approved a second round of sanctions against Russia on Friday.

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 137 Ukrainians dead, Zelensky says, as Russian forces advance toward major cities, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Missy Ryan, Robyn Dixon and David Stern, Feb. 25, 2022 (print ed.). President Biden will participate in emergency NATO conference from the White House situation room. Russia’s military pushed deeper into Ukraine on Thursday and early Friday, attacking strategic airfields and advancing toward major cities as President Vladimir Putin defied mounting sanctions and recriminations from the West.

Explosions continued to rock areas around the eastern city of Kharkiv and the capital, Kyiv, sending residents to shelter in subway stations and prompting others to flee the country. U.S. officials said the expanding offensive may be aimed at toppling Ukraine’s elected government and installing a pro-Kremlin regime.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told lawmakers Thursday that the Biden administration was examining ways to provide Ukraine with more defensive equipment, and ways that it could continue training Ukrainian soldiers outside Ukraine even if the government in Kyiv falls. “The clarity of the discussion was that even if Kyiv is taken by the Russians, the Ukrainian government would continue to exist and we would continue to support them," said Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.).

 

More On Supreme Court Pick

washington post logoWashington Post, D.C. Circuit judge would be third African American in Supreme Court history, Tyler Pager, Sean Sullivan, Seung Min Kim and ketanji brown jackson robeAnn E. Marimow, Feb. 25, 2022. U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson, right, would be the first Black woman on the high court, and the first justice since Thurgood Marshall with significant experience as a criminal defense attorney, Robert Barnes and Emily Guskin, Feb. 25, 2022.  

washington post logoWashington Post, What you need to know about Ketanji Brown Jackson, Marc Fisher, Ann E. Marimow and Lori Rozsa, Feb. 25, 2022. How Jackson found a path between confrontation and compromise. Biden’s Supreme Court nominee was a ‘child of the ’70s’ who overcame obstacles by finding middle ground.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: 4 issues to watch in the confirmation fight, Aaron Blake, Feb. 25, 2022. Jackson has been considered the front-runner throughout much of the process. Although the hearings are expected to be contentious, given the stakes and the 50-50 Senate — another finalist, J. Michelle Childs, was the preferred pick for some Republicans — Jackson was confirmed to a federal appeals court just last year, and she has had some bipartisan support.

What to know about Ketanji Brown Jackson

It’s not clear at this point how much resistance Republicans will put up to her nomination, given it won’t change the balance of power on the court and Democrats have the necessary 50 votes.

But it’s worth looking at any potential hurdles she might face. Although both of Jackson’s confirmations — last year and in 2012 to a federal-district court — were relatively amicable, Republicans have isolated a few things that could come up.

Her work on Guantánamo detainee cases. One line of potential attack spanned both her confirmations, but without Republicans going at it too hard: her representation of a Guantánamo Bay detainee, Khi Ali Gul.

 

 More On Ukraine Crisis

washington post logoWashington Post, On Ukraine’s Snake Island, a defiant last stand, Dan Lamothe and Paul Sonne, Feb. 25, 2022. As the Russian military pounded targets across Ukraine with an array of bombs and missiles, a small team of Ukrainian border guards on a rocky, desolate island received an ominous message: Give up or be attacked.

“I am a Russian warship,” a voice from the invaders said, according to a recording of the communications. “I ask you to lay down your arms and surrender to avoid bloodshed and unnecessary deaths. Otherwise, you will be bombed.”

The Ukrainians responded boldly.

“Russian warship,” came the reply, “go f--- yourself.”

The Russians opened fire, eventually killing the 13 border guards.

News of the defiant last stand on the Black Sea went viral Thursday, highlighting the grim decisions that Ukrainians have faced during the largest attack on a European nation since World War II. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said hours later that the island’s defenders will be bestowed with the title “Hero of Ukraine,” the highest honorific the Ukrainian leader can award.

In defiance of the West, Russia presses military invasion deeper into Ukraine

A copy of the recording was posted on the website of the Ukrainian news outlet Ukrayinska Pravda, and a Ukrainian official confirmed its authenticity to The Washington Post. A separate recording, posted on TikTok, shows what appears to be a border guard in a helmet and balaclava on the atoll, also known as Zmiinyi Island, or Snake Island, cursing after coming under fire. His profile lists him as a 23-year-old from Odessa, a port city on the Black Sea.

Stories of resistance amid bloodshed came from all over Ukraine. Zelensky, speaking at a news conference, said the border guards had attempted to protect the island for much of Thursday before they were killed. At least 137 Ukrainians were killed in less than a day of fighting, with operations continuing, he said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Intense Battles Across Ukraine; Leader Vows to Fight, Michael Schwirtz, Feb. 25, 2022. Ukrainian troops dug in around the nation’s second-largest city a day after a fight to push back advancing Russian forces. Ukrainian troops dug in around the city after a fight littered a highway with burned-out Russian troop carriers. Our reporter was on the scene in Kharkiv.

The thuds of artillery start as a low-decibel rumble, but rattle the rib cage as you get closer. A crossroads at the northern entrance of Kharkiv is about as close to the front lines as anyone would wish to be on Friday, as Ukrainian soldiers waged a fierce battle to push Russian forces away from the city.

The empty carcasses of burned-out Russian armored personnel carriers and a Ukrainian police jeep littered the roadway, along with the scattered belongings of their former occupants — water bottles, a soldier’s boot, camouflage clothing. Nearby, the body of a Russian soldier, in a drab green uniform, lay on the side of the road, dusted in a light coating of snow that fell overnight.

The position was held, as of Friday, by a group of lightly armed Ukrainian soldiers who had hastily dug trenches into the wet mud beside the road, diving into them periodically when the artillery boom was especially loud.

Behind them, huge blue and yellow letters spelled KHARKIV, marking the entrance to Ukraine’s second-largest city, home to 1.5 million people, in the northeastern part of the country.

ny times logojoe biden resized oNew York Times, Analysis: President Biden is reviving a Cold War strategy called containment against Russia, updated for a new era, David E. Sanger, Feb. 25, 2022. President Biden’s plan to counter Russia faces obstacles in an interconnected world. Russia also has a new, if not very enthusiastic, partner in standing up to the West: China. .

ny times logoNew York Times, China sees itself as a defender of sovereign independence, but Russia’s invasion has put it in an awkward position, Chris Buckley, Feb. 25, 2022. As Russian troops have poured into Ukraine, officials in Beijing have fumed at any suggestion that they are betraying a core principle of Chinese foreign policy — that sovereignty is sacrosanct — in order to shield Moscow.

They will not even call it an invasion. “Russia’s operation” is one preferred description. The “current situation” is another. And China’s leader, Xi Jinping, says his position on the crisis is perfectly coherent.

“The abrupt changes in the eastern regions of Ukraine have been drawing the close attention of the international community,” Mr. Xi told his Russian counterpart, Vladimir V. Putin, in a call on Friday, according to an official Chinese summary.

“China’s fundamental stance has been consistent in respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, and abiding by the mission and principles of the United Nations Charter,” Mr. Xi said.

ny times logoNew York Times, The war threatens to strain economies across the Middle East already burdened by the pandemic, drought and conflict, Vivian Yee and Aida Alami, Feb. 25, 2022. Egypt imports most of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine, and is looking for alternative suppliers. And Tunisia was struggling to pay for grain imports even before the conflict.

On the way to the bakery, Mona Mohammed realized Russia’s war on Ukraine might have something to do with her.

Ms. Mohammed, 43, said she rarely pays attention to the news, but as she walked through her working-class Cairo neighborhood of Sayyida Zeinab on Friday morning, she overheard a few people fretting about the fact that Egypt imports most of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine.

War meant less wheat; war meant more expensive wheat. War meant that Egyptians whose budgets were already crimped from months of rising prices might soon have to pay more for the round loaves of aish baladi, or country bread, that contribute more calories and protein to the Egyptian diet than anything else.

“How much more expensive can things get?” Ms. Mohammed said as she waited to collect her government-subsidized loaves from the bakery

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this week threatens to further strain economies across the Middle East already burdened by the pandemic, drought and conflict. As usual, the poorest have had it the worst, reckoning with inflated food costs and scarcer jobs — a state of affairs that recalled the lead-up to 2011, when soaring bread prices helped propel anti-government protesters into the streets in what came to be known as the Arab Spring.

In a region where bread keeps hundreds of millions of people from hunger, anxiety at the bakeries spells trouble.

In Egypt, the world’s top importer of wheat, the government was moving in the wake of the Russian invasion to find alternative grain suppliers. In Morocco, where the worst drought in three decades was pushing up food prices, the Ukraine crisis was set to exacerbate the inflation that has caused protests to break out. Tunisia was already struggling to pay for grain shipments before the conflict broke out; the war seemed likely to complicate the cash-strapped government’s efforts to avert a looming economic collapse.

ny times logoNew York Times, Pro-Russia sentiment has increasingly penetrated social platforms, right-wing podcasts and some conservative media, Davey Alba and Stuart A. Thompson (tech reporters based in New York, reporting on online information flows), Feb. 25, 2022. After marinating in conspiracy theories and Donald J. Trump’s Russia stance, some online discourse about Vladimir Putin has grown more complimentary.

The day before Russia invaded Ukraine, former President Donald J. Trump called the wartime strategy of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia “pretty smart.” His remarks were posted on YouTube, Twitter and the messaging app Telegram, where they were viewed more than 1.3 million times.

Right-wing commentators including Candace Owens, Stew Peters and Joe Oltmann also jumped into the fray online with posts that were favorable to Mr. Putin and that rationalized his actions against Ukraine. “I’ll stand on the side of Russia right now,” Mr. Oltmann, a conservative podcaster, said on his show this week.

And in Telegram groups like The Patriot Voice and Facebook groups including Texas for Donald Trump 2020, members criticized President Biden’s handling of the conflict and expressed support for Russia, with some saying they trusted Mr. Putin more than Mr. Biden.

The online conversations reflect how pro-Russia sentiment has increasingly penetrated Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, right-wing podcasts, messaging apps like Telegram and some conservative media. As Russia attacked Ukraine this week, those views spread, infusing the online discourse over the war with sympathy — and even approval — for the aggressor.

The positive Russia comments are an extension of the culture wars and grievance politics that have animated the right in the United States in the past few years. In some of these circles, Mr. Putin carries a strongman appeal, viewed as someone who gets his way and does not let political correctness stop him.

“Putin embodies the strength that Trump pretended to have,” said Emerson T. Brooking, a resident senior fellow for the Atlantic Council who studies digital platforms. “For these individuals, Putin’s actions aren’t a tragedy — they’re a fantasy fulfilled.”

washington post logoWashington Post, E.U. plans to freeze assets of Putin, Lavrov, Emily Rauhala, Quentin Ariès and Michael Birnbaum, Feb. 25, 2022. The European Union plans to freeze assets of Russian President Putin and his foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, according to people familiar with the talks.

european union logo rectangleNeither would be banned from travel in the E.U., the sources said. The move, which comes as the bloc puts final touches on its second round of sanctions and starts working on a third, is expected to be approved Friday afternoon.

European Council President Charles Michel said Friday that there was “urgent preparation” for more sanctions on Russia for invading Ukraine. “The senseless suffering and loss of civilian life must stop,” he tweeted.

“Second wave of sanctions with massive and severe consequences politically agreed last night,” he continued. “Further package under urgent preparation.”

It was not immediately clear if the asset freezes would go in the second or potential third package.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Laundered Money Could Be Putin’s Achilles’ Heel, Paul Krugman, right, Feb. 25, 2022 (print ed.). For the most part, the paul krugmanWest’s response to Putin’s naked aggression will involve financial and economic sanctions. How effective can such sanctions be?

The answer is that they can be very effective, if the West shows the will — and is willing to take on its own corruption.

By conventional measures the Putin regime doesn’t look very vulnerable, at least in the short run.

Yet the world’s advanced democracies have another powerful financial weapon against the Putin regime, if they’re willing to use it: They can go after the vast overseas wealth of the oligarchs who surround Putin and help him stay in power.

Everyone has heard about giant oligarch-owned yachts, sports franchises and incredibly expensive homes in multiple countries; there’s so much highly visible Russian money in Britain that some people talk about “Londongrad.” Well, these aren’t just isolated stories.

The sums involved are mind-boggling. Novokmet et al. estimate that in 2015 the hidden foreign wealth of rich Russians amounted to around 85 percent of Russia’s G.D.P. To give you some perspective, this is as if a U.S. president’s cronies had managed to hide $20 trillion in overseas accounts.

But can democratic governments go after these assets? Yes. As I read it, the legal basis is already there, for example in the Countering America’s Enemies Through Sanctions Act, and so is the technical ability. Indeed, Britain froze the assets of three prominent Putin cronies earlier this week, and it could give many others the same treatment.

There are two uncomfortable facts here. First, a number of influential people, both in business and in politics, are deeply financially enmeshed with Russian kleptocrats. This is especially true in Britain. Second, it will be hard to go after laundered Russian money without making life harder for all money launderers, wherever they come from — and while Russian plutocrats may be the world champions in that sport, they’re hardly unique: Ultrawealthy people all over the world have money hidden in offshore accounts.

What this means is that taking effective action against Putin’s greatest vulnerability will require facing up to and overcoming the West’s own corruption.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump largely isolated in praise for Putin as GOP condemns invasion, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Josh Dawsey, Marianna Sotomayor and Mike DeBonis, Feb. 25, 2022 (print ed.). The crisis showcases competing impulses within the Republican Party in a test for democracy globally.  Leading Republicans on Thursday assailed Russia for plunging Europe into its first major land war in decades — isolating former president Donald Trump, the de facto standard-bearer of their party, in his praise for the country’s authoritarian leader.

From Capitol Hill to the campaign trail, prominent GOP voices, including some close Trump loyalists, vowed that Russian President Vladimir Putin would pay a severe price for ordering a military offensive against Ukraine, even as the party sought to blame President Biden for the crisis. Meanwhile, Republican leaders strained to articulate an alternative policy to counter Russia’s revanchist campaign — at once insisting on more severe measures and opposing the deployment of U.S. forces, which Biden has said is not an option.

The crosscurrents point to the hurdles Republicans face in staking out a position against foreign adversaries that include not just Russia but also China as they contend with the former president’s admiration for strongmen and an ascendant wing within their party that disfavors foreign intervention.

 

ukraine war protest russia 2 24 2022 Saint Petersberg ap

washington post logoWashington Post, Attack brings rare sight in Russia: Protests in cities against Putin and invasion, Robyn Dixon, Feb. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Thousands of people protested President Vladimir Putin’s attacks on Ukraine in cities across Russia on Thursday (including Saint Petersberg, shown above in a photo via Associated Press), a striking show of anger in a nation where spontaneous mass demonstrations are illegal and protesters can face fines and jail.

More than 1,700 people were arrested in at least 47 cities across the nation, according to rights group OVD-Info. The group was declared a foreign agent last year, when Putin launched a sweeping crackdown on activists, rights groups and opposition figures.

The protests came with an outpouring of horror from liberal Russians, social media influencers, athletes, actors, television presenters and others.

How the Russian attack is unfolding on the ground in Ukraine

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Thursday spoke out against the attacks during a court hearing, as members of the Russian political elite either remained silent or celebrated.

Navalny appeared via video link in court on charges of fraud, one of several cases against him, after he was nearly fatally poisoned with a chemical weapon by Russian security agents in 2020 and jailed in 2021 upon returning to Russia following medical treatment for the poisoning in Germany. His political organization was banned as extremist last year. He calls the charges against him political.

“I have no method of communicating with the outside world,” Navalny said at the Lefortovo District Court hearing. “I ask that my appeal to the court and to the world be recorded,” he said. “I am against this war. I believe that this war between Russia and Ukraine is being waged to cover up the robbery of Russian citizens and to distract their attention from the problems that exist within the country from the degradation of the economy,” Nalvany added.

 

vladimir putin security council 2 21 2022 alexey nikolsky sputnik afp getty

President Vladimir V. Putin meeting with members of Russia’s Security Council in Moscow on Monday.Credit...Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

washington post logoWashington Post, At great risk for Russia, Putin signals a dark endgame, Robyn Dixon and Paul Sonne, Feb. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Russian President Vladimir Putin, posing one of the biggest security threats to Europe since World War II, is staking his legacy on an irredentist invasion of Ukraine that poses significant risks to his own country and raises worrisome questions about his ambitions to bring Kyiv to heel.

Putin’s defiant decision to use full-fledged military force represents an unprecedented level of risk-taking for the Russian leader and threatens to isolate his country even further from the West and its allies. Punishments being leveled by Western nations could land Washington in an escalatory cycle with Moscow, if Russia responds to the measures in kind.

The attack also carries a direct challenge to the post-Cold War global order. Putin’s sweeping ambition involves hammering out a new international balance, setting the scene for a club of powerful nuclear powers to dominate smaller states and carve out spheres of influence — by force if they see fit.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine says Chernobyl radiation levels ‘exceeded,’ as Russia confirms its forces seized the nuclear plant, Adela Suliman and Mary Ilyushina, Feb. 25, 2022. The Ukrainian government warned Friday that radiation levels near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant site have “exceeded” control levels, as the Russian military confirmed it has captured the area but insisted that radiation levels remained “normal.”

“The control levels of gamma radiation dose rate in the Exclusion zone were exceeded,” the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine, a government body, said in a statement early Friday.

Local experts “connect this with disturbance of the top layer of soil from movement of a large number of radio heavy military machinery through the Exclusion zone and increase of air pollution,” it added. However, it noted that “the condition of Chernobyl nuclear facilities and other facilities is unchanged.”

Earlier Friday, the body said that although data “from the automated radiation monitoring system of the exclusion zone” indicated that the control levels of gamma radiation had risen, it was “currently impossible to establish the reasons for the change in the radiation background in the exclusion zone because of the occupation and military fight in this territory.”

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Russia launches attacks across Ukraine; Biden vows ‘consequences,’ Sudarsan Raghavan, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Robyn Dixon and Ellen Francis, Feb. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Russia launched a broad attack on Ukraine from multiple directions early Thursday, bombarding cities, towns and villages and advancing toward the capital, Kyiv, as Ukrainian forces tried to stem the onslaught of Russian ground forces and air power.

Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said Russian troops were fighting to break into the wider Kyiv region and crossed the regional border, where Ukrainian forces battled to repel them. As reports of mounting casualties emerged, crowds of Ukrainians and foreigners fled Kyiv and other cities.

NATO announced it will bolster its eastern flank and host an emergency summit after Russian President Vladimir Putin initiated “brutal act of war,” and Western governments pledged more sanctions. “Peace on our continent has been shattered,” the alliance’s secretary general said in Brussels. President Biden condemned the attack and promised a decisive response.

Loud blasts rang out in the Ukrainian capital — where sirens blared and people lined up at ATMs — and in Kharkiv, in the country’s northeast. Ukraine reported strikes on airfields, including at the largest airport in Kyiv, and Russian tanks and troops poured across the borders. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky broke off diplomatic ties with Moscow and said attacks came “from the north, east and south.”

What you need to know about the Russia-Ukraine crisis

Here’s what to know

  • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance has activated its “defense plans” to make sure there is no “spillover” into a NATO country.
  • Putin warned of grave consequences for anyone considering interfering with Russia’s plans, appearing to threaten the use of nuclear weapons.
  • Zelensky imposed martial law after pleading with the Russian people late Wednesday to stop their leadership from sending troops across the border and into his country.

washington post logoWashington Post, In defiance of the West, Russia presses military invasion deeper into Ukraine, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Missy Ryan, Robyn Dixon and David Stern, Feb. 25, 2022 (print ed.). President Vladimir Putin showed his willingness to defy what Western officials described as crushing economic sanctions. Russia’s military pushed deeper into Ukraine on Thursday, attacking strategic airfields and advancing toward major cities as President Vladimir Putin defied mounting sanctions and recriminations from the West.

Explosions continued to rock areas around the eastern city of Kharkiv and the capital, Kyiv, sending residents to shelter in subway stations and prompting others to flee the country. U.S. officials said the expanding offensive may be aimed at toppling Ukraine’s elected government and installing a pro-Kremlin regime.

Russian troops encountered counterattacks from Ukrainian forces as they staged their invasion along multiple fronts, including from Belarus in the north and Crimea to the south. Several airfields around Kyiv were targeted, Ukrainian officials said, while Russian naval ships blocked commercial traffic in the Black Sea.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Ukrainian president says Russian saboteurs have infiltrated Kyiv, Sudarsan Raghavan, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Robyn Dixon, Ellen Francis, María Luisa Paúl, Meryl Kornfield, Hannah Knowles, Feb. 25, 2022 (print ed.). U.S. targets major Russian banks and tech sector with sweeping sanctions.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says “enemy sabotage groups” have entered Kyiv, the capital, as Russian forces close in.

Two loud booms were heard from the city at around 4 a.m. local time, according to numerous reports. In an address to Ukrainians, Zelensky did not specifically say Russian forces had entered Kyiv, but his reference to “sabotage groups” was interpreted as a sign that the city was in peril. He also said the country has been left to fight alone by NATO despite appeals for help from the alliance. But he remained defiant and urged Ukrainians to fight on.

President Biden has announced sweeping sanctions against Russia for its full-scale attack, saying in a Thursday White House address that the aggression “cannot go unanswered.” The sanctions, coordinated with allies, target Russia’s elites, its largest state-owned banks and companies throughout its economy.

Here’s what to know

  • More than 130 Ukrainians were killed in a day, Ukraine’s president said. Authorities said Russian forces captured the abandoned Chernobyl nuclear power plant as well as an island in the Black Sea.
  • The European Union approved a second round of sanctions on Russia Friday.
  • Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered about 7,000 service members to deploy to Germany in the coming days to help buttress NATO, according to a senior defense official. NATO announced that it will bolster its eastern flank and host an emergency summit.
  • Ukraine announced a full military mobilization and banned adult male citizens from leaving the country.
  • Global markets convulsed Thursday as Russia launched a military assault on Ukraine, with the three major U.S. indexes clawing back from steep losses.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Putin’s assault on Ukraine will shape a new world order, David Ignatius, right, Feb. 25, 2022 (print ed.). When Russian david ignatiusPresident Vladimir Putin launched his all-out invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, he effectively ended the post-Cold War era. A new architecture for global relations must be built, and its shape will depend on whether Putin’s brutal campaign succeeds or fails.

Putin’s attack awakened the ghosts of war that had haunted Europe for a century. The world watched in horror as a massive assault force attacked Ukraine from three sides with missiles, bombs, tanks and the electronic wizardry of cyberwarfare. Scores of nations condemned the invasion. But the gut-wrenching fact is that Ukraine is fighting Putin by itself.

The Post's View: Why Ukraine -- and Russian aggression against it -- matters to Americans

This conflict isn’t a case of sleepwalking toward war, as historians have described the blind march into World War I in 1914. It is closer to the attack that a bitter, vengeful German leader launched on neighboring Czechoslovakia in 1939. Putin isn’t Adolf Hitler — yet — but he shares a similar brooding obsession with settling scores by military force.

Putin’s willingness to escalate all the way to war has been increasingly clear to the Biden administration since CIA Director William J. Burns visited Moscow in early November. He traveled there to warn Putin that U.S. intelligence had concluded that behind a Russian troop buildup along Ukraine’s border lay serious war-planning.

Recent Headlines

 

Virus Updates, Reactions

Politico, CDC says most Americans can now take off masks as Covid cases plummet, Erin Banco and Sarah Owermohle, Feb. 25, 2022. The announcement comes after weeks of deliberation about what metrics officials should use in deciding when and how to ease public health restrictions.
Rochelle Walensky speaks during an interview.

The majority of Americans can now choose to take off their masks in indoor public settings, including in schools, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said data supports state and local officials, schools and businesses in 70 percent of the country updating their guidelines to allow people the option to wear a mask. The move marks a milestone in America’s two-year fight against Covid-19 — one that relied heavily on masks to help control the spread of the virus.

The announcement comes after weeks of deliberation inside the nation’s leading public health agency about what metrics officials should use in deciding when and how to ease public health restrictions.

Asked about the timing of the metrics change — especially after several states have already dropped mask mandates and other requirements — Walensky told reporters that officials “have been thinking about shifting our metrics to hospitalization for some time now.” She also argued that many governors teed up mask changes for the end of February or early March, which coincides with the CDC’s data shift.
A person holds a phone and a face mask.

The majority of Americans can now choose to take off their masks in indoor public settings, the CDC announced. | Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The CDC released guidance that separates the country into three levels — low, medium and high. Low areas of the country are defined as regions where the Covid-19 has a limited impact on hospital capacity and where severe disease is low. Medium areas are defined as regions where Covid-19 has some impact on hospitalizations and more people with severe disease. High areas are defined as areas where Covid-19 could have a significant impact on the health care system and a high level of severe disease.

For people living in the low and medium jurisdictions — about 70 percent of the country — the CDC says that they should get vaccinated and boosted, tested when sick, but that they can choose whether to wear a mask. Throughout its guidelines, the CDC did not specify whether people who were unvaccinated should still wear masks.

“We’re in a better place today than we were six months ago, six weeks ago, six days ago. Now it’s time to focus on severity, not just cases, of Covid,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said. “Because of all the hard work that’s been done and the many tools we’ve developed to tackle Covid, we can ease the guidance on mask use — not everyone in every place needs to wear a mask.”

The new masking guidelines could dramatically change the way schools operate. In portions of the country, the CDC now says parents can now choose whether to send their children to school with masks. The CDC has received significant pushback over the last year over its continued recommendations that children mask in school, with many arguing that masks hindered learning.

“This is an important step in the right direction,” said Leana Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University. “Governors and local leaders have all been asking for clear on ramps and off ramps, and these revised metrics helps get us there. Let’s give people respite now with the caveat that these measures can come back. It’s a temporary exhale of relief.”

The CDC said Friday that although masking will now be optional for many schools, administrators should continue to implement other public health measures such as proper ventilation systems. More than 70,000 new Covid-19 cases are reported a day, but officials pointed to two years of data suggesting low risk of serious infection for children.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Over 5 Million Children Lost Caregivers to the Virus, Study Says, Staff Reports, Feb. 25, 2022. The study covered the first 19 months of the pandemic and was based on data from 20 countries, including India, the U.S. and Peru. The C.D.C. is expected to loosen its guidance on masks Friday. Mass migration from the crisis in Ukraine leaves little room for pandemic considerations.

cdc logo CustomA new study estimates that at least 5.2 million children around the world lost a parent or other caregiver to Covid-19 in the first 19 months of the pandemic.

“Children are suffering immensely now and need our help,” said Susan Hillis, a senior researcher at the University of Oxford and a lead author of the study, which was published in the medical journal The Lancet on Thursday.

The study was based on data from 20 countries, including India, the United States and Peru, and was completed by an international research team that included experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and several colleges and universities.

It warns that a child who loses a parent or a caregiver could suffer negative effects including an increased risk of poverty, sexual abuse, mental health challenges and severe stress.

An earlier study, focused on the first 13 months of the pandemic, arrived at an estimate of 1.5 million affected children. The new figure is much higher not just because it adds data for six more months, researchers say, but also because the first estimate was a significant undercount. Using updated figures on Covid-related deaths, the researchers now calculate that at least 2.7 million children lost a parent or caregiver during the first 13 months.

The new study covers data through October 2021, and does not include the latest surge in cases from the Omicron variant, which have undoubtedly added to the toll.

“It took 10 years for five million children to be orphaned by H.I.V./AIDS, whereas the same number of children have been orphaned by Covid-19 in just two years,” Lorraine Sherr, a professor of psychology at University College London and an author of the study, said in a statement.

Davyon Johnson, 11, from Muskogee, Okla., is one of the millions of children to have lost a parent — in his case, his father, Willie James Logan, who died two days after being hospitalized with Covid in August 2021.

“It’s been a rocky road, I’ll say it like that,” Davyon’s mother, LaToya Johnson, said in an interview.

  • First-time vaccination rates in the U.S. are at a new low.
  • Covid, inflation and a loss of aid crimped American incomes in January.
  • Covid has surged through nursing homes in Hong Kong.
  • Another casualty of Russia’s invasion: Ukraine’s ability to contain the coronavirus.
  • Is the BA.2 version of Omicron worse? Here’s what you need to know.
  • The White House is mulling a pandemic strategy for ‘the next normal.’
  • ‘The world was in monochrome’: a Broadway conductor on his ongoing recovery from long Covid.
  • Follow Covid news.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘I Don’t Dare Get the Shot.’ Older Hong Kongers Are Unvaccinated and Worst Hit, Alexandra Stevenson and Austin Ramzy, Feb. 25, 2022. A Covid surge has ravaged nursing homes in Hong Kong, but older residents are still among the city’s least vaccinated and the most skeptical.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Feb. 25, 2022), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 432,433,094, Deaths: 5,950,193
U.S. Cases:     80,446,580, Deaths:    969,602
Indian Cases:   42,894,345, Deaths:    513,258
Brazil Cases:   28,580,995, Deaths:    647,486

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More On Russian-Ukraine-NATO Crisis

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine shrugged off predictions of war. Now it’s a mad dash to leave, Sudarsan Raghavan, Siobhán O'Grady, Isabelle Khurshudyan and Loveday Morris, Feb. 25, 2022 (print ed.). In an instant, millions of Ukrainian lives were upended Thursday by the sudden entry of Russian troops by land and sea, pushing through several borders, lobbing shells and firing missiles at cities and villages.

It was an attack few Ukrainians anticipated would happen, certainly not on this scale. For weeks, their president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and his advisers downplayed the possibilities of a Russian assault, even chastising the United States and European countries for constantly warning that an attack would happen. There were no evacuation plans or other elements of a comprehensive strategy to keep Ukrainians safe and secure in the event Russian tanks rolled in.

 In this image provided by the United Nations, the U.N. Security Council meets for an emergency session on Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 21, 2022, at the U.N. headquarters. (Evan Schneider/United Nations via AP)

In this image provided by the United Nations, the U.N. Security Council meets for an emergency session on Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 21, 2022, at the U.N. headquarters. (Evan Schneider/United Nations via AP)

Recent Headlines

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters

washington post logoWashington Post, Monique Hanotte 1920–2022: Belgian resistance member who rescued 135 downed Allied airmen in World War II dies at 101, Phil Davison, Feb. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Monique Hanotte, who as a Belgian teenager risked her life to help escort 135 Allied airmen out of German-occupied France and Belgium during World War II, died Feb. 19 in the Belgian city of Nivelles. She was 101.

Her death, of undisclosed causes, was announced by the municipal authorities in Nivelles.

The unarmed Belgian resistance — two-thirds of them women of all ages — hid, clothed, fed and created false documents for downed airmen, and then guided more than 800 of them on a long, dangerous trail through France, over the rugged Pyrenees to Spain, and finally into the British territory of Gibraltar, from which they would be flown to England.

Ms. Hanotte was one of the last handful of surviving members of the Belgian “Comet Line,” a resistance network dedicated to saving Allied airmen from capture, torture and likely execution by the Nazis.

Recent Headlines

 

Probes Of Trump, Allies

 

djt looking up

ny times logoNew York Times, House Panel Widens Investigation of Trump’s Handling of Documents, Luke Broadwater, Feb. 25, 2022. The Oversight Committee is demanding more information about classified material that former President Trump took with him when he left office.

A House committee on Friday expanded its investigation into former President Donald J. Trump’s destruction and removal of White House documents, demanding more information about classified material found at Mr. Trump’s property in Florida and reports that aides had discovered documents in a White House toilet during his time in office.

In a letter to the national archivist, Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York and the chairwoman of the Oversight Committee, said the panel was seeking a detailed description of the contents of 15 boxes recovered from Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s Palm Beach compound, including their level of classification, and all records that he “had torn up, destroyed, mutilated or attempted to tear up, destroy or mutilate.” She also said the panel wanted documents “relating to White House employees or contractors finding paper in a toilet in the White House, including the White House residence.”

The letter also sought information about the findings of any federal inquiries into the classified material and any communications with Mr. Trump about the Presidential Records Act or White House policies on record-keeping.

“The American people deserve to know the extent of what former President Trump did to hide and destroy federal records and make sure these abuses do not happen again,” Ms. Maloney said in a statement.

washington post logoWashington Post, New attorney tapped to head N.Y. Trump investigation after two lead prosecutors quit, Shayna Jacobs, Feb. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D), right, has asked his investigations chief to oversee the ongoing probe into former president Donald Trump and his business practices, a day after the abrupt resignations of two veteran attorneys who had been leading the case.

alvin bragg twitterSusan Hoffinger, also an experienced litigator and recent addition to Bragg’s executive team, will captain what has been described as a squad of about 25 lawyers, paralegals and analysts. Over more than three years, the group has pored through millions of records relating to Trump and operations at the Trump Organization, his family-run company, focusing most recently on whether assets were illegally overvalued to secure better terms on loans and insurance rates, and undervalued to get tax breaks.

Bragg’s announcement Thursday follows the dramatic departure of Carey Dunne and Mark Pomerantz, whose resignations signaled a marked shift in the probe. Multiple people with knowledge of the matter said Dunne and Pomerantz felt Bragg, who took office Jan. 1, was not interested in pursuing a case against Trump and had not given them direction on how to proceed.

Prosecutors in Trump probe quit after new DA seems to abandon plan to seek indictment of former president

Bragg’s office has said the case, which he inherited from his predecessor, Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (D), is proceeding. On Thursday, his spokesperson said it was “not true” that Bragg was unconcerned with advancing the matter.

“As we said yesterday, the investigation remains ongoing,” said Bragg spokeswoman Danielle Filson, adding that Hoffinger “will lead the strong team that is in place.”

The case gained significant notoriety under Vance as he fought to obtain Trump’s tax returns and related records — a drawn-out battle that was won at the Supreme Court. Since obtaining the records a year ago, prosecutors secured an indictment from a previous grand jury against the Trump Organization and its longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, alleging 15-year tax fraud.

A second six-month grand jury that was expected to hear evidence for possible charges related to Trump Organization’s alleged practice of manipulating asset values was convened in the fall.

Vance had authorized his prosecutors to seek an indictment against Trump, two people with knowledge of the matter said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive process. But that did not happen before he left office at the end of the year.

Dunne and Pomerantz believed Bragg would similarly seek an indictment, the people familiar with the situation said. But their new boss was slow to read their memos or meet with them, and they grew increasingly frustrated, concluding they were losing momentum that had been initiated under Vance, the people said.

The grand jury’s term is set to expire this spring.

Trump and his legal team have repeatedly denied wrongdoing and have said the investigation, which is being conducted in partnership with New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), is politically motivated. James has a parallel civil probe covering the same subject areas, which could result in a lawsuit.

 Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Crime, Law, Courts, Race

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-Minneapolis officers found guilty of violating George Floyd’s civil rights, Holly Bailey, Feb. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Three former Minneapolis police officers who were at the scene with Derek Chauvin as he pressed his knee into George Floyd’s neck were convicted Thursday of violating Floyd’s civil rights in a case that is likely to increase scrutiny over how officers are trained to intervene with rogue colleagues.

Prosecutors had argued that former officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas K. Lane and Tou Thao knew Floyd was in medical danger beneath Chauvin’s knee but put their “discomfort in questioning a colleague” above their sworn duty to save a life.

After a month-long trial that cast a harsh light on police training and practices in Minneapolis, a jury found Kueng, Lane and Thao guilty of violating Floyd’s civil rights by failing to provide him medical aid. Kueng and Thao were also found guilty of failing to intervene with Chauvin. The jury found that the actions of all three men caused Floyd’s death.

U.S. District Judge Paul A. Magnuson, who presided over the case, did not order the officers to be taken into custody, citing a separate trial scheduled for June on state charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death. Magnuson said he would announce sentencing in the civil rights case at a later date.

The courtroom was silent as Magnuson read the verdicts for each former officer. A limited number of friends and family of the former officers had sat in the socially distanced courtroom during the proceedings, but on Wednesday, just one woman sat behind the defense tables. Thao and Kueng showed no visible reaction as they were found guilty. Lane shook his head and appeared to toss something on the table in reaction to the decision, causing a noise that echoed across the courtroom.

At least one of the female jurors appeared to be crying as the verdicts were read.

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U.S. Elections, Governance, Economy

 

matt schlapp djt

huffington post logoHuffPost, CPAC Is Not Registered As A Foreign Agent, But Is Taking Money From Foreign Interests Anyway, S.V. Date, Feb. 25, 2022. CPAC and its chairman, Matt Schlapp (shown above left with a scheduled keynoter this year, former President Trump, have drawn a complaint for taking money from a South Korean partner that is lobbying against a U.S. bill at the conference.

Organizers of the CPAC conference have taken tens of thousands of dollars in sponsorship fees from foreign interests – including one which is actively advocating against legislation before Congress – without registering as foreign agents.

Neither Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, nor CPAC itself appears to be registered as a foreign representative under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a circumstance that drew a complaint to the Department of Justice this week.

“There is sufficient evidence of alleged violations to support a federal criminal or civil investigation,” the complaint reads, according to a copy obtained by HuffPost.

The complaint names Schlapp, his wife, Mercedes Schlapp, a former Trump White House official and prominent player at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the American Conservative Union, the ACU Foundation, and Cove Strategies, Matt Schlapp’s consulting firm.

The complaint was provided to HuffPost on condition of anonymity by a conservative activist who would likely face retaliation in business relationships.

The Department of Justice FARA unit told HuffPost that it “does not comment on any activities the staff conducts in its efforts to enforce the Act, nor does it comment on compliance matters related to registered agents or other parties.”

CPAC is a production of the ACU Foundation, which is a 501(c)3 educational charity under the federal tax code. The group has posted prominent signs at the conference venue stating: “Electioneering is strictly prohibited. Those found to be electioneering may be asked to leave the premises.”

FARA, meanwhile, requires those who are paid to advance the interests of foreign entities in the United States to register that affiliation. At CPAC this year, foreign entities likely paid CPAC’s organizers at least $200,000 to participate in the four-day event.

The conference attracts a few thousand activists from around the country, but also dozens of sitting members of Congress and congressional candidates, several of whom are also paying CPAC for exhibition space while another dozen or so are appearing as featured speakers.

The foreign groups participating at CPAC include New Direction, a conservative think tank in Europe, CPAC Hungary, the Japanese Conservative Union, and CPAC Korea. According to CPAC’s own “sponsorship prospectus,” the groups were charged based on the size and prominence of their display space.

Based on the published tiers, CPAC Hungary was charged $15,000 for its 10-by-10-foot booth, while the Japanese Conservative Union and CPAC Korea each paid $75,000 for their 20-by-10-foot booths. Their packages also included three-minute videos to be shown from the main stage and two Facebook shares and two retweets from the CPAC social media accounts.

CPAC Korea’s video played Friday afternoon and urged viewers to sign a petition calling for the defeat of a House bill that would encourage a peace treaty between North and South Korea. The group is displaying signs and distributing literature from its booth in the exhibit hall telling attendees to “End the #fakepeace on the Korean peninsula act – OPPOSE H.R. 3446.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Postal Service finalizes plans to buy mostly gasoline-powered delivery trucks. Here’s what experts say is wrong with that, Jacob Bogage and Anna Phillips, Feb. 24, 2022 (print ed.). The Postal Service will spend up to $11.3 billion on a fleet that is 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent electric.

us mail logoThe U.S. Postal Service finalized plans Wednesday to purchase up to 148,000 gasoline-powered mail delivery trucks, defying Biden administration officials’ objections that the multibillion-dollar contract would undercut the nation’s climate goals.
10 steps you can take to lower your carbon footprint

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, below left, disregarded requests from the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the louis dejoy CustomEnvironmental Protection Agency this month to reconsider replacing the delivery fleet with 90 percent gas-powered trucks and 10 percent electric vehicles, at a cost of as much as $11.3 billion. The contract, orchestrated by DeJoy, offers only a 0.4-mpg fuel economy improvement over the agency’s current fleet.

The decision is a major blow to the White House’s climate agenda. President Biden has pledged to transition the federal fleet to clean power, and apart from the military, the Postal Service has more vehicles than any other government agency. It accounts for nearly one-third of federally owned cars and trucks, and environmental and auto industry experts argue that the agency’s stop-and-start deliveries to 161 million addresses six days a week provides an ideal scenario for using electric vehicles.

EPA officials said the Postal Service vastly underestimated the emissions of its proposed fleet of “Next Generation Delivery Vehicles,” accusing the mail agency of fudging the math in its analysis to justify the massive purchase of internal-combustion-engine trucks.

DeJoy, a holdover from the Trump administration, has called his agency’s investment in green transportation “ambitious,” even as environmental groups and other postal leaders have privately mocked the claim. When DeJoy repeated the characterization at a public meeting of the Postal Service’s governing board this month, his remarks were met with chuckles from the audience.

DeJoy said in a statement that the agency was open to pursuing more electric vehicles if “additional funding — from either internal or congressional sources — becomes available.” But he added that the agency had “waited long enough” for new vehicles.

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U.S. Media, Education, Sports, Religion

 

fcc logoPolitics USA, This Could Be Huge: The FCC Is Investigating American Media And Other Companies For Russian Ownership Ties, Jason Easley, Feb. 25, 2022. The FCC is investigating American media, telecommunication, and infrastructure companies for potential Russian ownership ties.

CNN reported: Conducted jointly with the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, the FCC review covers more than just media entities regulated by the FCC’s broadcast licensing program, the person said. It also covers a vast array of telecommunications and infrastructure companies, including wireless providers, submarine cable operators, and foreign telecom services that connect US-international phone calls, the person said.

It is not yet clear how many companies with ties to Russia the review may uncover, the person said, describing the initiative as a “top-to-bottom” effort to “identify the universe of licensees that have Russian ownership that should be on our radar.”

Conservative companies like Fox News that have been engaging in pro-Russia coverage have raised suspicion. Any companies that are found to have ownership ties to Russia could be deemed a security threat to the United States and could be subject to being ejected from the United States.

There are likely some conservative media companies that should be very nervous about what the FCC review could find. Any outlet that is offering pro-Putin coverage should raise suspicion.

RT, the Russian own propaganda network in the US, should be kicked out of the country ASAP.

The investigation is the clearest sign yet that the Biden administration isn’t fooling around, as it is possible that the investigation could reveal the Russian penetration into conservative media and get Russian propaganda out of the country.

washington post logoWashington Post, Some conservative media hosts ridiculed Biden’s warnings of an attack on Ukraine. Now they say it’s his fault, Jeremy Barr, Feb. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Many top hosts for Fox News and other conservative media voices are blaming the White House for supposedly enabling Russia’s attack on Ukraine — even some of the same personalities who previously ridiculed President Biden’s warnings that an invasion was imminent.

“It’s just extraordinary what this president has allowed our adversaries to do,” Fox Business Network anchor Maria Bartiromo told viewers Thursday morning, as reports of Russian incursions across Ukraine poured in. She argued that Biden “has not been tough enough on Russia” and, “so far, anything that this administration has said has been weak.”

But days earlier, Bartiromo had sounded confident the Biden administration was inflating the threat of Russian aggression to distract from bad political news at home — particularly, a motion filed by special counsel John Durham that was described by many Fox News hosts as a massive scandal.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jennifer Griffin keeps fact-checking her Fox News colleagues on Ukraine, Jeremy Barr, Feb. 25, 2022. The national security correspondent has pushed back on comments made by Sean Hannity, Steve Doocy, Harris Faulkner and other hosts.

Fox News reporter Jennifer Griffin has been pulling double duty lately.

Much like her peers at other news outfits, the national security correspondent has reported live from the Pentagon, telling viewers what U.S. officials were thinking and doing as Russia launched its long-feared assault on Ukraine this week.

fox news logo SmallBut, Griffin has also used her reporting appearances on Fox News programs to push back on some of the assertions made by her colleagues, particularly those who host opinion programs. In doing so, Griffin has performed an exercise in real-time, intra-network fact-checking that is unusual on a television news channel, and particularly at Fox News, which has long valued internal harmony.

Some conservative media hosts ridiculed Biden’s warnings of a Russian attack. Now they say it’s his fault.

The most noticeable back-and-forth occurred when Griffin appeared on “The Faulkner Focus” Thursday morning to explain U.S. strategy: first warning Russia against invading its smaller neighbor, then imposing “shock and awe” sanctions after it launched a widespread attack on Ukraine this week.

“Now comes the part where they will squeeze Russia,” Griffin told the host, Harris Faulkner. “You saw that the Russian stock market fell by half today.”

“Yeah, have you seen ours?” Faulkner immediately retorted. (U.S. markets were diving at the time, though they mostly recovered later in the day.) “We’ve had general after general tell us that the sanctions were not going to work. … When you say, ‘We saw this coming. They saw this coming,’ I’m just wondering why that was still the only strategy deployed.”

“Well, Harris, let me, let me, let me, I need to follow up on that,” Griffin interjected. When Faulkner suggested that the U.S. could have used other tactics to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression, possibly involving NATO, Griffin replied that sending troops to the area would have merely given Putin “a pretext” to invade.

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Feb. 24

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ny times logoNew York Times, RUSSIAN FORCES PUSH TOWARD CAPITAL, Staff Reports, Feb. 24, 2022. Videos Show Large Explosion in the Sky Over the Outskirts of Kyiv. “Putin chose this war, and now he and his country will bear the consequences,” President Biden said in announcing new sanctions. Russia advances on Kyiv.

Independent security analysts said Russian forces in the east and the south of Ukraine were maneuvering with less resistance than those forces that were farther north and approaching the cities of Kyiv and Kharkiv, where the attacks were less sophisticated and the Ukrainian military had succeeded in engaging Moscow’s army.

Russian military units are attempting to encircle the capital, Kyiv, at least initially, and drive into Kharkiv, said Frederick W. Kagan, the director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said that Russian saboteurs had entered Kyiv, the capital, and that he was “target No. 1” for Russian forces, followed by his family.

In a short video address released after midnight on Friday in Ukraine, Mr. Zelensky, unshaven and wearing a T-shirt, said that 137 Ukrainians, military and civilian, had been killed so far in the Russian invasion that began Thursday morning.

The Biden administration is aware of where President Zelensky is located and “is in touch with him,” according to Jen Psaki, White House press secretary.

Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, said that President Vladimir V. Putin had “lost reality” and that he was prepared to take up arms to defend against Russia’s invasion. “I don’t have another choice — I have to do that,” he told a reporter from Good Morning Britain. Mr. Klitschko, 50, and his brother Wladimir Klitschko are former heavyweight champions.

 

joe biden black background resized serious file

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia launches attacks across Ukraine; Biden vows ‘consequences,’ Sudarsan Raghavan, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Robyn Dixon and Ellen Francis, Feb. 24, 2022. Russia launched a broad attack on Ukraine from multiple directions early Thursday, bombarding cities, towns and villages and advancing toward the capital, Kyiv, as Ukrainian forces tried to stem the onslaught of Russian ground forces and air power.

Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said Russian troops were fighting to break into the wider Kyiv region and crossed the regional border, where Ukrainian forces battled to repel them. As reports of mounting casualties emerged, crowds of Ukrainians and foreigners fled Kyiv and other cities.

NATO announced it will bolster its eastern flank and host an emergency summit after Russian President Vladimir Putin initiated “brutal act of war,” and Western governments pledged more sanctions. “Peace on our continent has been shattered,” the alliance’s secretary general said in Brussels. President Biden condemned the attack and promised a decisive response.

Loud blasts rang out in the Ukrainian capital — where sirens blared and people lined up at ATMs — and in Kharkiv, in the country’s northeast. Ukraine reported strikes on airfields, including at the largest airport in Kyiv, and Russian tanks and troops poured across the borders. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky broke off diplomatic ties with Moscow and said attacks came “from the north, east and south.”

What you need to know about the Russia-Ukraine crisis

Here’s what to know

  • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance has activated its “defense plans” to make sure there is no “spillover” into a NATO country.
  • Putin warned of grave consequences for anyone considering interfering with Russia’s plans, appearing to threaten the use of nuclear weapons.
  • Zelensky imposed martial law after pleading with the Russian people late Wednesday to stop their leadership from sending troops across the border and into his country.

washington post logoWashington Post, In defiance of the West, Russia presses military invasion deeper into Ukraine, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Missy Ryan, Robyn Dixon and David Stern, Feb. 24, 2022. President Vladimir Putin showed his willingness to defy what Western officials described as crushing economic sanctions. Russia’s military pushed deeper into Ukraine on Thursday, attacking strategic airfields and advancing toward major cities as President Vladimir Putin defied mounting sanctions and recriminations from the West.

Explosions continued to rock areas around the eastern city of Kharkiv and the capital, Kyiv, sending residents to shelter in subway stations and prompting others to flee the country. U.S. officials said the expanding offensive may be aimed at toppling Ukraine’s elected government and installing a pro-Kremlin regime.

Russian troops encountered counterattacks from Ukrainian forces as they staged their invasion along multiple fronts, including from Belarus in the north and Crimea to the south. Several airfields around Kyiv were targeted, Ukrainian officials said, while Russian naval ships blocked commercial traffic in the Black Sea.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Ukrainian president says Russian saboteurs have infiltrated Kyiv, Sudarsan Raghavan, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Robyn Dixon, Ellen Francis, María Luisa Paúl, Meryl Kornfield, Hannah Knowles, Feb. 24, 2022. U.S. targets major Russian banks and tech sector with sweeping sanctions.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says “enemy sabotage groups” have entered Kyiv, the capital, as Russian forces close in.

Two loud booms were heard from the city at around 4 a.m. local time, according to numerous reports. In an address to Ukrainians, Zelensky did not specifically say Russian forces had entered Kyiv, but his reference to “sabotage groups” was interpreted as a sign that the city was in peril. He also said the country has been left to fight alone by NATO despite appeals for help from the alliance. But he remained defiant and urged Ukrainians to fight on.

President Biden has announced sweeping sanctions against Russia for its full-scale attack, saying in a Thursday White House address that the aggression “cannot go unanswered.” The sanctions, coordinated with allies, target Russia’s elites, its largest state-owned banks and companies throughout its economy.

Here’s what to know

  • More than 130 Ukrainians were killed in a day, Ukraine’s president said. Authorities said Russian forces captured the abandoned Chernobyl nuclear power plant as well as an island in the Black Sea.
  • The European Union approved a second round of sanctions on Russia Friday.
  • Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered about 7,000 service members to deploy to Germany in the coming days to help buttress NATO, according to a senior defense official. NATO announced that it will bolster its eastern flank and host an emergency summit.
  • Ukraine announced a full military mobilization and banned adult male citizens from leaving the country.
  • Global markets convulsed Thursday as Russia launched a military assault on Ukraine, with the three major U.S. indexes clawing back from steep losses.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Putin’s assault on Ukraine will shape a new world order, David Ignatius, Feb. 24, 2022. When Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his all-out invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, he effectively ended the post-Cold War era. A new architecture for global relations must be built, and its shape will depend on whether Putin’s brutal campaign succeeds or fails.

Putin’s attack awakened the ghosts of war that had haunted Europe for a century. The world watched in horror as a massive assault force attacked Ukraine from three sides with missiles, bombs, tanks and the electronic wizardry of cyberwarfare. Scores of nations condemned the invasion. But the gut-wrenching fact is that Ukraine is fighting Putin by itself.

The Post's View: Why Ukraine -- and Russian aggression against it -- matters to Americans

This conflict isn’t a case of sleepwalking toward war, as historians have described the blind march into World War I in 1914. It is closer to the attack that a bitter, vengeful German leader launched on neighboring Czechoslovakia in 1939. Putin isn’t Adolf Hitler — yet — but he shares a similar brooding obsession with settling scores by military force.

Putin’s willingness to escalate all the way to war has been increasingly clear to the Biden administration since CIA Director William J. Burns visited Moscow in early November. He traveled there to warn Putin that U.S. intelligence had concluded that behind a Russian troop buildup along Ukraine’s border lay serious war-planning.

 

Virus Updates, Reactions

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: How many people died believing vaccine misinformation? Editorial Board, Feb. 24, 2022. “Freaking miracle.” That’s how health journalist Helen Branswell recently described the vaccines that have saved millions of lives in the coronavirus pandemic. The vaccines, offered to the U.S. population, have proved to be 90 percent effective against infection. Ready within a year of the outbreak, they have proved to be safe. And they are widely available and free. There is no parallel in modern times.
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Yet, some people chose to believe otherwise. In a just-published nationwide survey of 18,782 people across all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the Covid States Project asked about four vaccine misinformation claims, asking respondents whether they were “true” or “false” or if a respondent was “not sure.” Five percent said they thought that vaccines contained microchips; 7 percent said vaccines used aborted fetal cells; 8 percent said the vaccines could alter human DNA; and 10 percent were concerned that vaccines could cause infertility. Forty-six percent were uncertain about the veracity of at least one of the four false statements.

The survey shows how misinformation about vaccines continues to erode confidence in them. What kind of message is sent when Fox News host Tucker Carlson compares coronavirus vaccine mandates to medical experiments conducted by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, as he did Jan. 21? Or Mr. Carlson’s many previous broadcasts raising questions in a haphazard way and relying on dubious sources? The new survey found that people who believe vaccine misinformation, or express uncertainty about it, tend to register higher degrees of trust in Fox News than those who reject the false vaccine claims. It also identified other groups of people who are more inclined to believe the misinformation. Young parents stood out as vulnerable to false claims.

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus updates: U.S. Flight Attendants Balk at Ending Mask Mandate on Planes, Staff Reports, Feb. 24, 2022 (print ed.). The Biden administration’s plan to lift mask requirements in March would endanger medically vulnerable travelers, a flight attendants’ union has said. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The U.S. mask mandate for air travel will expire next month, but some flight attendants say it’s too soon.
  • South Korea expands its immunization efforts as daily cases soar to over 170,000.
  • Protests outside New Zealand’s Parliament have turned more violent.
  • Chicago will end its mask mandate for many public spaces.
  • Turkey, still recovering from pandemic lockdowns, is shocked by soaring electricity bills.
  • Ireland ends mask mandates in most places and social distancing in schools.
  • The European Union wants to relax pandemic rules for vaccinated visitors from abroad.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Feb. 24, 2022), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 428,700,816, Deaths: 5,928,278
U.S. Cases:     80,270,563, Deaths:    963,371
Indian Cases:   42,867,031, Deaths:    512,652
Brazil Cases:   28,351,876, Deaths:    645,534

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More On Russian-Ukraine-NATO Crisis

 

vladimir putin security council 2 21 2022 alexey nikolsky sputnik afp getty

President Vladimir V. Putin meeting with members of Russia’s Security Council in Moscow on Monday.Credit...Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

washington post logoWashington Post, At great risk for Ukraine and Russia, Putin signals a dark endgame, Robyn Dixon and Paul Sonne, Feb. 24, 2022. Russian President Vladimir Putin, posing one of the biggest security threats to Europe since World War II, is staking his legacy on an irredentist invasion of Ukraine that poses significant risks to his own country and raises worrisome questions about his ambitions to bring Kyiv to heel.

Putin’s defiant decision to use full-fledged military force represents an unprecedented level of risk-taking for the Russian leader and threatens to isolate his country even further from the West and its allies. Punishments being leveled by Western nations could land Washington in an escalatory cycle with Moscow, if Russia responds to the measures in kind.

The attack also carries a direct challenge to the post-Cold War global order. Putin’s sweeping ambition involves hammering out a new international balance, setting the scene for a club of powerful nuclear powers to dominate smaller states and carve out spheres of influence — by force if they see fit.

Ukraine attack leaves some global leaders on awkward footing, Feb. 24, 2022.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine shrugged off predictions of war. Now it’s a mad dash to leave, Sudarsan Raghavan, Siobhán O'Grady, Isabelle Khurshudyan and Loveday Morris, Feb. 24, 2022.  In an instant, millions of Ukrainian lives were upended Thursday by the sudden entry of Russian troops by land and sea, pushing through several borders, lobbing shells and firing missiles at cities and villages.

It was an attack few Ukrainians anticipated would happen, certainly not on this scale. For weeks, their president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and his advisers downplayed the possibilities of a Russian assault, even chastising the United States and European countries for constantly warning that an attack would happen. There were no evacuation plans or other elements of a comprehensive strategy to keep Ukrainians safe and secure in the event Russian tanks rolled in.

ukraine war protest russia 2 24 2022 Saint Petersberg ap

washington post logoWashington Post, Attack brings rare sight in Russia: Protests in cities against Putin and invasion, Robyn Dixon, Feb. 24, 2022. Thousands of people protested President Vladimir Putin’s attacks on Ukraine in cities across Russia on Thursday, a striking show of anger in a nation where spontaneous mass demonstrations are illegal and protesters can face fines and jail.

More than 1,700 people were arrested in at least 47 cities across the nation, according to rights group OVD-Info. The group was declared a foreign agent last year, when Putin launched a sweeping crackdown on activists, rights groups and opposition figures.

The protests came with an outpouring of horror from liberal Russians, social media influencers, athletes, actors, television presenters and others.

How the Russian attack is unfolding on the ground in Ukraine

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Thursday spoke out against the attacks during a court hearing, as members of the Russian political elite either remained silent or celebrated.

Navalny appeared via video link in court on charges of fraud, one of several cases against him, after he was nearly fatally poisoned with a chemical weapon by Russian security agents in 2020 and jailed in 2021 upon returning to Russia following medical treatment for the poisoning in Germany. His political organization was banned as extremist last year. He calls the charges against him political.

“I have no method of communicating with the outside world,” Navalny said at the Lefortovo District Court hearing. “I ask that my appeal to the court and to the world be recorded,” he said. “I am against this war. I believe that this war between Russia and Ukraine is being waged to cover up the robbery of Russian citizens and to distract their attention from the problems that exist within the country from the degradation of the economy,” Nalvany added.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How Putin’s mistakes rallied his enemies, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, Feb. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Yes, Vladimir Putin has Ukraine ej dionne w open neckand the West in a tough spot. He might win some short-term victories. But he has created circumstances that could lead to his undoing — as long as the democracies stay focused and united.

Within the long list of Putin’s errors, let’s start with his blatant interference in the domestic politics of Western countries.

This has earned him the loyalty of some on the far right (in this country, see: Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump). But his political meddling in recent years on behalf of authoritarian and antidemocratic movements — tampering in, among other places, the United States, Germany and France — has deeply alienated liberals and social democrats, who now find themselves allied with the pro-democracy right in insisting that Putin be stopped.

Putin, along with China’s Xi Jinping, has united advocates of democracy across the traditional political spectrum. In the United States, liberals will not forget Putin’s hatred of Hillary Clinton (for, among other things, challenging the fairness of Russia’s 2011 elections) and his energetic work on Trump’s behalf (documented by the Mueller report).

And while Putin has sometimes dallied with elements on the far left, he has presented himself as a hero to the cultural right, defending the “traditions and traditional family values of millions of people making up the core population,” as he told the Financial Times in 2019.

He has explicitly criticized liberalism — “The liberal idea has become obsolete,” he also said — along with LGBTQ rights, immigration and, more generally, the freedoms taken for granted in democratic countries.

This has pushed many who might once have been wary of a hard line against Russia to embrace a far tougher stance. In Germany, the Green Party has moved away from its near-pacifism of the 1980s to a tough anti-Putin line. Divisions within the country’s Social Democratic Party, which prided itself on opening the way toward detente with the old Soviet Union, have been resolved in favor of facing down Putin.

Germany’s suspension of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline to Russia, announced by Social Democratic Chancellor Olaf Scholz after Putin recognized two breakaway regions of Ukraine, was a powerful example of the costs of Putin’s obdurate authoritarianism.

“Putin acted out of a belief the West was weak and divided,” Ivo Daalder, former U.S. ambassador to NATO, told me. “It turned out he was wrong.”

 In this image provided by the United Nations, the U.N. Security Council meets for an emergency session on Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 21, 2022, at the U.N. headquarters. (Evan Schneider/United Nations via AP)

In this image provided by the United Nations, the U.N. Security Council meets for an emergency session on Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 21, 2022, at the U.N. headquarters. (Evan Schneider/United Nations via AP)

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Condemns Beginning of an ‘Invasion of Ukraine,’ Staff Reports, Feb. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Russia faced mounting pressure and economic sanctions over the Ukraine crisis on Wednesday as the United States and allies coordinated punishments and denounced the beginning of an “invasion of Ukraine.”

After the United States and others imposed penalties, Australia, Canada and Japan joined in similar efforts to thwart the Kremlin’s advances, United Nationswith Western officials confirming that Russian forces had begun crossing the Ukrainian border. In less than a day, nations have halted a key natural gas pipeline for Russia, limited its access to global financing and hampered the country’s elite.

More countries joined efforts to thwart the Kremlin’s advances. Western officials confirmed that Russian forces had begun crossing the Ukrainian border.

President Biden warned President Vladimir Putin that more sanctions could follow. Ukraine planned to declare a state of emergency. Here’s the latest.

Axios, Sneak Peek: Senator warns of broader war, Glen Johnsont, Feb. 23, 2022. The top senator overseeing U.S. intelligence agencies tells Axios' mark warnerJonathan Swan and Zachary Basu he's deeply concerned cyberattacks launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin could morph into a broader war drawing in NATO nations — including the United States.

axios logoWhy it matters: President Biden has ruled out American boots on the ground in Ukraine. But Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.), right, said in an interview today that Putin's actions during the next few days risk triggering NATO's Article 5 collective defense principle.

In a 2021 communique, NATO affirmed the alliance would weigh whether to trigger its Article 5 mutual defense pact over a cyberattack "on a case-by-case basis." It said the response "need not be restricted to the cyber domain."

european union logo rectangleDetails: Warner foresees two ways a digital war could draw in NATO countries, including the U.S.:

democratic donkey logoPutin deploys cyber weapons inside Ukraine that take on a life of their own and spread to NATO member states. This has happened before — most notably in 2017, when Russia's NotPetya malware was unleashed in Ukraine and ended up causing billions of dollars in damage to companies worldwide.

Putin retaliates against the West's toughest sanctions by ordering direct cyberattacks targeting infrastructure inside the U.S. and other NATO allies. The U.S. government issued an alert this week urging businesses and agencies to protect their "most critical digital assets," citing "the potential for the Russian government to consider escalating its destabilizing actions" beyond Ukraine.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s economic warning shot on Russia disappoints critics but rattles investors, David J. Lynch, Feb. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Major Moscow banks could face blacklist if the military incursion expands, with Russian interest rates potentially spiking.

President Biden’s initial response to Russia’s military thrust into eastern Ukraine was to cut off two major Russian banks from U.S. financing and to bar American investors from buying Russian government bonds.

Yet the two banks — VEB and Promsvyazbank — are almost entirely domestically focused and funded. And the Russian government has little immediate need to raise money from foreign investors, whose role in Moscow’s financial system has been ebbing.

“They don’t have a deficit to finance. They’re not desperate for money,” said Elina Ribakova, deputy chief economist for the Institute of International Finance (IIF). “The banking system is very liquid. They have extra cash sloshing around.”

The Biden administration’s opening salvo this week drew swift criticism from some Republicans, who said it fell short of what was needed to deter a further Russian plunge into Ukraine, even after the president added additional measures on Wednesday targeting the company behind a controversial Russian gas pipeline. Yet investors expect Russia’s $1.5 trillion economy — smaller than New York state’s — to incur increasing damage if the crisis persists.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: In a heated address on Ukraine, Vladimir Putin laid bare his grievances, Max Fisher, Feb. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Here’s what it might mean. In a long and heated address on Monday, Vladimir V. Putin, Russia’s president, spun a narrative whose implications sprawl well beyond his stated purpose of recognizing the independence of two Ukrainian territories held by Moscow-backed separatists.

Mr. Putin’s speech was awash with hard-line Russian nationalism, angry paranoia toward the West, baseless claims of Ukrainian aggression, a sense of lost imperial pride on the verge of reclamation and, most of all, invocations of history, much of it distorted or fabricated.

While his comments might have sounded rambling to Western ears, Mr. Putin may in fact have been articulating what amounted to a calculated series of justifications for a further invasion of Ukraine aimed at the Russian public, whose support he will need to maintain it. What follows is a concise annotation of several key passages that convey Mr. Putin’s overt and implied case for war.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Treachery in Moscow rivals the infamous Hitler-Stalin pact of 1939, Wayne Madsen, left, Feb. 23-24, 2022. Not wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallsince the infamous August 23, 1939 non-aggression pact between Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin has a Communist leader undermined the underpinnings of the Russian Bolshevik Revolution and the principles of its leader, Vladimir Lenin.

wayne madesen report logoBy ardently supporting legislation approving the deployment of Russian troops to two self-declared independent regions of Ukraine, Gennady Zyuganov, the leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), has given his stamp of approval for a policy enacted by President Vladimir Putin -- someone who has condemned the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution that overthrew the Russian czar and monarchy and the revolution's leader, Lenin.

It is clear that in acting as Putin's proxy, Zyuganov has opted to support fascism over communism or social democracy.

There is a sector of the left in the United States, Europe, Australia, and other nations that continue to take the side of Putin in his showdown with the United States and the West. These individuals, many of whom I have known for decades, are no different than the leftists who warmly embraced Stalin's non-aggression pact with Hitler. The so-called "progressives" who support Putin and his regime have previously shown a tendency to dismiss the fascism of Donald Trump and his Republicans, while casting all sorts of aspersions and innuendo toward President Joe Biden, his administration, and the Democrats.

These fools, and that is what they are, cannot have it both ways. They cannot claim to be progressive while supporting fascists like Putin and his proxies, who include Trump, Hungary's autocrat Viktor Orban, and the Russian propaganda-inspired and supported destabilization truckers' convoys in Canada, France, the Netherlands, Britain, and a planned operation for the United States.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine plans state of emergency, urges citizens to leave Russia, Robyn Dixon, Rachel Pannett, Ellen Francis and John Wagner, Feb. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Ukraine announced plans Wednesday to declare a state of emergency, as the nation prepared to defend itself from an expected Russian invasion and fought off a new wave of cyberattacks that hit Ukrainian government and banking websites.

The 30-day state of emergency, subject to approval by parliament, would impose curfews and restrict mass gatherings in certain regions “if necessary” to confront increased Russian aggression, the chief of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council said. It follows a call-up of reservists as Ukraine braces for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s next moves.

Here's what you need to know about the Russia-Ukraine crisis

Reacting to a first wave of U.S. sanctions after Russian troops deployed into two pro-Moscow separatist regions of eastern Ukraine, Russia warned that Americans will fully feel the “consequences.” President Biden has acknowledged that the crisis could lead to higher gasoline prices, while U.S. businesses have been warned to prepare for possible cyberattacks.

 

Future Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, retired head of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency, joins Russian leader Vladimir Putin, 2016 Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein and other guests at a 2015 Moscow dinner and conference recognizing the 10th anniversary of the Kremlin-funded RT media network (originally Russia Today).

Future Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, retired head of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency, joins Russian leader Vladimir Putin, 2016 Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein and other guests at a 2015 Moscow dinner and conference recognizing the 10th anniversary of the Kremlin-funded RT media network (originally Russia Today).

Politics USA, Commentary: Mike Flynn Outs Himself As A Russian Asset While Blaming Biden For Ukraine Invasion, Jason Easley, Feb. 24, 2022. Mike Flynn used the Kremlin’s talking points as he tried to blame President Biden for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Read Flynn’s statement:

The statement itself is remarkable because it blatantly uses Putin’s talking points. The claim of ethnic problems in Ukraine is a lie. The idea that the Biden administration, which left the door open to diplomacy until Putin invaded, dismissed Russian security concerns is also a lie and Putin talking point.

Flynn complained about Russia being demonized and claimed that Trump’s relationship with Russia was all a giant conspiracy carried out by the Clinton campaign and the Obama administration, which is also a claim that Putin made to cover his tracks with Trump.

Mike Flynn said that Russia is being demonized and blamed Biden for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has outed the Putin co-conspirators on the right, from Donald Trump and Mike Flynn to Tucker Carlson.

Mike Flynn and the others are putting it out in the open for the nation to see. Flynn, Trump, and the others are making it explicit that they are enemies of America.

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World News, Human Rights, Disasters

ny times logoNew York Times, Climate concerns have been placed on the back burner as fuel costs soar and tensions with Russia spiral, Raymond Zhong, Feb. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Energy security has gained prominence while the conflict in Ukraine raises concerns over the possible interruption in the supply of oil and natural gas.

It was only three months ago that world leaders met at the Glasgow climate summit and made ambitious pledges to reduce fossil fuel use.

The perils of a warming planet are no less calamitous now, but the debate about the critically important transition to renewable energy has taken a back seat to energy security as Russia — Europe’s largest energy supplier — threatens to start a major confrontation with the West over Ukraine while oil prices are climbing toward $100 a barrel.

For more than a decade, policy discussions in Europe and beyond about cutting back on gas, oil and coal emphasized safety and the environment, at the expense of financial and economic considerations, said Lucia van Geuns, a strategic energy adviser at the Hague Center for Strategic Studies. Now, it’s the reverse.

“Gas prices became very high, and all of a sudden security of supply and price became the main subject of public debate,” she said.

The renewed emphasis on energy independence and national security may encourage policymakers to backslide on efforts to decrease the use of fossil fuels that pump deadly greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

washington post logoWashington Post, Monique Hanotte 1920–2022: Belgian resistance member who rescued 135 downed Allied airmen in World War II dies at 101, Phil Davison, Feb. 24, 2022. Monique Hanotte, who as a Belgian teenager risked her life to help escort 135 Allied airmen out of German-occupied France and Belgium during World War II, died Feb. 19 in the Belgian city of Nivelles. She was 101.

Her death, of undisclosed causes, was announced by the municipal authorities in Nivelles.

The unarmed Belgian resistance — two-thirds of them women of all ages — hid, clothed, fed and created false documents for downed airmen, and then guided more than 800 of them on a long, dangerous trail through France, over the rugged Pyrenees to Spain, and finally into the British territory of Gibraltar, from which they would be flown to England.

Ms. Hanotte was one of the last handful of surviving members of the Belgian “Comet Line,” a resistance network dedicated to saving Allied airmen from capture, torture and likely execution by the Nazis.

Recent Headlines

 

Probes Of Trump, Allies

 

djt looking up

washington post logoWashington Post, New attorney tapped to head N.Y. Trump investigation after two lead prosecutors quit, Shayna Jacobs, Feb. 24, 2022. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D), right, has asked his investigations chief to oversee the ongoing probe into former president Donald Trump and his business practices, a day after the abrupt resignations of two veteran attorneys who had been leading the case.

alvin bragg twitterSusan Hoffinger, also an experienced litigator and recent addition to Bragg’s executive team, will captain what has been described as a squad of about 25 lawyers, paralegals and analysts. Over more than three years, the group has pored through millions of records relating to Trump and operations at the Trump Organization, his family-run company, focusing most recently on whether assets were illegally overvalued to secure better terms on loans and insurance rates, and undervalued to get tax breaks.

Bragg’s announcement Thursday follows the dramatic departure of Carey Dunne and Mark Pomerantz, whose resignations signaled a marked shift in the probe. Multiple people with knowledge of the matter said Dunne and Pomerantz felt Bragg, who took office Jan. 1, was not interested in pursuing a case against Trump and had not given them direction on how to proceed.

Prosecutors in Trump probe quit after new DA seems to abandon plan to seek indictment of former president

Bragg’s office has said the case, which he inherited from his predecessor, Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (D), is proceeding. On Thursday, his spokesperson said it was “not true” that Bragg was unconcerned with advancing the matter.

“As we said yesterday, the investigation remains ongoing,” said Bragg spokeswoman Danielle Filson, adding that Hoffinger “will lead the strong team that is in place.”

The case gained significant notoriety under Vance as he fought to obtain Trump’s tax returns and related records — a drawn-out battle that was won at the Supreme Court. Since obtaining the records a year ago, prosecutors secured an indictment from a previous grand jury against the Trump Organization and its longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, alleging 15-year tax fraud.

A second six-month grand jury that was expected to hear evidence for possible charges related to Trump Organization’s alleged practice of manipulating asset values was convened in the fall.

Vance had authorized his prosecutors to seek an indictment against Trump, two people with knowledge of the matter said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive process. But that did not happen before he left office at the end of the year.

Dunne and Pomerantz believed Bragg would similarly seek an indictment, the people familiar with the situation said. But their new boss was slow to read their memos or meet with them, and they grew increasingly frustrated, concluding they were losing momentum that had been initiated under Vance, the people said.

The grand jury’s term is set to expire this spring.

Trump and his legal team have repeatedly denied wrongdoing and have said the investigation, which is being conducted in partnership with New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), is politically motivated. James has a parallel civil probe covering the same subject areas, which could result in a lawsuit.

 

djt michael cohenNew York Daily News, Two top Manhattan prosecutors heading Trump investigation resign suddenly, probe to continue, Molly Crane-Newman and Larry McShane, Feb. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Ex-top Trump advisor Michael Cohen, above left, who testified in the DA’s investigation against his estranged boss, was stunned by the development. “Mark Pomerantz and Carey Dunne just resigned?” Cohen said when contacted by The News. “What? Wow. ”

Cohen, above left, who spent upwards of 300 hours answering questions from the prosecutors, was rattled by word of their exits. “I am deeply disturbed by this report,” he said. “I know the information in the New York DA’s possession — and not to indict is a dereliction of duty to all New Yorkers and the country.”

 United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (l) with his wife of thirty-five years, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas (r). (Safe Image)

United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (l) with his wife of thirty-five years, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas (r).

Proof, Investigation: New Revelations Indicate Ginni Thomas Was a Key Author of Trump’s January 6 Coup Plot, Seth Abramson, left, Feb. 23-24, seth abramson graphic2022. A recent NYT report explosively updates past reporting at PROOF on Ginni Thomas’s involvement in January 6. The new revelations—taken in sum—position Thomas as a chief author of the insurrection.

Introduction The most comprehensive reporting on Ginni Thomas’s involvement in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol continues to seth abramson proof logobe this exclusive Proof report from January.

However, the New York Times just published a very lengthy feature on the Thomases—Ginni Thomas and her husband, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas—that gave its readers a series of buried ledes about Ginni Thomas and January 6.

It’s unclear why the Times did little to highlight these revelations; all are ensconced deep within an article it takes more than an hour and half to listen to via an audio reading supplied by the newspaper. Whatever the explanation for the odd framing of Ginni Thomas’s role in January 6 by the Times, Proof has decided to update its prior report with a summary of the Times feature that focuses only on the elements of the feature that will matter to federal investigators.

These elements, combined with the January Proof report, confirm that Ginni Thomas was one of the chief architects of the events of January 6, 2021. While it remains unclear whether the House January 6 Committee will now subpoena Ginni Thomas, it is increasingly evident that the Committee is gathering all available data on potential witnesses—including data published in venues like Proof, which the Committee has previously cited in its formal filings.

For this reason, the article below may be of assistance to decision-makers wondering if Ginni Thomas has valuable evidence about the January 6 attack on the Capitol to offer both Congress and the FBI. The short answer: she does. And indeed the evidence curated in the article that follows warrants the immediate issuance of a subpoena to Ginni Thomas for both testimony and documents. It warrants, further, the interrogation of Thomas by agents of the FBI.

Addressing the Elephant in the Room: Clarence Thomas: The New York Times focuses a majority of its article on Ginni Thomas on her husband, Clarence Thomas—a common mistake that Proof warned about at the very beginning of its own feature on Ginni Thomas.

Ginni Thomas’s activities are considerably more newsworthy and influential than her husband’s, deserving coverage exclusive from any consideration of Justice Thomas’s arch-conservative jurisprudence.

Seth Abramson, shown at right, founder of Proof, is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

 ny times logoNew York Times, Ivanka Trump in Talks With Jan. 6 Panel About Being Interviewed, Annie Karni and Luke Broadwater, Feb. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Former President Donald J. Trump’s eldest daughter has yet to commit to appearing, but investigators regard her as an important witness to what he was doing and saying during the riot.

Ivanka Trump, former President Donald J. Trump’s eldest daughter who served as one of his senior advisers, is in talks with the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol about the possibility of sitting for an interview with the panel, according to two people familiar with the discussions.

It was not immediately clear whether the negotiations, which aides described as preliminary, would result in Ms. Trump providing substantive information to the inquiry or whether they were simply a stalling tactic, as some committee aides fear. But it was the latest example of the panel trying to reach into the former president’s inner circle to ascertain what he was doing and saying as rioters stormed the Capitol in his name.

Ms. Trump was one of several aides who tried and failed to persuade Mr. Trump to call off the violence that ultimately injured more than 150 police officers and sent lawmakers and the vice president, Mike Pence, fleeing for their lives.

Ms. Trump’s lawyers have been in talks with the committee since January, when the panel sent her a letter requesting that she give voluntary testimony, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

She has yet to agree on a date when she might talk with the committee’s investigators, and the panel has made no threat of an imminent subpoena, the people familiar with the discussions said. Those close to Ms. Trump said she had no intention of going down the road taken by her father’s ally Stephen K. Bannon, who refused to cooperate with the committee and then was indicted on contempt of Congress charges.

“Ivanka Trump is in discussions with the committee to voluntarily appear for an interview,” a spokeswoman for Ms. Trump confirmed in a statement on Wednesday.

Mr. Trump has not requested that his daughter defy the committee’s requests, as he has done with his other former top aides. And Ms. Trump would be unlikely to take any step that Mr. Trump did not know about and approve of, people familiar with her thinking said.

Instead, the former president has portrayed his adult children as victims of an investigation that he has dismissed as illegitimate.

 Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Crime, Law, Courts, Race

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-Minneapolis officers found guilty of violating George Floyd’s civil rights, Holly Bailey, Feb. 24, 2022. Three former Minneapolis police officers who were at the scene with Derek Chauvin as he pressed his knee into George Floyd’s neck were convicted Thursday of violating Floyd’s civil rights in a case that is likely to increase scrutiny over how officers are trained to intervene with rogue colleagues.

Prosecutors had argued that former officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas K. Lane and Tou Thao knew Floyd was in medical danger beneath Chauvin’s knee but put their “discomfort in questioning a colleague” above their sworn duty to save a life.

After a month-long trial that cast a harsh light on police training and practices in Minneapolis, a jury found Kueng, Lane and Thao guilty of violating Floyd’s civil rights by failing to provide him medical aid. Kueng and Thao were also found guilty of failing to intervene with Chauvin. The jury found that the actions of all three men caused Floyd’s death.

U.S. District Judge Paul A. Magnuson, who presided over the case, did not order the officers to be taken into custody, citing a separate trial scheduled for June on state charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death. Magnuson said he would announce sentencing in the civil rights case at a later date.

The courtroom was silent as Magnuson read the verdicts for each former officer. A limited number of friends and family of the former officers had sat in the socially distanced courtroom during the proceedings, but on Wednesday, just one woman sat behind the defense tables. Thao and Kueng showed no visible reaction as they were found guilty. Lane shook his head and appeared to toss something on the table in reaction to the decision, causing a noise that echoed across the courtroom.

At least one of the female jurors appeared to be crying as the verdicts were read.

Recent Headlines:

 

U.S. Elections, Governance, Economy

washington post logoWashington Post, Fuel prices spike amid Ukraine crisis, with some markets hovering near $5 a gallon, Aaron Gregg, Feb. 24, 2022 (print ed.). The U.S. average for regular unleaded gasoline hit $3.53 a gallon, which is nearly a dollar more than last year.

Americans are paying nearly a dollar more for a gallon of gas — to roughly $5 in some markets — than they did last year as the growing threat of war in Ukraine moved oil prices higher.

The U.S. average for regular unleaded gasoline hit $3.53 a gallon on Wednesday, according to AAA. That’s 21 cents higher than last month and a hefty jump from the $2.65 recorded a year ago.

Oil prices climbed as the Russia-Ukraine crisis played out, pushing them within striking distance of $100 a barrel. They’ve eased slightly, with Brent crude, the international benchmark, trading Wednesday at roughly $97 a barrel and West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, hovering above $92. But both are up about 40 percent from their early December low points.

Analysts say any further aggression on the part of Russia could attract more sanctions from the United States and Europe, something that could disrupt Europe’s energy supply and send price shocks across the globe. In an address Tuesday, President Biden warned that sanctions would probably affect U.S. consumers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Postal Service finalizes plans to buy mostly gasoline-powered delivery trucks. Here’s what experts say is wrong with that, Jacob Bogage and Anna Phillips, Feb. 24, 2022 (print ed.). The Postal Service will spend up to $11.3 billion on a fleet that is 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent electric.

us mail logoThe U.S. Postal Service finalized plans Wednesday to purchase up to 148,000 gasoline-powered mail delivery trucks, defying Biden administration officials’ objections that the multibillion-dollar contract would undercut the nation’s climate goals.
10 steps you can take to lower your carbon footprint

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, below left, disregarded requests from the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the louis dejoy CustomEnvironmental Protection Agency this month to reconsider replacing the delivery fleet with 90 percent gas-powered trucks and 10 percent electric vehicles, at a cost of as much as $11.3 billion. The contract, orchestrated by DeJoy, offers only a 0.4-mpg fuel economy improvement over the agency’s current fleet.

The decision is a major blow to the White House’s climate agenda. President Biden has pledged to transition the federal fleet to clean power, and apart from the military, the Postal Service has more vehicles than any other government agency. It accounts for nearly one-third of federally owned cars and trucks, and environmental and auto industry experts argue that the agency’s stop-and-start deliveries to 161 million addresses six days a week provides an ideal scenario for using electric vehicles.

EPA officials said the Postal Service vastly underestimated the emissions of its proposed fleet of “Next Generation Delivery Vehicles,” accusing the mail agency of fudging the math in its analysis to justify the massive purchase of internal-combustion-engine trucks.

DeJoy, a holdover from the Trump administration, has called his agency’s investment in green transportation “ambitious,” even as environmental groups and other postal leaders have privately mocked the claim. When DeJoy repeated the characterization at a public meeting of the Postal Service’s governing board this month, his remarks were met with chuckles from the audience.

DeJoy said in a statement that the agency was open to pursuing more electric vehicles if “additional funding — from either internal or congressional sources — becomes available.” But he added that the agency had “waited long enough” for new vehicles.

washington post logoWashington Post, New tax plan from leading GOP senator would require all Americans to pay federal income taxes, Jeff Stein, Feb. 24, 2022 (print ed.). A leading GOP senator faced a backlash Tuesday after calling for all Americans to start paying federal income taxes, leading to criticism from both the White House and leading conservative policy experts.

rick scottSen. Rick Scott (Fla.), right, the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, released an “11-point plan to rescue America” that included a proposal for all Americans to pay some form of income tax, even if it was a nominal amount.

irs logoRoughly 50 percent of Americans on the bottom half of the income distribution do not pay federal income taxes because they do not earn enough to have income tax liability and because many receive tax credits. Millions of these Americans do pay federal and state government taxes in the form of payroll taxes, sales taxes and other levies.

House GOP plots policy agenda for 2022 midterm elections — with help from architect of 1994 plan

“All Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game, even if a small amount,” Scott’s proposal states. “Currently over half of Americans pay no income tax.”

Scott’s pitch comes at an uncertain moment for conservative policymaking as Republicans debate to what extent they need a proactive agenda to run on in the 2022 midterm elections. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been adamant that the Senate GOP will not release a platform ahead of the election, saying the party only needs to reveal its plans for running Congress “when we take it back.”

That position has proved unpopular with some Republicans who believe the party should put forward a set of policy priorities. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), for instance, is putting together a comprehensive legislative package for House Republicans. Scott’s 11-point proposal includes many other long-standing conservative projects, such as eliminating the Education Department, building President Donald Trump’s border wall and declaring that there are only two genders.

“I’ll warn you,” Scott wrote in the introduction to his plan. “This plan is not for the faint of heart.”

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Media, Education, Sports, Religion

ny times logoNew York Times, Fed Up With Google, Conspiracy Theorists Turn to DuckDuckGo, Stuart A. Thompson, Feb. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Some far-right influencers and conspiracy theorists have embraced the search engine as part of an effort to shift people away from Big Tech.

On an episode of Joe Rogan’s popular podcast last year, he turned to a topic that has gripped right-wing communities and other Americans who feel skeptical about the pandemic: search engines.

joe rogan logo“If I wanted to find specific cases about people who died from vaccine-related injuries, I had to go to DuckDuckGo,” Mr. Rogan said, referring to the small privacy-focused search engine. “I wasn’t finding them on Google.”

duck duck logoPraise for DuckDuckGo has become a popular refrain during the pandemic among right-wing social media influencers and conspiracy theorists who question Covid-19 vaccines and push discredited coronavirus treatments. Some have posted screenshots showing that DuckDuckGo appears to surface more links favorable to their views than Google does.

In addition to Mr. Rogan, who has recently been at the center of an outcry about misinformation on his podcast, the search engine has received ringing endorsements from some of the world’s most-downloaded conservative podcasters, including Ben Shapiro and Dan Bongino.

“Google is actively suppressing search results that don’t acquiesce to traditional viewpoints of the left,” Mr. Shapiro claimed last March. “I recommend you install DuckDuckGo on your computer, rather than Google, to combat all this.”

The endorsements underscore how right-wing Americans and conspiracy theorists are shifting their online activity in response to greater moderation from tech giants like Google. They have increasingly embraced fledgling and sometimes fringe platforms like the chat app Telegram, the video streamer Rumble and even search engines like DuckDuckGo, seeking conditions that seem more favorable to their conspiracy theories and falsehoods.

That attention has put search engines in a difficult position, fielding queries from a growing set of Americans who seem increasingly gripped by conspiracy theories. They must now try to deliver relevant results for obscure search terms and avoid surfacing possible misinformation, all while steering clear of censorship claims.

DuckDuckGo, which has about 3 percent of the United States search market, holds little direct control over the links in its search results because they are generated by the search engine algorithm provided by Bing, which Microsoft owns. And all search engine algorithms are considered black boxes because the companies that create them do not completely disclose what informs their decisions.

In a statement, DuckDuckGo said it condemned “acts of disinformation” and said the company’s internal surveys showed that its users had a wide mix of political orientations. The company said it was also studying ways to limit the spread of false and misleading information.

washington post logoWashington Post, Some conservative media hosts ridiculed Biden’s warnings of an attack on Ukraine. Now they say it’s his fault, Jeremy Barr, Feb. 24, 2022. Many top hosts for Fox News and other conservative media voices are blaming the White House for supposedly enabling Russia’s attack on Ukraine — even some of the same personalities who previously ridiculed President Biden’s warnings that an invasion was imminent.

“It’s just extraordinary what this president has allowed our adversaries to do,” Fox Business Network anchor Maria Bartiromo told viewers Thursday morning, as reports of Russian incursions across Ukraine poured in. She argued that Biden “has not been tough enough on Russia” and, “so far, anything that this administration has said has been weak.”

But days earlier, Bartiromo had sounded confident the Biden administration was inflating the threat of Russian aggression to distract from bad political news at home — particularly, a motion filed by special counsel John Durham that was described by many Fox News hosts as a massive scandal.

 

 

truth social logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s Truth Social’s disastrous launch raises doubts about its viability, Drew Harwell, Feb. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Former president Donald Trump's new social media venture, Truth Social, became available for download in Apple’s App Store on Feb. 20.

His long-promised social network, Truth Social, has been almost entirely inaccessible in the first days of its grand debut because of technical glitches, a 13-hour outage and a 300,000-person waitlist.

Even Trump supporters made jokes about the early slog. Jenna Ellis, a former member of his legal team, posted to Instagram a photo showing Trump with his finger hovering over a laptop, “letting us on to Truth Social one at a time.”

The site had been heralded for months as the crown jewel of Trump’s post-presidential business ambitions, with allies pledging it would revolutionize social media and take down the mainstream social networks where Trump is banned.

But early glimpses at Truth Social suggest its offerings are almost identical to what Twitter and other sites have offered for years — except tweets are called “truths,” and retweets “retruths.” The site’s early struggles also have fueled doubts that Trump’s company will be able to handle tougher long-term challenges, such as policing for dangerous content and guarding against cyberattacks.

“The basic thing they needed to actually get right, to get someone in the door, they couldn’t get right,” said Bill Fitzgerald, a privacy researcher. The “ineptitude of the rollout,” he added, could be a warning of future issues ahead: “There is no better sign of a rushed implementation than the fact that you can’t onboard anybody. So I’m hard-pressed to understand why anyone would trust that these people would keep their information safe.”

Although Trump has criticized social networks’ “wildly aggressive censorship,” his site’s “terms of service” mark some extensive restrictions for acceptable speech.

Trump’s company, the Trump Media & Technology Group, also prohibits anyone from attempting to “disparage, tarnish, or otherwise harm, in our opinion, us and/or the Site.” Truth Social has already banned an account named for a Twitter parody that targeted former congressman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who resigned from Congress to become the Trump company’s CEO. The site’s terms of service also show it is designed to benefit from Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which Trump has said should be “completely terminated” because it protects tech companies from being sued for what their users post. Pranksters have already defaced Trump’s new social network.

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Feb. 23

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Virus Victims, Responses


U.S. Law, Courts, Crime, Race

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, RUSSIA ATTACKS UKRAINE, Malachy Browne, Dmitriy Khavin and Chevaz Clarke-Williams, Feb. 24, 2022. Explosions Heard Across Country; Biden Says World Will ‘Hold Russia Accountable’; Putin Issues Threat Against ‘Anyone Who Tries to Interfere’

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia declared the start of a “special military operation” in Ukraine on Thursday, after months of speculation about Russia’s intentions as it massed tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine’s border.

Addressing his nation in a televised speech broadcast just before 6 a.m. Thursday, Mr. Putin said his goal was to “demilitarize” but not occupy the country.

Minutes later, large explosions were visible near Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, and blasts were reported in Kyiv, the capital, and other parts of the country.

Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said that Russian troops had landed in Odessa and were crossing the border.

“The invasion has begun,” the ministry said in a statement.

Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said on Twitter that Mr. Putin had “started a full-scale war against Ukraine” and had begun shelling civilian cities.

“This is a war of aggression,” he wrote on Twitter. “Ukraine will defend itself and win. The world must act and stop Putin. It is time to act — immediately.”

Evoking the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 and the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, Mr. Putin cast his action as a long-overdue strike against an American-led world order that he described as an “empire of lies.”

Even as he spoke, the United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting imploring him not to invade.

Mr. Putin said he was acting after receiving a plea for assistance from the leaders of the Russian-backed separatist territories formed in eastern Ukraine in 2014 — a move that Western officials had predicted as a possible pretext for an invasion.

Mr. Putin also described the operation as a response to a “question of life or death” that he said Russia was facing as a result of the eastward expansion of the NATO alliance — which Ukraine has aspired to join.

“This is that red line that I talked about multiple times,” Mr. Putin said. “They have crossed it.”

The operation’s goal, Mr. Putin said, was “to defend people who for eight years are suffering persecution and genocide by the Kyiv regime,” citing the false accusation that Ukrainian forces had been carrying out ethnic cleansing in separatist regions of eastern Ukraine.

In bellicose language, Mr. Putin also issued what appeared to be a warning to other countries.

“Anyone who tries to interfere with us, or even more so, to create threats for our country and our people, must know that Russia’s response will be immediate and will lead you to such consequences as you have never before experienced in your history,” Mr. Putin said. “We are ready for any turn of events.”

In a statement, President Biden placed responsibility for the conflict squarely on Mr. Putin’s shoulders.

“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering,” Mr. Biden said. “Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way. The world will hold Russia accountable.”

 

 In this image provided by the United Nations, the U.N. Security Council meets for an emergency session on Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 21, 2022, at the U.N. headquarters. (Evan Schneider/United Nations via AP)

In this image provided by the United Nations, the U.N. Security Council meets for an emergency session on Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 21, 2022, at the U.N. headquarters. (Evan Schneider/United Nations via AP)

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Biden Condemns Beginning of an ‘Invasion of Ukraine,’ Staff Reports, Feb. 23, 2022. Russia faced mounting pressure and economic sanctions over the Ukraine crisis on Wednesday as the United States and allies coordinated punishments and denounced the beginning of an “invasion of Ukraine.”

After the United States and others imposed penalties, Australia, Canada and Japan joined in similar efforts to thwart the Kremlin’s advances, United Nationswith Western officials confirming that Russian forces had begun crossing the Ukrainian border. In less than a day, nations have halted a key natural gas pipeline for Russia, limited its access to global financing and hampered the country’s elite.

More countries joined efforts to thwart the Kremlin’s advances. Western officials confirmed that Russian forces had begun crossing the Ukrainian border.

President Biden warned President Vladimir Putin that more sanctions could follow. Ukraine planned to declare a state of emergency. Here’s the latest.

 

joe biden black background resized serious file

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden announces sanctions on Russia after moves against Ukraine, Robyn Dixon, Rachel Pannett, Ellen Francis, John Wagner, Amy B Wang, Mariana Alfaro and Eugene Scott, Feb. 23, 2022 (print ed.). President Biden announced new sanctions on Russia on Tuesday after its moves against Ukraine, saying the actions amounted to a “flagrant violation of international law.”

In imposing economic penalties on Russia, the United States joins European allies in responding to Russia’s deployment of troops into two pro-Russian separatist regions of eastern Ukraine. Biden called Russia’s actions the “the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

Biden said a “first tranche” of U.S. sanctions against Russia would target two financial institutions, Russian sovereign debt and Russian elites and their family members.

“To put it simply, Russia just announced that it is carving out a big chunk of Ukraine,” Biden said. He added that he still hopes diplomacy is possible.

Here’s what to know

  • Russia’s upper house of parliament gave President Vladimir Putin permission to use military force outside the country, a move that further raised fears of a broader invasion.
  • Vladimir PutinIn remarks Tuesday, Putin, right, called on Ukraine to forget joining NATO and to accept that Crimea belongs to Russia. Putin said Kyiv’s best path forward is military neutrality.
  • In Berlin, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he would halt authorization of Nord Stream 2, the controversial natural gas pipeline between Germany and Russia, for the time being. The move was applauded by the United Nations and NATO allies and cited as part of a united response to Russia.
  • White House aides are reviewing how the United States could respond if Russia curtails exporting global oil products due to hostilities over Ukraine, potentially triggering a spike in gasoline prices.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine plans state of emergency, urges citizens to leave Russia, Robyn Dixon, Rachel Pannett, Ellen Francis and John Wagner, Feb. 23, 2022. Ukraine announced plans Wednesday to declare a state of emergency, as the nation prepared to defend itself from an expected Russian invasion and fought off a new wave of cyberattacks that hit Ukrainian government and banking websites.

The 30-day state of emergency, subject to approval by parliament, would impose curfews and restrict mass gatherings in certain regions “if necessary” to confront increased Russian aggression, the chief of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council said. It follows a call-up of reservists as Ukraine braces for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s next moves.

Here's what you need to know about the Russia-Ukraine crisis

Reacting to a first wave of U.S. sanctions after Russian troops deployed into two pro-Moscow separatist regions of eastern Ukraine, Russia warned that Americans will fully feel the “consequences.” President Biden has acknowledged that the crisis could lead to higher gasoline prices, while U.S. businesses have been warned to prepare for possible cyberattacks.

Here’s what to know

  • Pope Francis said Wednesday that the prospect of war in Ukraine caused “great pain in my heart” and condemned actions “destabilizing coexistence among nations and discrediting international law.”
  • Government and banking websites in Ukraine came under renewed cyberattack Wednesday, but cyber protection agencies are fighting back, the Ukrainian government said.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced Tuesday night that he was calling up the country’s military reservists after Russian lawmakers voted to give Putin the authority to send troops into eastern Ukraine.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russian forces are in breakaway territories, E.U. says, Rachel Pannett and Ellen Francis, Feb. 23, 2022 (print ed.). Kremlin expands its recognition of separatist areas in eastern Ukraine.

Russia said Tuesday that its recognition of separatist areas in eastern Ukraine includes territory now held by Ukrainian forces, raising Western fears that Moscow intends to invade more of Ukraine’s territory after sending troops into the rebel-held region.

ukraine flagKremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia has recognized the independence of rebel-held regions within borders that the separatists originally proclaimed when they broke away from Ukraine in 2014. Because large parts of those regions have since been reclaimed by Ukrainian forces during their eight-year war, Russia’s declaration could lead to attempts to expand the breakaway region by force.

Moscow’s recognition of the enclaves Monday spurred the United States and its allies to gear up for a fresh set of sanctions on Russia after it also sent in forces it described as peacekeeping troops.

european union logo rectangleEuropean leaders said Tuesday morning that Kremlin forces had arrived in the self-proclaimed republics. European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that “Russian troops are on Ukrainian soil” but that it was not a “fully fledged invasion.”

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Tuesday that he would halt authorization of Nord Stream 2, the german flagcontroversial gas pipeline between Germany and Russia, for the time being.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that “we will give up nothing to no one” and that Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders “will stay that way, despite any statements or actions taken by the Russian Federation.”

Russia’s maneuvers were sharply rebuked by several nations at a hastily convened meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Monday night.

Here’s what to know

  • President Biden signed an executive order Monday blocking trade and investment by Americans in two separatist enclaves of Ukraine. Administration officials said additional measures — including more sanctions — would be announced Tuesday, distinct from the strict measures promised if Russia further invades Ukraine.
  • The State Department moved its personnel from Ukraine to Poland on Monday amid fears of Russia’s “plans for an invasion at any moment,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
  • Beijing continues to walk a tightrope of supporting Russia without outright endorsing its actions in Ukraine, with China’s ambassador to the United Nations calling on all parties involved to “seek reasonable solutions” and address concerns based on “equality and mutual respect.”

 

djt looking up

ny times logoNew York Times, 2 Prosecutors Leading N.Y. Trump Inquiry Resign, Clouding Case’s Future, William K. Rashbaum, Ben Protess, Jonah E. Bromwich, Kate Christobek and Nate Schweber, Feb. 23, 2022. The resignations came after the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, shown below at right, was said to have expressed doubts about the case, and amid a monthlong pause in the presentation of evidence to a grand jury.

The two prosecutors leading the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation into former President Donald J. Trump and his business practices abruptly resigned on Wednesday amid a monthlong pause in their presentation of evidence to a grand jury, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The stunning development comes not long after the high-stakes inquiry appeared to be gaining momentum, and throws its future into serious doubt.

alvin bragg twitterThe prosecutors, Carey R. Dunne and Mark F. Pomerantz, submitted their resignations after the new Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, indicated to them that he had doubts about moving forward with a case against Mr. Trump, the people said.

Mr. Pomerantz confirmed in a brief interview that he had resigned, but declined to elaborate. Mr. Dunne declined to comment.

Without Mr. Bragg’s commitment to move forward, the prosecutors late last month postponed a plan to question at least one witness before the grand jury, one of the people said. They have not questioned any witnesses in front of the grand jury for more than a month, essentially pausing their investigation into whether Mr. Trump inflated the value of his assets to obtain favorable loan terms from banks.

The precise reasons for Mr. Bragg’s pullback are unknown, and he has made few public statements about the status of the inquiry since taking office. In a statement responding to the resignations of the prosecutors, a spokeswoman for Mr. Bragg said that he was “grateful for their service” and that the investigation was ongoing.

Time is running out for this grand jury, whose term is scheduled to expire in April. Prosecutors can ask jurors to vote to extend their term, but generally avoid doing so. They also are often reluctant to impanel a new grand jury after an earlier one has heard testimony, because witnesses could make conflicting statements if asked to testify again.

And without Mr. Dunne, a high-ranking veteran of the office who has been closely involved with the inquiry for years, and Mr. Pomerantz, a leading figure in New York legal circles who was enlisted to work on it, the yearslong investigation could peter out.

The resignations, following the monthlong pause, mark a reversal after the investigation had recently intensified. Cyrus R. Vance Jr., Mr. Bragg’s predecessor, convened the grand jury in the fall, and prosecutors began questioning witnesses before his term concluded at the end of the year. (Mr. Vance did not seek re-election.)

In mid-January, reporters for The Times observed significant activity related to the investigation at the Lower Manhattan courthouse where the grand jury meets, with at least two witnesses visiting the building and staying inside for hours.

The witnesses were Mr. Trump’s longtime accountant and an expert in the real estate industry, according to people familiar with the appearances, which have not been previously reported. Mr. Dunne and Mr. Pomerantz also made regular appearances at the courthouse.

The burst of activity offered a sign that Mr. Bragg was forging ahead with the grand jury phase of the investigation, a final step before seeking charges.

But in recent weeks, that activity has ceased, and Mr. Dunne and Mr. Pomerantz have been seen only rarely.

letitia james o headshotThe pause coincides with an escalation in the activity of a parallel civil inquiry by the New York state attorney general, Letitia James, left, whose office is examining some of the same conduct by Mr. Trump.

Ms. James, who last week received approval from a judge to question Mr. Trump and two of his adult children under oath, has filed court documents describing a number of ways in which the Trump Organization appeared to have misrepresented the value of its properties.

She concluded that the company had engaged in “fraudulent or misleading” practices, and although she lacks the authority to criminally charge Mr. Trump, she could sue him.

Mr. Bragg’s office must meet a higher bar to bring a criminal case and has encountered a number of challenges in pursuing Mr. Trump, including its inability thus far to persuade any Trump Organization executives to cooperate.

Mr. Trump has disputed the notion that he inflated his property values or defrauded his lenders, and has accused Mr. Bragg and Ms. James, both Democrats who are Black, of being politically motivated and “racists.”

“I’ve been representing Donald Trump for over a year in this case and I haven’t found any evidence that could lead to a prosecution against him, or any crimes,” said a lawyer for Mr. Trump, Ronald P. Fischetti. “I hope Mr. Bragg will now look again at all the evidence in the case and make a statement that he is discontinuing all investigation of Donald Trump.”

As Mr. Bragg’s grand jury presentation has come to a halt, another serious criminal inquiry into the former president has been gaining steam. In recent weeks, a district attorney in Atlanta asked a judge to convene a grand jury for an investigation into Mr. Trump’s attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia.

Another criminal investigation, in New York’s Westchester County, is examining Mr. Trump’s financial dealings at one of his company’s golf courses.

The Manhattan investigation, which proceeded in fits and starts for years, was the most developed of the three criminal inquiries into Mr. Trump. allen weisselberg croppedIt resulted in the indictments last summer of The Trump Organization and its long-serving chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg, right, on separate tax-related charges.

After announcing those charges, the prosecutors zeroed in on a subject that has spurred much debate over the years: Mr. Trump’s net worth.

They have questioned whether Mr. Trump defrauded his lenders — sophisticated financial institutions like Deutsche Bank — by routinely inflating the value of his assets, The New York Times has previously reported.

In particular, the prosecutors have focused on annual financial statements Mr. Trump provided the lenders, scrutinizing whether he overvalued his various hotels, golf clubs and other properties to score the best possible loan terms.

Mr. Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, compiled the statements based on information provided by the Trump Organization, leading the prosecutors to question whether the company had given its accountants bogus data.

Early this month, Mazars notified the Trump Organization that it would no longer serve as its accountant and that it could no longer stand behind a decade of Mr. Trump’s financial statements.

Mazars said it had not, “as a whole,” found material discrepancies between the information the Trump Organization provided and the true value of Mr. Trump’s assets.

But given what it called “the totality of circumstances” — including its internal investigation and Ms. James’s court papers — Mazars instructed the company to notify anyone who had received the statements that they “should not be relied upon.”

Even with Mazar’s retraction, a criminal case would likely be difficult to prove. The documents, known as statements of financial condition, contain a number of disclaimers, including acknowledgments that Mr. Trump’s accountants had neither audited nor authenticated his claims.

And the prosecutors have thus far been unable to convince Mr. Trump’s long-serving chief financial officer to cooperate with the investigation, depriving them of the type of insider witness whose testimony can be crucial to complicated white collar criminal cases.

  • An empire under scrutiny. The New York State attorney general is currently conducting a civil investigation into former president Donald Trump’s business practices. Here’s what to know:
  • The origins of the inquiry. The investigation started after Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, testified to Congress that Mr. Trump and his employees had manipulated his net worth to suit his interests.
  • The findings. Ms. James detailed in a recent filing what she said was a pattern by the Trump Organization to inflate the value of the company’s properties in documents filed with lenders, insurers and the Internal Revenue Service.
  • The potential impact. Because the investigation is civil, the attorney general cannot file criminal charges and would have to sue Mr. Trump. Ms. James could seek financial penalties and try to shut down certain aspects of Mr. Trump’s business.
  • Mr. Trump’s lawsuit. In December Mr. Trump sued Letitia James, the New York attorney general, seeking to halt the inquiry. The suit argues that the attorney general’s involvement in the inquiry is politically motivated.
  • Pushing back. Lawyers for the Trump family had sought to prevent Ms. James from obtaining documents as part of the inquiry and interviewing Mr. Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump under oath. But a State Supreme Court judge in Manhattan has rejected the efforts.

Mr. Trump’s lenders might also not make for sympathetic victims with a jury. The lenders, which made millions of dollars in interest from Mr. Trump, conducted their own assessments of his assets.

If Mr. Bragg ultimately closes the investigation, he could face political fallout in Manhattan, where Mr. Trump is generally loathed. And the district attorney has already had a rocky start to his tenure, after a memo he released outlining his policies for the office was met with furious pushback from local officials, small businesses and the public.

Mr. Bragg — who was sworn in on Jan. 1 — is a former federal prosecutor and veteran of the New York State attorney general’s office, where he oversaw civil litigation against Mr. Trump and his administration under Ms. James’s predecessor.

The district attorney’s criminal investigation into Mr. Trump began in the summer of 2018 under Mr. Vance, who initially looked into the Trump Organization’s role in paying hush money to a pornographic actress who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump.

The inquiry grew out of a federal case against Mr. Trump’s former fixer, Michael D. Cohen, who pleaded guilty to arranging the hush money and said he did so at the direction of Mr. Trump.

The focus of the investigation shifted after Mr. Vance, in 2019, subpoenaed Mazars for copies of Mr. Trump’s tax returns. Mr. Trump sued to block the subpoena, sparking a bitter 18-month legal battle that saw the former president take the case to the United States Supreme Court, where he lost twice.

Mr. Dunne, who served as Mr. Vance’s general counsel and stayed on to help Mr. Bragg with the Trump investigation, argued the case before the Supreme Court. And around the time that the prosecutors received Mr. Trump’s tax documents, Mr. Vance recruited Mr. Pomerantz, a prominent former prosecutor and defense lawyer, to help lead the investigation.

The case accused Mr. Weisselberg and the company of a 15-year scheme to pay for luxury perks for certain executives, like free apartments and leased Mercedes-Benzes, off the books. Mr. Weisselberg pleaded not guilty and his lawyers filed court papers this week seeking to dismiss the charges. A judge has tentatively scheduled a trial for late summer.

 

djt michael cohenNew York Daily News, Two top Manhattan prosecutors heading Trump investigation resign suddenly, probe to continue, Molly Crane-Newman and Larry McShane, Feb. 23, 2022. The Manhattan District Attorney’s ongoing investigation into ex-President Trump’s finances took a dramatic and unexpected turn Wednesday when two top prosecutors in the case abruptly resigned.

Highly-regarded lawyers Carey Dunne and Mark Pomerantz bailed after their new boss, Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, indicated he had doubts about proceeding with the case against Trump, according to The New York Times.

The investigation was launched by Bragg’s predecessor Cy Vance Jr., with the current DA’s spokeswoman confirming the sudden departures of the two attorneys from the prior regime.

Ex-top Trump advisor Michael Cohen, who testified in the DA’s investigation against his estranged boss, was stunned by the development.

“Mark Pomerantz and Carey Dunne just resigned?” Cohen said when contacted by The News. “What? Wow. ”

Cohen, above left, who spent upwards of 300 hours answering questions from the prosecutors, was rattled by word of their exits.

“I am deeply disturbed by this report,” he said. “I know the information in the New York DA’s possession — and not to indict is a dereliction of duty to all New Yorkers and the country.”

Meanwhile, in a filing late Tuesday, The Trump Organization and its longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg called in court papers for the dismissal of charges brought against them in 2021 stemming from the DA’s probe, alleging Cohen’s cooperation was motivated by vengeance rather than justice.

Weisselberg previously testified with immunity before a grand jury investigating Cohen, who was convicted in 2018 of violating campaign finance laws and lying to Congress. The case involved “hush money” payments Cohen arranged to porn star Stormy Daniels and model model Karen McDougal during Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Daniels and McDougal say they had extramarital affairs with Trump, which Trump denied. Cohen spent about 13 1/2 months in prison and another 18 months in home confinement.

 

 United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (l) with his wife of thirty-five years, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas (r). (Safe Image)

United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (l) with his wife of thirty-five years, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas (r).

Proof, Investigation: New Revelations Indicate Ginni Thomas Was a Key Author of Trump’s January 6 Coup Plot, Seth Abramson, left, Feb. 23, seth abramson graphic2022. A recent NYT report explosively updates past reporting at PROOF on Ginni Thomas’s involvement in January 6. The new revelations—taken in sum—position Thomas as a chief author of the insurrection.

Introduction The most comprehensive reporting on Ginni Thomas’s involvement in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol continues to seth abramson proof logobe this exclusive Proof report from January.

However, the New York Times just published a very lengthy feature on the Thomases—Ginni Thomas and her husband, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas—that gave its readers a series of buried ledes about Ginni Thomas and January 6.

It’s unclear why the Times did little to highlight these revelations; all are ensconced deep within an article it takes more than an hour and half to listen to via an audio reading supplied by the newspaper. Whatever the explanation for the odd framing of Ginni Thomas’s role in January 6 by the Times, Proof has decided to update its prior report with a summary of the Times feature that focuses only on the elements of the feature that will matter to federal investigators.

These elements, combined with the January Proof report, confirm that Ginni Thomas was one of the chief architects of the events of January 6, 2021. While it remains unclear whether the House January 6 Committee will now subpoena Ginni Thomas, it is increasingly evident that the Committee is gathering all available data on potential witnesses—including data published in venues like Proof, which the Committee has previously cited in its formal filings.

For this reason, the article below may be of assistance to decision-makers wondering if Ginni Thomas has valuable evidence about the January 6 attack on the Capitol to offer both Congress and the FBI. The short answer: she does. And indeed the evidence curated in the article that follows warrants the immediate issuance of a subpoena to Ginni Thomas for both testimony and documents. It warrants, further, the interrogation of Thomas by agents of the FBI.

Addressing the Elephant in the Room: Clarence Thomas: The New York Times focuses a majority of its article on Ginni Thomas on her husband, Clarence Thomas—a common mistake that Proof warned about at the very beginning of its own feature on Ginni Thomas.

Ginni Thomas’s activities are considerably more newsworthy and influential than her husband’s, deserving coverage exclusive from any consideration of Justice Thomas’s arch-conservative jurisprudence.

Seth Abramson, shown at right, founder of Proof, is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

Axios, Sneak Peek: Senator warns of broader war, Glen Johnsont, Feb. 23, 2022. The top senator overseeing U.S. intelligence agencies tells Axios' mark warnerJonathan Swan and Zachary Basu he's deeply concerned cyberattacks launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin could morph into a broader war drawing in NATO nations — including the United States.

axios logoWhy it matters: President Biden has ruled out American boots on the ground in Ukraine. But Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.), right, said in an interview today that Putin's actions during the next few days risk triggering NATO's Article 5 collective defense principle.

In a 2021 communique, NATO affirmed the alliance would weigh whether to trigger its Article 5 mutual defense pact over a cyberattack "on a case-by-case basis." It said the response "need not be restricted to the cyber domain."

european union logo rectangleDetails: Warner foresees two ways a digital war could draw in NATO countries, including the U.S.:

democratic donkey logoPutin deploys cyber weapons inside Ukraine that take on a life of their own and spread to NATO member states. This has happened before — most notably in 2017, when Russia's NotPetya malware was unleashed in Ukraine and ended up causing billions of dollars in damage to companies worldwide.

Putin retaliates against the West's toughest sanctions by ordering direct cyberattacks targeting infrastructure inside the U.S. and other NATO allies. The U.S. government issued an alert this week urging businesses and agencies to protect their "most critical digital assets," citing "the potential for the Russian government to consider escalating its destabilizing actions" beyond Ukraine.

 

Virus Updates, Reactions

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: How many people died believing vaccine misinformation? Editorial Board, Feb. 23, 2022 (print ed.). “Freaking miracle.” That’s how health journalist Helen Branswell recently described the vaccines that have saved millions of lives in the coronavirus pandemic. The vaccines, offered to the U.S. population, have proved to be 90 percent effective against infection. Ready within a year of the outbreak, they have proved to be safe. And they are widely available and free. There is no parallel in modern times.
Opinions to start the day, in your inbox. Sign up.

Yet, some people chose to believe otherwise. In a just-published nationwide survey of 18,782 people across all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the Covid States Project asked about four vaccine misinformation claims, asking respondents whether they were “true” or “false” or if a respondent was “not sure.” Five percent said they thought that vaccines contained microchips; 7 percent said vaccines used aborted fetal cells; 8 percent said the vaccines could alter human DNA; and 10 percent were concerned that vaccines could cause infertility. Forty-six percent were uncertain about the veracity of at least one of the four false statements.

The survey shows how misinformation about vaccines continues to erode confidence in them. What kind of message is sent when Fox News host Tucker Carlson compares coronavirus vaccine mandates to medical experiments conducted by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, as he did Jan. 21? Or Mr. Carlson’s many previous broadcasts raising questions in a haphazard way and relying on dubious sources? The new survey found that people who believe vaccine misinformation, or express uncertainty about it, tend to register higher degrees of trust in Fox News than those who reject the false vaccine claims. It also identified other groups of people who are more inclined to believe the misinformation. Young parents stood out as vulnerable to false claims.

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus updates: U.S. Flight Attendants Balk at Ending Mask Mandate on Planes, Staff Reports, Feb. 23, 2022. The Biden administration’s plan to lift mask requirements in March would endanger medically vulnerable travelers, a flight attendants’ union has said. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The U.S. mask mandate for air travel will expire next month, but some flight attendants say it’s too soon.
  • South Korea expands its immunization efforts as daily cases soar to over 170,000.
  • Protests outside New Zealand’s Parliament have turned more violent.
  • Chicago will end its mask mandate for many public spaces.
  • Turkey, still recovering from pandemic lockdowns, is shocked by soaring electricity bills.
  • Ireland ends mask mandates in most places and social distancing in schools.
  • The European Union wants to relax pandemic rules for vaccinated visitors from abroad.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.K. ends all restrictions, Australia reopens borders after nearly two years, Amy Cheng and Annabelle Timsit, Feb. 23, 2022 (print ed.). England ended all remaining covid restrictions Monday amid falling cases, and Australia reopened its borders to overseas travelers, as countries around the world seek a way to “live with the virus.”

United Kingdom flagPrime Minister Boris Johnson’s message of a return to normalcy was partially blunted since Queen Elizabeth II tested positive for the coronavirus over the weekend and was experiencing “mild cold like symptoms.”

boris johnson tieLawmakers from the opposition Labour Party and some public health experts have also criticized Johnson’s move as premature — and even reckless — as the country reported more than 1,000 deaths in the past week.

Australia was expected to receive more than 50 international flights within the first 24 hours of reopening, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Sunday. The country had earned the nickname “Hermit Kingdom” after barring nearly all visitors for the first 18 months of the pandemic. Coronavirus cases there fell nearly 20 percent in the past week and are far lower than their January peak.

Here’s what to know

  • canadian flagCanada’s legislature on Monday affirmed the use of the special emergency powers invoked last week by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has warned that the self-styled “Freedom Convoy” protesters who mostly left Ottawa this weekend may reposition and organize new blockades elsewhere.
  • As crucial parts of the U.S. workforce continue to be strained by the omicron variant, National Guard members in some states are now filling in as health-care workers, teachers, janitors and more.
  • Parents of children younger than 5 say they feel forgotten and left behind, as the wait for a coronavirus vaccine for their children drags on. Federal health agencies this month delayed authorizing and recommending the shot until more data on the vaccine’s efficacy is collected.

washington post logoWashington Post, After unexplained absence, Fox News’ Neil Cavuto says his second bout with covid landed him in the ICU, Andrea Salcedo, Feb. 23, 2022 (print ed.). For weeks, Fox News host Neil Cavuto was off-screen, and his viewers didn’t really know why.

Until Monday, when Cavuto, who was back in the studio, revealed the cause of his absence: He had tested positive for the coronavirus — again.

fox news logo SmallOnly this time, the virus had sent him to the intensive care unit and nearly killed him, Cavuto told his Fox Business audience. Cavuto has said he is fully vaccinated.

“I did get covid again — but a far, far more serious strand, what doctors call covid pneumonia,” the “Your World” host said. “It landed me in intensive care for quite a while, and it really was touch and go.”

Cavuto, who is immunocompromised, has publicly advocated for vaccines ever since he was infected with the virus in the fall. On Monday, he once again gave credit to the vaccines for his recovery and debunked conspiracy theories that it was the jab that got him sick.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Feb. 24, 2022), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 430,722,590, Deaths: 5,939,811
U.S. Cases:     80,372,404, Deaths:    966,530
Indian Cases:   42,881,179, Deaths:    512,954
Brazil Cases:   28,485,502, Deaths:    646,490

Related Recent Headlines:

 

U.S. Crime, Law, Courts, Race

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Interviews 3 Supreme Court Candidates as His Search Narrows, Katie Rogers, Feb. 23, 2022 (print ed.). President Biden has interviewed at least three candidates for his Supreme Court nomination, a signal that he intends to fulfill his promise that he would choose a nominee by the end of the month.

But the end of the month is less than a week away. The interviews began late last week, according to several people familiar with the process, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of its political sensitivity. Mr. Biden is now under pressure to announce his selection, who he has promised will be a Black woman, somewhere between a rapidly devolving diplomatic effort to contain Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine and plans to deliver his first State of the Union address, scheduled for next Tuesday.

The White House emphasized on Tuesday that Mr. Biden had not made a decision but remained on track to make one before month’s end.

According to a person familiar with the process, Mr. Biden held interviews with three candidates who had long been seen as on his short list: He spoke with Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who won the support of three Republican senators when Mr. Biden elevated her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He also interviewed Leondra R. Kruger of the California Supreme Court, a former law clerk on the Supreme Court whose Yale Law pedigree is shared by four of the current justices.

He also spoke with J. Michelle Childs, a Federal District Court judge in South Carolina, a state whose Black voters Mr. Biden has credited with helping him win the presidency.

At least one of the interviews was in person.

The White House, aware that a Supreme Court nomination is one of the most scrutinized and politically volatile of all presidential duties, has said so little about the process to replace the retiring Justice Stephen G. Breyer that the lack of details has become a running joke: “The long national process will soon be over,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said wryly when a reporter asked if Mr. Biden had finished interviewing.

The Washington Post and CNN had each reported some of the interviews earlier. Several of Mr. Biden’s advisers said he might have more interviews, and emphasized that he intended to be deliberate as he entered the final phase of assessing candidates. Several others also pointed out that Mr. Biden’s interest in a lengthy, detailed process could threaten his own self-imposed deadline.

“He’s not someone who lets outside forces dictate his timing,” said Jeff Peck, a lobbyist who served as general counsel and staff director to the Senate Judiciary Committee when Mr. Biden was chairman of it. “He will do it when he is ready and when he has decided, but I do think there’s an outside bookend here, in part because of the State of the Union.”The White House says President Biden is on track to decide on a nominee to fill the seat vacated by Justice Stephen Breyer by the end of February.

ny times logoNew York Times Sunday Magazine, The Waco Biker Shootout and the Judgment That Never Came, Mark Binelli, Photos by Eli Durst, Feb. 23, 2022. How 177 arrests led to no convictions — a tangled, seven-year tale of prosecutorial hubris and tenacious defense.

If you ask Paul Looney, a Houston defense attorney, about the Twin Peaks biker case, he’ll tell you there’s one person who knows more about it than anyone else alive: his trial-preparation specialist, Roxanne Avery.

An entire wall of her home office in Norman, Okla., is covered with wallet-size mug shots of the nearly 200 bikers arrested, as well as photographs of the nine men who died that day, seven years ago, after a violent brawl in a Waco parking lot.

Point to a random photograph, and Avery will generally be able to squint and tell you something about the biker in question.

“There’s a rumor that he killed somebody,” she said one morning two years ago, tapping a face. “I don’t think it’s true. I know these guys.”

Avery and her boss make a colorful duo.

She was the one who told Looney about the Waco brawl in the first place. In May 2015, the bikers were gathering for a meeting of the Texas Confederation of Clubs and Independents, a coalition of motorcycle enthusiasts that lobbies the state government over things like helmet laws. These meetings were typically low-key affairs; the Waco event was planned for 1 p.m. on a Sunday, at a Hooters-style chain restaurant called Twin Peaks, where the waitresses wear lumberjack-plaid halter tops. But this meeting was preceded by rumblings of an escalating feud between two of the state’s biggest “outlaw” motorcycle clubs, the Cossacks and the Bandidos.

Mark Binelli is a contributing writer for the magazine. He last wrote a feature about the documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman. Eli Durst is a fine-art photographer based in Austin, where he teaches at the University of Texas. His first monograph, “The Community,” was published by Mörel Books.

ny times logoNew York Times, Facing Fraud Charge, Former N.Y.P.D. Union Head Turns Himself In, Benjamin Weiser and William K. Rashbaum, Feb. 23, 2022. The former president of a powerful New York City Police union surrendered to the authorities on Wednesday to be charged with wire fraud in Manhattan, according to two people briefed on the matter.

The former union president, Edward D. Mullins, the combative longtime leader of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, has been accused of inflating his union expenses — for meals and other items — by $1 million over four years, according to one person who had knowledge of the matter.

In some cases, the person said, Mr. Mullins inflated expenses for meals involving union-related business. In others he obtained reimbursement for meals with his family that did not involve union business.

The prosecution represents the latest chapter in the swift collapse of the career of Mr. Mullins, a once influential police union official who retired on Nov. 5, the same day officials announced he had been found guilty of two departmental infractions and fined $32,000 for violating rules governing the use of social media.

In one message Mr. Mullins had posted on Twitter, he made public a police report involving then-Mayor Bill de Blasio’s daughter. In others, he used vulgar language to denigrate city officials.

Mr. Mullins had quit his union position a month earlier, hours after his Long Island home and the union’s Manhattan headquarters were raided by F.B.I. agents. At the time, the union issued a statement acknowledging the search and saying that Mr. Mullins was “apparently the target” of a federal investigation.

The union said in its statement that it had “no reason to believe that any other member” was “involved or targeted in this matter.” The union represents about 13,000 active and retired police sergeants in New York.

washington post logoWashington Post, Man charged with murder in Portland, Ore., shooting at protest against police violence, Bryan Pietsch, Feb. 23, 2022. Benjamin Smith, 43, faces charges of murder, attempted murder and assault over the shooting at Normandale Park.

A man accused of opening fire on a group of protesters in Portland, Ore., on Saturday, killing one and injuring four others, has been charged with murder, prosecutors announced Tuesday.

Benjamin Smith, 43, faces charges of murder, attempted murder and assault over the fatal shooting, which according to prosecutors in Multnomah County happened when he confronted a group that was gathered for a demonstration against police violence.

The shooting near Normandale Park in northeast Portland, a frequent meeting point for such protests, left Brandy Lynn Knightly, 60, dead. She was shot “at close range in the head,” and the authorities found her dead when they arrived at the scene Saturday evening, according to an affidavit. A medical examiner had determined that Knightly’s cause of death was “homicide by gunshot wound,” the police said.

Two of the other victims were hospitalized as of Monday, according to the affidavit, with one of them in critical condition after being shot in the neck and paralyzed from the neck down. The other was shot multiple times, including in the abdomen.

Smith was apparently shot by a protester who returned fire, according to initial statements by the police, who later added that the shooting concluded after he was injured. Smith was hospitalized in “serious” condition with a gunshot to his hip that required surgery, prosecutors said, adding that he was expected to survive and that police had been at the hospital since he was admitted.

Demonstrators had gathered near the park to protest police violence after the killings of Amir Locke, a 22-year-old Black man who was shot by Minneapolis police this month during a predawn “no-knock” raid while he was lying on a couch, and Patrick Kimmons, a 27-year-old Black man killed by Portland police during a 2018 altercation.

Smith, who according to the affidavit is White and lives in Portland, confronted the demonstrators between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday, “yelling at them and demanding they leave the area.” Initial statements by the police described the shooter as an “armed homeowner,” while an address associated with Smith is near the park.

Protesters told him to “leave them alone and return home,” the affidavit said, and Smith responded, “demanding they ‘make’ him leave.”

Smith then “aggressively” approached one of the demonstrators, who pushed him back, according to the affidavit. Smith continued to yell at the protesters, it said, and then drew his gun.

It was not immediately clear whether Smith had legal representation.

Smith had a history of ranting about Black Lives Matter, homeless people and covid regulations including mask mandates, his roommate, Kristine Christenson, told the Oregonian. Records show that in 2010, Smith was convicted in Multnomah County of harassment and criminal mischief.

The authorities this weekend said the investigation into the shooting was “very complicated,” as police said that some witnesses were unwilling to talk to them. “Critical evidence was removed from the scene by witnesses,” according to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, which asked that the evidence “be returned to investigators immediately.”

A police briefing scheduled for Sunday morning was canceled after it was disrupted by protesters.

“Most people on scene left without talking to police,” Portland police said in a statement. “Detectives believe a large number of people either witnessed what happened, or recorded the incident as it unfolded. This is a very complicated incident, and investigators are trying to put this puzzle together without having all the pieces.”

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U.S. Elections, Governance, Economy

ny times logoNew York Times, On Politics: A foreign-policy rift is emerging in the Republican Party over the Ukraine-Russia crisis, Blake Hounshell and Leah Askarinam, Feb. 23, 2022 (print ed.). In Ohio, two Republicans running for Senate have taken sharply different positions, offering a clear view of the party’s rift over foreign policy.

You won’t find a clearer distillation of the Republican Party’s divide on foreign policy than the sparring that broke out this weekend in Ohio over Ukraine.

It’s a skirmish that pits Trump-style, “America First” isolationists against more traditional hawkish Republicans. And while strategists in both parties say voters are much more concerned about pocketbook issues like inflation than they are about national security, the contrasting messages reflect a Republican Party that remains deeply torn between a base still loyal to Donald Trump and an elite seeking to move beyond him.

jd vance w gage skidmoreOn one side of the split is J.D. Vance, left, who has sought to parlay his celebrity as the author of “Hillbilly Elegy” into a Senate seat.

On the other is Jane Timken, a former state party chair who represents the closest thing in the race to an establishment candidate.

Timken has run a campaign focused on inflation, immigration, “parents’ rights” and crime. On Ukraine, she put out a statement Monday that was perfectly in tune with the Senate Republicans she hopes to join: supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and calling for sanctions on Russia, while condemning Biden for what she called “weak and feckless leadership.”

But Vance, a Yale Law School graduate who served in the Marines in Iraq before becoming a venture capitalist, staked out a wildly different position.

“I don’t really care what happens to Ukraine one way or another,” Vance said in a podcast interview.

A retired Army general, Barry R. McCaffrey, blasted those comments on Twitter. “JD Vance is a shameful person unsuitable for public office. His comments are those of a stooge for Russian aggression,” said McCaffrey, who led an infantry division during the Persian Gulf war of 1991 and has since become a television news analyst, defense consultant and Trump critic.

To which Vance replied: “Your entire time in military leadership we won zero wars. You drank fine wine at bullshit security conferences while thousands of working class kids died on the battlefield. Oh, by the way, how much do you stand to gain financially from a war with Russia, Barry?”

The exchange might as well have been ripped from Trump’s playbook. Trump, of course, famously derided John McCain’s war record during the 2016 presidential campaign.

At a candidate event in Iowa in July 2015, Trump dismissed the Arizona senator’s service in Vietnam, saying, “I like people who weren’t captured.”

At the time, his statement was widely seen as a fatal blunder. What politician in their right mind would attack a decorated war hero, a man who withstood torture in a Vietnamese prison for 5 years? And in a Republican primary, no less?

washington post logoWashington Post, Fuel prices spike amid Ukraine crisis, with some markets hovering near $5 a gallon, Aaron Gregg, Feb. 23, 2022. The U.S. average for regular unleaded gasoline hit $3.53 a gallon, which is nearly a dollar more than last year.

Americans are paying nearly a dollar more for a gallon of gas — to roughly $5 in some markets — than they did last year as the growing threat of war in Ukraine moved oil prices higher.

The U.S. average for regular unleaded gasoline hit $3.53 a gallon on Wednesday, according to AAA. That’s 21 cents higher than last month and a hefty jump from the $2.65 recorded a year ago.

Oil prices climbed as the Russia-Ukraine crisis played out, pushing them within striking distance of $100 a barrel. They’ve eased slightly, with Brent crude, the international benchmark, trading Wednesday at roughly $97 a barrel and West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, hovering above $92. But both are up about 40 percent from their early December low points.

Analysts say any further aggression on the part of Russia could attract more sanctions from the United States and Europe, something that could disrupt Europe’s energy supply and send price shocks across the globe. In an address Tuesday, President Biden warned that sanctions would probably affect U.S. consumers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Postal Service finalizes plans to buy mostly gasoline-powered delivery trucks. Here’s what experts say is wrong with that, Jacob Bogage and Anna Phillips, Feb. 23, 2022. The Postal Service will spend up to $11.3 billion on a fleet that is 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent electric.

us mail logoThe U.S. Postal Service finalized plans Wednesday to purchase up to 148,000 gasoline-powered mail delivery trucks, defying Biden administration officials’ objections that the multibillion-dollar contract would undercut the nation’s climate goals.
10 steps you can take to lower your carbon footprint

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, below left, disregarded requests from the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the louis dejoy CustomEnvironmental Protection Agency this month to reconsider replacing the delivery fleet with 90 percent gas-powered trucks and 10 percent electric vehicles, at a cost of as much as $11.3 billion. The contract, orchestrated by DeJoy, offers only a 0.4-mpg fuel economy improvement over the agency’s current fleet.

The decision is a major blow to the White House’s climate agenda. President Biden has pledged to transition the federal fleet to clean power, and apart from the military, the Postal Service has more vehicles than any other government agency. It accounts for nearly one-third of federally owned cars and trucks, and environmental and auto industry experts argue that the agency’s stop-and-start deliveries to 161 million addresses six days a week provides an ideal scenario for using electric vehicles.

EPA officials said the Postal Service vastly underestimated the emissions of its proposed fleet of “Next Generation Delivery Vehicles,” accusing the mail agency of fudging the math in its analysis to justify the massive purchase of internal-combustion-engine trucks.

DeJoy, a holdover from the Trump administration, has called his agency’s investment in green transportation “ambitious,” even as environmental groups and other postal leaders have privately mocked the claim. When DeJoy repeated the characterization at a public meeting of the Postal Service’s governing board this month, his remarks were met with chuckles from the audience.

DeJoy said in a statement that the agency was open to pursuing more electric vehicles if “additional funding — from either internal or congressional sources — becomes available.” But he added that the agency had “waited long enough” for new vehicles.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Do Democrats Have a Technocrat Problem? Paul Krugman, right, Feb. 23, 2022 (print ed.). More than a decade ago, the commentator paul krugmanJonathan Chait wrote about the “hack gap,” a striking difference between the behavior of Republican and Democratic experts (or in some cases, “experts”) when their party controls the government. Republican experts slavishly praise their leaders, no matter what they do; Democratic experts strive for objectivity and, if anything, bend over backward to criticize their own side.

This happens in many areas; Chait was talking about legal analysis, but I see it all the time in my home field.

During the Trump years, Republican economists, even those you might have expected to be concerned about their professional reputations, rushed to embrace extravagant and implausible claims about what Donald Trump’s tax cuts would achieve. Some were even willing to abase themselves in ways reminiscent of Putin cronies. Remember when Tomas Philipson of the University of Chicago declared that Trump had economic instincts “on par with many Nobel economists I have worked with”?

Democratic economists, by contrast, often seem eager to display their independence by criticizing Biden administration policies. And while intellectual integrity is a good thing, I’d argue that sometimes the desire to seem independent leads Democratic economists to overdo it — to criticize arguments or policy proposals that actually make sense, perhaps especially if these proposals would be politically popular.

Let me give you two examples, one minor and one much bigger.

washington post logoWashington Post, New tax plan from leading GOP senator would require all Americans to pay federal income taxes, Jeff Stein, Feb. 23, 2022. A leading GOP senator faced a backlash Tuesday after calling for all Americans to start paying federal income taxes, leading to criticism from both the White House and leading conservative policy experts.

rick scottSen. Rick Scott (Fla.), right, the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, released an “11-point plan to rescue America” that included a proposal for all Americans to pay some form of income tax, even if it was a nominal amount.

irs logoRoughly 50 percent of Americans on the bottom half of the income distribution do not pay federal income taxes because they do not earn enough to have income tax liability and because many receive tax credits. Millions of these Americans do pay federal and state government taxes in the form of payroll taxes, sales taxes and other levies.

House GOP plots policy agenda for 2022 midterm elections — with help from architect of 1994 plan

“All Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game, even if a small amount,” Scott’s proposal states. “Currently over half of Americans pay no income tax.”

Scott’s pitch comes at an uncertain moment for conservative policymaking as Republicans debate to what extent they need a proactive agenda to run on in the 2022 midterm elections. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been adamant that the Senate GOP will not release a platform ahead of the election, saying the party only needs to reveal its plans for running Congress “when we take it back.”

That position has proved unpopular with some Republicans who believe the party should put forward a set of policy priorities. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), for instance, is putting together a comprehensive legislative package for House Republicans. Scott’s 11-point proposal includes many other long-standing conservative projects, such as eliminating the Education Department, building President Donald Trump’s border wall and declaring that there are only two genders.

“I’ll warn you,” Scott wrote in the introduction to his plan. “This plan is not for the faint of heart.”

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More On Russian-Ukraine-NATO Crisis

 

vladimir putin security council 2 21 2022 alexey nikolsky sputnik afp getty

President Vladimir V. Putin meeting with members of Russia’s Security Council in Moscow on Monday.Credit...Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: In a heated address on Ukraine, Vladimir Putin laid bare his grievances, Max Fisher, Feb. 23, 2022. Here’s what it might mean. In a long and heated address on Monday, Vladimir V. Putin, Russia’s president, spun a narrative whose implications sprawl well beyond his stated purpose of recognizing the independence of two Ukrainian territories held by Moscow-backed separatists.

Mr. Putin’s speech was awash with hard-line Russian nationalism, angry paranoia toward the West, baseless claims of Ukrainian aggression, a sense of lost imperial pride on the verge of reclamation and, most of all, invocations of history, much of it distorted or fabricated.

While his comments might have sounded rambling to Western ears, Mr. Putin may in fact have been articulating what amounted to a calculated series of justifications for a further invasion of Ukraine aimed at the Russian public, whose support he will need to maintain it. What follows is a concise annotation of several key passages that convey Mr. Putin’s overt and implied case for war.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: The Limits of a Europe Whole and Free, Roger Cohen, Feb. 23, 2022 (print ed.). President Vladimir Putin set down a marker in Ukraine that will test the West’s means to stop him.

For the prime minister of Lithuania — and Lithuania knows something of life in Moscow’s imperium — President Vladimir V. Putin’s rambling dismissal of Ukrainian statehood, used to justify sending Russian troops into the eastern part of that state, “put Kafka and Orwell to shame.”

There were “no lows too low, no lies too blatant,” the prime minister, Ingrida Simonyte, said of Mr. Putin’s menacing explanation on Monday of his decision to recognize two separatist regions of Ukraine, Donetsk and Luhansk. But if the speech revived the doublespeak of the Soviet Union, more than 30 years after its demise, did it also rekindle the Soviet threat and the Cold War that went with it?

On many levels, the challenge Mr. Putin’s revanchist Russia presents to the West is different. This Russia has no pretense of a global ideology. The Cold War depended on closed systems; computer technology put an end to that. No Soviet tanks are poised to roll across the Prussian plains and absorb all Europe in a totalitarian empire. Nuclear Armageddon is not on the table.

Yet, perhaps because of the way he prepared the ground for full-scale war, saying Russia has “every right to take retaliatory measures” against what he called a fictive nation led by usurpers who would be responsible for the bloodshed, Mr. Putin’s decision felt like a breaking point that went beyond his annexation of Crimea in 2014. It held up the specter of Europe’s darkest days. He laid down a marker, setting the outer limit of the Europe whole and free of 1989.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Treachery in Moscow rivals the infamous Hitler-Stalin pact of 1939, Wayne Madsen, left, Feb. 23, 2022. Not wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallsince the infamous August 23, 1939 non-aggression pact between Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin has a Communist leader undermined the underpinnings of the Russian Bolshevik Revolution and the principles of its leader, Vladimir Lenin.

wayne madesen report logoBy ardently supporting legislation approving the deployment of Russian troops to two self-declared independent regions of Ukraine, Gennady Zyuganov, the leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), has given his stamp of approval for a policy enacted by President Vladimir Putin -- someone who has condemned the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution that overthrew the Russian czar and monarchy and the revolution's leader, Lenin.

It is clear that in acting as Putin's proxy, Zyuganov has opted to support fascism over communism or social democracy.

There is a sector of the left in the United States, Europe, Australia, and other nations that continue to take the side of Putin in his showdown with the United States and the West. These individuals, many of whom I have known for decades, are no different than the leftists who warmly embraced Stalin's non-aggression pact with Hitler. The so-called "progressives" who support Putin and his regime have previously shown a tendency to dismiss the fascism of Donald Trump and his Republicans, while casting all sorts of aspersions and innuendo toward President Joe Biden, his administration, and the Democrats.

These fools, and that is what they are, cannot have it both ways. They cannot claim to be progressive while supporting fascists like Putin and his proxies, who include Trump, Hungary's autocrat Viktor Orban, and the Russian propaganda-inspired and supported destabilization truckers' convoys in Canada, France, the Netherlands, Britain, and a planned operation for the United States.

 

vicky ward investigatesVicky Ward Investigates, “Putin was Playing Chess While the Rest of the World was Playing Checkers”: Lev Parnas on Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine, Vicky Ward, Feb. 23, 2022. Three weeks ago, I discussed the situation in Ukraine with Lev Parnas. Parnas, remember, is the Ukrainian-American businessman who, with Russian-born businessman Igor Fruman, worked with Rudy Giuliani to achieve a shadow foreign policy in Ukraine for the Trump administration, essentially to try to target the Bidens.

Parnas and Fruman’s efforts were stopped when, on October 9, 2019, both men were arrested and charged with federal campaign finance violations. Parnas subsequently blew the whistle on much of the clandestine operation around the time Congress held impeachment hearings over the matter.

The last time I spoke with him, Parnas told me he thought Russian President Vladimir Putin was posturing and would not invade Ukraine.
Now, Parnas explains why the picture has changed. I spoke to him hours after Putin, in a rambling speech, declared two Ukrainian states—Donetsk and Luhansk—to be “independent” despite parts being under Ukrainian control, and President Joe Biden consequently announced the “first tranche” of sanctions including full blocking sanctions on two significant Russian financial institutions (which collectively hold over $80 billion in assets) and on five Russian elites and their family members.

Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity:

WARD: We talked before, and you thought Putin didn't need to invade—that he could control the government and hobble Ukraine financially. So, what's changed?

PARNAS: I think the events that unfolded turned into a perfect storm that delivered Ukraine to Putin.

WARD: Can you explain that?

PARNAS: By surrounding Ukraine with troops, he was able to cripple the Ukrainian economy, basically cutting it off from the world. Now he’s playing surgeon. He basically now cutting another piece of territory off, like he did with Crimea, and he’s making up history and trying to change borders.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: The "Putin Doctrine" will come back to haunt Russia, Wayne Madsen, Feb. 22, 2022.
Putin has opened Pandora's Box in trying to re-establish the Russian empire.

wayne madesen report logoRussia's Vladimir Putin, like Hitler, was not satisfied with cleaving off South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia and Crimea from Ukraine. The Russian presidential czar has, in recognizing the independence of the "people's republics" of Luhansk and Donetsk, two Russian-speaking regions of the Donbas of eastern Ukraine, officially etched in stone what can be described as the Putin Doctrine and Putin Corollary.

The Putin Doctrine gives Russia the right to annex any territory that has a majority of Russian-speakers, whether it be Donbas, Crimea, or parts of Kazakhstan, where Russian Special Operations forces are currently stationed after that nation's authoritarian president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, called on Russia to help restore order after anti-regime protests threatened to topple Tokayev.

It should be kept in mind that there are large minorities of Russian-speakers in Estonia and Latvia, two NATO members.

The Putin Corollary goes a step further than the doctrine. It stipulates that any territory that was once part of the Russian Empire is rightfully Russian. In his February 21 televised speech recognizing Luhansk and Donetsk, Putin claimed that Soviet leaders Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin wrongfully recognized Ukraine and other Soviet republics and autonomous republics as distinct entities from Russia

Putin's doctrine and corollary could actually be used to justify the fragmentation of his would-be empire.

steve schmidt msnbc CustomRaw Story, Steve Schmidt blows conservative out of the water for claiming Putin was 'frightened' of Trump, Tom Boggioni, Feb. 22, 2022. Steve Schmidt (shown above in a file photo) blows conservative out of the water for claiming Putin was 'frightened' of Trump

raw story logo squareFollowing Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to send troops into Donetsk and Luhansk as part of his incursion into Ukraine, National Review editor-in-chief Rich Lowry tweeted out that Putin likely made the move because Trump is out of office and the Russian strongman was "frightened' by the ex-president's unpredictability.

That, in turn, led to a scathing response from former Republican campaign consultant Steve Schmidt, who let Lowry know, in no uncertain terms, that he regards Trump as "a whore ... who would sell out his country; her values and ideals for nothing but flattery."

As Lowry sees it, "The sheer unpredictably of Trump, his anger at being defied or disrespected, his willingness to take the occasional big risk (the Soleimani strike), all had to make Putin frightened or wary of him in a way that he simply isn’t of Joe Biden."

Schmidt begged to differ in a tweetstorm that began, "This is a world view I have never understood. Trump is the most predictable person in the world. He is as predictable as the Sun setting in the west and rising in the east. There is no mystery around Trump. How could there be? The idea that Vladimir Putin was kept guessing by Trump is lunacy."

He then added, "What Putin saw was strategic incoherence shaped by a vast ignorance of the world," before later adding, "Trump fetishized the world’s strongmen and lambasted our allies. He was as indifferent to repression abroad as he was to democracy at home. He was a Buffon set loose upon the stage and everyone played their part."

At the end Schmidt took a veiled swipe at the longtime National Review editor by writing, "He [Trump] has blighted the culture for more than 40 tedious years. In all that time, it wasn’t until he got to Washington DC that he found marks naive enough to believe there is an actual strategy to it all.

Meanwhile, in a filing late Tuesday, The Trump Organization and its longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg called in court papers for the dismissal of charges brought against them in 2021 stemming from the DA’s probe, alleging Cohen’s cooperation was motivated by vengeance rather than justice.

Weisselberg previously testified with immunity before a grand jury investigating Cohen, who was convicted in 2018 of violating campaign finance laws and lying to Congress. The case involved “hush money” payments Cohen arranged to porn star Stormy Daniels and model model Karen McDougal during Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Daniels and McDougal say they had extramarital affairs with Trump, which Trump denied. Cohen spent about 13 1/2 months in prison and another 18 months in home confinement.

Weisselberg became a defendant himself when Vance’s investigation led to indictments on tax-related charges last summer against him and The Trump Organization. Both entered pleas of not guilty against the allegations.

The new court papers portray Weisselberg as “collateral damage” in the DA’s probe, alleging he was singled out for prosecution “based on his long-time business association” with Trump and his refusal to become a cooperating witness against his boss.

Prosecutors accused Weisselberg of collecting more than $1.7 million in unreported compensation, including apartment rent, car payments and school tuition.

Cohen described the Trump Organization’s motion to dismiss the charges as “a hail Mary” pass and said Weisselberg and the company were trying to delegitimize him to save themselves.

“It’s just another typical Trump-style ploy that lacks credibility,” Cohen told The News.

“How many more crimes are going to be committed by Trump and his inner circle seeking to exonerate themselves by pointing a finger at me?”

ny times logoNew York Times, Will Biden’s Sanctions Hold Putin Back in Ukraine? Edward Wong and Michael Crowley. Feb. 23, 2022 (print ed.). President Biden promised sharp new sanctions, but President Vladimir Putin has had years to prepare parts of Russia’s insular economy from penalties.

When the Obama administration imposed sanctions on Russia for invading Ukraine in 2014, American officials were hopeful they would deter President Vladimir V. Putin from further aggression.

Some of the officials argue today that the sanctions prevented Mr. Putin from ordering Russian forces beyond where they had halted on the Crimean Peninsula and in the eastern Donbas region. But Mr. Putin held on to Crimea. And on Monday, he ordered more troops into an insurgent-controlled area of eastern Ukraine where thousands of Russian soldiers have been operating and said the Kremlin was recognizing two enclaves as independent states.

Now, President Biden, who as vice president helped oversee Ukraine policy in 2014, has to weigh what sanctions might compel Mr. Putin to halt his new offensive, which the White House has judged to be an “invasion.” The White House is taking a step-by-step approach, trying to calibrate each tranche of measures to Mr. Putin’s actions.

“I’m going to begin to impose sanctions in response, far beyond the steps we and our allies and partners implemented in 2014,” Mr. Biden said on Tuesday in announcing a new set of sanctions. “And if Russia goes further with this invasion, we stand prepared to go further.”

nato logo flags name

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Western Leaders Ready Sanctions as Putin Orders Forces to Ukraine Enclaves, Anton Troianovski, Valerie Hopkins, Andrew E. Kramer, Michael Schwirtz and Shashank Bengali, Feb. 22, 2022. Washington and its allies called the Kremlin’s recognition of two separatist regions a blunt defiance of international law that risks war. A top E.U. official said Russian troops had entered eastern Ukraine, but stopped short of calling it an “invasion.”

A tough global response to moves by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia against Ukraine began to take shape on Tuesday as European nations prepared to impose sanctions and Germany halted a key gas pipeline, but the Russian leader remained defiant in the face of worldwide condemnations.

A day after Mr. Putin recognized two breakaway territories in eastern Ukraine as independent, two European officials said on Tuesday that Russia had sent troops into the area, but Russia’s Foreign Ministry denied having done so yet. Fearful Ukrainians boarded buses out of the separatist areas even as Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, urged his beleaguered nation to “keep a cool head” in the crisis.

European Union ambassadors were preparing on Tuesday to adopt an immediate set of sanctions in response to Russia’s recognition of two separatist regions in Ukraine, according to two E.U. diplomats with knowledge of the talks in Brussels.

The sanctions, which will target people, government and business entities in the separatist regions and in Russia, were set to be further reviewed at an informal meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Paris later Tuesday. The ambassadors were then set to approve the package on Tuesday evening, the diplomats said, although they said that meeting could run into the early hours Wednesday.

  • Germany Halts Key Russian Pipeline; Ukraine Leader Vows Not to Cede Territory
  • Two European officials said that Russian forces had entered eastern Ukraine, but the situation on the ground was unclear.
  • The E.U. was preparing to adopt an immediate set of sanctions in response to Russia’s recognition of the separatist regions. Here’s the latest on the crisis

 

ukraine NATO wpost

washington post logoWashington Post, Four maps that explain the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Laris Karklis and Ruby Mellen, Updated Feb. 18, 2022. Pressure along the Russia-Ukraine border continues: While Moscow denies it intends to invade, Russian forces have moved closer to Ukraine’s border. Diplomatic efforts have not halted the buildup, and the window for dialogue appears to narrowing.

Widespread shelling in eastern Ukraine has heightened fears in Kyiv and Western capitals that a Russian attack could be imminent. Separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk, backed by Russia, have been fighting Ukrainian government forces since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and supported the establishment of a separatist enclave in eastern Ukraine.

The tension playing out between Russia and Ukraine is one involving land borders and strategic influence. Moscow sees Ukraine as an important buffer to NATO. Ukraine sees Russia as an aggressor that has already occupied parts of Ukrainian territory.

washington post logoWashington Post, Putin says Ukraine was ‘created by Russia.’ Here are the arguments he makes to undermine Ukrainian statehood, Robyn Dixon and Claire Parker, Feb. 23, 2022 (print ed.). The “beginning of an invasion” of Ukraine by Russia is underway, the White House said Tuesday after the Kremlin sent troops into two pro-Russian separatist regions of Ukraine.

The deployment could mark Russia’s opening salvo in what Western officials and analysts have warned are Russian plans to launch a major incursion into Ukraine. It came after Russian President Vladimir Putin formally recognized the two separatist enclaves in eastern Ukraine on Monday.

In a freewheeling speech Monday that offered his own — often incorrect — version of history, Putin reiterated many of the arguments Russia has made in recent months to justify its position on Ukraine and, potentially, a full-scale invasion.

Here are six ways Putin views Ukraine. All are barriers to a peaceful resolution.

Putin’s main presidential focus has been rebuilding Russia as a strong authoritarian state, projecting power in the Middle East and Africa — but, above all, in its self-proclaimed “sphere of influence” in former Soviet states.

In blistering remarks Monday, Putin blamed Vladimir Lenin, the Soviet Union’s first leader, for giving Soviet republics the right to secede, thereby — under Putin’s explanation — paving the way for Ukrainian independence decades later.

He asserted, incorrectly, that Moscow gave Ukraine the right to break off from the Soviet Union “without any terms and conditions.” In fact, Ukrainians voted overwhelmingly to leave the Soviet Union in a democratic referendum in 1991.

Angered over Ukraine’s 2014 revolution — which ousted a pro-Russian government for a Western-leaning one — Putin swiftly annexed Crimea from Ukraine and backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in an ongoing conflict that has claimed nearly 14,000 lives.

Wielding the threat of war, a new, more aggressive Putin steps forward

It has pushed Ukraine further toward the West. A November poll by the Rating Group Ukraine agency showed 62 percent of Ukrainians want to join the European Union and 58 percent want membership in NATO — a move that Putin has called a “red line.” A survey in December by the same pollsters found 72 percent consider Russia a hostile power.

Putin, who claims that Western governments and organizations exert undue influence over Ukraine, now sees his crucial task as returning Ukraine to Russia’s fold.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Climate concerns have been placed on the back burner as fuel costs soar and tensions with Russia spiral, Raymond Zhong, Feb. 23, 2022. Energy security has gained prominence while the conflict in Ukraine raises concerns over the possible interruption in the supply of oil and natural gas.

It was only three months ago that world leaders met at the Glasgow climate summit and made ambitious pledges to reduce fossil fuel use.

The perils of a warming planet are no less calamitous now, but the debate about the critically important transition to renewable energy has taken a back seat to energy security as Russia — Europe’s largest energy supplier — threatens to start a major confrontation with the West over Ukraine while oil prices are climbing toward $100 a barrel.

For more than a decade, policy discussions in Europe and beyond about cutting back on gas, oil and coal emphasized safety and the environment, at the expense of financial and economic considerations, said Lucia van Geuns, a strategic energy adviser at the Hague Center for Strategic Studies. Now, it’s the reverse.

“Gas prices became very high, and all of a sudden security of supply and price became the main subject of public debate,” she said.

The renewed emphasis on energy independence and national security may encourage policymakers to backslide on efforts to decrease the use of fossil fuels that pump deadly greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Trucker Protest undated safe image

ny times logoNew York Times, Canada Ends Its Freeze on Hundreds of Accounts Tied to Protests, Ian Austen, Feb. 23, 2022 (print ed.). After a court denied bail to one arrested protest organizer, the government said it was winding up its pursuit of people involved in the unrest.

With the capital’s streets cleared of the heavy trucks and cars that made some of them impassable for three long weeks of protest, Canadian authorities said Tuesday that they were lifting freezes on hundreds of bank accounts associated with protest organizers and Canadians who had blockaded Ottawa’s streets with their vehicles.

canadian flagIsabelle Jacques, an assistant deputy minister in Canada’s department of finance, told a House of Commons committee that the banks had begun unlocking accounts on Monday and that no more finances would be locked up.

“The vast majority of assets are in the process of being unfrozen,” she said.

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decided a week ago to invoke his country’s Emergencies Act for the first time in Canadian history to quell the unrest, it gave the police sweeping new powers to go after the finances of the protesters.

Ms. Jacques said that those measures are now being lifted because they were intended to pressure protesters to leave the city’s streets.

Some may now face long-term consequences, even with the freezes lifted.

tamara lichBut for one protest organizer who was arrested last week, the effect was more immediate. The organizer, Tamara Lich, right, said she had been frozen out of all of her accounts and could come up with only 5,000 Canadian dollars for bail.

The issue may be moot: On Tuesday, the court denied bail.

Justice Julie Bourgeois said she was not convinced that if freed, Ms. Lich would leave Ottawa or stop encouraging others to keep blocking roads. “You have had plenty of opportunity to remove yourself and even others from this criminal activity,” she said, “but obstinately chose not to and persistently counseled others not to either.”

Justice Bourgeois noted that Ms. Lich likely faces a “lengthy” sentence if convicted.

About the time the bail hearing was taking place, lawmakers in the Canadian Senate began debate over Mr. Trudeau’s Emergencies Act order. The evening earlier, overcoming opposition from Conservative members of Parliament, Mr. Trudeau persuaded the House of Commons to endorse his decision.

After the declaration was made, the police began turning over the names of organizers and people who actively blocked Ottawa’s roads with their trucks and other vehicles during the blockade, which was set off by opposition to the government’s pandemic restrictions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trudeau’s emergency powers upheld amid worries ‘Freedom Convoy’ could return, Amanda Coletta and Amy Cheng, Feb. 23, 2022 (print ed.). Canada’s House of Commons on Monday affirmed the use of never-before-used emergency powers invoked by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to quell weeks-long demonstrations by self-styled “Freedom Convoy” demonstrators who blockaded several thoroughfares in the Canadian capital and affected U.S.-Canada trade.

The motion passed 185-to-151 in what Trudeau, who leads a minority government, implied he could consider a confidence vote. Several opposition parties criticized the use of the powers as “overreach,” but the left-leaning New Democratic Party “reluctantly” supported the motion, ensuring that it passed.

The 1988 law, which was put to use for the first time last week, gives the Canadian government broad powers and tools to respond to national emergencies. It’s supposed to be used as a last resort — when there are no other laws on the books that can respond to a crisis.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: 'The DOJ may be investigating Trump, but prosecution is a different matter, Jennifer Rubin, right, Feb. 23, 2022. Attorney jennifer rubin new headshotGeneral Merrick Garland confirmed on Tuesday that the National Archives had informed the Justice Department that classified materials were removed from the White House before Donald Trump left office. “We will do what we always do under these circumstance: Look at the facts [and] the law and take it from there,” Garland said.Opinions to start the day, in your inbox. Sign up.

In other words, the Justice Department is investigating whether any laws were broken. If Trump were an ordinary federal employee, this could be a serious legal problem. But because he is the former commander in chief, prosecuting him for any violation of national security laws would be difficult. (Lawyers for Trump deny any wrongdoing.)

Justice Department log circularImproper handling of classified material has frequently been the basis for an enforcement action. Just few years ago, esteemed Army general and then-CIA director David H. Petraeus was prosecuted for providing classified materials to his biographer, with whom he was having an affair. The Justice Department seriously considered bringing charges against him for lying to the FBI during the investigation and for violating the Espionage Act.

So where does this leave the Justice Department? Prosecuting under statutes relating to classified materials is tricky given that the president can declassify documents. The requirement that removal must have been done “knowingly” also poses a hurdle to any prosecution.

Garland is right not to brush the incident aside. He’ll need to determine exactly what sort of documents were removed; why they were lifted; whether Trump knew which documents were removed; and whether, for example, there was any plan to destroy them. After all that, he’ll need to establish whether the laws discussed above or any others were violated and, if so, whether prosecution is appropriate.

Still, of all the potential offenses that state and federal prosecutors might pursue against Trump (from seditious conspiracy to financial crimes), it seems unlikely that this would be what the Justice Department hangs its hat on.

Republicans spent years pushing to prosecute Hillary Clinton for her use of a personal server only to be disappointed when then-FBI director James B. Comey found no “clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information.” He declined to prosecute under a grossly negligent standard. The GOP was livid over this decision. Nevertheless, its hypocrisy and misuse of the criminal justice system to go after political opponents does not justify a Democratic administration prosecuting a far-fetched case without legal precedent.

 

truth social logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s Truth Social’s disastrous launch raises doubts about its viability, Drew Harwell, Feb. 23, 2022. Former president Donald Trump's new social media venture, Truth Social, became available for download in Apple’s App Store on Feb. 20.

His long-promised social network, Truth Social, has been almost entirely inaccessible in the first days of its grand debut because of technical glitches, a 13-hour outage and a 300,000-person waitlist.

Even Trump supporters made jokes about the early slog. Jenna Ellis, a former member of his legal team, posted to Instagram a photo showing Trump with his finger hovering over a laptop, “letting us on to Truth Social one at a time.”

The site had been heralded for months as the crown jewel of Trump’s post-presidential business ambitions, with allies pledging it would revolutionize social media and take down the mainstream social networks where Trump is banned.

But early glimpses at Truth Social suggest its offerings are almost identical to what Twitter and other sites have offered for years — except tweets are called “truths,” and retweets “retruths.” The site’s early struggles also have fueled doubts that Trump’s company will be able to handle tougher long-term challenges, such as policing for dangerous content and guarding against cyberattacks.

“The basic thing they needed to actually get right, to get someone in the door, they couldn’t get right,” said Bill Fitzgerald, a privacy researcher. The “ineptitude of the rollout,” he added, could be a warning of future issues ahead: “There is no better sign of a rushed implementation than the fact that you can’t onboard anybody. So I’m hard-pressed to understand why anyone would trust that these people would keep their information safe.”

Although Trump has criticized social networks’ “wildly aggressive censorship,” his site’s “terms of service” mark some extensive restrictions for acceptable speech.

Trump’s company, the Trump Media & Technology Group, also prohibits anyone from attempting to “disparage, tarnish, or otherwise harm, in our opinion, us and/or the Site.” Truth Social has already banned an account named for a Twitter parody that targeted former congressman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who resigned from Congress to become the Trump company’s CEO. The site’s terms of service also show it is designed to benefit from Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which Trump has said should be “completely terminated” because it protects tech companies from being sued for what their users post. Pranksters have already defaced Trump’s new social network.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ivanka Trump in Talks With Jan. 6 Panel About Being Interviewed, Annie Karni and Luke Broadwater, Feb. 23, 2022. Former President Donald J. Trump’s eldest daughter has yet to commit to appearing, but investigators regard her as an important witness to what he was doing and saying during the riot.

Ivanka Trump, former President Donald J. Trump’s eldest daughter who served as one of his senior advisers, is in talks with the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol about the possibility of sitting for an interview with the panel, according to two people familiar with the discussions.

It was not immediately clear whether the negotiations, which aides described as preliminary, would result in Ms. Trump providing substantive information to the inquiry or whether they were simply a stalling tactic, as some committee aides fear. But it was the latest example of the panel trying to reach into the former president’s inner circle to ascertain what he was doing and saying as rioters stormed the Capitol in his name.

Ms. Trump was one of several aides who tried and failed to persuade Mr. Trump to call off the violence that ultimately injured more than 150 police officers and sent lawmakers and the vice president, Mike Pence, fleeing for their lives.

Ms. Trump’s lawyers have been in talks with the committee since January, when the panel sent her a letter requesting that she give voluntary testimony, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

She has yet to agree on a date when she might talk with the committee’s investigators, and the panel has made no threat of an imminent subpoena, the people familiar with the discussions said. Those close to Ms. Trump said she had no intention of going down the road taken by her father’s ally Stephen K. Bannon, who refused to cooperate with the committee and then was indicted on contempt of Congress charges.

“Ivanka Trump is in discussions with the committee to voluntarily appear for an interview,” a spokeswoman for Ms. Trump confirmed in a statement on Wednesday.

Mr. Trump has not requested that his daughter defy the committee’s requests, as he has done with his other former top aides. And Ms. Trump would be unlikely to take any step that Mr. Trump did not know about and approve of, people familiar with her thinking said.

Instead, the former president has portrayed his adult children as victims of an investigation that he has dismissed as illegitimate.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Organization and Finance Chief Seek Dismissal of Fraud Charges, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum and Jonah E. Bromwich, Feb. 23, 2022 (print ed.).  Former President Trump’s family business and Allen Weisselberg, right, its longtime chief financial officer, called the case against them politically motivated.

allen weisselberg croppedThe Trump Organization and its longtime chief financial officer asked a judge on Tuesday to dismiss the criminal charges against them, arguing in court filings that the case was politically motivated and was only brought because the defendants were linked to former President Donald J. Trump.

The Trump Organization, Mr. Trump’s family business, was charged by the Manhattan district attorney’s office last summer with organizing a yearslong scheme to compensate a number of its executives with off-the-books luxury perks, allowing them to avoid paying taxes. Its chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg, was charged with participating in the scheme and receiving a rent-free apartment and leased Mercedes-Benzes, among other benefits.

The indictment accused Mr. Weisselberg of failing to pay state and federal taxes on about $1.7 million in perks and charged him with grand larceny for obtaining tax refunds to which it said he was not entitled.

Mr. Trump was not charged, nor was he accused of any wrongdoing. But after the indictments last summer, the district attorney’s office convened a new grand letitia james o headshotjury and continued to investigate whether Mr. Trump had defrauded his lenders by inflating the value of his assets to receive the best possible loan terms.

President Donald Trump officialThe New York attorney general, Letitia James, left, whose office is participating in the criminal investigation, is also conducting a parallel civil inquiry into some of the same conduct.

The office of the new Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, declined to comment on Tuesday’s filings. The office, which will have a chance to respond in its own court papers in the coming weeks, announced the charges in July under Mr. Bragg’s predecessor, Cyrus R. Vance Jr.

In separate court filings on Tuesday, lawyers for Mr. Trump’s company and Mr. Weisselberg raised a number of legal arguments, including the contention that Mr. Trump’s company had been improperly singled out for prosecution.

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U.S. Media, Education, Sports, Religion

ny times logoNew York Times, Fed Up With Google, Conspiracy Theorists Turn to DuckDuckGo, Stuart A. Thompson, Feb. 23, 2022. Some far-right influencers and conspiracy theorists have embraced the search engine as part of an effort to shift people away from Big Tech.

On an episode of Joe Rogan’s popular podcast last year, he turned to a topic that has gripped right-wing communities and other Americans who feel skeptical about the pandemic: search engines.

joe rogan logo“If I wanted to find specific cases about people who died from vaccine-related injuries, I had to go to DuckDuckGo,” Mr. Rogan said, referring to the small privacy-focused search engine. “I wasn’t finding them on Google.”

duck duck logoPraise for DuckDuckGo has become a popular refrain during the pandemic among right-wing social media influencers and conspiracy theorists who question Covid-19 vaccines and push discredited coronavirus treatments. Some have posted screenshots showing that DuckDuckGo appears to surface more links favorable to their views than Google does.

In addition to Mr. Rogan, who has recently been at the center of an outcry about misinformation on his podcast, the search engine has received ringing endorsements from some of the world’s most-downloaded conservative podcasters, including Ben Shapiro and Dan Bongino.

“Google is actively suppressing search results that don’t acquiesce to traditional viewpoints of the left,” Mr. Shapiro claimed last March. “I recommend you install DuckDuckGo on your computer, rather than Google, to combat all this.”

The endorsements underscore how right-wing Americans and conspiracy theorists are shifting their online activity in response to greater moderation from tech giants like Google. They have increasingly embraced fledgling and sometimes fringe platforms like the chat app Telegram, the video streamer Rumble and even search engines like DuckDuckGo, seeking conditions that seem more favorable to their conspiracy theories and falsehoods.

That attention has put search engines in a difficult position, fielding queries from a growing set of Americans who seem increasingly gripped by conspiracy theories. They must now try to deliver relevant results for obscure search terms and avoid surfacing possible misinformation, all while steering clear of censorship claims.

DuckDuckGo, which has about 3 percent of the United States search market, holds little direct control over the links in its search results because they are generated by the search engine algorithm provided by Bing, which Microsoft owns. And all search engine algorithms are considered black boxes because the companies that create them do not completely disclose what informs their decisions.

In a statement, DuckDuckGo said it condemned “acts of disinformation” and said the company’s internal surveys showed that its users had a wide mix of political orientations. The company said it was also studying ways to limit the spread of false and misleading information.

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Feb. 22

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In this image provided by the United Nations, the U.N. Security Council meets for an emergency session on Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 21, 2022, at the U.N. headquarters. (Evan Schneider/United Nations via AP)


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 In this image provided by the United Nations, the U.N. Security Council meets for an emergency session on Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 21, 2022, at the U.N. headquarters. (Evan Schneider/United Nations via AP)

In this image provided by the United Nations, the U.N. Security Council meets for an emergency session on Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 21, 2022, at the U.N. headquarters. (Evan Schneider/United Nations via AP)

ap logoAssociated Press, World leaders focus on how to punish Russia over Ukraine, Raf Casert, Feb. 22, 2022. Shocked by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order to deploy troops to separatist regions of eastern Ukraine, world leaders moved quickly Tuesday to impose as forceful a response as possible in hopes of german flagaverting a full-blown war in Europe.

Germany made the first big move, taking steps to halt the process of certifying the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia — a lucrative deal long sought by Moscow, but criticized by the U.S. for increasing Europe’s reliance on Russian energy supplies.

United NationsThe rest of the European Union also put some of its cards on the table, saying its sanctions would take aim at several Russian officials, banks financing the Russian armed forces and include limiting Moscow’s access to EU capital and boris johnson tiefinancial markets.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, right, went as far as naming five Russian banks and three wealthy individuals who will be hit with sanctions later Tuesday.

 

joe biden black background resized serious file

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia-Ukraine Live Updates Biden announces sanctions on Russia after moves against Ukraine, Robyn Dixon, Rachel Pannett, Ellen Francis, John Wagner, Amy B Wang, Mariana Alfaro and Eugene Scott, Feb. 22, 2022. President Biden announced new sanctions on Russia on Tuesday after its moves against Ukraine, saying the actions amounted to a “flagrant violation of international law.”

In imposing economic penalties on Russia, the United States joins European allies in responding to Russia’s deployment of troops into two pro-Russian separatist regions of eastern Ukraine. Biden called Russia’s actions the “the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

Biden said a “first tranche” of U.S. sanctions against Russia would target two financial institutions, Russian sovereign debt and Russian elites and their family members.

“To put it simply, Russia just announced that it is carving out a big chunk of Ukraine,” Biden said. He added that he still hopes diplomacy is possible.

Here’s what to know

  • Russia’s upper house of parliament gave President Vladimir Putin permission to use military force outside the country, a move that further raised fears of a broader invasion.
  • Vladimir PutinIn remarks Tuesday, Putin, right, called on Ukraine to forget joining NATO and to accept that Crimea belongs to Russia. Putin said Kyiv’s best path forward is military neutrality.
  • In Berlin, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he would halt authorization of Nord Stream 2, the controversial natural gas pipeline between Germany and Russia, for the time being. The move was applauded by the United Nations and NATO allies and cited as part of a united response to Russia.
  • White House aides are reviewing how the United States could respond if Russia curtails exporting global oil products due to hostilities over Ukraine, potentially triggering a spike in gasoline prices.

 ukrainian map wikimedia

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Reports, Russian forces are in breakaway territories, E.U. says, Rachel Pannett and Ellen Francis, Feb. 22, 2022. Kremlin expands its recognition of separatist areas in eastern Ukraine.

Russia said Tuesday that its recognition of separatist areas in eastern Ukraine includes territory now held by Ukrainian forces, raising Western fears that Moscow intends to invade more of Ukraine’s territory after sending troops into the rebel-held region.

ukraine flagKremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia has recognized the independence of rebel-held regions within borders that the separatists originally proclaimed when they broke away from Ukraine in 2014. Because large parts of those regions have since been reclaimed by Ukrainian forces during their eight-year war, Russia’s declaration could lead to attempts to expand the breakaway region by force.

Moscow’s recognition of the enclaves Monday spurred the United States and its allies to gear up for a fresh set of sanctions on Russia after it also sent in forces it described as peacekeeping troops.

european union logo rectangleEuropean leaders said Tuesday morning that Kremlin forces had arrived in the self-proclaimed republics. European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that “Russian troops are on Ukrainian soil” but that it was not a “fully fledged invasion.” Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Tuesday that he would halt authorization of Nord Stream 2, the controversial gas pipeline between Germany and Russia, for the time being.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that “we will give up nothing to no one” and that Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders “will stay that way, despite any statements or actions taken by the Russian Federation.”

Russia’s maneuvers were sharply rebuked by several nations at a hastily convened meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Monday night.

Here’s what to know

  • President Biden signed an executive order Monday blocking trade and investment by Americans in two separatist enclaves of Ukraine. Administration officials said additional measures — including more sanctions — would be announced Tuesday, distinct from the strict measures promised if Russia further invades Ukraine.
  • The State Department moved its personnel from Ukraine to Poland on Monday amid fears of Russia’s “plans for an invasion at any moment,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
  • Beijing continues to walk a tightrope of supporting Russia without outright endorsing its actions in Ukraine, with China’s ambassador to the United Nations calling on all parties involved to “seek reasonable solutions” and address concerns based on “equality and mutual respect.”

 

Russian President Vladimir V. Putin chairing a meeting with members of Russia’s Security Council in Moscow, on Monday, Feb. 22, 2022 (Pool photo by Alexei Nikolsky).Russian President Vladimir V. Putin chairing a meeting with members of Russia’s Security Council in Moscow, on Monday, Feb. 21, 2022 (Pool photo by Alexei Nikolsky).

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Will Recognize 2 Separatist Regions in Ukraine, Kremlin Says, Anton Troianovski and Valerie Hopkins, Feb. 22, 2022 (print ed.). A possible prelude to invasion: President Vladimir V. Putin addressed the nation late on Monday. The president of Ukraine will also speak on Monday night. The U.S. and its allies have warned that Russia could use such a recognition to move more forces in.

The Kremlin said Monday that President Vladimir V. Putin would recognize the independence of two territories in Ukraine controlled by Moscow-backed separatists, further escalating tensions in what Western nations fear could lead to one of the biggest conflicts in Europe since World War II.

The announcement was made by the Kremlin in a statement summarizing Mr. Putin’s phone calls on Monday with President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany.

“The president of Russia said that he intended to sign the relevant decree in the near future,” the Kremlin said. “The president of France and the Federal Chancellor of Germany expressed their disappointment with this development. At the same time, they indicated their readiness to continue contacts.”

Mr. Putin was expected to deliver an evening address to the nation later on Monday.

Mr. Putin is recognizing the territories’ independence, the Kremlin said, in the face of “the military aggression of the Ukrainian authorities,” as a result of which “the civilian population is suffering.”

Ukraine denies having any plans to launch a military offensive against the separatist regions and says Russia is staging acts of Ukrainian aggression to justify an incursion.

His phone calls with the German and French leaders came after an extraordinary session of the Russian Security Council at which Mr. Putin accused the United States and its allies of using Ukraine “as an instrument of confrontation” with Russia. He said it posed “a serious, very big threat to us.”

The move is a high-stakes tactic by Mr. Putin that threatens to engage Russia and Ukraine in a deadly military conflict and sharply escalate Moscow’s conflict with the West.

The separatist enclaves claim all of Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions as their territory, while controlling only about one-third of them. It was not immediately clear whether Mr. Putin would recognize the enclaves in their de facto borders or would seek to expand them by force.

Earlier on Monday, Russian state television showed video of the Russian-backed leaders of separatist territories in eastern Ukraine appealing directly to Mr. Putin to recognize their independence. Russia’s lower house of Parliament passed a resolution making such an appeal to Mr. Putin last week.

Russia has conducted an enormous troop buildup to Ukraine’s north, east and south, which Western officials say could be used to conduct a large-scale invasion.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Russia plans to recognize Donetsk and Luhansk. This is why it matters.
  • U.S. still sees an invasion as imminent, dimming hopes for a Biden-Putin summit.
  • Ukraine seeks an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.
  • Belarus says Russian troops might not leave unless NATO pulls back from Eastern Europe.
  • If war ignites in Ukraine, two little enclaves could be the spark.
  • Air France is the latest airline to limit flights to Ukraine.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Five things Biden should do at his State of the Union address, Jennifer Rubin, right, Feb. 22, 2022. Next Tuesday, President Biden will deliver jennifer rubin new headshothis State of the Union address, to which all members of Congress — but not their guests — have been invited in accordance with covid-19 policies. State of the Union speeches are notorious for their excessive length and poor construction; no matter how hard the president and his speechwriters try, the addresses invariably devolve into laundry lists of accomplishments and laundry lists of agenda items. A week later, no one can recall a single line.

joe biden resized oBiden will speak at a perilous time. War seems unavoidable in Europe. Inflation is raging. The Republican Party clings to the “big lie” and systematically attacks voting access while setting the stage to sabotage vote counting. Perhaps a different sort of speech is needed, with fewer items and more depth.

The president should begin with a reminder where we were a year ago. The country had just endured the worst violent insurrection since the Civil War. The vast majority of Americans were unvaccinated, many schools were closed or remote, and the economy was at a standstill. In other words, some perspective is badly needed. With a booming economy (6.6 million new jobs), a large majority vaccinated and able to return to normal life, kids back in schools and functional government restored while prosecutors and the House have begun to investigate and hold the insurrectionists accountable, the improvements are stunning — and too easily forgotten.

 

Virus Updates, Reactions

washington post logoWashington Post, U.K. ends all restrictions, Australia reopens borders after nearly two years, Amy Cheng and Annabelle Timsit, Feb. 22, 2022. England ended all remaining covid restrictions Monday amid falling cases, and Australia reopened its borders to overseas travelers, as countries around the world seek a way to “live with the virus.”

United Kingdom flagPrime Minister Boris Johnson’s message of a return to normalcy was partially blunted since Queen Elizabeth II tested positive for the coronavirus over the weekend and was experiencing “mild cold like symptoms.”

Lawmakers from the opposition Labour Party and some public health experts have also criticized Johnson’s move as premature — and even reckless — as the country reported more than 1,000 deaths in the past week.

Australia was expected to receive more than 50 international flights within the first 24 hours of reopening, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Sunday. The country had earned the nickname “Hermit Kingdom” after barring nearly all visitors for the first 18 months of the pandemic. Coronavirus cases there fell nearly 20 percent in the past week and are far lower than their January peak.

Here’s what to know

  • canadian flagCanada’s legislature on Monday affirmed the use of the special emergency powers invoked last week by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has warned that the self-styled “Freedom Convoy” protesters who mostly left Ottawa this weekend may reposition and organize new blockades elsewhere.
  • As crucial parts of the U.S. workforce continue to be strained by the omicron variant, National Guard members in some states are now filling in as health-care workers, teachers, janitors and more.
  • Parents of children younger than 5 say they feel forgotten and left behind, as the wait for a coronavirus vaccine for their children drags on. Federal health agencies this month delayed authorizing and recommending the shot until more data on the vaccine’s efficacy is collected.

washington post logoWashington Post, Mysterious conditions are afflicting Americans after covid. It could signal a looming cardiac crisis, Ariana Eunjung Cha, Feb. 22, 2022 (print ed.). The prevalence of such symptoms has experts projecting a ‘tidal wave’ of cardiovascular cases related directly and indirectly to the coronavirus.

Five months after being infected with the coronavirus, Nicole Murphy’s pulse rate is going berserk. Normally in the 70s, which is ideal, it has been jumping to 160, 170 and sometimes 210 beats per minute even when she is at rest — putting her at risk of a heart attack, heart failure or stroke.

No one seems to be able to pinpoint why. She’s only 44, never had heart issues, and when a cardiologist near her hometown of Wellsville, Ohio, ran all of the standard tests, “he literally threw up his hands when he saw the results,” she recalled. Her blood pressure was perfect, there were no signs of clogged arteries, and her heart was expanding and contracting well.

Murphy’s boomeranging heart rate is one of a number of mysterious conditions afflicting Americans weeks or months after coronavirus infections that suggest the potential of a looming cardiac crisis.

washington post logoWashington Post, Families with kids under 5 are on a vaccine roller coaster, Lindsey Bever and Frances Stead Sellers, Feb. 21, 2022. They’ve wrestled with child-care crises. They’ve missed work and paychecks. Some have even changed careers when day-care closures forced them to work remotely.

Parents of children younger than 5 say they feel forgotten and left behind, watching others reclaim normalcy while they stay home with kids who are too young to be vaccinated and have to quarantine when there is an exposure to the coronavirus at day care or school.

“The rest of the world has moved on, and they are not able to do so safely,” said Jennifer Shu, a pediatrician and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Parents are now dealing with another twist in a two-year roller-coaster ride after a coronavirus vaccine for the youngest children was further delayed this month. The Food and Drug Administration said it would wait to make a decision on authorizing the vaccine until data on a third dose becomes available — opening up a host of new questions and concerns.

“There’s constantly the hope of something getting better — something getting dangled in front of us and then getting ripped away,” said Benjamin Huffman of Pleasant Hill, Calif., who has two children younger than 5.

About 1.9 million children younger than 5 have contracted the coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The youngest continue to be spared covid-19’s worst scourges. Out of more than 900,000 deaths nationwide since the pandemic began, 307 have been among children ages 4 and younger.

washington post logoWashington Post, After unexplained absence, Fox News’ Neil Cavuto says his second bout with covid landed him in the ICU, Andrea Salcedo, Feb. 22, 2022. For weeks, Fox News host Neil Cavuto was off-screen, and his viewers didn’t really know why.

Until Monday, when Cavuto, who was back in the studio, revealed the cause of his absence: He had tested positive for the coronavirus — again.

fox news logo SmallOnly this time, the virus had sent him to the intensive care unit and nearly killed him, Cavuto told his Fox Business audience. Cavuto has said he is fully vaccinated.

“I did get covid again — but a far, far more serious strand, what doctors call covid pneumonia,” the “Your World” host said. “It landed me in intensive care for quite a while, and it really was touch and go.”

Cavuto, who is immunocompromised, has publicly advocated for vaccines ever since he was infected with the virus in the fall. On Monday, he once again gave credit to the vaccines for his recovery and debunked conspiracy theories that it was the jab that got him sick.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Feb. 22, 2022), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 426,931,905, Deaths: 5,912,403
U.S. Cases:     80,145,282, Deaths:    960,157
Indian Cases:   42,851,929, Deaths:    512,371
Brazil Cases:   28,250,591, Deaths:    644,695

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More On Russian-Ukraine-NATO Crisis

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Western Leaders Ready Sanctions as Putin Orders Forces to Ukraine Enclaves, Anton Troianovski, Valerie Hopkins, Andrew E. Kramer, Michael Schwirtz and Shashank Bengali, Feb. 22, 2022. Washington and its allies called the Kremlin’s recognition of two separatist regions a blunt defiance of international law that risks war. A top E.U. official said Russian troops had entered eastern Ukraine, but stopped short of calling it an “invasion.”

A tough global response to moves by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia against Ukraine began to take shape on Tuesday as European nations prepared to impose sanctions and Germany halted a key gas pipeline, but the Russian leader remained defiant in the face of worldwide condemnations.

A day after Mr. Putin recognized two breakaway territories in eastern Ukraine as independent, two European officials said on Tuesday that Russia had sent troops into the area, but Russia’s Foreign Ministry denied having done so yet. Fearful Ukrainians boarded buses out of the separatist areas even as Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, urged his beleaguered nation to “keep a cool head” in the crisis.

European Union ambassadors were preparing on Tuesday to adopt an immediate set of sanctions in response to Russia’s recognition of two separatist regions in Ukraine, according to two E.U. diplomats with knowledge of the talks in Brussels.

The sanctions, which will target people, government and business entities in the separatist regions and in Russia, were set to be further reviewed at an informal meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Paris later Tuesday. The ambassadors were then set to approve the package on Tuesday evening, the diplomats said, although they said that meeting could run into the early hours Wednesday.

  • Germany Halts Key Russian Pipeline; Ukraine Leader Vows Not to Cede Territory
  • Two European officials said that Russian forces had entered eastern Ukraine, but the situation on the ground was unclear.
  • The E.U. was preparing to adopt an immediate set of sanctions in response to Russia’s recognition of the separatist regions. Here’s the latest on the crisis

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Four maps that explain the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Laris Karklis and Ruby Mellen, Updated Feb. 18, 2022. Pressure along the Russia-Ukraine border continues: While Moscow denies it intends to invade, Russian forces have moved closer to Ukraine’s border. Diplomatic efforts have not halted the buildup, and the window for dialogue appears to narrowing.

Widespread shelling in eastern Ukraine has heightened fears in Kyiv and Western capitals that a Russian attack could be imminent. Separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk, backed by Russia, have been fighting Ukrainian government forces since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and supported the establishment of a separatist enclave in eastern Ukraine.

The tension playing out between Russia and Ukraine is one involving land borders and strategic influence. Moscow sees Ukraine as an important buffer to NATO. Ukraine sees Russia as an aggressor that has already occupied parts of Ukrainian territory.

washington post logoWashington Post, Putin says Ukraine was ‘created by Russia.’ Here are the arguments he makes to undermine Ukrainian statehood, Robyn Dixon and Claire Parker, Feb. 22, 2022. The “beginning of an invasion” of Ukraine by Russia is underway, the White House said Tuesday after the Kremlin sent troops into two pro-Russian separatist regions of Ukraine.

The deployment could mark Russia’s opening salvo in what Western officials and analysts have warned are Russian plans to launch a major incursion into Ukraine. It came after Russian President Vladimir Putin formally recognized the two separatist enclaves in eastern Ukraine on Monday.

In a freewheeling speech Monday that offered his own — often incorrect — version of history, Putin reiterated many of the arguments Russia has made in recent months to justify its position on Ukraine and, potentially, a full-scale invasion.

Here are six ways Putin views Ukraine. All are barriers to a peaceful resolution.

Putin’s main presidential focus has been rebuilding Russia as a strong authoritarian state, projecting power in the Middle East and Africa — but, above all, in its self-proclaimed “sphere of influence” in former Soviet states.

In blistering remarks Monday, Putin blamed Vladimir Lenin, the Soviet Union’s first leader, for giving Soviet republics the right to secede, thereby — under Putin’s explanation — paving the way for Ukrainian independence decades later.

He asserted, incorrectly, that Moscow gave Ukraine the right to break off from the Soviet Union “without any terms and conditions.” In fact, Ukrainians voted overwhelmingly to leave the Soviet Union in a democratic referendum in 1991.

Angered over Ukraine’s 2014 revolution — which ousted a pro-Russian government for a Western-leaning one — Putin swiftly annexed Crimea from Ukraine and backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in an ongoing conflict that has claimed nearly 14,000 lives.

Wielding the threat of war, a new, more aggressive Putin steps forward

It has pushed Ukraine further toward the West. A November poll by the Rating Group Ukraine agency showed 62 percent of Ukrainians want to join the European Union and 58 percent want membership in NATO — a move that Putin has called a “red line.” A survey in December by the same pollsters found 72 percent consider Russia a hostile power.

Putin, who claims that Western governments and organizations exert undue influence over Ukraine, now sees his crucial task as returning Ukraine to Russia’s fold.

washington post logoWashington Post, Putin orders troops to separatist regions of Ukraine, Rachel Pannett, Robyn Dixon, Brittany Shammas and María Luisa Paúl, Feb. 22, 2022 (print ed.). Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees ordering military forces into two separatist regions of Ukraine for “peacekeeping” purposes as Moscow recognized the breakaway regions’ independence Monday.

Putin signed a decree recognizing the areas — a move that Russia could use to justify an attack in those locations — and an agreement of cooperation with the heads of the two regions: Denis Pushilin of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Leonid Pasechnik of the Luhansk People’s Republic. The separatists do not control the entirety of their regions, and it was not clear Monday evening whether a military incursion could occur.

The formal recognition prompted a chorus of condemnation from Western leaders, with some vowing sanctions.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Biden would issue an executive order prohibiting U.S. investment and trade in the breakaway regions.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called Putin’s recognition of the breakaway territories a “blatant violation” of international law and said the bloc would “react with unity, firmness and with determination in solidarity with Ukraine.”

British Foreign Minister Liz Truss tweeted that the U.K. would announce “new sanctions on Russia in response to their breach of international law and attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity."

  • Washington Post, What is the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and how does it relate to the Ukraine crisis? Sammy Westfall, Claire Parker and Rachel Pannett, Feb. 22, 2022.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Elections, Governance, Economy

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: J.D. Vance’s repulsive spin about Putin and Ukraine faces a test, Greg Sargent, right, Feb. 22, 2022.  One of J.D. greg sargentVance’s favorite lines about Russian troops massing around Ukraine is this formulation, which he evidently thinks is dazzlingly clever: We should care far more about our own border than that of Ukraine!

Vance, shown elow in a photo by Gate Skidmore, says this regularly. In so doing, the Hillbilly Elegy author is testing the potency of a larger argument — that we should dramatically retreat from international commitments and obligations, and essentially shrug about democratic allies abroad — as a central tenet of the populist nationalism that Vance and others hope to make viable in the post-Donald Trump era.

jd vance w gage skidmoreSo it’s notable that one of Vance’s rivals in the Ohio Senate primary is now challenging this idea by suggesting that what happens to Ukraine should actually matter to Republican voters. This challenge could help shed light on how seriously GOP voters are taking Vance’s form of right-wing nationalism these days.

As Russia moved closer to an invasion, Jane Timken, the former state GOP chair, put out a statement late Monday sharply condemning Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s moves, casting them as a threat to U.S. national security and calling for a tough U.S. response to them.

Max Boot: J.D. Vance’s attack on Gen. Barry McCaffrey is obscene but not surprising

This attracted no media attention. But Ohio Democrats very much took notice. Timken is gaining momentum in the primary: Sen. Rob Portman recently endorsed her, and three other Republican senators just followed suit.

Democrats think this means she might be the choice of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) wing of the party against Vance and the Trump wing. If she wins, she’d face Rep. Tim Ryan, the expected Democratic nominee.

To be clear, Timken’s position is in many ways silly. Because she’s running in a GOP primary, she’s required to blame Russian aggression on President Biden’s supposed weakness, juxtaposed against Trump’s alleged “strength.”

But Timken does say the United States has an important interest in seeing Ukrainian sovereignty protected against Russian aggression, and that the United States should respond forcefully with sanctions and other measures, albeit without sending in troops. That position is held by many in both parties.

It also puts her at odds with Vance. He and the leading candidate in the primary, former state treasurer Josh Mandel, have both offered vacuous misdirection about our border being more important than Ukraine’s.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Democrats are engaged in a ‘new politics of evasion’ that could cost them in 2024, new study says, Dan Balz, right, Feb. 22, 2022. Trump and the GOP represent a danger to democracy, the study says. Democrats must win in 2024, but first they have to reorient on cultural issues and question whether there really is a progressive majority emerging in the country.

Before Democrats can win the White House in 2024, they must reorient on cultural issues and question whether there is really a progressive majority emerging in the country.

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World News, Human Rights, Disasters

Trucker Protest undated safe image

washington post logoWashington Post, Trudeau’s emergency powers upheld amid worries ‘Freedom Convoy’ could return, Amanda Coletta and Amy Cheng, Feb. 22, 2022. Canada’s House of Commons on Monday affirmed the use of never-before-used emergency powers invoked by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to quell weeks-long demonstrations by self-styled “Freedom Convoy” demonstrators who blockaded several thoroughfares in the Canadian capital and affected U.S.-Canada trade.

The motion passed 185-to-151 in what Trudeau, who leads a minority government, implied he could consider a confidence vote. Several opposition parties criticized the use of the powers as “overreach,” but the left-leaning New Democratic Party “reluctantly” supported the motion, ensuring that it passed.

Ottawa was largely cleared this past weekend of the protests against the government and pandemic health restrictions that clogged the capital’s streets and frayed residents’ nerves, and blockades at major U.S.-Canada trade routes have been removed. But speaking to reporters ahead of the vote, Trudeau said he still required the powers, which he invoked last week, citing “real concerns” over new demonstrations cropping up and the presence of demonstrators at several satellite hubs in rural towns outside of Ottawa.

“The Emergencies Act is not something to undertake lightly, and it’s something that needs to be momentary, temporary and proportional,” Trudeau said. He pledged that his government would evaluate whether to extend the order on a daily basis, but he has not outlined what criteria would have to be met before it would be revoked.

What is the Emergencies Act, which Trudeau invoked against Canada’s trucker protests?

Even though the prime minister was allowed to use the powers authorized under the Emergencies Act immediately, parliamentary approval is required within seven days, and a failure to pass the motion would have meant that it would no longer be in force. The measures are in place for 30 days.

The 1988 law, which was put to use for the first time last week, gives the Canadian government broad powers and tools to respond to national emergencies. It’s supposed to be used as a last resort — when there are no other laws on the books that can respond to a crisis.

washington post logoWashington Post, Denied birth certificates, thousands of children in the UAE go without schooling and health care, Katie McQue, Feb. 21, 2022 (print ed.). Hospitals withhold birth records because of unpaid debts, and the government refuses to register those born out of wedlock.

Chinwe’s sons are 4 and 6, yet officially they don’t exist. After she gave birth, Chinwe and her husband could not afford to pay the medical bills, totaling $16,000, and the hospital refused to give them the documents needed for birth certificates until the debt was settled, she said.

Among hospitals in the United Arab Emirates, this is not an uncommon practice. But it has contributed to a growing population of undocumented children in this Gulf Arab country who are unable to enroll in school, get health care or even claim nationality.

“My sons have not been to school; they don’t have a visa or a passport. It is a very big issue. They cry — they really want to go to school,” said Chinwe, 37, a migrant from Nigeria who works as a low-paid classroom assistant and spoke on condition that her last name not be published out of security concerns. Her husband is unemployed.

Human rights activists estimate that thousands of children in the UAE, many of them offspring of migrant workers from Africa and Asia, are unregistered either because hospitals withheld documents or because the children were born out of wedlock. Babies born to single mothers are typically refused a birth certificate because extramarital sex is illegal in the country.

Just within the country’s Filipino migrant community, the number of undocumented children runs in the thousands, according to two senior Philippine government officials.

The oil-rich UAE is one of the world’s wealthiest countries, per capita, and high standards of private education and medical care are enjoyed by most citizens and white-collar expatriate workers. But for undocumented children, these basic services are out of reach. Like the parents of eight other undocumented children interviewed for this article, Chinwe said her sons have never seen a doctor or received childhood vaccines.

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Personal Health

ny times logoNew York Times, Personal Health Commentary: Farewell, Readers, It’s Been a Remarkable Ride, Jane E. Brody, Feb. 22, 2022 (print ed.). Before I go, I want to highlight the breathtaking evolution in health advice that has occurred since I joined The Times in 1965.

The very first Personal Health column, published in The New York Times on Nov. 10, 1976, appeared under a headline that I, its author, took seriously and hoped readers would too: “Jogging Is Like a Drug: Watch Dosage, Beware the Problems.”

In the decades that followed, Personal Health by Jane E. Brody has had a very rewarding run. Countless readers have told me how one or more of my columns had improved — or even saved — their lives or that of their loved ones. Doctors often wrote to say they used my columns to help inform their patients.

When The Times asked me to take on this weekly assignment, I was assured I could discuss any topic relevant to people’s health and well-being. Rarely was there any debate over the topics I wanted to take on — though there was the column on masturbation in 1982, which was ultimately published four years later when the paper overcame its squeamishness about sexuality.

However, the times, and The Times, have changed and, dear readers, I’ve decided the time has come for me to say farewell to writing this column. Others may well take up the cudgel. But before I go, I want to highlight the breathtaking evolution in information and advice about several major health topics that has occurred since I joined The Times as a health and science writer in 1965.

I based the advice in these columns on the best available evidence at the time I wrote them. But the very nature of the scientific process dictates that medicine evolves, and will continue to do so. As occurred with the coronavirus, this evolution will necessarily spawn new health recommendations. Only one thing remains static and continues to jeopardize the health of all who fall for it: quackery.

The developments I’ve highlighted below are ones that touched many of your lives, but they merely scratch the surface of health and lifesaving improvements I’ve witnessed during my 58 years in health journalism.

Jane Brody is the Personal Health columnist, a position she has held since 1976. She has written more than a dozen books including the best sellers “Jane Brody’s Nutrition Book” and “Jane Brody’s Good Food Book.”

 

More On Trump Family, Allies

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Organization and Finance Chief Seek Dismissal of Fraud Charges, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum and Jonah E. Bromwich, Feb. 22, 2022,  Former President Trump’s family business and Allen Weisselberg, right, its longtime chief financial officer, called the case against them politically motivated.

allen weisselberg croppedThe Trump Organization and its longtime chief financial officer asked a judge on Tuesday to dismiss the criminal charges against them, arguing in court filings that the case was politically motivated and was only brought because the defendants were linked to former President Donald J. Trump.

The Trump Organization, Mr. Trump’s family business, was charged by the Manhattan district attorney’s office last summer with organizing a yearslong scheme to compensate a number of its executives with off-the-books luxury perks, allowing them to avoid paying taxes. Its chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg, was charged with participating in the scheme and receiving a rent-free apartment and leased Mercedes-Benzes, among other benefits.

The indictment accused Mr. Weisselberg of failing to pay state and federal taxes on about $1.7 million in perks and charged him with grand larceny for obtaining tax refunds to which it said he was not entitled.

Mr. Trump was not charged, nor was he accused of any wrongdoing. But after the indictments last summer, the district attorney’s office convened a new grand letitia james o headshotjury and continued to investigate whether Mr. Trump had defrauded his lenders by inflating the value of his assets to receive the best possible loan terms.

President Donald Trump officialThe New York attorney general, Letitia James, left, whose office is participating in the criminal investigation, is also conducting a parallel civil inquiry into some of the same conduct.

The office of the new Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, declined to comment on Tuesday’s filings. The office, which will have a chance to respond in its own court papers in the coming weeks, announced the charges in July under Mr. Bragg’s predecessor, Cyrus R. Vance Jr.

In separate court filings on Tuesday, lawyers for Mr. Trump’s company and Mr. Weisselberg raised a number of legal arguments, including the contention that Mr. Trump’s company had been improperly singled out for prosecution.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rudy Giuliani’s January 6th fever dream just keeps getting stranger, Bill Palmer, right, Feb. 21, 2022. It would take an incredible bill palmeramount of savvy to tell the mainstream media that you’re cooperating with a congressional probe, while simultaneously telling right wing media that the probe itself is illegal, and thread that needle in such a way that you come out the better for it.

Unfortunately for Rudy Giuliani, the guy who has tried this strategy over the past week, he’s too far gone to even understand what he’s trying to do.

bill palmer report logo headerThis isn’t just our take; Rudy himself keeps reminding us of just how far gone he is. During the latest bad acid trip that could charitably be described as a podcast, Rudy claims that on the night of January 6th he was with unspecified “Antifa experts” who arrested a member of the FBI. This raises all kinds of questions about who these “Antifa experts” are working for and rudy giuliani recentwhy they would have the authority to arrest the FBI, until you remember that obviously none of this happened anyway.

The real problem for Giuliani, right, is that he’s so far gone, he’ll have trouble cooperating with investigators even if he decides to sell out Donald Trump in order to save himself. As former prosecutor Richard Signorelli recently pointed out, cooperating witnesses have to be credible in order to help prosecutors, and therefore help themselves. At this point Rudy Giuliani is merely plunging through a fever dream of his own making.

 Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Crime, Law, Courts, Race

ny times logoNew York Times Magazine, The Long Crusade of Clarence and Ginni Thomas, Danny Hakim and Jo Becker, Feb. 22, 2022. The Supreme Court justice and his wife have long battled for a more conservative America. New reporting shows how far Ginni Thomas was willing to go.

The call to action was titled “Election Results and Legal Battles: What Now?” Shared in the days after the 2020 presidential election, it urged the members of an influential if secretive right-wing group to contact legislators in three of the swing states that tipped the balance for Joe Biden — Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania. The aim was audacious: Keep President Donald J. Trump in power.

The group, the Council for National Policy, brings together old-school Republican luminaries, Christian conservatives, Tea Party activists and MAGA operatives, with more than 400 members who include leaders of organizations like the Federalist Society, the National Rifle Association and the Family Research Council. Founded in 1981 as a counterweight to liberalism, the group was hailed by President Ronald Reagan as seeking the “return of righteousness, justice and truth” to America.

As Trump insisted, without evidence, that fraud had cheated him of victory, conservative groups rushed to rally behind him. The council stood out, however, not only because of its pedigree but also because one of its newest leaders was Virginia Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas and a longtime activist in right-wing circles.

She had taken on a prominent role at the council during the Trump years and by 2019 had joined the nine-member board of C.N.P. Action, an arm of the council organized as a 501(c)4 under a provision of the tax code that allows for direct political advocacy. It was C.N.P. Action that circulated the November “action steps” document, the existence of which has not been previously reported. It instructed members to pressure Republican lawmakers into challenging the election results and appointing alternate slates of electors: “Demand that they not abandon their Constitutional responsibilities during a time such as this.”

Such a plan, if carried out successfully, would have almost certainly landed before the Supreme Court — and Ginni Thomas’s husband. In fact, Trump was already calling for that to happen. In a Dec. 2 speech at the White House, the president falsely claimed that “millions of votes were cast illegally in swing states alone” and said he hoped “the Supreme Court of the United States will see it” and “will do what’s right for our country, because our country cannot live with this kind of an election.”

The Thomases have long posed a unique quandary in Washington. Because Supreme Court justices do not want to be perceived as partisan, they tend to avoid political events and entanglements, and their spouses often keep low profiles. But the Thomases have defied such norms. Since the founding of the nation, no spouse of a sitting Supreme Court justice has been as overt a political activist as Ginni Thomas. In addition to her perch at the Council for National Policy, she founded a group called Groundswell with the support of Stephen K. Bannon, the hard-line nationalist and former Trump adviser. It holds a weekly meeting of influential conservatives, many of whom work directly on issues that have come before the court.

ginni thomas gage skidmoreGinni Thomas, shown at right in a photo by Gage Skidmore, insists, in her council biography, that she and her husband operate in “separate professional lanes,” but those lanes in fact merge with notable frequency. For the three decades he has sat on the Supreme Court, they have worked in tandem from the bench and the political trenches to take aim at targets like Roe v. Wade and affirmative action. Together they believe that “America is in a vicious battle for its founding principles,” as Ginni Thomas has put it. Her views, once seen as on the fringe, have come to dominate the Republican Party. And with Trump’s three appointments reshaping the Supreme Court, her husband finds himself at the center of a new conservative majority poised to shake the foundations of settled law. In a nation freighted with division and upheaval, the Thomases have found their moment.

This article draws on hours of recordings and internal documents from groups affiliated with the Thomases; dozens of interviews with the Thomases’ classmates, friends, colleagues and critics, as well as more than a dozen Trump White House aides and supporters and some of Justice Thomas’s former clerks; and an archive of Council for National Policy videos and internal documents provided by an academic researcher in Australia, Brent Allpress.

The reporting uncovered new details on the Thomases’ ascent: how Trump courted Justice Thomas; how Ginni Thomas used that courtship to gain access to the Oval Office, where her insistent policy and personnel suggestions so aggravated aides that one called her a “wrecking ball” while others put together an opposition-research-style report on her that was obtained by The Times; and the extent to which Justice Thomas flouted judicial-ethics guidance by participating in events hosted by conservative organizations with matters before the court. Those organizations showered the couple with accolades and, in at least one case, used their appearances to attract event fees, donations and new members.

New reporting also shows just how blurred the lines between the couple’s interests became during the effort to overturn the 2020 election, which culminated in the rally held at the Ellipse, just outside the White House grounds, aimed at stopping Congress from certifying the state votes that gave Joe Biden his victory. Many of the rally organizers and those advising Trump had connections to the Thomases, but little has been known about what role, if any, Ginni Thomas played, beyond the fact that on the morning of the March to Save America, as the rally was called, she urged her Facebook followers to watch how the day unfolded. “LOVE MAGA people!!!!” she posted before the march turned violent. “GOD BLESS EACH OF YOU STANDING UP or PRAYING!”

But her role went deeper, and beyond C.N.P. Action. Dustin Stockton, an organizer who worked with Women for America First, which held the permit for the Ellipse rally, said he was told that Ginni Thomas played a peacemaking role between feuding factions of rally organizers “so that there wouldn’t be any division around January 6.”

“The way it was presented to me was that Ginni was uniting these different factions around a singular mission on January 6,” said Stockton, who previously worked for Bannon. “That Ginni was involved made sense — she’s pretty neutral, and she doesn’t have a lot of enemies in the movement.”

Ginni Thomas, who turns 65 on April 25, did not respond to requests for comment, and Justice Thomas, who is 73, declined to comment through a court spokesperson.

Politico, Los Angeles prosecutors overwhelmingly want to oust their progressive boss, Jeremy B. White, Vote of no confidence comes after Gascón modified sweeping sentencing directives.

george gascon oRank-and-file prosecutors in Los Angeles have voted nearly unanimously to back the recall of District Attorney George Gascón — a rebuke of the embattled progressive that came just after Gascón reversed course on controversial sentencing policies.

politico CustomThe Association of Deputy District Attorneys for Los Angeles, a union representing line prosecutors, said 97.9 percent of its members had voted to back a burgeoning effort to oust Gascón a little over a year after he took office. The union has regularly clashed with Gascón in the year or so since he has been in office.

“This vote is by those who are intimately familiar with how Mr. Gascón’s policies actually play out on a day-to-day basis,” ADDA President Michele Hanisee said in a statement. “We believe the vote of our members will resonate with the voters of Los Angeles as they decide whether to recall Gascón from office and restore public safety as the priority of the District Attorney’s office.”

Impact: An earlier attempt to recall Gascón fizzled last year as organizers failed to gather enough signatures. But the ADDA’s stance could jolt a followup recall effort, particularly if the organization lends financial support to the campaign.

A Gascón campaign representative declined to comment.

Background: Gascón has been locked in a protracted standoff with his subordinates from almost the moment he took office on a platform that promised sweeping criminal justice reforms. Line attorneys sued to block Gascón from implementing a series of policy directives that sought to lessen sentencing, winning the support of the California District Attorneys Association in an extraordinary public break. A judge subsequently blocked some of Gascón’s initiatives.

Gascón retreated further over the weekend. He abandoned a blanket commitment to stop trying juveniles as adults or seeking life without parole, saying he would now consider those penalties on a case-by-case basis. He also reversed and announced he would try as an adult a 26-year-old woman who was charged with sexually assaulting a child when she was 17. Gascón announced the shift after the case drew outrage and led Fox News to publish jailhouse recordings of the alleged perpetrator boasting about receiving a light sentence.

“If we knew about her disregard for the harm she caused we would have handled this case differently. The complex issues and facts of her particular case were unusual, and I should have treated them that way,” Gascón said in a statement announcing that decision.

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court to Hear Case of Web Designer Who Objects to Same-Sex Marriage, Adam Liptak, Feb. 22, 2022. The Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to hear an appeal from a Colorado web designer who objects to providing services for same-sex marriages, returning the justices to a battleground in the culture wars pitting claims of religious freedom against laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The court last considered the clash in 2018, when a similar dispute between a Colorado baker and a gay couple failed to yield a definitive ruling.

The precise question the justices agreed to decide in the new case is “whether applying a public-accommodation law to compel an artist to speak or stay silent violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment.”

The court will hear the case, 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, No. 21-476, in its next term, which starts in October. It concerns Lorie Smith, who owns a website design company that says it serves gay customers but intends to limit its wedding-related services to celebrations of heterosexual unions. Ms. Smith has said she intends to post a message saying the company’s policy is a product of her religious convictions.

The case may settle a question left open in 2018: how to reconcile claims of religious liberty with laws barring discrimination based on sexual orientation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ahmaud Arbery’s killers found guilty of federal hate-crimes charges, David Nakamura, Hannah Knowles and Margaret Coker, Feb. 22, 2022. Jurors returned a verdict in the high-profile trial after just a few hours of deliberations. ‘Justice is long overdue for our small town,’ one resident of Brunswick, Ga., said after hearing the verdict

A federal jury has found three White men guilty of committing a hate crime and other violations when they chased and killed Ahmaud Arbery in coastal Georgia two years ago, determining they were motivated by racial animus because he was Black.

Jurors delivered the verdict after just over two hours of deliberations, following a trial that focused on a history of racist and offensive statements from Gregory McMichael, 66, Travis McMichael, 36, and William “Roddie” Bryan, 52. They found the men guilty of all charges: hate crimes and attempted kidnapping for all three defendants, and a weapons violation for the McMichaels.

The convictions represent a victory for President Biden’s Justice Department, which has vowed to more aggressively prosecute hate crimes, and for civil rights groups that have demanded greater accountability in racially motivated attacks against Black people and other minorities.

“No one in this country should have to fear the threat of hate-filled violence,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in Washington shortly after the verdict, reflecting on the nation’s history of racial attacks. “Throughout our history, and to this day, hate crimes have a singular impact because of the terror and fear they inflict on entire communities.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Court ruling on social cost of carbon upends Biden’s climate plans, Maxine Joselow, Feb. 22, 2022. A recent ruling by a Louisiana federal judge that bars the Biden administration from accounting for the impact of fossil fuel burning when making major decisions has created temporary chaos.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Stand your ground’ laws linked to 11% rise in U.S. firearm homicides, study says, Hannah Knowles, Feb. 22, 2022 (print ed.). “Stand your ground” laws may have led to hundreds of additional homicides every year in the United States, according to a new study that could boost criticisms that they encourage unnecessary violence.

Fiercely debated and increasingly common in the United States, stand-your-ground laws remove the duty to retreat from an attacker when possible before responding with potentially deadly force. They became a flash point in national disputes over gun violence, self-defense and racial profiling, particularly after the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, a Black teenager, in 2012.

Stand-your-ground laws are associated with an 11 percent increase in monthly firearm homicide rates, according to the new study, with especially striking jumps in Southern states that embraced stand-your-ground early on. That amounts to 700 additional homicides each year, according to the findings published Monday in JAMA Network Open, a peer-reviewed medical journal.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Black Farmers Fear Foreclosure as Debt Relief Remains Frozen, Alan Rappeport, Feb. 22, 2022 (print ed.). Lawsuits from white farmers have blocked $4 billion of pandemic aid that was allocated to Black farmers in the stimulus package.

king them to sign and return forms confirming their balances. The payments, which also are supposed to cover tax liabilities and fees associated with clearing the debt, were expected to come in phases beginning in June.

But the entire initiative has been stymied amid lawsuits from white farmers and groups representing them that questioned whether the government could offer debt relief based on race.

Courts in Wisconsin and Florida have issued preliminary injunctions against the initiative, siding with plaintiffs who argued that the debt relief amounted to discrimination and could therefore be illegal. A class-action lawsuit against the U.S.D.A. is proceeding in Texas this year.

The legal limbo has created new and unexpected financial strains for Black farmers, many of whom have been unable to make investments in their businesses given ongoing uncertainty about their debt loads. It also poses a political problem for Mr. Biden, who was propelled to power by Black voters and now must make good on promises to improve their fortunes.

The law was intended to help remedy years of discrimination that nonwhite farmers have endured, including land theft and the rejection of loan applications by banks and the federal government. The program designated aid to about 15,000 borrowers who receive loans directly from the federal government or have their bank loans guaranteed by the U.S.D.A. Those eligible included farmers and ranchers who have been subject to racial or ethnic prejudice, including those who are Black, Native American, Alaskan Native, Asian American, Pacific Islander or Hispanic.

After the initiative was rolled out last year, it met swift opposition.

Banks were unhappy that the loans would be repaid early, depriving them of interest payments. Groups of white farmers in Wisconsin, North Dakota, Oregon and Illinois sued the Agriculture Department, arguing that offering debt relief on the basis of skin color is discriminatory, suggesting that a successful Black farmer could have his debts cleared while a struggling white farm could go out of business. America First Legal, a group led by the former Trump administration official Stephen Miller, filed a lawsuit making a similar argument in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

Last June, before the money started flowing, a federal judge in Florida blocked the program on the basis that it applied “strictly on racial grounds” irrespective of any other factor.

The delays have angered the Black farmers that the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress were trying to help. They argue that the law was poorly written and that the White House is not defending it forcefully enough in court out of fear that a legal defeat could undermine other policies that are predicated on race.

Those concerns became even more pronounced late last year when the government sent thousands of letters to minority farmers who were behind on their loan payments warning that they faced foreclosure. The letters were sent automatically to any borrowers who were past due on their loans, including about a third of the 15,000 socially disadvantaged farmers who applied for the debt relief, according to the Agriculture Department.

Recent U.S. Courts, Law Headlines

 

U.S. Media, Education, Sports, Religion

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Soccer and Women’s Players Agree to Settle Equal Pay Lawsuit, Andrew Das, Feb. 22, 2022. The athletes will receive $24 million and a pledge from the soccer federation to equalize pay for the men’s and women’s national teams, ending a six-year fight.

For six years, the members of the World Cup-winning United States women’s soccer team and their bosses argued about equitable treatment of female players. They argued about whether they deserved the same charter flights as their male counterparts and about the definition of what constituted equal pay.

But the long fight that set key members of the women’s team against their bosses at U.S. Soccer ended on Tuesday just as abruptly as it had begun, with a settlement that included a multimillion-dollar payment to the players and a promise by their federation to equalize pay between the men’s and women’s national teams.

Under the terms of the agreement, the women — a group of several dozen current and former players that includes some of the world’s most popular and decorated athletes — will share $24 million in payments from U.S. Soccer. The bulk of that figure is back pay, a tacit admission that compensation for the men’s and women’s teams had been unequal for years.

Perhaps more notable is U.S. Soccer’s pledge to equalize pay between the men’s and women’s national teams in all competitions, including the World Cup, in the teams’ next collective bargaining agreements. That gap was once seen as an unbridgeable divide preventing any sort of equal pay settlement. If it is closed by the federation in negotiations with both teams, the change could funnel millions of dollars to a new generation of women’s national team players.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trial spilled secrets of players’ abuse, but are opioids really MLB’s next drug scandal? Gus Garcia-Roberts and Jack Douglas, Feb. 22, 2022. Prosecutors suggested that baseball has an opioid problem at the trial that followed Tyler Skaggs’s overdose death, but MLB says testing shows otherwise.

major league baseball mlb logoThe trial of former Los Angeles Angels communications director Eric Kay, which ended last week with the jury finding him guilty of giving pitcher Tyler Skaggs the fentanyl-laced oxycodone that led to his death, at times seemed to spill secrets about a drug scourge in Major League Baseball clubhouses.

MLB players, including former star pitcher Matt Harvey, gave testimony that suggested some were self-medicating with black-market pain pills. They were there ostensibly to help prosecutors prove Kay was distributing drugs to players. But like a miniature version of the Pittsburgh drug trials of 1985 — during which more than a dozen players testified about rampant cocaine and amphetamine use — their testimony also appeared to pull back the curtain on a broader problem in baseball, with prosecutors suggesting the Angels and MLB are complicit.

“There’s no question the MLB system is broken,” assistant U.S. attorney Errin Martin said during her closing statement. “[Major leaguers] have to do whatever it takes to play.”

That appeared to be the government’s answer to the question that was raised by the discovery of ­Skaggs’s body at a Texas hotel in 2019: Does baseball have an opioids problem? But outside of the courthouse, there’s hardly a consensus that baseball is in the grips of a drug dependency epidemic. MLB’s own numbers, the product of thousands of random drug tests implemented following Skaggs’s death, indicate the opposite. And players interviewed by The Washington Post said that, outside of the Skaggs case, they had never encountered opioid abuse in baseball.

 

fcc logoThe Daily Howler, Commentary: When Newton Minow gave a speech...Gilligan's Island responded, Bob Somerby, Feb. 22, 2022. Long ago and far away, Newton Minow gave a famous speech. He spoke on May 9, 1961. He was delivering his first major address since the newly elected President Kennedy made him head of the FCC.

At that time, a basic view was widely held, at least within certain cultural groups. We refer to the widespread belief that American popular culture tended to possibly be a bit dumb.

daily howler headlineNeedless to say, the question of whether something is dumb always involves matters of judgment. Also, issues of courtesy may arise when popular entertainment, or widely held beliefs, are described as being dumb.

That said, for better or worse, Minow pulled few punches that day. In what became a famous speech, he said the typical contents of American television were unhealthily violent and dumb.

As Minow spoke, he employed a turn of phrase which became quite famous. Here's part of what he said:

MINOW (5/9/61): When television is good, nothing—not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers—nothing is better. But when television is bad, nothing is worse.

I invite each of you to sit down in front of your own television set when your station goes on the air and stay there, for a day, without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.

American television had become "a vast wasteland," Minow famously said. As he continued, he described what you'd see if you were willing to chain yourself to your TV set for a day:

MINOW (continuing directly): You will see a procession of game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons. And endlessly, commercials—many screaming, cajoling, and offending. And most of all, boredom. True, you'll see a few things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very few. And if you think I exaggerate, I only ask you to try it.

We ourselves were just 13 when Minow delivered his speech. That said, the notion that our popular culture was possibly dumb was widespread among many teens of the day.

Newton Minow took a swing at the TV of the day. Before we make a modern-day point, we'll offer two more observations about his original speech:

First, the speech occasioned some pushback. That said, we have to chuckle when the leading authority on the speech recalls this stinging retort:

The speech was not without detractors, as that lambasting of the state of United States television programming prompted Sherwood Schwartz to name the boat on his television show Gilligan's Island the S. S. Minnow after Newton Minow.

Was commercial television "a vast wasteland?" Aggressively, the fellow who gave us Gilligan's Island decided he had to push back!

Also, there was Minow's sense of who was to blame for what he saw on the tube. Again, we quote the leading authority:

Minow went on to dismiss the idea that public taste was driving the change in programming, stating his firm belief that if television choices were expanded, viewers would gravitate toward higher culture programming.

If television choices were expanded, viewers would gravitate toward higher culture! On balance, we'll guess that Minow was basically wrong in that assessment.

What makes us think that Minow may have been wrong? We'll cite two relatively recent examples:

First, we'd cite the way modern basic cable channels started out with high-brow aims, then steadily ratcheted their programming downward, presumably in the face of public preferences.

Bravo "originally focused on programming related to fine arts and film." It now pays its bills thanks to the battles of its fatuous gangs pf "Real Housewives."

Meanwhile, the History Channel fills its days, and burns away its nights, with silly/dumb UFO shows. The pattern is widely observed among an array of cable channels which started out with high aims.

For a second example, consider the way the Internet was originally expected to serve as "the information superhighway." (Never mind who said it!)

The Internet does provide instant access to astonishing amounts of information. On balance, though, it isn't always used that way, not even by major journalists.

Instead, the Internet has served as a medium for endless mis- and disinformation, along with lots of puppy videos and rumored boatloads of porn. The information is there for the taking, but we simply don't run on such fuel.

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Feb. 21

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U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

 

Right-Wing, Anti-Vax Protests In Canada


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Russian President Vladimir V. Putin chairing a meeting with members of Russia’s Security Council in Moscow, on Monday, Feb. 22, 2022 (Pool photo by Alexei Nikolsky).Russian President Vladimir V. Putin chairing a meeting with members of Russia’s Security Council in Moscow, on Monday, Feb. 22, 2022 (Pool photo by Alexei Nikolsky).

washington post logoWashington Post, Putin orders troops to separatist regions of Ukraine, Rachel Pannett, Robyn Dixon, Brittany Shammas and María Luisa Paúl, Feb. 21, 2022. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees ordering military forces into two separatist regions of Ukraine for “peacekeeping” purposes as Moscow recognized the breakaway regions’ independence Monday.

Putin signed a decree recognizing the areas — a move that Russia could use to justify an attack in those locations — and an agreement of cooperation with the heads of the two regions: Denis Pushilin of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Leonid Pasechnik of the Luhansk People’s Republic. The separatists do not control the entirety of their regions, and it was not clear Monday evening whether a military incursion could occur.

The formal recognition prompted a chorus of condemnation from Western leaders, with some vowing sanctions.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Biden would issue an executive order prohibiting U.S. investment and trade in the breakaway regions.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called Putin’s recognition of the breakaway territories a “blatant violation” of international law and said the bloc would “react with unity, firmness and with determination in solidarity with Ukraine.”

British Foreign Minister Liz Truss tweeted that the U.K. would announce “new sanctions on Russia in response to their breach of international law and attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity."

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Russia Will Recognize 2 Separatist Regions in Ukraine, Kremlin Says, Anton Troianovski and Valerie Hopkins, Feb. 21, 2022. A possible prelude to invasion: President Vladimir V. Putin addressed the nation late on Monday. The president of Ukraine will also speak on Monday night. The U.S. and its allies have warned that Russia could use such a recognition to move more forces in.

The Kremlin said Monday that President Vladimir V. Putin would recognize the independence of two territories in Ukraine controlled by Moscow-backed separatists, further escalating tensions in what Western nations fear could lead to one of the biggest conflicts in Europe since World War II.

The announcement was made by the Kremlin in a statement summarizing Mr. Putin’s phone calls on Monday with President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany.

“The president of Russia said that he intended to sign the relevant decree in the near future,” the Kremlin said. “The president of France and the Federal Chancellor of Germany expressed their disappointment with this development. At the same time, they indicated their readiness to continue contacts.”

Mr. Putin was expected to deliver an evening address to the nation later on Monday.

Mr. Putin is recognizing the territories’ independence, the Kremlin said, in the face of “the military aggression of the Ukrainian authorities,” as a result of which “the civilian population is suffering.”

Ukraine denies having any plans to launch a military offensive against the separatist regions and says Russia is staging acts of Ukrainian aggression to justify an incursion.

His phone calls with the German and French leaders came after an extraordinary session of the Russian Security Council at which Mr. Putin accused the United States and its allies of using Ukraine “as an instrument of confrontation” with Russia. He said it posed “a serious, very big threat to us.”

The move is a high-stakes tactic by Mr. Putin that threatens to engage Russia and Ukraine in a deadly military conflict and sharply escalate Moscow’s conflict with the West.

The separatist enclaves claim all of Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions as their territory, while controlling only about one-third of them. It was not immediately clear whether Mr. Putin would recognize the enclaves in their de facto borders or would seek to expand them by force.

Earlier on Monday, Russian state television showed video of the Russian-backed leaders of separatist territories in eastern Ukraine appealing directly to Mr. Putin to recognize their independence. Russia’s lower house of Parliament passed a resolution making such an appeal to Mr. Putin last week.

Russia has conducted an enormous troop buildup to Ukraine’s north, east and south, which Western officials say could be used to conduct a large-scale invasion.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Russia plans to recognize Donetsk and Luhansk. This is why it matters.
  • U.S. still sees an invasion as imminent, dimming hopes for a Biden-Putin summit.
  • Ukraine seeks an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.
  • Belarus says Russian troops might not leave unless NATO pulls back from Eastern Europe.
  • If war ignites in Ukraine, two little enclaves could be the spark.
  • Air France is the latest airline to limit flights to Ukraine.

 

volodymyr zelensky helmet

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Comedian-Turned-President Is Seriously in Over His Head, Olga Rudenko (a Ukrainian journalist and the chief editor of The Kyiv Independent), Feb. 21, 2022. It’s not hard to guess what President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, shown above in a recent photo, must be craving right now: one normal day.

The comic-turned-president surely never imagined the job would be quite so intense. First, he got tangled up in the impeachment of Donald Trump. Then he had to deal with the Covid pandemic. And now he’s facing the prospect of a full-scale invasion by Russia.

Russia, of course, has been waging a war in eastern Ukraine since 2014. But now the threat is total: Up to 190,000 Russian troops have amassed near Ukraine’s borders and in separatist regions, and an invasion, bringing devastation and disaster, could come at any time. It’s a gravely serious situation. And Mr. Zelensky, a comedian for most of his life, is in over his head.

When Mr. Zelensky took power in Ukraine in 2019, converting his TV fame into a stellar political career, no one knew what to expect. His volodymyr zelenskii cropped headshotopponents said he was so inexperienced, he was bound to be a disaster. His supporters thought that he would break away from the old ways and end corruption. His harshest critics claimed that Mr. Zelensky, a Russian-speaking man born in eastern Ukraine, would all but sell the country off to Russia. Others said he was an oligarch puppet.

Yet the truth is more prosaic. Mr. Zelensky (shown at right in a file photo), the showman and performer, has been unmasked by reality. And it has revealed him to be dispiritingly mediocre.

After his nearly three years in office, it’s clear what the problem is: Mr. Zelensky’s tendency to treat everything like a show. Gestures, for him, are more important than consequences. Strategic objectives are sacrificed for short-term benefits. The words he uses don’t matter, as long as they are entertaining. And when the reviews are bad, he stops listening and surrounds himself with fans.

He started brightly. Early in his tenure, Mr. Zelensky commanded more power than any of his predecessors had. His fame and anti-establishment allure landed him with a parliamentary majority, a handpicked cabinet and a mandate for reform. At first, it seemed to be working. His government opened up the farmland market and expanded digital services across the country. He began an enormous road construction program, proclaiming that he wanted to be remembered as the president who finally built good roads in Ukraine.

But the successes largely stopped there. Mr. Zelensky’s other major project, a campaign he calls “deoligarchization” that’s aimed at capping the influence of the very wealthy, looks more like a P.R. move than serious policy. Despite his campaign promises, no progress has been made in fighting corruption. According to Transparency International, Ukraine remains the third-most-corrupt country in Europe, after Russia and Azerbaijan. Anti-corruption and law enforcement agencies are either stalling or run by loyalists appointed by the president.

 

U.S. Elections, Governance, Economy

Steady, Reflections on the American presidency: Is It Really Presidents' Day? Dan Rather, right (author and former CBS News Evening Anchor and dan rather 2017Managing Editor), Feb. 21, 2022. Happy Presidents’ Day.

Let’s face it, it’s an odd holiday in many ways, starting with a lack of clarity over exactly what we are celebrating, other than a welcome Monday off in the depths of winter.

For most of my life, we celebrated George Washington’s birthday on February 22.

george washington gilbert stuart portraitAbraham Lincoln was also born in February (the 12th, under the new calendar, so no worries there). In most places, his birthday wasn’t an official holiday. So the idea of combining the birthdays of two of our most revered presidents into a Presidents’ Day seemed to make sense.

But does “Presidents’ Day” mean this day is actually in recognition of ALL presidents?

Perhaps we can try to disentangle ourselves from some of these syntactic wanderings and use this Presidents’ Day (I'm sticking with this form of the apostrophe) into a consideration of the presidency more generally. It’s something that’s been on my mind a lot lately.

The U.S. presidency is a combination of both a head of government and a head of state. It oversees a continental experiment in representative democracy. It now also entails being the Commander in Chief of the most potent military force the world has ever seen assembled. So pretty powerful stuff.

When I was growing up, the office of the presidency carried with it an almost mythic status. At least that’s what we were taught in school. Thankfully, we have long since moved beyond seeing our presidents with hagiographic halos. Even Washington and Lincoln were flawed men, trapped by their times and their inability to think more broadly, especially on the issue of race.

This more nuanced view of the presidency, and American history more generally, is producing a backlash. The fights over our curricula at the state and local level are often about how we try to contend with the complexities of our national story. And it is only natural that our presidents, or at least their reputations, should get caught in the rhetorical crossfire.

Our Founding Fathers were very clear that they were creating, in the presidency, a citizen who was not above the law, certainly not a king, let alone a god. They could have never imagined how powerful the nation they created would become, and thus the powers that would lie with the person leading it. They were wary of concentrated power, and they would have never abided by the idea that presidents would be above reproach, re-examination, and even scorn. Cults of personality are the antithesis of what they hoped to create.

And yet, at the same time, as a nation we should yearn for stateliness in the position itself. We should hope for wise leadership. We should respect the office.

All presidencies are messy in real time. It often takes the distance of history to add necessary context. Fiercely debating how we should govern is completely acceptable. Wrestling over how we adjudicate power, how we weigh the accumulation and spending of our resources, how we plan for the future and make sense of the past — all this is also fair and open to disagreement.

But that presidents can be brazenly above the law must be considered un-American. That they should rule for only their supporters at the expense of the rest of the nation must be rejected. And that they should not accept the verdict of the people in free and fair elections is to make a mockery of our most basic democratic necessities.

Ultimately the American presidency is what we allow it to be. It is an extension of us, the nation at large. And it should reflect us, in all of our wonderful diversity, encouraged by our better angels.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: High-profile GOP governors are losing popularity. Democrats should take note, Jennifer Rubin, right, Feb. 21, 2022. jennifer rubin new headshotDemocrats are getting some tough love. Pollsters, analysts and campaign leaders are telling them they have overreached and ignored the legitimate cultural concerns of voters. Less has been said about Republicans, who will have the wind at their backs in the midterm elections, which have historically lifted the party out of power, and who are benefiting from the Democratic president’s poor polling numbers. Nevertheless, Republicans have their own problems.

Some of the highest-profile Republican governors are unpopular. Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia (41 percent approve, 43 percent disapprove), who once kept the defeated former president at arm’s length, immediately embraced MAGA base-pleasing policies that have proved glenn youngkinunpopular and drawn a swift backlash. Large majorities in Virginia support environmental laws Youngkin wants to repeal. They also oppose Youngkin-favored bans on teaching about racism and GOP proposals to prohibit abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

Likewise, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas is losing ground in a general-election matchup against Beto O’Rourke. In January, O’Rourke trailed by 11 points; the gap is now down to seven points, according to a survey by the Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler, and 49 percent of Texans think the state is on the “wrong track.”

“While the GOP is pushing to expunge any teaching of critical race theory in classrooms,” the Morning News reported, “59 percent of all Texas voters say they agree that K-12 teachers should be permitted to discuss how historical examples of discrimination in U.S. laws apply to racial inequalities today.” Abbott’s anti-immigration hype is also losing favor: “53 percent of voters say the wall spending is wasteful or could be better Democratic-Republican Campaign logosspent.” Overall, Abbott’s job rating has sunk from 61 percent approval in April 2020 to 50 percent this month, with disapproval shooting up to 46 percent from 23 percent.

Yet there is no drumbeat warning Republicans not to overreach. They seem to believe voters will ignore their excesses.

It bears mentioning that the GOP’s unfavorability is considerably higher than that of the Democratic Party, according to YouGov polling. And Democrats should draw a few lessons from this.

For starters, voters remain ornery, seemingly having grown frustrated with their choices within months, if not weeks, of electing them. Perhaps they don’t pay enough attention to substance during the campaign, prompting buyer’s remorse as soon as their candidate starts doing what he said he would. Alternatively, as in the case of Youngkin, campaigning deceptively to hide one’s actual agenda turns out poorly when voters realize they’ve been had. It might behoove the media to start covering more substance during campaigns.

Second, we are in an era — very much evident in the 2016 election battle between two candidates with high unfavorables — when voters don’t like both parties. That might be a function of politicians’ cluelessness and failure to build broad coalitions. It might also be that voters have unrealistic expectations that politicians can quickly solve immense, multifaceted problems. Perpetual impatience breeds perpetual dissatisfaction, a phenomenon authoritarians exploit by promising to fix everything, characterizing complex problems as simple and demonizing democracy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Family Dollar closes 400 stores, recalls products after FDA finds decaying dead rodents in warehouse, Annabelle Timsit, Feb. 21, 2022 (print ed.). A rodent infestation at a Family Dollar warehouse has prompted the discount store chain to recall a wide range of products sold at hundreds of stores throughout the southern United States.

Health concerns about the rat infestation at an Arkansas distribution center have also led to the temporary closure of more than 400 stores in six states.

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Right-Wing, Anti-Vax Protests In Canada

washington post logoWashington Post, Police regain control of most of Canada’s capital; holdouts persist, Miriam Berger, Feb. 21, 2022 (print ed.). A few bands of people with Canadian flags walked around yelling, “Freedom!”

But their shouts fell flat in the otherwise quiet streets of Canada’s capital, which were nearly completely back in control of authorities Sunday after a weekend operation to disperse the self-styled “Freedom Convoy” that pushed the government to invoke never-before-used emergency powers.

canadian flagAs of Sunday, police arrested more than 190 protesters, issued 389 charges, towed nearly 80 vehicles, and fenced or cordoned off large swaths of the capital as law enforcement entered what Ottawa interim police chief Steve Bell called the “maintenance phase” to keep out demonstrators deemed illegal.

But while the big rigs, barbecues and bouncy castles were gone, major questions remained over how long the police would stay, and what consequences protesters — from participants up to far-right organizers — would face for the three-week-long blockade.
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 ‘Freedom Convoy’ demonstrators admit protest is near the end after police clear out most of them, making arrests and towing vehicles

Tall fences blocked off access to Wellington Street, the center of the encampments that clogged the thoroughfare running in front of Parliament and the prime minister’s office. A small contingent of holdouts remained downtown Saturday night, holding a street party in defiance of the police, who repeatedly warned that those who remain risk arrest and fines, charges would could be filed retroactively.

Bell said Sunday that 103 of those arrested faced charges including mischief, obstructing police, and assault.

“We are relieved to finally see some action to remove these extremists from our streets,” said Ariel Troster, 42, a community advocate in Centertown, an Ottawa residential area where demonstrators disrupted daily life with incessant honking and intimidation, including racist vitriol and harassment of face mask wearers.

“But it shouldn’t have gotten this far,” she said. “I think it’s going to take a really long time and it’s going to take a lot of work to restore trust.”

Even as Ottawa residents celebrated the start of a return to normalcy, Canada’s Parliament continued to debate Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s invocation of the 1988 Emergencies Act. Members are set to vote Monday to accept or reject use of the special powers authorized under that law.

The act is expected to pass, though some critics from both the left and the right have objected to its use. Trudeau said no other efforts to quell the “illegal and dangerous activities” affecting the country’s economy and security were working.

Bill Blair, Canada’s minister of emergency preparedness, said Sunday that “the job’s not yet done.”

“The reasons why we had to bring forward these measures, unfortunately, still exist,” he said on CTV’s Question Period.

Under the Emergencies Act, banks may freeze transactions suspected of funding the “Freedom Convoys” that also clogged several U.S.-Canada borders, disrupting millions of dollars a day in trade. Drivers of vehicles documented at the demonstrations can lose their corporate bank accounts, vehicle insurance and driving licenses.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that he wanted to see the Emergencies Act used to seize and sell the impounded vehicles to pay some of the costs incurred by the city.

Federal government officials said Saturday that the federal government would provide $20 million Canadian dollars ($15.7 million) to businesses affected by the protests. Police on Saturday said 206 bank and corporate accounts worth several million dollars had been frozen.

Police began to move in Friday, after 20 days of protesters having free rein in the capital’s downtown, including in residential areas. Despite high tensions, the police response remained largely restrained, even by Canadian standards. Armed officers, some on horses and others in tactical gear, slowly moved truck-by-truck and block-by-block to push out demonstrators.

The police said they used pepper spray, stun grenades and other anti-riot weapons. Some demonstrators arrested had body armor, smoke grenades and fireworks on them, the police said Saturday.

Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit, a police watchdog, said Sunday that it was investigating two incidents from the operation. One stemmed from officers discharging an anti-riot weapon and the other involved a woman who reported a serious injury after “an interaction” with a police officer on horseback.

While police have been praised for their restraint in standoffs this weekend, they faced heavy criticism for failing to enforce laws during the convoy’s first three weeks. Critics noted that police have moved much more quickly and forcefully against other demonstrations, such as those held by Indigenous communities. The majority of “Freedom Convoy” participants were White.

Peter Sloly resigned as Ottawa police chief Tuesday under fire for his department’s handling of what he called a “siege” of the capital.

Law enforcement officials denied that race or politics influenced their response. Rather, they pointed to the tactical difficulties posed by tightly packed rows of vehicles and cans of fuel. They estimated that about 100 trucks had children living in or associated with them.

Authorities additionally did not know if protesters were armed — and feared that items such as cooking knives and vehicles could be used against them.

Fears rose Feb. 14, when authorities said they arrested 11 people and seized guns, body armor and ammunition in Coutts, Alberta, where another convoy had been trying to block the U.S.-Canada border.

Canada’s public safety minister said Wednesday that some of those arrested in Alberta had “strong ties” to a “far-right extreme organization” with a presence in Ottawa.

Elizabeth Simons, deputy director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, said the group in question was Diagolon, an insurrectionist movement.

The arrests also underscored how the “Freedom Convoy,” which focused from the outset on protesting health mandates and Trudeau’s government, was fueled in part by far-right organizers and influencers with a history of anti-government, anti-science and anti-media agendas.

Police arrested three key protest organizers — Tamara Lich, 49, Chris Barber, 46, and Patrick King, 44 — on Thursday and Friday. Barber, who was charged with mischief, obstructing police and disobeying a court order, was released on bail Friday. Under the conditions, he must leave Ottawa and cannot be in contact with or speak in support of any of the convoy’s participants or funders.

Both Lich and King remain in jail in Ottawa.

Lich, who is charged with mischief, appeared at a bail hearing Friday wearing a shirt in support of Canadian oil and gas and a court-mandated face mask. The session was adjourned until Tuesday morning, said Diane Magas, the Ottawa-based lawyer representing Lich and Barber.

Under Canada’s rules, Lich cannot fly back home to Alberta because she is unvaccinated. At the hearing, Lich’s husband, Dwayne Lich, told the court that he had flown to Ottawa on Feb. 2 via a private jet. He said the flight cost around $5,000 Canadian dollars ($3,900), but that a man named Joseph, whose last name he could not recall, covered his costs, Magas said.

Mischief is a wide-ranging charge that can include significant jail time. Magas said it was “too early” to say what Lich or Barber could face in terms of sentencing.

ny times logoNew York Times, After Trucker Protest, Canada Asks: Was It a Blip, or Something Bigger? Natalie Kitroeff and Ian Austen, Feb. 21, 2022. The demonstrators were passionate, organized and supported financially, but it can be difficult to convert the energy of spontaneous movements into real change.

Was the occupation an aberration, or was it the beginning of a more fundamental shift in the country’s political landscape? Did their chaotic blockade alienate the public so much that the movement has no shot at a future, or did it form the base for a lasting political organization?

“There is a worry, and it’s been expressed in all kinds of ways, that this protest movement will become something much more significant and much more sustained,” said Wesley Wark, a senior fellow at the Center for International Governance Innovation, a Canadian public policy group. “It was given terrific oxygen to spread its message.”

The moment is uniquely tied to the pandemic: Protesters demanded an end to all government pandemic measures. But it is also part of a broader trend.

Social media was a driving force behind street protests of the past decade or so, uniting multitudes in occupations from Zuccotti Park in New York to Gezi Park in Istanbul. But research has shown that such movements often have a tough time converting their energy into real change.

By Sunday afternoon, streets in Ottawa that had been clogged with trucks, makeshift canteens and noisy protesters were largely empty except for police vehicles. A swath of downtown had been fenced off. A protester compound that had occupied a baseball stadium’s parking lot had been cleared — though about two dozen heavy trucks and a cluster of other vehicles reconvened about 100 kilometers outside the city.

During their three-week occupation, much about the protests alienated Canadians. At a border blockade in Alberta, police seized a large cache of weapons and charged four protesters with conspiring to murder police officers.

But demonstrators also saw much of the disruption they caused as a tactical victory.

One contingent in Windsor, Ontario, blocked a key bridge between Canada and the United States for a week, forcing auto plants to scale back production and disrupting about $300 million a day in trade.

From the beginning, they caught law enforcement flat-footed. Some truckers said in interviews that they were surprised at being allowed to stay in the first place, and the city’s police chief resigned in response to the public anger over the sluggish pace at which the authorities moved to dislodge them.

The breakup of the demonstration came after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has cast himself as a champion of human rights, invoked an emergency measure that gave the police the ability to seize the protesters’ vehicles and allowed banks to freeze their accounts. Mr. Trudeau’s decision prompted legal action to quash the order from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which called it “unconstitutional.”

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World News, Human Rights, Disasters

 

vicky ward investigates

Jean-Luc Brunel (right) with Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell (Photo via U.S. Department of Justice).

The late model agency owner Jean-Luc Brunel (right) with Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell (Photo via U.S. Department of Justice).

Vicky Ward Investigates, Jean-Luc Brunel’s Suicide Shuts One of the Main Doors to Unraveling the Mysteries of Jeffrey Epstein, Vicky Ward, Feb. 210-21, 2022. With the apparent prison suicide of Jean-Luc Brunel—the owner of the model agency MC2 and a business associate of Jeffrey Epstein—early Saturday, one of the main doors to unraveling the mysteries that still surround Epstein, two and half years after Epstein’s own controversial suicide, just closed.

“Brunel knew everything—he knew everybody’s secrets,” one businessman who knew both men and partied with them in the 1980s told me over the weekend. “He was more integral to the sex-trafficking ring than Epstein was. He was there first.”
Jean-Luc Brunel (right) with Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell // DOJ

(Brunel’s lawyers maintained his innocence, even after his death. "Jean-Luc Brunel has never stopped claiming his innocence. He has multiplied his efforts to prove it. A judge had released him a few months ago, and then he was re-incarcerated in undignified conditions," his lawyers said in a statement released after his death.)

But during the reporting of “Chasing Ghislaine,” my podcast and documentary series which focused on the mystery of the powerful men who propped up Epstein’s enterprise, Brunel’s name came up again and again—as not just a critical part of Epstein’s alleged sex-trafficking operation, but as the originator.

Kira Dikhtyar, the Russian gymnast-turned-supermodel who recently claimed that, at just 15, she was raped by the late Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky and who is now lobbying the UN for a universal age of consent, told me that it was Brunel who first introduced her to Epstein soon after she arrived in America—in a way that was certainly not straightforward.

kira dikhtyar vicki ward bucketeer public imagesVicky Ward, right, with Kira Dikhtyar during the taping of “Chasing Ghislaine.”

Here is some of our conversation, edited for clarity:

WARD: You worked for MC2?

DIKHTYAR: I was recruited by Jean-Luc. I was in Miami for [a] Cosmopolitan shoot and I had lunch with Jean-Luc. And he says, "I'm gonna hook you up with somebody from Victoria's Secret." [Victoria’s Secret was owned by the retail billionaire, Leslie Wexner, who was one of Epstein’s business clients. Wexner has not been accused of any wrongdoing].

Every day, I used to get a call sheet, which was typical in the modeling industry. And I was living in the building that a lot of the models from MC2 lived in.

Well, one day my cast sheet from Jean-Luc said “Jeffrey Epstein” and an address on 51st Street. There was no explanation for this. So I thought maybe Epstein might be [a] photographer because the agency was trying to introduce us to as many photographers as possible for castings.

WARD: But you knew he might have to do with Victoria's Secret?

DIKHTYAR: I kind of put it together after, but I didn't really understand. It was written “on the request of Jean-Luc” on this paper.

WARD: Right. So what happened when you went to that big house in New York?

Guardian, Revealed: Credit Suisse leak unmasks criminals, fraudsters and corrupt politicians, David Pegg, Kalyeena Makortoff, Martin Chulov, Paul Lewis and Luke Harding, Feb. 21, 2022 (print ed.). A massive leak from one of the world’s biggest private banks, Credit Suisse, has exposed the hidden wealth of clients involved in torture, drug trafficking, money laundering, corruption and other serious crimes.

Details of accounts linked to 30,000 Credit Suisse clients all over the world are contained in the leak, which unmasks the beneficiaries of more than 100bn Swiss francs (£80bn)* held in one of Switzerland’s best-known financial institutions.

The leak points to widespread failures of due diligence by Credit Suisse, despite repeated pledges over decades to weed out dubious clients and illicit funds. The Guardian is part of a consortium of media outlets given exclusive access to the data.

We can reveal how Credit Suisse repeatedly either opened or maintained bank accounts for a panoramic array of high-risk clients across the world.

They include a human trafficker in the Philippines, a Hong Kong stock exchange boss jailed for bribery, a billionaire who ordered the murder of his Lebanese pop star girlfriend and executives who looted Venezuela’s state oil company, as well as corrupt politicians from Egypt to Ukraine.

One Vatican-owned account in the data was used to spend €350m (£290m) in an allegedly fraudulent investment in London property that is at the centre of an ongoing criminal trial of several defendants, including a cardinal.

The huge trove of banking data was leaked by an anonymous whistleblower to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. “I believe that Swiss banking secrecy laws are immoral,” the whistleblower source said in a statement. “The pretext of protecting financial privacy is merely a fig leaf covering the shameful role of Swiss banks as collaborators of tax evaders.”

The revelations may fuel questions over whether Credit Suisse’s challenges over the past few years are indicative of a deep malaise at the bank. Composite: Guardian/David Levene

Credit Suisse said that Switzerland’s strict banking secrecy laws prevented it from commenting on claims relating to individual clients.

“Credit Suisse strongly rejects the allegations and inferences about the bank’s purported business practices,” the bank said in a statement, arguing that the matters uncovered by reporters are based on “selective information taken out of context, resulting in tendentious interpretations of the bank’s business conduct.”

The bank also said the allegations were largely historical, in some instances dating back to a time when “laws, practices and expectations of financial institutions were very different from where they are now”.

While some accounts in the data were open as far back as the 1940s, more than two-thirds were opened since 2000. Many of those were still open well into the last decade, and a portion remain open today.

washington post logoWashington Post, Denied birth certificates, thousands of children in the UAE go without schooling and health care, Katie McQue, Feb. 21, 2022 (print ed.). Hospitals withhold birth records because of unpaid debts, and the government refuses to register those born out of wedlock.

Chinwe’s sons are 4 and 6, yet officially they don’t exist. After she gave birth, Chinwe and her husband could not afford to pay the medical bills, totaling $16,000, and the hospital refused to give them the documents needed for birth certificates until the debt was settled, she said.

Among hospitals in the United Arab Emirates, this is not an uncommon practice. But it has contributed to a growing population of undocumented children in this Gulf Arab country who are unable to enroll in school, get health care or even claim nationality.

“My sons have not been to school; they don’t have a visa or a passport. It is a very big issue. They cry — they really want to go to school,” said Chinwe, 37, a migrant from Nigeria who works as a low-paid classroom assistant and spoke on condition that her last name not be published out of security concerns. Her husband is unemployed.

Human rights activists estimate that thousands of children in the UAE, many of them offspring of migrant workers from Africa and Asia, are unregistered either because hospitals withheld documents or because the children were born out of wedlock. Babies born to single mothers are typically refused a birth certificate because extramarital sex is illegal in the country.

Just within the country’s Filipino migrant community, the number of undocumented children runs in the thousands, according to two senior Philippine government officials.

The oil-rich UAE is one of the world’s wealthiest countries, per capita, and high standards of private education and medical care are enjoyed by most citizens and white-collar expatriate workers. But for undocumented children, these basic services are out of reach. Like the parents of eight other undocumented children interviewed for this article, Chinwe said her sons have never seen a doctor or received childhood vaccines.

washington post logoWashington Post, This judge is one of the last U.S. allies in the Guatemala corruption fight. Politicians keep trying to sideline her, Kevin Sieff, Feb. 21, 2022 (print ed.). Erika Aifán is among the ever-shrinking group of anticorruption judges and prosecutors who have not been fired or arrested or fled the country.

Judge Erika Aifánerika aifan, right, was in her 14th-floor office in Guatemala’s towering judicial building when she heard the buzzing noise. She pulled the curtains aside and found herself staring at a surveillance drone, inches from the glass window.

Her colleagues wondered aloud how a drone could get so close to one of the most sensitive government offices in the country. But Aifán knew. It was her own government that was spying on her.

Aifán, 46, is the judge of Guatemala’s high-risk court, which handles the country’s biggest corruption and criminal cases, including several indictments targeting politicians and wealthy business executives. She has collected witness testimony alleging that President Alejandro Giammattei funded his campaign with $2.6 million in bribes from powerful construction companies. (He has denied the allegations.)

Aifán is among the ever-shrinking group of Guatemalan judges and prosecutors handling such cases who have not been fired or arrested or fled the country.

U.S. accuses senior officials and politicians in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras of corruption

The Biden administration has searched desperately for partners in Central America who can help root out corruption and improve governance, partially in an effort to deter migration to the U.S. border. But that quest has largely been thwarted. Many top officials in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are currently blocked from traveling to the United States because they’ve been accused of corruption. Attacks by high-ranking officials on the judiciaries in those three countries have exploded.

Ask a U.S. official to name high-profile Guatemalan allies in the fight against corruption and the list often begins and ends with Aifán. Last year, first lady Jill Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken presented her with the State Department’s International Women of Courage award.

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Personal Health

ny times logoNew York Times, Personal Health Commentary: Farewell, Readers, It’s Been a Remarkable Ride, Jane E. Brody, Feb. 21, 2022. Before I go, I want to highlight the breathtaking evolution in health advice that has occurred since I joined The Times in 1965.

The very first Personal Health column, published in The New York Times on Nov. 10, 1976, appeared under a headline that I, its author, took seriously and hoped readers would too: “Jogging Is Like a Drug: Watch Dosage, Beware the Problems.”

In the decades that followed, Personal Health by Jane E. Brody has had a very rewarding run. Countless readers have told me how one or more of my columns had improved — or even saved — their lives or that of their loved ones. Doctors often wrote to say they used my columns to help inform their patients.

When The Times asked me to take on this weekly assignment, I was assured I could discuss any topic relevant to people’s health and well-being. Rarely was there any debate over the topics I wanted to take on — though there was the column on masturbation in 1982, which was ultimately published four years later when the paper overcame its squeamishness about sexuality.

However, the times, and The Times, have changed and, dear readers, I’ve decided the time has come for me to say farewell to writing this column. Others may well take up the cudgel. But before I go, I want to highlight the breathtaking evolution in information and advice about several major health topics that has occurred since I joined The Times as a health and science writer in 1965.

I based the advice in these columns on the best available evidence at the time I wrote them. But the very nature of the scientific process dictates that medicine evolves, and will continue to do so. As occurred with the coronavirus, this evolution will necessarily spawn new health recommendations. Only one thing remains static and continues to jeopardize the health of all who fall for it: quackery.

The developments I’ve highlighted below are ones that touched many of your lives, but they merely scratch the surface of health and lifesaving improvements I’ve witnessed during my 58 years in health journalism.

Jane Brody is the Personal Health columnist, a position she has held since 1976. She has written more than a dozen books including the best sellers “Jane Brody’s Nutrition Book” and “Jane Brody’s Good Food Book.”

 

Virus Updates, Reactions

washington post logoWashington Post, Queen Elizabeth II tests positive for coronavirus, is experiencing ‘mild cold like symptoms,’ palace says, Karla Adam and queen elizabethWilliam Booth, Feb. 21, 2022 (print ed.). After being cloistered away from the public for long stretches of the pandemic, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II tested positive for the coronavirus and was experiencing “mild cold like symptoms,” Buckingham Palace announced in a statement on Sunday.

The 95-year-old monarch expected to continue “light duties” at Windsor Castle over the coming week, the palace said, and would continue to “receive medical attention and will follow all appropriate guidelines.”

Her son and heir, Prince Charles, tested positive for the virus and went into isolation 10 days earlier, after being at Windsor with the queen. Charles’s wife, Camilla, has since had a positive test as well.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Feb. 21, 2022), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 425,529,634, Deaths: 5,908,802
U.S. Cases:     80,087,617, Deaths:    959,412
Indian Cases:   42,838,524, Deaths:    512,141
Brazil Cases:   28,208,212, Deaths:    644,362

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More On Trump Family, Allies

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rudy Giuliani’s January 6th fever dream just keeps getting stranger, Bill Palmer, right, Feb. 21, 2022. It would take an incredible bill palmeramount of savvy to tell the mainstream media that you’re cooperating with a congressional probe, while simultaneously telling right wing media that the probe itself is illegal, and thread that needle in such a way that you come out the better for it.

Unfortunately for Rudy Giuliani, the guy who has tried this strategy over the past week, he’s too far gone to even understand what he’s trying to do.

bill palmer report logo headerThis isn’t just our take; Rudy himself keeps reminding us of just how far gone he is. During the latest bad acid trip that could charitably be described as a podcast, Rudy claims that on the night of January 6th he was with unspecified “Antifa experts” who arrested a member of the FBI. This raises all kinds of questions about who these “Antifa experts” are working for and rudy giuliani recentwhy they would have the authority to arrest the FBI, until you remember that obviously none of this happened anyway.

The real problem for Giuliani, right, is that he’s so far gone, he’ll have trouble cooperating with investigators even if he decides to sell out Donald Trump in order to save himself. As former prosecutor Richard Signorelli recently pointed out, cooperating witnesses have to be credible in order to help prosecutors, and therefore help themselves. At this point Rudy Giuliani is merely plunging through a fever dream of his own making.

 

djt trump family charity Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s luck may finally be running out, George T. Conway III, right, Feb. 20, 2022 (print ed.). It has often been tempting, but never a safe wager, to predict the demise of Donald Trump.

george conway CustomHe lost the presidency and both houses of Congress, and was impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors twice. He’s being investigated in New York for business fraud, and in Georgia for election fraud. He’s being probed by the House’s Jan. 6 select committee — and, one would hope, ultimately by the Justice Department — for whipping up a riot and attempting a self-coup.

Yet somehow he has managed to survive, legally, financially and politically. Indeed, astonishingly, he remains far and away the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.

But maybe, just maybe, this time will be different.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Trump properties in talks to host lucrative Saudi golf events at two resorts, Josh Dawsey and Jonathan O'Connell, Feb. 20, 2022. Former president’s courses at Doral and Bedminster could strike a deal with a new league backed by the kingdom, which stands accused of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and other human rights abuses.

Former president Donald Trump’s company is angling to host events at his golf courses for the controversial Saudi golf league, according to three people familiar with the matter, potentially handing Trump a lucrative business partnership with an oppressive regime he defended as president.

At least two of Trump’s courses in Bedminster, N.J., and Doral, Fla., could be named as sites for the nascent tour, according to the people familiar with the talks, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. Officials from LIV Golf Investments, the apparatus funded by the Saudis to host the tour, have held conversations with the Trump Organization, these people said.

One of the people familiar with the matter said Trump had spoken to Greg Norman, the head of LIV Golf Investments, about having his properties involved in the tour.

A spokeswoman for LIV Golf Investments declined to comment. Eric Trump, the former president’s son, and a Trump Organization spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment. The Saudi embassy in Washington also did not respond to comment requests.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Prosecuting Trump would set a risky precedent. Not prosecuting would be worse, Matthew Dallek (professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management), Feb. 20, 2022 (print ed.). Are we afraid to test the principle that no one is above the law?

When President Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace, the odds of his standing trial for obstruction of justice seemed high: His actions undermining the Watergate investigation had been tape-recorded, and his part in the coverup led to pressure on the legal system to hold him accountable. In September 1974, however, one month after Nixon left office, his successor, Gerald Ford, pardoned him. Ford later told a congressional subcommittee that the pardon was designed to “shift our attentions from the pursuit of a fallen President to the pursuit of the urgent needs of a rising nation.”

It didn’t — not in the immediate aftermath and, in some ways, not ever. Although views later softened, many Americans at the time saw the pardon as a mistake. Some were livid. One powerful man had essentially condoned the criminality of another. The get-out-of-jail-free card exacerbated public cynicism and deepened the nation’s social fractures. The White House switchboard lit up with calls that ran 8 to 1 against Ford’s action. The New York Times captured some of the liberal rage when it described the pardon as an affront to “the American system of justice.” A president who thought he was doing the right thing had taken justice into his own hands, casting doubt on a bedrock idea: Justice is blind; no one is above the law.

capitol riot nyt jan 7 2021Nearly five decades later, Joe Biden is president, and a pardon for Donald Trump isn’t happening. But whether Trump will eventually be prosecuted for his conduct in the White House is more of a conundrum: If the country crosses this inviolate threshold, all hell will break loose. If we don’t cross it, all hell will break loose. There will be no “shifting our attentions” by advocates of either course. And whichever path the nation follows will have lasting repercussions. One thing is increasingly clear — fear will play a greater role than facts in determining it.

If Trump were indicted, he would become the first former president to stand criminal trial. Prosecutorial threats are multiplying: Bank and tax fraud charges are under consideration in Manhattan. In Fulton County, Ga., a special grand jury is investigating Trump’s interference in the 2020 election. In a Washington courtroom, U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta told a convicted Jan. 6 Capitol rioter that he was a pawn in a scheme by more powerful people, and the legal community is debating whether Trump’s seeming incitement of the insurrection has opened him up to criminal charges. The National Archives requested that the Justice Department open an investigation into Trump’s mishandling of top-secret documents that the government recently retrieved from his Florida estate. Trump still faces legal jeopardy for obstructing justice during Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election (remember that one?). During the 2016 campaign, Trump allegedly orchestrated hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels (the charges that landed his handler Michael Cohen in prison referred to Trump as Individual #1). This list is hardly exhaustive and omits the dozen-plus civil lawsuits and civil investigations Trump faces.

Jan. 6 wasn’t an insurrection. It was vigilantism. And more is coming.

In some cases, prosecutors would need to prove “intent” — a high bar. But it isn’t insurmountable; Trump’s words and deeds have demonstrated that his actions tend to be intentional. If an ordinary citizen had pressured Georgia’s secretary of state to “find” votes to overturn the 2020 election; systematically misrepresented the value of his assets to the IRS and banks; funneled money to silence a paramour; or put government documents down a toilet, this person would almost certainly be facing an array of criminal charges. More than a year after he left office, Trump isn’t facing any such thing yet.

The stakes are enormous. The rule of law, the notion that we are all equal under our criminal justice system, is among the noblest of principles but also the ugliest of myths. The question of putting Trump on trial before a jury of his peers is a test for a principle of democracy that has often proved out of reach for most Americans.

Historically, White and wealthy citizens have sometimes managed to avoid the consequences of their criminality. For decades, White mobs lynched and terrorized African Americans with impunity, and this legacy of a racist justice system, separate and unequal, looms over the debate about charging Trump. The system remains deeply unfair, biased against Black people and favoring the wealthy who are able to afford the best lawyers. Nonviolent drug offenses for the poor have resulted in decades-long prison sentences, while hardly any bankers stood trial for reckless and probably illegal activities that helped trigger the 2008 financial crisis.

With Trump in the White House, his friends and allies already had their own system of justice: Trump-loving Dinesh D’Souza (campaign finance violations), Trump-whisperer Roger Stone (witness tampering), Trump’s first national security adviser Michael Flynn (lying to the FBI), Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort (tax fraud) and Trump son-in-law’s father Charles Kushner (tax evasion and witness tampering) are all convicted felons who received pardons from Trump or had their sentences commuted by him. Three of those convictions occurred during Trump’s presidency.

Now this unequal system of justice faces a crossroads. Any decision about prosecuting the former president centers on two conflicting fears: Inaction mocks the nation’s professed ideal that no one sits above the law — and Americans might wonder whether our democracy can survive what amounts to the explicit approval of lawlessness. But prosecuting deposed leaders is the stuff of banana republics.

The fear of the banana republic is hardly an idle one — and here Trump is a central figure, too.

The reckoning

Of course, there’s also an appearance of impropriety when a Democratic elected official investigates Trump, lending a whiff of credence to the notion that politics sway prosecution decisions regardless of which side is doing it. Biden himself, before he was elected (and before Trump committed some of his most egregious misdeeds), said that prosecuting him would be a “very unusual thing and probably not very … good for democracy,” although he also promised to leave any decisions in the hands of the Justice Department. Indicting could trigger violence, spark a cycle of retribution once Republicans take back power, and erode yet another democratic norm.

But the far graver peril in this situation is inaction, a paralyzing refusal to hold Trump criminally liable for his behavior.

Lessons from overseas also paint a bracing picture: Refusing to hold officials accountable for crimes emboldens them. Putting someone above the law is simply unsustainable for any mature democratic system. In the 20th century, Mexico’s long-time ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party refused to prosecute senior officials for corruption, choosing what three political scientists called “stability” in the political system over “accountability” in the legal one, and corruption became endemic. These scholars argue that nations transitioning toward democracy sometimes do better when they don’t prosecute former leaders and instead allow “democracy to take root.”

This is not normal

But the United States claims to be an advanced democracy. The costs of not prosecuting Trump have already been significant — and they’re already grounds for fear. Trump continues to stir up violence; he acts as if he remains untouchable. He praised the anti-public-health trucker convoy that shut down a key bridge linking Detroit to Ontario and has wreaked havoc in Ottawa: “I see they have Trump signs all over the place and I’m proud that they do,” Trump bragged to “Fox & Friends,” before suggesting that the truckers do the same in the United States, an even greater “tinderbox.” Trump’s acolytes take his cue. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) expressed his hope that the truckers would bring their mayhem inside America’s borders, while the Republican National Committee defended the police-beating armed rioters at the Capitol who sought to block Biden’s electoral certification by Congress as engaged in “legitimate political discourse.”

Although Trump has long sanctioned violence among his supporters — calling white supremacists in Charlottesville “fine people”; ordering the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by”; urging a crowd to “march” on the Capitol and “fight like hell” to overturn the allegedly stolen election; tweeting “liberate Michigan” to followers a few months before a plot to kidnap and murder the state’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, was discovered — the failure to prosecute Trump for any crimes he himself commits empowers him to do it louder.

Writing in the Atlantic, David Frum asked: “Will the politics of violence be accepted in the United States — or will it be punished and discredited?” Trump’s supporters are watching. After years of his burn-it-all-down oratory and above-the-law governance, they are emboldened. Like him, they see themselves as answering to an ideology, not to the laws. Like him, they claim to be fighting for freedom, even if their acts intimidate, harm and harass.

Not prosecuting Trump has already signaled to his supporters that accountability is for suckers. “The warning signs of instability that we have identified in other places are the same signs that, over the past decade, I’ve begun to see on our own soil,” political scientist Barbara Walter wrote in “How Civil Wars Start.” The signs include a hollowing out of institutions, “manipulated to serve the interests of some over others.” Trump’s continued ability to manipulate institutions to serve his interests and his supporters’ interests has eroded yet another democratic norm. “I have an Article II, where I have to the right to do whatever I want as president,” Trump told the conservative organization Turning Point USA when he held the office. Until the criminal justice system stops him, he will continue to believe that.

Let history, not partisans, prosecute Trump

Ford’s pardon of Nixon was noble in its intentions: He was trying to unite the country, and he expended political capital to issue it, ultimately losing his 1976 campaign largely as a result. And in fact the pardon never rehabilitated Nixon. Unlike Trump, Nixon left office severely weakened. His approval rating stood at 24 percent; comparatively few Americans were clamoring for him to make a comeback bid in 1976, and most Republican officials had abandoned him. He was never invited to another Republican convention. The “big lie” — that Democrats stole the election from Trump — has far more traction now than any Nixon-was-robbed sentiment had then. But Ford’s pardon still did damage: Nixon never had to face a jury, never had to pay for his crimes. In his post-presidency, he published books, made television appearances and consulted with other presidents.

These days, it’s fashionable to say the system worked after Watergate. But that’s not quite right. The system forced the president to resign his office, but it also protected the disgraced ex-president from criminal punishment. In 1974, Americans viewed the pardon as a blow to the rule of law. It’s not too late to learn from Ford’s mistake.

Matthew Dallek (professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. His book "Birchers: How the John Birch Society Radicalized the American Right," will be published next year).

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More On Russian-Ukraine-NATO Crisis

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Ukraine Updates: Biden agrees ‘in principle’ to summit with Putin if Ukraine is not invaded, Rachel Pannett and Robyn Dixon, Feb. 21, 2022. Ukrainians in U.S. plead for peace as conflict escalates in their homeland.

joe biden resized oPresident Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed “in principle” to meet, U.S. and French officials said — even as troops continue to gather near the Ukraine border, suggesting the window for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis is closing. While Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday there are not yet “concrete plans" for a Russia-U.S. summit, he added that dialogue among ministers would continue and “it is possible if the heads of states consider it expedient. A decision can be made at any moment.”

The summit was proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron during separate calls with Biden and Putin on Sunday. Officials in Paris and Washington said the talks would go ahead only if Moscow doesn’t attack. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement that U.S. officials “are always ready for diplomacy. We are also ready to impose swift and severe consequences should Russia instead choose war. And currently, Russia appears to be continuing preparations for a full-scale assault on Ukraine very soon." Russia didn’t follow through on a promise to withdraw from neighboring ally Belarus following military exercises Sunday and continues to keep some 30,000 troops near that country’s border with Ukraine.

The Kremlin said the two sides agreed on the need for continued dialogue between diplomats and political advisors, through the Normandy antony blinken o newFormat talks — involving France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine — aimed at settling an eight-year conflict involving Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. It said there was also a possibility of contact between the Russian and French foreign ministers. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he spoke with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, about the possible summit, adding, “We welcome this initiative. We believe that every effort aimed at diplomatic solution is worth trying."

As diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis continued and the Kremlin warned of spiking tensions, Putin called an extraordinary meeting of the Russian Security Council Monday.

  • Ukraine rejects Russian claims of intensifying attacks as disinformation
  • Ukraine calls on Europe to sanction Russia now

 

On Saturday in Moscow, President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, left, and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia oversaw a test launch of nuclear-capable hypersonic missiles.

On Saturday in Moscow, President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, left, and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia oversaw a test launch of nuclear-capable hypersonic missiles.

washington post logoWashington Post, Putin may go to war to capture Ukraine. With Belarus, he did it without firing a shot, Robyn Dixon and Mary Ilyushina, Feb. 21, 2022 (print ed.). Russian President Vladimir Putin has dominated Belarus by leveraging political debt owed to him by the country’s president.

Belarus announced Sunday that Russian forces would remain in the country after massive military drills ended, in a move that opposition figures said surrendered the country’s independence to Moscow without a shot being fired.

Exiled opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said it undermined the country’s security and sovereignty, dragging it into a foreign war as an aggressor.

Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin announced that joint drills would continue after the end of massive joint military exercises with Russia on Sunday, citing “the aggravation of the situation” in eastern Ukraine.

The announcement runs contrary to earlier pledges from Minsk officials that Russian troops would go home when the drills ended.

Khrenin said the two countries would “fight back” if necessary, in a move analysts said showed that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s foreign and military policies had been effectively captured by Russia.

ny times logoNew York Times, A War May Hinge on These 2 Separatist Enclaves, Andrew E. Kramer, Updated Feb. 21, 2022. Russian-backed separatists in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions were once largely ignored. They loom much larger now.

For years, the Luhansk People’s Republic and its fellow breakaway Ukrainian enclave, the Donetsk People’s Republic, were largely ignored. They were just two odd little political entities, Stalinist throwbacks with internal politics too esoteric to merit much attention from the outside world.

But now that the biggest war in Europe in decades may hinge on them, it sometimes seems as if Luhansk and Donetsk are all anyone is thinking about.

With Ukraine surrounded by Russian forces, Western governments warn that Moscow may use the two Russian-backed republics as the stage for a “false flag” attack on ethnic Russian civilians — and then cite it as justification when they storm across the border.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. claims Russia has list of Ukrainians ‘to be killed or sent to camps’ following a military occupation, John Hudson and Missy Ryan, Feb. 21, 2022 (print ed.). The United States has informed the United Nations it has credible information showing that Moscow is compiling lists of Ukrainians “to be killed or sent to camps following a military occupation,” according to a letter to the U.N. human rights chief obtained by The Washington Post on Sunday night.

The letter alleges that Moscow’s post-invasion planning would involve torture, forced disappearances and “widespread human suffering.” It does not describe the nature of the intelligence that undergirds its assessment.

Read: U.S. letter to the U.N. alleging Russia is planning human rights abuses in Ukraine

The new warning comes after the Biden administration, amid weeks of speculation about President Vladimir Putin’s intentions in Ukraine, said late last week that the Russian leader had decided to launch an invasion.

Speaking to journalists on a daily call Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied the letter’s claims. “Do you realize that this is an absolute canard, a lie? It is absolute fiction. There is no such list. It’s a fake,” Peskov said.

The letter, written by Bathsheba Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva, said, “I would like to bring to your attention disturbing information recently obtained by the United States that indicates that human rights violations and abuses in the aftermath of a further invasion are being planned.”

“These acts, which in past Russian operations have included targeted killings, kidnappings/forced disappearances, unjust detentions, and the use of torture, would likely target those who oppose Russian actions,” said the letter addressed to Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights.

Crocker says the Russian military’s targets would include Russian and Belarusian dissidents in exile in Ukraine, journalists and anti-corruption activists, and “vulnerable populations such as religious and ethnic minorities and LGBTQI+ persons.”

“Specifically, we have credible information that indicates Russian forces are creating lists of identified Ukrainians to be killed or sent to camps following a military occupation,” the letter said, adding that the Biden administration also had information indicating Russian forces would likely use