April 2022 News, Views

 

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

 

 

April 30

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 U.S. Law, Courts, Security

 

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More On Ukraine War


Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection, Elections Claims

 

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 War

ukraine olena kurilo 52 teacher Russian missile Chuhuiv amazon

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

Washington Post, Evacuations begin from Mariupol plant as shelling in east continues, Rachel Siegel, Andrew Jeong, David L. Stern and Julian Duplain, April 30, 2022. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said there was a high chance of negotiations with Russia breaking down.

Some civilians were finally evacuated from a vast Mariupol steel plant after a cease-fire on Saturday allowed a small group to leave the besieged complex, though Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky discounted much progress on broader negotiations.

  • Officials believe up to 1,000 people have sought refuge at the large Azovstal complex, which has been pummeled for days amid Russian strikes. New satellite images show many buildings in the complex flattened and roofs destroyed.
  • On Saturday, a group of 20 to 25 women and children had been evacuated, according to the deputy commander of a Ukrainian regiment and Russia’s official Tass news agency. But it’s unclear whether hundreds more civilians and soldiers will be able to get out as talks between Russia and Ukraine appeared even more fraught.
  • Vladimir Yermakov, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s head of nuclear nonproliferation, told Tass that a “return to dialogue with the United States on strategic stability will only be possible after finishing the work of the Russian special operation in Ukraine,” using Moscow’s term for its invasion of Ukraine. He described the dialogue as “frozen.”
  • He also accused the U.S. of using the “Kyiv regime as a one-off disposable tool for its own ends against Russia.”
  • American officials, however, don’t see much of a change in the status quo. They have said that they find it difficult to see a clear road ahead to resume diplomatic talks with Russia over a range of issues, especially after the invasion began.
  • On Friday, Pentagon press secretary John F. Kirby told reporters that the United States was comfortable with the strategic nuclear deterrent posture in place. But the administration was closely monitoring Russia’s messaging and actions given the seriousness of the issue.
  • “We urge Russia to stop escalating the rhetoric with respect to nuclear weapons and do the right thing. End the war today. Have your troops leave Ukraine, sit down in good faith with President Zelensky and do the right thing,” Kirby said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Ukraine Updates: Ukraine says Russian assault in Donbas ‘not succeeding,’ Adam Taylor, Amy Cheng and Andrew Jeong, April 30, 2022. Poland sent more than 200 T-72 tanks to Ukraine, report says; Updates from key Ukrainian cities and regions; Ukraine continues striking Russian territory, Russian officials say.

Russian forces failed to take three key areas in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk despite heavy shelling, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said in a daily update Saturday, adding that the Russians were “not succeeding” and that the “fighting continues.” The announcement comes amid Western assessments that despite a new focus on the eastern region of Donbas, Moscow is still struggling amid morale and supply concerns, with the Pentagon describing only “plodding progress” after fierce Ukrainian resistance.

The slow advance gives little sign that the conflict will end soon. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said there was a high chance of negotiations breaking down because of “Moscow’s playbook on murdering people.” Meanwhile, Western governments continue to funnel weapons to Ukrainian forces. More than 12 flights carrying weapons and equipment, including artillery and drones, will make their way from the United States through Friday and Saturday, according to the Pentagon.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday there no need for the international community to establish evacuation corridors out of Mariupol, days after the United Nations said Moscow had agreed “in principle” to allow such assistance. Lavrov also walked back recent comments about nuclear war, telling a Saudi-owned news channel that Russia does not consider itself to be at war with NATO. However, on Saturday, Russian nonproliferation official Vladimir Yermakov said that strategic dialogue with the United States had been formally “frozen” until after the conflict in Ukraine is over.

Here’s what else to know

  • Ukrainian forces continue to strike inside Russia, with Russian news agencies saying on Saturday that shelling had hit an oil terminal in the Bryansk region.
  • The Russian central bank projected that the economy would shrink by 8 to 10 percent this year, as the country grapples with Western sanctions.
  • Cities near the front line, such as Kramatorsk in the eastern region of Donetsk, have been largely abandoned. Officials in Kramatorsk told The Washington Post that the population has fallen from 200,000 to 40,000, with mostly elderly people remaining.
  • The White House said it has urged Indonesia in private and public not to include Russia in November’s Group of 20 summit. Moscow accepted the host nation’s invitation on Friday.
  • The Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel for updates.
  • Washington Post, Evacuations begin from Mariupol plant as shelling in east continues,

    Washington Post, Evacuations begin from Mariupol plant as shelling in east continues, Rachel Siegel, Andrew Jeong, David L. Stern and Julian Duplain, April 30, 2022. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said there was a high chance of negotiations with Russia breaking down.
    Some civilians were finally evacuated from a vast Mariupol steel plant after a cease-fire on Saturday allowed a small group to leave the besieged complex, though Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky discounted much progress on broader negotiations.

    • Officials believe up to 1,000 people have sought refuge at the large Azovstal complex, which has been pummeled for days amid Russian strikes. New satellite images show many buildings in the complex flattened and roofs destroyed.
    • On Saturday, a group of 20 to 25 women and children had been evacuated, according to the deputy commander of a Ukrainian regiment and Russia’s official Tass news agency. But it’s unclear whether hundreds more civilians and soldiers will be able to get out as talks between Russia and Ukraine appeared even more fraught.
    • Vladimir Yermakov, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s head of nuclear nonproliferation, told Tass that a “return to dialogue with the United States on strategic stability will only be possible after finishing the work of the Russian special operation in Ukraine,” using Moscow’s term for its invasion of Ukraine. He described the dialogue as “frozen.”
    • He also accused the U.S. of using the “Kyiv regime as a one-off disposable tool for its own ends against Russia.”
    • American officials, however, don’t see much of a change in the status quo. They have said that they find it difficult to see a clear road ahead to resume diplomatic talks with Russia over a range of issues, especially after the invasion began.
    • On Friday, Pentagon press secretary John F. Kirby told reporters that the United States was comfortable with the strategic nuclear deterrent posture in place. But the administration was closely monitoring Russia’s messaging and actions given the seriousness of the issue.
    • “We urge Russia to stop escalating the rhetoric with respect to nuclear weapons and do the right thing. End the war today. Have your troops leave Ukraine, sit down in good faith with President Zelensky and do the right thing,” Kirby said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Russia Moving More Troops to Front as Offensive Appears to Falter, Marc Santora, April 30, 2022. Russian forces normally based in the far-eastern reaches of the vast nation are being deployed to the main battle front in Ukraine, the Ukrainian military high command said on Saturday, a potential sign of the strain on Moscow’s military as it sustains heavy losses in the face of an increasingly well-armed resistance.

Moscow is trying to gain momentum in what the Pentagon has described as a “plodding” offensive in eastern Ukraine, as more powerful weapons from the West reach Ukrainian forces on the front lines. The Ukrainians did not say how many new troops were being deployed.

The Russian soldiers who are being moved are being deployed first to the Russian city of Belgorod, near the Ukraine border, and then to an area around the northeastern Ukrainian city of Izium, the Ukrainian military said. The Russians have been trying to push south from the strategic city, but have met fierce resistance.

The British military’s defense intelligence agency said on Saturday that in Russia’s attempts to bolster its offensive, it had already “been forced to merge and redeploy depleted and disparate units” defeated in their push to take Kyiv to the eastern front, adding to “weakened morale” in their ranks.

While the Russian advance may be slow, the fighting remains fierce, with each side claiming to have destroyed scores of tanks, armored vehicles and other military hardware in battles and attacks along the eastern front. The continued bombardments of infrastructure are taking their toll. After the Kremenchuk oil refinery, Ukraine’s main fuel producer, was destroyed this week in a Russian airstrike, gas stations across the country started experiencing shortages.

“The occupiers are deliberately destroying the infrastructure for the production, supply and storage of fuel,” President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine told the nation in his nightly address. “Russia has also blocked our ports, so there are no immediate solutions to replenish the deficit.”

In other developments:

  • Russian forces continued to rain destruction on civilians trapped in Mariupol, some of whom were sheltering at the Azovstal steel plant. The city’s mayor warned that people at the plant would be without water and medicine in “a matter of hours.”
  • Family members of a United States citizen confirmed on Friday that he had died fighting alongside Ukrainians. He is believed to be the first American killed in action in the war. Britain’s Foreign Office also confirmed the death of a British national, said to be a former soldier who had been fighting as a volunteer.
  • President Biden wants Congress to expedite visas for Russian scientists eager to leave their country by temporarily suspending the requirement of a sponsoring employer. That would eliminate one of the biggest obstacles for many scientists seeking to come to the United States and accelerate a brain drain already underway in Russia.
  • Russian troops occupying Mariupol have plundered more than 2,000 items from its museums and taken them to the city of Donetsk, the capital of an eastern region controlled by Moscow-backed separatists, the Mariupol City Council said.
  • Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, accused the United States and the European Union of using the war to take on Russia without regard to the cost in civilian lives, according to RIA Novosti, a Russian state news agency. Western allies are supplying Ukraine with arms not to support the country’s sovereignty, but to fight Russia “to the last Ukrainian,” he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Western artillery surging to Ukraine will reshape war, Dan Lamothe, April 30, 2022. The Western artillery flooding into Ukraine will alter the war with Russia, setting off a bloody battle of wits backed by long-range weapons and forcing both sides to grow more nimble if they hope to avoid significant fatalities as fighting intensifies in the east, U.S. officials and military analysts predict.

washington post logoWashington Post, How Putin’s brutal war in Ukraine pushed Finland toward NATO, Emily Rauhala, April 30, 2022. Any day now, Finland and Sweden — European Union countries that remain militarily nonaligned — are expected to apply to join the 30-member alliance. NATO and U.S. officials have said they would be welcomed.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Updates: West’s Resolve to Block Russia Grows Amid Fears of a Protracted War, Marc Santora, April 30, 2022 (print ed.). As the United States and its allies rush to supply weapons to Ukraine, Britain’s military said on Friday it would deploy 8,000 soldiers to Europe to join tens of thousands of troops from NATO countries in exercises meant to deter further Russian aggression.

The British announcement comes a day after President Biden’s request to Congress for $33 billion to bolster Ukraine’s arsenal and economy as fighting across eastern Ukraine yielded more suffering but little movement.

Three foreigners, an American, a Briton and a Dane fighting with the Ukrainian army’s International Legion, have been killed in battle, according to an official in the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense. The official asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the issue.

Bolstered by the ruble’s rebound and the end of panic buying that spurred inflation, Russia’s Central Bank on Friday lowered the key interest rate by three percentage points, to 14 percent.

“With price and financial stability risks no longer on the rise, conditions have allowed for the key rate reduction,” the bank said in a statement.

Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo confirmed that he has invited President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to November's Group of 20 summit in Bali, Indonesia. He also said that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has confirmed he will attend the summit.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Kyiv rocked by missiles as U.N. chief visits, Ellen Francis, Andrew Jeong, Amy Cheng, Julian Mark and Julian Duplain, April 30, 2022 (print ed.). NATO will seek to bolster security for Sweden, Finland as they apply to join; Updates from key Ukrainian cities and regions: More shelling in the east, brazen attack on Kyiv.

Ukraine said five Russian missiles rocked its capital during a visit by U.N. Secretary General António Guterres, who met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Russia, confirming it struck the city, said Friday it had destroyed an arms factory. But Kyiv’s mayor said a residential building was hit, and the U.S.-funded RFE said one of its journalists was killed in the attack.

As NATO warns the war could drag on for years, senior U.S. officials are laying the groundwork for a different global security order. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told U.S. lawmakers the world had changed dramatically and declared support for Finland and Sweden joining NATO, while President Biden asked Congress for an additional $33 billion in aid for Ukraine.

In the battle for eastern Ukraine, Russian forces are making “slow and uneven” advances, hampered by logistical challenges, according to the Pentagon. Moscow has shifted a significant number of troops from Mariupol to other combat zones, the Pentagon also said, while some Ukrainian forces are still holding out in the southern port city under heavy fire.

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Inside the Republican drift away from supporting the NATO alliance, Ashley Parker, Marianna Sotomayor and Isaac Stanley-Becker, April 30, 2022 (print ed.). The isolationist posture of some Republicans is in line with the "America First" ethos of Donald Trump, who has railed against NATO.

In early 2019, several months after President Donald Trump threatened to upend the North Atlantic Treaty Organization during a trip to Brussels for the alliance’s annual summit, House lawmakers passed the NATO Support Act amid overwhelming bipartisan support, with only 22 Republicans voting against the measure.

But this month, when a similar bill in support of NATO during the Russian invasion of Ukraine again faced a vote in the House, the support was far more polarized, with 63 Republicans — more than 30 percent of the party’s conference — voting against it.

The vote underscores the Republican Party’s remarkable drift away from NATO in recent years, as positions once considered part of a libertarian fringe have become doctrine for a growing portion of the party.

The isolationist posture of some Republicans is in line with the “America First” ethos of Trump, the GOP’s de facto leader, who has long railed against NATO. Last week, speaking at a Heritage Foundation event in Florida, Trump implied that as president he had threatened not to defend NATO allies from Russian attacks as a negotiating tactic to pressure them to contribute more money toward the organization’s shared defense.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukrainian attacks bring war home to Russia, fraying civilian nerves, Michael Birnbaum and Mary Ilyushina, April 30, 2022 (print ed.). The Kremlin has sought to minimize discussion of Russian war losses inside Ukraine. But apparent Ukrainian attacks on Russian soil in the past week highlight how the conflict has spilled across the border, unsettling residents of regions near the border and threatening to upend President Vladimir Putin’s effort to insulate his citizens from the fighting he started.

Russian FlagIn the wake of the shellings and strikes, local authorities are sounding alarms — as well as calling for revenge and in some cases evacuations — as they contend with the growing peril.

The attacks, which Ukrainian leaders have neither confirmed nor denied but which one senior adviser winkingly described as “karma” on Wednesday, suggest that Kyiv is increasingly able to reach into Russian territory as the war continues. Empowered by NATO’s military aid, ukraine flagUkrainian troops are hitting infrastructure, military targets and, Russian authorities say, at least some villages. Russian citizens are now waking to the same explosions that Ukrainians have faced for more than two months, making the conflict far more immediate and dangerous.

At least 11 hits appear to have occurred since the fighting began Feb. 24, most of them since late last week. Most seem to have involved shelling or triggered Russian antiaircraft weaponry. A handful were suspicious explosions at Russian military facilities near the border.

They have drawn Russian fury.

ny times logoNew York Times, Officials are rushing resources to Ukraine to help prosecute sex crimes that have occurred during the war, Lara Jakes, April 30, 2022 (print ed.). The rape happened in the hours after midnight on March 14, in a classroom of a school outside Kharkiv, in eastern Ukraine. Two days later, Yulia Gorbunova interviewed the victim and helped persuade her to report the attack, which could ultimately be prosecuted as a war crime committed by invading Russian forces.

Ms. Gorbunova, an investigator with Human Rights Watch, spoke with the victim several more times by phone and later in person to document her trauma and obtain photos of bruises and cuts that the woman said had been inflicted by a Russian soldier who had raped her repeatedly. The victim — mother to a 5-year-old daughter — submitted at least some of the evidence to local authorities in Kharkiv.

But this week, Ms. Gorbunova also brought the attack to the attention of Ukrainian war crimes prosecutors in Kyiv, the capital.

“They were very interested, because they said that it has been difficult to get survivors of sexual violence to come forward,” Ms. Gorbunova said in a telephone interview from Kyiv on Wednesday. She has been documenting human rights abuses in Ukraine since 2014, when Russia began supporting separatists in the eastern part of the country, and was alerted to the rape near Kharkiv by local activists.

She added: “I am not aware of any successful prosecution of cases of rape in the context of armed conflict, specifically in Ukraine.”

In the first two weeks of April, about 400 cases of sexual violence by Russian soldiers were reported to Ukraine’s ombudswoman for human rights, Lyudmyla Denisova. A U.N. mission has received at least 75 allegations of sexual violence against Ukrainians, including children, by Russian troops in Kyiv alone since Feb. 24, the start of Moscow’s invasion.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

 

Donald Trump, shown in a 2020 campaign hat.

ny times logoNew York Times, Likelihood of Trump Indictment in Manhattan Fades as Grand Jury Wraps Up, Ben Protess, Jonah E. Bromwich, William K. Rashbaum and Lananh Nguyen, April 30, 2022 (print ed.). The investigation continues, but new signs have emerged that charges against former President Trump are unlikely to occur in the foreseeable future, if ever.

When some two dozen New Yorkers filed into a Manhattan courthouse this week to finish out their grand jury service, the case against a man who would have been the world’s most prominent criminal defendant was no longer before them.

alvin bragg twitterThat man, Donald J. Trump, was facing potential criminal charges from the grand jury this year over his business practices. But in the weeks since the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, right, stopped presenting evidence to the jurors about Mr. Trump, new signs have emerged that the former president will not be indicted in Manhattan in the foreseeable future — if at all.

At least three of the witnesses once central to the case have either not heard from the district attorney’s office in months, or have not been asked to testify, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

In recent weeks, a prosecutor at the Manhattan district attorney’s office who played a key role in the investigation has stopped focusing on a potential case against Mr. Trump, other people with knowledge of the inquiry said — a move that followed the resignation earlier this year of the two senior prosecutors leading the investigation.

And the remaining prosecutors working on the Trump investigation have abandoned the “war room” they used to prepare for their grand jury presentation early this year, the people said, leaving behind an expansive office suite and conference room on the 15th floor of the district attorney’s office in Lower Manhattan.

Here’s where the various criminal and civil investigations into Donald Trump stand.

The grand jury’s expiration at the end of the month does not preclude prosecutors from impaneling another jury, but the developments underscore the reduced possibility that Mr. Trump will face charges under Mr. Bragg, who along with several other prosecutors had concerns about proving the case. Some people close to the inquiry believe that it will not result in an indictment of the former president unless a witness cooperates unexpectedly — a long shot in an investigation that has been running for more than three years.

In recent weeks, Mr. Bragg’s prosecutors have issued a few additional subpoenas that indicate they are continuing to investigate but have not found a new path to charging Mr. Trump. The previously unreported subpoenas, people with knowledge of the matter said, appear to focus on the same topic that has long been the subject of the investigation: whether Mr. Trump falsely inflated the value of his assets in annual financial statements.

The subpoenas suggest that, rather than pursuing a new theory of the case, Mr. Bragg is looking at additional entities that received Mr. Trump’s financial statements as he sought loans and pursued other business, and that the prosecutors are seeking potential victims of the former president.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Where did all the conservative hand-wringing over judicial restraint go? Ruth Marcus, right, April 30, 2022. Something different is ruth marcus twitter Customgoing on here.

The shift is built on a phenomenon that took off during the Trump administration but has persisted during the Biden presidency: the use of nationwide injunctions — orders issued by a single district court, often strategically chosen for the likelihood of finding a sympathetic judge, that apply beyond the immediate parties in the case to completely block an administration policy.

washington post logoWashington Post, The border wall Trump called unclimbable is taking a grim toll, Nick Miroff, April 30, 2022. The journal JAMA Surgery offers one of the first attempts to measure injuries and deaths resulting from falls along new sections of the wall.

The patients have fallen from new 30-foot segments of President Donald Trump’s border wall, a structure he touted as a “Rolls-Royce” that “can’t be climbed.”

Since 2019, when the barrier’s height was raised to 30 feet along much of the border in California, the number of patients arriving at the UC San Diego Medical Center’s trauma ward after falling off the structure has jumped fivefold, to 375, the physicians found. Falling deaths at the barrier went from zero to 16 during that time, according to the report, citing records maintained by the San Diego county medical examiner.

washington post logoWashington Post, A stolen-mail scheme is targeting a wealthy D.C. suburb, Alisa Tang and Razzan Nakhlawi, April 30, 2022. The theft of checks from U.S. Postal Service mailboxes has spiked across the country, and the D.C. region is a new hot spot, officials and researchers say.

A Post review of Telegram channels dedicated to check fraud found posts advertising thousands of checks for sale across the United States. The payment amounts ranged from $8 to a business check written out in the amount of more than $36,000, while the checks themselves were on offer to potential buyers for upward of $100, topping out at $400 for business checks.

Associated Press via The Hill, Former Idaho lawmaker found guilty of raping intern, Rebecca Boone, April 29, 2022. A former Idaho lawmaker was convicted Friday of raping a 19-year-old legislative intern after a dramatic trial in which the young woman fled the witness stand during testimony, saying “I can’t do this.”

The intern told a Statehouse supervisor that Aaron von Ehlinger raped her at his apartment after the two had dinner at a Boise restaurant in March 2021. Von Ehlinger said the sex was consensual.

republican elephant logoAt the time, the Lewiston Republican was serving as a state representative, but he later resigned.

Von Ehlinger, 39, was found guilty Friday of rape. He was found not guilty of sexual penetration with a foreign object.

Von Ehlinger sat calmly as the verdict was read, as he has throughout the trial.

Afterward, 4th District Judge Michael Reardon told the jury: “This has been an unusual case attended by many unexpected circumstances, but I appreciate your attention … and hard work.”

A felony rape conviction carries a minimum sentence of one year in prison in Idaho. The maximum penalty can be as high as life in prison, at the judge’s discretion. Sentencing has been scheduled for July 28.

As von Ehlinger was remanded into custody and handcuffed, he talked quietly with his attorney who removed items from von Ehlinger’s pockets.

The prosecution remained stoic as they left the courtroom, but once they reached a lower floor they stopped to briefly to congratulate each other on the verdict.

Von Ehlinger’s attorney, Jon Cox, could not be immediately reached for comment after the trial.

The Associated Press generally does not identify people who say they have been sexually assaulted, and has referred to the woman in this case as “Jane Doe” at her request.

In a press conference, Ada County Prosecuting Attorney Jan Bennetts thanked the jury, investigators and the prosecutors who handled the case.

“Last but not least, it took an incredible amount of courage for the victim in this case, Jane Doe, to come forward,” Bennetts said. “I want to acknowledge the courage that she took in coming forward.”

Doe testified on the second day of the trial. She haltingly described the moments the alleged assault began, before abruptly leaving the witness stand.

“He tried to put his fingers between my legs and I closed my knees,” Doe said.

At that, she stood up.

“I can’t do this,” she said, quickly walking out of the courtroom.

The judge gave the prosecuting attorneys 10 minutes to find her to determine if she would return and resume her testimony.

When she did not, the judge told the jurors they had to “strike (Doe’s testimony) from your minds as if it never happened,” because the defense could not cross-examine her.

During the press conference, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Katelyn Farley said the moment Doe left the trial was “heart-wrenching,” but said she and deputy prosecutor Whitney Welsh had prepared for trial knowing that Doe may not be able to testify.

“I think it’s important that she decided to walk in the room, and she also decided to walk out — those were her choices,” Welsh said.

During his testimony Thursday, von Ehlinger often spoke in a clear, loud voice directly to jurors, saying he and Doe decided to return to his apartment to “hang out” after eating at a fancy Boise restaurant. Then they began making out on the couch, he said.

“Things were going well, and I asked (Doe) if she would like to move to the bedroom,” von Ehlinger said. “She said ‘Sure.’ We got up, held hands and walked into the bedroom.”

Deliberations stretched for seven hours until nearly 8 p.m. Thursday before the jury decided to break for the evening. At one point, the judge summoned the attorneys to his chambers because the jury asked a question. No details were made public about the jury’s inquiry.

When the allegations became public — largely because of the legislative ethics investigation — Doe faced unrelenting harassment from some of von Ehlinger’s supporters. Her name, photo and personal details about her life were repeatedly publicized in “doxxing” incidents. One of the people who frequently harassed her was in the courthouse to attend the trial, but law enforcement banned the man from the floor where the case was being heard.

During closing arguments, Farley told jurors that the case was about “power in the wrong hands” used to the “great devastation” of Doe. Von Ehlinger had social, political and physical power over the petite intern, Farley said.

“He used that power to rape and forcibly penetrate her,” Farley said, pointing at von Ehlinger. Doe resisted in several ways, she said, highlighting the testimony of law enforcement investigators and a nurse sexual assault examiner who interviewed Doe after the alleged assault.

 

paul manafort rnc 2016 abc flickrPolitico, Justice Dept suing former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort for almost $3 million over unfiled reports on offshore bank accounts, Josh Gerstein, April 29, 2022 (print ed.). Case signals DOJ sees gaps in pardon Trump granted his ex-adviser (shown about in a 2016 screenshot) in 2020. 

politico CustomThe Justice Department is suing Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chair, for almost $3 million in penalties related to his alleged failure to file reports disclosing more than 20 bank accounts he controlled in foreign countries, including Cyprus, the United Kingdom and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

According to the civil suit filed in federal court in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Thursday, the Treasury Department assessed the penalties against the longtime lobbyist and political consultant in July 2020, exactly five months before then-President Donald Trump pardoned his former adviser on criminal tax, bank fraud, conspiracy and obstruction of justice convictions. That case was pursued by special counsel Robert Mueller, whose probe of alleged Russian influence on Trump’s 2016 campaign was the focus of intense and bitter criticism from Trump.

kathleen kane fileAssociated Press via KYW-FM (Philadelphia), Former state AG Kathleen Kane back in jail for alleged probation violation, Jim Melwert, April 29, 2022. She turned herself in after, according to an affidavit, she had been drinking before a crash in March

A former Pennsylvania attorney general who served jail time for leaking grand jury material and lying about it was taken into custody Friday on an alleged probation violation, more than a month after she was charged with drunken driving, officials said.

Kathleen Kane, 55, is behind bars at Montgomery County Correctional Facility outside Philadelphia, said Kelly Cofrancisco, a county spokesperson. Additional details were not immediately available.

A message was left for her attorney in the drunken driving case.

Once a rising star in Pennsylvania politics, Kane became the first Democrat and the first woman elected as state attorney general.

She resigned as attorney general after being convicted in 2016 of perjury, obstruction and other counts for leaking secret investigative files to embarrass a rival prosecutor.

Kane was sentenced to 10 to 23 months in jail, serving her time at Montgomery County Correctional Facility in the Philadelphia suburbs. She was released in 2019.

She was still on probation when police in Scranton were called to the scene of a two-car crash on March 12 and said they found Kane behind the wheel of an Audi.

Kane told responding officers she was a designated driver, but surveillance video showed Kane herself had been drinking alcohol at a Scranton restaurant shortly before the crash, according to an affidavit.

Kane had watery, bloodshot eyes and slurred her words — police said she had trouble saying the word “designated” — and failed a field sobriety test, the documents said.

Sources tell KYW Newsradio that Kane checked herself into rehabilitation for 30 days. She turned herself in on Friday and was charged with drunken driving and careless driving. A Montgomery County judge subsequently issued a bench warrant for her arrest.

  • Editor's Note: The Wayne Madsen Report has published its on-the-ground reporting that Kane was systematically targeted for seeking to prosecute sexual criminals in high positions.

ny times logoNew York Times, 6 Gun Shops, 11,000 ‘Crime Guns’: A Rare Peek at the Pipeline, Glenn Thrush and Katie Benner, April 29, 2022 (print ed.). In Philadelphia, a report found a handful of dealers selling a huge number of guns used illegally. A House panel is uncovering similar patterns elsewhere.

They look like delis or hardware stores — a corner shop decorated with stuffed Easter bunnies, a nondescript brick building in the shadow of Interstate 95, a storefront so picturesque it was featured in the new M. Night Shyamalan movie.

But they are in fact a dozen or so federally licensed firearms dealers operating in Philadelphia, where they have done brisk business in recent years meeting the demand from legal buyers in one of the nation’s most violent cities. They are also a major source of weapons used illegally, according to a new report that offers a rare glimpse into the link between legal gun sales and criminal activity.

From 2014 to 2020, six small retailers in south and northeast Philadelphia sold more than 11,000 weapons that were later recovered in criminal investigations or confiscated from owners who had obtained them illegally, according to an examination of Pennsylvania firearms tracing data by the gun control group Brady, the most comprehensive analysis of its kind in decades.

The report’s conclusions confirm what law enforcement officials have long known. A small percentage of gun stores — 1.2 percent of the state’s licensed dealers, according to Brady — accounted for 57 percent of firearms that ended up in the hands of criminals through illegal resale or direct purchases by “straw” buyers who turned them over to people barred from owning guns.

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U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

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 ny times logoNew York Times, Abbott Threatens to Declare an ‘Invasion’ as Migrant Numbers Rise in Texas, J. David Goodman and Edgar Sandoval, April 30, 2022. Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, right,Greg Abbott Custom has pursued an expensive and unusual effort to harden the border. But after a year, there is little to show for it.

For the past year, Mr. Abbott has transformed an unceasing flow of migrants over the border into a potent political message, seizing the role of defending the country from unauthorized migration as he runs for a third term in November. His aggressive posture has done little to stem the tide and also exposed him to fierce criticism that he is using his authority to meddle in a policy area that belongs to the federal government. Still, his efforts to tighten border security and harden Texas’s 1,254-mile frontier have helped Mr. Abbott, a Republican, hold off challenges from his right and made the lawyerly governor into a regular on Fox News.

texas mapNow Mr. Abbott is weighing whether to invoke actual war powers to seize much broader state authority on the border. He could do so, advocates inside and outside his administration argue, by officially declaring an “invasion” to comply with a clause in the U.S. Constitution that says states cannot engage in war except when “actually invaded.”

Top lawyers for Mr. Abbott and for the Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, met this month to debate the move, which would put the state in a head-on collision with the federal government by allowing state police to arrest and deport migrants, according to two people familiar with the discussions. Mr. Abbott says he remains open to the approach, but he has expressed concern about unintended consequences.

“If we do use this strategy, it could expose law enforcement in the state of Texas to being prosecuted,” Mr. Abbott said during a recent news conference. But, he added: “Is it something we’re looking into? Yes.”

Already, the governor has mobilized thousands of National Guard troops to sit at border posts, and ordered safety inspections of trucks coming from Mexico, disrupting international trade. He has overseen construction of 20 miles of new border fencing, repurposed certain state prisons to hold migrants charged with trespassing, poured money into border towns for law enforcement and paid for buses to take willing migrants from Texas to Washington, D.C.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House officials weigh income limits for student loan forgiveness, Jeff Stein, April 30, 2022. Senior aides have examined limiting the relief to people who earned less than $125,000 or $150,000 as individual filers for the previous year.

ny times logoNew York Times, Once Soft-Spoken, Ohio Conservatives Embrace the Bombast, Jonathan Weisman and Trip Gabriel, April 30, 2022. The slugfest for the Republican nomination for an open Senate seat has buried the state’s hallmark of good-natured, country-club conservatism.

Republicans running for the seat of Ohio’s retiring senator, Rob Portman, appear determined to bury the soft-spoken country-club bonhomie that was once a hallmark of the party in this state, and replace it with the pugilistic brand of conservatism owned by Donald J. Trump and now amplified by the new band of Buckeye bomb throwers.

The race descended into a brutal slugfest as the leading candidates, the author-turned-venture capitalist J.D. Vance, the former state treasurer Josh Mandel and a self-funded businessman, Mike Gibbons, entered the final weekend before Tuesday’s primaries accusing one another of being insufficiently right-wing or disloyal to the man in Mar-a-Lago.

Ohio used to be known for the quiet conservatism of the state’s celebrated former senator George Voinovich and its current governor, Mike DeWine; for the Merlot-swilling happy-warrior days of the former House speaker John A. Boehner; for the moderation of John Kasich, a two-term governor; and for the free-trade, free-market ideology of Mr. Portman himself.

Instead, affections for such Ohio leaders are now being weaponized — in broadsides from the candidates and advertisements by their allies — as evidence that rivals are paying only lip service to Mr. Trump and his angry populism.

 

madison cawthorn resized hunting amazon

ny times logoNew York Times, Pressure Mounts on Madison Cawthorn as Scandals Pile Up, Jonathan Weisman and Annie Karni, April 30, 2022. The North Carolina representative, once a young star in the conservative firmament, finds himself besieged by accusations.

Besieged by multiplying scandals and salacious accusations, Representative Madison Cawthorn, Republican of North Carolina, is under mounting pressure from both parties to end his short career in Congress.

In rapid succession, Mr. Cawthorn, who entered Congress as a rising star of the party’s far right, has been accused of falsely suggesting that his Republican colleagues routinely throw cocaine-fueled orgies, insider trading and an inappropriate relationship with a male aide. This week, he was detained at an airport, where police said he tried to bring a loaded handgun onto an airplane, the second time he has attempted that.

That came just days after pictures surfaced of him wearing women’s lingerie as part of a cruise ship game, imagery that might not go over well in the conservative stretches of his Western North Carolina district. And last month he was charged with driving with a revoked license for the second time since 2017.

The deluge of revelations and charges have left him on an island even within his own party. A political group supporting Senator Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina, has been pouring money into an ad campaign accusing Mr. Cawthorn of being a fame-seeking liar. The group is supporting the campaign of a more mainstream Republican, State Senator Chuck Edwards, who is running against Mr. Cawthorn. And the far-right, anti-establishment wing of the party now views the first-term congressman with similar skepticism, as someone who is falsely selling himself as a gatekeeper in his state to former President Donald J. Trump.

ny times logoNew York Times, Inside the Flawed Vetting That Led Gov. Kathy Hochul to Brian Benjamin, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Nicholas Fandos and Jeffery C. Mays, April 30, 2022. A 63-page background check revealed two red flags in the New York lieutenant governor’s past but didn’t turn up a subpoena issued to his brian benjamin state senatepolitical campaign.

The first warnings about Brian A. Benjamin, right, came early, just three days after Kathy Hochul learned she would become governor of New York and began a hurried search for her second-in-command.

new york map citiesAt the top of a 63-page vetting report, two flags drew attention to potential legal concerns about Mr. Benjamin’s use of campaign funds, according to three people familiar with the document. Among them were news accounts of dozens of potentially fraudulent contributions steered to Mr. Benjamin’s failed campaign for New York City comptroller.

gretchen whitmer o horizontal CustomWhen Ms. Hochul, right, and her team pressed for answers, Mr. Benjamin, then a state senator from Harlem, suggested he had made innocent mistakes and gave the impression that all outstanding issues were being resolved. But he failed to disclose something far more troubling: Prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney’s office had already served a subpoena to his comptroller campaign, inquiring about the suspicious donations, according to two people familiar with the subpoena.

On Aug. 26, after just a two-week search, Ms. Hochul named Mr. Benjamin as her lieutenant governor. Less than a year later, that decision and the hasty vetting process that led to it have come to haunt Ms. Hochul’s young administration.

 

vicky ward investigates

Vicky Ward Investigates, “Anything Can Happen in New Jersey,” Vicky Ward, author and investigative report, shown above, April 29-30, 2022. A Former State Senator Wonders if Charles Kushner Was Involved in the Sex Scandal that Brought Down Governor Jim McGreevey.

My eye was caught by a Vanity Fair headline a few days ago: “Did Jared Kushner’s Father Set Up Former N.J. Governor Jim McGreevey?”

This was far from the first time I had heard rumors about Charles Kushner being involved in the McGreevey scandal. In fact, in Kushner, Inc., I wrote about the strange synchronicity of the simultaneous downfall of two major figures in Jersey politics:

vicky ward kushner bookIt’s a view held by many close to the case that Charlie would have beaten all the other charges were it not for setting up Billy Schulder with a prostitute. “I think [the sting] put him in prison,” said Alan Hammer. “He gave up the moral high ground. [He] couldn’t stand before a jury and tell them what a good person he is after that.”

But there may have been another reason Charlie did not fight the charges. Within weeks of his arrest on July 13, a one-page document from Chris Christie’s office sputtered out of Charlie’s fax machine.

The facsimile made for astonishing reading, according to one person who saw it. It contained a reference to Charlie’s alleged alias, John Hess, and to claims that Charlie was bisexual. (Benjamin Brafman, Charlie’s criminal attorney at the time, said he had seen everything Christie’s office sent about the case and had no recollection of the fax. He also disputed the allegations. “We carefully investigated these matters fifteen years ago and found zero credible evidence to support them,” Brafman said.)

Such allegations would not be devastating for many people, but for Charlie, at the apex of a closed society predicated on the importance of family and of regenerating the blood line, it would have been a disaster. “The social stigma would be enormous,” said Michael Berenbaum, the Jewish studies scholar, who did not know Charlie and had never heard these allegations. “Culturally, that would be something that at that point in time, in that generation, would be very difficult to accept . . . and with lots of consequences.” …

Six days later, and just over a month after he’d been arrested, Charlie pleaded guilty to eighteen counts of aiding in the preparation of false tax returns, retaliating against a cooperating witness (Esther), and making false statements to the Federal Election Commission.

The byline of the Vanity Fair piece caught my eye: It was an excerpt from Cultivating Justice in the Garden State: My Life in the Colorful World of New Jersey Politics, a new book by longtime New Jersey politician Ray Lesniak, who served in the N.J. State Senate from 1983 to 2018.

I had spoken with Lesniak back when I was reporting my book. After such a long career in Jersey politics, there were few who knew that world—and the complicated dynamics between Kushner, McGreevey, and Chris Christie—better than him.

Now, with the recent news of Jared Kushner’s $2 billion investment by MBS—against the advice of a panel of advisors, no less—and my own work to uncover the reasons behind that decision (see Part One, Part Two, and Part Three), I thought it was the perfect time to ask Lesniak about what he makes of the deal and the current state of the Kushner family legacy.

Here is our conversation, edited and condensed for clarity.....

Recent Headlines

 

World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters

World Crisis Radio, 40 nations meeting at Ramstein AFB to assist Ukraine defense, Webster G. Tarpley, Ph.D., right, April 30, 2022. Over 40 nations webster tarpley 2007meeting monthly at Ramstein AFB to assist Ukraine defense are the world’s alternative to Putin’s cutthroat anarchy; Dictator threatens Blitzkrieg attack on nations sending arms to Ukraine;

Russians fire 5 missiles at downtown Kyiv just minutes after Zelensky’s meeting with UN Secretary General Guterres: was it reckless disregard for his life or a deliberate assassination attempt? The legal basis for expelling Russia from the United Nations emerges-

Possible application of the enemy states clause of the UN Charter against the USSR/Russian Federation as de facto Axis power & ally of Nazi Germany between August 1939 and June 1940;

Twilight of the oligarchs: cynical nihilists run wild on Kremlin media: RT boss Simonyan sees nuclear war as most likely outcome of Russia’s defeat; Solovyov agrees; all claim to be willing to die for mission of Third Rome; Dugin wants Russsian troops in Cuba;

To block threatened Russian moves west of Odessa, EU should sponsor long-awaited unification of Moldova with NATO member Romania, producing a stronger state allied with west and further neutralizing Russian-occupied exclave of Transnistria;

Dems take note: Goal of redistricting is not to prevent gerrymandering, but to stop fascist dictatorship; GOP primary tests of value of Trump’s endorsement start next week!

ny times logoNew York Times, Governments Tighten Grip on Food Supplies, Sending Prices Higher, Ana Swanson, April 30, 2022. Dozens of countries have thrown up trade barriers in the past two months to protect scarce supplies of food and commodities, but experts say the policies will only exacerbate a global food crisis.

Ukraine has limited exports of sunflower oil, wheat, oats and cattle in an attempt to protect its war-torn economy. Russia has banned sales of fertilizer, sugar and grains to other nations.

Indonesia, which produces more than half the world’s palm oil, has halted outgoing shipments. Turkey has stopped exports of butter, beef, lamb, goats, maize and vegetable oils.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has unleashed a new wave of protectionism as governments, desperate to secure food and other commodities for their citizens amid shortages and rising prices, erect new barriers to stop exports at their borders.

The measures are often well intended. But like the panic-buying that stripped grocery store shelves at various moments of the pandemic, the current wave of protectionism will only compound the problems that governments are trying to mitigate, trade experts warn.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘I Lost Everything’: Pakistani Airstrikes Escalate Conflict on Afghan Border, Christina Goldbaum and Safiullah Padshah, April 30, 2022 (print ed.). The airstrikes killed at least 45 people, stoking fears of a violent resurgence of the conflict in eastern Afghanistan, which has become a base for Pakistani militants.

It was nearly 3 a.m. in the mountainous borderlands of eastern Afghanistan when a deafening thud jolted Qudratullah awake. Confused, he staggered to the doorway of his mud brick home, looked outside and froze.

Thick plumes of black smoke and dust filled the air. The front of the modest house where his relatives lived was a pile of rubble. His 3-year-old nephew stood in the yard, sobbing. Behind him, four more children were sprawled across the pale earth, their lifeless frames soaked in blood.

Qudratullah ran toward them, he said. Then another blast struck.

His village, Mandatah, was one of four in eastern Afghanistan hit this month by Pakistani airstrikes, Afghan officials said, killing at least 45 people, including 20 children.

Among them were 27 of Qudratullah’s relatives — an almost incomprehensible loss. Qudratullah, 18, who like many in Afghanistan goes by only one name, lost his 16-year-old wife, who was crushed beneath a pile of rubble in the second airstrike. His older brother, who survived, lost all four of his daughters, all under 11.

The pre-dawn airstrikes in Khost and Kunar Provinces two weeks ago marked a serious escalation of the cross-border conflict in this remote, wild and rocky stretch of Afghanistan, and exacerbated tensions between the two countries that have navigated a delicate relationship since the Taliban seized power last year.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Northern Ireland, Divided Unionists Leave an Opening for Nationalists, Mark Landler, April 30, 2022. But Sinn Fein, which is leading in polls ahead of next week’s elections, hasn’t focused its campaign on unification with Ireland.

ny times logoNew York Times, Boris Becker Sentenced to Two and a Half Years for Hiding Assets in Bankruptcy, Aina J. Khan, April 30, 2022 (print ed.). The former tennis champion was found guilty by a London court on charges related to his 2017 insolvency.

Boris Becker, the six-time Grand Slam tennis champion, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison on Friday in his bankruptcy case, after he was found guilty by a London court of hiding millions of dollars’ worth of assets and loans to avoid paying his debts.

The sentence punctuated a startling fall from grace for Mr. Becker, 54, who parlayed his tennis skill, ebullient personality and business ambitions into a personal fortune before he was found guilty this month at Southwark Crown Court of four charges related to his June 2017 bankruptcy.

In announcing the sentence, the judge told Mr. Becker, who was previously convicted of tax evasion two decades ago, that “while I accept your humiliation as part of the proceedings, there has been no humility,” news agencies reported.

Mr. Becker failed to disclose a property he owned in his home country of Germany, concealed a loan of €825,000 (around $872,000) and assets valued at €426,930.90, and did not disclose shares owned in a gambling tech firm, according to Britain’s Insolvency Service.

 Recent Headlines

 

More on Ukraine War

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukrainian fighters trapped inside the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol are sharing desperate videos to plead for help, Valerie Hopkins, Sarah Kerr and Ainara Tiefenthäler, April 30, 2022 (print ed.). The footage shows a child wearing a makeshift diaper crafted out of tape and plastic bags, asleep in a dank and moldy room. An elderly woman with a bandaged head is seen dressed in a uniform jacket, once worn by steel plant workers, as she shakes uncontrollably. And small children make plaintive requests. “We want to go home,” a girl says. “We want to see the sunshine.”

These scenes are from videos shared online in recent days by the Azov regiment, a unit in the Ukrainian military, which says they were taken in the mazelike bunkers beneath the sprawling Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine. Russian soldiers control the rest of the city, and fighting continues around the plant. The plant has become the last refuge for thousands of trapped Ukrainian fighters and civilians. There is no escape, and little chance of rescue.

The independent journalists who chronicled the siege of Mariupol for Western news media left a month and a half ago because the security risks were too great. The warring parties have stepped in to fill the vacuum of firsthand coverage, sharing content from the ground and, in Azov’s case, pleading for help to their hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.

With almost no cellphone service, electricity or access to the internet, Azov’s videos provide what could be some of the only glimpses into life at the steel plant.

Early Thursday, Azov fighters said Russian forces had bombed a field hospital within the plant, reportedly killing wounded soldiers and burying people in the rubble. Reports of the attack prompted renewed calls from Ukrainian officials and the United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, for a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians.

Supplies within the plant are said to be running extremely low. “It is not a matter of days, it’s a matter of hours,” Mariupol’s mayor, Vadym Boychenko, told a news conference on Friday.

“If Mariupol is hell, Azovstal is worse.”

Russia views capturing the port city as crucial to its aim of securing a land bridge along Ukraine’s south to connect Crimea to the Donbas, and its forces have been shelling the plant relentlessly. The devastation there — city officials have said that tens of thousands of residents have been killed — stands as one of the largest humanitarian crises of the war.

“We are filming these videos to draw attention to the fact that they are at the plant, so that the enemy does not say there are no civilians here,” Capt. Svyatoslav Palamar, the deputy commander of the Azov regiment based at the factory, told The New York Times in a text message.

“So that they can be evacuated.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine’s top human rights official is determined to track war crimes and make sure Russians are held to account, Carlotta Gall, April 30, 2022 (print ed.). When Lyudmyla Denisova became Ukraine’s human rights commissioner four years ago, a job that she thought would round out a career in public service, it rekindled a youthful ambition. “I really wanted to become a prosecutor,” she said.

With no idea of the horrors to come, she could hardly have imagined how well life had prepared her to meet this moment, with a lawyer’s mind, a prosecutor’s zeal, a politician’s skill at communicating and organizing, and personal insight into the workings of Russia.

She has been working in overdrive since Russian troops invaded in February, identifying, documenting and bearing witness to human rights violations. In parallel to the police and prosecutors, she interviews prisoners and traces missing persons, while also mobilizing teams countrywide to coordinate assistance to victims of the war.

“I myself was in Bucha and saw everything with my own eyes,” she said of the suburb of Kyiv where she said 360 unlawful killings had already been recorded. “I saw all these graves myself. It’s scary when you find a size 33 sneaker there” — a child’s size in Ukraine.

On a conference table she spread the papers of her daily report and read out some of the cases that had come to her office in the last 24 hours. They included separate cases of a 45-year-old man and an 11-year-old girl, both suicidal after being sexually assaulted on the street by Russian soldiers and blaming themselves for what happened, she said.

“Even if a person died in the bombing, this is also a war crime,” she said in one of two recent interviews. “The very fact that the Russian Federation invaded and began bombing is already a war crime of aggression.”

She is also tracing reports of sexual violence and gang rape by Russian soldiers, as well as the fate of 400 Ukrainians, including children, who she says were taken against their will to a camp in Penza in central Russia. And she is pushing to bring charges of genocide against Russia’s leaders.

Recent Headlines:

 

Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection, Election Claims

washington post logoWashington Post, Kansas City Proud Boys member pleads guilty in Jan. 6 cooperation deal, Spencer S. Hsu, April 29, 2022 (print ed.). Charged with conspiracy, Louis Colon, 45, pleaded to a lesser felony charge and offered evidence against others.

A member of the Proud Boys pleaded guilty Wednesday and agreed to cooperate with the government, including potentially against five co-defendants mostly from the Kansas City, Mo., area who are charged with conspiring to obstruct Congress’s certification of the 2020 election in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack.

Louis Enrique Colon, 45, of Blue Springs, Mo., pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of obstructing police during a riot, a felony punishable by up to five years. Colon admitted that the group prepared for violence in advance of Jan 6 and discussed using force that day in Washington, according to court filings. He also provided evidence that at least one other member of the group brought firearms.

washington post logoWashington Post, Two officers fought in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Who did wrong? Spencer S. Hsu, April 30, 2022. Retired NYPD officer Thomas Webster, charged with assaulting police, testified that D.C. riot unit officer Noah Rathbun started the fight.

 

brian ulrich

WSAV-TV (Savannah, Georgia), Guyton Man Pleads Guilty to Jan. 6 Charges, Staff Report, April 29, 2022. A Guyton man (shown above) pleaded guilty Friday to charges in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), 44-year-old Brian Ulrich pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding for his actions before, during and after the Capitol breach.

“His and others’ actions disrupted a joint session of the U.S. Congress convened to ascertain and count the electoral votes related to the presidential election,” a statement from the DOJ read.

Officials said in the weeks leading up to the attack, using an app called “Signal,” Ulrich encouraged others in an “Oath Keepers of Georgia” group to join him in Washington.

“I seriously wonder what it would take just to get ever patriot marching around the capital armed? Just to show our government how powerless they are!” he messaged the group in one chat on Dec. 5, 2020.

“If there’s a Civil War then there’s a Civil War,” another one of his messages read.

According to the DOJ, Ulrich purchased items including tactical gear, two-way radio receivers, a recon backpack, a tactical holster, a medical tourniquet and a half skull motorcycle helmet. Officials said he was told by a co-conspirator that firearms would be made available.

On the day of the attack, wearing some of the aforementioned items, Ulrich and others traveled to the Capitol on golf carts. He and others formed a military “stack” formation and marched in a line up the stairs of the east side of the Capitol, entering the building at 3:22 p.m., the DOJ said.

“After officers deployed chemical-irritant spray, Ulrich left the Capitol and gathered with other co-conspirators approximately 100 feet from the building,” the department stated. “In the aftermath of Jan. 6, Ulrich continued to communicate with co-conspirators on Signal, including one message urging them to ‘stay below the radar.'”

Ulrich was arrested on Aug. 9, 2021, in Guyton. He was among 11 defendants indicted on Jan. 12, 2022, on seditious conspiracy and other charges.

The Guyton man is said to be the second member of the far-right Oath Keepers group to plead guilty, following Joshua James of Alabama in early March.

The remaining nine defendants have pleaded not guilty, including the Oath Keepers founder and leader, Stewart Rhodes. Ulrich faces up to 20 years in prison for the seditious conspiracy charge and up to 20 years for obstruction.

 Recent Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Covid deaths no longer overwhelmingly among unvaccinated as toll on elderly grows, Fenit Nirappil and Dan Keating, April 30, 2022 (print ed.). Experts say numbers show importance of boosters — and the risks the most vulnerable still face

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump officials muzzled CDC on church covid guidance, emails confirm, Dan Diamond, April 30, 2022 (print ed.). The documents offer new details about how the White House delivered on the priorities of religious communities that were key to the president’s base.

cdc logo CustomTrump White House officials in May 2020 overrode public health advice urging churches to consider virtual religious services as the coronavirus spread, delivering a messaging change sought by the president’s supporters, according to emails from former top officials released by a House panel on Friday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent its planned public health guidance for religious communities to the White House on May 21, 2020, seeking approval to publish it. The agency had days earlier released reports saying that the virus had killed three and infected dozens at church events in Arkansas and infected 87 percent of attendees at a choir practice in Washington state, and health experts had warned that houses of worship had become hot spots for virus transmission.

But Trump officials wrote that they were frustrated by “problematic” advice the CDC had already posted, such as recommendations that houses of worship consider conducting virtual or drive-in religious services, according to emails released Friday by the House select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated April 30, 2022), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2totals ere and some experts saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 512,981,032, Deaths: 6,259,683
U.S. Cases:     83,037,059, Deaths: 1,020,660
Indian Cases:   43,075,864, Deaths:    523,803
Brazil Cases:    30,433,042, Deaths:   663,484

Related Recent Headlines:

 

Climate, Environment, Green Technology

 

llewellyn king photo logoWhite House Chronicle, Commentary: Dark Clouds on the Horizon for Electric Vehicle Batteries, Llewellyn King, April 30, 2022. The move to renewable energy sources and electrified transportation constitutes a megatrend, a global seismic shift in energy production, storage and consumption.

But there are dark clouds forming, clouds reminiscent of another time.

The United States has handed over the supply chain for this future to offshore suppliers of the critical materials used in the workhorse of the megatrend, the lithium-ion battery. These include lithium from South America and Australia; cobalt, primarily from the Democratic Republic of the Congo; nickel, copper, phosphate and manganese from countries where relations could sour overnight. Nickel from Russia, for example, is off the market because of the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

An additional concern is the role of China in processing these materials, many of which end up in Chinese-made batteries. Australian mines produce just under half of the global lithium supply, but most of that is exported directly to China for processing.

Another concern is that many mines producing critical materials have been bought by the Chinese. The Chinese role in the global supply of essential commodities is ubiquitous. Whether these come from Africa, South America or elsewhere in Asia, China has a presence.

As attendees of a virtual press briefing, which I organized and hosted last month for the United States Energy Association, heard, the relentless growth in demand for the lithium-ion battery has put the supply chain under severe pressure. Lithium-ion batteries owe their huge demand to their light weight. At present, there is no alternative in transportation that offers the portability of these batteries.

But when it comes to utility storage of electricity, where weight is not an impediment, quite a few technologies are in the wings. One, iron flow, is held up only by domestic supply chain issues, according to Eric Dresselhuys, president of ESS Inc., a leading supplier of long-duration energy storage. This technology has additional advantages, because the drawdown time is longer than the two to four hours for a lithium-ion battery. The drawdown is eight to 10 hours, and all the components are sourced domestically, according to Dresselhuys.

Recent Climate Headlines

 

climate change photo

 

Musk Twitter Purchase

ny times logoNew York Times, How Twitter’s Board Went From Fighting Elon Musk to Accepting Him, Lauren Hirsch and Mike Isaac, April 30, 2022. It’s highly unusual to move from a “poison pill” to a $44 billion deal in under two weeks. But Twitter’s board ran out of options.

Twitter’s board had reached the end of the road.

elon musk 2015It was April 24. Ten days earlier, Elon Musk, right, the world’s richest man, had made an unsolicited bid to buy Twitter for $54.20 a share. Alarmed by the out-of-the-blue proposal and uncertain if the offer was for real, the social media company had adopted a “poison pill,” a defensive maneuver to stop Mr. Musk from accumulating more of its shares.

But by that Sunday, Twitter was running out of choices. Mr. Musk had lined up financing for his offer and was needling the company with his tweets. And after hours of discussions and reviewing Twitter’s plans and finances, the questions the 11 board members were wrestling with — could the company be worth more than $54.20 a share? would any other bidder emerge? — were all leading to one dissatisfying answer: No.

Less than 24 hours later, the blockbuster $44 billion deal was announced.

“What I’ll tell you is that based on the analysis and the perception of risk, certainty and value, the board unanimously decided the offer from Elon represented the best value for our shareholders,” Bret Taylor, Twitter’s chairman, told the company’s more than 7,000 employees on Monday in a call that The New York Times listened to.

A central mystery of Mr. Musk’s acquisition of Twitter is how the company’s board went from installing a poison pill to agreeing to sell to him in just 11 days. In most megadeals, the adoption of a poison pill leads to a protracted fight. The tactic is a clear signal that a company intends to battle. Negotiations then drag out. Sometimes buyers walk away.

ny times logoNew York Times, Twitter Isn’t for Quitters, Jeremy W. Peters, April 30, 2022. One thing that unites conservatives and liberals? No matter how loudly they denounce the social media platform, they don’t actually leave it.

It was the moment conservative Twitter tried to cancel itself.

twitter bird CustomMajor social media networks were moving aggressively to crack down on serial spreaders of false and potentially inciting information, as myths about Covid and voter fraud swirled around the 2020 election. Right-wing commentators and activists vowed en masse to delete their dan bonginoaccounts.

They included political figures like the former White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, and popular media personalities like Dan Bongino, right, who made a chest-thumping, expletive-flecked rant urging fans to follow him to the alt-social media universe of platforms — they now include Parler, Rumble, Gettr, Gab and the Trump-branded Truth Social — where he said they would be free from the “tech tyrants” of Twitter, Google and Facebook.

It didn’t take.

Recent Musk / Twitter Headlines

 

More On Media, Entertainment, Religion News

ny times logoNew York Times, How ‘Under the Banner of Heaven’ Took On Murder and the Mormon Church, Austin Considine, April 30, 2022 (print ed.). A new FX mini-series adapts the investigative book by Jon Krakauer. He and the creator, Dustin Lance Black, talked about their efforts to get at the truth.

Dustin Lance Black still gets emotional when he talks about the time he left the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, around three decades ago. It was hard, he said, because he loved the church. But his Mormon father had run off to marry his own first cousin, leaving behind a wife and three children. And when his stepfather became physically violent, local church leaders circled the wagons and told his mother, who was paralyzed from polio, to leave the police out of it.

So he had questions. And eventually, doubts.

He also still recalls when he first read Under the Banner of Heaven (2003), a book of investigative journalism by Jon Krakauer that is now the basis of an FX mini-series on Hulu, which Black created. Black had come out as gay by then and was trying to make it as a young screenwriter. “Banner” shined a clarifying light into corners of church practice and history that had always been hidden to him.

“It felt so true to me and then had all of these layers that I hadn’t yet examined about my childhood faith — my family’s faith still — and how I had grown up in it,” Black, 47, said in a three-way video call earlier this month. “It was formative for me.”

Krakauer, who was also on the call, had just seen the first several episodes of Black’s series, which debuts on Thursday. His knowledge of Black’s script was minimal; he had no official role in the series. He could tell, he said, that the show’s depictions of how church leaders encouraged women to stay in abusive relationships was rooted in experience.

washington post logoWashington Post, As MLB suspends Bauer, a new accuser speaks out, Gus Garcia-Roberts, April 30, 2022 (print ed.). In interviews with The Washington Post, the Columbus woman said she decided to share her story after Bauer denied similar allegations made by two other women and accused them of lying for potential financial gain. The Columbus woman asked not to be named, and The Post typically does not name alleged victims of domestic violence unless they ask to be identified.

Politico Magazine, Why a Legendary Washington Insider Is Dreading the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Michael Schaffer, April 29, 2022. Hint: It’s not Covid.

Juleanna Glover stands at the nexus of social and political Washington. As one of the city’s best-known conveners, she’s been a fixture at events around the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, which during her 33 years working in Washington has evolved from a dinner to a weeklong cavalcade of networking, influence and money-making leavened by the occasional toast to a free press.

But this year, with the annual festivities back to their familiar frenetic pace, amidst a degree of back-to-normal excitement beyond anything in years, Glover is experiencing a distinctly unfamiliar feeling: Dread.

It has nothing to do with the virus or the war in Ukraine or even the superficiality that critics of the dinner have long denounced.

After a career spent bringing together ideologically mixed crowds on behalf of high-profile corporate clients, the Republican staffer turned PR pro worries that Washington is too eager to get back to bipartisan socializing as usual—and, in its excitement at emerging from social lockdown, is ignoring what she sees as the lingering rot at the heart of democracy.

“It’s not still broken,” she says. “It’s more broken.”

“This is the first time this has happened in the post-Trump era, where it really is a moral question before the country,” Glover says of the dinner and the attendant corporate-sponsored parties, where for years reporters and advertisers have mingled with bigwigs from across the political spectrum. “The question is, can Washington normalize? In my brain and body it’s ‘I hope not,’ because if so, then we’re morally benumbed. On a weekend dedicated to freedom of the press, is it okay to raise a glass and toast with a seditionist?”

She’s talking about people who fueled, enabled or profited from a style of politics that destroys the very institutions the dinner is supposed to celebrate. You can’t, after all, undermine the system and then embed yourself in it. And for others to pretend that the dinner is a Big Tent covering all of Washington’s power centers—the falseness of the image rankles.

 Other Recent Media Headlines

 

April 29

Top Headlines

 

ukraine olena kurilo 52 teacher Russian missile Chuhuiv amazon

 

Climate, Environment, Disasters

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

 

More On Ukraine War

 

Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection, Elections Claims

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Musk Twitter Purchase


More On U.S. Media, Education, Sports, Religion

 

Biden Pardons Include JFK Secret Service Pioneer

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters

 

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 War

ukraine olena kurilo 52 teacher Russian missile Chuhuiv amazon

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: West’s Resolve to Block Russia Grows Amid Fears of a Protracted War, Marc Santora, April 29, 2022. As the United States and its allies rush to supply weapons to Ukraine, Britain’s military said on Friday it would deploy 8,000 soldiers to Europe to join tens of thousands of troops from NATO countries in exercises meant to deter further Russian aggression.

The British announcement comes a day after President Biden’s request to Congress for $33 billion to bolster Ukraine’s arsenal and economy as fighting across eastern Ukraine yielded more suffering but little movement.

Three foreigners, an American, a Briton and a Dane fighting with the Ukrainian army’s International Legion, have been killed in battle, according to an official in the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense. The official asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the issue.

Bolstered by the ruble’s rebound and the end of panic buying that spurred inflation, Russia’s Central Bank on Friday lowered the key interest rate by three percentage points, to 14 percent.

“With price and financial stability risks no longer on the rise, conditions have allowed for the key rate reduction,” the bank said in a statement.

Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo confirmed that he has invited President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to November's Group of 20 summit in Bali, Indonesia. He also said that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has confirmed he will attend the summit.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Kyiv rocked by missiles as U.N. chief visits, Ellen Francis, Andrew Jeong, Amy Cheng, Julian Mark and Julian Duplain, April 29, 2022. NATO will seek to bolster security for Sweden, Finland as they apply to join; Updates from key Ukrainian cities and regions: More shelling in the east, brazen attack on Kyiv.

Ukraine said five Russian missiles rocked its capital during a visit by U.N. Secretary General António Guterres, who met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Russia, confirming it struck the city, said Friday it had destroyed an arms factory. But Kyiv’s mayor said a residential building was hit, and the U.S.-funded RFE said one of its journalists was killed in the attack.

As NATO warns the war could drag on for years, senior U.S. officials are laying the groundwork for a different global security order. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told U.S. lawmakers the world had changed dramatically and declared support for Finland and Sweden joining NATO, while President Biden asked Congress for an additional $33 billion in aid for Ukraine.

In the battle for eastern Ukraine, Russian forces are making “slow and uneven” advances, hampered by logistical challenges, according to the Pentagon. Moscow has shifted a significant number of troops from Mariupol to other combat zones, the Pentagon also said, while some Ukrainian forces are still holding out in the southern port city under heavy fire.

Here’s what else to know

  • Two British volunteers were captured by Russian forces as they were trying to help three people leave Ukraine, a U.K.-based nonprofit group said Friday.
  • Britain will send 8,000 troops to join NATO forces across Europe “in one of the largest shared deployments since the Cold War.”
  • Ukraine is boosting its defenses along the border with Transnistria, a pro-Russian breakaway region of Moldova, after recent unexplained explosions there.
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel for updates.

 

nato logo flags name

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside the Republican drift away from supporting the NATO alliance, Ashley Parker, Marianna Sotomayor and Isaac Stanley-Becker, April 29, 2022. The isolationist posture of some Republicans is in line with the "America First" ethos of Donald Trump, who has railed against NATO.

In early 2019, several months after President Donald Trump threatened to upend the North Atlantic Treaty Organization during a trip to Brussels for the alliance’s annual summit, House lawmakers passed the NATO Support Act amid overwhelming bipartisan support, with only 22 Republicans voting against the measure.

But this month, when a similar bill in support of NATO during the Russian invasion of Ukraine again faced a vote in the House, the support was far more polarized, with 63 Republicans — more than 30 percent of the party’s conference — voting against it.

The vote underscores the Republican Party’s remarkable drift away from NATO in recent years, as positions once considered part of a libertarian fringe have become doctrine for a growing portion of the party.

The isolationist posture of some Republicans is in line with the “America First” ethos of Trump, the GOP’s de facto leader, who has long railed against NATO. Last week, speaking at a Heritage Foundation event in Florida, Trump implied that as president he had threatened not to defend NATO allies from Russian attacks as a negotiating tactic to pressure them to contribute more money toward the organization’s shared defense.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukrainian attacks bring war home to Russia, fraying civilian nerves, Michael Birnbaum and Mary Ilyushina, April 29, 2022. The Kremlin has sought to minimize discussion of Russian war losses inside Ukraine. But apparent Ukrainian attacks on Russian soil in the past week highlight how the conflict has spilled across the border, unsettling residents of regions near the border and threatening to upend President Vladimir Putin’s effort to insulate his citizens from the fighting he started.

Russian FlagIn the wake of the shellings and strikes, local authorities are sounding alarms — as well as calling for revenge and in some cases evacuations — as they contend with the growing peril.

The attacks, which Ukrainian leaders have neither confirmed nor denied but which one senior adviser winkingly described as “karma” on Wednesday, suggest that Kyiv is increasingly able to reach into Russian territory as the war continues. Empowered by NATO’s military aid, ukraine flagUkrainian troops are hitting infrastructure, military targets and, Russian authorities say, at least some villages. Russian citizens are now waking to the same explosions that Ukrainians have faced for more than two months, making the conflict far more immediate and dangerous.

At least 11 hits appear to have occurred since the fighting began Feb. 24, most of them since late last week. Most seem to have involved shelling or triggered Russian antiaircraft weaponry. A handful were suspicious explosions at Russian military facilities near the border.

They have drawn Russian fury.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Updates: Biden Asks Congress for $33 Billion More in Aid to Ukraine, Marc Santora, April 29, 2022 (print ed.). Fears of Widening War as Russia Issues New Warnings; President Biden’s request is more than twice the size of a previously approved package, underscoring how the U.S is preparing for a sustained conflict in Ukraine.

Moscow accused Western countries of encouraging Ukraine to attack inside Russian territory with their supplies of weapons. Maria Zakharova, the Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, urged Kyiv and Western capitals to take seriously Russia’s statements “that further calls on Ukraine to strike Russian facilities would definitely lead to a tough response from Russia.”

The German Parliament on Thursday voted to deliver heavy weapons to Ukraine, with most opposition politicians joining in a largely symbolic vote to show unity after the government announced the plan this week. Two parties — the far-right Alternative for Germany and the Left — voted against the decision.

ny times logoNew York Times, Officials are rushing resources to Ukraine to help prosecute sex crimes that have occurred during the war, Lara Jakes, April 29, 2022.  The rape happened in the hours after midnight on March 14, in a classroom of a school outside Kharkiv, in eastern Ukraine. Two days later, Yulia Gorbunova interviewed the victim and helped persuade her to report the attack, which could ultimately be prosecuted as a war crime committed by invading Russian forces.

Ms. Gorbunova, an investigator with Human Rights Watch, spoke with the victim several more times by phone and later in person to document her trauma and obtain photos of bruises and cuts that the woman said had been inflicted by a Russian soldier who had raped her repeatedly. The victim — mother to a 5-year-old daughter — submitted at least some of the evidence to local authorities in Kharkiv.

But this week, Ms. Gorbunova also brought the attack to the attention of Ukrainian war crimes prosecutors in Kyiv, the capital.

“They were very interested, because they said that it has been difficult to get survivors of sexual violence to come forward,” Ms. Gorbunova said in a telephone interview from Kyiv on Wednesday. She has been documenting human rights abuses in Ukraine since 2014, when Russia began supporting separatists in the eastern part of the country, and was alerted to the rape near Kharkiv by local activists.

She added: “I am not aware of any successful prosecution of cases of rape in the context of armed conflict, specifically in Ukraine.”

In the first two weeks of April, about 400 cases of sexual violence by Russian soldiers were reported to Ukraine’s ombudswoman for human rights, Lyudmyla Denisova. A U.N. mission has received at least 75 allegations of sexual violence against Ukrainians, including children, by Russian troops in Kyiv alone since Feb. 24, the start of Moscow’s invasion.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. economy shrinks 1.4 percent in first three months of the year, raising fears of recession, Abha Bhattarai, April 29, 2022 (print ed.). The pullback is a stark reversal from massive growth in 2021. The U.S. economy unexpectedly shrank in the first three months of 2022, as inflation fears, the omicron coronavirus wave and the ongoing war in Ukraine weighed heavily on businesses and families.

The economy contracted at a 1.4 percent annualized rate in the first quarter after more than a year of rapid growth, according to a Bureau of Economic Analysis report released Thursday.

The slowdown — the first since the covid recession ended in April 2020 — marks a reversal from the torrid pace that followed intense fiscal and monetary stimulus in the wake of the pandemic. Last year, for example, the U.S. economy grew by 5.7 percent, the fastest full-year clip since 1984.

While most economists still believe the expansion has plenty of momentum, recession fears have been rising. Deutsche Bank this week doubled down on its message that “a deep recession will be needed” to dampen inflation, which is at 40-year highs.

washington post logoWashington Post, In a milestone, FDA proposes ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, Laurie McGinley, April 29, 2022 (print ed.). The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday proposed banning menthol cigarettes, a landmark action applauded by leading health and civil rights groups that say the industry has a history of aggressively marketing to Black communities and causing severe harm, including higher rates of smoking-related illness and death.

The FDA also proposed prohibiting flavors in cigars, including in small ones called cigarillos that are popular among teenagers.

fda logoThe proposed bans were announced by FDA commissioner Robert M. Califf in an appearance at a congressional subcommittee. He told the panel the agency had determined “that these actions are appropriate for the protection of public health” and would improve the health and “reduce the mortality risk of current smokers of menthol cigarettes or flavored cigars by substantially decreasing their consumption and increasing the likelihood of cessation.”

Assuming a federal ban is finalized, it would be the most aggressive action taken by the FDA against the industry since Congress gave the agency the authority to regulate tobacco products in 2009, said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

“This is a giant step forward” in reducing health disparities caused by smoking, said Carol McGruder, co-chair of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, an advocacy group that has pushed hard for the change. She said she expects the industry to challenge any prohibition in court, potentially resulting in years of delay, and urged states and cities to adopt their own bans.

Manufacturers sold 203.7 billion cigarettes in the United States in 2020, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s annual Cigarette Report. That was the first increase in two decades but sharply lower than the peak in the 1980s, when annual sales exceeded 600 billion cigarettes

 

Climate, Environment, Disasters

 

climate change photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Massive wildfires helped fuel global forest losses in 2021, John Muyskens, Naema Ahmed and Brady Dennis, April 29, 2022 (print ed.).  Fires accounted for more than a third of the world’s tree cover losses last year— the largest share on record. Unprecedented wildfires raged across Russia in 2021, burning vast swaths of forest, sending smoke as far as the North Pole and unleashing astounding amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Logging operations continued. Insect infestations wreaked havoc. The relentless expansion of agriculture, meanwhile, fueled the disappearance of critical tropical forests in Brazil and elsewhere at a rate of 10 soccer fields a minute.

Around the globe, 2021 brought more devastating losses for the world’s forests, according to a satellite-based survey by the University of Maryland and Global Forest Watch. Earth saw more than 97,500 square miles of tree cover vanish last year, an area roughly the size of Oregon.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Amazon, Undone: Brazil is burning down the Amazon so you can eat steak, Terrence McCoy and Júlia Ledur, April 29, 2022 (interactive investigative report). If the Amazon dies, beef will be the killer. And America will be an accomplice.

  • How deforestation is pushing the Amazon toward a tipping point
  • We entered the Amazon to investigate deforestation. A grisly discovery awaited

Recent Climate Headlines

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

 

Donald Trump, shown in a 2020 campaign hat.

ny times logoNew York Times, Likelihood of Trump Indictment in Manhattan Fades as Grand Jury Wraps Up, Ben Protess, Jonah E. Bromwich, William K. Rashbaum and Lananh Nguyen, April 29, 2022. The investigation continues, but new signs have emerged that charges against former President Trump are unlikely to occur in the foreseeable future, if ever.

When some two dozen New Yorkers filed into a Manhattan courthouse this week to finish out their grand jury service, the case against a man who would have been the world’s most prominent criminal defendant was no longer before them.

alvin bragg twitterThat man, Donald J. Trump, was facing potential criminal charges from the grand jury this year over his business practices. But in the weeks since the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, right, stopped presenting evidence to the jurors about Mr. Trump, new signs have emerged that the former president will not be indicted in Manhattan in the foreseeable future — if at all.

At least three of the witnesses once central to the case have either not heard from the district attorney’s office in months, or have not been asked to testify, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

In recent weeks, a prosecutor at the Manhattan district attorney’s office who played a key role in the investigation has stopped focusing on a potential case against Mr. Trump, other people with knowledge of the inquiry said — a move that followed the resignation earlier this year of the two senior prosecutors leading the investigation.

And the remaining prosecutors working on the Trump investigation have abandoned the “war room” they used to prepare for their grand jury presentation early this year, the people said, leaving behind an expansive office suite and conference room on the 15th floor of the district attorney’s office in Lower Manhattan.

Here’s where the various criminal and civil investigations into Donald Trump stand.

The grand jury’s expiration at the end of the month does not preclude prosecutors from impaneling another jury, but the developments underscore the reduced possibility that Mr. Trump will face charges under Mr. Bragg, who along with several other prosecutors had concerns about proving the case. Some people close to the inquiry believe that it will not result in an indictment of the former president unless a witness cooperates unexpectedly — a long shot in an investigation that has been running for more than three years.

In recent weeks, Mr. Bragg’s prosecutors have issued a few additional subpoenas that indicate they are continuing to investigate but have not found a new path to charging Mr. Trump. The previously unreported subpoenas, people with knowledge of the matter said, appear to focus on the same topic that has long been the subject of the investigation: whether Mr. Trump falsely inflated the value of his assets in annual financial statements.

The subpoenas suggest that, rather than pursuing a new theory of the case, Mr. Bragg is looking at additional entities that received Mr. Trump’s financial statements as he sought loans and pursued other business, and that the prosecutors are seeking potential victims of the former president.

 

paul manafort rnc 2016 abc flickrPolitico, Justice Dept suing former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort for almost $3 million over unfiled reports on offshore bank accounts, Josh Gerstein, April 29, 2022 (print ed.). Case signals DOJ sees gaps in pardon Trump granted his ex-adviser (shown about in a 2016 screenshot) in 2020. 

politico CustomThe Justice Department is suing Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chair, for almost $3 million in penalties related to his alleged failure to file reports disclosing more than 20 bank accounts he controlled in foreign countries, including Cyprus, the United Kingdom and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

According to the civil suit filed in federal court in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Thursday, the Treasury Department assessed the penalties against the longtime lobbyist and political consultant in July 2020, exactly five months before then-President Donald Trump pardoned his former adviser on criminal tax, bank fraud, conspiracy and obstruction of justice convictions. That case was pursued by special counsel Robert Mueller, whose probe of alleged Russian influence on Trump’s 2016 campaign was the focus of intense and bitter criticism from Trump.

ny times logoNew York Times, 6 Gun Shops, 11,000 ‘Crime Guns’: A Rare Peek at the Pipeline, Glenn Thrush and Katie Benner, April 29, 2022 (print ed.). In Philadelphia, a report found a handful of dealers selling a huge number of guns used illegally. A House panel is uncovering similar patterns elsewhere.

They look like delis or hardware stores — a corner shop decorated with stuffed Easter bunnies, a nondescript brick building in the shadow of Interstate 95, a storefront so picturesque it was featured in the new M. Night Shyamalan movie.

But they are in fact a dozen or so federally licensed firearms dealers operating in Philadelphia, where they have done brisk business in recent years meeting the demand from legal buyers in one of the nation’s most violent cities. They are also a major source of weapons used illegally, according to a new report that offers a rare glimpse into the link between legal gun sales and criminal activity.

From 2014 to 2020, six small retailers in south and northeast Philadelphia sold more than 11,000 weapons that were later recovered in criminal investigations or confiscated from owners who had obtained them illegally, according to an examination of Pennsylvania firearms tracing data by the gun control group Brady, the most comprehensive analysis of its kind in decades.

The report’s conclusions confirm what law enforcement officials have long known. A small percentage of gun stores — 1.2 percent of the state’s licensed dealers, according to Brady — accounted for 57 percent of firearms that ended up in the hands of criminals through illegal resale or direct purchases by “straw” buyers who turned them over to people barred from owning guns.

Recent Legal Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Political News & Analysis: Trump to rally with Neb. candidate accused of sexual assault, John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro, April 29, 2022. The latest: White House’s Kate Bedingfield tests positive for the coronavirus; On our radar: Migration an expected topic between Biden, Mexican president.

Today, former president Donald Trump is headed to Nebraska, where he is slated to appear at a rally with Republican gubernatorial hopeful Charles Herbster, a longtime political ally who has been accused of sexually assaulting several women. Trump’s appearance with Herbster underscores the risky play Trump is making by trying to be a kingmaker in GOP primaries. Herbster is only one of several Trump-endorsed candidates in close primaries on the ballot next month.

In Washington, President Biden plans a phone call with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Migration, an issue Republicans are trying to elevate in the November midterms, is expected to be high on the agenda. Biden also plans to meet with inspectors general of federal agencies.

 

new york map

Democracy Docket, New York Congressional and State Senate Maps Struck Down by State’s Highest Court, Staff Report, April 27, 2022. Today, the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, struck down the new congressional and state Senate maps.

The court ruled that the New York Legislature did not have constitutional authority to step into the redistricting process after the Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) failed to pass new maps and therefore the two maps are invalid. The court also found that the congressional map was drawn with “impermissible partisan purpose” to favor Democrats.

The maps will now return to the trial court level where the judge, with the assistance of the court-appointed special master, must “adopt constitutional maps with all due haste.”

The maps have gone through a winding appeals process since a lawsuit was filed against them in early February. At the end of March, a trial court judge struck down the state’s newly-enacted congressional and legislative maps after finding that the IRC and New York Legislature did not follow the state constitution’s redistricting process and the congressional map was a partisan gerrymander.

On appeal, a panel of appellate judges disagreed with the trial court judge that the maps were unconstitutionally enacted and therefore invalid. Since the legislative maps were only struck down for this procedural violation, the appellate court reinstated the state Assembly and Senate districts. However, the appellate court agreed with the trial court judge that the congressional map was drawn with partisan intent in violation of the New York Constitution. After this decision, the lawsuit went to the New York Court of Appeals, which issued its order today after oral arguments were held yesterday.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Revolt of the College-Educated Working Class, Noam Scheiber, April 29, 2022 (print ed.). Since the Great Recession, the college-educated have taken more frontline jobs at companies like Starbucks and Amazon. Now they’re helping to unionize them.

ny times logoNew York Times, Political Roundup: A revolt is brewing in Michigan’s G.O.P. after the party endorsed two champions of Trump’s election lies for top state offices, Nick Corasaniti and Neil Vigdor, April 29, 2022 (print ed.). The Republican old guard is protesting the direction of the party after it put forward two champions of Donald Trump’s election falsehoods for attorney general and secretary of state.

For Republican supporters of Donald J. Trump in Michigan, it seemed like a crowning moment: The state party chose two candidates endorsed by the former president, both outspoken preachers of 2020 election falsehoods, as its contenders for the state’s top law enforcement officer and its chief of election administration.

But instead, that move at a convention last weekend — where Republicans officially endorsed Matthew DePerno for attorney general and Kristina Karamo for secretary of state — has ruptured the Michigan Republican Party. After months of strain, it appears to finally be snapping as what remains of the old guard protests the party’s direction.

This week, Tony Daunt, a powerful figure in Michigan politics with close ties to the influential donor network of the DeVos family, resigned from the G.O.P.’s state committee in a blistering letter, calling Mr. Trump “a deranged narcissist.” Major donors to the state party indicated that they would direct their money elsewhere. And one of Mr. Trump’s most loyal defenders in the State Legislature was kicked out of the House Republican caucus.

The repudiation of the election-denying wing of the party by other Republicans in Michigan represents rare public pushback from conservatives against Mr. Trump’s attempts to force candidates across the country to support his claims of a rigged 2020 vote. That stance has become a litmus test for G.O.P. politicians up and down the ballot as Mr. Trump adds to his slate of more than 150 endorsements this election cycle.

Yet some Republicans in Michigan and beyond worry that a singular, backward-looking focus on the 2020 election is a losing message for the party in November.

Daily Mail Online, 'I would like to see a naked body beneath my hands.' GOP Rep Madison Cawthorn is caught on video with male scheduler's hand on his crotch as new ethics complaint claims the congressman gave him thousands of dollars in loans and gifts, Laura Collins, April 28-29, 2022.

  • Footage obtained exclusively by DailyMail.com shows Rep. Madison Cawthorn, 26, in a car with his close aide and staffer Stephen Smith, 23
  • The video is one of several exhibits filed in support of the ethics complaint drafted by political group Fire Madison Cawthorn
  • The complaint calls for an investigation into a slew of behavior that, the group alleges, has put Cawthorn firmly on the wrong side of a host of House Rules
  • Among the many allegations is the claim that Cawthorn provided thousands of dollars in loans and gifts to Smith

republican elephant logoNew video of scandal-ridden GOP Rep Madison Cawthorn having his crotch felt by a close male friend and staff member is at the center of a complaint calling for an investigation into him and filed with the Office of Congressional Ethics today, DailyMail.com can reveal.

The extraordinary footage, obtained exclusively by DailyMail.com and seen here for the first time today, shows Cawthorn, 26, in a car with his close aide and his scheduler Stephen Smith, 23.

Cawthorn sits in the driver's seat apparently filmed by Smith as he adopts an exaggerated accent and says, 'I feel the passion and desire and would like to see a naked body beneath my hands.' The camera then pans back to Smith who says, 'Me too' and then films himself reaching his hand over and into Cawthorn's crotch.

 

vicky ward investigates

Vicky Ward Investigates, “Anything Can Happen in New Jersey,” Vicky Ward, author and investigative report, shown above, April 29, 2022. A Former State Senator Wonders if Charles Kushner Was Involved in the Sex Scandal that Brought Down Governor Jim McGreevey.

My eye was caught by a Vanity Fair headline a few days ago: “Did Jared Kushner’s Father Set Up Former N.J. Governor Jim McGreevey?”

This was far from the first time I had heard rumors about Charles Kushner being involved in the McGreevey scandal. In fact, in Kushner, Inc., I wrote about the strange synchronicity of the simultaneous downfall of two major figures in Jersey politics:

vicky ward kushner bookIt’s a view held by many close to the case that Charlie would have beaten all the other charges were it not for setting up Billy Schulder with a prostitute. “I think [the sting] put him in prison,” said Alan Hammer. “He gave up the moral high ground. [He] couldn’t stand before a jury and tell them what a good person he is after that.”

But there may have been another reason Charlie did not fight the charges. Within weeks of his arrest on July 13, a one-page document from Chris Christie’s office sputtered out of Charlie’s fax machine.

The facsimile made for astonishing reading, according to one person who saw it. It contained a reference to Charlie’s alleged alias, John Hess, and to claims that Charlie was bisexual. (Benjamin Brafman, Charlie’s criminal attorney at the time, said he had seen everything Christie’s office sent about the case and had no recollection of the fax. He also disputed the allegations. “We carefully investigated these matters fifteen years ago and found zero credible evidence to support them,” Brafman said.)

Such allegations would not be devastating for many people, but for Charlie, at the apex of a closed society predicated on the importance of family and of regenerating the blood line, it would have been a disaster. “The social stigma would be enormous,” said Michael Berenbaum, the Jewish studies scholar, who did not know Charlie and had never heard these allegations. “Culturally, that would be something that at that point in time, in that generation, would be very difficult to accept . . . and with lots of consequences.” …

Six days later, and just over a month after he’d been arrested, Charlie pleaded guilty to eighteen counts of aiding in the preparation of false tax returns, retaliating against a cooperating witness (Esther), and making false statements to the Federal Election Commission.

The byline of the Vanity Fair piece caught my eye: It was an excerpt from Cultivating Justice in the Garden State: My Life in the Colorful World of New Jersey Politics, a new book by longtime New Jersey politician Ray Lesniak, who served in the N.J. State Senate from 1983 to 2018.

I had spoken with Lesniak back when I was reporting my book. After such a long career in Jersey politics, there were few who knew that world—and the complicated dynamics between Kushner, McGreevey, and Chris Christie—better than him.

Now, with the recent news of Jared Kushner’s $2 billion investment by MBS—against the advice of a panel of advisors, no less—and my own work to uncover the reasons behind that decision (see Part One, Part Two, and Part Three), I thought it was the perfect time to ask Lesniak about what he makes of the deal and the current state of the Kushner family legacy.

Here is our conversation, edited and condensed for clarity.....

Recent Headlines

 

More on Ukraine War

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine’s top human rights official is determined to track war crimes and make sure Russians are held to account, Carlotta Gall, April 29, 2022. When Lyudmyla Denisova became Ukraine’s human rights commissioner four years ago, a job that she thought would round out a career in public service, it rekindled a youthful ambition. “I really wanted to become a prosecutor,” she said.

With no idea of the horrors to come, she could hardly have imagined how well life had prepared her to meet this moment, with a lawyer’s mind, a prosecutor’s zeal, a politician’s skill at communicating and organizing, and personal insight into the workings of Russia.

She has been working in overdrive since Russian troops invaded in February, identifying, documenting and bearing witness to human rights violations. In parallel to the police and prosecutors, she interviews prisoners and traces missing persons, while also mobilizing teams countrywide to coordinate assistance to victims of the war.

“I myself was in Bucha and saw everything with my own eyes,” she said of the suburb of Kyiv where she said 360 unlawful killings had already been recorded. “I saw all these graves myself. It’s scary when you find a size 33 sneaker there” — a child’s size in Ukraine.

On a conference table she spread the papers of her daily report and read out some of the cases that had come to her office in the last 24 hours. They included separate cases of a 45-year-old man and an 11-year-old girl, both suicidal after being sexually assaulted on the street by Russian soldiers and blaming themselves for what happened, she said.

“Even if a person died in the bombing, this is also a war crime,” she said in one of two recent interviews. “The very fact that the Russian Federation invaded and began bombing is already a war crime of aggression.”

She is also tracing reports of sexual violence and gang rape by Russian soldiers, as well as the fate of 400 Ukrainians, including children, who she says were taken against their will to a camp in Penza in central Russia. And she is pushing to bring charges of genocide against Russia’s leaders.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fears Are Mounting That the War Will Spill Across Borders, David E. Sanger and Steven Erlanger, April 28, 2022 (print ed.). American and European officials say their concern is based in part on a growing conviction that the war will not end any time soon.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Biden wants to send Russian oligarchs’ assets to Ukraine, Ellen Francis, Amy Cheng, Andrew Jeong, Bryan Pietsch, Rachel Pannett, Annabelle Timsit and Jennifer Hassan, April 29, 2022 (print ed.). ‘The war is evil,’ U.N. Secretary General says on visit to war-torn Ukrainian towns; Zelensky: Russia is using gas, trade, as a weapon to provoke crisis.

President Biden will speak Thursday morning about U.S. support for Kyiv — as he seeks new powers to more easily liquidate assets seized from Russian oligarchs and allow the proceeds to help Ukraine. The Biden administration is sending a proposal to Congress, which it said was meant to “enhance” the U.S. government’s ability to “hold the Russian government and Russian oligarchs accountable" for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

As battles rage in Ukraine’s east, from the second-largest city Kharkiv to the Donbas region, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Moscow of weaponizing energy. Moscow’s move to cut gas supply to Poland and Bulgaria has put the European Union on alert for further retaliation from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who warned other nations against interfering in the war.

“The war is evil,” U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said Thursday on a trip to Kyiv for talks with Zelensky, days after meeting Putin at the Kremlin. The U.N. chief has pledged to keep trying to broker evacuations from a final holdout in the city of Mariupol. While the United Nations said Putin agreed “in principle” to allow civilians out, Ukrainian officials say strikes have not let up.

Here’s what else to know

  • The Biden administration will ask Congress on Thursday for a supplemental budget to support Kyiv, while the Pentagon said artillery weapons including howitzers arrived in Ukraine.
  • The European Union said Poland and Bulgaria secured gas from other countries in the bloc, which has made “contingency plans.” Here’s why Russia cut gas to Bulgaria and Poland.
  • The southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, where Russian forces have seized control, will start using the Russian ruble, according to Russian media.
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel for updates.

washington post logoWashington Post, Poland spent decades trying to quit Russian gas. Now it has no choice, Jeanne Whalen, April 28, 2022 (print ed.). The country’s energy guru, Piotr Naimski, has spent years building infrastructure to free Poland from Russian gas. As Moscow cuts imports, his plan faces a dramatic test.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden welcomes Ukrainian refugees, neglects Afghans, critics say, Abigail Hauslohner, April 29, 2022 (print ed.).  Many human rights advocates hail the administration’s response to the exodus triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while others feel deeply frustrated that those left behind in Afghanistan have not received equal attention.

washington post logoWashington Post, In Ukraine, destroyed Russian tanks are the newest roadside attraction, Alex Horton, April 28, 2022 (print ed.). Ukrainians who fled intense fighting around the capital have packed highways to return to their homes after the Russians withdrew to redeploy in the east, creating traffic bottlenecks worsened by checkpoints and destroyed bridges. Adding to the logjam are the newest roadside attractions awaiting the returnees: columns of sliced-open and fire-mangled Russian vehicles, dripping with rain and ringed by the detritus of battles that raged through March.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Russia’s gas cutoff to Poland and Bulgaria should be manageable, analysts said, Stanley Reed, April 28, 2022 (print ed.). Gazprom’s announcement on Tuesday that it would suspend natural gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria is not likely to have a major impact on the overall European gas market, analysts say. But it comes as a warning that further, more serious cutoffs of fuel from Russia could be in the offing as the war in Ukraine grinds on.

  • New York Times, European gas prices skyrocketed after Gazprom’s move.

washington post logoWashington Post, Mystery fires at sensitive facilities compound Russia’s war challenge, Liz Sly, Annabelle Timsit and Rachel Pannett, April 29, 2022 (print ed.). A series of unexplained fires and explosions at strategic locations in Russia, including storage depots, a sensitive defense research site and the country’s largest chemical plant, have raised suspicions that at least some may have been caused by sabotage or Ukrainian attacks.

In the latest incidents on Wednesday, Russian media reported explosions at three storage depots in the Belgorod, Voronezh and Kurzk regions near Ukraine’s eastern border, an area used to supply and reinforce troops engaged in Russia’s battle for control of the Donbas region.

No casualties were reported in the blasts, the reports said. Belgorod’s regional governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, was quoted as saying authorities had extinguished a fire at an ammunition depot after an explosion. He did not specify its cause.

Recent Headlines:

 

Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection, Election Claims

washington post logoWashington Post, Kansas City Proud Boys member pleads guilty in Jan. 6 cooperation deal, Spencer S. Hsu, April 29, 2022 (print ed.). Charged with conspiracy, Louis Colon, 45, pleaded to a lesser felony charge and offered evidence against others.

A member of the Proud Boys pleaded guilty Wednesday and agreed to cooperate with the government, including potentially against five co-defendants mostly from the Kansas City, Mo., area who are charged with conspiring to obstruct Congress’s certification of the 2020 election in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack.

Louis Enrique Colon, 45, of Blue Springs, Mo., pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of obstructing police during a riot, a felony punishable by up to five years. Colon admitted that the group prepared for violence in advance of Jan 6 and discussed using force that day in Washington, according to court filings. He also provided evidence that at least one other member of the group brought firearms.

More than 40 members or associates of the extremist right-wing Proud Boys group have been charged in the rioting at the Capitol, where many are accused of leading some of the earliest and most aggressive actions to break down police barricades, overwhelm officers and break into the building. Colon was charged in one of two of the largest alleged Proud Boys conspiracy cases. He is the first among six co-defendants in his case to plead guilty.

In the other case, Charles Donohoe, 34, of Kernersville, N.C., last month entered a guilty plea and cooperation deal, admitting to conspiring with co-defendants, including longtime Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, to help organize an attack on Congress by supporters of President Donald Trump and to assaulting law enforcement officers. Tarrio has pleaded not guilty, denied wrongdoing and said he was not even in Washington that day.

Proud Boys leader admits plan to storm Capitol and will testify against others

Like Donohoe, Colon provided new glimpses into others’ actions and intentions. In plea papers, Colon admitted driving with three others to Washington — one with two semiautomatic rifles and himself with a handgun, which they did not bring into the city.

“Do we have patriots here willing to take it by force?” one person asked at a meeting the evening of Jan. 5, Colon said in plea papers. Colon was “shocked” but said a co-defendant who brought the rifles, Christopher Kuehne, responded by saying “that he had his guns with him and, in essence, that he was ready to go,” according to plea papers signed by Colon.

Recent Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Covid deaths no longer overwhelmingly among unvaccinated as toll on elderly grows, Fenit Nirappil and Dan Keating, April 29, 2022. Experts say numbers show importance of boosters — and the risks the most vulnerable still face

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump officials muzzled CDC on church covid guidance, emails confirm, Dan Diamond, April 29, 2022. The documents offer new details about how the White House delivered on the priorities of religious communities that were key to the president’s base.

cdc logo CustomTrump White House officials in May 2020 overrode public health advice urging churches to consider virtual religious services as the coronavirus spread, delivering a messaging change sought by the president’s supporters, according to emails from former top officials released by a House panel on Friday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent its planned public health guidance for religious communities to the White House on May 21, 2020, seeking approval to publish it. The agency had days earlier released reports saying that the virus had killed three and infected dozens at church events in Arkansas and infected 87 percent of attendees at a choir practice in Washington state, and health experts had warned that houses of worship had become hot spots for virus transmission.

But Trump officials wrote that they were frustrated by “problematic” advice the CDC had already posted, such as recommendations that houses of worship consider conducting virtual or drive-in religious services, according to emails released Friday by the House select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis.

washington post logoWashington Post, FDA official pledges not to delay vaccines for young kids, expected as soon as June, Laurie McGinley and Carolyn Y. Johnson, Updated April 29, 2022. A top Food and Drug Administration official pledged Friday not to delay the rollout of coronavirus vaccines for the youngest children and said at least one of the two shots under review could become available in June.

The remarks by Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, came in an interview about the agency’s new, but tentative, timeline for handling vaccine issues during the next two months. The FDA announced plans to convene meetings with its outside advisers on June 8, 21 and 22 to consider emergency use authorizations for pediatric coronavirus shots and to hold additional sessions for other pressing vaccine matters.

ny times logoNew York Times, China Sets Economic Stimulus Plan to Offset Covid Lockdowns, Keith Bradsher, April 29, 2022 (print ed.). As new cases crop up in Beijing, China’s leaders are offering nationwide subsidies to businesses, and two large cities are subsidizing consumers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Moderna seeks authorization of coronavirus vaccine for children under 6, Carolyn Y. Johnson, April 29, 2022 (print ed.). The path to a vaccine for young children has been marked by disappointing results, delays and confusing communication.

Vaccine maker Moderna requested emergency use authorization Thursday of its coronavirus vaccine for babies, toddlers and young children — a highly anticipated step toward making shots available to the last group in U.S. society lacking access.

The path to a vaccine for the youngest children has been tortuous, marked by disappointing results, delays and confusing communication — and in the meantime, as many as 75 percent of children have been infected with the virus since the dawn of the pandemic, according to a new study.

Moderna’s announcement will intensify pressure on the Food and Drug Administration to move quickly, as parents, pediatricians and politicians have become increasingly impatient about the lack of vaccines and treatments to protect young children.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated April 29, 2022), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2totals ere and some experts saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 512,315,077, Deaths: 6,256,985
U.S. Cases:     82,954,768, Deaths: 1,020,159
Indian Cases:   43,072,486, Deaths:    523,753
Brazil Cases:   30,418,920, Deaths:    663,289

Related Recent Headlines:

 

Biden Pardons Include JFK Secret Service Pioneer

 

Collage of photos portraying the career and memoir of Abraham Bolden, recruited by President John F. Kennedy from the Illinois State Police force to become the first African-American on a Secret Service presidential protection detail. Bolden's memoir,

Shown above is a collage of photos portraying the career and memoir of Abraham Bolden, recruited by President John F. Kennedy from the Illinois State Police force to become the first African-American on a Secret Service presidential protection detail. Bolden's memoir, "The Echo from Dealey Plaza," documents how he was framed and convicted on corruption charges in a trial with many highly dubious procedures after he sought to describe publicly security flaws in JFK's Secret Service protections. The Justice Integrity Project, among other researchers, has for years described Bolden as victim of a frame-up who deserves a presidential pardon, wihch President Biden announced on April 26, 2022.

Chicago Crusader, Commentary: Biden Pardons Abraham Bolden After Multiple Crusader Articles, Erick Johnson, April 28, 2022. Nearly 60 years after he was framed by racist government officials, Chicago resident Abraham Bolden, who became the nation’s first Black Secret Service agent during the start of the Civil Rights Movement, has been pardoned by President Joe Biden.

The historic announcement from the U.S. Department of Justice April 26 ends a national movement by activist Roosevelt Wilson that included a series of articles by several Crusader journalists who reported on an injustice that went unaddressed for decades.

As he fought to clear his name, Bolden’s son Abraham Bolden, Jr., 61, died in August, 2020. Bolden’s daughter Ahvia Reynolds died two months later at 63. Both had cancer. His only surviving child, Dr. Daaim Shabazz, 59, is a professor at Florida A&M University.

There was concern that Bolden himself might not live to see that happen as he struggled with serious health issues at 86 years.

In May, 2021 the Crusader reported that Bolden gets around in a wheelchair and is totally blind in his left eye. He’s had several eye operations and is a prostate cancer survivor. But despite his struggles, Bolden remained hopeful that he would be pardoned some day. Last January, Wilson held an 86th birthday celebration for Bolden via Zoom.

Now, the real celebrations begin as Bolden rejoices in a moment long overdue. As a pardoned, pioneering American, Bolden no longer has a criminal record.

From his longtime home in Auburn Gresham, Bolden released a statement through his caregiver. “We are grateful and happy that this day has come, but I just wish my children were alive on this occasion.”

Wilson is now working on getting President Biden and Congress to award Bolden the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal for his courage and years of service.

Speaking on WVON hours after the announcement Tuesday, Wilson said Bolden called him the night before President Biden’s announcement to “say something is going to happen in the morning. I don’t know what it is, just be by the phone. I didn’t sleep last night and tossed and turned.”

At 7:35 a.m. Wilson said he got a text message from the U.S. Justice Department, informing him of the pardon.

It was the end of decades of frustration for Wilson, who failed to get five U.S. presidents to pardon Bolden.

Not even the nation’s first Black president, Barack Obama, responded to Wilson’s plea to pardon a man who dedicated his life to protecting President John F. Kennedy.

Over the years Wilson persevered in getting Bolden pardoned even as prominent Black leaders and Black elected officials from the Congressional Black Caucus ignored his pleas for help. Congressman Danny K. Davis pledged to help Wilson get President Biden’s support.

The Crusader documented Wilson’s efforts with a series of articles written by Jayson Coyden Palmer, Erick Johnson and Wilson himself. The most recent article was published in February this year, where Wilson called on South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn to use his political influence as an advisor to President Biden to get Bolden pardoned.

Two months earlier, the Crusader published Wilson’s article, in December 2021. Titled, “When will Abraham Bolden’s Record be Expunged,” the OpEd piece compared Bolden’s situation to that of other prominent Black Americans unjustly treated by the criminal justice system. He noted the injustices of the late Khalil Islam and Muhammad Aziz, 83, who was arrested and imprisoned for 20 years and paroled for 36 years.

Born in East St. Louis, IL, in 1960 Bolden became a member of the United States Secret Service. The next year President John F. Kennedy tapped him as his Secret Service agent whose responsibility was to protect the Commander-in-Chief.

In 1961, he was given a temporary assignment to guard President Kennedy during an event with Mayor Richard J. Daley at Chicago’s McCormick Place. Impressed with his work, President Kennedy on April 28, 1961, invited Bolden to join his White House detail as the first Black to protect the president.

It was the first time in American history that a Black man had been given the job.

It was also at a time when the Civil Rights Movement had yet to gain momentum, after Black votes helped Kennedy into office as the nation’s youngest president.

But on May 12, 1964, Bolden was accused of and charged with attempting to sell a secret government file to Joseph Spagnoli, Jr., in exchange for $50,000. Spagnoli was named as the head of a counterfeiting ring.

Days after his arrest, Bolden called a press conference at his home in Auburn Gresham to publicly accuse the government of trying to frame him.

During a hearing with the Warren Commission investigating the assassination of President Kennedy, Bolden testified that the president’s agents drank heavily before and after tours of his summer home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. Bolden also accused the White House and Secret Service of not doing enough to protect President Kennedy before he was assassinated in Dallas in 1963.

In July, 1964 Bolden’s first trial ended in a hung jury after the only Black female juror refused to find him guilty. Prosecutors tried Bolden again in a second trial the following month. On August 12, 1964, he was found guilty of accepting a bribe and sentenced to six years in prison. He was also fired from the Secret Service that same month.

In 2008, Bolden talked about his experience in his memoir, The Echo From Dealey Plaza: the true story of the first African American on the White House Secret Service detail and his quest for justice after the assassination of JFK.

At his own trial in January 1965, Spagnoli, the man from whom he was accused of soliciting bribes, admitted that federal prosecutors had asked him to lie about the case. Bolden quickly appealed and requested a new trial. He was denied and began serving a six-year sentence in 1966.

Bolden eventually served over three years in prison and was paroled, after which time he served two and a half years of probation.

Today, Bolden is a free man. But 57 years after he was found guilty, the conviction remains on his record. He found a friend in Roosevelt Wilson, a retired educator, who contacted Bolden in 1967 after learning about his case. He has been fighting for Bolden’s pardon ever since.

Recent Related Headlines:

JFK Facts, Commentary: Biden pardons Abraham Bolden, the only Secret Service agent who sought JFK accountability, Jefferson Morley, right, April 27-28, 2022. The jefferson morley newgood news is that President Biden has pardoned Abraham Bolden, the first African-American Secret Service agent, who was falsely convicted on bribery charges in the 1960s.

The bad news is that initial reports emphasize Bolden was persecuted for the color of his skin, which is true enough but not the whole story.

Bolden was silenced because he raised questions about the causes of JFK’s assassination. For doing his job, he was targeted, defamed, and railroaded.

 

joe biden 4 26 2022

Associated Press via ABC News, Biden pardons former Secret Service agent and 2 others, Aamer Madhani, April 26, 2022. President Joe Biden is announcing he ap logohas granted the first three pardons of his term.President Joe Biden has granted the first three pardons of his term, providing clemency to a Kennedy-era Secret Service agent convicted of federal bribery charges that he tried to sell a copy of an agency file and to two people who were convicted on drug-related charges but went on to become pillars in their communities.

The Democratic president also commuted the sentences of 75 others for nonviolent, drug-related convictions. The White House announced the clemencies Tuesday as it launched a series of job training and reentry programs for those in prison or recently released.

 

World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters

washington post logoWashington Post, Turkey’s Erdogan to visit Saudi Arabia as rift over Khashoggi killing eases, Kareem Fahim, April 29, 2022 (print ed.). Turkish President Recep Flag of TurkeyTayyip Erdogan travels to Saudi Arabia on Thursday, in his first visit there since Saudi agents in Istanbul killed and dismembered jamal kahshoggijournalist Jamal Khashoggi, sparking a deep, years-long rift between the two governments.

Erdogan, who called Khashoggi, left, a friend, once led a global charge to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the 2018 murder, accusing the “highest levels” of the Saudi government of responsibility. But the Turkish leader has more recently sought to mend relations with the Saudis as he searches for ways to ease a crippling economic crisis, which was worsened by an unofficial Saudi boycott of Turkish goods.

washington post logoWashington Post, Top Colombian military officials admit to crimes against humanity, Samantha Schmidt, April 29, 2022 (print ed.). A Colombian general and nine other military officials admitted Wednesday to carrying out war crimes and crimes against humanity in one of the darkest moments in the country’s history.

For the first time, they spoke directly to the families of victims as they accepted responsibility for overseeing and in some cases encouraging the killings of at least 120 people falsely labeled as guerrilla fighters to signal that government forces were winning a decades-long war.

“I planned and delivered weapons so that innocent young people with dreams … would be turned over and killed and reported as dead in combat,” all in the name of “operational results,” retired Sgt. Sandro Mauricio Pérez said in an emotional hearing. “They were cold-blooded murders.”

The testimonies in the long-awaited hearing marked the highest-level admissions from military officials implicated in the “false positives” scandal that continues to rock Colombia. It was also the first time that officials have admitted to committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in a tribunal established through a peace agreement, according to judges presiding over Wednesday’s hearing.

washington post logoWashington Post, Italian babies should carry both parents’ family names, top court rules, Bryan Pietsch, April 29, 2022 (print ed.). A top Italian court ruled Wednesday that newborn children should by default carry both parents’ surnames — not just the father’s, as had been the status quo.

The Italian Constitutional Court in Rome said that automatically assigning children just the surnames of their fathers was constitutionally illegitimate.

The court said parents should each have a say in their child’s surname as it constitutes a “fundamental element of personal identity.” Going forward, a child will take both parents’ surnames, with mutual agreement on the order of the names, the court said.

But the child could take only one of the parents’ names, if that is what the parents chose, the court said — which would for the first time make it broadly possible for children to solely carry their mothers’ last names.

The rule should apply to children born to married and unmarried parents, as well as adopted children, the court said.

 Recent Headlines

 

Musk Twitter Purchase

 

From left, Sundar Pichai of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter at House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on March 25, 2021 via YouTube.From left, Sundar Pichai of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter testified remotely in March 2021 to the U.S. Congress (Photos via House Energy and Commerce Committee).

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside Twitter, Fears Musk Will Return Platform to Its Early Troubles, Kate Conger, April 29, 2022 (print ed.). Content moderators warn that Elon Musk doesn’t appear to understand the issues that he and the company will face if he drops its guardrails around speech.

Elon Musk had a plan to buy Twitter and undo its content moderation policies. On Tuesday, just a day after reaching his $44 billion deal to buy the company, Mr. Musk was already at work on his agenda. He tweeted that past moderation decisions by a top Twitter lawyer were “obviously incredibly inappropriate.” Later, he shared a meme mocking the lawyer, sparking a torrent of attacks from other Twitter users.

Mr. Musk’s personal critique was a rough reminder of what faces employees who create and enforce Twitters’s complex contention moderation policies. His vision for the company would take it right back to where it started, employees said, and force Twitter to relive the last decade.

Twitter executives who created the rules said they had once held views about online speech that were similar to Mr. Musk’s. They believed Twitter’s policies should be limited, mimicking local laws. But more than a decade of grappling with violence, harassment and election tampering changed their minds. Now, many executives at Twitter and other social media companies view their content moderation policies as essential safeguards to protect speech.

The question is whether Mr. Musk, too, will change his mind when confronted with the darkest corners of Twitter.

“You have said that you want more ‘free speech’ and less moderation on Twitter. What will this mean in practice?” Twitter employees wrote in an internal list of questions they hoped to ask Mr. Musk, which was seen by The New York Times.

Another question asked: “Some people interpret your arguments in defense of free speech as a desire to open the door back up for harassment. Is that true? And if not, do you have ideas for how to both increase free speech and keep the door closed on harassment?”

Mr. Musk has been unmoved by warnings that his plans are misguided. “The extreme antibody reaction from those who fear free speech says it all,” he tweeted on Tuesday.

He went on to criticize the work of Vijaya Gadde and Jim Baker, two of Twitter’s top lawyers. Ms. Gadde has led Twitter’s policy teams for more than a decade, often handling complicated moderation decisions, including the decision to cut off Donald J. Trump near the end of his term as president. A former general counsel for the F.B.I., Mr. Baker joined Twitter in 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The strange new political rivalry between Truth Social and Twitter, Philip Bump, April 29, 2022 (print ed.). Elon Musk's bid to buy Twitter has created an unexpected race to the right with the former president. Few stories have captivated the country’s attention this week as much as one that would have seemed hard to predict even a month ago: tech billionaire Elon Musk making a successful bid to purchase the social media company Twitter. Nor might many people have predicted what came next, as Musk — presumably on Twitter’s behalf — engaged in an effort to define how he would reshape the platform that included drawing comparisons to former president Donald Trump’s faltering Truth Social.

There wouldn’t seem to be much overlap between 16-year-old Twitter and its hundreds of millions of users and the newborn platform endorsed by Trump. But Musk has repeatedly indicated that his focus for the platform is similar to the one Trump’s allies use in promoting Truth Social: opposition to a specific concept of censorship. The result, at least for now, is that the social media giant appears to be trying to compete with Trump’s tiny start-up for the same pool of attention.

Sign up for How To Read This Chart, a weekly data newsletter from Philip Bump

Some of that is a function of timing. Last week, Truth Social announced that it was migrating to a hosting platform that would expand its capacity for users. Since the social media app formally launched earlier this year, it’s been hobbled by a slow rollout that has left even enthusiastic users unable to participate. By migrating to Rumble’s hosting platform, though, the company will be able to “scale significantly,” it said in a news release — adding “on a new and cancel-culture-free cloud platform.” (By “cloud platform,” the company meant a separate company that operates the servers on which Truth Social’s content will live.)

Recent Musk Headlines

 

More On Media, Entertainment, Religion News

 

npc journalism institute logoNational Press Club Journalism Institute, How it became normal for public officials to attack journalists (Washington Post), Edited by National Press Club Journalism Institute staff: Beth Francesco, Holly Butcher Grant, and Julie Moos, April 28-29, 2022.

■ Media coalition condemns LA County sheriff’s threat to investigate LA Times reporter (RCFP) / California's journalists stand with Alene Tchekmedyian (Media Guild of the West)

■ What Biden will (and won’t) say at the WHCA dinner (POLITICO) / No tests, vaccines required for Hilton WHCA dinner staff (Axios) / ‘Biden felt it was important to attend the dinner to showcase his support for the free press, adding that it stands "in stark contrast to his predecessor, who not only questioned the legitimacy of the press on a nearly daily basis but also never attended the dinner."’ (CNN) / ‘How does this dinner play in Peoria? The press sipping champagne and trading jokes with politicians feels perfectly harmless to Washington’s establishment, but it looks uncomfortably cozy outside the Beltway.’ (Washington Post)

■ ‘An audible gasp’: Quartz, once a high-flying startup, has sold to G/O Media (Nieman Lab) / Quartz will have its fourth owner in 10 years with its sale to G/O media (Poynter) / Quartz tried literally everything in just 10 years (New York) / Read the memo to Quartz staff from CEO and editor-in-chief Zach Seward (Quartz) / Read the memo to G/O staff from CEO Jim Spanfeller (via Ben Mullin)

■ Why this family foundation gives out $100,000 of unrestricted money to select freelance journalists (Poynter)

■ Is she a bully or did she just work for the New York Post? (The Cut) / A top New York Post editor settles her discrimination lawsuit against the tabloid (New York Times)

■ 'She Said': Movie about New York Times’ reporters' Harvey Weinstein exposé revealed at CinemaCon (Deadline)

■ Former ‘GMA’ and ‘World News’ anchor Charlie Gibson returning to ABC News … as a podcast host (Hollywood Reporter)

■ Was Martha Mitchell 'gaslit'? Or 'gaslighted'? Maybe neither (The Washington Post)

Press freedom

■ Indigenous journalists make way for sunshine (Center for Public Integrity)

■ ACLU says Amber Heard’s domestic violence Washington Post op-ed aimed to capitalize on ‘Aquaman’ press (Variety) / How the domestic violence column in the Washington Post that landed Johnny Depp and Amber heard in court was written (Daily Beast)

■ 'Rust' shooting victim's family outraged over set video release, demands police retract it (The Wrap)

Other Recent Media Headlines

 

April 28

Top Headlines

 

Climate, Environment, Disasters

 

Collage of photos portraying the career and memoir of Abraham Bolden, recruited by President John F. Kennedy from the Illinois State Police force to become the first African-American on a Secret Service presidential protection detail. Bolden's memoir,

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

 

More On Ukraine War

 

Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection, Elections Claims

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Musk Twitter Purchase


More On U.S. Media, Education, Sports, Religion

 

Biden Pardons Include JFK Secret Service Pioneer

 

Investigations

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters

 

Top Stories

 

U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.

washington post logoWashington Post, Talk of martial law, Insurrection Act draws notice of Jan. 6 committee, Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey and Tom Hamburger, April 28, 2022 (print ed.). Trump White House discussions about using presidential emergency powers have become an important but little-known part of the panel’s inquiry

Three days before Joe Biden’s inauguration, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene texted White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. She told him that some Republican members of Congress believed the only path for President Donald Trump to change the outcome of the 2020 election and stay in power was for him to declare martial law.

The text from Greene (R-Ga.), revealed this week, brought to the fore the chorus of Republicans who were publicly and privately advocating for Trump to try to use the military and defense apparatus of the U.S. government to strong-arm his way past an electoral defeat. Now, discussions involving the Trump White House about using emergency powers have become an important — but little-known — part of the House Jan. 6 committee’s investigation of the 2021 attack on the Capitol.

The Washington Post's investigation of the Jan. 6 insurrection

In subpoenas, document requests and court filings, the panel has demanded information about any Trump administration plans to use presidential emergency powers to invoke martial law or take other steps to overturn the 2020 election.

Interviews with committee members and a review of the panel’s information requests reveals a focus on emergency powers that were being considered by Trump and his allies in several categories: invoking the Insurrection Act, declaring martial law, using presidential powers to justify seizing assets of voting-machine companies, and using the military to require a rerun of the election.

“Trump’s invocation of these emergency powers would have been unprecedented in all of American history,” said J. Michael Luttig, a conservative lawyer and former appeals court judge.

washington post logoWashington Post, In a milestone, FDA proposes ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, Laurie McGinley, April 28, 2022. The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday proposed banning menthol cigarettes, a landmark action applauded by leading health and civil rights groups that say the industry has a history of aggressively marketing to Black communities and causing severe harm, including higher rates of smoking-related illness and death.

The FDA also proposed prohibiting flavors in cigars, including in small ones called cigarillos that are popular among teenagers.

fda logoThe proposed bans were announced by FDA commissioner Robert M. Califf in an appearance at a congressional subcommittee. He told the panel the agency had determined “that these actions are appropriate for the protection of public health” and would improve the health and “reduce the mortality risk of current smokers of menthol cigarettes or flavored cigars by substantially decreasing their consumption and increasing the likelihood of cessation.”

Assuming a federal ban is finalized, it would be the most aggressive action taken by the FDA against the industry since Congress gave the agency the authority to regulate tobacco products in 2009, said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

“This is a giant step forward” in reducing health disparities caused by smoking, said Carol McGruder, co-chair of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, an advocacy group that has pushed hard for the change. She said she expects the industry to challenge any prohibition in court, potentially resulting in years of delay, and urged states and cities to adopt their own bans.

Manufacturers sold 203.7 billion cigarettes in the United States in 2020, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s annual Cigarette Report. That was the first increase in two decades but sharply lower than the peak in the 1980s, when annual sales exceeded 600 billion cigarettes

 War

ukraine olena kurilo 52 teacher Russian missile Chuhuiv amazon

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Biden Asks Congress for $33 Billion More in Aid to Ukraine, Marc Santora, April 28, 2022. Fears of Widening War as Russia Issues New Warnings; President Biden’s request is more than twice the size of a previously approved package, underscoring how the U.S is preparing for a sustained conflict in Ukraine.

Moscow accused Western countries of encouraging Ukraine to attack inside Russian territory with their supplies of weapons. Maria Zakharova, the Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, urged Kyiv and Western capitals to take seriously Russia’s statements “that further calls on Ukraine to strike Russian facilities would definitely lead to a tough response from Russia.”

The German Parliament on Thursday voted to deliver heavy weapons to Ukraine, with most opposition politicians joining in a largely symbolic vote to show unity after the government announced the plan this week. Two parties — the far-right Alternative for Germany and the Left — voted against the decision.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fears Are Mounting That the War Will Spill Across Borders, David E. Sanger and Steven Erlanger, April 28, 2022 (print ed.). American and European officials say their concern is based in part on a growing conviction that the war will not end any time soon.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Biden wants to send Russian oligarchs’ assets to Ukraine, Ellen Francis, Amy Cheng, Andrew Jeong, Bryan Pietsch, Rachel Pannett, Annabelle Timsit and Jennifer Hassan, April 28, 2022. ‘The war is evil,’ U.N. Secretary General says on visit to war-torn Ukrainian towns; Zelensky: Russia is using gas, trade, as a weapon to provoke crisis.

President Biden will speak Thursday morning about U.S. support for Kyiv — as he seeks new powers to more easily liquidate assets seized from Russian oligarchs and allow the proceeds to help Ukraine. The Biden administration is sending a proposal to Congress, which it said was meant to “enhance” the U.S. government’s ability to “hold the Russian government and Russian oligarchs accountable" for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

As battles rage in Ukraine’s east, from the second-largest city Kharkiv to the Donbas region, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Moscow of weaponizing energy. Moscow’s move to cut gas supply to Poland and Bulgaria has put the European Union on alert for further retaliation from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who warned other nations against interfering in the war.

“The war is evil,” U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said Thursday on a trip to Kyiv for talks with Zelensky, days after meeting Putin at the Kremlin. The U.N. chief has pledged to keep trying to broker evacuations from a final holdout in the city of Mariupol. While the United Nations said Putin agreed “in principle” to allow civilians out, Ukrainian officials say strikes have not let up.

Here’s what else to know

  • The Biden administration will ask Congress on Thursday for a supplemental budget to support Kyiv, while the Pentagon said artillery weapons including howitzers arrived in Ukraine.
  • The European Union said Poland and Bulgaria secured gas from other countries in the bloc, which has made “contingency plans.” Here’s why Russia cut gas to Bulgaria and Poland.
  • The southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, where Russian forces have seized control, will start using the Russian ruble, according to Russian media.
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel for updates.

washington post logoWashington Post, Poland spent decades trying to quit Russian gas. Now it has no choice, Jeanne Whalen, April 28, 2022 (print ed.). The country’s energy guru, Piotr Naimski, has spent years building infrastructure to free Poland from Russian gas. As Moscow cuts imports, his plan faces a dramatic test.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden welcomes Ukrainian refugees, neglects Afghans, critics say, Abigail Hauslohner, April 28, 2022. Many human rights advocates hail the administration’s response to the exodus triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while others feel deeply frustrated that those left behind in Afghanistan have not received equal attention.

washington post logoWashington Post, In Ukraine, destroyed Russian tanks are the newest roadside attraction, Alex Horton, April 28, 2022 (print ed.). Ukrainians who fled intense fighting around the capital have packed highways to return to their homes after the Russians withdrew to redeploy in the east, creating traffic bottlenecks worsened by checkpoints and destroyed bridges. Adding to the logjam are the newest roadside attractions awaiting the returnees: columns of sliced-open and fire-mangled Russian vehicles, dripping with rain and ringed by the detritus of battles that raged through March.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. economy shrinks 1.4 percent in first three months of the year, raising fears of recession, Abha Bhattarai, April 28, 2022. The pullback is a stark reversal from massive growth in 2021. The U.S. economy unexpectedly shrank in the first three months of 2022, as inflation fears, the omicron coronavirus wave and the ongoing war in Ukraine weighed heavily on businesses and families.

The economy contracted at a 1.4 percent annualized rate in the first quarter after more than a year of rapid growth, according to a Bureau of Economic Analysis report released Thursday.

The slowdown — the first since the covid recession ended in April 2020 — marks a reversal from the torrid pace that followed intense fiscal and monetary stimulus in the wake of the pandemic. Last year, for example, the U.S. economy grew by 5.7 percent, the fastest full-year clip since 1984.

While most economists still believe the expansion has plenty of momentum, recession fears have been rising. Deutsche Bank this week doubled down on its message that “a deep recession will be needed” to dampen inflation, which is at 40-year highs.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Russia’s gas cutoff to Poland and Bulgaria should be manageable, analysts said, Stanley Reed, April 28, 2022 (print ed.). Gazprom’s announcement on Tuesday that it would suspend natural gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria is not likely to have a major impact on the overall European gas market, analysts say. But it comes as a warning that further, more serious cutoffs of fuel from Russia could be in the offing as the war in Ukraine grinds on.

  • New York Times, European gas prices skyrocketed after Gazprom’s move.

 

Climate, Environment, Disasters

 

climate change photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Massive wildfires helped fuel global forest losses in 2021, John Muyskens, Naema Ahmed and Brady Dennis, April 28, 2022.  Fires accounted for more than a third of the world’s tree cover losses last year— the largest share on record. Unprecedented wildfires raged across Russia in 2021, burning vast swaths of forest, sending smoke as far as the North Pole and unleashing astounding amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Logging operations continued. Insect infestations wreaked havoc. The relentless expansion of agriculture, meanwhile, fueled the disappearance of critical tropical forests in Brazil and elsewhere at a rate of 10 soccer fields a minute.

Around the globe, 2021 brought more devastating losses for the world’s forests, according to a satellite-based survey by the University of Maryland and Global Forest Watch. Earth saw more than 97,500 square miles of tree cover vanish last year, an area roughly the size of Oregon.

washington post logoWashington Post, California declares historic water emergency measures amid drought, Kasha Patel and Jason Samenow, April 28, 2022 (print ed.). The move restricts outdoor watering to one day a week for about 6 million people.

washington post logoWashington Post, La Niña could enter rare third straight year. Here’s what that means, Matthew Cappucci, April 28, 2022 (print ed.). Its presence could boost spring tornadoes and portends yet another bad Atlantic hurricane season.

Meteorologists are monitoring the potential for a “triple-dip La Niña,” an unusual resurgence of cooler-than-normal sea surface temperatures in the eastern tropical Pacific. While such a phenomenon might seem remote, La Niña plays an enormous role in our weather stateside.

In addition to helping juice up tornado season in the spring, La Niña has been known to supercharge Atlantic hurricane season when it sticks around into the summer and fall.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

ny times logoNew York Times, The Minneapolis Police Department routinely engages in racially discriminatory policing, an investigation found, Shaila Dewan, April 28, 2022 (print ed.). Minnesota’s Department of Human Rights found instances of shockingly racist and misogynistic language, as well as patterns of discrimination in arrests and use of force.

The Minneapolis Police Department routinely engages in several forms of racially discriminatory policing, fails to hold officers accountable for misconduct and has used fake social media accounts to target Black people and organizations, according to a damning investigation released on Wednesday by the state’s Department of Human Rights.

The department has a “culture that is averse to oversight and accountability,” and city and department leaders have failed to act with “the necessary urgency, coordination and intentionality required” to correct its extensive problems, the investigation concluded.

The Minneapolis police have been under intense scrutiny since cellphone cameras captured the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by a police officer during an arrest on May 25, 2020. The state’s human rights investigation began about a week later. The department is also under a similar investigation by the federal Justice Department.

Both investigations could result in consent decrees, agreements that are overseen by monitors and enforced by the courts. Such agreements generally include a long list of required changes, benchmarks and timelines. The state human rights department is seeking public comment on what such a consent decree should include.

paul manafort rnc 2016 abc flickrPolitico, Justice Dept suing former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort for almost $3 million over unfiled reports on offshore bank accounts, Josh Gerstein, April 28, 2022. Case signals DOJ sees gaps in pardon Trump granted his ex-adviser (shown about in a 2016 screenshot) in 2020. 

politico CustomThe Justice Department is suing Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chair, for almost $3 million in penalties related to his alleged failure to file reports disclosing more than 20 bank accounts he controlled in foreign countries, including Cyprus, the United Kingdom and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

According to the civil suit filed in federal court in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Thursday, the Treasury Department assessed the penalties against the longtime lobbyist and political consultant in July 2020, exactly five months before then-President Donald Trump pardoned his former adviser on criminal tax, bank fraud, conspiracy and obstruction of justice convictions. That case was pursued by special counsel Robert Mueller, whose probe of alleged Russian influence on Trump’s 2016 campaign was the focus of intense and bitter criticism from Trump.

ny times logoNew York Times, 6 Gun Shops, 11,000 ‘Crime Guns’: A Rare Peek at the Pipeline, Glenn Thrush and Katie Benner, April 28, 2022. In Philadelphia, a report found a handful of dealers selling a huge number of guns used illegally. A House panel is uncovering similar patterns elsewhere.

They look like delis or hardware stores — a corner shop decorated with stuffed Easter bunnies, a nondescript brick building in the shadow of Interstate 95, a storefront so picturesque it was featured in the new M. Night Shyamalan movie.

But they are in fact a dozen or so federally licensed firearms dealers operating in Philadelphia, where they have done brisk business in recent years meeting the demand from legal buyers in one of the nation’s most violent cities. They are also a major source of weapons used illegally, according to a new report that offers a rare glimpse into the link between legal gun sales and criminal activity.

From 2014 to 2020, six small retailers in south and northeast Philadelphia sold more than 11,000 weapons that were later recovered in criminal investigations or confiscated from owners who had obtained them illegally, according to an examination of Pennsylvania firearms tracing data by the gun control group Brady, the most comprehensive analysis of its kind in decades.

The report’s conclusions confirm what law enforcement officials have long known. A small percentage of gun stores — 1.2 percent of the state’s licensed dealers, according to Brady — accounted for 57 percent of firearms that ended up in the hands of criminals through illegal resale or direct purchases by “straw” buyers who turned them over to people barred from owning guns.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ex-U.S. Ambassador to Plead Guilty to Illegal Lobbying and Hiding Gifts, Edward Wong, April 28, 2022 (print ed.). Richard Olson lobbied for the government of Qatar soon after retiring and took gifts from a businessman while serving as ambassador to Pakistan, according to prosecutors.

Richard G. Olson, a retired diplomat who recently served as ambassador to Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates, said he would plead guilty to charges of illegally lobbying for the government of Qatar and failure to disclose gifts he received while he was an ambassador, according to court documents.

Mr. Olson, who worked as a Foreign Service officer for 34 years, was U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2015 until 2016, when he retired. In that role, he reported directly to Secretary of State John Kerry. From 2012 to 2015, he was the ambassador to Pakistan. His first tour as an ambassador was in the United Arab Emirates, from 2008 to 2011.

The Justice Department said in a filing that Mr. Olson had avoided disclosing in required ethics documents that he had received a first-class airplane ticket from New Mexico to London valued at more than $18,000 and a stay in a luxury hotel in London in January 2015.

The payments were made by a Pakistani American businessman whose name was not revealed in the documents. In London, the ambassador met with a businessman from Bahrain, who soon offered him a one-year contract with a salary of $300,000 that would start after he left the State Department.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate quizzes Biden’s judicial picks, including J. Michelle Childs, Ann E. Marimow, April 28, 2022 (print ed.). In his first year, President Biden installed the highest number of federal judges in four decades, choosing nominees from diverse racial, gender and professional backgrounds.

President Biden’s pick for the influential federal appeals court in Washington, J. Michelle Childs, received a rare bipartisan reception from the Senate Judiciary Committee considering her nomination Wednesday as the White House announced a fresh batch of judicial nominees.

Sen. Lindsay O. Graham (R-S.C.) and House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) had both pressed Biden to choose Childs, a District Court judge from their home state, to become the first Black woman on the Supreme Court.

When Biden instead picked D.C. Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to succeed retiring Justice Stephen G. Breyer, Graham did not hide his displeasure. He was one of the most aggressive questioners of Jackson during her contentious confirmation hearings in March, and voted against her elevation to the high court.

Graham struck a warmer, gentler tone Wednesday when he expressed support for Childs despite their different legal philosophies. Graham said Childs would be a “role model for women out there to show people what’s possible” and said the public should be encouraged that lawmakers from different political parties “can rally around an accomplished woman who has worn the robe well.”

In his first year, Biden installed the highest number of federal judges in four decades, choosing nominees from diverse racial, gender and professional backgrounds. With new judicial picks announced Wednesday, Biden has now nominated 95 judges, including 24 for appeals courts and 68 for District Courts.

Biden has installed a significant number of judges from diverse backgrounds — now comes the hard part

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), one of only three Black senators, remarked on the diversity in the Senate hearing room Wednesday for the nominations of five women of color, noting that Biden has chosen more Black women than any other president for openings on the federal appeals courts, which are often steppingstones to the Supreme Court.

Biden and the Democrats are playing catch-up to President Donald Trump, who pushed through a record number of more than 230 judges, including three Supreme Court justices, during his four years in office. While 74 percent of Biden’s nominees have been women and nearly 30 percent African American, Trump’s nominees were overwhelmingly White and male.

washington post logoWashington Post, Man arrested in 2016 killing of Texas attorney who was set on fire, Jaclyn Peiser, April 28, 2022. By the time the firetrucks arrived at the home of a prominent Dallas attorney in May 2016, the garage was overwhelmed with thick black smoke as flames tore through the enclosed space. Ira Tobolowsky was missing, his wife told the firefighters.

First responders fought the blaze as they searched for the 68-year-old man. Then they found him — dead on the ground beside his car, his body burned after having been doused with gasoline. The medical examiner later ruled his death a homicide from thermal burns, smoke inhalation and blunt force trauma.

From the very start, Tobolowsky’s family pointed to a man who had been embroiled in a heated lawsuit with the attorney: Steven Aubrey. Almost six years passed with no arrests.

That changed Wednesday, when Aubrey, 61, was charged with capital murder in Tobolowsky’s death — a serious offense in Texas that is eligible for the death penalty. He was arrested in Broward County, Fla., jail records show, and is being held on a $2 million bond. It is unclear whether Aubrey has an attorney.

washington post logoWashington Post, A man left prison after three decades. Now, he might be sent back, Brittany Shammas, April 28, 2022 (print ed.). Crosley Green may return to prison in Florida because a court says his sentence for a murder conviction should not have been thrown out.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sheriff says drug bust led him to a startling suspect: His daughter, Lindsey Bever, April 28, 2022 (print ed.). Kristen Kent, 38, was arrested by her father on meth trafficking and other charges, arrest records show.

Recent Legal Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

 

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Democracy Docket, New York Congressional and State Senate Maps Struck Down by State’s Highest Court, Staff Report, April 27, 2022. Today, the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, struck down the new congressional and state Senate maps.

The court ruled that the New York Legislature did not have constitutional authority to step into the redistricting process after the Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) failed to pass new maps and therefore the two maps are invalid. The court also found that the congressional map was drawn with “impermissible partisan purpose” to favor Democrats.

The maps will now return to the trial court level where the judge, with the assistance of the court-appointed special master, must “adopt constitutional maps with all due haste.”

The maps have gone through a winding appeals process since a lawsuit was filed against them in early February. At the end of March, a trial court judge struck down the state’s newly-enacted congressional and legislative maps after finding that the IRC and New York Legislature did not follow the state constitution’s redistricting process and the congressional map was a partisan gerrymander.

On appeal, a panel of appellate judges disagreed with the trial court judge that the maps were unconstitutionally enacted and therefore invalid. Since the legislative maps were only struck down for this procedural violation, the appellate court reinstated the state Assembly and Senate districts. However, the appellate court agreed with the trial court judge that the congressional map was drawn with partisan intent in violation of the New York Constitution. After this decision, the lawsuit went to the New York Court of Appeals, which issued its order today after oral arguments were held yesterday.

 

royce white youtube

washington post logoWashington Post, How a former NBA player and activist became a far-right media darling, David Gardner, April 28, 2022. On the last Saturday in March, Royce White, above, stepped into a Capitol Hill townhouse and descended the steps into a basement studio. He shook hands with his host and settled into his chair in front of a microphone.

The host asked White to share some of his life story. For a few minutes, it was standard fare for an interview with a former pro athlete. White was raised by a single mother in Minneapolis, he said, before becoming a standout college basketball player and a first-round NBA draft pick. The only unusual thing about the interview at first was the setting. The show was called “War Room: Pandemic,” and its host was Stephen K. Bannon.

Until recently, White was known for his battle with the NBA over mental health policy. In 2013, he asked for accommodations for his generalized anxiety disorder, and the dispute essentially ended his career after he appeared in only a handful of games. Then, after the murder of George Floyd in his hometown of Minneapolis, White led several large-scale protests against police brutality. He was hailed as an emerging civil rights activist.

Since that summer, White, 31, has publicly rebranded himself as a far-right populist. He has embraced conspiracy theories ranging from the origins of the coronavirus to the integrity of the 2020 presidential election and satanic influences in the federal government. He has appeared on Bannon’s programs at least 25 times, and he considers the former Trump strategist — who is under indictment for refusing to cooperate with the Jan. 6 Commission — a “friend, a mentor and an American hero,” he said. White has, in turn, been warmly embraced by figures on the far right, from Tim Pool to Alex Jones, who appear to find his backstory useful to their causes. “Here you got a Black guy, a basketball player, in Minneapolis, that actually talks about real issues,” Bannon said. “That, I think can resonate.”

In February, White announced that he would run as a Republican in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, a Democratic stronghold held by Rep. Ilhan Omar since 2019. In his opening campaign video, he said his “problem” with Omar was “not that she’s not an American or that she’s not from Minnesota” but that “she’s in on it; she’s a globalist.” A campaign spokesman for Omar, who became a naturalized American citizen in 2000 at 17, declined to comment.

The odds against White unseating Omar are overwhelming: The district hasn’t elected a Republican since 1960. And the long-shot nature of the campaign has left some political observers in the state wondering whether his real aim is to drum up attention for a future as a political commentator. But the radical shift in White’s rhetoric has left some former teammates, coaches, friends and family stumped — and saddened.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Revolt of the College-Educated Working Class, Noam Scheiber, April 28, 2022. Since the Great Recession, the college-educated have taken more frontline jobs at companies like Starbucks and Amazon. Now they’re helping to unionize them.

ny times logoNew York Times, Political Roundup: A revolt is brewing in Michigan’s G.O.P. after the party endorsed two champions of Trump’s election lies for top state offices, Nick Corasaniti and Neil Vigdor, April 28, 2022. The Republican old guard is protesting the direction of the party after it put forward two champions of Donald Trump’s election falsehoods for attorney general and secretary of state.

For Republican supporters of Donald J. Trump in Michigan, it seemed like a crowning moment: The state party chose two candidates endorsed by the former president, both outspoken preachers of 2020 election falsehoods, as its contenders for the state’s top law enforcement officer and its chief of election administration.

But instead, that move at a convention last weekend — where Republicans officially endorsed Matthew DePerno for attorney general and Kristina Karamo for secretary of state — has ruptured the Michigan Republican Party. After months of strain, it appears to finally be snapping as what remains of the old guard protests the party’s direction.

This week, Tony Daunt, a powerful figure in Michigan politics with close ties to the influential donor network of the DeVos family, resigned from the G.O.P.’s state committee in a blistering letter, calling Mr. Trump “a deranged narcissist.” Major donors to the state party indicated that they would direct their money elsewhere. And one of Mr. Trump’s most loyal defenders in the State Legislature was kicked out of the House Republican caucus.

The repudiation of the election-denying wing of the party by other Republicans in Michigan represents rare public pushback from conservatives against Mr. Trump’s attempts to force candidates across the country to support his claims of a rigged 2020 vote. That stance has become a litmus test for G.O.P. politicians up and down the ballot as Mr. Trump adds to his slate of more than 150 endorsements this election cycle.

Yet some Republicans in Michigan and beyond worry that a singular, backward-looking focus on the 2020 election is a losing message for the party in November.

Daily Mail, 'I would like to see a naked body beneath my hands.' GOP Rep Madison Cawthorn is caught on video with male scheduler's hand on his crotch as new ethics complaint claims the congressman gave him thousands of dollars in loans and gifts, Laura Collins, April 28, 2022.

  • Footage obtained exclusively by DailyMail.com shows Rep. Madison Cawthorn, 26, in a car with his close aide and staffer Stephen Smith, 23
  • The video is one of several exhibits filed in support of the ethics complaint drafted by political group Fire Madison Cawthorn
  • The complaint calls for an investigation into a slew of behavior that, the group alleges, has put Cawthorn firmly on the wrong side of a host of House Rules
  • Among the many allegations is the claim that Cawthorn provided thousands of dollars in loans and gifts to Smith

New video of scandal-ridden GOP Rep Madison Cawthorn having his crotch felt by a close male friend and staff member is at the center of a complaint calling for an investigation into him and filed with the Office of Congressional Ethics today, DailyMail.com can reveal.

The extraordinary footage, obtained exclusively by DailyMail.com and seen here for the first time today, shows Cawthorn, 26, in a car with his close aide and his scheduler Stephen Smith, 23.

Cawthorn sits in the driver's seat apparently filmed by Smith as he adopts an exaggerated accent and says, 'I feel the passion and desire and would like to see a naked body beneath my hands.' The camera then pans back to Smith who says, 'Me too' and then films himself reaching his hand over and into Cawthorn's crotch.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Michigan GOP puts truth vs. lies on this year’s ballot, Editorial Board, April 28, 2022 (print ed.). Michigan Republicans moved last weekend to put the question of truth vs. lies on the general election ballot in their state this November. Voters consequently will have an opportunity to show that mainstream America rejects the election denialism that former president Donald Trump has made GOP orthodoxy.

michigan mapIn a state party convention on Saturday, the Michigan Republican Party overwhelmingly endorsed Kristina Karamo for secretary of state — that is, to be Michigan’s chief elections official. Barring an extraordinary shift between now and August, when the state party’s nominations become official, Ms. Karamo will represent Michigan Republicans in November. This says nothing good about the state GOP, and it raises the prospect that Mr. Trump could install a handpicked zealot in a key position leading up to the 2024 election, making it easier for him to steal electoral votes.

kristina karamoA part-time community college professor, Ms. Karamo, left, denied that Joe Biden won Michigan in 2020, though he did so by three points. She said she witnessed election fraud as a “poll challenger.” Elections experts easily debunked her claims, pointing out that she misunderstood basic terminology. Nevertheless, her assertions got her on Sean Hannity’s prime-time Fox News show as a supposed “whistleblower.” Ms. Karamo supported a lawsuit to overturn the 2020 vote in four states. She appeared last year at a Las Vegas convention featuring QAnon conspiracy theorists. And she claimed falsely that “Antifa posing as Trump supporters” staged the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack.

Ms. Karamo insisted in 2020 that Democrats have “totally been taken over by a satanic agenda,” according to a CNN review of her past statements. She also claimed the Republican Party contained “conservative imposters,” saying, “we need to lawfully remove these traitors.”

Ms. Karamo’s wild claims attracted Mr. Trump’s attention. The former president endorsed her for Michigan’s top elections job. She has no relevant experience, aside from embracing Mr. Trump’s corrosive lies. BuzzFeed News notes that Ms. Karamo is one of at least 17 Republicans running on election denial, and she is the first — so far — to get her party’s endorsement. Others include Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), who is running to replace Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R). Mr. Raffensperger refused to manufacture a Trump victory or to discredit Mr. Biden’s win in his state, making him one of the heroes of the 2020 election. Mr. Hice wants GOP primary voters to punish Mr. Raffensperger for standing up for the truth, and polls show he might succeed.

ny times logoNew York Times, Big G.O.P. Group Amplifies Attacks on Trump-Backed Ohio Candidate, Maggie Haberman, April 28, 2022. The Club for Growth has a new ad against J.D. Vance that jabs at former President Trump’s endorsement of Mitt Romney, too. Get the latest in politics.

The Club for Growth, the conservative anti-tax group, paid to air a new advertisement attacking former President Donald J. Trump’s preferred candidate in the Republican Senate primary in Ohio.

The spot, which also tweaks Mr. Trump over his 2018 endorsement of Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, began running on Wednesday, several days into a fight between Mr. Trump and the club’s president, David McIntosh.

The Ohio primary is a critical test of Mr. Trump’s durability in the Republican Party. The Club for Growth is backing Josh Mandel, a former state treasurer, while Mr. Trump is supporting the “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance, who was once a sharp critic of the former president but has since become a supporter.

The new ad features people intended to be average voters listening to Mr. Vance’s past criticism of Mr. Trump and questioning whether Mr. Trump was aware of it. “The elites were right about Donald Trump, right? I’m a Never Trump guy,” the ad features Mr. Vance saying in an old video recording. It also takes note of Mr. Trump’s surprise endorsement in 2018 of Mr. Romney, an antagonist who had auditioned for the secretary of state job and then ran for Senate from Utah.

Mr. Romney was the only Senate Republican who voted to convict Mr. Trump when he was first impeached in 2019.

ny times logoNew York Times, Shunned by the Right, Lisa Murkowski Bets Big on the Center in Alaska, Emily Cochrane, April 28, 2022. The Republican senator is leaning into her centrist credentials and bipartisan ties in lisa murkowski oher re-election race, hoping that voters will reward moderation.

In a year when control of Congress is at stake and the Republican Party is dominated by the reactionary right, Ms. Murkowski, right, is attempting something almost unheard-of: running for re-election as a proud G.O.P. moderate willing to defy party orthodoxy.

ny times logoNew York Times, As union members maintain affection for Former President Trump in Ohio, Democrats find their base of support eroding, Jonathan Weisman, April 28, 2022, Representative Marcy Kaptur, the blue-collar daughter of this blue-collar city, is on the cusp of a milestone: If elected in November to her 21st term, she will become the longest-serving female member of Congress, breaking Barbara Mikulski’s combined House and Senate record.

But for Ms. Kaptur, 75, a famously pro-union, old-school appropriator, the political ground has washed away beneath her feet. A new Republican-drawn district has robbed her of reliable Democratic votes on the outskirts of Cleveland. The national Democratic Party has saddled her with an agenda of phasing out internal combustion engines and the fossil fuels that power them that sits poorly in the region that put the first Jeeps into mass production.

And Donald J. Trump rattled the underpinnings of Democratic appeal to labor, with his trade protectionism, thundering denunciations of China and professed belief in job creation at all cost.

As Republican voters go to the polls on Tuesday to select Ms. Kaptur’s opponent for the fall election, some of her oldest, firmest allies in the union world are having their doubts — about Ms. Kaptur’s future, and more broadly, the future of the Democratic Party in the industrial heartland.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: McCarthy’s false claim that Garland called parents ‘terrorists,’ Glenn Kessler, April 28, 2022. In recent weeks, the Republican leader has repeatedly put words in the mouth of the attorney general. We’re often interested when new rhetoric starts to become part of a politician’s regular patter. Three times in recent weeks, McCarthy has asserted that Attorney General Merrick Garland called parents “terrorists” because they wanted to attend school board meetings.

Usually when a politician starts dropping a new talking point into his interviews, there’s private polling indicating that it resonates with voters — and McCarthy’s language fits a recent pattern in which Republicans have said they want to champion parents’ rights to protest critical race theory or transgender accommodations.

It turns out McCarthy first used this line in his eight-hour speech last fall to protest President Biden’s Build Back Better legislation. It was significant escalation of a Republican claim that we had previously fact-checked as false — that Garland had directed the FBI to “spy” on parents.

This new version also does not add up.

This all started with a Sept. 29 letter from the National School Boards Association that asked Biden for federal resources to help monitor “threats of violence and acts of intimidation” against public school members and other school officials. “As these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes,” the six-page letter asserted.

Through a Rube Goldberg artifice, McCarthy is relying on an association letter that has been withdrawn, a Justice Department news release and a bureaucratic designation to somehow tag Garland with words he did not say and has rebutted. That’s not enough to make such an incendiary claim. McCarthy earns Four Pinocchios.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden, Clintons eulogize Albright, the first female secretary of state, Amy B Wang, April 28, 2022 (print ed.). More than 1,400 people, including President Biden and several foreign leaders, attended the funeral Wednesday for former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, who died last month at 84 after a long career in public service.

madeleine albright oThe service was held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Washington National Cathedral, to which Albright, right, had close ties for several decades. Biden, former president Bill Clinton and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton delivered eulogies in memory of Albright’s life, including her distinction as the nation’s first female secretary of state.

Others who paid tribute to Albright include Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman, who was friends with Albright for more than 35 years; former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, who was a student of Albright’s father, Josef Korbel, at the University of Denver; and Albright’s three daughters.

Albright died on March 23. The cause was cancer, her family said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s Georgia allies are running on 2020 grievance. It may not work, Matthew Brown, Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey, April 28, 2022 (print ed.). Challenger David Perdue has built his campaign on a false claim of election fraud and trails incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp in the polls.

georgia mapDavid Perdue’s quest to unseat a longtime friend and fellow Republican, Gov. Brian Kemp, drew some cheers Monday evening at a gathering of about 50 Republicans around a pickup truck in this deeply conservative town about 70 miles east of Atlanta. The former U.S. senator spent most of his nine-minute stump speech embracing unproven claims that fraud tainted the 2020 election — and accusing Kemp of doing nothing about it.

In theory, it’s the sort of message that should appeal to Don McGeary, a retired banker and supporter of former president Donald Trump who believes the fraud claims. But McGeary, 71, was not impressed.

“We can’t do anything about it,” McGeary said about the 2020 result, adding that he intends to vote for Kemp. “It’s water over the dam, under the bridge, however you want to refer to it. Let’s get over it and get on with our lives.”

Unfortunately for Perdue — and for Trump — many Republican voters in Georgia appear to agree. Trump handpicked the former senator to challenge and defeat Kemp after the governor defied the then-president and certified Joe Biden’s narrow victory in the state.

ny times logoNew York Times, G.O.P. Lawmakers Subverted U. of North Carolina, Professors’ Group Says, Stephanie Saul, April 28, 2022. A prestigious national academic group charged on Thursday that North Carolina’s legislature had politically interfered with the operations of the University of North Carolina for more than a decade, creating a hostile academic and racial climate at its campuses, including the flagship in Chapel Hill.

A report by the American Association of University Professors details how Republican lawmakers, after taking over the General Assembly in 2010, wrested control of the university system’s Board of Governors as well as the trustees of its 17 individual campuses, influencing chancellor appointments and closing academic centers dedicated to fighting poverty, pollution and social injustice.

After reviewing the tensions surrounding the toppling of the Confederate soldier statue at Chapel Hill known as “Silent Sam,” as well as the decision-making around a job offer to the New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, the report concludes that racism is institutionalized in the system. In a state that is about 20 percent Black, 5 percent of U.N.C. faculty members are Black.

Responding to the report, Kimberly van Noort, the university system’s senior vice president, said it was a “relentlessly grim portrayal of one of the nation’s strongest, most vibrant, and most productive university systems,” and “impossible to square” with the thriving campuses. She listed accomplishments including lowered tuition, improved graduation rates among low-income and minority students, and investments in six historically minority-serving institutions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rand Paul says U.S. backing Ukraine in NATO played role in invasion, spurring objections from secretary of state, Amy Cheng, April 28, 2022 (print ed.). In a contentious exchange at a congressional hearing Tuesday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told Secretary of State Antony Blinken that U.S. support for Ukraine to join NATO contributed to Russia’s decision to invade. Blinken vehemently objected to Paul’s remarks, which were also criticized by Russia experts.

Paul, a libertarian-leaning lawmaker and longtime critic of U.S. foreign policy, said that both Republican and Democratic administrations had been “agitating” for Ukraine to join the security bloc — an outcome that Russian President Vladimir Putin has called a red line.

“While there is no justification for Putin’s war on Ukraine, it does not follow that there is no explanation for the invasion,” Paul told Blinken during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. “You could also argue that the countries that it has attacked were … part of the Soviet Union,” the senator said; Putin has long wanted a “sphere of influence” over former Soviet states.

Blinken, fresh from meeting with Ukrainian leaders in Kyiv earlier this week, noted that NATO maintains an open-door policy. He said it was “abundantly clear” that Putin based his invasion on the belief that Ukraine does not deserve to be a sovereign nation. Kyiv’s status as a former Soviet republic does not mean it loses the right to choose its own foreign policy, Blinken added.

The top U.S. diplomat also said the Kremlin did not meaningfully respond to Washington’s attempts to assuage Putin’s national security concerns before the invasion. “We, senators, are not going to be more Ukrainian than the Ukrainians,” Blinken said. “Our purpose is to make sure that they have within their hands the ability to repel the Russian aggression and indeed to strengthen their hand at an eventual negotiating table.”

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More on Ukraine War

washington post logoWashington Post, Mystery fires at sensitive facilities compound Russia’s war challenge, Liz Sly, Annabelle Timsit and Rachel Pannett, April 28, 2022. A series of unexplained fires and explosions at strategic locations in Russia, including storage depots, a sensitive defense research site and the country’s largest chemical plant, have raised suspicions that at least some may have been caused by sabotage or Ukrainian attacks.

In the latest incidents on Wednesday, Russian media reported explosions at three storage depots in the Belgorod, Voronezh and Kurzk regions near Ukraine’s eastern border, an area used to supply and reinforce troops engaged in Russia’s battle for control of the Donbas region.

No casualties were reported in the blasts, the reports said. Belgorod’s regional governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, was quoted as saying authorities had extinguished a fire at an ammunition depot after an explosion. He did not specify its cause.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia cuts off gas to Poland and Bulgaria, Reis Thebault and Bryan Pietsch, April 28, 2022 (print ed.). Move marks significant escalation in economic tension between Moscow and the West.

Russia’s state-controlled gas company, Gazprom, said Wednesday it had shut off the supply of natural gas to Poland and Bulgaria, a move that marks a significant escalation in the economic tension between Moscow and the West over the war in Ukraine.

Gazprom said in a statement Wednesday that it had shut off the gas supply to Poland’s PGNiG gas company and Bulgaria’s Bulgargaz because they had not complied with a mandate from Russian President Vladimir Putin to pay in Russian currency. The suspension would persist from Wednesday “until the payments are made” in rubles, Gazprom said.

PGNiG confirmed the cutoff, saying that its natural gas deliveries from Gazprom “have halted completely.” It added that “at present the situation is not affecting current deliveries” to its customers, which it said were currently receiving fuel as they wished.

Gazprom noted that some of its gas destined for other countries runs through Bulgaria and Poland, which are both NATO and European Union members. Gazprom said that if PGNiG or Bulgargaz were to siphon off gas intended for third countries, the supplies for those countries “will be reduced by the volume that was offtaken.” It is the first supply disruption since Putin said “unfriendly countries” would have to pay for natural gas in rubles instead of other currencies. European leaders had rejected Putin’s demand and accused Gazprom of violating its contracts.

Ukrainian officials were quick to criticize Gazprom’s decision, saying the move was retaliation against the European Union for its staunch backing of Kyiv.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Germany could weather an immediate end to Russian gas, its vice chancellor said, Christopher F. Schuetze, April 28, 2022 (print ed.). After Russia cut off supplies of natural gas to Bulgaria and Poland on Wednesday, a top German official said the flow of Russian gas to Germany remained steady, while adding that the country could live off existing reserves until at least the winter.

“In order to get through the winter without Russian gas, further work at full speed is needed,” said the official, Robert Habeck, who is Germany’s economic minister and vice chancellor. He made the comments during a news conference at which he presented a new set of subsidies designed to help Germans offset higher energy costs.

He announced lower growth expectations for 2022, to 2.2 percent from 3.6 percent, mostly because of the increased cost in energy.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Russian gas made up 55 percent of Germany’s gas imports, but that figure is now down to 35 percent, according to Mr. Habeck. He said that Germany’s dependency on Russian gas was harder to overcome than it was for oil or coal. .

ny times logoNew York Times, In a strategy shift, Russia is making slower advances in eastern Ukraine, according to analysts, Cora Engelbrecht, April 27, 2022. Russia is making slow and measured advances on the ground in eastern Ukraine as its forces confront entrenched Ukrainian troops who have been fortifying their positions for almost a decade, military analysts say.

The slower pattern of movement marks a significant departure from Moscow’s initial invasion in February, which depended on swift advances of tanks deep into Ukraine ­— a strategy that failed and came at a great cost to Russia’s ground forces.

Military analysts with the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank, said in their most recent assessment on Tuesday that “Russian forces have adopted a sounder pattern of operational movement in eastern Ukraine,” which is allowing them to “bring more combat power to bear” in their narrower goal of capturing the region.

Russia continues to rely on heavy air bombardments as it amasses troops and weaponry for a bigger push along the front line, according to the British Defense Ministry’s latest intelligence update on Wednesday.

Russian ground forces have continued to make advances south of the city of Izium, which they seized last month, along two parallel roads heading toward a pair of strategic villages, Barvinkoe and Sloviansk, according to the ISW. The aim of parallel advances in the east, the assessment said, is likely to create a land corridor with the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, so that Moscow can merge its forces with Russia-backed separatists in the region.

 Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary With Russia's latest moves, a shooting war between Russia and NATO is practically inevitable, Wayne wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallMadsen, left, April 27, 2022. Not even during the Cold War was the world on the actual brink of an all-out shooting war between a nuclear-armed Russia and NATO.  The military doctrine was one of mutually assured destruction or “MAD” should one side insanely decide to fire off a nuclear-armed missile on the other.

wayne madesen report logoThat is not the case today with a Kremlin chief, Vladimir Putin, showing signs of a delusion of czarist grandeur, some debilitating ailment – Parkinson’s is one educated guess – and a Hitlerian miscalculation that his military forces in Ukraine are actually winning his war of choice.

The only issue that remains is whether Moscow will, as it would continue to lose tanks, aircraft, and military personnel in a conventional war with NATO, including Sweden and Finland, and in addition to Ukraine and Moldova, would resort to tactical or strategic nuclear weapons.

washington post logoWashington Post, E.U. accuses Russia of ‘blackmail’ after gas cut, Emily Rauhala, Loveday Morris, Bryan Pietsch and Reis Thebault, April 28, 2022 (print ed.). The European Union accused Russia on Wednesday of “blackmail” after a state-controlled gas company, Gazprom, said it had shut off the supply of natural gas to Poland and Bulgaria.

european union logo rectangle“The announcement by Gazprom that it is unilaterally stopping delivery of gas to customers in Europe is yet another attempt by Russia to use gas as an instrument of blackmail,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement. “This is unjustified and unacceptable.”
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The move escalates the standoff between Moscow and the West over the war in Ukraine and could complicate a roiling E.U. debate about weaning the bloc off Russian energy.

Russia cuts off gas to Poland, Bulgaria, stoking tensions with E.U. over Ukraine

This is the first supply disruption since Russian President Vladimir Putin said that “unfriendly countries” would have to pay for natural gas in rubles. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed charges of blackmail Wednesday while also warning of additional cutoffs if countries do not yield to Russia’s demands.

E.U. officials moved quickly to reassure citizens. “There will be no shortage of gas in Polish homes,” Poland’s climate minister, Anna Moskwa, said on Twitter. Bulgaria’s government also said it has secured alternate gas supplies and vowed that there would be no domestic restrictions on consumption.

At a news conference in Brussels, von der Leyen confirmed that both Poland and Bulgaria were getting gas from other countries. The E.U. has made “contingency plans” for cutoffs, she said, and officials will meet soon to discuss additional plans.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia says it freed ex-Marine, jailed since 2019, in prisoner swap with U.S., Mary Ilyushina, Ellen Francis, Michael Birnbaum and Missy Ryan, April 28, 2022 (print ed.). President Biden announced Wednesday that Russia freed former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, in what Moscow said was a swap for Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was imprisoned in the United States on drug smuggling charges.

“Today, we welcome home Trevor Reed and celebrate his return to the family that missed him dearly,” Biden said in a statement. “Trevor, a former U.S. Marine, is free from Russian detention.” While Biden did not mention an exchange, he said “the negotiations that allowed us to bring Trevor home required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly.”

Biden made the statement just as Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced it had arranged a prisoner swap with Washington and freed Reed in return for “Russian citizen Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison by an American court.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: In Ukraine, destroyed Russian tanks are the newest roadside attraction, Bryan Pietsch, Annabelle Timsit, Ellen Francis, Rachel Pannett and Amy Cheng, April 28, 2022 (print ed.). Gleaning Russian military tactics as easy as ‘free chicken,’ U.S. official says; Russia removed as host of international ice hockey championship.

Russia deployed one of its most powerful economic weapons Wednesday as its state-owned gas company cut off supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, saying the two European Union members did not meet President Vladimir Putin’s demand to pay in rubles. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called it an attempt “to use gas as an instrument of blackmail” and said the E.U. has “contingency plans” in place, though the move highlights Europe’s ongoing reliance on Moscow’s supply. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, dismissing blackmail allegations, said Russia is still a reliable energy supplier.

Despite heightened tensions between Washington and Moscow amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Biden announced Wednesday that Russia had freed former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed from detention. Moscow said it had arranged a prisoner swap to secure the return of pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who had been jailed in the United States on drug charges. Biden did not reference a prisoner swap but said in a statement: “The negotiations that allowed us to bring Trevor home required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly.”

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukraine’s president, called the explosions that were reported overnight in three regions of Russia “karma” — without claiming responsibility — and suggested they may even have been a “divine intervention.” Russian media, citing local officials, said explosions were reported in the Belgorod, Voronezh and Kursk regions, although the claims could not be independently verified. The governor of Belgorod said authorities extinguished a fire at an ammunition depot — among the latest in a string of mysterious fires at sensitive facilities — after explosions were heard in the city.

Here’s what else to know

  • The United States and the United Nations said they were monitoring reports of explosions in Transnistria, a breakaway region of Moldova backed by Moscow.
  • The United Nations urged involved parties to “refrain from any statements or actions that could escalate tensions.”
  • The United Nations said that Putin, during a Tuesday meeting with U.N. Secretary General António Guterres, agreed “in principle” to allow civilians to evacuate the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.
  • Ukrainian officials in Kherson said the Kremlin has installed a pro-Moscow administration in the city, a day after Russian forces seized the city council building.
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel for updates.

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Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection, Election Claims

washington post logoWashington Post, Kansas City Proud Boys member pleads guilty in Jan. 6 cooperation deal, Spencer S. Hsu, April 28, 2022. Charged with conspiracy, Louis Colon, 45, pleaded to a lesser felony charge and offered evidence against others.

A Kansas City man pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate in the government's investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack. (John Minchillo/AP)

A member of the Proud Boys pleaded guilty Wednesday and agreed to cooperate with the government, including potentially against five co-defendants mostly from the Kansas City, Mo., area who are charged with conspiring to obstruct Congress’s certification of the 2020 election in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack.

Louis Enrique Colon, 45, of Blue Springs, Mo., pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of obstructing police during a riot, a felony punishable by up to five years. Colon admitted that the group prepared for violence in advance of Jan 6 and discussed using force that day in Washington, according to court filings. He also provided evidence that at least one other member of the group brought firearms.

More than 40 members or associates of the extremist right-wing Proud Boys group have been charged in the rioting at the Capitol, where many are accused of leading some of the earliest and most aggressive actions to break down police barricades, overwhelm officers and break into the building. Colon was charged in one of two of the largest alleged Proud Boys conspiracy cases. He is the first among six co-defendants in his case to plead guilty.

In the other case, Charles Donohoe, 34, of Kernersville, N.C., last month entered a guilty plea and cooperation deal, admitting to conspiring with co-defendants, including longtime Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, to help organize an attack on Congress by supporters of President Donald Trump and to assaulting law enforcement officers. Tarrio has pleaded not guilty, denied wrongdoing and said he was not even in Washington that day.

Proud Boys leader admits plan to storm Capitol and will testify against others

Like Donohoe, Colon provided new glimpses into others’ actions and intentions. In plea papers, Colon admitted driving with three others to Washington — one with two semiautomatic rifles and himself with a handgun, which they did not bring into the city.

“Do we have patriots here willing to take it by force?” one person asked at a meeting the evening of Jan. 5, Colon said in plea papers. Colon was “shocked” but said a co-defendant who brought the rifles, Christopher Kuehne, responded by saying “that he had his guns with him and, in essence, that he was ready to go,” according to plea papers signed by Colon.

ny times logoNew York Times, L. McCrae Dowless Jr., 66, Dies; Operative at Heart of Election Scandal, Clay Risen, April 25, 2022, Federal prosecutors charged him with absentee-ballot tampering in North Carolina, and the state ordered a historic rerun of a federal election.

L. McCrae Dowless Jr., the North Carolina political operative who was at the center of a scandal involving absentee-ballot harvesting and tampering that led to the first rerun of a federal election in some 40 years, died on Sunday at his daughter’s home in Bladen County, N.C. He was 66.

His daughter, Andrea Heverly, confirmed the death in a statement but did not provide a cause. He was diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer last year.

It was said that if there were 30,000 people in rural Bladen County, in the southeast corner of North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District, then Mr. Dowless knew 25,000. He grew up there, born on a peanut farm in a house without indoor plumbing. Aside from a short stint working construction in California, he never left.

Starting in 2006, he turned that intimate knowledge into a get-out-the-vote operation that served both Democrats and Republicans, and that soon earned a reputation for unproven but potentially illegal tactics.

Recent Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. no longer in ‘full-blown’ pandemic phase, Fauci says, Bryan Pietsch and Joel Achenbach, April 28, 2022 (print ed.). The United States is finally “out of the full-blown explosive pandemic phase” that has led to nearly 1 million deaths from covid-19 and more than two years of suffering and hardship, Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, said Wednesday.

“We’re really in a transitional phase, from a deceleration of the numbers into hopefully a more controlled phase and endemicity,” Fauci told The Washington Post.

Fauci’s comments came a day after he told PBS’s “NewsHour” that he believed the country is “out of the pandemic phase,” and he expanded on, and clarified, that view Wednesday, making clear that the pandemic is not over and the United States could still see an increase in coronavirus infections. But the virus is no longer causing the level of hospitalization and death seen in this country in previous waves of infection.

ny times logoNew York Times, China Sets Economic Stimulus Plan to Offset Covid Lockdowns, Keith Bradsher, April 28, 2022.  As new cases crop up in Beijing, China’s leaders are offering nationwide subsidies to businesses, and two large cities are subsidizing consumers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Moderna seeks authorization of coronavirus vaccine for children under 6, Carolyn Y. Johnson, April 28, 2022. The path to a vaccine for young children has been marked by disappointing results, delays and confusing communication.

Vaccine maker Moderna requested emergency use authorization Thursday of its coronavirus vaccine for babies, toddlers and young children — a highly anticipated step toward making shots available to the last group in U.S. society lacking access.

The path to a vaccine for the youngest children has been tortuous, marked by disappointing results, delays and confusing communication — and in the meantime, as many as 75 percent of children have been infected with the virus since the dawn of the pandemic, according to a new study.

Moderna’s announcement will intensify pressure on the Food and Drug Administration to move quickly, as parents, pediatricians and politicians have become increasingly impatient about the lack of vaccines and treatments to protect young children.

ny times logoNew York Times, China Lockdown Outrage Tests the Limits of Triumphant Propaganda, Vivian Wang, Paul Mozur and Isabelle Qian, April 28, 2022 (print ed.). Citizens’ anger and grief over Shanghai’s bungled lockdown have overwhelmed China’s censors, challenging Xi Jinping and his zero Covid policies.

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

World Cases: 511,664,216, Deaths: 6,254,235
U.S. Cases:     82,888,247, Deaths: 1,019,774
Indian Cases:   43,068,799, Deaths:    523,693
Brazil Cases:   30,399,004, Deaths:    663,165

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Biden Pardons Include JFK Secret Service Pioneer

 

Collage of photos portraying the career and memoir of Abraham Bolden, recruited by President John F. Kennedy from the Illinois State Police force to become the first African-American on a Secret Service presidential protection detail. Bolden's memoir,

Shown above is a collage of photos portraying the career and memoir of Abraham Bolden, recruited by President John F. Kennedy from the Illinois State Police force to become the first African-American on a Secret Service presidential protection detail. Bolden's memoir, "The Echo from Dealey Plaza," documents how he was framed and convicted on corruption charges in a trial with many highly dubious procedures after he sought to describe publicly security flaws in JFK's Secret Service protections. The Justice Integrity Project, among other researchers, has for years described Bolden as victim of a frame-up who deserves a presidential pardon, wihch President Biden announced on April 26, 2022.

JFK Facts, Commentary: Biden pardons Abraham Bolden, the only Secret Service agent who sought JFK accountability, Jefferson Morley, right, April 27-28, 2022. The jefferson morley newgood news is that President Biden has pardoned Abraham Bolden, the first African-American Secret Service agent, who was falsely convicted on bribery charges in the 1960s.

The bad news is that initial reports emphasize Bolden was persecuted for the color of his skin, which is true enough but not the whole story.

Bolden was silenced because he raised questions about the causes of JFK’s assassination. For doing his job, he was targeted, defamed, and railroaded.

After Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, Bolden said lax procedures and heavy drinking in JFK’s detail may have contributed to the breakdown of security in Dallas. He also called attention to a possible plot against Kennedy in Chicago in early November 1963.

From British historian John Simkin:

Bolden claimed that in October, 1963, the Chicago Secret Service office received a teletype from the Federal Bureau of Investigation warning that an attempt would be made to kill President John F. Kennedy by a four-man Cuban hit squad when he visited the city on 2nd November. Armed with high-powered rifles, the men from “a dissident Cuban group”. According to investigative journalist Edwin Black, the Secret Service arrested two suspects, however, they were eventually released.

Abraham Bolden later discovered that this information was being kept from the Warren Commission. When he complained about this he was warned “to keep his mouth shut”. Bolden decided to travel to Washington where he telephoned Warren Commission Counsel J. Lee Rankin.

That’s when Bolden was arrested and charged with discussing a bribe with two known counterfeiters. He was convicted on the testimony of a witness who later recanted and spent close to four years in prison.

In fact, the Secret Service and J. Edgar Hoover, the racist FBI director, wanted to blame JFK’s death entirely on Lee Harvey Oswald–the accused assassin who was conveniently dead–and absolve their agents of any responsibility for Kennedy’s violent death. In the end, only one Secret Service agent lost his job after Kennedy’s murder, the only one who served the martyred president faithfully: Abe Bolden.

Bolden chronicled his journey from a ‘first’ to a ‘disgraced’ Secret Service agent in his 2008 memoir ‘The Echo from Dealey Plaza.’”

Nonetheless, ABC News is reporting the story without reference to JFK’s assassination.

Following his conviction in a second trial, key witnesses admitted lying at the prosecutor’s request. Bolden, of Chicago, was denied a retrial and served several years in federal prison. Bolden has maintained his innocence and wrote a book in which he argued he was targeted for speaking out against racist and unprofessional behavior in the Secret Service.

Source: Biden pardons former Secret Service agent and 2 others – ABC News

The bad faith of the Secret Service was exposed in 1995 when the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) was seeking documents about the events of 1963. The Secret Service informed the ARRB that it had just destroyed “presidential protection survey reports for some of President Kennedy’s trips in the fall of 1963.” Those records might have given credence to Bolden’s allegations. Instead they were shredded.

Major U.S. news organizations often tip-toe around inconvenient facts of the JFK story that call into question the official theory of a “lone gunman.” The full story of Bolden’s overdue pardon is one such story.

joe biden 4 26 2022

ap logoAssociated Press via ABC News, Biden pardons former Secret Service agent and 2 others, Aamer Madhani, April 26, 2022. President Joe Biden is announcing he has granted the first three pardons of his term.President Joe Biden has granted the first three pardons of his term, providing clemency to a Kennedy-era Secret Service agent convicted of federal bribery charges that he tried to sell a copy of an agency file and to two people who were convicted on drug-related charges but went on to become pillars in their communities.

The Democratic president also commuted the sentences of 75 others for nonviolent, drug-related convictions. The White House announced the clemencies Tuesday as it launched a series of job training and reentry programs for those in prison or recently released.

Many of those who received commutations have been serving their sentences on home confinement during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several were serving lengthy sentences and would have received lesser terms had they been convicted today for the same offenses as a result of the 2018 bipartisan sentencing reform ushered into law by the Trump administration.

“America is a nation of laws and second chances, redemption, and rehabilitation,” Biden said in a statement announcing the clemencies. “Elected officials on both sides of the aisle, faith leaders, civil rights advocates, and law enforcement leaders agree that our criminal justice system can and should reflect these core values that enable safer and stronger communities.”

Those granted pardons are:

— Abraham Bolden Sr., 86, the first Black Secret Service agent to serve on a presidential detail. In 1964, Bolden, who served on President John F. Kennedy's detail, faced federal bribery charges that he attempted to sell a copy of a Secret Service file. His first trial ended in a hung jury.

Following his conviction in a second trial, key witnesses admitted lying at the prosecutor's request. Bolden, of Chicago, was denied a retrial and served several years in federal prison. Bolden has maintained his innocence and wrote a book in which he argued he was targeted for speaking out against racist and unprofessional behavior in the Secret Service.

 

Investigations

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Trump officials overruled Pentagon to approve loan, emails show, Yeganeh Torbati and Jeff Stein, April 28, 2022 (print ed.). House subcommittee report finds White House and Cabinet officials pushed for $700 million in aid for Yellow Corp.

Senior Trump administration officials overruled Pentagon staffers to provide a politically connected trucking firm with hundreds of millions of dollars in pandemic aid after a concerted lobbying effort, according to documents released by House Democrats on Wednesday.

In 2020, career employees at the Defense Department decided that they should not certify that Kansas-based Yellow Corp. was critical to maintaining national security, which would mean the company could not qualify for a loan program created by Congress earlier in the pandemic, the investigation found. They communicated that decision to the Treasury Department on June 24, 2020, according to emails quoted in the report.

But the Trump appointees ignored that decision after a newly revealed phone call between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper on June 26, 2020, that was set up to discuss “YRC and DOD certification,” according to the Democrats’ report. (Yellow Corp. was formerly named YRC Worldwide.) Esper then certified the company as “critical to maintaining national security” for the purposes of the loan.

"As we’ve previously stated, one of the ways companies could be considered for Treasury loans was a certification from DOD that the applicant business was critical to maintaining national security,” said Defense Department spokesperson Jessica Maxwell. “DOD used the same criteria used for other CARES Act funding opportunities to assess companies for DOD certification for Treasury loans. However, DOD did not make any final decisions regarding granting these loans. Department of Treasury made final determinations and decisions.”

The $700 million loan to Yellow Corp. was by far the largest provided to any company through the program for businesses critical to national security, and the Treasury Department received a nearly 30 percent equity stake in the company in return for the loan. The loan came after several Democrats and Republicans in Congress wrote letters to the Treasury Department and the Pentagon advocating on Yellow’s behalf. Prior emails released by the coronavirus subcommittee showed that lobbyists for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents Yellow drivers, were also involved in discussions over the loan.

Two years into the pandemic, lawmakers and government watchdogs are just beginning to uncover how trillions of dollars in aid approved by Congress was spent — or misspent — as federal agencies raced unevenly to plug massive holes in the U.S. economy. Last month, for instance, the Justice Department reported it had found nearly $8 billion in allegedly fraudulent claims for pandemic aid.

 

World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters

washington post logoWashington Post, Turkey’s Erdogan to visit Saudi Arabia as rift over Khashoggi killing eases, Kareem Fahim, April 28, 2022. Turkish President Recep Flag of TurkeyTayyip Erdogan travels to Saudi Arabia on Thursday, in his first visit there since Saudi agents in Istanbul killed and dismembered jamal kahshoggijournalist Jamal Khashoggi, sparking a deep, years-long rift between the two governments.

Erdogan, who called Khashoggi, left, a friend, once led a global charge to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the 2018 murder, accusing the “highest levels” of the Saudi government of responsibility. But the Turkish leader has more recently sought to mend relations with the Saudis as he searches for ways to ease a crippling economic crisis, which was worsened by an unofficial Saudi boycott of Turkish goods.

washington post logoWashington Post, Top Colombian military officials admit to crimes against humanity, Samantha Schmidt, April 28, 2022. A Colombian general and nine other military officials admitted Wednesday to carrying out war crimes and crimes against humanity in one of the darkest moments in the country’s history.
For the first time, they spoke directly to the families of victims as they accepted responsibility for overseeing and in some cases encouraging the killings of at least 120 people falsely labeled as guerrilla fighters to signal that government forces were winning a decades-long war.

“I planned and delivered weapons so that innocent young people with dreams … would be turned over and killed and reported as dead in combat,” all in the name of “operational results,” retired Sgt. Sandro Mauricio Pérez said in an emotional hearing. “They were cold-blooded murders.”

The testimonies in the long-awaited hearing marked the highest-level admissions from military officials implicated in the “false positives” scandal that continues to rock Colombia. It was also the first time that officials have admitted to committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in a tribunal established through a peace agreement, according to judges presiding over Wednesday’s hearing.

washington post logoWashington Post, Italian babies should carry both parents’ family names, top court rules, Bryan Pietsch, April 28, 2022. A top Italian court ruled Wednesday that newborn children should by default carry both parents’ surnames — not just the father’s, as had been the status quo.

The Italian Constitutional Court in Rome said that automatically assigning children just the surnames of their fathers was constitutionally illegitimate.

The court said parents should each have a say in their child’s surname as it constitutes a “fundamental element of personal identity.” Going forward, a child will take both parents’ surnames, with mutual agreement on the order of the names, the court said.

But the child could take only one of the parents’ names, if that is what the parents chose, the court said — which would for the first time make it broadly possible for children to solely carry their mothers’ last names.

The rule should apply to children born to married and unmarried parents, as well as adopted children, the court said.

ny times logoNew York Times, The world’s oldest person lived with wit and vitality. She died last week at 119, Mike Ives, Hisako Ueno and Makiko Inoue, April 27, 2022 (print ed.). Kane Tanaka, who died in Japan this month, survived two world wars, the 1918 influenza outbreak, paratyphoid and two rounds of cancer. She loved chocolate and hated losing at board games.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Haunting Disappearance Sparks Outrage in Mexico Over Gender Violence, Oscar Lopez, Photographs by Alejandro Cegarra, April 27, 2022. The case of Debanhi Escobar, 18, in Monterrey has ignited a national outcry over the government’s failure to deliver justice for missing women.

ny times logoNew York Times, Aung San Suu Kyi Found Guilty in Myanmar Ahead of Biden Summit, Richard C. Paddock, April 27, 2022. The elected civilian leader, who was detained in a military coup last year, was sentenced to five years in prison in a corruption trial that was closed to the public.

Reuters via New York Times, 11 Electrocuted When Religious Chariot Hits Transmission Wires in India, Staff Report, April 27, 2022 (print ed.). Two of the 11 killed were children, and more than a dozen people were hurt as they fell or jumped from the vehicle, which was being pulled by devotees at a Hindu religious festival in southern India.

washington post logoWashington Post, Record heat has gripped India since March. It’s about to get worse, Matthew Cappucci, April 27, 2022 (print ed.). March maximum temperatures were the highest in 122 years. Temperatures late this week could near April records.

Temperatures in India remain high amid ongoing heat waves that have plagued the country with dry, sweltering weather since early spring. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) stated that its March maximum temperatures were the highest in nearly a century and a quarter, and rainfall was only running about a quarter to a third of normal.

A hot weather pattern has persisted in many parts of India during April, and the highest temperatures yet may afflict the country Wednesday into the weekend.

A large majority of Indian households live in poverty and lack air conditioning, increasing the population’s vulnerability to heat. Older adults are especially at risk from high temperatures.

Blizzard hammers North Dakota; fires rage in New Mexico

The sky-high temperatures exemplify the overlap between natural variability and the effects of human-caused climate change, which are known to make heat waves more intense and prolonged.

 Recent Global Headlines

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Putin never imagined’ global support for Ukraine, U.S. defense secretary says, Karen DeYoung and Annabelle Timsit, April 27, 2022 (print ed.). Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told a gathering of military leaders in Germany that Ukraine’s “resistance has brought inspiration to the free world and even greater resolve to NATO” — and that Russian President Vladimir Putin “never imagined that the world would rally behind Ukraine so swiftly and surely.”

Austin’s remarks, as he opened a U.S.-organized gathering of more than 40 countries to discuss Ukrainian defense needs for the fight against Russia, came as the United States announced more military aid and plans to reopen its embassy in Ukraine’s capital, Poland said it would send tanks, and Germany planned to send armored antiaircraft vehicles.

“All of us have your back,” Austin told Ukraine, in remarks that follow his own trip to Kyiv.

Senior defense officials from NATO and non-NATO countries attended the meeting, part of the new Ukraine Defense Consultative Group. Some nations, such as Israel and Qatar, had representatives at the table, although they were not included on the official list of attendees. The inclusion of non-NATO countries such as Kenya, Tunisia and Japan was part of an effort to extend substantive and symbolic support for Ukraine beyond Europe and the alliance.

 Recent Headlines

 

Musk Twitter Purchase

 

From left, Sundar Pichai of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter at House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on March 25, 2021 via YouTube.From left, Sundar Pichai of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter testified remotely in March 2021 to the U.S. Congress (Photos via House Energy and Commerce Committee).

ny times logoNew York Times, Guest Essay: Let’s Be Clear About What It’s Like to Be Harassed on Twitter, Elizabeth Spiers, April 28, 2022 (print ed.). Ms. Spiers is a writer and digital media strategist. She was the editor in chief of The New York Observer and the founding editor of Gawker.

The Tesla co-founder and chief executive Elon Musk is set to shortly become the new owner of a slightly used social media platform with more than 217 million daily users. He has said very little about how he plans to make the business work, but one thing is clear: He is really, really preoccupied with how we talk on the platform and appears intent on rolling back some of its moderation policies in order to allow all legal speech on Twitter.

twitter bird CustomBut the rhetoric of free speech absolutists like Mr. Musk conflates harassment with criticism. I’ve been on the receiving end of both in my two decades of writing columns about media, finance, culture and politics — and there is a material difference between the two.

To wit: A couple of weeks ago, a former colleague of Mr. Musk’s at PayPal, Keith Rabois, called me dumb on Twitter after I suggested that eliminating moderation policies would be bad for Twitter’s business. This is not a particularly sophisticated criticism, but neither is it harassment.

However, I’ve also received rape threats, anonymous letters to my home address, threatening comments about my family and all manner of misogynistic pejoratives that are not printable in this newspaper for my stated positions on everything from abortion to hiring practices at start-ups to who the next James Bond should be. I don’t even have to write anything particularly provocative for this to happen; I once got a violent threat for a column I wrote about why I disagree with the way the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates the Consumer Price Index.

These are not uncommon experiences for women and minorities who speak in public, on Twitter and beyond, and I’ve suffered far less harassment than others. It happens all the time. Twitter’s current moderation policies can’t completely prevent it, but they are designed to mitigate it. Twitter requires its users to comply with a terms of service agreement that bans certain types of speech — harassment, in particular. It also has moderation policies in place to combat disinformation. The value of these measures isn’t always apparent to powerful people such as Mr. Musk because if you’re a white man on the internet, you’re far less likely to get a rape threat, and you’re also heavily insulated from the possibility of real-world violence.

What Mr. Musk seems to seek is a kind of infinite license to say almost anything, anywhere. It’s an absolutist definition of free speech that says corporations are obligated to let things that may be harmful to their users or bad for their businesses remain on their platforms because any limitation on speech is de facto censorship and censorship of any kind is worse than the consequences of hate speech, harassment and disinformation.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Elon Musk is a self-entitled child of apartheid South Africa: that should say it all about the world's richest wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallperson, Wayne Madsen, left, April 26, 2022. When Elon Musk was born in South Africa in 1971, the racially-segregated nation was firmly in the grasp of Musk's fellow white Afrikaaners.

wayne madesen report logoWhites comprised only 19 percent of the population but were the only group entitled to vote for the government, which in 1971 was controlled by the right-wing National Party.

Musk's father, Errol Musk, had reaped the benefits of South Africa's notorious mining industry, which placed profits far ahead of miners' safety, whether the mines, which employed blacks in the most dangerous jobs, were located in South Africa, Southwest Africa, or Botswana.

Elon Musk's "libertarianism," which he now wants to extend to Twitter with his $44 billion purchase of the social media firm, derives more from the "go-it-alone" mindset of apartheid South Africa, which had been subjected to crippling Western sanctions when Elon was growing up.

Having written two books on Africa and reported on African politics since 1990, the editor has had plenty of encounters with Afrikaaners, none of them pleasant.

washington post logoWashington Post,Inside Twitter, Fears Musk Will Return Platform to Its Early Troubles, Kate Conger, April 28, 2022. Content moderators warn that Elon Musk doesn’t appear to understand the issues that he and the company will face if he drops its guardrails around speech.

Elon Musk had a plan to buy Twitter and undo its content moderation policies. On Tuesday, just a day after reaching his $44 billion deal to buy the company, Mr. Musk was already at work on his agenda. He tweeted that past moderation decisions by a top Twitter lawyer were “obviously incredibly inappropriate.” Later, he shared a meme mocking the lawyer, sparking a torrent of attacks from other Twitter users.

Mr. Musk’s personal critique was a rough reminder of what faces employees who create and enforce Twitters’s complex contention moderation policies. His vision for the company would take it right back to where it started, employees said, and force Twitter to relive the last decade.

Twitter executives who created the rules said they had once held views about online speech that were similar to Mr. Musk’s. They believed Twitter’s policies should be limited, mimicking local laws. But more than a decade of grappling with violence, harassment and election tampering changed their minds. Now, many executives at Twitter and other social media companies view their content moderation policies as essential safeguards to protect speech.

The question is whether Mr. Musk, too, will change his mind when confronted with the darkest corners of Twitter.

“You have said that you want more ‘free speech’ and less moderation on Twitter. What will this mean in practice?” Twitter employees wrote in an internal list of questions they hoped to ask Mr. Musk, which was seen by The New York Times.

Another question asked: “Some people interpret your arguments in defense of free speech as a desire to open the door back up for harassment. Is that true? And if not, do you have ideas for how to both increase free speech and keep the door closed on harassment?”

Mr. Musk has been unmoved by warnings that his plans are misguided. “The extreme antibody reaction from those who fear free speech says it all,” he tweeted on Tuesday.

He went on to criticize the work of Vijaya Gadde and Jim Baker, two of Twitter’s top lawyers. Ms. Gadde has led Twitter’s policy teams for more than a decade, often handling complicated moderation decisions, including the decision to cut off Donald J. Trump near the end of his term as president. A former general counsel for the F.B.I., Mr. Baker joined Twitter in 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The strange new political rivalry between Truth Social and Twitter, Philip Bump, April 28, 2022.  Elon Musk's bid to buy Twitter has created an unexpected race to the right with the former president. Few stories have captivated the country’s attention this week as much as one that would have seemed hard to predict even a month ago: tech billionaire Elon Musk making a successful bid to purchase the social media company Twitter. Nor might many people have predicted what came next, as Musk — presumably on Twitter’s behalf — engaged in an effort to define how he would reshape the platform that included drawing comparisons to former president Donald Trump’s faltering Truth Social.

There wouldn’t seem to be much overlap between 16-year-old Twitter and its hundreds of millions of users and the newborn platform endorsed by Trump. But Musk has repeatedly indicated that his focus for the platform is similar to the one Trump’s allies use in promoting Truth Social: opposition to a specific concept of censorship. The result, at least for now, is that the social media giant appears to be trying to compete with Trump’s tiny start-up for the same pool of attention.

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Some of that is a function of timing. Last week, Truth Social announced that it was migrating to a hosting platform that would expand its capacity for users. Since the social media app formally launched earlier this year, it’s been hobbled by a slow rollout that has left even enthusiastic users unable to participate. By migrating to Rumble’s hosting platform, though, the company will be able to “scale significantly,” it said in a news release — adding “on a new and cancel-culture-free cloud platform.” (By “cloud platform,” the company meant a separate company that operates the servers on which Truth Social’s content will live.)

washington post logoWashington Post, At Elon Musk’s companies, he’s the boss. But he relies on young loyalists to run the day-to-day operations, Reed Albergotti and Reed Albergotti, April 28, 2022. Tesla, SpaceX and other Musk businesses give clues to how he might run Twitter.

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter’s takeover signals a growing corporate threat: Social activism, Douglas MacMillan, April 28, 2022 (print ed.). Shareholder activists are forcing change around social and environmental issues, a change from corporate raiders who focus on finances.

elon musk 2015Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter is expected to go down in history as one of the largest hostile takeovers of all time.

But unlike most corporate raiders, who focus on finances, Musk has said he wants to strengthen the company’s position on “free speech,” that he wants it to succeed as the “de facto public town square” and to promote global democracy. He’s even said the economics don’t matter, and put up a significant portion of his own personal wealth to finance the $44 billion deal.

Musk’s vision for Twitter — which he revealed even before he was briefly the largest investor in the company — reflects a new trend threatening corporate boardrooms: a growing tendency by shareholders to demand reform from companies, not just better financial performance.

Twitter lags its rivals. Here’s why Elon Musk bought it anyway

Through pure might or grass-roots campaigns, sometimes in coordination with nonprofit groups, activists increasingly are trying to persuade corporate boards to reduce their impact on the environment, support the welfare of their communities and take other steps that can make good business sense by burnishing corporate reputations and limiting regulation.

Recent Headlines

 

More On Media, Entertainment, Religion News

 

npc journalism institute logoNational Press Club Journalism Institute, How it became normal for public officials to attack journalists (Washington Post), Edited by National Press Club Journalism Institute staff: Beth Francesco, Holly Butcher Grant, and Julie Moos, April 28, 2022.

■ Media coalition condemns LA County sheriff’s threat to investigate LA Times reporter (RCFP) / California's journalists stand with Alene Tchekmedyian (Media Guild of the West)

■ What Biden will (and won’t) say at the WHCA dinner (POLITICO) / No tests, vaccines required for Hilton WHCA dinner staff (Axios) / ‘Biden felt it was important to attend the dinner to showcase his support for the free press, adding that it stands "in stark contrast to his predecessor, who not only questioned the legitimacy of the press on a nearly daily basis but also never attended the dinner."’ (CNN) / ‘How does this dinner play in Peoria? The press sipping champagne and trading jokes with politicians feels perfectly harmless to Washington’s establishment, but it looks uncomfortably cozy outside the Beltway.’ (Washington Post)

■ ‘An audible gasp’: Quartz, once a high-flying startup, has sold to G/O Media (Nieman Lab) / Quartz will have its fourth owner in 10 years with its sale to G/O media (Poynter) / Quartz tried literally everything in just 10 years (New York) / Read the memo to Quartz staff from CEO and editor-in-chief Zach Seward (Quartz) / Read the memo to G/O staff from CEO Jim Spanfeller (via Ben Mullin)

■ Why this family foundation gives out $100,000 of unrestricted money to select freelance journalists (Poynter)

■ Is she a bully or did she just work for the New York Post? (The Cut) / A top New York Post editor settles her discrimination lawsuit against the tabloid (New York Times)

■ 'She Said': Movie about New York Times’ reporters' Harvey Weinstein exposé revealed at CinemaCon (Deadline)

■ Former ‘GMA’ and ‘World News’ anchor Charlie Gibson returning to ABC News … as a podcast host (Hollywood Reporter)

■ Was Martha Mitchell 'gaslit'? Or 'gaslighted'? Maybe neither (The Washington Post)

Press freedom

■ Indigenous journalists make way for sunshine (Center for Public Integrity)

■ ACLU says Amber Heard’s domestic violence Washington Post op-ed aimed to capitalize on ‘Aquaman’ press (Variety) / How the domestic violence column in the Washington Post that landed Johnny Depp and Amber heard in court was written (Daily Beast)

■ 'Rust' shooting victim's family outraged over set video release, demands police retract it (The Wrap)

Other Recent Media Headlines

 

April 27

Top Headlines

 

Biden Pardons Include JFK Secret Service Pioneer

 

Investigations

 

Musk Twitter Purchase

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

 

More On Ukraine War

 

Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection, Elections Claims

 

Virus Victims, Responses


U.S. Media, Education, Sports, Religion

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters

 

Top Stories

 

War

ukraine olena kurilo 52 teacher Russian missile Chuhuiv amazon

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

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia cuts off gas to Poland and Bulgaria, Reis Thebault and Bryan Pietsch, April 27, 2022 (print ed.). Move marks significant escalation in economic tension between Moscow and the West.

Russia’s state-controlled gas company, Gazprom, said Wednesday it had shut off the supply of natural gas to Poland and Bulgaria, a move that marks a significant escalation in the economic tension between Moscow and the West over the war in Ukraine.

Gazprom said in a statement Wednesday that it had shut off the gas supply to Poland’s PGNiG gas company and Bulgaria’s Bulgargaz because they had not complied with a mandate from Russian President Vladimir Putin to pay in Russian currency. The suspension would persist from Wednesday “until the payments are made” in rubles, Gazprom said.

PGNiG confirmed the cutoff, saying that its natural gas deliveries from Gazprom “have halted completely.” It added that “at present the situation is not affecting current deliveries” to its customers, which it said were currently receiving fuel as they wished.

Gazprom noted that some of its gas destined for other countries runs through Bulgaria and Poland, which are both NATO and European Union members. Gazprom said that if PGNiG or Bulgargaz were to siphon off gas intended for third countries, the supplies for those countries “will be reduced by the volume that was offtaken.” It is the first supply disruption since Putin said “unfriendly countries” would have to pay for natural gas in rubles instead of other currencies. European leaders had rejected Putin’s demand and accused Gazprom of violating its contracts.

Ukrainian officials were quick to criticize Gazprom’s decision, saying the move was retaliation against the European Union for its staunch backing of Kyiv.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia’s gas cutoff to Poland and Bulgaria should be manageable, analysts saidStanley Reed, April 27, 2022. Gazprom’s announcement on Tuesday that it would suspend natural gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria is not likely to have a major impact on the overall European gas market, analysts say. But it comes as a warning that further, more serious cutoffs of fuel from Russia could be in the offing as the war in Ukraine grinds on.

  • New York Times, European gas prices skyrocketed after Gazprom’s move.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Germany could weather an immediate end to Russian gas, its vice chancellor said, Christopher F. Schuetze, April 27, 2022. After Russia cut off supplies of natural gas to Bulgaria and Poland on Wednesday, a top German official said the flow of Russian gas to Germany remained steady, while adding that the country could live off existing reserves until at least the winter.

“In order to get through the winter without Russian gas, further work at full speed is needed,” said the official, Robert Habeck, who is Germany’s economic minister and vice chancellor. He made the comments during a news conference at which he presented a new set of subsidies designed to help Germans offset higher energy costs.

He announced lower growth expectations for 2022, to 2.2 percent from 3.6 percent, mostly because of the increased cost in energy.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Russian gas made up 55 percent of Germany’s gas imports, but that figure is now down to 35 percent, according to Mr. Habeck. He said that Germany’s dependency on Russian gas was harder to overcome than it was for oil or coal. .

ny times logoNew York Times, In a strategy shift, Russia is making slower advances in eastern Ukraine, according to analysts, Cora Engelbrecht, April 27, 2022. Russia is making slow and measured advances on the ground in eastern Ukraine as its forces confront entrenched Ukrainian troops who have been fortifying their positions for almost a decade, military analysts say.

The slower pattern of movement marks a significant departure from Moscow’s initial invasion in February, which depended on swift advances of tanks deep into Ukraine ­— a strategy that failed and came at a great cost to Russia’s ground forces.

Military analysts with the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank, said in their most recent assessment on Tuesday that “Russian forces have adopted a sounder pattern of operational movement in eastern Ukraine,” which is allowing them to “bring more combat power to bear” in their narrower goal of capturing the region.

Russia continues to rely on heavy air bombardments as it amasses troops and weaponry for a bigger push along the front line, according to the British Defense Ministry’s latest intelligence update on Wednesday.

Russian ground forces have continued to make advances south of the city of Izium, which they seized last month, along two parallel roads heading toward a pair of strategic villages, Barvinkoe and Sloviansk, according to the ISW. The aim of parallel advances in the east, the assessment said, is likely to create a land corridor with the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, so that Moscow can merge its forces with Russia-backed separatists in the region. .

washington post logoWashington Post, E.U. accuses Russia of ‘blackmail’ after gas cut, Emily Rauhala, Loveday Morris, Bryan Pietsch and Reis Thebault, April 27, 2022. The European Union accused Russia on Wednesday of “blackmail” after a state-controlled gas company, Gazprom, said it had shut off the supply of natural gas to Poland and Bulgaria.

“The announcement by Gazprom that it is unilaterally stopping delivery of gas to customers in Europe is yet another attempt by Russia to use gas as an instrument of blackmail,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement. “This is unjustified and unacceptable.”
Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for the latest updates on Russia's war in Ukraine.

The move escalates the standoff between Moscow and the West over the war in Ukraine and could complicate a roiling E.U. debate about weaning the bloc off Russian energy.

Russia cuts off gas to Poland, Bulgaria, stoking tensions with E.U. over Ukraine

This is the first supply disruption since Russian President Vladimir Putin said that “unfriendly countries” would have to pay for natural gas in rubles. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed charges of blackmail Wednesday while also warning of additional cutoffs if countries do not yield to Russia’s demands.

E.U. officials moved quickly to reassure citizens. “There will be no shortage of gas in Polish homes,” Poland’s climate minister, Anna Moskwa, said on Twitter. Bulgaria’s government also said it has secured alternate gas supplies and vowed that there would be no domestic restrictions on consumption.

At a news conference in Brussels, von der Leyen confirmed that both Poland and Bulgaria were getting gas from other countries. The E.U. has made “contingency plans” for cutoffs, she said, and officials will meet soon to discuss additional plans.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia says it freed ex-Marine, jailed since 2019, in prisoner swap with U.S., Mary Ilyushina, Ellen Francis, Michael Birnbaum and Missy Ryan, April 27, 2022. President Biden announced Wednesday that Russia freed former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, in what Moscow said was a swap for Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was imprisoned in the United States on drug smuggling charges.

“Today, we welcome home Trevor Reed and celebrate his return to the family that missed him dearly,” Biden said in a statement. “Trevor, a former U.S. Marine, is free from Russian detention.” While Biden did not mention an exchange, he said “the negotiations that allowed us to bring Trevor home required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly.”

Biden made the statement just as Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced it had arranged a prisoner swap with Washington and freed Reed in return for “Russian citizen Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison by an American court.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: In Ukraine, destroyed Russian tanks are the newest roadside attraction, Bryan Pietsch, Annabelle Timsit, Ellen Francis, Rachel Pannett and Amy Cheng, April 27, 2022. Gleaning Russian military tactics as easy as ‘free chicken,’ U.S. official says; Russia removed as host of international ice hockey championship.

Russia deployed one of its most powerful economic weapons Wednesday as its state-owned gas company cut off supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, saying the two European Union members did not meet President Vladimir Putin’s demand to pay in rubles. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called it an attempt “to use gas as an instrument of blackmail” and said the E.U. has “contingency plans” in place, though the move highlights Europe’s ongoing reliance on Moscow’s supply. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, dismissing blackmail allegations, said Russia is still a reliable energy supplier.

Despite heightened tensions between Washington and Moscow amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Biden announced Wednesday that Russia had freed former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed from detention. Moscow said it had arranged a prisoner swap to secure the return of pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who had been jailed in the United States on drug charges. Biden did not reference a prisoner swap but said in a statement: “The negotiations that allowed us to bring Trevor home required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly.”

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukraine’s president, called the explosions that were reported overnight in three regions of Russia “karma” — without claiming responsibility — and suggested they may even have been a “divine intervention.” Russian media, citing local officials, said explosions were reported in the Belgorod, Voronezh and Kursk regions, although the claims could not be independently verified. The governor of Belgorod said authorities extinguished a fire at an ammunition depot — among the latest in a string of mysterious fires at sensitive facilities — after explosions were heard in the city.

Here’s what else to know

  • The United States and the United Nations said they were monitoring reports of explosions in Transnistria, a breakaway region of Moldova backed by Moscow.
  • The United Nations urged involved parties to “refrain from any statements or actions that could escalate tensions.”
  • The United Nations said that Putin, during a Tuesday meeting with U.N. Secretary General António Guterres, agreed “in principle” to allow civilians to evacuate the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.
  • Ukrainian officials in Kherson said the Kremlin has installed a pro-Moscow administration in the city, a day after Russian forces seized the city council building.
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel for updates.

 

Biden Pardons Include JFK Secret Service Pioneer

 

Collage of photos portraying the career and memoir of Abraham Bolden, recruited by President John F. Kennedy from the Illinois State Police force to become the first African-American on a Secret Service presidential protection detail. Bolden's memoir,

Shown above is a collage of photos portraying the career and memoir of Abraham Bolden, recruited by President John F. Kennedy from the Illinois State Police force to become the first African-American on a Secret Service presidential protection detail. Bolden's memoir, "The Echo from Dealey Plaza," documents how he was framed and convicted on corruption charges in a trial with many highly dubious procedures after he sought to describe publicly security flaws in JFK's Secret Service protections. The Justice Integrity Project, among other researchers, has for years described Bolden as victim of a frame-up who deserves a presidential pardon, wihch President Biden announced on April 26, 2022.

JFK Facts, Commentary: Biden pardons Abraham Bolden, the only Secret Service agent who sought JFK accountability, Jefferson Morley, right, April 27, 2022. The jefferson morley newgood news is that President Biden has pardoned Abraham Bolden, the first African-American Secret Service agent, who was falsely convicted on bribery charges in the 1960s.

The bad news is that initial reports emphasize Bolden was persecuted for the color of his skin, which is true enough but not the whole story.

Bolden was silenced because he raised questions about the causes of JFK’s assassination. For doing his job, he was targeted, defamed, and railroaded.

After Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, Bolden said lax procedures and heavy drinking in JFK’s detail may have contributed to the breakdown of security in Dallas. He also called attention to a possible plot against Kennedy in Chicago in early November 1963.

From British historian John Simkin:

Bolden claimed that in October, 1963, the Chicago Secret Service office received a teletype from the Federal Bureau of Investigation warning that an attempt would be made to kill President John F. Kennedy by a four-man Cuban hit squad when he visited the city on 2nd November. Armed with high-powered rifles, the men from “a dissident Cuban group”. According to investigative journalist Edwin Black, the Secret Service arrested two suspects, however, they were eventually released.

Abraham Bolden later discovered that this information was being kept from the Warren Commission. When he complained about this he was warned “to keep his mouth shut”. Bolden decided to travel to Washington where he telephoned Warren Commission Counsel J. Lee Rankin.

That’s when Bolden was arrested and charged with discussing a bribe with two known counterfeiters. He was convicted on the testimony of a witness who later recanted and spent close to four years in prison.

In fact, the Secret Service and J. Edgar Hoover, the racist FBI director, wanted to blame JFK’s death entirely on Lee Harvey Oswald–the accused assassin who was conveniently dead–and absolve their agents of any responsibility for Kennedy’s violent death. In the end, only one Secret Service agent lost his job after Kennedy’s murder, the only one who served the martyred president faithfully: Abe Bolden.

Bolden chronicled his journey from a ‘first’ to a ‘disgraced’ Secret Service agent in his 2008 memoir ‘The Echo from Dealey Plaza.’”

Nonetheless, ABC News is reporting the story without reference to JFK’s assassination.

Following his conviction in a second trial, key witnesses admitted lying at the prosecutor’s request. Bolden, of Chicago, was denied a retrial and served several years in federal prison. Bolden has maintained his innocence and wrote a book in which he argued he was targeted for speaking out against racist and unprofessional behavior in the Secret Service.

Source: Biden pardons former Secret Service agent and 2 others – ABC News

The bad faith of the Secret Service was exposed in 1995 when the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) was seeking documents about the events of 1963. The Secret Service informed the ARRB that it had just destroyed “presidential protection survey reports for some of President Kennedy’s trips in the fall of 1963.” Those records might have given credence to Bolden’s allegations. Instead they were shredded.

Major U.S. news organizations often tip-toe around inconvenient facts of the JFK story that call into question the official theory of a “lone gunman.” The full story of Bolden’s overdue pardon is one such story.

joe biden 4 26 2022

ap logoAssociated Press via ABC News, Biden pardons former Secret Service agent and 2 others, Aamer Madhani, April 26, 2022. President Joe Biden is announcing he has granted the first three pardons of his term.President Joe Biden has granted the first three pardons of his term, providing clemency to a Kennedy-era Secret Service agent convicted of federal bribery charges that he tried to sell a copy of an agency file and to two people who were convicted on drug-related charges but went on to become pillars in their communities.

The Democratic president also commuted the sentences of 75 others for nonviolent, drug-related convictions. The White House announced the clemencies Tuesday as it launched a series of job training and reentry programs for those in prison or recently released.

Many of those who received commutations have been serving their sentences on home confinement during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several were serving lengthy sentences and would have received lesser terms had they been convicted today for the same offenses as a result of the 2018 bipartisan sentencing reform ushered into law by the Trump administration.

“America is a nation of laws and second chances, redemption, and rehabilitation,” Biden said in a statement announcing the clemencies. “Elected officials on both sides of the aisle, faith leaders, civil rights advocates, and law enforcement leaders agree that our criminal justice system can and should reflect these core values that enable safer and stronger communities.”

Those granted pardons are:

— Abraham Bolden Sr., 86, the first Black Secret Service agent to serve on a presidential detail. In 1964, Bolden, who served on President John F. Kennedy's detail, faced federal bribery charges that he attempted to sell a copy of a Secret Service file. His first trial ended in a hung jury.

Following his conviction in a second trial, key witnesses admitted lying at the prosecutor's request. Bolden, of Chicago, was denied a retrial and served several years in federal prison. Bolden has maintained his innocence and wrote a book in which he argued he was targeted for speaking out against racist and unprofessional behavior in the Secret Service.

— Betty Jo Bogans, 51, was convicted in 1998 of possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine in Texas after attempting to transport drugs for her boyfriend and his accomplice. Bogans, a single mother with no prior record, received a seven-year sentence. In the years since her release from prison, Bogans has held consistent employment, even while undergoing cancer treatment, and has raised a son.

— Dexter Jackson , 52, of Athens, Georgia, was convicted in 2002 for using his pool hall to facilitate the trafficking of marijuana. Jackson pleaded guilty and acknowledged he allowed his business to be used by marijuana dealers.

After Jackson was released from prison, he converted his business into a cellphone repair service that employs local high school students through a program that provides young adults with work experience. Jackson has built and renovated homes in his community, which has a shortage of affordable housing.

Civil rights and criminal justice reform groups have pushed the White House to commute sentences and work harder to reduce disparities in the criminal justice system. Biden’s grants of clemency also come as the administration has faced congressional scrutiny over misconduct and the treatment of inmates in the beleaguered federal Bureau of Prisons, which is responsible for inmates serving sentences of home confinement.

Biden, as head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, helped shepherd through the 1994 crime bill that many criminal justice experts say contributed to harsh sentences and mass incarceration of Black people.

During his 2020 White House run, Biden vowed to reduce the number of people incarcerated in the U.S. and called for nonviolent drug offenders to be diverted to drug courts and treatment.

He also has pushed for better training for law enforcement and called for criminal justice system changes to address disparities that have led to minorities and the poor making up a disproportionate share of the nation's incarcerated population.

Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, granted 143 pardons and clemency to 237 during his four years in office.

Trump sought the advice of prison reform advocate Alice Johnson, a Black woman whose life sentence for a nonviolent drug offense he commuted in 2018. He was also lobbied by celebrity Kim Kardashian as well as advisers inside the White House, including daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, as he weighed applications for clemency.

The Republican used his pardon authority to help several political friends and allies, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Republican operative Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, the father-in-law of Ivanka Trump.

Among Trump's final acts as president was pardoning his former chief strategist Steve Bannon and Al Pirro, the husband of Fox News host and Trump ally Jeanine Pirro.

Prosecutors alleged that Bannon, who had yet to stand trial when he was pardoned, had duped thousands of donors who believed their money would be used to fulfill Trump’s chief campaign promise to build a wall along the southern border. Instead, Bannon allegedly diverted more than $1 million, paying a salary to one campaign official and personal expenses for himself. Pirro was convicted in 2000 on tax charges.

With the slate of pardons and commutations announced Tuesday, Biden has issued more grants of clemency than any of the previous five presidents at this point in their terms, according to the White House.

In addition to the grants of clemency, Biden announced several new initiatives that are meant to help formerly incarcerated people gain employment — an issue that his administration is driving home as key to lowering crime rates and preventing recidivism.

The Labor Department is directing $140 million toward programs that offer job training, pre-apprenticeship programs, digital literacy training and pre-release and post-release career counseling and more for youth and incarcerated adults.

The $1 trillion infrastructure bill passed by Congress last year includes a trio of grant programs that the administration says promote hiring of formerly incarcerated individuals. And the Labor and Justice Departments announced on Tuesday a collaborative plan to provide $145 million over the next year on job skills training as well as individualized employment and reentry plans for people serving time in the Bureau of Prisons.

Biden said the new initiatives are vital to helping the more than 600,000 people released from prison each year get on stable ground.

"Helping those who served their time return to their families and become contributing members of their communities is one of the most effective ways to reduce recidivism and decrease crime," Biden said.

 

Musk Twitter Purchase

 

From left, Sundar Pichai of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter at House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on March 25, 2021 via YouTube.From left, Sundar Pichai of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter testified remotely in March 2021 to the U.S. Congress (Photos via House Energy and Commerce Committee).

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Buying Twitter, Elon Musk Will Face the Reality of His Free-Speech Talk, Shira Ovide, April 27, 2022 (print ed.). Tech’s big shots have learned again and again that free speech isn’t so simple. Our columnist considers what might happen when Mr. Musk owns Twitter.

A decade ago, Twitter executives, including the chief executive, Dick Costolo, declared that the social media site was the “free-speech wing of the free-speech party.” The stance meant Twitter would defend people’s ability to post whatever they wished and be heard by the world.

Since then, Twitter has been dragged into morasses over disinformation peddlers, governments’ abuse of social media to incite ethnic violence and threats by elected officials to imprison employees over tweets they didn’t like. Like Facebook, YouTube and other internet companies, Twitter was forced to morph from hard-liner on free expression to speech nanny.

twitter bird CustomToday, Twitter has pages upon pages of rules prohibiting content such as material that promotes child sexual exploitation, coordinated government propaganda, offers of counterfeit goods and tweets “wishing for someone to fall victim to a serious accident.”

The past 10 years have seen repeated confrontations between the high-minded principles of Silicon Valley’s founding generation of social media companies and the messy reality of a world in which “free speech” means different things to different people. And now Elon Musk, who on Monday struck a deal to buy Twitter for roughly $44 billion, wades directly into that fraught history.

Successive generations of Twitter’s leaders since its founding in 2006 have learned what Mark Zuckerberg and most other internet executives have also discovered: Declaring that “the tweets must flow,” as the Twitter co-founder Biz Stone wrote in 2011, or “I believe in giving people a voice,” as Mr. Zuckerberg said in a 2019 speech, is easy to say but hard to live up to.

Soon, Mr. Musk will be the one confronting the gap between an idealized view of free speech and the zillion tough decisions that must be made to let everyone have a say.

Mr. Musk is a relative dilettante on the topic and hasn’t yet tackled the difficult trade-offs in which giving one person a voice may silence the expression of others, and in which an almost-anything-goes space for expression might be overrun with spam, nudity, propaganda from autocrats, the bullying of children and violent incitements.

If Twitter wants to pull back from moderating speech on its site, will people be less willing to hang out where they might be harassed by those who disagree with them and swamped by pitches for cryptocurrency, fake Gucci handbags or pornography?

The 2016 U.S. presidential election and the Brexit vote that same year gave Silicon Valley executives, U.S. elected officials and the public a peek into what can go wrong when social media companies opt not to wade too deeply into what people say on their sites. Russian propagandists amplified the views of deeply divided Americans and Britons, further polarizing the electorate.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Guest Essay: Let’s Be Clear About What It’s Like to Be Harassed on Twitter, Elizabeth Spiers, April 27, 2022 (print ed.). Ms. Spiers is a writer and digital media strategist. She was the editor in chief of The New York Observer and the founding editor of Gawker.

The Tesla co-founder and chief executive Elon Musk is set to shortly become the new owner of a slightly used social media platform with more than 217 million daily users. He has said very little about how he plans to make the business work, but one thing is clear: He is really, really preoccupied with how we talk on the platform and appears intent on rolling back some of its moderation policies in order to allow all legal speech on Twitter.

But the rhetoric of free speech absolutists like Mr. Musk conflates harassment with criticism. I’ve been on the receiving end of both in my two decades of writing columns about media, finance, culture and politics — and there is a material difference between the two.

To wit: A couple of weeks ago, a former colleague of Mr. Musk’s at PayPal, Keith Rabois, called me dumb on Twitter after I suggested that eliminating moderation policies would be bad for Twitter’s business. This is not a particularly sophisticated criticism, but neither is it harassment.

However, I’ve also received rape threats, anonymous letters to my home address, threatening comments about my family and all manner of misogynistic pejoratives that are not printable in this newspaper for my stated positions on everything from abortion to hiring practices at start-ups to who the next James Bond should be. I don’t even have to write anything particularly provocative for this to happen; I once got a violent threat for a column I wrote about why I disagree with the way the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates the Consumer Price Index.

These are not uncommon experiences for women and minorities who speak in public, on Twitter and beyond, and I’ve suffered far less harassment than others. It happens all the time. Twitter’s current moderation policies can’t completely prevent it, but they are designed to mitigate it. Twitter requires its users to comply with a terms of service agreement that bans certain types of speech — harassment, in particular. It also has moderation policies in place to combat disinformation. The value of these measures isn’t always apparent to powerful people such as Mr. Musk because if you’re a white man on the internet, you’re far less likely to get a rape threat, and you’re also heavily insulated from the possibility of real-world violence.

What Mr. Musk seems to seek is a kind of infinite license to say almost anything, anywhere. It’s an absolutist definition of free speech that says corporations are obligated to let things that may be harmful to their users or bad for their businesses remain on their platforms because any limitation on speech is de facto censorship and censorship of any kind is worse than the consequences of hate speech, harassment and disinformation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter’s takeover signals a growing corporate threat: Social activism, Douglas MacMillan, April 27, 2022. Shareholder activists are forcing change around social and environmental issues, a change from corporate raiders who focus on finances.

Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter is expected to go down in history as one of the largest hostile takeovers of all time.

But unlike most corporate raiders, who focus on finances, Musk has said he wants to strengthen the company’s position on “free speech,” that he wants it to succeed as the “de facto public town square” and to promote global democracy. He’s even said the economics don’t matter, and put up a significant portion of his own personal wealth to finance the $44 billion deal.

Musk’s vision for Twitter — which he revealed even before he was briefly the largest investor in the company — reflects a new trend threatening corporate boardrooms: a growing tendency by shareholders to demand reform from companies, not just better financial performance.

Twitter lags its rivals. Here’s why Elon Musk bought it anyway

Through pure might or grass-roots campaigns, sometimes in coordination with nonprofit groups, activists increasingly are trying to persuade corporate boards to reduce their impact on the environment, support the welfare of their communities and take other steps that can make good business sense by burnishing corporate reputations and limiting regulation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter lags behind its rivals. Here’s why Elon Musk bought it anyway, Naomi Nix and Chris Alcantara, April 27, 2022 (print ed.). Twitter has fewer users and less revenue than its social media peers.

elon musk 2015On Monday, Elon Musk, right, agreed to acquire Twitter for $44 billion, making good on an offer that was met with skepticism by much of the investor community when he launched his hostile takeover bid.

That’s in part because, by the numbers, Twitter is hardly the most successful — or even the most influential — social media platform in the marketplace. TikTok has more than 600 million monthly users and is growing exponentially as the platform chosen by young people, according to estimates from Insider Intelligence. Facebook, while stagnating, has more than 2 billion monthly users and is practically synonymous with the Internet in some places.

Twitter had a humble 338.6 million monthly global users last year, according to the estimates. And while politicians, journalists and celebrities — and even Musk, with more than 84 million followers — use it as a megaphone, it’s not the most consequential platform globally.

 

Investigations

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Trump officials overruled Pentagon to approve loan, emails show, Yeganeh Torbati and Jeff Stein, April 27, 2022. House subcommittee report finds White House and Cabinet officials pushed for $700 million in aid for Yellow Corp.

Senior Trump administration officials overruled Pentagon staffers to provide a politically connected trucking firm with hundreds of millions of dollars in pandemic aid after a concerted lobbying effort, according to documents released by House Democrats on Wednesday.

In 2020, career employees at the Defense Department decided that they should not certify that Kansas-based Yellow Corp. was critical to maintaining national security, which would mean the company could not qualify for a loan program created by Congress earlier in the pandemic, the investigation found. They communicated that decision to the Treasury Department on June 24, 2020, according to emails quoted in the report.

But the Trump appointees ignored that decision after a newly revealed phone call between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper on June 26, 2020, that was set up to discuss “YRC and DOD certification,” according to the Democrats’ report. (Yellow Corp. was formerly named YRC Worldwide.) Esper then certified the company as “critical to maintaining national security” for the purposes of the loan.

"As we’ve previously stated, one of the ways companies could be considered for Treasury loans was a certification from DOD that the applicant business was critical to maintaining national security,” said Defense Department spokesperson Jessica Maxwell. “DOD used the same criteria used for other CARES Act funding opportunities to assess companies for DOD certification for Treasury loans. However, DOD did not make any final decisions regarding granting these loans. Department of Treasury made final determinations and decisions.”

The $700 million loan to Yellow Corp. was by far the largest provided to any company through the program for businesses critical to national security, and the Treasury Department received a nearly 30 percent equity stake in the company in return for the loan. The loan came after several Democrats and Republicans in Congress wrote letters to the Treasury Department and the Pentagon advocating on Yellow’s behalf. Prior emails released by the coronavirus subcommittee showed that lobbyists for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents Yellow drivers, were also involved in discussions over the loan.

Two years into the pandemic, lawmakers and government watchdogs are just beginning to uncover how trillions of dollars in aid approved by Congress was spent — or misspent — as federal agencies raced unevenly to plug massive holes in the U.S. economy. Last month, for instance, the Justice Department reported it had found nearly $8 billion in allegedly fraudulent claims for pandemic aid.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

Hartford Courant, U.S. Senate confirms Vanessa Avery as Connecticut’s first Black female U.S. Attorney, Edmund H. Mahony, April 27, 2022. Avery replaces former U.S. Attorney John H. Durham, who left office following the election of President Joseph P. Biden and U.S. Attorney Leonard C. Boyle, whom the district court judges appointed to serve in the transition.

Hartford Courant, Biden nominates newly appointed District Court Judge Sarah Merriam to federal appeals court in NY, Edmund H. Mahony, April 27, 2022. Merriam is a former federal public defender and U.S. Magistrate Judge who was appointed to the U.S. District Court in Connecticut late last year by Biden. In addition, she was political director to a state employee union local and managed or helped manage campaigns for two Democratic U.S. Senators — current Sen. Murphy and former Sen. Christopher Dodd.

washington post logoWashington Post, A rural prosecutor pledged reform. Critics say he delivered disaster, Karin Brulliard, April 21, 2022. Alonzo Payne was an unlikely candidate in rural southern Colorado, where potatoes and cattle are pillars of the economy and politics lean red. His 2020 bid for district attorney featured vows that had swept in a wave of progressive prosecutors nationwide — no more cash bail, no more trying minor offenses and no more “criminalization of poverty.”

But the windswept and impoverished San Luis Valley, which had the state’s highest incarceration rates and stubborn drug-related crime, proved fertile terrain for his message, and Payne won handily.

Eighteen months later, Payne is struggling to keep his job.

His radical approach — coupled with limited resources and, critics say, serious mismanagement — has led to plea deals and dismissals for violent and other serious crimes. Dozens of narcotics distribution and animal cruelty cases have gone untried, city officials say, and accused murderers have been allowed to walk free.

Payne is now under investigation by Colorado’s attorney general for violating victims’ rights. He has been cited for contempt of court in one county, where a judge accused him of lying that a domestic-violence victim was unwilling to testify. And volunteers began collecting signatures Wednesday for a recall election initiated by crime victims and backed by the city of Alamosa, which has devoted council meetings and a section of its website to what it sees as Payne’s failings.

The turmoil in the 12th Judicial District reflects the broad reverberations of the nationwide reckoning over criminal justice and echoes the backlash against progressive prosecutors in bigger and bluer places such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, where liberal district attorneys are facing recalls amid rising crime. But while Payne says he is fighting the same opposition to change as those counterparts, critics here say the problem is not his philosophical approach. It’s that he’s taken it much too far.

“For minor offenses like misdemeanors, I think there was a need for reform. There’s really no need to be sending people to jail for shoplifting to feed their families,” said Alamosa Mayor Ty Coleman. “But when you come to serious offenses like assault, domestic violence, burglary and things like that? I think the current DA, he really cannot tell the difference between the two.”

Recent Legal Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden, Clintons eulogize Albright, the first female secretary of state, Amy B Wang, April 27, 2022. More than 1,400 people, including President Biden and several foreign leaders, attended the funeral Wednesday for former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, who died last month at 84 after a long career in public service.

The service was held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Washington National Cathedral, to which Albright had close ties for several decades. Biden, former president Bill Clinton and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton delivered eulogies in memory of Albright’s life, including her distinction as the nation’s first female secretary of state.

Others who paid tribute to Albright include Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman, who was friends with Albright for more than 35 years; former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, who was a student of Albright’s father, Josef Korbel, at the University of Denver; and Albright’s three daughters.

Albright died on March 23. The cause was cancer, her family said.

The music at Wednesday’s service included pieces by Czech composers as a nod to Albright’s roots: Albright was born in 1937 in what was then Czechoslovakia. Her Jewish family fled Prague to escape the Nazis, and Albright later came to the United States as a political refugee at age 11. Other musical pieces will include a hymn written by a professor from Albright’s alma mater, Wellesley College. Trumpeter Chris Botti and pianist Herbie Hancock will perform.

Foreign leaders in attendance will include Salome Zourabichvili, president of Georgia; Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu, president of Kosovo; Bisera Turkovic, foreign minister of Bosnia; Miloš Vystrčil, president of the Czech Senate; and Jan Lipavský, minister of foreign affairs of the Czech Republic.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s Georgia allies are running on 2020 grievance. It may not work, Matthew Brown, Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey, April 27, 2022. Challenger David Perdue has built his campaign on a false claim of election fraud and trails incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp in the polls.

David Perdue’s quest to unseat a longtime friend and fellow Republican, Gov. Brian Kemp, drew some cheers Monday evening at a gathering of about 50 Republicans around a pickup truck in this deeply conservative town about 70 miles east of Atlanta. The former U.S. senator spent most of his nine-minute stump speech embracing unproven claims that fraud tainted the 2020 election — and accusing Kemp of doing nothing about it.

In theory, it’s the sort of message that should appeal to Don McGeary, a retired banker and supporter of former president Donald Trump who believes the fraud claims. But McGeary, 71, was not impressed.

“We can’t do anything about it,” McGeary said about the 2020 result, adding that he intends to vote for Kemp. “It’s water over the dam, under the bridge, however you want to refer to it. Let’s get over it and get on with our lives.”

Unfortunately for Perdue — and for Trump — many Republican voters in Georgia appear to agree. Trump handpicked the former senator to challenge and defeat Kemp after the governor defied the then-president and certified Joe Biden’s narrow victory in the state.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rand Paul says U.S. backing Ukraine in NATO played role in invasion, spurring objections from secretary of state, Amy Cheng, April 27, 2022. In a contentious exchange at a congressional hearing Tuesday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told Secretary of State Antony Blinken that U.S. support for Ukraine to join NATO contributed to Russia’s decision to invade. Blinken vehemently objected to Paul’s remarks, which were also criticized by Russia experts.

Paul, a libertarian-leaning lawmaker and longtime critic of U.S. foreign policy, said that both Republican and Democratic administrations had been “agitating” for Ukraine to join the security bloc — an outcome that Russian President Vladimir Putin has called a red line.

“While there is no justification for Putin’s war on Ukraine, it does not follow that there is no explanation for the invasion,” Paul told Blinken during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. “You could also argue that the countries that it has attacked were … part of the Soviet Union,” the senator said; Putin has long wanted a “sphere of influence” over former Soviet states.

Blinken, fresh from meeting with Ukrainian leaders in Kyiv earlier this week, noted that NATO maintains an open-door policy. He said it was “abundantly clear” that Putin based his invasion on the belief that Ukraine does not deserve to be a sovereign nation. Kyiv’s status as a former Soviet republic does not mean it loses the right to choose its own foreign policy, Blinken added.

The top U.S. diplomat also said the Kremlin did not meaningfully respond to Washington’s attempts to assuage Putin’s national security concerns before the invasion. “We, senators, are not going to be more Ukrainian than the Ukrainians,” Blinken said. “Our purpose is to make sure that they have within their hands the ability to repel the Russian aggression and indeed to strengthen their hand at an eventual negotiating table.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden administration to phase out incandescent lightbulbs, reversing Trump policy, Anna Phillips, April 27, 2022 (print ed.). New Energy Department rules will save consumers $3 billion and cut annual carbon emissions by 222 million metric tons over 30 years.

The end has come for the old-fashioned incandescent lightbulb.

The Energy Department finalized two rules Monday requiring manufacturers to sell energy-efficient lightbulbs, effectively putting a “sell-by” date on older, inefficient bulbs that don’t meet the new standards. The move will speed the pace of a lighting revolution that is already well underway, driving down electricity use, saving consumers money and slashing greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector.
10 steps you can take to lower your carbon footprint

The new rules, which reverse a Trump-era policy, expand energy-efficiency requirements to more types of lightbulbs and ban the sale of those that produce less than 45 lumens per watt — a measure of how much light is emitted for each unit of electricity. This will eventually prohibit most incandescent and halogen lightbulbs and shift the country toward more efficient and compact fluorescent and LED bulbs.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fears mount inside White House that Manchin won’t agree to any deal, Jeff Stein, April 27, 2022 (print ed.). President Biden has little to show for months of trying to woo the West Virginia senator over his expansive economic agenda.

President Biden last spring proposed spending more than $4 trillion to transform the American economy. In negotiations last fall, after some of that money ended up in a bipartisan infrastructure law, the administration lowered its request to roughly $2 trillion. Now, with time running out before November’s elections, many White House officials say privately that they’d consider themselves fortunate to secure a deal worth even $1 trillion.

Biden’s shrinking ambitions are largely the result of failed negotiations with Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), the ever-elusive 50th vote for the president’s agenda in an evenly divided chamber. White House officials are confronting the “real fear” that they will fail to reach any deal with Manchin — even one that leaves out most of what Biden had initially hoped to accomplish, according to three senior administration officials and three outside advisers in communication with the White House, who all spoke on the condition of anonymity to comment on internal talks. A year after Biden introduced his climate and social spending plans, the White House is running out of time to get Manchin onboard, with many lawmakers in Congress viewing July 4 as a crucial deadline for action.

Recent Headlines

 

Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection, Election Claims

 washington post logoWashington Post, The not-so-neat trick GOP candidates play on the ‘stolen election,’ Aaron Blake, April 26, 2022. In case there was any doubt about what his primary challenge to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) is all about, former senator David Perdue erased it with the first few words out of his mouth.

“First off, let me be very clear tonight: The election in 2020 was rigged and stolen,” Perdue said this weekend. At their first debate, the two spent what the Atlanta Journal-Constitution clocked as 23 minutes arguing about Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him — including in Georgia, supposedly with Kemp’s help.

Perdue’s turn as a voter-fraud crusader remains awkward. While seeking reelection in a January 2021 runoff, Perdue checked the necessary boxes to make sure Trump didn’t pull the rug out from under his and fellow Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s (R-Ga.) campaigns. Both signed a letter calling for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) to resign and said they would object to the election results on Jan. 6. Both lost, regardless.

But Perdue was hardly a voter-fraud crusader. While others went on Fox News and echoed Trump’s claims, Perdue spoke mostly about supposed “irregularities” — a fallback for many a Trump ally trying to toe the line. Although there’s still no evidence of widespread fraud, Perdue is going further now than he did then — for the obvious reason that he needs to win a primary to win an election. (Kemp has a healthy lead in a new poll released by AJC on Tuesday morning — 53-27 — which suggests Perdue needs to do what he can to knock Kemp below 50 percent, to get to a runoff.)

Perdue’s dance is a familiar one. Repeatedly, high-profile statewide GOP candidates have run ads claiming a stolen election. Often, they made no such claim back when it might have mattered. And often, they’ll avoid saying it was stolen for the reasons Trump himself cites.

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Holds Trump in Contempt Over Documents in New York A.G.’s Inquiry, Jonah E. Bromwich, Ben Protess and William K. Rashbaum, April 26, 2022 (print ed.). New York judge on Monday held Donald J. Trump in contempt of court for failing to turn over documents to the state’s attorney general, an extraordinary rebuke of the former president.

Recent Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. no longer in ‘full-blown’ pandemic phase, Fauci says, Bryan Pietsch and Joel Achenbach, April 27, 2022. The United States is finally “out of the full-blown explosive pandemic phase” that has led to nearly 1 million deaths from covid-19 and more than two years of suffering and hardship, Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, said Wednesday.

“We’re really in a transitional phase, from a deceleration of the numbers into hopefully a more controlled phase and endemicity,” Fauci told The Washington Post.

Fauci’s comments came a day after he told PBS’s “NewsHour” that he believed the country is “out of the pandemic phase,” and he expanded on, and clarified, that view Wednesday, making clear that the pandemic is not over and the United States could still see an increase in coronavirus infections. But the virus is no longer causing the level of hospitalization and death seen in this country in previous waves of infection.

“The world is still in a pandemic. There’s no doubt about that. Don’t anybody get any misinterpretation of that. We are still experiencing a pandemic,” Fauci said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus Has Infected Most Americans at Least Once, C.D.C. Says, Staff Report, April 27, 2022 (print ed.). By February 2022, nearly 60 percent of the population had signs of exposure, almost double the proportion seen in December 2021, the agency’s data showed.

ny times logoNew York Times, China Lockdown Outrage Tests the Limits of Triumphant Propaganda, Vivian Wang, Paul Mozur and Isabelle Qian, April 27, 2022. Citizens’ anger and grief over Shanghai’s bungled lockdown have overwhelmed China’s censors, challenging Xi Jinping and his zero Covid policies.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden administration boosts access to antivirals as covid cases rise, Yasmeen Abutaleb, April 27, 2022 (print ed.). Many have struggled to find Paxlovid pills amid the latest wave of infections driven by the highly transmissible omicron subvariant BA.2.

The Biden administration announced plans Tuesday to nearly double the number of pharmacies that carry antiviral pills to combat covid-19 as many consumers report difficulty finding a doctor to prescribe the medication, or a pharmacy that carries it, when they get sick.

The administration is also taking other steps to boost availability of the drug, a pill from Pfizer called Paxlovid, including an effort to stand up more “test-to-treat” programs in pharmacies and clinics, where many people will be able to walk out with a five-day regimen of pills after testing positive for the coronavirus.

The drug has been in increased demand in recent weeks as coronavirus cases once again rise, driven by the highly transmissible omicron subvariant BA.2. The seven-day average of new coronavirus cases was 47,029 on Monday, up from about 38,000 one week prior, even as many new infections are unreported as more people rely on home test kits.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vice President Kamala Harris Tests Positive for Coronavirus, Staff Report, April 27, 2022 (print ed.). Ms. Harris is the highest-ranking official in Washington to be infected. She has not had recent contact with President Biden, her office said.

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

World Cases: 511,060,135, Deaths: 6,250,102
U.S. Cases:     82,789,716, Deaths: 1,019,008
Indian Cases:   43,065,666, Deaths:    522,374
Brazil Cases:   30,378,061, Deaths:    662,941

Related Recent Headlines:

 

World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters

ny times logoNew York Times, The world’s oldest person lived with wit and vitality. She died last week at 119, Mike Ives, Hisako Ueno and Makiko Inoue, April 27, 2022 (print ed.). Kane Tanaka, who died in Japan this month, survived two world wars, the 1918 influenza outbreak, paratyphoid and two rounds of cancer. She loved chocolate and hated losing at board games.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Haunting Disappearance Sparks Outrage in Mexico Over Gender Violence, Oscar Lopez, Photographs by Alejandro Cegarra, April 27, 2022. The case of Debanhi Escobar, 18, in Monterrey has ignited a national outcry over the government’s failure to deliver justice for missing women.

ny times logoNew York Times, Aung San Suu Kyi Found Guilty in Myanmar Ahead of Biden Summit, Richard C. Paddock, April 27, 2022. The elected civilian leader, who was detained in a military coup last year, was sentenced to five years in prison in a corruption trial that was closed to the public.

Reuters via New York Times, 11 Electrocuted When Religious Chariot Hits Transmission Wires in India, Staff Report, April 27, 2022 (print ed.). Two of the 11 killed were children, and more than a dozen people were hurt as they fell or jumped from the vehicle, which was being pulled by devotees at a Hindu religious festival in southern India.

washington post logoWashington Post, Record heat has gripped India since March. It’s about to get worse, Matthew Cappucci, April 27, 2022 (print ed.). March maximum temperatures were the highest in 122 years. Temperatures late this week could near April records.

Temperatures in India remain high amid ongoing heat waves that have plagued the country with dry, sweltering weather since early spring. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) stated that its March maximum temperatures were the highest in nearly a century and a quarter, and rainfall was only running about a quarter to a third of normal.

A hot weather pattern has persisted in many parts of India during April, and the highest temperatures yet may afflict the country Wednesday into the weekend.

A large majority of Indian households live in poverty and lack air conditioning, increasing the population’s vulnerability to heat. Older adults are especially at risk from high temperatures.

Blizzard hammers North Dakota; fires rage in New Mexico

The sky-high temperatures exemplify the overlap between natural variability and the effects of human-caused climate change, which are known to make heat waves more intense and prolonged.

 Recent Global Headlines

 

More On War in Ukraine

washington post logoWashington Post, 'Time is not on Ukraine’s side,’ U.S. general says, Karen DeYoung, Amy Cheng, Annabelle Timsit, Ellen Francis, Bryan Pietsch, Rachel Pannett and Paulina Firozi, April 27, 2022 (print ed.). U.S. monitoring blasts reported in Moldova breakaway region bordering Ukraine; After hesitancy, Germany greenlights some heavy arms for Ukraine; Austin tells Ukraine: ‘All of us have your back.’

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told a gathering of military leaders from 40 NATO and non-NATO countries that Russian President Vladimir Putin “never imagined that the world would rally behind Ukraine so swiftly and surely” — as the United States pledged military aid, Poland announced it would send tanks, and Germany planned to send armored antiaircraft vehicles.

In separate remarks to the group, Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered a stark picture of the next phase of the war: Russian attempts to take full control of southeastern and southern Ukraine. “Time is not on Ukraine’s side,” Milley said in closed-door comments provided to reporters traveling with him. “The outcome of this battle, right here, today, is dependent on the people in this room.”

World leaders are seeking to pressure Putin, who will meet U.N. Secretary General António Guterres on Tuesday, to stop the war now grinding into its third month. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov tempered expectations, describing the state of peace talks with Ukraine as “dismal,” even as he said Moscow supports “a negotiated solution” to the war. Guterres in Moscow called for a cease-fire and said everything must be done “to end the war as soon as possible.” Lavrov told state television on Monday that the risk of the conflict in Ukraine escalating into nuclear war “is serious, it is real” — but he added that Moscow’s position is that nuclear war is unacceptable.

Here’s what else to know

  • Experts from the U.N. nuclear watchdog will visit the Chernobyl nuclear power plant site on Tuesday, in the first full international inspection since Russian forces occupied the area.
  • The U.N. refugee agency said up that to 8.3 million people could flee Ukraine into neighboring countries — nearly double its initial projections from the first weeks of the war.
  • The Pentagon said it was monitoring blasts reported in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria, which is backed by Moscow and borders Ukraine. No one has claimed responsibility.
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel for updates.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. monitoring blasts reported in Moldova breakaway region bordering Ukraine, Ellen Francis and Mary Ilyushina, April 27, 2022 (print ed.). The United States is monitoring events in the eastern European country of Moldova, the Pentagon said Tuesday, after the breakaway republic of Transnistria bordering Ukraine said explosions over the past two days hit a radio center and a security headquarters.

The reports of explosions could stoke fears about the scope of Russia’s war in neighboring Ukraine, and prompted Moldova’s president to convene a meeting of the country’s security council as she vowed to prevent an escalation.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told CNN in an interview on Tuesday it was too soon “to know exactly what happened here, who’s responsible” for the apparent explosions. “We’re watching this as best we can.”

A Russian military commander said last week that one goal was to establish a corridor through the south of Ukraine to Transnistria — a strip of land with a population of nearly 500,000 that is backed by Moscow and hosts Russian troops. The region, which broke away after the collapse of the Soviet Union triggered a conflict in the early 1990s, is not recognized as independent by any country but operates separately from Moldova.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Putin never imagined’ global support for Ukraine, U.S. defense secretary says, Karen DeYoung and Annabelle Timsit, April 27, 2022 (print ed.). Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told a gathering of military leaders in Germany that Ukraine’s “resistance has brought inspiration to the free world and even greater resolve to NATO” — and that Russian President Vladimir Putin “never imagined that the world would rally behind Ukraine so swiftly and surely.”

Austin’s remarks, as he opened a U.S.-organized gathering of more than 40 countries to discuss Ukrainian defense needs for the fight against Russia, came as the United States announced more military aid and plans to reopen its embassy in Ukraine’s capital, Poland said it would send tanks, and Germany planned to send armored antiaircraft vehicles.

“All of us have your back,” Austin told Ukraine, in remarks that follow his own trip to Kyiv.

Senior defense officials from NATO and non-NATO countries attended the meeting, part of the new Ukraine Defense Consultative Group. Some nations, such as Israel and Qatar, had representatives at the table, although they were not included on the official list of attendees. The inclusion of non-NATO countries such as Kenya, Tunisia and Japan was part of an effort to extend substantive and symbolic support for Ukraine beyond Europe and the alliance.

 Recent Headlines

 

Media, Entertainment, Religion News

ny times logoNew York Times, Mark Emmert to Step Down as President of N.C.A.A., Alan Blinder, Updated April 27, 2022. Emmert and the N.C.A.A.’s Board of Governors said they made a mutual decision for him to step aside next year as the top administrator in college sports.

ny times logoNew York Times, Harvard Details Its Ties to Slavery and Its Plans for Redress, Anemona Hartocollis, April 27, 2022 (print ed.). The university is committing $100 million for an endowed “Legacy of Slavery Fund.” Its report carefully avoided treading on directfinancial reparations for descendants of enslaved people.

In one column are the names of more than 70 enslaved people at Harvard: Venus, Juba, Cesar, Cicely. They are only first names, or sometimes no name at all — “the Moor” or “a little boy” — of people and stories that have been all but forgotten.

In another column are the names of the ministers and presidents and donors of Harvard who enslaved them in the 17th and 18th centuries: Increase Mather, Gov. John Winthrop, William Brattle. These full names are so powerful and revered they still adorn buildings today.

The contrasting lists are arguably the most poignant part of a 134-page report on Harvard University’s four centuries of ties to slavery and its legacy.

And they are just an appendix.

The report by a committee of Harvard faculty members, released on Tuesday, is Harvard’s effort to begin redressing the wrongs of the past, as some other universities have been doing for decades.

washington post logoWashington Post, In a city full of adjunct faculty members, many struggle to get by, Lauren Lumpkin, April 26, 2022. Part-time instructors across the region cobble together many jobs to make a living wage. Unions that represent them are gaining strength, and protests are becoming more frequent.

Other Recent Media Headlines


April 26

Top Headlines

 

Biden Pardons Include JFK Secret Service Pioneer

 

Musk Twitter Purchase

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

 

More On Ukraine War

 

Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection, Elections Claims

 

Virus Victims, Responses


U.S. Media, Education, Sports, Religion

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters

 

Top Stories

 

War

ukraine olena kurilo 52 teacher Russian missile Chuhuiv amazon

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

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: 'Time is not on Ukraine’s side,’ U.S. general says, Karen DeYoung, Amy Cheng, Annabelle Timsit, Ellen Francis, Bryan Pietsch, Rachel Pannett and Paulina Firozi, April 26, 2022. U.S. monitoring blasts reported in Moldova breakaway region bordering Ukraine; After hesitancy, Germany greenlights some heavy arms for Ukraine; Austin tells Ukraine: ‘All of us have your back.’

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told a gathering of military leaders from 40 NATO and non-NATO countries that Russian President Vladimir Putin “never imagined that the world would rally behind Ukraine so swiftly and surely” — as the United States pledged military aid, Poland announced it would send tanks, and Germany planned to send armored antiaircraft vehicles.

In separate remarks to the group, Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered a stark picture of the next phase of the war: Russian attempts to take full control of southeastern and southern Ukraine. “Time is not on Ukraine’s side,” Milley said in closed-door comments provided to reporters traveling with him. “The outcome of this battle, right here, today, is dependent on the people in this room.”

World leaders are seeking to pressure Putin, who will meet U.N. Secretary General António Guterres on Tuesday, to stop the war now grinding into its third month. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov tempered expectations, describing the state of peace talks with Ukraine as “dismal,” even as he said Moscow supports “a negotiated solution” to the war. Guterres in Moscow called for a cease-fire and said everything must be done “to end the war as soon as possible.” Lavrov told state television on Monday that the risk of the conflict in Ukraine escalating into nuclear war “is serious, it is real” — but he added that Moscow’s position is that nuclear war is unacceptable.

Here’s what else to know

  • Experts from the U.N. nuclear watchdog will visit the Chernobyl nuclear power plant site on Tuesday, in the first full international inspection since Russian forces occupied the area.
  • The U.N. refugee agency said up that to 8.3 million people could flee Ukraine into neighboring countries — nearly double its initial projections from the first weeks of the war.
  • The Pentagon said it was monitoring blasts reported in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria, which is backed by Moscow and borders Ukraine. No one has claimed responsibility.
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel for updates.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. monitoring blasts reported in Moldova breakaway region bordering Ukraine, Ellen Francis and Mary Ilyushina, April 26, 2022. The United States is monitoring events in the eastern European country of Moldova, the Pentagon said Tuesday, after the breakaway republic of Transnistria bordering Ukraine said explosions over the past two days hit a radio center and a security headquarters.

The reports of explosions could stoke fears about the scope of Russia’s war in neighboring Ukraine, and prompted Moldova’s president to convene a meeting of the country’s security council as she vowed to prevent an escalation.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told CNN in an interview on Tuesday it was too soon “to know exactly what happened here, who’s responsible” for the apparent explosions. “We’re watching this as best we can.”

A Russian military commander said last week that one goal was to establish a corridor through the south of Ukraine to Transnistria — a strip of land with a population of nearly 500,000 that is backed by Moscow and hosts Russian troops. The region, which broke away after the collapse of the Soviet Union triggered a conflict in the early 1990s, is not recognized as independent by any country but operates separately from Moldova.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Putin never imagined’ global support for Ukraine, U.S. defense secretary says, Karen DeYoung and Annabelle Timsit, April 26, 2022. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told a gathering of military leaders in Germany that Ukraine’s “resistance has brought inspiration to the free world and even greater resolve to NATO” — and that Russian President Vladimir Putin “never imagined that the world would rally behind Ukraine so swiftly and surely.”

Austin’s remarks, as he opened a U.S.-organized gathering of more than 40 countries to discuss Ukrainian defense needs for the fight against Russia, came as the United States announced more military aid and plans to reopen its embassy in Ukraine’s capital, Poland said it would send tanks, and Germany planned to send armored antiaircraft vehicles.

“All of us have your back,” Austin told Ukraine, in remarks that follow his own trip to Kyiv.

Senior defense officials from NATO and non-NATO countries attended the meeting, part of the new Ukraine Defense Consultative Group. Some nations, such as Israel and Qatar, had representatives at the table, although they were not included on the official list of attendees. The inclusion of non-NATO countries such as Kenya, Tunisia and Japan was part of an effort to extend substantive and symbolic support for Ukraine beyond Europe and the alliance.

 

Biden Pardons Include JFK Secret Service Pioneer

 

Collage of photos portraying the career and memoir of Abraham Bolden, recruited by President John F. Kennedy from the Illinois State Police force to become the first African-American on a Secret Service presidential protection detail. Bolden's memoir,

Shown above is a collage of photos portraying the career and memoir of Abraham Bolden, recruited by President John F. Kennedy from the Illinois State Police force to become the first African-American on a Secret Service presidential protection detail. Bolden's memoir, "The Echo from Dealey Plaza," documents how he was framed and convicted on corruption charges in a trial with many highly dubious procedures after he sought to describe publicly security flaws in JFK's Secret Service protections. The Justice Integrity Project, among other researchers, has for years described Bolden as victim of a frame-up who deserves a presidential pardon, wihch President Biden announced on April 26, 2022.

ap logoAssociated Press via ABC News, Biden pardons former Secret Service agent and 2 others, Aamer Madhani, April 26, 2022. President Joe Biden is announcing he has granted the first three pardons of his term.President Joe Biden has granted the first three pardons of his term, providing clemency to a Kennedy-era Secret Service agent convicted of federal bribery charges that he tried to sell a copy of an agency file and to two people who were convicted on drug-related charges but went on to become pillars in their communities.

The Democratic president also commuted the sentences of 75 others for nonviolent, drug-related convictions. The White House announced the clemencies Tuesday as it launched a series of job training and reentry programs for those in prison or recently released.

Many of those who received commutations have been serving their sentences on home confinement during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several were serving lengthy sentences and would have received lesser terms had they been convicted today for the same offenses as a result of the 2018 bipartisan sentencing reform ushered into law by the Trump administration.

“America is a nation of laws and second chances, redemption, and rehabilitation,” Biden said in a statement announcing the clemencies. “Elected officials on both sides of the aisle, faith leaders, civil rights advocates, and law enforcement leaders agree that our criminal justice system can and should reflect these core values that enable safer and stronger communities.”

Those granted pardons are:

— Abraham Bolden Sr., 86, the first Black Secret Service agent to serve on a presidential detail. In 1964, Bolden, who served on President John F. Kennedy's detail, faced federal bribery charges that he attempted to sell a copy of a Secret Service file. His first trial ended in a hung jury.

Following his conviction in a second trial, key witnesses admitted lying at the prosecutor's request. Bolden, of Chicago, was denied a retrial and served several years in federal prison. Bolden has maintained his innocence and wrote a book in which he argued he was targeted for speaking out against racist and unprofessional behavior in the Secret Service.

— Betty Jo Bogans, 51, was convicted in 1998 of possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine in Texas after attempting to transport drugs for her boyfriend and his accomplice. Bogans, a single mother with no prior record, received a seven-year sentence. In the years since her release from prison, Bogans has held consistent employment, even while undergoing cancer treatment, and has raised a son.

— Dexter Jackson , 52, of Athens, Georgia, was convicted in 2002 for using his pool hall to facilitate the trafficking of marijuana. Jackson pleaded guilty and acknowledged he allowed his business to be used by marijuana dealers.

After Jackson was released from prison, he converted his business into a cellphone repair service that employs local high school students through a program that provides young adults with work experience. Jackson has built and renovated homes in his community, which has a shortage of affordable housing.

Civil rights and criminal justice reform groups have pushed the White House to commute sentences and work harder to reduce disparities in the criminal justice system. Biden’s grants of clemency also come as the administration has faced congressional scrutiny over misconduct and the treatment of inmates in the beleaguered federal Bureau of Prisons, which is responsible for inmates serving sentences of home confinement.

Biden, as head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, helped shepherd through the 1994 crime bill that many criminal justice experts say contributed to harsh sentences and mass incarceration of Black people.

During his 2020 White House run, Biden vowed to reduce the number of people incarcerated in the U.S. and called for nonviolent drug offenders to be diverted to drug courts and treatment.

He also has pushed for better training for law enforcement and called for criminal justice system changes to address disparities that have led to minorities and the poor making up a disproportionate share of the nation's incarcerated population.

Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, granted 143 pardons and clemency to 237 during his four years in office.

Trump sought the advice of prison reform advocate Alice Johnson, a Black woman whose life sentence for a nonviolent drug offense he commuted in 2018. He was also lobbied by celebrity Kim Kardashian as well as advisers inside the White House, including daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, as he weighed applications for clemency.

The Republican used his pardon authority to help several political friends and allies, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Republican operative Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, the father-in-law of Ivanka Trump.

Among Trump's final acts as president was pardoning his former chief strategist Steve Bannon and Al Pirro, the husband of Fox News host and Trump ally Jeanine Pirro.

Prosecutors alleged that Bannon, who had yet to stand trial when he was pardoned, had duped thousands of donors who believed their money would be used to fulfill Trump’s chief campaign promise to build a wall along the southern border. Instead, Bannon allegedly diverted more than $1 million, paying a salary to one campaign official and personal expenses for himself. Pirro was convicted in 2000 on tax charges.

With the slate of pardons and commutations announced Tuesday, Biden has issued more grants of clemency than any of the previous five presidents at this point in their terms, according to the White House.

In addition to the grants of clemency, Biden announced several new initiatives that are meant to help formerly incarcerated people gain employment — an issue that his administration is driving home as key to lowering crime rates and preventing recidivism.

The Labor Department is directing $140 million toward programs that offer job training, pre-apprenticeship programs, digital literacy training and pre-release and post-release career counseling and more for youth and incarcerated adults.

The $1 trillion infrastructure bill passed by Congress last year includes a trio of grant programs that the administration says promote hiring of formerly incarcerated individuals. And the Labor and Justice Departments announced on Tuesday a collaborative plan to provide $145 million over the next year on job skills training as well as individualized employment and reentry plans for people serving time in the Bureau of Prisons.

Biden said the new initiatives are vital to helping the more than 600,000 people released from prison each year get on stable ground.

"Helping those who served their time return to their families and become contributing members of their communities is one of the most effective ways to reduce recidivism and decrease crime," Biden said.

 

Musk Twitter Purchase

 

From left, Sundar Pichai of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter at House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on March 25, 2021 via YouTube.From left, Sundar Pichai of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter testified remotely in March 2021 to the U.S. Congress (Photos via House Energy and Commerce Committee).

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Buying Twitter, Elon Musk Will Face the Reality of His Free-Speech Talk, Shira Ovide, April 26, 2022. Tech’s big shots have learned again and again that free speech isn’t so simple. Our columnist considers what might happen when Mr. Musk owns Twitter.

A decade ago, Twitter executives, including the chief executive, Dick Costolo, declared that the social media site was the “free-speech wing of the free-speech party.” The stance meant Twitter would defend people’s ability to post whatever they wished and be heard by the world.

Since then, Twitter has been dragged into morasses over disinformation peddlers, governments’ abuse of social media to incite ethnic violence and threats by elected officials to imprison employees over tweets they didn’t like. Like Facebook, YouTube and other internet companies, Twitter was forced to morph from hard-liner on free expression to speech nanny.

twitter bird CustomToday, Twitter has pages upon pages of rules prohibiting content such as material that promotes child sexual exploitation, coordinated government propaganda, offers of counterfeit goods and tweets “wishing for someone to fall victim to a serious accident.”

The past 10 years have seen repeated confrontations between the high-minded principles of Silicon Valley’s founding generation of social media companies and the messy reality of a world in which “free speech” means different things to different people. And now Elon Musk, who on Monday struck a deal to buy Twitter for roughly $44 billion, wades directly into that fraught history.

Successive generations of Twitter’s leaders since its founding in 2006 have learned what Mark Zuckerberg and most other internet executives have also discovered: Declaring that “the tweets must flow,” as the Twitter co-founder Biz Stone wrote in 2011, or “I believe in giving people a voice,” as Mr. Zuckerberg said in a 2019 speech, is easy to say but hard to live up to.

Soon, Mr. Musk will be the one confronting the gap between an idealized view of free speech and the zillion tough decisions that must be made to let everyone have a say.

Mr. Musk is a relative dilettante on the topic and hasn’t yet tackled the difficult trade-offs in which giving one person a voice may silence the expression of others, and in which an almost-anything-goes space for expression might be overrun with spam, nudity, propaganda from autocrats, the bullying of children and violent incitements.

If Twitter wants to pull back from moderating speech on its site, will people be less willing to hang out where they might be harassed by those who disagree with them and swamped by pitches for cryptocurrency, fake Gucci handbags or pornography?

The 2016 U.S. presidential election and the Brexit vote that same year gave Silicon Valley executives, U.S. elected officials and the public a peek into what can go wrong when social media companies opt not to wade too deeply into what people say on their sites. Russian propagandists amplified the views of deeply divided Americans and Britons, further polarizing the electorate.

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter workers face a reality they’ve long feared: Elon Musk as owner, Elizabeth Dwoskin, April 26, 2022 (print ed.). A central concern expressed by employees was that Musk would try to break down safeguards to protect everyday users that workers had built over many years.

Twitter employees reacted with shock and dismay Monday as a new reality sank in: Elon Musk — the world’s richest man, free speech defender and strong critic of Twitter — would be the company’s new owner.

On Twitter, in private messages and in interviews with The Washington Post, employees expressed fear about Musk’s $44 billion takeover. Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, along with board chair Bret Taylor, held an internal town hall on Monday afternoon in which the leaders tried to assure anxious staff but offered few direct answers. A central concern was that Musk would attempt to break down safeguards to protect everyday users that staff had built over many years, according to the interviews and tweets, as well as audio from the town hall obtained by The Post.

Some tweeted tear-filled emoji and memes of people having emotional breakdowns, while others told The Post they were too in shock to speak. At Monday’s town hall, leaders were vague in response to questions about future layoffs, changes to the company’s approach to free speech and safety, and whether the company will continue to make money from advertising.

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter lags behind its rivals. Here’s why Elon Musk bought it anyway, Naomi Nix and Chris Alcantara, April 26, 2022. Twitter has fewer users and less revenue than its social media peers.

On Monday, Elon Musk agreed to acquire Twitter for $44 billion, making good on an offer that was met with skepticism by much of the investor community when he launched his hostile takeover bid.

That’s in part because, by the numbers, Twitter is hardly the most successful — or even the most influential — social media platform in the marketplace. TikTok has more than 600 million monthly users and is growing exponentially as the platform chosen by young people, according to estimates from Insider Intelligence. Facebook, while stagnating, has more than 2 billion monthly users and is practically synonymous with the Internet in some places.

Twitter had a humble 338.6 million monthly global users last year, according to the estimates. And while politicians, journalists and celebrities — and even Musk, with more than 84 million followers — use it as a megaphone, it’s not the most consequential platform globally.

washington post logoWashington Post, Elon Musk to acquire Twitter for roughly $44 billion, Douglas MacMillan, Faiz Siddiqui, Rachel Lerman and Taylor Telford, April 26, 2022 (print ed.). Ownership of Twitter gives Musk power over hugely consequential societal and political issues, perhaps most significantly the ban on former president Donald Trump.

elon musk 2015Elon Musk, right, acquired Twitter for $44 billion on Monday, the company announced, giving the world’s richest person command of one of its most influential social media sites — which serves as a platform for political leaders, a sounding board for experts across industries and an information hub for millions of everyday users.

The acquisition followed weeks of evangelizing on the necessity of “free speech,” as the Tesla CEO seized on Twitter’s role as the “de facto town square” and took umbrage with content moderation efforts he views as an escalation toward censorship. He said he sees Twitter as essential to the functioning of democracy and said the economics are not a concern.

Ownership of Twitter gives Musk power over hugely consequential societal and political issues, perhaps most significantly the ban on former president Donald Trump that the website enacted in response to the Jan. 6 riots.

Why does Elon Musk want to buy Twitter?

twitter bird CustomUnder the terms of the deal, Twitter will become a private company and shareholders will receive $54.20 per share, the company said in a news release. The deal is expected to close this year.

“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” Musk said in the release. “I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans. Twitter has tremendous potential — I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it.”

Musk‘s Twitter deal expands his portfolio, which already includes rocket building company SpaceX, which has aspirations of landing on Mars, and the electric carmaker Tesla, that has pushed electric vehicles into the mainstream.

“He’s more powerful than countries now,” said Ross Gerber, a Tesla investor close with Musk who said he had bought Twitter shares last week in hopes the deal went through. “He has the most important technology asset in America … probably one of the most strategic military assets in the world … and now he has one of the most important communications tools in the world.”

Musk’s positions on free speech and how to police the site have put him relatively at odds with current leadership at the site, raising questions about how he will seek to steer his changes through and whether they will impact Twitter’s current executive makeup.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

ny times logoNew York Times, Cities Want to Return to Prepandemic Life. One Obstacle: Transit Crime, Julie Bosman, Sophie Kasakove, Jill Cowan and Richard Fausset, April 26, 2022 (print ed.). Crime rates on trains and buses are up in some of the nation’s biggest cities, one more barrier for downtowns trying to rebound.

Just as a number of major cities are trying to lure people back to formerly bustling downtowns, leaders are confronting transit crime rates that have risen over prepandemic levels in New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Earlier this month, a shooting on a subway train in Brooklyn injured 23 people. In other cities, stories of violent assaults, muggings and stabbings on buses and trains dominate the evening news and worried conversations in neighborhood apps.

washington post logoWashington Post, A rural prosecutor pledged reform. Critics say he delivered disaster, Karin Brulliard, April 21, 2022. Alonzo Payne was an unlikely candidate in rural southern Colorado, where potatoes and cattle are pillars of the economy and politics lean red. His 2020 bid for district attorney featured vows that had swept in a wave of progressive prosecutors nationwide — no more cash bail, no more trying minor offenses and no more “criminalization of poverty.”

But the windswept and impoverished San Luis Valley, which had the state’s highest incarceration rates and stubborn drug-related crime, proved fertile terrain for his message, and Payne won handily.

Eighteen months later, Payne is struggling to keep his job.

His radical approach — coupled with limited resources and, critics say, serious mismanagement — has led to plea deals and dismissals for violent and other serious crimes. Dozens of narcotics distribution and animal cruelty cases have gone untried, city officials say, and accused murderers have been allowed to walk free.

Payne is now under investigation by Colorado’s attorney general for violating victims’ rights. He has been cited for contempt of court in one county, where a judge accused him of lying that a domestic-violence victim was unwilling to testify. And volunteers began collecting signatures Wednesday for a recall election initiated by crime victims and backed by the city of Alamosa, which has devoted council meetings and a section of its website to what it sees as Payne’s failings.

The turmoil in the 12th Judicial District reflects the broad reverberations of the nationwide reckoning over criminal justice and echoes the backlash against progressive prosecutors in bigger and bluer places such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, where liberal district attorneys are facing recalls amid rising crime. But while Payne says he is fighting the same opposition to change as those counterparts, critics here say the problem is not his philosophical approach. It’s that he’s taken it much too far.

“For minor offenses like misdemeanors, I think there was a need for reform. There’s really no need to be sending people to jail for shoplifting to feed their families,” said Alamosa Mayor Ty Coleman. “But when you come to serious offenses like assault, domestic violence, burglary and things like that? I think the current DA, he really cannot tell the difference between the two.”

 

merrick garland new

ny times logoNew York Times, After a Rocky First Year, a Cautious Merrick Garland Finds His Footing, Katie Benner, April 26, 2022 (print ed.). For all of the focus on the Justice Department’s investigation into the Jan. 6 attack, Mr. Garland has focused on the everyday work of the attorney general, above.

During a recent swing through the South, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland chatted up participants in a police program in Georgia aimed at redirecting youth who had sold bottled water on interstate highways into less dangerous work. He announced funding to address policing problems like the use of excessive force. He talked about mental health support, an issue he has thought about since he saw firsthand how officers who responded to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing struggled to process the horror.

Justice Department log circularFor all of the attention on the Justice Department’s investigation into the Jan. 6 attack, the trip was focused on the everyday work of being the attorney general, fighting crime and serving as a steward of law enforcement. Over two days in Georgia and Louisiana, Mr. Garland, in interviews with The New York Times on his plane and later in Baton Rouge, would say only that the assault on the Capitol “completely wiped out” any doubts he had about taking the post.

“I felt that this was exactly why I had agreed to be attorney general in the first place,” he said. “Jan. 6 is a date that showed what happens if the rule of law breaks down.”

By most accounts, becoming attorney general was a tough adjustment for a former appeals judge who had last worked at the Justice Department in the late 1990s. But more than a year into his tenure, colleagues say that a cautious leader has found some footing, more a prosecutor now than a deliberator.

Legal Schnauzer, A panel of federal judges will hear oral arguments in Montgomery this morning in the appeal of prominent Alabama legal and business figure Donald Watkins, Roger Shuler, April 26, 2022. A panel of appellate judges will hear oral arguments in Montgomery this morning in the criminal case of longtime Alabama attorney, banker, and entrepreneur Donald Watkins. Watkins wrote about the appeal recently at his Web site. Long known for his outspoken manner, Watkins does not mince words on this occasion:

Three years ago, I was railroaded and convicted in a U.S. District Court in Birmingham, Alabama (USA) on trumped up wire, mail, and bank fraud charges. On Tuesday, April 26, 2022, a three-judge panel of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit is scheduled to hear the appeal in my case.

The hearing will begin at 9 a.m. CST at the Frank M. Johnson, Jr., Federal Courthouse in downtown Montgomery, Alabama. It is open to the public.

[Click here to read the Watkins Opening Brief, the Government's Responsive Brief, and the Watkins Reply Brief in the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.]

USA v. Donald V. Watkins, Sr., and Donald V. Watkins, Jr., is the first case listed on the Court's docket for April 26th. The Court will hear legal arguments from attorneys representing my son, Donald V. Watkins, Jr., and and me, as well as the Government. The arguments are expected to last one hour.

I am represented in the appeal by Montgomery, Alabama, attorney, Mark Englehart, who is a true friend and remarkable human being. Attorney Englehart sat by my side thronughout my entire three-week trial in 2019. He has one of the best legal minds in the nation and is a brilliant appellate lawyer.

Watkins provides a summary of the difficult path he and his son have followed since their convictions:

Donald, Jr., was found "Not Guilty" of bank fraud charges, but "Guilty" of a conspiracy charge to commit wire and mail fraud. He was sentenced to 27 months in a prison camp and was released last year.

I received 60 months in prison. I was denied an appeal bond by U.S. District Court Judge Karon O. Bowdre and entered prison on August 28, 2019.

On April 14, 2020, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) executed an agreement to transfer me to home confinement, but this transfer was blocked by Birmingham federal prosecutor Lloyd Peeples. Peeples feverishly lobbied the FCI Talladega Warden, the BOP's Central Office in Washington, and the U.S. Probation Office in Birmingham to oppose my release to home confinement.

On November 3, 2020, Judge Bowdre denied a motion filed on my behalf for a compassionate release based upon my age (71 at the time) and pre-existing health conditions that exposed me to the highest risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19.

Thereafter, the BOP deliberately placed me in prison cells with federal inmates who were unvaccinated and who were diagnosed with confirmed cases of COVID-19. The BOP also entrusted my daily care to convicted gang leaders and murderers for more than three months at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta, even though my extremely low custody classification score prohibited my exposure to violent prisoners.

USP Atlanta was closed in July of 2021 due to widespread graft and corruption among the staff and inmate population. Convicted gang leaders literally ran the prison. The prison's 1,800 inmates were transferred to other BOP prison facilities.

I am presently incarcerated at the Federal Prison Camp at La Tuna in Anthony, New Mexico. By the time the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decides my case, I will likely be released from prison.

As one might expect, Watkins does not hold cheery thoughts toward those responsible for the prosecution. Also, he touches on what appears to be a brewing scandal connected to the North Birmingham Superfund bribery case:

The singular goal of the Birmingham federal prosecutors was to imprison me, by any and all means necessary, whether I was innocent of the charges against me, or not. My son was taken as a hostage, with a proverbial gun to his head, in order to pressure me into pleading guilty. Both of us fought the bogus criminal charges because we were innocent.

The allegations of wire and mail fraud in my case were first reviewed and evaluated by top-flight career prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey in 2015 and 2016, who found no wrongdoing on my part. The lead prosecutor in New Jersey congratulated me for my achievements in the international energy business.

In October 2017, the Birmingham U.S. Attorney's Office, under the supervision of Jay Town and Lloyd Peeples, asked Atlanta-based U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) officials, who had a substantial conflict of interest in the case, to give them a shot at the case. The SEC obliged them.

Jay Town is a small-time Republican political hack in Huntsville, Alabama. He was recommended as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama by U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) after Donald Trump became president. In July of 2017, Trump appointed Town to the job.

Town qualified for the U.S. Attorney's job because: (a) he was featured in a TV campaign ad attacking President Barack Obama that Sen. Shelby ran during his 2016 re-election campaign, and (b) he enjoys the "white male privilege" that is often accorded to inadequate white male political operatives in Alabama.

Prior to his appointment as U.S. Attorney, Jay Town was an obscure assistant district attorney in Madison County, Alabama, with a lackluster record as a state prosecutor.

Town resigned abruptly as U.S. Attorney in late 2020 after media organizations began looking into allegations that he "fixed" the outcome of a criminal investigation into a bribery scheme that paid more than $360,000 to state Rep. Oliver Robinson from a sham non-profit organization named the "Alliance for Jobs and the Economy" (AJE).

AJE was funded by Alabama Power Company, the Drummond Company, and their business alliance partners. Oliver Robinson was paid this laundered money to derail an initiative by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to designate a black neighborhood in North Birmingham as an EPA Super-Fund cleanup site.

This money-laundering and bribery scheme was structured and overseen by the Balch Bingham law firm in Birmingham, which represents Alabama Power Company. Prior to becoming the CEO at Alabama Power Company, Mark Crosswhite was a partner in Balch Bingham.

In late 2020, a photograph surfaced showing Mark Crosswhite having celebratory drinks with Jay Town in a cozy lounge after Town steered the Oliver Robinson-North Birmingham bribery investigation away from Alabama Power's pivotal role in 2017. An embarrassed, flawed, and deeply compromised Jay Town left office amid allegations that he "fixed" the case for Alabama Power Company and Balch Bingham.

Town's right-hand man was Lloyd Peeples. Peeples was a failed pizza store operator when Town hired him in October of 2017 to run the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Alabama on a day-to-day basis as his First Assistant U.S. Attorney. With Peeples at the helm, Town remained in Huntsville and collected a full-time paycheck for performing ceremonial duties as the U.S. Attorney on a part-time basis.

Apart from being financially distressed and failing miserably in private business, Peeples came into the U.S. Attorney's office with a documented history of hostility to women and blacks.

Today, Lloyd Peeples is the Chief of the Office's Criminal Division. As a Trump political hack and holdover employee, Peeples has burrowed himself into the Office's bureaucracy where he continues to hustle a living off of federal taxpayers' money.

Watkins says he is taking a hopeful, but realistic, approach to today's proceeding and its outcome, which probably will not be known for several months:

My son and I are doing well. We learned a long time ago how to navigate life in Alabama's sea of racial hatred.

We also enjoy a very strong and loving family and friends support network that is derived from the interracial goodwill of five generations of Carmichael/Varnado/Watkins trailblazers who faced the same or similar racial hostility in the Deep South, and persevered.

Donald, Jr., and I are hopeful about the outcome of our appeal. However, we are also realists. We know how "rigged" the federal criminal justice system is today, particularly against black, brown, and poor people in the Deep South. It will be interesting to see whether the three-judge panel that hears our appeal is all-white and whether these judges are from Alabama.

Recent Legal Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Democrats’ last, best chance to legislate before the midterms starts now, Theodoric Meyer, Jacqueline Alemany and Tobi Raji, April 26, 2022 (print ed.). With control of both chambers at risk, lawmakers are rushing to pass bills that they can run on in November, and Democratic senators working to confirm President Biden’s nominees while their fragile majority holds.

democratic donkey logoLawmakers return to Washington this week after a two-week recess, with Democrats preparing for a major push in the coming months to move legislation before the midterms consume Congress’ attention starting in August.

With Democrats’ control of both chambers at risk, lawmakers are rushing to pass bills that they can run on in November, and Democratic senators working to confirm President Biden’s nominees while their fragile majority holds.

U.S. House logoThe House is set to take up three bills this week meant to help small businesses — each of them sponsored by lawmakers facing tough reelection fights this fall. Lawmakers will also consider a Ukraine bill and domestic terrorism legislation this week, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (Md.) told colleagues on Friday.

The Senate, meanwhile, will vote as soon as this week to confirm Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell — who Biden nominated in November to another term — and three other Fed board nominees.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) will also move to confirm Alvaro Bedoya to the Federal Trade Commission as soon as this week, which would give Democrats a 3-2 majority for the first time since Biden took office.

The most immediate challenge for lawmakers is defusing a standoff over a $10 billion covid relief package that the White House has pleaded with Congress to approve. Senate Republicans are holding up the bill because Democrats won’t commit to holding a vote on an amendment to block the administration's planned rollback of pandemic immigration restrictions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden administration to phase out incandescent lightbulbs, reversing Trump policy, Anna Phillips, April 26, 2022. New Energy Department rules will save consumers $3 billion and cut annual carbon emissions by 222 million metric tons over 30 years.

The end has come for the old-fashioned incandescent lightbulb.

The Energy Department finalized two rules Monday requiring manufacturers to sell energy-efficient lightbulbs, effectively putting a “sell-by” date on older, inefficient bulbs that don’t meet the new standards. The move will speed the pace of a lighting revolution that is already well underway, driving down electricity use, saving consumers money and slashing greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector.
10 steps you can take to lower your carbon footprint

The new rules, which reverse a Trump-era policy, expand energy-efficiency requirements to more types of lightbulbs and ban the sale of those that produce less than 45 lumens per watt — a measure of how much light is emitted for each unit of electricity. This will eventually prohibit most incandescent and halogen lightbulbs and shift the country toward more efficient and compact fluorescent and LED bulbs.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fears mount inside White House that Manchin won’t agree to any deal, Jeff Stein, April 26, 2022. President Biden has little to show for months of trying to woo the West Virginia senator over his expansive economic agenda.

President Biden last spring proposed spending more than $4 trillion to transform the American economy. In negotiations last fall, after some of that money ended up in a bipartisan infrastructure law, the administration lowered its request to roughly $2 trillion. Now, with time running out before November’s elections, many White House officials say privately that they’d consider themselves fortunate to secure a deal worth even $1 trillion.

Biden’s shrinking ambitions are largely the result of failed negotiations with Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), the ever-elusive 50th vote for the president’s agenda in an evenly divided chamber. White House officials are confronting the “real fear” that they will fail to reach any deal with Manchin — even one that leaves out most of what Biden had initially hoped to accomplish, according to three senior administration officials and three outside advisers in communication with the White House, who all spoke on the condition of anonymity to comment on internal talks. A year after Biden introduced his climate and social spending plans, the White House is running out of time to get Manchin onboard, with many lawmakers in Congress viewing July 4 as a crucial deadline for action.

Congress returns to battles over spending as inflation looms

In recent weeks, White House officials have quietly tried gauging Manchin’s interest in a package that would consist primarily of clean-energy initiatives, prescription drug reform and higher taxes on the rich and corporations, the people said. The ideas discussed internally include more than $500 billion of deficit reduction, the people said. On Monday, a Manchin spokeswoman reiterated that he supports measures to boost U.S. energy production, lower prescription drug costs and raise tax revenue from corporations and the rich.

But despite his support for these provisions generally, Manchin has not yet made clear to the White House precisely what he would support in a final agreement, the people familiar with the administration’s discussions said. Manchin privately told lawmakers in recent days that he wants Congress to approve a bipartisan energy deal in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which would complicate an already difficult timeline for a broader spending proposal, according to two other people familiar with the matter, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity to reflect private talks. A bipartisan group, including Manchin, met on Monday night to discuss energy legislation.

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Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection, Election Claims

 washington post logoWashington Post, The not-so-neat trick GOP candidates play on the ‘stolen election,’ Aaron Blake, April 26, 2022. In case there was any doubt about what his primary challenge to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) is all about, former senator David Perdue erased it with the first few words out of his mouth.

“First off, let me be very clear tonight: The election in 2020 was rigged and stolen,” Perdue said this weekend. At their first debate, the two spent what the Atlanta Journal-Constitution clocked as 23 minutes arguing about Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him — including in Georgia, supposedly with Kemp’s help.

Perdue’s turn as a voter-fraud crusader remains awkward. While seeking reelection in a January 2021 runoff, Perdue checked the necessary boxes to make sure Trump didn’t pull the rug out from under his and fellow Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s (R-Ga.) campaigns. Both signed a letter calling for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) to resign and said they would object to the election results on Jan. 6. Both lost, regardless.

But Perdue was hardly a voter-fraud crusader. While others went on Fox News and echoed Trump’s claims, Perdue spoke mostly about supposed “irregularities” — a fallback for many a Trump ally trying to toe the line. Although there’s still no evidence of widespread fraud, Perdue is going further now than he did then — for the obvious reason that he needs to win a primary to win an election. (Kemp has a healthy lead in a new poll released by AJC on Tuesday morning — 53-27 — which suggests Perdue needs to do what he can to knock Kemp below 50 percent, to get to a runoff.)

Perdue’s dance is a familiar one. Repeatedly, high-profile statewide GOP candidates have run ads claiming a stolen election. Often, they made no such claim back when it might have mattered. And often, they’ll avoid saying it was stolen for the reasons Trump himself cites.

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Holds Trump in Contempt Over Documents in New York A.G.’s Inquiry, Jonah E. Bromwich, Ben Protess and William K. Rashbaum, April 26, 2022 (print ed.). New York judge on Monday held Donald J. Trump in contempt of court for failing to turn over documents to the state’s attorney general, an extraordinary rebuke of the former president.

The judge, Arthur F. Engoron, ordered Mr. Trump to comply with a subpoena seeking records and assessed a fine of $10,000 per day until he satisfied the court’s requirements. In essence, the judge concluded that Mr. Trump had failed to cooperate with the attorney general, Letitia James, and follow the court’s orders.

“Mr. Trump: I know you take your business seriously, and I take mine seriously,” said Justice Engoron of State Supreme Court in Manhattan, before he held Mr. Trump in contempt and banged his gavel.

Lawyers for Mr. Trump had argued that they conducted a thorough search for the records being sought by investigators and found no new documents to provide. But Justice Engoron decided that the lawyers had not provided sufficient detail about how they searched.

The contempt order could be short-lived. If Alina Habba, one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, files a sworn statement detailing every step that was taken to locate potential documents, the judge might be satisfied, lawyers close to the case said. Ms. Habba said after the hearing ended that she intended to file such a statement, potentially by the end of the day.

Ms. Habba also said she intended to appeal the ruling.

“All documents responsive to the subpoena were produced to the attorney general months ago,” Ms. Habba said. “This does not even come close to meeting the standard on a motion for contempt.”

At the hearing, Justice Engoron objected to an earlier statement from Mr. Trump’s lawyers regarding their efforts to search for documents, calling it “woefully insufficient” and “boilerplate.”

It failed, he said, to outline “what, who, where, when and how any search was conducted.”

The ruling — and Justice Engoron’s comments — represent a significant victory for Ms. James, whose office is conducting a civil investigation into whether Mr. Trump falsely inflated the value of his assets in annual financial statements.

In January, Ms. James, a Democrat, said her office had concluded that the Trump Organization had engaged in “fraudulent or misleading” practices involving the statements. But she said she would continue to investigate before deciding whether to sue Mr. Trump or his company.

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Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus Has Infected Most Americans at Least Once, C.D.C. Says, Staff Report, April 26, 2022. By February 2022, nearly 60 percent of the population had signs of exposure, almost double the proportion seen in December 2021, the agency’s data showed.

ny times logoNew York Times, “If it’s an eye opener for somebody — so be it,” Staff Report, April 26, 2022.  An unvaccinated man nearly died of Covid. This is what he wants you to know.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden administration boosts access to antivirals as covid cases rise, Yasmeen Abutaleb, April 26, 2022. Many have struggled to find Paxlovid pills amid the latest wave of infections driven by the highly transmissible omicron subvariant BA.2.

The Biden administration announced plans Tuesday to nearly double the number of pharmacies that carry antiviral pills to combat covid-19 as many consumers report difficulty finding a doctor to prescribe the medication, or a pharmacy that carries it, when they get sick.

The administration is also taking other steps to boost availability of the drug, a pill from Pfizer called Paxlovid, including an effort to stand up more “test-to-treat” programs in pharmacies and clinics, where many people will be able to walk out with a five-day regimen of pills after testing positive for the coronavirus.

The drug has been in increased demand in recent weeks as coronavirus cases once again rise, driven by the highly transmissible omicron subvariant BA.2. The seven-day average of new coronavirus cases was 47,029 on Monday, up from about 38,000 one week prior, even as many new infections are unreported as more people rely on home test kits.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vice President Kamala Harris Tests Positive for Coronavirus, Staff Report, April 26, 2022. Ms. Harris is the highest-ranking official in Washington to be infected. She has not had recent contact with President Biden, her office said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Mass testing hits Beijing amid fears it could face Shanghai-style lockdown, Lily Kuo, April 26, 2022 (print ed.). Panicked residents in Beijing stockpiled food and supplies, cleaning out grocery store shelves, as fears of a hard lockdown on the Chinese capital spread after authorities on Sunday announced mass testing to contain a small cluster of new coronavirus cases.

Beijing officials have reported 70 cases of the coronavirus since Friday in eight districts, with most in the city’s biggest district, Chaoyang. The 3.4 million residents of Chaoyang were ordered to undergo three rounds of testing this week, advised to go home directly after work and to “reduce” social interactions.

china flagLocal news reports and videos showed road closures and apartment buildings sealed off with metal fencing as authorities imposed “targeted lockdowns” in neighborhoods found to have positive cases. Long lines of residents waiting to be tested could be seen throughout Chaoyang district.

Worried the restrictions and mass testing presage a sudden citywide lockdown similar to that of Shanghai, residents quickly began panic buying goods for an extended quarantine.

The extreme measures taken in response to relatively few cases reflect the government’s unease over the more transmissible omicron variant, which has broken through China’s strict border controls and quarantine measures and tested its previously lauded handling of the pandemic.

Officials in Beijing are under even more pressure to make sure the politically important city does not become a repeat of Shanghai’s lockdown, marred by food shortages, clashes with authorities and seething citizens venting their frustration on and offline.

Shanghai’s covid siege: Food shortages, talking robots, starving animals

Internet users posted photos of empty grocery stores in Beijing as supplies of eggs, vegetables and meat ran low. Wumart supermarkets extended business hours while food and grocery delivery platforms added delivery hours.

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

World Cases: 510,173,095, Deaths: 6,246,099
U.S. Cases:     82,733,863, Deaths: 1,018,582
Indian Cases:   43,062,097, Deaths:    522,223
Brazil Cases:   30,355,919, Deaths:    662,777

Related Recent Headlines:

 

World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters

washington post logoWashington Post, Record heat has gripped India since March. It’s about to get worse, Matthew Cappucci, April 26, 2022. March maximum temperatures were the highest in 122 years. Temperatures late this week could near April records.

Temperatures in India remain high amid ongoing heat waves that have plagued the country with dry, sweltering weather since early spring. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) stated that its March maximum temperatures were the highest in nearly a century and a quarter, and rainfall was only running about a quarter to a third of normal.

A hot weather pattern has persisted in many parts of India during April, and the highest temperatures yet may afflict the country Wednesday into the weekend.

A large majority of Indian households live in poverty and lack air conditioning, increasing the population’s vulnerability to heat. Older adults are especially at risk from high temperatures.

Blizzard hammers North Dakota; fires rage in New Mexico

The sky-high temperatures exemplify the overlap between natural variability and the effects of human-caused climate change, which are known to make heat waves more intense and prolonged.

washington post logoWashington Post, After hesitancy, Germany greenlights some heavy arms for Ukraine, Loveday Morris, April 26, 2022. First, Germany said it couldn’t spare any of its Marder infantry vehicles for Ukraine.

Then it was accused of scrubbing such items from a German arms industry list of what was available for Kyiv. Berlin has since proposed sending some Marders after all but to Slovenia, so that country could in turn send its old Soviet-era tanks to Ukraine. And on Tuesday, the government said it would approve the export of German-made armored antiaircraft vehicles to Ukraine.
Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for the latest updates on Russia's war in Ukraine.

“It’s a complete contradiction,” Roderich Kiesewetter, a lawmaker with the conservative Christian Democrats, said of the government’s various statements on sending heavy arms in recent weeks.

As defense leaders from more than 40 countries met Tuesday at the U.S. Ramstein Air Base in Germany, to synchronize efforts to provide military aid to Ukraine, Berlin was just managing to synchronize the position of its own government.

ny times logoNew York Times, Europe’s far-right populists suffered a setback in Slovenia as the country’s prime minister lost to centrist rivals, Andrew Higgins, Updated April 25, 2022. The country’s prime minister, Janez Jansa, right, a Trump admirer, appears to have lost to centrist rivals. Europe’s once surging movement of nationalist populists suffered a significant setback in Slovenia on Sunday, in the formerly communist east, on the same day French voters rejected the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in their presidential election.

janez janšaIn parliamentary elections in Slovenia, a noteworthy test for the appeal of right-wing populism, preliminary results indicated that the prime minister, Janez Jansa, an ardent admirer of former President Donald J. Trump, lost to centrist rivals. Liberal democracy has come under particularly intense pressure in the region over the past decade.

With 95 percent of the vote counted in an election that the opposition called a “referendum on democracy,” results indicated that Mr. Jansa’s Slovenian Democratic Party, competing against 19 rival parties, had won around 24 percent of the vote. That is far behind the 34 percent of its main rival, the centrist Freedom Movement, meaning that Mr. Jansa is highly unlikely to keep his post as prime minister.

The results, showing that no single party won a clear majority, presage a period of political haggling as rival groups try to stitch together a stable coalition in parliament. That should be within reach of the Freedom Movement, led by a political newcomer, Robert Golob, a former energy company executive, with help from the Social Democrats and other smaller parties.

 Recent Global Headlines

 

More On War in Ukraine

 

 

state dept map logo Small

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Updates: Blinken says Russia is failing to reach its goals for the war, Missy Ryan, Adam Taylor, Bryan Pietsch, María Luisa Paúl, Annabelle Timsit and Julian Duplain, April 26, 2022 (print ed.). Russia wants to ‘stabilize’ relations with U.S., ambassador says; Swiss neutrality blocks German armor from heading to Ukraine; Ukraine says no agreement on humanitarian corridor in Mariupol.

Key Updates:  Biden taps Bridget Brink to be U.S. ambassador to Ukraine; U.S. aims for a Russia ‘weakened’ by war in Ukraine, Austin says; U.S. to resume diplomatic operations in Ukraine, increase aid.

antony blinken o newOn the heels of a visit to Kyiv, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, told reporters that Russia is clearly “failing” in its war aims and “Ukraine is succeeding," while Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that the United States wanted to see "Russia weakened to the point where it can’t do things like invade Ukraine.”

President Biden announced plans to nominate Bridget Brink, a career diplomat who currently serves as an ambassador to Slovakia, as ambassador to Ukraine. Blinken, speaking after the first visit by high-level U.S. officials to the Ukrainian capital, also confirmed that the United States would reopen its embassy in Ukraine, with diplomats first operating in the western city of Lviv.

Austin said the United States wants to see Ukraine remain a democratic country, able to defend its sovereign territory. The United States would also provide $713 million in foreign military financing to Ukraine and more than a dozen other nations to purchase new weapons, replenishing arms that were provided to Ukrainian forces. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the United States for its “unprecedented” assistance.

Here’s what else to know

  • Though local officials say that life in the Ukrainian capital is slowly becoming more normal, with businesses open and residents returning, the threat of air and rocket strikes continues and Kyiv remains under a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. local time.
  • Ukrainian officials said there was no agreement on a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians from Azovstal Iron and Steel Works reached with Moscow, and that thee industrial plant remained under attack — despite Russian claims they would unilaterally cease fire to allow civilians to escape from the home of Mariupol’s last defenders.
  • Zelensky congratulated French President Emmanuel Macron on his reelection over far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who has a history of warm relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader sent his own message of congratulations to Macron, who won a second term as French president.

 

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, left, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, center, and U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken (April 24, 2022).

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, left, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, center, and U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken (April 24, 2022).

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. wants Russian military ‘weakened’ from invasion, Austin says, Missy Ryan and Annabelle Timsit, April 26, 2022 (print ed.). The United States hopes the war in Ukraine will result in a “weakened” Russia that no longer has the capacity to invade its neighbors, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, above, said Monday — a sharpening of rhetoric toward Moscow as the conflict stretches into its third month.

Department of Defense Seal“We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine,” Austin said.

Austin was in Poland, answering questions from reporters after a brief trip Sunday with Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Kyiv, where the pair met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials.

The defense secretary was asked how he defined “America’s goals for success” in Ukraine. He first said Washington wants to see “Ukraine remain a sovereign country, a democratic country, able to protect its sovereign territory.”

 

volodmyer zelinsky graphic

ny times logoNew York Times, How Zelensky Ended Political Discord and Put Ukraine on a War Footing, Andrew E. Kramer, April 26, 2022 (print ed.). As he defends his country, President Volodymyr Zelensky, above and below right, has unified a government usually known for infighting.

Russian tanks were rolling over the border and Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, was in the grips of fear and panic. Street fighting broke out and a volodymyr zelensky suit portraitRussian armored column, barreling into the city, advanced to within two miles of the office of President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In those tense first days of the war, almost everyone — Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, military analysts and many Western officials — expected the Ukrainian leadership to fracture. Instead, Mr. Zelensky decided to personally remain in the capital, taking selfies as he traversed Kyiv to reassure his people. And he ordered his senior aides, many Cabinet members and much of his government to also stay put, despite the risks.

It was a crystallizing moment for Mr. Zelensky’s government, ensuring a wide array of agencies kept running efficiently and in sync. Leading politicians put aside the sharp-elbowed infighting that had defined Ukrainian politics for decades and instead created a largely united front that continues today.

ny times logoNew York Times, Explosions hit Transnistria, a Russian-allied region on Ukraine’s western flank, amid fears of a new front in the war, Ivan Nechepurenko, April 26, 2022 (print ed.). Explosions on Monday shook Transnistria, a Russia-aligned breakaway region of Moldova that borders Ukraine, and the local government said a security agency building in the region’s capital, Tiraspol, had possibly been attacked using grenade launchers.

In a statement, the local internal affairs ministry said no one was injured because of the incident. Pictures posted on social media, and claimed to be from the scene, appeared to show smoke billowing out of broken windows with rescue workers in the streets below.

While the fighting in Ukraine is concentrated in the east, Transnistria, which hosts hundreds of Russian troops and has a large ethnic Russian population, occupies a strategically important spot on Ukraine’s western flank, reaching within about 25 miles of Ukraine’s chief port city, Odesa.

On Friday, a Russian general said one of Moscow’s current aims in Ukraine is to establish “yet another point of access” to Transnistria, a claim that echoed Ukrainian fears that Russia wants to seize Ukraine’s entire Black Sea coast, including Odesa, linking itself to Transnistria. Military experts questioned whether the general’s comments reflected Kremlin policy, and whether the Russian military could carry out such a mission.

During the buildup to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainian officials warned of Russian “provocations,” including in Transnistria — attacks that it said Moscow might stage but blame on Kyiv as a pretext for military action.

Transnistria, a thin strip of land with fewer than 500,000 people, broke away from Moldova with support from Moscow in a brief war in the early 1990s. It has a repressive government, heavily dependent on Russia, and Russian state-run television is dominant there.

ny times logoNew York Times, Seeking arms for Ukraine, the U.S. is scouring Eastern European factories, John Ismay and Eric Schmitt, April 26, 2022 (print ed.). The Pentagon sources much of the American-made weaponry it sends to Kyiv from its own stockpiles, but relies on American defense contractors to scour Eastern European munitions factories to find newly made weapons designed by the United States’ former adversary, the Soviet Union, to fulfill President Biden’s pledges of increased military aid for Ukraine.

Ukraine still uses many weapons common to the Russian army, such as modern Kalashnikovs. And while Ukraine’s pleas for more sophisticated weaponry — such as Javelin anti-tank and Stinger antiaircraft missiles — have received widespread attention, the country’s military has pressing needs for a wide range of munitions, including tens of millions of rounds for Soviet-era arms that are not on the cutting edge but are staples of the Ukrainian military.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden taps Bridget Brink for ambassador to Ukraine, María Luisa Paúl, April 26, 2022 (print ed.). President Biden plans to nominate Bridget Brink to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, the White House announced Monday. The move is intended to fill a position that has remained officially vacant for three years — and is now even more crucial during the Russian invasion.

bridget brink oSecretary of State Antony Blinken said on the heels of a visit to Kyiv that Brink, right, who is currently the U.S. ambassador to Slovakia, is “deeply experienced in the region” and “will be a very strong representative for the United States in Ukraine.”

The announcement came as Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the first high-level U.S. visit to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began.

The officials said U.S. diplomatic operations would resume this week in Ukraine, in a first step toward reopening the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. Brink’s “decades of experience make her uniquely suited for this moment in Ukraine’s history,” the State Department said in a statement Monday.

  • Washington Post, Ukraine asks U.S. for $2 billion per month in emergency economic aid, April 25, 2022.

 Recent Headlines

 

Media, Entertainment, Religion News

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Yes sir’: New texts show Hannity promising on-air Trump campaign push, Jeremy Barr, April 26, 2022. Fox News host Sean Hannity promised Donald Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, that he would push an Election Day get-out-the-vote message to his radio show listeners, according to communications within a cache of more than 2,000 text messages obtained by CNN.

“NC gonna be ok?” Hannity wrote in one text to Meadows on Nov. 3, 2020, according to the CNN report published on Monday — an apparent reference to Trump’s electoral prospects in the battleground state of North Carolina.

Meadows then asked for Hannity’s help with messaging, and offered him a slogan to convey to the host’s millions of radio show listeners. “Stress every vote matters,” Meadows wrote back. “Get out and vote. On radio.”

fox news logo SmallHannity responded in the affirmative, writing back, “Yes sir. On it,” before adding, “any place in particular we need a push.”

When Meadows suggested Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Arizona and Nevada, Hannity replied, “Got it. Everywhere.” (Trump won North Carolina but lost the other three states to President Biden.)

In past years, Fox News has attempted to set some boundaries for its on-air personalities: Even opinion hosts, who could be open about their ideological views, were nonetheless expected to stop short of publicly wading into political contests.

While Hannity has long been an outspoken supporter of Trump during his presidential campaigns and presidency, the messages — which had been turned over by Meadows to the House select committee investigating the events of Jan. 6 — suggest that Hannity saw himself as part of the broader pro-Trump campaign apparatus on Election Day, offering up his radio show audience to help boost Trump’s chances. (CNN wrote that Hannity was one of Meadows’ most frequent pen pals.)

washington post logoWashington Post, In a city full of adjunct faculty members, many struggle to get by, Lauren Lumpkin, April 26, 2022. Part-time instructors across the region cobble together many jobs to make a living wage. Unions that represent them are gaining strength, and protests are becoming more frequent.

Other Recent Media Headlines



April 25

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U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, left, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, center, and U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken (April 24, 2022).

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

 

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Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection, Elections Claims

 

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War

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

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Blinken says Russia is failing to reach its goals for the war, Missy Ryan, Adam Taylor, Bryan Pietsch, María Luisa Paúl, Annabelle Timsit and Julian Duplain, April 25, 2022. Russia wants to ‘stabilize’ relations with U.S., ambassador says; Swiss neutrality blocks German armor from heading to Ukraine; Ukraine says no agreement on humanitarian corridor in Mariupol.

Key Updates:  Biden taps Bridget Brink to be U.S. ambassador to Ukraine; U.S. aims for a Russia ‘weakened’ by war in Ukraine, Austin says; U.S. to resume diplomatic operations in Ukraine, increase aid.

antony blinken o newOn the heels of a visit to Kyiv, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, told reporters that Russia is clearly “failing” in its war aims and “Ukraine is succeeding," while Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that the United States wanted to see "Russia weakened to the point where it can’t do things like invade Ukraine.”

President Biden announced plans to nominate Bridget Brink, a career diplomat who currently serves as an ambassador to Slovakia, as ambassador to Ukraine. Blinken, speaking after the first visit by high-level U.S. officials to the Ukrainian capital, also confirmed that the United States would reopen its embassy in Ukraine, with diplomats first operating in the western city of Lviv.

Austin said the United States wants to see Ukraine remain a democratic country, able to defend its sovereign territory. The United States would also provide $713 million in foreign military financing to Ukraine and more than a dozen other nations to purchase new weapons, replenishing arms that were provided to Ukrainian forces. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the United States for its “unprecedented” assistance.

Here’s what else to know

  • Though local officials say that life in the Ukrainian capital is slowly becoming more normal, with businesses open and residents returning, the threat of air and rocket strikes continues and Kyiv remains under a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. local time.
  • Ukrainian officials said there was no agreement on a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians from Azovstal Iron and Steel Works reached with Moscow, and that thee industrial plant remained under attack — despite Russian claims they would unilaterally cease fire to allow civilians to escape from the home of Mariupol’s last defenders.
  • Zelensky congratulated French President Emmanuel Macron on his reelection over far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who has a history of warm relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader sent his own message of congratulations to Macron, who won a second term as French president.

 

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, left, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, center, and U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken (April 24, 2022).

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, left, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, center, and U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken (April 24, 2022).

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. wants Russian military ‘weakened’ from invasion, Austin says, Missy Ryan and Annabelle Timsit, April 25, 2022. The United States hopes the war in Ukraine will result in a “weakened” Russia that no longer has the capacity to invade its neighbors, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, above, said Monday — a sharpening of rhetoric toward Moscow as the conflict stretches into its third month.

Department of Defense Seal“We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine,” Austin said.

Austin was in Poland, answering questions from reporters after a brief trip Sunday with Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Kyiv, where the pair met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials.

The defense secretary was asked how he defined “America’s goals for success” in Ukraine. He first said Washington wants to see “Ukraine remain a sovereign country, a democratic country, able to protect its sovereign territory.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Elon Musk to acquire Twitter for roughly $44 billion, Douglas MacMillan, Faiz Siddiqui, Rachel Lerman and Taylor Telford, April 25, 2022. Ownership of Twitter gives Musk power over hugely consequential societal and political issues, perhaps most significantly the ban on former president Donald Trump.

elon musk 2015Elon Musk, right, acquired Twitter for $44 billion on Monday, the company announced, giving the world’s richest person command of one of its most influential social media sites — which serves as a platform for political leaders, a sounding board for experts across industries and an information hub for millions of everyday users.

The acquisition followed weeks of evangelizing on the necessity of “free speech,” as the Tesla CEO seized on Twitter’s role as the “de facto town square” and took umbrage with content moderation efforts he views as an escalation toward censorship. He said he sees Twitter as essential to the functioning of democracy and said the economics are not a concern.

Ownership of Twitter gives Musk power over hugely consequential societal and political issues, perhaps most significantly the ban on former president Donald Trump that the website enacted in response to the Jan. 6 riots.

Why does Elon Musk want to buy Twitter?

twitter bird CustomUnder the terms of the deal, Twitter will become a private company and shareholders will receive $54.20 per share, the company said in a news release. The deal is expected to close this year.

“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” Musk said in the release. “I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans. Twitter has tremendous potential — I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it.”

Musk‘s Twitter deal expands his portfolio, which already includes rocket building company SpaceX, which has aspirations of landing on Mars, and the electric carmaker Tesla, that has pushed electric vehicles into the mainstream.

“He’s more powerful than countries now,” said Ross Gerber, a Tesla investor close with Musk who said he had bought Twitter shares last week in hopes the deal went through. “He has the most important technology asset in America … probably one of the most strategic military assets in the world … and now he has one of the most important communications tools in the world.”

Musk’s positions on free speech and how to police the site have put him relatively at odds with current leadership at the site, raising questions about how he will seek to steer his changes through and whether they will impact Twitter’s current executive makeup.

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Critics are wrong. Biden is getting Ukraine right, Jennifer Rubin, jennifer rubin new headshotright, April 24, 2022. When a courageous underdog country such as Ukraine suffers devastating losses to an aggressive, genocidal invader, it is easy to say that other nations should do more to help. But what does “more” mean?

If it means sending troops into Ukraine (or Ukrainian air space) and risk getting into a shooting war with another nuclear power run by an delusional tyrant, most Americans would object. President Biden understands this.

He has rightly rejected the invitation to start World War III, opting instead for an “all of the above” strategy. On the arms front, he previously decided against sending aircraft to Ukraine because, contrary to claims from his critics, they proved unnecessary in the battle for Kyiv.

Now that the action has shifted to the Donbas region, Biden has responded appropriately. After sending a $800 million security assistance package the prior week, Biden announced on Thursday that he would send “another $800 million to further augment Ukraine’s ability to fight in the east,” which will include dozens of Howitzers, 144,000 rounds of ammunition and tactical drones. All of which was to begin shipping within 24 to 48 hours.

American FlagBiden also reminded Americans of the vast quantities of other military equipment and critical intelligence offered to Ukraine. For every Russian tank, the president said, the United States has sent 10 antitank systems. And in “facilitating the significant flow of weapons and systems to Ukraine from other Allies and partners around the world,” the United States has ensured that Ukraine has the weaponry to maintain the fight and continue to turn back Russian forces, which few thought possible. Biden has come close to exhausting the funds allocated by Congress and will need to ask for additional funds.

In addition to arms, the United States gave Ukraine this week another $500 million in non-military aid, bringing the total to about $1 billion in two months. Biden explained: “This is money the [Ukrainian] government can help use to stabilize their economy, to support communities that have been devastated by the Russian onslaught and pay the brave workers that continue to provide essential services to the people of Ukraine.”

Meanwhile, Biden has assembled an unprecedented international sanctions regimen that halts U.S. imports of Russian fuel and commits Europe to weaning itself from Russian oil and gas. In addition to the raft of financial sanctions added almost weekly, Biden announced on Thursday a complete ban on Russian ships in U.S. ports.

Biden warned that this will not be a quick fight, noting that “Putin is banking on us losing interest.” He continued, “We will not lessen our resolve. We’re going to continue to stand with the brave and proud people of Ukraine. We will never fail in our determination to defend freedom and oppose tyranny.” Such rhetoric may not rise to the level of Churchill, but it serves as an eloquent expression of steadfastness.

In our age of perpetual cynicism, distrust and discontent, it would be unheard of for an opposing party to acknowledge that an administration is doing just about everything humanly possible to confront evil. But this administration is. For that, Biden deserves a great deal of credit.

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, How Zelensky Ended Political Discord and Put Ukraine on a War Footing, Andrew E. Kramer, April 25, 2022. As he defends his country, President Volodymyr Zelensky, above and below right, has unified a government usually known for infighting.

Russian tanks were rolling over the border and Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, was in the grips of fear and panic. Street fighting broke out and a volodymyr zelensky suit portraitRussian armored column, barreling into the city, advanced to within two miles of the office of President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In those tense first days of the war, almost everyone — Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, military analysts and many Western officials — expected the Ukrainian leadership to fracture. Instead, Mr. Zelensky decided to personally remain in the capital, taking selfies as he traversed Kyiv to reassure his people. And he ordered his senior aides, many Cabinet members and much of his government to also stay put, despite the risks.

It was a crystallizing moment for Mr. Zelensky’s government, ensuring a wide array of agencies kept running efficiently and in sync. Leading politicians put aside the sharp-elbowed infighting that had defined Ukrainian politics for decades and instead created a largely united front that continues today.

 

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CNN, Exclusive: Mark Meadows' 2,319 text messages reveal Trump's inner circle communications before and after Jan 6, Jamie Gangel, Jeremy Herb and Elizabeth Stuart, April 25, 2022. CNN has obtained 2,319 text messages that former President Donald Trump's White House chief of staff Mark Meadows sent and received between Election Day 2020 and President Joe Biden's January 20, 2021 inauguration.

The vast trove of texts offers the most revealing picture to date of how Trump's inner circle, supporters and Republican lawmakers worked behind the scenes to try to overturn the election results and then reacted to the violence that effort unleashed at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

cnn logoThe logs, which Meadows selectively provided to the House committee investigating the January 6 attack, show how the former chief of staff was at the nexus of sprawling conspiracy theories baselessly claiming the election had been stolen. They also demonstrate how he played a key role in the attempts to stop Biden's certification on January 6.

The never-before-seen texts include messages from Trump's family -- daughter Ivanka Trump, son-in-law Jared Kushner and son Donald Trump Jr. -- as well as White House and campaign officials, Cabinet members, Republican Party leaders, January 6 rally organizers, Rudy Giuliani, My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell, Sean Hannity and other Fox hosts. There are also text exchanges with more than 40 current and former Republican members of Congress, including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Mo Brooks of Alabama and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

mark meadows book chief chiefThe texts include everything from plans to fight the election results to surprising and unexpected reactions on January 6 from some of Trump's staunchest allies. At 2:28 p.m., Greene, the conservative firebrand who had helped to plan the congressional objections that day, texted Meadows (shown at right on the cover of his memoir last fall) with an urgent plea for help as the violence was unfolding at the Capitol.

"Mark I was just told there is an active shooter on the first floor of the Capitol Please tell the President to calm people This isn't the way to solve anything," Greene wrote. Meadows does not appear to reply.

"Mark: he needs to stop this, now. Can I do anything to help?" Mick Mulvaney, Trump's former acting White House chief of staff, texted Meadows.

"It's really bad up here on the hill. They have breached the Capitol," Georgia Republican Rep. Barry Loudermilk wrote.

"The president needs to stop this ASAP," texted GOP Rep. William Timmons of South Carolina.
"POTUS is engaging," Meadows sent in response to Loudermilk. "We are doing it," he texted to Timmons.

"Thanks. This doesn't help our cause," Loudermilk replied.

Shortly after, Donald Trump Jr. weighed in: "This his(sic) one you go to the mattresses on. They will try to fuck his entire legacy on this if it gets worse."

"TELL THEM TO GO HOME !!!" texted Trump's first chief of staff, Reince Priebus.

washington post logoWashington Post, In Mariupol, echoes of history, utter devastation and a last stand, Anthony Faiola, Michael Birnbaum and Mary Ilyushina, April 25, 2022 (print ed.). The near-total leveling of Mariupol has evoked the sieges of Aleppo, Syria, in the 2010s and Grozny, Chechnya, in the 1990s — but also the destruction of European cities from an age thought buried in the ashes of World War II.

On a proud June morning in 2014, Ukrainian forces restored their flag over Mariupol’s city hall to rousing choruses of the national anthem. For weeks, they had engaged pro-Russian separatists in a fight for control of a port city with immense strategic importance. The loss of Mariupol, an industrial center on the Sea of Azov, would have risked losing control of a swath of eastern and southern Ukraine — a prize that Russian President Vladimir Putin desperately sought.

Now, after nearly a decade on the front lines of what had been a low-grade war, should Mariupol come under Russian control, it would be a major development in Moscow’s full-scale invasion. In a war marked by Russia’s underperformance, by its inability to take Kyiv and its failed attempt to decapitate the Ukrainian leadership, control of the devastated metropolis amounts to a significant and horrific Kremlin victory.

The fight is not over. Civilians and Ukrainian fighters — including combatants from the Azov Regiment, the same nationalist unit that helped wrest back the city in 2014 — remain hunkered down in a dramatic last stand at the sprawling Azovstal Iron and Steel Works.

Outside the Soviet-era factory’s labyrinthine halls and underground tunnels and chambers, there is little left to defend.

 

French President Emmanuel Macron campaigns for re-election in second-round voting scheduled for Sunday (Associated Press photo by Laurent Cipriani).

French President Emmanuel Macron campaigns for re-election in second-round voting scheduled for Sunday, with the stakes high for Europe, NATO and Ukraine because his far-right opponent, Marine LePen, is a NATO and European Union critic backed by Russia (Associated Press photo by Laurent Cipriani).

ny times logoNew York Times, Macron Is Re-Elected as French President, Defeating Le Pen, Roger Cohen, April 25, 2022 (print ed.). The far-right candidate Marine Le Pen conceded on Sunday after President Emmanuel Macron claimed 58.2 percent of the vote; Mr. Macron’s victory will come as a relief to the U.S. and France’s European allies at a time when there is a war raging in Ukraine. Here’s the latest.

Emmanuel Macron won a second term as president of France, triumphing on Sunday over Marine Le Pen, his far-right challenger, after a campaign where his promise of stability prevailed over the temptation of an extremist lurch.

french flagProjections at the close of voting, which are generally reliable, showed Mr. Macron, a centrist, gaining 58.5 percent of the vote to Ms. Le Pen’s 41.5 percent. His victory was much narrower than in 2017, when the margin was 66.1 percent to 33.9 percent for Ms. Le Pen, but wider than appeared likely two weeks ago.

Speaking to a crowd massed on the Champ de Mars in front of a twinkling Eiffel Tower, a solemn Mr. Macron said his was a victory for “a more independent France and a stronger Europe.” At the same time he acknowledged “the anger that has been expressed” during a bitter campaign and that he had duty to “respond effectively.”

Ms. Le Pen conceded defeat in her third attempt to become president, but bitterly criticized the “brutal and violent methods” of Mr. Macron. She vowed to fight on to secure a large number of representatives in legislative elections in June, declaring that “French people have this evening shown their desire for a strong counter power to Emmanuel Macron.”

At a critical moment in Europe, with fighting raging in Ukraine after the Russian invasion, France rejected a candidate hostile to NATO, to the European Union, to the United States, and to its fundamental values that hold that no French citizens should be discriminated against because they are Muslim.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, the foreign minister, said the result reflected “the mobilization of French people for the maintenance of their values and against a narrow vision of France.”

The French do not generally love their presidents, and none had succeeded in being re-elected since 2002. Mr. Macron’s unusual achievement in securing five more years in power reflects his effective stewardship over the Covid-19 crisis, his rekindling of the economy, and his political agility in occupying the entire center of the political spectrum.

marin le pen franciyaMs. Le Pen, left, softening her image if not her anti-immigrant nationalist program, rode a wave of alienation and disenchantment to bring the extreme right closer to power than at any time since 1944. Her National Rally party has joined the mainstream, even if at the last minute many French people seem to have voted for Mr. Macron to ensure that France not succumb to the xenophobic vitriol of the darker passages of its history.

Ms. Le Pen is a longtime sympathizer with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, whom she visited at the Kremlin during her last campaign in 2017. She would almost certainly have pursued policies that weakened the united allied front to save Ukraine from Russia’s assault, offered Mr. Putin a breach to exploit in Europe, and undermined the European Union, whose engine has always been a joint Franco-German commitment to it.

If Brexit was a blow to unity, a French nationalist quasi-exit, as set out in Ms. Le Pen’s proposals, would have left the European Union on life support. That, in turn, would have crippled an essential guarantor of peace on the continent in a volatile moment.

Olaf Scholz, the German Chancellor, declared that Mr. Macron’s win was “a vote of confidence in Europe.” Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, congratulated the French leader and called France “one of our closest and most important allies.”

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: French election was not "close" and Le Pen did not show new "strength,” Wayne Madsen, left, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallApril 25, 2022. The U.S. news media, taking its cues from fake TV reality shows, has reported that French President Emmanuel Macron's easy defeat of fascist and pro-Russian candidate Marine Le Pen in the second round of the French presidential election is an indication of the French far-right making "gains."

wayne madesen report logoA 59 to 41 percent victory for Emmanuel, while not as strong as his 66 to 33 percent thrashing of Le Pen in the 2017 election, does not show any real "gains" by Le Pen and her National Rally party. Macron's 2022 campaign strategy of tacking to the right did cost him votes among the French progressive left, but those voters largely decided to abstain from voting in the second round rather than voting for Le Pen. Some 6.8 percent of voters in the second round showed up at polling places to submit "blank" ballots.

As someone who has covered two past French presidential elections from Paris, this editor recently reported on April 14 that Le Pen had no chance of beating Macron in a free and fair election devoid of Vladimir Putin's election hackers and social media influencers.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

ny times logoNew York Times, Cities Want to Return to Prepandemic Life. One Obstacle: Transit Crime, Julie Bosman, Sophie Kasakove, Jill Cowan and Richard Fausset, April 25, 2022. Crime rates on trains and buses are up in some of the nation’s biggest cities, one more barrier for downtowns trying to rebound.

Just as a number of major cities are trying to lure people back to formerly bustling downtowns, leaders are confronting transit crime rates that have risen over prepandemic levels in New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Earlier this month, a shooting on a subway train in Brooklyn injured 23 people. In other cities, stories of violent assaults, muggings and stabbings on buses and trains dominate the evening news and worried conversations in neighborhood apps.

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, After a Rocky First Year, a Cautious Merrick Garland Finds His Footing, Katie Benner April 25, 2022. For all of the focus on the Justice Department’s investigation into the Jan. 6 attack, Mr. Garland has focused on the everyday work of the attorney general, above.

During a recent swing through the South, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland chatted up participants in a police program in Georgia aimed at redirecting youth who had sold bottled water on interstate highways into less dangerous work. He announced funding to address policing problems like the use of excessive force. He talked about mental health support, an issue he has thought about since he saw firsthand how officers who responded to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing struggled to process the horror.

Justice Department log circularFor all of the attention on the Justice Department’s investigation into the Jan. 6 attack, the trip was focused on the everyday work of being the attorney general, fighting crime and serving as a steward of law enforcement. Over two days in Georgia and Louisiana, Mr. Garland, in interviews with The New York Times on his plane and later in Baton Rouge, would say only that the assault on the Capitol “completely wiped out” any doubts he had about taking the post.

“I felt that this was exactly why I had agreed to be attorney general in the first place,” he said. “Jan. 6 is a date that showed what happens if the rule of law breaks down.”

By most accounts, becoming attorney general was a tough adjustment for a former appeals judge who had last worked at the Justice Department in the late 1990s. But more than a year into his tenure, colleagues say that a cautious leader has found some footing, more a prosecutor now than a deliberator.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court takes up case of a coach and his prayers on 50-yard line, Robert Barnes, April 25, 2022 (print ed.). Joseph Kennedy’s case brings questions about the ability of public employees to live out their faith while on duty and the government’s responsibility to protect schoolchildren from coercion.

Almost everyone agrees it should not require two trips to the U.S. Supreme Court to settle the case of a high school football coach who wants to pray at the 50-yard line.

Maybe former Bremerton High School assistant coach Joseph Kennedy could have conceded that his postgame prayer of gratitude could take place somewhere other than midfield, or discouraged what one judge called a “spectacle” of stampeding supporters and politicians who rushed after one game to kneel beside him on the gridiron.

Maybe the school district could have offered an accommodation that didn’t require Kennedy to climb to the stadium press box, or retreat to a janitor’s office in the school, to offer his prayer. Instead, it prohibited him from any “demonstrative religious activity” that is “readily observable to (if not intended to be observed by) students and the attending public.”

Nonetheless, Kennedy v. Bremerton School District arrives before the justices Monday. It brings vexing questions about the ability of public employees to live out their faith while on duty and the government’s competing responsibility to protect schoolchildren from coercion and to remain neutral on the subject of religion.

The case offers a court that has recently been overwhelmingly protective of religious rights the chance to transform decades of Supreme Court jurisprudence that started 60 years ago with the admonition that government cannot organize and promote prayer in public schools.

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U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

 washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Democrats’ last, best chance to legislate before the midterms starts now, Theodoric Meyer, Jacqueline Alemany and Tobi Raji, April 25, 2022. With control of both chambers at risk, lawmakers are rushing to pass bills that they can run on in November, and Democratic senators working to confirm President Biden’s nominees while their fragile majority holds.

democratic donkey logoLawmakers return to Washington this week after a two-week recess, with Democrats preparing for a major push in the coming months to move legislation before the midterms consume Congress’ attention starting in August.

With Democrats’ control of both chambers at risk, lawmakers are rushing to pass bills that they can run on in November, and Democratic senators working to confirm President Biden’s nominees while their fragile majority holds.

U.S. House logoThe House is set to take up three bills this week meant to help small businesses — each of them sponsored by lawmakers facing tough reelection fights this fall. Lawmakers will also consider a Ukraine bill and domestic terrorism legislation this week, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (Md.) told colleagues on Friday.

The Senate, meanwhile, will vote as soon as this week to confirm Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell — who Biden nominated in November to another term — and three other Fed board nominees.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) will also move to confirm Alvaro Bedoya to the Federal Trade Commission as soon as this week, which would give Democrats a 3-2 majority for the first time since Biden took office.

The most immediate challenge for lawmakers is defusing a standoff over a $10 billion covid relief package that the White House has pleaded with Congress to approve. Senate Republicans are holding up the bill because Democrats won’t commit to holding a vote on an amendment to block the administration's planned rollback of pandemic immigration restrictions.

Recent Headlines

 

Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection, Election Claims

 

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 ny times logoNew York Times, A Crusade to Challenge the 2020 Election, Charles Homans, April 25, 2022 (print ed.). Blessed by Church Leaders, Some evangelical pastors are hosting events dedicated to Donald Trump’s election falsehoods and promoting the cause to their congregations.

The 11 a.m. service at Church for All Nations, a large nondenominational evangelical church in Colorado’s second-largest city, began as such services usually do. The congregation of young families and older couples swayed and sang along to live music. Mark Cowart, the church’s senior pastor, delivered an update on a church mission project.

Then Mr. Cowart turned the pulpit over to a guest speaker, William J. Federer.

An evangelical commentator and one-time Republican congressional candidate, Mr. Federer led the congregation through an hourlong PowerPoint presentation based on his 2020 book, “Socialism — The Real History from Plato to the Present: How the Deep State Capitalizes on Crises to Consolidate Control.” Many congregants scribbled in the notebooks they had brought from home.

“I believe God is pushing the world to a decision-making moment,” Mr. Federer said, building toward his conclusion. “We used to have national politicians that held back the floodgates of hell. The umbrella’s been ripped after Jan. 6, and now it’s raining down upon every one of us. We had politicians that were supposed to certify that — and instead they just accepted it. And, lo and behold, an anti-Christian spirit’s been released across the country and the world.”

Evangelical churches have long been powerful vehicles for grass-roots activism and influence on the American right, mobilized around issues like abortion and gay marriage. Now, some of those churches have embraced a new cause: promoting Donald J. Trump’s false claim that the 2020 election was stolen.

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Holds Trump in Contempt Over Documents in New York A.G.’s Inquiry, Jonah E. Bromwich, Ben Protess and William K. Rashbaum, April 25, 2022. New York judge on Monday held Donald J. Trump in contempt of court for failing to turn over documents to the state’s attorney general, an extraordinary rebuke of the former president.

The judge, Arthur F. Engoron, ordered Mr. Trump to comply with a subpoena seeking records and assessed a fine of $10,000 per day until he satisfied the court’s requirements. In essence, the judge concluded that Mr. Trump had failed to cooperate with the attorney general, Letitia James, and follow the court’s orders.

“Mr. Trump: I know you take your business seriously, and I take mine seriously,” said Justice Engoron of State Supreme Court in Manhattan, before he held Mr. Trump in contempt and banged his gavel.

Lawyers for Mr. Trump had argued that they conducted a thorough search for the records being sought by investigators and found no new documents to provide. But Justice Engoron decided that the lawyers had not provided sufficient detail about how they searched.

The contempt order could be short-lived. If Alina Habba, one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, files a sworn statement detailing every step that was taken to locate potential documents, the judge might be satisfied, lawyers close to the case said. Ms. Habba said after the hearing ended that she intended to file such a statement, potentially by the end of the day.

Ms. Habba also said she intended to appeal the ruling.

“All documents responsive to the subpoena were produced to the attorney general months ago,” Ms. Habba said. “This does not even come close to meeting the standard on a motion for contempt.”

At the hearing, Justice Engoron objected to an earlier statement from Mr. Trump’s lawyers regarding their efforts to search for documents, calling it “woefully insufficient” and “boilerplate.”

It failed, he said, to outline “what, who, where, when and how any search was conducted.”

The ruling — and Justice Engoron’s comments — represent a significant victory for Ms. James, whose office is conducting a civil investigation into whether Mr. Trump falsely inflated the value of his assets in annual financial statements.

In January, Ms. James, a Democrat, said her office had concluded that the Trump Organization had engaged in “fraudulent or misleading” practices involving the statements. But she said she would continue to investigate before deciding whether to sue Mr. Trump or his company.

 

U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.

Palmer Report, Opinion: January 6th public hearings are set to “blow the roof” off the place, Bill Palmer, April 24, 2022. Jamie Raskin now says the bill palmerJanuary 6th Committee’s upcoming public hearings will “blow the roof off” the scandal. He’s a savvy guy. He knows that in politics, you only ramp up expectations for something if you know you’re going to be able to more than meet those raised expectations. So the committee must really have the goods.

bill palmer report logo headerIf it turned out the committee wasn’t able to unearth as much as it had been hoping, members like Raskin would be out there trying to tamp down expectations, or saying nothing at all.

So why haven’t the public hearings started yet? From the start, the committee had a long term strategy of making an example out of Steve Bannon right out of the gate, and then building cooperating witnesses from the bottom up – and that strategy appears to have ultimately paid off in spades.

Reluctant high level witnesses, ranging from the Trump White House Counsel to multiple members of Trump’s family, have recently decided to give cooperative testimony. Presumably because they don’t want contempt charges and they’re afraid of what other witnesses may have said.

capitol riot nyt jan 7 2021If you’re a higher level witness and you’re afraid that some lower level witness who’s already testified may have tried to pin it all on you, you’re motivated to go in and defend yourself. That’s what we’re seeing now with with a number of high level witnesses, some of whom had previously been trying really hard to avoid testifying.

So this rush of last minute high level testimony has perhaps held up the start of public hearings by a bit. But who cares? There’s no downside to holding the hearings in June instead of April. And they’ll be more effective now, because there’s a lot more to work with than if the hearings had already taken place.

At some point the committee has to say “the midterms are coming” and just start the public hearings. But the committee knows how to read a calendar. There’s no way will it start its public hearings any later than summer.

In the meantime, the committee is already putting some of the evidence out there in ways such as Friday’s court filing against Mark Meadows – which reveals that Meadows conspired with several House Republicans to overthrow the election. Those details are explosive, yet they’re apparently not the committee’s biggest revelations, or we wouldn’t be seeing them so soon.

The committee wants to motivate average Americans – not you and me, who will watch anyway, but average Americans – to tune in for these hearings. It’s why we’re seeing some of these juicy details surface in advance, so the media can play it up ahead of the hearings. The January 6th Committee probe appears to be playing out exactly like we’d hoped. And now we’ve got Jamie Raskin confirming that the committee has indeed hit paydirt.

 

mark meadows with cell

washington post logoWashington Post, Meadows was warned of violence before Jan. 6, new court filings show, Jacqueline Alemany, April 24, 2022 (print ed.). White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows (shown above in a file photo) was warned before Jan. 6, 2021, about the threat of violence that day as supporters of President Donald Trump planned to mass at the U.S. Capitol, according to new testimony released late Friday by the House committee investigating the insurrection.

republican elephant logoOne of Meadows’s top aides, Cassidy Hutchinson, told congressional investigators she recalled Anthony Ornato, a senior Secret Service official who also held the role of a political adviser at the White House, “coming in and saying that we had intel reports saying that there could potentially be violence on the 6th. And Mr. Meadows said: All right. Let’s talk about it.”

Hutchinson added, “I’m not sure if he — what he did with that information internally.”

Those details were in a filing arguing that a federal court should reject Meadows’s claims of executive privilege and compel him to appear before the House Jan. 6 committee, which is continuing to build a case that Trump knowingly misled his followers about the election, and pressured Pence to break the law in the weeks and hours before the assault.

In the motion, the committee outlines seven “discrete categories of information” about which it seeks to question Meadows and argues that his claims of executive privilege should not preclude his testifying about those matters.

Those categories of information include testimony and documents relating to communications with members of Congress; the plan to replace acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen with Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark; efforts by Trump to “direct, persuade or pressure then Vice President Mike Pence to unilaterally refuse to count electoral votes on January 6th”; and activity in the White House “immediately before and during the events of January 6th.”

The committee laid out new examples of warnings Meadows received before Jan. 6, 2021, along with a deepened understanding of his involvement with planning and coordinating efforts to disrupt the counting of electoral college votes in Congress.

ny times logoNew York Times, Filing Provides New Details on White House Planning for Jan. 6, Luke Broadwater and Alan Feuer, April 24, 2022 (print ed.).  Testimony disclosed by the House committee investigating the attack showed that Mark Meadows and Freedom Caucus members discussed directing marchers to the Capitol as Congress certified the election results.

Before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Trump White House officials and members of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus strategized about a plan to direct thousands of angry marchers to the building, according to newly released testimony obtained by the House committee investigating the riot and former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to overturn the election.

On a planning call that included Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff; Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer; Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio; and other Freedom Caucus members, the group discussed the idea of encouraging supporters to march to the Capitol, according to one witness’s account.

The idea was endorsed by Representative Scott Perry, Republican of Pennsylvania, who now leads the Freedom Caucus, according to testimony by Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to Mr. Meadows, and no one on the call spoke out against the idea.

“I don’t think there’s a participant on the call that had necessarily discouraged the idea,” Ms. Hutchinson told the committee’s investigators.

The nearly two-mile march from the president’s “Stop the Steal” rally at the Ellipse to the Capitol, where parts of the crowd became a violent mob, has become a focus of both the House committee and the Justice Department as they investigate who was responsible for the violence.

Mr. Meadows and members of the Freedom Caucus, who were deeply involved in Mr. Trump’s push to overturn the 2020 election, have condemned the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and defended their role in spreading the lie of a stolen election.

Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony and other materials disclosed by the committee in a 248-page court filing on Friday added new details and texture to what is publicly known about the discussions in Mr. Trump’s inner circle and among his allies in the weeks preceding the Jan. 6 assault.

The committee alleged that Mark Meadows, the final chief of staff for President Donald J. Trump, was told that an effort to try to overturn the 2020 election using so-called alternate electors were not “legally sound” and that Jan. 6 could turn violent, but he pushed forward with plans to hold a rally in Washington anyway.

The filing is part of the committee’s effort to seek the dismissal of a lawsuit brought against it by Mr. Meadows. It disclosed testimony that Mr. Meadows was told that plans to try to overturn the 2020 election using so-called alternate electors were not “legally sound” and that the events of Jan. 6 could turn violent. Even so, he pushed forward with the rally that led to the march on the Capitol, according to the filing.

The filing also disclosed new details of Mr. Meadows’s involvement in attempts to pressure Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, over Mr. Trump’s loss there.

At rallies in Washington in November and December of 2020, Mr. Trump’s supporters did not march to the Capitol and mostly refrained from violence. But on Jan. 6, Mr. Trump encouraged a crowd of thousands to march to the building, telling them: “You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength.” He did so after the White House’s chief of operations had told Mr. Meadows of “intel reports saying that there could potentially be violence on the 6th,” according to the filing.

mark meadows book chief chiefTwo rally organizers, Dustin Stockton and his fiancée, Jennifer L. Lawrence, have also provided the committee with evidence that they were concerned that a march to the Capitol on Jan. 6 would mean “possible danger” and that Mr. Stockton’s “urgent concerns” were escalated to Mr. Meadows, according to the committee.

In his book, The Chief’s Chief, Mr. Meadows said Mr. Trump “ad-libbed a line that no one had seen before” when he told the crowd to march, adding that the president “knew as well as anyone that we wouldn’t organize a trip like that on such short notice.”

Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony contradicts those statements.

She said Mr. Meadows had said “in casual conversation”: “Oh, we’re going to have this big rally. People are talking about it on social media. They’re going to go up to the Capitol.”

Recent Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Mass testing hits Beijing amid fears it could face Shanghai-style lockdown, Lily Kuo, April 25, 2022. Panicked residents in Beijing stockpiled food and supplies, cleaning out grocery store shelves, as fears of a hard lockdown on the Chinese capital spread after authorities on Sunday announced mass testing to contain a small cluster of new coronavirus cases.

Beijing officials have reported 70 cases of the coronavirus since Friday in eight districts, with most in the city’s biggest district, Chaoyang. The 3.4 million residents of Chaoyang were ordered to undergo three rounds of testing this week, advised to go home directly after work and to “reduce” social interactions.

china flagLocal news reports and videos showed road closures and apartment buildings sealed off with metal fencing as authorities imposed “targeted lockdowns” in neighborhoods found to have positive cases. Long lines of residents waiting to be tested could be seen throughout Chaoyang district.

Worried the restrictions and mass testing presage a sudden citywide lockdown similar to that of Shanghai, residents quickly began panic buying goods for an extended quarantine.

The extreme measures taken in response to relatively few cases reflect the government’s unease over the more transmissible omicron variant, which has broken through China’s strict border controls and quarantine measures and tested its previously lauded handling of the pandemic.

Officials in Beijing are under even more pressure to make sure the politically important city does not become a repeat of Shanghai’s lockdown, marred by food shortages, clashes with authorities and seething citizens venting their frustration on and offline.

Shanghai’s covid siege: Food shortages, talking robots, starving animals

Internet users posted photos of empty grocery stores in Beijing as supplies of eggs, vegetables and meat ran low. Wumart supermarkets extended business hours while food and grocery delivery platforms added delivery hours.

ny times logoNew York Times, Covid Lockdowns Revive the Ghosts of a Planned Chinese Economy, Li Yuan, April 25, 2022. China is meddling with free enterprise as it hasn’t in years, our columnist writes. The scarcities and black markets will feel familiar to some.

China’s economy is a giant, sophisticated machine that requires numerous parts to work together. Behind its 1.4 billion consumers are 150 million registered businesses that provide jobs, food and everything that keeps the machine humming.

washington post logoWashington Post, As world reopens, North Korea is one of two countries without vaccines, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Min Joo Kim, April 25, 2022 (print ed.). As mask mandates and social distancing requirements lift around the world, North Korea remains one of two countries that have not administered any coronavirus vaccines, with no sign of how it can ever begin to reopen despite a brewing humanitarian crisis for its people.

The vaccines that were allocated for North Korea through a United Nations-backed global vaccination effort are no longer available, officials said this month, after Pyongyang repeatedly rejected the initiative’s offers of millions of doses.

North Korea, already one of the most closed societies in the world, remains in a strict pandemic lockdown and has shuttered its borders except to a minimal level of trade with China, with grave implications for the health and food security of its population.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated April 25, 2022), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2totals ere and some experts saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 509,623,069, Deaths: 6,243,648
U.S. Cases:     82,662,748, Deaths: 1,018,335
Indian Cases:   43,060,086, Deaths:    522,223
Brazil Cases:   30,349,463, Deaths:     662,701

Related Recent Headlines:

 

World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters

ny times logoNew York Times, Europe’s far-right populists suffered a setback in Slovenia as the country’s prime minister lost to centrist rivals, Andrew Higgins, Updated April 25, 2022. The country’s prime minister, Janez Jansa, right, a Trump admirer, appears to have lost to centrist rivals. Europe’s once surging movement of nationalist populists suffered a significant setback in Slovenia on Sunday, in the formerly communist east, on the same day French voters rejected the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in their presidential election.

janez janšaIn parliamentary elections in Slovenia, a noteworthy test for the appeal of right-wing populism, preliminary results indicated that the prime minister, Janez Jansa, an ardent admirer of former President Donald J. Trump, lost to centrist rivals. Liberal democracy has come under particularly intense pressure in the region over the past decade.

With 95 percent of the vote counted in an election that the opposition called a “referendum on democracy,” results indicated that Mr. Jansa’s Slovenian Democratic Party, competing against 19 rival parties, had won around 24 percent of the vote. That is far behind the 34 percent of its main rival, the centrist Freedom Movement, meaning that Mr. Jansa is highly unlikely to keep his post as prime minister.

The results, showing that no single party won a clear majority, presage a period of political haggling as rival groups try to stitch together a stable coalition in parliament. That should be within reach of the Freedom Movement, led by a political newcomer, Robert Golob, a former energy company executive, with help from the Social Democrats and other smaller parties.

washington post logoWashington Post, As El Salvador arrests thousands, families search for those who disappeared, Kevin Sieff, Photos by Fred Ramos, April 25, 2022 (print ed.). In a country where thousands vanished during the civil war of the 1980s and thousands more disappeared during a surge in gang violence that began in 2014, the arrests have prompted the kind of frantic search that feels familiar.

Gregoria Monterosa steeled herself and walked up to the entrance of the unmarked prison known as El Penalito. Next to the front gate, a visibly bored police officer sat behind a desktop computer.

“Who’s next?” he droned. Monterosa, 70, stepped forward.

“My son was arrested eight days ago, and we still have no idea where he is,” she said.

She spelled out his name — Genaro Godoy Ramos — and tried to hold the officer’s attention. But he looked over her shoulder, distracted by what he saw there.

Behind Monterosa was a scene provoked by one of the most dramatic police crackdowns in recent Latin American history: a crowd of Salvadoran mothers and wives whose husbands and sons had been detained in a wave of at least 13,000 arrests.

The arrests are El Salvador’s response to a rampage of killings last month, including 62 in a single day. The country’s president, Nayib Bukele, promised revenge: “a war on gangs.”

On March 27, he announced a 30-day “Regimén de Excepción” — a state of emergency that gave the government broad power to make arrests, suspending due process.

Many family members, such as Monterosa, have no idea where their relatives have been taken. They come here on their own ad hoc searches, sneaking glimpses between gaps in the metal gate, checking incomplete lists of detainees posted by police officers.

Monterosa had tried those options without success. Other mothers had seen their sons flash by in the windows of police buses as they were transferred between jails. She watched them collapse into tears, jealous of their assurance.

Her son, 47, had been detained immediately after arriving in San Salvador on a deportation flight from the United States. A family friend recorded a video of him and two other deportees being driven away from the country’s migration office in the back of a police pickup.

A police officer told the family that his tattoos suggested possible gang ties — evidence enough to detain someone under the country’s current state of emergency.

The other women in line at El Penalito told stories of how their sons were arrested — in raids on their homes, while selling fruit in downtown San Salvador or working on construction sites, while walking home from the bus.

“We have no record of your son in the system,” the officer told Monterosa. He called the next woman in line.

Monterosa tucked his identification card back in her purse and walked away.

“How is it that my son can just be lost?” she asked. “How do you arrest someone and then just have no record of it?”

Bukele, a prolific user of social media, has posted videos of prisoners being handcuffed and herded into prison halls, where hundreds were sandwiched together for a photo op.

“We seized everything from them, even their mattresses,” he tweeted. “We rationed their food and now they will no longer see the sun. STOP KILLING NOW or they will pay for it too.”

Long before the bloodletting last month, it was clear that in parts of El Salvador, gangs had more control than the state. In some neighborhoods, MS-13 and Mara 18 extorted and threatened people, and killed those who refused to submit. The police rarely intervened.

The United States has said that Bukele’s government negotiated a truce with the country’s major gangs, a controversial approach pursued by previous Salvadoran presidents. The U.S. Treasury Department said last year that Bukele’s administration “provided financial incentives to Salvadoran gangs MS-13 and 18th Street Gang (Barrio 18) to ensure that incidents of gang violence and the number of confirmed homicides remained low.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Arab Militia Kills Scores in Sweeping Attack in Sudan’s Darfur, Declan Walsh, April 25, 2022 (print ed.). The assault by hundreds of Janjaweed fighters, the latest in a series of clashes, was another sign of Sudan's deepening security and political crisis.

 Recent Global Headlines

 

More On War in Ukraine

ny times logoNew York Times, America’s Road to the Ukraine War, Lara Jakes, Edward Wong and Michael Crowley, April 25, 2022 (print ed.). For years, the United States sent mixed signals about its interest in the country. Then Vladimir Putin made his move.

washington post logoWashington Post, Invasion of Ukraine divides Orthodox Christians, Erin Cunningham, April 25, 2022 (print ed.). Photos show stark contrast in Easter celebrations in Ukraine and Russia. The United Nations secretary general called this week for an Easter truce between Russia and Ukraine. Orthodox Christians in both countries observe Easter on Sunday.

But as the fighting continued to rage, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Moscow on Thursday of rejecting the U.N. proposal.
Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for the latest updates on Russia's war in Ukraine.

Russia’s invasion has roiled global markets, revived the NATO alliance and triggered war crimes investigations. It has also opened a rift in the Orthodox Church, pitting the Russian wing and its pro-Kremlin patriarch against Orthodox leaders in Kyiv and around the globe.

Orthodox Christianity is one of the largest Christian communions in the world — after Catholicism and the Protestant church. Most of its roughly 260 million adherents are concentrated in Europe, Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union.

It is the dominant faith in both Russia and Ukraine, where the status of the church has become a source of tension between Moscow and Kyiv. For Russian President Vladimir Putin and his ally in the church, Patriarch Kirill, Ukraine is an inseparable part of a greater Russian world — one with Moscow as its political center and Kyiv as its spiritual hub.

Because of this, Kirill, 75, has offered a full-throated endorsement of the war, doubling down even as the world recoils at widespread reports of Russian atrocities in Ukraine. His pro-war stance has angered other church leaders, in Ukraine and across the Orthodox faith, many of whom have condemned the war and urged Kirill to reconsider his support.

ny times logoNew York Times, Explosions hit Transnistria, a Russian-allied region on Ukraine’s western flank, amid fears of a new front in the war, Ivan Nechepurenko, April 25, 2022. Explosions on Monday shook Transnistria, a Russia-aligned breakaway region of Moldova that borders Ukraine, and the local government said a security agency building in the region’s capital, Tiraspol, had possibly been attacked using grenade launchers.

In a statement, the local internal affairs ministry said no one was injured because of the incident. Pictures posted on social media, and claimed to be from the scene, appeared to show smoke billowing out of broken windows with rescue workers in the streets below.

While the fighting in Ukraine is concentrated in the east, Transnistria, which hosts hundreds of Russian troops and has a large ethnic Russian population, occupies a strategically important spot on Ukraine’s western flank, reaching within about 25 miles of Ukraine’s chief port city, Odesa.

On Friday, a Russian general said one of Moscow’s current aims in Ukraine is to establish “yet another point of access” to Transnistria, a claim that echoed Ukrainian fears that Russia wants to seize Ukraine’s entire Black Sea coast, including Odesa, linking itself to Transnistria. Military experts questioned whether the general’s comments reflected Kremlin policy, and whether the Russian military could carry out such a mission.

During the buildup to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainian officials warned of Russian “provocations,” including in Transnistria — attacks that it said Moscow might stage but blame on Kyiv as a pretext for military action.

Transnistria, a thin strip of land with fewer than 500,000 people, broke away from Moldova with support from Moscow in a brief war in the early 1990s. It has a repressive government, heavily dependent on Russia, and Russian state-run television is dominant there.

ny times logoNew York Times, Seeking arms for Ukraine, the U.S. is scouring Eastern European factories, John Ismay and Eric Schmitt April 25, 2022.  The Pentagon sources much of the American-made weaponry it sends to Kyiv from its own stockpiles, but relies on American defense contractors to scour Eastern European munitions factories to find newly made weapons designed by the United States’ former adversary, the Soviet Union, to fulfill President Biden’s pledges of increased military aid for Ukraine.

Ukraine still uses many weapons common to the Russian army, such as modern Kalashnikovs. And while Ukraine’s pleas for more sophisticated weaponry — such as Javelin anti-tank and Stinger antiaircraft missiles — have received widespread attention, the country’s military has pressing needs for a wide range of munitions, including tens of millions of rounds for Soviet-era arms that are not on the cutting edge but are staples of the Ukrainian military.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden taps Bridget Brink for ambassador to Ukraine, María Luisa Paúl, April 25, 2022. President Biden plans to nominate Bridget Brink to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, the White House announced Monday. The move is intended to fill a position that has remained officially vacant for three years — and is now even more crucial during the Russian invasion.

bridget brink oSecretary of State Antony Blinken said on the heels of a visit to Kyiv that Brink, right, who is currently the U.S. ambassador to Slovakia, is “deeply experienced in the region” and “will be a very strong representative for the United States in Ukraine.”

The announcement came as Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the first high-level U.S. visit to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began.

The officials said U.S. diplomatic operations would resume this week in Ukraine, in a first step toward reopening the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. Brink’s “decades of experience make her uniquely suited for this moment in Ukraine’s history,” the State Department said in a statement Monday.

  • Washington Post, Ukraine asks U.S. for $2 billion per month in emergency economic aid, April 25, 2022.

washington post logoWashington Post, Overview: In Ukraine, despair and bloodshed in the backdrop of a somber holiday, Peter Whoriskey, Bryan Pietsch and Paulina Firozi, April 25, 2022 (print ed.). As Russians and Ukrainians celebrated Orthodox Easter on Sunday, the bloody struggle in Mariupol continued, keeping thousands of civilians trapped in the besieged port city, their desperation and the fear of further war atrocities adding urgency to ongoing international efforts to aid Ukraine.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in what was the highest-level visit by an American delegation since the start of the war.

The U.S. government had declined to confirm any details ahead of the meeting, citing security concerns. But a Ukrainian official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the meeting publicly, confirmed that the visit took place on Sunday afternoon.

European leaders visited Ukraine weeks ago to witness firsthand evidence of atrocities committed by Russian soldiers. But until Sunday, top U.S. officials had not visited the country since the invasion.

Top Biden administration leaders also are aiming to step up diplomatic efforts in support of Ukraine this week. Austin is convening a meeting at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Tuesday with at least 20 countries to focus on the short- and long-term military and security needs of Ukraine, according to the Pentagon.

Exactly what the United States ought to provide to the Ukrainian war effort has remained a point of contention, however. Officials in Kyiv have strenuously argued that more must be done, while U.S. representatives have said that they have made ample contributions in what they describe as a winning effort.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Sunday that the United States has provided “precisely what our Ukrainian partners need to fend off this Russian aggression.”

Appearing on BBC’s “Sunday Morning” television program, Price praised Ukraine’s war effort, saying its military has achieved “nothing short of victory on the battlefield.”

In assessing the Ukrainians’ position in the war, Price cited President Biden’s recent pledge of $800 million in military assistance to Kyiv, which will include howitzers, ammunition and tactical drones.

“Right now, they are winning the battle for Ukraine,” Price said.

United NationsU.N. Secretary General António Guterres, meanwhile, is planning a trip to Russia to meet with President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday and to Ukraine on Thursday to meet with Zelensky.

“He hopes to talk about what can be done to bring peace to Ukraine urgently,” Guterres spokesman Eri Kaneko said. But Several Ukrainian officials are denouncing Guterres’s decision to meet with Putin, noting the reported crimes committed by Russian forces.

“We did not understand his intention to travel to Moscow and to talk to President Putin,” Igor Zhovkva, a top adviser to Zelensky, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine entering its third month, the presidents of both countries somberly marked one of the most sacred holidays on the Christian calendar. Orthodox Easter is widely celebrated in both countries, and the war has divided its adherents, too.

ny times logoNew York Times, Rattled by War in Ukraine, Moldova Strives to Dodge Russia’s Long Shadow, Monika Pronczuk and Jeffrey Gettleman, April 24, 2022 (print ed.). Moldova’s destiny has been intertwined uncomfortably with Russia’s for years, and the Ukraine invasion has sped its efforts to break free from Moscow.

Before war erupted next door, Moldovans had big plans for their country.

moldovaBut the Russian invasion of Ukraine put Moldova, a former Soviet republic and one of Europe’s poorest nations, in an extremely vulnerable situation, threatening its economic development, straining its society with waves of refugees and evoking existential fears of yet another Russian occupation.

The war jitters are also adding another chapter to Moldova’s long and increasingly desperate effort to untangle itself from Moscow’s clutches. In pursuit of that, it recently applied to join the European Union, but the prospect of gaining admission anytime soon is remote.

“We are a fragile country in a fragile region,” said Maia Sandu, Moldova’s president, in an interview.

Moldovans’ fears swelled anew on Friday, when a Russian general said his country’s military now plans to seize the entire southern coast of Ukraine. That would establish a land bridge from Russia in the east to Transnistria, a heavily armed, breakaway region in Moldova’s east — bordering Ukraine — that is controlled by Russia.

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Pool photo by Evgeny Biyatov).

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Pool photo by Evgeny Biyatov).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Russians say they have two choices: Win or be destroyed, Leonid Ragozin, April 24, 2022 (print ed.). They justify Putin’s fratricide because the West, and ‘internal Ukrainians,’ present an existential threat.

On April 1, Aleksey Zhuravlyov, a member of the lower house of the Russian parliament, put a Kremlin spin on the war in Ukraine for the millions of viewers of an influential Russian talk show. Russia wasn’t really fighting Ukraine or Ukrainians; the real enemy was the American-led Western bloc. “We need to introduce a new term,” Zhuravlyov said. “Biden’s war.”

This was creative framing considering that President Vladimir Putin himself prefers to justify Russia’s aggression with more insular rhetoric. He has said that Russians and Ukrainians are one people, while Kremlin propaganda, especially the toxic television talk shows, promote the idea that those who advocate for the country’s genuine independence from Russia are a bunch of Nazis.

But whether it is “Biden’s war” or Putin’s, Russians have rallied around the flag, and most likely that’s because the Kremlin has led them to see the war as an existential choice: Either you win it, or your life is going to be destroyed.

Leonid Ragozin is a freelance journalist based in Latvia. He has covered the Ukrainian conflict and Russian politics, and previously reported for the BBC and the Russian edition of Newsweek.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Former Chancellor Who Became Putin’s Man in Germany, Katrin Bennhold, April 24, 2022 (print ed.). Gerhard Schröder, who is paid almost $1 million a year by Russian energy companies, has become a pariah. But he also symbolizes Germany’s policy on Russia.

On the evening of Dec. 9, 2005, 17 days after Gerhard Schröder left office as chancellor of Germany, he got a call on his cellphone. It was his friend President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

gerhard schröder wMr. Putin was pressing Mr. Schröder, right, to accept an offer to lead the shareholder committee of Nord Stream, the Russian-controlled company in charge of building the first undersea gas pipeline directly connecting Russia and Germany.

“Are you afraid to work for us?” Mr. Putin had joked. Mr. Schröder might well have been, given the appearance of possible impropriety — the pipeline he was now being asked to head had been agreed to in the final weeks of his chancellorship, with his strong support.

He took the job anyway.

Seventeen years later, the former chancellor, who recounted the events himself in a pair of rare interviews, remains as defiant as ever.

 Recent Headlines

 

Climate Change, Environment

ny times logoNew York Times, Climate Activist Dies After Setting Himself on Fire at Supreme Court, Chris Cameron, April 25, 2022 (print ed.). A Colorado man who set himself on fire in front of the Supreme Court on Friday in an apparent Earth Day protest against climate change has died, police said.

The Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D.C., said that Wynn Bruce, 50, of Boulder, Colo., had died on Saturday from his injuries after being airlifted to a hospital following the incident. Members of his family could not be reached immediately for comment.

Kritee Kanko, a climate scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund and a Zen Buddhist priest in Boulder, said that she is a friend of Mr. Bruce and that the self-immolation was a planned act of protest.

“This act is not suicide,” Dr. Kritee wrote on Twitter early Sunday morning. “This is a deeply fearless act of compassion to bring attention to climate crisis.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Wildfires Burn More Than 150,000 Acres in Three States, Jesus Jiménez and Farah Eltohamy, April 25, 2022 (print ed.). Wildfires in Arizona, Nebraska and New Mexico have left at least one person dead and destroyed hundreds of structures.

 

Media, Entertainment, Religion News

ny times logoNew York Times, Inside the Implosion of CNN+, John Koblin, Michael M. Grynbaum and Benjamin Mullin, April 25, 2022 (print ed.). Seen as the future of CNN, the streaming channel was suddenly killed. Its next owner, Discovery, had concerns but was constrained in guiding a competitor.

David Zaslav had been chief executive of Warner Bros. Discovery for all of a few hours when he learned he had a problem.

On April 11, the day his newly merged company began trading on Nasdaq, Mr. Zaslav greeted New York employees with pasta and ice cream bars, delivering an impromptu rallying cry to his new charges. He was on his way to Washington, next stop on the coronation tour, when a call came in.

His team had just gotten its first look at data from CNN+, the much-promoted subscription streaming service started two weeks before, and the news was grim. Fewer than 10,000 viewers were watching at any given time, despite a multimillion dollar ad campaign and big hires like Chris Wallace. They were recommending a cold-eyed review.

Three days later, shortly after Mr. Zaslav appeared with Oprah Winfrey for a rah-rah company town hall, he gathered his deputies inside a low-slung stucco building in Burbank, Calif., on the Warner Bros. studio lot, and said he agreed with their conclusion: shut it down.

Other Recent Media Headlines


April 24

Top Headlines

 

Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection, Elections Claims

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

 

More On Ukraine War

 

Virus Victims, Responses


U.S. Media, Education, Sports, Religion

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters

 

Top Stories

 

French President Emmanuel Macron campaigns for re-election in second-round voting scheduled for Sunday (Associated Press photo by Laurent Cipriani).

French President Emmanuel Macron campaigns for re-election in second-round voting scheduled for Sunday, with the stakes high for Europe, NATO and Ukraine because his far-right opponent, Marine LePen, is a NATO and European Union critic backed by Russia (Associated Press photo by Laurent Cipriani).

ny times logoNew York Times, Macron Is Re-Elected as French President, Defeating Le Pen, Roger Cohen, April 24, 2022. The far-right candidate Marine Le Pen conceded on Sunday after President Emmanuel Macron claimed 58.2 percent of the vote; Mr. Macron’s victory will come as a relief to the U.S. and France’s European allies at a time when there is a war raging in Ukraine. Here’s the latest.

  • Emmanuel Macron, 55.6%; Marine Le Pen, 44.4%, Partial results as of 5:00 p.m. E.T.

Emmanuel Macron won a second term as president of France, triumphing on Sunday over Marine Le Pen, his far-right challenger, after a campaign where his promise of stability prevailed over the temptation of an extremist lurch.

french flagProjections at the close of voting, which are generally reliable, showed Mr. Macron, a centrist, gaining 58.5 percent of the vote to Ms. Le Pen’s 41.5 percent. His victory was much narrower than in 2017, when the margin was 66.1 percent to 33.9 percent for Ms. Le Pen, but wider than appeared likely two weeks ago.

Speaking to a crowd massed on the Champ de Mars in front of a twinkling Eiffel Tower, a solemn Mr. Macron said his was a victory for “a more independent France and a stronger Europe.” At the same time he acknowledged “the anger that has been expressed” during a bitter campaign and that he had duty to “respond effectively.”

Ms. Le Pen conceded defeat in her third attempt to become president, but bitterly criticized the “brutal and violent methods” of Mr. Macron. She vowed to fight on to secure a large number of representatives in legislative elections in June, declaring that “French people have this evening shown their desire for a strong counter power to Emmanuel Macron.”

At a critical moment in Europe, with fighting raging in Ukraine after the Russian invasion, France rejected a candidate hostile to NATO, to the European Union, to the United States, and to its fundamental values that hold that no French citizens should be discriminated against because they are Muslim.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, the foreign minister, said the result reflected “the mobilization of French people for the maintenance of their values and against a narrow vision of France.”

The French do not generally love their presidents, and none had succeeded in being re-elected since 2002. Mr. Macron’s unusual achievement in securing five more years in power reflects his effective stewardship over the Covid-19 crisis, his rekindling of the economy, and his political agility in occupying the entire center of the political spectrum.

marin le pen franciyaMs. Le Pen, left, softening her image if not her anti-immigrant nationalist program, rode a wave of alienation and disenchantment to bring the extreme right closer to power than at any time since 1944. Her National Rally party has joined the mainstream, even if at the last minute many French people seem to have voted for Mr. Macron to ensure that France not succumb to the xenophobic vitriol of the darker passages of its history.

Ms. Le Pen is a longtime sympathizer with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, whom she visited at the Kremlin during her last campaign in 2017. She would almost certainly have pursued policies that weakened the united allied front to save Ukraine from Russia’s assault, offered Mr. Putin a breach to exploit in Europe, and undermined the European Union, whose engine has always been a joint Franco-German commitment to it.

If Brexit was a blow to unity, a French nationalist quasi-exit, as set out in Ms. Le Pen’s proposals, would have left the European Union on life support. That, in turn, would have crippled an essential guarantor of peace on the continent in a volatile moment.

Olaf Scholz, the German Chancellor, declared that Mr. Macron’s win was “a vote of confidence in Europe.” Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, congratulated the French leader and called France “one of our closest and most important allies.”

 

War

ukraine olena kurilo 52 teacher Russian missile Chuhuiv amazon

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Top U.S. Officials in Kyiv as Fight Rages in East, Marc Santora, April 24, 2022. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III are the highest-ranking American officials to visit Ukraine since Russia invaded.

Their visit underscored the Biden administration’s increasingly muscular approach to the war, as Ukraine’s Western allies race to supply heavy weapons and equipment to fend off Russia’s renewed onslaught in the eastern region known as the Donbas.

In other news: The Ukrainian soldiers took their jackets off, squinting under the rising sun as the Rev. Taras Melnyk blessed them and their traditional Easter bread with holy water on Saturday.

For a brief moment, the dozens of soldiers under towering pines seemed to lose themselves in the prayers and blessings that come on the holiest day of the year for Orthodox Christians. Far from their families, unable to celebrate on Easter Sunday for military reasons, they were able to enjoy one tradition: paska, a sweet bread. They joked that Father Melnyk had brought with him the first taste of spring sunshine after more than two months of war.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Critics are wrong. Biden is getting Ukraine right, Jennifer Rubin, April 24, 2022. When a courageous underdog country such as Ukraine suffers devastating losses to an aggressive, genocidal invader, it is easy to say that other nations should do more to help. But what does “more” mean?

If it means sending troops into Ukraine (or Ukrainian air space) and risk getting into a shooting war with another nuclear power run by an delusional tyrant, most Americans would object. President Biden understands this.

He has rightly rejected the invitation to start World War III, opting instead for an “all of the above” strategy. On the arms front, he previously decided against sending aircraft to Ukraine because, contrary to claims from his critics, they proved unnecessary in the battle for Kyiv.

Now that the action has shifted to the Donbas region, Biden has responded appropriately. After sending a $800 million security assistance package the prior week, Biden announced on Thursday that he would send “another $800 million to further augment Ukraine’s ability to fight in the east,” which will include dozens of Howitzers, 144,000 rounds of ammunition and tactical drones. All of which was to begin shipping within 24 to 48 hours.

Biden also reminded Americans of the vast quantities of other military equipment and critical intelligence offered to Ukraine. For every Russian tank, the president said, the United States has sent 10 antitank systems. And in “facilitating the significant flow of weapons and systems to Ukraine from other Allies and partners around the world,” the United States has ensured that Ukraine has the weaponry to maintain the fight and continue to turn back Russian forces, which few thought possible. Biden has come close to exhausting the funds allocated by Congress and will need to ask for additional funds.

In addition to arms, the United States gave Ukraine this week another $500 million in non-military aid, bringing the total to about $1 billion in two months. Biden explained: “This is money the [Ukrainian] government can help use to stabilize their economy, to support communities that have been devastated by the Russian onslaught and pay the brave workers that continue to provide essential services to the people of Ukraine.”

Meanwhile, Biden has assembled an unprecedented international sanctions regimen that halts U.S. imports of Russian fuel and commits Europe to weaning itself from Russian oil and gas. In addition to the raft of financial sanctions added almost weekly, Biden announced on Thursday a complete ban on Russian ships in U.S. ports.

Biden warned that this will not be a quick fight, noting that “Putin is banking on us losing interest.” He continued, “We will not lessen our resolve. We’re going to continue to stand with the brave and proud people of Ukraine. We will never fail in our determination to defend freedom and oppose tyranny.” Such rhetoric may not rise to the level of Churchill, but it serves as an eloquent expression of steadfastness.

In our age of perpetual cynicism, distrust and discontent, it would be unheard of for an opposing party to acknowledge that an administration is doing just about everything humanly possible to confront evil. But this administration is. For that, Biden deserves a great deal of credit.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Before visit by U.S. officials, Ukraine pushes for more arms, Meryl Kornfield, Bryan Pietsch, Adam Taylor, Annabelle Timsit and Julian Duplain, April 24, 2022. Recent attacks in Luhansk leave 8 dead, governor says; Latest on key battlegrounds: Russian strikes kill and injure dozens ahead of Orthodox Easter Sunday.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are expected to visit Ukraine on Sunday in what would be the highest-level visit by an American delegation since the start of the war. “They should not come here with empty hands,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said during a news conference in an underground subway station in Kyiv. “We are expecting specific things and specific weapons.”

The trip would mark two months since Russian forces invaded Ukraine, where fighting is intensifying in the southern and eastern parts of the country. Missile strikes killed at least eight people in the southern port city of Odessa, Ukrainian officials said, as many residents were preparing to celebrate Orthodox Easter on Sunday. A city leader on Saturday decried the attack as “Easter gifts from Putin.” Zelensky has criticized U.N. Secretary General António Guterres for planning to visit Russia on Tuesday before traveling to Ukraine.

In Mariupol, Ukrainian authorities accused Russian forces of striking the Azovstal steel plant, where many of the city’s remaining defenders are holed up. Ukrainian officials called Sunday for an Easter truce in the southeastern port city so that civilians can be evacuated. An adviser called Mariupol the “most tragic and tense point on the map of Ukraine.”

Here’s what else to know

  • Ukraine began Orthodox Easter under curfew after the country’s presidential office barred residents of all 24 regions from venturing outdoors overnight.
  • Eight people were killed and at least seven buildings were destroyed by recent shelling in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine, its governor said Sunday.
  • Civilian members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have been detained in eastern Ukraine, the organization confirmed.
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel for updates.

washington post logoWashington Post, Invasion of Ukraine divides Orthodox Christians, Erin Cunningham, April 24, 2022. Photos show stark contrast in Easter celebrations in Ukraine and Russia. The United Nations secretary general called this week for an Easter truce between Russia and Ukraine. Orthodox Christians in both countries observe Easter on Sunday.

But as the fighting continued to rage, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Moscow on Thursday of rejecting the U.N. proposal.
Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for the latest updates on Russia's war in Ukraine.

Russia’s invasion has roiled global markets, revived the NATO alliance and triggered war crimes investigations. It has also opened a rift in the Orthodox Church, pitting the Russian wing and its pro-Kremlin patriarch against Orthodox leaders in Kyiv and around the globe.

Orthodox Christianity is one of the largest Christian communions in the world — after Catholicism and the Protestant church. Most of its roughly 260 million adherents are concentrated in Europe, Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union.

It is the dominant faith in both Russia and Ukraine, where the status of the church has become a source of tension between Moscow and Kyiv. For Russian President Vladimir Putin and his ally in the church, Patriarch Kirill, Ukraine is an inseparable part of a greater Russian world — one with Moscow as its political center and Kyiv as its spiritual hub.

Because of this, Kirill, 75, has offered a full-throated endorsement of the war, doubling down even as the world recoils at widespread reports of Russian atrocities in Ukraine. His pro-war stance has angered other church leaders, in Ukraine and across the Orthodox faith, many of whom have condemned the war and urged Kirill to reconsider his support.

 

lloyd austin o

ny times logoNew York Times, Blinken and Austin Will Visit Kyiv on Sunday, Zelensky Says, Marc Santora and Maria Abi-Habib, April 24, 2022 (print ed.). President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine told a news conference that the U.S. secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, and the defense secretary, Lloyd J. Austin III, shown above in a file photo, would visit Ukraine's capital on Sunday to discuss "the Department of Defense Sealmilitary assistance we need." There was no immediate comment or confirmation from the U.S. State Department or the Pentagon, which has said Mr. Austin would be in Germany next week for meetings about Ukraine’s future needs.

Boris Johnson, Britain’s prime minister, told Zelensky that Britain would give Ukraine more military aid, including protected mobility vehicles, drones and anti-tank weapons, according to Mr. Johnson’s office.

Russia’s military “thwarted” the evacuation of civilians from the besieged port of Mariupol, according to Pyotr Andryushchenko, an aide to the city's mayor. He said on Telegram that Russian troops had dispersed some 200 civilians who’d assembled to await evacuation buses, telling them “there will be shelling now.” Previous evacuation efforts have repeatedly failed due to heavy fighting.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Destroys Russian Command Post in Kherson, Kyiv Official Says, April 24, 2022 (print ed.). The Ukrainian military claimed on Saturday that it destroyed a Russian command post in the southern region of Kherson, which has been largely under Russian control since the early days of the war.

The intelligence agency of the Ukrainian defense ministry said in a statement that the Russian command center was located near a location of active clashes between the two forces and two high-ranking Russian officers were present at the time of the strike.

The claim could not be independently verified and there was no immediate comment from Russia’s military, which rarely acknowledges battlefield setbacks.

ukraine flagIn a separate statement, Oleksiy Arestovych, a former Ukrainian military intelligence officer who is now an adviser to the Ukrainian president’s office, said that about 50 senior Russian officers were in the command center at the time of the attack.

“Their fate is unknown, but I think it must be miserable,” he said in an interview with a well-known Russian human rights activist. The Ukrainian military claimed later that two Russian generals were killed and another critically injured and had to be evacuated.

While fighting is raging in eastern Ukraine, Russia has been seeking to solidify its control in the south.

The Black Sea port city of Kherson was the first major urban center to fall to Russian forces after their invasion. Situated just north of the Russia-annexed Crimean Peninsula, Kherson has been critical in Moscow’s broader effort to control territory in the south. It is a vital link in Russia’s logistical chain stretching to Crimea, allowing for the movement of heavy artillery and equipment into southern Ukraine by rail.

In the first weeks of the war, Russia used Kherson as a springboard in its push toward Odesa. That offensive that was ultimately halted by stiff Ukrainian resistance in the city of Mykolaiv.

After stopping the Russian advance, the Ukrainians staged several counterattacks and have reclaimed some villages in the region. But Russia has been fortifying its positions.

President Voldymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and other officials in his government have claimed that Russia is preparing to conduct a “referendum” to create a “Kherson People’s Republic.”

Moscow used a similar tactic with a disputed referendum in Crimea, which it invaded in 2015 and subsequently annexed. “I want to say straight away: any ‘Kherson People’s Republics’ are not going to fly,” Mr. Zelensky said earlier this week.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine alleges renewed attack on Mariupol plant, David L. Stern, Amy Cheng, Adam Taylor, Meryl Kornfield, Adela Suliman and Ellen Francis, April 24, 2022 (print ed.). Missile strikes residential area of Odessa, city officials say; Zelensky sleeps less than five hours a night, official says.

Russia is renewing its attacks on the last Ukrainian holdouts in the besieged port city of Mariupol, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday, accusing Russia of a surge in airstrikes and alleging preparations to storm the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works, where many of the city’s remaining defenders are based.

“The enemy is trying to suppress the last resistance of the defenders of Mariupol,” Oleksiy Arestovych said in a video posted to Telegram. “Our defenders are withstanding it, despite a very difficult situation, and are even carrying out counter maneuvers.” Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly ordered his forces Thursday not to storm the site but to seal it off.

The renewed focus on Mariupol came after Zelensky warned late Friday that Russia poses a threat to more countries in the region, cautioning that the invasion of Ukraine was “intended only as a beginning” and that the Russians “want to capture other countries.” Zelensky made the remark after a Russian commander said the Kremlin intends to establish a path through Ukraine to a breakaway territory in Moldova. Moscow declined to confirm whether this was official policy; some analysts said they doubt that Russia has the capability.

A flurry of diplomatic endeavors to end the war continues, even as Russia claims that talks with Ukraine have stalled. U.N. Secretary General António Gutierrez heads to Moscow on Tuesday to meet with Putin, before visiting Ukraine on Thursday for discussions with Zelensky. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has hosted a previous round of peace talks, plans to call Putin and Zelensky in the coming days to push for a leaders’ summit in Istanbul.

What else to know

  • Ukrainian authorities said they would again try to evacuate residents from Mariupol on Saturday following several failed attempts in recent days.
  • The Pentagon said more than 20 countries have agreed to participate in a “consultative” meeting next week in Germany to discuss Ukraine’s long-term military and security needs.
  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Russia to release Vladimir Kara-Murza, a dissident writer and Washington Post opinions contributor who was arrested last week.
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel for updates.

ny times logoNew York Times, Two Russian cruise missiles struck a residential neighborhood in Odesa, killing at least six, officials said, Michael Schwirtz, April 24, 2022 (print ed.). At least six people were killed when two cruise missiles struck a residential neighborhood on the outskirts of the Black Sea port city of Odesa on Saturday, Ukrainian officials said. Given the extent of the damage, officials said the number of victims was certain to climb.

 

Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection, Election Claims

 

 

U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.

Palmer Report, Opinion: January 6th public hearings are set to “blow the roof” off the place, Bill Palmer, April 24, 2022. Jamie Raskin now says the bill palmerJanuary 6th Committee’s upcoming public hearings will “blow the roof off” the scandal. He’s a savvy guy. He knows that in politics, you only ramp up expectations for something if you know you’re going to be able to more than meet those raised expectations. So the committee must really have the goods.

bill palmer report logo headerIf it turned out the committee wasn’t able to unearth as much as it had been hoping, members like Raskin would be out there trying to tamp down expectations, or saying nothing at all.

So why haven’t the public hearings started yet? From the start, the committee had a long term strategy of making an example out of Steve Bannon right out of the gate, and then building cooperating witnesses from the bottom up – and that strategy appears to have ultimately paid off in spades.

Reluctant high level witnesses, ranging from the Trump White House Counsel to multiple members of Trump’s family, have recently decided to give cooperative testimony. Presumably because they don’t want contempt charges and they’re afraid of what other witnesses may have said.

capitol riot nyt jan 7 2021If you’re a higher level witness and you’re afraid that some lower level witness who’s already testified may have tried to pin it all on you, you’re motivated to go in and defend yourself. That’s what we’re seeing now with with a number of high level witnesses, some of whom had previously been trying really hard to avoid testifying.

So this rush of last minute high level testimony has perhaps held up the start of public hearings by a bit. But who cares? There’s no downside to holding the hearings in June instead of April. And they’ll be more effective now, because there’s a lot more to work with than if the hearings had already taken place.

At some point the committee has to say “the midterms are coming” and just start the public hearings. But the committee knows how to read a calendar. There’s no way will it start its public hearings any later than summer.

In the meantime, the committee is already putting some of the evidence out there in ways such as Friday’s court filing against Mark Meadows – which reveals that Meadows conspired with several House Republicans to overthrow the election. Those details are explosive, yet they’re apparently not the committee’s biggest revelations, or we wouldn’t be seeing them so soon.

The committee wants to motivate average Americans – not you and me, who will watch anyway, but average Americans – to tune in for these hearings. It’s why we’re seeing some of these juicy details surface in advance, so the media can play it up ahead of the hearings. The January 6th Committee probe appears to be playing out exactly like we’d hoped. And now we’ve got Jamie Raskin confirming that the committee has indeed hit paydirt.

 

mark meadows with cell

washington post logoWashington Post, Meadows was warned of violence before Jan. 6, new court filings show, Jacqueline Alemany, April 24, 2022 (print ed.). White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows (shown above in a file photo) was warned before Jan. 6, 2021, about the threat of violence that day as supporters of President Donald Trump planned to mass at the U.S. Capitol, according to new testimony released late Friday by the House committee investigating the insurrection.

republican elephant logoOne of Meadows’s top aides, Cassidy Hutchinson, told congressional investigators she recalled Anthony Ornato, a senior Secret Service official who also held the role of a political adviser at the White House, “coming in and saying that we had intel reports saying that there could potentially be violence on the 6th. And Mr. Meadows said: All right. Let’s talk about it.”

Hutchinson added, “I’m not sure if he — what he did with that information internally.”

Those details were in a filing arguing that a federal court should reject Meadows’s claims of executive privilege and compel him to appear before the House Jan. 6 committee, which is continuing to build a case that Trump knowingly misled his followers about the election, and pressured Pence to break the law in the weeks and hours before the assault.

In the motion, the committee outlines seven “discrete categories of information” about which it seeks to question Meadows and argues that his claims of executive privilege should not preclude his testifying about those matters.

Those categories of information include testimony and documents relating to communications with members of Congress; the plan to replace acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen with Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark; efforts by Trump to “direct, persuade or pressure then Vice President Mike Pence to unilaterally refuse to count electoral votes on January 6th”; and activity in the White House “immediately before and during the events of January 6th.”

The committee laid out new examples of warnings Meadows received before Jan. 6, 2021, along with a deepened understanding of his involvement with planning and coordinating efforts to disrupt the counting of electoral college votes in Congress.

ny times logoNew York Times, Filing Provides New Details on White House Planning for Jan. 6, Luke Broadwater and Alan Feuer, April 24, 2022 (print ed.).  Testimony disclosed by the House committee investigating the attack showed that Mark Meadows and Freedom Caucus members discussed directing marchers to the Capitol as Congress certified the election results.

Before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Trump White House officials and members of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus strategized about a plan to direct thousands of angry marchers to the building, according to newly released testimony obtained by the House committee investigating the riot and former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to overturn the election.

On a planning call that included Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff; Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer; Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio; and other Freedom Caucus members, the group discussed the idea of encouraging supporters to march to the Capitol, according to one witness’s account.

The idea was endorsed by Representative Scott Perry, Republican of Pennsylvania, who now leads the Freedom Caucus, according to testimony by Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to Mr. Meadows, and no one on the call spoke out against the idea.

“I don’t think there’s a participant on the call that had necessarily discouraged the idea,” Ms. Hutchinson told the committee’s investigators.

The nearly two-mile march from the president’s “Stop the Steal” rally at the Ellipse to the Capitol, where parts of the crowd became a violent mob, has become a focus of both the House committee and the Justice Department as they investigate who was responsible for the violence.

Mr. Meadows and members of the Freedom Caucus, who were deeply involved in Mr. Trump’s push to overturn the 2020 election, have condemned the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and defended their role in spreading the lie of a stolen election.

Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony and other materials disclosed by the committee in a 248-page court filing on Friday added new details and texture to what is publicly known about the discussions in Mr. Trump’s inner circle and among his allies in the weeks preceding the Jan. 6 assault.

The committee alleged that Mark Meadows, the final chief of staff for President Donald J. Trump, was told that an effort to try to overturn the 2020 election using so-called alternate electors were not “legally sound” and that Jan. 6 could turn violent, but he pushed forward with plans to hold a rally in Washington anyway.

The filing is part of the committee’s effort to seek the dismissal of a lawsuit brought against it by Mr. Meadows. It disclosed testimony that Mr. Meadows was told that plans to try to overturn the 2020 election using so-called alternate electors were not “legally sound” and that the events of Jan. 6 could turn violent. Even so, he pushed forward with the rally that led to the march on the Capitol, according to the filing.

The filing also disclosed new details of Mr. Meadows’s involvement in attempts to pressure Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, over Mr. Trump’s loss there.

At rallies in Washington in November and December of 2020, Mr. Trump’s supporters did not march to the Capitol and mostly refrained from violence. But on Jan. 6, Mr. Trump encouraged a crowd of thousands to march to the building, telling them: “You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength.” He did so after the White House’s chief of operations had told Mr. Meadows of “intel reports saying that there could potentially be violence on the 6th,” according to the filing.

mark meadows book chief chiefTwo rally organizers, Dustin Stockton and his fiancée, Jennifer L. Lawrence, have also provided the committee with evidence that they were concerned that a march to the Capitol on Jan. 6 would mean “possible danger” and that Mr. Stockton’s “urgent concerns” were escalated to Mr. Meadows, according to the committee.

In his book, The Chief’s Chief, Mr. Meadows said Mr. Trump “ad-libbed a line that no one had seen before” when he told the crowd to march, adding that the president “knew as well as anyone that we wouldn’t organize a trip like that on such short notice.”

Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony contradicts those statements.

She said Mr. Meadows had said “in casual conversation”: “Oh, we’re going to have this big rally. People are talking about it on social media. They’re going to go up to the Capitol.”

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

ny times logoNew York Times, Charges Dropped Against Tennessee Woman Who Was Jailed Over Voter Fraud, Sophie Kasakove and Eduardo Medina, April 24, 2022 (print ed.). Pamela Moses, who was sentenced in January to six years in a case that outraged voting rights supporters, will not face a new trial, a district attorney said.

A Tennessee prosecutor dropped all criminal charges on Friday against Pamela Moses, a Memphis woman with a previous felony conviction who was sentenced to six years and one day in prison in January after she tried to restore her right to vote in 2019.

The voter fraud conviction from her trial was thrown out in February after a judge ruled that the Tennessee Department of Correction had improperly withheld evidence that was later uncovered by The Guardian. Ms. Moses had been set to appear in court on Monday to find out whether prosecutors would pursue a retrial.

But Ms. Moses will no longer face a second trial “in the interest of judicial economy,” Amy Weirich, the district attorney of Shelby County, said in a statement. Ms. Moses spent 82 days in custody on this case, “which is sufficient,” Ms. Weirich said. Ms. Moses is also permanently barred from registering to vote or voting in Tennessee. Ms. Weirich declined to comment further on the case.

The sentencing of Ms. Moses, who is Black, had spurred outrage among voting rights supporters who said that the case highlighted racial disparities in the criminal prosecution of voting fraud cases and opaque voting restoration rights laws that sow confusion and leave many people with felony convictions unsure of their rights.

 

Texas State Rep. Jeff Leach (R) with condemned prisoner Melissa Lucio during a visit by lawmakers to a prison unit in Gatesville, Texas (Photo via Texas State Rep. Jeff Leach via Associated Press).

Texas State Rep. Jeff Leach (R) with condemned prisoner Melissa Lucio during a visit by lawmakers to a prison unit in Gatesville, Texas (Photo via Texas State Rep. Jeff Leach via Associated Press).

ny times logoNew York Times, In Polarized Texas, Rare Accord: A Hispanic Mother Shouldn’t Be Executed, J. David Goodman, April 23, 2022 (print ed.). The execution of Melissa Lucio would be the first of a Hispanic woman in Texas. New evidence casts doubt on her conviction.

In less than a week, Texas is set to execute Melissa Lucio, a mother of 14 who was convicted of murder in the death of her 2-year-old daughter more than a decade ago.

The execution would be the first of a Hispanic woman in Texas, and it has drawn widespread attention — from a 2020 documentary to a recent segment on “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” — because of new evidence and expert testimony casting strong doubt about her guilt.

Ms. Lucio’s case has also done something rare in the intensely polarized political climate of Texas: It has brought Democratic and Republican lawmakers together in mutual outcry. Scores of legislators have called for clemency or at least a reprieve, including those who are ordinarily vigorous backers of the death penalty.

“It will be a historic, irreversible blunder on the part of the State of Texas if we go forward with this,” said State Representative Jeff Leach, a Republican from north of Dallas who has been a leading voice in Texas urging a halt to the execution. “I’ve never seen a more troubling case than the case of Melissa Lucio.”

Five of the jurors in her case have also come out in favor of clemency or a reprieve, citing in part the new evidence. “I voted to sentence Melissa Lucio to death. I was wrong,” one wrote in The Houston Chronicle.

The challenges to Ms. Lucio’s execution highlight familiar failings of the nation’s criminal justice system, including a confession given after hours of interrogation, evidence presented as scientific that has since been questioned, an inadequate defense and gender bias.

“Police targeted Melissa because she didn’t fit their image of how a grieving mother should behave” in the aftermath of her daughter’s death, said Sandra Babcock, one of Ms. Lucio’s lawyers and the director of the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide.

Ms. Lucio’s daughter Mariah died at home. Her lawyers have said that Mariah went down for a nap and did not wake up and that, two days earlier, she had fallen down a flight of stairs. An autopsy said the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.

The fact that Ms. Lucio is on death row at all is an outlier. It is rare for prosecutors to seek the death penalty in a case where a mother has been charged with killing her children, her lawyers said.

One issue her lawyers are raising is the legal provision — unique to Texas — under which prosecutors must prove a person’s “future dangerousness” in order to secure a death sentence. Ms. Lucio did not have a history of acting violently before Mariah’s death, so prosecutors relied heavily on disciplinary records from her time behind bars after her arrest. Ms. Lucio’s lawyers have argued that the prosecution misrepresented those records and that she had not engaged in significant misconduct.

washington post logoWashington Post, Why the U.S. can’t freeze $600 million in cryptocurrency stolen by North Korean hackers, Tory Newmyer and Jeremy B. Merrill, April 24, 2022 (print ed.). The group behind one of the largest cryptocurrency heists ever is still laundering its haul more than a week after being identified.

The cybercriminals’ continued access to the money, more than $600 million stolen from the Axie Infinity video game, underscores the limits of law enforcement’s ability to stop the flow of illicit cryptocurrency across the globe. The hackers are still moving their loot, most recently about $4.5 million worth of the Ethereum currency on Friday, according to data from cryptocurrency tracking site Etherscan — eight days after the Treasury Department attempted to freeze those assets by sanctioning the digital wallet the group used in its attack.

The gang, which the Treasury Department identified as the Lazarus Group, also known for the 2014 hacking of Sony Pictures, so far has laundered nearly $100 million — about 17 percent — of the stolen crypto, according to blockchain analytics firm Elliptic. They moved their haul beyond the immediate reach of U.S. authorities by converting it into the cryptocurrency Ethereum, which unlike the cryptocurrency they stole cannot be hobbled remotely. Since then, the gang has worked to obscure the crypto’s origins primarily by sending installments of it through a program called Tornado Cash, a service known as a mixer that pools digital assets to hide their owners.

Among top hacking nations, North Korea’s the weirdest

Authorities and major crypto industry players are scrambling to keep up. Treasury sanctioned three more addresses associated with the gang on Friday, as Binance, a large international crypto exchange, announced it had frozen $5.8 million worth of crypto the hackers had transferred onto its platform.

ap logoAssociated Press via Politico, Split verdict in first-ever Air Force general military trial, Staff Report, April 23, 2022. Officials said the verdict marks the first court-martial trial and conviction of a general officer in the Air Force’s 75-year history. An Air Force major general in Ohio has been convicted by a military judge of one of three specifications of abusive sexual contact in the first-ever military trial of an Air Force general.

The charge faced by Maj. Gen. William Cooley during the weeklong court-martial at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio had three specifications, one alleging a forcible kiss and two alleging forcible touching in 2018. Cooley was convicted Saturday of the forcible kissing specification but acquitted of the other two.

Officials said the verdict marks the first court-martial trial and conviction of a general officer in the Air Force’s 75-year history.

A former commander of Air Force Research Laboratory, Cooley was charged with abusive sexual contact in an encounter with a woman who gave him a ride after a backyard barbecue in New Mexico nearly four years ago. Officials said the woman is a civilian who is not a Department of Defense employee.

Cooley was to be sentenced Monday morning and could face as much as seven years in jail as well as loss of rank, pay and benefits.

Cooley had the option of a trial by court member jurors or by military judge, and chose to have the case heard by the judge.

“Today marks the first time an Air Force general officer has been held responsible for his heinous actions,” the woman’s attorney Ryan Guilds, said in a statement, the Dayton Daily News reported. “... Hopefully, this will not be as difficult for the next survivor.”

Cooley was fired from his research laboratory position in January 2020 after an Air Force investigation and has worked in an administrative job since then. A message seeking comment was left for his attorney Saturday.

“This case clearly demonstrates the commitment of Air Force leaders to fully investigate the facts and hold Airmen of any rank accountable for their actions when they fail to uphold Air Force standards,” Col. Eric Mejia, staff judge advocate for Air Force Materiel Command, said in a statement.

Recent Legal Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Orrin G. Hatch (1934-2022): Ex-lawmaker who was longest-serving Republican in Senate history dies at 88, Michael H. Brown, April 24, 2022 (print ed.). Orrin G. Hatch, a conservative Utah Republican who came out of political nowhere to win a U.S. Senate seat in 1976 and ended his career 42 years later as the longest-serving Republican in the chamber’s history and one of his party’s most influential lawmakers of recent decades, died April 23 in Salt Lake City. He was 88.

orrin hatch wTall and slim in build and impeccable in dress, Mr. Hatch, right, had a gentlemanly demeanor but behind it wielded strong views, high energy and a love for legislative give-and-take that made him a force on Capitol Hill.

When he retired in 2019, at the end of his seventh term, he chaired the powerful tax-writing Finance Committee and by virtue of his seniority was Senate president pro tempore. By the end of his tenure, Mr. Hatch had sponsored or co-sponsored 790 pieces of legislation that became law, more than any other senator in office at the time, according to Library of Congress data. He achieved that record in part through his willingness to work with liberal Democrats.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: McCarthy audio shows Congress must bolster democracy, Editorial Board, April 24, 2022 (print ed.). The public already knew that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) blamed President Donald Trump for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol invasion. He said so at the time on the House floor. It has also been clear that, despite knowing better, he has since supplicated himself to Mr. Trump, calculating that he must deny what he knows to be right in hope of winning the speaker’s gavel after this year’s midterm elections.

Now, the New York Times’s Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin have revealed new details about Mr. McCarthy’s thinking following Jan. 6 — and, by implication, the extent to which he is willing to sacrifice core democratic principles to advance his political career.

kevin mccarthyThe Times reported Thursday that Mr. McCarthy, right, not only blamed Mr. Trump for the Jan. 6 violence but also discussed with GOP lawmakers how to pressure the then-president from office. “I’ve had it with this guy,” he reportedly declared, saying that Mr. Trump’s behavior was “atrocious and totally wrong,” “inciting people” to batter down the Capitol’s doors.

Discussing the possibility of impeachment, and what he would say to Mr. Trump, Mr. McCarthy said, “It would be my recommendation you should resign,” according to an audio clip the Times released after the minority leader brazenly tried to deny the newspaper’s reporting. Mr. McCarthy also reportedly discussed using the 25th Amendment, which allows the sidelining of presidents for mental or physical incapacity, to force out Mr. Trump.

But, just weeks later, Mr. McCarthy slinked down to Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence, posing for a photo of what should have been a disgraced former president. “I didn’t know they were going to take a picture,” Mr. McCarthy reportedly said, as though that was the problem with his humiliating pilgrimage to kiss Mr. Trump’s ring.

So the picture is even clearer than before: The potential future House speaker manifestly lacks the moral fiber to lead — too afraid of the GOP base to stand up to a man he knows means harm to the nation’s democratic system. It was once unthinkable that malevolent partisans, wayward conspiracy theorists and spineless careerists such as Mr. McCarthy might combine to overturn a legitimate democratic election. Now, it seems alarmingly possible, perhaps as soon as 2024.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: For G.O.P., Crossing Lines Has Few Consequences, Jonathan Weisman, April 24, 2022 (print ed.). A dizzying week featured Representative Kevin McCarthy caught lying and Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene grilled under oath about her role on Jan. 6.

There was a time in the nation’s capital when lines mattered, and when they were crossed, the consequences were swift and severe.

Yet when the House Republican leader, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California was shown to have lied about his response to the deadliest assault on the Capitol in centuries and President Donald J. Trump’s culpability for it, there was little expectation that the consequences would be swift or severe — or that there would be any at all.

ny times logoNew York Times, He Fuels the Right’s Cultural Fires (and Spreads Them to Florida), Trip Gabriel, April 24, 2022. Christopher Rufo helped make critical race theory a conservative rallying cry. Now he sees L.G.B.T.Q. issues as an even more potent line of attack.

Christopher Rufo appears on Fox News so often that he converted a room in his Pacific Northwest house to a television studio, complete with professional lighting, an uplink to Fox in New York and an “On Air” light in the hall so his wife and two children don’t barge in during broadcasts.

“I’ll do ‘Tucker’ and then pop out and have dinner,” Mr. Rufo said recently at his home in Gig Harbor, Wash., thousands of miles from the nation’s media and political capitals.

Mr. Rufo is the conservative activist who probably more than any other person made critical race theory a rallying cry on the right — and who has become, to some on the left, an agitator of intolerance. A senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a right-leaning think tank, he has emerged at the front of another explosive cultural clash, one that he sees as even more politically potent and that the left views as just as dangerous: the battle over L.G.B.T.Q. restrictions in schools.

Mr. Rufo has taken aim at opponents of a new Florida law that prohibits teachers in some grades from discussing L.G.B.T.Q. issues and that critics call “Don’t Say Gay.” He declared “moral war” against the statute’s most prominent adversary, the Walt Disney Company. And he has used the same playbook that proved effective in his crusade on racial issues: a leak of insider documents.

ny times logoNew York Times, For Alabama’s Only Gay Lawmaker, a Political Defeat Was Deeply Personal, Tariro Mzezewa, April 24, 2022. Neil Rafferty’s painful experience as a young man influenced his efforts to block new restrictions on gay and transgender youth. He came up short.

Minutes before Alabama lawmakers were set to vote on a bill criminalizing medical care for young transgender people who are transitioning, State Representative Neil Rafferty took to the floor of the House and pleaded with his colleagues to reconsider.

“It’s hard enough growing up being different,” he said. “It’s even harder growing up being different and then have the state Legislature, your elected officials, the leaders of this state, put a target on children’s backs.”

He ended his speech with a direct appeal: “I’m begging y’all, all right?”

And then he acknowledged that his efforts were largely futile: “What’s going to happen is going to happen. Just don’t you dare call me a friend after this.”

Mr. Rafferty’s loss was swift and resounding. The House approved the legislation by a vote of 66-28. On that same day in early April, the State Senate voted 26-5 for a bill mandating that K-12 students use only bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with the gender on their original birth certificate, rather than their current gender identity. That legislation also limited classroom discussions on gender and sexual orientation, similar to a Florida measure derided by critics as “Don’t Say Gay.” Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, signed both measures the following day.

The legislation, now facing legal challenges, is part of a wave of bills about gay and transgender youth being debated and in some cases approved by conservative lawmakers across the country. Alabama’s version goes further than most, making what doctors describe as gender-affirming care to anyone under 19 a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Last year, state lawmakers also passed a measure prohibiting transgender athletes from playing on sports teams that align with their gender identity.

For Mr. Rafferty, a Democrat and the only openly gay member of the Alabama Legislature, the new laws represented not just a political defeat but a deeply personal one, too — a development he had trouble discussing without tears.

Recent Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, The Drive to Vaccinate the World Against Covid Is Losing Steam, Rebecca Robbins and Stephanie Nolen, April 24, 2022 (print ed.). Rates are stalling in most low-income countries well short of the W.H.O.’s goal to immunize 70 percent of people in every nation. Experts fear the momentum is gone.

In the middle of last year, the World Health Organization began promoting an ambitious goal, one it said was essential for ending the pandemic: fully vaccinate 70 percent of the population in every country against Covid-19 by June 2022.

Now, it is clear that the world will fall far short of that target by the deadline. And there is a growing sense of resignation among public health experts that high Covid vaccination coverage may never be achieved in most lower-income countries, as badly needed funding from the United States dries up and both governments and donors turn to other priorities.

“The reality is that there is a loss of momentum,” said Dr. Isaac Adewole, a former health minister of Nigeria who now serves as a consultant for the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Only a few of the world’s 82 poorest countries — including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia and Nepal — have reached the 70 percent vaccination threshold. Many are under 20 percent, according to data compiled from government sources by the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford.

By comparison, about two-thirds of the world’s richest countries have reached 70 percent. (The United States is at 66 percent.)

The consequences of giving up on achieving high vaccination coverage worldwide could prove severe. Public health experts say that abandoning the global effort could lead to the emergence of dangerous new variants that would threaten the world’s precarious efforts to live with the virus.

“This pandemic is not over yet — far from it — and it’s imperative that countries use the doses available to them to protect as much of their population as possible,” said Dr. Seth Berkley, chief executive of Gavi, the nonprofit that runs the global vaccine clearinghouse Covax.

Countries in different parts of the world, including some in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, have seen their vaccination rates stagnate in recent months at a third or less of their populations. But Africa’s vaccination rate remain the most dismal.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated April 24, 2022), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2totals ere and some experts saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 509,271,028, Deaths: 6,242,560
U.S. Cases:    82,649,779, Deaths: 1,018,316
Indian Cases:  43,057,545, Deaths:    522,193
Brazil Cases:  30,345,654, Deaths:    662,663

Related Recent Headlines:

 

More On War in Ukraine

ny times logoNew York Times, Rattled by War in Ukraine, Moldova Strives to Dodge Russia’s Long Shadow, Monika Pronczuk and Jeffrey Gettleman, April 24, 2022 (print ed.). Moldova’s destiny has been intertwined uncomfortably with Russia’s for years, and the Ukraine invasion has sped its efforts to break free from Moscow.

Before war erupted next door, Moldovans had big plans for their country.

moldovaBut the Russian invasion of Ukraine put Moldova, a former Soviet republic and one of Europe’s poorest nations, in an extremely vulnerable situation, threatening its economic development, straining its society with waves of refugees and evoking existential fears of yet another Russian occupation.

The war jitters are also adding another chapter to Moldova’s long and increasingly desperate effort to untangle itself from Moscow’s clutches. In pursuit of that, it recently applied to join the European Union, but the prospect of gaining admission anytime soon is remote.

“We are a fragile country in a fragile region,” said Maia Sandu, Moldova’s president, in an interview.

Moldovans’ fears swelled anew on Friday, when a Russian general said his country’s military now plans to seize the entire southern coast of Ukraine. That would establish a land bridge from Russia in the east to Transnistria, a heavily armed, breakaway region in Moldova’s east — bordering Ukraine — that is controlled by Russia.

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Pool photo by Evgeny Biyatov).

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Pool photo by Evgeny Biyatov).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Russians say they have two choices: Win or be destroyed, Leonid Ragozin, April 24, 2022 (print ed.). They justify Putin’s fratricide because the West, and ‘internal Ukrainians,’ present an existential threat.

On April 1, Aleksey Zhuravlyov, a member of the lower house of the Russian parliament, put a Kremlin spin on the war in Ukraine for the millions of viewers of an influential Russian talk show. Russia wasn’t really fighting Ukraine or Ukrainians; the real enemy was the American-led Western bloc. “We need to introduce a new term,” Zhuravlyov said. “Biden’s war.”

This was creative framing considering that President Vladimir Putin himself prefers to justify Russia’s aggression with more insular rhetoric. He has said that Russians and Ukrainians are one people, while Kremlin propaganda, especially the toxic television talk shows, promote the idea that those who advocate for the country’s genuine independence from Russia are a bunch of Nazis.

But whether it is “Biden’s war” or Putin’s, Russians have rallied around the flag, and most likely that’s because the Kremlin has led them to see the war as an existential choice: Either you win it, or your life is going to be destroyed.

Leonid Ragozin is a freelance journalist based in Latvia. He has covered the Ukrainian conflict and Russian politics, and previously reported for the BBC and the Russian edition of Newsweek.

World Crisis Radio, Commentary: Speak softly and carry a big 155 mm howitzer! Webster G. Tarpley, Ph.D., right, April 23, 2022 (72:17 mins.). Acting webster tarpley 2007out of weakness, fear of massive casualties, and domestic backlash, Putin gives up on conquest of Azovstal complex in Manriupol; He covers backdown with rocket rattling against NATO and testing a new ICBM; Putin’s incessant escalation of nuclear threats is removing any rationale for restraint by western powers;

Weird antics of Trump, McCarthy, and deSantis increase chaos in GOP; DoJ fights back against crackpot anti-mask judge;
US must maintain supply line of weapons deliveries at $1 billion per week for the duration;

Macron leads re-toxified ultra-reactionary Le Pen by 10 to 14 points in Sunday’s vote; turnout likely to decide outcome; Putin is her banker, and her demand for ban headscarves would trigger civil war: Allez Macron! Allez la France!

The moral bankruptcy of neutrality, aka "both-sidesism," in journalism;

Oderint dum metuant as watchword for Dems in 2022.

ny times logopolish flag wavingNew York Times, Warsaw’s mayor warned that the Polish capital was “at capacity” as it braced for a new wave of Ukrainian refugees, Andrew Higgins, April 24, 2022 (print ed.). Warsaw gladly and proudly accepted 300,000 Ukrainians fleeing the war. But as the Polish capital braces for a new wave of refugees, its mayor warns that the city is “at capacity.”

ny times logoNew York Times, The Former Chancellor Who Became Putin’s Man in Germany, Katrin Bennhold, April 24, 2022 (print ed.). Gerhard Schröder, who is paid almost $1 million a year by Russian energy companies, has become a pariah. But he also symbolizes Germany’s policy on Russia.

On the evening of Dec. 9, 2005, 17 days after Gerhard Schröder left office as chancellor of Germany, he got a call on his cellphone. It was his friend President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

gerhard schröder wMr. Putin was pressing Mr. Schröder, right, to accept an offer to lead the shareholder committee of Nord Stream, the Russian-controlled company in charge of building the first undersea gas pipeline directly connecting Russia and Germany.

“Are you afraid to work for us?” Mr. Putin had joked. Mr. Schröder might well have been, given the appearance of possible impropriety — the pipeline he was now being asked to head had been agreed to in the final weeks of his chancellorship, with his strong support.

He took the job anyway.

Seventeen years later, the former chancellor, who recounted the events himself in a pair of rare interviews, remains as defiant as ever.

 Recent Headlines

 

Media, Entertainment, Religion News

ny times logoNew York Times, Inside the Implosion of CNN+, John Koblin, Michael M. Grynbaum and Benjamin Mullin, April 24, 2022. Seen as the future of CNN, the streaming channel was suddenly killed. Its next owner, Discovery, had concerns but was constrained in guiding a competitor.

David Zaslav had been chief executive of Warner Bros. Discovery for all of a few hours when he learned he had a problem.

On April 11, the day his newly merged company began trading on Nasdaq, Mr. Zaslav greeted New York employees with pasta and ice cream bars, delivering an impromptu rallying cry to his new charges. He was on his way to Washington, next stop on the coronation tour, when a call came in.

His team had just gotten its first look at data from CNN+, the much-promoted subscription streaming service started two weeks before, and the news was grim. Fewer than 10,000 viewers were watching at any given time, despite a multimillion dollar ad campaign and big hires like Chris Wallace. They were recommending a cold-eyed review.

Three days later, shortly after Mr. Zaslav appeared with Oprah Winfrey for a rah-rah company town hall, he gathered his deputies inside a low-slung stucco building in Burbank, Calif., on the Warner Bros. studio lot, and said he agreed with their conclusion: shut it down.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tina Brown Catches Up With Royal Intrigue in ‘The Palace Papers,’ Alexandra Jacobs, April 24, 2022 (print ed.). In her new book, Brown traces how 21st-century journalism has helped reshape the wobbly contours of the House of Windsor, our critic writes.

In her new book, The Palace Papers, Tina Brown takes on a centuries-old institution of strong personalities, byzantine rules, a definite pecking order and mercurial public support.

I don’t mean the monarchy. I mean the press.

Tracing how 21st-century journalism has helped reshape the wobbly contours of the British royal family, Brown is by turns chiding and comradely. She is, after all, the English-born, Oxford-educated former editor of Tatler, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Talk and The Daily Beast, as well as a prolific freelance writer, intermittent broadcaster, conference organizer and general gadabout.

The House of Windsor has long been referred to as the Firm. But these days it seems more like a Blob: harder to corral than mercury spilled on an Axminster carpet.

The presumed future queen consort, Camilla, will be anointed with the asterisk of a first marriage, to Andrew Parker-Bowles, that produced two children. One scion, Prince Harry, fled his official duties for the bland American luxury of Montecito, Calif.; his uncle Prince Andrew has been stripped of his military titles following his embroilment in an international sex-trafficking scandal. (With typical brio, Brown refers to Andrew as a “coroneted sleaze machine” and a “ghost royal.”)

Other Recent Media Headlines

 

World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters

ny times logoNew York Times, In Le Pen Territory, as France Votes, Anger at a Distant President, Roger Cohen, April 24, 2022 (print ed.). Whatever happens in the election, France has split into three blocs: the hard left, a center around Emmanuel Macron and the far right of Marine Le Pen.

France has changed. It has eviscerated the center-left and center-right parties that were the chief vehicles of its postwar politics. It has split into three blocs: the hard left, an amorphous center gathered around President Emmanuel Macron, and the extreme right of Marine Le Pen.

Above all, with Ms. Le Pen likely to get some 45 percent of the vote, it has buried a tenacious taboo. In a country that for four wartime years lived under the racist Nazi-puppet Vichy government, no xenophobic, nationalist leader would be allowed into the political mainstream, let alone be able to claim the highest office in the land.

Unlikely to win, but well within the zone of a potential surprise, Ms. Le Pen has shattered all of that. She is no outlier. She is the new French normal. If Mr. Macron does edge to victory, as polls suggest, he will face a restive, fractured country, where hatred of him is not uncommon. The old nostrum that France is ungovernable may be tested again.

washington post logoWashington Post, Taliban vows crackdown on ISIS as violence surges in Afghanistan, Pamela Constable, April 24, 2022. After months of relative calm, a bloody and chaotic week has raised fears that the Taliban will be unable to keep the peace.

Sunni extremists from the Afghan branch of the Islamic State, known as Islamic State-Khorasan or ISIS-K, have claimed at least one of the attacks, a bombing Thursday inside a crowded Shiite mosque in the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif that killed at least 31 people and injured more than 60. On Friday, Taliban officials announced the arrest of a local Islamic State leader who they claimed was the “mastermind” of that attack.

washington post logoWashington Post, As world reopens, North Korea is one of two countries without vaccines, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Min Joo Kim, April 24, 2022. As mask mandates and social distancing requirements lift around the world, North Korea remains one of two countries that have not administered any coronavirus vaccines, with no sign of how it can ever begin to reopen despite a brewing humanitarian crisis for its people.

The vaccines that were allocated for North Korea through a United Nations-backed global vaccination effort are no longer available, officials said this month, after Pyongyang repeatedly rejected the initiative’s offers of millions of doses.

North Korea, already one of the most closed societies in the world, remains in a strict pandemic lockdown and has shuttered its borders except to a minimal level of trade with China, with grave implications for the health and food security of its population.

ny times logoNew York Times, 26 Missing From Japanese Tour Boat After Distress Call off Hokkaido, Motoko Rich and Makiko Inoue, April 24, 2022 (print ed.). The sightseeing vessel was on a three-hour round trip tour to the tip of Cape Shiretoko. The Japan Coast Guard had dispatched rescue boats and aircraft to the area near the Kashuni Falls.

All 26 people aboard a sightseeing boat were reported missing off the coast of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, on Saturday after the boat made a distress call to the Japan Coast Guard early in the afternoon saying it was sinking.

The Coast Guard dispatched rescue boats and aircraft after the crew of the tourist cruiser called to say that the vessel was tilting at 30 degrees near the Shiretoko Peninsula on Hokkaido’s eastern coast.

According to NHK, the public broadcaster, the first rescue call came around 1:15 p.m. from the KAZU 1, a sightseeing vessel that was on a planned three-hour round trip tour to the tip of Cape Shiretoko. A regional unit of the Coast Guard in Hokkaido told NHK that the crew had reported the boat was taking on water. A final call came in to the company at 3 p.m.

Tetsuo Saito, Japan’s minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism, told reporters late on Saturday that the Coast Guard boats arrived at the scene around 4:30 p.m. and had not yet found any survivors.

Mr. Saito said 24 passengers, including two children, were on board, along with the captain and a deck officer. All were believed to be wearing life jackets, he said.

According to NHK, the Coast Guard dispatched five patrol vessels and two aircraft in rough winds to the area of the famed Kashuni Falls, where the boat was when the first call came in and where reefs are hidden under the sea. The public broadcaster reported that there had been warnings of waves of up to 10 feet on Saturday.

A man who answered the telephone late Saturday night at Shiretoko Pleasure Cruiser, the owner of the tourist boat, said he could not answer questions as he needed “to put a priority on talking to the families first.”

The website of Shiretoko Pleasure Cruiser advertises the three-hour Shiretoko Cape tour as a chance for sightseers to see the Kashuni Falls as well as brown bears, eagles, dolphins and whales. “It is a truly unexplored region that can only be reached by boat,” the tour description reads.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was returning early to Tokyo from Kumamoto, where he had been attending a conference, according to NHK.

washington post logoWashington Post, As El Salvador arrests thousands, families search for those who disappeared, Kevin Sieff, Photos by Fred Ramos, April 22, 2022. In a country where thousands vanished during the civil war of the 1980s and thousands more disappeared during a surge in gang violence that began in 2014, the arrests have prompted the kind of frantic search that feels familiar.

Gregoria Monterosa steeled herself and walked up to the entrance of the unmarked prison known as El Penalito. Next to the front gate, a visibly bored police officer sat behind a desktop computer.

“Who’s next?” he droned. Monterosa, 70, stepped forward.

“My son was arrested eight days ago, and we still have no idea where he is,” she said.

She spelled out his name — Genaro Godoy Ramos — and tried to hold the officer’s attention. But he looked over her shoulder, distracted by what he saw there.

Behind Monterosa was a scene provoked by one of the most dramatic police crackdowns in recent Latin American history: a crowd of Salvadoran mothers and wives whose husbands and sons had been detained in a wave of at least 13,000 arrests.

The arrests are El Salvador’s response to a rampage of killings last month, including 62 in a single day. The country’s president, Nayib Bukele, promised revenge: “a war on gangs.”

On March 27, he announced a 30-day “Regimén de Excepción” — a state of emergency that gave the government broad power to make arrests, suspending due process.

Many family members, such as Monterosa, have no idea where their relatives have been taken. They come here on their own ad hoc searches, sneaking glimpses between gaps in the metal gate, checking incomplete lists of detainees posted by police officers.

Monterosa had tried those options without success. Other mothers had seen their sons flash by in the windows of police buses as they were transferred between jails. She watched them collapse into tears, jealous of their assurance.

Her son, 47, had been detained immediately after arriving in San Salvador on a deportation flight from the United States. A family friend recorded a video of him and two other deportees being driven away from the country’s migration office in the back of a police pickup.

A police officer told the family that his tattoos suggested possible gang ties — evidence enough to detain someone under the country’s current state of emergency.

The other women in line at El Penalito told stories of how their sons were arrested — in raids on their homes, while selling fruit in downtown San Salvador or working on construction sites, while walking home from the bus.

“We have no record of your son in the system,” the officer told Monterosa. He called the next woman in line.

Monterosa tucked his identification card back in her purse and walked away.

“How is it that my son can just be lost?” she asked. “How do you arrest someone and then just have no record of it?”

Bukele, a prolific user of social media, has posted videos of prisoners being handcuffed and herded into prison halls, where hundreds were sandwiched together for a photo op.

“We seized everything from them, even their mattresses,” he tweeted. “We rationed their food and now they will no longer see the sun. STOP KILLING NOW or they will pay for it too.”

Long before the bloodletting last month, it was clear that in parts of El Salvador, gangs had more control than the state. In some neighborhoods, MS-13 and Mara 18 extorted and threatened people, and killed those who refused to submit. The police rarely intervened.

The United States has said that Bukele’s government negotiated a truce with the country’s major gangs, a controversial approach pursued by previous Salvadoran presidents. The U.S. Treasury Department said last year that Bukele’s administration “provided financial incentives to Salvadoran gangs MS-13 and 18th Street Gang (Barrio 18) to ensure that incidents of gang violence and the number of confirmed homicides remained low.”

 Recent Global Headlines

 

April 23

Top Headlines

 

ukraine olena kurilo 52 teacher Russian missile Chuhuiv amazon

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

 

More On Ukraine War

 

Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection, Elections Claims

 

Virus Victims, Responses


U.S. Media, Education, Sports, Religion

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters

 

Top Stories

 

War

ukraine olena kurilo 52 teacher Russian missile Chuhuiv amazon

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

 

lloyd austin o

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Blinken and Austin Will Visit Kyiv on Sunday, Zelensky Says, Marc Santora and Maria Abi-Habib, April 23, 2022. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine told a news conference that the U.S. secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, and the defense secretary, Lloyd J. Austin III, shown above in a file photo, would visit Ukraine's capital on Sunday to discuss "the Department of Defense Sealmilitary assistance we need." There was no immediate comment or confirmation from the U.S. State Department or the Pentagon, which has said Mr. Austin would be in Germany next week for meetings about Ukraine’s future needs.

Boris Johnson, Britain’s prime minister, told Zelensky that Britain would give Ukraine more military aid, including protected mobility vehicles, drones and anti-tank weapons, according to Mr. Johnson’s office.

Russia’s military “thwarted” the evacuation of civilians from the besieged port of Mariupol, according to Pyotr Andryushchenko, an aide to the city's mayor. He said on Telegram that Russian troops had dispersed some 200 civilians who’d assembled to await evacuation buses, telling them “there will be shelling now.” Previous evacuation efforts have repeatedly failed due to heavy fighting.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Destroys Russian Command Post in Kherson, Kyiv Official Says, April 23, 2022. The Ukrainian military claimed on Saturday that it destroyed a Russian command post in the southern region of Kherson, which has been largely under Russian control since the early days of the war.

The intelligence agency of the Ukrainian defense ministry said in a statement that the Russian command center was located near a location of active clashes between the two forces and two high-ranking Russian officers were present at the time of the strike.

The claim could not be independently verified and there was no immediate comment from Russia’s military, which rarely acknowledges battlefield setbacks.

ukraine flagIn a separate statement, Oleksiy Arestovych, a former Ukrainian military intelligence officer who is now an adviser to the Ukrainian president’s office, said that about 50 senior Russian officers were in the command center at the time of the attack.

“Their fate is unknown, but I think it must be miserable,” he said in an interview with a well-known Russian human rights activist. The Ukrainian military claimed later that two Russian generals were killed and another critically injured and had to be evacuated.

While fighting is raging in eastern Ukraine, Russia has been seeking to solidify its control in the south.

The Black Sea port city of Kherson was the first major urban center to fall to Russian forces after their invasion. Situated just north of the Russia-annexed Crimean Peninsula, Kherson has been critical in Moscow’s broader effort to control territory in the south. It is a vital link in Russia’s logistical chain stretching to Crimea, allowing for the movement of heavy artillery and equipment into southern Ukraine by rail.

In the first weeks of the war, Russia used Kherson as a springboard in its push toward Odesa. That offensive that was ultimately halted by stiff Ukrainian resistance in the city of Mykolaiv.

After stopping the Russian advance, the Ukrainians staged several counterattacks and have reclaimed some villages in the region. But Russia has been fortifying its positions.

President Voldymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and other officials in his government have claimed that Russia is preparing to conduct a “referendum” to create a “Kherson People’s Republic.”

Moscow used a similar tactic with a disputed referendum in Crimea, which it invaded in 2015 and subsequently annexed. “I want to say straight away: any ‘Kherson People’s Republics’ are not going to fly,” Mr. Zelensky said earlier this week.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Ukraine alleges renewed attack on Mariupol plant, David L. Stern, Amy Cheng, Adam Taylor, Meryl Kornfield, Adela Suliman and Ellen Francis, April 23, 2022. Missile strikes residential area of Odessa, city officials say; Zelensky sleeps less than five hours a night, official says.

Russia is renewing its attacks on the last Ukrainian holdouts in the besieged port city of Mariupol, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday, accusing Russia of a surge in airstrikes and alleging preparations to storm the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works, where many of the city’s remaining defenders are based.

“The enemy is trying to suppress the last resistance of the defenders of Mariupol,” Oleksiy Arestovych said in a video posted to Telegram. “Our defenders are withstanding it, despite a very difficult situation, and are even carrying out counter maneuvers.” Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly ordered his forces Thursday not to storm the site but to seal it off.

The renewed focus on Mariupol came after Zelensky warned late Friday that Russia poses a threat to more countries in the region, cautioning that the invasion of Ukraine was “intended only as a beginning” and that the Russians “want to capture other countries.” Zelensky made the remark after a Russian commander said the Kremlin intends to establish a path through Ukraine to a breakaway territory in Moldova. Moscow declined to confirm whether this was official policy; some analysts said they doubt that Russia has the capability.

A flurry of diplomatic endeavors to end the war continues, even as Russia claims that talks with Ukraine have stalled. U.N. Secretary General António Gutierrez heads to Moscow on Tuesday to meet with Putin, before visiting Ukraine on Thursday for discussions with Zelensky. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has hosted a previous round of peace talks, plans to call Putin and Zelensky in the coming days to push for a leaders’ summit in Istanbul.

What else to know

  • Ukrainian authorities said they would again try to evacuate residents from Mariupol on Saturday following several failed attempts in recent days.
  • The Pentagon said more than 20 countries have agreed to participate in a “consultative” meeting next week in Germany to discuss Ukraine’s long-term military and security needs.
  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Russia to release Vladimir Kara-Murza, a dissident writer and Washington Post opinions contributor who was arrested last week.
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel for updates.

ny times logoNew York Times, Two Russian cruise missiles struck a residential neighborhood in Odesa, killing at least six, officials said, Michael Schwirtz, April 23, 2022. At least six people were killed when two cruise missiles struck a residential neighborhood on the outskirts of the Black Sea port city of Odesa on Saturday, Ukrainian officials said. Given the extent of the damage, officials said the number of victims was certain to climb.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Pool photo by Evgeny Biyatov).

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Pool photo by Evgeny Biyatov).

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Pool photo by Evgeny Biyatov).World Crisis Radio, Commentary: Speak softly and carry a big 155 mm howitzer! Webster G. Tarpley, Ph.D., right, April 23, 2022 (72:17 mins.). Acting webster tarpley 2007out of weakness, fear of massive casualties, and domestic backlash, Putin gives up on conquest of Azovstal complex in Manriupol; He covers backdown with rocket rattling against NATO and testing a new ICBM; Putin’s incessant escalation of nuclear threats is removing any rationale for restraint by western powers;

Weird antics of Trump, McCarthy, and deSantis increase chaos in GOP; DoJ fights back against crackpot anti-mask judge;
US must maintain supply line of weapons deliveries at $1 billion per week for the duration;

Macron leads re-toxified ultra-reactionary Le Pen by 10 to 14 points in Sunday’s vote; turnout likely to decide outcome; Putin is her banker, and her demand for ban headscarves would trigger civil war: Allez Macron! Allez la France!

The moral bankruptcy of neutrality, aka "both-sidesism," in journalism;

Oderint dum metuant as watchword for Dems in 2022.

washington post logoWashington Post, Overview: Russian military official hints at push to Moldova, Mary Ilyushina, Cate Cadell, Dan Lamothe, David L. Stern and Timothy Bella, April 23, 2022 (print ed.). The deputy commander of Russia’s Central Military District said Moscow wants a path through Ukraine to neighboring Moldova.

A Russian commander said Friday that Moscow wants to take “full control” of eastern and southern Ukraine, in part so it could have a path to neighboring Moldova — raising fears that the nearly two-month war could spill outside of Ukrainian borders.
Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for the latest updates on Russia's war in Ukraine.

The comments from Rustam Minnekayev, deputy commander of Russia’s Central Military District, seemed to hint that the Kremlin — which has been stymied in its bid to take over the Ukrainian capital — still wants to conquer wide swaths of its neighbor’s land, and potentially threaten the nations that lie beyond. They drew swift condemnation from Moldova, where residents have worried since the beginning of the war they could be next in the Kremlin’s crosshairs.

Minnekayev said capturing Ukraine’s east and south would create a “land corridor” to the Crimean Peninsula — which the Kremlin annexed in 2014 — and give Moscow influence over “vital objects of the Ukrainian economy,” according to the Russia state media outlet Tass. It would also provide “another way out to Transnistria,” Minnekayev said, referring to a thin strip of land that runs along Moldova’s border with Ukraine that functions as a separate nation, though it is not recognized as such, even by Russia.

Minnekayev’s comments came at the end of another grim week in Ukraine — particularly in the eastern Donbas region, where Kremlin forces have refocused their fire in recent days. The devastated southern port city of Mariupol remained under siege, with Russia vowing to trap remaining Ukrainian forces that have been holed up in a steel plant there.

Although tens of thousands of people each day have begun returning to the capital, Kyiv — where Ukrainian forces seemed to successfully push back invading Russian forces — they have done so cautiously, knowing they might soon have to flee once more. Kyiv’s mayor has warned residents to stay where they are, as airstrikes around the city continue.

A packed train to Kyiv, bearing worried and hopeful returnees

Russian President Vladimir Putin has previously said the invasion will continue until “full completion,” without detailing what that means, and it was not clear whether Minnekayev’s comments describe official, high-level thinking in Russia. But they give fresh insight into the broader ambitions of those fighting for the Kremlin, including plans for a Russian-controlled passage to Transnistria, the breakaway enclave in Moldova that is held by pro-Russian separatists and hosts roughly 1,500 Russian troops.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Pounds Ukraine’s East as Commander Signals Broader Aims, Marc Santora, April 23, 2022 (print ed.). After scaling back its publicly stated ambitions in Ukraine, a senior Russian military commander said on Friday that Moscow wanted complete control of all eastern and southern Ukraine. It was unclear if his comments reflected an official shift in Kremlin policy.

The commander, Rustam Minnekayev, said Russia was seeking to take control of a swath of territory that stretches from its own border, across southern Ukraine, to a pro-Russia separatist enclave of Moldova, Ukraine’s neighbor to the southwest. It was unclear if the statement reflected official policy, but Ukrainians have long warned that Russia wants the complete destruction of the Ukrainian state and that Russian aggression would not stop at its borders. In other news,

The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi, will lead an expert mission to Ukraine’s defunct but dangerous Chernobyl nuclear plant on April 26, the U.N.’s nuclear monitoring agency said Friday. In a statement, it said Mr. Grossi would be helping “step up efforts to help prevent the danger of a nuclear accident during the current conflict in the country.”

The Netherlands is planning to end its dependence on fossil fuels from Russia by the end of this year, the Dutch climate minister said. European Union officials have already started drafting an embargo on Russian oil, which will likely be put up for negotiation in the coming weeks.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary, Pushback on Russia's Ukraine war arises in formerly autonomous republics, Wayne Madsen, left, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallApril 22-23, 2022. As WMR predicted in our April 15 report, the first substantial pushback against Vladimir Putin's war of choice against Ukraine is occurring in the formerly autonomous republics that lost their nominal self-government to Putin over a decade ago.

wayne madesen report logoWMR reported on March 31 on Putin using conscripts from the republics as cannon fodder in Ukraine, which has also led to discontent as non-Russians return home from Ukraine in body bags.

In the Republic of Mordovia, a predominantly ethnic Erzya and Moksha region located in the Volga Basin, Molotov cocktails were thrown at a Russian armed forces recruiting center in the town of Zubova Polyana.

At the beginning of the annual Spring conscription campaign, the loss of several computers at the center, along with the database of those subject for the military draft, were destroyed. The Moscow Times, which is now being published abroad due to Putin's crackdown on the opposition media, reported that the April 18 arson attack in Mordovia resulted in a suspension of military conscription in several districts in the republic.

mark meadows with cell

washington post logoWashington Post, Meadows was warned of violence before Jan. 6, new court filings show, Jacqueline Alemany, April 23, 2022. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows (shown above in a file photo) was warned before Jan. 6, 2021, about the threat of violence that day as supporters of President Donald Trump planned to mass at the U.S. Capitol, according to new testimony released late Friday by the House committee investigating the insurrection.

republican elephant logoOne of Meadows’s top aides, Cassidy Hutchinson, told congressional investigators she recalled Anthony Ornato, a senior Secret Service official who also held the role of a political adviser at the White House, “coming in and saying that we had intel reports saying that there could potentially be violence on the 6th. And Mr. Meadows said: All right. Let’s talk about it.”

Hutchinson added, “I’m not sure if he — what he did with that information internally.”

Those details were in a filing arguing that a federal court should reject Meadows’s claims of executive privilege and compel him to appear before the House Jan. 6 committee, which is continuing to build a case that Trump knowingly misled his followers about the election, and pressured Pence to break the law in the weeks and hours before the assault.

In the motion, the committee outlines seven “discrete categories of information” about which it seeks to question Meadows and argues that his claims of executive privilege should not preclude his testifying about those matters.

Those categories of information include testimony and documents relating to communications with members of Congress; the plan to replace acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen with Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark; efforts by Trump to “direct, persuade or pressure then Vice President Mike Pence to unilaterally refuse to count electoral votes on January 6th”; and activity in the White House “immediately before and during the events of January 6th.”

The committee laid out new examples of warnings Meadows received before Jan. 6, 2021, along with a deepened understanding of his involvement with planning and coordinating efforts to disrupt the counting of electoral college votes in Congress.

 

French President Emmanuel Macron campaigns for re-election in second-round voting scheduled for Sunday (Associated Press photo by Laurent Cipriani).

French President Emmanuel Macron campaigns for re-election in second-round voting scheduled for Sunday, with the stakes high for Europe, NATO and Ukraine because his far-right opponent, Marine LePen, is a NATO and European Union critic backed by Russia (Associated Press photo by Laurent Cipriani).

ny times logoNew York Times, Marine Le Pen Is Closer Than Ever to the French Presidency (and to Putin), Roger Cohen, April 23, 2022 (print ed.). As elections approach Sunday, the far-right candidate is linked to President Vladimir Putin of Russia by a web of financial ties and a history of support.

french flagWhen Europe’s far-right leaders gathered in Madrid in January, they had no problem finding unity on the issues they hold dear, whether cracking down on immigrants or upholding “European Christian ideals.” But as Russian troops massed on the Ukrainian border, they were divided on one issue: the threat posed by President Vladimir V. Putin.

marin le pen franciyaMarine Le Pen, left, the extreme-right challenger for the French presidency, objected to a paragraph in the final statement calling for European solidarity to confront “Russian military actions on the eastern border of Europe.” Even in a gathering of illiberal nationalists, she was an outlier in her fealty to Mr. Putin.

Now, on her campaign website, the leaders’ statement appears with that paragraph cut in an unacknowledged change to the text. This little subterfuge is consistent with an embrace of Mr. Putin so complete that even his ravaging of Ukraine has hardly diminished it.

Over the past decade, Ms. Le Pen’s party, the National Rally, formerly the National Front, has borrowed millions from a Russian bank, and Ms. Le Pen has supported Mr. Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, as well as his incendiary meddling that year in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where just this week Russia redoubled its offensive.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

 

Texas State Rep. Jeff Leach (R) with condemned prisoner Melissa Lucio during a visit by lawmakers to a prison unit in Gatesville, Texas (Photo via Texas State Rep. Jeff Leach via Associated Press).

Texas State Rep. Jeff Leach (R) with condemned prisoner Melissa Lucio during a visit by lawmakers to a prison unit in Gatesville, Texas (Photo via Texas State Rep. Jeff Leach via Associated Press).

ny times logoNew York Times, In Polarized Texas, Rare Accord: A Hispanic Mother Shouldn’t Be Executed, J. David Goodman, April 23, 2022 (print ed.). The execution of Melissa Lucio would be the first of a Hispanic woman in Texas. New evidence casts doubt on her conviction.

In less than a week, Texas is set to execute Melissa Lucio, a mother of 14 who was convicted of murder in the death of her 2-year-old daughter more than a decade ago.

The execution would be the first of a Hispanic woman in Texas, and it has drawn widespread attention — from a 2020 documentary to a recent segment on “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” — because of new evidence and expert testimony casting strong doubt about her guilt.

Ms. Lucio’s case has also done something rare in the intensely polarized political climate of Texas: It has brought Democratic and Republican lawmakers together in mutual outcry. Scores of legislators have called for clemency or at least a reprieve, including those who are ordinarily vigorous backers of the death penalty.

“It will be a historic, irreversible blunder on the part of the State of Texas if we go forward with this,” said State Representative Jeff Leach, a Republican from north of Dallas who has been a leading voice in Texas urging a halt to the execution. “I’ve never seen a more troubling case than the case of Melissa Lucio.”

Five of the jurors in her case have also come out in favor of clemency or a reprieve, citing in part the new evidence. “I voted to sentence Melissa Lucio to death. I was wrong,” one wrote in The Houston Chronicle.

The challenges to Ms. Lucio’s execution highlight familiar failings of the nation’s criminal justice system, including a confession given after hours of interrogation, evidence presented as scientific that has since been questioned, an inadequate defense and gender bias.

“Police targeted Melissa because she didn’t fit their image of how a grieving mother should behave” in the aftermath of her daughter’s death, said Sandra Babcock, one of Ms. Lucio’s lawyers and the director of the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide.

Ms. Lucio’s daughter Mariah died at home. Her lawyers have said that Mariah went down for a nap and did not wake up and that, two days earlier, she had fallen down a flight of stairs. An autopsy said the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.

The fact that Ms. Lucio is on death row at all is an outlier. It is rare for prosecutors to seek the death penalty in a case where a mother has been charged with killing her children, her lawyers said.

One issue her lawyers are raising is the legal provision — unique to Texas — under which prosecutors must prove a person’s “future dangerousness” in order to secure a death sentence. Ms. Lucio did not have a history of acting violently before Mariah’s death, so prosecutors relied heavily on disciplinary records from her time behind bars after her arrest. Ms. Lucio’s lawyers have argued that the prosecution misrepresented those records and that she had not engaged in significant misconduct.

washington post logoWashington Post, Why the U.S. can’t freeze $600 million in cryptocurrency stolen by North Korean hackers, Tory Newmyer and Jeremy B. Merrill, April 23, 2022. The group behind one of the largest cryptocurrency heists ever is still laundering its haul more than a week after being identified.

The cybercriminals’ continued access to the money, more than $600 million stolen from the Axie Infinity video game, underscores the limits of law enforcement’s ability to stop the flow of illicit cryptocurrency across the globe. The hackers are still moving their loot, most recently about $4.5 million worth of the Ethereum currency on Friday, according to data from cryptocurrency tracking site Etherscan — eight days after the Treasury Department attempted to freeze those assets by sanctioning the digital wallet the group used in its attack.

The gang, which the Treasury Department identified as the Lazarus Group, also known for the 2014 hacking of Sony Pictures, so far has laundered nearly $100 million — about 17 percent — of the stolen crypto, according to blockchain analytics firm Elliptic. They moved their haul beyond the immediate reach of U.S. authorities by converting it into the cryptocurrency Ethereum, which unlike the cryptocurrency they stole cannot be hobbled remotely. Since then, the gang has worked to obscure the crypto’s origins primarily by sending installments of it through a program called Tornado Cash, a service known as a mixer that pools digital assets to hide their owners.

Among top hacking nations, North Korea’s the weirdest

Authorities and major crypto industry players are scrambling to keep up. Treasury sanctioned three more addresses associated with the gang on Friday, as Binance, a large international crypto exchange, announced it had frozen $5.8 million worth of crypto the hackers had transferred onto its platform.

Associated Press via Politico, Split verdict in first-ever Air Force general military trial, Staff Report, April 23, 2022. Officials said the verdict marks the first court-martial trial and conviction of a general officer in the Air Force’s 75-year history. An Air Force major general in Ohio has been convicted by a military judge of one of three specifications of abusive sexual contact in the first-ever military trial of an Air Force general.

The charge faced by Maj. Gen. William Cooley during the weeklong court-martial at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio had three specifications, one alleging a forcible kiss and two alleging forcible touching in 2018. Cooley was convicted Saturday of the forcible kissing specification but acquitted of the other two.

Officials said the verdict marks the first court-martial trial and conviction of a general officer in the Air Force’s 75-year history.

A former commander of Air Force Research Laboratory, Cooley was charged with abusive sexual contact in an encounter with a woman who gave him a ride after a backyard barbecue in New Mexico nearly four years ago. Officials said the woman is a civilian who is not a Department of Defense employee.

Cooley was to be sentenced Monday morning and could face as much as seven years in jail as well as loss of rank, pay and benefits.

Cooley had the option of a trial by court member jurors or by military judge, and chose to have the case heard by the judge.

“Today marks the first time an Air Force general officer has been held responsible for his heinous actions,” the woman’s attorney Ryan Guilds, said in a statement, the Dayton Daily News reported. “... Hopefully, this will not be as difficult for the next survivor.”

Cooley was fired from his research laboratory position in January 2020 after an Air Force investigation and has worked in an administrative job since then. A message seeking comment was left for his attorney Saturday.

“This case clearly demonstrates the commitment of Air Force leaders to fully investigate the facts and hold Airmen of any rank accountable for their actions when they fail to uphold Air Force standards,” Col. Eric Mejia, staff judge advocate for Air Force Materiel Command, said in a statement.

Recent Legal Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: For G.O.P., Crossing Lines Has Few Consequences, Jonathan Weisman, April 23, 2022. A dizzying week featured Representative Kevin McCarthy caught lying and Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene grilled under oath about her role on Jan. 6.

There was a time in the nation’s capital when lines mattered, and when they were crossed, the consequences were swift and severe.

Speaker Jim Wright, a Democrat, lost his job in 1989 amid charges of corruption and profiteering. Almost a decade later, Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Republican, lost his after disappointing midterm elections.

Mr. Gingrich’s expected successor, Robert L. Livingston, then admitted he had violated the public’s trust by having an extramarital affair — even as he demanded President Bill Clinton’s resignation for having an affair with a White House intern — and bowed out on his own.

More recently, in rapid succession, Senator Al Franken of Minnesota and Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, both Democrats, were forced to exit Congress amid charges of sexual harassment during the #MeToo era. On the Republican side, Representatives Blake Farenthold of Texas, Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania and Trent Franks of Arizona were also driven out by allegations of sexual impropriety.

kevin mccarthyYet when the House Republican leader, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, right, was shown to have lied about his response to the deadliest assault on the Capitol in centuries and President Donald J. Trump’s culpability for it, there was little expectation that the consequences would be swift or severe — or that there would be any at all.

Dissembling is not a crime, but doing so to conceal a wholesale reversal on a matter as serious as an attack on the citadel of democracy and the possible resignation of a president would once have been considered career-ending for a politician, particularly one who aspires to the highest position in the House.

Not so for a Republican in the age of Trump, when Mr. McCarthy’s brand of lie was nothing particularly new; maybe it was just a Thursday. On Friday, another House member, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, said under oath at an administrative law hearing in Atlanta that she could “not recall” having advocated Mr. Trump imposing martial law to stop the transfer of power to Joseph R. Biden Jr., a position that would seem difficult to forget.

“It’s a tragic indictment of the political process these days — and the Republican Party of late — that truth doesn’t matter, words don’t matter, everybody can be elastic in areas that were once viewed as concrete,” said Mark Sanford, a former Republican governor of South Carolina who lied to the public about his whereabouts when he was pursuing an extramarital affair in South America and was censured by the State House of Representatives. “You cross lines now, and there are no longer consequences.”

Mr. Sanford’s political comeback as a Republican member of the House ended when he crossed the one line that does still matter in his party: He condemned Mr. Trump as intolerant and untrustworthy. Mr. Trump called him “nothing but trouble,” and Mr. Sanford was defeated in a primary in 2018.

Politico, DeSantis signs new congressional map into law as groups sue over redistricting, Guy Fineout, April 22, 2022. The suit was filed less than 24 hours after the GOP-controlled Legislature passed the bill as Black Democrats were loudly protesting on the House floor.

Several voting rights and civil rights organizations as well as a Democratic-aligned redistricting group sued over Florida’s new congressional map on Friday, the same day Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the new map into law.

politico CustomThe new map hands significant gains to Republicans and dismantles the North Florida seat now held by a Black Democrat.

DeSantis announced that he signed the new map into law during a Friday news conference in Miami, where he also signed two bills punishing the Walt Disney Co. for publicly opposing the “Parental Rights in Education” measure, known as “Don’t Say Gay” by opponents.

“We also did sign the congressional reapportionment in Tallahassee earlier today, so that’s going to be transmitted,” DeSantis said.

The League of Women Voters of Florida, which successfully challenged Florida’s last round of maps passed a decade ago, filed the lawsuit in circuit court in Leon County, along with other organizations such as Black Voters Matters and Florida Rising, as well as 12 voters living across the state.

“The League and the other plaintiffs have chosen to not stand by while a rogue governor and a complicit state Legislature make a mockery of Florida’s Constitution and try to silence the votes and voices of hundreds of thousands of Black voters,” said Cecile Scoon, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida in a statement.

Politico, Florida Senate approves new congressional map that cements GOP gains, Gary Fineout, April 22, 2022. The Senate approved the new map on a straight party-line 24-15 vote after a nearly two-hour debate during which Democrats assailed the proposed map as unconstitutional.

politico CustomBackground: Florida gained one congressional seat in 2022 due to population growth, for a total of 28. Republicans currently hold a 16-11 edge and the map that was initially approved by the Legislature last month would have increased the GOP advantage by two seats. But DeSantis vetoed the legislation, contending that it was unconstitutional because that map would have preserved a Jacksonville-area district in which a Black candidate was likely to get elected.

The map approved by the Senate dismantles the North Florida seat now held by Rep. Al Lawson (D-Fla.), a Black Democrat and would potentially lead to a flip of the seat in the Tampa Bay area now held by Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), who is not seeking a new term because he’s running for governor. The Central Florida district held by retiring Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) would also become a GOP-friendly district.

 

climate change photo

ny times logoNew York Times, One Last Push: Climate Activists to Rally at White House and Across U.S., Lisa Friedman, April 23, 2022 (print ed.). “Fight for Our Future” rallies are planned for Saturday in Washington, Atlanta, Phoenix and elsewhere as supporters say time is running out.

Joe Biden was not Vincent Vertuccio’s first choice for president. But as a high school student on Long Island, Mr. Vertuccio organized hundreds of young people to help elect him, driven by a single issue: climate change.

On Saturday, the day after Earth Day, Mr. Vertuccio expects to be outside the White House at one of dozens of “Fight for Our Future” rallies planned in cities across the country to press the government to cut the pollution that is dangerously heating the planet.

Organizers of the events are bringing together a broad coalition of youth activists, labor unions, civil rights groups and mainstream environmental organizations to urge the president, Congress and state legislatures to take aggressive climate action.

They worry that time is running out — both for the atmosphere, which is rapidly warming to dangerous levels, and for legislative action to mitigate the damage. Many supporters believe that after Memorial Day, Washington’s focus will shift to the November midterm elections, making it nearly impossible for lawmakers to negotiate major legislation.

Failure to act will undoubtedly have political ramifications for Mr. Biden and his party, jeopardizing support from young voters who turned out in record numbers in 2020 to help Democrats secure control of the White House and Congress.

Ramon Cruz, president of the Sierra Club, said activists upset with the Biden administration are misdirecting their anger.

Fossil fuel companies and lawmakers who are blocking legislation “should be the target of our frustration and anger, not the people who are trying to do something,” Mr. Cruz said.

Organizers of the Washington rally have tightly choreographed the event in concert with the White House, lining up speakers from the administration including Ali Zaidi, the White House deputy national adviser, to try to deflect blame away from Mr. Biden.

John Paul Mejia, 19, a spokesman for the Sunrise Movement, a climate advocacy organization, got involved after living through Hurricane Irma in his hometown, Miami, and witnessing firsthand the challenges poorer communities faced.

He called passing climate legislation “the fight of my generation” and spoke of the “gut-wrenching uncertainty about the people and places I love being here tomorrow” as sea-level rise, violent storms and floods menace Miami.

 

madison cawthorne photos

Politico, Exclusive: Madison Cawthorn photos reveal him wearing women’s lingerie in public setting, Michael Kruse, April 22, 2022. The embattled congressman has outraged Republican colleagues with accusations of orgies and drug use.

politico CustomPhotographs obtained by POLITICO, above, appear to show Madison Cawthorn, the embattled Republican congressman from North Carolina who recently accused his GOP colleagues of inviting him to orgies, wearing lingerie in what appears to be a party setting.

Cawthorn, 26, was raised in a conservative Baptist community in Henderson County, North Carolina, and has staked his political persona on arch-traditional Christian principles and the insistence of the importance of a kind of hypermasculinity. His comments about “the sexual perversion” in Washington made on a podcast, which he later admitted were exaggerated, drew the public disapproval and disavowal of Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy as well as other Republican leaders including those in his North Carolina congressional caucus.

The revelation of the two photos is the latest in a series of unflattering headlines for the freshman member of Congress in the run-up to the primary in his first re-election bid. The primary in North Carolina is May 17. Cawthorn has seven Republican opponents who see him as vulnerable.

Cawthorn, who was paralyzed from the waist down as a passenger in a car accident in Florida in 2014, in recent months has called Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy a “thug,” suggested teetotaling Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has a drinking problem, and racked up a collection of traffic transgressions including speeding, driving with expired tags and driving with a revoked license. He has court dates in May and June.

POLITICO could not independently verify the photos, which are screenshots of original images. They were provided to POLITICO by a person formerly close to Cawthorn and his campaign. A second person formerly close to Cawthorn and his campaign confirmed the origin of the photos. The date the photos were taken is unclear, though they appear to show Cawthorn sitting in a wheelchair, indicating the event happened after his accident. In the photos, he is wearing a distinctive pendant necklace that has appeared in other images and videos of Cawthorn. The photos have started to circulate among political rivals.

Cawthorn spokesman Luke Ball did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

“I was raised on Proverbs and pushups,” Cawthorn said in a podcast in September 2020.

“I think that we have bred a generation of soft men and that generation has created a lot of problems in our society and our culture,” he said in March 2021 on a podcast “designed to reclaim and restore masculinity in a society that is ever more dismissive of what it means to be a man.”

“There’s only one God and two genders,” he said in a tweet earlier this week.

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Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, The Drive to Vaccinate the World Against Covid Is Losing Steam, Rebecca Robbins and Stephanie Nolen, April 23, 2022. Rates are stalling in most low-income countries well short of the W.H.O.’s goal to immunize 70 percent of people in every nation. Experts fear the momentum is gone.

In the middle of last year, the World Health Organization began promoting an ambitious goal, one it said was essential for ending the pandemic: fully vaccinate 70 percent of the population in every country against Covid-19 by June 2022.

Now, it is clear that the world will fall far short of that target by the deadline. And there is a growing sense of resignation among public health experts that high Covid vaccination coverage may never be achieved in most lower-income countries, as badly needed funding from the United States dries up and both governments and donors turn to other priorities.

“The reality is that there is a loss of momentum,” said Dr. Isaac Adewole, a former health minister of Nigeria who now serves as a consultant for the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Only a few of the world’s 82 poorest countries — including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia and Nepal — have reached the 70 percent vaccination threshold. Many are under 20 percent, according to data compiled from government sources by the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford.

By comparison, about two-thirds of the world’s richest countries have reached 70 percent. (The United States is at 66 percent.)

The consequences of giving up on achieving high vaccination coverage worldwide could prove severe. Public health experts say that abandoning the global effort could lead to the emergence of dangerous new variants that would threaten the world’s precarious efforts to live with the virus.

“This pandemic is not over yet — far from it — and it’s imperative that countries use the doses available to them to protect as much of their population as possible,” said Dr. Seth Berkley, chief executive of Gavi, the nonprofit that runs the global vaccine clearinghouse Covax.

Countries in different parts of the world, including some in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, have seen their vaccination rates stagnate in recent months at a third or less of their populations. But Africa’s vaccination rate remain the most dismal.

ny times logoNew York Times, Routine Child Vaccinations in U.S. Slipped During Pandemic, C.D.C. Says, Benjamin Mueller and Jan Hoffman, April 22, 2022 (print ed.). The number of kindergartners with the required shots fell below the target for broad immunity, raising fears of outbreaks of other illnesses. Get pandemic updates.

Kindergartners in the United States fell behind on routine childhood vaccinations during the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Thursday, a slide that experts attributed to skipped checkups and to a groundswell of resistance to Covid-19 shots spilling into unease about other vaccines.

During the 2020-21 school year, about 94 percent of kindergartners had the required vaccines, a drop of roughly one percentage point from the previous school year, the C.D.C. said. That pulled coverage levels below the target of 95 percent, raising fears that life-threatening childhood illnesses like measles could at some point become more prevalent.

“This means there are 35,000 more children in the United States during this time period without documentation of complete vaccination against common diseases,” Dr. Georgina Peacock, the acting director of the C.D.C.’s immunization services division, said at a news conference on Thursday. “This is further evidence of how pandemic-related disruptions to education and health care could have lingering consequences for children.”

Enrollment in kindergarten had also fallen by around 10 percent, Dr. Peacock said, meaning that about 400,000 additional children who had been expected to start school but did not may also have fallen behind on routine vaccinations.

Some states showed dramatic declines in coverage, while others held steadier. Maryland, for instance, reported a roughly 10 percent drop in coverage with the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine from the 2019-20 school year to 2020-21 among kindergartners. Wisconsin, Georgia, Wyoming and Kentucky all reported declines of around 5 percent.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: The U.S. Appealed to Reinstate Masks. But Is It Seeking to Win? Charlie Savage and Sharon LaFraniere, Updated April 22, 2022. The Biden administration’s actions suggest either a botched case or a shrewd play for time, legal experts said.

Does the Biden administration really want and intend to fight for a higher court reversal of the ruling this week striking down its mask mandate on airplanes, trains and other public transportation — as its high-profile appeal of the case seemed to suggest?

Legal specialists raised another possibility on Thursday: The administration may instead be buying time and thinking about trying to erase the ruling — a move that would allow it to protect the powers of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to respond to a future crisis — but without reviving a mask mandate.

The tell, several outside specialists said, was that the Biden administration was letting days pass without seeking a stay of the ruling, the step that could most immediately resurrect the mask requirement.

“Basically, it is giving up on the mask mandate,” said Lawrence O. Gostin, a Georgetown University professor of global health law who advised the White House on the case. “The administration’s goal is a legal principle, which is to ensure that the C.D.C. has strong public health powers to fight Covid and to fight future pandemics. And it appears much less important to them to quickly reinstate the mask mandate.”

In fact, the administration has shifted away from masks as critical to the pandemic fight for two months. President Biden and other top officials have increasingly presented masks as a matter of personal choice, not federal policy.

The requirement to mask on public transportation, put in place soon after Mr. Biden took office in January, has been the exception. It was set to expire May 3, but with rising infections nationwide, the C.D.C. had left open the possibility of extending it again before the federal judge, Kathryn Kimball Mizelle of the Middle District of Florida, struck it down on Monday.

Amid fluid deliberations about what to do, Karine Jean-Pierre, the principal deputy White House press secretary, told reporters that the administration was appealing because “the C.D.C. must have the essential public health authority” to make critical decisions now and during future health crises.

“That is what is at stake right now,” she said.

cdc logo CustomBecause the case turns in part on whether the C.D.C. was justified in enacting the mandate as an emergency measure that offered no room for public notice or comment, it is notable that the administration appealed the ruling while not seeking an immediate stay. The failure to try to keep the mask order in place could undercut the government’s argument that there was an urgent need for the requirement; otherwise it would have tried to keep it in place, legal specialists say.

If the government really wanted to fight its appeal all the way to a decision on whether to overturn Judge Mizelle, said Stephen I. Vladeck, a University of Texas at Austin law professor who specializes in federal courts, “then they totally botched this, because it’s Thursday and the ruling was on Monday and they haven’t done anything about it yet.”

But Mr. Vladeck contended that the failure to seek a stay may make sense if the Biden legal team was instead trying to protect the C.D.C.’s power with no real intention of trying to get a higher court to reinstate the mask mandate.

He pointed to an obscure legal doctrine under which if a case is on appeal when the dispute becomes moot for reasons unrelated to the litigation, an appeals court can remand it to the district court with instructions not only to dismiss the case but to vacate the district court’s ruling — meaning wipe it from the books.

The government, he said, may be giving itself that option after the mandate’s planned expiration on May 3.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated April 23, 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: 508,747,383, Deaths: 6,241,039
U.S. Cases:    82,628,089, Deaths: 1,018,154
Indian Cases:  43,054,952, Deaths:    522,149
Brazil Cases:  30,338,697, Deaths:    662,618

Related Recent Headlines:

 

Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection, Election Claims

The Hill, MSNBC airs audio of McCarthy saying he considered asking Trump to resign, Caroline Vakil, April 22, 2022 (print ed.). MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” aired audio on Thursday, which was shared by reporters from The New York Times, confirming that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said he was considering asking former President Trump to resign in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol.

msnbc logo CustomIn the audio clip, which is also now included in the Times’s report on the matter, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) asks the House GOP leader if he was hearing that Trump might resign or had any reason to believe it could happen.

kevin mccarthyReferring to the likelihood that Congress would impeach Trump, McCarthy, right, says, “The only discussion I would have with him is that I think this will pass, and it would be my recommendation you should resign. I mean, that would be my take but I don’t think he would take it. But I don’t know.”

U.S. House logoIn a lengthy statement issued earlier on Thursday in response to the Times’s reporting, before the audio was aired, McCarthy denied that he had ever said such a thing during a House leadership call on Jan. 10, 2021.

The reporting is based on a forthcoming book by New York Times reporters Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin, titled “This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden and the Battle for America’s Future.”

​​”The New York Times’ reporting on me is totally false and wrong,” McCarthy said. “It comes as no surprise that the corporate media is obsessed with doing everything it can to further a liberal agenda. This promotional book tour is no different. If the reporters were interested in truth why would they ask for comment after the book was printed?”

According to the Times, Mark Bednar, a spokesperson for McCarthy, also pushed back against the reporting, saying, ​​“McCarthy never said he’d call Trump to say he should resign.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Audio contradicts House minority leader’s claim that he did not push for Trump to resign, Felicia Sonmez and Julian Mark, Updated April 22, 2022. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) discussed urging President Donald Trump to resign on a phone call with Republican leaders in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, according to a recording published Thursday by the New York Times.

The 1½-minute audio clip from Jan. 10, 2021, was published after McCarthy disputed a report earlier Thursday that he and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had privately pledged to push Trump out of politics following the Capitol attack by a pro-Trump mob.

The Washington Post's investigation of the Jan. 6 insurrection

During the call, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) asked whether there was any chance Trump would resign. McCarthy said he was doubtful, but “I’m seriously thinking of having that conversation with him tonight,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy added that he would tell Trump, as Democrats pushed forward with plans to again impeach the president, that “it would be my recommendation you should resign,” according to the audio clip. McCarthy said he did not think his effort would persuade Trump.

The Times reported that the call lasted over an hour. The audio clip also aired Thursday on “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC.

Neither McCarthy’s nor Cheney’s offices immediately responded to a request for comment.

The Times reported Thursday that McCarthy and McConnell had told fellow Republicans that they believed Trump was responsible for inciting the insurrection and would personally urge him to resign.

“I’ve had it with this guy,” McCarthy told fellow GOP leaders days after the attack, according to the report. With Democrats moving forward with plans to impeach Trump for a second time, McCarthy said that he planned to call the president, according to the audio recording.

A McCarthy spokesman told the Times that the California Republican “never said he’d call Trump to say he should resign.”

In a statement Thursday morning, McCarthy called the paper’s reporting “totally false and wrong” and accused the news media of “doing everything it can to further a liberal agenda.”

“The past year and a half have proven that our country was better off when President Trump was in the White House and rather than address the real issues facing Americans, the corporate media is more concerned with profiting from manufactured political intrigue from politically motivated sources,” McCarthy said.

McConnell’s office declined to comment on the report. According to the Times, the Kentucky Republican had predicted that the Senate would convict Trump and privately said in the days after the Jan. 6 attack, “If this isn’t impeachable, I don’t know what is.”

Despite their reported private comments condemning Trump in the days after the Capitol attack, both McCarthy and McConnell soon backed the president once again.

 ny times logoNew York Times, ‘I’ve Had It With This Guy’: G.O.P. Leaders Privately Blasted Trump After Jan. 6, Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin, April 22, 2022 (print ed.). Representative Kevin McCarthy planned to tell President Trump to resign. Senator Mitch McConnell told allies impeachment was warranted. But their fury faded.

kevin mccarthyIn the days after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol building, the two top Republicans in Congress, Representative Kevin McCarthy, right, and Senator Mitch McConnell, told associates they believed President Trump was responsible for inciting the deadly riot and vowed to drive him from politics.

republican elephant logoMr. McCarthy went so far as to say he would push Mr. Trump to resign immediately: “I’ve had it with this guy,” he told a group of Republican leaders.

But within weeks both men backed off an all-out fight with Mr. Trump because they feared retribution from him and his political movement. Their drive to act faded fast as it became clear it would mean difficult votes that would put them at odds with most of their colleagues.

“I didn’t get to be leader by voting with five people in the conference,” Mr. McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, told a friend.

Recent Headlines

 

More On War in Ukraine

ny times logoNew York Times, Rattled by War in Ukraine, Moldova Strives to Dodge Russia’s Long Shadow, Monika Pronczuk and Jeffrey Gettleman, April 23, 2022. Moldova’s destiny has been intertwined uncomfortably with Russia’s for years, and the Ukraine invasion has sped its efforts to break free from Moscow.

Before war erupted next door, Moldovans had big plans for their country.

moldovaBut the Russian invasion of Ukraine put Moldova, a former Soviet republic and one of Europe’s poorest nations, in an extremely vulnerable situation, threatening its economic development, straining its society with waves of refugees and evoking existential fears of yet another Russian occupation.

The war jitters are also adding another chapter to Moldova’s long and increasingly desperate effort to untangle itself from Moscow’s clutches. In pursuit of that, it recently applied to join the European Union, but the prospect of gaining admission anytime soon is remote.

“We are a fragile country in a fragile region,” said Maia Sandu, Moldova’s president, in an interview.

Moldovans’ fears swelled anew on Friday, when a Russian general said his country’s military now plans to seize the entire southern coast of Ukraine. That would establish a land bridge from Russia in the east to Transnistria, a heavily armed, breakaway region in Moldova’s east — bordering Ukraine — that is controlled by Russia.

ny times logopolish flag wavingNew York Times, Warsaw’s mayor warned that the Polish capital was “at capacity” as it braced for a new wave of Ukrainian refugees, Andrew Higgins, April 23, 2022. Warsaw gladly and proudly accepted 300,000 Ukrainians fleeing the war. But as the Polish capital braces for a new wave of refugees, its mayor warns that the city is “at capacity.”

ny times logoNew York Times, The Former Chancellor Who Became Putin’s Man in Germany, Katrin Bennhold, April 23, 2022. Gerhard Schröder, who is paid almost $1 million a year by Russian energy companies, has become a pariah. But he also symbolizes Germany’s policy on Russia.

On the evening of Dec. 9, 2005, 17 days after Gerhard Schröder left office as chancellor of Germany, he got a call on his cellphone. It was his friend President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

gerhard schröder wMr. Putin was pressing Mr. Schröder, right, to accept an offer to lead the shareholder committee of Nord Stream, the Russian-controlled company in charge of building the first undersea gas pipeline directly connecting Russia and Germany.

“Are you afraid to work for us?” Mr. Putin had joked. Mr. Schröder might well have been, given the appearance of possible impropriety — the pipeline he was now being asked to head had been agreed to in the final weeks of his chancellorship, with his strong support.

He took the job anyway.

Seventeen years later, the former chancellor, who recounted the events himself in a pair of rare interviews, remains as defiant as ever.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fate of Mariupol defenders in question, Andrew Jeong, Ellen Francis, Amy Cheng, Adela Suliman and Aaron Blake, April 23, 2022 (print ed.). Latest on key battlegrounds: Russians could ‘starve out’ Ukrainian defenders in Mariupol, analysis predicts; Russia seeks ‘full control’ of southern Ukraine, path to Moldova, commander says; Putin to hold call with European Council president who visited Kyiv.

ukraine flagAs Russia focuses its fire on Ukraine’s south and east, outgunned fighters continue to resist capitulation in a final holdout, the Azovstal steel plant, in the southern port city of Mariupol. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky acknowledged that Russian forces had captured most of the city in a crushing siege.

Mariupol’s mayor made a renewed appeal Friday for a “full evacuation” and said more than 100,000 people remained trapped in the city. Images provided to The Washington Post by Maxar Technologies showed a mass grave outside the city — evidence of war crimes against civilians, according to Ukrainian officials.

President Biden said Thursday that Russia was setting the stage for a new phase of the war, as he announced $800 million in new military aid for Kyiv, tailored for combat in the terrain of the eastern Donbas region. “We will speak softly and carry a large Javelin,” Biden said Thursday, paraphrasing President Theodore Roosevelt.

The war has inflicted roughly $60 billion worth of physical damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure, according to the World Bank’s chief, who warned the cost would rise. Zelensky told a virtual World Bank forum on Friday that his country would need $7 billion in monthly financial support and hundreds of billions of dollars more to rebuild after the conflict.

What else to know

  • Zelensky, in a video shared Friday, claimed Russian forces were seeking to collect information on residents in the Black Sea port city of Kherson in an attempt to set up a “referendum” to break the southern region away from Ukraine.
  • For the first time in weeks, a convoy of four buses and a dozen private cars carrying civilians escaped Mariupol. Dazed and exhausted, they described the horrors they endured in the battered city.
  • Ukraine’s deputy prime minister announced there would be no humanitarian corridors opened Friday to evacuate people from urban areas near the front lines, because of danger along the potential routes.
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel for updates.

 

President Biden, who met with Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw on Saturday, said the children asked for him to pray “for my dad, or my grandfather, and my brother,” who remain in Ukraine (Photo by Doug Mills of The New York Times).

President Biden, who met with Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw last month, said the children asked for him to pray “for my dad, or my grandfather, and my brother,” who remain in Ukraine (Photo by Doug Mills of The New York Times).

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. sends ghost drones, howitzers for Donbas battle, Karoun Demirjian and Amy Cheng, April 23, 2022 (print ed.). President Biden announced an additional $800 million in military assistance for Ukraine on Thursday, with the initial portion arriving over the weekend. The package, which represents a sharp increase in artillery shipments, includes weapons that meet Ukraine’s specific needs on the battlefield, which is shifting toward the Donbas region in the east.

The latest package includes 72 155mm howitzers and the tactical vehicles to tow them, along with 144,000 artillery rounds. That is a significant increase over the 18 howitzers in another shipment also announced in April, and it is enough to equip five battalions, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.

By some expert estimates, the 144,000 rounds could last as long as four weeks. “The howitzers are really equipment designed to help Ukrainians hold the line against the forthcoming Russian assaults,” said Samir Puri, a Singapore-based military analyst with the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Also in the package are over 120 Phoenix Ghost Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems — drones that the U.S. Air Force developed “in response, specifically, to Ukrainian requirements,” according to Kirby. Later in the day, he said the drones had actually been “developed for a set of requirements that very closely match” the Ukrainians’ needs for operations in Donbas.

Ukraine has kept the Kremlin from taking a major prize — Kyiv, the capital — by adopting guerrilla tactics in the forests of the country’s north and west. But the open and flat lands of the east are far better suited for Russia’s ability to muster large formations of tanks and armored vehicles.

Warmer weather in the coming weeks will also provide the Kremlin’s armored formations with greater freedom of movement. On Thursday, the British Defense Ministry said that Moscow’s forces were advancing toward Kramatorsk, an eastern Ukrainian city that is a constant target of Russian missile and rocket fusillades.

  • Washington Post, Overview: Biden vows $1.3 billion in aid as Mariupol standoff worsens, April 22, 2022.

washington post logoWashington Post, Exhausted Mariupol survivors describe horrors they endured, Louisa Loveluck and David L. Stern, April 22, 2022 (print ed.). As the buses from Mariupol arrived one by one, the shellshocked passengers inside looked exhausted. Barely any of them spoke when the doors opened.

Their escape from the shattered Ukrainian city over which Russian President Vladimir Putin declared victory Thursday, even as his advisers acknowledged that thousands of Ukrainian fighters were still holding out there, felt like “a miracle,” one woman said.
Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for the latest updates on Russia's war in Ukraine.

“They destroyed everything,” another nodded softly.

“Glory to Ukraine,” a teenager shouted.

The convoy of vehicles, the first to be granted safe passage by Russia in almost two weeks, was meant to include scores of vehicles. As it was, only four buses arrived in the southeastern town of Zaporizhzhia, 140 miles north of Mariupol, the rest held up as night fell by Russian checkpoints along the route, officials said.

A trickle of private cars had also made it through.

“Everything that you see during the day, when people are not allowed out, when buses do not go and there is no evacuation, this is a violation of Russia’s guarantees,” said Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk, who met the buses several hours after missiles landed on the edge of the town.

'It’s a miracle we managed to leave that hell': Mariupol survivors describe horrors

The humanitarian corridor marks the latest in a string of attempts discussed by Ukraine and Russia to evacuate civilians from Mariupol. Other agreements have collapsed because of mistrust.

Victory in the city would be Russia’s most significant in this war to date. The port city is critical to Russian hopes of forming an unbroken land corridor stretching from the eastern Donbas region bordering Russia to the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.

Latest updates from the Ukraine war

On Thursday, the escaped civilians came with horror stories of the brutal tactics that Russian forces had used. They said that relentless shelling had lit up the sky as Russian soldiers went house to house in search of perceived enemies. Families lived underground and survived on dried pasta or raw grains. Even venturing out to find water could mean death from above.

“The ground was shaking,” said Ruslana, sitting alongside her daughter as she ate her first proper meal in weeks — fresh bread and stewed fruit — inside the Zaporizhzhia reception center.

ny times logoNew York Times, Hackers Claim to Target Russian Institutions in Barrage of Cyberattacks and Leaks, Kate Conger and David E. Sanger, April 23, 2022 (print ed.). Hackers claim to have broken into dozens of Russian institutions over the past two months, including the Kremlin’s internet censor and one of its primary intelligence services, leaking emails and internal documents to the public in an apparent hack-and-leak campaign that is remarkable in its scope.

The hacking operation comes as the Ukrainian government appears to have begun a parallel effort to punish Russia by publishing the names of supposed Russian soldiers who operated in Bucha, the site of a massacre of civilians, and agents of the F.S.B., a major Russian intelligence agency, along with identifying information like dates of birth and passport numbers. It is unclear how the Ukrainian government obtained those names or whether they were part of the hacks.

Much of the data released by the hackers and the Ukrainian government is by its nature impossible to verify. As an intelligence agency, the F.S.B. would never confirm a list of its officers. Even the groups distributing the data have warned that the files swiped from Russian institutions could contain malware, manipulated or faked information, and other tripwires.

Some of the data may also be recycled from previous leaks and presented as new, researchers have said, in an attempt to artificially increase the hackers’ credibility. Or some of it could be manufactured — something that has happened before in the ongoing cyberconflict between Russia and Ukraine, which dates back more than a decade.

ny times logoNew York Times, The destruction of the world’s largest aircraft, a beloved symbol for Ukraine, has stirred an outpouring of grief, Jeffrey Gettleman, April 23, 2022 (print ed.). Mriya, the world’s largest aircraft, was destroyed in a pivotal battle at the start of the war. It was a beloved symbol for all of Ukraine but perhaps no one misses it more than its first pilot.

The day war broke out, one of Ukraine’s most decorated pilots stepped onto the balcony of his three-story home and felt a pain in his heart.

A battle was raging at a nearby airport, and from where he was standing, the pilot, Oleksandr Halunenko, could see the explosions and feel the shudders. The Russians were invading his country and something very specific worried him.

Mriya.

The plane.

In a hangar a few miles away rested the world’s largest airplane, so special that only one was ever built. Its name is Mriya, pronounced Mer-EE-ah, which in Ukrainian means The Dream. With its six jet engines, twin tail fins and a wingspan nearly as long as a football field, Mriya hauled gargantuan amounts of cargo across the world, mesmerizing crowds wherever it landed. It was an airplane celebrity, aviation enthusiasts say, and widely beloved. It was also a cherished symbol of Ukraine.

 

joe biden oil ban march 8 2022

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine: Biden announces ban on Russian-affiliated ships in U.S. ports, Paulina Firozi, Ellen Francis, Bryan Pietsch, Amy Cheng, Annabelle Timsit, Adela Suliman and Rachel Pannett, April 22, 2022 (print ed.). Analysis: Fuel, food, finance will be impacted by Russia’s Ukraine war; U.K. announces import ban on Russian caviar, other high-end goods; Ukraine has more tanks on the ground than Russia, per Pentagon; Azov commander says ‘no one has surrendered Mariupol yet’; Biden announces $800 million in additional military aid to Ukraine.

President Biden on Thursday announced a ban on Russian-affiliated ships from U.S. ports and said he would send $800 million more in military resources to help Ukrainian forces — a package that includes heavy artillery and tactical drones. Biden also announced the United States would provide an additional $500 million in direct economic assistance to the Ukrainian government.

Russian FlagBiden described the help as the “latest steps we’re taking to support the people of Ukraine and to hold Putin accountable for his brutal and bloody war.”

The latest announcement comes amid what Biden called a “critical window” as Russia prepares for a next phase of war. Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier called his country’s military offensive in the key port city of Mariupol a success, and said he ordered his forces not to storm the plant where pro-Ukrainian troops are stationed and where civilians have sought shelter. Still, he told troops to block the plant so “that even a fly could not get through.” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the situation there is “difficult,” and that Russia captured “most of Mariupol long ago” except for the sliver of city where his troops remain.

What else to know

  • The Biden administration rolled out plans Thursday to expedite the arrival of Ukrainian refugees.
  • Ukrainian forces have more tanks on the ground than their Russian counterparts, according to a senior U.S. defense official.
  • For the first time in weeks, a convoy of four buses and a dozen private cars escaped Mariupol and reached Zaporizhzhia.
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel for updates.

 Recent Headlines

 

Media, Entertainment, Religion News

washington post logoWashington Post, Vaccine column fight could kill venerable alt-weekly, Kim Bellware and Elahe Izadi, April 23, 2022 (print ed.). The owner of the Chicago Reader objected when the staff raised concerns about the claims in his column. Now the paper faces financial ruin.

The scene outside the multimillion-dollar home of Chicago Reader co-owner Leonard Goodman on Thursday could have been lifted from one of the alt-weekly’s vivid cover stories. Sandwiched between two huge inflatable rats and a collection of picket signs, a colorful crowd of artists, politicians, union leaders and loyal readers rallied for what may be the 51-year-old paper’s last stand.

“The Reader is not just independent journalism, it’s a voice for the voiceless,” said Jesse Sharkey, the outgoing president of the city’s powerful teachers union. “It’s a voice that lifts up the most marginalized communities.”

The future of one of the nation’s longest-running alternative weeklies, which was in the process of transitioning to a nonprofit, is now in jeopardy because Goodman believes the paper is trying to silence another voice: His own.

The dispute started in November, when Goodman — who had previously written columns on the “fiasco” of the Iowa caucuses and the government’s failure to stop sex-trafficking financier Jeffrey Epstein — decided to take on the topic of coronavirus vaccines for children. Specifically, why he was skeptical about the need for them.

“We have been kept in the dark about vaccine safety and efficacy by our government and its partners in Big Pharma," he wrote. “As a parent, I will demand more answers before simply taking their word.”

After the column published, Reader staff raised concerns about the scientific accuracy of some of his claims and the publisher hired a fact-checker to investigate them. Goodman pushed back — and sympathetic members of the Reader’s board began raising concerns about free speech and governance at the struggling paper.

The bitter, public fight that has ensued is pitting the paper’s journalists and publisher against its ownership. Now, its future hangs in the balance as its transition into a nonprofit is stalled and the Reader stands on the brink of financial collapse.

It’s a “hostage situation,” said longtime Reader editor Philip Montoro.

Alt-weeklies — the scrappy, irreverent and sometimes profane alternatives to buttoned-up daily local newspapers — exploded in popularity during the 1970s, becoming a venue for long-form investigative stories as well as local politics and arts coverage. They also came to rely heavily on print advertising, which has been declining for decades. Many once-thriving alt-weeklies, including Washington City Paper, have gone all-digital; others have shuttered.

“The Reader is kind of like an artery in Chicago,” its publisher, Tracy Baim, said. “It’s part of the last 50 years of the heart of the city.”

The standoff between owners and journalists that’s eviscerating Pittsburgh’s biggest newspaper

In 2018, it was purchased by Goodman, a prominent attorney, and developer Elzie Higginbottom for a token $1. In his monthly column, Goodman enjoyed free rein to write on topics of his choosing — until his vaccine column raised red flags for Baim.

Baim said the external fact-checker she hired (“a normal process of fixing something after it was up," she said) deemed more than a dozens of Goodman’s assertions to be false or misleading, including some that relied on debunked or non-peer-reviewed studies. But Goodman resisted Baim’s suggestions to rewrite the column or run the fact-checker’s report, which he called tantamount to censorship.

Ultimately, the column remained online unaltered. But his allies on the board nonetheless decided to pause the paper’s long-planned transition into a nonprofit by insisting on new protections for free speech and that Baim resign her anticipated role as its president.

“If they think it’s journalistic par-for-the-course to rewrite and edit an article because it’s unpopular, they should go back and review the First Amendment,” Reader board member Sladjana Vucovic told The Washington Post.

Goodman spilled his frustrations in an opinion piece published by another site, blasting the “fact-checking industry” as Orwellian “business consultants” keeping media “on the right side of government officials and corporate sponsors.” He characterized his feud with the staff as a fight "to rescue the paper from the dark forces of censorship and to preserve its fifty-year tradition of embracing dissenting views.”

The dispute echoes other contentious debates over free speech that have played out in the pages of major newspapers, college lecture halls and libraries across the United States. Within journalism, arguments have raged over the line between encouraging a healthy discussion of disparate viewpoints and promoting outright misinformation that could undermine democracy or public health.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tina Brown Catches Up With Royal Intrigue in ‘The Palace Papers,’ Alexandra Jacobs, April 22, 2022. In her new book, Brown traces how 21st-century journalism has helped reshape the wobbly contours of the House of Windsor, our critic writes.

In her new book, The Palace Papers, Tina Brown takes on a centuries-old institution of strong personalities, byzantine rules, a definite pecking order and mercurial public support.

I don’t mean the monarchy. I mean the press.

Tracing how 21st-century journalism has helped reshape the wobbly contours of the British royal family, Brown is by turns chiding and comradely. She is, after all, the English-born, Oxford-educated former editor of Tatler, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Talk and The Daily Beast, as well as a prolific freelance writer, intermittent broadcaster, conference organizer and general gadabout.

The House of Windsor has long been referred to as the Firm. But these days it seems more like a Blob: harder to corral than mercury spilled on an Axminster carpet.

The presumed future queen consort, Camilla, will be anointed with the asterisk of a first marriage, to Andrew Parker-Bowles, that produced two children. One scion, Prince Harry, fled his official duties for the bland American luxury of Montecito, Calif.; his uncle Prince Andrew has been stripped of his military titles following his embroilment in an international sex-trafficking scandal. (With typical brio, Brown refers to Andrew as a “coroneted sleaze machine” and a “ghost royal.”)

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ny times logoNew York Times, E.U. Takes Aim at Social Media’s Harms With Landmark New Law, Adam Satariano, April 23, 2022 (print ed.). The Digital Services Act would force Meta, Google and others to combat misinformation and restrict certain online ads. How European officials will wield it remains to be seen.

european union logo rectangleThe European Union was nearing a deal on Friday on landmark legislation that would force Facebook, YouTube and other internet services to combat misinformation, disclose how their services amplify divisive content and stop targeting online ads based on a person’s ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.

The law, called the Digital Services Act, is intended to address social media’s societal harms by requiring companies to more aggressively police their platforms for illicit content or risk billions of dollars in fines. Tech companies would be facebook logocompelled to set up new policies and procedures to remove flagged hate speech, terrorist propaganda and other material defined as illegal by countries within the European Union.

The law aims to end an era of self-regulation in which tech companies set their own policies about what content could stay up or be taken down. It stands out from other regulatory attempts by addressing online speech, an area that is largely off limits in the United States because of First Amendment protections. Google, which owns YouTube, and Meta, the owner of Facebook google logo customand Instagram, would face yearly audits for “systemic risks” linked to their businesses, while Amazon would confront new rules to stop the sale of illegal products.

The Digital Services Act is part of a one-two punch by the European Union to address the societal and economic effects of the tech giants. Last month, the 27-nation bloc agreed to a different sweeping law, the Digital Markets Act, to counter what regulators see as anticompetitive behavior by the biggest tech firms, including their grip over app stores, online advertising and internet shopping.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: As Europe Approves New Tech Laws, the U.S. Falls Further Behind, Cecilia Kang, April 23, 2022 (print ed.). Federal privacy bills, security legislation and antitrust laws to address the power of the tech giants have all failed to advance in Congress, despite hand wringing and shows of bipartisan support.

european union logo rectangleIn just the last few years, Europe has seen a landmark law for online privacy take effect, approved sweeping regulations to curb the dominance of the tech giants and on Friday was nearing a deal on new legislation to protect its citizens from harmful online content.

For those keeping score, that’s Europe: three. United States: zero.

The United States may be the birthplace of the iPhone and the most widely used search engine and social network, and it could also bring the world into the so-called metaverse. But global leadership on tech regulations is taking place more than 3,000 miles from twitter bird CustomWashington, by European leaders representing 27 nations with 24 languages, who have nonetheless been able to agree on basic online protections for their 450 million or so citizens.

In the United States, Congress has not passed a single piece of comprehensive regulation to protect internet consumers and amazon logo smallto rein in the power of its technology giants.

It’s not for lack of trying. Over 25 years, dozens of federal privacy bills have been proposed and then ultimately dropped without bipartisan support. With every major hack of a bank or retailer, lawmakers have introduced data breach and security bills, all of which have withered on the vine. A flurry of speech bills have sunk into the quicksand of partisan disagreements over freedo