Nov. 2022 News

 

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

 

Nov. 30

Top Headlines

stewart rhodes

 

Pro-Democracy, Anti-Fascist Reporting


Ukraine War


U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Regulation


U.S. Political Probes, Jan. 6 Insurrection

 

World News, Human Rights

 

Climate, Disasters, Energy

 

U.S. Media, Culture, Tech

 

Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

 

Top Stories

 

stewart rhodes

washington post logoWashington Post, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes guilty of Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy, Spencer S. Hsu, Tom Jackman and Rachel Weiner, Nov. 30, 2022 (print ed.). Rhodes, above, stayed outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, but prosecutors said he was the ringleader of a plot to unleash politically motivated violence to prevent the inauguration of President Biden.

A federal jury on Tuesday convicted Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and a top deputy of seditious conspiracy for leading a months-long plot to unleash political violence to prevent the inauguration of President Biden, culminating in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Justice Department log circularThe panel of seven men and five women deliberated for three days before finding Rhodes and lead Florida Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs guilty of conspiring to oppose by force the lawful transition of presidential power. But three other associates were not convicted of the historically rare and politically freighted sedition count. All five were convicted of obstructing Congress as it met to confirm the results of the 2020 election. Both offenses are punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Rhodes, 56, in a dark suit and black eye-patch from an old gun accident watched impassively as verdicts were read.

James Lee Bright, one of Rhodes’s attorneys, said Rhodes intended to testify on behalf of other Jan. 6 defendants “if asked.” Edward L. Tarpley Jr, another Rhodes lawyer, noted that the defendants were acquitted on 11 of the 28 counts: “This is not a total victory for the government in any way shape or form.”

Rhodes and his co-defendants were the first accused of seditious conspiracy and the first to face trial and be convicted on any conspiracy charge to date in the massive Jan. 6 investigation. He is the highest-profile figure to face trial in connection with rioting by angry Trump supporters who injured scores of officers, ransacked offices and forced lawmakers to evacuate the U.S. Capitol.

Rhodes and followers, dressed in combat-style gear, converged on the Capitol after staging an “arsenal” of weapons at nearby hotels, ready to take up arms at Rhodes’s direction in an attack on the ‘bedrock of democracy,’ the government charged. Rhodes’s defense said he and co-defendants came to Washington as bodyguards and peacekeepers, bringing firearms only in case Trump met their demand to mobilize private militia to stop Biden from becoming president.

Analysts called the outcome a vindication for the Justice Department.

“The jury’s verdict on seditious conspiracy confirms that January 6, 2021, was not just ‘legitimate political discourse’ or a peaceful protest that got out of hand. This was a planned, organized, violent assault on the lawful authority of the U.S. government and the peaceful transfer of power,” said Randall D. Eliason, a former federal prosecutor who teaches law at George Washington University.

“Now the only remaining question is how much higher did those plans go, and who else might be held criminally responsible,” Eliason said.

U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, who helped defend the Capitol on Jan. 6, said he ran over to the federal courthouse when he heard there was a verdict. He sat sweating in the front row as the verdict was read.

“I was emotional,” Dunn said afterward. “I didn’t expect to cry.”

He thanked the jury and the Justice Department for their work on the case.

“I don’t look at it like a victory,” Dunn said. “A victory is when you win. This was right. This was about doing the right thing.”

The verdict in Rhodes’s case likely will be taken as a bellwether for two remaining Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy trials set for December against five other Oath Keepers and leaders of the Proud Boys, including the longtime chairman Henry ‘Enrique’ Tarrio. Both Rhodes and Tarrio are highly visible leaders of the alt-right or far-right anti-government movements, and were highlighted at hearings probing the attack earlier this year by the House Jan. 6 committee.

 

steward rhodes kelly meigs jessica watkins kenneth harrelson thomas caldwellDaily Kos, Analysis: Oath Keepers Elmer Stewart Rhodes, Kelly Meggs found guilty of seditious conspiracy, Brandi Buchman, right, Nov. 29-30, 2022. Oath Keepers fbrandi buchman newounder Elmer Stewart Rhodes was found guilty of seditious conspiracy, not guilty of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, guilty of obstruction of an official proceeding, not guilty of conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging his duties, and guilty of tampering with documents. 

Florida Oath Keepers leader Kelly Meggs was found guilty of seditious conspiracy, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging his duties, and tampering with documents. Meggs was found not guilty of the destruction of government property. 

Ohio Oath Keeper Jessica Watkins, just one of the Oath Keepers who breached the U.S. Capitol in an organized stack, was found not of guilty seditious conspiracy but was found guilty of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and obstruction of an official proceeding. She was also found guilty of conspiring to prevent officers from discharging their duties, and civil disorder. Those two verdicts were expected after Watkins admitted to civil disorder from the witness stand at trial. On the destruction of government property charge, she was found not guilty. 

thomas caldwellThomas Caldwell, left, a former Naval commander—who prosecutors said coordinated the groups’ efforts to establish a heavily-armed quick reaction force, or QRF, to support Oath Keepers on the ground at the Capitol—was found not guilty of seditious conspiracy, not guilty of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, not guilty of conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging his duties, but guilty on two charges: tampering with documents and obstruction of an official proceeding. 

Kenneth Harrelson, another Oath Keepers leader from Florida who joined the stack breaching the Capitol, was found not guilty of seditious conspiracy, not guilty of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, and not guilty of destruction of property. He was, however, found guilty of obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging his duties. 

Elmer Stewart Rhodes, right, was arrested on Jan. 13, a little more than a year from the day that he stood outside of the U.S. Capitol, stalking from side to side of the building as the pro-Trump mob swelled and members of the group he founded in 2009 stormed the building with the aim of stopping the certification of the 2020 election.

stewart rhodes eye patch shotAt trial, Rhodes denied having a specific plan in place for Jan. 6, citing the lack of a written or express agreement to halt the certification. This point made up the lion’s share of the defense, and it was often that Oath Keepers would claim they were simply “swept up” by a jostling, fast-moving crowd.

Even from the witness stand, Oath Keepers who had already pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges, like Jason Dolan and Graydon Young, testified that there was never an explicit plan about using force to stop Congress.

It was, however, “implied,” Young said.

And this, according to prosecutors, is what mattered to secure the seditious conspiracy convictions.

An explicit agreement was never required for the jury to find the defendants guilty of seditious conspiracy. An implied agreement was indicated in myriad Oath Keepers texts, video, and audio recordings, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Nestler said during the government’s final rebuttal on Nov. 21.

Rhodes alone published two open letters to former President Donald Trump in December 2020, urging him to invoke the Insurrection Act so that Oath Keepers could be called up to stop what Rhodes believed was a “deep state” coup aimed at removing Trump from the White House despite his popular and electoral defeat—the long and now widely debunked “Big Lie”—to now-President Joe Biden.

If Trump didn’t act, Rhodes wrote, the Oath Keepers would be forced to. A civil war would be inevitable.

”You must act NOW as a wartime President, pursuant to your oath to defend the Constitution, which is very similar to the oath all of us veterans swore. We are already in a fight. It’s better to wage it with you as Commander-in-Chief than to have you comply with a fraudulent election, leave office, and leave the White House in the hands of illegitimate usurpers and Chinese puppets,” Rhodes wrote in an open letter to Trump published on the Oath Keepers website on Dec. 14.

Continued below.

washington post logoWashington Post, House votes to block rail strike that could deal a blow to the economy, John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro, Nov. 30, 2022. The House voted Wednesday for legislation aimed at blocking a national rail strike that could deal a major blow to the economy ahead of the holidays.

U.S. House logoA strike could occur as early as Dec. 9 after some unions rejected a contract deal brokered earlier this year by the White House. President Biden asked Congress to put the force of law behind that agreement, which would raise wages but provide no paid sick days.

Ahead of the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) warned that a strike would cause the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs. The House vote was 290 to 137. The Senate is expected to pass similar legislation.

The House plans to vote on a second bill Wednesday that would add seven sick days for workers, but the fate of that legislation is unclear in the Senate.

The decision by Pelosi to hold a vote on the second bill comes after a growing chorus of Democrats voiced opposition to Congress passing a railroad deal they viewed as unfriendly to rail workers.

 

hakim jeffries

washington post logoWashington Post, House Democrats elect first Black party leader in Congress and prepare for new generation, Marianna Sotomayor and Camila DeChalus, Nov. 30, 2022. House Democrats elected a new generation of leaders Wednesday who will be responsible for keeping the caucus united on policies and messaging as they set their sights on winning back the majority next term.

The decision by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) to step aside after leading Democrats for two decades has paved the way for the caucus to unite around a younger, more diverse trio of leaders. Democrats on Wednesday morning elected Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-U.S. House logoN.Y.) to serve as minority leader, Rep. Katherine M. Clark (D-Mass.) as minority whip and Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) as chair. Jeffries will make history as the first Black member to lead either party in either chamber of Congress.

The trio, as well as others who will be elected later this week to round out the full leadership slate, will be faced with ensuring the ideological factions within the caucus are heard and represented in key decisions, a desire members have long had after decades of centralized power wielded by Pelosi. While the lack of a singular strong hand can present challenges coalescing the caucus in a majority, being in the minority could allow Democrats to find consensus in challenging the Republican agenda with their own policy prescriptions they hope will allow them to reclaim the majority in 2025.

washington post logoWashington Post, Who is Hakeem Jeffries? Azi Paybarah, Nov. 30, 2022. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) has been elected House Democratic leader, the first Black lawmaker to lead a congressional conference in the United States and the first new leader for House Democrats in two decades.

The 52-year-old lawyer, hails from central Brooklyn, the epicenter of New York’s Democratic power. A self-described progressive, he was first elected to in 2012 and has forged relationships with Democratic establishment figures in Washington while navigating the ascending left in his backyard.

He was elected by unanimous voice vote Wednesday in a closed-door meeting of House Democrats. He succeeds House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the first woman to hold that position.

After Democrats did far better than expected in this year’s midterms but narrowly lost the House majority, Pelosi announced that she would step down as the top Democrat. The day after her announcement, Jeffries, who’s served as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, formally announced his bid for it and was unopposed.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Advances to Knockout Stage at World Cup, but Win Could Be Costly, Andrew Das, Nov. 30, 2022 (print ed.). The U.S. beat Iran 1-0, but the price of victory may be a high one: Christian Pulisic was taken to the hospital after sustaining an abdominal injury.

The stakes and the stage and the politics all made things harder going in to their game against Iran on Tuesday night at the World Cup. The own goal by their federation’s social media team, the Iranians’ great umbrage at the perceived insult to their flag, the chatter and the threats and the intrigue all added to fifa world cup qatar 2022 officialthe spice of the matchup. But the task, at its heart, left no room for nuance at all: If United States wanted to keep playing in this tournament, it had to beat Iran. And so it did.

The price of victory may be a high one: Christian Pulisic, perhaps the Americans’ brightest star and the scorer of its only goal in a 1-0 victory, was forced from the game at halftime with an abdominal injury sustained when he crashed hard into Iran’s goalkeeper finishing his goal. He was taken to the hospital for scans, team officials said, but no other information on his injuries was released.

His status for the next round, a date with the Netherlands on Saturday, was unclear as the game ended. But that will be a question for tomorrow. The United States, thanks to its victory, now has one.

Iran will rue its bitter exit. Unlike the United States, it has never advanced out of the first round at a World Cup. Its team, long a symbol of unity in a persistently divided nation, had needed only a tie to advance. Its tournament had been a roller-coaster: a thumping at the hands of England, a last-minute win over Wales, a date against a young American team still finding its way.

But Iran’s time in Qatar also had been a crucible. As protests and crackdowns have roiled Iran for months, its soccer players have found themselves trying to navigate an excruciating and shrinking middle ground.

ny times logoNew York Times, New York City to Involuntarily Remove Mentally Ill People From Streets, Andy Newman and Emma G. Fitzsimmons, Nov. 30, 2022 (print ed.). Mayor Eric Adams told New York City workers to hospitalize people they deemed too mentally ill to care for themselves, even if they posed no threat to others.

Acting to address “a crisis we see all around us” toward the end of a year that has seen a string of high-profile crimes involving homeless people, Mayor Eric Adams announced a major push on Tuesday to remove people with severe, untreated mental illness from the city’s streets and subways.

eric adamsMr. Adams, right, who has made clearing homeless encampments a priority since taking office in January, said the effort would require involuntarily hospitalizing people who were a danger to themselves, even if they posed no risk of harm to others, arguing the city had a “moral obligation” to help them.

“The common misunderstanding persists that we cannot provide involuntary assistance unless the person is violent,” Mr. Adams said in an address at City Hall. “This myth must be put to rest. Going forward, we will make every effort to assist those who are suffering from mental illness and whose illness is endangering them by preventing them from meeting their basic human needs.”

The mayor’s announcement comes at a heated moment in the national debate about rising crime and the role of the police, especially in dealing with people who are already in fragile mental health. Republicans, as well as tough-on-crime Democrats like Mr. Adams, a former police captain, have argued that growing disorder calls for more aggressive measures. On the other side, left-leaning advocates and officials who dominate New York politics say that deploying the police as auxiliary social workers may do more harm than good.

ny times logoNew York Times, Proud, Scared and Conflicted: Here’s What Protesters in China Are Saying, Li Yuan, Nov. 30, 2022 (print ed.). In more than a dozen interviews, young people told our columnist how the past few days became a “tipping point.”

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2They went to their first demonstrations. They chanted their first protest slogans. They had their first encounters with the police.

Then they went home, shivering in disbelief at how they had challenged the most powerful authoritarian government in the world and the china flag Smallmost iron-fisted leader China has seen in decades.

Young Chinese are protesting the country’s harsh “zero-Covid” policy and even urging its top leader, Xi Jinping, to step down. It’s something China hasn’t seen since 1989, when the ruling Communist Party brutally cracked down on the pro-democracy demonstrators, mostly college students. No matter what happens in the days and weeks ahead, the young protesters presented a new threat to the rule of Mr. Xi, who has eliminated his political opponents and cracked down on any voice that challenges his rule.

Such public dissent was unimaginable until a few days ago.

washington post logoWashington Post, In China, former president Jiang’s death comes at an unsettled time, Christian Shepherd, Vic Chiang, Pei-Lin Wu and Lily Kuo, Nov. 30, 2022. Jiang Zemin, the former Chinese president who died Wednesday, was a pivotal figure during his more than decade of leadership. He was unexpectedly chosen to head the Chinese Communist Party after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, and during his tenure, the country harnessed capitalism to become a global economic player

His passing at age 96, though not surprising given recent reports of his poor health, comes at a similarly pivotal moment given a swell of protests in recent weeks over the government’s severe “zero covid” restrictions. Crowds have gathered in urban centers and on college campuses. Changes to the country’s pandemic policies have been their primary motivation, but many have also voiced anger over censorship and political repression.

“His passing could become a focal point for people who are unhappy with the current economic environment and incessant covid lockdowns,” said Mary Gallagher, director of the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan.

In fact, the deaths of former leaders have often been times of turbulence for the party, when internal division and power struggles can break out into broader social unrest. The death of reform-minded leader Hu Yaobang in April 1989 was the trigger for a wave of demonstrations in support of freedom of speech and democratic reforms that became known as the Tiananmen Square protests. Jiang took charge in the wake of the bloody crackdown there.

 

Pro-Democracy, Anti-Fascist Reporting

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary, January 6th Committee Report -- The devil may be in the details, Wayne Madsen, author of 22 books (including The Rise of the Fascist Fourth Reich, shown below) and a former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst, Nov. 30, 2022. wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallAs the House Select Committee on the January 6th insurrection by Donald Trump and his allies wraps up, there is hope that some details of the planned coup d'état will be found either in the main report or its appendices.

wayne madesen report logoAs just one example, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have not advanced their investigations of who planted pipe bombs at Democratic and Republican National Committee headquarters.

wayne madsen fourth reich coverIn September last year, the FBI was requesting the public to supply any additional information on the identity of the suspect who planted the bombs.

The FBI said that the two pipe bombs were of sufficient explosive strength to have seriously injured or killed bystanders had they detonated.

There is other evidence that points to the January 6th insurrectionists having inside help in the Congress, including the offices of the House and Senate Sergeant-at-Arms; the Secret Service; and possibly other federal and local law enforcement agencies.

With the November 29 convictions for seditious conspiracy being handed down by a Washington, DC jury for insurrection leaders Stewart Rhodes and Kelly Meggs, the government has established that there was a criminal plot to overthrow the government. Such a predicate will undoubtedly empower the January 6th Committee to identify in its report others who were part of the conspiracy.

MeidasTouch,

, Ben Meiselas, Nov 30, 2022 (8:41 mins.). Stephen Miller testified before the federal criminal grand jury in Washington DC investigating crimes related to the January 6 insurrection.

Miller is the first witness to testify before this grand jury since Jack Smith was appointed Special Counsel. MeidasTouch host Ben Meiselas reports on the significance of this news.

 

vicky ward investigates

Vicky Ward Investigates, The World Cup: Politics, Petrol & Power, Vicky Ward, Nov. 30, 2022. How Middle Eastern aristocrats learned to flex and why the West appears unable to push back.

Even if you are not an avid football fan, most likely you’ve noticed that, for the first time, the World Cup is being played in the Middle East—specifically in the tiny state of Qatar—and that there have been all sorts of controversies to do with that.

In no particular order:

Gianni Infantino, the President of FIFA, gave a surreal hour-long interview, seemingly to try to defend Qatar’s human rights and LGBTQ rights abuses (criticism has been levied on the death toll of the migrants building the World Cup stadiums) by accusing the West of being hypocritical.

Noticeably absent from the action in Doha is MBZ, who reportedly wanted the World Cup to happen in the UAE. “He’s not public-facing like MBS, and you never know—depending on who is in the final, he might go for that,” a source told me.

But who did show up regardless of who was winning on the football field? The U.S.’s Middle-East-Beneficiary-in-Chief Jared Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump.

jared kushner ivanka trump family qatar world cup 2022Ivanka Trump posted on her Instagram page about her family’s visit to the World Cup in Qatar. [Credit: Instagram]

But what does it all mean for you in your armchair at home?

I spoke to the British academic Matthew Hedges, who specializes in the region. It’s Hedges's informed opinion that what we are witnessing this World Cup is the crescendo of political and economic influence that has been so carefully curated and bought in both the U.S. and the UK by the Gulf states. These countries have all shown us recently they are not desert fiefdoms many miles away; they control a great deal more of our lives than most of us know.

You can listen to my conversation with Hedges in the player above or read the transcript, edited and condensed for clarity.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: America's Immigrant Spies. Part 1: The Germans, Wayne Madsen, left, Nov. 28-29, 2020. With the exception of wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallAfrican slaves and Chinese railroad workers, the United States has generally been a nation of willing immigrants. That has made it an attractive target for foreign intelligence agencies intent on implanting agents and even entire families in the United States as part of covert “illegals programs.”

wayne madesen report logoThese sleeper agents have often remained indistinguishable from normal American citizens. These agents bide their time until it is determined by their foreign controllers that they must be activated for specific purposes in service to their fatherland or motherland.

Here is an operative question: Are Peter Thiel and Elon Musk, neither born in the United States, modern-day versions of the German Kaiser’s and Hitler’s programs to seed immigrants to the United States with sleeper spies and saboteurs? If so, America has learned nothing from its past.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: America's Immigrant Spies. Part 2: The pro-apartheid white South Africans, Wayne Madsen, left, Nov. 29-30, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2022. Two white multi-billionaires, both with family connections in apartheid South Africa -- Elon Musk, a native born South African, and Peter Thiel, whose parents lived in South Africa and South West Africa (Namibia today) -- moved to the United States at the height of South African intelligence's gambit to place as many agents-of-influence in the United States as possible.

wayne madesen report logoThiel moved to the United States from apartheid South Africa in 1977, followed by Musk and his Canadian-South African mother in 1990 via Canada. Laundering agents destined for placement in the United States via Canada has always been a favored option for hostile intelligence services, including the apartheid era's three state intelligence agencies: the Bureau of State Security (BOSS), the Department of National Security, and the National Intelligence Service.

Was it pure happenstance that Thiel and Elon Musk merged their businesses to control the first major worldwide cash transfer system, PayPal?

Or had the apartheid regime’s Illegals Program finally paid some handsome dividends?

 

steward rhodes kelly meigs jessica watkins kenneth harrelson thomas caldwellDaily Kos, Analysis: Oath Keepers Elmer Stewart Rhodes, Kelly Meggs found guilty of seditious conspiracy, Brandi Buchman, right, Nov. 29-30, 2022. Oath Keepers fbrandi buchman newounder Elmer Stewart Rhodes was found guilty of seditious conspiracy, not guilty of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, guilty of obstruction of an official proceeding, not guilty of conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging his duties, and guilty of tampering with documents. 

Updates: U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, an attack victim shown at right during his later congressional testimony, was in the courtroom when the verdicts were announced. It was an emotional and long-awaited moment. Justice, he told Daily Kos, should be expected not celebrated but nonetheless, he regarded today as a win for the American people.

It should be noted that after the verdicts were announced on Tuesday an attorney for Rhodes, James Lee Bright, spoke to reporters and offered graceful harry dunn capitol policeremarks about the case and U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta.

“The government did good,” Bright said. “They took us to task.”

Though he was disappointed with the mixed bag of verdicts and posited that a different venue may have benefited the case, he added: “I do believe it was a fair trial.”

Though defendants Caldwell, Watkins, and Harrelson were spared the seditious conspiracy charge by the jury, their failure to escape the obstruction of an official proceeding charge is significant. This charge, like the seditious conspiracy charge, carries a maximum 20-year sentence in prison.

For all of the charges he was convicted on, Rhodes faces a max sentence of up to 60 years in prison. Meggs faces up to 86 years in prison. As for Watkins, she could serve up to 56 years in prison if the judge doles out the steepest sentence possible for all of her charges. Caldwell is looking at 40 years and Harrelson could be sentenced up to 46 years for all of the charges he was convicted on. Sentencing guidelines are only recommendations and it could end up that the defendants receive shorter terms than the ones recommended.

All of the defendants will remain jailed except for Thomas Caldwell until sentencing. Caldwell was released from prison well ahead of the trial, citing various health concerns. An attorney for Jessica Watkins asked the judge after the verdict was read if his client could potentially be released ahead of sentencing, but Mehta denied the request from the bench.

The success of the seditious conspiracy conviction is the first one the Justice Department has had in more than a decade. The charge was also the steepest one brought against any defendant tied to Jan. 6 thus far.

It is important to note the subtle difference in charges the defendants mutually faced and in particular, conspiracy to obstruct versus obstruction.

Rhodes was acquitted of conspiracy to obstruct. He was also acquitted of conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging their duties. Though he never entered the Capitol, prosecutors emphasized that in the moments just before Oath Keepers breached the building, Rhodes called Meggs as well as Michael Greene aka “Whip,” a man he selected to serve as his “Jan 6 ops” leader.

What was said on that call was not revealed at trial and the contents of it will remain a mystery short of an admission of the details from Rhodes, Greene, or Meggs.

Phone records offered up by prosecutors showed the conference call was patched through despite Rhodes' claim from the witness stand that it did not.

Greene, who was charged separately from Rhodes, currently faces five charges including conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiring to prevent an officer from discharging their duties, entering a restricted building or grounds, and tampering with documents or proceedings.

Greene, who also goes by Michael Simmons, opted to waive his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in order to testify on Rhodes’ behalf. The former Blackwater contractor’s testimony under direct examination flowed easily but once under cross-examination, his account of the events of Jan. 6 started to fray fast at the edges.

Jurors did not take questions after the marathon trial officially ended on Tuesday. They went straight home instead, so learning exactly how they may have reached their decision will have to wait.

Only three defendants, Rhodes, Watkins, and Caldwell, testified on their own behalf.

Caldwell’s testimony, like Rhodes’, was rife with contradictions and he frequently became emotional on the stand, at one point appearing to sob abruptly as he recounted the day the FBI showed up at his home in rural Virginia and ordered him and his wife to come outside.

Prosecutors said Caldwell was instrumental in coordinating a “quick reaction force” at a hotel in northern Virginia, just minutes from D.C., where Oath Keepers from multiple states including Florida, North Carolina, and Arizona convened in the days before the insurrection.

The “QRF” was packed with weapons that were rolled into the hotel on dollies, in many cases, and in large bins. At least one rifle brought to the hotel was only haphazardly covered with fabric, making its outline recognizable. Oath Keeper Terry Cummings told jurors in October there were more firearms in the QRF than any he had seen since his time serving in the U.S. military.

Caldwell stayed at the QRF hotel on the morning of Jan. 6, and met with Oath Keepers as they gathered for Trump’s insurrection-inciting speech at the Ellipse.

Despite his age and history of back injuries—he was 65 on Jan. 6—video and photo evidence showed Caldwell made it all the way up to the top of the inaugural platform erected at the Capitol. He steadfastly denied seeing any evidence of violence though he was less than 50 yards away, at one point, from the lower west terrace tunnel where police officers were viciously attacked with their own riot shields as well as fire extinguishers, chemical sprays, and the mob’s bare fists. His attorney David Fischer argued Caldwell was unable to see the violence in the tunnel from his vantage point.

“January 6 happened and I had nothing to do with it,” Caldwell testified.

Though he was acquitted of the sedition charge, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging their duties, he was unable to escape the obstruction of an official proceeding charge or the tampering charge.

Jurors saw extensive evidence of Caldwell’s efforts to cover his tracks after the Capitol siege. He deleted nearly 180 Facebook messages tied to Jan. 6 and did so on Jan. 14.

Metadata showed the messages he deleted on Jan. 14 were sent on Jan. 7.

Prosecutors emphasized to jurors that Caldwell wiped his correspondence on the same day he accessed a New Yorker article naming Jessica Watkins and Oath Keeper Donovan Crowl as participants in the riot.

The Oath Keepers insisted their efforts in the run-up to Jan. 6 were purely about providing “security” for Trump allies like Roger Stone and “Stop the Steal” event organizer and conspiracy theorist Ali Alexander. Stone, evidence showed, was part of at least one text group on Signal shared between members of the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys.

But other evidence like a secret recording of Rhodes captured four days after the insurrection by Jason Alpers, a military veteran who said he had indirect ties to Trump, showed the Oath Keeper leader was still intent on stopping the transfer of power.

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Ukraine War

ny times logoNew York Times, Russian Retreat Reveals Signs of an Atrocity in a Ukrainian Village, Jeffrey Gettleman, Photographs by Finbarr O’Reilly, Nov. 30, 2022 (print ed.). In the southern Kherson region, the pattern seen in eastern Ukraine is repeating: Russia’s withdrawal yields evidence of possible war crimes.

First came small pieces of bone. Then a pair of arms tied at the wrists with rope.

And then the shovel unearthed a skull with a bullet hole, mouth cracked open, teeth covered in thick, black mud.

Even though scenes like this have been repeated across Ukraine wherever the Russians have retreated, the clump of villagers and police officers seemed stunned on Monday as they stood at the lip of a common grave in Pravdyne, a village near the city of Kherson.

A cold rain pelted their backs but they didn’t move as the grave was exhumed. None of the villagers even knew the last names of the six men who had been killed, execution-style, and then buried here, but that didn’t matter. “They were Ukrainians,” said Kostiantyn Podoliak, a prosecutor who had come to investigate.

And now their remains lay in a shallow grave because of it.

Kherson and the surrounding villages in southern Ukraine were liberated after eight brutal months of occupation, when the embattled Russian forces abruptly pulled out more than two weeks ago. Residents streamed into the streets, waving flags, hugging soldiers and clinking glasses of cognac.

But as days pass, that elation has given way to mounting evidence of atrocities, and the sobering reality of battered, barely livable communities from which most civilians fled months ago and may not return anytime soon. On their way out, the Russians blew up power stations, taking down electricity, running water, heat and phone service and casting residents back more than a century.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: NATO diplomats are meeting to discuss how to sustain Ukraine through a harsh winter, Edward Wong, Nov. 30, 2022 (print ed.). Antony J. Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, and the top diplomats from more than 30 European nations are meeting on Tuesday in Romania to coordinate how the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will bolster Ukraine’s war efforts against Russia over the harsh winter.

The officials plan to discuss further weapons shipments to Ukraine, as well as how to help repair Ukraine’s electricity grid and defend the country’s critical infrastructure against relentless missile, artillery and drone attacks by the Russian military.

A senior State Department official traveling with Mr. Blinken said Monday that the United States plans to announce cash aid to Ukraine for energy infrastructure needs on an emergency basis.

“NATO is stronger and more united than at any time I can remember,” Mr. Blinken said at a news conference on Tuesday with Jens Stoltenberg, the alliance’s secretary general, before the meeting. “We will be reaffirming our support for Ukraine as we go forward.”

Mr. Blinken held separate meetings with top Romanian officials Tuesday morning. He said that the United States would work with Romania to help it achieve energy independence from Russia, and to build up its military capabilities, which would operate with those of its allies.

The two-day meeting of foreign ministers is taking place in Bucharest, the capital of Romania, a NATO member country that shares a border with Ukraine. It is expected to lay the groundwork for how the alliance will continue to aid Ukraine at a time when winter weather might limit military gains and as millions of Ukrainian civilians lack access to electricity and water because of damage to infrastructure facilities caused by Russian strikes.

“NATO will continue to stand for Ukraine as long as it takes,’” Mr. Stoltenberg said as the diplomats gathered. “We will not back down.”

Another State Department official said the Russian military is using missiles and drones to hit Ukraine’s transmission grid, including high-voltage transformer stations, because those are more vulnerable than power generation sites. He estimated that 25 to 30 percent of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure has been damaged.

American and European officials say President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is trying to break the morale of Ukrainians by depriving them of basic utilities over the winter, when average temperatures across Ukraine drop below freezing. The Russian military has suffered major setbacks in the face of Ukrainian offensives in recent months, including being forced to retreat from the strategic southern city of Kherson and the Kharkiv region in the northeast.

NATO countries have so far provided some $40 billion in weaponry to Ukraine, roughly the size of France’s annual defense budget. But Ukraine has been tearing through stockpiles, setting off a scramble to supply the country with what it needs while also replenishing NATO members’ arsenals. Many Western-made howitzers are breaking due to the rate of use by Ukrainian troops.

The meeting this week is also expected to feature discussion of how to better protect the member nations that are in closest proximity to Ukraine, including Poland and Romania, from any potential spillover from the conflict. The topic took on a renewed sense of urgency this month when a missile that NATO leaders said appeared to have been fired by Ukraine’s air defense killed two civilians in southeastern Poland.

The foreign ministers of Sweden and Finland, which both applied for NATO membership after Mr. Putin ordered the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, are expected to attend the meeting, as are top diplomats from Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

At a NATO meeting in 2008 in Bucharest, President George W. Bush pushed members of the alliance to promise Ukraine and Georgia eventual membership, but without a timeline. Officials say both countries remain far from qualifying for membership but are considered critical partners of NATO.

Mr. Stoltenberg and the U.S. State Department also said that officials would discuss the global challenges posed by China, Russia’s most powerful strategic partner.

Here’s what we know:

  • The U.S. is planning an emergency cash injection for Ukraine to shore up its energy infrastructure after an onslaught of Russian attacks.
  • NATO ‘will not back down’ in its support for Ukraine, its secretary general says.
  • Russia postpones a meeting on a nuclear arms control treaty.
  • A communal grave with six bodies is unearthed in Kherson.
  • Why the Ukrainian flag is flying everywhere in Maine.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Ukraine Is Biden’s Defining Issue and Biggest Economic Challenge, Jim Tankersley, Nov. 30, 2022 (print ed.). The shape of the war and its effects on global markets in the months and years to come could determine President Biden’s political fate.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has become the greatest economic challenge of President Biden’s time in office, threatening to push the world into a recession that could endanger an already fragile American recovery.

The combination of punishing sanctions, championed by Mr. Biden and his allies, and Russia’s retaliation has ricocheted through global food and energy markets, exacerbating already high inflation and undercutting global growth. An oil shock set off by the invasion sent average gasoline prices above $5 a gallon nationally in June, before they fell steadily in July and August.

This week, the European Union is expected to put finishing touches on a plan that would attempt to contain further economic damage by imposing a cap on the price that Russia can earn from selling a barrel of exported oil. The untested idea, engineered by Mr. Biden’s Treasury secretary, is aimed at keeping Russian oil flowing to the global market even as Europe plows ahead with new restrictions on Moscow’s oil sales.

In the year to come, that price cap and other efforts to manage the war’s global fallout should be Mr. Biden’s primary economic focus. With few legislative options available after his party lost control of the House, Mr. Biden will need to find ways to shield American markets from the war’s effects, including new international initiatives to bolster food supplies and ward off a potentially cascading financial crisis in developing nations.

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U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

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

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

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrat-aligned group pumps money into Georgia runoff ground game, Sabrina Rodriguez, Nov. 30, 2022. A top Democratic Party-aligned nonprofit is teaming up with a coalition of left-leaning grass-roots groups in a multimillion-dollar effort to get Georgia voters out to the polls for the runoff election between Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) and GOP Senate candidate Herschel Walker.

Majority Forward, a nonprofit affiliated with Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), announced on Wednesday that it has partnered with the America Votes coalition to spend more than $11 million to mobilize voters ahead of the Dec. 6 runoff. The goal is to knock on more than 4 million doors before the election, according to details shared first with The Washington Post.

georgia mapThe America Votes Georgia coalition — which includes nearly 50 national and state partner groups including the New Georgia Project Action Fund, BlackPAC, Mijente and Asian American Action Fund — has already knocked on more than 1 million doors since the general election, Majority Forward shared. Majority Forward’s investment will help fund the coalition’s ground game and paid media, including radio, mail and digital ads.

The investment comes less than a week before the runoff and as early voting is already underway in the Peach State. In-person early turnout has been breaking records, with Georgians turning out at historic levels on both Monday and Tuesday. Over the weekend, more than two dozen counties conducted early voting.

Georgia voters on Tuesday set a record for turnout on a single day of early voting with more than 309,000 people heading to the polls, according to Gabriel Sterling, the chief operating officer for the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. That surpassed the record set on Monday when more than 301,000 Georgians voted early. Before that, the record was from the 2016 election when more than 252,000 voters cast ballots on a single day of in-person early voting.

Politico, Senate Dems wrestle over weakening leaders' power, Burgess Everett and Andrew Desiderio, Nov. 30, 2022. After battling the caucus' No. 2 in the past, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) has a new plan that could force three senior colleagues to cede influence.

politico CustomDick Durbin and Sheldon Whitehouse are at odds once again over limiting the power of Senate Democratic leaders.

The last time the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat was this openly perturbed with Whitehouse (D-R.I.), they were vying in 2020 for what became the gavel of the powerful Judiciary Committee. This month, Durbin (D-Ill.) isn’t thrilled to see his colleague proposing a rules change that could force top party leaders to relinquish their committee chairmanships — an idea that’s dividing the caucus just days after Democrats secured another two years in control of the chamber.

Whitehouse’s pitch would prevent any Democratic senator from holding a leadership position while simultaneously chairing an in-demand committee. It wouldn’t go into effect until 2025, but it would target Durbin’s dual position as Judiciary chair and whip. It would also likely affect Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who chair the Rules and Agriculture committees, respectively, while also serving in leadership ranks where they’re set to ascend next year.

Politico, Braun to run for Indiana governor, opening Senate seat in 2024, Adam Wren, Nov. 30, 2022. The first-term Republican senator filed paperwork to run to succeed Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, who is term-limited.

politico CustomPolitico reported in September that Braun, elected to the Senate in 2018 after defeating former Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), was leaning toward a gubernatorial run. He won a fierce GOP primary six years ago, defeating former Reps. Todd Rokita and Luke Messer.

A former executive of a distribution company, Braun has long chafed at the speed of the Senate, and Indiana Republicans close to him say he is more suited to being an executive.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Biden is averting a railroad strike but missing an opportunity, Paul Waldman, right, Nov. 30, 2022. At President Biden’s urging, paul waldmanCongress is likely to step in soon to prevent a railroad strike by forcing unions to accept an agreement some recently rejected. Democrats’ calculation is simple: Even if this represents a defeat for labor rights, the damage to the economy imposed by a strike would be almost catastrophic.

It’s an understandable position. But this is also a missed opportunity, not only to make good on Biden’s promise to be the most pro-labor president in history but also to help Americans rethink our beliefs about work — beliefs that to much of the world are dysfunctional or even borderline deranged.

Rail workers are represented by multiple unions, which had made a series of demands of companies that dominate the industry. While workers wanted better pay, they were most concerned about the conditions of employment. Staffing cuts stretched them thin. Tiring and often unpredictable schedules took them away from their families.

And a lack of sick days and flexibility left them unable to respond to family or medical emergencies.

The United States is one of the few developed countries with no legal requirement for paid sick leave. And in other countries, the law requires that workers be given months of paid time off to have a baby or care for a sick relative. While a few states have passed their own sick and family leave requirements, for most American workers, their employer decides whether they get a single day of paid leave.

Biden has talked about dignity at work before; if that seems like a novel concept, it’s because everything about the structuring of the American workplace works against it. And yes, he has appointed pro-labor people to key jobs in the government and rolled back cruel Trump administration policies. But he needs to use his platform more aggressively — not just from time to time, but all the time.

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U.S. Courts, Crime, Regulation

 supreme court Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Originalism is bunk. Liberal lawyers shouldn’t fall for it., Ruth Marcus, right, Dec. 1, 2022. Liberal lawyers — and liberal justices, for ruth marcusthat matter — risk being caught in an originalism trap.

Originalism, the belief that the meaning of the Constitution was fixed at the time it was adopted, is the legal theory that dominates the thinking of this conservative Supreme Court. Not all of the conservative justices are committed originalists. I count four of the six — all but Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and perhaps Samuel A. Alito Jr., who describes himself as a “practical originalist.” But they have all written or joined originalist rulings.

Given that reality, liberals can’t lightly dismiss conservatives’ insistence that the Constitution should be interpreted based strictly on the original meaning of its text. In the current circumstances, liberal advocates appearing before the court would be remiss not to make an originalist case.

But there’s also little evidence, at least in the highest-profile cases, that it will do them much good. When originalist arguments favor a result the conservative justices dislike, they’re content to ignore them, or to cherry-pick competing originalist interpretations that comport with their underlying inclinations. Originalism doesn’t serve to constrain but to justify. This is not a fair fight — or an honest one.

And it is one with dangerous consequences. The more liberals present originalist arguments, the more they legitimate originalism rather than refuting it and offering a compelling alternative. Courtroom advocates need to win the case at hand, yet that undermines the more critical long-term effort to wrench the court away from its reliance on what is, at least as currently practiced, a flawed doctrine that peddles the illusion of impartiality in the service of a conservative result.

Because originalism purports to freeze our understanding of the Constitution as written at the end of the 18th century or amended in the second half of the 19th, it is skewed to a cramped reading of the document, unleavened by modern science and sensibilities. Why should we understand — much less accept — the constitutional meaning as fixed at a time when women lacked the right to vote, when recently enslaved Black people attended segregated schools, when the economy was agrarian, and when the notion of gay rights was unthinkable?

One prominent recent example of those flirting with originalism involves the newest justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson. “I believe that the Constitution is fixed in its meaning,” Jackson said at her confirmation hearings in March. “I believe that it’s appropriate to look at the original intent, original public meaning, of the words when one is trying to assess because, again, that’s a limitation on my authority to import my own policy.”

When the Supreme Court heard a Voting Rights Act case in October, Jackson turned to originalism to rebut the argument that the law would be unconstitutional if it permitted race to be taken into account in drawing district lines.

“I understood that we looked at the history and traditions of the Constitution at what the framers and the founders thought about and when I drilled down to that level of analysis, it became clear to me that the framers themselves adopted the equal protection clause … in a race conscious way,” Jackson said. “I don’t think that the historical record establishes that the founders believed that race neutrality or race blindness was required, right?”

Jackson is correct — but that’s a different matter than saying that her originalist point has much hope of winning the day with her conservative colleagues. They are locked into a different vision: that the Constitution mandates strict colorblindness, and they aren’t apt to be swayed by citations of the 1866 Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction.

 

 

 

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The court’s supremely obtuse response to its ethical problems, Ruth Marcus, right, Nov. 30, 2022. The Supreme Court sent a two-page ruth marcusletter to Democratic lawmakers looking into allegations of a leak by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., left, or his wife. Words weren’t really necessary; a see-no-evil monkey emoji would have aptly summarized the court’s response.

The letter, by Ethan V. Torrey, legal counsel to the court, could scarcely have been more obtuse. The New York Times reported earlier this month the story of a conservative Ohio couple, Donald and Gayle Wright, who were deployed by a religious rights, antiabortion samuel alito oorganization to befriend the Alitos and other conservative justices as part of an influence campaign.

The Rev. Rob Schenck, who headed the organization, said that Gayle Wright had tipped him off in advance about the outcome and authorship of a 2014 case, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, involving religious employers’ obligations to provide contraceptive coverage. Gayle Wright and the Alitos denied any leak (Donald Wright died in 2020), but contemporaneous evidence bolsters Schenck’s claim of advance knowledge.

“Rob, if you want some interesting news please call. No emails,” Gayle Wright wrote Schenck the day after the Alitos hosted the Wrights for dinner at their Virginia home. Wright’s unconvincing explanation? “I was so excited to tell him that Justice Alito had actually gotten in his car to take me home,” she told The Post. “We wanted to talk to him and share it with him.”

The Times article, along with coverage by Politico and Rolling Stone, depicts a disturbing, coordinated effort by conservative activists to insinuate themselves into the lives of sympathetic justices via six-figure donations to the Supreme Court Historical Society and access to vacation spots such as the Wrights’ Jackson, Wyo., home.

A Supreme Court that took ethics seriously would want to get to the bottom of this smarmy arrangement. That is not, apparently, this Supreme Court.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. didn’t bother to respond to a July letter from Schenck alerting him to the episode. But a nonresponse might have been preferable to Torrey’s legalistic and defensive letter to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), who had asked the court about what plans it had to investigate or refine its ethics policies.

In a statement, Whitehouse and Johnson called Torrey’s letter “an embodiment of the problems at the Court around ethics issues.” This seems like a fair diagnosis. And Roberts should keep in mind: If the patient isn’t willing to take steps to heal itself, others will step in to administer the necessary medicine.

washington post logoWashington Post, America’s homicide rate has surged. In 9 cities, loved ones tell the story of lives lost, Staff Report, Nov. 27, 2022 (interactive).  During the last three years, homicides nationwide have reached their highest levels in decades.

The deadly spike coincided with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic: The rate of killings rose nearly 30 percent in 2020 and remained high through the following year, according to a Washington Post database created to track the toll. Even now, as the bloodshed has slowed, the homicide rate outpaces pre-pandemic levels.

This gun violence tends to grab headlines when it occurs in horrific public spasms: at a Walmart in Virginia, a nightclub in Colorado, an elementary school in rural Texas. But the focus on mass shootings obscures the totality of the American ailment: people killed on city streets and inside their homes, deaths that seldom attract national attention and cases that rarely involve high-profile prosecutions. In many, an arrest has yet to be made.

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U.S. Media, Culture, Tech

 washington post logoWashington Post, Elon Musk says he’s launching a ‘war’ against Apple. It’s probably a losing battle, Naomi Nix, Nov. 30, 2022. Elon Musk launched a tirade against Apple this week after he said the phone-maker had mostly stopped advertising on Twitter and threatened to block the social media giant from its app store.

elon musk 2015In some ways, the billionaire, right, seemed to be picking a losing fight. The amount Apple spends advertising on Twitter and the rules it sets for apps in its app store could play a big role in whether Twitter will be able to generate enough revenue to make Musk’s $44 billion deal to buy the platform worth it.

apple logo rainbow“If there’s one company for him not to pick a fight with in the world, it’s Apple, and he just poked the bear,” said Dan Ives, a financial analyst with Wedbush Securities. “It’s just another head-scratching battle that Musk has waged since his ownership of Twitter.”

In a series of tweets, Musk criticized Apple’s app store as a “monopoly” and raised whether the phone-maker supported censorship. Musk also signaled in a tweet that he intends to “go to war” with Apple.

It’s a risky strategy. Apple wields significant power over Twitter as the social media platform seeks to diversify its advertising business and boost subscription sales, according to experts. For starters, Twitter depends on Apple to reach the tens of millions of people who use Apple devices to search the web — a large and attractive market for the social media giant.

Judge’s ruling may take a bite out of Apple’s App Store, but falls short of calling the iPhone maker a monopolist

twitter bird CustomAt the same time, Apple’s privacy rules probably will hurt Musk’s plans to build out Twitter’s targeted advertising business. And the 30 percent fee Apple extracts from app sales could put a dent in Musk’s plan to make money from subscriptions.

Musk joins a long line of other app-makers and regulators that have, so far, unsuccessfully sought to significantly rein in the power Apple wields over social media platforms. Facebook has launched a similar unsuccessful public relations campaign against Apple’s privacy rules, which cost Facebook billions in lost ad sales. Lawmakers to date have been unable to pass legislation that would give users the ability to download apps outside of Apple and Google’s app stores. And courts in the United States have so far not compelled Apple to significantly change the fees it collects on app sales.

Politico, Never mind, Musk says — accusation against Apple was a ‘misunderstanding,’ Staff Report,Nov. 30, 2022. The billionaire writes that he and Apple CEO Tim Cook “resolved the misunderstanding about Twitter potentially being removed from the App Store.”

politico CustomElon Musk had a much different tone Monday, when he issued a series of tweets accusing Apple of threatening to “withhold” Twitter from the App Store.

Elon Musk publicly retracted his accusations that Apple had threatened to remove Twitter from its App Store — two days after his claim unleashed a tsunami of Republican attacks and threats of reprisals against the iPhone-maker.

In fact, the billionaire said in an unusually cordial tweet late Wednesday it was all just a big mix-up that Apple CEO Tim Cook managed to resolve in a “good conversation.”

 “Among other things, we resolved the misunderstanding about Twitter potentially being removed from the App Store,” Musk wrote. “Tim was clear that Apple never considered doing so.”

Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Musk did not explain how the alleged misunderstanding had occurred.

Cook is expected to be in Washington on Thursday, meeting with senators among others.

Musk had a much different tone Monday, when he issued a series of tweets accusing Apple of threatening to “withhold” Twitter from the App Store, among other unspecified “censorship actions” that he laid at Apple’s feet. Those tweets remained live on Musk’s Twitter feed as of Wednesday night.

 

southern baptist convention logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Pastors say Johnny Hunt, former SBC president accused of abuse, can return to ministry, Bob Smietana, Nov. 30, 2022. Disgraced former Southern Baptist Convention President Johnny Hunt plans a return to ministry after completing a restoration process overseen by four pastors, according to a video released last week.

Hunt, a longtime megachurch pastor in Georgia, was named earlier this year in the Guidepost Solutions report on sexual abuse in the SBC, which alleged that Hunt had sexually assaulted another pastor’s wife in 2010. Guidepost, a third-party investigation firm, found the claims credible.

“We believe the greatest days of ministry for Johnny Hunt are the days ahead,” said Rev. Steven Kyle, pastor of Hiland Park Baptist Church in Panama City, Fla., in the video.

Kyle, along with pastors Mark Hoover of NewSpring Church in Wichita; Benny Tate of Rock Springs Church in Milner, Ga.; and Mike Whitson of First Baptist Church in Indian Trail, N.C., said they had worked with Hunt and his wife on an “intentional and an intense season of transparency, reflection and restoration” in recent months.

In that process, Kyle said he and other pastors had observed Hunt’s “genuine brokenness and humility before God” and deemed him fit for ministry in the future.

The allegations against Hunt caught his many admirers by surprise. At the time of the Guidepost report, Hunt was a popular speaker and a vice president at the SBC’s North American Mission Board and was beloved by many SBC leaders.

Emptywheel, Analysis: On The Shoddy Journalistic Defense Of “Wikleaks,” Emptywheel, (Marcy Wheeler, right), Nov. 30, 2022. When it was first published, a marcy wheelerletter that the NYT, Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, and El País signed, calling on the US government to drop the Espionage Act charges against Julian Assange, got the date of Assange’s arrest wrong — it was April 11, not April 12, 2019. The outlets have since corrected the error, though without crediting me for alerting them to it.

 As it currently exists, even after correcting that error, the Guardian version of the letter misspells WikiLeaks: “WikLeaks.”

For Julian Assange, publisher of WikLeaks, the publication of “Cablegate” and several other related leaks had the most severe consequences. On [April 11th] 2019, Assange was arrested in London on a US arrest warrant, and has now been held for three and a half years in a high-security British prison usually used for terrorists and members of organised crime groups. He faces extradition to the US and a sentence of up to 175 years in an American maximum-security prison. [my emphasis]

The slovenly standards with which five major newspapers released this letter suggest the other inaccuracies in the letter may be the result of sloppiness or — in some cases — outright ignorance about the case on which they claim to comment.

[T]hese five media outlets seem to suggest that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act conspiracy alleged in “the indictment” is limited to Assange’s effort to crack a password.

It is — in the 2017 to 2019 charging documents. But not the one on which Assange is being extradited.

The hacking conspiracy, as currently charged, is a 5-year conspiracy that alleges far more than — and starts before — the password cracking seemingly described in the paragraph.

Are these media outlets upset that DOJ has charged Assange for a conspiracy in which at least six others have been prosecuted, including in the UK? Are they saying that’s what their own journalists do, recruit teenaged fraudsters who in turn recruit hackers for them? Or are these outlets simply unaware of the 2020 indictment, as many Assange boosters are?

 

julian assange stella morris son gabriel righ max belmarsh prison irish examiner com

Stella Moris and son Gabriel, right, and Max leave Belmarsh prison after visiting her partner and their father, Julian Assange. His two children could lose their father for the rest of their lives [Source: irishexaminer.com].

ny times logoNew York Times, Major News Outlets Urge U.S. to Drop Charges Against Assange, Charlie Savage, Nov. 29, 2022 (print ed.). In a joint letter, news organizations warned that the indictment of Julian Assange could chill reporting about national security.

The New York Times and four European news organizations called on the United States government on Monday to drop its charges against Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, for obtaining and publishing classified diplomatic and military secrets.

In a joint open letter, The Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and El País said the prosecution of Mr. Assange under the Espionage Act “sets a dangerous precedent” that threatened to undermine the First Amendment and the freedom of the press.

“Obtaining and disclosing sensitive information when necessary in the public interest is a core part of the daily work of journalists,” the letter said. “If that work is criminalized, our public discourse and our democracies are made significantly weaker.”

julian assange facts wikileaks CustomMr. Assange, who has been fighting extradition from Britain since his arrest there in 2019, is also accused of participating in a hacking-related conspiracy. The letter notably did not urge the Justice Department to drop that aspect of the case, though it said that “some of us are concerned” about it, too.

Each of the five organizations had worked with Mr. Assange in 2010 and 2011, during the events at the heart of the criminal case. WikiLeaks, which obtained leaked archives of classified American diplomatic cables and military files, gave early access to the troves to traditional news outlets, which published articles about notable revelations.

A spokeswoman for The Times, Danielle Rhoades Ha, said that the company’s publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, in consultation with the legal department, decided to sign the letter. The newsroom was not involved, she said.

The case against Mr. Assange is complicated and does not turn on the question of whether he is considered a journalist, but rather on whether his journalistic-style activities of soliciting and publishing classified information can or should be treated as a crime.

The letter comes as Attorney General Merrick B. Garland has sought to rein in ways in which the Justice Department has made it harder for journalists to do their jobs. In October, he issued new regulations that ban the use of subpoenas, warrants or court orders to seize reporters’ communications records or demand their notes or testimony in an effort to uncover confidential sources in leak investigations.

Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks catapulted to global fame in 2010 when he began publishing classified videos and documents related to the United States’ wars and its foreign relations.

It eventually became clear that Chelsea Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst, had provided the archives to WikiLeaks. She was sentenced to 35 years in prison after a court-martial trial in 2013. President Barack Obama commuted most of her remaining sentence shortly before leaving office in January 2017.

Ms. Manning’s disclosures amounted to one of the most extraordinary leaks in American history. They included about 250,000 State Department cables that revealed many secret things around the world, dossiers about Guantánamo Bay detainees being held without trial and logs of significant events in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars that divulged, among other things, that civilian casualties were higher than official estimates.

The letter noted that the same five institutions had publicly criticized Mr. Assange in 2011 when unredacted copies of the cables were released, revealing the names of people in dangerous countries who had helped the United States and putting their lives at risk. At Ms. Manning’s trial, prosecutors did not say anyone had been killed as a result, but officials have said the government spent significant resources in getting such people out of danger.

While the Obama administration and career law enforcement and national security officials disliked Mr. Assange, transparency advocates and antiwar activists treated him as an icon.

His public image shifted significantly after WikiLeaks published Democratic emails that had been hacked by the Russian government as part of its covert operation to help Donald J. Trump win the 2016 presidential election. But the criminal case against him is not about the Democratic emails.

The open letter notes that the Obama administration had weighed charging Mr. Assange in connection with the Manning leaks but did not do so — in part because there was no clear way to legally distinguish WikiLeaks’ actions from those of traditional news organizations like The Times that write about national security matters.

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U.S. Political Probes, Jan. 6 Insurrection

Politico, Mark Meadows ordered to testify in Trump investigation, Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein, Nov. 30, 2022 (print ed.). South Carolina’s Supreme Court has ordered former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to testify to an Atlanta-area grand jury investigating Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the election in Georgia.

politico CustomSouth Carolina’s Supreme Court has unanimously ordered former White House Chief of staff Mark Meadows to testify to an Atlanta-area grand jury investigating Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the election in Georgia.

“We have reviewed the arguments raised by [Meadows] and find them to be manifestly without merit,” South Carolina’s Supreme Court justices wrote in a brief opinion.

The decision affirmed a lower court’s ruling requiring Meadows to testify to the Fulton County grand jury investigation led by District Attorney Fani Willis. Meadows was initially scheduled to appear for testimony on Nov. 30, and it’s unclear if that appearance is still on track.

Attorneys for Meadows and a spokeswoman for Willis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The five-member court’s decision was just three paragraphs long. It cited the “exigent circumstances involved” but did not go into detail about the dispute.

Willis sought Meadows’ testimony in September as part of her expansive investigation into efforts by Trump and his allies to disrupt the election process in Georgia, including his push for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the state.

The fight over the Meadows’ subpoena wound up before the South Carolina courts under procedures many states have agreed on to enforce court orders for testimony issued by courts in another state. To compel testimony from out-of-state residents, Willis must first get the approval of local courts. Meadows is a resident of South Carolina.

Courts in New York and Florida have similarly upheld efforts by Willis to obtain testimony from non-Georgia residents, including Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and former national security adviser Mike Flynn.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Law enforcement is failing to crack down on domestic terrorism, Jennifer Rubin, Nov. 29, 2022. Given the spate of domestic jennifer rubin new headshotterrorism attacks in recent years — the slaughter at the Tree of Life synagogue, the massacre in Buffalo, N.Y., and the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection; for example — you would think law enforcement agencies are engaged in a robust effort to combat such violence, right? Wrong.

Earlier this month, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee released a largely overlooked — yet damning — report detailing the failures of national security agencies on this front.

“Over the past two decades, acts of domestic terrorism have dramatically increased," the committee reports. "National security agencies now identify domestic terrorism as the most persistent and lethal terrorist threat to the homeland.” The uptick is predominately attributable to “white supremacist and anti-government extremist individuals and groups.” Yet “without better data, it is difficult to evaluate whether federal agencies are appropriately allocating FBI logoresources and setting priorities.”

The report arrived just as billionaire Elon Musk opened the floodgates to right-wing extremists and purveyors of disinformation on Twitter. The committee notes, “Social media platforms have played an increasing role in the spread of extremist content that translates into real world violence, due in part to business models that incentivize user engagement over safety.” It also found that these companies’ business models us dhs big eagle logo4"are designed to increase user engagement (i.e., keep people viewing content online) and that, as experts testified before this Committee, more extreme content tends to increase user engagement, thus leading such content to be amplified.”

The extent of the threat is staggering. The report mentions a 2021 study from the Center for Strategic and International Studies that found there were 110 domestic terrorist plots in 2020 alone, a 244 percent increase from 2019. The Anti-Defamation League also reports that over the past decade, domestic extremists have killed 443 people. More than half of the deaths were attributable to white supremacists. Had foreign terrorists committed such crimes, christopher-wray-o.jpgRepublicans would have raised a ruckus.

Although FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, left, testified about the threat of domestic terrorism in March 2021 and pledged to work with the Senate committee on reporting, his agency has done little to address it. The committee reports, "the federal government — specifically FBI and [the Department of Homeland Security] — has failed to systematically track and report data on domestic terrorism as required by federal law, has not appropriately allocated its resources to match the current threat, and has not aligned its definitions to make its investigations consistent and its actions proportional to the threat of domestic terrorism.” And even when the feds have accumulated data, “DHS and FBI have not appropriately allocated their resources to match the current threat, despite recent increased investments and efforts.”

 ny times logoNew York Times, Defense Rests as Trump Company Trial Draws to Close, Lola Fadulu and Jonah E. Bromwich, Nov. 29, 2022 (print ed.). Closing arguments in the tax-fraud case are expected to begin Thursday after lawyers argue over the instructions jurors will receive from the judge.

Defense lawyers representing Donald J. Trump’s family business rested their case Monday, marking the end of witness testimony in the company’s tax fraud trial and clearing the way for closing arguments this week.

The lawyers for the Trump Organization, which has been charged with letting some executives be compensated with off-the-books perks so that they could evade taxes, spent the vast majority of their defense time questioning a single witness: Donald Bender, who for years was an outside accountant for Mr. Trump and the company.

The defense lawyers sought to show that Mr. Bender bore some responsibility for not alerting the company that the executives — including the Trump Organization’s longtime chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg — were failing to report apartment rentals, luxury cars and other benefits that they were receiving from the company.

ny times logoNew York Times, Anthony Ornato, a key Jan. 6 witness, speaks with the House panel investigating the riot, Luke Broadwater, Nov. 30, 2022 (print ed.).  Mr. Ornato, a former Secret Service agent and White House aide, is at the center of a dispute over competing accounts of President Donald J. Trump’s actions.

Anthony M. Ornato, the former Secret Service agent and White House aide at the heart of a dispute over conflicting accounts of President Donald J. Trump’s actions during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, is scheduled to be interviewed on Tuesday before the House committee investigating the attack, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The committee has sought for weeks to re-interview Mr. Ornato as it digs deeper into the activities of the Secret Service around the time of Jan. 6, 2021, an area of inquiry that members believe is one of the most important final pieces of unfinished business before the panel completes its much-anticipated report into the attack.

Mr. Ornato, who as deputy White House chief of staff oversaw the logistics of the president’s movements outside, is key to a dispute over the events in a presidential S.U.V. that day. Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide, testified to lawmakers that Mr. Ornato told her that Mr. Trump became enraged and demanded to join a crowd of his supporters at the Capitol.

Secret Service officials have challenged some aspects of her account, and members of the panel have accused Mr. Ornato of being less than honest with them during a previous interview. Significant new answers from Mr. Ornato could help determine whether the dispute is a legitimate battle over the credibility of Ms. Hutchinson or an attempt to muddy the waters over her testimony, which provided a devastating account of Mr. Trump’s actions on Jan. 6.

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World News, Disasters, Human Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, As Haiti Unravels, U.S. Officials Push to Send in an Armed Foreign Force, Natalie Kitroeff, Photographs by Adriana Zehbrauskas, Nov. 30, 2022 (print ed.). Fearing a mass exodus, some U.S. officials are pressing for a multinational force, but they don’t want to send American troops.

The assassination of Haiti’s president last year set off a new wave of terror across the Caribbean nation. But conditions in the country have plunged to horrifying new lows in recent months, as gangs carried out such extreme violence that the carnage has been compared to civil war.

ny times logoNew York Times, China Launches Astronauts to Newly Completed Space Station, Keith Bradsher, Nov. 30, 2022 (print ed.).After decades of military secrecy, Chinese officials opened their desert rocket launch center to a handful of visitors and called for international cooperation in space.The crew set off from a desert launch center to rendezvous with fellow astronauts aboard Tiangong, the country’s newly completed outpost in orbit.

Tall as a 20-story building, a rocket carrying the Shenzhou 15 mission roared into the night sky of the Gobi Desert on Tuesday, carrying three astronauts toward a rendezvous with China’s just-completed space station.

The rocket launch was a split-screen event for China, the latest in a long series of technological achievements for the country, even as many of its citizens have been angrily lashing out in the streets against stringent pandemic controls.

 Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of Angola’s longtime president José Eduardo dos Santos. Mr. dos Santos stepped down in 2017 and died in July (Reuters Photo by Toby Melville).

Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of Angola’s longtime president José Eduardo dos Santos. Mr. dos Santos stepped down in 2017 and died in July (Reuters Photo by Toby Melville).

ny times logoNew York Times, The Woman Once Considered Africa’s Richest Faces Arrest in Graft Inquiry, John Eligon, Nov. 30, 2022 (print ed.). Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of Angola’s former president, was accused of enriching herself with state resources when she led the country’s oil company.

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Climate, Disasters, Energy 

 

 

climate change photo

ny times logoNew York Times, With Federal Aid on the Table, Utilities Shift to Embrace Climate Goals, Eric Lipton, Nov. 30, 2022 (print ed.). As billions in government subsidies were at stake, the electric utility industry shed its opposition to clean-air regulation and put its lobbying muscle behind passing President Biden’s climate bill.

Just two years ago, DTE Energy, a Michigan-based electric utility, was still enmeshed in a court fight with federal regulators over emissions from a coal-burning power plant on the western shore of Lake Erie that ranks as one of the nation’s largest sources of climate-changing air pollution.

But in September, Gerard M. Anderson, who led DTE for the last decade, was on the South Lawn of the White House alongside hundreds of other supporters of President Biden, giving a standing ovation to the president for his success in pushing a climate change package through Congress — a law that will help accelerate the closure of the very same coal-burning behemoth, known as DTE Monroe, that his company had been fighting to protect.

Mr. Anderson’s position reflects a fundamental shift among major electric utilities nationwide as they deploy their considerable clout in Washington: After years of taking steps like backing dark-money groups to sue the government to block tighter air pollution rules, DTE and a growing number of other utilities have joined forces to speed the transition away from fossil fuels.

ny times logoNew York Times, 40 Million People at Risk of Severe Weather Across the South, Judson Jones, Nov. 30, 2022 (print ed.). A tornado outbreak is possible Tuesday afternoon and evening across parts of the lower and mid-Mississippi Valley, forecasters warned.

Millions of people across the South live in areas that are likely to see severe weather on Tuesday, with storms possibly producing strong tornadoes, damaging winds and hail two inches or greater.

A regional tornado outbreak is possible Tuesday afternoon and evening across parts of the lower and mid-Mississippi Valley, forecasters at the Storm Prediction Center wrote.

Forecasters with the National Weather Service in Jackson, Miss., warned of “significant severe weather” that was likely to produce strong tornadoes across Central Mississippi on Tuesday afternoon and evening.

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Public Health, Pandemics

washington post logoWashington Post, Chinese state TV obscures maskless crowd in World Cup broadcast, Miriam Berger, Nov. 30, 2022. Amid rare anti-government protests in China in response to “zero covid” restrictions, soccer fans on social media have been quick to point out an unusual quality in World Cup broadcasts on state TV: They have featured scant footage of the crowd.

A review of CCTV’s coverage, by no means comprehensive, compared with the official FIFA World Cup stream, other international broadcasts and past CCTV World Cup broadcasts indicates that the online observers might have a point: While other international broadcasts emphasize the onlookers and atmosphere, CCTV, China’s state-owned broadcaster, appears to be doing just the opposite, its cameras glued to the field.

The World Cup, which draws more than half a billion viewers in China, comes at an awkward time for Beijing’s censorship apparatus, already in overdrive as protesters challenge Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature coronavirus policies. Fans have speculated that the government hopes to de-emphasize the unmasked spectators from around the world, gathered in Qatar, who have in large part moved on from coronavirus precautions, even as the virus continues to spread.

ny times logoNew York Times, Is the World One Step Closer to a Universal Flu Vaccine? Apoorva Mandavilli, Nov. 30, 2022 (print ed.). Scientists have tested in animals a vaccine that may protect against 20 strains of influenza.

Imagine a single dose of vaccine that prepares your body to fight every known strain of influenza — a so-called universal flu vaccine that scientists have been trying to create for decades.

A new study describes successful animal tests of just such a vaccine, offering hope that the country can be protected against future flu pandemics. Like the Covid vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the experimental flu vaccine relies on mRNA.

It is in early stages — tested only in mice and ferrets — but the vaccine provides important proof that a single shot could be used against an entire family of viruses. If the vaccine succeeds in people, the approach could be used against other virus families, perhaps including the coronavirus.

The vaccine would not replace annual flu shots but would provide a shield against severe disease and death from potential pandemic threats.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘The Ezra Klein Show’ Commentary: Four Reasons to Reconsider the Meat You Eat, Ezra Klein, right, Nov. 29, 2022. About 50 years ago, beef ezra klein twittercost more than $7 a pound in today’s dollars. Today, despite high inflation, beef is down to about $4.80 a pound, and chicken is just around $1.80 a pound. But those low prices hide the true costs of the meat we consume — costs that the meat and poultry industries have quietly offloaded onto not only the animals we consume but us humans, too.

Animal agriculture is responsible for at least 14.5 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions, with some estimates as high as 28 percent. It uses half the earth’s habitable land. Factory farms pose huge threats as potential sources of antibiotic resistance and future pandemics. And the current meat production system loads farmers with often insurmountable levels of debt. Our meat may look cheap at the grocery store, but we are all picking up the tab in ways we’re often starkly unaware of.

[You can listen to this episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” on Apple, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.]

Leah Garcés is the chief executive and president of Mercy for Animals and the author of “Grilled: Turning Adversaries Into Allies to Change the Chicken Industry.” Few animal rights activists have her breadth of experience: For years, she’s been steeped in the experiences of farmers who raise animals, communities that live alongside industrial animal operations and, of course, the farmed animals that live shorter and more miserable lives. So I invited her on the show for a conversation about what meat really costs and how that perspective could help us build a healthier relationship to the animals we eat and the world we inhabit.

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stewart rhodes

washington post logoWashington Post, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes guilty of Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy, Spencer S. Hsu, Tom Jackman and Rachel Weiner, Nov. 29, 2022. Rhodes, above, stayed outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, but prosecutors said he was the ringleader of a plot to unleash politically motivated violence to prevent the inauguration of President Biden.

A federal jury on Tuesday convicted Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and a top deputy of seditious conspiracy for leading a months-long plot to unleash political violence to prevent the inauguration of President Biden, culminating in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Justice Department log circularThe panel of seven men and five women deliberated for three days before finding Rhodes and lead Florida Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs guilty of conspiring to oppose by force the lawful transition of presidential power. But three other associates were not convicted of the historically rare and politically freighted sedition count. All five were convicted of obstructing Congress as it met to confirm the results of the 2020 election. Both offenses are punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Rhodes, 56, in a dark suit and black eye-patch from an old gun accident watched impassively as verdicts were read.

James Lee Bright, one of Rhodes’s attorneys, said Rhodes intended to testify on behalf of other Jan. 6 defendants “if asked.” Edward L. Tarpley Jr, another Rhodes lawyer, noted that the defendants were acquitted on 11 of the 28 counts: “This is not a total victory for the government in any way shape or form.”

Rhodes and his co-defendants were the first accused of seditious conspiracy and the first to face trial and be convicted on any conspiracy charge to date in the massive Jan. 6 investigation. He is the highest-profile figure to face trial in connection with rioting by angry Trump supporters who injured scores of officers, ransacked offices and forced lawmakers to evacuate the U.S. Capitol.

Rhodes and followers, dressed in combat-style gear, converged on the Capitol after staging an “arsenal” of weapons at nearby hotels, ready to take up arms at Rhodes’s direction in an attack on the ‘bedrock of democracy,’ the government charged. Rhodes’s defense said he and co-defendants came to Washington as bodyguards and peacekeepers, bringing firearms only in case Trump met their demand to mobilize private militia to stop Biden from becoming president.

Analysts called the outcome a vindication for the Justice Department.

“The jury’s verdict on seditious conspiracy confirms that January 6, 2021, was not just ‘legitimate political discourse’ or a peaceful protest that got out of hand. This was a planned, organized, violent assault on the lawful authority of the U.S. government and the peaceful transfer of power,” said Randall D. Eliason, a former federal prosecutor who teaches law at George Washington University.

“Now the only remaining question is how much higher did those plans go, and who else might be held criminally responsible,” Eliason said.

U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, who helped defend the Capitol on Jan. 6, said he ran over to the federal courthouse when he heard there was a verdict. He sat sweating in the front row as the verdict was read.

“I was emotional,” Dunn said afterward. “I didn’t expect to cry.”

He thanked the jury and the Justice Department for their work on the case.

“I don’t look at it like a victory,” Dunn said. “A victory is when you win. This was right. This was about doing the right thing.”

The verdict in Rhodes’s case likely will be taken as a bellwether for two remaining Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy trials set for December against five other Oath Keepers and leaders of the Proud Boys, including the longtime chairman Henry ‘Enrique’ Tarrio. Both Rhodes and Tarrio are highly visible leaders of the alt-right or far-right anti-government movements, and were highlighted at hearings probing the attack earlier this year by the House Jan. 6 committee.

 

steward rhodes kelly meigs jessica watkins kenneth harrelson thomas caldwellDaily Kos, Analysis: Oath Keepers Elmer Stewart Rhodes, Kelly Meggs found guilty of seditious conspiracy, Brandi Buchman, right, Nov. 29, 2022. Oath Keepers fbrandi buchman newounder Elmer Stewart Rhodes was found guilty of seditious conspiracy, not guilty of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, guilty of obstruction of an official proceeding, not guilty of conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging his duties, and guilty of tampering with documents. 

Florida Oath Keepers leader Kelly Meggs was found guilty of seditious conspiracy, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging his duties, and tampering with documents. Meggs was found not guilty of the destruction of government property. 

Ohio Oath Keeper Jessica Watkins, just one of the Oath Keepers who breached the U.S. Capitol in an organized stack, was found not of guilty seditious conspiracy but was found guilty of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and obstruction of an official proceeding. She was also found guilty of conspiring to prevent officers from discharging their duties, and civil disorder. Those two verdicts were expected after Watkins admitted to civil disorder from the witness stand at trial. On the destruction of government property charge, she was found not guilty. 

thomas caldwellThomas Caldwell, left, a former Naval commander—who prosecutors said coordinated the groups’ efforts to establish a heavily-armed quick reaction force, or QRF, to support Oath Keepers on the ground at the Capitol—was found not guilty of seditious conspiracy, not guilty of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, not guilty of conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging his duties, but guilty on two charges: tampering with documents and obstruction of an official proceeding. 

Kenneth Harrelson, another Oath Keepers leader from Florida who joined the stack breaching the Capitol, was found not guilty of seditious conspiracy, not guilty of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, and not guilty of destruction of property. He was, however, found guilty of obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging his duties. 

Elmer Stewart Rhodes was arrested on Jan. 13, a little more than a year from the day that he stood outside of the U.S. Capitol, stalking from side to side of the building as the pro-Trump mob swelled and members of the group he founded in 2009 stormed the building with the aim of stopping the certification of the 2020 election.

At trial, Rhodes denied having a specific plan in place for Jan. 6, citing the lack of a written or express agreement to halt the certification. This point made up the lion’s share of the defense, and it was often that Oath Keepers would claim they were simply “swept up” by a jostling, fast-moving crowd.

Even from the witness stand, Oath Keepers who had already pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges, like Jason Dolan and Graydon Young, testified that there was never an explicit plan about using force to stop Congress.

It was, however, “implied,” Young said.

And this, according to prosecutors, is what mattered to secure the seditious conspiracy convictions.

An explicit agreement was never required for the jury to find the defendants guilty of seditious conspiracy. An implied agreement was indicated in myriad Oath Keepers texts, video, and audio recordings, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Nestler said during the government’s final rebuttal on Nov. 21.

Rhodes alone published two open letters to former President Donald Trump in December 2020, urging him to invoke the Insurrection Act so that Oath Keepers could be called up to stop what Rhodes believed was a “deep state” coup aimed at removing Trump from the White House despite his popular and electoral defeat—the long and now widely debunked “Big Lie”—to now-President Joe Biden.

If Trump didn’t act, Rhodes wrote, the Oath Keepers would be forced to. A civil war would be inevitable.

”You must act NOW as a wartime President, pursuant to your oath to defend the Constitution, which is very similar to the oath all of us veterans swore. We are already in a fight. It’s better to wage it with you as Commander-in-Chief than to have you comply with a fraudulent election, leave office, and leave the White House in the hands of illegitimate usurpers and Chinese puppets,” Rhodes wrote in an open letter to Trump published on the Oath Keepers website on Dec. 14.

Continued below.

 

 

joe biden 8 1 2022 counterterrorism

Politico, ‘No path’ forward: Biden calls on Congress to avert rail strike, Tanya Snyder, Nov. 29, 2022 (print ed.). The president's action represents a significant split with parts of his labor base.

President Joe Biden (shown above in a file photo) on Monday asked Congress to intervene to prevent an economically crippling freight rail strike, even though it means delivering a defeat to his allies in the labor movement.

politico CustomHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi immediately announced she will call a vote this week to carry out Biden’s request, which will mean that paid sick leave for the 115,000 workers involved in negotiations won’t be included in the deal.

Biden had held out for months on seeking congressional action, instead opting to give the freight rail industry and 12 of its unions more time to negotiate a contract. But as warnings mounted that a strike could begin as soon as Dec. 9, threatening to interrupt U.S. power and water supplies and devastate the broader economy, the pro-labor, pro-rail president said Monday that he saw “no path to resolve the dispute at the bargaining table.”

The development came two months after Labor Secretary Marty Walsh held an all-night bargaining session at his agency’s headquarters that produced a tentative deal, temporarily defusing the strike threat. But since then, members of three of the 12 unions voted to reject the agreement.

On Monday, Biden asked that Congress act “without any modifications or delay” to impose the September settlement.

transportation dept logoIn a statement, Biden called himself a “proud pro-labor president” and said he was reluctant to recommend Congress step in, but that the economic consequences of inaction were too great. He also included a pointed message to Democratic lawmakers who might be inclined to side with workers who oppose the agreement.

“Some in Congress want to modify the deal to either improve it for labor or for management. However well-intentioned, any changes would risk delay and a debilitating shutdown. The agreement was reached in good faith by both sides,” he said.

Though a bitter pill for labor to swallow, enacting the agreement would put an end to the cliffhanger deadlines that have loomed every few weeks since summer, and allow all manner of industries that depend on freight rail shipments to stand down from doomsday preparations. Freight rail moves many bulk goods, including grains for people and livestock, energy supplies and even chlorine to ensure communities have clean drinking water.

Nodding to the looming holiday season, Biden said “we cannot let our strongly held conviction for better outcomes for workers deny workers the benefits of the bargain they reached, and hurl this nation into a devastating rail freight shutdown.”

Soon after Biden’s statement, Pelosi issued one of her own, endorsing the move and promising to put legislation on the House floor this week. Considering that key GOP lawmakers have endorsed this approach, it is likely that any legislation would have enough support to overcome Democratic objectors.

Earlier Monday, two associations representing gas station owners warned Monday that a freight rail shutdown, which could happen as soon as Dec. 9, could jeopardize their ability to keep fuel in stock across the country.

“If a work stoppage were to occur, it would immediately disrupt fuel marketers’ ability to ensure a reliable and stable supply of fuel for U.S. consumers and for the nation’s commercial fleets,” said Tiffany Wlazlowski Neuman, a spokesperson for NATSO, which represents travel plaza and truckstop owners.

At a press briefing Monday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre would not confirm or deny reporting from the Washington Post that President Joe Biden will ask Congress to intervene to prevent rail workers from striking or railroads from locking out workers.

She said she had nothing to report on that score but that the administration has been in “regular communication with Congress” and that “when the president has made a decision on this, if he makes a decision on this, you’ll hear from him.”

She noted that Biden has been “directly involved in the process and has been engaged with his team” and Congress “in case resolving the issue falls to them, as it has 18 times in the last 60 years.”

NATSO, together with SIGMA, a trade group for fuel marketers, warned that the availability of ethanol and diesel exhaust fluid could be disrupted if a strike or lockout shut down the nation’s railroads.

All diesel machines that are built with more than 74 horsepower are required to have a system to reduce pollution, and that system uses diesel exhaust fluid, which is made from water and urea. Sixty to 70 percent of ethanol transport happens on rail. It cannot be transported in oil pipelines because of its alcohol content.

“The U.S. economy in many ways revolves around transportation fuel, and if the necessary components to that fuel cannot get to where they are needed, the market impact will be drastic,” Neuman said in a statement. “A prolonged railroad shutdown will constrain the nation’s fuel supply by disrupting the availability of ethanol, which is often an essential component of gasoline, and diesel exhaust fluid, which most heavy-duty trucks need to run.”

The railroads and the four unions that have rejected the latest contract offers have until Dec. 9 to negotiate a new deal. If an agreement can’t be reached in the next few days, railroads are likely to pre-emptively stop shipping sensitive materials like ethanol and urea so that they are not stranded once a shutdown happens.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: America's Immigrant Spies. Part 2: The pro-apartheid white South Africans, Wayne Madsen, left, Nov. 29, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2022. Two white multi-billionaires, both with family connections in apartheid South Africa -- Elon Musk, a native born South African, and Peter Thiel, whose parents lived in South Africa and South West Africa (Namibia today) -- moved to the United States at the height of South African intelligence's gambit to place as many agents-of-influence in the United States as possible.

wayne madesen report logoThiel moved to the United States from apartheid South Africa in 1977, followed by Musk and his Canadian-South African mother in 1990 via Canada. Laundering agents destined for placement in the United States via Canada has always been a favored option for hostile intelligence services, including the apartheid era's three state intelligence agencies: the Bureau of State Security (BOSS), the Department of National Security, and the National Intelligence Service.

South African intelligence, like the spy agencies of the Soviet Union, China, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, and other nations hostile to the United States, saw a need to place its illegals in positions of authority and trust in America. Although there were U.S. intelligence officials like CIA director William Casey and National Security Agency director Bobby Ray Inman who were convinced that the apartheid regime’s intelligence service was a valuable ally during the Cold War, more reasonable U.S. government officials, particularly those in the Jimmy Carter administration, believed that the United States was committed to supporting United Nations sanctions on the apartheid regime.

[Snip]

In 1998, Thiel became the CEO of a company called Confinity, which offered a money transfer service called PayPal. PayPal shared an office floor with a digital payment firm called Xcom, headed by a white South African expat who, like Thiel, had attended elite private schools for boys in South Africa. Was it pure happenstance that Thiel and Elon Musk merged their businesses to control the first major worldwide cash transfer system, PayPal?

Or had the apartheid regime’s Illegals Program finally paid some handsome dividends?

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Advances to Knockout Stage at World Cup, but Win Could Be Costly, Andrew Das, Nov. 29, 2022. The U.S. beat Iran 1-0, but the price of victory may be a high one: Christian Pulisic was taken to the hospital after sustaining an abdominal injury.

The stakes and the stage and the politics all made things harder going in to their game against Iran on Tuesday night at the World Cup. The own goal by their federation’s social media team, the Iranians’ great umbrage at the perceived insult to their flag, the chatter and the threats and the intrigue all added to the spice of the matchup. But the task, at its heart, left no room for nuance at all: If United States wanted to keep playing in this tournament, it had to beat Iran. And so it did.

The price of victory may be a high one: Christian Pulisic, perhaps the Americans’ brightest star and the scorer of its only goal in a 1-0 victory, was forced from the game at halftime with an abdominal injury sustained when he crashed hard into Iran’s goalkeeper finishing his goal. He was taken to the hospital for scans, team officials said, but no other information on his injuries was released.

His status for the next round, a date with the Netherlands on Saturday, was unclear as the game ended. But that will be a question for tomorrow. The United States, thanks to its victory, now has one.

Iran will rue its bitter exit. Unlike the United States, it has never advanced out of the first round at a World Cup. Its team, long a symbol of unity in a persistently divided nation, had needed only a tie to advance. Its tournament had been a roller-coaster: a thumping at the hands of England, a last-minute win over Wales, a date against a young American team still finding its way.

But Iran’s time in Qatar also had been a crucible. As protests and crackdowns have roiled Iran for months, its soccer players have found themselves trying to navigate an excruciating and shrinking middle ground.

ny times logoNew York Times, New York City to Involuntarily Remove Mentally Ill People From Streets, Andy Newman and Emma G. Fitzsimmons, Nov. 29, 2022. Mayor Eric Adams told New York City workers to hospitalize people they deemed too mentally ill to care for themselves, even if they posed no threat to others.

Acting to address “a crisis we see all around us” toward the end of a year that has seen a string of high-profile crimes involving homeless people, Mayor Eric Adams announced a major push on Tuesday to remove people with severe, untreated mental illness from the city’s streets and subways.

Mr. Adams, who has made clearing homeless encampments a priority since taking office in January, said the effort would require involuntarily hospitalizing people who were a danger to themselves, even if they posed no risk of harm to others, arguing the city had a “moral obligation” to help them.

“The common misunderstanding persists that we cannot provide involuntary assistance unless the person is violent,” Mr. Adams said in an address at City Hall. “This myth must be put to rest. Going forward, we will make every effort to assist those who are suffering from mental illness and whose illness is endangering them by preventing them from meeting their basic human needs.”

The mayor’s announcement comes at a heated moment in the national debate about rising crime and the role of the police, especially in dealing with people who are already in fragile mental health. Republicans, as well as tough-on-crime Democrats like Mr. Adams, a former police captain, have argued that growing disorder calls for more aggressive measures. On the other side, left-leaning advocates and officials who dominate New York politics say that deploying the police as auxiliary social workers may do more harm than good.

ny times logoNew York Times, The growing unrest over China’s strict lockdowns is upending the global economic outlook, Patricia Cohen, Nov. 29, 2022 (print ed.). Growing protests in the world’s biggest manufacturing nation add a new element of uncertainty atop the Ukraine war, an energy crisis and inflation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Proud, Scared and Conflicted: Here’s What Protesters in China Are Saying, Li Yuan, Nov. 29, 2022. In more than a dozen interviews, young people told our columnist how the past few days became a “tipping point.”

They went to their first demonstrations. They chanted their first protest slogans. They had their first encounters with the police.

Then they went home, shivering in disbelief at how they had challenged the most powerful authoritarian government in the world and the most iron-fisted leader China has seen in decades.

Young Chinese are protesting the country’s harsh “zero-Covid” policy and even urging its top leader, Xi Jinping, to step down. It’s something China hasn’t seen since 1989, when the ruling Communist Party brutally cracked down on the pro-democracy demonstrators, mostly college students. No matter what happens in the days and weeks ahead, the young protesters presented a new threat to the rule of Mr. Xi, who has eliminated his political opponents and cracked down on any voice that challenges his rule.

Such public dissent was unimaginable until a few days ago.

ny times logoNew York Times, Protests Break Out in China as Covid Cases Surge and Lockdowns Persist, Vivek Shankar, Nov. 29, 2022 (print ed.). Protests against strict Covid restrictions ricocheted across China over the weekend in a rare case of nationwide civil unrest. Some went so far as to call for the Communist Party and its leader, Xi Jinping, to step down.

“Lift the lockdown,” the protesters screamed in a city in China’s far west. On the other side of the country, in Shanghai, demonstrators held up sheets of blank white paper, turning them into an implicit but powerful sign of defiance. One protester, who was later detained by the police, was carrying only flowers.

china flag SmallOver the weekend, protests against China’s strict Covid restrictions ricocheted across the country in a rare case of nationwide civil unrest.

On Monday, one group supporting the protesters issued online calls for limited numbers of demonstrators to gather at the People’s Square in Shanghai and near a subway stop in northwest Beijing in the evening. But video shared from the two sites, identifiable from the buildings and signs in the background, showed a heavy security presence, with police buses and cars lining the streets.

In the eastern city of Hangzhou, a crowd of people gathered at a shopping mall but were closely watched by an even larger group of uniformed police officers. A woman was screaming as several of the officers took her away, according to videos circulating online. Onlookers shouted at the police.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Some demonstrators this weekend had gone so far as to call for the Communist Party and its leader, Xi Jinping, to step down. Many were fed up with Mr. Xi, who in October secured a precedent-defying third term as the party’s general secretary, and his “zero-Covid” policy, which continues to disrupt everyday life, hurt livelihoods and isolate the country.

The Chinese government on Monday blamed “forces with ulterior motives” for linking a deadly fire in the western Xinjiang region to strict Covid measures, a key driver as the protests spread across the country.

The 1.4 billion-plus residents of China remain at the mercy of the stringent policy. It is designed to stamp out infections by relying on snap lockdowns of apartment buildings and sometimes whole cities or regions, as well as forcing lengthy quarantines and a litany of tests on residents.

washington post logoWashington Post, Nearly 9 in 10 covid deaths are in people 65 or older, Ariana Eunjung Cha and Dan Keating, Nov. 29, 2022 (print ed.). Some epidemiologists and demographers predict the trend of older, sicker and poorer people dying at disproportionate rates will continue, raising hard questions about the trade-offs Americans are making in pursuit of normalcy — and at whose expense.

President Biden may have declared the coronavirus pandemic “over,” but from John Felton’s view as the Yellowstone County health officer in Billings, Mont., it’s not over, just different.

Now, more than ever, it is a plague of the elderly.

In October, Felton’s team logged six deaths due to the virus, many of them among vaccinated people. Their ages: 80s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 90s. They included Betty Witzel, 88, described by her family as a tomboy who carried snakes in her pocket as a child and grew up to be a teacher, mother of four, grandmother of nine and great-grandmother of five. And there was Nadine Alice Stark, 85, a ranch owner who planted sugar beets and corn.

Yellowstone County made the decision early in the crisis to recognize each death individually, and Felton said that is as important as ever to acknowledge the unrelenting toll on a still-vulnerable older generation, while most everyone else has moved on.

“I think about someone’s grandfather — the plays they wouldn’t watch, the games on the football field they wouldn’t see,” he said.

More than 300 people are still dying each day on average from covid-19, most of them 65 or older, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While that’s much lower than the 2,000 daily toll at the peak of the delta wave, it is still roughly two to three times the rate at which people die of the flu — renewing debate about what is an “acceptable loss.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Strong Election Showing Eases Democrats’ Fears of Biden ’24, Katie Glueck, Nov. 29, 2022 (print ed.). The party’s midterm showing has quieted public hand-wringing about a re-election campaign for President Biden, but hasn’t put all worries to rest.

Expecting a cataclysmic midterm election, many Democrats had been bracing for an end-of-year reckoning with whether President Biden, who once declared himself a “bridge” to a new generation, should give way to a new 2024 standard-bearer.

joe biden twitterBut the stronger-than-expected Democratic showing has taken the pressure off.

And Donald J. Trump’s decision to announce a run for president again, and the Republican backlash against him, have abruptly quieted Democrats’ public expressions of anxiety over Mr. Biden’s poor approval ratings, while reminding them of Mr. Biden’s past success over Mr. Trump.

Now, as Mr. Biden mulls a decision over whether to seek a second term, interviews with more than two dozen Democratic elected officials and strategists suggest that, whatever misgivings some Democrats may harbor about another Biden candidacy, his party is more inclined for now to defer to him than to try to force a frontal clash with a sitting president.

In recent days, officials ranging from Representative Henry Cuellar, one of the most conservative House Democrats, to Representative Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, have said they would support another Biden bid.

 

Pro-Democracy, Anti-Fascist Reporting

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: America's Immigrant Spies. Part 1: The Germans, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 22 books (including The Rise of the Fascist Fourth Reich, shown below) and a former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst, Nov. 28-29, 2020. With the exception of wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallAfrican slaves and Chinese railroad workers, the United States has generally been a nation of willing immigrants. That has made it an attractive target for foreign intelligence agencies intent on implanting agents and even entire families in the United States as part of covert “illegals programs.”

wayne madesen report logoThese sleeper agents have often remained indistinguishable from normal American citizens. These agents bide their time until it is determined by their foreign controllers that they must be activated for specific purposes in service to their fatherland or motherland.

wayne madsen fourth reich cover[Snip]

Could Herr Trumpf, eager to regain his German citizenship, have agreed to spy for Germany in New York in order see his conviction as a draft dodger voided?

[Snip]

Friedrich Trump, along with his pregnant wife, settled in The Bronx and on October 11, 1905, Mrs. Trumpf gave birth to a son, Fred Trump.

[Snip]

Here is an operative question: Are Peter Thiel and Elon Musk, neither born in the United States, modern-day versions of the German Kaiser’s and Hitler’s programs to seed immigrants to the United States with sleeper spies and saboteurs? If so, America has learned nothing from its past.

-------------------

End of Part 1. Next, the “Illegals Program” of apartheid South Africa

 

steward rhodes kelly meigs jessica watkins kenneth harrelson thomas caldwellDaily Kos, Analysis: Oath Keepers Elmer Stewart Rhodes, Kelly Meggs found guilty of seditious conspiracy, Brandi Buchman, right, Nov. 29, 2022. Oath Keepers fbrandi buchman newounder Elmer Stewart Rhodes was found guilty of seditious conspiracy, not guilty of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, guilty of obstruction of an official proceeding, not guilty of conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging his duties, and guilty of tampering with documents. 

Updates: U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, an attack victim shown at right during his later congressional testimony, was in the courtroom when the verdicts were announced. It was an emotional and long-awaited moment. Justice, he told Daily Kos, should be expected not celebrated but nonetheless, he regarded today as a win for the American people.

It should be noted that after the verdicts were announced on Tuesday an attorney for Rhodes, James Lee Bright, spoke to reporters and offered graceful harry dunn capitol policeremarks about the case and U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta.

“The government did good,” Bright said. “They took us to task.”

Though he was disappointed with the mixed bag of verdicts and posited that a different venue may have benefited the case, he added: “I do believe it was a fair trial.”

Though defendants Caldwell, Watkins, and Harrelson were spared the seditious conspiracy charge by the jury, their failure to escape the obstruction of an official proceeding charge is significant. This charge, like the seditious conspiracy charge, carries a maximum 20-year sentence in prison.

For all of the charges he was convicted on, Rhodes faces a max sentence of up to 60 years in prison. Meggs faces up to 86 years in prison. As for Watkins, she could serve up to 56 years in prison if the judge doles out the steepest sentence possible for all of her charges. Caldwell is looking at 40 years and Harrelson could be sentenced up to 46 years for all of the charges he was convicted on. Sentencing guidelines are only recommendations and it could end up that the defendants receive shorter terms than the ones recommended.

All of the defendants will remain jailed except for Thomas Caldwell until sentencing. Caldwell was released from prison well ahead of the trial, citing various health concerns. An attorney for Jessica Watkins asked the judge after the verdict was read if his client could potentially be released ahead of sentencing, but Mehta denied the request from the bench.

The success of the seditious conspiracy conviction is the first one the Justice Department has had in more than a decade. The charge was also the steepest one brought against any defendant tied to Jan. 6 thus far.

It is important to note the subtle difference in charges the defendants mutually faced and in particular, conspiracy to obstruct versus obstruction.

Rhodes was acquitted of conspiracy to obstruct. He was also acquitted of conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging their duties. Though he never entered the Capitol, prosecutors emphasized that in the moments just before Oath Keepers breached the building, Rhodes called Meggs as well as Michael Greene aka “Whip,” a man he selected to serve as his “Jan 6 ops” leader.

What was said on that call was not revealed at trial and the contents of it will remain a mystery short of an admission of the details from Rhodes, Greene, or Meggs.

Phone records offered up by prosecutors showed the conference call was patched through despite Rhodes' claim from the witness stand that it did not.

Greene, who was charged separately from Rhodes, currently faces five charges including conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiring to prevent an officer from discharging their duties, entering a restricted building or grounds, and tampering with documents or proceedings.

Greene, who also goes by Michael Simmons, opted to waive his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in order to testify on Rhodes’ behalf. The former Blackwater contractor’s testimony under direct examination flowed easily but once under cross-examination, his account of the events of Jan. 6 started to fray fast at the edges.

Jurors did not take questions after the marathon trial officially ended on Tuesday. They went straight home instead, so learning exactly how they may have reached their decision will have to wait.

Only three defendants, Rhodes, Watkins, and Caldwell, testified on their own behalf.

Caldwell’s testimony, like Rhodes’, was rife with contradictions and he frequently became emotional on the stand, at one point appearing to sob abruptly as he recounted the day the FBI showed up at his home in rural Virginia and ordered him and his wife to come outside.

Prosecutors said Caldwell was instrumental in coordinating a “quick reaction force” at a hotel in northern Virginia, just minutes from D.C., where Oath Keepers from multiple states including Florida, North Carolina, and Arizona convened in the days before the insurrection.

The “QRF” was packed with weapons that were rolled into the hotel on dollies, in many cases, and in large bins. At least one rifle brought to the hotel was only haphazardly covered with fabric, making its outline recognizable. Oath Keeper Terry Cummings told jurors in October there were more firearms in the QRF than any he had seen since his time serving in the U.S. military.

Caldwell stayed at the QRF hotel on the morning of Jan. 6, and met with Oath Keepers as they gathered for Trump’s insurrection-inciting speech at the Ellipse.

Despite his age and history of back injuries—he was 65 on Jan. 6—video and photo evidence showed Caldwell made it all the way up to the top of the inaugural platform erected at the Capitol. He steadfastly denied seeing any evidence of violence though he was less than 50 yards away, at one point, from the lower west terrace tunnel where police officers were viciously attacked with their own riot shields as well as fire extinguishers, chemical sprays, and the mob’s bare fists. His attorney David Fischer argued Caldwell was unable to see the violence in the tunnel from his vantage point.

“January 6 happened and I had nothing to do with it,” Caldwell testified.

Though he was acquitted of the sedition charge, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging their duties, he was unable to escape the obstruction of an official proceeding charge or the tampering charge.

Jurors saw extensive evidence of Caldwell’s efforts to cover his tracks after the Capitol siege. He deleted nearly 180 Facebook messages tied to Jan. 6 and did so on Jan. 14.

Metadata showed the messages he deleted on Jan. 14 were sent on Jan. 7.

Prosecutors emphasized to jurors that Caldwell wiped his correspondence on the same day he accessed a New Yorker article naming Jessica Watkins and Oath Keeper Donovan Crowl as participants in the riot.

The Oath Keepers insisted their efforts in the run-up to Jan. 6 were purely about providing “security” for Trump allies like Roger Stone and “Stop the Steal” event organizer and conspiracy theorist Ali Alexander. Stone, evidence showed, was part of at least one text group on Signal shared between members of the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys.

But other evidence like a secret recording of Rhodes captured four days after the insurrection by Jason Alpers, a military veteran who said he had indirect ties to Trump, showed the Oath Keeper leader was still intent on stopping the transfer of power.

 

Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman, director for European Affairs at the National Security Council, testifies before a House Intelligence Committee hearing as part of the impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, Nov. 19, 2019.Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman, director for European Affairs at the National Security Council, testifies before a House Intelligence Committee hearing as part of the impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, Nov. 19, 2019.

Jerusalem Post, Elon Musk calls Jewish US Army officer ‘puppet & puppeteer,’ Staff Report, Nov. 29, 2022 (print ed.). Musk's tweet – deliberately or not – evoked an antisemitic trope that Jews control positions of power.

Elon Musk called Jewish American retired US Army officer Lt.-Col. Alexander Vindman both a "puppet & puppeteer" on Monday in response to Vindman sharing a copypasta (copied and pasted text shared on the Internet) suggesting that Musk is "erratic" and too powerful now that he owns Twitter.

"Vindman is both puppet & puppeteer. Question is who pulls his strings … ?" Musk tweeted.

Musk's tweet was in response to another one by Tablet magazine Chief Technology Officer Noam Blum mocking the copypasta, which said that it's "Kinda weird that @elonmusk gets to decide how like a half-billion people communicate. Way too much power for one erratic individual to wield, don't you think?"

ny times logoNew York Times, Jewish Allies Call Trump’s Dinner With Antisemites a Breaking Point, Jonathan Weisman, Updated Nov. 29, 2022. Supporters who looked past Donald Trump’s admirers on the far right, and his own use of antisemitic tropes, now are drawing a line.

For much of Donald J. Trump’s presidency, Jewish Republicans rationalized away the bigoted fringe of Mr. Trump’s coalition, arguing that the unsavory supporters in his midst and the antisemitic tropes he deployed paled in comparison with the staunchly pro-Israel policies of his administration.

But last week, Mr. Trump dined at his Palm Beach palace, Mar-a-Lago, with the performer Kanye West, who had already been denounced for making antisemitic statements, and with Nick Fuentes, an outspoken antisemite and Holocaust denier, granting the antisemitic fringe a place of honor at his table. Now, even some of Mr. Trump’s staunchest supporters say they can no longer ignore the abetting of bigotry by the nominal leader of the Republican Party.

“I am a child of survivors. I have become very frightened for my people,” Morton Klein, head of the right-wing Zionist Organization of America, said on Monday, referring to his parents’ survival of the Holocaust. “Donald Trump is not an antisemite. He loves Israel. He loves Jews. But he mainstreams, he legitimizes Jew hatred and Jew haters. And this scares me.”

Not all Republican leaders have spoken out, but Jewish Republicans are slowly peeling away from a former president who, for years, insisted he had no ties to the bigoted far right, but refused to repudiate it. Jewish figures and organizations that have stood by Mr. Trump, from Mr. Klein’s group to the pro-Trump commentator Ben Shapiro to Mr. Trump’s own former ambassador to Israel and onetime bankruptcy lawyer, David M. Friedman, have all spoken out since the dinner.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Antisemitism’s March Into the Mainstream, Michelle Goldberg, right, Nov. 29, 2022. Nick Fuentes, Donald Trump’s white supremacist michelle goldberg thumbdinner guest.

At this point, there is no excuse for being shocked by anything that Donald Trump does, yet I confess to being astonished that the former president dined last week with one of the country’s most influential white supremacists, a smirking little fascist named Nick Fuentes. There’s nothing new about antisemites in Trump’s circle, but they usually try to maintain some plausible deniability, ranting about globalists and George Soros rather than the Jews. Fuentes, by contrast, is overt. “Jews have too much power in our society,” he recently wrote on his Telegram channel. “Christians should have all the power, everyone else very little.”

Fuentes was brought to Trump’s lair by Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, who was evidently serious when he threatened to go “death con 3” on the Jews last month. (The relationship with West is a bit of a coup for Fuentes, who, openly wishing for conflict between Jews and Black people, has been willing to sublimate his anti-Black racism in the service of his antisemitism.) According to Axios, at one point during the dinner Trump turned to Ye and said of Fuentes: “I really like this guy. He gets me.”

Since then, Trump has claimed he didn’t know who Fuentes was. I find this unlikely. In September, I wrote a piece about a Trump-endorsed congressional candidate named Joe Kent that mentions Fuentes in the first paragraph. Trump scrawled a note of congratulations on the print version and mailed it to Kent, who sent the image out on his email list. But even if Trump’s ignorance was sincere, he still didn’t denounce Fuentes after learning his identity.

Most Republicans, in turn, spent days declining to criticize Trump, though former Vice President Mike Pence and several senators finally spoke out on Monday. There is a good argument that politicians and journalists should avoid responding to every one of the ex-president’s provocations. In this case, however, the reluctance to rebuke Trump erodes the already-shaky taboo against antisemitism in Republican politics.

Early this year, the Republican House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy — who could soon become House speaker — castigated Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar for speaking at one of Fuentes’s events. McCarthy’s refusal to say anything about Fuentes’s meeting with the Republican Party’s most influential figure suggests that the boundary between the intolerable and the acceptable is shifting.

That’s what Trump does: By violating the norms holding together liberal democratic society with impunity, he renders those norms inoperable. If it were just Trump doing this, that would be bad enough. But other narcissistic celebrities are now joining him in reveling in reactionary transgression.

Ye is launching a vanity presidential campaign run by the far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, who recently wrote on Telegram, “We’re done putting Jewish interests first.” After buying Twitter, Elon Musk enthusiastically welcomed both Trump and Ye back to the platform, and has been tiptoing up to the edge of antisemitism himself. On Sunday, he tweeted that Alexander Vindman, the Jewish retired Army officer who testified about Trump’s attempt to extort Ukraine’s president, is both “puppet & puppeteer,” echoing an old antisemitic trope about Jews pulling the strings behind world events. On Monday, Musk tweeted an image of the alt-right symbol Pepe the Frog.

For most of my adult life, antisemites — with exceptions like Pat Buchanan and Mel Gibson — have lacked status in America. The most virulent antisemites tended to hate Jews from below, blaming them for their own failures and disappointments. Now, however, anti-Jewish bigotry, or at least tacit approval of anti-Jewish bigotry, is coming from people with serious power: the leader of a major political party, a famous pop star, and the world’s richest man.

Such antisemitism still feels, at least to me, less like an immediate source of terror than an ominous force offstage, just as it was for the comfortable fin-de-siècle Austrian Jews in Stoppard’s play. Maybe this time, for the first time, it won’t get worse.

Related Headlines

 

Ukraine War

ny times logoNew York Times, Russian Retreat Reveals Signs of an Atrocity in a Ukrainian Village, Jeffrey Gettleman, Photographs by Finbarr O’Reilly, Nov. 29, 2022. In the southern Kherson region, the pattern seen in eastern Ukraine is repeating: Russia’s withdrawal yields evidence of possible war crimes.

First came small pieces of bone. Then a pair of arms tied at the wrists with rope.

And then the shovel unearthed a skull with a bullet hole, mouth cracked open, teeth covered in thick, black mud.

Even though scenes like this have been repeated across Ukraine wherever the Russians have retreated, the clump of villagers and police officers seemed stunned on Monday as they stood at the lip of a common grave in Pravdyne, a village near the city of Kherson.

A cold rain pelted their backs but they didn’t move as the grave was exhumed. None of the villagers even knew the last names of the six men who had been killed, execution-style, and then buried here, but that didn’t matter. “They were Ukrainians,” said Kostiantyn Podoliak, a prosecutor who had come to investigate.

And now their remains lay in a shallow grave because of it.

Kherson and the surrounding villages in southern Ukraine were liberated after eight brutal months of occupation, when the embattled Russian forces abruptly pulled out more than two weeks ago. Residents streamed into the streets, waving flags, hugging soldiers and clinking glasses of cognac.

But as days pass, that elation has given way to mounting evidence of atrocities, and the sobering reality of battered, barely livable communities from which most civilians fled months ago and may not return anytime soon. On their way out, the Russians blew up power stations, taking down electricity, running water, heat and phone service and casting residents back more than a century.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: NATO diplomats are meeting to discuss how to sustain Ukraine through a harsh winter, Edward Wong, Nov. 29, 2022.  Antony J. Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, and the top diplomats from more than 30 European nations are meeting on Tuesday in Romania to coordinate how the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will bolster Ukraine’s war efforts against Russia over the harsh winter.

The officials plan to discuss further weapons shipments to Ukraine, as well as how to help repair Ukraine’s electricity grid and defend the country’s critical infrastructure against relentless missile, artillery and drone attacks by the Russian military.

A senior State Department official traveling with Mr. Blinken said Monday that the United States plans to announce cash aid to Ukraine for energy infrastructure needs on an emergency basis.

“NATO is stronger and more united than at any time I can remember,” Mr. Blinken said at a news conference on Tuesday with Jens Stoltenberg, the alliance’s secretary general, before the meeting. “We will be reaffirming our support for Ukraine as we go forward.”

Mr. Blinken held separate meetings with top Romanian officials Tuesday morning. He said that the United States would work with Romania to help it achieve energy independence from Russia, and to build up its military capabilities, which would operate with those of its allies.

The two-day meeting of foreign ministers is taking place in Bucharest, the capital of Romania, a NATO member country that shares a border with Ukraine. It is expected to lay the groundwork for how the alliance will continue to aid Ukraine at a time when winter weather might limit military gains and as millions of Ukrainian civilians lack access to electricity and water because of damage to infrastructure facilities caused by Russian strikes.

“NATO will continue to stand for Ukraine as long as it takes,’” Mr. Stoltenberg said as the diplomats gathered. “We will not back down.”

Another State Department official said the Russian military is using missiles and drones to hit Ukraine’s transmission grid, including high-voltage transformer stations, because those are more vulnerable than power generation sites. He estimated that 25 to 30 percent of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure has been damaged.

American and European officials say President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is trying to break the morale of Ukrainians by depriving them of basic utilities over the winter, when average temperatures across Ukraine drop below freezing. The Russian military has suffered major setbacks in the face of Ukrainian offensives in recent months, including being forced to retreat from the strategic southern city of Kherson and the Kharkiv region in the northeast.

NATO countries have so far provided some $40 billion in weaponry to Ukraine, roughly the size of France’s annual defense budget. But Ukraine has been tearing through stockpiles, setting off a scramble to supply the country with what it needs while also replenishing NATO members’ arsenals. Many Western-made howitzers are breaking due to the rate of use by Ukrainian troops.

The meeting this week is also expected to feature discussion of how to better protect the member nations that are in closest proximity to Ukraine, including Poland and Romania, from any potential spillover from the conflict. The topic took on a renewed sense of urgency this month when a missile that NATO leaders said appeared to have been fired by Ukraine’s air defense killed two civilians in southeastern Poland.

The foreign ministers of Sweden and Finland, which both applied for NATO membership after Mr. Putin ordered the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, are expected to attend the meeting, as are top diplomats from Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

At a NATO meeting in 2008 in Bucharest, President George W. Bush pushed members of the alliance to promise Ukraine and Georgia eventual membership, but without a timeline. Officials say both countries remain far from qualifying for membership but are considered critical partners of NATO.

Mr. Stoltenberg and the U.S. State Department also said that officials would discuss the global challenges posed by China, Russia’s most powerful strategic partner.

Here’s what we know:

  • The U.S. is planning an emergency cash injection for Ukraine to shore up its energy infrastructure after an onslaught of Russian attacks.
  • NATO ‘will not back down’ in its support for Ukraine, its secretary general says.
  • Russia postpones a meeting on a nuclear arms control treaty.
  • A communal grave with six bodies is unearthed in Kherson.
  • Why the Ukrainian flag is flying everywhere in Maine.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Ukraine Is Biden’s Defining Issue and Biggest Economic Challenge, Jim Tankersley, Nov. 29, 2022. The shape of the war and its effects on global markets in the months and years to come could determine President Biden’s political fate.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has become the greatest economic challenge of President Biden’s time in office, threatening to push the world into a recession that could endanger an already fragile American recovery.

The combination of punishing sanctions, championed by Mr. Biden and his allies, and Russia’s retaliation has ricocheted through global food and energy markets, exacerbating already high inflation and undercutting global growth. An oil shock set off by the invasion sent average gasoline prices above $5 a gallon nationally in June, before they fell steadily in July and August.

This week, the European Union is expected to put finishing touches on a plan that would attempt to contain further economic damage by imposing a cap on the price that Russia can earn from selling a barrel of exported oil. The untested idea, engineered by Mr. Biden’s Treasury secretary, is aimed at keeping Russian oil flowing to the global market even as Europe plows ahead with new restrictions on Moscow’s oil sales.

In the year to come, that price cap and other efforts to manage the war’s global fallout should be Mr. Biden’s primary economic focus. With few legislative options available after his party lost control of the House, Mr. Biden will need to find ways to shield American markets from the war’s effects, including new international initiatives to bolster food supplies and ward off a potentially cascading financial crisis in developing nations.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Denies Reports That It Will Withdraw From Embattled Nuclear Plant, Marc Santora and Maria Varenikova, Nov. 29, 2022 (print ed.). After a string of military setbacks in Ukraine, Russia insisted it would not end its occupation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear facility.

Following a string of Ukrainian military successes in the south, the Kremlin sought on Monday to tamp down speculation that Russian forces would withdraw from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex, with President Vladimir V. Putin’s spokesman saying that Moscow has no plans to end its military occupation of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

“One should not look for signs where there are none and cannot be any,” said the spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov.

Mr. Peskov’s comments came after some pro-Russian military bloggers wrote posts suggesting that Moscow’s forces would withdraw from the area, and after Ukrainian officials said there were indications that Russia was taking steps to leave the facility.

Russian forces seized the Zaporizhzhia plant soon after invading Ukraine in late February, stationing troops and military equipment there. A withdrawal from the plant would mark another setback for Russian forces in a region that Mr. Putin has sought to annex illegally.

On Sunday, Petro Kotin, the president of the Ukrainian state nuclear energy company, Energoatom, said that there were signs that Russian troops were “packing and stealing whatever they can find” at the Zaporizhzhia complex, although he emphasized that there was no evidence that the troops had actually begun to pull out.

Ukrainian forces in recent weeks have scored a series of victories in southern Ukraine, including retaking the key city of Kherson on Nov. 11. But military analysts said that there was no immediate indication that they were threatening Russia’s grip on the plant, which lies on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River, about 100 miles northeast of Kherson.

Instead, the reports from Russian military bloggers — a hawkish and pro-invasion group — suggest concerns about Moscow’s ability to hold the plant and could be an attempt to “prepare the information space for an eventual Russian withdrawal” from Zaporizhzhia, the Institute for the Study of War, a research group that tracks the conflict, wrote in its daily analysis on Sunday.

The nuclear plant — which provided 20 percent of Ukraine’s electricity before the war — has careened from one crisis to another since Russian forces seized the facility on March 4. Shelled repeatedly, it has cycled down all of its reactors as a safety measure and has been disconnected from the Ukrainian power grid on multiple occasions, forcing it to use diesel generators to perform critical cooling functions. The Ukrainian staff members operating the plant, whose numbers have more than halved, have reported being detained and abused by Russian soldiers. Witnesses also have accused the Russian forces of laying mines in and around the plant.

After a team of inspectors from the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, visited the plant in September, the head of the agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi, called for the creation of a demilitarized safe zone around the facility to reduce the risk of a nuclear catastrophe.

Ukraine has supported the proposal, as have representatives of the European Union and the United States. Russia has resisted the idea, with its Foreign Ministry saying recently that it would “make the power plant even more vulnerable.”

Mr. Grossi said that he had discussed his concerns with both Mr. Putin and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, telling CBS News’ “60 Minutes” last week: “Until we have this plant protected, the possibility of the nuclear catastrophe is there.”

On Nov. 20, the day that interview aired, the plant was rocked by more than 10 explosions. Energoatom said that Russian troops were responsible for the blasts and had targeted infrastructure necessary for electricity production for Ukraine. Russia has blamed Ukraine for shelling the plant.

Repeated waves of Russian missile assaults on Ukraine’s energy grid infrastructure have resulted in widespread and prolonged power outages in nearly every corner of the country. Millions now live with sweeping but controlled blackouts for long stretches of the day and night.

Last week, a wave of Russian missile strikes forced all four of the country’s nuclear power plants offline for the first time in Ukraine’s history. The plants have since been reconnected to outside power.

  volodmyer zelinsky graphic

washington post logoWashington Post, Zelensky warns citizens to brace for more Russian airstrikes, Rachel Pannett and Jennifer Hassan, Nov. 29, 2022 (print ed.). President Volodymyr Zelensky warned Ukrainians to brace for more Russian airstrikes, as the country reels from a barrage that has left its civilian infrastructure in bad shape at the onset of winter. Officials are working around-the-clock to restore light, water, heat and communications, he said.

“As long as they have missiles, they won’t stop, unfortunately,” Zelensky said, accusing Russia of using “the cold against people.”

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

1. Key developments

  • The electricity situation is now “under control” across most of Ukraine, with only scheduled stabilization blackouts in effect, Zelensky said, after energy workers rallied to repair the damage from airstrikes on infrastructure last week. “I thank all the employees of energy companies, utility services, repair crews, regional authorities and leaders of local communities who helped,” he said.
  • The General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces repeated Zelensky’s warning about further strikes in an update Monday morning, saying critical infrastructure throughout the country remains under threat.
  • Zelensky called the situation on the front lines “very difficult,” especially in the eastern Donetsk region, which has been at the center of fighting in recent weeks. “To endure now and defend ourselves now is to endure and defend ourselves for generations to come,” he added.
  • European diplomats will try to move forward with U.S.-backed plans to cap the price of Russian oil in a Monday meeting in Brussels, after talks last week stalled over what the price cap level should be.

2. Battleground updates

  • Russian FlagRussian forces may be preparing to exit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the head of Ukraine’s national nuclear operator said in an interview with Ukrainian media Sunday. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied the claims Monday, saying the facility was still under Russian control. “There is no need to look for any signs where there are none,” he said.
  • Daily bombardment continues in Kherson, Britain’s Defense Ministry said in its Monday update, with 54 shelling incidents reported Sunday. The city, which was retaken by Ukrainian forces Nov. 11, is vulnerable because it is in range of Russia’s artillery systems on the east bank of the Dnieper River.
  • Fighting along the front lines is likely to pick up once the ground freezes over in the coming weeks, making it easier to maneuver without getting bogged down in muddy conditions, according to the Institute for the Study of War think tank. Both sides have indicated in recent battlefield reports that their operations have slowed throughout eastern and southern Ukraine, including in Svatove, Bakhmut and Vuhledar.

Video Reports: 

  • Reuters via Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Pentagon Mulling Cheap, Precision Strike Weapon For Ukraine As Arms Makers Wrestle With Demand, Staff Report, Nov. 28, 2022. The Pentagon is considering a Boeing proposal to supply Ukraine with cheap, small precision bombs fitted onto abundantly available rockets, allowing Kyiv to strike far behind Russian lines as the West struggles to meet demand for more arms.
  • Boeing's proposed system, dubbed Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB), is one of about a half-dozen plans for getting new munitions into production for Ukraine and other Eastern European allies, industry sources said.
  • Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty,
    , Staff Report, Nov. 28, 2022. Staff Report, Nov. 28, 2022. Ukrainian volunteers discovered about 20 bodies of dead Russian soldiers near the village of Dovhenke in the Kharkiv region. After a forensic medical examination, the remains of some Russian soldiers may be offered in exchange for the bodies of Ukrainian soldiers.
  • Ground News via Combat Veteran Reacts,
    Ukraine Daily Combat Vet Paul, Nov. 28, 2022.

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U.S. Politics, Elections

Politico, Musk draws GOP support after claiming Apple threatened to ban Twitter, Rebecca Kern, Nov. 29, 2022 (print ed.). Elon Musk’s latest broadsides have set the world’s richest tech billionaire against the world’s most valuable company, and pushed him further into the tech antitrust debate in Washington. Elon Musk alleged on Monday that Apple is threatening to remove Twitter from its App Store, a claim that brought swift condemnation from Republicans who have championed antitrust legislation aimed at the iPhone-maker.

politico CustomMusk took a series of shots at Apple and CEO Tim Cook, saying Apple has threatened to “withhold” Twitter from the App Store but “won’t tell us why.” Apple did not respond to a request for comment, and Musk did not elaborate on what, if any, discussions he’s had with Apple.

elon musk 2015The broadside by the world’s richest tech billionaire, right, attacking the world’s most valuable company, drew quick support from some GOP lawmakers while injecting his latest beef into the heart of Washington’s debates about Silicon Valley’s giants.

twitter bird CustomSmaller tech companies have complained for years about Apple’s ironclad control over its App Store, which it uses both to keep noxious content off its iPhones and iPads and to demand a share of app developers’ revenues. Apple and Google, which exerts similar oversight over the major marketplace for Android apps, most famously used that power to eject the conservative-friendly social media app Parler in January 2021, saying the platform had failed to squelch violent rhetoric after the pro-Trump insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Monday’s unverified accusation from Musk provides new evidence that it’s time for Congress to rein Apple in, Republican lawmakers said.

Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah — the top Republicans on the House and Senate Judiciary committees’ antitrust panels — pushed for action on antitrust legislation that would ease Apple’s and Google’s control over their app markets.

apple logo rainbow“This is why we need to end the App Store duopoly before the end of this year. No one should have this kind of market power,” Buck tweeted.

Lee likewise pushed for passage of the Open App Markets Act (S. 2710, H.R. 5017), which Buck co-sponsored and seeks to prohibit companies from favoring their app stores over others.

“Apple and Google currently have a stranglehold on companies and have used their leverage to bully businesses,” added Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who is a co-sponsor of the Senate measure.

That bill and other antitrust measures aimed at the tech giants also have strong support from congressional Democrats. But they’re stalled for now and face dim odds of passage this Congress, as leadership for both parties focuses on an end-of-year spending package.

Any move by Apple to drop Twitter from its store could threaten the viability of Musk’s newly purchased $44 billion social media platform. Musk’s pledges of “free speech” on Twitter, along with the company’s mass layoffs, have raised complaints that the platform is already seeing a surge in the kinds of hate speech and disinformation that Apple’s policies prohibit.

Musk has announced he plans to offer a “general amnesty” this week for users that Twitter had previously banned for violating its rules. He already reinstated accounts for former President Donald Trump, whom it had booted after the assault on the Capitol, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Divided government demands creativity. Here are 3 ways to get things done, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, Nov. 28, 2022 (print ed.). The past ej dionne w open necktwo years deserve to be seen as a time of progress — and the 2022 election as ratification that voters noticed. Even in the face of high inflation, they kept the Senate in Democratic hands, limited Republican gains in the House and rejected far-right candidates at the state level.

Lord knows, there is much that remains to be done, and President Biden and the Democrats should not back off from fights for tougher gun laws, voting rights, political reform, steps to rein in a right-wing Supreme Court, new measures to fight climate change and a sane immigration policy. But Republican control of the House will make it very difficult for progressive legislation to go forward.

This requires Democrats (and Republicans seeking ways to break with their investigation-infatuated leadership) to be creative in thinking simultaneously about what’s possible over the next two years and how to lay the groundwork for change later. Here are three suggestions that I hope others build on.

1 Make progress without legislation.
2 Announce a campaign for America’s families.
3 Create an agenda for the next generation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Maricopa County says printer glitches didn’t prevent anyone from voting, Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Nov. 28, 2022 (print ed.). A report issued Sunday to the Arizona attorney general’s office blamed Republicans for stoking doubts about a secure alternative available to voters.

arizona mapMaricopa County, facing a storm of GOP criticism over its handling of the Nov. 8 election, said in a report issued Sunday that problems with printers that surfaced on Election Day did not violate the Arizona Constitution or other guidelines intended to ensure free and fair elections. The county instead blamed prominent Republicans for making their own supporters suspicious of a secure alternative allowing voters who encountered mechanical issues to cast ballots.

The report comes in response to a request from the Arizona attorney general’s office election integrity unit for an account of the Election Day problems before the county is set to certify its results on Monday. State certification is set for Dec. 5.

Tom Liddy, head of Maricopa County’s civil division and a lifelong Republican, wrote in a five-page letter accompanying the report that “all voters were still provided reasonable, lawful options for voting.” But some Republican voters might have spurned one option — a secure box known as “Door 3” — because GOP leaders, including the state party chair, told voters not to use it, according to the report.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How Trump is handing white supremacists huge propaganda victories, Greg Sargent, Nov. 28, 2022. After the news broke that Donald Trump dined with white-supremacist Nick Fuentes at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago home, Trump rapidly disavowed any knowledge of Fuentes’s views. “I didn’t know Nick Fuentes,” Trump declared.

That’s not particularly credible. But either way, the focus on what Trump knew misses a more consequential part of the story: By breaking bread with Fuentes, Trump handed white supremacists and white-power activists a major propaganda coup. It will be read by them as another sign that they are successfully infiltrating the far-right flank of mainstream GOP politics. So will the silence from many Republican leaders since Trump’s dinner with Fuentes.

I contacted Kathleen Belew, the author of a history of white power movements in the United States, to talk about these undercurrents of the Fuentes story. Belew has an important new essay that digs into the underappreciated role of white power activism in helping drive the insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021.

ny times logoNew York Times, Representative Donald McEachin, Virginia Democrat, Dies, Emily Cochrane, Nov. 29, 2022. Mr. McEachin, who had just been overwhelmingly re-elected to his Richmond-area district, had battled colorectal cancer.

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

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

washington post logoWashington Post, More than 400,000 cast ballots in early voting in Georgia Senate runoff, Dylan Wells, John Wagner and Matthew Brown, Nov. 29, 2022. In the first and only weekend of early voting in the Georgia Senate runoff, tens of thousands of voters cast ballots in the election pitting Democratic Sen. Raphael G. Warnock against Republican challenger Herschel Walker — the last Senate contest of the 2022 midterms.

By comparison, more than 200,000 people had already submitted a mail ballot on the first day of early voting in Georgia’s last runoff election in January 2021. And more than 1.6 million had voted in the first week, underscoring the different political environment and state of Georgia’s voting laws, which were overhauled in 2021 with new restrictions on how ballots are cast.

georgia mapThe stakes were higher in January 2021, with two runoff elections on the ballot that decided control of the Senate.

On Saturday, 70,050 Georgians turned out to vote, utilizing an extra day of early voting resulting from a lawsuit filed by Warnock, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the state Democratic Party. Republicans tried to block the effort in court but were unsuccessful.

Among those who voted Saturday were Georgia residents who told The Washington Post that busy schedules made voting impossible during the week. The lines also included college students home for the Thanksgiving holiday who preferred to vote in person rather than rely on an absentee ballot.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate poised to pass bill to protect same-sex, interracial marriages, Amy B Wang, Nov. 29, 2022. The Senate is poised Tuesday to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, which would enshrine marriage equality into federal law, granting protections to same-sex and interracial couples.

Enough senators are expected to support the bill — which includes a bipartisan amendment that clarifies protections for religious liberties — for it to pass in a vote scheduled for late Tuesday afternoon. In a procedural vote Monday, the Senate advanced the bill, 61-35, surpassing the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. If the Senate passes the bill, the amended version would return to the House for another vote before it could go to President Biden to sign into law.

“The rights of all married couples will never truly be safe without the proper protections under federal law. And that’s why the Respect for Marriage Act is necessary,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor Monday. “Passing this bill is our chance to send a message to Americans everywhere: No matter who you are, who you love, you deserve dignity and equal treatment under the law. That’s about as American [an] ideal as it comes.”

Politico, Newsom Told the White House He Won’t Challenge Biden, Jonathan Martin, Nov. 28, 2022 (print ed.). The would-be pursuer of Trump and DeSantis is "all in" for the president’s reelection and willing to wait his turn.

politico CustomGov. Gavin Newsom has won three elections in five years in America’s largest state, is apoplectic about his party’s messaging defects and follows Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the right-wing media ecosystem with a zeal that would put some opposition researchers to shame.

But Newsom wants the word to go forth: He’s not going to challenge President Biden for the Democratic nomination in 2024.

 

Democratic-Republican Campaign logos

Palmer Report, Advocacy: Just 3,340 votes could have given us a completely different outcome in the midterms, Bill Palmer, right, Nov. 28, 2022. If you want proof bill palmerthat we made a difference by putting in the work on the most competitive midterm races, you can find it in a number of places.

bill palmer report logo headerWe won the Senate majority because we made a crucial push in Nevada, a toss up race that we ended up winning by about 0.8 points. And when it came to the toss up House races that we targeted, our record was 23-10. Normally you’d expect to win half of them; we won nearly 70% of them. Simply put, targeting the toss up races works.

If you want even more proof, check this out. Tom Bonier of data firm TargetSmart has calculated that a total of just 3,340 votes could have turned House Democrats’ five closest losses into wins, and would have given the Democrats the House majority.

This is why I spent the entire election cycle urging and even begging all of you to get involved in the tightest midterm races. Many of you did, which is why we won the majority of the toss up races (great work!). If even more of you had gotten involved, we’d have kept the House. It really is as simple as that.

At this point it’s not about assigning blame. Perhaps some of you just truly didn’t believe that targeting the toss up races could make much of a difference, so you didn’t bother. But just look at how well we did in the toss up races we targeted. It’s why we won the Senate, and it’s why we kept the House close enough to turn it into a debacle for the Republicans.
   
Now that you all have proof that it really does just take your collective effort to dominate the toss up races, let’s take that knowledge into 2024. Let the Republican activists spend the 2024 election cycle tilting at windmills and chasing after shiny objects. We’ll be focusing our collective resources on the toss up races that decided this election cycle and will decide the next election cycle as well.

ny times logo

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U.S. Courts, Crime, Regulation

ny times logoNew York Times, He Helped Subdue the Club Q Assailant to Save ‘the Family I Found,’ Ava Sasani and Luke Vander Ploeg, Nov. 29, 2022 (print ed.).  Thomas James, a Navy petty officer, knocked down the gunman along with an Army veteran, preventing further bloodshed in Colorado Springs last week.

Thomas James was trained in the military on how to act in a crisis. And he responded immediately when an assailant entered Club Q in Colorado Springs on Nov. 19 shrouded in body armor and began shooting with an AR-15-style rifle, the police said.

thomas james hospital apMr. James, a petty officer second class in the Navy, helped Richard M. Fierro, an Army veteran and another patron at the L.G.B.T.Q. club, subdue the attacker, preventing further bloodshed in a massacre that left five dead and 18 injured, the authorities said last week. Chief Adrian Vasquez of the Colorado Springs Police Department said that both knocked down the assailant.

Petty Officer Second Class Thomas James recovering at Centura Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs. “If I had my way, I would shield everyone I could from the nonsensical acts of hate in the world,” he said (Professors U.S. Navy, via Associated Press).

On Sunday, in his first public comments on his role that night, Mr. James said in a statement that “I simply wanted to save the family I found.”

Mr. James issued the statement through Centura Penrose Hospital, where he was recovering from an undisclosed injury from the attack. The hospital said he was in stable condition.

Mr. Fierro said the chaos during the rampage made the takedown of the assailant a blur, but he remembers clearly how Mr. James, whom he had never met, tumbled to the ground with him as he took down the attacker, pushed one of the shooter’s guns away, then, at the urging of Mr. Fierro, repeatedly kicked the assailant in the face.

“That was hard to do, it’s not a humane act,” Mr. Fierro said in an interview. “But I asked him to help me, and he helped me.”

The suspect in the attack, Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, is being held on suspicion of first-degree murder and hate crimes and is expected to be to be formally charged at a hearing on Dec. 6.

“If I had my way, I would shield everyone I could from the nonsensical acts of hate in the world,” Mr. James said.

“Thankfully, we are family, and family looks after one another. We came a long way from Stonewall. Bullies aren’t invincible,” Mr. James said, referring to the uprising at a New York bar in 1969 that galvanized a national movement for gay rights.

ny times logoNew York Times, 5 New Haven Officers Charged in Paralysis of Black Man They Transported, Sarah Maslin Nir, Nov. 29, 2022 (print ed.). The man was being taken to a Connecticut police station when the driver of a police van hit the brakes hard, shattering the man’s spine.

Five Connecticut police officers were charged on Monday with misdemeanors in a case in which a Black man who was being transported in the back of a police van became paralyzed when the driver hit the brakes hard, shattering the man’s spine.

The man, Richard Cox, 36, known as Randy, was being taken to a police station in New Haven on June 19 on a weapons-related charge in a van that was not equipped with seatbelts. He smashed headfirst into the van’s inside wall, and the incident was captured on video.

The officers appeared to treat him callously following his injuries, mocking his inability to sit up, police video and audio released by lawyers for his family show.

The case is strikingly similar to that of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Baltimore man who died in 2015 after police officers drove him unrestrained in the back of a similar transport vehicle. In Mr. Cox’s case, police officers who attended the injured man admonished him to get up and said he was drunk, according to police records.

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U.S. Gun Violence

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats press for assault weapons ban, other gun laws after new mass shootings, Amy B Wang, Nov. 29, 2022 (print ed.).  Democrats are renewing their calls for a ban on assault weapons after the latest spate of multiple high-profile mass shootings, warning that their window to enact legislation is closing soon with Republicans set to take a narrow majority in the House in January.

On Nov. 19, a shooter carrying a handgun and an AR-15-style rifle opened fire inside Club Q, an LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs, killing five people and walmart logoinjuring at least 18 others. Days later, a supervisor at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Va., killed six employees in a break room in the store with a handgun he had allegedly bought earlier that day, before apparently killing himself.

Other recent horrors — such as the shooting deaths of 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde, Tex., who were killed by a gunman who bought weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition just days after his 18th birthday — have also prompted a reexamination of the ease of obtaining assault weapons.

President Biden, who has long called for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, vowed last week to double down on his efforts, including during the lame-duck session of Congress.

“The idea we still allow semiautomatic weapons to be purchased is sick. Just sick,” Biden told reporters on Thanksgiving. “It has no, no social redeeming value. Zero. None. Not a single solitary rationale for it except profit for the gun manufacturers.”

On Sunday, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said that he didn’t think that Democrats have 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster and push through legislation to renew a ban on assault weapons, which the House passed in July. But he said he was glad that Biden was pushing them to take a vote.

“Does it have 60 votes in the Senate right now? Probably not. But let’s see if we can try to get that number as close to 60 as possible,” Murphy said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Buffalo supermarket shooting suspect to plead guilty to murder, James Bikales, Justin Sondel and Shayna Jacobs, Nov. 29, 2022 (print ed.). Payton Gendron is accused in a racially motivated attack that killed 10 Black people at a Tops market.

The man charged with killing 10 people in a racially motivated attack at a Buffalo grocery store in May is expected to plead guilty to state charges on Monday morning.

payton gendron mugPayton Gendron, 19, was indicted on 25 counts, including domestic terrorism and murder as a hate crime, in late May. He faced a maximum possible sentence of life in prison without parole, because New York state does not have the death penalty. But a separate federal hate crimes case, which could bring the death penalty if Gendron is convicted, is pending.

Another mass killing rocks the nation: 'We aren't numb; we're traumatized'

Police say Gendron meticulously planned the shooting, motivated by a racist ideology called the “great replacement” theory. He allegedly drove three hours from his hometown of Conklin, N.Y., to the Tops Friendly Markets location in a predominantly Black section of Buffalo, wearing body armor and wielding a semiautomatic rifle, and opened fire in the parking lot and inside the store.

Thirteen people were shot, 11 of them Black.

Gendron allegedly published a 180-page racist screed online before the attack and live-streamed the shooting. He surrendered to police afterward.

Rose Wysocki, produce manager at the Tops location where the shooting took place, showed up to the hearing Monday morning wearing her work shirt and name tag. Wysocki said she was at the store the day of the shooting and there to show support for her slain co-workers.

She said she continues to have nightmares about that day. “My heart hurts every day for those people we lost,” she said.

“I want him to know that he didn’t totally destroy us,” she said. “I want him to know that we all think the same of him. Hate doesn’t even cover how we feel.”

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U.S. Media, Culture, Tech

 

julian assange stella morris son gabriel righ max belmarsh prison irish examiner com

Stella Moris and son Gabriel, right, and Max leave Belmarsh prison after visiting her partner and their father, Julian Assange. His two children could lose their father for the rest of their lives [Source: irishexaminer.com].

ny times logoNew York Times, Major News Outlets Urge U.S. to Drop Charges Against Assange, Charlie Savage, Nov. 29, 2022 (print ed.). In a joint letter, news organizations warned that the indictment of Julian Assange could chill reporting about national security.

The New York Times and four European news organizations called on the United States government on Monday to drop its charges against Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, for obtaining and publishing classified diplomatic and military secrets.

In a joint open letter, The Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and El País said the prosecution of Mr. Assange under the Espionage Act “sets a dangerous precedent” that threatened to undermine the First Amendment and the freedom of the press.

“Obtaining and disclosing sensitive information when necessary in the public interest is a core part of the daily work of journalists,” the letter said. “If that work is criminalized, our public discourse and our democracies are made significantly weaker.”

julian assange facts wikileaks CustomMr. Assange, who has been fighting extradition from Britain since his arrest there in 2019, is also accused of participating in a hacking-related conspiracy. The letter notably did not urge the Justice Department to drop that aspect of the case, though it said that “some of us are concerned” about it, too.

Each of the five organizations had worked with Mr. Assange in 2010 and 2011, during the events at the heart of the criminal case. WikiLeaks, which obtained leaked archives of classified American diplomatic cables and military files, gave early access to the troves to traditional news outlets, which published articles about notable revelations.

A spokeswoman for The Times, Danielle Rhoades Ha, said that the company’s publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, in consultation with the legal department, decided to sign the letter. The newsroom was not involved, she said.

The case against Mr. Assange is complicated and does not turn on the question of whether he is considered a journalist, but rather on whether his journalistic-style activities of soliciting and publishing classified information can or should be treated as a crime.

The letter comes as Attorney General Merrick B. Garland has sought to rein in ways in which the Justice Department has made it harder for journalists to do their jobs. In October, he issued new regulations that ban the use of subpoenas, warrants or court orders to seize reporters’ communications records or demand their notes or testimony in an effort to uncover confidential sources in leak investigations.

Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks catapulted to global fame in 2010 when he began publishing classified videos and documents related to the United States’ wars and its foreign relations.

It eventually became clear that Chelsea Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst, had provided the archives to WikiLeaks. She was sentenced to 35 years in prison after a court-martial trial in 2013. President Barack Obama commuted most of her remaining sentence shortly before leaving office in January 2017.

Ms. Manning’s disclosures amounted to one of the most extraordinary leaks in American history. They included about 250,000 State Department cables that revealed many secret things around the world, dossiers about Guantánamo Bay detainees being held without trial and logs of significant events in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars that divulged, among other things, that civilian casualties were higher than official estimates.

The letter noted that the same five institutions had publicly criticized Mr. Assange in 2011 when unredacted copies of the cables were released, revealing the names of people in dangerous countries who had helped the United States and putting their lives at risk. At Ms. Manning’s trial, prosecutors did not say anyone had been killed as a result, but officials have said the government spent significant resources in getting such people out of danger.

While the Obama administration and career law enforcement and national security officials disliked Mr. Assange, transparency advocates and antiwar activists treated him as an icon.

His public image shifted significantly after WikiLeaks published Democratic emails that had been hacked by the Russian government as part of its covert operation to help Donald J. Trump win the 2016 presidential election. But the criminal case against him is not about the Democratic emails.

The open letter notes that the Obama administration had weighed charging Mr. Assange in connection with the Manning leaks but did not do so — in part because there was no clear way to legally distinguish WikiLeaks’ actions from those of traditional news organizations like The Times that write about national security matters.

ny times logoNew York Times, Meta Fined $275 Million for Breaking E.U. Data Privacy Law, Adam Satariano, Nov. 29, 2022 (print ed.). The penalty, imposed by Irish data regulators, brings European fines against Facebook’s parent company to more than $900 million since last year.

In the latest penalty against Meta for violating European privacy rules, the tech giant was fined roughly $275 million on Monday for a data leak discovered last year that led to the personal information of more than 500 million Facebook users being published online.

meta logoThe penalty, imposed by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, brings the total fines to more than $900 million that the regulator has imposed on Meta since last year. In September, the same regulator fined the company roughly $400 million for its mistreatment of children’s data. Last October, Irish authorities fined Meta, which was previously called Facebook, 225 million euros, or about $235 million, for violations related to its messaging service WhatsApp.

The accumulating penalties will be a welcome sign to privacy groups that want to see European Union regulators more aggressively enforce the General Data Protection Regulation. The law was hailed as a landmark moment in the regulation of technology companies when it took effect in 2018, but regulators have since faced criticism for not applying the rules strongly enough.

Ireland has been under pressure because of the key role it plays in enforcing E.U. data protection rules. The country is tasked with policing tech companies’ compliance with the 2018 law as a result of companies such as Meta, Google and Twitter all locating their E.U. headquarters in Ireland. TikTok, which also set up a E.U. hub in Ireland, is the subject of another investigation there.

 

huawei meng wanzhou

Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies has promoted chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, above, to a key role just half a year after the end of her U.S. extradition fight, setting up a potential family succession at one of China’s most important companies. Details: Washington Post, Huawei’s CFO promoted to a top post months after U.S. extradition deal, April 2, 2022. Meng, above, daughter of Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei, is now one of three rotating chairs who helm the tech giant for six-month intervals.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: FCC steps up campaign against Huawei and other Chinese tech companies, Tim Starks and Aaron Schaffer, Nov. 29, 2022 (print ed.). Last week’s long-awaited Federal Communications Commission ban of some Chinese telecommunications companies’ equipment is the latest step in a domestic and international push by the United States to isolate Huawei and other Chinese tech firms.

On Friday, the FCC said it voted unanimously to adopt rules banning U.S. sales and imports of Huawei and ZTE telecommunications equipment, Hytera digital radios and video surveillance systems made by Hikvision and Dahua, citing national security concerns. The ban focuses on equipment designed “for the purpose of public safety, security of government facilities, physical security surveillance of critical infrastructure, and other national security purposes.”

elon musk sideview

washington post logoWashington Post, Shift in follower counts for Elizabeth Warren, Ted Cruz show how Twitter is beginning to change, Gerrit De Vynck, Jeremy B. Merrill and Luis Melgar, Nov. 28, 2022 (print ed.). High-profile Republican members of Congress gained tens of thousands of Twitter followers in the first few weeks of Elon Musk’s reign over the social media network, while their Democratic counterparts experienced a decline, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) all lost about 100,000 Twitter followers in the first three weeks of Musk’s ownership of Twitter, while Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and Jim Jordan (Ohio) gained more than 300,000 each.

It’s difficult to tell exactly why follower counts go up and down, and the counts are often affected by Twitter banning bot accounts en masse. Not everyone following a specific politician is a supporter.

twitter bird CustomStill, the pattern suggests that tens of thousands of liberals may be leaving the site while conservatives are joining or becoming more active, shifting the demographics of the site under Musk’s ownership. The changes are in line with a trend that began in April, when Musk announced his intention to buy the company.

On average, Republicans gained 8,000 followers and Democrats lost 4,000. For its analysis, The Post analyzed data from ProPublica’s Represent tool, which tracks congressional Twitter activity.

Musk and Twitter did not respond to requests for comment.

‘Opening the gates of hell’: Musk says he will revive banned accounts

Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion late last month having pledged to bring his vision of free speech absolutism to the site. The day he took over, he said Twitter wouldn’t become “a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!” But users immediately started testing the boundaries of the new site under Musk, prompting hate speech to briefly surge.

Since then, Musk launched and rolled back Twitter Blue Verified, a $7.99 monthly membership that puts a check mark next to any account that pays. The move prompted an explosion of fake accounts. Musk also fired about half the staff, and required the rest of his workers to pledge to work long hours or leave the company, significantly reducing the number of people who are policing the site.

Musk also has restored several major rule-breaking accounts, including former president Donald Trump’s, following an unrepresentative and unscientific Twitter poll. On Thursday, after a similar poll, he said he would grant “general amnesty” for all banned accounts that didn’t post spam or break the law.

Advertisers have been fleeing, raising doubts about the site’s ability to make money. More than a third of Twitter’s top 100 marketers have not advertised on the social media network in the two weeks before Tuesday, according to a Washington Post analysis.

Musk says he is a political moderate, but has agreed with right-wing figures on the site who accuse Twitter’s previous management of being biased against conservatives. The day before the midterms, he called on his followers to vote Republican, breaking with tradition of other social media CEOs who typically do not explicitly endorse one party over another.

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U.S. Government, Economy, Education

ny times logoNew York Times, Crypto Lender BlockFi Files for Bankruptcy as FTX Fallout Spreads, Lauren Hirsch, David Yaffe-Bellany and Ephrat Livni, Nov. 29, 2022 (print ed.). BlockFi was financially entangled with FTX, and its stability was thrust into uncertainty after FTX collapsed.

BlockFi, a cryptocurrency lender and financial services firm, filed for bankruptcy on Monday, becoming the latest company in the crypto industry hobbled by ftx logothe implosion of the embattled exchange FTX.

BlockFi had been reeling since the spring, when the collapse of several influential crypto firms pushed the market into a panic, sending the value of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin plunging. In June, FTX agreed to provide the company with a $400 million credit line, which BlockFi’s chief executive, Zac Prince, said would provide “access to capital that further bolsters our balance sheet.” The deal also gave FTX the option to buy BlockFi.

But that agreement meant that BlockFi was financially entangled with FTX, and its stability was thrust into uncertainty this month after a series of revelations about corporate missteps and suspicious management at FTX. A few days after the exchange collapsed, BlockFi suspended withdrawals, explaining that it had “significant exposure” to FTX, including undrawn amounts from the credit line and assets held on the FTX platform.

BlockFi is not the first crypto lender to collapse in a devastating year for the industry. After the spring crash, in which Bitcoin fell 20 percent in a week, two other lenders, Celsius Network and Voyager Digital, filed for bankruptcy.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Rising Star in the Biden Administration Faces a $100 Billion Test, Ana Swanson, Nov. 27, 2022 (print ed.). Gina Raimondo, the commerce secretary, has made a career of tackling increasingly larger challenges. Could the next one be too big?

gina raimondo 2019 CustomGina Raimondo, right, the commerce secretary, was meeting with students at Purdue University in September when she spotted a familiar face. Ms. Raimondo beamed as she greeted the chief executive of SkyWater Technology, a chip company that had announced plans to build a $1.8 billion manufacturing facility next to the Purdue campus.

“We’re super excited about the Indiana announcement,” she said. “Call me if you need anything.”

These days, Ms. Raimondo, a former Rhode Island governor, is the most important phone call in Washington that many chief executives can make. As the United States embarks on its biggest foray into industrial policy since World War II, Ms. Raimondo has the responsibility of doling out a stunning amount of money to states, research institutions and companies like SkyWater.

commerce dept logoShe is also at the epicenter of a growing Cold War with China as the Biden administration uses her agency’s expansive powers to try to make America’s semiconductor industry more competitive. At the same time, the administration is choking off Beijing’s access to advanced chips and other technology critical to China’s military and economic ambitions.

China has responded angrily, with its leader, Xi Jinping, criticizing what he called “politicizing and weaponizing economic and trade ties” during a meeting with President Biden this month, according to the official Chinese summary of his comments.

The Commerce Department, under Ms. Raimondo’s leadership, is now poised to begin distributing nearly $100 billion — roughly 10 times the department’s annual budget — to build up the U.S. chip industry and expand broadband access throughout the country.

How Ms. Raimondo handles that task will have big implications for the United States economy going forward. Many view the effort as the best — and only — bet for the United States to position itself in industries of the future, like artificial intelligence and supercomputing, and ensure that the country has a secure supply of the chips necessary for national security.

But the risks are similarly huge. Critics of the Biden administration’s plans have noted that the federal government may not be the best judge of which technologies to back. They have warned that if the administration gets it wrong, the United States may surrender its leadership in key technologies for good.

“The essence of industrial policy is you’re gambling,” said William Reinsch, a trade expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank. “She’s going to be in a tough spot because there probably will be failures or disappointments along the way,” he said.

The outcome could also have ramifications for Ms. Raimondo’s political ambitions. In less than two years in Washington, Ms. Raimondo, 51, has emerged as one of President Biden’s most trusted cabinet officials. Company executives describe her as a skillful and charismatic politician who is both engaged and accessible in an administration often known for its skepticism of big business.

Ms. Raimondo’s work has earned her praise from Republicans and Democrats, along with labor unions and corporations. Her supporters say she could ascend to another cabinet position, run for the Senate or perhaps mount a presidential bid.

But she is under close watch by Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and some other left-wing Democrats, who have criticized her as being too solicitous of corporate interests. Some progressive groups have accused Ms. Raimondo of being under the influence of big tech firms and not thoroughly disclosing those ties.

“Secretary Raimondo’s job is to help grow an economy that works for everyone, not to be the chief lobbyist for the Chamber of Commerce,” Ms. Warren said in a statement to The New York Times. “I have real concerns about the department’s approach, whether it’s approving assault weapon sales, negotiating trade deals or supporting big tech companies.”

Those criticisms have been fanned by rumors in recent months that the White House is considering Ms. Raimondo to serve as the next Treasury secretary if Janet L. Yellen, the current occupant of that post, eventually steps down.

Caitlin Legacki, a spokeswoman for the Commerce Department, dismissed speculation about Ms. Raimondo’s next moves as “wheel spinning.”

“As has been previously reported, Janet Yellen is staying at Treasury and Gina Raimondo is staying at Commerce,” Ms. Legacki wrote in an email.

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U.S. Political Probes, Jan. 6 Insurrection

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Law enforcement is failing to crack down on domestic terrorism, Jennifer Rubin, Nov. 29, 2022. Given the spate of domestic jennifer rubin new headshotterrorism attacks in recent years — the slaughter at the Tree of Life synagogue, the massacre in Buffalo, N.Y., and the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection; for example — you would think law enforcement agencies are engaged in a robust effort to combat such violence, right? Wrong.

Earlier this month, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee released a largely overlooked — yet damning — report detailing the failures of national security agencies on this front.

“Over the past two decades, acts of domestic terrorism have dramatically increased," the committee reports. "National security agencies now identify domestic terrorism as the most persistent and lethal terrorist threat to the homeland.” The uptick is predominately attributable to “white supremacist and anti-government extremist individuals and groups.” Yet “without better data, it is difficult to evaluate whether federal agencies are appropriately allocating FBI logoresources and setting priorities.”

The report arrived just as billionaire Elon Musk opened the floodgates to right-wing extremists and purveyors of disinformation on Twitter. The committee notes, “Social media platforms have played an increasing role in the spread of extremist content that translates into real world violence, due in part to business models that incentivize user engagement over safety.” It also found that these companies’ business models us dhs big eagle logo4"are designed to increase user engagement (i.e., keep people viewing content online) and that, as experts testified before this Committee, more extreme content tends to increase user engagement, thus leading such content to be amplified.”

The extent of the threat is staggering. The report mentions a 2021 study from the Center for Strategic and International Studies that found there were 110 domestic terrorist plots in 2020 alone, a 244 percent increase from 2019. The Anti-Defamation League also reports that over the past decade, domestic extremists have killed 443 people. More than half of the deaths were attributable to white supremacists. Had foreign terrorists committed such crimes, christopher-wray-o.jpgRepublicans would have raised a ruckus.

Although FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, left, testified about the threat of domestic terrorism in March 2021 and pledged to work with the Senate committee on reporting, his agency has done little to address it. The committee reports, "the federal government — specifically FBI and [the Department of Homeland Security] — has failed to systematically track and report data on domestic terrorism as required by federal law, has not appropriately allocated its resources to match the current threat, and has not aligned its definitions to make its investigations consistent and its actions proportional to the threat of domestic terrorism.” And even when the feds have accumulated data, “DHS and FBI have not appropriately allocated their resources to match the current threat, despite recent increased investments and efforts.”

 ny times logoNew York Times, Defense Rests as Trump Company Trial Draws to Close, Lola Fadulu and Jonah E. Bromwich, Nov. 29, 2022 (print ed.). Closing arguments in the tax-fraud case are expected to begin Thursday after lawyers argue over the instructions jurors will receive from the judge.

Defense lawyers representing Donald J. Trump’s family business rested their case Monday, marking the end of witness testimony in the company’s tax fraud trial and clearing the way for closing arguments this week.

The lawyers for the Trump Organization, which has been charged with letting some executives be compensated with off-the-books perks so that they could evade taxes, spent the vast majority of their defense time questioning a single witness: Donald Bender, who for years was an outside accountant for Mr. Trump and the company.

The defense lawyers sought to show that Mr. Bender bore some responsibility for not alerting the company that the executives — including the Trump Organization’s longtime chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg — were failing to report apartment rentals, luxury cars and other benefits that they were receiving from the company.

ny times logoNew York Times, Anthony Ornato, a key Jan. 6 witness, will speak with the House panel investigating the riot, Luke Broadwater Nov. 29, 2022.  Mr. Ornato, a former Secret Service agent and White House aide, is at the center of a dispute over competing accounts of President Donald J. Trump’s actions.

Anthony M. Ornato, the former Secret Service agent and White House aide at the heart of a dispute over conflicting accounts of President Donald J. Trump’s actions during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, is scheduled to be interviewed on Tuesday before the House committee investigating the attack, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The committee has sought for weeks to re-interview Mr. Ornato as it digs deeper into the activities of the Secret Service around the time of Jan. 6, 2021, an area of inquiry that members believe is one of the most important final pieces of unfinished business before the panel completes its much-anticipated report into the attack.

Mr. Ornato, who as deputy White House chief of staff oversaw the logistics of the president’s movements outside, is key to a dispute over the events in a presidential S.U.V. that day. Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide, testified to lawmakers that Mr. Ornato told her that Mr. Trump became enraged and demanded to join a crowd of his supporters at the Capitol.

Secret Service officials have challenged some aspects of her account, and members of the panel have accused Mr. Ornato of being less than honest with them during a previous interview. Significant new answers from Mr. Ornato could help determine whether the dispute is a legitimate battle over the credibility of Ms. Hutchinson or an attempt to muddy the waters over her testimony, which provided a devastating account of Mr. Trump’s actions on Jan. 6.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Attorney General Merrick Garland is subtly shifting his approach to the Trump inquiries, Glenn Thrush, Nov. 29, 2022 (print ed.).  After months of an already hyperpartisan political environment, the attorney general appears to be acknowledging that his approach has to be recalibrated.

Justice Department log circularAttorney General Merrick B. Garland, a stoic former federal judge intent on restoring rule-of-law order at the Justice Department, gradually came to accept that he would need to appoint a special counsel to investigate Donald J. Trump if the former president ran for the White House again.

But that did not mean he liked doing it.

Mr. Garland made it clear from the start that he was not inclined to tap outsiders to run investigations and indicated that the department was perfectly capable of functioning as an impartial arbiter in the two criminal inquiries involving Mr. Trump, according to several people familiar with the situation.

But the appointment of a special counsel, Jack Smith, on Nov. 18, and a painstakingly planned rollout of the announcement, signaled a significant, if subtle, shift in that approach. Mr. Garland has shown a growing willingness to operate outside his comfort zone — within the confines of the rule book — in response to the extraordinary circumstance he now finds himself in: investigating Mr. Trump, a top contender for the 2024 nomination of a party that is increasingly rallying around the charge that Mr. Garland has weaponized the Justice Department against Republicans.

“There is a political dimension that can’t be ignored — this is an investigation that is being used by the target and his allies as a mobilization moment in a political campaign,” said Daniel C. Richman, a former federal prosecutor and a law professor at Columbia University. “That’s why you are seeing the department leaning forward in making these moves, and getting as much detailed information about an ongoing investigation out there as it can.”

In studying how to proceed, Mr. Garland has tried to steer clear of issuing the unusual public statements favored by the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey during the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails, believing that those actions, and political meddling during the Trump administration, violated department protocols.

The department’s leaders have, however, tried to counter Mr. Trump’s claims that they are engaged in a partisan witch hunt intended to destroy him.

Top officials, led by Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco, have leveraged Mr. Trump’s court challenges in the investigation into his handling of sensitive government documents as an opportunity to broadcast previously hidden details, while adhering to department policy.

The Justice Department did not officially support the effort to unseal the affidavit used to obtain the warrant for the search of Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club and residence in August. But when Mr. Trump’s lawyers did not oppose that bid, department officials seized the moment, and used the filing to offer a detailed timeline of Mr. Trump’s actions that established the public narrative of the case.

 

  donald trump money palmer report Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Congress gets to see Trump’s tax returns. It shouldn’t have taken so long, Editorial Board, Nov. 27, 2022. Restoring the norm under which presidential contenders voluntarily disclose their tax returns — followed by nearly every major-party nominee since Nixon — is important.

Voters should expect to know what financial conflicts of interest they might bring to the job. And in Mr. Trump’s case, those records were especially relevant, given that he headed a sprawling and secretive privately held business. In addition to his tax records, he should have provided a detailed accounting of his holdings and interests. His refusal to do so became glaring as Mr. Trump pressed to reform the tax code in 2017. Americans could only guess how its provisions might personally enrich the president and his family.

irs logoIf presidential candidates do not voluntarily share their returns, Congress might try to impose new rules. So could state lawmakers. In response to the Trump tax return saga, for example, New York legislators passed a law in 2019 allowing state officials to give congressional investigators the tax information they have on file. State lawmakers could also write laws that mandate the automatic release of candidates’ state tax returns after they claim major-party presidential nominations.

But it should not come to that. It would be healthier for the country to see candidates once again perform essential acts of honesty and transparency — not because they have to but because voters deserve it.

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World News, Disasters, Human Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, As Haiti Unravels, U.S. Officials Push to Send in an Armed Foreign Force, Natalie Kitroeff, Photographs by Adriana Zehbrauskas, Nov. 29, 2022. Fearing a mass exodus, some U.S. officials are pressing for a multinational force, but they don’t want to send American troops.

The assassination of Haiti’s president last year set off a new wave of terror across the Caribbean nation. But conditions in the country have plunged to horrifying new lows in recent months, as gangs carried out such extreme violence that the carnage has been compared to civil war.

ny times logoNew York Times, China Launches Astronauts to Newly Completed Space Station, Keith Bradsher, Nov. 29, 2022. After decades of military secrecy, Chinese officials opened their desert rocket launch center to a handful of visitors and called for international cooperation in space.The crew set off from a desert launch center to rendezvous with fellow astronauts aboard Tiangong, the country’s newly completed outpost in orbit.

Tall as a 20-story building, a rocket carrying the Shenzhou 15 mission roared into the night sky of the Gobi Desert on Tuesday, carrying three astronauts toward a rendezvous with China’s just-completed space station.

The rocket launch was a split-screen event for China, the latest in a long series of technological achievements for the country, even as many of its citizens have been angrily lashing out in the streets against stringent pandemic controls.

 Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of Angola’s longtime president José Eduardo dos Santos. Mr. dos Santos stepped down in 2017 and died in July (Reuters Photo by Toby Melville).

Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of Angola’s longtime president José Eduardo dos Santos. Mr. dos Santos stepped down in 2017 and died in July (Reuters Photo by Toby Melville).

ny times logoNew York Times, The Woman Once Considered Africa’s Richest Faces Arrest in Graft Inquiry, John Eligon, Nov. 29, 2022. Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of Angola’s former president, was accused of enriching herself with state resources when she led the country’s oil company.

ny times logoNew York Times, World Cup 2022: A U.S.-Iran Soccer Showdown Intensifies With Protests as a Backdrop, Vivian Yee, Nov. 29, 2022 (print ed.). The unrest that has gripped Iran for the past two months has heightened what would already have been a tense encounter at the World Cup in Qatar on Tuesday between the two geopolitical foes.

fifa world cup qatar 2022 officialWhen players representing Iran and the United States take the field at the World Cup in Qatar on Tuesday, millions of fans will be dissecting every move — not just passes, fouls and headers, but also whether the Iranian players sing the national anthem, celebrate any goals or speak about the protests shaking their country.

The game has become yet another front line in the conflict between the two longtime geopolitical foes as Iran battles protests at home in one of the most significant challenges the Islamic Republic has faced since the 1979 revolution that brought it to power. And this time, it is all playing out under the glaring lights of the most watched event in the world.

For 10 weeks, anti-government demonstrations have convulsed Iranian cities; the resulting crackdown has landed thousands of protesters in jail and killed hundreds more. That unrest has spilled into Iran’s two matches so far in Qatar, where spectators have booed the Iranian national anthem and waved flags with one of the slogans of the protests, “Woman, life, freedom,” only to be escorted out by security officials.

Pro-government Iranians have confronted and intimidated Iranian fans wearing protest gear outside the stadiums. By last weekend, even the United States Soccer Federation had leaped into the fray to support the protesters, scrubbing Iran’s official emblem and Islamic script off Iran’s red-white-and-green flag in images it posted on social media. It later deleted the posts after Iran’s soccer federation called for the American team to be expelled from the World Cup.

“Respecting a nation’s flag is an accepted international practice that all other nations must emulate,” Safia Allah Faghanpour, a legal adviser to Iran’s soccer federation, said in comments reported by a semiofficial state news agency in Iran, skirting the fact U.S. flags are commonly desecrated at pro-government demonstrations in Iran.

Now the main question is what Team Melli, as Iran’s squad is affectionately known to fans around the world, will do with its next turn on the field: Please the government that sponsors it by keeping strictly to sports, or win the hearts of the opposition on the streets. Whatever it does, winning or holding the United States to a draw, either of which will advance them to the next round, will put Iran’s domestic strife in front of a huge global audience for at least a few days longer.

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Climate, Disasters, Energy 

 

 

climate change photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Sea levels are rising dramatically off Virginia, threatening a community — and the entire East Coast, Chris Mooney, Zoeann Murphy and Simon Ducroquet, Nov. 29, 2022 (print ed.). The story of Oyster, Va., is a warning for the rest of the East Coast.

A century ago, about 250 people lived on Hog Island, a seven-mile expanse off the Virginia coast. They raised livestock and gathered oysters. They lived in a town called Broadwater, worked at the lighthouse and Coast Guard station, and danced at night in a social hall called the Red Onion.

But that was back when there was still soil beneath their feet.

An island community moved to the mainland. Now the fast-rising sea is following — a warning for the rest of the East Coast.

Historical maps show Hog Island’s shoreline was already retreating over a century ago. Seas were rising slowly then, in part due to sinking land, the legacy of the last major ice age.

ny times logoNew York Times, With Federal Aid on the Table, Utilities Shift to Embrace Climate Goals, Eric Lipton, Nov. 29, 2022. As billions in government subsidies were at stake, the electric utility industry shed its opposition to clean-air regulation and put its lobbying muscle behind passing President Biden’s climate bill.

Just two years ago, DTE Energy, a Michigan-based electric utility, was still enmeshed in a court fight with federal regulators over emissions from a coal-burning power plant on the western shore of Lake Erie that ranks as one of the nation’s largest sources of climate-changing air pollution.

But in September, Gerard M. Anderson, who led DTE for the last decade, was on the South Lawn of the White House alongside hundreds of other supporters of President Biden, giving a standing ovation to the president for his success in pushing a climate change package through Congress — a law that will help accelerate the closure of the very same coal-burning behemoth, known as DTE Monroe, that his company had been fighting to protect.

Mr. Anderson’s position reflects a fundamental shift among major electric utilities nationwide as they deploy their considerable clout in Washington: After years of taking steps like backing dark-money groups to sue the government to block tighter air pollution rules, DTE and a growing number of other utilities have joined forces to speed the transition away from fossil fuels.

New York Times, 40 Million People at Risk of Severe Weather Across the South, Judson Jones, Nov. 29, 2022. A tornado outbreak is possible Tuesday afternoon and evening across parts of the lower and mid-Mississippi Valley, forecasters warned.

Millions of people across the South live in areas that are likely to see severe weather on Tuesday, with storms possibly producing strong tornadoes, damaging winds and hail two inches or greater.

A regional tornado outbreak is possible Tuesday afternoon and evening across parts of the lower and mid-Mississippi Valley, forecasters at the Storm Prediction Center wrote.

Forecasters with the National Weather Service in Jackson, Miss., warned of “significant severe weather” that was likely to produce strong tornadoes across Central Mississippi on Tuesday afternoon and evening.

 

Public Health, Pandemics

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How China Lost the Covid War, Paul Krugman, right, Nov. 29, 2022. Do you remember when Covid was going to establish China as the paul krugmanworld’s dominant power? As late as mid-2021, my inbox was full of assertions that China’s apparent success in containing the coronavirus showed the superiority of the Chinese system over Western societies that, as one commentator put it, “did not have the ability to quickly organize every citizen around a single goal.”

At this point, however, China is flailing even as other nations are more or less getting back to normal life. It’s still pursuing its zero-Covid policy, enforcing draconian restrictions on everyday activities every time new cases emerge. This is creating immense personal hardship and cramping the economy; cities under lockdown account for almost 60 percent of China’s G.D.P.

In early November many workers reportedly fled the giant Foxconn plant that produces iPhones, fearing not just that they would be locked in but that they would go hungry. And in the last few days many Chinese, in cities across the nation, have braved harsh repression to demonstrate against government policies.

I’m not a China expert, and I have no idea where this is going. As far as I can tell, actual China experts don’t know, either. But I think it’s worth asking what lessons we can draw from China’s journey from would-be role model to debacle.

Crucially, the lesson is not that we shouldn’t pursue public health measures in the face of a pandemic. Sometimes such measures are necessary. But governments need to be able to change policy in the face of changing circumstances and new evidence.

And what we’re seeing in China is the problem with autocratic governments that can’t admit mistakes and won’t accept evidence they don’t like.

In the first year of the pandemic, strong, even draconian restrictions made sense. It was never realistic to imagine that mask mandates and even lockdowns could prevent the coronavirus from spreading. What they could do, however, was slow the spread.

At first, the goal in the U.S. and many other countries was to “flatten the curve,” avoiding a peak in cases that would overwhelm the health care system. Then, once it became clear that effective vaccines would become available, the goal was or should have been to delay infections until widespread vaccination could provide protection.

You could see this strategy at work in places like New Zealand and Taiwan, which initially imposed stringent rules that held cases and deaths to very low levels, then relaxed these rules once their populations were widely vaccinated. Even with vaccines, opening up led to a large rise in cases and deaths — but not nearly as severe as would have happened if these places had opened up earlier, so that overall deaths per capita have been far lower than in the United States.

China’s leaders, however, seem to have believed that lockdowns could permanently stomp out the coronavirus, and they have been acting as if they still believe this even in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence.

At the same time, China utterly failed to develop a Plan B. Many older Chinese — the most vulnerable group — still aren’t fully vaccinated. China has also refused to use foreign-made vaccines, even though its homegrown vaccines, which don’t use mRNA technology, are less effective than the shots the rest of the world is getting.

All of this leaves Xi Jinping’s regime in a trap of its own making. The zero-Covid policy is obviously unsustainable, but ending it would mean tacitly admitting error, which autocrats never find easy. Furthermore, loosening the rules would mean a huge spike in cases and deaths.

Not only have many of the most vulnerable Chinese remained unvaccinated or received inferior shots, but because the coronavirus has been suppressed, few Chinese have natural immunity, and the nation also has very few intensive care beds, leaving it without the capacity to deal with a Covid surge.

It’s a nightmare, and nobody knows how it ends. But what can the rest of us learn from China?

First, autocracy is not, in fact, superior to democracy. Autocrats can act quickly and decisively, but they can also make huge mistakes because nobody can tell them when they’re wrong. At a fundamental level there’s a clear resemblance between Xi’s refusal to back off zero Covid and Vladimir Putin’s disaster in Ukraine.

Second, we’re seeing why it’s important for leaders to be open to evidence and be willing to change course when they’ve been proved wrong.

Ironically, in the United States the politicians whose dogmatism most resembles that of Chinese leaders are right-wing Republicans. China has rejected foreign mRNA vaccines, despite clear evidence of their superiority; many Republican leaders have rejected vaccines in general, even in the face of a huge partisan divide in death rates linked to differential vaccination rates. This contrasts with Democrats, who have in general followed something like New Zealand’s approach, if much less effectively — restrictions early on, relaxed as vaccination spread.

In short, what we can learn from China is broader than the failure of specific policies; it is that we should beware of would-be autocrats who insist, regardless of the evidence, that they’re always right.

ny times logoNew York Times, Is the World One Step Closer to a Universal Flu Vaccine? Apoorva Mandavilli, Nov. 29, 2022. Scientists have tested in animals a vaccine that may protect against 20 strains of influenza.

Imagine a single dose of vaccine that prepares your body to fight every known strain of influenza — a so-called universal flu vaccine that scientists have been trying to create for decades.

A new study describes successful animal tests of just such a vaccine, offering hope that the country can be protected against future flu pandemics. Like the Covid vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the experimental flu vaccine relies on mRNA.

It is in early stages — tested only in mice and ferrets — but the vaccine provides important proof that a single shot could be used against an entire family of viruses. If the vaccine succeeds in people, the approach could be used against other virus families, perhaps including the coronavirus.

The vaccine would not replace annual flu shots but would provide a shield against severe disease and death from potential pandemic threats.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘The Ezra Klein Show’ Commentary: Four Reasons to Reconsider the Meat You Eat, Ezra Klein, right, Nov. 29, 2022. About 50 years ago, beef ezra klein twittercost more than $7 a pound in today’s dollars. Today, despite high inflation, beef is down to about $4.80 a pound, and chicken is just around $1.80 a pound. But those low prices hide the true costs of the meat we consume — costs that the meat and poultry industries have quietly offloaded onto not only the animals we consume but us humans, too.

Animal agriculture is responsible for at least 14.5 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions, with some estimates as high as 28 percent. It uses half the earth’s habitable land. Factory farms pose huge threats as potential sources of antibiotic resistance and future pandemics. And the current meat production system loads farmers with often insurmountable levels of debt. Our meat may look cheap at the grocery store, but we are all picking up the tab in ways we’re often starkly unaware of.

[You can listen to this episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” on Apple, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.]

Leah Garcés is the chief executive and president of Mercy for Animals and the author of “Grilled: Turning Adversaries Into Allies to Change the Chicken Industry.” Few animal rights activists have her breadth of experience: For years, she’s been steeped in the experiences of farmers who raise animals, communities that live alongside industrial animal operations and, of course, the farmed animals that live shorter and more miserable lives. So I invited her on the show for a conversation about what meat really costs and how that perspective could help us build a healthier relationship to the animals we eat and the world we inhabit.

washington post logoWashington Post, Desperate covid long-haulers turn to costly, unproven treatments, Frances Stead Sellers, Nov. 27, 2022 (print ed.). For the burgeoning population of covid long-haulers, there is an abundance of new treatment options:

Specially formulated nutraceuticals imported from India that promise to “get you life back from covid.” Pure oxygen delivered in a pressurized chamber. And, if time and money are no obstacle, a process known as “blood washing” that’s available in Cyprus, or $25,000 stem cell treatments in the Cayman Islands.

Months-long waits at long-covid clinics combined with the sluggish pace of research have left vulnerable patients clamoring for immediate care as manufacturers bring novel remedies to market, often with little data behind them.

“I have tried, I would say, as many different things as anyone could do in my situation,” said Donna Davis-Doneghy, a 62-year-old accountant with Hearthside Food Solutions in London, Ky., who has been tormented by headaches since coming down with covid in November 2020.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2“People will say to me, ‘Here’s a phone number,’ and off I go chasing something different,” said Davis-Doneghy, whose treatment regimen has ranged from acupuncture and Botox to nerve-block injections and vitamin infusions.

Long covid has taken to new heights a medical conflict that shows up with cancer and other dire diagnoses: the tension between the desire for evidence and the pressing needs of patients who are suffering. In their rush for relief, patients are turning to unproven treatments, putting them at risk of potentially harmful health effects as well as having their hopes dashed and their wallets emptied. Doctors often follow the practice of prescribing drugs off-label, not for the purpose the Food and Drug Administration originally approved them for.

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Nov. 28

Top Headlines

 

U.S. Gun Violence

 

Pro-Democracy, Anti-Fascist Reporting


Ukraine War

Shown above is a 1930s scene from the Ukraine city of Kharkiv when the bodies of starved Ukrainians under Soviet rule were so common that those passing by could only focus on their own necessities for the most part. Accounts of the genocide reportedly help fuel Ukrainian nationalism in the current war.


U.S. Politics, Elections

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Regulation

 

U.S. Government, Economy, Education

 

U.S. Political Probes, Jan. 6 Insurrection

 

World News, Disasters, Climate, Human Rights

 

U.S. Media, Culture, Tech

 

Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

 

Twitter, Media, Sports, News

 

Top Stories

 

joe biden 8 1 2022 counterterrorism

Politico, ‘No path’ forward: Biden calls on Congress to avert rail strike, Tanya Snyder, Nov. 28, 2022. The president's action represents a significant split with parts of his labor base.

President Joe Biden (shown above in a file photo) on Monday asked Congress to intervene to prevent an economically crippling freight rail strike, even though it means delivering a defeat to his allies in the labor movement.

politico CustomHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi immediately announced she will call a vote this week to carry out Biden’s request, which will mean that paid sick leave for the 115,000 workers involved in negotiations won’t be included in the deal.

Biden had held out for months on seeking congressional action, instead opting to give the freight rail industry and 12 of its unions more time to negotiate a contract. But as warnings mounted that a strike could begin as soon as Dec. 9, threatening to interrupt U.S. power and water supplies and devastate the broader economy, the pro-labor, pro-rail president said Monday that he saw “no path to resolve the dispute at the bargaining table.”

The development came two months after Labor Secretary Marty Walsh held an all-night bargaining session at his agency’s headquarters that produced a tentative deal, temporarily defusing the strike threat. But since then, members of three of the 12 unions voted to reject the agreement.

On Monday, Biden asked that Congress act “without any modifications or delay” to impose the September settlement.

transportation dept logoIn a statement, Biden called himself a “proud pro-labor president” and said he was reluctant to recommend Congress step in, but that the economic consequences of inaction were too great. He also included a pointed message to Democratic lawmakers who might be inclined to side with workers who oppose the agreement.

“Some in Congress want to modify the deal to either improve it for labor or for management. However well-intentioned, any changes would risk delay and a debilitating shutdown. The agreement was reached in good faith by both sides,” he said.

Though a bitter pill for labor to swallow, enacting the agreement would put an end to the cliffhanger deadlines that have loomed every few weeks since summer, and allow all manner of industries that depend on freight rail shipments to stand down from doomsday preparations. Freight rail moves many bulk goods, including grains for people and livestock, energy supplies and even chlorine to ensure communities have clean drinking water.

Nodding to the looming holiday season, Biden said “we cannot let our strongly held conviction for better outcomes for workers deny workers the benefits of the bargain they reached, and hurl this nation into a devastating rail freight shutdown.”

Soon after Biden’s statement, Pelosi issued one of her own, endorsing the move and promising to put legislation on the House floor this week. Considering that key GOP lawmakers have endorsed this approach, it is likely that any legislation would have enough support to overcome Democratic objectors.

Earlier Monday, two associations representing gas station owners warned Monday that a freight rail shutdown, which could happen as soon as Dec. 9, could jeopardize their ability to keep fuel in stock across the country.

“If a work stoppage were to occur, it would immediately disrupt fuel marketers’ ability to ensure a reliable and stable supply of fuel for U.S. consumers and for the nation’s commercial fleets,” said Tiffany Wlazlowski Neuman, a spokesperson for NATSO, which represents travel plaza and truckstop owners.

At a press briefing Monday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre would not confirm or deny reporting from the Washington Post that President Joe Biden will ask Congress to intervene to prevent rail workers from striking or railroads from locking out workers.

She said she had nothing to report on that score but that the administration has been in “regular communication with Congress” and that “when the president has made a decision on this, if he makes a decision on this, you’ll hear from him.”

She noted that Biden has been “directly involved in the process and has been engaged with his team” and Congress “in case resolving the issue falls to them, as it has 18 times in the last 60 years.”

NATSO, together with SIGMA, a trade group for fuel marketers, warned that the availability of ethanol and diesel exhaust fluid could be disrupted if a strike or lockout shut down the nation’s railroads.

All diesel machines that are built with more than 74 horsepower are required to have a system to reduce pollution, and that system uses diesel exhaust fluid, which is made from water and urea. Sixty to 70 percent of ethanol transport happens on rail. It cannot be transported in oil pipelines because of its alcohol content.

“The U.S. economy in many ways revolves around transportation fuel, and if the necessary components to that fuel cannot get to where they are needed, the market impact will be drastic,” Neuman said in a statement. “A prolonged railroad shutdown will constrain the nation’s fuel supply by disrupting the availability of ethanol, which is often an essential component of gasoline, and diesel exhaust fluid, which most heavy-duty trucks need to run.”

The railroads and the four unions that have rejected the latest contract offers have until Dec. 9 to negotiate a new deal. If an agreement can’t be reached in the next few days, railroads are likely to pre-emptively stop shipping sensitive materials like ethanol and urea so that they are not stranded once a shutdown happens.

ny times logoNew York Times, Protests Break Out in China as Covid Cases Surge and Lockdowns Persist, Vivek Shankar, Nov. 28, 2022. Protests against strict Covid restrictions ricocheted across China over the weekend in a rare case of nationwide civil unrest. Some went so far as to call for the Communist Party and its leader, Xi Jinping, to step down.

“Lift the lockdown,” the protesters screamed in a city in China’s far west. On the other side of the country, in Shanghai, demonstrators held up sheets of blank white paper, turning them into an implicit but powerful sign of defiance. One protester, who was later detained by the police, was carrying only flowers.

china flag SmallOver the weekend, protests against China’s strict Covid restrictions ricocheted across the country in a rare case of nationwide civil unrest.

On Monday, one group supporting the protesters issued online calls for limited numbers of demonstrators to gather at the People’s Square in Shanghai and near a subway stop in northwest Beijing in the evening. But video shared from the two sites, identifiable from the buildings and signs in the background, showed a heavy security presence, with police buses and cars lining the streets.

In the eastern city of Hangzhou, a crowd of people gathered at a shopping mall but were closely watched by an even larger group of uniformed police officers. A woman was screaming as several of the officers took her away, according to videos circulating online. Onlookers shouted at the police.

Some demonstrators this weekend had gone so far as to call for the Communist Party and its leader, Xi Jinping, to step down. Many were fed up with Mr. Xi, who in October secured a precedent-defying third term as the party’s general secretary, and his “zero-Covid” policy, which continues to disrupt everyday life, hurt livelihoods and isolate the country.

The Chinese government on Monday blamed “forces with ulterior motives” for linking a deadly fire in the western Xinjiang region to strict Covid measures, a key driver as the protests spread across the country.

The 1.4 billion-plus residents of China remain at the mercy of the stringent policy. It is designed to stamp out infections by relying on snap lockdowns of apartment buildings and sometimes whole cities or regions, as well as forcing lengthy quarantines and a litany of tests on residents.

washington post logoWashington Post, Nearly 9 in 10 covid deaths are in people 65 or older, Ariana Eunjung Cha and Dan Keating, Nov. 28, 2022. Some epidemiologists and demographers predict the trend of older, sicker and poorer people dying at disproportionate rates will continue, raising hard questions about the trade-offs Americans are making in pursuit of normalcy — and at whose expense.

President Biden may have declared the coronavirus pandemic “over,” but from John Felton’s view as the Yellowstone County health officer in Billings, Mont., it’s not over, just different.

Now, more than ever, it is a plague of the elderly.

In October, Felton’s team logged six deaths due to the virus, many of them among vaccinated people. Their ages: 80s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 90s. They included Betty Witzel, 88, described by her family as a tomboy who carried snakes in her pocket as a child and grew up to be a teacher, mother of four, grandmother of nine and great-grandmother of five. And there was Nadine Alice Stark, 85, a ranch owner who planted sugar beets and corn.

Yellowstone County made the decision early in the crisis to recognize each death individually, and Felton said that is as important as ever to acknowledge the unrelenting toll on a still-vulnerable older generation, while most everyone else has moved on.

“I think about someone’s grandfather — the plays they wouldn’t watch, the games on the football field they wouldn’t see,” he said.

More than 300 people are still dying each day on average from covid-19, most of them 65 or older, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While that’s much lower than the 2,000 daily toll at the peak of the delta wave, it is still roughly two to three times the rate at which people die of the flu — renewing debate about what is an “acceptable loss.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Strong Election Showing Eases Democrats’ Fears of Biden ’24, Katie Glueck, Nov. 28, 2022. The party’s midterm showing has quieted public hand-wringing about a re-election campaign for President Biden, but hasn’t put all worries to rest.

Expecting a cataclysmic midterm election, many Democrats had been bracing for an end-of-year reckoning with whether President Biden, who once declared himself a “bridge” to a new generation, should give way to a new 2024 standard-bearer.

joe biden twitterBut the stronger-than-expected Democratic showing has taken the pressure off.

And Donald J. Trump’s decision to announce a run for president again, and the Republican backlash against him, have abruptly quieted Democrats’ public expressions of anxiety over Mr. Biden’s poor approval ratings, while reminding them of Mr. Biden’s past success over Mr. Trump.

Now, as Mr. Biden mulls a decision over whether to seek a second term, interviews with more than two dozen Democratic elected officials and strategists suggest that, whatever misgivings some Democrats may harbor about another Biden candidacy, his party is more inclined for now to defer to him than to try to force a frontal clash with a sitting president.

In recent days, officials ranging from Representative Henry Cuellar, one of the most conservative House Democrats, to Representative Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, have said they would support another Biden bid.

 

Democratic-Republican Campaign logos

Palmer Report, Advocacy: Just 3,340 votes could have given us a completely different outcome in the midterms, Bill Palmer, right, Nov. 28, 2022. If you want proof bill palmerthat we made a difference by putting in the work on the most competitive midterm races, you can find it in a number of places.

bill palmer report logo headerWe won the Senate majority because we made a crucial push in Nevada, a toss up race that we ended up winning by about 0.8 points. And when it came to the toss up House races that we targeted, our record was 23-10. Normally you’d expect to win half of them; we won nearly 70% of them. Simply put, targeting the toss up races works.

If you want even more proof, check this out. Tom Bonier of data firm TargetSmart has calculated that a total of just 3,340 votes could have turned House Democrats’ five closest losses into wins, and would have given the Democrats the House majority.

This is why I spent the entire election cycle urging and even begging all of you to get involved in the tightest midterm races. Many of you did, which is why we won the majority of the toss up races (great work!). If even more of you had gotten involved, we’d have kept the House. It really is as simple as that.

At this point it’s not about assigning blame. Perhaps some of you just truly didn’t believe that targeting the toss up races could make much of a difference, so you didn’t bother. But just look at how well we did in the toss up races we targeted. It’s why we won the Senate, and it’s why we kept the House close enough to turn it into a debacle for the Republicans.
   
Now that you all have proof that it really does just take your collective effort to dominate the toss up races, let’s take that knowledge into 2024. Let the Republican activists spend the 2024 election cycle tilting at windmills and chasing after shiny objects. We’ll be focusing our collective resources on the toss up races that decided this election cycle and will decide the next election cycle as well.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Attorney General Merrick Garland is subtly shifting his approach to the Trump inquiries, Glenn Thrush, Nov. 28, 2022. After months of an already hyperpartisan political environment, the attorney general appears to be acknowledging that his approach has to be recalibrated.

Justice Department log circularAttorney General Merrick B. Garland, a stoic former federal judge intent on restoring rule-of-law order at the Justice Department, gradually came to accept that he would need to appoint a special counsel to investigate Donald J. Trump if the former president ran for the White House again.

But that did not mean he liked doing it.

Mr. Garland made it clear from the start that he was not inclined to tap outsiders to run investigations and indicated that the department was perfectly capable of functioning as an impartial arbiter in the two criminal inquiries involving Mr. Trump, according to several people familiar with the situation.

But the appointment of a special counsel, Jack Smith, on Nov. 18, and a painstakingly planned rollout of the announcement, signaled a significant, if subtle, shift in that approach. Mr. Garland has shown a growing willingness to operate outside his comfort zone — within the confines of the rule book — in response to the extraordinary circumstance he now finds himself in: investigating Mr. Trump, a top contender for the 2024 nomination of a party that is increasingly rallying around the charge that Mr. Garland has weaponized the Justice Department against Republicans.

“There is a political dimension that can’t be ignored — this is an investigation that is being used by the target and his allies as a mobilization moment in a political campaign,” said Daniel C. Richman, a former federal prosecutor and a law professor at Columbia University. “That’s why you are seeing the department leaning forward in making these moves, and getting as much detailed information about an ongoing investigation out there as it can.”

In studying how to proceed, Mr. Garland has tried to steer clear of issuing the unusual public statements favored by the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey during the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails, believing that those actions, and political meddling during the Trump administration, violated department protocols.

The department’s leaders have, however, tried to counter Mr. Trump’s claims that they are engaged in a partisan witch hunt intended to destroy him.

Top officials, led by Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco, have leveraged Mr. Trump’s court challenges in the investigation into his handling of sensitive government documents as an opportunity to broadcast previously hidden details, while adhering to department policy.

The Justice Department did not officially support the effort to unseal the affidavit used to obtain the warrant for the search of Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club and residence in August. But when Mr. Trump’s lawyers did not oppose that bid, department officials seized the moment, and used the filing to offer a detailed timeline of Mr. Trump’s actions that established the public narrative of the case.

 

climate change photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Sea levels are rising dramatically off Virginia, threatening a community — and the entire East Coast, Chris Mooney, Zoeann Murphy and Simon Ducroquet, Nov. 28, 2022. The story of Oyster, Va., is a warning for the rest of the East Coast.

A century ago, about 250 people lived on Hog Island, a seven-mile expanse off the Virginia coast. They raised livestock and gathered oysters. They lived in a town called Broadwater, worked at the lighthouse and Coast Guard station, and danced at night in a social hall called the Red Onion.

But that was back when there was still soil beneath their feet.

An island community moved to the mainland. Now the fast-rising sea is following — a warning for the rest of the East Coast.

Historical maps show Hog Island’s shoreline was already retreating over a century ago. Seas were rising slowly then, in part due to sinking land, the legacy of the last major ice age.

 

U.S. Gun Violence

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats press for assault weapons ban, other gun laws after new mass shootings, Amy B Wang, Nov. 28, 2022. Democrats are renewing their calls for a ban on assault weapons after the latest spate of multiple high-profile mass shootings, warning that their window to enact legislation is closing soon with Republicans set to take a narrow majority in the House in January.

On Nov. 19, a shooter carrying a handgun and an AR-15-style rifle opened fire inside Club Q, an LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs, killing five people and injuring at least 18 others. Days later, a supervisor at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Va., killed six employees in a break room in the store with a handgun he had allegedly bought earlier that day, before apparently killing himself.

Other recent horrors — such as the shooting deaths of 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde, Tex., who were killed by a gunman who bought weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition just days after his 18th birthday — have also prompted a reexamination of the ease of obtaining assault weapons.

President Biden, who has long called for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, vowed last week to double down on his efforts, including during the lame-duck session of Congress.

“The idea we still allow semiautomatic weapons to be purchased is sick. Just sick,” Biden told reporters on Thanksgiving. “It has no, no social redeeming value. Zero. None. Not a single solitary rationale for it except profit for the gun manufacturers.”

On Sunday, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said that he didn’t think that Democrats have 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster and push through legislation to renew a ban on assault weapons, which the House passed in July. But he said he was glad that Biden was pushing them to take a vote.

“Does it have 60 votes in the Senate right now? Probably not. But let’s see if we can try to get that number as close to 60 as possible,” Murphy said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Buffalo supermarket shooting suspect to plead guilty to murder, James Bikales, Justin Sondel and Shayna Jacobs, Nov. 28, 2022. Payton Gendron is accused in a racially motivated attack that killed 10 Black people at a Tops market.

The man charged with killing 10 people in a racially motivated attack at a Buffalo grocery store in May is expected to plead guilty to state charges on Monday morning.

payton gendron mugPayton Gendron, 19, was indicted on 25 counts, including domestic terrorism and murder as a hate crime, in late May. He faced a maximum possible sentence of life in prison without parole, because New York state does not have the death penalty. But a separate federal hate crimes case, which could bring the death penalty if Gendron is convicted, is pending.

Another mass killing rocks the nation: 'We aren't numb; we're traumatized'

Police say Gendron meticulously planned the shooting, motivated by a racist ideology called the “great replacement” theory. He allegedly drove three hours from his hometown of Conklin, N.Y., to the Tops Friendly Markets location in a predominantly Black section of Buffalo, wearing body armor and wielding a semiautomatic rifle, and opened fire in the parking lot and inside the store.

Thirteen people were shot, 11 of them Black.

Gendron allegedly published a 180-page racist screed online before the attack and live-streamed the shooting. He surrendered to police afterward.

Rose Wysocki, produce manager at the Tops location where the shooting took place, showed up to the hearing Monday morning wearing her work shirt and name tag. Wysocki said she was at the store the day of the shooting and there to show support for her slain co-workers.

She said she continues to have nightmares about that day. “My heart hurts every day for those people we lost,” she said.

“I want him to know that he didn’t totally destroy us,” she said. “I want him to know that we all think the same of him. Hate doesn’t even cover how we feel.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: After more than 600 mass shootings this year, let’s be honest about guns, Editorial Board, Nov. 28, 2022 (print ed.). The mass shootings that plague this nation are a uniquely American jumble of contradictions. Each new one horrifies, and yet fits into a depressingly familiar pattern.

Communities count the dead — nearly 50 so far in November — and tally the gruesome details. The country vows to honor the lives cut short. And then it all fades from the headlines and people move on, leaving behind thoughts and prayers but no concrete policies to stop the next bloodbath.

The United States has averaged nearly two mass shootings a day this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which tracks when four or more people are shot. To put that another way, it’s now unusual to have a day without a mass shooting. “We aren’t numb — we’re traumatized,” tweeted Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, which has been urging action to stop gun violence in America since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that took the lives of 20 children and six staff a decade ago.

It can happen anywhere, to anyone. Fourteen Americans mowed down this month at the University of Virginia, Club Q in Colorado Springs and a Walmart in Chesapeake, Va., were doing normal activities of daily life — going to school, enjoying a performance, working. They leave behind grieving loved ones, who ask: Why?

The fact that no single action will stop all mass shootings is no excuse not to do things that could prevent some of them or lower the toll when they happen. President Biden is right to call for another nationwide assault weapons ban, which he helped enact for 10 years when he was a senator in 1994. Poll after poll show wide support for stricter gun laws. The House passed the ban in July, but the Senate has yet to act.

Earlier this year, Democrats and some Republicans worked together to pass a gun safety bill as the nation mourned the 19 elementary school students and two teachers who died from a horrific mass shooting in Uvalde, Tex. The new law included more funding for mental health services and school safety, expanded background checks on 18- to 21-year-olds trying to buy guns, and more funding for programs that help seize guns from troubled individuals. It was a start, but lawmakers cannot stop there.

The U.S. Congress is not the only place where action is needed. When Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) was asked whether he would support tighter restrictions on guns after two mass shootings occurred in his state this month, he replied: “Today’s not the time.” So when is the right time?

In 2020 and 2021, with Democrats controlling both the legislature and the governorship, Virginia passed modestly enhanced gun control laws. The changes included sensible reforms: Universal background checks, a three-year ban on firearm possession for people convicted of assaulting a family member and a red-flag law that gives authorities the ability to seize weapons from people considered a threat. Clearly, it wasn’t enough.

The spate of gun violence has erupted even as the Supreme Court has limited the tools that government at all levels can use to address the problem. The court’s June ruling, striking down a New York state law that limited concealed carry permits, instructed lower courts to find gun laws unconstitutional unless proponents could point to a historical analogue — in other words, show that regulations are based on or similar to ones that existed in the past. This is an unnecessary and unworkable standard that is making its way through the lower courts, with predictably dreary results. The court should make clear that its focus on history does not need to be applied with monomaniacal precision.

Army veteran Richard M. Fierro is rightly being called a hero for tackling the gunman at Club Q in Colorado Springs and preventing the death count from climbing even higher. But it’s chilling to hear him describe how events that night looked similar to what he saw in Iraq and Afghanistan. How his combat training kicked in after he saw the shooter’s weapon and body armor. His daughter’s boyfriend was one of the victims. “Everybody in that building experienced combat that night,” Fierro said. It took only three days for another war-zone scene to arise, this time at a Walmart.

Relevant Headlines

New York Times, At Protests Across America, Guns Are Doing the Talking, Mike McIntire, Nov. 27, 2022 (print ed.). We looked at 700 armed demonstrations and found that, at about 77 percent of them, people openly carrying guns represented right-wing views. Across the country, openly carrying a gun in public is no longer just an exercise in self-defense — increasingly it is a soapbox for elevating one’s voice and, just as often, quieting someone else’s.

  • This month, armed protesters appeared outside an elections center in Phoenix, hurling baseless accusations that the election for governor had been stolen from the Republican, Kari Lake. In October, Proud Boys with guns joined a rally in Nashville where conservative lawmakers spoke against transgender medical treatments for minors.
  • Whether at the local library, in a park or on Main Street, most of these incidents happen where Republicans have fought to expand the ability to bear arms in public, a movement bolstered by a recent Supreme Court ruling on the right to carry firearms outside the home. The loosening of limits has occurred as violent political rhetoric rises and the police in some places fear bloodshed among an armed populace on a hair trigger.

 

Pro-Democracy, Anti-Fascist Reporting

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: America's Immigrant Spies. Part 1: The Germans, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 22 books (including The Rise of the Fascist Fourth Reich, shown below) and a former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst, Nov. 28, 2020. With the exception of wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallAfrican slaves and Chinese railroad workers, the United States has generally been a nation of willing immigrants. That has made it an attractive target for foreign intelligence agencies intent on implanting agents and even entire families in the United States as part of covert “illegals programs.”

wayne madesen report logoThese sleeper agents have often remained indistinguishable from normal American citizens. These agents bide their time until it is determined by their foreign controllers that they must be activated for specific purposes in service to their fatherland or motherland.

wayne madsen fourth reich cover[Snip]

Could Herr Trumpf, eager to regain his German citizenship, have agreed to spy for Germany in New York in order see his conviction as a draft dodger voided?

[Snip]

Friedrich Trump, along with his pregnant wife, settled in The Bronx and on October 11, 1905, Mrs. Trumpf gave birth to a son, Fred Trump.

[Snip]

Here is an operative question: Are Peter Thiel and Elon Musk, neither born in the United States, modern-day versions of the German Kaiser’s and Hitler’s programs to seed immigrants to the United States with sleeper spies and saboteurs? If so, America has learned nothing from its past.

-------------------

End of Part 1. Next, the “Illegals Program” of apartheid South Africa

 

Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman, director for European Affairs at the National Security Council, testifies before a House Intelligence Committee hearing as part of the impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, Nov. 19, 2019.Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman, director for European Affairs at the National Security Council, testifies before a House Intelligence Committee hearing as part of the impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, Nov. 19, 2019.

Jerusalem Post, Elon Musk calls Jewish US Army officer ‘puppet & puppeteer,’ Staff Report, Nov. 28, 2022. Musk's tweet – deliberately or not – evoked an antisemitic trope that Jews control positions of power.

Elon Musk called Jewish American retired US Army officer Lt.-Col. Alexander Vindman both a "puppet & puppeteer" on Monday in response to Vindman sharing a copypasta (copied and pasted text shared on the Internet) suggesting that Musk is "erratic" and too powerful now that he owns Twitter.

"Vindman is both puppet & puppeteer. Question is who pulls his strings … ?" Musk tweeted.

Musk's tweet was in response to another one by Tablet magazine Chief Technology Officer Noam Blum mocking the copypasta, which said that it's "Kinda weird that @elonmusk gets to decide how like a half-billion people communicate. Way too much power for one erratic individual to wield, don't you think?"

JFK Facts via Substack, Investigative Commentary: The Ultra-Reactionaries: Global Analysis of the Dallas Coup, Jefferson Morley, right with bio below, Nov. 28, 2022. A look jefferson morley newat a story many Americans ignore: how the world responded to November 22.

In a superb survey, published recently on Medium, the pseudonymous author “Marina” tells the story of how the world reacted to the gunfire on November 22, a story that devotees of the Warren Commission prefer to ignore.

When Thomas Mallon, author of Ruth Paine’s Garage, connects “the dangerous fact-free business of election denial” to “the more fantastical theories that grew up around the assassination decades ago,” “Marina” pitilessly buries his “cheap theory of history” under an avalanche of historical evidence.

“Marina” quotes Charles De Gaulle’s pithy assessment of U.S. officialdom’s attitude about who was behind JFK’s assassination:
“They don’t want to know. They don’t want to find out. They won’t allow themselves to find out.”

The same words, incidentally, apply to our much (but not all) of the American political and intellectual elite today, that chorus of proud unskeptics who assure us, A little man killed a big man. Get over it. They are smug. They are condescending. They, alas, don’t know what they’re talking about.

Thom Mallon is a fine novelist who doesn’t know much about Oswald and CIA operations in 1963; Cass Sunstein is a distinguished Harvard prof whose fact-free JFK conspiracy scholarship tells us nothing about those senior CIA officers who monitored Oswald eight days before Kennedy was killed. Chris Matthews is a Kennedy loyalist, whose bombastic take on old conspiracy theories blots out discussion of new JFK developments, such as the undisclosed Oswald operation.

Jefferson Morley is author of multiple books (most recently Scorpion's Dance) about the JFK assassination, Watergate, and other political crimes and players

 

French president Charles De Gaulle (center) and Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie (right) at JFK’s funeral, November 25, 1963 (Photo Credit: Stan Wayman The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock).

French president Charles De Gaulle (center) and Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie (right) at JFK’s funeral, November 25, 1963 (Photo Credit: Stan Wayman The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock).

Medium, The Ultra-Reactionaries: Global Analysis of the Dallas Coup, Marina, Nov. 22, 2022. As soon as the rifle smoke in Dealey Plaza cleared on November 22nd, 1963, the near unanimous reaction was shock and grief. An enormous audience across the country tuned in to view President Kennedy’s funeral televised on November 25th, 1963, viewing JFK Jr. saluting his father’s casket in an immediately iconic image. Pictures from that weekend were reprinted endlessly as glossy spreads in LIFE Magazine, and in William Manchester’s bestselling The Death of a President.

Yet newly inaugurated President Lyndon Johnson’s command to move forward seemed to highlight a glaring contradiction surrounding the assassination. Large numbers of the general public were immediately suspicious of the claim that only one man had acted alone in killing President Kennedy. In time, those figures would rise to a vast majority of the American public that felt a conspiracy was involved in the assassination. But what resulted from this?

As we turn to another anniversary of November 22nd, the media narrative of the public skepticism is that these “wild conspiracy theories” fueled a lack of trust in government, and somewhere along the way morphed into current right-wing conspiracy theories such as QAnon. As Thomas Mallon, author of Ruth Paine’s Garage, put it, “I have lately found myself wondering if the dangerous fact-free business of election denial doesn’t have some of its origin in the more fantastical theories that grew up around the assassination decades ago.”¹

This cheap theory of American history only looks at the public reaction to the Kennedy assassination in a vacuum, refusing to understand why so much of the public felt the government was lying to them. It cleanses the hands of J. Edgar Hoover, Allen Dulles, and Richard Helms, while casting anyone who dare doubt those luminaries as deranged fanatical right-wingers.

While American pundits still chortle over the idea of a wider conspiracy to assassinate the president, in any other country this is not an absurd idea at all, particularly in nations targeted by American intelligence agencies. Understanding the international reaction, and the thoughts of other world leaders in 1963, helps put the unresolved assassination into context. Their immediate response is worth examining to better analyze the nature of the crime, as is their characterization of Kennedy, in light of recent portrayals.

For instance, French president Charles De Gaulle had been the target of numerous assassination attempts by the Organisation Armée Secrète (OAS) due to his withdrawal from the brutal French war in Algeria.

The CIA was behind some of these plots, and President Kennedy had warned the French government that while he personally would do what he could to break up these plots, “the CIA is such a vast and poorly controlled machine that the most unlikely maneuvers might be true.”² A startling quote, and one that reveals how even Kennedy was aware that the CIA’s massive machinery could carry out crimes even beyond the knowledge of the president. Within hours of the shooting in Dealey Plaza, De Gaulle stated “President Kennedy died as a soldier under fire, doing his duty in the service of his country. In the name of the French people, a friend always to the American people, I salute this great example and this great memory.”³

De Gaulle attended President Kennedy’s funeral in Washington, and upon his return to Paris, had a conversation with information minister Alain Peyrefitte about the circumstances of the assassination. De Gaulle noted the similarities between the attempts on his own life, and the murder of President Kennedy, perceptively commenting “the security forces were in cahoots with the extremists.”

Peyrefitte then began asking De Gaulle about the circumstances of accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, and whether he had been set up as a patsy. De Gaulle told Peyrefitte “they got their hands on this communist who wasn’t one, while still being one. He had a sub par intellect and was an exalted fanatic — just the man they needed, the perfect one to be accused.” Going on, the French president explained the necessity of Oswald’s death at the hands of the conspirators, and how Ruby had been tasked to silence Oswald forever.

De Gaulle finished his examination with this remarkable insight on how the United States would bury the coup:

“America is in danger of upheavals. But you’ll see. All of them together will observe the law of silence. They will close ranks. They’ll do everything to stifle any scandal. They will throw Noah’s cloak over these shameful deeds. In order to not lose face in front of the whole world. In order to not risk unleashing riots in the United States. In order to preserve the union and to avoid a new civil war. In order to not ask themselves questions. They don’t want to know. They don’t want to find out. They won’t allow themselves to find out.”

 

Ukraine War

 

Shown above is a 1930s scene from the Ukraine city of Kharkiv when the bodies of starved Ukrainians under Soviet rule were so common that those passing by could only focus on their own necessities for the most part. Accounts of the genocide reportedly help fuel Ukrainian nationalism in the current war.Shown above is a 1930s scene from the Ukraine city of Kharkiv when the bodies of starved Ukrainians under Soviet rule were so common that those passing by could only focus on their own necessities for the most part. Accounts of the famine and alleged genocide help fuel Ukrainian nationalism in the current war.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Ukraine marked the 90th anniversary of a devastating famine, officials compared it with Russia’s recent attacks, Cassandra Vinograd, Nov. 27, 2022 (print ed.). Ukraine’s government was working to restore power to millions on Saturday as the country commemorated the 90th anniversary of the Holodomor, the devastating famine that President Volodymyr Zelensky compared to the wave of Russian strikes targeting critical infrastructure that have left large parts of the country cold and in the dark.

The Holodomor, which means “death by hunger” in Ukrainian, spread in Kazakhstan and through southern Russia but was harshest in Ukraine, where it left entire villages to starve. Ukrainian historians argue that the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin orchestrated a famine to crush Ukrainian aspirations for independence.

Government officials on Saturday marked the anniversary of the 1932-33 famine — which is observed annually on the fourth Saturday of November — at a time when President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is accused of using missile strikes on Ukraine’s power grid to freeze the country into submission.

“Once they wanted to destroy us with hunger, now — with darkness and cold,” Mr. Zelensky said in a statement on Saturday. “We cannot be broken. Our fire will not go out. We will conquer death again.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Russia Denies Reports That It Will Withdraw From Embattled Nuclear Plant, Marc Santora and Maria Varenikova, Nov. 28, 2022. After a string of military setbacks in Ukraine, Russia insisted it would not end its occupation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear facility.

Following a string of Ukrainian military successes in the south, the Kremlin sought on Monday to tamp down speculation that Russian forces would withdraw from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex, with President Vladimir V. Putin’s spokesman saying that Moscow has no plans to end its military occupation of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

“One should not look for signs where there are none and cannot be any,” said the spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov.

Mr. Peskov’s comments came after some pro-Russian military bloggers wrote posts suggesting that Moscow’s forces would withdraw from the area, and after Ukrainian officials said there were indications that Russia was taking steps to leave the facility.

Russian forces seized the Zaporizhzhia plant soon after invading Ukraine in late February, stationing troops and military equipment there. A withdrawal from the plant would mark another setback for Russian forces in a region that Mr. Putin has sought to annex illegally.

On Sunday, Petro Kotin, the president of the Ukrainian state nuclear energy company, Energoatom, said that there were signs that Russian troops were “packing and stealing whatever they can find” at the Zaporizhzhia complex, although he emphasized that there was no evidence that the troops had actually begun to pull out.

Ukrainian forces in recent weeks have scored a series of victories in southern Ukraine, including retaking the key city of Kherson on Nov. 11. But military analysts said that there was no immediate indication that they were threatening Russia’s grip on the plant, which lies on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River, about 100 miles northeast of Kherson.

Instead, the reports from Russian military bloggers — a hawkish and pro-invasion group — suggest concerns about Moscow’s ability to hold the plant and could be an attempt to “prepare the information space for an eventual Russian withdrawal” from Zaporizhzhia, the Institute for the Study of War, a research group that tracks the conflict, wrote in its daily analysis on Sunday.

The nuclear plant — which provided 20 percent of Ukraine’s electricity before the war — has careened from one crisis to another since Russian forces seized the facility on March 4. Shelled repeatedly, it has cycled down all of its reactors as a safety measure and has been disconnected from the Ukrainian power grid on multiple occasions, forcing it to use diesel generators to perform critical cooling functions. The Ukrainian staff members operating the plant, whose numbers have more than halved, have reported being detained and abused by Russian soldiers. Witnesses also have accused the Russian forces of laying mines in and around the plant.

After a team of inspectors from the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, visited the plant in September, the head of the agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi, called for the creation of a demilitarized safe zone around the facility to reduce the risk of a nuclear catastrophe.

Ukraine has supported the proposal, as have representatives of the European Union and the United States. Russia has resisted the idea, with its Foreign Ministry saying recently that it would “make the power plant even more vulnerable.”

Mr. Grossi said that he had discussed his concerns with both Mr. Putin and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, telling CBS News’ “60 Minutes” last week: “Until we have this plant protected, the possibility of the nuclear catastrophe is there.”

On Nov. 20, the day that interview aired, the plant was rocked by more than 10 explosions. Energoatom said that Russian troops were responsible for the blasts and had targeted infrastructure necessary for electricity production for Ukraine. Russia has blamed Ukraine for shelling the plant.

Repeated waves of Russian missile assaults on Ukraine’s energy grid infrastructure have resulted in widespread and prolonged power outages in nearly every corner of the country. Millions now live with sweeping but controlled blackouts for long stretches of the day and night.

Last week, a wave of Russian missile strikes forced all four of the country’s nuclear power plants offline for the first time in Ukraine’s history. The plants have since been reconnected to outside power.

ny times logoNew York Times, For Putin’s Opponents, Exile From Russia Proves a Boon, Neil MacFarquhar, Nov. 28, 2022. The network of Aleksei Navalny, the imprisoned opposition leader, had seemingly been crushed. But his team continues to spearhead efforts to fight Vladimir Putin.

alexey navalny 2017Sitting before a large video monitor in his suburban Moscow office last week, President Vladimir V. Putin addressed local officials opening a turkey breeding center in distant Siberia.

Before several dignitaries pushed a platter-size orange button in unison, Mr. Putin lauded homegrown turkeys as a model for assuring Russia’s independence. “Without any exaggeration, this is a question of our technological, scientific and food sovereignty,” he said.

The ceremony was carried solemnly by state television in Russia. But across the border in Vilnius, Lithuania, the event served as raw material for a very different type of broadcast: A skewering of the Russian president on YouTube by the exiled political team of Aleksei A. Navalny, the imprisoned opposition leader.

“With everything happening, it is completely insane,” said Nino Rosebashvili, an anchor at a YouTube channel run by the movement founded by Mr. Navalny. Mr. Putin, the anchor suggested, has taken to presiding over the most humdrum of events to avoid linking himself with Russia’s stumbling war against Ukraine.

In the months since Mr. Navalny was sent to a penal colony in 2021, his political network across Russia was crushed and the country’s opposition movement seemed dead. Many liberals fled into exile.

But now, with Russia mired in war, exile has proved a boon to the opposition movement. In Vilnius, the unofficial capital of Russian opposition abroad, the Navalny team is using YouTube to spearhead antiwar efforts in a way that is unthinkable at home.

  volodmyer zelinsky graphic

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Zelensky warns citizens to brace for more Russian airstrikes, Rachel Pannett and Jennifer Hassan, Nov. 28, 2022. President Volodymyr Zelensky warned Ukrainians to brace for more Russian airstrikes, as the country reels from a barrage that has left its civilian infrastructure in bad shape at the onset of winter. Officials are working around-the-clock to restore light, water, heat and communications, he said.

“As long as they have missiles, they won’t stop, unfortunately,” Zelensky said, accusing Russia of using “the cold against people.”

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

1. Key developments

  • The electricity situation is now “under control” across most of Ukraine, with only scheduled stabilization blackouts in effect, Zelensky said, after energy workers rallied to repair the damage from airstrikes on infrastructure last week. “I thank all the employees of energy companies, utility services, repair crews, regional authorities and leaders of local communities who helped,” he said.
  • The General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces repeated Zelensky’s warning about further strikes in an update Monday morning, saying critical infrastructure throughout the country remains under threat.
  • Zelensky called the situation on the front lines “very difficult,” especially in the eastern Donetsk region, which has been at the center of fighting in recent weeks. “To endure now and defend ourselves now is to endure and defend ourselves for generations to come,” he added.
  • European diplomats will try to move forward with U.S.-backed plans to cap the price of Russian oil in a Monday meeting in Brussels, after talks last week stalled over what the price cap level should be.

2. Battleground updates

  • Russian FlagRussian forces may be preparing to exit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the head of Ukraine’s national nuclear operator said in an interview with Ukrainian media Sunday. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied the claims Monday, saying the facility was still under Russian control. “There is no need to look for any signs where there are none,” he said.
  • Daily bombardment continues in Kherson, Britain’s Defense Ministry said in its Monday update, with 54 shelling incidents reported Sunday. The city, which was retaken by Ukrainian forces Nov. 11, is vulnerable because it is in range of Russia’s artillery systems on the east bank of the Dnieper River.
  • Fighting along the front lines is likely to pick up once the ground freezes over in the coming weeks, making it easier to maneuver without getting bogged down in muddy conditions, according to the Institute for the Study of War think tank. Both sides have indicated in recent battlefield reports that their operations have slowed throughout eastern and southern Ukraine, including in Svatove, Bakhmut and Vuhledar.

3. Global impact

  • The United Kingdom will maintain or increase military aid to Ukraine next year, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to say Monday, according to excerpts of his planned foreign policy speech.
  • The United States continues to discuss the release of Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan through channels with Moscow, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported Monday, citing an interview with Elizabeth Rood, the U.S. chargé d’affaires in Moscow.
  • Britain is providing Ukraine with precision-guided Brimstone 2 missiles as part of its aid package, its Ministry of Defense said, without specifying how many were sent. In a video shared to Twitter, members of the Royal Air Force are seen preparing the missiles for transportation.

 

Russian Leader Vladimir Putin, right, is shown in a 2017 photo with Russia's recently appoint military commander for the Ukraine war, Gen. Sergei Surovikin in a pool photo by Alexei Druzhinin.

Russian Leader Vladimir Putin is shown in a 2017 photo with Russia's recently appoint military commander for the Ukraine war, Gen. Sergei Surovikin in a pool photo by Alexei Druzhinin.

washington post logoWashington Post, Western sanctions catch up with Russia’s wartime economy, Catherine Belton and Robyn Dixon, Nov. 27, 2022 (print ed.). The establishment of a new council to coordinate military supplies reflects the Kremlin's grave concerns over the economy.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin launched last month a new council for coordinating supplies for the Russian army, he seemed to recognize the scale of the economic problems facing the country, and his sense of urgency was palpable.

Russian Flag“We have to be faster in deciding questions connected to supplying the special military operation and countering restrictions on the economy which, without any exaggeration, are truly unprecedented,” he said.

For months, Putin claimed that the “economic blitzkrieg” against Russia had failed, but Western sanctions imposed over the invasion of Ukraine are digging ever deeper into Russia’s economy, exacerbating equipment shortages for its army and hampering its ability to launch any new ground offensive or build new missiles, economists and Russian businessmen said.

Recent figures show the situation has worsened considerably since the summer when, buoyed by a steady stream of oil and gas revenue, the Russian economy seemed to stabilize. Figures released by the Finance Ministry last week show a key economic indicator — tax revenue from the non-oil and gas sector — fell 20 percent year in October compared to a year earlier, while the Russian state statistics agency Rosstat reported that retail sales fell 10 percent year on year in September, and cargo turnover fell 7 percent.

“All objective indicators show there is a very strong drop in economic activity,” said Vladimir Milov, a former Russian deputy energy minister who is now a leading opposition politician in exile. “The spiral is escalating, and there is no way out of this now.”

The Western ban on technology imports is affecting most sectors of the economy, while the Kremlin’s forced mobilization of more than 300,000 Russian conscripts to serve in Ukraine, combined with the departure of at least as many abroad fleeing the draft, has dealt a further blow, economists said. In addition, Putin’s own restrictions on gas supplies to Europe, followed by the unexplained explosion of the Nord Stream gas pipeline, has led to a sharp drop in gas production — down 20 percent in October compared to the previous year. Meanwhile, oil sales to Europe are plummeting ahead of the European Union embargo expected to be imposed Dec. 5.

The Kremlin has trumpeted a lower-than-expected decline in GDP, forecast by the International Monetary Fund at only 3.5 percent this year, as demonstrating that the Russian economy can weather the raft of draconian sanctions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pressure builds to step up weapons tracking in Ukraine, Karoun Demirjian, Nov. 28, 2022 (print ed.). Legislation would require greater scrutiny of the $20 billion in military aid President Biden has sent Ukraine, and it has bipartisan support.

Emboldened by their success in the midterm elections, House Republicans, who will hold a slim majority in the next Congress, have warned the Biden administration to expect far-tougher oversight of the extensive military assistance it has provided Ukraine.

The administration, anticipating such demands as the commitment of military aid under President Biden fast approaches $20 billion, has worked in recent weeks to publicize its efforts to track weapons shipments. Both the State Department and the Pentagon have outlined plans, including more inspections and training for the Ukrainians, meant to prevent U.S. arms from falling into the wrong hands — initiatives that have failed thus far to quell Republican skeptics calling for audits and other accountability measures.

Most in Washington are in agreement that, generally, the push for more oversight is a good thing. But experts caution there are credible limitations to ensuring an airtight account of all weapons given to Ukraine that are likely to leave Biden’s harshest critics unsatisfied.

“There are shortcomings of end-use monitoring in the best of circumstances, and of course Ukraine isn’t in the best of circumstances,” said Elias Yousif, a researcher on the global arms trade with the Stimson Center. “There has to be some willingness to be practical about what we can achieve.”

With GOP House win, Biden faces added curbs on foreign policy

To date, the megaphone for demanding change has been controlled primarily by the GOP. Congress “will hold our government accountable for all of the funding for Ukraine,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) said this month in announcing a measure to audit the aid program after Biden requested another $37 billion for the government in Kyiv. “There has to be accountability going forward,” Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), House Republicans’ current leader, told CNN in the interview in which he warned against giving Ukraine a “blank check” to fight off Russia’s invasion.

Yet the reckoning could begin before the Republican takeover. A series of provisions on offer in the House-passed version of this year’s annual defense authorization bill would require a web of overlapping reports from the Pentagon and the inspectors general who police transfers of articles of war, plus the establishment of a task force to design and implement enhanced tracking measures.

Video Reports: 

  • Reuters via Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Pentagon Mulling Cheap, Precision Strike Weapon For Ukraine As Arms Makers Wrestle With Demand, Staff Report, Nov. 28, 2022. The Pentagon is considering a Boeing proposal to supply Ukraine with cheap, small precision bombs fitted onto abundantly available rockets, allowing Kyiv to strike far behind Russian lines as the West struggles to meet demand for more arms.
  • Boeing's proposed system, dubbed Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB), is one of about a half-dozen plans for getting new munitions into production for Ukraine and other Eastern European allies, industry sources said.
  • Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty,
    , Staff Report, Nov. 28, 2022. Staff Report, Nov. 28, 2022. Ukrainian volunteers discovered about 20 bodies of dead Russian soldiers near the village of Dovhenke in the Kharkiv region. After a forensic medical examination, the remains of some Russian soldiers may be offered in exchange for the bodies of Ukrainian soldiers.
  • Ground News via Combat Veteran Reacts,
    Ukraine Daily Combat Vet Paul, Nov. 28, 2022.

Related Headlines 

 

In the recaptured Ukrainian city of Kherson, Serhiy Novosad, second from right, looks on as the bodies of his father and grandmother are exhumed and examined as evidence of war crimes after Russian occupation (Photo by Lynsey Addario for The New York Times).

 In the recaptured Ukrainian city of Kherson, Serhiy Novosad, second from right, looks on as the bodies of his father and grandmother are exhumed and examined as evidence of war crimes after Russian occupation (Photo by Lynsey Addario for The New York Times).

 

U.S. Politics, Elections

Politico, Musk draws GOP support after claiming Apple threatened to ban Twitter, Rebecca Kern, Nov. 28, 2022. Elon Musk’s latest broadsides have set the world’s richest tech billionaire against the world’s most valuable company, and pushed him further into the tech antitrust debate in Washington. Elon Musk alleged on Monday that Apple is threatening to remove Twitter from its App Store, a claim that brought swift condemnation from Republicans who have championed antitrust legislation aimed at the iPhone-maker.

politico CustomMusk took a series of shots at Apple and CEO Tim Cook, saying Apple has threatened to “withhold” Twitter from the App Store but “won’t tell us why.” Apple did not respond to a request for comment, and Musk did not elaborate on what, if any, discussions he’s had with Apple.

elon musk 2015The broadside by the world’s richest tech billionaire, right, attacking the world’s most valuable company, drew quick support from some GOP lawmakers while injecting his latest beef into the heart of Washington’s debates about Silicon Valley’s giants.

twitter bird CustomSmaller tech companies have complained for years about Apple’s ironclad control over its App Store, which it uses both to keep noxious content off its iPhones and iPads and to demand a share of app developers’ revenues. Apple and Google, which exerts similar oversight over the major marketplace for Android apps, most famously used that power to eject the conservative-friendly social media app Parler in January 2021, saying the platform had failed to squelch violent rhetoric after the pro-Trump insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Monday’s unverified accusation from Musk provides new evidence that it’s time for Congress to rein Apple in, Republican lawmakers said.

Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah — the top Republicans on the House and Senate Judiciary committees’ antitrust panels — pushed for action on antitrust legislation that would ease Apple’s and Google’s control over their app markets.

apple logo rainbow“This is why we need to end the App Store duopoly before the end of this year. No one should have this kind of market power,” Buck tweeted.

Lee likewise pushed for passage of the Open App Markets Act (S. 2710, H.R. 5017), which Buck co-sponsored and seeks to prohibit companies from favoring their app stores over others.

“Apple and Google currently have a stranglehold on companies and have used their leverage to bully businesses,” added Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who is a co-sponsor of the Senate measure.

That bill and other antitrust measures aimed at the tech giants also have strong support from congressional Democrats. But they’re stalled for now and face dim odds of passage this Congress, as leadership for both parties focuses on an end-of-year spending package.

Any move by Apple to drop Twitter from its store could threaten the viability of Musk’s newly purchased $44 billion social media platform. Musk’s pledges of “free speech” on Twitter, along with the company’s mass layoffs, have raised complaints that the platform is already seeing a surge in the kinds of hate speech and disinformation that Apple’s policies prohibit.

Musk has announced he plans to offer a “general amnesty” this week for users that Twitter had previously banned for violating its rules. He already reinstated accounts for former President Donald Trump, whom it had booted after the assault on the Capitol, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Divided government demands creativity. Here are 3 ways to get things done, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, Nov. 28, 2022 (print ed.). The past ej dionne w open necktwo years deserve to be seen as a time of progress — and the 2022 election as ratification that voters noticed. Even in the face of high inflation, they kept the Senate in Democratic hands, limited Republican gains in the House and rejected far-right candidates at the state level.

Lord knows, there is much that remains to be done, and President Biden and the Democrats should not back off from fights for tougher gun laws, voting rights, political reform, steps to rein in a right-wing Supreme Court, new measures to fight climate change and a sane immigration policy. But Republican control of the House will make it very difficult for progressive legislation to go forward.

This requires Democrats (and Republicans seeking ways to break with their investigation-infatuated leadership) to be creative in thinking simultaneously about what’s possible over the next two years and how to lay the groundwork for change later. Here are three suggestions that I hope others build on.

1 Make progress without legislation.
2 Announce a campaign for America’s families.
3 Create an agenda for the next generation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Maricopa County says printer glitches didn’t prevent anyone from voting, Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Nov. 28, 2022 (print ed.). A report issued Sunday to the Arizona attorney general’s office blamed Republicans for stoking doubts about a secure alternative available to voters.

arizona mapMaricopa County, facing a storm of GOP criticism over its handling of the Nov. 8 election, said in a report issued Sunday that problems with printers that surfaced on Election Day did not violate the Arizona Constitution or other guidelines intended to ensure free and fair elections. The county instead blamed prominent Republicans for making their own supporters suspicious of a secure alternative allowing voters who encountered mechanical issues to cast ballots.

The report comes in response to a request from the Arizona attorney general’s office election integrity unit for an account of the Election Day problems before the county is set to certify its results on Monday. State certification is set for Dec. 5.

Tom Liddy, head of Maricopa County’s civil division and a lifelong Republican, wrote in a five-page letter accompanying the report that “all voters were still provided reasonable, lawful options for voting.” But some Republican voters might have spurned one option — a secure box known as “Door 3” — because GOP leaders, including the state party chair, told voters not to use it, according to the report.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How Trump is handing white supremacists huge propaganda victories, Greg Sargent, Nov. 28, 2022. After the news broke that Donald Trump dined with white-supremacist Nick Fuentes at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago home, Trump rapidly disavowed any knowledge of Fuentes’s views. “I didn’t know Nick Fuentes,” Trump declared.

That’s not particularly credible. But either way, the focus on what Trump knew misses a more consequential part of the story: By breaking bread with Fuentes, Trump handed white supremacists and white-power activists a major propaganda coup. It will be read by them as another sign that they are successfully infiltrating the far-right flank of mainstream GOP politics. So will the silence from many Republican leaders since Trump’s dinner with Fuentes.

I contacted Kathleen Belew, the author of a history of white power movements in the United States, to talk about these undercurrents of the Fuentes story. Belew has an important new essay that digs into the underappreciated role of white power activism in helping drive the insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021.

 

herschel walker left raphael wornock

washington post logoWashington Post, Early voters flock to polls in Georgia for Senate runoff after clash over election laws, Dylan Wells, Nov. 27, 2022 (print ed.).  In more than two dozen counties, thousands of voters came out to vote, some waiting for hours for the chance to cast their ballot early for the Dec. 6 runoff between Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D), above right, and Republican Herschel Walker, above left.

georgia mapGeorgia voters flocked to the polls Saturday to cast their ballots in the Senate runoff, taking advantage of an extra day of voting brought about by a lawsuit filed by Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D), who is defending his seat against Republican Herschel Walker.

In more than two dozen counties across the state, thousands of voters from both parties came out to vote, some waiting for hours in lines stretching around the block for the chance to cast their ballot early for the Dec. 6 runoff.

The secretary of state’s office reported that at least 70,000 people voted Saturday. The first Saturday of early voting for the general election drew 79,682 people, more than double the 2018 number. Early voting will continue through Friday.

Those taking advantage of Saturday voting included college students visiting home for Thanksgiving, police officers and ambulance workers with busy work schedules, lifelong voters who make it a point to always cast their ballots on the first day they are allowed, and retirees just seeking an escape from holiday guests.

Politico, Newsom Told the White House He Won’t Challenge Biden, Jonathan Martin, Nov. 28, 2022 (print ed.). The would-be pursuer of Trump and DeSantis is "all in" for the president’s reelection and willing to wait his turn.

politico CustomGov. Gavin Newsom has won three elections in five years in America’s largest state, is apoplectic about his party’s messaging defects and follows Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the right-wing media ecosystem with a zeal that would put some opposition researchers to shame.

But Newsom wants the word to go forth: He’s not going to challenge President Biden for the Democratic nomination in 2024.

Related Headlines

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Regulation

Former Kansas City Police Detective Roger Golubski shown in a pre-trial hearing photo by Carlos Moreno of KCUR.

Former Kansas City Police Detective Roger Golubski shown in a pre-trial hearing photo by Carlos Moreno of KCUR.

washington post logoWashington Post, Kansas town weighs racial justice as ex-officer faces charges of abuse, David Nakamura, Nov. 27, 2022 (print ed.). Former detective Roger Golubski is charged with raping Black women two decades ago. Residents are asking how far did the corruption go?

A dozen years after his retirement, Roger Golubski returned to the Wyandotte County Courthouse in late October to testify in a hearing for two Black prison inmates who claim the White former police detective framed them for murder long ago.

Golubski, 69, took the witness chair slowly. He was still burly, but his once-intimidating presence had been punctured by ailing health, including renal failure, diabetes and quintuple bypass surgery in April.

“Did you have a history of pressuring witnesses?” said Kevin Shepherd, a lawyer for Brian Betts and Celester McKinney. The two inmates, who were convicted in the 1997 case, sat next to Shepherd in striped prison jumpsuits.

“Never,” Golubski replied.

Golubski is the key figure in alleged corruption stemming from his 35 years in the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department that has raised troubling questions about justice and accountability at a time when many predominantly Black or Brown communities and other disenfranchised groups are vocally demanding both. He is accused of preying on impoverished Black residents by exploiting a network of female informants for sex and for coerced testimony, which he allegedly used to close cases; charges he has denied.

The tale that emerges from court testimony, documents and interviews reveals a world in which Golubski, at minimum, appears to have played a significantly influential role in dramatically determining what darkness happened in the lives of scores of Kansas City residents. It also provides a sense of the changes in power and justice occurring in the city, including the nuance, frustration and hope that has come as new leadership reckons with racial wounds.

In recent weeks, the U.S. Justice Department has taken steps to address some of the allegations, announcing two indictments of Golubski on eight counts, including civil rights violations, conspiracy and forcing women into involuntary servitude.

Advocates for alleged victims want accountability from local officials, as well. They are seeking an examination not just of Golubski’s actions, but of the police department and what they see as a local power structure that helped cover up what residents say happened.

Community leaders are demanding to know how Golubski was seemingly able to operate with impunity for decades and seeking reassurances that behavior such as his alleged misconduct could not happen again in the city’s 330-officer police force — now overseen by Kansas City’s first Black mayor, a former police officer who rose to the rank of deputy chief.

Golubski’s former police department partner, Terry Zeigler, who served as police chief from 2015 to 2019, denied knowledge of the alleged misconduct.

ny times logoNew York Times, He Helped Subdue the Club Q Assailant to Save ‘the Family I Found,’ Ava Sasani and Luke Vander Ploeg, Updated Nov. 28, 2022. Thomas James, a Navy petty officer, knocked down the gunman along with an Army veteran, preventing further bloodshed in Colorado Springs last week.

Thomas James was trained in the military on how to act in a crisis. And he responded immediately when an assailant entered Club Q in Colorado Springs on Nov. 19 shrouded in body armor and began shooting with an AR-15-style rifle, the police said.

Mr. James, a petty officer second class in the Navy, helped Richard M. Fierro, an Army veteran and another patron at the L.G.B.T.Q. club, subdue the attacker, preventing further bloodshed in a massacre that left five dead and 18 injured, the authorities said last week. Chief Adrian Vasquez of the Colorado Springs Police Department said that both knocked down the assailant.

On Sunday, in his first public comments on his role that night, Mr. James said in a statement that “I simply wanted to save the family I found.”

Mr. James issued the statement through Centura Penrose Hospital, where he was recovering from an undisclosed injury from the attack. The hospital said he was in stable condition.

Mr. Fierro said the chaos during the rampage made the takedown of the assailant a blur, but he remembers clearly how Mr. James, whom he had never met, tumbled to the ground with him as he took down the attacker, pushed one of the shooter’s guns away, then, at the urging of Mr. Fierro, repeatedly kicked the assailant in the face.

“That was hard to do, it’s not a humane act,” Mr. Fierro said in an interview. “But I asked him to help me, and he helped me.”

The suspect in the attack, Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, is being held on suspicion of first-degree murder and hate crimes and is expected to be to be formally charged at a hearing on Dec. 6.

“If I had my way, I would shield everyone I could from the nonsensical acts of hate in the world,” Mr. James said.

“Thankfully, we are family, and family looks after one another. We came a long way from Stonewall. Bullies aren’t invincible,” Mr. James said, referring to the uprising at a New York bar in 1969 that galvanized a national movement for gay rights.

Petty Officer Second Class Thomas James recovering at Centura Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs. “If I had my way, I would shield everyone I could from the nonsensical acts of hate in the world,” he said.Credit...U.S. Navy, via Associated Press

washington post logoWashington Post, After three major shootings in less than two weeks, a nation copes with collective trauma, Tara Parker-Pope and Lindsey Bever, Nov. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Therapists say fear, anger and resignation are common responses to gun violence. Talking with loved ones, self-care and altruism can help you cope.

Related Headlines

 

U.S. Media, Culture, Tech

 

julian assange stella morris son gabriel righ max belmarsh prison irish examiner com

Stella Moris and son Gabriel, right, and Max leave Belmarsh prison after visiting her partner and their father, Julian Assange. His two children could lose their father for the rest of their lives [Source: irishexaminer.com].

ny times logoNew York Times, Major News Outlets Urge U.S. to Drop Charges Against Assange, Charlie Savage, Nov. 28, 2022. In a joint letter, news organizations warned that the indictment of Julian Assange could chill reporting about national security.

The New York Times and four European news organizations called on the United States government on Monday to drop its charges against Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, for obtaining and publishing classified diplomatic and military secrets.

In a joint open letter, The Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and El País said the prosecution of Mr. Assange under the Espionage Act “sets a dangerous precedent” that threatened to undermine the First Amendment and the freedom of the press.

“Obtaining and disclosing sensitive information when necessary in the public interest is a core part of the daily work of journalists,” the letter said. “If that work is criminalized, our public discourse and our democracies are made significantly weaker.”

julian assange facts wikileaks CustomMr. Assange, who has been fighting extradition from Britain since his arrest there in 2019, is also accused of participating in a hacking-related conspiracy. The letter notably did not urge the Justice Department to drop that aspect of the case, though it said that “some of us are concerned” about it, too.

Each of the five organizations had worked with Mr. Assange in 2010 and 2011, during the events at the heart of the criminal case. WikiLeaks, which obtained leaked archives of classified American diplomatic cables and military files, gave early access to the troves to traditional news outlets, which published articles about notable revelations.

A spokeswoman for The Times, Danielle Rhoades Ha, said that the company’s publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, in consultation with the legal department, decided to sign the letter. The newsroom was not involved, she said.

The case against Mr. Assange is complicated and does not turn on the question of whether he is considered a journalist, but rather on whether his journalistic-style activities of soliciting and publishing classified information can or should be treated as a crime.

The letter comes as Attorney General Merrick B. Garland has sought to rein in ways in which the Justice Department has made it harder for journalists to do their jobs. In October, he issued new regulations that ban the use of subpoenas, warrants or court orders to seize reporters’ communications records or demand their notes or testimony in an effort to uncover confidential sources in leak investigations.

Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks catapulted to global fame in 2010 when he began publishing classified videos and documents related to the United States’ wars and its foreign relations.

It eventually became clear that Chelsea Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst, had provided the archives to WikiLeaks. She was sentenced to 35 years in prison after a court-martial trial in 2013. President Barack Obama commuted most of her remaining sentence shortly before leaving office in January 2017.

Ms. Manning’s disclosures amounted to one of the most extraordinary leaks in American history. They included about 250,000 State Department cables that revealed many secret things around the world, dossiers about Guantánamo Bay detainees being held without trial and logs of significant events in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars that divulged, among other things, that civilian casualties were higher than official estimates.

The letter noted that the same five institutions had publicly criticized Mr. Assange in 2011 when unredacted copies of the cables were released, revealing the names of people in dangerous countries who had helped the United States and putting their lives at risk. At Ms. Manning’s trial, prosecutors did not say anyone had been killed as a result, but officials have said the government spent significant resources in getting such people out of danger.

While the Obama administration and career law enforcement and national security officials disliked Mr. Assange, transparency advocates and antiwar activists treated him as an icon.

His public image shifted significantly after WikiLeaks published Democratic emails that had been hacked by the Russian government as part of its covert operation to help Donald J. Trump win the 2016 presidential election. But the criminal case against him is not about the Democratic emails.

The open letter notes that the Obama administration had weighed charging Mr. Assange in connection with the Manning leaks but did not do so — in part because there was no clear way to legally distinguish WikiLeaks’ actions from those of traditional news organizations like The Times that write about national security matters.

ny times logoNew York Times, Crypto Lender BlockFi Files for Bankruptcy as FTX Fallout Spreads, Lauren Hirsch, David Yaffe-Bellany and Ephrat Livni, Nov. 28, 2022.  BlockFi was financially entangled with FTX, and its stability was thrust into uncertainty after FTX collapsed.

BlockFi, a cryptocurrency lender and financial services firm, filed for bankruptcy on Monday, becoming the latest company in the crypto industry hobbled by ftx logothe implosion of the embattled exchange FTX.

BlockFi had been reeling since the spring, when the collapse of several influential crypto firms pushed the market into a panic, sending the value of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin plunging. In June, FTX agreed to provide the company with a $400 million credit line, which BlockFi’s chief executive, Zac Prince, said would provide “access to capital that further bolsters our balance sheet.” The deal also gave FTX the option to buy BlockFi.

But that agreement meant that BlockFi was financially entangled with FTX, and its stability was thrust into uncertainty this month after a series of revelations about corporate missteps and suspicious management at FTX. A few days after the exchange collapsed, BlockFi suspended withdrawals, explaining that it had “significant exposure” to FTX, including undrawn amounts from the credit line and assets held on the FTX platform.

BlockFi is not the first crypto lender to collapse in a devastating year for the industry. After the spring crash, in which Bitcoin fell 20 percent in a week, two other lenders, Celsius Network and Voyager Digital, filed for bankruptcy.

ny times logoNew York Times, Meta Fined $275 Million for Breaking E.U. Data Privacy Law, Adam Satariano, Nov. 28, 2022. The penalty, imposed by Irish data regulators, brings European fines against Facebook’s parent company to more than $900 million since last year.

In the latest penalty against Meta for violating European privacy rules, the tech giant was fined roughly $275 million on Monday for a data leak discovered last year that led to the personal information of more than 500 million Facebook users being published online.

meta logoThe penalty, imposed by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, brings the total fines to more than $900 million that the regulator has imposed on Meta since last year. In September, the same regulator fined the company roughly $400 million for its mistreatment of children’s data. Last October, Irish authorities fined Meta, which was previously called Facebook, 225 million euros, or about $235 million, for violations related to its messaging service WhatsApp.

The accumulating penalties will be a welcome sign to privacy groups that want to see European Union regulators more aggressively enforce the General Data Protection Regulation. The law was hailed as a landmark moment in the regulation of technology companies when it took effect in 2018, but regulators have since faced criticism for not applying the rules strongly enough.

Ireland has been under pressure because of the key role it plays in enforcing E.U. data protection rules. The country is tasked with policing tech companies’ compliance with the 2018 law as a result of companies such as Meta, Google and Twitter all locating their E.U. headquarters in Ireland. TikTok, which also set up a E.U. hub in Ireland, is the subject of another investigation there.

 

huawei meng wanzhou

Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies has promoted chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, above, to a key role just half a year after the end of her U.S. extradition fight, setting up a potential family succession at one of China’s most important companies. Details: Washington Post, Huawei’s CFO promoted to a top post months after U.S. extradition deal, April 2, 2022. Meng, above, daughter of Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei, is now one of three rotating chairs who helm the tech giant for six-month intervals.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: FCC steps up campaign against Huawei and other Chinese tech companies, Tim Starks and Aaron Schaffer, Nov. 28, 2022. Last week’s long-awaited Federal Communications Commission ban of some Chinese telecommunications companies’ equipment is the latest step in a domestic and international push by the United States to isolate Huawei and other Chinese tech firms.

On Friday, the FCC said it voted unanimously to adopt rules banning U.S. sales and imports of Huawei and ZTE telecommunications equipment, Hytera digital radios and video surveillance systems made by Hikvision and Dahua, citing national security concerns. The ban focuses on equipment designed “for the purpose of public safety, security of government facilities, physical security surveillance of critical infrastructure, and other national security purposes.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Shift in follower counts for Elizabeth Warren, Ted Cruz show how Twitter is beginning to change, Gerrit De Vynck, Jeremy B. Merrill and Luis Melgar, Nov. 28, 2022 (print ed.). High-profile Republican members of Congress gained tens of thousands of Twitter followers in the first few weeks of Elon Musk’s reign over the social media network, while their Democratic counterparts experienced a decline, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) all lost about 100,000 Twitter followers in the first three weeks of Musk’s ownership of Twitter, while Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and Jim Jordan (Ohio) gained more than 300,000 each.

It’s difficult to tell exactly why follower counts go up and down, and the counts are often affected by Twitter banning bot accounts en masse. Not everyone following a specific politician is a supporter.

twitter bird CustomStill, the pattern suggests that tens of thousands of liberals may be leaving the site while conservatives are joining or becoming more active, shifting the demographics of the site under Musk’s ownership. The changes are in line with a trend that began in April, when Musk announced his intention to buy the company.

On average, Republicans gained 8,000 followers and Democrats lost 4,000. For its analysis, The Post analyzed data from ProPublica’s Represent tool, which tracks congressional Twitter activity.

Musk and Twitter did not respond to requests for comment.

‘Opening the gates of hell’: Musk says he will revive banned accounts

Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion late last month having pledged to bring his vision of free speech absolutism to the site. The day he took over, he said Twitter wouldn’t become “a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!” But users immediately started testing the boundaries of the new site under Musk, prompting hate speech to briefly surge.

Since then, Musk launched and rolled back Twitter Blue Verified, a $7.99 monthly membership that puts a check mark next to any account that pays. The move prompted an explosion of fake accounts. Musk also fired about half the staff, and required the rest of his workers to pledge to work long hours or leave the company, significantly reducing the number of people who are policing the site.

Musk also has restored several major rule-breaking accounts, including former president Donald Trump’s, following an unrepresentative and unscientific Twitter poll. On Thursday, after a similar poll, he said he would grant “general amnesty” for all banned accounts that didn’t post spam or break the law.

Advertisers have been fleeing, raising doubts about the site’s ability to make money. More than a third of Twitter’s top 100 marketers have not advertised on the social media network in the two weeks before Tuesday, according to a Washington Post analysis.

Musk says he is a political moderate, but has agreed with right-wing figures on the site who accuse Twitter’s previous management of being biased against conservatives. The day before the midterms, he called on his followers to vote Republican, breaking with tradition of other social media CEOs who typically do not explicitly endorse one party over another.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bob Dylan apologizes for book controversy in rare public statement, Travis M. Andrews, Nov. 28, 2022. The legendary — and legendarily inscrutable — musician and Pulitzer Prize winner released a rare public statement Friday following a controversy concerning supposedly autographed copies of his new book, “The Philosophy of Modern Song.”

Simon & Schuster, the publisher of Dylan’s book of essays about more than 60 pop songs, offered fans the opportunity to purchase a hand-signed special edition for $600. Included with each copy was a letter from Jonathan Karp, the publisher’s CEO, which confirmed the signature’s authenticity.

Only, it turned out they weren’t authentic at all. Suspicious fans began comparing their signed copies on social media, only to notice that all the signatures looked exactly the same — quite a feat if Dylan himself had actually signed all reported 900 or so copies.

ny times logoNew York Times, Guest Essay: If We Ignore Donald Trump We Might See Who He Really Is, Patti Davis, Nov. 28, 2022. Ms. Davis is an author and a daughter of President Ronald Reagan.

When I was about 8 or 9, I was bullied ruthlessly in school by a boy in my class. I faked being sick so I wouldn’t have to go to school, but my parents figured out that something was going on and my father came in to talk to me. I confessed to him that I was scared of my tormentor, and what followed was a lesson in the beauty of ignoring another person. He explained that bullies crave attention and that if they are ignored, they sort of deflate. He then showed me how frustrating it is to feel like you’re invisible, by ignoring me when I tried to speak to him. It worked. I returned to school, I ignored the bully and he gave up his attacks on me.

Donald Trump is like the abusive boyfriend or ex-husband who won’t go away. In that situation, one would take out a restraining order, but obviously we can’t do that with Mr. Trump. So how about not making him the predominant news story? I have noticed, to be fair, that he is a little less predominant, but let’s face it, he is still everywhere in the news. I understand that announcing his candidacy for president is news. But does it have to be a front-page story? Does the end of his exile from Twitter have to dominate the day’s coverage? Does every move he makes, every ridiculous statement he utters, have to be reported?

With each news story, each segment on television, we are giving him the elixir that keeps him going — attention. There are plenty of things going on in the world that are more important than Donald Trump. We have a planet to save. Russia is still waging war on Ukraine, and still imprisoning American citizens like Brittney Griner. The West is running out of water. There are mass shootings so often it’s hard to keep track of them. Just to name a few really important issues.

What if there was a collective pledge among responsible news organizations to take Donald Trump off the front pages, to not talk about him every single day? He would huff and puff and try to blow the house down, but no one would be paying attention. Think of how much calmer the waters would be. Think of how many other stories would get the bandwidth they deserve.

 

U.S. Government, Economy, Education

ny times logoNew York Times, A Rising Star in the Biden Administration Faces a $100 Billion Test, Ana Swanson, Nov. 27, 2022 (print ed.). Gina Raimondo, the commerce secretary, has made a career of tackling increasingly larger challenges. Could the next one be too big?

gina raimondo 2019 CustomGina Raimondo, right, the commerce secretary, was meeting with students at Purdue University in September when she spotted a familiar face. Ms. Raimondo beamed as she greeted the chief executive of SkyWater Technology, a chip company that had announced plans to build a $1.8 billion manufacturing facility next to the Purdue campus.

“We’re super excited about the Indiana announcement,” she said. “Call me if you need anything.”

These days, Ms. Raimondo, a former Rhode Island governor, is the most important phone call in Washington that many chief executives can make. As the United States embarks on its biggest foray into industrial policy since World War II, Ms. Raimondo has the responsibility of doling out a stunning amount of money to states, research institutions and companies like SkyWater.

commerce dept logoShe is also at the epicenter of a growing Cold War with China as the Biden administration uses her agency’s expansive powers to try to make America’s semiconductor industry more competitive. At the same time, the administration is choking off Beijing’s access to advanced chips and other technology critical to China’s military and economic ambitions.

China has responded angrily, with its leader, Xi Jinping, criticizing what he called “politicizing and weaponizing economic and trade ties” during a meeting with President Biden this month, according to the official Chinese summary of his comments.

The Commerce Department, under Ms. Raimondo’s leadership, is now poised to begin distributing nearly $100 billion — roughly 10 times the department’s annual budget — to build up the U.S. chip industry and expand broadband access throughout the country.

How Ms. Raimondo handles that task will have big implications for the United States economy going forward. Many view the effort as the best — and only — bet for the United States to position itself in industries of the future, like artificial intelligence and supercomputing, and ensure that the country has a secure supply of the chips necessary for national security.

But the risks are similarly huge. Critics of the Biden administration’s plans have noted that the federal government may not be the best judge of which technologies to back. They have warned that if the administration gets it wrong, the United States may surrender its leadership in key technologies for good.

“The essence of industrial policy is you’re gambling,” said William Reinsch, a trade expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank. “She’s going to be in a tough spot because there probably will be failures or disappointments along the way,” he said.

The outcome could also have ramifications for Ms. Raimondo’s political ambitions. In less than two years in Washington, Ms. Raimondo, 51, has emerged as one of President Biden’s most trusted cabinet officials. Company executives describe her as a skillful and charismatic politician who is both engaged and accessible in an administration often known for its skepticism of big business.

Ms. Raimondo’s work has earned her praise from Republicans and Democrats, along with labor unions and corporations. Her supporters say she could ascend to another cabinet position, run for the Senate or perhaps mount a presidential bid.

But she is under close watch by Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and some other left-wing Democrats, who have criticized her as being too solicitous of corporate interests. Some progressive groups have accused Ms. Raimondo of being under the influence of big tech firms and not thoroughly disclosing those ties.

“Secretary Raimondo’s job is to help grow an economy that works for everyone, not to be the chief lobbyist for the Chamber of Commerce,” Ms. Warren said in a statement to The New York Times. “I have real concerns about the department’s approach, whether it’s approving assault weapon sales, negotiating trade deals or supporting big tech companies.”

Those criticisms have been fanned by rumors in recent months that the White House is considering Ms. Raimondo to serve as the next Treasury secretary if Janet L. Yellen, the current occupant of that post, eventually steps down.

Caitlin Legacki, a spokeswoman for the Commerce Department, dismissed speculation about Ms. Raimondo’s next moves as “wheel spinning.”

“As has been previously reported, Janet Yellen is staying at Treasury and Gina Raimondo is staying at Commerce,” Ms. Legacki wrote in an email.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: 3 reasons Yale Law was right to quit the U.S. News rankings, James Forman Jr., Nov. 26, 2022. James Forman Jr. is Yale’s J. Skelly Wright professor of law and faculty director of the Yale Law and Racial Justice Center.

Last week, Yale Law School, where I teach, announced it was pulling out of U.S. News & World Report’s annual law school rankings. Many people were shocked. After all, Yale has perennially been No. 1 in the 30-plus years since the rankings first appeared. Why quit a system that has brought so much glory?

Because the U.S. News rankings are somewhere between silly and demented — they harm law schools, applicants and graduates. As somebody who has been reading law school applications and advising prospective students for almost a decade, I could offer dozens of reasons for ending the rankings. But here are the top three.

1. The list encourages students to make decisions based on the rankings — and nothing else.

2. The rankings discourage schools from helping graduates pursue public interest careers.

3. I’ve saved the most important problem for last: The rankings discourage schools from admitting students with low LSAT scores. The LSAT does a decent job of measuring certain skills but ignores many others that good lawyers need. Yet it looms large in every law school applicant’s file. As a result, students who struggle with the test are at a huge disadvantage.

washington post logoWashington Post, Terrified, elated, anxious: College students told us about campus life without Roe, Julie Vitkovskaya and Susan Svrluga, Nov. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Young people on campuses had a lot to say about living in a world where the right to abortion is not guaranteed.

The nation’s 17 million college students have confronted a new and chaotic reality on campus this fall: a fast-changing legal landscape and entirely new norms in the wake of the Dobbs decision on abortion. For some, the changes are joyful, a protection of human life. For others, they are terrifying, pushing them to consider scenarios that would have been unthinkable just months ago, such as having to drop out of school if they became pregnant.

For this story, The Washington Post partnered with student journalists in Arizona, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Texas, Indiana and D.C. to help solicit voices from across the country.

Their responses were nuanced and widely varied, reflecting the diversity of the student population and the tremendous legal uncertainty.

One of the students elated by the ruling said she wept at the prospect of so many babies’ lives being saved. Some students spoke of their intensified fears of rape. Many were furious and said they would focus their energy on protests and politics. Students in medical fields wondered how their education might shift. Some worried about the possibility of reprisals for speaking out. In those cases, The Washington Post abbreviated the last names.

Here’s what they said.

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U.S. Political Probes, Jan. 6 Insurrection

MeidasTouch Network,

, Ben Meiselas, Ben Meiselas, Nov. 28, 2022 (13 mins.). Special Master Raymond Dearie sees the writing on the wall that the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals is about to issue an Order ruling that Judge Aileen should not have asserted equitable jurisdiction.

This Order by the Court of Appeals would shut down the special master process. Knowing this is imminent, Judge Dearie canceled the upcoming hearing and gave the parties some busy work. MeidasTouch host Ben Meiselas reports.

MeidasTouch Network,

, Ben Meiselas, Nov. 28, 2022. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reached a unanimous decision that was deeply critical of MAGA Louisiana Federal Judge Terry Doughty for ordering top Biden officials to sit for depositions in a frivolous “First Amendment” lawsuit brought by Republican-led States against the Biden administration for content moderation policies of social media platforms which were critical of anti-vaccine content. MeidasTouch host Ben Meiselas reports.

  donald trump money palmer report Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Congress gets to see Trump’s tax returns. It shouldn’t have taken so long, Editorial Board, Nov. 27, 2022. Restoring the norm under which presidential contenders voluntarily disclose their tax returns — followed by nearly every major-party nominee since Nixon — is important.

Voters should expect to know what financial conflicts of interest they might bring to the job. And in Mr. Trump’s case, those records were especially relevant, given that he headed a sprawling and secretive privately held business. In addition to his tax records, he should have provided a detailed accounting of his holdings and interests. His refusal to do so became glaring as Mr. Trump pressed to reform the tax code in 2017. Americans could only guess how its provisions might personally enrich the president and his family.

irs logoIf presidential candidates do not voluntarily share their returns, Congress might try to impose new rules. So could state lawmakers. In response to the Trump tax return saga, for example, New York legislators passed a law in 2019 allowing state officials to give congressional investigators the tax information they have on file. State lawmakers could also write laws that mandate the automatic release of candidates’ state tax returns after they claim major-party presidential nominations.

But it should not come to that. It would be healthier for the country to see candidates once again perform essential acts of honesty and transparency — not because they have to but because voters deserve it.

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World News, Disasters, Human Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, World Cup 2022: A U.S.-Iran Soccer Showdown Intensifies With Protests as a Backdrop, Vivian Yee, Nov. 28, 2022. The unrest that has gripped Iran for the past two months has heightened what would already have been a tense encounter at the World Cup in Qatar on Tuesday between the two geopolitical foes.

When players representing Iran and the United States take the field at the World Cup in Qatar on Tuesday, millions of fans will be dissecting every move — not just passes, fouls and headers, but also whether the Iranian players sing the national anthem, celebrate any goals or speak about the protests shaking their country.

The game has become yet another front line in the conflict between the two longtime geopolitical foes as Iran battles protests at home in one of the most significant challenges the Islamic Republic has faced since the 1979 revolution that brought it to power. And this time, it is all playing out under the glaring lights of the most watched event in the world.

For 10 weeks, anti-government demonstrations have convulsed Iranian cities; the resulting crackdown has landed thousands of protesters in jail and killed hundreds more. That unrest has spilled into Iran’s two matches so far in Qatar, where spectators have booed the Iranian national anthem and waved flags with one of the slogans of the protests, “Woman, life, freedom,” only to be escorted out by security officials.

Pro-government Iranians have confronted and intimidated Iranian fans wearing protest gear outside the stadiums. By last weekend, even the United States Soccer Federation had leaped into the fray to support the protesters, scrubbing Iran’s official emblem and Islamic script off Iran’s red-white-and-green flag in images it posted on social media. It later deleted the posts after Iran’s soccer federation called for the American team to be expelled from the World Cup.

“Respecting a nation’s flag is an accepted international practice that all other nations must emulate,” Safia Allah Faghanpour, a legal adviser to Iran’s soccer federation, said in comments reported by a semiofficial state news agency in Iran, skirting the fact U.S. flags are commonly desecrated at pro-government demonstrations in Iran.

Now the main question is what Team Melli, as Iran’s squad is affectionately known to fans around the world, will do with its next turn on the field: Please the government that sponsors it by keeping strictly to sports, or win the hearts of the opposition on the streets. Whatever it does, winning or holding the United States to a draw, either of which will advance them to the next round, will put Iran’s domestic strife in front of a huge global audience for at least a few days longer.

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Allows Chevron to Expand Energy Operations in Venezuela, Julie Turkewitz and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Nov. 27, 2022 (print ed.). The license, limited in scope, was issued amid the resumption of talks between the Venezuelan government and opposition, and comes as President Nicolás Maduro desperately needs to improve the economy.

The U.S. Treasury on Saturday granted Chevron a license for a limited expansion of energy operations in Venezuela, signaling the possible beginning of the country’s re-entry into the international oil market. Foreign investment in the oil sector is something that Venezuela’s authoritarian president, Nicolás nicolas maduro customMaduro, right, desperately needs to improve the economy.

venezuela flag waving customThe license was issued in response to the resumption of talks between representatives of Mr. Maduro’s government and the Venezuelan opposition in Mexico on Saturday, after a stalemate that stretched more than a year. The two sides agreed that billions in government funds frozen abroad should be transferred to a humanitarian fund administered by the United Nations.

A senior Biden administration official described Saturday’s announcements as “important steps in the right direction,” but added that there was “a long way” to go in resolving Venezuela’s complex economic, political and humanitarian crisis.

The deal is part of a shift in U.S. strategy on Venezuela that many analysts say has been accelerated by reduced global oil supplies as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Venezuela holds vast oil reserves, and its energy production potential has grown in global relevance amid the largest land war in Europe since World War II.

In a call with reporters on Saturday, the senior U.S. official rejected the notion that the license had been issued to Chevron as a result of an increase in energy prices, saying it was part of an effort by the Biden administration to restore democracy to Venezuela.

The multibillion-dollar humanitarian agreement — a verbal accord that has not yet been signed by the Maduro government or the opposition — amounts to a concession by Mr. Maduro, who has long denied the scope of the humanitarian crisis that has been unfolding in Venezuela under his watch.

More than seven million Venezuelans, a quarter of the population, have fled to other nations. In recent months, a record number of Venezuelans have arrived at the U.S. border, seeking new lives.

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Public Health, Pandemics

washington post logoWashington Post, Desperate covid long-haulers turn to costly, unproven treatments, Frances Stead Sellers, Nov. 27, 2022 (print ed.). For the burgeoning population of covid long-haulers, there is an abundance of new treatment options:

Specially formulated nutraceuticals imported from India that promise to “get you life back from covid.” Pure oxygen delivered in a pressurized chamber. And, if time and money are no obstacle, a process known as “blood washing” that’s available in Cyprus, or $25,000 stem cell treatments in the Cayman Islands.

Months-long waits at long-covid clinics combined with the sluggish pace of research have left vulnerable patients clamoring for immediate care as manufacturers bring novel remedies to market, often with little data behind them.

“I have tried, I would say, as many different things as anyone could do in my situation,” said Donna Davis-Doneghy, a 62-year-old accountant with Hearthside Food Solutions in London, Ky., who has been tormented by headaches since coming down with covid in November 2020.

“People will say to me, ‘Here’s a phone number,’ and off I go chasing something different,” said Davis-Doneghy, whose treatment regimen has ranged from acupuncture and Botox to nerve-block injections and vitamin infusions.

Long covid has taken to new heights a medical conflict that shows up with cancer and other dire diagnoses: the tension between the desire for evidence and the pressing needs of patients who are suffering. In their rush for relief, patients are turning to unproven treatments, putting them at risk of potentially harmful health effects as well as having their hopes dashed and their wallets emptied. Doctors often follow the practice of prescribing drugs off-label, not for the purpose the Food and Drug Administration originally approved them for.

washington post logoWashington Post, With record covid cases, China scrambles to plug an immunity gap, Christian Shepherd and Vic Chiang, Nov. 26, 2022 (print ed.). The country's intensifying efforts to boost vaccination rates and expand hospital capacity stop short of approving foreign vaccines.

A coronavirus outbreak on the verge of being China’s biggest of the pandemic has exposed a critical flaw in Beijing’s “zero covid” strategy: a vast population without natural immunity. After months with only occasional hot spots in the country, most of its 1.4 billion people have never been exposed to the virus.

China FlagChinese authorities, who on Thursday reported a record 31,656 infections, are scrambling to protect the most vulnerable populations. They have launched a more aggressive vaccine drive to boost immunity, expanded hospital capacity and started to restrict the movement of at-risk groups. The elderly, who have an especially low vaccination rate, are a key target.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2These efforts, which stop short of approving foreign vaccines, are an attempt to keep the virus from overwhelming a health-care system ill-prepared for a flood of very sick covid patients.

More intensive-care beds and better vaccination coverage “should have started 2½ years ago, but the single-minded focus on containment meant fewer resources focused on this,” said Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Huang believes that even mRNA boosters, which have proved more effective at fighting disease from the latest omicron variants, wouldn’t now resolve the fundamental problem with China’s goal of eliminating infection rather than mitigating symptoms. To raise immunity by allowing a degree of community transmission “is still not acceptable in China,” he said.

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Twitter, Other Media, Sports News

 

elon musk sideview

 washington post logoWashington Post, Elon Musk says he would support Ron DeSantis in 2024, Ruby Cramer, Nov. 28, 2022 (print ed.). His comments come after he urged his Twitter twitter bird Customfollowers to back Republicans in the midterms.

Billionaire Twitter owner Elon Musk said he would back Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) if he runs for president in 2024. Tweeting into the night on Friday, Musk described DeSantis as a “sensible and centrist” choice.

He said he had been a “significant supporter” of the Obama administration and “reluctantly” supported President Biden over Donald Trump in 2020, but had been disappointed with the results of the last two years. On the eve of the midterm elections this month, Musk urged his more than 115 million followers to support Republicans.

washington post logoWashington Post, Musk plans Twitter check mark feature again, this time with more colors, Rachel Lerman, Nov. 25, 2022. The second launch follows a chaotic rollout of the feature earlier this month.

ny times logoNew York Times, Frustrations Simmer as Saudis Are Blocked From Watching the World Cup, Tariq Panja, Updated Nov. 26, 2022. A curious dispute between a Qatari broadcaster and Saudi media regulators has left millions of Saudis with no way to watch the matches.

In the stands at the World Cup, the fraternal bond between host Qatar and its neighbor Saudi Arabia has been clear. Fans have arrived to games dressed in fifa world cup qatar 2022 officialthe colors of both nations, and the countries’ rulers have made a show of publicly supporting one another.

Even so, the nations appear to be locked in a curious dispute about broadcasting that has made a majority of the World Cup’s games unavailable to viewers in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi-based customers of Tod TV, a streaming service launched in January by Qatar’s beIN Media Group, which owns rights to the tournament across the Middle East, were suddenly blocked from the platform an hour before the tournament’s opening game last Sunday. That meant they were not watching when their country’s crown prince and de facto ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, wearing a Qatar scarf, was given a seat next to the FIFA president Gianni Infantino, one removed from Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the emir of Qatar.

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Nov. 27

Top Headlines

 

World News, Disasters, Climate, Human Rights

 

Ukraine War

Shown above is a 1930s scene from the Ukraine city of Kharkiv when the bodies of starved Ukrainians under Soviet rule were so common that those passing by could only focus on their own necessities for the most part. Accounts of the genocide reportedly help fuel Ukrainian nationalism in the current war.


U.S. Politics, Elections

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Regulation

 

U.S. Government, Economy, Education

 

U.S. Political Probes, Jan. 6 Insurrection

 

Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

 

Twitter, Media, Sports, News

 

Top Stories

 

 donald trump money palmer report Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Congress gets to see Trump’s tax returns. It shouldn’t have taken so long, Editorial Board, Nov. 27, 2022. Restoring the norm under which presidential contenders voluntarily disclose their tax returns — followed by nearly every major-party nominee since Nixon — is important.

Voters should expect to know what financial conflicts of interest they might bring to the job. And in Mr. Trump’s case, those records were especially relevant, given that he headed a sprawling and secretive privately held business. In addition to his tax records, he should have provided a detailed accounting of his holdings and interests. His refusal to do so became glaring as Mr. Trump pressed to reform the tax code in 2017. Americans could only guess how its provisions might personally enrich the president and his family.

irs logoIf presidential candidates do not voluntarily share their returns, Congress might try to impose new rules. So could state lawmakers. In response to the Trump tax return saga, for example, New York legislators passed a law in 2019 allowing state officials to give congressional investigators the tax information they have on file. State lawmakers could also write laws that mandate the automatic release of candidates’ state tax returns after they claim major-party presidential nominations.

But it should not come to that. It would be healthier for the country to see candidates once again perform essential acts of honesty and transparency — not because they have to but because voters deserve it.

ny times logoNew York Times, At Protests Across America, Guns Are Doing the Talking, Mike McIntire, Nov. 27, 2022 (print ed.). We looked at 700 armed demonstrations and found that, at about 77 percent of them, people openly carrying guns represented right-wing views. Across the country, openly carrying a gun in public is no longer just an exercise in self-defense — increasingly it is a soapbox for elevating one’s voice and, just as often, quieting someone else’s.

This month, armed protesters appeared outside an elections center in Phoenix, hurling baseless accusations that the election for governor had been stolen from the Republican, Kari Lake. In October, Proud Boys with guns joined a rally in Nashville where conservative lawmakers spoke against transgender medical treatments for minors.

In June, armed demonstrations around the United States amounted to nearly one a day. A group led by a former Republican state legislator protested a gay pride event in a public park in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Men with guns interrupted a Juneteenth festival in Franklin, Tenn., handing out fliers claiming that white people were being replaced. Among the others were rallies in support of gun rights in Delaware and abortion rights in Georgia.

Whether at the local library, in a park or on Main Street, most of these incidents happen where Republicans have fought to expand the ability to bear arms in public, a movement bolstered by a recent Supreme Court ruling on the right to carry firearms outside the home. The loosening of limits has occurred as violent political rhetoric rises and the police in some places fear bloodshed among an armed populace on a hair trigger.

Politico, Newsom Told the White House He Won’t Challenge Biden, Jonathan Martin, Nov. 27, 2022. The would-be pursuer of Trump and DeSantis is "all in" for the president’s reelection and willing to wait his turn.

politico CustomGov. Gavin Newsom has won three elections in five years in America’s largest state, is apoplectic about his party’s messaging defects and follows Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the right-wing media ecosystem with a zeal that would put some opposition researchers to shame.

But Newsom wants the word to go forth: He’s not going to challenge President Biden for the Democratic nomination in 2024.

 

World News, Disasters, Human Rights

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Allows Chevron to Expand Energy Operations in Venezuela, Julie Turkewitz and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Nov. 27, 2022 (print ed.). The license, limited in scope, was issued amid the resumption of talks between the Venezuelan government and opposition, and comes as President Nicolás Maduro desperately needs to improve the economy.

The U.S. Treasury on Saturday granted Chevron a license for a limited expansion of energy operations in Venezuela, signaling the possible beginning of the country’s re-entry into the international oil market. Foreign investment in the oil sector is something that Venezuela’s authoritarian president, Nicolás nicolas maduro customMaduro, right, desperately needs to improve the economy.

venezuela flag waving customThe license was issued in response to the resumption of talks between representatives of Mr. Maduro’s government and the Venezuelan opposition in Mexico on Saturday, after a stalemate that stretched more than a year. The two sides agreed that billions in government funds frozen abroad should be transferred to a humanitarian fund administered by the United Nations.

A senior Biden administration official described Saturday’s announcements as “important steps in the right direction,” but added that there was “a long way” to go in resolving Venezuela’s complex economic, political and humanitarian crisis.

The deal is part of a shift in U.S. strategy on Venezuela that many analysts say has been accelerated by reduced global oil supplies as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Venezuela holds vast oil reserves, and its energy production potential has grown in global relevance amid the largest land war in Europe since World War II.

In a call with reporters on Saturday, the senior U.S. official rejected the notion that the license had been issued to Chevron as a result of an increase in energy prices, saying it was part of an effort by the Biden administration to restore democracy to Venezuela.

The multibillion-dollar humanitarian agreement — a verbal accord that has not yet been signed by the Maduro government or the opposition — amounts to a concession by Mr. Maduro, who has long denied the scope of the humanitarian crisis that has been unfolding in Venezuela under his watch.

More than seven million Venezuelans, a quarter of the population, have fled to other nations. In recent months, a record number of Venezuelans have arrived at the U.S. border, seeking new lives.

washington post logoWashington Post, An engineering marvel just saved Venice from a flood. What about when seas rise? Chico Harlan and Stefano Pitrelli, Nov. 27, 2022. The Post got a look at the city’s $6 billion barrier system, including a hidden world of underwater tunnels.

Three years ago, a historic rush of water surged into this city, inundating restaurants and churches, tossing boats onto streets, and leaving Venetians distressed about a future with ever more extreme events. But this past week, one of those events arrived — a tide nearly as large as 2019’s — and residents barely noticed, aside from some wind and rain. The city was spared from disaster.

italy decalThat’s because of a $6 billion engineering project designed to protect Venice from mass flooding and the exhausting cycle of cleanup and recovery. The lagoon city’s inlets are now guarded by 78 rectangular metal barriers, each the height of a five-story building, that are pumped with air and raised from the sea floor any time high waters threaten it.

It’s a landmark climate change solution, one requiring 30 years of planning and 20 years of construction, that has reduced fears of Venice turning into a modern-day Atlantis.

But for one of the world’s most fragile cities, there is a difference between being protected and being saved.

ny times logoNew York Times, They Were Surrogates. Now They Must Raise the Children, Hannah Beech, Photographs by Nadia Shira Cohen, Nov. 27, 2022 (print ed.). In Cambodia’s weak legal system, surrogacy exists in a gray market, endangering all involved when political conditions shift and criminal charges follow.

The baby was not hers, not really.

Hun Daneth felt that, counted on that. When she gave birth to the boy, who didn’t look like her, she knew it even more.

cambodia flagBut four years after acting as a surrogate for a Chinese businessman, who said he had used a Russian egg donor, Ms. Hun Daneth is being forced by the Cambodian courts to raise the little boy or risk going to jail. The businessman is in prison over the surrogacy, his appeal denied in June.

Even as she dealt with the shock of raising the baby, Ms. Hun Daneth dutifully changed his diapers. Over the months and years, she found herself hugging and kissing him, cajoling him to eat more rice so he could grow big and strong. She has come to see this child as her own.

“I love him so much,” said Ms. Hun Daneth, who is looking after the boy with her husband.

The fates of a Cambodian woman, a Chinese man and the boy who binds them together reflect the intricate ethical dilemmas posed by the global surrogacy industry. The practice is legal — and often prohibitively expensive — in some countries, while others have outlawed it. Still other nations with weak legal systems, like Cambodia, have allowed gray markets to operate, endangering those involved when political conditions suddenly shift and criminal cases follow.

When carried out transparently with safeguards in place, supporters say, commercial surrogacy allows people to expand their families while fairly compensating the women who give birth to the children. Done badly, the process can lead to the abuse of vulnerable people, whether the surrogates or the intended parents.

Cambodia became a popular surrogacy destination after crackdowns in other Asian countries nearly a decade ago. Foreigners flocked to newly opened fertility clinics and surrogacy agencies in Phnom Penh, the capital.

As the industry flourished, the government imposed a ban on surrogacy, promising to pass legislation officially outlawing it. The ill-defined injunction, imposed in a graft-ridden country with little rule of law, ended up punishing the very women the government had vowed to safeguard.

Hannah Beech, who has covered Southeast Asia for more than 20 years, spent 10 months reporting this article. Nadia Shira Cohen first started photographing the surrogates and their children in 2019.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: In Belarus, a champion of democracy suffers solitary confinement, Editorial Board, Nov. 27, 2022 (print ed.). In the darkness that political prisoners endure in Belarus, the “punishment cell,” or solitary confinement, is particularly miserable.

Those who have suffered it recall constant cold. They are allowed only to take a toothbrush, thin towel and toilet paper; are forced to sleep on a wooden bunk without pillow or blanket; are denied reading material; have no contact with others, including a lawyer. Maria Kolesnikova, who fought for democracy in Belarus, has now been confined to one such hellhole.

maria kolesnikova

Ms. Kolesnikova (shown above) is known for her irrepressible, sunny mood. She is a professional musician — a flutist — who has studied in Belarus and Germany. Behind bars in a Belarus courtroom, she made a heart sign with her handcuffed hands and danced. She wrote to her father after 10 months in prison, “I’m well, healthy and cheerful!” We can only imagine how she copes in utter isolation at Penal Colony No. 4 in Gomel, in southeastern Belarus.

belarus flagRelatives say they do not know how long she has been in the punishment cell, or for what; the prison staff refused to allow a lawyer to meet her. They add that she was disciplined recently for “being in the wrong place during working hours,” and for “impolite” behavior. These charges are just as ludicrous as the ones for which Ms. Kolesnikova was sentenced in September 2021 to 11 years in prison: “causing harm to the national security,” “conspiracy to seize power in an unconstitutional way,” and “creation of an extremist formation, or participation in it.”

What Ms. Kolesnikova actually did was champion the cause of democracy. She became campaign manager to presidential candidate Viktor Babariko, a alexander lukashenko resized 2019longtime Minsk banker who gathered signatures to run for president in 2020 against dictator Alexander Lukashenko, left, and was detained for it. Ms. Kolesnikova then joined Svetlana Tikhanovskaya in a presidential bid that drew enormous crowds and enthusiasm for a free Belarus. They were triumphant, only to see the election stolen by Mr. Lukashenko, who declared himself the winner. Ms. Tikhanovskaya was forced out of the country. When thugs tried to force Ms. Kolesnikova over the border, she resisted by tearing up her passport and jumping out of their car. She was later arrested.

Mr. Lukashenko clearly believes that imprisoning his critics will silence them. Mr. Babariko is still behind bars; so is Ms. Tikhanovskaya’s husband, Sergei. There are 1,450 political prisoners in Belarus, according to the human rights group Viasna, which describes them as: “Bloggers, business executives, presidential campaign members and peaceful protesters … held in prisons only because they were not afraid to exercise their rights — the right to participate in peaceful assemblies, to express their opinion and to be involved in political activities.”

Mr. Lukashenko has been violating fundamental human rights in Belarus for many years. He is also a willing partner with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in trying to destroy Ukraine’s democracy by going to war. It is time for Ms. Kolesnikova and all the political prisoners to be freed. Mr. Lukashenko and his henchmen are the ones who should find themselves in the dock, for the cruel multitude of injustices they inflicted upon the people of Belarus.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pakistan’s Imran Khan pulls his party out of legislatures, vows to press peacefully for new elections, Pamela Constable, Nov. 27, 2022.
Former premier, addressing huge but peaceful rally, tells supporters to go home and avoid “creating chaos.”

Ousted prime minister Imran Khan, addressing tens of thousands of cheering followers Saturday in a rambling, grievance-filled speech outside the capital, announced that his party would withdraw from Pakistan’s national and provincial legislatures but continue fighting for new elections peacefully to avoid creating “anarchy and chaos.”

Looking tired and grimacing in pain, Khan, 70, hobbled on crutches to an outdoor stage, then remained seated during his emotional, 90-minute address. He said that he was still struggling to recover from a leg injury, after a gunman shot him at another rally on Nov. 3, but that his brush with death had given him a new, religiously inspired determination to keep up his campaign to bring “justice and the rule of law” to Pakistan.

washington post logoWashington Post, China sentences Canadian pop star Kris Wu to prison for rape, Joyce Lau and Claire Healy, Nov. 27, 2022 (print ed.). Chinese Canadian pop star Kris Wu was sentenced Friday to 13 years in prison by a Beijing court on charges including rape, in one of China’s more prominent #MeToo cases.

The sentence was welcomed by women’s rights advocates, who have clashed with Beijing’s growing intolerance for dissent and grass-roots activism under President Xi Jinping. Chinese lawyers said that Wu had the right to appeal his conviction. He had previously denied the allegations.

kris wuWu, right, also known as Wu Yifan, rose to fame as part of the South Korean-Chinese boy band Exo and later became a solo performer. He was detained in 2021 after multiple accusations were levied against him, which led to public widespread condemnation. At the time, luxury brands such as French fashion label Louis Vuitton and German automaker Porsche distanced themselves from the pop idol, with China Flagwhom they had commercial deals.

“It’s encouraging news, especially in the context of women’s rights in the country being continuously eroded in the past decade,” Yaqiu Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch, said of the sentencing. “Now, other victims of sexual assault in China can feel empowered that they, too, can come forward with their stories and seek justice.”

However, Wang cautioned that censorship of women’s rights activists in China continued. She also noted that, in the case against Wu, the prosecution was “shrouded in secrecy” and “some of the criticism of authorities’ handling of his case was scrubbed from the Chinese internet,” she said.

World Crisis Radio, Historical Commentary: Brace for #MAGA chaos and ungovernability in House! Webster G. Tarpley, right, author and historian, Nov. 27, 2022 (104:28 mins.). webster tarpley twitterMcQarthy is losing 5 to 8 Tea Party extremists, posing risk of hung Congress or monstrous concessions to crazed MAGAts, unless Democrats take over!

GOP busily working on its own extinction: For January 6 Committee final report, Liz Cheney, readying her own 2024 campaign, demands censored report with narrow focus on Trump alone, banning probe of intelligence, law enforcement & Pentagon failures; Study of coup funding to be deep sixed, & investigation of militias & violent extremists banned; Her goal evidently to preserve these networks for her own use; Democrats must block this crude power grab, give public full results of committee’s work; Lesson: Republicans are incorrigible!

MAGA foreign policy Blob is close to embracing outright cut and run policy for US to betray NATO allies, Ukraine & appease Putin, setting up Russian conquest of Europe;

MAGA boss fraternizes with scurrilous anti-semites Fuentes & Kanye;

Garland still dawdling, denying justice through endless delays; Questions arise about his dubious role in Oklahoma City trial, where he was his own Warren Commission;

CSTO, Putin’s feeble answer to NATO, is breaking up due to his abject failures: Armenia pushes back against his dictates in Collective Security Treaty Organization of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, & Tajikistan; Eurasian guru Dugin wants Putin ousted and worse!

Breaking: MAGA Grand Inquisitor Rep. Comer wraps his MTP debut in lies!

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Ukraine War

 

Shown above is a 1930s scene from the Ukraine city of Kharkiv when the bodies of starved Ukrainians under Soviet rule were so common that those passing by could only focus on their own necessities for the most part. Accounts of the genocide reportedly help fuel Ukrainian nationalism in the current war.Shown above is a 1930s scene from the Ukraine city of Kharkiv when the bodies of starved Ukrainians under Soviet rule were so common that those passing by could only focus on their own necessities for the most part. Accounts of the famine and alleged genocide help fuel Ukrainian nationalism in the current war.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Ukraine marked the 90th anniversary of a devastating famine, officials compared it with Russia’s recent attacks, Cassandra Vinograd, Nov. 27, 2022 (print ed.). Ukraine’s government was working to restore power to millions on Saturday as the country commemorated the 90th anniversary of the Holodomor, the devastating famine that President Volodymyr Zelensky compared to the wave of Russian strikes targeting critical infrastructure that have left large parts of the country cold and in the dark.

The Holodomor, which means “death by hunger” in Ukrainian, spread in Kazakhstan and through southern Russia but was harshest in Ukraine, where it left entire villages to starve. Ukrainian historians argue that the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin orchestrated a famine to crush Ukrainian aspirations for independence.

Government officials on Saturday marked the anniversary of the 1932-33 famine — which is observed annually on the fourth Saturday of November — at a time when President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is accused of using missile strikes on Ukraine’s power grid to freeze the country into submission.

“Once they wanted to destroy us with hunger, now — with darkness and cold,” Mr. Zelensky said in a statement on Saturday. “We cannot be broken. Our fire will not go out. We will conquer death again.”

 

 

Russian Leader Vladimir Putin, right, is shown in a 2017 photo with Russia's recently appoint military commander for the Ukraine war, Gen. Sergei Surovikin in a pool photo by Alexei Druzhinin.

Russian Leader Vladimir Putin is shown in a 2017 photo with Russia's recently appoint military commander for the Ukraine war, Gen. Sergei Surovikin in a pool photo by Alexei Druzhinin.

washington post logoWashington Post, Western sanctions catch up with Russia’s wartime economy, Catherine Belton and Robyn Dixon, Nov. 27, 2022 (print ed.). The establishment of a new council to coordinate military supplies reflects the Kremlin's grave concerns over the economy.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin launched last month a new council for coordinating supplies for the Russian army, he seemed to recognize the scale of the economic problems facing the country, and his sense of urgency was palpable.

Russian Flag“We have to be faster in deciding questions connected to supplying the special military operation and countering restrictions on the economy which, without any exaggeration, are truly unprecedented,” he said.

For months, Putin claimed that the “economic blitzkrieg” against Russia had failed, but Western sanctions imposed over the invasion of Ukraine are digging ever deeper into Russia’s economy, exacerbating equipment shortages for its army and hampering its ability to launch any new ground offensive or build new missiles, economists and Russian businessmen said.

Recent figures show the situation has worsened considerably since the summer when, buoyed by a steady stream of oil and gas revenue, the Russian economy seemed to stabilize. Figures released by the Finance Ministry last week show a key economic indicator — tax revenue from the non-oil and gas sector — fell 20 percent year in October compared to a year earlier, while the Russian state statistics agency Rosstat reported that retail sales fell 10 percent year on year in September, and cargo turnover fell 7 percent.

“All objective indicators show there is a very strong drop in economic activity,” said Vladimir Milov, a former Russian deputy energy minister who is now a leading opposition politician in exile. “The spiral is escalating, and there is no way out of this now.”

The Western ban on technology imports is affecting most sectors of the economy, while the Kremlin’s forced mobilization of more than 300,000 Russian conscripts to serve in Ukraine, combined with the departure of at least as many abroad fleeing the draft, has dealt a further blow, economists said. In addition, Putin’s own restrictions on gas supplies to Europe, followed by the unexplained explosion of the Nord Stream gas pipeline, has led to a sharp drop in gas production — down 20 percent in October compared to the previous year. Meanwhile, oil sales to Europe are plummeting ahead of the European Union embargo expected to be imposed Dec. 5.

The Kremlin has trumpeted a lower-than-expected decline in GDP, forecast by the International Monetary Fund at only 3.5 percent this year, as demonstrating that the Russian economy can weather the raft of draconian sanctions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Pressure builds to step up weapons tracking in Ukraine, Karoun Demirjian, Nov. 27, 2022. Legislation would require greater scrutiny of the $20 billion in military aid President Biden has sent Ukraine, and it has bipartisan support.

Emboldened by their success in the midterm elections, House Republicans, who will hold a slim majority in the next Congress, have warned the Biden administration to expect far-tougher oversight of the extensive military assistance it has provided Ukraine.

The administration, anticipating such demands as the commitment of military aid under President Biden fast approaches $20 billion, has worked in recent weeks to publicize its efforts to track weapons shipments. Both the State Department and the Pentagon have outlined plans, including more inspections and training for the Ukrainians, meant to prevent U.S. arms from falling into the wrong hands — initiatives that have failed thus far to quell Republican skeptics calling for audits and other accountability measures.

Most in Washington are in agreement that, generally, the push for more oversight is a good thing. But experts caution there are credible limitations to ensuring an airtight account of all weapons given to Ukraine that are likely to leave Biden’s harshest critics unsatisfied.

“There are shortcomings of end-use monitoring in the best of circumstances, and of course Ukraine isn’t in the best of circumstances,” said Elias Yousif, a researcher on the global arms trade with the Stimson Center. “There has to be some willingness to be practical about what we can achieve.”

With GOP House win, Biden faces added curbs on foreign policy

To date, the megaphone for demanding change has been controlled primarily by the GOP. Congress “will hold our government accountable for all of the funding for Ukraine,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) said this month in announcing a measure to audit the aid program after Biden requested another $37 billion for the government in Kyiv. “There has to be accountability going forward,” Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), House Republicans’ current leader, told CNN in the interview in which he warned against giving Ukraine a “blank check” to fight off Russia’s invasion.

Yet the reckoning could begin before the Republican takeover. A series of provisions on offer in the House-passed version of this year’s annual defense authorization bill would require a web of overlapping reports from the Pentagon and the inspectors general who police transfers of articles of war, plus the establishment of a task force to design and implement enhanced tracking measures.

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In the recaptured Ukrainian city of Kherson, Serhiy Novosad, second from right, looks on as the bodies of his father and grandmother are exhumed and examined as evidence of war crimes after Russian occupation (Photo by Lynsey Addario for The New York Times).

 In the recaptured Ukrainian city of Kherson, Serhiy Novosad, second from right, looks on as the bodies of his father and grandmother are exhumed and examined as evidence of war crimes after Russian occupation (Photo by Lynsey Addario for The New York Times).

 

U.S. Politics, Elections

 

herschel walker left raphael wornock

washington post logoWashington Post, Early voters flock to polls in Georgia for Senate runoff after clash over election laws, Dylan Wells, Nov. 27, 2022 (print ed.).  In more than two dozen counties, thousands of voters came out to vote, some waiting for hours for the chance to cast their ballot early for the Dec. 6 runoff between Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D), above right, and Republican Herschel Walker, above left.

Georgia voters flocked to the polls Saturday to cast their ballots in the Senate runoff, taking advantage of an extra day of voting brought about by a lawsuit filed by Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D), who is defending his seat against Republican Herschel Walker.

In more than two dozen counties across the state, thousands of voters from both parties came out to vote, some waiting for hours in lines stretching around the block for the chance to cast their ballot early for the Dec. 6 runoff.

The secretary of state’s office reported that at least 70,000 people voted Saturday. The first Saturday of early voting for the general election drew 79,682 people, more than double the 2018 number. Early voting will continue through Friday.

Those taking advantage of Saturday voting included college students visiting home for Thanksgiving, police officers and ambulance workers with busy work schedules, lifelong voters who make it a point to always cast their ballots on the first day they are allowed, and retirees just seeking an escape from holiday guests.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Steny Hoyer sought ‘consensus’. The next Democratic leaders may find that hard, Paul Kane, Nov. 27, 2022 (print ed.). Hoyer hopes the new top Democrats can replicate the balance of the outgoing three, but the new guard must contend with the polarization of the Republican Party.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, right, has been doing a lot of reflecting these days. A central theme that he adopted 20 years ago upon first getting voted into the No. 2 position in the Democratic caucus has been on his mind lately.

steny hoyer o“I talked about the psychology of consensus, the psychology of getting up in the morning and thinking, ‘I’m going to be with the team,’ knowing full well that you can’t be with the team all the time,” the Maryland Democrat said in an interview on Tuesday.

Two decades later, in the wake of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to step out of leadership, Hoyer announced he, too, would step back, as did their longtime wingman, Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.).

Pelosi (D-Calif.) has been understandably hailed as a historic figure for breaking Congress’s glass ceiling and also for marshaling major legislative accomplishments into law during two separate stints as House speaker.

But a key to that success came from how the triumvirate worked in coordination to find consensus, especially as the Democrats in Congress grew more diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, sex and sexual orientation, geography and philosophy.

Pelosi, 82, rose to power through the party’s liberal coastal power centers: from a childhood in a Baltimore political dynasty to an adult life connected to the West Coast’s new technology sectors that now fuel Democratic financial engines. Clyburn, 82, came up in the civil rights movement and became the Congressional Black Caucus’s longest-tenured member in a top leadership post, making him a moral center of gravity.

Hoyer, 83, the only straight White male to occupy one of the top seven spots in Democratic leadership during the past four years, has long had ties to more moderate factions in swing seats from the Blue Dog and New Democrat coalitions.

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U.S. Courts, Crime, Regulation

Former Kansas City Police Detective Roger Golubski shown in a pre-trial hearing photo by Carlos Moreno of KCUR.

Former Kansas City Police Detective Roger Golubski shown in a pre-trial hearing photo by Carlos Moreno of KCUR.

washington post logoWashington Post, Kansas town weighs racial justice as ex-officer faces charges of abuse, David Nakamura, Nov. 27, 2022 (print ed.). Former detective Roger Golubski is charged with raping Black women two decades ago. Residents are asking how far did the corruption go?

A dozen years after his retirement, Roger Golubski returned to the Wyandotte County Courthouse in late October to testify in a hearing for two Black prison inmates who claim the White former police detective framed them for murder long ago.

Golubski, 69, took the witness chair slowly. He was still burly, but his once-intimidating presence had been punctured by ailing health, including renal failure, diabetes and quintuple bypass surgery in April.

“Did you have a history of pressuring witnesses?” said Kevin Shepherd, a lawyer for Brian Betts and Celester McKinney. The two inmates, who were convicted in the 1997 case, sat next to Shepherd in striped prison jumpsuits.

“Never,” Golubski replied.

Golubski is the key figure in alleged corruption stemming from his 35 years in the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department that has raised troubling questions about justice and accountability at a time when many predominantly Black or Brown communities and other disenfranchised groups are vocally demanding both. He is accused of preying on impoverished Black residents by exploiting a network of female informants for sex and for coerced testimony, which he allegedly used to close cases; charges he has denied.

The tale that emerges from court testimony, documents and interviews reveals a world in which Golubski, at minimum, appears to have played a significantly influential role in dramatically determining what darkness happened in the lives of scores of Kansas City residents. It also provides a sense of the changes in power and justice occurring in the city, including the nuance, frustration and hope that has come as new leadership reckons with racial wounds.

In recent weeks, the U.S. Justice Department has taken steps to address some of the allegations, announcing two indictments of Golubski on eight counts, including civil rights violations, conspiracy and forcing women into involuntary servitude.

Advocates for alleged victims want accountability from local officials, as well. They are seeking an examination not just of Golubski’s actions, but of the police department and what they see as a local power structure that helped cover up what residents say happened.

Community leaders are demanding to know how Golubski was seemingly able to operate with impunity for decades and seeking reassurances that behavior such as his alleged misconduct could not happen again in the city’s 330-officer police force — now overseen by Kansas City’s first Black mayor, a former police officer who rose to the rank of deputy chief.

Golubski’s former police department partner, Terry Zeigler, who served as police chief from 2015 to 2019, denied knowledge of the alleged misconduct.

washington post logoWashington Post, After three major shootings in less than two weeks, a nation copes with collective trauma, Tara Parker-Pope and Lindsey Bever, Nov. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Therapists say fear, anger and resignation are common responses to gun violence. Talking with loved ones, self-care and altruism can help you cope.

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U.S. Government, Economy, Education

ny times logoNew York Times, A Rising Star in the Biden Administration Faces a $100 Billion Test, Ana Swanson, Nov. 27, 2022 (print ed.). Gina Raimondo, the commerce secretary, has made a career of tackling increasingly larger challenges. Could the next one be too big?

gina raimondo 2019 CustomGina Raimondo, right, the commerce secretary, was meeting with students at Purdue University in September when she spotted a familiar face. Ms. Raimondo beamed as she greeted the chief executive of SkyWater Technology, a chip company that had announced plans to build a $1.8 billion manufacturing facility next to the Purdue campus.

“We’re super excited about the Indiana announcement,” she said. “Call me if you need anything.”

These days, Ms. Raimondo, a former Rhode Island governor, is the most important phone call in Washington that many chief executives can make. As the United States embarks on its biggest foray into industrial policy since World War II, Ms. Raimondo has the responsibility of doling out a stunning amount of money to states, research institutions and companies like SkyWater.

commerce dept logoShe is also at the epicenter of a growing Cold War with China as the Biden administration uses her agency’s expansive powers to try to make America’s semiconductor industry more competitive. At the same time, the administration is choking off Beijing’s access to advanced chips and other technology critical to China’s military and economic ambitions.

China has responded angrily, with its leader, Xi Jinping, criticizing what he called “politicizing and weaponizing economic and trade ties” during a meeting with President Biden this month, according to the official Chinese summary of his comments.

The Commerce Department, under Ms. Raimondo’s leadership, is now poised to begin distributing nearly $100 billion — roughly 10 times the department’s annual budget — to build up the U.S. chip industry and expand broadband access throughout the country.

How Ms. Raimondo handles that task will have big implications for the United States economy going forward. Many view the effort as the best — and only — bet for the United States to position itself in industries of the future, like artificial intelligence and supercomputing, and ensure that the country has a secure supply of the chips necessary for national security.

But the risks are similarly huge. Critics of the Biden administration’s plans have noted that the federal government may not be the best judge of which technologies to back. They have warned that if the administration gets it wrong, the United States may surrender its leadership in key technologies for good.

“The essence of industrial policy is you’re gambling,” said William Reinsch, a trade expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank. “She’s going to be in a tough spot because there probably will be failures or disappointments along the way,” he said.

The outcome could also have ramifications for Ms. Raimondo’s political ambitions. In less than two years in Washington, Ms. Raimondo, 51, has emerged as one of President Biden’s most trusted cabinet officials. Company executives describe her as a skillful and charismatic politician who is both engaged and accessible in an administration often known for its skepticism of big business.

Ms. Raimondo’s work has earned her praise from Republicans and Democrats, along with labor unions and corporations. Her supporters say she could ascend to another cabinet position, run for the Senate or perhaps mount a presidential bid.

But she is under close watch by Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and some other left-wing Democrats, who have criticized her as being too solicitous of corporate interests. Some progressive groups have accused Ms. Raimondo of being under the influence of big tech firms and not thoroughly disclosing those ties.

“Secretary Raimondo’s job is to help grow an economy that works for everyone, not to be the chief lobbyist for the Chamber of Commerce,” Ms. Warren said in a statement to The New York Times. “I have real concerns about the department’s approach, whether it’s approving assault weapon sales, negotiating trade deals or supporting big tech companies.”

Those criticisms have been fanned by rumors in recent months that the White House is considering Ms. Raimondo to serve as the next Treasury secretary if Janet L. Yellen, the current occupant of that post, eventually steps down.

Caitlin Legacki, a spokeswoman for the Commerce Department, dismissed speculation about Ms. Raimondo’s next moves as “wheel spinning.”

“As has been previously reported, Janet Yellen is staying at Treasury and Gina Raimondo is staying at Commerce,” Ms. Legacki wrote in an email.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: 3 reasons Yale Law was right to quit the U.S. News rankings, James Forman Jr., Nov. 26, 2022. James Forman Jr. is Yale’s J. Skelly Wright professor of law and faculty director of the Yale Law and Racial Justice Center.

Last week, Yale Law School, where I teach, announced it was pulling out of U.S. News & World Report’s annual law school rankings. Many people were shocked. After all, Yale has perennially been No. 1 in the 30-plus years since the rankings first appeared. Why quit a system that has brought so much glory?

Because the U.S. News rankings are somewhere between silly and demented — they harm law schools, applicants and graduates. As somebody who has been reading law school applications and advising prospective students for almost a decade, I could offer dozens of reasons for ending the rankings. But here are the top three.

1. The list encourages students to make decisions based on the rankings — and nothing else.

2. The rankings discourage schools from helping graduates pursue public interest careers.

3. I’ve saved the most important problem for last: The rankings discourage schools from admitting students with low LSAT scores. The LSAT does a decent job of measuring certain skills but ignores many others that good lawyers need. Yet it looms large in every law school applicant’s file. As a result, students who struggle with the test are at a huge disadvantage.

washington post logoWashington Post, Terrified, elated, anxious: College students told us about campus life without Roe, Julie Vitkovskaya and Susan Svrluga, Nov. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Young people on campuses had a lot to say about living in a world where the right to abortion is not guaranteed.

The nation’s 17 million college students have confronted a new and chaotic reality on campus this fall: a fast-changing legal landscape and entirely new norms in the wake of the Dobbs decision on abortion. For some, the changes are joyful, a protection of human life. For others, they are terrifying, pushing them to consider scenarios that would have been unthinkable just months ago, such as having to drop out of school if they became pregnant.

For this story, The Washington Post partnered with student journalists in Arizona, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Texas, Indiana and D.C. to help solicit voices from across the country.

Their responses were nuanced and widely varied, reflecting the diversity of the student population and the tremendous legal uncertainty.

One of the students elated by the ruling said she wept at the prospect of so many babies’ lives being saved. Some students spoke of their intensified fears of rape. Many were furious and said they would focus their energy on protests and politics. Students in medical fields wondered how their education might shift. Some worried about the possibility of reprisals for speaking out. In those cases, The Washington Post abbreviated the last names.

Here’s what they said.

Related Headlines

 

U.S. Political Probes, Jan. 6 Insurrection

washington post logoWashington Post, White House likely to honor some GOP probes but not those on Hunter Biden, Tyler Pager, Nov. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Biden aides eye a split strategy on GOP investigations — cooperating on topics like Afghanistan but refusing to engage on the president’s son.

As House Republicans prepare to launch an onslaught of oversight investigations next year, the White House is planning to distinguish between inquiries they deem legitimate and others they view as politically, not legislatively, motivated — with an eye toward minimizing their cooperation with probes they consider improper, according to two people familiar with the plans.

hunter bidenWhite House officials caution that their decisions about cooperation will ultimately hinge on the nature of the investigations, but their preparations, which have been underway for months, hinge on such a split strategy. The White House is likely to respond to requests for documents and testimony relating to the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, for example, but far less likely to engage with Republicans’ republican elephant logoinvestigations into Hunter Biden, right, the president’s son, the people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.

Republicans, who won the House majority in the midterm elections, have signaled an aggressive oversight campaign despite capturing fewer seats than either party expected. They have made it clear that among their top investigative targets, in addition to Afghanistan, will be the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and other China-related issues, the disbursement of pandemic relief funds, border security and Biden’s energy policies.

But the likely flash point will be their determination to investigate Hunter Biden, whom they accuse of financial wrongdoing and trading on the family name. kevin mccarthyThe president, who has lost two other children, is highly protective of his son, who has a long history of drug use and other difficulties.

On Tuesday, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, (R-Calif.), right, the leading candidate to become speaker of the House, called for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to resign, saying that if he does not, Republicans “will investigate every order, every action and every failure to determine whether we can begin impeachment inquiries.”

It is unclear what impeachment charges GOP lawmakers could bring against Mayorkas, and the Democratic-led Senate would be unlikely to pursue them in any case. But conservative activists have pushed for such action, saying the administration has failed in its duty to protect the American border.

Related Headlines

 

Public Health, Pandemics

washington post logoWashington Post, Desperate covid long-haulers turn to costly, unproven treatments, Frances Stead Sellers, Nov. 27, 2022 (print ed.). For the burgeoning population of covid long-haulers, there is an abundance of new treatment options:

Specially formulated nutraceuticals imported from India that promise to “get you life back from covid.” Pure oxygen delivered in a pressurized chamber. And, if time and money are no obstacle, a process known as “blood washing” that’s available in Cyprus, or $25,000 stem cell treatments in the Cayman Islands.

Months-long waits at long-covid clinics combined with the sluggish pace of research have left vulnerable patients clamoring for immediate care as manufacturers bring novel remedies to market, often with little data behind them.

“I have tried, I would say, as many different things as anyone could do in my situation,” said Donna Davis-Doneghy, a 62-year-old accountant with Hearthside Food Solutions in London, Ky., who has been tormented by headaches since coming down with covid in November 2020.

“People will say to me, ‘Here’s a phone number,’ and off I go chasing something different,” said Davis-Doneghy, whose treatment regimen has ranged from acupuncture and Botox to nerve-block injections and vitamin infusions.

Long covid has taken to new heights a medical conflict that shows up with cancer and other dire diagnoses: the tension between the desire for evidence and the pressing needs of patients who are suffering. In their rush for relief, patients are turning to unproven treatments, putting them at risk of potentially harmful health effects as well as having their hopes dashed and their wallets emptied. Doctors often follow the practice of prescribing drugs off-label, not for the purpose the Food and Drug Administration originally approved them for.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rare protests against China’s ‘zero covid’ policy erupt across country, Lily Kuo, Nov. 27, 2022. Demonstrations were sparked by accusations that pandemic restrictions had hampered rescuers trying to reach a deadly fire in Xinjiang.

washington post logoWashington Post, With record covid cases, China scrambles to plug an immunity gap, Christian Shepherd and Vic Chiang, Nov. 26, 2022 (print ed.). The country's intensifying efforts to boost vaccination rates and expand hospital capacity stop short of approving foreign vaccines.

A coronavirus outbreak on the verge of being China’s biggest of the pandemic has exposed a critical flaw in Beijing’s “zero covid” strategy: a vast population without natural immunity. After months with only occasional hot spots in the country, most of its 1.4 billion people have never been exposed to the virus.

China FlagChinese authorities, who on Thursday reported a record 31,656 infections, are scrambling to protect the most vulnerable populations. They have launched a more aggressive vaccine drive to boost immunity, expanded hospital capacity and started to restrict the movement of at-risk groups. The elderly, who have an especially low vaccination rate, are a key target.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2These efforts, which stop short of approving foreign vaccines, are an attempt to keep the virus from overwhelming a health-care system ill-prepared for a flood of very sick covid patients.

More intensive-care beds and better vaccination coverage “should have started 2½ years ago, but the single-minded focus on containment meant fewer resources focused on this,” said Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Huang believes that even mRNA boosters, which have proved more effective at fighting disease from the latest omicron variants, wouldn’t now resolve the fundamental problem with China’s goal of eliminating infection rather than mitigating symptoms. To raise immunity by allowing a degree of community transmission “is still not acceptable in China,” he said.

Related Headlines

anthony fauci graphic Custom

 

Twitter, Other Media, Sports News

 

elon musk sideview

 washington post logoWashington Post, Elon Musk says he would support Ron DeSantis in 2024, Ruby Cramer, Nov. 27, 2022. His comments come after he urged his Twitter twitter bird Customfollowers to back Republicans in the midterms.

Billionaire Twitter owner Elon Musk said he would back Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) if he runs for president in 2024. Tweeting into the night on Friday, Musk described DeSantis as a “sensible and centrist” choice.

He said he had been a “significant supporter” of the Obama administration and “reluctantly” supported President Biden over Donald Trump in 2020, but had been disappointed with the results of the last two years. On the eve of the midterm elections this month, Musk urged his more than 115 million followers to support Republicans.

washington post logoWashington Post, Musk plans Twitter check mark feature again, this time with more colors, Rachel Lerman, Nov. 25, 2022. The second launch follows a chaotic rollout of the feature earlier this month.

ny times logoNew York Times, Frustrations Simmer as Saudis Are Blocked From Watching the World Cup, Tariq Panja, Updated Nov. 26, 2022. A curious dispute between a Qatari broadcaster and Saudi media regulators has left millions of Saudis with no way to watch the matches.

In the stands at the World Cup, the fraternal bond between host Qatar and its neighbor Saudi Arabia has been clear. Fans have arrived to games dressed in fifa world cup qatar 2022 officialthe colors of both nations, and the countries’ rulers have made a show of publicly supporting one another.

Even so, the nations appear to be locked in a curious dispute about broadcasting that has made a majority of the World Cup’s games unavailable to viewers in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi-based customers of Tod TV, a streaming service launched in January by Qatar’s beIN Media Group, which owns rights to the tournament across the Middle East, were suddenly blocked from the platform an hour before the tournament’s opening game last Sunday. That meant they were not watching when their country’s crown prince and de facto ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, wearing a Qatar scarf, was given a seat next to the FIFA president Gianni Infantino, one removed from Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the emir of Qatar.

Related Headlines

 

Nov. 26

Top Headlines

In the recaptured Ukrainian city of Kherson, Serhiy Novosad, second from right, looks on as the bodies of his father and grandmother are exhumed and examined as evidence of war crimes after Russian occupation (Photo by Lynsey Addario for The New York Times).

 

Ukraine War


U.S. Politics, Elections

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Regulation

 

World News, Disasters, Climate, Human Rights

 

U.S. Government, Economy, Education

 

U.S. Political Probes, Jan. 6 Insurrection

 

Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

 

Twitter, Media, Sports, News

 

Top Stories

 

In the recaptured Ukrainian city of Kherson, Serhiy Novosad, second from right, looks on as the bodies of his father and grandmother are exhumed and examined as evidence of war crimes after Russian occupation (Photo by Lynsey Addario for The New York Times).

 In the recaptured Ukrainian city of Kherson, Serhiy Novosad, second from right, looks on as the bodies of his father and grandmother are exhumed and examined as evidence of war crimes after Russian occupation (Photo by Lynsey Addario for The New York Times).

ny times logoNew York Times, Under a Cross Atop a Shallow Grave, He Found His Father, Lynsey Addario and Marc Santora, Nov. 26, 2022 (print ed.). The full extent of Russian war crimes in the city of Kherson and surrounding areas is just coming into focus. These were two of them.

After Russian forces retreated from the southern port city of Kherson, Serhiy Novosad, 26, returned this week to the small village of Lvivsky Otrubi where he had grown up, looking for his father and grandmother.

On arriving at the family home, the first thing he noticed were his father’s shoes sitting in a narrow trench dug into the front yard of a house across the street. But before he could look more closely at what he feared was a crime scene, he would have to wait 10 long days — first for the deminers, and then for the police.

As the Russians’ fortunes in Kherson sagged in recent months, their occupation tactics turned increasingly savage, and Mr. Novosad had begged his father and grandmother to leave their village and join him in Kyiv. But his father, also named Serhiy Novosad, would have none of it. He was a farmer and had to tend to his field, he said. City life was not for him.

The two men stayed in touch up until the final days of the Russian occupation, having guarded cellphone conversations because they assumed the Russians would be listening in.

But on Nov. 10, with Russia in the final stages of its retreat, his father’s phone stopped working, and Mr. Novosad decided to make the three-day journey from Kyiv to the Kherson area, still a war zone where Russian shelling killed 10 people on Friday.

When he got to his family home, he found Ukrainian soldiers living there. He asked them where his father was. They shrugged their shoulders, and pointed to what appeared to be a makeshift grave with a cross in front of the house directly across the street.

The Russians had used the family’s house as a base of sorts, and all around were discarded Russian uniforms and boots, dozens of empty ammunition crates, obscene graffiti scribbled on the walls, half-eaten hot dogs and tinned meat.

And the threat of mines.

The scale of the mining around Kherson is hard to comprehend, Rostyslav Smirnov, an adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister, said on Friday. While more than 5,000 mines have been disposed of, he said, they remain everywhere, including in children’s toys. “There was a mine between two soccer balls,” he said.

Using a hook at the end of a long shaft, the sappers carefully removed the wooden cross in case it was rigged. That cleared the way for the overburdened police, who did not arrive until this Wednesday.

As the police officers started to clear dirt from the shallow grave, Mr. Novosad recognized his father’s feet. He also spotted his grandmother’s cane. The bloodied, bruised and bullet-riddled bodies, covered only by an inch-thick layer of dirt and some corrugated metal sheets, made it clear that Serhiy Novosad, 49, and his mother, Lyubov Novosad, 78, had met a violent end.

Andriy Kovalenko, a prosecutor in the Kherson regional prosecutor’s office, said their deaths would be added to the more than 6,000 criminal cases opened in and around Kherson city since the start of the war — until now, most of them based on testimony from people who had fled the area.

The task for prosecutors is daunting, and they are now working under daily Russian shelling in places with no power and unreliable communication networks.

When the Russians were driven out of the Kyiv region early in the war, there was no time to hide evidence of atrocities, and the bodies of civilians shot by Russian forces littered the streets. After Russian forces were routed from the northeastern region of Kharkiv, Ukrainian prosecutors and independent journalists moved quickly to document mass graves, torture rooms and other evidence of atrocities.

 ny times logoNew York Times, At Protests Across America, Guns Are Doing the Talking, Mike McIntire, Nov. 26, 2022. We looked at 700 armed demonstrations and found that, at about 77 percent of them, people openly carrying guns represented right-wing views. Across the country, openly carrying a gun in public is no longer just an exercise in self-defense — increasingly it is a soapbox for elevating one’s voice and, just as often, quieting someone else’s.

This month, armed protesters appeared outside an elections center in Phoenix, hurling baseless accusations that the election for governor had been stolen from the Republican, Kari Lake. In October, Proud Boys with guns joined a rally in Nashville where conservative lawmakers spoke against transgender medical treatments for minors.

In June, armed demonstrations around the United States amounted to nearly one a day. A group led by a former Republican state legislator protested a gay pride event in a public park in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Men with guns interrupted a Juneteenth festival in Franklin, Tenn., handing out fliers claiming that white people were being replaced. Among the others were rallies in support of gun rights in Delaware and abortion rights in Georgia.

Whether at the local library, in a park or on Main Street, most of these incidents happen where Republicans have fought to expand the ability to bear arms in public, a movement bolstered by a recent Supreme Court ruling on the right to carry firearms outside the home. The loosening of limits has occurred as violent political rhetoric rises and the police in some places fear bloodshed among an armed populace on a hair trigger.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats battle over 2024 nomination calendar as Biden weighs options, Michael Scherer and Tyler Pager, Nov. 26, 2022 (print ed.). New Hampshire and Nevada fight over first place, as Michigan and Minnesota angle to replace Iowa in the Democratic presidential process.

New Hampshire’s Republican governor considers Nevada’s bid to become the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state a joke. Nevada’s top Democratic operative is warning against a big state like Michigan jumping to the front of the line. And South Carolina kingmaker James E. Clyburn (D) has signaled support for replacing Iowa.

But with just days left before Democrats gather on Dec. 1 to decide their presidential nominating order, it remains unclear just how the calendar will sort out. The most important voice in Democratic politics, that of President Biden, has yet to weigh in, and many members of the Rules and Bylaws Committee responsible for deciding the outcome continue to await word from the White House.

That has left an increasingly unruly void, with competing states sniping at each other in public and private, as they grapple for position ahead of a decision that could ultimately reshape the petri dish from which Democratic presidents emerge. The fight, which is scheduled for resolution at a three-day meeting in Washington, now circles around three major questions, according to several people involved in the process, who emphasize that the outcome remains entirely uncertain.

Will Nevada or New Hampshire be blessed with the first place primary spot? Will Michigan or Minnesota, fresh from huge Democratic election wins, be selected as the Midwestern replacement for the disfavored Iowa caucuses? And will a fifth state be added to the pre-Super Tuesday window?

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) is all but certain Democrats are coming for his state’s first-in-the-nation primary, and he says there is zero chance they will succeed. New Hampshire state law requires its secretary of state to set the primary date seven days before any other, and Sununu says that is what is going to happen no matter what Biden wants, potentially forcing Democratic candidates to choose between ignoring the state and facing punishment from their party.

Democrats move closer to cutting Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status for 2024 presidential calendar

“Nevada wants to go first? Can we all have a good laugh at that? They’re still counting fricking votes,” Sununu said in an interview one week after the midterm elections. “This isn’t something — ‘I get it because I want it,’ like a petulant child. You have to earn it with high voter turnout, transparency, results, quick access to winners and when you need to do a recount — we did four recounts yesterday — boom, done.”

washington post logoWashington Post, With record covid cases, China scrambles to plug an immunity gap, Christian Shepherd and Vic Chiang, Nov. 26, 2022 (print ed.). The country's intensifying efforts to boost vaccination rates and expand hospital capacity stop short of approving foreign vaccines.

A coronavirus outbreak on the verge of being China’s biggest of the pandemic has exposed a critical flaw in Beijing’s “zero covid” strategy: a vast population without natural immunity. After months with only occasional hot spots in the country, most of its 1.4 billion people have never been exposed to the virus.

Chinese authorities, who on Thursday reported a record 31,656 infections, are scrambling to protect the most vulnerable populations. They have launched a more aggressive vaccine drive to boost immunity, expanded hospital capacity and started to restrict the movement of at-risk groups. The elderly, who have an especially low vaccination rate, are a key target.

These efforts, which stop short of approving foreign vaccines, are an attempt to keep the virus from overwhelming a health-care system ill-prepared for a flood of very sick covid patients.

More intensive-care beds and better vaccination coverage “should have started 2½ years ago, but the single-minded focus on containment meant fewer resources focused on this,” said Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Huang believes that even mRNA boosters, which have proved more effective at fighting disease from the latest omicron variants, wouldn’t now resolve the fundamental problem with China’s goal of eliminating infection rather than mitigating symptoms. To raise immunity by allowing a degree of community transmission “is still not acceptable in China,” he said.

 

Ukraine War

 

Russian Leader Vladimir Putin, right, is shown in a 2017 photo with Russia's recently appoint military commander for the Ukraine war, Gen. Sergei Surovikin in a pool photo by Alexei Druzhinin.

Russian Leader Vladimir Putin is shown in a 2017 photo with Russia's recently appoint military commander for the Ukraine war, Gen. Sergei Surovikin in a pool photo by Alexei Druzhinin.

washington post logoWashington Post, Western sanctions catch up with Russia’s wartime economy, Catherine Belton and Robyn Dixon, Nov. 26, 2022. The establishment of a new council to coordinate military supplies reflects the Kremlin's grave concerns over the economy.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin launched last month a new council for coordinating supplies for the Russian army, he seemed to recognize the scale of the economic problems facing the country, and his sense of urgency was palpable.

Russian Flag“We have to be faster in deciding questions connected to supplying the special military operation and countering restrictions on the economy which, without any exaggeration, are truly unprecedented,” he said.

For months, Putin claimed that the “economic blitzkrieg” against Russia had failed, but Western sanctions imposed over the invasion of Ukraine are digging ever deeper into Russia’s economy, exacerbating equipment shortages for its army and hampering its ability to launch any new ground offensive or build new missiles, economists and Russian businessmen said.

Recent figures show the situation has worsened considerably since the summer when, buoyed by a steady stream of oil and gas revenue, the Russian economy seemed to stabilize. Figures released by the Finance Ministry last week show a key economic indicator — tax revenue from the non-oil and gas sector — fell 20 percent year in October compared to a year earlier, while the Russian state statistics agency Rosstat reported that retail sales fell 10 percent year on year in September, and cargo turnover fell 7 percent.

“All objective indicators show there is a very strong drop in economic activity,” said Vladimir Milov, a former Russian deputy energy minister who is now a leading opposition politician in exile. “The spiral is escalating, and there is no way out of this now.”

The Western ban on technology imports is affecting most sectors of the economy, while the Kremlin’s forced mobilization of more than 300,000 Russian conscripts to serve in Ukraine, combined with the departure of at least as many abroad fleeing the draft, has dealt a further blow, economists said. In addition, Putin’s own restrictions on gas supplies to Europe, followed by the unexplained explosion of the Nord Stream gas pipeline, has led to a sharp drop in gas production — down 20 percent in October compared to the previous year. Meanwhile, oil sales to Europe are plummeting ahead of the European Union embargo expected to be imposed Dec. 5.

The Kremlin has trumpeted a lower-than-expected decline in GDP, forecast by the International Monetary Fund at only 3.5 percent this year, as demonstrating that the Russian economy can weather the raft of draconian sanctions.

 

Belarus' Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei speaks during a press conference in Moscow in 2021 (AFP photo byYuri Kochetkov via Getty Images).

Belarus' Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei speaks during a press conference in Moscow in 2021 (AFP photo byYuri Kochetkov via Getty Images).

Reuters via NBC News, Belarus officials say Vladimir Makei, long-time foreign minister, has died suddenly, Staff Report, Nov. 26, 2022. Exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said Makei will be remembered as a traitor who "betrayed the Belarusian people and supported tyranny."

Belarus’ long-standing foreign minister has died suddenly, the country’s foreign ministry said Saturday, two days before he was meant to meet his Russian counterpart.

NBC News logo"The Foreign Minister of the Republic of Belarus Vladimir Makei has passed away," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus said in a tweet. Makei had held his post since 2012.

Makei, 64, attended a conference of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) — a military alliance of several post soviet states — in Yerevan earlier this week and was due to meet Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Monday.

Before the presidential elections and mass anti-government protests in Belarus in 2020, Makei had been one of the initiators of efforts to improve Belarus’ relations with the West and had criticized Russia.

However, he abruptly changed his stance after the start of the protests, saying they were inspired by agents of the West.

After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in February, Makei, a supporter of close ties between Moscow and Minsk, said the West had provoked the war and that the Ukrainian authorities should agree to the Russian terms of peace.

A few days before the start of the war, Makei promised that there would be no attack on Ukraine from the territory of Belarus. A few days later, Russian troops proved that he was wrong.

“We are shocked by the reports of the death of the Head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus Vladimir Makei,” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova posted in her Telegram channel.

ny times logoNew York Times, Artillery Is Breaking in Ukraine. It’s Becoming a Problem for the U.S., John Ismay and Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Nov. 26, 2022 (print ed.). Ukrainian soldiers are firing thousands of shells daily, forcing the Pentagon to replace gun barrels across the border in Poland.

Ukrainian troops fire thousands of explosive shells at Russian targets every day, using high-tech cannons supplied by the United States and its allies. But those weapons are burning out after months of overuse, or being damaged or destroyed in combat, and dozens have been taken off the battlefield for repairs, according to U.S. and Ukrainian officials.

A third of the roughly 350 Western-made howitzers donated to Kyiv are out of action at any given time, according to U.S. defense officials and others familiar with Ukraine’s defense needs.

Swapping out a howitzer’s barrel, which can be 20 feet long and weigh thousands of pounds, is beyond the capability of soldiers in the field and has become a priority for the Pentagon’s European Command, which has set up a repair facility in Poland.

Western-made artillery pieces gave Ukrainian soldiers a lifeline when they began running low on ammunition for their own Soviet-era howitzers, and keeping them in action has become as important for Ukraine’s allies as providing them with enough ammunition.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Ukraine marked the 90th anniversary of a devastating famine, officials compared it with Russia’s recent attacks, Cassandra Vinograd, Nov. 26, 2022. Ukraine’s government was working to restore power to millions on Saturday as the country commemorated the 90th anniversary of the Holodomor, the devastating famine that President Volodymyr Zelensky compared to the wave of Russian strikes targeting critical infrastructure that have left large parts of the country cold and in the dark.

The Holodomor, which means “death by hunger” in Ukrainian, spread in Kazakhstan and through southern Russia but was harshest in Ukraine, where it left entire villages to starve. Ukrainian historians argue that the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin orchestrated a famine to crush Ukrainian aspirations for independence.

Government officials on Saturday marked the anniversary of the 1932-33 famine — which is observed annually on the fourth Saturday of November — at a time when President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is accused of using missile strikes on Ukraine’s power grid to freeze the country into submission.

“Once they wanted to destroy us with hunger, now — with darkness and cold,” Mr. Zelensky said in a statement on Saturday. “We cannot be broken. Our fire will not go out. We will conquer death again.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Says Nuclear Power Plants Back Online, Victoria Kim and Marc Santora, Nov. 26, 2022 (print ed.). Utility crews scrambled to stabilize the electricity grid after Russian strikes. The country relies on nuclear power for more than half of its energy.

All three nuclear power plants under Ukrainian control are back online and will soon be producing energy at normal capacity, the head of the national energy utility said on Friday, two days after Russian missile strikes that forced utility crews to scramble to stabilize the country’s crippled energy grid and raised further concerns about the nuclear perils of the war.

Ukraine typically relies on nuclear power for more than half of its energy, an uncommonly high rate of dependence. The Russian attacks on Wednesday triggered emergency protections at the three plants and required a halt to production.

“Now the energy system is fully integrated; all regions are connected,” said Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, the chief executive officer of Ukrenergo, the national utility. He added that utility crews are prepared to react to further Russian attacks, but urged consumers to save electricity.

On Friday morning, electricity had been restored to meet about 70 percent of the country’s needs but rolling blackouts remained in place, Ukrenergo said in a statement posted on the Telegram messaging app.

 

 United Nations

washington post logoWashington Post, Zelensky urges U.N. to condemn ‘energy terror’ after Russia strikes Kyiv, Kelly Kasulis Cho and Victoria Bisset, Nov. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, below right, said he expects a “strong reaction” from the world after Russian missiles blasted energy and civilian infrastructure in Kyiv and other major cities.

He also told world powers at the U.N. Security Council meeting late Wednesday that they should pass a resolution condemning “any forms of energy volodymyr zelensky suit portraitterror.” (Russia has a veto on the council.)

Authorities are continuing efforts to restore key infrastructure following Wednesday’s strikes. A Ukrainian presidential official said ukraine flagThursday that power had been restored to all regions of the country, although efforts to reconnect households was still underway. The mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, said on Telegram early Thursday that 70% of the capital remained without electricity, although water has since been restored to the whole city.

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

1. Key developments

  • Zelensky compared Russia’s attacks on energy to “weapons of mass destruction” in his speech late Wednesday. “When the temperature is below zero outside, and tens of millions of people are left without electricity, heat and water as a result of Russian missiles hitting energy facilities, this is an obvious crime against humanity,” he told the Security Council.
  • The impact of Wednesday’s strikes were also felt in other parts of Ukraine. In the central Dnipropetrovsk region, around half of residents remain without power, the head of the local military administration said early Thursday. According to Valentyn Reznichenko, almost 3,000 miners had to be rescued after being trapped underground during the blackouts.
  • european union logo rectangleThe European Union is working at “full speed” to prepare a ninth round of sanctions against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen announced Thursday, as the bloc’s parliament approved $18.7 billion to help Ukraine “survive the war and start its reconstruction.” Speaking at a news conference in Finland, she said she was “confident” that the G-7 and other major partners would soon approve a global price cap on Russian oil, adding: “We will not rest until Ukraine has prevailed over Putin and his unlawful and barbaric war.”
  • Zelensky praised the European Parliament’s symbolic vote Wednesday to label Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism.” On Twitter, he said that “Russia must be isolated at all levels and held accountable in order to end its long-standing policy of terrorism in Ukraine and across the globe.” Here’s what the designation means.

2. Battleground updates

  • Millions of Ukrainians could face life-threatening conditions without power, heat or running water this winter, after attacks on energy infrastructure battered the country to the brink of a humanitarian disaster, The Washington Post reported. Sergey Kovalenko, the head of a power company supplying Kyiv, has warned that Ukrainians could face blackouts until the end of March. The head of power grid operator Ukrenergo on Tuesday described the damage as “colossal.”
  • Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said he had asked Germany to send Ukraine the Patriot missile launchers that Berlin had previously offered to Warsaw. “This will protect Ukraine from further deaths and blackouts and will increase security at our eastern border,” he said on Twitter.
  • Pro-Russia hackers have claimed responsibility after the European Parliament’s website was forced offline for several hours, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said. The apparent Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack came as the E.U. legislative body voted to designate Moscow a state sponsor of terrorism.

3. Global impact

  • Russian FlagRussian President Vladimir Putin is “weaponizing winter” as a strategy to harm Ukrainians, said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield at the U.N. meeting. “He has decided that if he cannot seize Ukraine by force, he will try to freeze the country into submission,” she said. The White House said the United States had provided more than $250 million for “winterization efforts” in Ukraine — funds intended for heating fuel, generators, warm blankets and shelter repairs. Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron said late Wednesday that attacks on civilian infrastructure “are war crimes and cannot go unpunished.”

 

putin eu puppets

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Fact slide: Putin's puppets in the European Parliament, Wayne Madsen, left, Nov. 24-25, 2022. Naming wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallthem and shaming them. wayne madesen report logoOn November 23, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to brand Russia a terrorist state. The vote was 494 to 58 with 44 abstentions. Here are Putin's 58 shameless puppets -- far-right to the deluded left -- what can be called the Quisling caucus.

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U.S. Politics, Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, Meet the House Republicans Who Will Wield Power in the New Congress, Catie Edmondson, Luke Broadwater and Emily Cochrane, Nov. 26, 2022 (print ed.). The G.O.P. lawmakers in line to lead key committees have made it clear they will prioritize investigations of the Biden administration.

Republicans may have won control of the House by only the slimmest of margins, but in a chamber that operates purely by majority rule, their razor-thin edge has given them all the tools they need to plunge the Biden administration into a morass of investigations.

republican elephant logoWielding gavels and subpoena power, the Republicans set to lead influential House committees have pledged to bedevil President Biden on a litany of issues, including the foreign business dealings of his son Hunter Biden, security at the southern border, the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Justice Department’s initiative to address threats of violence and harassment directed at school administrators and school board members.

At the same time, they will face calls from their conservative base — and an influential clutch of hard-liners in Congress — to impeach a phalanx of officials, from Mr. Biden himself to the vice president and cabinet secretaries.

And at least some of them will need to find a way to produce legislation — at a minimum, bills to fund the government — that can make it through the Democratic-led Senate and be signed by Mr. Biden.

While House Republicans made modest gains in diversifying this year, their senior ranks reflect the overwhelmingly white, male makeup of their conference. The party is on track to have no people of color leading committees — a notable shift from House Democrats, who have six Black lawmakers, two Latino legislators and an Asian American one in those posts. Republicans are also set to have only two or three women leading committees, down from the seven Democratic women who now hold gavels.

Here’s a look at some of the key players.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Steny Hoyer sought ‘consensus’. The next Democratic leaders may find that hard, Paul Kane, Nov. 26, 2022. Hoyer hopes the new top Democrats can replicate the balance of the outgoing three, but the new guard must contend with the polarization of the Republican Party.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, right, has been doing a lot of reflecting these days. A central theme that he adopted 20 years ago upon first getting voted into the No. 2 position in the Democratic caucus has been on his mind lately.

steny hoyer o“I talked about the psychology of consensus, the psychology of getting up in the morning and thinking, ‘I’m going to be with the team,’ knowing full well that you can’t be with the team all the time,” the Maryland Democrat said in an interview on Tuesday.

Two decades later, in the wake of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to step out of leadership, Hoyer announced he, too, would step back, as did their longtime wingman, Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.).

Pelosi (D-Calif.) has been understandably hailed as a historic figure for breaking Congress’s glass ceiling and also for marshaling major legislative accomplishments into law during two separate stints as House speaker.

But a key to that success came from how the triumvirate worked in coordination to find consensus, especially as the Democrats in Congress grew more diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, sex and sexual orientation, geography and philosophy.

Pelosi, 82, rose to power through the party’s liberal coastal power centers: from a childhood in a Baltimore political dynasty to an adult life connected to the West Coast’s new technology sectors that now fuel Democratic financial engines. Clyburn, 82, came up in the civil rights movement and became the Congressional Black Caucus’s longest-tenured member in a top leadership post, making him a moral center of gravity.

Hoyer, 83, the only straight White male to occupy one of the top seven spots in Democratic leadership during the past four years, has long had ties to more moderate factions in swing seats from the Blue Dog and New Democrat coalitions.

 

herschel walker left raphael wornock

ny times logoNew York Times, Herschel Walker, Running in Georgia, Receives Tax Break for Texas Residents, Maya King, Nov. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Mr. Walker, Georgia’s Republican nominee for Senate, is benefiting from a homestead exemption meant for primary residents of Texas.

Herschel Walker, above left, the Republican candidate for Senate in Georgia, is receiving a tax exemption on his Texas home that is meant for primary residents of the state, despite currently living and running for office in Georgia.

Public tax records first reported by CNN show that this year Mr. Walker will receive a homestead tax exemption of roughly $1,500 for his home in the Dallas area, which he listed as his primary residence. He has received the tax relief for his home since 2012, according to an official in the tax appraisal office of Tarrant County, where Mr. Walker’s home is located.

Mr. Walker, who grew up in Georgia and was a phenom for the University of Georgia football team, has made his roots a centerpiece of his campaign. His decisive primary victory in May and support from Republican voters were driven in large part by his stardom in the state. He will face Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat above right, in a runoff election on Dec. 6, after neither candidate cleared the 50 percent threshold needed to win in Georgia on Nov. 8.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Georgia Runoff, a Campaign Cliché Rules: It All Comes Down to Turnout, Maya King, Nov. 26, 2022 (print ed.). With control of the Senate no longer at stake, the race between Herschel Walker and Raphael Warnock is drawing less attention. Both sides are pulling out all the stops to drive voters to the polls.

georgia mapHalfway into Georgia’s four-week runoff period, that plan is now in full swing. And grass-roots organizers are not alone. Georgia Democrats and Republicans have poured a combined $38 million into television ads, hired more than 700 additional field staffers and extended invitations to governors, senators and at least one former president ahead of Election Day on Dec. 6.

Campaigns and allied groups are feverishly knocking on doors, waving signs and sending text messages imploring Georgians to head back to the polls for the second time in less than a month. All the while, Mr. Warnock and his Republican opponent, Herschel Walker, are traveling alongside high-profile surrogates to re-energize supporters.

“If you want to be on top of your game in Georgia, you plan for runoffs,” said Hillary Holley, executive director of Care in Action, the political arm of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, who helped do just that before the general election.

Yet, all of this activity is facing some new hurdles: A 2021 law shortened the window for campaigning, giving candidates just four weeks — including the Thanksgiving holiday — to make their final appeals to weary voters. And the stakes, along with national attention, diminished significantly when the Democrats clinched control of the Senate earlier this month, downgrading the race from a final battle over control of the chamber to a fight over whether Democrats would win a 51st vote.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Latest Dinner Guest: Nick Fuentes, White Supremacist, Maggie Haberman and Alan Feuer, Nov. 26, 2022 (print ed.). Former President Donald J. Trump on Tuesday night had dinner with Nick Fuentes, an outspoken antisemite and racist who is one of the country’s most prominent young white supremacists, at Mr. Trump’s private club in Florida, advisers to Mr. Trump conceded on Friday.

Former President Trump’s table for four at Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday also included Kanye West, whose antisemitic statements have made him an outcast. Mr. West traveled to meet with Mr. Trump at the club, Mar-a-Lago, and brought Mr. Fuentes along, the advisers said.

The fourth attendee at the four-person dinner, Karen Giorno — a veteran political operative who worked on Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign as his state director in Florida — also confirmed that Mr. Fuentes was there.

In recent years, Mr. Fuentes, 24, has developed a high profile on the far right and forged ties with such Republican lawmakers as Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona, largely through his leadership of an annual white-supremacist event called the America First Political Action Conference.

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U.S. Courts, Crime, Regulation

Former Kansas City Police Detective Roger Golubski shown in a pre-trial hearing photo by Carlos Moreno of KCUR.

Former Kansas City Police Detective Roger Golubski shown in a pre-trial hearing photo by Carlos Moreno of KCUR.

washington post logoWashington Post, Kansas town weighs racial justice as ex-officer faces charges of abuse, David Nakamura, Updated Nov. 26, 2022. Former detective Roger Golubski is charged with raping Black women two decades ago. Residents are asking how far did the corruption go?

A dozen years after his retirement, Roger Golubski returned to the Wyandotte County Courthouse in late October to testify in a hearing for two Black prison inmates who claim the White former police detective framed them for murder long ago.

Golubski, 69, took the witness chair slowly. He was still burly, but his once-intimidating presence had been punctured by ailing health, including renal failure, diabetes and quintuple bypass surgery in April.

“Did you have a history of pressuring witnesses?” said Kevin Shepherd, a lawyer for Brian Betts and Celester McKinney. The two inmates, who were convicted in the 1997 case, sat next to Shepherd in striped prison jumpsuits.

“Never,” Golubski replied.

Golubski is the key figure in alleged corruption stemming from his 35 years in the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department that has raised troubling questions about justice and accountability at a time when many predominantly Black or Brown communities and other disenfranchised groups are vocally demanding both. He is accused of preying on impoverished Black residents by exploiting a network of female informants for sex and for coerced testimony, which he allegedly used to close cases; charges he has denied.

The tale that emerges from court testimony, documents and interviews reveals a world in which Golubski, at minimum, appears to have played a significantly influential role in dramatically determining what darkness happened in the lives of scores of Kansas City residents. It also provides a sense of the changes in power and justice occurring in the city, including the nuance, frustration and hope that has come as new leadership reckons with racial wounds.

In recent weeks, the U.S. Justice Department has taken steps to address some of the allegations, announcing two indictments of Golubski on eight counts, including civil rights violations, conspiracy and forcing women into involuntary servitude.

Advocates for alleged victims want accountability from local officials, as well. They are seeking an examination not just of Golubski’s actions, but of the police department and what they see as a local power structure that helped cover up what residents say happened.

Community leaders are demanding to know how Golubski was seemingly able to operate with impunity for decades and seeking reassurances that behavior such as his alleged misconduct could not happen again in the city’s 330-officer police force — now overseen by Kansas City’s first Black mayor, a former police officer who rose to the rank of deputy chief.

Golubski’s former police department partner, Terry Zeigler, who served as police chief from 2015 to 2019, denied knowledge of the alleged misconduct.

washington post logoWashington Post, After three major shootings in less than two weeks, a nation copes with collective trauma, Tara Parker-Pope and Lindsey Bever, Nov. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Therapists say fear, anger and resignation are common responses to gun violence. Talking with loved ones, self-care and altruism can help you cope.

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World News, Disasters, Human Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, They Were Surrogates. Now They Must Raise the Children, Hannah Beech, Photographs by Nadia Shira Cohen, Nov. 26, 2022. In Cambodia’s weak legal system, surrogacy exists in a gray market, endangering all involved when political conditions shift and criminal charges follow.

The baby was not hers, not really.

Hun Daneth felt that, counted on that. When she gave birth to the boy, who didn’t look like her, she knew it even more.

cambodia flagBut four years after acting as a surrogate for a Chinese businessman, who said he had used a Russian egg donor, Ms. Hun Daneth is being forced by the Cambodian courts to raise the little boy or risk going to jail. The businessman is in prison over the surrogacy, his appeal denied in June.

Even as she dealt with the shock of raising the baby, Ms. Hun Daneth dutifully changed his diapers. Over the months and years, she found herself hugging and kissing him, cajoling him to eat more rice so he could grow big and strong. She has come to see this child as her own.

“I love him so much,” said Ms. Hun Daneth, who is looking after the boy with her husband.

The fates of a Cambodian woman, a Chinese man and the boy who binds them together reflect the intricate ethical dilemmas posed by the global surrogacy industry. The practice is legal — and often prohibitively expensive — in some countries, while others have outlawed it. Still other nations with weak legal systems, like Cambodia, have allowed gray markets to operate, endangering those involved when political conditions suddenly shift and criminal cases follow.

When carried out transparently with safeguards in place, supporters say, commercial surrogacy allows people to expand their families while fairly compensating the women who give birth to the children. Done badly, the process can lead to the abuse of vulnerable people, whether the surrogates or the intended parents.

Cambodia became a popular surrogacy destination after crackdowns in other Asian countries nearly a decade ago. Foreigners flocked to newly opened fertility clinics and surrogacy agencies in Phnom Penh, the capital.

As the industry flourished, the government imposed a ban on surrogacy, promising to pass legislation officially outlawing it. The ill-defined injunction, imposed in a graft-ridden country with little rule of law, ended up punishing the very women the government had vowed to safeguard.

Hannah Beech, who has covered Southeast Asia for more than 20 years, spent 10 months reporting this article. Nadia Shira Cohen first started photographing the surrogates and their children in 2019.

 

state dept map logo Small

 ny times logoNew York Times, As Venezuelan Antagonists Talk, the U.S. Softens Its Stance, Julie Turkewitz, Nov. 26, 2022 (print ed.). A rare meeting between leaders of Venezuela’s bitterly divided government and opposition is expected to result in two major agreements meant to ease the country’s complex political and humanitarian crisis.

venezuela flag waving customThe meeting partly reflects the economic ripple effects of Russia’s Ukraine invasion, which has reduced global oil supplies and pushed the United States to reconsider its restrictions on energy companies operating in Venezuela.

If all goes as planned, the talks, scheduled for Saturday, will lead to an agreement to transfer up to $3 billion in Venezuelan government funds frozen overseas into a humanitarian program administered by the United Nations — a concession by President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, nicolas maduro customright,  who has long denied the scope of the suffering that has unfolded under his tenure.

At the same time, the United States is expected to approve a license request by Chevron Corp. to expand operations in Venezuela, according to three people familiar with the deal. The agreement could represent an important step toward allowing Venezuela to re-enter the international oil market, something Mr. Maduro desperately needs to improve the economy.

For years, Chevron and other oil companies have been prevented from large-scale operations in Venezuela by U.S. sanctions designed to starve Mr. Maduro’s government.

Following the expected accord, other companies are likely to press the United States to further lift Venezuela-related restrictions, including sanctions that ban entities in India and elsewhere from importing Venezuelan oil, said Francisco Monaldi, director of Rice University’s Latin America Energy Program. The United States is likely to tie such actions to further concessions by Mr. Maduro. But if it does lift the sanctions, that would be an economic “game changer” for Venezuela’s authoritarian leader, Mr. Monaldi added.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: In Belarus, a champion of democracy suffers solitary confinement, Editorial Board, Nov. 26, 2022. In the darkness that political prisoners endure in Belarus, the “punishment cell,” or solitary confinement, is particularly miserable.

Those who have suffered it recall constant cold. They are allowed only to take a toothbrush, thin towel and toilet paper; are forced to sleep on a wooden bunk without pillow or blanket; are denied reading material; have no contact with others, including a lawyer. Maria Kolesnikova, who fought for democracy in Belarus, has now been confined to one such hellhole.

belarus flagMs. Kolesnikova is known for her irrepressible, sunny mood. She is a professional musician — a flutist — who has studied in Belarus and Germany. Behind bars in a Belarus courtroom, she made a heart sign with her handcuffed hands and danced. She wrote to her father after 10 months in prison, “I’m well, healthy and cheerful!” We can only imagine how she copes in utter isolation at Penal Colony No. 4 in Gomel, in southeastern Belarus.

Relatives say they do not know how long she has been in the punishment cell, or for what; the prison staff refused to allow a lawyer to meet her. They add that she was disciplined recently for “being in the wrong place during working hours,” and for “impolite” behavior. These charges are just as ludicrous as the ones for which Ms. Kolesnikova was sentenced in September 2021 to 11 years in prison: “causing harm to the national security,” “conspiracy to seize power in an unconstitutional way,” and “creation of an extremist formation, or participation in it.”

What Ms. Kolesnikova actually did was champion the cause of democracy. She became campaign manager to presidential candidate Viktor Babariko, a alexander lukashenko resized 2019longtime Minsk banker who gathered signatures to run for president in 2020 against dictator Alexander Lukashenko, left, and was detained for it. Ms. Kolesnikova then joined Svetlana Tikhanovskaya in a presidential bid that drew enormous crowds and enthusiasm for a free Belarus. They were triumphant, only to see the election stolen by Mr. Lukashenko, who declared himself the winner. Ms. Tikhanovskaya was forced out of the country. When thugs tried to force Ms. Kolesnikova over the border, she resisted by tearing up her passport and jumping out of their car. She was later arrested.

Mr. Lukashenko clearly believes that imprisoning his critics will silence them. Mr. Babariko is still behind bars; so is Ms. Tikhanovskaya’s husband, Sergei. There are 1,450 political prisoners in Belarus, according to the human rights group Viasna, which describes them as: “Bloggers, business executives, presidential campaign members and peaceful protesters … held in prisons only because they were not afraid to exercise their rights — the right to participate in peaceful assemblies, to express their opinion and to be involved in political activities.”

Mr. Lukashenko has been violating fundamental human rights in Belarus for many years. He is also a willing partner with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in trying to destroy Ukraine’s democracy by going to war. It is time for Ms. Kolesnikova and all the political prisoners to be freed. Mr. Lukashenko and his henchmen are the ones who should find themselves in the dock, for the cruel multitude of injustices they inflicted upon the people of Belarus.

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U.S. Government, Economy, Education

ny times logoNew York Times, A Rising Star in the Biden Administration Faces a $100 Billion Test, Ana Swanson, Nov. 26, 2022. Gina Raimondo, the commerce secretary, has made a career of tackling increasingly larger challenges. Could the next one be too big?

gina raimondo 2019 CustomGina Raimondo, right, the commerce secretary, was meeting with students at Purdue University in September when she spotted a familiar face. Ms. Raimondo beamed as she greeted the chief executive of SkyWater Technology, a chip company that had announced plans to build a $1.8 billion manufacturing facility next to the Purdue campus.

“We’re super excited about the Indiana announcement,” she said. “Call me if you need anything.”

These days, Ms. Raimondo, a former Rhode Island governor, is the most important phone call in Washington that many chief executives can make. As the United States embarks on its biggest foray into industrial policy since World War II, Ms. Raimondo has the responsibility of doling out a stunning amount of money to states, research institutions and companies like SkyWater.

commerce dept logoShe is also at the epicenter of a growing Cold War with China as the Biden administration uses her agency’s expansive powers to try to make America’s semiconductor industry more competitive. At the same time, the administration is choking off Beijing’s access to advanced chips and other technology critical to China’s military and economic ambitions.

China has responded angrily, with its leader, Xi Jinping, criticizing what he called “politicizing and weaponizing economic and trade ties” during a meeting with President Biden this month, according to the official Chinese summary of his comments.

The Commerce Department, under Ms. Raimondo’s leadership, is now poised to begin distributing nearly $100 billion — roughly 10 times the department’s annual budget — to build up the U.S. chip industry and expand broadband access throughout the country.

How Ms. Raimondo handles that task will have big implications for the United States economy going forward. Many view the effort as the best — and only — bet for the United States to position itself in industries of the future, like artificial intelligence and supercomputing, and ensure that the country has a secure supply of the chips necessary for national security.

But the risks are similarly huge. Critics of the Biden administration’s plans have noted that the federal government may not be the best judge of which technologies to back. They have warned that if the administration gets it wrong, the United States may surrender its leadership in key technologies for good.

“The essence of industrial policy is you’re gambling,” said William Reinsch, a trade expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank. “She’s going to be in a tough spot because there probably will be failures or disappointments along the way,” he said.

The outcome could also have ramifications for Ms. Raimondo’s political ambitions. In less than two years in Washington, Ms. Raimondo, 51, has emerged as one of President Biden’s most trusted cabinet officials. Company executives describe her as a skillful and charismatic politician who is both engaged and accessible in an administration often known for its skepticism of big business.

Ms. Raimondo’s work has earned her praise from Republicans and Democrats, along with labor unions and corporations. Her supporters say she could ascend to another cabinet position, run for the Senate or perhaps mount a presidential bid.

But she is under close watch by Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and some other left-wing Democrats, who have criticized her as being too solicitous of corporate interests. Some progressive groups have accused Ms. Raimondo of being under the influence of big tech firms and not thoroughly disclosing those ties.

“Secretary Raimondo’s job is to help grow an economy that works for everyone, not to be the chief lobbyist for the Chamber of Commerce,” Ms. Warren said in a statement to The New York Times. “I have real concerns about the department’s approach, whether it’s approving assault weapon sales, negotiating trade deals or supporting big tech companies.”

Those criticisms have been fanned by rumors in recent months that the White House is considering Ms. Raimondo to serve as the next Treasury secretary if Janet L. Yellen, the current occupant of that post, eventually steps down.

Caitlin Legacki, a spokeswoman for the Commerce Department, dismissed speculation about Ms. Raimondo’s next moves as “wheel spinning.”

“As has been previously reported, Janet Yellen is staying at Treasury and Gina Raimondo is staying at Commerce,” Ms. Legacki wrote in an email.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: 3 reasons Yale Law was right to quit the U.S. News rankings, James Forman Jr., Nov. 26, 2022. James Forman Jr. is Yale’s J. Skelly Wright professor of law and faculty director of the Yale Law and Racial Justice Center.

Last week, Yale Law School, where I teach, announced it was pulling out of U.S. News & World Report’s annual law school rankings. Many people were shocked. After all, Yale has perennially been No. 1 in the 30-plus years since the rankings first appeared. Why quit a system that has brought so much glory?

Because the U.S. News rankings are somewhere between silly and demented — they harm law schools, applicants and graduates. As somebody who has been reading law school applications and advising prospective students for almost a decade, I could offer dozens of reasons for ending the rankings. But here are the top three.

1. The list encourages students to make decisions based on the rankings — and nothing else.

2. The rankings discourage schools from helping graduates pursue public interest careers.

3. I’ve saved the most important problem for last: The rankings discourage schools from admitting students with low LSAT scores. The LSAT does a decent job of measuring certain skills but ignores many others that good lawyers need. Yet it looms large in every law school applicant’s file. As a result, students who struggle with the test are at a huge disadvantage.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Terrified, elated, anxious: College students told us about campus life without Roe, Julie Vitkovskaya and Susan Svrluga, Nov. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Young people on campuses had a lot to say about living in a world where the right to abortion is not guaranteed.

The nation’s 17 million college students have confronted a new and chaotic reality on campus this fall: a fast-changing legal landscape and entirely new norms in the wake of the Dobbs decision on abortion. For some, the changes are joyful, a protection of human life. For others, they are terrifying, pushing them to consider scenarios that would have been unthinkable just months ago, such as having to drop out of school if they became pregnant.

For this story, The Washington Post partnered with student journalists in Arizona, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Texas, Indiana and D.C. to help solicit voices from across the country.

Their responses were nuanced and widely varied, reflecting the diversity of the student population and the tremendous legal uncertainty.

One of the students elated by the ruling said she wept at the prospect of so many babies’ lives being saved. Some students spoke of their intensified fears of rape. Many were furious and said they would focus their energy on protests and politics. Students in medical fields wondered how their education might shift. Some worried about the possibility of reprisals for speaking out. In those cases, The Washington Post abbreviated the last names.

Here’s what they said.

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U.S. Political Probes, Jan. 6 Insurrection

washington post logoWashington Post, White House likely to honor some GOP probes but not those on Hunter Biden, Tyler Pager, Nov. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Biden aides eye a split strategy on GOP investigations — cooperating on topics like Afghanistan but refusing to engage on the president’s son.

As House Republicans prepare to launch an onslaught of oversight investigations next year, the White House is planning to distinguish between inquiries they deem legitimate and others they view as politically, not legislatively, motivated — with an eye toward minimizing their cooperation with probes they consider improper, according to two people familiar with the plans.

hunter bidenWhite House officials caution that their decisions about cooperation will ultimately hinge on the nature of the investigations, but their preparations, which have been underway for months, hinge on such a split strategy. The White House is likely to respond to requests for documents and testimony relating to the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, for example, but far less likely to engage with Republicans’ republican elephant logoinvestigations into Hunter Biden, right, the president’s son, the people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.

Republicans, who won the House majority in the midterm elections, have signaled an aggressive oversight campaign despite capturing fewer seats than either party expected. They have made it clear that among their top investigative targets, in addition to Afghanistan, will be the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and other China-related issues, the disbursement of pandemic relief funds, border security and Biden’s energy policies.

But the likely flash point will be their determination to investigate Hunter Biden, whom they accuse of financial wrongdoing and trading on the family name. kevin mccarthyThe president, who has lost two other children, is highly protective of his son, who has a long history of drug use and other difficulties.

On Tuesday, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, (R-Calif.), right, the leading candidate to become speaker of the House, called for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to resign, saying that if he does not, Republicans “will investigate every order, every action and every failure to determine whether we can begin impeachment inquiries.”

It is unclear what impeachment charges GOP lawmakers could bring against Mayorkas, and the Democratic-led Senate would be unlikely to pursue them in any case. But conservative activists have pushed for such action, saying the administration has failed in its duty to protect the American border.

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Public Health, Pandemics

ny times logoNew York Times, In a Challenge to Beijing, Unrest Over Covid Lockdowns Spreads, Amy Chang Chien, Chang Che, John Liu and Paul Mozur, Nov. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Protests are rising as China enacts more lockdowns and quarantines, with no end in sight. The defiance is a test of Xi Jinping’s authoritarian leadership.

China FlagIn an iPhone factory in central China, thousands of workers clashed with riot police and tore down barricades.

In the southern city of Guangzhou, protesters broke out of locked-down buildings to confront health workers and ransack food provisions.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2And online, many Chinese raged at the authorities after the death of a 4-month-old girl, whose father said access to medical treatment was delayed because of Covid restrictions.

As China’s harsh Covid rules extend deep into their third year, there are growing signs of discontent across the country. For China’s leader, Xi Jinping, the unrest is a test of his precedent-breaking third term in power and underscores the urgent political question of how he can lead China out of the Covid era.

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anthony fauci graphic Custom

 

Twitter, Other Media, Sports News

 

elon musk sideview

washington post logoWashington Post, Musk says he will revive banned Twitter accounts, to the alarm of activists and safety experts, Taylor Lorenz, Nov. 25, 2022 (print ed.). The Twitter chief (above) says he will reinstate accounts suspended for threats, harassment and misinformation beginning next week.

Elon Musk plans to reinstate nearly all previously banned Twitter accounts — to the alarm of activists and online trust and safety experts.

twitter bird CustomAfter posting a Twitter poll asking, “Should Twitter offer a general amnesty to suspended accounts, provided that they have not broken the law or engaged in egregious spam?” in which 72.4 percent of the respondents voted yes, Musk declared, “Amnesty begins next week.”

The Twitter CEO did not respond Thursday to a request for comment from The Washington Post. The poll garnered more than 3 million votes.

The mass return of users who had been banned for such offenses as violent threats, harassment and misinformation will have a significant impact on the platform, experts said. And many questioned how such a resurrection would be handled, given that it’s unclear what Musk means by “egregious spam” and the difficulty of separating out users who have “broken the law,” which vary widely by jurisdiction and country.

“Apple and Google need to seriously start exploring booting Twitter off the app store,” said Alejandra Caraballo, clinical instructor at Harvard Law’s cyberlaw clinic. “What Musk is doing is existentially dangerous for various marginalized communities. It’s like opening the gates of hell in terms of the havoc it will cause. People who engaged in direct targeted harassment can come back and engage in doxing, targeted harassment, vicious bullying, calls for violence, celebration of violence. I can’t even begin to state how dangerous this will be.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Major Shareholder Raises Concerns About News Corp’s Merger With Fox, Lauren Hirsch, Maureen Farrell and Benjamin Mullin, Nov. 26, 2022 (print ed.). One of the largest shareholders in News Corp said on Friday that it had strong reservations about the plans of its chairman, Rupert rupert murdoch 2011 shankbone Murdoch, right, to combine the two parts of his media business, News Corp and Fox — the biggest indicator yet that Mr. Murdoch could face significant opposition.

fox news logo SmallT. Rowe Price, which owns about 12 percent of News Corp — making it the company’s largest shareholder after the Murdoch family — said in an interview with The New York Times that a merger of the two companies would probably undervalue News Corp, which it believes is trading for less than the company is worth. It also said that because the Murdoch family owns a bigger share of Fox than News Corp, the family’s interests may lie more with Fox.

Both companies have appointed special committees of independent directors to review the proposal, which does not yet include a valuation for either company.

The deal, which could put Fox News under the same corporate umbrella as The Wall Street Journal, would reverse a decision made nearly a decade ago to divide the company’s film and TV holdings from its sprawling global portfolio of newspapers. Mr. Murdoch has said he sees cost-saving and moneymaking opportunities in joining the two companies, including ways to use the company’s assets for emerging business lines across the two companies, such as sports betting.

ny times logoNew York Times, Frustrations Simmer as Saudis Are Blocked From Watching the World Cup, Tariq Panja, Updated Nov. 26, 2022. A curious dispute between a Qatari broadcaster and Saudi media regulators has left millions of Saudis with no way to watch the matches.

In the stands at the World Cup, the fraternal bond between host Qatar and its neighbor Saudi Arabia has been clear. Fans have arrived to games dressed in the colors of both nations, and the countries’ rulers have made a show of publicly supporting one another.

Even so, the nations appear to be locked in a curious dispute about broadcasting that has made a majority of the World Cup’s games unavailable to viewers in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi-based customers of Tod TV, a streaming service launched in January by Qatar’s beIN Media Group, which owns rights to the tournament across the Middle East, were suddenly blocked from the platform an hour before the tournament’s opening game last Sunday. That meant they were not watching when their country’s crown prince and de facto ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, wearing a Qatar scarf, was given a seat next to the FIFA president Gianni Infantino, one removed from Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the emir of Qatar.

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Nov. 25

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In the recaptured Ukrainian city of Kherson, Serhiy Novosad, second from right, looks on as the bodies of his father and grandmother are exhumed and examined as evidence of war crimes after Russian occupation (Photo by Lynsey Addario for The New York Times).

 

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In the recaptured Ukrainian city of Kherson, Serhiy Novosad, second from right, looks on as the bodies of his father and grandmother are exhumed and examined as evidence of war crimes after Russian occupation (Photo by Lynsey Addario for The New York Times).

 In the recaptured Ukrainian city of Kherson, Serhiy Novosad, second from right, looks on as the bodies of his father and grandmother are exhumed and examined as evidence of war crimes after Russian occupation (Photo by Lynsey Addario for The New York Times).

ny times logoNew York Times, Under a Cross Atop a Shallow Grave, He Found His Father, Lynsey Addario and Marc Santora, Nov. 25, 2022. The full extent of Russian war crimes in the city of Kherson and surrounding areas is just coming into focus. These were two of them.

After Russian forces retreated from the southern port city of Kherson, Serhiy Novosad, 26, returned this week to the small village of Lvivsky Otrubi where he had grown up, looking for his father and grandmother.

On arriving at the family home, the first thing he noticed were his father’s shoes sitting in a narrow trench dug into the front yard of a house across the street. But before he could look more closely at what he feared was a crime scene, he would have to wait 10 long days — first for the deminers, and then for the police.

As the Russians’ fortunes in Kherson sagged in recent months, their occupation tactics turned increasingly savage, and Mr. Novosad had begged his father and grandmother to leave their village and join him in Kyiv. But his father, also named Serhiy Novosad, would have none of it. He was a farmer and had to tend to his field, he said. City life was not for him.

The two men stayed in touch up until the final days of the Russian occupation, having guarded cellphone conversations because they assumed the Russians would be listening in.

But on Nov. 10, with Russia in the final stages of its retreat, his father’s phone stopped working, and Mr. Novosad decided to make the three-day journey from Kyiv to the Kherson area, still a war zone where Russian shelling killed 10 people on Friday.

When he got to his family home, he found Ukrainian soldiers living there. He asked them where his father was. They shrugged their shoulders, and pointed to what appeared to be a makeshift grave with a cross in front of the house directly across the street.

The Russians had used the family’s house as a base of sorts, and all around were discarded Russian uniforms and boots, dozens of empty ammunition crates, obscene graffiti scribbled on the walls, half-eaten hot dogs and tinned meat.

And the threat of mines.

The scale of the mining around Kherson is hard to comprehend, Rostyslav Smirnov, an adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister, said on Friday. While more than 5,000 mines have been disposed of, he said, they remain everywhere, including in children’s toys. “There was a mine between two soccer balls,” he said.

Using a hook at the end of a long shaft, the sappers carefully removed the wooden cross in case it was rigged. That cleared the way for the overburdened police, who did not arrive until this Wednesday.

As the police officers started to clear dirt from the shallow grave, Mr. Novosad recognized his father’s feet. He also spotted his grandmother’s cane. The bloodied, bruised and bullet-riddled bodies, covered only by an inch-thick layer of dirt and some corrugated metal sheets, made it clear that Serhiy Novosad, 49, and his mother, Lyubov Novosad, 78, had met a violent end.

Andriy Kovalenko, a prosecutor in the Kherson regional prosecutor’s office, said their deaths would be added to the more than 6,000 criminal cases opened in and around Kherson city since the start of the war — until now, most of them based on testimony from people who had fled the area.

The task for prosecutors is daunting, and they are now working under daily Russian shelling in places with no power and unreliable communication networks.

When the Russians were driven out of the Kyiv region early in the war, there was no time to hide evidence of atrocities, and the bodies of civilians shot by Russian forces littered the streets. After Russian forces were routed from the northeastern region of Kharkiv, Ukrainian prosecutors and independent journalists moved quickly to document mass graves, torture rooms and other evidence of atrocities.

 

putin eu puppets

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Fact slide: Putin's puppets in the European Parliament, Wayne Madsen, left, Nov. 24-25, 2022. Naming wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallthem and shaming them. wayne madesen report logoOn November 23, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to brand Russia a terrorist state. The vote was 494 to 58 with 44 abstentions. Here are Putin's 58 shameless puppets -- far-right to the deluded left -- what can be called the Quisling caucus:

washington post logoWashington Post, Terrified, elated, anxious: College students told us about campus life without Roe, Julie Vitkovskaya and Susan Svrluga, Nov. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Young people on campuses had a lot to say about living in a world where the right to abortion is not guaranteed.

The nation’s 17 million college students have confronted a new and chaotic reality on campus this fall: a fast-changing legal landscape and entirely new norms in the wake of the Dobbs decision on abortion. For some, the changes are joyful, a protection of human life. For others, they are terrifying, pushing them to consider scenarios that would have been unthinkable just months ago, such as having to drop out of school if they became pregnant.

For this story, The Washington Post partnered with student journalists in Arizona, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Texas, Indiana and D.C. to help solicit voices from across the country.

Their responses were nuanced and widely varied, reflecting the diversity of the student population and the tremendous legal uncertainty.

One of the students elated by the ruling said she wept at the prospect of so many babies’ lives being saved. Some students spoke of their intensified fears of rape. Many were furious and said they would focus their energy on protests and politics. Students in medical fields wondered how their education might shift. Some worried about the possibility of reprisals for speaking out. In those cases, The Washington Post abbreviated the last names.

Here’s what they said:

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats battle over 2024 nomination calendar as Biden weighs options, Michael Scherer and Tyler Pager, Nov. 25, 2022. New Hampshire and Nevada fight over first place, as Michigan and Minnesota angle to replace Iowa in the Democratic presidential process.

New Hampshire’s Republican governor considers Nevada’s bid to become the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state a joke. Nevada’s top Democratic operative is warning against a big state like Michigan jumping to the front of the line. And South Carolina kingmaker James E. Clyburn (D) has signaled support for replacing Iowa.

But with just days left before Democrats gather on Dec. 1 to decide their presidential nominating order, it remains unclear just how the calendar will sort out. The most important voice in Democratic politics, that of President Biden, has yet to weigh in, and many members of the Rules and Bylaws Committee responsible for deciding the outcome continue to await word from the White House.

That has left an increasingly unruly void, with competing states sniping at each other in public and private, as they grapple for position ahead of a decision that could ultimately reshape the petri dish from which Democratic presidents emerge. The fight, which is scheduled for resolution at a three-day meeting in Washington, now circles around three major questions, according to several people involved in the process, who emphasize that the outcome remains entirely uncertain.

Will Nevada or New Hampshire be blessed with the first place primary spot? Will Michigan or Minnesota, fresh from huge Democratic election wins, be selected as the Midwestern replacement for the disfavored Iowa caucuses? And will a fifth state be added to the pre-Super Tuesday window?

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) is all but certain Democrats are coming for his state’s first-in-the-nation primary, and he says there is zero chance they will succeed. New Hampshire state law requires its secretary of state to set the primary date seven days before any other, and Sununu says that is what is going to happen no matter what Biden wants, potentially forcing Democratic candidates to choose between ignoring the state and facing punishment from their party.

Democrats move closer to cutting Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status for 2024 presidential calendar

“Nevada wants to go first? Can we all have a good laugh at that? They’re still counting fricking votes,” Sununu said in an interview one week after the midterm elections. “This isn’t something — ‘I get it because I want it,’ like a petulant child. You have to earn it with high voter turnout, transparency, results, quick access to winners and when you need to do a recount — we did four recounts yesterday — boom, done.”

washington post logoWashington Post, With record covid cases, China scrambles to plug an immunity gap, Christian Shepherd and Vic Chiang, Nov. 25, 2022. The country's intensifying efforts to boost vaccination rates and expand hospital capacity stop short of approving foreign vaccines.

A coronavirus outbreak on the verge of being China’s biggest of the pandemic has exposed a critical flaw in Beijing’s “zero covid” strategy: a vast population without natural immunity. After months with only occasional hot spots in the country, most of its 1.4 billion people have never been exposed to the virus.

Chinese authorities, who on Thursday reported a record 31,656 infections, are scrambling to protect the most vulnerable populations. They have launched a more aggressive vaccine drive to boost immunity, expanded hospital capacity and started to restrict the movement of at-risk groups. The elderly, who have an especially low vaccination rate, are a key target.

These efforts, which stop short of approving foreign vaccines, are an attempt to keep the virus from overwhelming a health-care system ill-prepared for a flood of very sick covid patients.

More intensive-care beds and better vaccination coverage “should have started 2½ years ago, but the single-minded focus on containment meant fewer resources focused on this,” said Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Huang believes that even mRNA boosters, which have proved more effective at fighting disease from the latest omicron variants, wouldn’t now resolve the fundamental problem with China’s goal of eliminating infection rather than mitigating symptoms. To raise immunity by allowing a degree of community transmission “is still not acceptable in China,” he said.

ny times logoNew York Times, After 3 Mass Shootings, a Thanksgiving With 14 Empty Chairs, Michael Wilson, Nov. 25, 2022 (print ed.). A janitor at a Virginia Walmart. A woman returning home to Colorado Springs for the holidays. Three college football players. And more. The dead from just three of this month’s mass shootings are the very picture of the ideals that America prides itself on at this time each November.

A janitor working his shift at a Virginia Walmart. A 40-year-old woman returning home to Colorado Springs for the holidays. A young man at his girlfriend’s side, watching her friend perform in a drag show.

Three college football players. A mother who worked to help foster children. One bartender who remembered your drink and another who danced.

White and Black, gay and straight, old and young. The collection of the newly dead from just three of this month’s mass shootings are the very picture of the ideals — inclusivity, setting aside differences — that America prides itself on at this time each November. Fourteen people who did not know their last Thanksgiving was already behind them.

Tuesday’s rampage, in which six people were killed in a Walmart in Chesapeake, Va., was the 33rd mass shooting in November alone, and the nation’s 606th this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

That shooting occurred after three students were killed at the University of Virginia on Nov. 13 and five people were killed on Saturday night at a gay club in Colorado Springs. On Wednesday, four teenagers were wounded in a shooting in Philadelphia just after classes were dismissed for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Yesterday’s parents, children and friends became Thursday’s empty chairs.

Authorities have identified five of the six people who were killed in a Virginia Walmart after a store manager began firing Tuesday night before killing himself. From top left) Lorenzo Gamble, Kellie Pyle, Brian Pendleton, Tyneka Johnson and Randy Blevins. The sixth deceased victim was a 16-year-old boy whom authorities are not naming because he was a minor.

Authorities have identified five of the six people who were killed in a Virginia Walmart after a store manager began firing Tuesday night before killing himself. From top left) Lorenzo Gamble, Kellie Pyle, Brian Pendleton, Tyneka Johnson and Randy Blevins. The sixth deceased victim was a 16-year-old boy whom authorities are not naming because he was a minor.

ny times logoNew York Times, Walmart Gunman Bought a Pistol to Kill Co-Workers and Left a ‘Death Note,’ J. David Goodman, Nov. 25, 2022. The Walmart supervisor who shot and killed six of his co-workers at a store in Chesapeake, Va., purchased a pistol hours before the massacre, the police said.

walmart logoThe Walmart supervisor who shot and killed six of his co-workers at a store in Chesapeake, Va., late on Tuesday purchased a pistol only hours before the massacre and left a note on his phone, in which he described how he planned to target some colleagues and spare others, according to new details released by the Chesapeake police on Friday.

As friends and relatives of the victims mourned, with a candlelight vigil planned by the city on Monday, the new details provided the first indication of what led to the eruption of workplace violence, which took place as members of what has been described as a close-knit overnight team met in a Walmart break room.

andre bing mugThe police said an analysis of a phone belonging to the gunman, identified as Andre Bing, 31, left, turned up the message, in which he said employees at the store had mocked him and compared him to a serial killer. In what he called a “death note,” the gunman said he would not kill an employee who had cancer because his mother had died from the disease.

“My God forgive me for what I’m going to do…” the note ended, according to images shared by Chesapeake city officials on Twitter. Officials did not say when the note was written.

The new details released Friday indicated the ease with which the gunman had purchased the pistol used in the killing, a 9-millimeter handgun. “The gun was legally purchased from a local store on the morning of Tuesday,” the city said in a statement. “He had no criminal history.”

According to a witness, the gunman opened fire about 10 p.m. without warning after entering the break room. The victims included several employees who had worked with him for years — Randall Blevins, Lorenzo Gamble and Brian Pendleton — and others who had more recently joined the staff, Kellie Pyle and Tyneka Johnson. One victim was a 16-year-old boy whose name has not been released.

 

joe biden black background resized serious file

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: U.S. Enters a New Era of Direct Confrontation With Iran, David E. Sanger, Nov. 25, 2022 (print ed.). The White House has imposed new sanctions and expressed support for protesters, as Iran aids Russia in the Ukraine war and continues nuclear enrichment.

Over the past few days, Iran has told international inspectors that it plans to begin making near bomb-grade nuclear fuel deep inside a mountain that is hard to bomb, and dramatically expand its nuclear fuel production at a plant that Israel and the United States have repeatedly sabotaged.

Iran FlagIranian forces have shot or locked up antigovernment protesters, provided Russia with drones for its war in Ukraine and, some Western intelligence agencies suspect, may be negotiating to produce missiles as well for Russia’s depleted arsenal. The United States accused Iran on Tuesday of once again violating Iraqi territory to conduct attacks in the Kurdistan region.

A new era of direct confrontation with Iran has burst into the open. Its emergence was hidden for a while by more dramatic events — including the Ukraine invasion and rising U.S. competition with China — and negotiations with Tehran dragged on, inconclusively, for 18 months.

Now, Mr. Biden’s hope of re-entering the United States into the deal with Iran that was struck in 2015, and that President Donald J. Trump abandoned, has all but died. Negotiations halted in September, and in recent weeks Mr. Biden has imposed new sanctions on Iran and expressed support for protests that Iran’s hard-liners have portrayed as a mortal threat.

 

Sam Bankman-Fried (shown in a newshubweek photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, FTX’s Bahamas crypto empire: Stimulants, subterfuge and a spectacular collapse, Tim Craig, Drew Harwell and Nitasha Tiku, Nov. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Sam Bankman-Fried's image of monkish aloofness met reality in the Bahamas, where the 30-year-old crypto billionaire lived in a guarded island compound, with every need closely catered to and the world’s elite at his beck and call.

Before Sam Bankman-Fried’s $16 billion empire imploded, Margaux Avedisian remembers thinking there was something unsettling about the cryptocurrency wunderkind.

Bankman-Fried (shown above in a newshubweek photo) had become a legend by pushing an image of monkish aloofness, vowing to forsake the allures of his extraordinary wealth — sleeping on beanbag chairs, driving a Toyota Corolla — and to give away his fortune for the greater good.

ftx logoYet in April, when Avedisian was hired as a master of ceremonies for a conference in the Bahamas sponsored by FTX, Bankman-Fried’s crypto exchange, she saw how the 30-year-old billionaire really lived: in a guarded island compound, every need closely catered to, the world’s elite at his beck and call.

Conference guests partied in casinos where Bahamians weren’t allowed to gamble and hobnobbed with celebrity attendees, including singer Katy Perry and football veteran Tom Brady. For one party, VIPs took a boat from the island to a second, even fancier island for a feast of lobster, a private DJ concert and an open bar.

“You’re living this lifestyle of poverty, but you’re partying with Katy Perry?” she recalled thinking. “Why would you want to hang out with these celebrities if you’re so head-down trying to change the world?”

When Bankman-Fried and his band of crypto risk-takers moved to the Bahamas last year in a blitz of extravagant spending, they promised to remake the island paradise into a global capital of the new financial elite. Some Bahamians said they felt lucky to have an opportunity to work so close to a superstar.

Instead, Bankman-Fried stepped down as FTX’s CEO earlier this month after presiding over one of the fastest meltdowns of wealth in modern history. FTX, valued earlier this year at $32 billion, has been declared bankrupt, and his $16 billion personal fortune nosedived to zero in less than a week.

James Bromley, an FTX lawyer, said at a bankruptcy hearing Tuesday that Bankman-Fried had treated the company as his “personal fiefdom” before it all fell apart. “The emperor had no clothes,” he said.

In the Bahamas, many are anxiously waiting to see how the fallout from this legendary blunder will shape their lives. At a gate that workers use to enter Albany, the closely guarded enclave where Bankman-Fried and his top deputies shared a $40 million waterfront penthouse, one construction worker told a reporter on a recent morning that, if Bankman-Fried were still inside, “we would grab him and bring him out.”

As investigators begin to piece together FTX’s financial wreckage, the Bahamas has emerged as a centerpiece for Bankman-Fried’s many contradictions — and fueled questions about why so many there and elsewhere had supported a company with so many warning signs.

FTX had called itself “the cleanest brand in crypto” and promised investors “High Returns, No Risk.” But FTX’s new chief, John J. Ray III, hired to clean up the mess, said in a recent legal filing that Bankman-Fried’s “very small group of inexperienced, unsophisticated and potentially compromised individuals” in the Bahamas had spent lavishly on themselves while failing to track where billions of clients’ dollars were sent or stored.

Though FTX became one of the world’s biggest financial exchanges, rooted in a complex web of more than 130 now-bankrupt business entities, the team functioned like a dorm-room start-up, with no centralized lists of bank accounts or even employees, Ray said.

FTX spent clients’ funds on seaside homes for employees’ use and routed money to Bankman-Fried’s other company, the crypto trading firm Alameda Research, Ray said. Corporate reimbursements were often requested via an online chat box and approved by supervisors using “personalized emoji.” Only “a fraction” of customers’ money has been located and secured.

“Never in my career have I seen such a complete failure of corporate controls and such a complete absence of trustworthy financial information,” said Ray, who once oversaw the liquidation of Enron, one of America’s most infamous corporate frauds.

The victims of FTX’s spectacular collapse are just now being counted, and the damage will probably be enormous: In bankruptcy court filings, lawyers have estimated that more than a million people or businesses have lost money, with more than $3 billion in losses from the top 50 creditors alone.

The Bahamas, a former British colony comprising hundreds of islands 45 minutes from the Florida coast, has for decades been a darling of American tourists for its scenic beaches — and of offshore financial engineers and money launderers for its minimal taxes and corporate disclosure rules.

  • New York Times, Crypto Firm FTX’s Ownership of a U.S. Bank Raises Questions, Nov. 24, 2022.

 

U.S. Political Probes, Jan. 6 Insurrection

washington post logoWashington Post, White House likely to honor some GOP probes but not those on Hunter Biden, Tyler Pager, Nov. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Biden aides eye a split strategy on GOP investigations — cooperating on topics like Afghanistan but refusing to engage on the president’s son.

As House Republicans prepare to launch an onslaught of oversight investigations next year, the White House is planning to distinguish between inquiries they deem legitimate and others they view as politically, not legislatively, motivated — with an eye toward minimizing their cooperation with probes they consider improper, according to two people familiar with the plans.

hunter bidenWhite House officials caution that their decisions about cooperation will ultimately hinge on the nature of the investigations, but their preparations, which have been underway for months, hinge on such a split strategy. The White House is likely to respond to requests for documents and testimony relating to the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, for example, but far less likely to engage with Republicans’ republican elephant logoinvestigations into Hunter Biden, right, the president’s son, the people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.

Republicans, who won the House majority in the midterm elections, have signaled an aggressive oversight campaign despite capturing fewer seats than either party expected. They have made it clear that among their top investigative targets, in addition to Afghanistan, will be the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and other China-related issues, the disbursement of pandemic relief funds, border security and Biden’s energy policies.

But the likely flash point will be their determination to investigate Hunter Biden, whom they accuse of financial wrongdoing and trading on the family name. kevin mccarthyThe president, who has lost two other children, is highly protective of his son, who has a long history of drug use and other difficulties.

On Tuesday, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, (R-Calif.), right, the leading candidate to become speaker of the House, called for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to resign, saying that if he does not, Republicans “will investigate every order, every action and every failure to determine whether we can begin impeachment inquiries.”

It is unclear what impeachment charges GOP lawmakers could bring against Mayorkas, and the Democratic-led Senate would be unlikely to pursue them in any case. But conservative activists have pushed for such action, saying the administration has failed in its duty to protect the American border.

MeidasTouch,

, Ben Meiselas, Nov. 25, 2022.  Special Counsel Jack Smith filed a letter brief on Thanksgiving calling out Trump’s lawyers for providing false and erroneous information to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals following Tuesday’s oral argument. MeidasTouch host Ben Meiselas breaks it all down.

Salon, Trump launches Truth Social war on new special counsel's wife, Samaa Khullar, Nov. 25, 2022. Trump and right-wingers claim special counsel Jack Smith's wife shows he can't be impartial

Former President Donald Trump raged online after finding out that the wife of the special counsel appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland is a Democratic donor who was involved in a documentary about former first lady Michelle Obama. 

Justice Department career prosecutor Jack Smith was appointed by Garland to oversee investigations into Trump with the apparent goal of shielding the department from accusations of partiality.

Katy Chevigny, Smith's wife, was listed as a producer on "Becoming," the former first lady's 2020 documentary. She also donated $2,000 to President Joe Biden's 2020 campaign, according to FEC records. 

Trump took to Truth Social to rant about Chevigny and Smith, attaching screenshots of her Tweets supporting the Democratic Party and accusing the Department of Justice of being biased in their investigation

"This is just a small amount of information from the wife of the hard-line Radical Left Special Counsel (prosecutor), an acolyte of Eric Holder and Barack Hussein Obama," he wrote on Tuesday night.

Eric Trump joined his father on the conservative social media website, attaching a screenshot of Chevigny's producer credit on the Wikipedia page for "Becoming" as proof of a supposed vendetta against the former president.  

"The wife of the Special Counsel Biden chose to investigate @realDonaldTrump (his likely opponent in 2024) reportedly produced the Michelle Obama documentary," he wrote. "Yes America, you are reading this correctly."

Conservatives are up in arms over Chevigny's Democratic ties, claiming that Biden is using the Justice Department as a political weapon against Trump, though there are no federal laws that restrict spouses of federal law enforcement agents, prosecutors or other officials from political donations or campaign activity. 

Related Headlines

 

Ukraine War

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Ukraine Says Nuclear Power Plants Back Online, Victoria Kim and Marc Santora, Nov. 25, 2022. Utility crews scrambled to stabilize the electricity grid after Russian strikes. The country relies on nuclear power for more than half of its energy.

All three nuclear power plants under Ukrainian control are back online and will soon be producing energy at normal capacity, the head of the national energy utility said on Friday, two days after Russian missile strikes that forced utility crews to scramble to stabilize the country’s crippled energy grid and raised further concerns about the nuclear perils of the war.

Ukraine typically relies on nuclear power for more than half of its energy, an uncommonly high rate of dependence. The Russian attacks on Wednesday triggered emergency protections at the three plants and required a halt to production.

“Now the energy system is fully integrated; all regions are connected,” said Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, the chief executive officer of Ukrenergo, the national utility. He added that utility crews are prepared to react to further Russian attacks, but urged consumers to save electricity.

On Friday morning, electricity had been restored to meet about 70 percent of the country’s needs but rolling blackouts remained in place, Ukrenergo said in a statement posted on the Telegram messaging app.

 

 United Nations

washington post logoWashington Post, Zelensky urges U.N. to condemn ‘energy terror’ after Russia strikes Kyiv, Kelly Kasulis Cho and Victoria Bisset, Nov. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, below right, said he expects a “strong reaction” from the world after Russian missiles blasted energy and civilian infrastructure in Kyiv and other major cities.

He also told world powers at the U.N. Security Council meeting late Wednesday that they should pass a resolution condemning “any forms of energy volodymyr zelensky suit portraitterror.” (Russia has a veto on the council.)

Authorities are continuing efforts to restore key infrastructure following Wednesday’s strikes. A Ukrainian presidential official said ukraine flagThursday that power had been restored to all regions of the country, although efforts to reconnect households was still underway. The mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, said on Telegram early Thursday that 70% of the capital remained without electricity, although water has since been restored to the whole city.

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

1. Key developments

  • Zelensky compared Russia’s attacks on energy to “weapons of mass destruction” in his speech late Wednesday. “When the temperature is below zero outside, and tens of millions of people are left without electricity, heat and water as a result of Russian missiles hitting energy facilities, this is an obvious crime against humanity,” he told the Security Council.
  • The impact of Wednesday’s strikes were also felt in other parts of Ukraine. In the central Dnipropetrovsk region, around half of residents remain without power, the head of the local military administration said early Thursday. According to Valentyn Reznichenko, almost 3,000 miners had to be rescued after being trapped underground during the blackouts.
  • european union logo rectangleThe European Union is working at “full speed” to prepare a ninth round of sanctions against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen announced Thursday, as the bloc’s parliament approved $18.7 billion to help Ukraine “survive the war and start its reconstruction.” Speaking at a news conference in Finland, she said she was “confident” that the G-7 and other major partners would soon approve a global price cap on Russian oil, adding: “We will not rest until Ukraine has prevailed over Putin and his unlawful and barbaric war.”
  • Zelensky praised the European Parliament’s symbolic vote Wednesday to label Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism.” On Twitter, he said that “Russia must be isolated at all levels and held accountable in order to end its long-standing policy of terrorism in Ukraine and across the globe.” Here’s what the designation means.

2. Battleground updates

  • Millions of Ukrainians could face life-threatening conditions without power, heat or running water this winter, after attacks on energy infrastructure battered the country to the brink of a humanitarian disaster, The Washington Post reported. Sergey Kovalenko, the head of a power company supplying Kyiv, has warned that Ukrainians could face blackouts until the end of March. The head of power grid operator Ukrenergo on Tuesday described the damage as “colossal.”
  • Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said he had asked Germany to send Ukraine the Patriot missile launchers that Berlin had previously offered to Warsaw. “This will protect Ukraine from further deaths and blackouts and will increase security at our eastern border,” he said on Twitter.
  • Pro-Russia hackers have claimed responsibility after the European Parliament’s website was forced offline for several hours, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said. The apparent Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack came as the E.U. legislative body voted to designate Moscow a state sponsor of terrorism.

3. Global impact

  • Russian FlagRussian President Vladimir Putin is “weaponizing winter” as a strategy to harm Ukrainians, said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield at the U.N. meeting. “He has decided that if he cannot seize Ukraine by force, he will try to freeze the country into submission,” she said. The White House said the United States had provided more than $250 million for “winterization efforts” in Ukraine — funds intended for heating fuel, generators, warm blankets and shelter repairs. Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron said late Wednesday that attacks on civilian infrastructure “are war crimes and cannot go unpunished.”
  • Pope Francis compared the Russian invasion to a genocide carried out in Ukraine under Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in the 1930s. “Let us pray for the victims of this genocide and let us pray for so many Ukrainians — children, women, elderly — who are today suffering the martyrdom of aggression,” the Pope said on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. President Biden also criticized Russian “tyranny” as he marked the anniversary of the Holodomor, the man-made famine that killed millions of people in Ukraine under Soviet policies.
  • The U.S. Defense Department announced a $400 million military aid package for Ukraine on Wednesday. It includes machine guns meant to target drones, more munitions for advanced surface-to-air missile systems and more than 20 million rounds of small arms ammunition.

washington post logoWashington Post, What Russia has gained and lost so far in Ukraine, visualized, Júlia Ledur, Nov. 25, 2022 (charts). Russia hasn’t gained more than 1,000 square miles in a week since April. See how Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine has changed throughout the war. For weeks, Russia has struggled to make any territorial advances in Ukraine. Russian troops have retreated from key areas in the east and the south, most recently from the city of Kherson.

The Kremlin’s early objective to quickly take control of all of Ukraine may have been too ambitious, according to Max Bergmann, director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Now what Russia is trying to do is not necessarily gain more territory. It’s just hold onto what they have,” Bergmann said.

U.S. government officials expected the war to be over in days. It has so far lasted nearly nine months. Russia did not expect the conflict to last this long either. That was the Kremlin’s “original sin,” according to Mason Clark, a senior analyst at the Institute for the Study of War.

“What has impeded Russian advances is that they did not prepare to have to fight for so long,” Clark said. A Washington Post analysis of data from the Institute for the Study of War shows that, after aggressive advances in the first weeks of war, Russia hasn’t gained more than 1,000 square miles in a week since April.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia-Ukraine WarTech Giant Aims to Cut Ties With Russia, Anatoly Kurmanaev and Oleg Matsnev, Nov. 25, 2022 (print ed.). The parent firm of Russia’s most prominent technology company, Yandex, wants to cut ties with the country to shield its new businesses from the fallout of the war in Ukraine, a potential setback to President Vladimir V. Putin’s efforts to develop homegrown substitutes for high-tech Western goods and services that have been choked off by sanctions.

yandex ru logoUnder a sweeping overhaul, the Dutch holding company of Yandex — often referred to as “Russia’s Google” — would transfer its most promising new technologies to markets outside Russia and would sell its established businesses in the country, including a popular internet browser and food delivery and taxi-hailing apps, according to two people familiar with the matter who would not speak publicly because of the sensitivity of the discussions.

The company’s plan aims to shield itself from its home market, and highlights the stifling impact of Western sanctions on Russia’s once-thriving technology sector.

The people familiar with the matter said that the war in Ukraine has made the development of Yandex’s new technologies — such as self-driving cars, machine learning and cloud services — unviable. Such businesses, which require access to Western markets, experts and technology, would fail if they remain associated with Russia, one of them added.

Yandex’s Russian subsidiary would continue offering the same products in the country under the new owners, said the second person familiar with the matter.

ukraine flagIt is not clear whether Yandex’s plan will go forward. The company must obtain the Kremlin’s approval to transfer Russian-registered technology licenses outside the country, one of the people said. It would also need to find buyers, most likely within Russia, for its businesses, and the overall restructuring plan would need to be approved by Yandex’s shareholders.

Yandex’s plan is backed by Aleksei Kudrin, Russia’s chief government auditor and a longtime confidant of Mr. Putin. Mr. Kudrin, one of few prominent economic liberals left in the Russian government, is acting for the company informally, but is expected to take a managerial role in the future.

Mr. Kudrin is expected to meet Mr. Putin this week to discuss Yandex’s future and other topics, said one of the people familiar with the matter. The Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said on Thursday that he had no information about such a meeting.

Yandex declined to comment. Russia’s Audit Chamber, Mr. Kudrin’s employer, did not respond to a request for comment.

The company’s restructuring plan was first reported by the Russian economic media outlet The Bell.

Western efforts to isolate Russia economically after its invasion of Ukraine have devastated the once-thriving company. The price of Yandex’s shares traded in Moscow has plunged 62 percent in the past year. The company’s New York-listed shares lost more than $20 billion in value before the Nasdaq stock exchange suspended their trading after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

Thousands of Yandex’s more than 18,000 employees have left Russia since the start of the invasion. In March, the company’s deputy chief executive at the time, Tigran Khudaverdyan, defied the Kremlin line by calling it a “monstrous war” in a Facebook post.

To distance itself from the war’s political fallout, Yandex in August sold its online news aggregator, which had become filled with state propaganda because of increasingly draconian Russian media laws that bar criticism of the war.

The European Union imposed sanctions against Mr. Khudaverdyan in March for Yandex’s role in promoting the Kremlin’s war narrative. His boss, the company’s Israel-based founder, Arkady Volozh, was hit with sanctions by the bloc several months later. Both resigned from the company to allow it to continue operating in Europe.

Related Headlines 

 

U.S. Politics, Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, Meet the House Republicans Who Will Wield Power in the New Congress, Catie Edmondson, Luke Broadwater and Emily Cochrane, Nov. 25, 2022. The G.O.P. lawmakers in line to lead key committees have made it clear they will prioritize investigations of the Biden administration. Emily Cochrane

Republicans may have won control of the House by only the slimmest of margins, but in a chamber that operates purely by majority rule, their razor-thin edge has given them all the tools they need to plunge the Biden administration into a morass of investigations.

Wielding gavels and subpoena power, the Republicans set to lead influential House committees have pledged to bedevil President Biden on a litany of issues, including the foreign business dealings of his son Hunter Biden, security at the southern border, the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Justice Department’s initiative to address threats of violence and harassment directed at school administrators and school board members.

At the same time, they will face calls from their conservative base — and an influential clutch of hard-liners in Congress — to impeach a phalanx of officials, from Mr. Biden himself to the vice president and cabinet secretaries.

And at least some of them will need to find a way to produce legislation — at a minimum, bills to fund the government — that can make it through the Democratic-led Senate and be signed by Mr. Biden.

While House Republicans made modest gains in diversifying this year, their senior ranks reflect the overwhelmingly white, male makeup of their conference. The party is on track to have no people of color leading committees — a notable shift from House Democrats, who have six Black lawmakers, two Latino legislators and an Asian American one in those posts. Republicans are also set to have only two or three women leading committees, down from the seven Democratic women who now hold gavels.

Here’s a look at some of the key players.

 

herschel walker left raphael wornock

ny times logoNew York Times, Herschel Walker, Running in Georgia, Receives Tax Break for Texas Residents, Maya King, Nov. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Mr. Walker, Georgia’s Republican nominee for Senate, is benefiting from a homestead exemption meant for primary residents of Texas.

georgia mapHerschel Walker, above left, the Republican candidate for Senate in Georgia, is receiving a tax exemption on his Texas home that is meant for primary residents of the state, despite currently living and running for office in Georgia.

Public tax records first reported by CNN show that this year Mr. Walker will receive a homestead tax exemption of roughly $1,500 for his home in the Dallas area, which he listed as his primary residence. He has received the tax relief for his home since 2012, according to an official in the tax appraisal office of Tarrant County, where Mr. Walker’s home is located.

Under the Constitution, Senate candidates are required to reside in the state they will represent only once they are elected. In Georgia, candidates must meet a handful of stipulations to establish residency in the state before filing their bids for office. Mr. Walker’s tax exemption in Texas suggests that his primary residence remains outside Georgia.

A spokesman for Mr. Walker’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

According to the Texas comptroller, Mr. Walker’s use of the tax exemption while running in Georgia is legal. The comptroller’s website states that you may still receive the tax break after moving away from home temporarily, if “you do not establish a principal residence elsewhere, you intend to return to the home, and you are away less than two years.”

Mr. Walker, who grew up in Georgia and was a phenom for the University of Georgia football team, has made his roots a centerpiece of his campaign. His decisive primary victory in May and support from Republican voters were driven in large part by his stardom in the state. He will face Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat above right, in a runoff election on Dec. 6, after neither candidate cleared the 50 percent threshold needed to win in Georgia on Nov. 8.

This is not the first time Mr. Walker has faced questions about his residency. Before announcing his Senate campaign in 2021, Mr. Walker lived in Texas for more than two decades. He registered to vote in Georgia in August 2021, days before he declared his candidacy.

Andra Gillespie, an associate professor of political science at Emory University, said that Mr. Walker’s tax exemption was unlikely to endanger his qualification for office or turn off the Republicans who supported him in the general election. But she added that in the final weeks of his runoff campaign against Mr. Warnock, the information could add more fodder to Democrats’ argument that Mr. Walker moved back to the state solely for his political career.

“Herschel Walker was never making the claim that he was a recent resident of Georgia — he was a native-son candidate,” she said. “If the Democrats can mobilize some additional people based on these allegations, then they will use it that way.”

ny times logoNew York Times, In Georgia Runoff, a Campaign Cliché Rules: It All Comes Down to Turnout, Maya King, Nov. 25, 2022. With control of the Senate no longer at stake, the race between Herschel Walker and Raphael Warnock is drawing less attention. Both sides are pulling out all the stops to drive voters to the polls.

Halfway into Georgia’s four-week runoff period, that plan is now in full swing. And grass-roots organizers are not alone. Georgia Democrats and Republicans have poured a combined $38 million into television ads, hired more than 700 additional field staffers and extended invitations to governors, senators and at least one former president ahead of Election Day on Dec. 6.

Campaigns and allied groups are feverishly knocking on doors, waving signs and sending text messages imploring Georgians to head back to the polls for the second time in less than a month. All the while, Mr. Warnock and his Republican opponent, Herschel Walker, are traveling alongside high-profile surrogates to re-energize supporters.

“If you want to be on top of your game in Georgia, you plan for runoffs,” said Hillary Holley, executive director of Care in Action, the political arm of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, who helped do just that before the general election.

Yet, all of this activity is facing some new hurdles: A 2021 law shortened the window for campaigning, giving candidates just four weeks — including the Thanksgiving holiday — to make their final appeals to weary voters. And the stakes, along with national attention, diminished significantly when the Democrats clinched control of the Senate earlier this month, downgrading the race from a final battle over control of the chamber to a fight over whether Democrats would win a 51st vote.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Latest Dinner Guest: Nick Fuentes, White Supremacist, Maggie Haberman and Alan Feuer, Nov. 25, 2022. Former President Donald J. Trump on Tuesday night had dinner with Nick Fuentes, an outspoken antisemite and racist who is one of the country’s most prominent young white supremacists, at Mr. Trump’s private club in Florida, advisers to Mr. Trump conceded on Friday.

Former President Trump’s table for four at Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday also included Kanye West, whose antisemitic statements have made him an outcast. Mr. West traveled to meet with Mr. Trump at the club, Mar-a-Lago, and brought Mr. Fuentes along, the advisers said.

The fourth attendee at the four-person dinner, Karen Giorno — a veteran political operative who worked on Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign as his state director in Florida — also confirmed that Mr. Fuentes was there.

In recent years, Mr. Fuentes, 24, has developed a high profile on the far right and forged ties with such Republican lawmakers as Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona, largely through his leadership of an annual white-supremacist event called the America First Political Action Conference.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump allegedly begins screaming at Kanye West as their dinner meeting falls to pieces, Bill Palmer, right, Nov. 25, 2022. What do bill palmerDonald Trump and Kanye West have in common? They’re both unhinged right wing extremists. They’re both falling to pieces in real time. They’re both pretending they’re 2024 presidential candidates. And neither one of them is actually a 2024 presidential candidate.

bill palmer report logo headerFor some stupid reason, the two decided to have dinner at Mar-a-Lago. Suffice it to say that the whole thing went about as poorly as anyone could have expected. After the dinner, Kanye went online and claimed that Trump ended up “screaming” at him during dinner. Kanye is far from a reliable narrator, so it’s possible that this didn’t happen. But at the least, the dinner went so poorly that Kanye ended up publicly claiming that Trump was screaming at him, which means the dinner went poorly one way or the other.

Trump is correct when he says that Kanye is not a 2024 contender and is wasting everyone’s time by pretending he is. But that gets at the heart of the problem. Trump, who is on the verge of being indicted on charges like espionage, is also not a 2024 contender and is wasting everyone’s time by pretending he is. There’s typically only enough room in the public sphere for one person to get media attention by launching a fake presidential campaign, and Kanye’s lower profile fake campaign is cutting into the media hype for Trump’s higher profile fake campaign.
   
No wonder Kanye West claims Donald Trump was screaming at him; Kanye’s grift is getting in the way of Trump’s grift. And given that Trump is desperately trying to make money off a fake campaign before he heads to prison for the rest of his life, while Kanye is just trying to sell albums, it’s understandable why Trump would be so upset at what Kanye is doing to him.

 

U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola (D-Alaska), left, and her rival, former Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin (R), a former Republian vice presidential nominee on the 2008 ticket.

U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola (D-Alaska), left, and her just-defeated rival, former Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin (R), a former Republian vice presidential nominee on the 2008 ticket.

washington post logoWashington Post, Lisa Murkowski and Mary Peltola projected to win Alaska races, defeating Trump-backed opponents, Nathaniel Herz, Nov. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola on Wednesday became the first Alaska Native to win a full term in Congress, securing reelection along with Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who both defeated challengers endorsed by former president Donald Trump after state officials finished a final round of vote-counting.

mary peltolaPeltola, shown above left and at right, who made history with her August special election win, and Murkowski, a senator for two decades, led after earlier vote counts. But the centrist lawmakers’ victories were not clinched until Wednesday, when the Alaska Division of Elections redistributed votes under the state’s new ranked-choice voting system.

“I am honored that Alaskans — of all regions, backgrounds and party affiliations — have once again granted me their confidence to continue working with them and on their behalf in the U.S. Senate," Murkowski said in a statement Wednesday night. "I look forward to continuing the important work ahead of us.”

In the race for governor, Republican Mike Dunleavy won reelection with over 50 percent of the votes, avoiding the ranked-choice, according to the Associated Press.

lisa murkowski oPeltola and Murkowski, left, had crossed party lines to endorse each other ahead of the election, forming an alliance rooted in the similar space they occupy on the political spectrum. Their wins cap an election season in which voters across the country tended to show a preference for incumbents in battleground races.

The outcome marked another blow to Trump in this year’s midterm elections. Many candidates affiliated with the former president and his polarizing positions fell in defeat in battleground contests. That list includes former Republican governor Sarah Palin, who challenged Peltola with Trump’s backing; and Republican Kelly Tshibaka, a former state and federal official who ran against Murkowski with the former president’s support.

After the final round of ranked choice voting, Murkowski had 53.69 percent of the vote to 46.31 percent for Tshibaka. In the House race, Peltola had 55 percent of the vote to Palin’s 45 percent.

Peltola ran a locally focused campaign with both traditional and unconventional Democratic platform planks — she touted her support for abortion rights and “pro-fish” views, along with her support for new Alaska oil projects and the large gun collection that she and her family maintain.

Peltola’s win secures her first full two-year term on Capitol Hill and follows her victory in August to temporarily fill her state’s only seat in the U.S. House — don youngone that was vacated after the sudden death of longtime Republican Rep. Don Young, right. Peltola beat Palin in that race too, becoming the first Alaska Native member of Congress and her state’s first woman to fill the seat.

Peltola is the first Democrat elected to Congress in Alaska since 2008, when Mark Begich unseated Republican Sen. Ted Stevens just a few months after Stevens was indicted for allegedly making false statements related to his financial disclosures.

Murkowski, meanwhile, will soon begin serving her fourth six-year term in the Senate, following her 2002 appointment to the chamber by her father, then newly elected governor Frank Murkowski. Her campaign highlighted her work to bring infrastructure money to Alaska, her support for the state’s oil and fishing industries and her close relationships with Alaska Native constituencies.

Trump had long vowed to unseat the senator, predicting in 2018 that she “will never recover” politically for voting against one of his Supreme Court nominees, Brett M. Kavanaugh. Tshibaka joined Trump at a rally held in an Anchorage arena in July.

sarah palin donald trump 1 19 16 alex hanson flickrPalin, the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee, also appeared with Trump in July (and at left in a 2016 photo). She lost both the special and general elections after splitting the conservative vote with Nick Begich III, a Republican from a prominent Alaska Democratic family. (Nick Begich III is the nephew of Mark Begich.)

Jim Lottsfeldt, a centrist political consultant who worked with pro-Murkowski and pro-Peltola super PACs, said he’s not sure that Trump’s endorsements offered Palin and Tshibaka much help. Alaska, he said, is small enough that many people who follow politics judge candidates on personal interactions.

“We all have these opinions we’ve earned by looking someone in the eye,” Lottsfeldt said in a phone interview Tuesday. “Donald Trump’s not going to tell me anything about Sarah Palin that I don’t already know.”

This year’s elections were Alaska’s first under the state’s new voting framework, which residents narrowly approved in a 2020 citizens initiative that was partially funded and run by Murkowski allies. The system overhauled primary elections by eliminating partisan races and advancing the top four vote-getters from a single, open ballot to the general election.

In the general election, voters are allowed to rank candidates based on their preferences. If no candidate receives a majority of first-choice votes, the candidate with the lowest vote totals is eliminated, and that candidate’s supporters’ votes are reassigned to their next choices. The process repeats until there are two candidates left and a winner can be declared.

Even if the new election system remains intact, Peltola’s allies expect she’ll face serious challenges from Republicans when her term expires two years from now.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Sarah Palin Is Defeated as Her Party Moves Past Her, Jeremy W. Peters, Nov. 24, 2022 (print ed.). The former Alaska governor, once the standard-bearer of the G.O.P.’s no-apologies culture, was no match for the same forces she rode to prominence.

It is hard to overstate just how much of a jolt to the political system Sarah Palin delivered when she defeated her first fellow Republican 16 years ago.

He was Frank Murkowski, the sitting governor of Alaska and a towering figure in the 49th state. She was a “hockey mom” and the former mayor of a small, working-class town who vowed to stick it to the “good ol’ boys.” That race put her on the map with the national Republican Party and set her on a path that would change her life, and the tenor of American politics for years to come.

Then, Ms. Palin was at the vanguard of the dog-whistling, no-apologies political culture that former President Donald J. Trump now embodies.

Today, having lost her bid for Congress after years out of the spotlight, Ms. Palin is a much diminished force.

She was, in many ways, undone by the same political currents she rode to national prominence, first as Senator John McCain’s vice-presidential nominee in 2008 and later as a Tea Party luminary and Fox News star. Along the way, she helped redefine the outer limits of what a politician could say as she made dark insinuations about Barack Obama’s background and false claims about government “death panels” that could deny health care to seniors and people with disabilities.

Now, a generation of Republican stars follows the template she helped create as a hybrid celebrity-politician who relished fighting with elements in her own party as much as fighting with Democrats — none more so than Mr. Trump, who watched her closely for years before deciding to run for president himself. He ensured this month that he would remain in the spotlight, announcing another bid for the White House in 2024.

But as the next generation rose up, Ms. Palin’s brand of politics no longer seemed as novel or as outrageous. Next to Mr. Trump’s lies about a huge conspiracy to deny him a second term, or Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene’s casual allusions to political violence, Ms. Palin’s provocations more than a decade ago can seem almost quaint.

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U.S. Courts, Crime, Regulation

new york post logoNew York Post, Colorado Springs shooting suspect Anderson Aldrich is nonbinary: lawyers, Yaron Steinbuch, Nov. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Public defenders Joseph Archambault and Michael Bowman filed several motions on Tuesday night that included a footnote about their client’s identity.

“Anderson Aldrich is nonbinary,” the footnote states, the Denver Post reported. “They use they/them pronouns, and for the purposes of all formal filings, will be addressed as Mx. Aldrich.”

The footnote was added along with standard motions that deal with issues like unsealing documents and evidence gathering.

anderson aldrich mugAldrich (shown above in a mugshot with injuries reportedly sustained after the Club Q shooting), likely faces five murder charges as well as five counts of bias-motivated crime causing bodily injury. It is unclear if federal hate crime charges will be filed separately.

Hate crime charges would require proving the suspect was motivated by bias, such as against the victims’ actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

Meanwhile, in another bizarre twist, Aldrich’s estranged father has been identified as an ex-con former MMA fighter-turned-porn star, it was revealed aaron franklin brinkTuesday. Aaron Franklin Brink, left, entered the mixed martial arts cage in the ’90s, clocking up 21 victories over the 10 years of his fighting career — including during appearances with the Ultimate Fighting Championship and World Extreme Cagefighting, MMA Junkie wrote in a profile.

Brink also took up porn acting at age 27 under the name Dick Delaware, the Denver Gazette reported. He appeared in explicit productions “White Boys Can Hump’’ in 2016 and both “My MILF Boss 8’’ and “It’s OK to Put It in My Ass’’ in 2014, according to his IMDb page.

The troubled dad also has an extensive criminal history, including convictions for battery against Aldrich’s mom, Laura Voepel, both before and after the suspect was born, according to state and federal court records.

It was also revealed that the suspected shooter’s name was changed more than six years ago after filing a legal petition in Texas seeking to “protect himself” from a dad with a criminal history. Aldrich was known as Nicholas Franklin Brink until 2016 when a petition was submitted on Brink’s behalf by their grandparents, who were their legal guardians at the time.

“Minor wishes to protect himself and his future from any connections to birth father and his criminal history. Father has had no contact with minor for several years,” the petition stated.

The request for a name change came months after Aldrich was apparently targeted by online bullying. Last year, Aldrich was arrested after their mother reported her child threatened her with a homemade bomb and other weapons.

Authorities later said no explosives were found, but gun control advocates have asked why police didn’t use the state’s “red flag” laws to seize weapons she said her child had.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Partial List of Mass Shootings in the United States in 2022, Staff Report, Nov. 24, 2022 (print ed.). There is no official consensus on what constitutes a mass shooting, complicating the efforts of government, nonprofits and news organizations to document the scope of the problem.

The deadliest mass shooting in the country so far this year was the massacre in which 19 children and two teachers were killed at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24. It happened 10 days after 10 people were shot and killed in a supermarket in Buffalo.

FBI logoThere is no consensus on what constitutes a mass shooting, complicating the efforts of government, nonprofits and news organizations to document the scope of the problem. Different groups define mass shootings differently, depending on circumstances including the number of victims, whether the victims are killed or wounded, and whether the shooting occurs in a public place. The Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit research group that tracks gun violence using police reports, news coverage and other public sources, defines a mass shooting as one in which at least four people were killed or injured.

The Gun Violence Archive has counted at least 606 mass shootings so far this year, through mid-November. Of those shootings, 20 involved five or more fatalities, including the Nov. 22 attack at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Va., and the Nov. 19 shooting at a club in Colorado that left at least five people dead.

 

Colorado Springs mass murder suspect Anderson Aldrich is shown in a photo with his mother, Laura Voepel.

Colorado Springs mass murder suspect Anderson Aldrich is shown in a photo with his mother, Laura Voepel. 

ny times logoNew York Times, New Details Emerge About Colorado Shooting Suspect, Jack Healy, Shawn Hubler and Vik Jolly, Nov. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Lawyers for the suspect accused of killing five people in an L.G.B.T.Q. nightclub say their client identifies as nonbinary.

The small, close-knit L.G.B.T.Q. community in Colorado Springs, a conservative city at the foot of Pikes Peak with a large presence of military bases, was still reeling on Wednesday from the deadly attack at Club Q, which served as an oasis for many.

Before a court hearing scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, new details were emerging about the person the police have accused of killing five people in the attack.

The suspect, who may face hate crime charges, identifies as nonbinary and uses they-them pronouns, the suspect’s lawyers said in court papers filed before the hearing.

The suspect, Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, was being held without bond, and was expected to appear at the hearing by video from the El Paso County Jail.

Prosecutors had not yet filed formal charges, or said what they believed the motive was for the attack.

Public defenders representing the suspect indicated their client’s preferred pronouns in a series of court filings that were made public late on Tuesday.

One footnote in the filings said: “They use they/them pronouns, and for the purposes of all formal filings, will be addressed as Mx. Aldrich.”

Lawyers for the suspect did not respond to requests for comment.

Kristen Prata Browde, a co-chair of the National Trans Bar Association, said that a suspect’s gender identity should have no bearing on whether they can be prosecuted for a hate crime in the Club Q shooting.

“The motive for a crime isn’t dependent on whether you are or are not a member of a protected class,” Ms. Prata Browde said. “It legally has no significance, as far as whether the actions of this individual fit within the law regarding hate crimes.”

According to the police and witnesses, the attacker, clad in body armor, burst into the club just before midnight on Saturday and opened fire with a long gun, killing five people and injuring 18 others before being tackled by people inside the club.

 

aaron brink cbs

new york post logoNew York Post, Dad of alleged Colo. killer goes on bizarre anti-gay rant during interview, Allie Griffin, Nov. 25, 2022 (print ed.). ‘We don’t do gay’: Father of Colorado shooter Anderson Lee Aldrich goes on anti-gay rant.

The father of Anderson Lee Aldrich — the suspect in a mass shooting at a Colorado nightclub — spewed anti-gay comments in a rambling, incoherent explanation of his relationship with his estranged son.

The dad (shown above in a CBS-TV photo) bizarrely claimed during an interview with CBS 8- San Diego that his first concern upon learning his son allegedly killed five at an LGBT establishment was whether his child was homosexual.

“I was scared. I was like ‘Oh my god, s–t, is he gay?’ And he’s not gay,” Aaron Brink, 48, said with an exaggerated sigh of relief.

Brink, who lives in San Diego and has been estranged from Aldrich for years, said he doesn’t support same-sex relationships.

“I’m a Mormon,” the former MMA fighter-turned-porn star told a reporter for the station. I’m a conservative Republican and we don’t do gay.”

During the interview, Aaron Brink was concerned about his son’s sexual orientation.

He said Aldrich’s attorneys called him and told him that his 22-year-old child was involved in the shooting at Club Q in Colorado, but he hadn’t spoken to them in six months.

“I don’t what he’s accused of. I can’t get answers from the attorneys really, but they’re saying it’s involving a gay bar. I don’t know what the heck he did at a gay bar,” Brink said.

A CBS 8 reporter explained to Brink that Aldrich is accused of orchestrating a mass shooting at a gay bar, killing five people and wounding many more.

“OK, well s–t, he’s accused of doing that, I’m glad he’s not gay. I can say that, I’m glad he’s not gay,” Brink said in a shocking response.

Aaron Brink said he doesn’t support same sex-relationships because he’s a Mormon and Republican.

Brink is a former MMA fighter and porn star who has struggled with an addiction to crystal meth. Court filings in the mass shooting case revealed Tuesday that Aldrich is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns. Their sexuality is unknown.

Brink added that he believes relationships should be between a man and a woman and that people “should stand up against homosexuality” — but through not violence, he noted.

The father said there was no acceptable reason for his child’s alleged actions. “There’s no excuse for going and killing people… It’s not the answer,” Brink told the local station.

He apologized to the families of the victims — saying regardless of politics, precious human lives were lost. “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry for your loss,” he said. “I’m so sorry.”

Bartenders Daniel Davis Aston, 28, and Derrick Rump, 38, were slain in the attack, along with Raymond Green Vance, 22, Ashley Paugh, 35, and Kelly Loving, 40.

washington post logoWashington Post, After three major shootings in less than two weeks, a nation copes with collective trauma, Tara Parker-Pope and Lindsey Bever, Nov. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Therapists say fear, anger and resignation are common responses to gun violence. Talking with loved ones, self-care and altruism can help you cope.

As Americans grapple with three major shootings in less than two weeks, many are expressing a combination of fear, anger and resignation that gun violence now has become part of normal life in the United States.

“There’s this feeling that this is just part of the collective experience. It’s scary that it’s becoming normal,” said Kayla M. Johnson, a licensed psychologist in Tomball, Tex. “It happens and we say, ‘Oh, man. What a shame,’ and two weeks go by and people don’t talk about it anymore, and then it happens again.”

“I had a client just tell me, ‘You know, I’m kind of desensitized to this,’ ” said Steve Alexander Jr., a licensed mental health counselor in Brooklyn. “He said, ‘I don’t know if it’s a bad thing or a good thing.’ ”

Michelle Slater, a licensed mental health counselor with a private practice in Jacksonville, Fla., said that in recent years, her clients have been expressing a sense of helplessness and powerlessness.

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World News, Disasters, Human Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, Anwar Ibrahim named Malaysia’s leader, in comeback for anti-graft reformer, Rebecca Tan, Katerina Ang and Emily Ding, Nov. 25, 2022 (print ed.). anwar ibrahimNearly a week after Malaysia’s general election resulted in a hung parliament, longtime opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, right, has garnered enough support among disparate parties to form the Southeast Asian country’s next government, staving off the rise of more conservative political forces — for now.

mahathir mohamad 2019 wThe naming of Anwar as prime minister on Thursday brought a halt to a chaotic election season in Malaysia that has seen the fall of political titan Mahathir Mohamad, left, surprising gains by a far-right Islamic party and endless infighting among supposed allies, caused in large part by the conviction of former prime minister Najib Razak on charges including money laundering and abuse of power.

malaysia flag“This is a unity government,” Anwar said on Thursday evening at his first news conference as prime minister.

Alternating between Malay and English, he pledged to stamp out the corruption that has sullied Malaysian politics in recent years and expressed gratitude to the supporters who have stood by him over decades.

ny times logoNew York Times, Meet the World’s New Human Rights Crisis Manager. He Has a Lot to Do, Nick Cumming-Bruce, Nov. 25, 2022. From Iran to Ukraine to Xinjiang in China, Volker Türk will have no shortage of challenges as he steps into one of the United Nations’ most delicate roles.

Barely a month after taking office as the United Nations’ new human rights chief, Volker Türk was in Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region last week meeting victims of a conflict that has displaced millions.

A day later, in the capital, Khartoum, he met the generals who were clinging to power with the help of troops using lethal force against protesters. He told the generals that Sudan needed to transition to civilian rule and “make sure that the human rights for all people of Sudan are the driving force behind this political process.”

Past U.N. high commissioners for human rights typically took some months in the Geneva lakeside headquarters of the U.N. human rights office to familiarize themselves with the complexities of the job before leaving for country visits. But Mr. Türk started arranging his Sudan visit before officially starting the job and is working on making one or two trips more before the end of the year. A mission to Ukraine is reportedly on his agenda.

On Thursday, the unrest in Iran was top of the list. In an emergency session, the U.N. Human Rights Council decided to investigate Tehran’s response to protests against clerical rule, a crackdown that has resulted in hundreds of deaths.

The council called for the appointment of an international fact-finding mission to look into the Iranian authorities’ reaction to the widespread demonstrations, which were kindled by the death in police custody in September of Mahsa Amini, 22, who had been arrested on charges of violating the law on head scarves.

Making his first statement to the council, Mr. Türk delivered a sharp critique of the Iranian authorities’ actions, saying that they had led to 300 deaths, including more than 40 children; a “staggering” 14,000 arrests; and at least six protesters sentenced to death.

One month before the Nov. 8 midterm elections, several of Georgia’s grass-roots organizing groups huddled to plan for what they saw as an inevitable outcome: another Senate runoff.

This plan, formulated by the same organizers who helped elect the Democratic senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, included budgeting for an added month of canvassing and door knocking, increasing staff outside of the Atlanta area and recording robocalls that could start reaching voters the day after Election Day.

  • New York Times, China Is Finally Trying to Fix Its Housing Crisis, Nov. 25, 2022. After a year on the sidelines, Beijing this week took steps to get hundreds of billions of dollars into the hands of the country’s flailing real estate developers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran arrests soccer’s Voria Ghafouri amid scrutiny of World Cup team, Kareem Fahim, Nov. 25, 2022 (print ed.). A prominent Iranian fifa world cup qatar 2022 officialsoccer player was arrested Thursday on charges that included destroying the reputation of the country’s national team, which is competing in the World Cup, state-linked Iranian media outlets reported Thursday.

The player, Voria Ghafouri, is a former member of Iran’s national squad and a frequent critic of the government. His arrest occurred at a moment in which Iranian soccer players are under close scrutiny for their statements about a nationwide uprising in Iran that has continued for months.

washington post logoWashington Post, Outspoken Hong Kong cardinal found guilty for work with humanitarian fund, Theodora Yu, Nov. 25, 2022. The cleric and others had been charged with failing to properly register the fund, which supported pro-democracy protesters in 2019.

A Hong Kong court on Friday found Cardinal Joseph Zen, the most outspoken senior Roman Catholic cleric in the city and its bishop emeritus, guilty of failing to properly register a now-defunct humanitarian fund.

The verdict came after Zen’s arrest in May, along with the arrest of four other people. Under a 2020 national security law that Beijing imposed to stifle dissent, all were accused of colluding with a foreign entity while trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund.

The fund helped scores of protesters arrested during the sustained pro-democracy protests that convulsed Hong Kong three years ago. It provided individuals with financial assistance and paid their legal and medical fees.

Judge Ada Yim fined Zen HK$4,000 ($512) for failing to register the fund under the securities ordinance, a colonial-era law dating to 1911. Because of the 2019 protests, Yim said the government has a responsibility to regulate groups connected to political organizations, regardless of local or overseas ties, to “protect national security, public serenity and public order.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Trudeau to defend invoking emergency powers against trucker protests, Amanda Coletta, Nov. 25, 2022. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will testify before a public inquiry Friday on his decision to invoke never-before-used emergency powers to clear the self-described “Freedom Convoy” demonstrations by protesters, including some truckers, who for several weeks paralyzed the nation’s capital and snarled trade at major U.S.-Canada border crossings.

His highly anticipated testimony will close the six-week inquiry in Ottawa, where life was upended in late January when big rigs and other vehicles rolled in to blockade roads, including the main drag in front of Parliament, to protest pandemic health measures and Trudeau’s government. The demonstrations lasted roughly three weeks.

In a country where officials are careful to hew closely to talking points and requests for public records take years to process, the inquiry has offered a rare peek behind the curtain at the mechanics of police and government — and the dysfunction and rivalries that complicated the response to the blockades.

Trudeau invokes Emergencies Act against Canada’s ‘Freedom Convoy’ trucker protest

“At the municipal level of police and the interaction between police governance, police and the municipal government, there was infighting, incompetence and lack of preparedness,” said Michael Kempa, a criminologist at the University of Ottawa. “At the provincial level, there was total indifference to responding with provincial powers … and then [at the level of] the federal government, there was mass confusion.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Hebe de Bonafini, strident voice for Argentine ‘dirty war’ victims, dies at 93, Brian Murphy, Nov. 25, 2022 (print ed.). She drew international attention as a leader of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo but was a polarizing figure at times within Argentina

 

Supporters of Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva celebrate the election results Sunday in Rio de Janeiro (Associated Press photo by Bruna Prado).

Supporters of Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva celebrate the election results Sunday in Rio de Janeiro (Associated Press photo by Bruna Prado).

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump aides Bannon, Miller advising Bolsonaro’s inner circle on next steps in Brazil, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Gabriela Sá Pessoa, Nov. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Some allies and advisers want the Brazilian president to contest his election loss to Lula. Others want a global fight over free speech.

jair bolsonaro brazilWhile tens of thousands of supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro, right, camp outside military facilities across Brazil to protest his election loss, members of Bolsonaro’s inner circle are meeting with advisers to former president Donald Trump to discuss next steps.

Brazilian congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro, the president’s son, has visited Florida since the Oct. 30 vote, meeting Trump at Mar-a-Lago and strategizing with other political allies by phone.

He spoke with former Trump strategist Stephen K. Bannon, who was in Arizona assisting the campaign of GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, about the power of the pro-Bolsonaro protests and potential challenges to the Brazilian election results, Bannon said. He lunched in South Florida with former Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller, now CEO of the social media company Gettr, and discussed online censorship and free speech, Miller said.

Those conversations have mirrored debates unfolding in Brasília, where Bolsonaro’s supporters are discussing next steps for his populist conservative movement. That movement is facing a reckoning not unlike that of the American right after Trump’s 2020 loss over how to sustain itself when its charismatic standard-bearer has been defeated.

Lula headshot 2022The Brazilian right has some advantages heading into the new year, when leftist former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, left, will take office. While Bolsonaro lost, his party and allies made gains in Congress and governorships. Tens of thousands of his supporters continue to camp outside military bases in over 20 cities, some calling for commanders to intervene in the vote.

Demonstrators have been photographed holding handmade signs reading “#BrazilianSpring” and “#BrazilWasStolen” in English, demonstrating the close ties between right-wing movements in the two countries. The phrases have trended on Brazilian Twitter brazil flag wavingseveral times this month. “Brazilian Spring” was coined shortly after the election by Bannon, he and others say; he has since dedicated several episodes of his podcast to an election he’s calling one of the most consequential political events in the world.

Some of Bolsonaro’s advisers, including Bannon, want him to contest the results, an effort that would probably fail but would encourage protesters. On Tuesday, Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party filed a request with Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court to invalidate some 250,000 second-round ballots used in voting machines that were manufactured before 2020. Fact-checkers say the inquiry is premised on false information about older machines.

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U.S. Government, Economy, Education

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Democracies’ flirtation with spyware raises dangers, Editorial Board, Nov. 25, 2022 (print ed.). If the United States hopes to stem the abuse of spyware by governments around the world, it is going to have to monitor its own behavior as well. That’s what makes a report by the New York Times suggesting the FBI came close to deploying one of the world’s most controversial hacking tools so concerning.

The Times pored over dozens of internal documents and court records about the FBI’s actions with regard to the technology known as Pegasus — the capability developed by Israeli firm NSO Group that can breach devices without a single click from the target. The revelations throw doubt on representations FBI Director Christopher A. Wray made to lawmakers during a closed-door session late last year. His agency, he claimed, purchased the technology only for research and development “to be able to figure out how bad guys could use it, for example.” The real story seems more troubling. The unveiled documents point to the possibility that officials believed Pegasus could play a role in criminal investigations.

That the FBI ultimately decided not to move forward with its plans is reassuring, but only to a point. The decision came after investigations by The Post and other journalists revealed how authoritarian regimes and democracies alike had exploited NSO’s technology to snoop on their citizens, including dissidents and journalists — among them, associates of Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the months before his murder in an operation authorized by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Biden administration rightly added NSO along with other similar companies to a blacklist prohibiting it from receiving American technologies.

ny times logoNew York Times, This Holiday Season, the Poor Buckle Under Inflation as the Rich Spend, Jeanna Smialek, Photographs by Tony Luong, Nov. 25, 2022.  Even if policymakers achieve a gentle economic slowdown, it won’t be smooth for everyone.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Expanded Child Tax Credit Is Gone. The Battle Over It Remains, Jason DeParle, Nov. 25, 2022. A pandemic-era program that gave up to $300 per child to most families drove down poverty rates. Some Democrats promise to bring it back.

When the history of American hardship is written in some distant decade, two recent events may capture the whipsaw forces of the age.

Child poverty fell to a record low. And the program that did the most to reduce it vanished.

The story of that temporary program — technically, a tax-credit expansion but more plainly a series of monthly checks to most families with children — was extraordinary in every way. A guaranteed income in a country long resistant to one, the expanded child tax credit emerged from obscurity to win support from most of the Democratic Party, aided millions of low- and middle-income families during the pandemic and helped cut child poverty nearly in half.

Then it died, as President Biden’s efforts to preserve it drew unified Republican opposition and the defection of a crucial Senate Democrat. Critics called the monthly payments of up to $300 per child an expensive welfare scheme that would deter parents from working by providing cash aid regardless of whether they had jobs.

The checks have ended, but the battle has not. Supporters say new evidence shows the payments lowered hardship and nurtured children without reducing parental employment. Some Democrats hope to revive payments to small groups of parents as part of a year-end tax deal, and despite Republicans taking control of the House in January, restoring the full program remains a long-term Democratic goal.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Blocks Dominican Republic Sugar Imports, Citing Forced Labor, Ana Swanson, Nov. 24, 2022 (print ed.). An import ban targets sugar from Central Romana Corporation, a behemoth whose sugar is sold under the Domino brand.

domino sugar logoThe Biden administration announced Wednesday that it would block shipments of sugar from Central Romana Corporation, a Dominican Republic company that produces sugar sold in the United States under the Domino brand and that has long faced allegations of subjecting its workers to poor labor conditions.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued what is known as a withhold release order against the company “based on information that reasonably indicates the use of forced labor in its operations,” including abusive working and living conditions, excessive overtime, withheld wages and other violations.

“Manufacturers like Central Romana, who fail to abide by our laws, will face consequences as we root out these inhumane practices from U.S. supply chains,” AnnMarie R. Highsmith, the executive assistant commissioner of the agency’s Office of Trade, said in a statement.

Central Romana responded that it was “very disappointed” by the decision and that it had been investing significantly for years to improve the living conditions of its employees.

domino sugar bagCentral Romana, which is the largest landholder and employer in the Dominican Republic, exports more than 200 million pounds of sugar to the United States each year. It is owned partly by the Fanjul family, an influential force in U.S. politics for decades as key donors to both Republicans and Democrats.

The measures have been the subject of an intense debate on Capitol Hill, where profits from the sugar industry are funneled into generous campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures, according to people familiar with the discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The United States is the most important market for Dominican sugar, and the move could have a crippling effect on Central Romana, which alone produces roughly 59 percent of the Dominican Republic’s sugar, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

It could also cause significant disruptions to U.S. sugar imports in the near term, though economists said the impact on sugar prices, which are heavily influenced by regulation, remained to be seen. Those regulations include price supports that keep U.S. sugar prices far above those on world markets, as well as preferential tariff rates for sugar imported from the Dominican Republic.

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Public Health, Pandemics

ny times logoNew York Times, In a Challenge to Beijing, Unrest Over Covid Lockdowns Spreads, Amy Chang Chien, Chang Che, John Liu and Paul Mozur, Nov. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Protests are rising as China enacts more lockdowns and quarantines, with no end in sight. The defiance is a test of Xi Jinping’s authoritarian leadership.

China FlagIn an iPhone factory in central China, thousands of workers clashed with riot police and tore down barricades.

In the southern city of Guangzhou, protesters broke out of locked-down buildings to confront health workers and ransack food provisions.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2And online, many Chinese raged at the authorities after the death of a 4-month-old girl, whose father said access to medical treatment was delayed because of Covid restrictions.

As China’s harsh Covid rules extend deep into their third year, there are growing signs of discontent across the country. For China’s leader, Xi Jinping, the unrest is a test of his precedent-breaking third term in power and underscores the urgent political question of how he can lead China out of the Covid era.

 

jerome adams o Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Former surgeon general faces his wife’s cancer — and the ‘Trump Effect,’ Manuel Roig-Franzia, Nov. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Former surgeon general Jerome Adams, shown above in an official photo from the Trump Administration, and his wife, Lacey, often find themselves talking about what they have named the “Trump Effect.”

It followed them from Washington to their home in the Indianapolis suburbs. They felt it when he was exploring jobs in academia, where he would receive polite rejections from university officials who worried that someone who served in the administration of the former president would be badly received by their left-leaning student bodies. They felt it when corporations decided he was too tainted to employ.

Now, two years after Adams left office as only the 20th surgeon general in U.S. history, the couple feel it as acutely as ever. As Donald Trump announced this month that he will run for president again, they had hoped it all would have faded away by now.

They would rather talk about public health, in a very personal way. This summer, Lacey Adams was diagnosed with a third recurrence of melanoma. Both Adamses have been sharing her experiences on social media and in public appearances, hoping to spread a message about skin-cancer prevention. But the stigma of his association with Trump, even though neither of them is a supporter of his political campaign, remains.

Trump is “a force that really does take the air out of the room,” Adams, 48, said. “The Trump hangover is still impacting me in significant ways.” He said the 2024 Trump campaign “will make things more difficult for me.”

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anthony fauci graphic Custom

 

Twitter, Other Media, Sports News

 

elon musk sideview

washington post logoWashington Post, Musk says he will revive banned Twitter accounts, to the alarm of activists and safety experts, Taylor Lorenz, Nov. 25, 2022 (print ed.). The Twitter chief (above) says he will reinstate accounts suspended for threats, harassment and misinformation beginning next week.

Elon Musk plans to reinstate nearly all previously banned Twitter accounts — to the alarm of activists and online trust and safety experts.

After posting a Twitter poll asking, “Should Twitter offer a general amnesty to suspended accounts, provided that they have not broken the law or engaged in egregious spam?” in which 72.4 percent of the respondents voted yes, Musk declared, “Amnesty begins next week.”

The Twitter CEO did not respond Thursday to a request for comment from The Washington Post. The poll garnered more than 3 million votes.

The mass return of users who had been banned for such offenses as violent threats, harassment and misinformation will have a significant impact on the platform, experts said. And many questioned how such a resurrection would be handled, given that it’s unclear what Musk means by “egregious spam” and the difficulty of separating out users who have “broken the law,” which vary widely by jurisdiction and country.

twitter bird CustomSince taking over Twitter, CEO Elon Musk has laid off thousands, many tasked with maintaining crucial services. Former staff worry the site may collapse. (Video: Jonathan Baran/The Washington Post)

“Apple and Google need to seriously start exploring booting Twitter off the app store,” said Alejandra Caraballo, clinical instructor at Harvard Law’s cyberlaw clinic. “What Musk is doing is existentially dangerous for various marginalized communities. It’s like opening the gates of hell in terms of the havoc it will cause. People who engaged in direct targeted harassment can come back and engage in doxing, targeted harassment, vicious bullying, calls for violence, celebration of violence. I can’t even begin to state how dangerous this will be.”

Musk’s ‘free speech’ agenda dismantles safety work at Twitter, insiders say

This is the second time in a week that Musk has used a Twitter poll to seemingly make a major decision related to the platform. On Nov. 18, he restored former president Donald Trump’s account after 52 percent of a poll’s respondents said he should do so. “Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk tweeted, Latin for “the voice of the people is the voice of God.”

On that day, he also unilaterally reinstated at least 11 high-profile far-right Twitter accounts, including Jordan Peterson, a professor who was banned from Twitter for misgendering a trans person, and the Babylon Bee, a conservative media company. He also restored Project Veritas, a site that was frequently accused of misrepresenting events it commented on and banned “for repeated violations of Twitter’s private information policy,” and Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s personal account, which had been banned since January for violating the platform’s covid-19 misinformation policies and pushing violent and extreme rhetoric.

Experts say that bots and bad actors can easily skew the results of a Twitter poll, and so basing decisions on one is irresponsible.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Gangnam Style’ Brought K-Pop to the World, but Haunted Its Creator, Jin Yu Young and Victoria Kim, Nov. 25, 2022. The song helped pave the way for the global success of Korean pop. But Psy, the artist behind it, spent years trying and failing to replicate the phenomenon.

He may not look it, in a spiffy double-breasted suit and a coiffure secured with enough hair gel to reflect the ceiling lights, but the 45-year-old music executive confides a secret as he rubs his temples: He’s hung over.

But he doesn’t mind nursing this headache, at well past 2 p.m. on a Thursday in Seoul. Some of his best songwriting ideas come to him, he said, in the malaise that follows a night of hard drinking.

The man doing the creative suffering is Psy, the onetime global internet sensation whose 2012 viral music video and earworm of a song, “Gangnam Style,” became the first-ever YouTube offering to surpass one billion views and had the world galloping along with him.

The outlandish but irresistibly catchy song and accompanying video — which has Psy doing the tune’s signature horseback dance move in and around Gangnam, an upscale Seoul neighborhood — achieved the breakthrough, worldwide success that had mostly eluded Korean pop acts, or K-pop, before then.

The video, which now has some 4.6 billion views, was so culturally pervasive in 2012 that Barack Obama was asked about it on Election Day. NASA astronauts recorded a parody, and a North Korean state propaganda site evoked the dance move to mock a South Korean politician.

But for several years in the aftermath of all his viral fame, Psy said, the song’s success haunted him. Even as he was thrust overnight into a Hollywood existence, getting chased around New York City by paparazzi, signing with Justin Bieber’s manager and releasing a single with Snoop Dogg, internally he felt the pressure mounting for another hit.

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Nov. 24

Top Headlines

 

U.S. Political Probes, Jan. 6 Insurrection

 

Ukraine War


U.S. Politics, Elections

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Regulation

 

World News, Disasters, Climate, Human Rights

 

U.S. Government, Economy, Education

 

Pandemics, Public Health

 

Twitter Free-Speech / Hate Speech Disputes

 

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U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola (D-Alaska), left, and her rival, former Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin (R), a former Republian vice presidential nominee on the 2008 ticket.

U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola (D-Alaska), left, and her just-defeated rival, former Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin (R), a former Republian vice presidential nominee on the 2008 ticket.

washington post logoWashington Post, Lisa Murkowski and Mary Peltola projected to win Alaska races, defeating Trump-backed opponents, Nathaniel Herz, Nov. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola on Wednesday became the first Alaska Native to win a full term in Congress, securing reelection along with Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who both defeated challengers endorsed by former president Donald Trump after state officials finished a final round of vote-counting.

mary peltolaPeltola, shown above left and at right, who made history with her August special election win, and Murkowski, a senator for two decades, led after earlier vote counts. But the centrist lawmakers’ victories were not clinched until Wednesday, when the Alaska Division of Elections redistributed votes under the state’s new ranked-choice voting system.

“I am honored that Alaskans — of all regions, backgrounds and party affiliations — have once again granted me their confidence to continue working with them and on their behalf in the U.S. Senate," Murkowski said in a statement Wednesday night. "I look forward to continuing the important work ahead of us.”

In the race for governor, Republican Mike Dunleavy won reelection with over 50 percent of the votes, avoiding the ranked-choice, according to the Associated Press.

lisa murkowski oPeltola and Murkowski, left, had crossed party lines to endorse each other ahead of the election, forming an alliance rooted in the similar space they occupy on the political spectrum. Their wins cap an election season in which voters across the country tended to show a preference for incumbents in battleground races.

The outcome marked another blow to Trump in this year’s midterm elections. Many candidates affiliated with the former president and his polarizing positions fell in defeat in battleground contests. That list includes former Republican governor Sarah Palin, who challenged Peltola with Trump’s backing; and Republican Kelly Tshibaka, a former state and federal official who ran against Murkowski with the former president’s support.

After the final round of ranked choice voting, Murkowski had 53.69 percent of the vote to 46.31 percent for Tshibaka. In the House race, Peltola had 55 percent of the vote to Palin’s 45 percent.

Peltola ran a locally focused campaign with both traditional and unconventional Democratic platform planks — she touted her support for abortion rights and “pro-fish” views, along with her support for new Alaska oil projects and the large gun collection that she and her family maintain.

Peltola’s win secures her first full two-year term on Capitol Hill and follows her victory in August to temporarily fill her state’s only seat in the U.S. House — don youngone that was vacated after the sudden death of longtime Republican Rep. Don Young, right. Peltola beat Palin in that race too, becoming the first Alaska Native member of Congress and her state’s first woman to fill the seat.

Peltola is the first Democrat elected to Congress in Alaska since 2008, when Mark Begich unseated Republican Sen. Ted Stevens just a few months after Stevens was indicted for allegedly making false statements related to his financial disclosures.

Murkowski, meanwhile, will soon begin serving her fourth six-year term in the Senate, following her 2002 appointment to the chamber by her father, then newly elected governor Frank Murkowski. Her campaign highlighted her work to bring infrastructure money to Alaska, her support for the state’s oil and fishing industries and her close relationships with Alaska Native constituencies.

Trump had long vowed to unseat the senator, predicting in 2018 that she “will never recover” politically for voting against one of his Supreme Court nominees, Brett M. Kavanaugh. Tshibaka joined Trump at a rally held in an Anchorage arena in July.

sarah palin donald trump 1 19 16 alex hanson flickrPalin, the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee, also appeared with Trump in July (and at left in a 2016 photo). She lost both the special and general elections after splitting the conservative vote with Nick Begich III, a Republican from a prominent Alaska Democratic family. (Nick Begich III is the nephew of Mark Begich.)

Jim Lottsfeldt, a centrist political consultant who worked with pro-Murkowski and pro-Peltola super PACs, said he’s not sure that Trump’s endorsements offered Palin and Tshibaka much help. Alaska, he said, is small enough that many people who follow politics judge candidates on personal interactions.

“We all have these opinions we’ve earned by looking someone in the eye,” Lottsfeldt said in a phone interview Tuesday. “Donald Trump’s not going to tell me anything about Sarah Palin that I don’t already know.”

This year’s elections were Alaska’s first under the state’s new voting framework, which residents narrowly approved in a 2020 citizens initiative that was partially funded and run by Murkowski allies. The system overhauled primary elections by eliminating partisan races and advancing the top four vote-getters from a single, open ballot to the general election.

In the general election, voters are allowed to rank candidates based on their preferences. If no candidate receives a majority of first-choice votes, the candidate with the lowest vote totals is eliminated, and that candidate’s supporters’ votes are reassigned to their next choices. The process repeats until there are two candidates left and a winner can be declared.

Even if the new election system remains intact, Peltola’s allies expect she’ll face serious challenges from Republicans when her term expires two years from now.

ny times logoNew York Times, After 3 Mass Shootings, a Thanksgiving With 14 Empty Chairs, Michael Wilson, Nov. 24, 2022. A janitor at a Virginia Walmart. A woman returning home to Colorado Springs for the holidays. Three college football players. And more. The dead from just three of this month’s mass shootings are the very picture of the ideals that America prides itself on at this time each November.

A janitor working his shift at a Virginia Walmart. A 40-year-old woman returning home to Colorado Springs for the holidays. A young man at his girlfriend’s side, watching her friend perform in a drag show.

Three college football players. A mother who worked to help foster children. One bartender who remembered your drink and another who danced.

White and Black, gay and straight, old and young. The collection of the newly dead from just three of this month’s mass shootings are the very picture of the ideals — inclusivity, setting aside differences — that America prides itself on at this time each November. Fourteen people who did not know their last Thanksgiving was already behind them.

Tuesday’s rampage, in which six people were killed in a Walmart in Chesapeake, Va., was the 33rd mass shooting in November alone, and the nation’s 606th this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

That shooting occurred after three students were killed at the University of Virginia on Nov. 13 and five people were killed on Saturday night at a gay club in Colorado Springs. On Wednesday, four teenagers were wounded in a shooting in Philadelphia just after classes were dismissed for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Yesterday’s parents, children and friends became Thursday’s empty chairs.

new york post logoNew York Post, Colorado Springs shooting suspect Anderson Aldrich is nonbinary: lawyers, Yaron Steinbuch, Nov. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Public defenders Joseph Archambault and Michael Bowman filed several motions on Tuesday night that included a footnote about their client’s identity.

“Anderson Aldrich is nonbinary,” the footnote states, the Denver Post reported. “They use they/them pronouns, and for the purposes of all formal filings, will be addressed as Mx. Aldrich.”

The footnote was added along with standard motions that deal with issues like unsealing documents and evidence gathering.

anderson aldrich mugAldrich (shown above in a mugshot with injuries reportedly sustained after the Club Q shooting), likely faces five murder charges as well as five counts of bias-motivated crime causing bodily injury. It is unclear if federal hate crime charges will be filed separately.

Hate crime charges would require proving the suspect was motivated by bias, such as against the victims’ actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

Meanwhile, in another bizarre twist, Aldrich’s estranged father has been identified as an ex-con former MMA fighter-turned-porn star, it was revealed aaron franklin brinkTuesday. Aaron Franklin Brink, left, entered the mixed martial arts cage in the ’90s, clocking up 21 victories over the 10 years of his fighting career — including during appearances with the Ultimate Fighting Championship and World Extreme Cagefighting, MMA Junkie wrote in a profile.

Brink also took up porn acting at age 27 under the name Dick Delaware, the Denver Gazette reported. He appeared in explicit productions “White Boys Can Hump’’ in 2016 and both “My MILF Boss 8’’ and “It’s OK to Put It in My Ass’’ in 2014, according to his IMDb page.

The troubled dad also has an extensive criminal history, including convictions for battery against Aldrich’s mom, Laura Voepel, both before and after the suspect was born, according to state and federal court records.

It was also revealed that the suspected shooter’s name was changed more than six years ago after filing a legal petition in Texas seeking to “protect himself” from a dad with a criminal history. Aldrich was known as Nicholas Franklin Brink until 2016 when a petition was submitted on Brink’s behalf by their grandparents, who were their legal guardians at the time.

“Minor wishes to protect himself and his future from any connections to birth father and his criminal history. Father has had no contact with minor for several years,” the petition stated.

The request for a name change came months after Aldrich was apparently targeted by online bullying. Last year, Aldrich was arrested after their mother reported her child threatened her with a homemade bomb and other weapons.

Authorities later said no explosives were found, but gun control advocates have asked why police didn’t use the state’s “red flag” laws to seize weapons she said her child had.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Partial List of Mass Shootings in the United States in 2022, Staff Report, Nov. 24, 2022 (print ed.). There is no official consensus on what constitutes a mass shooting, complicating the efforts of government, nonprofits and news organizations to document the scope of the problem.

The deadliest mass shooting in the country so far this year was the massacre in which 19 children and two teachers were killed at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24. It happened 10 days after 10 people were shot and killed in a supermarket in Buffalo.

FBI logoThere is no consensus on what constitutes a mass shooting, complicating the efforts of government, nonprofits and news organizations to document the scope of the problem. Different groups define mass shootings differently, depending on circumstances including the number of victims, whether the victims are killed or wounded, and whether the shooting occurs in a public place. The Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit research group that tracks gun violence using police reports, news coverage and other public sources, defines a mass shooting as one in which at least four people were killed or injured.

The Gun Violence Archive has counted at least 606 mass shootings so far this year, through mid-November. Of those shootings, 20 involved five or more fatalities, including the Nov. 22 attack at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Va., and the Nov. 19 shooting at a club in Colorado that left at least five people dead.

 

joe biden black background resized serious file

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: U.S. Enters a New Era of Direct Confrontation With Iran, David E. Sanger, Nov. 24, 2022. The White House has imposed new sanctions and expressed support for protesters, as Iran aids Russia in the Ukraine war and continues nuclear enrichment.

Over the past few days, Iran has told international inspectors that it plans to begin making near bomb-grade nuclear fuel deep inside a mountain that is hard to bomb, and dramatically expand its nuclear fuel production at a plant that Israel and the United States have repeatedly sabotaged.

Iran FlagIranian forces have shot or locked up antigovernment protesters, provided Russia with drones for its war in Ukraine and, some Western intelligence agencies suspect, may be negotiating to produce missiles as well for Russia’s depleted arsenal. The United States accused Iran on Tuesday of once again violating Iraqi territory to conduct attacks in the Kurdistan region.

A new era of direct confrontation with Iran has burst into the open. Its emergence was hidden for a while by more dramatic events — including the Ukraine invasion and rising U.S. competition with China — and negotiations with Tehran dragged on, inconclusively, for 18 months.

Now, Mr. Biden’s hope of re-entering the United States into the deal with Iran that was struck in 2015, and that President Donald J. Trump abandoned, has all but died. Negotiations halted in September, and in recent weeks Mr. Biden has imposed new sanctions on Iran and expressed support for protests that Iran’s hard-liners have portrayed as a mortal threat.

 

Sam Bankman-Fried (shown in a newshubweek photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, FTX’s Bahamas crypto empire: Stimulants, subterfuge and a spectacular collapse, Tim Craig, Drew Harwell and Nitasha Tiku, Nov. 24, 2022. Sam Bankman-Fried's image of monkish aloofness met reality in the Bahamas, where the 30-year-old crypto billionaire lived in a guarded island compound, with every need closely catered to and the world’s elite at his beck and call.

Before Sam Bankman-Fried’s $16 billion empire imploded, Margaux Avedisian remembers thinking there was something unsettling about the cryptocurrency wunderkind.

Bankman-Fried (shown above in a newshubweek photo) had become a legend by pushing an image of monkish aloofness, vowing to forsake the allures of his extraordinary wealth — sleeping on beanbag chairs, driving a Toyota Corolla — and to give away his fortune for the greater good.

ftx logoYet in April, when Avedisian was hired as a master of ceremonies for a conference in the Bahamas sponsored by FTX, Bankman-Fried’s crypto exchange, she saw how the 30-year-old billionaire really lived: in a guarded island compound, every need closely catered to, the world’s elite at his beck and call.

Conference guests partied in casinos where Bahamians weren’t allowed to gamble and hobnobbed with celebrity attendees, including singer Katy Perry and football veteran Tom Brady. For one party, VIPs took a boat from the island to a second, even fancier island for a feast of lobster, a private DJ concert and an open bar.

“You’re living this lifestyle of poverty, but you’re partying with Katy Perry?” she recalled thinking. “Why would you want to hang out with these celebrities if you’re so head-down trying to change the world?”

When Bankman-Fried and his band of crypto risk-takers moved to the Bahamas last year in a blitz of extravagant spending, they promised to remake the island paradise into a global capital of the new financial elite. Some Bahamians said they felt lucky to have an opportunity to work so close to a superstar.

Instead, Bankman-Fried stepped down as FTX’s CEO earlier this month after presiding over one of the fastest meltdowns of wealth in modern history. FTX, valued earlier this year at $32 billion, has been declared bankrupt, and his $16 billion personal fortune nosedived to zero in less than a week.

James Bromley, an FTX lawyer, said at a bankruptcy hearing Tuesday that Bankman-Fried had treated the company as his “personal fiefdom” before it all fell apart. “The emperor had no clothes,” he said.

In the Bahamas, many are anxiously waiting to see how the fallout from this legendary blunder will shape their lives. At a gate that workers use to enter Albany, the closely guarded enclave where Bankman-Fried and his top deputies shared a $40 million waterfront penthouse, one construction worker told a reporter on a recent morning that, if Bankman-Fried were still inside, “we would grab him and bring him out.”

As investigators begin to piece together FTX’s financial wreckage, the Bahamas has emerged as a centerpiece for Bankman-Fried’s many contradictions — and fueled questions about why so many there and elsewhere had supported a company with so many warning signs.

FTX had called itself “the cleanest brand in crypto” and promised investors “High Returns, No Risk.” But FTX’s new chief, John J. Ray III, hired to clean up the mess, said in a recent legal filing that Bankman-Fried’s “very small group of inexperienced, unsophisticated and potentially compromised individuals” in the Bahamas had spent lavishly on themselves while failing to track where billions of clients’ dollars were sent or stored.

Though FTX became one of the world’s biggest financial exchanges, rooted in a complex web of more than 130 now-bankrupt business entities, the team functioned like a dorm-room start-up, with no centralized lists of bank accounts or even employees, Ray said.

FTX spent clients’ funds on seaside homes for employees’ use and routed money to Bankman-Fried’s other company, the crypto trading firm Alameda Research, Ray said. Corporate reimbursements were often requested via an online chat box and approved by supervisors using “personalized emoji.” Only “a fraction” of customers’ money has been located and secured.

“Never in my career have I seen such a complete failure of corporate controls and such a complete absence of trustworthy financial information,” said Ray, who once oversaw the liquidation of Enron, one of America’s most infamous corporate frauds.

The victims of FTX’s spectacular collapse are just now being counted, and the damage will probably be enormous: In bankruptcy court filings, lawyers have estimated that more than a million people or businesses have lost money, with more than $3 billion in losses from the top 50 creditors alone.

The Bahamas, a former British colony comprising hundreds of islands 45 minutes from the Florida coast, has for decades been a darling of American tourists for its scenic beaches — and of offshore financial engineers and money launderers for its minimal taxes and corporate disclosure rules.

  • New York Times, Crypto Firm FTX’s Ownership of a U.S. Bank Raises Questions, Nov. 24, 2022. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Mars rover digs up intriguing clues in the hunt for life beyond Earth, Joel Achenbach, Nov. 24, 2022. The Perseverance mission has collected samples that hold life-friendly molecules ‘in pretty much every rock.’

The new Perseverance research is detailed in three extensive studies published Wednesday, one in the journal Science and two in the journal Science Advances. The journal reports are highly technical and devoid of hype — daring to be dull as dirt — but the scientists involved translate them into a more exciting tale.

Perseverance made a bulls-eye landing in Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021, and has been roaming it since, caching rock samples along the way for later scrutiny back on Earth. This is an ambitious, multiphase mission that will require NASA and its partner, the European Space Agency, to send another vehicle to the surface of Mars with the capability of launching samples into orbit. A spacecraft would then carry those samples back to Earth for laboratory research. The precise timetable is still to be determined, but NASA is hoping to have the samples on home turf in the early 2030s.

the discovery of life beyond Earth remains aspirational.

Even finding organics — life-friendly molecules with combinations of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen — is a far cry from discovering life or even proof of its presence in the past. Such molecules can be either biological or nonbiological in origin.

Still, Mars is front and center in NASA’s search because it has many favorable traits. Mars probably was far more Earthlike about 3 billion years ago, with warmer and wetter conditions. Life may have once existed on Earth and Mars simultaneously, and it is possible that it originated on Mars and spread to Earth via meteorites. And though the surface now is an arid wasteland, the planet could have liquid water in significant quantities beneath the surface, and possibly “cryptic” life.

 

U.S. Political Probes, Jan. 6 Insurrection

washington post logoWashington Post, White House likely to honor some GOP probes but not those on Hunter Biden, Tyler Pager, Nov. 24, 2022. Biden aides eye a split strategy on GOP investigations — cooperating on topics like Afghanistan but refusing to engage on the president’s son.

As House Republicans prepare to launch an onslaught of oversight investigations next year, the White House is planning to distinguish between inquiries they deem legitimate and others they view as politically, not legislatively, motivated — with an eye toward minimizing their cooperation with probes they consider improper, according to two people familiar with the plans.

hunter bidenWhite House officials caution that their decisions about cooperation will ultimately hinge on the nature of the investigations, but their preparations, which have been underway for months, hinge on such a split strategy. The White House is likely to respond to requests for documents and testimony relating to the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, for example, but far less likely to engage with Republicans’ republican elephant logoinvestigations into Hunter Biden, right, the president’s son, the people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.

Republicans, who won the House majority in the midterm elections, have signaled an aggressive oversight campaign despite capturing fewer seats than either party expected. They have made it clear that among their top investigative targets, in addition to Afghanistan, will be the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and other China-related issues, the disbursement of pandemic relief funds, border security and Biden’s energy policies.

But the likely flash point will be their determination to investigate Hunter Biden, whom they accuse of financial wrongdoing and trading on the family name. kevin mccarthyThe president, who has lost two other children, is highly protective of his son, who has a long history of drug use and other difficulties.

On Tuesday, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, (R-Calif.), right, the leading candidate to become speaker of the House, called for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to resign, saying that if he does not, Republicans “will investigate every order, every action and every failure to determine whether we can begin impeachment inquiries.”

It is unclear what impeachment charges GOP lawmakers could bring against Mayorkas, and the Democratic-led Senate would be unlikely to pursue them in any case. But conservative activists have pushed for such action, saying the administration has failed in its duty to protect the American border.

  mike pence bites lip Custom

 ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Dept. Seeking to Question Mike Pence in Jan. 6 Investigation, Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt, Nov. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Prosecutors want to speak with the former vice president, shown above, as a witness to former President Donald Trump’s efforts to remain in power, and he is said to be considering how to respond.

The Justice Department is seeking to question former Vice President Mike Pence as a witness in connection with its criminal investigation into former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to stay in power after he lost the 2020 election, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Pence, according to people familiar with his thinking, is open to considering the request, recognizing that the Justice Department’s criminal investigation is different from the inquiry by the House Jan. 6 committee, whose overtures he has flatly rejected.

Complicating the situation is whether Mr. Trump would try to invoke executive privilege to stop him or limit his testimony, a step that he has taken with limited success so far with other former officials.

Mr. Pence was present for some of the critical moments in which Mr. Trump and his allies schemed to keep him in office and block the congressional certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory. An agreement for him to cooperate would be the latest remarkable twist in an investigation that is already fraught with legal and political consequences, involving a former president who is now a declared candidate to return to the White House — and whose potential rivals for the 2024 Republican nomination include Mr. Pence.

Thomas Windom, one of the lead investigators examining the efforts to overturn the election, reached out to Mr. Pence’s team in the weeks before Attorney General Merrick B. Garland appointed a special counsel on Friday to oversee the Jan. 6 investigation and a separate inquiry into Mr. Trump’s handling of classified documents, according to one of the people familiar with the matter. Mr. Garland has said that the appointment of the special counsel, Jack Smith, will not slow the investigation.

Officials at the Justice Department declined to comment. A spokesman for Mr. Pence also declined to comment.

The discussions about questioning Mr. Pence are said to be in their early stages. Mr. Pence has not been subpoenaed, and the process could take months, because Mr. Trump can seek to block, or slow, his testimony by trying to invoke executive privilege.

Mr. Trump has cited executive privilege to try to stop other former top officials from talking with investigators. While those efforts have generally been unsuccessful in stopping testimony by the officials to a federal grand jury, they have significantly slowed the process.

Mr. Trump’s efforts to slow or block testimony included asserting executive privilege over testimony from two of Mr. Pence’s top aides: his former chief of staff, Marc Short, and his general counsel, Greg Jacob. But both men returned for grand jury interviews after the Justice Department, in a closed-door court proceeding, fought the effort to apply executive privilege.

Mr. Pence, who rebuffed Mr. Trump’s efforts to enlist him in the plan to block certification of the Electoral College results, has been publicly critical of Mr. Trump’s conduct in the run-up to the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol and on the day of the attack, when members of a pro-Trump mob were chanting “Hang Mike Pence.”

“If there was an invitation to participate, I’d consider it,” Mr. Pence said at the time. But he added that he was concerned that speaking to a congressional committee would violate the doctrine of separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches. “But as I said, I don’t want to prejudge. If ever any formal invitation” came, he said, “we’d give it due consideration.”

However, in interviews for the release of his new book, “So Help Me God,” Mr. Pence has been more emphatic in his opposition to providing testimony to the House committee, asserting that “Congress has no right to my testimony” about what he witnessed.

“There’s profound separation-of-powers issues,” Mr. Pence told The New York Times in an interview. “And it would be a terrible precedent.”

But Mr. Pence, according to people familiar with his thinking, sees the Justice Department inquiry differently given that it is a criminal investigation. His testimony could be compelled by subpoena, though none has been issued.

The former vice president is being represented by Emmet Flood, a veteran Washington-based lawyer who served as the lead Trump White House lawyer dealing with the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, into possible conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016.

Prosecutors want to speak with the former vice president as a witness to former President Trump’s efforts to remain in power.
Mr. Pence is open to considering the request, according to people familiar with his thinking.

 

liz cheney adam kinzinger jamie raskin

washington post logo Washington Post, Jan. 6 panel staffers angry at Cheney for focusing so much of report on Trump, Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey and Carol D. Leonnig, Nov. 24, 2022 (print ed.).15 former and current staffers expressed concern that important findings unrelated to Trump will not become available to the American public.

Since Rep. Liz Cheney accepted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s offer to serve as the vice chair of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, the Wyoming Republican has exerted a remarkable level of control over much of the committee’s public and private work.

Now, less than six weeks before the conclusion of the committee’s work, Cheney’s influence over the committee’s final report has rankled many current and former committee staff. They are angered and disillusioned by Cheney’s push to focus the report primarily on former president Donald Trump, and have bristled at the committee morphing into what they have come to view as the vehicle for the outgoing Wyoming lawmaker’s political future.

Fifteen former and current staffers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, expressed concerns that important findings unrelated to Trump will not become available to the American public.

The feuding brings to the fore a level of public acrimony within the Jan. 6 committee that previously had largely played out behind the scenes, as public attention was focused on a series of blockbuster public hearings focused on Trump’s role fomenting the attack.

Several committee staff members were floored earlier this month when they were told that a draft report would focus almost entirely on Trump and the work of the committee’s Gold Team, excluding reams of other investigative work.

Potentially left on the cutting room floor, or relegated to an appendix, were many revelations from the Blue Team — the group that dug into the law enforcement and intelligence community’s failure to assess the looming threat and prepare for the well-forecast attack on the Capitol. The proposed report would also cut back on much of the work of the Green Team, which looked at financing for the Jan. 6 attack, and the Purple Team, which examined militia groups and extremism.

“We all came from prestigious jobs, dropping what we were doing because we were told this would be an important fact-finding investigation that would inform the public,” said one former committee staffer. “But when [the committee] became a Cheney 2024 campaign, many of us became discouraged.”

Cheney spokesman Jeremy Adler issued a blistering statement Wednesday to The Washington Post in response to the criticisms.

“Donald Trump is the first president in American history to attempt to overturn an election and prevent the peaceful transfer of power,” Adler said. “So, damn right Liz is ‘prioritizing’ understanding what he did and how he did it and ensuring it never happens again.”

Adler added, “Some staff have submitted subpar material for the report that reflects long-held liberal biases about federal law enforcement, Republicans, and sociological issues outside the scope of the Select Committee’s work. She won’t sign onto any ‘narrative’ that suggests Republicans are inherently racist or smears men and women in law enforcement, or suggests every American who believes God has blessed America is a white supremacist.”

Tim Mulvey, the select committee’s spokesman, said in a separate statement that the panel’s “historic, bipartisan fact-finding effort speaks for itself, and that won’t be changed by a handful of disgruntled staff who are uninformed about many parts of the committee’s ongoing work.”

“They’ve forgotten their duties as public servants and their cowardice is helping Donald Trump and others responsible for the violence of January 6th,” Mulvey’s statement continued. “All nine committee members continue to review materials and make contributions to the draft report, which will address every key aspect of the committee’s investigation. Decisions about the contents of the report ultimately rest with the committee’s bipartisan membership, not the staff.”

The internal tensions over Cheney’s role also stand in contrast to the widespread public praise from many Democrats and even some Republicans, who have hailed her for standing up to Trump and defending democratic norms. Cheney, under siege by Trump and ostracized by the GOP, was defeated in the Wyoming primary this summer and will leave office in January.

Some staffers noted that the mission of the committee — as spelled out in the resolution authorizing its formation — was to discover what political forces and intelligence and security failures allowed the U.S. Capitol Police and its partners to be so overwhelmed and ill-prepared for the attack and to ensure that such an event could not happen again. Leaving any relevant information out of the final report would ignore important lessons for the future and issues that will outlive Trump, they argued.

But in the wake of an NBC News story earlier this month that the final report would not include much of the panel’s work not directly related to Trump, lawmakers on the committee are now reassessing what to include in the final draft and also eyeing different ways to publicly share more of the investigators’ work outside of the report. That could include sharing findings on the committee’s website or releasing internal transcripts.

A senior committee staffer told staff in a virtual conference meeting two weeks ago that none of the work done by people serving on teams other than the Gold Team that didn’t focus on Trump would be included in the final report.

“Everybody freaked out,” the staffer said.

The announcement, this staffer argued, was premature and based on negative reactions from lawmakers who concluded that draft chapters written by non-Gold investigative teams should not be included because they were either too long or too academic in nature. However, the staffer said, while committee members disliked those chapters, they were open to including some of that material in a more concise or streamlined form.

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Ukraine War

washington post logoWashington Post, Millions may face winter without heat or power after Russian bombings batter Ukraine, David L. Stern, Emily Rauhala and Michael Birnbaum, Nov. 24, 2022 (print ed.). After just six weeks of intense bombing of energy infrastructure, Russia has battered Ukraine to the brink of a humanitarian disaster this winter as millions of people potentially face life-threatening conditions without electricity, heat or running water.

As the scope of damage to Ukraine’s energy systems has come into focus in recent days, Ukrainian and Western officials have begun sounding the alarm but are also realizing they have limited recourse. Ukraine’s Soviet-era power system cannot be fixed quickly or easily. In some of the worst-hit cities, there is little officials can do other than to urge residents to flee — raising the risk of economic collapse in Ukraine and a spillover refugee crisis in neighboring European countries.

“Put simply, this winter will be about survival,” Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, regional director for the World Health Organization, told reporters on Monday in Kyiv, saying the next months could be “life-threatening for millions of Ukrainians.”

Already, snow has fallen across much of Ukraine and temperatures are dipping below freezing in many parts of the country. Dr. Kluge said that 2 million to 3 million Ukrainians were expected to leave their homes “in search of warmth and safety,” though it was unclear how many would remain inside the country.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said that about half of the country’s energy infrastructure was “out of order” following the bombardment.

The dire warnings indicate that despite a string of losses on the battlefield, Russia’s airstrikes have wrought destruction that will severely test Ukrainians’ national resolve and sharply raise the costs for Kyiv’s Western allies, who are struggling with spiking energy prices in their own countries.

Military experts said that Russian President Vladimir Putin was trying to compensate for territorial losses, and to create a sense of war fatigue among Ukraine’s European NATO allies in hopes that they will eventually pressure Kyiv to make concessions and slow arms shipments that enabled Ukraine’s victories.

“This is all about the weaponization of refugees,” retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, a former commander of U.S. Army Europe, said in a phone interview.

“By making Ukraine uninhabitable in the winter time, they are potentially sending millions more Ukrainians to Europe,” Hodges said. “That would put pressure on European governments. The hope is that Europe, in turn, would pressure Kyiv.”

“The Russians are losing everywhere,” Hodges said, adding that “their only tactic” is to target nonmilitary civilian infrastructure “to drag things out” and hopefully obtain a solution “more favorable to the Kremlin.”

 

 United Nations

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Briefing: Zelensky urges U.N. to condemn ‘energy terror’ after Russia strikes Kyiv, Kelly Kasulis Cho and Victoria Bisset, Nov. 24, 2022. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, below right, said he expects a “strong reaction” from the world after Russian missiles blasted energy and civilian infrastructure in Kyiv and other major cities.

He also told world powers at the U.N. Security Council meeting late Wednesday that they should pass a resolution condemning “any forms of energy volodymyr zelensky suit portraitterror.” (Russia has a veto on the council.)

Authorities are continuing efforts to restore key infrastructure following Wednesday’s strikes. A Ukrainian presidential official said ukraine flagThursday that power had been restored to all regions of the country, although efforts to reconnect households was still underway. The mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, said on Telegram early Thursday that 70% of the capital remained without electricity, although water has since been restored to the whole city.

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

1. Key developments

  • Zelensky compared Russia’s attacks on energy to “weapons of mass destruction” in his speech late Wednesday. “When the temperature is below zero outside, and tens of millions of people are left without electricity, heat and water as a result of Russian missiles hitting energy facilities, this is an obvious crime against humanity,” he told the Security Council.
  • The impact of Wednesday’s strikes were also felt in other parts of Ukraine. In the central Dnipropetrovsk region, around half of residents remain without power, the head of the local military administration said early Thursday. According to Valentyn Reznichenko, almost 3,000 miners had to be rescued after being trapped underground during the blackouts.
  • european union logo rectangleThe European Union is working at “full speed” to prepare a ninth round of sanctions against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen announced Thursday, as the bloc’s parliament approved $18.7 billion to help Ukraine “survive the war and start its reconstruction.” Speaking at a news conference in Finland, she said she was “confident” that the G-7 and other major partners would soon approve a global price cap on Russian oil, adding: “We will not rest until Ukraine has prevailed over Putin and his unlawful and barbaric war.”
  • Zelensky praised the European Parliament’s symbolic vote Wednesday to label Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism.” On Twitter, he said that “Russia must be isolated at all levels and held accountable in order to end its long-standing policy of terrorism in Ukraine and across the globe.” Here’s what the designation means.

2. Battleground updates

  • Millions of Ukrainians could face life-threatening conditions without power, heat or running water this winter, after attacks on energy infrastructure battered the country to the brink of a humanitarian disaster, The Washington Post reported. Sergey Kovalenko, the head of a power company supplying Kyiv, has warned that Ukrainians could face blackouts until the end of March. The head of power grid operator Ukrenergo on Tuesday described the damage as “colossal.”
  • Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said he had asked Germany to send Ukraine the Patriot missile launchers that Berlin had previously offered to Warsaw. “This will protect Ukraine from further deaths and blackouts and will increase security at our eastern border,” he said on Twitter.
  • Pro-Russia hackers have claimed responsibility after the European Parliament’s website was forced offline for several hours, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said. The apparent Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack came as the E.U. legislative body voted to designate Moscow a state sponsor of terrorism.

3. Global impact

  • Russian FlagRussian President Vladimir Putin is “weaponizing winter” as a strategy to harm Ukrainians, said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield at the U.N. meeting. “He has decided that if he cannot seize Ukraine by force, he will try to freeze the country into submission,” she said. The White House said the United States had provided more than $250 million for “winterization efforts” in Ukraine — funds intended for heating fuel, generators, warm blankets and shelter repairs. Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron said late Wednesday that attacks on civilian infrastructure “are war crimes and cannot go unpunished.”
  • Pope Francis compared the Russian invasion to a genocide carried out in Ukraine under Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in the 1930s. “Let us pray for the victims of this genocide and let us pray for so many Ukrainians — children, women, elderly — who are today suffering the martyrdom of aggression,” the Pope said on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. President Biden also criticized Russian “tyranny” as he marked the anniversary of the Holodomor, the man-made famine that killed millions of people in Ukraine under Soviet policies.
  • The U.S. Defense Department announced a $400 million military aid package for Ukraine on Wednesday. It includes machine guns meant to target drones, more munitions for advanced surface-to-air missile systems and more than 20 million rounds of small arms ammunition.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Russia-Ukraine WarTech Giant Aims to Cut Ties With Russia, Anatoly Kurmanaev and Oleg Matsnev, Nov. 24, 2022. The parent firm of Russia’s most prominent technology company, Yandex, wants to cut ties with the country to shield its new businesses from the fallout of the war in Ukraine, a potential setback to President Vladimir V. Putin’s efforts to develop homegrown substitutes for high-tech Western goods and services that have been choked off by sanctions.

Under a sweeping overhaul, the Dutch holding company of Yandex — often referred to as “Russia’s Google” — would transfer its most promising new technologies to markets outside Russia and would sell its established businesses in the country, including a popular internet browser and food delivery and taxi-hailing apps, according to two people familiar with the matter who would not speak publicly because of the sensitivity of the discussions.

The company’s plan aims to shield itself from its home market, and highlights the stifling impact of Western sanctions on Russia’s once-thriving technology sector.

The people familiar with the matter said that the war in Ukraine has made the development of Yandex’s new technologies — such as self-driving cars, machine learning and cloud services — unviable. Such businesses, which require access to Western markets, experts and technology, would fail if they remain associated with Russia, one of them added.

Yandex’s Russian subsidiary would continue offering the same products in the country under the new owners, said the second person familiar with the matter.

It is not clear whether Yandex’s plan will go forward. The company must obtain the Kremlin’s approval to transfer Russian-registered technology licenses outside the country, one of the people said. It would also need to find buyers, most likely within Russia, for its businesses, and the overall restructuring plan would need to be approved by Yandex’s shareholders.

Yandex’s plan is backed by Aleksei Kudrin, Russia’s chief government auditor and a longtime confidant of Mr. Putin. Mr. Kudrin, one of few prominent economic liberals left in the Russian government, is acting for the company informally, but is expected to take a managerial role in the future.

Mr. Kudrin is expected to meet Mr. Putin this week to discuss Yandex’s future and other topics, said one of the people familiar with the matter. The Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said on Thursday that he had no information about such a meeting.

Yandex declined to comment. Russia’s Audit Chamber, Mr. Kudrin’s employer, did not respond to a request for comment.

The company’s restructuring plan was first reported by the Russian economic media outlet The Bell.

Western efforts to isolate Russia economically after its invasion of Ukraine have devastated the once-thriving company. The price of Yandex’s shares traded in Moscow has plunged 62 percent in the past year. The company’s New York-listed shares lost more than $20 billion in value before the Nasdaq stock exchange suspended their trading after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

Thousands of Yandex’s more than 18,000 employees have left Russia since the start of the invasion. In March, the company’s deputy chief executive at the time, Tigran Khudaverdyan, defied the Kremlin line by calling it a “monstrous war” in a Facebook post.

To distance itself from the war’s political fallout, Yandex in August sold its online news aggregator, which had become filled with state propaganda because of increasingly draconian Russian media laws that bar criticism of the war.

The European Union imposed sanctions against Mr. Khudaverdyan in March for Yandex’s role in promoting the Kremlin’s war narrative. His boss, the company’s Israel-based founder, Arkady Volozh, was hit with sanctions by the bloc several months later. Both resigned from the company to allow it to continue operating in Europe.

Here’s what we know:

  • The departure of the parent of the company known as “Russia’s Google” would be a setback to President Vladimir V. Putin’s efforts to develop homegrown substitutes for Western technology.
  • The parent of a tech giant known as ‘Russia’s Google’ wants to cut ties with the country.
  • Millions remain without power in Ukraine even as some services are restored.
  • ‘Every hour is getting harder’: Surgeons in Ukraine struggle to operate when the power goes out.
  • Ukraine’s allies want to curb the flow of oil revenue helping finance Russia’s invasion.
  • Ukraine’s energy grid, the target of repeated strikes, is like a network of roads, its energy utility head says.
  • Zelensky takes his case to the U.N., as the U.S. accuses Russia of trying to freeze Ukraine ‘into submission.’

 ny times logoNew York Times, Russia hit Ukraine with a destructive barrage of missile strikes, knocking out power and killing at least 10, Marc Santora, Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Nov. 24, 2022 (print ed.). A barrage of Russian missiles hit Ukraine on Wednesday, killing at least 10 people and leaving Kyiv and other cities without power, in what appeared to be one of the most damaging attacks in weeks.

ukraine flagThe strikes sent plumes of smoke into the skies in Kyiv as Ukrainian air defense systems worked to shoot down incoming missiles.

Power was cut off in several cities and in the neighboring country of Moldova, whose power system remains entwined with Ukraine’s. Three nuclear power plants in Ukraine were forced to shut down, and about half the country’s train service was suffering delays, the authorities said.

“We have confirmation of hits on critical infrastructure facilities in several regions,” the deputy head of the Ukrainian president’s office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said in a statement.

Mr. Tymoshenko said later in an post on Facebook that at least 10 people had been killed in the missile strikes and other bombardments across the country, including a 2-day-old baby who died when a maternity hospital in Zaporizhzhia was hit.

The Ukrainian Air Force said that Russia launched about 70 cruise missiles from warplanes and from two boats in the Black Sea, and that Ukrainian air defenses shot down 51. Five unmanned attack drones were also shot down in southern Ukraine, the air force said.

From Lviv in the west to Kharkiv in the northeast, officials reported interruptions to electricity, water and other key services. Moldova was also experiencing “massive power outages across the country,” its infrastructure minister, Andrei Spinu, wrote on Facebook. Moldova’s Soviet-era electricity systems remain interconnected with those in Ukraine, its western neighbor.

Russia escalated its aerial attacks on Ukraine’s energy system in October after a series of battlefield losses, trying to plunge the country into darkness and cold just as winter approaches.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Energy said that, as a result of Wednesday’s attacks, “the vast majority of electricity consumers across the country were cut off.”

Some districts in the capital were without power, and “water supply has been suspended throughout Kyiv,” the mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said on Telegram. He said that three people had been killed, including a 17-year-old girl, and advised people to stay in shelters.

Ukrainian authorities disconnected three nuclear power plants from the country’s grid because of disruptions in the power supply, the state nuclear energy company, Energoatom, said on Telegram on Wednesday. The company said that radiation levels at the plants — in Rivne, Khmelnytsk and southern Ukraine — remained normal, and that the plants were able to use internal energy supplies.

For many Ukrainians, the latest wave of attacks disrupted daily life, which had already taken on a new rhythm since Russia’s full-scale invasion began.

In the city of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, subway service was halted and people were being evacuated from underground trains after power went out, said the mayor, Ihor Terekhov.

In the central city of Dnipro, traffic lights went dark and buses stopped after explosions were heard near the city at around 2:30 p.m. local time. An hour before that, at least one cruise missile was seen flying north of the city.

The barrage sent crowds into a neighborhood supermarket, whose generator made it a rare point of light in a city plunged into darkness.

But the crowds of people in the store, many buying water and bread, seemed to suggest that some citizens of Dnipro were preparing for a long stint without electricity.

“Usually power outages last two or three hours here,” one man, a construction worker who gave only his first name Oleg, said. “I think the power will be restored by morning, people need to cook.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Power Outages Reported Across Ukraine After New Wave of Strikes, Marc Santora, Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Nov. 24, 2022 (print ed.). At least three people were killed in Kyiv, the mayor said, in one of the most disruptive barrages of attacks in weeks.

A barrage of Russian missile strikes hit areas of Ukraine in the afternoon and evening on Wednesday, killing at least six people and cutting power to the capital, Kyiv, and other regions, as well as to parts of neighboring Moldova, in what appeared to be one of the most disruptive waves of attacks in weeks.

The strikes sent plumes of smoke into the skies in Kyiv as Ukrainian air defense systems worked to shoot down incoming missiles.

“We have confirmation of hits on critical infrastructure facilities in several regions,” the deputy head of the Ukrainian president’s office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said in a statement.

The Ukrainian Air Force said the strikes were carried out by missile-carrying aircraft from the Volgodonsk area of the Rostov region and from the Caspian Sea, as well as from two small missile boats from the Black Sea. In total, Russia launched around 70 cruise missiles, of which Ukrainian air defenses shot down 51, the Air Force said.

Additionally, in southern Ukraine, five unmanned attack drones were also shot down, the air force said.

From Lviv in the west to Kharkiv in the northeast, officials reported interruptions to supplies of electricity, water and other key services. Moldova was also experiencing “massive power outages across the country,” its infrastructure minister, Andrei Spinu, wrote on Facebook. Moldova’s Soviet-era electricity systems remain interconnected with those in Ukraine, its western neighbor.

Russia escalated its aerial attacks on Ukraine’s energy system in October after to a series of battlefield losses, trying to plunge the country into darkness and cold just as winter approaches. The strikes, while crippling, have not halted Ukraine’s military advances, which forced Moscow to withdraw from the city of Kherson in southern Ukraine two weeks ago.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Energy said that, as a result of Wednesday’s attacks, “the vast majority of electricity consumers across the country were cut off.”

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U.S. Politics, Elections

 

herschel walker left raphael wornock

ny times logoNew York Times, Herschel Walker, Running in Georgia, Receives Tax Break for Texas Residents, Maya King, Nov. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Mr. Walker, Georgia’s Republican nominee for Senate, is benefiting from a homestead exemption meant for primary residents of Texas.

georgia mapHerschel Walker, above left, the Republican candidate for Senate in Georgia, is receiving a tax exemption on his Texas home that is meant for primary residents of the state, despite currently living and running for office in Georgia.

Public tax records first reported by CNN show that this year Mr. Walker will receive a homestead tax exemption of roughly $1,500 for his home in the Dallas area, which he listed as his primary residence. He has received the tax relief for his home since 2012, according to an official in the tax appraisal office of Tarrant County, where Mr. Walker’s home is located.

Under the Constitution, Senate candidates are required to reside in the state they will represent only once they are elected. In Georgia, candidates must meet a handful of stipulations to establish residency in the state before filing their bids for office. Mr. Walker’s tax exemption in Texas suggests that his primary residence remains outside Georgia.

A spokesman for Mr. Walker’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

According to the Texas comptroller, Mr. Walker’s use of the tax exemption while running in Georgia is legal. The comptroller’s website states that you may still receive the tax break after moving away from home temporarily, if “you do not establish a principal residence elsewhere, you intend to return to the home, and you are away less than two years.”

Mr. Walker, who grew up in Georgia and was a phenom for the University of Georgia football team, has made his roots a centerpiece of his campaign. His decisive primary victory in May and support from Republican voters were driven in large part by his stardom in the state. He will face Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat above right, in a runoff election on Dec. 6, after neither candidate cleared the 50 percent threshold needed to win in Georgia on Nov. 8.

This is not the first time Mr. Walker has faced questions about his residency. Before announcing his Senate campaign in 2021, Mr. Walker lived in Texas for more than two decades. He registered to vote in Georgia in August 2021, days before he declared his candidacy.

Andra Gillespie, an associate professor of political science at Emory University, said that Mr. Walker’s tax exemption was unlikely to endanger his qualification for office or turn off the Republicans who supported him in the general election. But she added that in the final weeks of his runoff campaign against Mr. Warnock, the information could add more fodder to Democrats’ argument that Mr. Walker moved back to the state solely for his political career.

“Herschel Walker was never making the claim that he was a recent resident of Georgia — he was a native-son candidate,” she said. “If the Democrats can mobilize some additional people based on these allegations, then they will use it that way.”

 

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Sarah Palin Is Defeated as Her Party Moves Past Her, Jeremy W. Peters, Nov. 24, 2022 (print ed.). The former Alaska governor, once the standard-bearer of the G.O.P.’s no-apologies culture, was no match for the same forces she rode to prominence.

It is hard to overstate just how much of a jolt to the political system Sarah Palin delivered when she defeated her first fellow Republican 16 years ago.

He was Frank Murkowski, the sitting governor of Alaska and a towering figure in the 49th state. She was a “hockey mom” and the former mayor of a small, working-class town who vowed to stick it to the “good ol’ boys.” That race put her on the map with the national Republican Party and set her on a path that would change her life, and the tenor of American politics for years to come.

Then, Ms. Palin was at the vanguard of the dog-whistling, no-apologies political culture that former President Donald J. Trump now embodies.

Today, having lost her bid for Congress after years out of the spotlight, Ms. Palin is a much diminished force.

She was, in many ways, undone by the same political currents she rode to national prominence, first as Senator John McCain’s vice-presidential nominee in 2008 and later as a Tea Party luminary and Fox News star. Along the way, she helped redefine the outer limits of what a politician could say as she made dark insinuations about Barack Obama’s background and false claims about government “death panels” that could deny health care to seniors and people with disabilities.

Now, a generation of Republican stars follows the template she helped create as a hybrid celebrity-politician who relished fighting with elements in her own party as much as fighting with Democrats — none more so than Mr. Trump, who watched her closely for years before deciding to run for president himself. He ensured this month that he would remain in the spotlight, announcing another bid for the White House in 2024.

But as the next generation rose up, Ms. Palin’s brand of politics no longer seemed as novel or as outrageous. Next to Mr. Trump’s lies about a huge conspiracy to deny him a second term, or Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene’s casual allusions to political violence, Ms. Palin’s provocations more than a decade ago can seem almost quaint.

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U.S. Courts, Crime, Regulation

 

Colorado Springs mass murder suspect Anderson Aldrich is shown in a photo with his mother, Laura Voepel.

Colorado Springs mass murder suspect Anderson Aldrich is shown in a photo with his mother, Laura Voepel. 

ny times logoNew York Times, New Details Emerge About Colorado Shooting Suspect, Jack Healy, Shawn Hubler and Vik Jolly, Nov. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Lawyers for the suspect accused of killing five people in an L.G.B.T.Q. nightclub say their client identifies as nonbinary.

The small, close-knit L.G.B.T.Q. community in Colorado Springs, a conservative city at the foot of Pikes Peak with a large presence of military bases, was still reeling on Wednesday from the deadly attack at Club Q, which served as an oasis for many.

Before a court hearing scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, new details were emerging about the person the police have accused of killing five people in the attack.

The suspect, who may face hate crime charges, identifies as nonbinary and uses they-them pronouns, the suspect’s lawyers said in court papers filed before the hearing.

The suspect, Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, was being held