Feb. 2023 News

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Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative February 2023 news and views

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

 

Feb. 28

Top Headlines

 

 

 

A selection of photos showing Ethiopian civilians killed by Eritrean troops around the area of Mariam Shewito in the northern region of Tigray. (Family photos)

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

 

djt ron desantis cnn collage

 

Trump, Allies, GOP Probes, Prospects

 

More On Ukraine War

 

Hot U.S. Media Topics

scott adams via proof

 

Ohio Train Wreck Culture War

Norfolk Southern freight train derailment in Ohio (Detroit News photo by Andy Morrison via Associated Press).

 

Global News, Migration, Human Rights Issues

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Immigration

 

Turkish-Syrian Quake Disaster


Disasters, Energy, Climate, Environment

climate change photo

 

U.S. Abortion, #MeToo, Stalking, Rape Laws, Politics

 

More On Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

 

U.S. Media, Education, Sports, Religion

 

Top Stories

 

A selection of photos showing Ethiopian civilians killed by Eritrean troops around the area of Mariam Shewito in the northern region of Tigray. (Family photos)

A selection of photos showing Ethiopian civilians killed by Eritrean troops around the area of Mariam Shewito in the northern region of Tigray. (Family photos)

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Hundreds massacred in Ethiopia even as peace deal was being reached, Katharine Houreld and Meg Kelly, Feb. 28, 2023.  Soldiers from neighboring Eritrea went house to house killing villagers in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, witnesses said.

Just days before a deal to end the war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, soldiers from neighboring Eritrea last fall massacred more than 300 villagers over the course of a week, according to witnesses and victims’ relatives.

Eritrean forces, allied with Ethiopian government troops, had been angered by a recent battlefield defeat and took their revenge in at least 10 villages east of the town of Adwa during the week before the Nov. 2 peace deal, witnesses said, providing accounts horrifying even by the standards of a conflict defined by mass killings of civilians.

The massacres, which have not been previously reported outside the Tigray region, were described in interviews with 22 relatives of the dead, including 15 who witnessed the killings or their immediate aftermath. They spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

The survivors are only now willing to talk: As long as Eritrean troops remained close by, villagers were cowed into silence. Once the soldiers finally pulled back in late January from much of Tigray, witnesses and relatives began to give accounts like the following: A toddler killed with his 7-year-old brother and their mother. Elderly priests shot in their homes. A nursing mother shot dead in front of her young sons. Family members beaten back as they clung to fathers and sons being taken to their deaths.

The agreement between the Ethiopian government and Tigrayan rebels brought about a cease fire in a two-year war that had made northern Ethiopia one of the deadliest places in the world. But the deal did not address the status of Eritrean troops and avoided some of the other thorniest issues, including who might investigate reports of multiple war crimes like the most recent one near Adwa and how perpetrators could be brought to justice.

The U.N. International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia has repeatedly documented and condemned atrocities carried out by all sides to the conflict. In January, the Ethiopian government asked the United States to support its bid to terminate the commission, calling its work “highly politicized.”

Eritrea, a heavily militarized one-party state often dubbed “the North Korea of Africa,” has consistently denied committing war crimes. On Feb. 9, President Isaias Afwerki told a news conference that such allegations were “fantasy … lies and fabrication.” Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel did not respond to requests for comment on the killings near Adwa.

 

Paul Vallas, left, former chief executive of Chicago public schools, and Brandon Johnson, a Cook County commissioner, will face off in an April election, according to the Associated Press (Photos via WBEZ-TV).

Paul Vallas, left, former chief executive of Chicago public schools, and Brandon Johnson, a Cook County commissioner, will face off in an April election (Photos via WBEZ-TV).

washington post logoWashington Post, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot fails to advance to runoff, Colby Itkowitz, Kim Bellware and Sabrina Rodriguez, Feb. 28, 2023. Mayor Lori Lightfoot lost her bid for a second term here Tuesday, failing to amass enough support to advance to a runoff election after a difficult tenure as the leader of a city overwhelmed by gun violence.

Instead, Paul Vallas, former chief executive of Chicago public schools, and Brandon Johnson, a Cook County commissioner, will face off in an April election, lori lightfoot twitter Customaccording to the Associated Press.

Lightfoot, right, is the first incumbent in 40 years to be ousted after just one term. She spoke to her supporters shortly before 9 pm Central time, after calling Vallas to concede.

“We know in life, in the end, you don’t always win the battle. But you never regret taking on the powerful, and bringing in the light,” she told the crowd gathered at her election night party at a union hall in downtown.

paul vallasWith 84 percent of the vote counted, Vallas, left, led the pack with 35 percent of the vote, followed by Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson (D) with 20 percent and Lightfoot trailing with 16 percent, according to the AP. U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” Garcia (D-Ill.) was running a distant fourth.

Vallas, who secured the endorsement of the police union, amassed a strong base of support, but did not receive the 50 percent needed to win outright.

 

Leading Nigerian Presidential candidates in 2023 were Bola Tinubu, center, Peter Obi, left, and Atatiku Abubakar.

Leading Nigerian Presidential candidates in 2023 were Bola Tinubu, center, Peter Obi, left, and Atatiku Abubakar.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bola Tinubu of Nigeria’s ruling party wins presidential election, Rachel Chason and Ope Adetayo, Feb. 28, 2023. Former Lagos governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu has won Nigeria’s presidential election, officials said early Wednesday, marking a victory for the ruling party despite the unpopularity of its outgoing president, Muhammadu Buhari.

Nigerian FlagThe opposition, including the campaigns of both outsider candidate Peter Obi and former vice president Atiku Abubakar, has vowed to contest the results, saying that a new election should be held under a new elections chief.

At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, opposition figures alleged widespread technological problems, delays in poll openings on Election Day, violence and voter intimidation, and manipulation of results.

Pockets of protest, including in the capital, Abuja, emerged Tuesday, and political analysts warned it could spread. Leaders in the opposition and ruling parties urged calm.

bola tinubu 2011 wTinubu, 70, known as a kingmaker in Nigerian politics (and shown in a 2011 photo), received 36 percent of more than 24 million votes cast, according to results announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). He also received over 25 percent of the vote in more than two-thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states and Abuja, thus meeting both requirements to win Nigeria’s presidency.

As crises spiral, Nigerians are voting in tight presidential election

Tinubu, who had the support of Buhari and a massive get-out-the-vote effort behind him, ran on the slogan “It’s my turn.” He benefited because the opposition was divided between Obi, 61, a former governor popular among the youth, and Abubakar, 76, on his sixth bid for the presidency.

Now, Obi’s and Abubakar’s campaigns have joined forces to call for a fresh election, saying that INEC’s poor performance overseeing the election led to a loss of confidence in the results. “This election was not free and was far from being fair or transparent,” Julius Abure, the Labour Party chairman, said at the news conference.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opposition Parties in Nigeria Call for Election Rerun, Citing Fraud, Ruth Maclean and Elian Peltier, Feb. 28, 2023. Two parties say that the presidential vote was marred by vote rigging and violence. They also called for the head of the election commission to resign.

Nigerian FlagNigeria’s two major opposition parties on Tuesday called for the presidential election to be canceled and rerun, saying that it had been compromised by vote rigging and widespread violence.

The election over the weekend in the West African nation — the most populous on the continent, with 220 million people — was the most wide open in years, with a surprise third-party candidate putting up an assertive challenge.

On Tuesday, the chairmen of the two opposition parties — the People’s Democratic Party and the Labour Party — called for the head of the government’s electoral commission to resign, even as the commission continued to release results.

With about one-third of the 36 states reporting results, by Tuesday afternoon, Bola Tinubu, the candidate of the governing All Progressives Congress party appeared some distance ahead of his rivals in the count, with 44 percent of the vote. Some 87 million people were registered to vote, but results from the first tabulations suggested low turnout.

“We demand that this sham of an election be immediately canceled,” said Julius Abure, chairman of the Labour Party. “We have totally lost faith in the whole process.”

Many Nigerians had looked to the election to put the country back on track after eight years of rule by an ailing president, Muhammadu Buhari — a military dictator turned democrat. Mr. Buhari had reached his two-term limit and was not running for re-election.

Under his leadership, the Giant of Africa, as Nigeria is known, lurched from one economic shock to the next. Over 60 percent of people live in poverty, while security crises — including kidnapping, terrorism, militancy in oil-rich areas and clashes between herdsmen and farmers — have multiplied.

 

This week's new official portrait of the U.S. Supreme Court

The official portrait of the U.S. Supreme Court

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Hears Challenges to Student Loan Forgiveness Plan, Adam Liptak, Feb. 28, 2023. President Biden’s executive action faces a conservative court that insists on authorization by Congress for initiatives with such major consequences. The Biden administration wants to wipe out $400 billion in student debt by forgiving up to $20,000 per borrower. Six Republican-led states — Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas and South Carolina — and two individuals sued to stop the plan.

education department seal Custom 2The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Tuesday over the legality of one of the most ambitious and expensive executive actions in the nation’s history: the Biden administration’s plan to wipe out more than $400 billion in student debt because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The justices are hearing two cases, starting at 10 a.m. Each case will receive at least one hour of arguments but is expected to run well over that. The court does not allow cameras, but audio of the arguments will be streamed live.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justices Thomas, Roberts question Biden’s authority on student loan forgiveness, Staff Report, Feb. 28, 2023. Several conservative Supreme Court justices on Tuesday questioned the power of the Biden administration to wipe out nearly a half a trillion dollars in student loan debt without direct authorization from Congress.

During oral arguments that began shortly after 10 a.m. and are likely to stretch into mid-afternoon, Chief Justice John G. Roberts stressed that one of the cases before the high court presents “extraordinarily serious, important issues about the role of Congress” and suggested that legislative action would be needed to authorize such a large amount of loan forgiveness.

The court’s liberal justices, meanwhile, expressed skepticism over whether the six Republican-led states that brought the first case are specifically harmed by President Biden’s debt-relief program, which they must be in order to have legal grounds to stop it.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here’s what to know about President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, Ron Lieber and Tara Siegel Bernard, Feb. 28, 2023. President Biden’s move means the student loan balances of millions of people could fall by as much as $20,000. This F.A.Q. explains how it will work.

A federal appeals court temporarily halted President Biden’s student debt relief program in November, placing all debt cancellation on hold. The Department of Education has stopped accepting loan applications during the halt, but said it would hold all previously submitted applications.

education department seal Custom 2The Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday, Feb. 28 as it considers whether six Republican-led states are entitled to sue the federal government to block Mr. Biden’s loan forgiveness program. The six states are calling the president’s plan an abuse of executive authority, while the administration’s legal case focuses on the pandemic’s lingering effects on the finances of millions of borrowers.

Nearly two months after President Biden announced that the federal government would cancel up to $20,000 worth of federal student loans, the program began accepting applications from eligible borrowers.

Tens of millions of people will qualify. But debtors with high incomes won’t receive any relief, and those who do qualify will need to navigate the balky federal loan servicing system and keep a close eye on their accounts and credit reports for any mistakes.

ny times logoNew York Times, Scrounging for Tanks for Ukraine, Europe’s Armies Come Up Short, Erika Solomon, Steven Erlanger and Christopher F. Schuetze, Feb. 28, 2023. The struggle to deliver on promises to provide Leopard 2 tanks for use against Russian forces has exposed just how unprepared European militaries are.

Nearly a month after Berlin gave European allies permission to send German-made tanks to Ukraine, the flow of tanks so many leaders vowed would follow seems more like a trickle.

Some nations have discovered that the tanks in their armory don’t actually work or lack spare parts. Political leaders have encountered unanticipated resistance within their own coalitions, and even from their defense ministries. And some armies had to pull trainers out of retirement to teach Ukrainian soldiers how to use old-model tanks.

The struggle to provide Leopard tanks to an embattled Ukraine is just the most glaring manifestation of a reality Europe has long ignored: Believing that large-scale land war was a thing of the past and basking in the thaw of the Cold War, nations chronically underfunded their militaries. When Russia launched the largest land war on the continent since World War II, they were woefully unprepared.

Hints of the problem have surfaced repeatedly since Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago, through shortages of weapons and ammunition. But now, as Germany and its allies struggled for weeks to scrape together enough Leopard 2s to fill two battalions of tanks — 62 vehicles in total — the extent of their quandary has become even clearer.

washington post logoWashington Post, Emboldened by its majority, House GOP turns up heat on federal workers, Lisa Rein and Jacqueline Alemany, Feb. 28, 2023 (print ed.). At a House hearing this month on fraud and waste in pandemic aid, some Republicans zeroed in on one group in particular for criticism: the federal employees overseeing the money.

republican elephant logo“Fire people if they don’t do things they’re supposed to do,” Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) said. “That is our biggest problem in the federal government. Nobody can be held accountable.”

U.S. House logoThat sentiment is animating a newly empowered GOP House majority eager to ramp up scrutiny of the army of civil servants who run the government’s day-to-day operations. The effort includes seeking testimony from middle- and lower-level workers who are part of what Republicans have long derided as the “deep state,” while some lawmakers are drafting bills that have little chance of passing the Democrat-led Senate but give Republicans a chance to argue for reining in the federal bureaucracy of 2.1 million employees.

In recent weeks, House Republicans have passed legislation requiring federal employees to return to the office, arguing that pandemic rules have bled into a permanent state that diminishes productivity. Lawmakers have voted to rescind $80 billion for the cash-starved IRS to hire 87,000 employees in customer service, technology and audit roles to increase tax compliance of those earning more than $400,000 — claiming the extra staff will unfairly target taxpayers. They’ve allowed House members to reduce or eliminate federal agency programs or slash the salaries of individual employees on a quick vote.

jim jordan shirtsleevesA newly formed Judiciary Committee panel led by its chairman, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), left, meanwhile, has already issued subpoenas to agency heads and alerted the Biden administration to impending requests for testimony from multiple mid-level career employees on contentious issues. And House Republican leaders have told almost all of their committees to come up with plans by March to slash spending and beef up oversight of federal agencies in their jurisdiction.

Unions and others who advocate for federal workers are bracing for still more friction, including proposals to reduce or eliminate cost-of-living adjustments to wages and shave the government’s share of health insurance premiums or retirement benefits. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.) introduced legislation in January to transform the entire civil service to at-will jobs with scant protections.

 

julie su smile

Politico, Biden to tap Julie Su as next Labor secretary, Nick Niedzwiadek, Burgess Everett, Nicholas Wu and Sarah Ferris, Feb. 28, 2023. The current deputy Labor secretary, shown above, will be nominated to replace Marty Walsh, according to two people familiar with the matter.

politico CustomPresident Joe Biden announced on Tuesday that he would nominate Julie Su to be his next Labor secretary, moving swiftly to fill a coming vacancy within his cabinet.

joe biden black background resized serious file“It is my honor to nominate Julie Su to be our country’s next Secretary of Labor,” Biden, right, said in a statement. “Julie has spent her life fighting to make sure that everyone has a fair shot, that no community is overlooked, and that no worker is left behind. Over several decades, Julie has led the largest state labor department in the nation, cracked down on wage theft, fought to protect trafficked workers, increased the minimum wage, created good-paying, high-quality jobs, and established and enforced workplace safety standards.”

Su is currently the deputy Labor secretary and will be nominated to replace Marty Walsh, left, who is departing the administration to run the professional hockey marty walshplayers’ union. Su’s confirmation fight could be a tough one in the Senate; she was confirmed 50-47 to her slot in 2021 with no Republican support.

Asian American members of Congress had pushed hard for Su to lead the Labor Department at the beginning of the Biden administration before the us labor department logopresident picked Walsh, whose impending departure prompted the lawmakers to again lobby for Su.

Influential labor unions like SEIU had also rallied around Su. Others in organized labor were generally supportive of her becoming Labor secretary, even if they stopped short of a formal endorsement.

Though Su quickly emerged as the frontrunner to succeed Walsh, the Biden administration did explore several alternatives. Among those were Sara Nelson, the leader of Association of Flight Attendants-CWA who had the backing of Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), whose committee will handle Biden’s nomination.

Sanders said in an interview that he wasn’t sure when Walsh was leaving but he’d try to move Su’s nomination as soon as possible.

“She was not my first choice, but I’ve every confidence she’s going to do a great job,” said Sanders, who had pushed for Nelson.

Su is already in line to become acting Labor secretary once Walsh leaves mid-March, and she has taken on an increased presence in recent weeks as the agency prepares for the handoff.

The two were scheduled to appear together midday Tuesday in Houston for a tour of a local apprenticeship program, alongside the heads of the Teamsters union and United Airlines.

Until recently, Su rarely traveled outside of the capital while Walsh was a frequent presence for the Biden administration across the country and regularly appeared with the president at high-profile events, according to a POLITICO review of the pair’s public schedules.

ny times logoNew York Times, After Slashing Its Staff, Twitter Faces More Glitches and Outages, Ryan Mac, Mike Isaac and Kate Conger, Feb. 28, 2023. Elon Musk’s repeated trims to the company’s workforce are stoking new fears that there aren’t enough people to triage Twitter’s problems.

twitter bird CustomAfter Elon Musk bought Twitter last year and eliminated thousands of its employees, many users were so alarmed by the cuts that #RIPTwitter and #GoodbyeTwitter began trending.

The social media service remains operational today. But its outages, bugs and other glitches are increasingly piling up.

In February alone, Twitter experienced at least four widespread outages, compared with nine in all of 2022, according to NetBlocks, an organization that tracks internet outages. That suggests the frequency of service failures is on the rise, NetBlocks said. And bugs that have made Twitter less usable — by preventing people from posting tweets, for instance — have been more noticeable, researchers and users said.

Twitter’s reliability has deteriorated as Mr. Musk has repeatedly slashed the company’s work force. After another round of layoffs on Saturday, Twitter has fewer than 2,000 employees, down from 7,500 when Mr. Musk took over in October. The latest cuts affected dozens of engineers responsible for keeping the site online, three current and former employees said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Britain and E.U. Agree on Northern Ireland Trade Deal, Mark Landler and Stephen Castle, Feb. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Britain United Kingdom flagand the European Union struck a deal on Monday to end a festering dispute over post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, a european union logo rectanglediplomatic achievement that could resolve one of the most poisonous legacies of Britain’s exit from Europe’s trade bloc.

The deal, known as the Windsor Framework, came after weeks of confidential talks. It could avert a potential trade war Rishi sunakbetween Britain and the European Union and open the door to the restoration of Northern Ireland’s government.

But it also comes with political risks for Britain’s prime minister, Rishi Sunak, right, opening him up to backlash from pro-Brexit hard-liners in his Conservative Party and pro-British unionists in Northern Ireland.

ny times logoNew York Times, What to Know About Chicago’s Mayoral Election, Mitch Smith, Feb. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Mayor Lori Lightfoot is seeking a second term, but she faces a wide field of challengers who have attacked her record on crime, policing and education.

As residents of Chicago prepare to elect a mayor, they are staring at a highly uncertain picture: a race so wide open that even the incumbent, lori lightfoot twitter CustomMayor Lori Lightfoot, right, who won every ward in the city in the final balloting four years ago, is not assured a spot in an expected runoff election.

Chicagoans will pick on Tuesday among nine candidates at a pivotal time to lead the city, which has wrestled since the pandemic with a spike in homicides and an emptier downtown. At least four of the candidates are seen as serious contenders to make it to an April 4 runoff, and Ms. Lightfoot finds herself in between candidates casting themselves to her political left, and also to her right.

In the final days of the race, Ms. Lightfoot has attempted to embrace her spot in the middle, arguing that the city needs to stay the course with her. Before a crowd at a union hall over the weekend, she accused one opponent of being an undercover Republican. Another, she said, would raise taxes and cut policing.

In addition to Ms. Lightfoot, the top tier of candidates includes Jesús G. García, a progressive congressman; Brandon Johnson, a county commissioner endorsed by the local teachers’ union; and Paul Vallas, a former public school executive with a far more conservative platform on policing and education.

Those candidates all describe themselves as Democrats, an unofficial prerequisite for winning citywide office, but have vastly different visions for Chicago. Here is what is shaping the race to lead the country’s third-largest city:

Ms. Lightfoot leveraged outsider status and a promise for sweeping reforms to win her seat in 2019, becoming the first Black woman and first openly gay person to serve as Chicago’s mayor.

But she will enter this Election Day with uncertain prospects, dogged by diminished popularity, homicide rates that soared to generational highs and frequent feuds with labor unions and City Council members. Her campaign’s own polling in the weeks before the election showed her in the lead, but with only 24 percent of the vote.

Ms. Lightfoot has spoken about a need to attract more people to Chicago. But while the city’s population grew slightly between 2010 and 2020, census estimates show that the number of residents has declined since then.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opposition Parties in Nigeria Call for Election Rerun, Citing Fraud, Ruth Maclean and Elian Peltier, Feb. 28, 2023. Two parties say that the presidential vote was marred by vote rigging and violence. They also called for the head of the election commission to resign.

Nigerian FlagNigeria’s two major opposition parties on Tuesday called for the presidential election to be canceled and rerun, saying that it had been compromised by vote rigging and widespread violence.

The election over the weekend in the West African nation — the most populous on the continent, with 220 million people — was the most wide open in years, with a surprise third-party candidate putting up an assertive challenge.

On Tuesday, the chairmen of the two opposition parties — the People’s Democratic Party and the Labour Party — called for the head of the government’s electoral commission to resign, even as the commission continued to release results.

With about one-third of the 36 states reporting results, by Tuesday afternoon, Bola Tinubu, the candidate of the governing All Progressives Congress party appeared some distance ahead of his rivals in the count, with 44 percent of the vote. Some 87 million people were registered to vote, but results from the first tabulations suggested low turnout.

“We demand that this sham of an election be immediately canceled,” said Julius Abure, chairman of the Labour Party. “We have totally lost faith in the whole process.”

Many Nigerians had looked to the election to put the country back on track after eight years of rule by an ailing president, Muhammadu Buhari — a military dictator turned democrat. Mr. Buhari had reached his two-term limit and was not running for re-election.

Under his leadership, the Giant of Africa, as Nigeria is known, lurched from one economic shock to the next. Over 60 percent of people live in poverty, while security crises — including kidnapping, terrorism, militancy in oil-rich areas and clashes between herdsmen and farmers — have multiplied.

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Economy, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Florida Could Start Looking a Lot Like Hungary, Michelle Goldberg, right, Feb. 28, 2023 (print ed.). In 2017, the michelle goldberg thumbgovernment of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban passed a law intended to drive Central European University, a prestigious school founded by a Hungarian refugee, George Soros, out of the country.

At the time, this was shocking; as many as 80,000 protesters rallied in Budapest and intellectuals worldwide rushed to declare their solidarity with the demonstrators. “The fate of the university was a test of whether liberalism had the tactical savvy and emotional fortitude to beat back its new ideological foe,” wrote Franklin Foer in The Atlantic.

Liberalism, sadly, did not: The university was forced to move to Vienna, part of Orban’s lamentably successful campaign to dismantle Hungary’s liberal democracy.

That campaign has included ever-greater ideological control over education, most intensely in grade school, but also in colleges and universities. Following a landslide 2018 re-election victory that Orban saw as a “mandate to build a new era,” his government banned public funding for gender studies courses. “The Hungarian government is of the clear view that people are born either men or women,” said his chief of staff. In 2021, Orban extended political command over Hungarian universities by putting some schools under the authority of “public trusts” full of regime allies.

Many on the American right admire the way Orban uses the power of the state against cultural liberalism, but few are imitating him as faithfully as the Florida governor and likely Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis. Last week, one of DeSantis’s legislative allies filed House Bill 999, which would, as The Tampa Bay Times reported, turn many of DeSantis’s “wide-ranging ideas on higher education into law.” Even by DeSantis’s standards, it is a shocking piece of legislation that takes a sledgehammer to academic freedom. Jeremy Young, senior manager of free expression and education at PEN America, described it as “almost an apocalyptic bill for higher education,” one that is “orders of magnitude worse than anything we’ve seen, either in the recent or the distant past.”

Echoing Orban, House Bill 999 bars Florida’s public colleges and universities from offering gender studies majors or minors, as well as majors or minors in critical race theory or “intersectionality,” or in any subject that “engenders beliefs” in those concepts. The bill prohibits the promotion or support of any campus activities that “espouse diversity, equity and inclusion or critical race theory rhetoric.” This goes far beyond simply ending D.E.I. programming, and could make many campus speakers, as well as student organizations like Black student unions, verboten.

 

djt ron desantis cnn collage

washington post logoWashington Post, From Palm Beach to Staten Island, DeSantis makes 2024 moves on Trump’s turf, Hannah Knowles and Josh Dawsey, Paul Farhi, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). The Florida governor’s show of force was part of his increasingly open encroachments into Trump's longtime support base and ideological terrain.

Four miles down an oceanfront highway from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, more than 100 influential Republicans gathered at a luxe resort this weekend for cigars, cocktails and plenty of face time with the former president’s chief GOP rival: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, shown above in a file photo. “WELCOME TO THE FREEDOM BLUEPRINT,” blared a sign welcoming donors, influencers and lawmakers.
Congressional districts have changed. Find yours for the 2022 midterm elections.

djt maga hatThey mingled Friday at the Four Seasons ahead of discussions hosted by DeSantis’s political committee on “election integrity,” border security and “medical authoritarianism,” according to an agenda reviewed by The Washington Post. It all unfolded a day after a much smaller candlelight dinner fundraiser held at Mar-a-Lago for the super PAC supporting Trump’s White House bid — a group with less cash than the DeSantis committee in its coffers at the end of last year.

DeSantis’s show of force in Trump’s backyard was part of his increasingly open encroachments into the former president’s longtime support base and ideological turf. The gathering marked the latest step by DeSantis toward launching a bid for president, as he avoids public conflict with Trump but cultivates Trump donors and supporters, visits Trump strongholds and seeks to make his mark on some issues closely associated with Trump.

Trump’s grip on the Republican base is slipping — even among his fans

DeSantis touted his record as governor extensively in remarks to a packed room Friday night, according to an attendee who, like others interviewed for this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. The confab here was designed to showcase DeSantis’s record and show it could be applied nationally, people familiar with the event said. That’s an appealing prospect to many Republicans, including some who used to be staunch Trump supporters.

Politico, Jeb Bush: 'I was praising, not endorsing' DeSantis, Gary Fineout, Feb. 28, 2023. It’s no big secret that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is a fan of current Gov. Ron DeSantis. He wrote about DeSantis for Time Magazine. And Bush was the lone former governor to attend DeSantis’ inauguration in January.

politico CustomBush was also effusive with praise of the governor in a "Fox Nation" special released last week hosted by Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade jeb bush wcalled “Who is Ron DeSantis?” Bush, right, said DeSantis had been an “effective governor” and praised his response to Hurricane Ian as well as pushback to critical media coverage.

Bush’s comments have been viewed as an all-out endorsement of DeSantis and ricocheted online over the weekend, drawing some angry response from some diehard supporters for former President Donald Trump. Trump of course crushed Bush in the 2016 Republican primary for president.

But in an email to Playbook, Bush stated that “I was praising, not endorsing.” In that same email, he did not answer a question on who he wanted to see become the Republican nominee. But right after the inauguration, he said DeSantis would be a “great alternative” to Trump and that the governor has a “proven track record” and “great platform” to run on if he chose to jump into the race for president.

Florida Political Report, Blaise Ingoglia bill would ‘cancel’ Democratic Party, Mike Wright, Feb. 28, 2023. Sen. Blaise Ingoglia is sponsoring the “Ultimate Cancel Act,” which would eliminate all political parties that once used slavery as part of its platform.

While “Democratic Party” isn’t mentioned in the bill, Ingoglia said that’s his target.

“For years now, leftist activists have been trying to ‘cancel’ people and companies for things they have said or done in the past. This includes the removal of statues and memorials, and the renaming of buildings,” he said. “Using this standard, it would be hypocritical not to cancel the Democratic Party itself for the same reason.”

The measure (SB 1248) would switch Democratic voters to no-party voters or give them the option of choosing another party.

The Democratic Party adopted pro-slavery positions in their platforms during the conventions of 1840, 1844, 1856, 1860 and 1864, Ingoglia noted.

Indeed, the Democratic Party’s beginnings were rooted in states’ rights, including slavery. The party split during the Civil War, with Southern Democrats favoring slavery in all territories and Northern Democrats arguing it should go to a popular vote.

A century later, it was a Democratic president from the South, Lyndon Johnson, who signed the Civil Rights Act.

According to Ingoglia’s bill, the Division of Elections would decertify any political party that has “previously advocated for, or been in support of, slavery or involuntary servitude.”

Registered voters of that party would receive notices from the state that their party has been “canceled” and that they’re now no-party voters.

As for the canceled Democratic Party, it could re-register with the state so long as the name is “substantially different from the name of any other party previously registered.”

Ingoglia said Democrats should be called upon to face their past.

“Some people want to have ‘uncomfortable conversations’ about certain subjects,” he said. “Let’s have those conversations.”

Axios Sneak Peek, DeSantis' de facto campaign launch, Hans Nichols and Zachary Basu, Feb. 27-28, 2023. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is aggressively testing the limits of running an unofficial presidential campaign, ramping up national engagements that leave little doubt about his plans for 2024.

axios logoWhy it matters: DeSantis and former President Trump are the GOP frontrunners, but their approaches to campaigning have so far been starkly different.

• Trump launched his comeback bid just days after the 2022 midterms; DeSantis sees no urgency and isn't expected to formally declare until June.
• Trump spends much of his time playing golf and attacking rivals on Truth Social; DeSantis points to his demanding day job as an excuse to avoid presidential speculation and intraparty mud-slinging.
• Trump is warring with Fox News and the Republican establishment; DeSantis is a fixture on Fox's airwaves and just earned the endorsement of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

What we're watching: DeSantis has taken steps in the past week that amount to a de facto campaign launch, meaning the national spotlight — and scrutiny — is about to get far more intense.
• The Florida governor visited New York City and the suburbs of Philadelphia and Chicago last week to speak to law enforcement groups about crime.
• On Friday, he hosted more than 100 of his top supporters and donors for a three-day retreat just down the road from Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort.
• Tomorrow, DeSantis begins a national book tour in which he'll headline fundraisers and give speeches in Texas, California, Alabama and elsewhere.

Results of a new Fox News GOP primary poll showing Trump leading DeSantis by 15 points. Screenshot: Fox News

 

President Jimmy Carter and his wife Roselyn Carter walk away from to the Inaguration in January 1977 (Photo via the Carter Center).

President Jimmy Carter, now in home hospice care in his native Georgia, and his wife Roselyn Carter walk away from to the Inaguration in January 1977 (Photo via the Carter Center).

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Different From the Other Southerners’: Jimmy Carter and Black America, Maya King and Richard Fausset, Feb. 28, 2023. Here’s how a white politician from the South who once supported segregationist policies eventually won the enduring support of Black voters.

Without Black voters, there would have been no President Jimmy Carter.

georgia mapIn 1976, African Americans catapulted the underdog Democrat to the White House with 83 percent support. Four years later, they stuck by him, delivering nearly identical numbers even as many white voters abandoned him in favor of his victorious Republican challenger, Ronald Reagan.

democratic donkey logoThis enduring Black support for Mr. Carter illuminates two intertwined and epochal American stories, each of them powered by themes of pragmatism and redemption. One is the story of a white Georgia politician who began his quest for power in the Jim Crow South — a man who, as late as 1970, declared his respect for the arch-segregationist George Wallace in an effort to attract white votes, but whose personal convictions and political ambitions later pushed him to try to change the racist environment in which he had been raised.

The other is the story of a historically oppressed people flexing their growing electoral muscle after the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 removed obstacles to the ballot box. Certainly, for some Black voters, candidate Carter was simply the least bad option. But for others, the elections of 1976 and 1980 were an opportunity to take the measure of this changing white man, recognizing the opportunity he presented, and even his better angels.

“His example in Georgia as a representative of the New South, as one of the new governors from the South, was exciting, and it was appealing,” said Representative Sanford Bishop, a Democrat whose Georgia congressional district includes Mr. Carter’s home. “It carried the day in terms of people wanting a fresh moral face for the presidency.”

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP-led House steps up scrutiny of Biden’s military aid for Ukraine, Dan Lamothe, Feb. 28, 2023. Senior Pentagon officials closely involved with the administration’s Ukraine security assistance program appear at two House hearings Tuesday.

U.S. House logoA senior Biden administration official told Congress on Tuesday that the Pentagon has not detected any weapons sent to Ukraine have fallen into the wrong hands, responding to a small but outspoken chorus of Republican critics seeking to limit U.S. military aid to Kyiv.

“We don’t see any evidence of diversion in in our reporting,” said Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy. “We think the Ukrainians are using properly what they’ve been given.”

Kahl’s comments to the House Armed Services Committee came in response to questions from lawmakers of both political parties who appear to agree on the need for tougher scrutiny of the tens of billions of dollars and U.S. arms that the administration has provided Ukraine to help fend off Russia’s invasion. After retaking the House majority in January, Republicans in particular have vowed vigorous oversight of the aid program, even as a split calcifies within the GOP over whether to scale back U.S. support.

washington post logoWashington Post, As CPAC’s head faces sexual assault claim, other leadership concerns emerge, Beth Reinhard and Isaac Arnsdorf, Feb. 28, 2023. Matt Schlapp, who runs the Conservative Political Action Conference, has been backed by prominent Republicans but some staffers complain of a ‘toxic’ culture.

For nearly a decade, Matt Schlapp has captained the blockbuster Conservative Political Action Conference, bringing together influential figures on the right and establishing himself as a key voice in former president Donald Trump’s movement.

Those powerful allies rushed to his defense when Schlapp was anonymously accused in early January of sexual misconduct by a GOP campaign aide.

Two days after the allegation was first reported, Trump shared a stage with Schlapp at a CPAC fundraiser at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach. Officials from CPAC’s parent organization, the American Conservative Union, denounced the claim as a political missive. A prominent Republican lawyer representing Schlapp called the accusation “false” and cast it as a personal attack on his family.

But as Schlapp rebuffs the allegation by a former staffer from Herschel Walker’s Georgia Senate campaign, who says he groped him during an Atlanta trip last fall, dozens of current and former employees and board members interviewed by The Washington Post described a wider range of complaints about the longtime Republican power broker and CPAC’s culture under his leadership. A Post review of the Walker staffer’s claims also corroborated that he shared his story with friends and colleagues in the immediate aftermath.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Our state is at war with our family’: Clergy with trans kids fight back, Ariana Eunjung Cha, Photos by Neeta Satam, Feb. 28, 2023. They say their children’s lives and religious liberty are threatened by bills proposed in Missouri and elsewhere.

All of which had brought the family to this fateful moment three years later. As Bogard and his now 9-year-old son piled into the family minivan at dawn for one of their regular four-hour round trips to the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City to share their story with lawmakers, the rabbi worried what might lie ahead. Bills “to protect children,” as some Republicans described their measures restricting gender-affirming health care and limiting how schools treat gender identity, have become this year’s rallying cry in this state and elsewhere.

“Our state is at war with our family,” Bogard said. “It’s not an exaggeration that we are up at night talking about when and how far we might have to flee.”

In Missouri, Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden (R) had promised “big stuff” regarding “the transgender issue” this session. At least 31 bills, one of the largest number in any U.S. state, have been introduced by the Republican supermajority, targeting youth participation in competitive school sports, the ability to revise gender on birth certificates, gender-affirming medical treatments and other rights of LGBTQ people. Similar bills have been introduced in at least 11 states.

The measures that frighten families the most would classify efforts to support children and teens seeking medical treatment to help them transition to their preferred gender as child abuse. The legislation would carry criminal penalties for providers and possibly parents, although such treatments are supported by the country’s major medical associations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association and the American Association of Clinical Endocrinology.

Mississippi last week became the fifth state after Alabama, Utah, South Dakota and Arkansas to pass legislation restricting minors seeking gender-affirming care. Governors in Utah and South Dakota have signed the measures into law. In Florida, the state’s board of medicine has imposed similar limits.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tenn. governor to restrict drag shows as photo appears to show him in drag, Annabelle Timsit, Feb. 28, 2023. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) said he intends to sign a controversial bill restricting where drag shows can take place in the state — the latest effort by Republican legislators across the country to target the performances amid broader backlash to expanded LGBTQ rights.

Tennessee’s House and Senate voted to make it illegal for anyone to engage in “adult cabaret” performances on public property or in a place where children might see them — claiming these practices may be harmful to children.

Lawmakers called out “topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, male or female impersonators” who provide entertainment of an overly sexual nature. Broad language — restricting performances by these “or similar entertainers, regardless of whether or not performed for consideration” — has sparked fears in the LGBTQ community of a broad crackdown on drag performers, including in settings such as Pride parades.

Tennessee lawmakers also passed a separate bill earlier in February banning gender-affirming care for most trans minors.

“I intend to sign both of them,” Lee said, referring to the bills in a news conference on Monday.

The bill would be one of at least 26 introduced nationwide in the current legislative session by Republicans seeking to impose restrictions or conditions on drag events, as The Washington Post has reported.

washington post logoWashington Post, Obama launches leadership network focused on local civic engagement, Matthew Brown, Feb. 28, 2023. The former president said he hopes the initiative ‘will develop, connect and elevate changemakers across the country.’

Allies of Barack Obama were amid months-long talks on how to advance one of the former president’s core goals — cultivating America’s next generation of leadership — when the water in Jackson, Miss., was turned off for more than a month last summer.

The local leaders who responded to that ongoing crisis displayed many of the traits that Obama, who began his career as a Chicago community organizer, wishes to cultivate across the country, according to those close to him. And they thought those leaders could have benefited from connecting with activists in other states who had faced similar challenges.

Now, Jackson will be among the first sites of a new leadership program Obama will soon launch to build a national network of young leaders from a range of regions, identities, backgrounds and political persuasions who are intent on improving their local communities at a time of intense polarization.

ny times logoNew York Times, James Abourezk, the First Arab American Senator, Dies at 92, Alex Traub, Feb. 27, 2023 (print ed.). A Democrat from South Dakota, he found the freedom to act on principle in the House and Senate by choosing not to seek re-election.

democratic donkey logoJames Abourezk, who was elected by South Dakotans as the first Arab American senator, and who used his prominence to support the causes of Palestinians and Native Americans while also pushing for friendlier relations with Cuba and Iran, died on Friday, his 92nd birthday, at his home in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Mr. Abourezk (pronounced AB-ur-esk) was a double novelty for a senator. He was a left winger from a generally conservative rural state and a politician who gave up the chance for re-election to focus on pursuing the political objectives he believed in, rather than those supported by his party, his constituents or even, in some cases, most Americans.

In 1970, when Mr. Abourezk won a race for South Dakota’s second district seat in the House, the state’s newly elected governor was a fellow Democrat, Richard F. Kneip, and its other senator was the progressive standard-bearer George McGovern. Mr. Abourezk’s victory came as a surprise nevertheless: A Democrat had not occupied that House seat since the era of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s dominance in the 1930s.

Mr. Abourezk attributed his success to his reputation as “more populist than liberal or leftist, a brand of politician that resonates with people from South Dakota,” he told The Capital Journal, a South Dakota newspaper, in 2013. “One comment I constantly heard from people was that, ‘I don’t agree much with Abourezk, but by God, he’s honest.’”

He was elected to the Senate in 1972. After he stepped down, Larry Pressler, a Republican, succeeded him and served for nearly 20 years.

ny times logoNew York Times, Chicago’s mayoral race has largely focused on crime and policing, Julie Bosman, Feb. 28, 2023.  Mayor Lori Lightfoot faces a wide field of challengers on Tuesday, including one front-runner who has portrayed Chicago as a city in disarray.

— Chicagoans headed to the polls on Tuesday to vote in highly contested mayoral and City Council races that have largely focused on crime, policing and the performance of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who is seeking a second term leading the nation’s third-largest city.

democratic donkey logoMs. Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor who ran as a change agent vowing to root out corruption and reform the Chicago Police Department, won 74 percent of the vote in the final balloting when elected four years ago, a favorite of progressives who hailed her historic victory as the city’s first Black, female mayor.

But she has faced widespread dissatisfaction from voters since, and many have thrown their support to other candidates: Eight challengers have lined up against her, and unless one candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote — a highly unlikely scenario — the top two finishers on Tuesday will advance to a runoff on April 4.

ny times logoNew York Times, To Tap Federal Funds, Chip Makers Will Need to Provide Child Care, Jim Tankersley, Feb. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The Commerce Department will announce that federal funding will be contingent on a guarantee of affordable, high-quality child care for workers.

The Biden administration plans to leverage the federal government’s expansive investment in the semiconductor industry to make progress on another goal: affordable child care.

On Tuesday, the Commerce Department will announce that any semiconductor manufacturer seeking a slice of nearly $40 billion in new federal subsidies will need to essentially guarantee affordable, high-quality child care for workers who build or operate a plant.

Last year, a bipartisan group of lawmakers passed the CHIPS Act, which devoted $39 billion to directly boost U.S. semiconductor factories as part of $52 billion in subsidies for the industry, in hopes of making the nation less reliant on foreign suppliers for critical chips that power computers, video games, cars and more.

Companies that receive the subsidies to build new plants will be able to use some of the government money to meet the new child care requirement. They could do that in a number of ways, in consultation with Commerce officials, who will set basic guidelines but not dictate how companies ensure workers have access to care they can afford.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin announces Senate run in Michigan, Colby Itkowitz, Feb. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The U.S. House member and former CIA analyst is seen by many top Democrats as a formidable contender in a key battleground. Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin, below right, elissa slotkin twitterannounced her candidacy for U.S. Senate in Michigan on Monday, entering a race regarded as a key battleground in the fight for control of the upper chamber of Congress in 2024.

Slotkin’s Senate run was widely anticipated after Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) stunned Michigan Democrats last month with her decision not to seek reelection. In recent weeks, Slotkin has had private conversations with Democrats around the state to gauge and build support U.S. House logofor her bid. Most prominent Democrats in the state have decided not to run, making Slotkin the early front-runner.

Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow won’t seek reelection in 2024

In a nearly three-minute biographical ad, Slotkin says, “We need a new generation of leaders that thinks differently, works harder and never forgets that we are public servants.”

“Look, our country is going to get through this. It’s hard work, but that’s what Michiganders do,” she says.

The 46-year-old former CIA analyst is seen by many top Democrats as a formidable contender in a key battleground who has a proven record of winning in competitive House districts. She has positioned herself as a moderate, rejecting positions and rhetoric adopted by the far left while championing Democratic principles like abortion rights and a ban on assault weapons.

Slotkin won her first election in 2018, motivated like many women that year to seek office in repudiation of President Donald Trump.

Other well-known figures in the state such as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who has a residence in Michigan, have said they will not run for Senate. Recently, Democratic Rep. Haley Stevens ruled out running, as did state Sen. Mallory McMorrow, who received national attention last year for a speech that went viral chastising a Republican colleague who had falsely accused her of wanting to sexually groom children.

In an interview with The Washington Post last month, former congresswoman Brenda Lawrence said she is looking for a “strong African American to run.” If she doesn’t find one, Lawrence, who is Black, said she’d consider running herself. Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, who is Black, has also ruled out running.

No prominent Republicans have entered the race yet. GOP Rep. John James announced last week he wouldn’t be seeking the open Senate seat. Other Republicans whose names have been floated include former congressman Fred Upton, who retired last year, former congressman Peter Meijer, who lost his House primary after voting to impeach Trump, and the party’s 2022 GOP gubernatorial nominee, Tudor Dixon.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden finds breaking up Big Tech is hard to do, Will Oremus, Cat Zakrzewski and Naomi Nix, Feb. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Google is hiring teams of former DOJ lawyers to fight antitrust lawsuits as the battle over tech firms’ power shifts to the courts.

 

ny times logoNew York Times, What to Know About Chicago’s Mayoral Election, Mitch Smith, Feb. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Mayor Lori Lightfoot is seeking a second term, but she faces a wide field of challengers who have attacked her record on crime, policing and education.

As residents of Chicago prepare to elect a mayor, they are staring at a highly uncertain picture: a race so wide open that even the incumbent, lori lightfoot twitter CustomMayor Lori Lightfoot, right, who won every ward in the city in the final balloting four years ago, is not assured a spot in an expected runoff election.

Chicagoans will pick on Tuesday among nine candidates at a pivotal time to lead the city, which has wrestled since the pandemic with a spike in homicides and an emptier downtown. At least four of the candidates are seen as serious contenders to make it to an April 4 runoff, and Ms. Lightfoot finds herself in between candidates casting themselves to her political left, and also to her right.

In the final days of the race, Ms. Lightfoot has attempted to embrace her spot in the middle, arguing that the city needs to stay the course with her. Before a crowd at a union hall over the weekend, she accused one opponent of being an undercover Republican. Another, she said, would raise taxes and cut policing.

In addition to Ms. Lightfoot, the top tier of candidates includes Jesús G. García, a progressive congressman; Brandon Johnson, a county commissioner endorsed by the local teachers’ union; and Paul Vallas, a former public school executive with a far more conservative platform on policing and education.

Those candidates all describe themselves as Democrats, an unofficial prerequisite for winning citywide office, but have vastly different visions for Chicago. Here is what is shaping the race to lead the country’s third-largest city:

Ms. Lightfoot leveraged outsider status and a promise for sweeping reforms to win her seat in 2019, becoming the first Black woman and first openly gay person to serve as Chicago’s mayor.

But she will enter this Election Day with uncertain prospects, dogged by diminished popularity, homicide rates that soared to generational highs and frequent feuds with labor unions and City Council members. Her campaign’s own polling in the weeks before the election showed her in the lead, but with only 24 percent of the vote.

Ms. Lightfoot has spoken about a need to attract more people to Chicago. But while the city’s population grew slightly between 2010 and 2020, census estimates show that the number of residents has declined since then.

 Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Trump, Allies, GOP Probes, Prospects

Politico, House GOP moving to let Jan. 6 defendants access Capitol security footage, Kyle Cheney, Olivia Beavers and Sarah Ferris, Feb. 28, 2023. House Republicans are moving to provide defendants in Jan. 6-related cases access to thousands of hours of internal Capitol security footage, a move that could influence many of the ongoing prosecutions stemming from 2021’s violent attack.

politico CustomRep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), who chairs the House Administration Committee’s oversight subpanel, said that the access for accused rioters and others — which Speaker Kevin McCarthy has greenlighted — would be granted on a “case-by-case basis.”

“Everyone accused of a crime in this country deserves due process, which includes access to evidence which may be used to prove their guilt or innocence,” Loudermilk told POLITICO in a statement. “It is our intention to make available any relevant documents or videos, on a case-by-case basis, as requested by attorneys representing defendants.”

Loudermilk will be leading the effort given his senior Administration panel post, according to a senior Republican congressional aide who addressed the evolving decision on condition of anonymity. The GOP aide added that the new House majority is working on a system that eventually will allow members of the media and the public to access some Jan. 6 records as well.

The footage access plan, described by three people familiar with the discussions, follows McCarthy’s move to grant exclusive access to the 41,000 hours of internal Capitol film from the day of the riot to Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. McCarthy and his allies are also making clear that there will be limits on the extent of material permitted to leave the tightly controlled confines of the Capitol, where Carlson’s team has been reviewing the footage for days.

“What gets released is obviously going to be scrutinized to make sure you’re not exposing any sensitive information that hasn’t already been exposed,” said Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.).

McCarthy told reporters Tuesday that he ultimately envisions releasing nearly all of the Jan. 6 surveillance footage publicly, with exceptions for sensitive security information.

“I think putting it out all to the American public, you can see the truth, see exactly what transpired that day and everybody can have the exact same” access, McCarthy said. “My intention is to release it to everyone.”

McCarthy dismissed questions about his decision to share the footage with Carlson, who has downplayed the Jan. 6 attack, describing it as a typical media exclusive. He noted that he did not consult with Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell about his decision.

Politico, Trump-allied group wants J6 committee staffers blacklisted, Hailey Fuchs and Kyle Cheney, Feb. 28, 2023. The letter underscores the desire for retribution within Trump world for those who participated in the investigation.

politico CustomA conservative non-profit group allied with former President Donald Trump urged “Hill staffers and their colleagues” to cut off meetings with any former Jan. 6 committee staffers who have since joined firms that lobby.

In a letter sent to hundreds of recipients on the Hill, the dark money group American Accountability Foundation listed the names of the former committee staffers and their titles — along with their new employers and links to their firms’ clients — all of whom they urged to blacklist.

“AAF has put together a cheat-sheet below outlining their new firms and the firm’s clients so you can be sure you (and your staff) aren’t inadvertently taking a meeting with a company that hires staff that hates your boss,” says the memo sent by Thomas Jones, the group’s president and founder. In his letter, Jones noted recent reporting by POLITICO on the January 6 committee staffers being hired by law and lobbying shops.

“It is important to remember that even if one of these former J6 investigators is not listed as a lobbyist on this specific account, the billings brought in by the clients listed below benefit all staff at the J6 investigator’s new firm,” he added.

It remains to be seen how effective the gambit will be, as the letter was sent only this past Wednesday. K Street firms have a major presence on Capitol Hill and their hires include figures on all sides of the political spectrum. But the group’s play illustrates the intense desire that exists among some conservatives to exact political retribution for those staffers who helped unearth extraordinary evidence of Donald Trump’s bid to subvert the 2020 election.

Jones confirmed the authenticity of the memo in an email to POLITICO. He railed against the January 6 committee’s use of investigative power, claiming that the committee and the F.B.I. forced some to “spend tens — sometimes hundreds — of thousands of dollars defending themselves from an overreaching and weaponized government.” He argued that conservatives should not be taking meetings with these lobbyists’ clients.

“My email was just a short list of people and companies they should stop working with,” he said.

“Until conservatives are willing to fight back against the swamp — in this case cutting off the lifeblood of lobbyist access — the swamp will never be drained,” he contended.

Among those listed on the memo include Casey Lucier, former investigative counsel for the committee, who was hired at McGuireWoods, a firm that represents Hertz Global, Perdue Foods, Sinclair Broadcast Group, and others. Other names listed were Kevin Elliker, another former investigative counsel, who was hired by Hunton Andrews Kurth. That firm represents Koch Companies Public Sector, NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, and Southern Company Services. Former committee staffers Marcus Childress, Heather Connelly, and Michelle Kallen had all been hired by Jenner & Block, the email noted, which represents T-Mobile and the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

In his message, Jones also noted that the memo’s recipients were free to send over additional names.

Led by Jones, an alumnus of Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Tex.) presidential campaign, and Matt Buckham, a veteran of the Trump White House, the American Accountability Foundation has taken on controversial tactics to undermine Biden’s nominees. The New Yorker reported links between the American Accountability Foundation and the Conservative Partnership Institute, which has been affiliated with former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and attorney Cleta Mitchell. Notably, Meadows’ attorney George Terwilliger works for McGuireWoods, one of the firms listed in the memo.

Politico, Judge rejects ‘terrorism’ sentencing enhancement for leader of Jan. 6 tunnel confrontation, Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein, Feb. 28, 2023 (print ed.). On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden sentenced David Judd to 32 months in prison for his role in the attack — barely a third of the 90-month sentence prosecutors had sought.

Amid the most extreme violence on Jan. 6, 2021, David Judd launched a lit object — which appeared to be a firecracker — at a tightly packed politico Customtunnel full of police and members of the mob, an effort to clear a path so rioters could derail the transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden.

trevor mcFadden CustomOn Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden, right, sentenced Judd to 32 months in prison for his role in the attack — barely a third of the 90-month sentence prosecutors had sought, describing Judd as one of the most egregious offenders in the entire mob.

McFadden largely agreed with DOJ’s characterization, saying Judd was “part of some of the most violent and shocking confrontations with police officers that day,” which he called “a flagrant affront to our system of government.” But that’s where the agreement largely ended.

McFadden’s swept away efforts by prosecutors to apply several enhancements to Judd’s sentence, most notably the so-called “terrorism” enhancement, for what Justice Department lawyers said was his intent to disrupt government functions with force. McFadden discarded their recommendations, noting that Judd didn’t appear to preplan his attack the way terrorists like those in a 2012 attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, did.

Rather, the judge said, Judd was “in some ways there at the behest of the president,” who had just minutes earlier urged his supporters to march on Congress and protest the certification of the election results.

It’s the second time prosecutors have attempted to apply the terrorism enhancement to a Jan. 6 defendant — both times unsuccessfully — during the sentencing process. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ashley Akers emphasized that the government viewed Judd’s crime as “domestic terrorism” worthy of the enhancement, which would add significant time on to Judd’s recommended sentence.

Invoking the terrorism enhancement can add about 15 years in prison to a defendant’s recommended sentence, set the minimum calculation at 17-and-a-half years, and also flip the person charged into the criminal-history category used for serial offenders.

However, prosecutors asked for only a modest adjustment in Judd’s case because the 2 offenses he pled guilty to — assault on a police officer and obstructing an official proceeding — are not on a list Congress has established of crimes of terrorism.

Still, McFadden declined to apply even that adjustment.

The judge noted that in the other case where prosecutors sought the more serious enhancement — against Texas’ Guy Reffitt — prosecutors assembled an extraordinary roster of evidence showing that Reffitt planned his actions on Jan. 6, carried a firearm, was a member of a right wing militia group and threatened a witness afterward. In that case, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Freidrich rejected the enhancement, sentencing Reffitt to 7.25 years in prison.

McFadden used Monday’s sentencing hearing to strike another blow in a long-running critique of the Justice Department, which he has accused of treating Jan. 6 cases more harshly than rioters charged alongside the social justice protests in the summer of 2020. He said DOJ’s charging decisions in some of those cases cast doubt on Attorney General Merrick Garland’s vow for there “not to be one rule for Democrats and another for Republicans. One rule for friends, one rule for foes.”

Prosecutors have rejected the claim, arguing that Jan. 6 and the concerted assault on the transfer of power stands in stark contrast to the summertime 2020 violence — and is often accompanied by far more compelling video evidence of the crimes. They also noted that in some of the 2020 violence — particularly in Portland, Oregon — federal prosecutors opted against charging defendants who were facing even harsher charges at the state level.

McFadden, however, homed in on cases like the New York Police Department attorneys who threw Molotov cocktails in an empty NYPD police cruiser, whose sentence he said was relatively light compared to the steep penalties DOJ is seeking for some Jan. 6 offenders.
Garland says he's watching Jan. 6 hearings

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jeremy bertino anthony crider w

 

More On Ukraine War

washington post logoWashington Post, China, saying it can mediate on Ukraine, hosts Putin ally Lukashenko, Meaghan Tobin, Feb. 28, 2023. Even as China pushes to distance itself from the perception that it supports Russian hostilities in Ukraine — or at least benefits from economic ties with Russia amid strict Western sanctions — one of Moscow’s closest allies, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, is due to arrive in Beijing on Tuesday for a state visit.

Lukashenko, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is set to meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping during the visit, and Xi is due to visit Putin in Moscow in the coming months.

While the Belarusian leader is in Beijing, the two sides are expected to sign agreements deepening cooperation in trade, education and technology.

The three-day meeting kicks off amid warnings in Washington that China is contemplating direct military aid to Russia, which Beijing vehemently denied Monday, accusing the United States of “blatant bullying and double standards.”

 

United Nations

washington post logoWashington Post, U.N. Human Rights Council kicks off with condemnation of Russian aggression, Kelly Kasulis Cho and Leo Sands, Feb. 28, 2023 (print ed.). World leaders and top-ranking officials are set to meet in Geneva for a new session of the U.N. Human Rights Council, which began Monday and will run until April 4. The war in Ukraine will be among the topics discussed.

A delegation from Moscow, which was expelled from the main U.N. human rights body in April over violations in Ukraine, will participate as an observer, Reuters reported, in the first in-person appearance by a Russian official since the war started.

China defended its position on the Ukraine war as “consistent” after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed to Beijing not to supply Russia with weapons and suggested a meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. When asked about Zelensky’s appeal, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said China “has maintained communication with all involved parties including Ukraine.”

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

1. Key developments

  • Russia’s invasion has unleashed “widespread death, destruction and displacement,” U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said during Monday’s session. Since the war began, U.N. officials have documented hundreds of violations, including the disappearance of civilians and acts of sexual violence against men, women and children, Guterres said.
  • Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said China’s 12-point proposal to end the war deserves consideration. The plan, which was unveiled by Beijing Friday and immediately dismissed by Ukraine, calls on the West to ease pressure on Russia and end the use of unilateral sanctions — and does not make any explicit demands for a Russian withdrawal. “Any attempts to come up with plans that will help move the conflict into a peaceful direction deserve attention,” Peskov said Monday, referring to the proposal.
  • Russia has supplied Belarus with an Iskander short-range ballistic missile system and an S-400 air-defense missile system, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said. “It is a serious weapon,” Lukashenko said of the S-400 system at a meeting in Minsk on Monday, state-run media reported. Russian President Vladimir Putin promised to supply Belarus with the Iskander missile systems — which can be armed with nuclear warheads — in June, Reuters reported at the time.
  • “Crimea is Ukraine,” U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement that marked the ninth anniversary of Russia’s 2014 seizure of the territory. But he demurred when asked whether the United States would support Ukraine in retaking Crimea. “What ultimately happens with Crimea in the context of this war and a settlement of this war is something for the Ukrainians to determine, with the support of the United States,” he said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

2. Battleground updates

  • Russia launched a wave of Iranian-made Shahed drones in attacks across Ukrainian territory overnight, killing an emergency worker in the western city of Khmelnytskyi, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said Monday in a Twitter post. Ukraine said it shot down 11 of the unmanned aerial vehicles. Tehran acknowledged in November having previously supplied Moscow with the weapons but said the shipments stopped after the war began, a claim disputed by independent experts.
  • Zelensky dismissed a senior military official without explanation, according to a one-line decree posted Sunday. Eduard Moskalyov, commander of Ukraine’s joint forces, was removed from his role less than a year after he was appointed in March 2022. He had helped oversee fighting in eastern Ukraine.
  • Russian state media touted footage of blitzed buildings and abandoned streets in Bakhmut, the eastern city where Ukrainian forces have been engaging in one of the war’s longest battles. Published by RIA Novosti this week, the footage shows the extent of destruction in the region, with barren trees lining streets of broken buildings and piles of rubble.
  • Pro-Russian officials have reported at least 14 unexplained explosions in the occupied city of Mariupol since Tuesday, British defense officials said Monday. The explosions, which have been reported at military sites deep within Russian-controlled territory, are likely to concern Russia, given Mariupol’s key position on a logistics route, the British Defense Ministry said.

3. Global impact

  • Lukashenko is expected to start a three-day visit to China on Tuesday. Lukashenko, one of Putin’s closest allies, recently said that Belarusian soldiers would join Russia’s fight against Ukraine if his nation were to come under attack. He will be visiting at the invitation from Chinese President Xi Jinping, Chinese state media reported.
  • Turkey will resume talks with Sweden and Finland on March 9 about their bids to join NATO, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters Monday. Both countries applied to join the military alliance after Russia launched its invasion, but the bids have stalled as Ankara refuses to ratify them. The standoff over Sweden’s potential membership deepened last month after a copy of the Quran was burned outside Turkey’s embassy in Stockholm.

ny times logoNew York Times, Blinken Urges Ex-Soviet States to Keep Distance From Russia, Staff Reports, Feb. 28, 2023. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken is meeting with his counterparts from five Central Asian countries on a trip to the region.

The Biden administration took its push to isolate Russia into the heart of the former Soviet sphere of influence on Tuesday, with the top U.S. diplomat meeting with Central Asian leaders to urge them not to help Russia evade sanctions imposed by the West over its invasion of Ukraine.

The diplomat, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, opened a two-day visit to Central Asia by meeting with the president of Kazakhstan and the country’s foreign minister, both of whom expressed a willingness to work with the United States and a commitment to protecting their national sovereignty, an indication of wariness toward Russian aggression.

Here is what we’re covering:

  • A U.S. diplomatic push arrives in the heart of the former Soviet sphere.
  • Zelensky says the situation in Bakhmut is ‘getting more and more difficult.’
  • The leader of Belarus, a Kremlin ally, arrives in China.
  • Rescue workers in Ukraine risk their lives to respond to Russia’s strikes.
  • In Kyiv, Janet Yellen praises Ukraine’s ‘steady hand’ in managing foreign aid.

ny times logoNew York Times, Animal shelters in Ukraine are full of abandoned pets that can no longer find homes outside the country, Patricia Cohen, Feb. 28, 2023. Early in the war, thousands of pets were ferried out of danger, mostly to other European countries. But now adoptions are waning.

There was a brief period last spring, after the war began, when animal owners and rescuers were allowed to take animals across the border into other European countries without the usual requirements for things like vaccinations. Busloads of volunteers from Germany and Poland came and took dogs, rabbits and cats back with them. Nearly 5,500 pets were rescued and found new homes outside Ukraine; another 1,500 were adopted inside the country.

But now, adoptions have slowed. Anyone outside Ukraine who wants to liberate a pet from the misery of war has to pay about 200 euros and pick it up. When it comes to dogs, most people want puppies, Ms. Stasiv said, but most of the abandoned dogs are older and bigger. Some are injured.

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Hot U.S. Media Topics

 

scott adams book cover abramson photo

Proof, Investigative Commentary:The Scott Adams Scandal Is Worse Than You Think, Seth Abramson, left, Feb. 27-28, 2023. Introduction: By now, seth abramson graphicyou’ve surely heard about the cancellation of the Scott Adams comic strip Dilbert by hundreds of newspapers across the United States — a unified and rightly unambiguous response to a shocking racist rant by Adams (shown above with one of his creations) on his YouTube channel.

In that rant, Adams said a series of things about Black Americans he clearly had been waiting to say for a long time. But he did so using a sort seth abramson proof logoof literary conceit: he used a single poll by the far-right polling outfit Rasmussen as a MacGuffin to justify finally coming out as a full-blown racist, explicitly telling his audience that he wouldn’t be calling Black America “a hate group,” telling White Americans to “get the hell away from Black people,” opining that Black communities categorically have problems that all (or nearly all) White communities never have, and identifying what he claims is a unique level of disinterest in education in Black communities but for this “push poll.”

The problem? Adams is lying about the poll. Indeed, he’s lying about every part of it.

According to Adams, the provably far-right-biased Rasmussen polling outfit has now shown that “half” of Black Americans “think it’s not okay to be white.”

But the poll says nothing of the sort.

What Rasmussen did in its poll was present a group of Black Americans with a well-known, widely confirmed white supremacist meme called “It’s Okay to Be White”—a phrase first devised at 4chan, the neo-Nazi digital cesspool, in part with the aim of provoking a race war in America.

The explicit purpose of the meme is to have it be presented to left-leaning (or presumed left-leaning) individuals so that they’ll reject it.

The idea is that, once the phrase “It’s Okay to Be White” is rejected publicly by some group of leftists, that rejection can be broadcast all over social media to incite those in the MAGA “movement” to even greater violent radicalization than years of Trumpism have already generated (a violent radicalization particularly focused on racial violence).

In pursuit of their scheme, the neo-Nazis on 4chan made sure that their new phrase was widely enough known—that is, they made sure it was widely enough known that “It’s Okay to Be White” was a white supremacist meme—that even more left-leaning Americans than might otherwise have been the case rejected it, thereby launching a “vicious circle” in which the bad guys have already baked in their desired outcome.

So why was Rasmussen using a white supremacist meme to further white supremacist ends? Presumably this could be answered by its avowedly insurrectionist leadership cadre, but Proof will have much more on this in the Conclusion of this report.

 

elon musk sideview

washington post logoWashington Post, Musk defends ‘Dilbert’ creator, says media is ‘racist against whites,’ Will Oremus, Feb. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The Tesla and Twitter chief (shown above in a file photo) blasted media outlets for dropping Scott Adams’s comic strip after the cartoonist’s rant against Black people.

Twitter and Tesla chief Elon Musk defended Scott Adams, the under-fire creator of “Dilbert,” in a series of tweets Sunday, blasting media organizations for dropping his comic strip after Adams said that White people should “get the hell away from Black people.”

Replying to tweets about the controversy, Musk said it is actually the media that is “racist against whites & Asians.” He offered no criticism of Adams’s comments, in which the cartoonist called Black people a “hate group” and said, “I don’t want to have anything to do with them.”

Musk previously tweeted, then later deleted, a reply to Adams’s tweet about media outlets pulling his comic strip, in which Musk asked, “What exactly are they complaining about?”

The billionaire’s comments continue a pattern of Musk expressing more concern about the “free speech” of people who make racist or antisemitic comments than about the comments themselves. Musk’s views on race have been the subject of scrutiny both at Twitter, where he has reinstated far-right accounts, including those of neo-Nazis and others previously banned for hate speech, and at Tesla, which has been the subject of multiple lawsuits alleging a culture of rampant racism and sexual harassment in the workplace.

In the wake of Musk’s latest tweets Sunday, the president of the civil rights group Color of Change told The Washington Post that he is reiterating his call for advertisers to boycott Twitter.

Musk did not reply to an email Sunday requesting comment.

washington post logoWashington Post, A poll cited by the creator of ‘Dilbert’ asked if it’s ‘OK to be white.’ Here’s why the phrase is loaded, Marisa Iati and Scott Clement, Feb. 28, 2023. Scholars raise questions about the Rasmussen poll that Scott Adams cited in the racist rant that led to his comic strip’s cancellation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Dropping the creator of ‘Dilbert’ is free speech at work, Eugene Robinson, Feb. 28, 2023. Scott Adams, creator of the once-funny comic strip “Dilbert,” had the right to advise White people to “get the hell away from Black people” — just as the media companies that published Adams’s work had the right to get the hell away from him. That is exactly how free speech is supposed to work.

washington post logoWashington Post, Comics industry uses tools of the trade to condemn ‘Dilbert’ creator’s racism, Michael Cavna, Feb. 28, 2023. As the strip is dropped from newspapers, artists weigh in with condemning reactions, including their own satirical cartoons.

 

scott adams via proof

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Dilbert’ dropped by The Post, other papers, after cartoonist’s racist rant, Thomas Floyd and Michael Cavna, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Newspapers across the United States have pulled Scott Adams’s long-running “Dilbert” comic strip after the cartoonist called Black Americans a “hate group” and said White people should “get the hell away from” them.

The Washington Post, the USA Today network of hundreds of newspapers, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Los Angeles Times and other publications announced they would stop publishing “Dilbert” after Adams’s racist rant on YouTube on Wednesday. Asked on Saturday how many newspapers still carried the strip — a workplace satire he created in 1989 — Adams told The Post: “By Monday, around zero.”

The once widely celebrated cartoonist, who has been entertaining extreme-right ideologies and conspiracy theories for several years, was upset Wednesday by a Rasmussen poll that found a thin majority of Black Americans agreed with the statement “It’s okay to be White.”

“If nearly half of all Blacks are not okay with White people … that’s a hate group,” Adams said on his live-streaming YouTube show. “I don’t want to have anything to do with them. And I would say, based on the current way things are going, the best advice I would give to White people is to get the hell away from Black people … because there is no fixing this.”

Adams, 65, also blamed Black people for not “focusing on education” during the show and said, “I’m also really sick of seeing video after video of Black Americans beating up non-Black citizens.”

Outrage followed.

By Thursday, The Post began hearing from readers calling for the strip’s cancellation. On Friday, the USA Today Network said that it “will no longer publish the Dilbert comic due to recent discriminatory comments by its creator.” The Gannett-owned chain oversees more than 300 newspapers, including the Arizona Republic, Cincinnati Enquirer, Detroit Free Press, Indianapolis Star, Austin American-Statesman and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“In light of Scott Adams’s recent statements promoting segregation, The Washington Post has ceased publication of the Dilbert comic strip,” a spokesperson for the newspaper said Saturday, noting that it was too late to stop the strip from running in some upcoming print editions, including Sunday’s.

Chris Quinn, the vice president of content for Plain Dealer publisher Advance Ohio, wrote in a letter from the editor Friday that pulling “Dilbert” was “not a difficult decision.” “We are not a home for those who espouse racism,” Quinn wrote.

“Scott Adams is a disgrace,” Darrin Bell, creator of “Candorville” and the first Black artist to win the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning, told The Post on Saturday. “His racism is not even unique among cartoonists.” Bell compared Adams’s views to the Jim Crow era and more recent examples of White supremacy, including “millions of angry people trying to redefine the word ‘racism’ itself.”

In fact, Adams did exactly that on his YouTube show Saturday. He offered a long, quasi-Socratic defense of his comments, which he said were taken out of context, and seemed to define racism as essentially any political activity. “Any tax code change is racist,” he said at one point in the show. He denounced racism against “individuals” and racist laws, but said, “You should absolutely be racist whenever it’s to your advantage. Every one of you should be open to making a racist personal career decision.”

More Background: Proof, Investigative Commentary: Has Twitter Had a Far-Right Bent for Years? Are #TheTwitterFiles a Fraud? Seth Abramson, left, Jan. 24, 2023 (Long column excerpted below). The Debate Leads to Strange Words About Me By “Dilbert” Creator Scott Adams and Even Elon Musk Himself.

If you work on controversial topics, you draw attention from polarizing people. But my debunking of a major #TwitterFiles meme led to odder interactions than I expected—and some explosive revelations.

seth abramson proof logoThe New York Daily News and others have reported on Adams’ “many controversies and inflammatory comments”, which have led to the cancellation of Dilbert in newspapers across the United States. Dilbert is a comic strip about the banalities of office life in America.

I won’t detail here all of the stupid things that Scott Adams has said to become such a controversial figure—as they’re numberless, and after all, we all say stupid things at times, though few of us things as spectacularly tone-deaf and preposterous as Adams has said—but I will at least offer the summary from the Daily News referenced above: In 2020, reflecting on the cancellation of the TV adaptation of Dilbert decades earlier, he tweeted, “I lost my TV show for being white.” Adams claimed that wasn’t the first time he twitter bird Customsuspects being white worked against him professionally. He has also joked on Twitter that he was going to “self-identify as a Black woman” so that he’d be considered for the Supreme Court.

Always the entrepreneur, the creator of the Dilbert comic strip has lately positioned himself as the defender and interpreter of all things Trump. So far it’s been a winning bet. Adams’s book Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter has achieved bestseller status and his blog has racked up a whole lot of eyeballs.

In any case, while I seem to recall that I might have tilted with Adams once or twice online in the past—frankly, many have—I certainly didn’t think he’d devote a segment of his popular video blog-cum-podcast to me. But recently he did so, and it opened up a new narrative about #TheTwitterFiles and the Trump-Russia scandal I never would have expected.

 

Fox News hosts Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson, shown left to right, each expressed contempt for the voting fraud allegations they were broadcasting to Fox audiences, according to newly released internal documents obtained as evidence in a forthcoming defamation trial against the network, its owners and personnel.

Fox News hosts Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson, shown left to right, each expressed contempt for the voting fraud allegations they were broadcasting to Fox audiences, according to newly released internal documents obtained as evidence in a forthcoming defamation trial against the network, its owners and personnel.

washington post logoWashington Post, Murdoch admits some Fox hosts ‘were endorsing’ election falsehoods, Jeremy Barr, Sarah Ellison and Rachel Weiner, Feb. 28, 2023. ‘I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it, in hindsight,’ the 91-year-old media mogul says in a deposition for a defamation suit filed by Dominion Voting Systems.

Rupert Murdoch, chairman of Fox News’s parent company, acknowledged in a deposition that “some of our commentators were endorsing” the baseless narrative that the 2020 presidential election was stolen — and that he wishes the network did more to challenge those conspiracy theories.

“I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it, in hindsight,” Murdoch said in testimony made public on Monday as part of Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against the network.

Asked if Fox News host Jeanine Pirro endorsed the claims, Murdoch replied, “I think so.” He said that former host Lou Dobbs did so “a lot,” and that prime-time host Sean Hannity did so “a bit.”

Axios, Murdoch bombshell, Hans Nichols and Zachary Basu, Feb. 27-28, 2023.  Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch acknowledged in a deposition last month that Fox News hosts promoted the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, Axios' Sara Fischer and Herb Scribner report.

axios logoWhy it matters: The deposition adds to mounting evidence that executives at Fox knew their hosts were promoting election falsehoods but aired them anyway — a key aspect of Dominion's legal argument in its $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against the network.

fox news logo SmallDriving the news: Murdoch conceded during the deposition that Fox News was “trying to straddle the line between spewing conspiracy theories on one hand, yet calling out the fact that they are actually false on the other.”

• Murdoch said he regrets the decision to continue letting Fox personalities peddle election falsehoods.
• "I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it, in hindsight," he said.

Between the lines: The unsealed filing also provides new details about Murdoch's involvement with Fox News' editorial strategy and the Trump campaign.

• According to the documents, Murdoch provided Jared Kushner with confidential information about Biden ads that hadn't yet aired on Fox, along with "debate strategy."
• Murdoch declined, however, to intervene at Kushner's request when Fox controversially became the first network to declare that Biden won Arizona on election night.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fox News media analyst says network won’t let him cover Dominion lawsuit, Jeremy Barr and Kyle Melnick, Feb. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Howard Kurtz told his ‘MediaBuzz’ viewers he ‘strongly’ disagrees with the network’s decision.

fox news logo SmallFox News host Howard Kurtz, who anchors a weekly show on the media industry, said he has been told not to cover the $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit filed against Fox by Dominion Voting Systems.

dominion voting systemsKurtz revealed the prohibition during Sunday’s episode of “MediaBuzz” after he received criticism for not covering revelations about the network that came out of a recent filing by Dominion.

“Some of you have been asking why I’m not covering the Dominion voting machines lawsuit against Fox involving the unproven claims of election fraud in 2020, and it’s absolutely a fair question,” he said midway through Sunday morning’s program. “I believe I should be covering it. It’s a major media story, given my role here at Fox. But the company has decided that as part of the organization being sued, I can’t talk about it or write about it, at least for now.”

Kurtz, who formerly covered media for The Washington Post and hosted CNN’s “Reliable Sources” program, voiced opposition to Fox’s decision, a rare showing of internal protest on the network’s airwaves.

“I strongly disagree with that decision, but as an employee, I have to abide by it,” the 69-year-old said. “And if that changes, I’ll let you know.”

On Feb. 16, a Dominion filing made public by a Delaware court provided evidence that many of Fox News’s prominent hosts and executives doubted the veracity of fraud claims made on Fox programs by Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, two lawyers affiliated with President Donald Trump, regarding Dominion Voting Systems and the 2020 election.

The document — which contained private text messages and emails from Fox hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, as well as top executives Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch — made waves in the media industry but has received sparse coverage on Fox.

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Ohio Train Wreck Culture War

 

Norfolk Southern freight train derailment in Ohio (Detroit News photo by Andy Morrison via Associated Press).

washington post logoWashington Post, How a small-town train derailment erupted into a culture battle, Toluse Olorunnipa, Justine McDaniel and Ian Duncan, Feb. 25, 2023 (print ed.). The East Palestine, Ohio, derailment, one of hundreds each year in America, morphed into the latest front in the nation’s culture wars, becoming a political flashpoint.

Two weeks after a train carrying toxic chemicals went off the tracks in northeastern Ohio, President Biden sat in the Oval Office listening intently as his national security team briefed him on a different train almost 5,000 miles away, ultimately agreeing to take a clandestine rail trip into war-besieged Kyiv.

His decision to make the trip won praise globally, but it further inflamed already brewing domestic tensions over his handling of the train derailment in the small town of East Palestine.

Biden had already taken a number of behind-the-scenes steps on the derailment before that Feb. 17 meeting — calling governors, dispatching federal experts to the area and receiving briefings from top advisers. It was seen in the White House as a by-the-book response to a nonfatal event in a lightly populated area, one that would require federal help but had not ballooned into a larger disaster.

But by the time the president arrived in Kyiv on Feb. 20, the accident in East Palestine had surprised the White House — and many others — by erupting into the country’s latest cultural firefight over identity, polarization and the role of government. And by the time Biden returned to Washington, his aides were battling accusations that he had forsaken a small, predominantly White town as it struggled with the aftermath of an environmental catastrophe caused by a multibillion-dollar company.

Many of the accusations were made by Biden’s political adversaries, abetted by a spate of criticism on mainly right-wing social media accounts, not all of them accurate — including the charge that federal officials ignored the crash, when they sent personnel as they normally would. Still, three weeks after the disaster, it seems clear that the administration was caught off guard, unprepared for the possibility that the nonfatal crash would become a prism for the country’s political battles.

“In an environmental crisis, the optics matter,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian who has written about the government’s handling of Hurricane Katrina. “There’s a lot of mistrust in the federal government, and there’s a lot of noise in our cluttered culture. So to break through that, you’ve got to be bold and clear and show some anger and deep humanitarian concern.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Conspiracy Theorizing Goes Off the Rails, Paul Krugman, right, Feb. 28, 2023 (print ed.). On Feb. 3 a train carrying paul krugmanhazardous materials derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. Some of the contents immediately caught fire. Three days later authorities released and burned off additional material from five tankers. These fires caused elevated levels of harmful chemicals in the local air, although the Environmental Protection Agency says that the pollution wasn’t severe enough to cause long-term health damage.

Train derailments are actually fairly common, but you can see how this one might become a political issue. After all, the Obama administration tried to improve rail safety, for example by requiring superior modern brakes on high-hazard trains, and then the Trump administration reversed these regulations. As it happens, these regulations probably wouldn’t have prevented the Ohio derailment, because they were too narrow to have covered this particular train. Still, the events in East Palestine would seem, on the face of it, to strengthen the progressive case for stronger regulation of industry and hurt the conservative case against regulation.

Instead, however, the right is on the attack, claiming that blame for the disaster in Ohio rests on the Biden administration, which it says doesn’t care about or is even actively hostile to white people.

This is vile. It’s also amazing. As far as I can tell, right-wing commentators have just invented a whole new class of conspiracy theory, one that doesn’t even try to explain how the alleged conspiracy is supposed to work.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ohio train derailment waste grows as EPA struggles to find disposal sites, Ben Brasch, Feb. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Following a one-day pause for federal authorities to take over operations, officials announced Sunday they can continue removing contaminated waste from the site of the toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio — a city with residents eager for this nightmare to be over.

Since the train derailed three weeks ago, Norfolk Southern has handled the disposal of contaminated materials. That changed Friday when the Environmental Protection Agency paused shipments to ensure all the sites receiving waste were certified by the EPA and that travel routes adhered to federal law, said Debra Shore, the EPA’s regional administrator.

“We owe it to East Palestine and residents nearby to move waste out of the community as quickly as possible,” Shore said at a Sunday news conference.

How a small-town train derailment erupted into a culture battle

She said liquid waste is destined for a site about 130 miles west in Vickery, Ohio, where it will be disposed of in an underground injection well. She said Norfolk Southern will move solid waste about 15 miles south of East Palestine to an incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: So far, Trump’s rollback of regulations can’t be blamed for Ohio train wreck, Glenn Kessler, Feb. 27, 2023.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Here’s how to fix freight rail after the Ohio derailment debacle, Editorial Board, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). No community in America wants to be the next East Palestine, Ohio. It will be known for generations as the site of the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern train derailment and the lingering scars of that day.

A slew of toxic chemicals burned in a black cloud over the town and ran off into nearby waterways killing thousands of fish and other aquatic life. Families had to evacuate swiftly. Weeks of panic have followed. Government and company officials have struggled to address safety concerns.

The No. 1 priority now is ensuring the well-being of nearby residents. Norfolk Southern chief executive Alan Shaw vows to “do the right things.” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) insists the company will “pay for everything.” That has to include immediate clean up and long-term health monitoring. The town of Paulsboro, N.J., should serve as a warning of what could lie ahead. A similar derailment there in 2012 also released vinyl chloride. Some residents did not encounter serious health problems until years later.

Equally urgent is stopping anything like this from happening again. The accident was “100 percent preventable,” National Transportation Safety Board chair Jennifer Homendy said. Her agency issued a preliminary report Thursday outlining what is known about what happened: On the 23rd car of the 9,000-foot-long, 149-car train, a bearing connecting a wheel to its axle was worn out and overheated. Norfolk Southern’s warning system went off. The crew tried to stop the train, but couldn’t in time. In other words, Norfolk Southern’s safeguards didn’t fail; the problem was, they were inadequate.

In the past decade, America’s freight rail companies have become zealots for efficiency. Trains are longer, and they don’t stop as often. Unprofitable customers are gone. Scheduling is meticulous. Nearly 60,000 jobs disappeared since 2015. The companies’ stock prices and profitability have surged. Still, derailments are at historic lows. But the East Palestine accident has shown how deficient the industry has been when it comes to investing in upgrades. Many trains still rely on a Civil War-era braking system, and they aren’t using the latest detectors that experts say could have caught the deteriorating bearing months before that fateful day.

Disappointingly — but predictably — the accident has become political fodder, with Democrats blaming former president Donald Trump for loosening safety rules, and Republicans claiming the Biden administration was slow to react. But even amid the finger-pointing, there are some concrete steps that all sides should agree upon and implement quickly. Here are four:

1 Catch bearing problems early
2 Better tank car design
3 Better brakes
4 High-hazard flammable train definition

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Global News, Migration, Human Rights Issues

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Netanyahu Is Leading Israel Into a Breakdown Like We’ve Never Seen, Thomas L. Friedman, right, Feb. 28, 2023. Israel tom friedman twittertoday is a boiler with way, way too much steam building up inside, and the bolts are about to fly off in all directions.

Lethal attacks by Palestinian youths against Israelis are coinciding with an expansion of Israeli settlements and the torching of Palestinian villages by settlers, as well as with a popular uprising against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial power grab. Together they are threatening a breakdown in governance the likes of which we’ve never seen before in Israel.

Benjamin Netanyahu smile TwitterIt is a measure of how serious the situation has become that several former chiefs of the Mossad — some of the most respected public servants in the country — have denounced Netanyahu’s judicial putsch, most recently Danny Yatom. He told Israel Channel 13 News on Saturday night, according to Haaretz, that if Netanyahu, left, continues with his plans to effectively eliminate the independence of Israel’s high court, fighter pilots and special forces operatives will be able to legitimately disobey the orders that come from the government.

They “signed an agreement with a democratic country,” said Yatom. “But the moment that, God forbid, the country becomes a dictatorship,” and they receive “an order from an illegitimate government, then I believe it would be legitimate to disobey it.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Dying Children and Frozen Flocks in Afghanistan’s Bitter Winter of Crisis, Christina Goldbaum and Yaqoob Akbary, Photographs by Kiana Hayeri, Feb. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Hundreds have died in plunging temperatures, and malnutrition has been rampant as the Taliban’s ban on female workers has hampered international aid.

When the temperatures plunged far below freezing in Niaz Mohammad’s village last month, the father of three struggled to keep his family warm. One particularly cold night, he piled every stick and every shrub he had collected into their small wood stove. He scavenged for trash that might burn, covered the windows with plastic tarps and held his 2-month-old son close to his chest.

But the cold was merciless. Freezing winds whistled through cracks in the wall. Ice crept across the room: It covered the windows, then the walls, then the thick red blanket wrapped around Mr. Mohammad’s wailing son.

Soon the infant fell silent in his arms. His tears turned to ice that clung to his face. By daybreak, he was gone.

“The cold took him,” Mr. Mohammad, 30, told visiting journalists for The New York Times, describing the details of that horrible night.

Afghanistan is gripped by a winter that both Afghan officials and aid group officials are describing as the harshest in over a decade, battering millions of people already reeling from a humanitarian crisis. As of Monday, more than 200 people had died from hypothermia and more than 225,000 head of livestock had perished from the cold alone, according to the Afghan authorities. That does not take into account a vast and rising human toll from malnutrition, disease and untreated injuries as clinics and hospitals around the country have come under stress.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Commandos Advise Somalis in Fight Against Qaeda Branch, Eric Schmitt, Photographs by Diana Zeyneb Alhindawi, Feb. 28, 2023 (print ed.). A campaign in the Horn of Africa is now the most active element in the “forever wars” the United States has waged since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The promise and perils of America’s counterterrorism campaign were on full display at a remote training base in central Somalia.

It was graduation day for 346 recruits who would join an elite Somali commando unit trained by the State Department, advised by U.S. Special Operations forces, and backed by American air power.

Since last August, the unit, called Danab, has spearheaded a string of Somali army victories against Al Shabab, an Islamist terrorist group that is considered the deadliest of Al Qaeda’s global branches.

“We’re more dedicated than ever,” said Second Lt. Shukri Yusuf Ali, 24, who joined the unit two years ago as one of its few female members and was recently selected to attend the U.S. Army infantry training course at Fort Benning, Ga.

But sadness hung over the ceremony. Many of the recruits will be rushed to the front lines to backfill two Danab battalions decimated by a Shabab attack last month that left more than 100 Somali soldiers dead or injured.

washington post logoWashington Post, Israeli settlers rampage through Palestinian towns in revenge for shooting, Miriam Berger and Shira Rubin, Feb. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Dozens of Israeli settlers rampaged through Palestinian towns, torching cars, homes and killing a man, hours after a Palestinian gunman killed two Israelis.

The scenes from the hours-long rampage Sunday night bore the trademark of a once-active settler movement known as “price taggers,” whose mission was to extract a “price” for any Palestinian attacks or threats to the settler movement.

Sunday’s rampage, which particularly focused on the town of Huwara, was a response to a drive-by shooting that killed two brothers from a nearby Israeli settlement. It also came after a rare meeting between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Jordan in which Israel promised to halt settlement expansion in the West Bank — the land Palestinians envision as part of their future state.

washington post logoWashington Post, Mexicans protest López Obrador’s moves to weaken election agency, Mary Beth Sheridan, Feb. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Tens of thousands of people jammed Mexico’s grandest plaza and rallied around the country on Sunday to protest a law that would weaken the national electoral institute, with many fearful the measure could hobble Mexico’s young democracy.

andrés lópez obrador wThe turnout underscored how much the electoral law has galvanized voters, after four years in which President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, right, largely dominated political life. The veteran leftist’s party holds a majority in Congress and has swept most governor’s offices, outmaneuvering a divided opposition discredited by corruption scandals.

mexico flag1The uproar over the new law comes amid growing concern about backsliding in democracies that replaced dictatorships in many parts of Latin America after the Cold War.

The demonstrators packed Mexico City’s Zócalo, the vast square in front of the presidential palace that holds about 100,000 people. Many wore shirts and baseball caps in pink, the color of the National Electoral Institute, or INE.

Many Mexicans consider the 33-year-old INE to be one of the most important institutions in the country’s transition from seven decades of one-party rule. It replaced a fraud-riddled electoral system with a tightly regulated regimen overseen by thousands of workers who issue voter IDs and control virtually all aspects of state and federal balloting.

López Obrador charges that the autonomous electoral institute has turned into a bloated bureaucracy headed by lavishly paid civil servants, some of them close to the opposition. He says that his plan to slash the INE’s budget and staff — part of a broader government austerity drive – will save $150 million a year.

 

Members of the

Members of the "Mara 18" and "MS-13" gangs are seen in custody at a maximum security prison in Izalco, Sonsonate, El Salvador, on Sept. 4, 2020 (AFP Photo by Yuri Cortez via Getty Images).

washington post logoWashington Post, El Salvador’s president is flaunting a new mega prison. Activists are worried, Maham Javaid, Feb. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Thousands of detainees were transferred to El Salvador’s new mega prison Friday, drawing suspicion from some human rights advocates who noted that the theatrical opening of what may become the world’s largest penitentiary came shortly after U.S. federal attorneys accused government officials of cutting deals with gang leaders.

nayib bukeleSalvadoran President Nayib Bukele, right, spent the weekend sharing images of inmates being moved into the mega prison, running while bent over, wearing white shorts, their feet and chests bare. The video incorporates ominous music and the inmate’s clinking chains.

“They’re not scary anymore, are they?” said Bukele via Twitter on Saturday. Criminals, he added, stop causing fear once they lose the protection of “the corrupt politicians and international organizations that finance and defend them.”

el salvador flag mapThe mega prison can house up to 40,000 prisoners, Bukele said last year. It’s officially called the “Center for the Confinement of Terrorism” and was unveiled earlier this month. El Salvador’s crackdown on crime has been met with allegations of indiscriminate arrests and police abuses.

“This new mega prison is a symbol of Bukele’s mad security policies,” Juan Pappier, the acting deputy director for the Americas at Human Rights Watch, told The Washington Post on Sunday.

Pappier said Bukele’s timing to transfer the detainees to the mega prison was suspect. It comes after the U.S. Justice Department unsealed an indictment on Thursday against alleged MS-13 gang leaders that accuses senior Salvadoran officials of negotiating with criminal groups to curb violence.

“There’s every reason to suspect the timing of the prison transfer was all about controlling the narrative and presenting an ‘iron fist’ interpretation of Bukele that fails to encapsulate the whole picture,” Pappier said.

After Bukele won the presidency in February 2019, gangs made agreements with the government to reduce the number of public murders, “which politically benefited the government of El Salvador,” the U.S. Justice Department said in the indictment. It appeared as if the murder rate was dropping, “when in fact, MS-13 leaders continued to authorize murders where the victims’ bodies were buried or otherwise hidden.”

In exchange, the gangs were promised less restrictive prison conditions, early release of some leaders and refusals to extradite prisoners to the United States, the indictment added.

The United States has accused Bukele’s government of negotiating with the country’s gangs before, a tactic other Salvadoran presidents also have pursued. Bukele has denied the allegations and instead promised “a war on gangs.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The scale of El Salvador’s new prison is difficult to comprehend, León Krauze (León Krauze is an award-winning Mexican journalist, author and news anchor. He is currently national news anchor for Univision, based out of Miami), Feb. 27, 2023 (print ed.).

Earlier this month, Nayib Bukele, president of El Salvador, unveiled his latest infrastructure project: a massive, “first-world” jail that could well become the largest penitentiary in the world, with an alleged capacity to hold 40,000 inmates. This weekend, he announced the transfer of the first 2,000 prisoners to the new facility.

“A common-sense project,” Bukele called it.

The reality is that the scale of the project defies common sense — and easy comprehension. And the social implications of the endeavor are no less striking. The citizens of El Salvador have tacitly accepted Bukele’s unprecedented crackdown on crime, and, for the time anyway, are ignoring its broader ramifications.

The unveiling of the prison came in typical Bukelian fashion. He took over the country’s airwaves to share a 35-minute video of himself touring the facilities (it was soon posted on his popular Twitter feed, the presidency’s de facto press office). He can be seen arriving at the jail in a caravan of black SUVs. “Welcome to the Center for the Confinement of Terrorism, a key part in our battle against the gangs,” Osiris Luna Meza, director of El Salvador’s penitentiary system, said.

Bukele is then shown X-ray machines, surveillance towers and a fully staffed security perimeter. A “riot intervention squad,” armed to the teeth, salutes him. The tour then goes to the cells, meant to hold groups of “terrorists,” and the extreme solitary confinement area, where inmates will be kept completely in the dark — a widely condemned practice.

“They won’t see any daylight, Mr. President,” Luna Meza, whom the U.S. government has placed on a list of officials suspected of corruption in El Salvador, proudly told Bukele.

Spanning about 410 acres in an isolated region of El Salvador, the jail is the latest example of Bukele’s punitive state. And it is slated to become the largest, and most overcrowded, prison in the world. The only images available come from the government itself. Since only a handful of foreign journalists have been granted access and given carefully arranged tours, claims of the jail’s readiness, layout and operation have not been independently verified.

The project’s finances have also been kept in the dark. “Contracts were granted capriciously,” reporter Jaime Quintanilla, who covers Bukele’s infrastructure projects, told me. “Nuevas Ideas [Bukele’s party, which controls Congress] passed legislation that allows them to skip basic accountability.” For now, the ministry in charge of such projects has sealed any information on the construction of the country’s jails. There is no official information as to which companies were granted the likely lucrative contracts to build it, although two of Bukele’s preferred contractors were apparently favored. “No one knows how it was all financed,” journalist Óscar Martínez, who runs the independent newspaper El Faro, told me. “If, in terms of security, this is similar to a dictatorship, in terms of public spending, this is already a dictatorship.”

The prison is no white elephant, however. It is a necessity born of Bukele’s policies. Since March of last year, his government has been prosecuting a war on the country’s infamous gangs. To do so, Bukele declared a state of emergency, which has since seemingly become permanent.

At least 60,000 Salvadorans have been imprisoned as a result of the crackdown, including hundreds of minors, often in what a recent Human Rights Watch reports calls “indiscriminate raids.” The report paints a chilling portrait of authorities run amok, arresting Salvadorans with “no apparent connections to gangs’ abusive activity,” sometimes acting merely on “appearance or social background.” As of November, 90 detainees had died in custody, according to the government’s own numbers.

Even before the crackdown, El Salvador had one of the highest incarceration rates per capita in the world. After the crackdown, the country might extend its lead in this grim statistic.

evertheless, the arrests have succeeded in bringing down crime. According to official statistics, homicides decreased by more than a factor of 10 since 2015. Much of that decline cannot be attributed to the crackdown, even if homicides bottomed out at a remarkable low last year — a statistic Bukele frequently trumpets.

But the real sea change is on the ground, where citizens report that extortion has all but disappeared. Salvadorans have gained a palpable sense of security in their everyday lives at the expense of due process, democracy and transparency. Most seem to be fine with the trade-off. Bukele himself is immensely popular, as is the state of emergency he has declared. Protests against him have fizzled.

That said, nothing guarantees the long-term success of this extravagantly punitive approach. Systemic opacity has made it impossible for independent journalists to verify what it will cost Bukele to fund his sprawling security apparatus. Maintaining an indefinite state of emergency and a high incarceration rate won’t come cheap, and the country’s economy is not healthy.

He could also be playing with fire by creating such a huge police state. Security forces have a nasty habit of becoming powerful interest groups of their own, and could even attempt to seize power if their demands are not met.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opposition Parties in Nigeria Call for Election Rerun, Citing Fraud, Ruth Maclean and Elian Peltier, Feb. 28, 2023. Two parties say that the presidential vote was marred by vote rigging and violence. They also called for the head of the election commission to resign.

Nigerian FlagNigeria’s two major opposition parties on Tuesday called for the presidential election to be canceled and rerun, saying that it had been compromised by vote rigging and widespread violence.

The election over the weekend in the West African nation — the most populous on the continent, with 220 million people — was the most wide open in years, with a surprise third-party candidate putting up an assertive challenge.

On Tuesday, the chairmen of the two opposition parties — the People’s Democratic Party and the Labour Party — called for the head of the government’s electoral commission to resign, even as the commission continued to release results.

With about one-third of the 36 states reporting results, by Tuesday afternoon, Bola Tinubu, the candidate of the governing All Progressives Congress party appeared some distance ahead of his rivals in the count, with 44 percent of the vote. Some 87 million people were registered to vote, but results from the first tabulations suggested low turnout.

“We demand that this sham of an election be immediately canceled,” said Julius Abure, chairman of the Labour Party. “We have totally lost faith in the whole process.”

Many Nigerians had looked to the election to put the country back on track after eight years of rule by an ailing president, Muhammadu Buhari — a military dictator turned democrat. Mr. Buhari had reached his two-term limit and was not running for re-election.

Under his leadership, the Giant of Africa, as Nigeria is known, lurched from one economic shock to the next. Over 60 percent of people live in poverty, while security crises — including kidnapping, terrorism, militancy in oil-rich areas and clashes between herdsmen and farmers — have multiplied.

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U.S. Courts, Crime, Immigration

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-cardinal McCarrick tells Massachusetts court he’s incompetent for trial, Douglas Moser and Michelle Boorstein, Feb. 28, 2023. Five years after allegations of child sex abuse against then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick first surfaced and rocked the U.S. Catholic Church, attorneys for McCarrick, 92, said Monday that he’s no longer mentally competent to stand trial and that the charges should be dismissed.

theodore mccarrickMcCarrick, right, was for decades one of the country’s most connected and powerful Catholic leaders. Now, many Catholics view him as an emblem of a rotten old-boy network in which the people at the top never face justice for their role in crimes involving sexual abuse by clergy.

The three counts of indecent assault and battery, based on allegations that McCarrick molested a 16-year-old family friend at a Wellesley College wedding reception in 1974, are the only criminal charges he faces. Fourteen minors and at least five adults — clergy and seminarians — have accused the former D.C. archbishop of sexual misconduct, according to the abuse-tallying site BishopAccountability.org. The first one came in 2018, shocking the church. But because of statutes of limitation for alleged incidents, it was long assumed that McCarrick would never be criminally charged. The Wellesley case was able to be prosecuted because, in accordance with Massachusetts law, the statute of limitations was put on hold after McCarrick left the state decades ago.

ny times logoNew York Times, Student Loan Case Before Supreme Court Poses Pressing Question: Who Can Sue? Adam Liptak, Feb. 27, 2023 (print ed.).  Prompted by a 2007 decision giving states “special solicitude,” partisan challenges to federal programs from coalitions of state attorneys general have surged.

When the Supreme Court hears arguments on Tuesday in a challenge from six Republican-led states to President Biden’s plan to wipe out more than $400 billion in student debt, the first question it will explore is not whether the plan is lawful. It will be whether the states are even entitled to sue.

For most of American history, partisan lawsuits by states challenging federal programs were rare. That changed after a 2007 Supreme Court decision gave states “special solicitude” in determining when they have standing to sue, and the trend has been amplified by a rising partisan divide among state attorneys general.

“State politicians are using state standing as a way of waging what are political or policy battles against the current administration in court as opposed to through the political process,” said Jonathan H. Adler, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University. “There is good reason to think that this special solicitude stuff has kind of gotten out of hand and it needs to be curtailed. But it’s hard to curtail it in a way that doesn’t come across as opportunistic for one side or the other.”

Partisan lawsuits by states challenging federal actions, which thrust the judiciary into all manner of political controversies and boost its power, have exploded in recent years, said Paul Nolette, a political scientist at Marquette University. He said the surge in such cases started after 2014, in the final years of Barack Obama’s presidency.

There were 12 multistate lawsuits brought by Republican state attorneys general against the administration in Mr. Obama’s first term and 46 in his second term, according to data compiled by Professor Nolette. In President Donald J. Trump’s single term, Democratic attorneys general filed 155 such suits. And Republican attorneys general have filed 56 such suits against the Biden administration so far.

 

Falsely accused former Virginia high school teacher Kimberly Winters and defendant Virginia investigator Peter Roque.

Falsely accused former Virginia high school teacher Kimberly Winters and defendant Virginia investigator Peter Roque.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jury awards Va. teacher $5 million over wrongful sex abuse case, Tom Jackman, Feb. 26, 2023. The first clue that Kimberly Winters, a high school English teacher, had that a former student had accused her of sexually abusing him was when Loudoun County sheriff’s deputies in full riot gear burst into her bedroom one morning with their rifles drawn.

“It was very terrifying,” Winters said. “I still have nightmares. Big guns.”

Winters said the deputies yanked her out of bed, handcuffed her, and made her stand in the front yard of her Sterling, Va., home in her pajamas while they patted her down, in full view of the neighborhood.

When she went to the Loudoun jail, Winters said, she was strip-searched, which her lawyer said violated the sheriff’s policies because she wasn’t booked into the jail. But her mug shot was taken and distributed to the news media along with a press release saying she was charged with sexually abusing one of her students when he was 17. Soon, she was fired from her job at Park View High School, after teaching in Loudoun for eight years.

When Loudoun prosecutors looked at the case brought by Detective Peter Roque, they promptly dismissed all charges. Winters sued Roque and Loudoun Sheriff Mike Chapman (R). And after a five-day trial earlier this month, a Loudoun jury took less than two hours to find the two law enforcement officials liable for Winters’ economic and punitive damages. They awarded her $5 million.

It appeared Roque had not seriously investigated any of the student’s claims, Winters’s lawyer, Thomas K. Plofchan, said. On a sworn search warrant application in November 2018, Roque had written, “Witnesses’ statements are corroborated by phone records,” but there were no records, Plofchan said the evidence showed.

The settlement will be paid by a state fund in which many municipalities pool their moneys to pay for verdicts such as this, and a secondary insurance policy taken out by Loudoun.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Grieving families trusted an Army financial adviser. They lost fortunes, Alex Horton, Feb. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Each received hundreds of thousands of dollars from life insurance payouts. They allege their Army-appointed financial counselor, Caz Craffy, exploited them.

Natasha Bevard looked at the pile of unopened financial statements and felt a sense of dread swell within her. She knew what they were going to say.

Her husband, Rodney C. Bevard, was a career soldier who died by suicide in 2020. In the anguished, vulnerable days that followed, the Army appointed a financial counselor, Caz Craffy, to help make sense of the life insurance funds paid to his family.

Bevard, 42, had entrusted Craffy with about $370,000 to invest conservatively, she said, hoping the money would grow modestly over time. She did not want to gamble with the stock market.

But Bevard suspected something was wrong. And after investigators contacted her to ask about Craffy, she thought back to a text message he once sent: “DON’T LOOK AT ANY STATEMENTS.”

She tore into one of the envelopes. Then another. And another. The balance had plunged by six figures. “What hurt me the most,” she said, is that “these were the kids’ accounts.”

In interviews with The Washington Post, four military families accused Craffy of going far beyond his duties as an Army civilian employee by taking direct control of their life insurance money through brokerage firms where he also was employed. Combined, their accounts are down $750,000, according to Natalie Khawam, an attorney for three of the families, and Marc Fitapelli, who is representing the fourth survivor.

The families, all of whom live in the northern New Jersey and greater New York City area, allege that Craffy leveraged his Army position to generate clients, exploiting their grief before strip-mining their accounts through trades that earned him commissions of up to $4,500, often executed, they say, without their consent or consultation.

The commissions ate into their balances along with losses that piled up as the investment funds, in some cases, dramatically lost value. Such losses can be recouped only if the holdings perform better.

Craffy — who also goes by the name Carz Craffey, according to public records — did not return multiple messages seeking comment. It is unclear whether he has retained legal counsel. His attorney in an unrelated civil case declined to comment.

As the families seek to recoup their losses through litigation, their cases have alarmed observers and financial experts who say the episode appears to have exposed glaring oversight failures within the Army while underscoring the need for far greater accountability over those advising the recipients of such vast sums of money in moments of crisis. The faith these families placed in the Army, they said, appears to have been abused.

“The Army certainly should have been aware this person was working two full-time jobs,” said Katherine L. Kuzminski, a military policy expert at Center for a New American Security, emphasizing that it is the service that is responsible for guaranteeing that life insurance beneficiaries “receive ethical treatment.” Financial counseling is a good idea, in theory, she added, but only if the highest standards can be enforced “to ensure families, who financial advisers are set up to protect in the first place, are truly protected and not taken advantage of.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Hackers Breach U.S. Marshals System With Sensitive Personal Data, Glenn Thrush and Chris Cameron, Feb. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The compromised computer system includes information on both investigative targets and agency employees.

The U.S. Marshals Service suffered a major security breach this month when hackers broke into and stole data from a computer system that included a trove of personal information about investigative targets and agency employees, a spokesman for the service said on Monday.

The service, a division of the Justice Department, is responsible for the protection of judges, the transportation of federal prisoners and the operation of the federal witness protection program. The witness protection database was not breached, but hackers did gain access to information about some fugitives sought by federal authorities, according to a senior law enforcement official.

Justice Department log circularJustice Department officials have determined that the breach, which was carried out through ransomware on Feb. 17, was “a major incident,” said Drew J. Wade, the Marshals Service spokesman. It was yet another in a series of breaches that have underscored the government’s struggles to protect sensitive information as the frequency, scale and sophistication of ransomware attacks have surged in recent years.

The affected system “contains law enforcement sensitive information, including returns from legal process, administrative information and personally identifiable information pertaining to subjects of U.S.M.S. investigations, third parties and certain U.S.M.S. employees,” Mr. Wade said in an email. Officials with the Marshals Service disconnected the system after discovering the attack, he said.

 

ICE logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Administration Announces Crackdown on Migrant Child Labor, Hannah Dreier, Feb. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The move came after a Times investigation showed children were working in dangerous jobs across the United States.

The Biden administration on Monday announced a wide crackdown on the labor exploitation of migrant children around the United States, including more aggressive investigations of companies benefiting from their work.

The development came days after The New York Times published an investigation into the explosive growth of migrant child labor throughout the United States. Children, who have been crossing the southern border without their parents in record numbers, are ending up in punishing jobs that flout child labor laws, The Times found.

The White House laid out a host of new initiatives to investigate child labor violations among employers and improve the basic support that migrant children receive when they are released to sponsors in the United States. Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, called the revelations in The Times “heartbreaking” and “completely unacceptable.”

As part of the new effort, the Department of Labor, which enforces these laws, said it would target not just the factories and suppliers that illegally employ children, but also the larger companies that have child labor in their supply chains. Migrant children often use false identification and find jobs through staffing agencies that do not verify their Social Security numbers.

 

ICE logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Alone and Exploited, Migrant Children Work Brutal Jobs Across the U.S., Hannah Dreier and Photographs By Kirsten Luce, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Arriving in record numbers, they’re doing dangerous work that violates child labor laws, a Times investigation found. Children are producing some of the best-known branded goods, in American factories for global corporations.

It was almost midnight in Grand Rapids, Mich., but inside the factory everything was bright. A conveyor belt carried bags of Cheerios past a cluster of young workers. One was 15-year-old Carolina Yoc, who came to the United States on her own last year to live with a relative she had never met.

About every 10 seconds, she stuffed a sealed plastic bag of cereal into a passing yellow carton. It could be dangerous work, with fast-moving pulleys and gears that had torn off fingers and ripped open a woman’s scalp.

The factory was full of underage workers like Carolina, who had crossed the southern border by themselves and were now spending late hours bent over hazardous machinery, in violation of child labor laws. At nearby plants, other children were tending giant ovens to make Chewy and Nature Valley granola bars and packing bags of Lucky Charms and Cheetos — all of them working for the processing giant Hearthside Food Solutions, which would ship these products around the country.

“Sometimes I get tired and feel sick,” Carolina said after a shift in November. Her stomach often hurt, and she was unsure if that was because of the lack of sleep, the stress from the incessant roar of the machines, or the worries she had for herself and her family in Guatemala. “But I’m getting used to it.”

These workers are part of a new economy of exploitation: Migrant children, who have been coming into the United States without their parents in record numbers, are ending up in some of the most punishing jobs in the country, a New York Times investigation found. This shadow work force extends across industries in every state, flouting child labor laws that have been in place for nearly a century. Twelve-year-old roofers in Florida and Tennessee. Underage slaughterhouse workers in Delaware, Mississippi and North Carolina. Children sawing planks of wood on overnight shifts in South Dakota.

Largely from Central America, the children are driven by economic desperation that was worsened by the pandemic. This labor force has been slowly growing for almost a decade, but it has exploded since 2021, while the systems meant to protect children have broken down.

The Times spoke with more than 100 migrant child workers in 20 states who described jobs that were grinding them into exhaustion, and fears that they had become trapped in circumstances they never could have imagined. The Times examination also drew on court and inspection records and interviews with hundreds of lawyers, social workers, educators and law enforcement officials.

In town after town, children scrub dishes late at night. They run milking machines in Vermont and deliver meals in New York City. They harvest coffee and build lava rock walls around vacation homes in Hawaii. Girls as young as 13 wash hotel sheets in Virginia.

In many parts of the country, middle and high school teachers in English-language learner programs say it is now common for nearly all their students to rush off to long shifts after their classes end.

“They should not be working 12-hour days, but it’s happening here,” said Valeria Lindsay, a language arts teacher at Homestead Middle School near Miami. For the past three years, she said, almost every eighth grader in her English learner program of about 100 students was also carrying an adult workload.

Migrant child labor benefits both under-the-table operations and global corporations, The Times found. In Los Angeles, children stitch “Made in America” tags into J. Crew shirts. They bake dinner rolls sold at Walmart and Target, process milk used in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and help debone chicken sold at Whole Foods. As recently as the fall, middle-schoolers made Fruit of the Loom socks in Alabama. In Michigan, children make auto parts for Ford and General Motors.

Hannah traveled to Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota and Virginia for this story and spoke to more than 100 migrant child workers in 20 states.

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U.S. Abortion, #MeToo, Stalking, Rape Laws

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Access to abortion is a unifying issue, Jennifer Rubin, right, Feb. 26, 2023. Who could have guessed that preserving jennifer rubin new headshotaccess to abortion would be such a unifying position?

Given how divided our country is, and how loud voices seeking to criminalize the procedure have become, one might not expect abortion bans to be so unpopular. Yet polling shows that support for abortion care is remarkably consistent.
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A recent report from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) finds, “Just under two-thirds of Americans (64%) say that abortion should be legal in most or almost all cases,” including 68 percent of independents. Only one-third say it should be illegal in most or almost all cases. Even among Republicans, 36 percent favor legal abortion. And the percentage of the party that favors banning all or most abortions has declined from 21 to 14 percent in just over a year.

In fact, majority support for abortion access cuts across gender, racial, ethnic, educational attainment and age lines. That support also spans most religious groups. The PRRI finds, “White evangelical Protestants (27%), Jehovah’s Witnesses (27%), Latter-day Saints (32%), and Hispanic Protestants (44%) are the only major religious groups in which less than half of adherents say that abortion should be legal in most or all cases.”

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 Earthquake Disaster in Turkey, Syria

 

An aerial photo of a scene in the Turkish city of Hatay portrays earthquake damage on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023 (photo via SkyNews).

An aerial photo of a scene in the Turkish city of Hatay portrays earthquake damage on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023 (photo via SkyNews). Toll Is Rising as Rescuers Scour Rubble; Thousands of Buildings Are Down.

New York Times, New Earthquake Strikes Turkey, Rattling an Already Devastated Region, Ben Hubbard and Gulsin Harman, Feb. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The latest temblor, measuring 5.2 in magnitude, shook parts of the same area stricken by a far stronger quake on Feb. 6. The latest temblor, measuring 5.2 in magnitude, shook parts of the same area stricken by a far stronger quake on Feb. 6 that killed more than 50,000 people in the country and in neighboring Syria.

Flag of TurkeyA 5.2-magnitude earthquake struck southern Turkey on Monday, killing at least one person and trapping others in collapsed buildings three weeks after a devastating quake struck the same region, leaving more than 50,000 people dead in the country and in neighboring Syria.

The latest quake struck just after noon on Monday, south of the city of Malatya, according to the United States Geological Survey. Malatya is the capital of the province of the same name, one of 11 Turkish regions affected by the Feb. 6 tremor.

Yunus Sezer, the head of Turkey’s emergency response agency, said that at least one person had been killed and 69 injured in the latest quake. He urged people in the affected region not to enter damaged buildings for fear of aftershocks or further collapses. The agency said that 29 buildings in Malatya had collapsed and that five people had been rescued from the rubble. Rescuers were also searching for survivors from seven other buildings.

One previously damaged building collapsed, trapping in the rubble a father and daughter who had returned to their apartment to collect their belongings in the town of Yesilyurt, near the new quake’s epicenter, according to Haberturk TV, which was broadcasting from the scene. Both father and daughter were later rescued.

ny times logoNew York Times, Turkish Builders Are Under Intense Scrutiny Over Shoddy Construction, Ben Hubbard, Elif Ince and Safak Timur, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). The deaths of more than 43,000 people in Turkey from an earthquake have raised painful and angry questions over building standards.

Two dozen student volleyball players, four teachers and 12 parents visiting Turkey for a competition this month checked into the Grand Isias Hotel in the southern city of Adiyaman. When a powerful earthquake struck on Feb. 6, the building collapsed and killed dozens of people including everyone in the entourage except for four adults.

A university engineer who examined the wreckage found indications of weak concrete and insufficient steel reinforcements, he and his colleagues wrote in a preliminary report, concluding that shoddy construction had left the building vulnerable, even to smaller quakes.

In the weeks since, the Turkish authorities have arrested three men connected to the hotel on unspecified charges as part of a wide-ranging dragnet targeting hundreds of building contractors and owners among others suspected of criminal negligence that contributed to deadly building collapses.

The suspects — some nabbed at the airport with stacks of cash or perp-walked on national television — have become the focus of public Flag of Turkeyrage, with many now questioning whether they padded their profits by flouting the codes put in place over the last two decades to make buildings more quake resistant.

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More On Media, Education, Sports, Religion, High Tech

 

Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder and his wife, the NFL team's current CEO (Washington Post photo).

Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder and his wife, Tanya Snyder, the NFL team's current CEO (Washington Post photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Dan Snyder’s proposed indemnity clause dubbed ‘ridiculous’ by other NFL owners, Mark Maske, Nicki Jhabvala and Liz Clarke, Feb. 28, 2023. Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder and his attorneys have demanded that fellow NFL franchise owners and the league indemnify him against future legal liability and costs if he sells the team, two people with direct knowledge of the NFL’s inner workings and the owners’ attitudes said.

Snyder’s demands, which include a threat to sue if the indemnification condition is not met, have angered some owners and renewed discussion about the possibility of taking a vote to remove him from ownership of the Commanders if he does not sell the franchise, according The Washington Commanders roll out their team name and logo at media reveal from FedExField, Landover, Maryland, February 2nd, 2022 (Joe Glorioso | All-Pro Reels)to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic and the legal threat.

“He wants indemnification if he sells,” one of those people said, adding that the owners regard the demand as “ridiculous” and “absurd” and believe Snyder, 58, shown in a 2022 photo via Wikimedia, should provide indemnification to the other owners for any legal claims that may arise from his and the team’s actions.

The owners “definitely” would move toward a vote to remove Snyder from ownership of his team if he does not sell the franchise, that person said. Such a vote would require support by at least three-quarters of the owners. The other person who confirmed Snyder’s demands added that the dispute “could get messy.”

The Commanders denied the assertions in a statement Monday night: “The story posted tonight by the Washington Post regarding the transaction process involving the Washington Commanders is simply untrue.”

Snyder also is seeking for the NFL to keep confidential the findings of the ongoing investigation being conducted by attorney Mary Jo White, one of the people with knowledge of the situation said. The NFL has said the findings of White’s investigation will be released publicly. It is the league’s second investigation of the team’s workplace and Snyder.

 jonathan capehart msnbc

Axios, Scoop: Jonathan Capehart quits WaPo editorial board, leaving no people of color, Sara Fischer, Feb. 28, 2023. Jonathan Capehart (shown above) quit the Washington Post editorial board after a dispute over an editorial about 2024 politics, leaving the paper with an all-white editorial board, Axios has learned.

axios logoWhy it matters: Capehart left the board at a time when the Post — based in a city where nearly half the population is Black — is swirling in internal discontent over the paper's leadership.

By comparison, the New York Times' 14-person editorial board has five people of color.

State of play: Since joining the Post as a member of its editorial board in 2007, Capehart has become one of the paper's most visible and influential faces.

Capehart — who remains a Post columnist, associate editor and podcaster — quit in December as a member of the board, which debates editorials that represent the views of the Post as an institution.

What happened: Capehart, a Black and gay Pulitzer winner, left the board in early December after a disagreement over a Dec. 6. editorial about the runoff between Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Herschel Walker.

He turned in his resignation to Post editorial page editor David Shipley shortly after the piece ran.

The big picture: The run-in between Capehart and the Post underscores the yearslong tensions at the paper over cultural issues.

ny times logoNew York Times, Bob Richards, Pole-Vaulting Hero of the Cold War Era, Dies at 97, Robert D. McFadden, Feb. 28, 2023 (print ed.). An ordained minister known as the Vaulting Vicar, he was an Olympic gold medal winner and the first athlete to appear on the front of Wheaties boxes.

Committee to Protect Journalists, At least 14 journalists detained, attacked, or harassed covering Nigeria’s election, Staff Report, Feb. 27-28, 2023. At least 14 journalists and media workers were detained, harassed, or attacked while covering Nigeria’s presidential and federal elections, including private news website WikkiTimes owner Haruna Mohammed Salisu, who remains in police custody without charge, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.

Police detained Salisu on February 25 in Duguri town, southeastern Bauchi state, shortly after he and other reporters had met with the state governor, according to WikkiTimes editor Yakubu Mohammed, who spoke to CPJ, and a local coalition of press freedom groups. Police said they took Salisu into custody to protect him after supporters of the governor attacked him as he interviewed local women protesting, but then refused to release him, according to Mohammed, who visited him after he was transferred to police headquarters in Bauchi, the state capital. The local PRNigeria news site reported that police had “received a formal complaint that the journalist was inciting the electorate.” Salisu remained in detention as of Monday evening.

Private citizens, political groups, or security forces threatened, attacked, or seized at least 13 other journalists and media workers during the elections, according to CPJ interviews.

“Nigerian authorities should immediately and unconditionally release journalist Haruna Mohammed Salisu, and bring to account all those responsible for intimidating and attacking at least 13 other journalists and media workers,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, from New York. “Press freedom is an integral component of Nigerian democracy, and the media should be able to cover national polls without fear of reprisals.”

CPJ spoke to reporters involved in each of the following incidents on February 25:

A group of men beat Dayo Aiyetan, executive director of the privately owned nonprofit International Centre for Investigative Reporting, tore his clothes, and stole his phone and belongings after he filmed them disrupting the voting at a polling site in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. Aiyetan said one man tried to stab him, and he reported the attack to local police. Some of his belongings were returned, including his phone with content deleted.

Youths in Ibadan, Oyo state, attacked a vehicle from the state-owned News Agency Nigeria for covering the elections, one of the crew told CPJ. Yinka Bode-Are, a camera operator, was traveling with a reporter and driver when the vehicle was set upon with sticks and dented.

Security forces questioned Adesola Ikulajolu, a reporter with the local nonprofit Center for Journalism Innovation and Development, about his work and deleted image folders from his phone as he moved between polling places in Lagos. Ikulajolu said he believed they were from the Department of State Services because of their equipment and black clothing. DSS spokesperson Peter Afunanya told CPJ he was not aware of the incident and that black clothing did not prove a DSS affiliation.

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washington post logoWashington Post, In India, ‘phase down’ of coal actually means rapid expansion of mining, Karishma Mehrotra, Feb. 27, 2023 (print ed.). / A tripling of size is planned at the fastest-growing coal mine in India.

Here in eastern India, the Bhubaneswari mine is a testament to India’s vast coal reserves, among the largest in the world. The mine’s rapid expansion also is vivid evidence that the world’s second-largest consumer of coal is not ready to give it up, despite urgent concerns about the toll its use is taking on the climate. If anything, India’s coal production is accelerating, according to Coal Ministry data.

washington post logoWashington Post, China’s coal plant approvals highest in seven years, research finds, Christian Shepherd, Feb. 27, 2023 (print ed.). China China Flaglast year approved the largest expansion of coal-fired power plants since 2015, a new report has found, showing how the world’s largest emitter still relies on a fossil fuel that scientists say must be quickly phased out to avoid the worst consequences of a warming atmosphere.

washington post logoWashington Post, The risk of damage from hurricane winds will shift in coming decades. See the U.S. impact by Zip code, John Muyskens, Andrew Ba Tran, Brady Dennis and Niko Kommenda, Feb. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Strong winds fueled by climate change are expected to reach further inland and northward, putting more Americans at risk. 1 in 3 Americans may face risk by mid-century as winds are projected to reach further inland, northward

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ny times logoNew York Times, China Moves to Erase the Vestiges of ‘Zero Covid’ to Deter Dissent, Nicole Hong and Zixu Wang, Feb. 28, 2023. The government is waging an ambitious propaganda campaign to rewrite the public’s memory of its tough pandemic restrictions.

China FlagThis is how China’s ruling Communist Party wants people to remember how it handled the Covid-19 pandemic: It was a “miracle in human history.” Every measure the government imposed was rooted in science, supported by the masses — and, ultimately, “completely correct.”

The party is waging an ambitious propaganda campaign to rewrite the public’s memory of “zero Covid,” a signature policy of China’s leader, Xi Jinping, that helped contain the virus for almost three years — but went to such extreme lengths that it smothered the economy and set off widespread opposition. In a decree that was published after a recent meeting of top officials and championed by a barrage of state media editorials, a newly triumphant narrative has emerged, aimed at bolstering Mr. Xi’s authority and deterring dissent.

The party is pushing its message at a time of heightening tensions with the United States over China’s handling of the pandemic, including the secrecy it has shrouded over investigations into the virus’s origins. The U.S. Energy Department recently concluded with “low confidence” that the Covid-19 virus likely originated from an accidental lab leak in China, a hypothesis that Beijing has denied and called a smear campaign even as some right-wing American media outlets have embraced it as fact.

ny times logoNew York Times, Lab Leak Most Likely Caused Pandemic, Energy Dept. Says, as Spy Agencies Remain Split, Julian E. Barnes, Feb. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The conclusion, which was made with “low confidence,” was based on new intelligence. The information didn’t lead other agencies to change their assessments.

New intelligence has prompted the Energy Department to conclude that an accidental laboratory leak in China most likely caused the coronavirus pandemic, though U.S. spy agencies remain divided over the origins of the virus, American officials said on Sunday.

The conclusion was a change from the department’s earlier position that it was undecided on how the virus emerged.

China FlagSome officials briefed on the intelligence said that it was relatively weak and that the Energy Department’s conclusion was made with “low confidence,” suggesting its level of certainty was not high. While the department shared the information with other agencies, none of them changed their conclusions, officials said.

Officials would not disclose what the intelligence was. But many of the Energy Department’s insights come from the network of national laboratories it oversees, rather than more traditional forms of intelligence like spy networks or communications intercepts.

Intelligence officials believe the scrutiny of the pandemic’s origins could be important to improving global response to future health crises, though they caution that finding an answer about the origin of the virus may be difficult or even impossible given Chinese opposition to further research. Scientists say there is a responsibility to explain how a pandemic that has killed almost seven million people began, and learning more about how it began could help researchers understand what poses the biggest threats of future outbreaks.

The new intelligence and the shift in the department’s view was first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Sunday.

Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, declined to confirm the intelligence. But he said President Biden had ordered that the national labs be brought into the effort to determine the origin of the outbreak so that the government was using “every tool” it had.

washington post logoWashington Post, Researchers collected data from studies on over 100,000 brains, found striking insights on aging, Caitlin Gilbert, Feb. 28, 2023. Our brains are built to change over our lifetime, meeting the challenges set by every life stage.

washington post logoWashington Post, Doctors who touted ivermectin as covid fix now pushing it for flu, RSV, Lauren Weber, Feb. 27, 2023 (print ed.). This group of doctors championed ivermectin as a covid “miracle” drug without scientific evidence. Now they’re pushing the anti-parasitic for flu and RSV.

First, the group of doctors championed ivermectin as a covid panacea. It failed to live up to the hype. Now, they’re promoting the anti-parasitic to prevent and treat the flu and RSV.

The Front Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance, formed in 2020 to “prevent and treat covid,” is touting ivermectin for common respiratory infections amid a dramatic drop in prescriptions for the drug as clinical trials undermined claims of its efficacy against covid.

There is no clinical data in humans to support using ivermectin for flu or RSV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other medical experts.

And yet, the alliance publishes “treatment protocols” promoting the use of ivermectin for flu, RSV and covid that it says have been downloaded more than a million times. It also recommends a network of hundreds of medical providers and pharmacies that can provide prescriptions for ivermectin, often through virtual visits that can run hundreds of dollars.

“Profiting from bunk and nonsense has no place in ethical medicine,” said Arthur Caplan, head of the division of medical ethics at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine who called the alliance’s promotion of ivermectin for covid, flu and RSV “fraud during a pandemic on a significant scale.”

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Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany inspecting an antiaircraft gun last month at a military base in Holstein, Germany. Germany has promised to deliver 30 of the units to Ukraine (Pool photo by Morris MacMatzen).

 

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Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany inspecting an antiaircraft gun last month at a military base in Holstein, Germany. Germany has promised to deliver 30 of the units to Ukraine (Pool photo by Morris MacMatzen).Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany inspects an antiaircraft gun this winter at a military base in Holstein, Germany. Germany, long an opponent on in Europe of providing advanced weapons like Leopard tanks to Ukraine, has promised to deliver 30 of the anti-aircraft units to Ukraine along with a smaller number of the tanks (Pool photo by Morris MacMatzen).

ny times logoNew York Times, How the War in Ukraine Has Changed Europe Forever, Roger Cohen, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). No event has transformed the continent more profoundly since the end of the Cold War, and there is no going back. Europe is now grappling with how to transform itself from a peace power to a muscular geopolitical protagonist.

european union logo rectangleA year ago, the day Russia invaded Ukraine and set in motion a devastating European ground war, President Sauli Niinisto of Finland declared: “Now the masks are off. Only the cold face of war is visible.”

The Finnish head of state, in office for more than a decade, had met with President Vladimir V. Putin many times, in line with a Finnish policy of pragmatic outreach to Russia, a country with which it shares a nearly 835-mile border. Suddenly, however, that policy lay in tatters, and, along with it, Europe’s illusions about business as usual with Mr. Putin.

Those illusions were deep-rooted. The 27-nation European Union was built over decades with the core idea of extending peace across the continent. The notion that economic exchanges, trade and interdependence were the best guarantees against war lay deep in the postwar European psyche, even in dealings with an increasingly hostile Moscow.

That Mr. Putin’s Russia had become aggressive, imperialist, revanchist and brutal — as well as impervious to European peace politics — was almost impossible to digest in Paris or Berlin, even after the annexation of Crimea in 2014. An increasingly militaristic Russia might swim, quack and look like a duck, but that did not mean it was one.

“Many of us had started to take peace for granted,” Mr. Niinisto said this month at the Munich Security Conference after leading Finland’s abrupt push over the past year to join NATO, an idea unthinkable even in 2021. “Many of us had let our guard down.”

The war in Ukraine has transformed Europe more profoundly than any event since the Cold War’s end in 1989. A peace mentality, most acute in Germany, has given way to a dawning awareness that military power is needed in the pursuit of security and strategic objectives. A continent on autopilot, lulled into amnesia, has been galvanized into an immense effort to save liberty in Ukraine, a freedom widely seen as synonymous with its own.

“European politicians are not familiar with thinking about hard power as an instrument in foreign policy or geopolitical affairs,” said Rem Korteweg, a Dutch defense expert. “Well, they have had a crash course.”

Gone is discussion of the size of tomatoes or the shape of bananas acceptable in Europe; in its place, debate rages over what tanks and possibly F-16 fighter jets to give to Kyiv. The European Union has provided some $3.8 billion in military assistance to Ukraine.

  • New York Times, Deadly Russian strikes pounded Ukraine’s east and south, officials said.
  • New York Times, The war in Ukraine is the biggest in Europe since World War II. Here’s how it came about, and what’s at stake.

Politico Magazine, Historical Analysis: ‘Something Was Badly Wrong’: When Washington Realized Russia Was Actually Invading Ukraine, Erin Banco, Garrett M. Graff, Lara Seligman, Nahal Toosi and Alexander Ward, Feb. 24, 2023.  A first-ever oral history of how top U.S. and Western politico Customofficials saw the warning signs of a European land war, their frantic attempts to stop it — and the moment Putin actually crossed the border.

This oral history was compiled and woven together by writer and historian Garrett M. Graff, right, based on dozens of hours of interviews by garrett graffPOLITICO national security reporters Erin Banco, Lara Seligman, Nahal Toosi and Alexander Ward with more than 30 key figures of the U.S. government and Western allied response. (Additional interviews were contributed by Jack Blanchard, Graff and Maggie Miller.)

The Russian invasion of Ukraine exactly a year ago was as shocking as it was clearly foreseen. The merciless bombardment of Ukrainian cities, the hundreds of thousands of troops and scores of tanks that rumbled across the border on Feb. 24, 2022, followed months of rising tension and concern, and provided perhaps the biggest foreign policy test yet for the Biden administration.

For nearly a year prior, U.S. and Western officials had signs of what was coming: a suspicious buildup of Russian troops, intelligence about the Kremlin’s plans, statements from President Vladimir Putin himself. Those officials raised increasingly specific public alarms, some of which were based on a novel new strategy of rapidly declassifying and publicizing intelligence in near real-time, and made desperate attempts to avert a war, even as it became more and more clear that Putin was determined to invade.

The events in eastern Europe in 2021 and 2022, coming just as the world emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic, also unfolded against a fraught geopolitical backdrop: In 2014, Russia had already seized Crimea from Ukraine, and fighting by Russia’s irregular, unmarked troops, known as “little green men,” had destabilized eastern Ukraine and led to a long-running, low-level war that had continued ever since.

Meanwhile, during the summer of 2021, the United States faced its own challenge: a chaotic and controversial end to its nearly 20-year war in Afghanistan.

This is the story of the Biden administration’s strategy and reaction to that looming Russian invasion — the battle to persuade skeptics and rally foreign allies to confront an almost-unthinkable threat, one that continues to shake the world today. All titles and military ranks are presented based on roles the speakers held in February 2022, and interviews have been condensed and edited for clarity.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia’s New Offensive Sends Conscripts Into the Teeth of Ukraine’s Lines, Andrew E. Kramer, Photographs by Tyler Hicks, Feb. 27, 2023. A month into the campaign, Russian forces have barely budged despite forays by small units in fields, pine forests and ruined towns.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Britain and E.U. Agree on Northern Ireland Trade Deal, Mark Landler and Stephen Castle, Feb. 27, 2023. United Kingdom flagBritain and the European Union struck a deal to end a festering dispute over trade rules for Northern Ireland, which could resolve one of the most fraught legacies of Brexit. Here’s what’s at stake in the U.K.-E.U. deal over Northern Ireland’s trade status.

Britain and the European Union struck a deal on Monday to end a festering dispute over post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, a european union logo rectanglediplomatic achievement that could resolve one of the most poisonous legacies of Britain’s exit from Europe’s trade bloc.

The deal, known as the Windsor Framework, came after weeks of confidential talks. It could avert a potential trade war Rishi sunakbetween Britain and the European Union and open the door to the restoration of Northern Ireland’s government.

But it also comes with political risks for Britain’s prime minister, Rishi Sunak, right, opening him up to backlash from pro-Brexit hard-liners in his Conservative Party and pro-British unionists in Northern Ireland.

ny times logoNew York Times, What to Know About Chicago’s Mayoral Election, Mitch Smith, Feb. 27, 2023. Mayor Lori Lightfoot is seeking a second term, but she faces a wide field of challengers who have attacked her record on crime, policing and education.

As residents of Chicago prepare to elect a mayor, they are staring at a highly uncertain picture: a race so wide open that even the incumbent, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who won every ward in the city in the final balloting four years ago, is not assured a spot in an expected runoff election.

Chicagoans will pick on Tuesday among nine candidates at a pivotal time to lead the city, which has wrestled since the pandemic with a spike in homicides and an emptier downtown. At least four of the candidates are seen as serious contenders to make it to an April 4 runoff, and Ms. Lightfoot finds herself in between candidates casting themselves to her political left, and also to her right.

In the final days of the race, Ms. Lightfoot has attempted to embrace her spot in the middle, arguing that the city needs to stay the course with her. Before a crowd at a union hall over the weekend, she accused one opponent of being an undercover Republican. Another, she said, would raise taxes and cut policing.

In addition to Ms. Lightfoot, the top tier of candidates includes Jesús G. García, a progressive congressman; Brandon Johnson, a county commissioner endorsed by the local teachers’ union; and Paul Vallas, a former public school executive with a far more conservative platform on policing and education.

Those candidates all describe themselves as Democrats, an unofficial prerequisite for winning citywide office, but have vastly different visions for Chicago. Here is what is shaping the race to lead the country’s third-largest city:

Ms. Lightfoot leveraged outsider status and a promise for sweeping reforms to win her seat in 2019, becoming the first Black woman and first openly gay person to serve as Chicago’s mayor.

But she will enter this Election Day with uncertain prospects, dogged by diminished popularity, homicide rates that soared to generational highs and frequent feuds with labor unions and City Council members. Her campaign’s own polling in the weeks before the election showed her in the lead, but with only 24 percent of the vote.

Ms. Lightfoot has spoken about a need to attract more people to Chicago. But while the city’s population grew slightly between 2010 and 2020, census estimates show that the number of residents has declined since then.

ny times logoNew York Times, New Earthquake Strikes Turkey, Rattling an Already Devastated Region, Ben Hubbard and Gulsin Harman, Feb. 27, 2023. The latest temblor, measuring 5.2 in magnitude, shook parts of the same area stricken by a far stronger quake on Feb. 6. The latest temblor, measuring 5.2 in magnitude, shook parts of the same area stricken by a far stronger quake on Feb. 6 that killed more than 50,000 people in the country and in neighboring Syria.

Flag of TurkeyA 5.2-magnitude earthquake struck southern Turkey on Monday, killing at least one person and trapping others in collapsed buildings three weeks after a devastating quake struck the same region, leaving more than 50,000 people dead in the country and in neighboring Syria.

The latest quake struck just after noon on Monday, south of the city of Malatya, according to the United States Geological Survey. Malatya is the capital of the province of the same name, one of 11 Turkish regions affected by the Feb. 6 tremor.

Yunus Sezer, the head of Turkey’s emergency response agency, said that at least one person had been killed and 69 injured in the latest quake. He urged people in the affected region not to enter damaged buildings for fear of aftershocks or further collapses. The agency said that 29 buildings in Malatya had collapsed and that five people had been rescued from the rubble. Rescuers were also searching for survivors from seven other buildings.

One previously damaged building collapsed, trapping in the rubble a father and daughter who had returned to their apartment to collect their belongings in the town of Yesilyurt, near the new quake’s epicenter, according to Haberturk TV, which was broadcasting from the scene. Both father and daughter were later rescued.

ny times logoNew York Times, Lab Leak Most Likely Caused Pandemic, Energy Dept. Says, as Spy Agencies Remain Split, Julian E. Barnes, Feb. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The conclusion, which was made with “low confidence,” was based on new intelligence. The information didn’t lead other agencies to change their assessments.

New intelligence has prompted the Energy Department to conclude that an accidental laboratory leak in China most likely caused the coronavirus pandemic, though U.S. spy agencies remain divided over the origins of the virus, American officials said on Sunday.

The conclusion was a change from the department’s earlier position that it was undecided on how the virus emerged.

China FlagSome officials briefed on the intelligence said that it was relatively weak and that the Energy Department’s conclusion was made with “low confidence,” suggesting its level of certainty was not high. While the department shared the information with other agencies, none of them changed their conclusions, officials said.

Officials would not disclose what the intelligence was. But many of the Energy Department’s insights come from the network of national laboratories it oversees, rather than more traditional forms of intelligence like spy networks or communications intercepts.

Intelligence officials believe the scrutiny of the pandemic’s origins could be important to improving global response to future health crises, though they caution that finding an answer about the origin of the virus may be difficult or even impossible given Chinese opposition to further research. Scientists say there is a responsibility to explain how a pandemic that has killed almost seven million people began, and learning more about how it began could help researchers understand what poses the biggest threats of future outbreaks.

The new intelligence and the shift in the department’s view was first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Sunday.

Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, declined to confirm the intelligence. But he said President Biden had ordered that the national labs be brought into the effort to determine the origin of the outbreak so that the government was using “every tool” it had.

ny times logoNew York Times, Student Loan Case Before Supreme Court Poses Pressing Question: Who Can Sue? Adam Liptak, Feb. 27, 2023 (print ed.).  Prompted by a 2007 decision giving states “special solicitude,” partisan challenges to federal programs from coalitions of state attorneys general have surged.

When the Supreme Court hears arguments on Tuesday in a challenge from six Republican-led states to President Biden’s plan to wipe out more than $400 billion in student debt, the first question it will explore is not whether the plan is lawful. It will be whether the states are even entitled to sue.

For most of American history, partisan lawsuits by states challenging federal programs were rare. That changed after a 2007 Supreme Court decision gave states “special solicitude” in determining when they have standing to sue, and the trend has been amplified by a rising partisan divide among state attorneys general.

“State politicians are using state standing as a way of waging what are political or policy battles against the current administration in court as opposed to through the political process,” said Jonathan H. Adler, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University. “There is good reason to think that this special solicitude stuff has kind of gotten out of hand and it needs to be curtailed. But it’s hard to curtail it in a way that doesn’t come across as opportunistic for one side or the other.”

Partisan lawsuits by states challenging federal actions, which thrust the judiciary into all manner of political controversies and boost its power, have exploded in recent years, said Paul Nolette, a political scientist at Marquette University. He said the surge in such cases started after 2014, in the final years of Barack Obama’s presidency.

There were 12 multistate lawsuits brought by Republican state attorneys general against the administration in Mr. Obama’s first term and 46 in his second term, according to data compiled by Professor Nolette. In President Donald J. Trump’s single term, Democratic attorneys general filed 155 such suits. And Republican attorneys general have filed 56 such suits against the Biden administration so far.

 

Falsely accused former Virginia high school teacher Kimberly Winters and defendant Virginia investigator Peter Roque.

Falsely accused former Virginia high school teacher Kimberly Winters and defendant Virginia investigator Peter Roque.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jury awards Va. teacher $5 million over wrongful sex abuse case, Tom Jackman, Feb. 26, 2023. The first clue that Kimberly Winters, a high school English teacher, had that a former student had accused her of sexually abusing him was when Loudoun County sheriff’s deputies in full riot gear burst into her bedroom one morning with their rifles drawn.

“It was very terrifying,” Winters said. “I still have nightmares. Big guns.”

Winters said the deputies yanked her out of bed, handcuffed her, and made her stand in the front yard of her Sterling, Va., home in her pajamas while they patted her down, in full view of the neighborhood.

When she went to the Loudoun jail, Winters said, she was strip-searched, which her lawyer said violated the sheriff’s policies because she wasn’t booked into the jail. But her mug shot was taken and distributed to the news media along with a press release saying she was charged with sexually abusing one of her students when he was 17. Soon, she was fired from her job at Park View High School, after teaching in Loudoun for eight years.

When Loudoun prosecutors looked at the case brought by Detective Peter Roque, they promptly dismissed all charges. Winters sued Roque and Loudoun Sheriff Mike Chapman (R). And after a five-day trial earlier this month, a Loudoun jury took less than two hours to find the two law enforcement officials liable for Winters’ economic and punitive damages. They awarded her $5 million.

It appeared Roque had not seriously investigated any of the student’s claims, Winters’s lawyer, Thomas K. Plofchan, said. On a sworn search warrant application in November 2018, Roque had written, “Witnesses’ statements are corroborated by phone records,” but there were no records, Plofchan said the evidence showed.

The settlement will be paid by a state fund in which many municipalities pool their moneys to pay for verdicts such as this, and a secondary insurance policy taken out by Loudoun.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Grieving families trusted an Army financial adviser. They lost fortunes, Alex Horton, Feb. 27, 2023. Each received hundreds of thousands of dollars from life insurance payouts. They allege their Army-appointed financial counselor, Caz Craffy, exploited them.

Natasha Bevard looked at the pile of unopened financial statements and felt a sense of dread swell within her. She knew what they were going to say.

Her husband, Rodney C. Bevard, was a career soldier who died by suicide in 2020. In the anguished, vulnerable days that followed, the Army appointed a financial counselor, Caz Craffy, to help make sense of the life insurance funds paid to his family.

Bevard, 42, had entrusted Craffy with about $370,000 to invest conservatively, she said, hoping the money would grow modestly over time. She did not want to gamble with the stock market.

But Bevard suspected something was wrong. And after investigators contacted her to ask about Craffy, she thought back to a text message he once sent: “DON’T LOOK AT ANY STATEMENTS.”

She tore into one of the envelopes. Then another. And another. The balance had plunged by six figures. “What hurt me the most,” she said, is that “these were the kids’ accounts.”

In interviews with The Washington Post, four military families accused Craffy of going far beyond his duties as an Army civilian employee by taking direct control of their life insurance money through brokerage firms where he also was employed. Combined, their accounts are down $750,000, according to Natalie Khawam, an attorney for three of the families, and Marc Fitapelli, who is representing the fourth survivor.

The families, all of whom live in the northern New Jersey and greater New York City area, allege that Craffy leveraged his Army position to generate clients, exploiting their grief before strip-mining their accounts through trades that earned him commissions of up to $4,500, often executed, they say, without their consent or consultation.

The commissions ate into their balances along with losses that piled up as the investment funds, in some cases, dramatically lost value. Such losses can be recouped only if the holdings perform better.

Craffy — who also goes by the name Carz Craffey, according to public records — did not return multiple messages seeking comment. It is unclear whether he has retained legal counsel. His attorney in an unrelated civil case declined to comment.

As the families seek to recoup their losses through litigation, their cases have alarmed observers and financial experts who say the episode appears to have exposed glaring oversight failures within the Army while underscoring the need for far greater accountability over those advising the recipients of such vast sums of money in moments of crisis. The faith these families placed in the Army, they said, appears to have been abused.

“The Army certainly should have been aware this person was working two full-time jobs,” said Katherine L. Kuzminski, a military policy expert at Center for a New American Security, emphasizing that it is the service that is responsible for guaranteeing that life insurance beneficiaries “receive ethical treatment.” Financial counseling is a good idea, in theory, she added, but only if the highest standards can be enforced “to ensure families, who financial advisers are set up to protect in the first place, are truly protected and not taken advantage of.”

 

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scott adams book cover abramson photo

Proof, Investigative Commentary:The Scott Adams Scandal Is Worse Than You Think, Seth Abramson, left, Feb. 27, 2023. Introduction: By now, seth abramson graphicyou’ve surely heard about the cancellation of the Scott Adams comic strip Dilbert by hundreds of newspapers across the United States — a unified and rightly unambiguous response to a shocking racist rant by Adams (shown above with one of his creations) on his YouTube channel.

In that rant, Adams said a series of things about Black Americans he clearly had been waiting to say for a long time. But he did so using a sort seth abramson proof logoof literary conceit: he used a single poll by the far-right polling outfit Rasmussen as a MacGuffin to justify finally coming out as a full-blown racist, explicitly telling his audience that he wouldn’t be calling Black America “a hate group,” telling White Americans to “get the hell away from Black people,” opining that Black communities categorically have problems that all (or nearly all) White communities never have, and identifying what he claims is a unique level of disinterest in education in Black communities but for this “push poll.”

The problem? Adams is lying about the poll. Indeed, he’s lying about every part of it.

According to Adams, the provably far-right-biased Rasmussen polling outfit has now shown that “half” of Black Americans “think it’s not okay to be white.”

But the poll says nothing of the sort.

What Rasmussen did in its poll was present a group of Black Americans with a well-known, widely confirmed white supremacist meme called “It’s Okay to Be White”—a phrase first devised at 4chan, the neo-Nazi digital cesspool, in part with the aim of provoking a race war in America.

The explicit purpose of the meme is to have it be presented to left-leaning (or presumed left-leaning) individuals so that they’ll reject it.

The idea is that, once the phrase “It’s Okay to Be White” is rejected publicly by some group of leftists, that rejection can be broadcast all over social media to incite those in the MAGA “movement” to even greater violent radicalization than years of Trumpism have already generated (a violent radicalization particularly focused on racial violence).

In pursuit of their scheme, the neo-Nazis on 4chan made sure that their new phrase was widely enough known—that is, they made sure it was widely enough known that “It’s Okay to Be White” was a white supremacist meme—that even more left-leaning Americans than might otherwise have been the case rejected it, thereby launching a “vicious circle” in which the bad guys have already baked in their desired outcome.

So why was Rasmussen using a white supremacist meme to further white supremacist ends? Presumably this could be answered by its avowedly insurrectionist leadership cadre, but Proof will have much more on this in the Conclusion of this report.

 

elon musk sideview

washington post logoWashington Post, Musk defends ‘Dilbert’ creator, says media is ‘racist against whites,’ Will Oremus, Feb. 27, 2023. The Tesla and Twitter chief (shown above in a file photo) blasted media outlets for dropping Scott Adams’s comic strip after the cartoonist’s rant against Black people.

Twitter and Tesla chief Elon Musk defended Scott Adams, the under-fire creator of “Dilbert,” in a series of tweets Sunday, blasting media organizations for dropping his comic strip after Adams said that White people should “get the hell away from Black people.”

Replying to tweets about the controversy, Musk said it is actually the media that is “racist against whites & Asians.” He offered no criticism of Adams’s comments, in which the cartoonist called Black people a “hate group” and said, “I don’t want to have anything to do with them.”

Musk previously tweeted, then later deleted, a reply to Adams’s tweet about media outlets pulling his comic strip, in which Musk asked, “What exactly are they complaining about?”

The billionaire’s comments continue a pattern of Musk expressing more concern about the “free speech” of people who make racist or antisemitic comments than about the comments themselves. Musk’s views on race have been the subject of scrutiny both at Twitter, where he has reinstated far-right accounts, including those of neo-Nazis and others previously banned for hate speech, and at Tesla, which has been the subject of multiple lawsuits alleging a culture of rampant racism and sexual harassment in the workplace.

In the wake of Musk’s latest tweets Sunday, the president of the civil rights group Color of Change told The Washington Post that he is reiterating his call for advertisers to boycott Twitter.

Musk did not reply to an email Sunday requesting comment.

 

scott adams via proof

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Dilbert’ dropped by The Post, other papers, after cartoonist’s racist rant, Thomas Floyd and Michael Cavna, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Newspapers across the United States have pulled Scott Adams’s long-running “Dilbert” comic strip after the cartoonist called Black Americans a “hate group” and said White people should “get the hell away from” them.

The Washington Post, the USA Today network of hundreds of newspapers, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Los Angeles Times and other publications announced they would stop publishing “Dilbert” after Adams’s racist rant on YouTube on Wednesday. Asked on Saturday how many newspapers still carried the strip — a workplace satire he created in 1989 — Adams told The Post: “By Monday, around zero.”

The once widely celebrated cartoonist, who has been entertaining extreme-right ideologies and conspiracy theories for several years, was upset Wednesday by a Rasmussen poll that found a thin majority of Black Americans agreed with the statement “It’s okay to be White.”

“If nearly half of all Blacks are not okay with White people … that’s a hate group,” Adams said on his live-streaming YouTube show. “I don’t want to have anything to do with them. And I would say, based on the current way things are going, the best advice I would give to White people is to get the hell away from Black people … because there is no fixing this.”

Adams, 65, also blamed Black people for not “focusing on education” during the show and said, “I’m also really sick of seeing video after video of Black Americans beating up non-Black citizens.”

Outrage followed.

By Thursday, The Post began hearing from readers calling for the strip’s cancellation. On Friday, the USA Today Network said that it “will no longer publish the Dilbert comic due to recent discriminatory comments by its creator.” The Gannett-owned chain oversees more than 300 newspapers, including the Arizona Republic, Cincinnati Enquirer, Detroit Free Press, Indianapolis Star, Austin American-Statesman and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“In light of Scott Adams’s recent statements promoting segregation, The Washington Post has ceased publication of the Dilbert comic strip,” a spokesperson for the newspaper said Saturday, noting that it was too late to stop the strip from running in some upcoming print editions, including Sunday’s.

Chris Quinn, the vice president of content for Plain Dealer publisher Advance Ohio, wrote in a letter from the editor Friday that pulling “Dilbert” was “not a difficult decision.” “We are not a home for those who espouse racism,” Quinn wrote.

“Scott Adams is a disgrace,” Darrin Bell, creator of “Candorville” and the first Black artist to win the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning, told The Post on Saturday. “His racism is not even unique among cartoonists.” Bell compared Adams’s views to the Jim Crow era and more recent examples of White supremacy, including “millions of angry people trying to redefine the word ‘racism’ itself.”

In fact, Adams did exactly that on his YouTube show Saturday. He offered a long, quasi-Socratic defense of his comments, which he said were taken out of context, and seemed to define racism as essentially any political activity. “Any tax code change is racist,” he said at one point in the show. He denounced racism against “individuals” and racist laws, but said, “You should absolutely be racist whenever it’s to your advantage. Every one of you should be open to making a racist personal career decision.”

More Background: Proof, Investigative Commentary: Has Twitter Had a Far-Right Bent for Years? Are #TheTwitterFiles a Fraud? Seth Abramson, left, Jan. 24, 2023 (Long column excerpted below). The Debate Leads to seth abramson graphicStrange Words About Me By “Dilbert” Creator Scott Adams and Even Elon Musk Himself.

If you work on controversial topics, you draw attention from polarizing people. But my debunking of a major #TwitterFiles meme led to odder interactions than I expected—and some explosive revelations.

seth abramson proof logoThe New York Daily News and others have reported on Adams’ “many controversies and inflammatory comments”, which have led to the cancellation of Dilbert in newspapers across the United States. Dilbert is a comic strip about the banalities of office life in America.

I won’t detail here all of the stupid things that Scott Adams has said to become such a controversial figure—as they’re numberless, and after all, we all say stupid things at times, though few of us things as spectacularly tone-deaf and preposterous as Adams has said—but I will at least offer the summary from the Daily News referenced above: In 2020, reflecting on the cancellation of the TV adaptation of Dilbert decades earlier, he tweeted, “I lost my TV show for being white.” Adams claimed that wasn’t the first time he twitter bird Customsuspects being white worked against him professionally. He has also joked on Twitter that he was going to “self-identify as a Black woman” so that he’d be considered for the Supreme Court.

Always the entrepreneur, the creator of the Dilbert comic strip has lately positioned himself as the defender and interpreter of all things Trump. So far it’s been a winning bet. Adams’s book Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter has achieved bestseller status and his blog has racked up a whole lot of eyeballs.

In any case, while I seem to recall that I might have tilted with Adams once or twice online in the past—frankly, many have—I certainly didn’t think he’d devote a segment of his popular video blog-cum-podcast to me. But recently he did so, and it opened up a new narrative about #TheTwitterFiles and the Trump-Russia scandal I never would have expected.

 

Fox News hosts Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson, shown left to right, each expressed contempt for the voting fraud allegations they were broadcasting to Fox audiences, according to newly released internal documents obtained as evidence in a forthcoming defamation trial against the network, its owners and personnel.

Fox News hosts Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson, shown left to right, each expressed contempt for the voting fraud allegations they were broadcasting to Fox audiences, according to newly released internal documents obtained as evidence in a forthcoming defamation trial against the network, its owners and personnel.

Axios, Murdoch bombshell, Hans Nichols and Zachary Basu, Feb. 27, 2023.  Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch acknowledged in a deposition last month that Fox News hosts promoted the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, Axios' Sara Fischer and Herb Scribner report.

axios logoWhy it matters: The deposition adds to mounting evidence that executives at Fox knew their hosts were promoting election falsehoods but aired them anyway — a key aspect of Dominion's legal argument in its $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against the network.

Driving the news: Murdoch conceded during the deposition that Fox News was “trying to straddle the line between spewing conspiracy theories on one hand, yet calling out the fact that they are actually false on the other.”

• Murdoch said he regrets the decision to continue letting Fox personalities peddle election falsehoods.
• "I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it, in hindsight," he said.

Between the lines: The unsealed filing also provides new details about Murdoch's involvement with Fox News' editorial strategy and the Trump campaign.

• According to the documents, Murdoch provided Jared Kushner with confidential information about Biden ads that hadn't yet aired on Fox, along with "debate strategy."
• Murdoch declined, however, to intervene at Kushner's request when Fox controversially became the first network to declare that Biden won Arizona on election night.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fox News media analyst says network won’t let him cover Dominion lawsuit, Jeremy Barr and Kyle Melnick, Feb. 27, 2023. Howard Kurtz told his ‘MediaBuzz’ viewers he ‘strongly’ disagrees with the network’s decision.

Fox News host Howard Kurtz, who anchors a weekly show on the media industry, said he has been told not to cover the $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit filed against Fox by Dominion Voting Systems.

Kurtz revealed the prohibition during Sunday’s episode of “MediaBuzz” after he received criticism for not covering revelations about the network that came out of a recent filing by Dominion.

“Some of you have been asking why I’m not covering the Dominion voting machines lawsuit against Fox involving the unproven claims of election fraud in 2020, and it’s absolutely a fair question,” he said midway through Sunday morning’s program. “I believe I should be covering it. It’s a major media story, given my role here at Fox. But the company has decided that as part of the organization being sued, I can’t talk about it or write about it, at least for now.”

Kurtz, who formerly covered media for The Washington Post and hosted CNN’s “Reliable Sources” program, voiced opposition to Fox’s decision, a rare showing of internal protest on the network’s airwaves.

“I strongly disagree with that decision, but as an employee, I have to abide by it,” the 69-year-old said. “And if that changes, I’ll let you know.”

On Feb. 16, a Dominion filing made public by a Delaware court provided evidence that many of Fox News’s prominent hosts and executives doubted the veracity of fraud claims made on Fox programs by Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, two lawyers affiliated with President Donald Trump, regarding Dominion Voting Systems and the 2020 election.

The document — which contained private text messages and emails from Fox hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, as well as top executives Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch — made waves in the media industry but has received sparse coverage on Fox.

ny times logoNew York Times, What Fox News Hosts Said Publicly Vs. Privately About Voter Fraud, Stuart A. Thompson, Karen Yourish and Jeremy W. Peters, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Dozens of private messages, released as part of a lawsuit against Fox, revealed what was said behind the scenes.

Two days after the 2020 election, Tucker Carlson was furious.

Fox News viewers were abandoning the network for Newsmax and One America News, two conservative rivals, after Fox declared that Joseph R. Biden Jr. won Arizona, a crucial swing state.

fox news logo SmallIn a text message with his producer, Alex Pfeiffer, Mr. Carlson appeared livid that viewers were turning against the network. The message was among those released last week as part of a lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox. Dominion, an elections technology company, has sued Fox News for defamation.

At the same time, Mr. Carlson and his broadcasting colleagues expressed grave doubts about an unfounded narrative rapidly gaining momentum among their core audience: that the 2020 presidential election was stolen by Democrats through widespread voter fraud. The belief was promoted by then-President Trump and a coalition of lawyers, lawmakers and influencers, though they produced no evidence to support their assertions.

dominion voting systemsMany hosts, producers and executives privately expressed skepticism about those claims, even as they gave them significant airtime, according to private messages revealed last week by Dominion. What they said in those messages often differed significantly from what Fox hosts said in public, though they weren’t always contradictory.

Two days after the election, Mr. Pfeiffer said that voices on the right were “reckless demagogues,” according to a text message. Mr. Carlson replied that his show was “not going to follow them.”

But he did follow them. The same day, on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Mr. Carlson expressed some doubts about the voter fraud assertions before insisting that at least some of the claims were “credible.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why Fox News Lied to the Viewers It ‘Respects,’ David French, right, Feb. 27, 2023 (print ed.). There are some stories that are david french croppedimportant enough to pause the news cycle and linger on them, to explore not just what happened, but why.

And so it is with Fox News’s role in the events leading up to Jan. 6, 2021. Thanks to a recent filing by Dominion Voting Systems in its defamation lawsuit against Fox, there is now compelling evidence that America’s most-watched cable news network presented information it knew to be false as part of an effort to placate an angry audience. It knowingly sacrificed its integrity to maintain its market share.

Why? There are the obvious reasons: Money. Power. Fame. These are universal human temptations. But the answer goes deeper. Fox News became a juggernaut not simply by being “Republican,” or “conservative,” but by offering its audience something it craved even more deeply: representation. And journalism centered on representation ultimately isn’t journalism at all.

To understand the Fox News phenomenon, one has to understand the place it occupies in Red America. It’s no mere source of news. It’s the place where Red America goes to feel seen and heard. If there’s an important good news story in Red America, the first call is to Fox. If conservative Christians face a threat to their civil liberties, the first call is to Fox. If you’re a conservative celebrity and you need to sell a book, the first call is to Fox.

And Fox takes those calls. In the time before Donald Trump, I spent my share of moments in Fox green rooms and pitching stories to Fox producers. I knew they were more interested in stories about, say, religious liberty than most mainstream media outlets were. I knew they loved human-interest stories about virtuous veterans and cops. Sometimes this was good — we need more coverage of religion in America, for example — but over time Fox morphed into something well beyond a news network.

Fox isn’t just the news hub of right-wing America, it’s a cultural cornerstone, and its business model is so successful that it’s more accurate to think of the rest of the right-wing media universe not as a collection of competitors to Fox, but rather as imitators. From television channels to news sites, right-wing personalities aren’t so much competing with Fox as auditioning for it.

Take, for example, the online space. Fox News is so dominant that, according to data from December, you could take the total traffic of the next 19 conservative websites combined, and still not reach half of Fox’s audience.

But that kind of loyalty is built around a social compact, the profound and powerful sense in Red America that Fox is for us. It’s our megaphone to the culture. Yet when Fox created this compact, it placed the audience in charge of its content.

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Instagram users are being served gory videos of killing and torture, Taylor Lorenz, Feb. 26, 2023. The videos have become a way for meme pages to up their engagement, helping them raise their income from advertising.

Kristoffer Reinman, a 32-year-old music producer and investor, was scrolling through Instagram last fall when he began to encounter violent videos — videos of people being shot and mutilated, posted by accounts he said he doesn’t follow.

“It was gory stuff, torture videos, stuff you just don’t want to see,” Reinman said. “Violent videos, they just started showing up. I was like, what is this? It’s nothing that I follow myself.” Feeling disturbed and disgusted, he immediately logged onto chat app Discord to tell his friends what was happening.

His friends replied that it wasn’t just him. They too were receiving violent videos in their feed. Twitter users also began posting about the phenomenon. “Hey @instagram,” one Twitter user posted in September, “why was the first thing on my feed today a beheading video from an account i don’t even follow? Thx!”

tiktok logo CustomSince Instagram launched Reels, the platform’s TikTok competitor, in 2020, it has taken aggressive steps to grow the feature. It rewarded accounts that posted Reels videos with increased views and began paying monthly bonuses to creators whose Reels content performed well on the app.

Instagram also announced last year it would be leaning harder into algorithmic recommendation of content. On Meta’s second-quarter mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wearnings call, CEO Mark Zuckerberg, left, noted that Reels videos accounted for 20 percent of the time people spent on Instagram, saying that Reels engagement was “growing quickly” and that the company saw a 30 percent increase in the meta logoamount of time people spent engaging with Reels.

But at least part of that engagement has come from the kinds of videos Reinman and other users have raised concerns about, a result that shows how Meta’s Instagram has failed to contain harmful content on its platform as it seeks to regain audience lost to TikTok.

 

Ohio Train Wreck Culture War

Norfolk Southern freight train derailment in Ohio (Detroit News photo by Andy Morrison via Associated Press).

washington post logoWashington Post, How a small-town train derailment erupted into a culture battle, Toluse Olorunnipa, Justine McDaniel and Ian Duncan, Feb. 25, 2023 (print ed.). The East Palestine, Ohio, derailment, one of hundreds each year in America, morphed into the latest front in the nation’s culture wars, becoming a political flashpoint.

Two weeks after a train carrying toxic chemicals went off the tracks in northeastern Ohio, President Biden sat in the Oval Office listening intently as his national security team briefed him on a different train almost 5,000 miles away, ultimately agreeing to take a clandestine rail trip into war-besieged Kyiv.

His decision to make the trip won praise globally, but it further inflamed already brewing domestic tensions over his handling of the train derailment in the small town of East Palestine.

Biden had already taken a number of behind-the-scenes steps on the derailment before that Feb. 17 meeting — calling governors, dispatching federal experts to the area and receiving briefings from top advisers. It was seen in the White House as a by-the-book response to a nonfatal event in a lightly populated area, one that would require federal help but had not ballooned into a larger disaster.

But by the time the president arrived in Kyiv on Feb. 20, the accident in East Palestine had surprised the White House — and many others — by erupting into the country’s latest cultural firefight over identity, polarization and the role of government. And by the time Biden returned to Washington, his aides were battling accusations that he had forsaken a small, predominantly White town as it struggled with the aftermath of an environmental catastrophe caused by a multibillion-dollar company.

Many of the accusations were made by Biden’s political adversaries, abetted by a spate of criticism on mainly right-wing social media accounts, not all of them accurate — including the charge that federal officials ignored the crash, when they sent personnel as they normally would. Still, three weeks after the disaster, it seems clear that the administration was caught off guard, unprepared for the possibility that the nonfatal crash would become a prism for the country’s political battles.

“In an environmental crisis, the optics matter,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian who has written about the government’s handling of Hurricane Katrina. “There’s a lot of mistrust in the federal government, and there’s a lot of noise in our cluttered culture. So to break through that, you’ve got to be bold and clear and show some anger and deep humanitarian concern.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Ohio train derailment waste grows as EPA struggles to find disposal sites, Ben Brasch, Feb. 27, 2023. Following a one-day pause for federal authorities to take over operations, officials announced Sunday they can continue removing contaminated waste from the site of the toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio — a city with residents eager for this nightmare to be over.

Since the train derailed three weeks ago, Norfolk Southern has handled the disposal of contaminated materials. That changed Friday when the Environmental Protection Agency paused shipments to ensure all the sites receiving waste were certified by the EPA and that travel routes adhered to federal law, said Debra Shore, the EPA’s regional administrator.

“We owe it to East Palestine and residents nearby to move waste out of the community as quickly as possible,” Shore said at a Sunday news conference.

How a small-town train derailment erupted into a culture battle

She said liquid waste is destined for a site about 130 miles west in Vickery, Ohio, where it will be disposed of in an underground injection well. She said Norfolk Southern will move solid waste about 15 miles south of East Palestine to an incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: So far, Trump’s rollback of regulations can’t be blamed for Ohio train wreck, Glenn Kessler, Feb. 27, 2023.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Here’s how to fix freight rail after the Ohio derailment debacle, Editorial Board, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). No community in America wants to be the next East Palestine, Ohio. It will be known for generations as the site of the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern train derailment and the lingering scars of that day.

A slew of toxic chemicals burned in a black cloud over the town and ran off into nearby waterways killing thousands of fish and other aquatic life. Families had to evacuate swiftly. Weeks of panic have followed. Government and company officials have struggled to address safety concerns.

The No. 1 priority now is ensuring the well-being of nearby residents. Norfolk Southern chief executive Alan Shaw vows to “do the right things.” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) insists the company will “pay for everything.” That has to include immediate clean up and long-term health monitoring. The town of Paulsboro, N.J., should serve as a warning of what could lie ahead. A similar derailment there in 2012 also released vinyl chloride. Some residents did not encounter serious health problems until years later.

Equally urgent is stopping anything like this from happening again. The accident was “100 percent preventable,” National Transportation Safety Board chair Jennifer Homendy said. Her agency issued a preliminary report Thursday outlining what is known about what happened: On the 23rd car of the 9,000-foot-long, 149-car train, a bearing connecting a wheel to its axle was worn out and overheated. Norfolk Southern’s warning system went off. The crew tried to stop the train, but couldn’t in time. In other words, Norfolk Southern’s safeguards didn’t fail; the problem was, they were inadequate.

In the past decade, America’s freight rail companies have become zealots for efficiency. Trains are longer, and they don’t stop as often. Unprofitable customers are gone. Scheduling is meticulous. Nearly 60,000 jobs disappeared since 2015. The companies’ stock prices and profitability have surged. Still, derailments are at historic lows. But the East Palestine accident has shown how deficient the industry has been when it comes to investing in upgrades. Many trains still rely on a Civil War-era braking system, and they aren’t using the latest detectors that experts say could have caught the deteriorating bearing months before that fateful day.

Disappointingly — but predictably — the accident has become political fodder, with Democrats blaming former president Donald Trump for loosening safety rules, and Republicans claiming the Biden administration was slow to react. But even amid the finger-pointing, there are some concrete steps that all sides should agree upon and implement quickly. Here are four:

1 Catch bearing problems early
2 Better tank car design
3 Better brakes
4 High-hazard flammable train definition

Related Recent Headlines

 

Global News, Migration, Human Rights Issues

ny times logoNew York Times, Dying Children and Frozen Flocks in Afghanistan’s Bitter Winter of Crisis, Christina Goldbaum and Yaqoob Akbary, Photographs by Kiana Hayeri, Feb. 27, 2023. Hundreds have died in plunging temperatures, and malnutrition has been rampant as the Taliban’s ban on female workers has hampered international aid.

When the temperatures plunged far below freezing in Niaz Mohammad’s village last month, the father of three struggled to keep his family warm. One particularly cold night, he piled every stick and every shrub he had collected into their small wood stove. He scavenged for trash that might burn, covered the windows with plastic tarps and held his 2-month-old son close to his chest.

But the cold was merciless. Freezing winds whistled through cracks in the wall. Ice crept across the room: It covered the windows, then the walls, then the thick red blanket wrapped around Mr. Mohammad’s wailing son.

Soon the infant fell silent in his arms. His tears turned to ice that clung to his face. By daybreak, he was gone.

“The cold took him,” Mr. Mohammad, 30, told visiting journalists for The New York Times, describing the details of that horrible night.

Afghanistan is gripped by a winter that both Afghan officials and aid group officials are describing as the harshest in over a decade, battering millions of people already reeling from a humanitarian crisis. As of Monday, more than 200 people had died from hypothermia and more than 225,000 head of livestock had perished from the cold alone, according to the Afghan authorities. That does not take into account a vast and rising human toll from malnutrition, disease and untreated injuries as clinics and hospitals around the country have come under stress.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Commandos Advise Somalis in Fight Against Qaeda Branch, Eric Schmitt, Photographs by Diana Zeyneb Alhindawi, Feb. 27, 2023. A campaign in the Horn of Africa is now the most active element in the “forever wars” the United States has waged since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The promise and perils of America’s counterterrorism campaign were on full display at a remote training base in central Somalia.

It was graduation day for 346 recruits who would join an elite Somali commando unit trained by the State Department, advised by U.S. Special Operations forces, and backed by American air power.

Since last August, the unit, called Danab, has spearheaded a string of Somali army victories against Al Shabab, an Islamist terrorist group that is considered the deadliest of Al Qaeda’s global branches.

“We’re more dedicated than ever,” said Second Lt. Shukri Yusuf Ali, 24, who joined the unit two years ago as one of its few female members and was recently selected to attend the U.S. Army infantry training course at Fort Benning, Ga.

But sadness hung over the ceremony. Many of the recruits will be rushed to the front lines to backfill two Danab battalions decimated by a Shabab attack last month that left more than 100 Somali soldiers dead or injured.

washington post logoWashington Post, Israeli settlers rampage through Palestinian towns in revenge for shooting, Miriam Berger and Shira Rubin, Feb. 27, 2023. Dozens of Israeli settlers rampaged through Palestinian towns, torching cars, homes and killing a man, hours after a Palestinian gunman killed two Israelis.

The scenes from the hours-long rampage Sunday night bore the trademark of a once-active settler movement known as “price taggers,” whose mission was to extract a “price” for any Palestinian attacks or threats to the settler movement.

Sunday’s rampage, which particularly focused on the town of Huwara, was a response to a drive-by shooting that killed two brothers from a nearby Israeli settlement. It also came after a rare meeting between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Jordan in which Israel promised to halt settlement expansion in the West Bank — the land Palestinians envision as part of their future state.

washington post logoWashington Post, Mexicans protest López Obrador’s moves to weaken election agency, Mary Beth Sheridan, Feb. 27, 2023. Tens of thousands of people jammed Mexico’s grandest plaza and rallied around the country on Sunday to protest a law that would weaken the national electoral institute, with many fearful the measure could hobble Mexico’s young democracy.

andrés lópez obrador wThe turnout underscored how much the electoral law has galvanized voters, after four years in which President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, right, largely dominated political life. The veteran leftist’s party holds a majority in Congress and has swept most governor’s offices, outmaneuvering a divided opposition discredited by corruption scandals.

mexico flag1The uproar over the new law comes amid growing concern about backsliding in democracies that replaced dictatorships in many parts of Latin America after the Cold War.

The demonstrators packed Mexico City’s Zócalo, the vast square in front of the presidential palace that holds about 100,000 people. Many wore shirts and baseball caps in pink, the color of the National Electoral Institute, or INE.

Many Mexicans consider the 33-year-old INE to be one of the most important institutions in the country’s transition from seven decades of one-party rule. It replaced a fraud-riddled electoral system with a tightly regulated regimen overseen by thousands of workers who issue voter IDs and control virtually all aspects of state and federal balloting.

López Obrador charges that the autonomous electoral institute has turned into a bloated bureaucracy headed by lavishly paid civil servants, some of them close to the opposition. He says that his plan to slash the INE’s budget and staff — part of a broader government austerity drive – will save $150 million a year.

 

Members of the

Members of the "Mara 18" and "MS-13" gangs are seen in custody at a maximum security prison in Izalco, Sonsonate, El Salvador, on Sept. 4, 2020 (AFP Photo by Yuri Cortez via Getty Images).

washington post logoWashington Post, El Salvador’s president is flaunting a new mega prison. Activists are worried, Maham Javaid, Feb. 27, 2023. Thousands of detainees were transferred to El Salvador’s new mega prison Friday, drawing suspicion from some human rights advocates who noted that the theatrical opening of what may become the world’s largest penitentiary came shortly after U.S. federal attorneys accused government officials of cutting deals with gang leaders.

nayib bukeleSalvadoran President Nayib Bukele, right, spent the weekend sharing images of inmates being moved into the mega prison, running while bent over, wearing white shorts, their feet and chests bare. The video incorporates ominous music and the inmate’s clinking chains.

“They’re not scary anymore, are they?” said Bukele via Twitter on Saturday. Criminals, he added, stop causing fear once they lose the protection of “the corrupt politicians and international organizations that finance and defend them.”

el salvador flag mapThe mega prison can house up to 40,000 prisoners, Bukele said last year. It’s officially called the “Center for the Confinement of Terrorism” and was unveiled earlier this month. El Salvador’s crackdown on crime has been met with allegations of indiscriminate arrests and police abuses.

“This new mega prison is a symbol of Bukele’s mad security policies,” Juan Pappier, the acting deputy director for the Americas at Human Rights Watch, told The Washington Post on Sunday.

Pappier said Bukele’s timing to transfer the detainees to the mega prison was suspect. It comes after the U.S. Justice Department unsealed an indictment on Thursday against alleged MS-13 gang leaders that accuses senior Salvadoran officials of negotiating with criminal groups to curb violence.

“There’s every reason to suspect the timing of the prison transfer was all about controlling the narrative and presenting an ‘iron fist’ interpretation of Bukele that fails to encapsulate the whole picture,” Pappier said.

After Bukele won the presidency in February 2019, gangs made agreements with the government to reduce the number of public murders, “which politically benefited the government of El Salvador,” the U.S. Justice Department said in the indictment. It appeared as if the murder rate was dropping, “when in fact, MS-13 leaders continued to authorize murders where the victims’ bodies were buried or otherwise hidden.”

In exchange, the gangs were promised less restrictive prison conditions, early release of some leaders and refusals to extradite prisoners to the United States, the indictment added.

The United States has accused Bukele’s government of negotiating with the country’s gangs before, a tactic other Salvadoran presidents also have pursued. Bukele has denied the allegations and instead promised “a war on gangs.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The scale of El Salvador’s new prison is difficult to comprehend, León Krauze (León Krauze is an award-winning Mexican journalist, author and news anchor. He is currently national news anchor for Univision, based out of Miami). Feb. 26, 2023.

Earlier this month, Nayib Bukele, president of El Salvador, unveiled his latest infrastructure project: a massive, “first-world” jail that could well become the largest penitentiary in the world, with an alleged capacity to hold 40,000 inmates. This weekend, he announced the transfer of the first 2,000 prisoners to the new facility.

“A common-sense project,” Bukele called it.

The reality is that the scale of the project defies common sense — and easy comprehension. And the social implications of the endeavor are no less striking. The citizens of El Salvador have tacitly accepted Bukele’s unprecedented crackdown on crime, and, for the time anyway, are ignoring its broader ramifications.

The unveiling of the prison came in typical Bukelian fashion. He took over the country’s airwaves to share a 35-minute video of himself touring the facilities (it was soon posted on his popular Twitter feed, the presidency’s de facto press office). He can be seen arriving at the jail in a caravan of black SUVs. “Welcome to the Center for the Confinement of Terrorism, a key part in our battle against the gangs,” Osiris Luna Meza, director of El Salvador’s penitentiary system, said.

Bukele is then shown X-ray machines, surveillance towers and a fully staffed security perimeter. A “riot intervention squad,” armed to the teeth, salutes him. The tour then goes to the cells, meant to hold groups of “terrorists,” and the extreme solitary confinement area, where inmates will be kept completely in the dark — a widely condemned practice.

“They won’t see any daylight, Mr. President,” Luna Meza, whom the U.S. government has placed on a list of officials suspected of corruption in El Salvador, proudly told Bukele.

Spanning about 410 acres in an isolated region of El Salvador, the jail is the latest example of Bukele’s punitive state. And it is slated to become the largest, and most overcrowded, prison in the world. The only images available come from the government itself. Since only a handful of foreign journalists have been granted access and given carefully arranged tours, claims of the jail’s readiness, layout and operation have not been independently verified.

The project’s finances have also been kept in the dark. “Contracts were granted capriciously,” reporter Jaime Quintanilla, who covers Bukele’s infrastructure projects, told me. “Nuevas Ideas [Bukele’s party, which controls Congress] passed legislation that allows them to skip basic accountability.” For now, the ministry in charge of such projects has sealed any information on the construction of the country’s jails. There is no official information as to which companies were granted the likely lucrative contracts to build it, although two of Bukele’s preferred contractors were apparently favored. “No one knows how it was all financed,” journalist Óscar Martínez, who runs the independent newspaper El Faro, told me. “If, in terms of security, this is similar to a dictatorship, in terms of public spending, this is already a dictatorship.”

The prison is no white elephant, however. It is a necessity born of Bukele’s policies. Since March of last year, his government has been prosecuting a war on the country’s infamous gangs. To do so, Bukele declared a state of emergency, which has since seemingly become permanent.

At least 60,000 Salvadorans have been imprisoned as a result of the crackdown, including hundreds of minors, often in what a recent Human Rights Watch reports calls “indiscriminate raids.” The report paints a chilling portrait of authorities run amok, arresting Salvadorans with “no apparent connections to gangs’ abusive activity,” sometimes acting merely on “appearance or social background.” As of November, 90 detainees had died in custody, according to the government’s own numbers.

Even before the crackdown, El Salvador had one of the highest incarceration rates per capita in the world. After the crackdown, the country might extend its lead in this grim statistic.

evertheless, the arrests have succeeded in bringing down crime. According to official statistics, homicides decreased by more than a factor of 10 since 2015. Much of that decline cannot be attributed to the crackdown, even if homicides bottomed out at a remarkable low last year — a statistic Bukele frequently trumpets.

But the real sea change is on the ground, where citizens report that extortion has all but disappeared. Salvadorans have gained a palpable sense of security in their everyday lives at the expense of due process, democracy and transparency. Most seem to be fine with the trade-off. Bukele himself is immensely popular, as is the state of emergency he has declared. Protests against him have fizzled.

That said, nothing guarantees the long-term success of this extravagantly punitive approach. Systemic opacity has made it impossible for independent journalists to verify what it will cost Bukele to fund his sprawling security apparatus. Maintaining an indefinite state of emergency and a high incarceration rate won’t come cheap, and the country’s economy is not healthy.

He could also be playing with fire by creating such a huge police state. Security forces have a nasty habit of becoming powerful interest groups of their own, and could even attempt to seize power if their demands are not met.

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U.S. Politics, Elections, Economy, Governance

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, From Palm Beach to Staten Island, DeSantis makes 2024 moves on Trump’s turf, Hannah Knowles and Josh Dawsey, Paul Farhi, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). The Florida governor’s show of force was part of his increasingly open encroachments into Trump's longtime support base and ideological terrain.

Four miles down an oceanfront highway from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, more than 100 influential Republicans gathered at a luxe resort this weekend for cigars, cocktails and plenty of face time with the former president’s chief GOP rival: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, shown above in a file photo. “WELCOME TO THE FREEDOM BLUEPRINT,” blared a sign welcoming donors, influencers and lawmakers.
Congressional districts have changed. Find yours for the 2022 midterm elections.

djt maga hatThey mingled Friday at the Four Seasons ahead of discussions hosted by DeSantis’s political committee on “election integrity,” border security and “medical authoritarianism,” according to an agenda reviewed by The Washington Post. It all unfolded a day after a much smaller candlelight dinner fundraiser held at Mar-a-Lago for the super PAC supporting Trump’s White House bid — a group with less cash than the DeSantis committee in its coffers at the end of last year.

DeSantis’s show of force in Trump’s backyard was part of his increasingly open encroachments into the former president’s longtime support base and ideological turf. The gathering marked the latest step by DeSantis toward launching a bid for president, as he avoids public conflict with Trump but cultivates Trump donors and supporters, visits Trump strongholds and seeks to make his mark on some issues closely associated with Trump.

Trump’s grip on the Republican base is slipping — even among his fans

DeSantis touted his record as governor extensively in remarks to a packed room Friday night, according to an attendee who, like others interviewed for this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. The confab here was designed to showcase DeSantis’s record and show it could be applied nationally, people familiar with the event said. That’s an appealing prospect to many Republicans, including some who used to be staunch Trump supporters.

Axios Sneak Peek, DeSantis' de facto campaign launch, Hans Nichols and Zachary Basu, Feb. 27, 2023. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is aggressively testing the limits of running an unofficial presidential campaign, ramping up national engagements that leave little doubt about his plans for 2024.

axios logoWhy it matters: DeSantis and former President Trump are the GOP frontrunners, but their approaches to campaigning have so far been starkly different.

• Trump launched his comeback bid just days after the 2022 midterms; DeSantis sees no urgency and isn't expected to formally declare until June.
• Trump spends much of his time playing golf and attacking rivals on Truth Social; DeSantis points to his demanding day job as an excuse to avoid presidential speculation and intraparty mud-slinging.
• Trump is warring with Fox News and the Republican establishment; DeSantis is a fixture on Fox's airwaves and just earned the endorsement of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

What we're watching: DeSantis has taken steps in the past week that amount to a de facto campaign launch, meaning the national spotlight — and scrutiny — is about to get far more intense.
• The Florida governor visited New York City and the suburbs of Philadelphia and Chicago last week to speak to law enforcement groups about crime.
• On Friday, he hosted more than 100 of his top supporters and donors for a three-day retreat just down the road from Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort.
• Tomorrow, DeSantis begins a national book tour in which he'll headline fundraisers and give speeches in Texas, California, Alabama and elsewhere.

Results of a new Fox News GOP primary poll showing Trump leading DeSantis by 15 points. Screenshot: Fox News

Politico, GOP primary candidates must agree to loyalty pledge in order to debate, RNC chair says, Kelly Garrity, Feb. 27, 2023 (print ed.). “We're saying you're not going to get on the debate stage unless you make this pledge,” Ronna McDaniel said.

politico CustomAny candidate who wants to take part in the GOP’s first primary debate in Milwaukee later this year will have to sign a pledge promising to support whoever wins the nomination, Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel said Sunday.

“We’re saying you’re not going to get on the debate stage unless you make this pledge,” McDaniel said during an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.” McDaniel, who recently won her fourth term as RNC chair after a contentious battle against Harmeet Dhillon, said that Republican voters are tired of “infighting” within the party, and “want to see us come together.”

rnc logoSo far, three prominent candidates have entered the GOP presidential primary — former President Donald Trump, former Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley and conservative entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. More are expected to join the race, potentially including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

McDaniel said she expects all candidates who decided to join what may become a crowded race to sign the pledge, describing it as “a no-brainer.”

“If you’re going to be on the Republican National Committee debate stage asking voters to support you, you should say, I’m going to support the voters and who they choose as the nominee,” McDaniel said.

But earlier this month, Trump told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt his support for the GOP candidate in the general election would depend on who the nominee was.

McDaniel, however, said she believes the former president will sign the pledge. “I think they all want to be on the debate stage. I think President Trump would like to be on the debate stage. That’s what he likes to do. And I expect they will all be there.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: 5 easy ways to increase public confidence that every vote counts, Editorial Board, Feb. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Unfounded claims about voter fraud after 2020 continue to polarize the traditionally nonpartisan administration of elections in unfortunate ways. The defeat of many high-profile election deniers in the 2022 midterms should have begun to break the fever, but it remains more difficult than it should to rationally discuss ways to improve confidence. Which is why the common-sense ideas laid out in a new report are so welcome.

Election administrators from several presidential battlegrounds, including the secretaries of state from Michigan and Arizona, prepared what is being billed as a “Democracy Playbook” for the NewDEAL Forum, a center-left nonprofit that supports a network of about 200 state and local Democratic officials. They focused on how to improve election integrity, voting access and civic engagement. Here are five of their proposals that we believe would help build confidence across the ideological spectrum that the 2024 elections are free, fair and safe.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Democrats’ divide over border grows more intense, Theodoric Meyer, Leigh Ann Caldwell and Tobi Raji, Feb. 27, 2023. Democrats are increasingly divided over new immigration rules that the Biden administration proposed last week that would make it harder for migrants to apply for asylum.

Nearly 80 Democratic lawmakers — 13 senators and 64 representatives — wrote to President Biden last month to express concern about the proposed asylum rule, which was included in a broader package of new immigration measures that Biden debuted in January.

democratic donkey logoNow many of them are outraged he is ignoring their concerns and plowing ahead with the rule.

“This is a racist policy, because the majority of the people — a disproportionate number of people who are going to be most impacted by this are coming from Black and Brown countries,” Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) said in an interview on Friday.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Bowman said they saw little difference between the rule Biden proposed and Donald Trump’s immigration policies when he was president.

Much of the most stinging criticism has come from members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, but other Democrats have criticized the proposed rule, too. Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) said in a statement last week that they were “deeply disappointed.”

The White House doesn’t appear to have tried to assuage their concerns. Menendez and other Democratic senators met with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas earlier this month, but the White House has not responded to the letter that Menendez and other Democrats sent in January raising concerns, according to a Democratic Senate aide.

What the new rules would do

The proposed asylum rule “would make it easier for the government to deport border-crossers who express a fear of harm, potentially reducing the number who are allowed into the United States pending a hearing in swamped U.S. immigration courts,” as our colleague Nick Miroff has reported.

The White House has bristled at the suggestion that the rule bears any resemblance to Trump’s efforts to block migrants from seeking asylum.

ny times logoNew York Times, To Tap Federal Funds, Chip Makers Will Need to Provide Child Care, Jim Tankersley, Feb. 27, 2023. The Commerce Department will announce that federal funding will be contingent on a guarantee of affordable, high-quality child care for workers.

The Biden administration plans to leverage the federal government’s expansive investment in the semiconductor industry to make progress on another goal: affordable child care.

On Tuesday, the Commerce Department will announce that any semiconductor manufacturer seeking a slice of nearly $40 billion in new federal subsidies will need to essentially guarantee affordable, high-quality child care for workers who build or operate a plant.

Last year, a bipartisan group of lawmakers passed the CHIPS Act, which devoted $39 billion to directly boost U.S. semiconductor factories as part of $52 billion in subsidies for the industry, in hopes of making the nation less reliant on foreign suppliers for critical chips that power computers, video games, cars and more.

Companies that receive the subsidies to build new plants will be able to use some of the government money to meet the new child care requirement. They could do that in a number of ways, in consultation with Commerce officials, who will set basic guidelines but not dictate how companies ensure workers have access to care they can afford.

ny times logoNew York TimeGregory Craigs, Guest Essay: President Biden’s Succession Problem, Greg Craig, Feb. 27, 2023. Mr. Craig, right, is a lawyer who served in the White House under President Bill Clinton and was a White House counsel under President Barack Obama.

For many months — since the 2020 campaign — Republicans have tried to portray Joe Biden as being too old to be president, as mentally deficient, as one small step away from death or disability. Democrats do themselves no favors when they let it be known, as they have in recent polling, that they too think he is too old to run again.

Democratic voters should have more respect for Mr. Biden’s record as president and more confidence in the good judgment of the American people. His recent bravura performance at the State of the Union and his trip to Poland and Ukraine should compel even the most skeptical voters to admit that he is up to the job, at least at this moment. This month his doctor reported that Mr. Biden is “healthy,” “vigorous” and “fit” to carry out the duties of president.

His party should show a united front in support of his re-election. But even as we put our faith in Mr. Biden, the questions about his age and physical condition will not go away, and it’s fair for voters to want reassurances and decisions that show the White House will be in solid hands. He should take steps to make those reassurances, but he, Vice President Kamala Harris and the rest of the party should also consider making some bold decisions to address these actuarial concerns and show they are being taken seriously.

Focusing attention on the issue of succession — and spotlighting the strength of the Democratic bench in the process — would be one of the smartest, most persuasive ways of dealing with this dilemma. When considering who should be his running mate in 2024, Mr. Biden would do well to follow what Franklin D. Roosevelt did in 1944: He expressed a preference for certain candidates but turned the choice of his running mate over to the delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

washington post logoWashington Post, Emboldened by its majority, House GOP turns up heat on federal workers, Lisa Rein and Jacqueline Alemany, Feb. 27, 2023. At a House hearing this month on fraud and waste in pandemic aid, some Republicans zeroed in on one group in particular for criticism: the federal employees overseeing the money.

republican elephant logo“Fire people if they don’t do things they’re supposed to do,” Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) said. “That is our biggest problem in the federal government. Nobody can be held accountable.”

That sentiment is animating a newly empowered GOP House majority eager to ramp up scrutiny of the army of civil servants who run the government’s day-to-day operations. The effort includes seeking testimony from middle- and lower-level workers who are part of what Republicans have long derided as the “deep state,” while some lawmakers are drafting bills that have little chance of passing the Democrat-led Senate but give Republicans a chance to argue for reining in the federal bureaucracy of 2.1 million employees.

In recent weeks, House Republicans have passed legislation requiring federal employees to return to the office, arguing that pandemic rules have bled into a permanent state that diminishes productivity. Lawmakers have voted to rescind $80 billion for the cash-starved IRS to hire 87,000 employees in customer service, technology and audit roles to increase tax compliance of those earning more than $400,000 — claiming the extra staff will unfairly target taxpayers. They’ve allowed House members to reduce or eliminate federal agency programs or slash the salaries of individual employees on a quick vote.

jim jordan shirtsleevesA newly formed Judiciary Committee panel led by its chairman, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), left, meanwhile, has already issued subpoenas to agency heads and alerted the Biden administration to impending requests for testimony from multiple mid-level career employees on contentious issues. And House Republican leaders have told almost all of their committees to come up with plans by March to slash spending and beef up oversight of federal agencies in their jurisdiction.

Unions and others who advocate for federal workers are bracing for still more friction, including proposals to reduce or eliminate cost-of-living adjustments to wages and shave the government’s share of health insurance premiums or retirement benefits. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.) introduced legislation in January to transform the entire civil service to at-will jobs with scant protections.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin announces Senate run in Michigan, Colby Itkowitz, Feb. 27, 2023. The U.S. House member and former CIA analyst is seen by many top Democrats as a formidable contender in a key battleground. Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin, below right, elissa slotkin twitterannounced her candidacy for U.S. Senate in Michigan on Monday, entering a race regarded as a key battleground in the fight for control of the upper chamber of Congress in 2024.

Slotkin’s Senate run was widely anticipated after Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) stunned Michigan Democrats last month with her decision not to seek reelection. In recent weeks, Slotkin has had private conversations with Democrats around the state to gauge and build support for her bid. Most prominent Democrats in the state have decided not to run, making Slotkin the early front-runner.

Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow won’t seek reelection in 2024

In a nearly three-minute biographical ad, Slotkin says, “We need a new generation of leaders that thinks differently, works harder and never forgets that we are public servants.”

“Look, our country is going to get through this. It’s hard work, but that’s what Michiganders do,” she says.

The 46-year-old former CIA analyst is seen by many top Democrats as a formidable contender in a key battleground who has a proven record of winning in competitive House districts. She has positioned herself as a moderate, rejecting positions and rhetoric adopted by the far left while championing Democratic principles like abortion rights and a ban on assault weapons.

Slotkin won her first election in 2018, motivated like many women that year to seek office in repudiation of President Donald Trump.

Other well-known figures in the state such as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who has a residence in Michigan, have said they will not run for Senate. Recently, Democratic Rep. Haley Stevens ruled out running, as did state Sen. Mallory McMorrow, who received national attention last year for a speech that went viral chastising a Republican colleague who had falsely accused her of wanting to sexually groom children.

In an interview with The Washington Post last month, former congresswoman Brenda Lawrence said she is looking for a “strong African American to run.” If she doesn’t find one, Lawrence, who is Black, said she’d consider running herself. Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, who is Black, has also ruled out running.

No prominent Republicans have entered the race yet. GOP Rep. John James announced last week he wouldn’t be seeking the open Senate seat. Other Republicans whose names have been floated include former congressman Fred Upton, who retired last year, former congressman Peter Meijer, who lost his House primary after voting to impeach Trump, and the party’s 2022 GOP gubernatorial nominee, Tudor Dixon.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden finds breaking up Big Tech is hard to do, Will Oremus, Cat Zakrzewski and Naomi Nix, Feb. 27, 2023. Google is hiring teams of former DOJ lawyers to fight antitrust lawsuits as the battle over tech firms’ power shifts to the courts

Politico, Sanders supporters took over the Nevada Democratic Party. It’s not going well, Holly Otterbein, Feb. 25, 2023. The senator, below right, lets it be known that he’s unhappy with work his followers have done in the critical battleground state.

politico CustomBernie SandersWhen Bernie Sanders’ supporters took over the Nevada Democratic Party two years ago, progressives across the country were thrilled.

Socialists had managed to bring down one of the most powerful establishment forces in the nation, the famed Democratic machine built by former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. They saw it as a blueprint for the progressive transformation of state parties.

Two years after the experiment began, there are regrets.

Politico, Judge rejected Perry’s bid to shield thousands of emails from Jan. 6 investigators, Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein, Feb. 24, 2023.  The Pennsylvanian lawmaker's phone was seized and imaged by the FBI as part of the 2020 election investigation.

politico CustomRep. Scott Perry, a Republican lawmaker from Pennsylvania, had urged Howell to block the Justice Department from accessing 2,219 documents stored on his phone. | Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The chief judge of the federal district court in Washington, D.C., secretly rejected Rep. Scott Perry’s bid to shield more than 2,000 messages relevant to Justice Department investigators probing efforts by Donald Trump to subvert the 2020 election, according to newly unsealed court filings.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell unsealed her extraordinary Dec. 28 decision on Friday evening, determining that the “powerful public interest” in seeing the previously secret opinion outweighed the need for continued secrecy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Arizona governor seeks ethics review of former attorney general, Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). katie hobbsThe complaint to the State Bar of Arizona follows new details about how Mark Brnovich withheld records debunking claims of election fraud.

Arizona’s Democratic governor, Katie Hobbs, right, is seeking a review of what her office alleges was “likely unethical mark brnovich gage skidmoreconduct” by the state’s former attorney general, Mark Brnovich, shown below left in a Gage Skidmore photo.

A letter sent Friday from the governor’s office to the State Bar of Arizona follows the disclosure on Wednesday of records showing that Brnovich, a Republican, withheld findings by his own investigators refuting claims of fraud in the 2020 arizona mapelection and mischaracterized his office’s probe of voting in the state’s largest county.

The letter, signed by Hobbs’s general counsel, Bo Dul, calls the conduct “harmful to our democracy, our State, and the legal profession itself.”

Brnovich dismissed the allegations. “Katie Hobbs is wrong,” he said in a statement. “This is another misguided attempt by her to defame and cancel a political opponent instead of addressing the serious issues facing our state.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Marianne Williamson Says She Will Run for President Again, Maggie Astor, Feb. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Marianne Williamson, below right, the self-help author and spiritual adviser who ran unsuccessfully for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, will run again in 2024, she told marianne williamson screen shot 2019 07 31 Customsupporters this weekend.

“Since the election of 2016 it’s odd for anyone to think they can know who can win the presidency,” she said in a statement that was emailed to supporters and posted on Facebook. “And I’m not putting myself through this again just to add to the conversation. I’m running for president to help bring an aberrational chapter of our history to a close, and to help bring forth a new beginning.” She added, “Washington is filled with good political car mechanics, but the problem is that we are on the wrong road.”

Four years ago, Ms. Williamson was one of more than 25 candidates for the nomination that Joseph R. Biden Jr. ultimately won. This time around, so far, she is the only candidate — entering the 2024 race before even Mr. Biden has done so, though he is widely expected to run for re-election.

Ms. Williamson, 70, became famous within the self-help world as an author of several best-selling books and a spiritual adviser to Oprah Winfrey.

Ms. Williamson has promoted dubious or debunked medical theories, particularly on mental illness. In books, interviews and social media posts before and during her 2020 campaign, she described clinical depression as a “scam,” argued that antidepressants were recklessly overprescribed, and suggested with no evidence that they might have been to blame for some celebrity suicides.

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Trump, Allies, GOP Probes, Prospects

 

Politico, Judge rejects ‘terrorism’ sentencing enhancement for leader of Jan. 6 tunnel confrontation, Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein, On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden sentenced David Judd to 32 months in prison for his role in the attack — barely a third of the 90-month sentence prosecutors had sought.

Amid the most extreme violence on Jan. 6, 2021, David Judd launched a lit object — which appeared to be a firecracker — at a tightly packed politico Customtunnel full of police and members of the mob, an effort to clear a path so rioters could derail the transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden.

On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden sentenced Judd to 32 months in prison for his role in the attack — barely a third of the 90-month sentence prosecutors had sought, describing Judd as one of the most egregious offenders in the entire mob.

McFadden largely agreed with DOJ’s characterization, saying Judd was “part of some of the most violent and shocking confrontations with police officers that day,” which he called “a flagrant affront to our system of government.” But that’s where the agreement largely ended.

McFadden’s swept away efforts by prosecutors to apply several enhancements to Judd’s sentence, most notably the so-called “terrorism” enhancement, for what Justice Department lawyers said was his intent to disrupt government functions with force. McFadden discarded their recommendations, noting that Judd didn’t appear to preplan his attack the way terrorists like those in a 2012 attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, did.

Rather, the judge said, Judd was “in some ways there at the behest of the president,” who had just minutes earlier urged his supporters to march on Congress and protest the certification of the election results.

It’s the second time prosecutors have attempted to apply the terrorism enhancement to a Jan. 6 defendant — both times unsuccessfully — during the sentencing process. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ashley Akers emphasized that the government viewed Judd’s crime as “domestic terrorism” worthy of the enhancement, which would add significant time on to Judd’s recommended sentence.

Invoking the terrorism enhancement can add about 15 years in prison to a defendant’s recommended sentence, set the minimum calculation at 17-and-a-half years, and also flip the person charged into the criminal-history category used for serial offenders.

However, prosecutors asked for only a modest adjustment in Judd’s case because the 2 offenses he pled guilty to — assault on a police officer and obstructing an official proceeding — are not on a list Congress has established of crimes of terrorism.

Still, McFadden declined to apply even that adjustment.

The judge noted that in the other case where prosecutors sought the more serious enhancement — against Texas’ Guy Reffitt — prosecutors assembled an extraordinary roster of evidence showing that Reffitt planned his actions on Jan. 6, carried a firearm, was a member of a right wing militia group and threatened a witness afterward. In that case, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Freidrich rejected the enhancement, sentencing Reffitt to 7.25 years in prison.

McFadden used Monday’s sentencing hearing to strike another blow in a long-running critique of the Justice Department, which he has accused of treating Jan. 6 cases more harshly than rioters charged alongside the social justice protests in the summer of 2020. He said DOJ’s charging decisions in some of those cases cast doubt on Attorney General Merrick Garland’s vow for there “not to be one rule for Democrats and another for Republicans. One rule for friends, one rule for foes.”

Prosecutors have rejected the claim, arguing that Jan. 6 and the concerted assault on the transfer of power stands in stark contrast to the summertime 2020 violence — and is often accompanied by far more compelling video evidence of the crimes. They also noted that in some of the 2020 violence — particularly in Portland, Oregon — federal prosecutors opted against charging defendants who were facing even harsher charges at the state level.

McFadden, however, homed in on cases like the New York Police Department attorneys who threw Molotov cocktails in an empty NYPD police cruiser, whose sentence he said was relatively light compared to the steep penalties DOJ is seeking for some Jan. 6 offenders.
Garland says he's watching Jan. 6 hearings

Even after McFadden rejected DOJ’s harshest sentencing enhancements, McFadden decided to apply a so-called “downward variance” to Judd’s sentencing, below the recommended sentencing guidelines, which called for a minimum of 37 months incarceration.

McFadden said he agreed with Judd’s contention that the object he threw at police was more akin to a sparkler than a firework that could have caused actual harm to police officers. Though McFadden said he believed Judd did intend to hurt people in the tunnel — noting that Judd himself fled after lobbing the object.

Under a 2005 Supreme Court case, federal judges are free to sentence defendants outside of guidelines, but courts are required to calculate the recommended range before imposing a sentence.

Judd briefly addressed the court, through tears, apologizing to police officers who defended the Capitol and to his family for causing them pain.

  michael luttig house jan 6 hearing june 16 2022

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Embarrassing Spectacle That Mike Pence Is Heading For, J. Michael Luttig (shown testifying about last June 16 before the House Jan. 6 committee), Feb. 25, 2023 (print ed.). Former Vice President Mike Pence recently announced he would challenge Special Counsel Jack Smith’s subpoena for him to appear before a grand jury in Washington as part of the investigation into former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and the related Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Mr. Pence claimed that “the Biden D.O.J. subpoena” was “unconstitutional” and “unprecedented.” He added, “For me, this is a moment where you have to decide where you stand, and I stand on the Constitution of the United States.” Mr. Pence vowed to take his fight all the way to the Supreme Court.

A politician should be careful what he wishes for — no more so than when he’s a possible presidential candidate who would have the Supreme Court decide a constitutional case that could undermine his viability in an upcoming campaign.

The former vice president should not want the embarrassing spectacle of the Supreme Court compelling him to appear before a grand jury in Washington just when he’s starting his campaign for the presidency; recall the unanimous Supreme Court ruling that ordered Richard Nixon to turn over the fatally damning Oval Office tapes. That has to be an uncomfortable prospect for Mr. Pence, not to mention a potentially damaging one for a man who — at least as of today — is considered by many of us across the political spectrum to be a profile in courage for his refusal to join in the attempt to overturn the 2020 election in the face of Donald Trump’s demands. And to be clear, Mr. Pence’s decision to brand the Department of Justice’s perfectly legitimate subpoena as unconstitutional is a far cry from the constitutionally hallowed ground he stood on Jan. 6.

Injecting campaign-style politics into the criminal investigatory process with his rhetorical characterization of Mr. Smith’s subpoena as a “Biden D.O.J. subpoena,” Mr. Pence is trying to score points with voters who want to see President Biden unseated in 2024. Well enough. That’s what politicians do.

But Jack Smith’s subpoena was neither politically motivated nor designed to strengthen President Biden’s political hand in 2024. Thus the jarring dissonance between the subpoena and Mr. Pence’s characterization of it. It is Mr. Pence who has chosen to politicize the subpoena, not the D.O.J.

Mr. Luttig, a former judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, provided advice to then-Vice President Pence on the run-up to the Electoral College count on Jan. 6, 2021.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fight over Rep. Perry’s phone has prevented review of 2,200 documents in Jan. 6 probe, Spencer S. Hsu, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Six months after the FBI seized Perry’s phone, a U.S. appeals court is reviewing a judge’s order that 90 percent of Perry’s messages fall outside the congressman’s immunity from criminal investigation.

A secret legal fight over the cellphone of Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) has prevented the Justice Department for more than six months from reviewing more than 2,200 documents in the criminal investigation of former president Donald Trump and supporters’ efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, a federal judge disclosed Friday evening.

Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the U.S. District Court in D.C. released a number of previously sealed opinions after finding that the “powerful public interest” outweighed the need for secrecy in the constitutional battle over Perry’s claims and the historic investigation.

republican elephant logoThe Pennsylvania Republican has asserted that 2,219 documents contained on his phone are shielded by the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause, which grants members of Congress immunity from criminal investigation in their official capacities. But in a ruling in December, Howell rejected that claim for more than 90 percent of the records, ordering Perry to turn over 2,055 text messages, emails and attachments after concluding that they were only incidentally related to his status as a lawmaker, and not central to that status and constitutionally protected as part of his lawmaking.

“What is plain is that the Clause does not shield Rep. Perry’s random musings with private individuals touting an expertise in cybersecurity or political discussions with attorneys from a presidential campaign, or with state legislators concerning hearings before them about possible local election fraud or actions they could take to challenge election results in Pennsylvania,” Howell wrote.

The scope and nature of the Perry fight had been secret, because they involve an FBI search warrant used to seize Perry’s phone on Aug. 9. But Howell said the Justice Department agreed to unseal details Friday because a federal appeals court held fast-tracked public arguments this week after staying Howell’s order and approved the release of her key opinions to certain members of Congress and the House general counsel’s office. That office has taken Perry’s side. Perry’s lawyers objected to the unsealing, but Howell said redactions protected his interests, noting that the government’s specific allegations about why Perry’s phone might contain evidence of a crime remain under seal.

scott perryPerry, right, is a key figure who sought to help Trump replace the attorney general after the 2020 election with former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark and get the Justice Department to reverse its finding that Joe Biden had been elected fairly, according to the House committee that investigated the Jan. 6, 2021, attack by Trump supporters on the U.S. Capitol. The Justice Department has separately prioritized and obtained access to 37 emails between Perry and Trump-connected lawyers John Eastman, who pushed false claims of mass electoral fraud in 2020, Clark and aide Ken Klukowski, as well as 331 documents from Clark about his Jan. 6 role, according to the filings.

Rep. Scott Perry played key role in promoting false claims of fraud

In Thursday’s oral arguments, two members of a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit challenged the line drawn by the Justice Department and Howell distinguishing between a lawmaker’s work in formally sanctioned congressional investigations and Perry’s “informal legislative fact-finding.”

Perry attorney John P. Rowley III argued that such fact-finding is protected against intrusion by the executive branch of the government.

Over four separate opinions totaling 68 pages released Friday, Howell countered that she was relying on several opinions by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals itself laying out that distinction. She also said that the appeals court in a 2007 opinion about a bribery investigation of Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.) went further than the Supreme Court in finding that the “speech or debate” clause protects lawmakers not only from being questioned, but also shields them from disclosing documents in criminal or civil disputes.

Howell warned that accepting Perry’s “astonishing view” that the lawmakers are protected not only from questioning but also from even disclosing records in the first place would turn members of Congress into “supercitizens” — immune from investigative scrutiny, criminal or civil liability and political accountability.

“No matter the vigor with which Rep. Perry pursued his wide-ranging interest in bolstering his belief that the results of the 2020 election were somehow incorrect — even in the face of his own reelection — his informal inquiries into the legitimacy of those election results are closer to the activities described as purely personal or political [ …], since this ‘fact-finding’ was conducted entirely outside the auspices of a formal congressional inquiry or authorization,” Howell wrote.

Howell agreed that 164 of 611 communications Perry conducted with other House members were privileged because they concerned core legislative actions involving Congress’s joint session to confirm the 2020 electoral college vote, and matters such as committee assignments. But she rejected that claim for 678 messages with private outside parties — including many in which she said Perry was not obtaining information but relaying it.

Howell similarly rejected Perry’s bid to shield 930 messages involving executive branch officials, finding it “ironic” that Perry would turn the Constitution’s intended protection of lawmakers from executive branch interference in legislative matters “on its head.”

bruno cuaWXIA-TV, 11 Alive (Atlanta), Young man from Milton found guilty on 2 felony charges in Capitol Riot case, Jessica Moore and Joe Henke, Feb. 24, 2023. A young man from Milton, shown above, has been found guilty on two felony charges in connection with the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Randolph D. Moss found Bruno Cua guilty of assaulting a Capitol Police officer and obstruction of an official proceeding. The verdict comes after a disagreement between the prosecution and defense on what can be defined as an "assault," according to documents obtained by 11Alive.

Cua, 20, is set to be sentenced on Friday, May 12 at 9:30 a.m., court records show.

He's the youngest defendant from Georgia to be charged in connection to the insurrection. At the time of the riot, Cua was 18 years old.

Last year, Cua rejected a plea deal as he was previously facing a dozen charges. Federal prosecutors previously said photos and video images show Cua was one of the individuals to enter the U.S. Senate Chambers during the violence in D.C., and he entered the building with a baton in his hands.

During a February 2021 hearing, Cua's father testified drove his son to Washington D.C., and attended then President Donald Trump's rally near the capitol, along with his wife and son, but didn't enter the building with his son. In a later court hearing, a judge approved his release, but Cua was directed to live with a third-party custodian.

Cua is one of more than two dozen people from Georgia who were arrested and charged in connection to the insurrection. According to 11Alive's latest report, several of those defendants are set to head to trial later this year. And a dozen others have been sentenced after accepting plea deals from federal prosecutors.

 

Donald Trump, shown in a 2020 campaign hat.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump works state-by-state to improve chances at Republican convention, Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey and Maeve Reston, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). The former president’s team is looking to use experience and early start to find advantages.

Donald Trump’s team has launched a nationwide campaign to buttress his chances of getting sympathetic delegates at next year’s nominating convention and identify opportunities to shape party rules that could help his campaign, according to people familiar with the plans.

republican elephant logoThe behind-the-scenes effort comes at a time when most Trump rivals have not even launched campaigns and focuses on the most esoteric part of the Republican nominating process — the state rules and party leaders that actually select presidential nominating delegates.

rnc logoHis team has invited state party officials to Mar-a-Lago, arranged private meet-and-greets between state leaders and Trump as he travels, endorsed state officials they believe will be supportive of him and met with senior Republican Party officials in Washington to discuss how the delegate selection process will unfold, according to the people directly familiar with the efforts, who like many for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Trump advisers say the outreach is less about demanding changes now and more about cultivating relationships for the upcoming months — when they could call for some rule changes in states and try to shape who the delegates are for the convention. It also shows that while they are projecting political strength, there is a realization that they will likely face a long and difficult nomination fight and potentially a messy convention, some Trump advisers say.

“The Trump campaign has a political operation that is second to none, and will leverage its considerable experience to ensure complete and total victory in 2024,” Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said Friday.

Trump, the onetime outsider who patched together his successful 2016 campaign on the fly, has now built a team more adept at playing the inside game. Strategists for multiple rival political operations, who have not yet formally declared their candidacies, say they are concerned that Trump’s early blocking and tackling could pay major dividends next year and leave them racing to catch up.

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U.S. Politics & Ukraine War

washington post logoWashington Post, Mitch McConnell tells U.S. to ‘wake up’ to threat of Russia on Ukraine war anniversary, Liz Goodwin, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). The Senate minority leader's message marked a stark contrast to the one pushed by some other congressional Republicans and Donald Trump.

Mitchell_McConnellSenate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), right, on Friday urged the United States and its allies to renew their resolve to help Ukraine as it stands up to Russian “thuggery,” tacitly pushing back against members of his own party who have become loudly skeptical of Ukraine’s fight as the conflict passes the one-year mark.

“America and our friends need to finish waking up from our holiday from history, welcome Finland and Sweden into NATO by this summer, and make significant investments in military modernization and our defense-industrial capacities that are commensurate with the major challenges we face,” McConnell said in a statement, shortly before appearing alongside President Sauli Niinisto in Helsinki to support Finland’s bid to join NATO.

republican elephant logoThe message marked a stark contrast to the one pushed by former president Donald Trump and some congressional Republicans, who criticized President Biden’s trip to Kyiv earlier this week and have called for ending or slowing aid to Ukraine. In a tweet, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga), a hard-right ally of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and one of dozens of House Republicans to vote against Ukraine aid in May, called Biden’s trip “insulting” and proof that he “chose Ukraine over America.”

But nearly 50 U.S. lawmakers, including McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), traveled to the Munich Security Conference in Germany last week to reassure European allies that Congress, which is split between a GOP-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate, will continue to support Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with weapons and funds.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Putin pitches the American right with an ungodly invocation of God, E.J. Dionne Jr., Feb. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Here’s a scoop ej dionne w open neckfor you: Vladimir Putin is sounding like someone who wants to enter the 2024 Republican presidential primaries.

How else do you explain that in the middle of his bellicose speech Tuesday promising success in his assault on Ukraine, the Russian dictator fired a series of heat-seeking verbal missiles into our culture wars.

“Look at what they’ve done to their own people,” he said of us Westerners. “They’re destroying family, national identity, they are abusing their children. Even pedophilia is announced as a normal thing in the West.” Never mind that Russia is a world leader in sex trafficking.

Putin didn’t stop there. In one rather convoluted passage, he came out against same-sex marriage, backed off a bit, and then doubled down:

“And they’re recognizing same-sex marriages,” he said. “That’s fine that they’re adults. They’ve got the right to live their life. And we always, we’re very tolerant about this in Russia. Nobody is trying to enter private lives of people, and we’re not going to do this.”

Well, not quite, but he pressed on: “However, we need to tell them, but look at the scriptures of any religion in the world. Everything is said in there. And one of the things is that family is a union of a man and a woman.”

Among his enemies, Putin charged, “even the sacred texts are subjected to doubt.” Also, watch out, Britain: The “Anglican Church is planning to consider the idea of a gender-neutral God,” Putin mourned. “What can you say here? Millions of people in the West understand that they are being led to spiritual destruction.”

It has become a habit to cast the struggle over Ukraine in Cold War terms. Maybe that’s natural, given Putin’s old job as a KGB agent and his determination to expand Russia’s imperial reach to something closer to the hegemony once enjoyed by the old Soviet Union.

But it’s closer to the truth to see Putin as trying to build a right-wing nationalist international movement (no pun intended). And it’s obvious that his embrace of social and religious traditionalism is aimed at winning over right-wing opinion in the democracies and splitting the traditional right.

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More On Ukraine War

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine live briefing: U.N. Human Rights Council kicks off with condemnation of Russian aggression, Kelly Kasulis Cho and Leo Sands, Feb. 27, 2023. World leaders and top-ranking officials are set to meet in Geneva for a new session of the U.N. Human Rights Council, which began Monday and will run until April 4. The war in Ukraine will be among the topics discussed.

A delegation from Moscow, which was expelled from the main U.N. human rights body in April over violations in Ukraine, will participate as an observer, Reuters reported, in the first in-person appearance by a Russian official since the war started.

China defended its position on the Ukraine war as “consistent” after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed to Beijing not to supply Russia with weapons and suggested a meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. When asked about Zelensky’s appeal, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said China “has maintained communication with all involved parties including Ukraine.”

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

1. Key developments

  • Russia’s invasion has unleashed “widespread death, destruction and displacement,” U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said during Monday’s session. Since the war began, U.N. officials have documented hundreds of violations, including the disappearance of civilians and acts of sexual violence against men, women and children, Guterres said.
  • Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said China’s 12-point proposal to end the war deserves consideration. The plan, which was unveiled by Beijing Friday and immediately dismissed by Ukraine, calls on the West to ease pressure on Russia and end the use of unilateral sanctions — and does not make any explicit demands for a Russian withdrawal. “Any attempts to come up with plans that will help move the conflict into a peaceful direction deserve attention,” Peskov said Monday, referring to the proposal.
  • Russia has supplied Belarus with an Iskander short-range ballistic missile system and an S-400 air-defense missile system, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said. “It is a serious weapon,” Lukashenko said of the S-400 system at a meeting in Minsk on Monday, state-run media reported. Russian President Vladimir Putin promised to supply Belarus with the Iskander missile systems — which can be armed with nuclear warheads — in June, Reuters reported at the time.
  • “Crimea is Ukraine,” U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement that marked the ninth anniversary of Russia’s 2014 seizure of the territory. But he demurred when asked whether the United States would support Ukraine in retaking Crimea. “What ultimately happens with Crimea in the context of this war and a settlement of this war is something for the Ukrainians to determine, with the support of the United States,” he said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

2. Battleground updates

  • Russia launched a wave of Iranian-made Shahed drones in attacks across Ukrainian territory overnight, killing an emergency worker in the western city of Khmelnytskyi, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said Monday in a Twitter post. Ukraine said it shot down 11 of the unmanned aerial vehicles. Tehran acknowledged in November having previously supplied Moscow with the weapons but said the shipments stopped after the war began, a claim disputed by independent experts.
  • Zelensky dismissed a senior military official without explanation, according to a one-line decree posted Sunday. Eduard Moskalyov, commander of Ukraine’s joint forces, was removed from his role less than a year after he was appointed in March 2022. He had helped oversee fighting in eastern Ukraine.
  • Russian state media touted footage of blitzed buildings and abandoned streets in Bakhmut, the eastern city where Ukrainian forces have been engaging in one of the war’s longest battles. Published by RIA Novosti this week, the footage shows the extent of destruction in the region, with barren trees lining streets of broken buildings and piles of rubble.
  • Pro-Russian officials have reported at least 14 unexplained explosions in the occupied city of Mariupol since Tuesday, British defense officials said Monday. The explosions, which have been reported at military sites deep within Russian-controlled territory, are likely to concern Russia, given Mariupol’s key position on a logistics route, the British Defense Ministry said.

3. Global impact

  • Lukashenko is expected to start a three-day visit to China on Tuesday. Lukashenko, one of Putin’s closest allies, recently said that Belarusian soldiers would join Russia’s fight against Ukraine if his nation were to come under attack. He will be visiting at the invitation from Chinese President Xi Jinping, Chinese state media reported.
  • Turkey will resume talks with Sweden and Finland on March 9 about their bids to join NATO, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters Monday. Both countries applied to join the military alliance after Russia launched its invasion, but the bids have stalled as Ankara refuses to ratify them. The standoff over Sweden’s potential membership deepened last month after a copy of the Quran was burned outside Turkey’s embassy in Stockholm.
  • Zelensky met Sunday with Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud, in “the first official visit of such level by a representative” from the country. “We are working on a higher level of visits and relations,” Zelensky said in his nightly address. Saudi Arabia offered $400 million in humanitarian aid during the trip, the head of the Ukrainian presidential office, Andriy Yermak, said on Telegram.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: They are just kids — and they are being sent to Russia from Ukraine, Editorial Board, Feb. 27, 2023 (print ed.). One of the most appalling consequences of Russia’s war in Ukraine is the suffering of Ukraine’s children. Aside from the death and destruction they have experienced, a new report documents a different trauma: the systematic transfer of Ukrainian children for “reeducation” in Russia, in what amounts to cultural brainwashing. This could be a war crime.

Previously, Ukrainian officials have expressed concern about this practice, but the scope was unclear. Daria Herasymchuk, Ukraine’s top children’s rights official, estimated that nearly 11,000 Ukrainian children had been taken by Russia without their parents. The Post reported in December that Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a decree easing procedures for adoption of Ukrainian children and that the policy is being “vigorously pursued” by Russia’s children’s rights commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, who advocates stripping children of their Ukrainian identities. She has been sanctioned by the United States.

Now, the Humanitarian Research Lab of Yale University’s School of Public Health, part of the Conflict Observatory supported by the State Department to document war crimes and atrocities in Ukraine, reports that Russia has transferred from Ukraine at least 6,000 children, ages four months to 17 years old, and the total “is likely significantly higher.” The report shows that at least 43 facilities hold these children; all but two of them were preexisting summer camps in Russian-occupied Crimea and in Russia. Twelve camps are clustered around the Black Sea; seven in Crimea; and 10 around Moscow, Kazan and Yekaterinburg. Eleven of the camps are more than 500 miles from Ukraine’s border with Russia. The “primary purpose” of this archipelago of camps “appears to be political reeducation,” the group concluded. Thirty-two of them “appear engaged in systematic reeducation efforts that expose children from Ukraine to Russian-centric academic, cultural, patriotic, and/or military education.”

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U.S. Courts, Crime, Immigration

 

ICE logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Alone and Exploited, Migrant Children Work Brutal Jobs Across the U.S., Hannah Dreier and Photographs By Kirsten Luce, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Arriving in record numbers, they’re doing dangerous work that violates child labor laws, a Times investigation found. Children are producing some of the best-known branded goods, in American factories for global corporations.

It was almost midnight in Grand Rapids, Mich., but inside the factory everything was bright. A conveyor belt carried bags of Cheerios past a cluster of young workers. One was 15-year-old Carolina Yoc, who came to the United States on her own last year to live with a relative she had never met.

About every 10 seconds, she stuffed a sealed plastic bag of cereal into a passing yellow carton. It could be dangerous work, with fast-moving pulleys and gears that had torn off fingers and ripped open a woman’s scalp.

The factory was full of underage workers like Carolina, who had crossed the southern border by themselves and were now spending late hours bent over hazardous machinery, in violation of child labor laws. At nearby plants, other children were tending giant ovens to make Chewy and Nature Valley granola bars and packing bags of Lucky Charms and Cheetos — all of them working for the processing giant Hearthside Food Solutions, which would ship these products around the country.

“Sometimes I get tired and feel sick,” Carolina said after a shift in November. Her stomach often hurt, and she was unsure if that was because of the lack of sleep, the stress from the incessant roar of the machines, or the worries she had for herself and her family in Guatemala. “But I’m getting used to it.”

These workers are part of a new economy of exploitation: Migrant children, who have been coming into the United States without their parents in record numbers, are ending up in some of the most punishing jobs in the country, a New York Times investigation found. This shadow work force extends across industries in every state, flouting child labor laws that have been in place for nearly a century. Twelve-year-old roofers in Florida and Tennessee. Underage slaughterhouse workers in Delaware, Mississippi and North Carolina. Children sawing planks of wood on overnight shifts in South Dakota.

Largely from Central America, the children are driven by economic desperation that was worsened by the pandemic. This labor force has been slowly growing for almost a decade, but it has exploded since 2021, while the systems meant to protect children have broken down.

The Times spoke with more than 100 migrant child workers in 20 states who described jobs that were grinding them into exhaustion, and fears that they had become trapped in circumstances they never could have imagined. The Times examination also drew on court and inspection records and interviews with hundreds of lawyers, social workers, educators and law enforcement officials.

In town after town, children scrub dishes late at night. They run milking machines in Vermont and deliver meals in New York City. They harvest coffee and build lava rock walls around vacation homes in Hawaii. Girls as young as 13 wash hotel sheets in Virginia.

In many parts of the country, middle and high school teachers in English-language learner programs say it is now common for nearly all their students to rush off to long shifts after their classes end.

“They should not be working 12-hour days, but it’s happening here,” said Valeria Lindsay, a language arts teacher at Homestead Middle School near Miami. For the past three years, she said, almost every eighth grader in her English learner program of about 100 students was also carrying an adult workload.

Migrant child labor benefits both under-the-table operations and global corporations, The Times found. In Los Angeles, children stitch “Made in America” tags into J. Crew shirts. They bake dinner rolls sold at Walmart and Target, process milk used in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and help debone chicken sold at Whole Foods. As recently as the fall, middle-schoolers made Fruit of the Loom socks in Alabama. In Michigan, children make auto parts for Ford and General Motors.

Hannah traveled to Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota and Virginia for this story and spoke to more than 100 migrant child workers in 20 states.

ny times logoNew York Times, After City Bans Sleeping at Homeless Youth Centers, a Center Resists, Joshua Needelman,Feb. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The number of runaway and homeless young people using drop-in programs has surged. Now, the city says they must stay awake, even overnight.

The city’s overnight drop-in centers for homeless and runaway youth, which are serving a rising number of young people, received a jarring message last month: “Effective immediately, providers are required to discontinue the practice of allowing youth and young adults to sleep overnight.”

At least one of the centers has responded in turn: no.

Alexander Roque, who runs Ali Forney, a Manhattan center that serves L.G.B.T.Q. youth, said “they would have to shut us down and put me in handcuffs” before he would comply with the directive.

“If the city threatens us and takes away our funding, I will continue to let our clients sleep, because that’s what’s at stake, their mental health is at stake,” Mr. Roque said.

The drop-in centers, operated by five city-funded nonprofits, are not homeless shelters, but there is one in each borough open 24 hours a day to serve teenagers and young people between the ages of 14 and 24. They provide food, laundry, education and career services, among other things. And, though they do not operate as official homeless shelters, many had also provided cots or other places for young people to sleep.

The directive has sent providers and clients into chaos, at a time when the population of young people served by the programs is soaring. In the first four months of fiscal year 2023, a total of 1,445 youth and young adults received case management services at the drop-in programs, an increase of 48 percent from the same period the previous year, according to the preliminary mayor’s management report published in January. (Three of the drop-in clinics included in the data were day clinics that did not offer 24-hour services.)

Last week, drop-in center providers spoke with department officials in an unsuccessful attempt to reverse the directive.

The city says the ban — issued Jan. 13 by the city agency that oversees them, the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development, and first reported by the news site The City — helps ensure the centers are in compliance with state law and not operating as “unlicensed shelters.” Clients are still permitted to “rest” at the centers, according to the directive.

The centers are funded through contracts from the city and expected to direct clients to one of the city’s 50 residential programs, which are run by the Department of Youth and Community Development, not the city’s main homeless agency, the Department of Homeless Services. These programs have 813 total allocated beds, including 753 for young people ages 16 to 20, and 60 for ages 21 to 24 according to the department.

 

The lead prosecutor, Creighton Waters, left, repeatedly attacked the credibility of the timeline put forth by Mr. Murdaugh (Pool photo by Joshua Boucher).

The lead prosecutor, Creighton Waters, left, repeatedly attacked the credibility of the timeline put forth by Mr. Murdaugh (Pool photo by Joshua Boucher).

washington post logoWashington Post, The Alex Murdaugh murder trial, explained, Timothy Bella, Feb. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Murdaugh, who is on trial for allegedly killing his wife, Maggie, and son Paul, has been at the center of media coverage for months. Here's what you should know.

In the more than 20 months since Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were found dead at their family’s sprawling South Carolina hunting estate, the public has been enthralled with Alex Murdaugh and the murder charges brought against him — a husband, father and member of a multigenerational legal dynasty who has come crashing down in a very public fashion.

Murdaugh, 54, who has been at the center of worldwide media coverage for months, took the stand this week to give his account of what happened on June 7, 2021, the day his wife, Maggie, 52, and son Paul, 22, were killed. His defense attorneys have argued during the murder trial that no physical evidence connects Murdaugh to the scene of the crime, and prosecutors have staked their case on what they say are his years of financial shadiness, opioid addiction, lies to authorities and struggles to recall key events. If Murdaugh is convicted, he could face up to life in prison.

Alex Murdaugh has pleaded not guilty in the murder case, which has sparked popular docuseries on Netflix and HBO Max; CNN and Court TV have carried the trial live, and media outlets have covered it aggressively since it started Jan. 25.

As the trial appears to be headed to a conclusion in the coming days, here are the background and facts of the case.

ny times logoNew York Times, Murdaugh Hammered by Prosecutor Over Where He Was on Night of Killings, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Updated Feb. 25, 2023. The cross-examination of Alex Murdaugh, the lawyer who has denied killing his wife and son, came as he concluded his testimony in his own defense.

After five weeks of trial, the murder case against Alex Murdaugh narrowed on Friday to the question of what happened in a critical few minutes after the prominent South Carolina lawyer went down to his family’s dog kennels where his wife and son were found shot to death later that night.

On the second and final day of Mr. Murdaugh’s crucial testimony in his own defense, prosecutors aggressively challenged him about those key minutes, showing that his new account of his movements that night — offered this week after more than 20 months of denying he was at the kennels at all — is difficult to reconcile with the timeline of the murders.

Armed with telephone calls, texts, videos, car navigation data and cellphone step counts, the lead prosecutor, Creighton Waters, showed that Mr. Murdaugh would have had to have left the kennels and returned to the house a short distance away only minutes before the killings — despite his claims that he had heard no gunshots.

Mr. Murdaugh had initially told the police that he had been napping in the house, but he told a different story on the witness stand this week after a video emerged showing that he had indeed been present at some point when his wife and son were out checking on the dogs.

 

Murder defendant Alex Murdaugh, shown at upper left (Pool photo).

Murder defendant Alex Murdaugh, shown at upper left (Pool photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, Alex Murdaugh Admits Lying and Stealing, but Denies Murders, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). In choosing to testify on Thursday, Mr. Murdaugh took a gamble that could determine whether he is acquitted or sent to prison for life.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The justices halt an execution — and reveal themselves in the process, Ruth Marcus, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). When a ruth marcus twitter Customprisoner on death row wins a case before this Supreme Court, the logical response is to breathe a sigh of relief. That doesn’t happen very often these days.

So good for John Montenegro Cruz, an Arizona man convicted in 2005 of murdering a Tucson police officer, and good for Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, who joined with the court’s three liberals to grant Cruz a new sentencing hearing.

But read the facts of Cruz’s case, and a less cheery, more chilling, reaction seems called for: How can it be that Cruz’s life was spared by only a bare majority? Four other conservatives, in a decision written by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, would have stuck with a cramped rules-are-rules mentality to let an obviously unconstitutional death sentence stand.

How unconstitutional? Eleven years before Cruz’s trial, in Simmons v. South Carolina, the Supreme Court had ruled that when prosecutors arguing for the death penalty cite the risk of future “dangerousness,” defendants have the right to let the jury know that the alternative to a death sentence would be life without the possibility of parole.

That’s what Cruz asked for at his trial. The judge not only refused — he incorrectly instructed the jury that Cruz could be eligible for parole after 25 years. And that seemed to make a difference to the jurors in deciding whether to impose a death sentence.

“Many of us would rather have voted for life if there was one mitigating circumstance that warranted it,” the jury foreperson and two other jurors said in a statement the day after the sentence was imposed. “In our minds there wasn’t. We were not given an option to vote for life in prison without the possibility of parole.”

So Cruz sought a new trial. He lost, and lost again before the Arizona Supreme Court, which, again incorrectly, asserted that Simmons didn’t apply to Arizona’s death penalty sentencing scheme because parole was available. In 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

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U.S. Abortion, #MeToo, Stalking, Rape Laws

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Access to abortion is a unifying issue, Jennifer Rubin, right, Feb. 26, 2023. Who could have guessed that preserving jennifer rubin new headshotaccess to abortion would be such a unifying position?

Given how divided our country is, and how loud voices seeking to criminalize the procedure have become, one might not expect abortion bans to be so unpopular. Yet polling shows that support for abortion care is remarkably consistent.
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A recent report from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) finds, “Just under two-thirds of Americans (64%) say that abortion should be legal in most or almost all cases,” including 68 percent of independents. Only one-third say it should be illegal in most or almost all cases. Even among Republicans, 36 percent favor legal abortion. And the percentage of the party that favors banning all or most abortions has declined from 21 to 14 percent in just over a year.

In fact, majority support for abortion access cuts across gender, racial, ethnic, educational attainment and age lines. That support also spans most religious groups. The PRRI finds, “White evangelical Protestants (27%), Jehovah’s Witnesses (27%), Latter-day Saints (32%), and Hispanic Protestants (44%) are the only major religious groups in which less than half of adherents say that abortion should be legal in most or all cases.”

ny times logoNew York Times, 12 States Sue F.D.A. Over Special Restrictions on Abortion Pill, Pam Belluck, Feb. 25, 2023 (print ed.). The suit argues that rules applying to mifepristone unnecessarily limit patients’ access to medication abortion.

The attorneys general of a dozen Democratic-controlled states sued the Food and Drug Administration on Friday, asking a judge to remove special restrictions that the federal agency has long applied to the first of two drugs used in medication abortion.

The suit, filed in a Federal District Court in Washington State, comes at a tense moment in the battle over the legal status of abortion pills, which are used in more than half of abortions in the United States. A federal judge in Texas is expected to issue an order soon in a case filed by anti-abortion groups that seeks to overturn the F.D.A.’s approval of the same abortion pill, mifepristone, and have it taken off the market.

The potential consequences of the Texas case have set the reproductive health community on edge out of concern that the judge, a Trump appointee who is politically conservative and wrote an article that was critical of Roe v. Wade, could issue an order effectively blocking access to mifepristone across the country. Such a ruling would immediately be appealed, but if it ultimately stands, it would have far-reaching implications, affecting states where abortion is legal, not just states where abortion is already restricted.

The new lawsuit filed by the 12 states does not address the possible outcomes of the Texas case, but it requests that the judge’s ruling in the Washington case include orders that would effectively contravene steps that might be imposed by the Texas judge. While the Washington case primarily asks the court to order the F.D.A. to eliminate a framework of extra restrictions applied to mifepristone, the suit also asks the judge to declare that the F.D.A.’s “approval of mifepristone is lawful and valid” and to enjoin the F.D.A. “from taking any action to remove mifepristone from the market or reduce its availability.”

Ameet Sarpatwari, a lawyer and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said the timing and content of the lawsuit were strategic.

“It is a legally and politically savvy move to file this complaint now,” he said. “If you have a federal judge in one jurisdiction saying the approval was lawful, and actually enjoining F.D.A. from taking action to restrict access, that would stand in exact conflict with what many presume the Texas judge may do, which is actually rescind the approval of the drug.”

If two federal rulings were to conflict, said Dr. Sarpatwari, an expert on F.D.A. regulations, “that gives ground for the federal government to say, ‘Look, I’ve got two courts saying two fundamentally different things, and the best we can do right now is to not do anything.’” That could result in both cases landing before the Supreme Court and in preserved access to mifepristone until a high court decision, he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Texas judge who could take down the abortion pill, Caroline Kitchener and Ann E. Marimow, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). A devout Christian, Matthew Kacsmaryk has been shaped by his deep antiabortion beliefs.

matthew kacsmarykMatthew Kacsmaryk, right, was a 22-year-old law student when he drove to a small city in west Texas to spend a day with a baby he would probably never see again.

He was in Abilene to support his sister, who, pregnant at 17, had fled to a faraway maternity home to avoid the scorn she feared from their Christian community. But holding his nephew in his arms — then leaving the baby with adoptive parents — also solidified Kacsmaryk’s belief that every pregnancy should be treasured, his sister recalled, even those that don’t fit neatly into a family’s future plans.

Then-law student Matthew Kacsmaryk holds his nephew, along with other members of the family, before the baby was handed off to adoptive parents in Abilene, Texas in 2000. (Courtesy of Jennifer Griffith)

Almost sixteen years later, in 2016, Kacsmaryk drove back to Abilene for his first meeting as a board member of Christian Homes and Family Services, the organization that had taken in his sister when she chose adoption over abortion.

“He’s very passionate about the fact that you can’t preach pro-life and do nothing,” said Kacsmaryk’s sister, Jennifer Griffith. “We both hold the stance of you have to do something. You can’t not.”

Now 45 and a federal judge, Kacsmaryk (kaz-MARE-ik) has the opportunity to impose the most far-reaching limit on abortion access since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

The judge, nominated by President Trump and confirmed in 2019, will soon rule on a lawsuit seeking to revoke U.S. government approval of mifepristone, a key abortion medication. That outcome could, at least temporarily, halt over half the legal abortions carried out across the country, including in states led by Democrats where abortion rights are protected.

While many experts have said the case relies on baseless medical claims, it is Kacsmaryk’s role as presiding judge that has the abortion rights movement bracing for another crippling defeat.

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More On Earthquake Disaster in Turkey, Syria

 

An aerial photo of a scene in the Turkish city of Hatay portrays earthquake damage on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023 (photo via SkyNews).

An aerial photo of a scene in the Turkish city of Hatay portrays earthquake damage on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023 (photo via SkyNews). Toll Is Rising as Rescuers Scour Rubble; Thousands of Buildings Are Down.

ny times logoNew York Times, Turkish Builders Are Under Intense Scrutiny Over Shoddy Construction, Ben Hubbard, Elif Ince and Safak Timur, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). The deaths of more than 43,000 people in Turkey from an earthquake have raised painful and angry questions over building standards.

Two dozen student volleyball players, four teachers and 12 parents visiting Turkey for a competition this month checked into the Grand Isias Hotel in the southern city of Adiyaman. When a powerful earthquake struck on Feb. 6, the building collapsed and killed dozens of people including everyone in the entourage except for four adults.

A university engineer who examined the wreckage found indications of weak concrete and insufficient steel reinforcements, he and his colleagues wrote in a preliminary report, concluding that shoddy construction had left the building vulnerable, even to smaller quakes.

In the weeks since, the Turkish authorities have arrested three men connected to the hotel on unspecified charges as part of a wide-ranging dragnet targeting hundreds of building contractors and owners among others suspected of criminal negligence that contributed to deadly building collapses.

The suspects — some nabbed at the airport with stacks of cash or perp-walked on national television — have become the focus of public Flag of Turkeyrage, with many now questioning whether they padded their profits by flouting the codes put in place over the last two decades to make buildings more quake resistant.

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More On Media, Education, Sports, Religion, High Tech

Committee to Protect Journalists, At least 14 journalists detained, attacked, or harassed covering Nigeria’s election, Staff Report, Feb. 27, 2023. At least 14 journalists and media workers were detained, harassed, or attacked while covering Nigeria’s presidential and federal elections, including private news website WikkiTimes owner Haruna Mohammed Salisu, who remains in police custody without charge, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.

Police detained Salisu on February 25 in Duguri town, southeastern Bauchi state, shortly after he and other reporters had met with the state governor, according to WikkiTimes editor Yakubu Mohammed, who spoke to CPJ, and a local coalition of press freedom groups. Police said they took Salisu into custody to protect him after supporters of the governor attacked him as he interviewed local women protesting, but then refused to release him, according to Mohammed, who visited him after he was transferred to police headquarters in Bauchi, the state capital. The local PRNigeria news site reported that police had “received a formal complaint that the journalist was inciting the electorate.” Salisu remained in detention as of Monday evening.

Private citizens, political groups, or security forces threatened, attacked, or seized at least 13 other journalists and media workers during the elections, according to CPJ interviews.

“Nigerian authorities should immediately and unconditionally release journalist Haruna Mohammed Salisu, and bring to account all those responsible for intimidating and attacking at least 13 other journalists and media workers,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, from New York. “Press freedom is an integral component of Nigerian democracy, and the media should be able to cover national polls without fear of reprisals.”

CPJ spoke to reporters involved in each of the following incidents on February 25:

A group of men beat Dayo Aiyetan, executive director of the privately owned nonprofit International Centre for Investigative Reporting, tore his clothes, and stole his phone and belongings after he filmed them disrupting the voting at a polling site in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. Aiyetan said one man tried to stab him, and he reported the attack to local police. Some of his belongings were returned, including his phone with content deleted.

Youths in Ibadan, Oyo state, attacked a vehicle from the state-owned News Agency Nigeria for covering the elections, one of the crew told CPJ. Yinka Bode-Are, a camera operator, was traveling with a reporter and driver when the vehicle was set upon with sticks and dented.

Security forces questioned Adesola Ikulajolu, a reporter with the local nonprofit Center for Journalism Innovation and Development, about his work and deleted image folders from his phone as he moved between polling places in Lagos. Ikulajolu said he believed they were from the Department of State Services because of their equipment and black clothing. DSS spokesperson Peter Afunanya told CPJ he was not aware of the incident and that black clothing did not prove a DSS affiliation.

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Disasters, Energy, Climate, Environment, Weather

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, In India, ‘phase down’ of coal actually means rapid expansion of mining, Karishma Mehrotra, Feb. 27, 2023 (print ed.). / A tripling of size is planned at the fastest-growing coal mine in India.

Here in eastern India, the Bhubaneswari mine is a testament to India’s vast coal reserves, among the largest in the world. The mine’s rapid expansion also is vivid evidence that the world’s second-largest consumer of coal is not ready to give it up, despite urgent concerns about the toll its use is taking on the climate. If anything, India’s coal production is accelerating, according to Coal Ministry data.

washington post logoWashington Post, China’s coal plant approvals highest in seven years, research finds, Christian Shepherd, Feb. 27, 2023 (print ed.). China China Flaglast year approved the largest expansion of coal-fired power plants since 2015, a new report has found, showing how the world’s largest emitter still relies on a fossil fuel that scientists say must be quickly phased out to avoid the worst consequences of a warming atmosphere.

washington post logoWashington Post, The risk of damage from hurricane winds will shift in coming decades. See the U.S. impact by Zip code, John Muyskens, Andrew Ba Tran, Brady Dennis and Niko Kommenda, Feb. 27, 2023. Strong winds fueled by climate change are expected to reach further inland and northward, putting more Americans at risk. 1 in 3 Americans may face risk by mid-century as winds are projected to reach further inland, northward

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Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

washington post logoWashington Post, Doctors who touted ivermectin as covid fix now pushing it for flu, RSV, Lauren Weber, Feb. 27, 2023 (print ed.). This group of doctors championed ivermectin as a covid “miracle” drug without scientific evidence. Now they’re pushing the anti-parasitic for flu and RSV.

First, the group of doctors championed ivermectin as a covid panacea. It failed to live up to the hype. Now, they’re promoting the anti-parasitic to prevent and treat the flu and RSV.

The Front Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance, formed in 2020 to “prevent and treat covid,” is touting ivermectin for common respiratory infections amid a dramatic drop in prescriptions for the drug as clinical trials undermined claims of its efficacy against covid.

There is no clinical data in humans to support using ivermectin for flu or RSV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other medical experts.

And yet, the alliance publishes “treatment protocols” promoting the use of ivermectin for flu, RSV and covid that it says have been downloaded more than a million times. It also recommends a network of hundreds of medical providers and pharmacies that can provide prescriptions for ivermectin, often through virtual visits that can run hundreds of dollars.

“Profiting from bunk and nonsense has no place in ethical medicine,” said Arthur Caplan, head of the division of medical ethics at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine who called the alliance’s promotion of ivermectin for covid, flu and RSV “fraud during a pandemic on a significant scale.”

washington post logoWashington Post, A condition called POTS rose after covid, but patients can’t find care, Amanda Morris, Feb. 27, 2023. Covid is causing a sharp rise in cases of postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, a disorder of the autonomic nervous system that causes rapid heart rate, fainting and dizziness.

A life-changing condition called POTS, which can cause fainting, irregular heartbeats and dizziness, particularly among young women, appears to be on the rise as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

But the condition isn’t well understood, and many patients are dismissed as having anxiety, delaying diagnosis. Once diagnosed, many patients face waiting lists as long as two years to get treatment from specialists.

POTS stands for postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, a disorder of the autonomic nervous system, which regulates involuntary functions like heart rate, blood pressure and digestion.

“When the autonomic nervous system is not functioning properly, any or all of those things can go a little haywire,” said David R. Fries, a cardiologist and POTS specialist at Rochester Regional Health.

POTS patients typically experience a marked rise in heart rate when standing and a complex combination of symptoms, including dizziness, brain fog, fainting, headache and fatigue, among many others.

There is no known cure for POTS, but physical therapy, medications and diet changes related to salt intake can sometimes help.

Experts say there is a dire shortage of medical professionals who know how to care for patients with POTS. Lauren Stiles, president and chief executive of Dysautonomia International, a nonprofit advocacy group, estimates that the number of people with POTS has at least doubled since the start of the pandemic, while the number of specialists has remained the same and waiting lists are getting longer.

“They were overwhelmed and flooded long before covid,” Stiles said “We need to increase the amount of experts in this because it wasn’t enough before covid, and it’s certainly not enough now.”

Symptoms can vary widely, and in some cases, can be debilitating. Angelica Baez, 25, of Sacramento, got sick with covid in March 2020. Soon after, she developed unusual symptoms, including tingling hands, frequent diarrhea and either feeling extremely cold or extremely hot. But the most debilitating symptom was that she almost constantly felt dizzy. She often felt like she might pass out and had trouble walking long distances.

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Feb. 26

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Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany inspecting an antiaircraft gun last month at a military base in Holstein, Germany. Germany has promised to deliver 30 of the units to Ukraine (Pool photo by Morris MacMatzen).

 

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Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany inspecting an antiaircraft gun last month at a military base in Holstein, Germany. Germany has promised to deliver 30 of the units to Ukraine (Pool photo by Morris MacMatzen).Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany inspects an antiaircraft gun this winter at a military base in Holstein, Germany. Germany, long an opponent on in Europe of providing advanced weapons like Leopard tanks to Ukraine, has promised to deliver 30 of the anti-aircraft units to Ukraine along with a smaller number of the tanks (Pool photo by Morris MacMatzen).

ny times logoNew York Times, How the War in Ukraine Has Changed Europe Forever, Roger Cohen, Feb. 26, 2023. No event has transformed the continent more profoundly since the end of the Cold War, and there is no going back. Europe is now grappling with how to transform itself from a peace power to a muscular geopolitical protagonist.

european union logo rectangleA year ago, the day Russia invaded Ukraine and set in motion a devastating European ground war, President Sauli Niinisto of Finland declared: “Now the masks are off. Only the cold face of war is visible.”

The Finnish head of state, in office for more than a decade, had met with President Vladimir V. Putin many times, in line with a Finnish policy of pragmatic outreach to Russia, a country with which it shares a nearly 835-mile border. Suddenly, however, that policy lay in tatters, and, along with it, Europe’s illusions about business as usual with Mr. Putin.

Those illusions were deep-rooted. The 27-nation European Union was built over decades with the core idea of extending peace across the continent. The notion that economic exchanges, trade and interdependence were the best guarantees against war lay deep in the postwar European psyche, even in dealings with an increasingly hostile Moscow.

That Mr. Putin’s Russia had become aggressive, imperialist, revanchist and brutal — as well as impervious to European peace politics — was almost impossible to digest in Paris or Berlin, even after the annexation of Crimea in 2014. An increasingly militaristic Russia might swim, quack and look like a duck, but that did not mean it was one.

“Many of us had started to take peace for granted,” Mr. Niinisto said this month at the Munich Security Conference after leading Finland’s abrupt push over the past year to join NATO, an idea unthinkable even in 2021. “Many of us had let our guard down.”

The war in Ukraine has transformed Europe more profoundly than any event since the Cold War’s end in 1989. A peace mentality, most acute in Germany, has given way to a dawning awareness that military power is needed in the pursuit of security and strategic objectives. A continent on autopilot, lulled into amnesia, has been galvanized into an immense effort to save liberty in Ukraine, a freedom widely seen as synonymous with its own.

“European politicians are not familiar with thinking about hard power as an instrument in foreign policy or geopolitical affairs,” said Rem Korteweg, a Dutch defense expert. “Well, they have had a crash course.”

Gone is discussion of the size of tomatoes or the shape of bananas acceptable in Europe; in its place, debate rages over what tanks and possibly F-16 fighter jets to give to Kyiv. The European Union has provided some $3.8 billion in military assistance to Ukraine.

  • New York Times, Deadly Russian strikes pounded Ukraine’s east and south, officials said.
  • New York Times, The war in Ukraine is the biggest in Europe since World War II. Here’s how it came about, and what’s at stake.

Politico Magazine, Historical Analysis: ‘Something Was Badly Wrong’: When Washington Realized Russia Was Actually Invading Ukraine, Erin Banco, Garrett M. Graff, Lara Seligman, Nahal Toosi and Alexander Ward, Feb. 24, 2023.  A first-ever oral history of how top U.S. and Western politico Customofficials saw the warning signs of a European land war, their frantic attempts to stop it — and the moment Putin actually crossed the border.

This oral history was compiled and woven together by writer and historian Garrett M. Graff, right, based on dozens of hours of interviews by garrett graffPOLITICO national security reporters Erin Banco, Lara Seligman, Nahal Toosi and Alexander Ward with more than 30 key figures of the U.S. government and Western allied response. (Additional interviews were contributed by Jack Blanchard, Graff and Maggie Miller.)

The Russian invasion of Ukraine exactly a year ago was as shocking as it was clearly foreseen. The merciless bombardment of Ukrainian cities, the hundreds of thousands of troops and scores of tanks that rumbled across the border on Feb. 24, 2022, followed months of rising tension and concern, and provided perhaps the biggest foreign policy test yet for the Biden administration.

For nearly a year prior, U.S. and Western officials had signs of what was coming: a suspicious buildup of Russian troops, intelligence about the Kremlin’s plans, statements from President Vladimir Putin himself. Those officials raised increasingly specific public alarms, some of which were based on a novel new strategy of rapidly declassifying and publicizing intelligence in near real-time, and made desperate attempts to avert a war, even as it became more and more clear that Putin was determined to invade.

The events in eastern Europe in 2021 and 2022, coming just as the world emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic, also unfolded against a fraught geopolitical backdrop: In 2014, Russia had already seized Crimea from Ukraine, and fighting by Russia’s irregular, unmarked troops, known as “little green men,” had destabilized eastern Ukraine and led to a long-running, low-level war that had continued ever since.

Meanwhile, during the summer of 2021, the United States faced its own challenge: a chaotic and controversial end to its nearly 20-year war in Afghanistan.

This is the story of the Biden administration’s strategy and reaction to that looming Russian invasion — the battle to persuade skeptics and rally foreign allies to confront an almost-unthinkable threat, one that continues to shake the world today. All titles and military ranks are presented based on roles the speakers held in February 2022, and interviews have been condensed and edited for clarity.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Lab Leak Most Likely Caused Pandemic, Energy Dept. Says, as Spy Agencies Remain Split, Julian E. Barnes, Feb. 26, 2023. The conclusion, which was made with “low confidence,” was based on new intelligence. The information didn’t lead other agencies to change their assessments.

New intelligence has prompted the Energy Department to conclude that an accidental laboratory leak in China most likely caused the coronavirus pandemic, though U.S. spy agencies remain divided over the origins of the virus, American officials said on Sunday.

The conclusion was a change from the department’s earlier position that it was undecided on how the virus emerged.

China FlagSome officials briefed on the intelligence said that it was relatively weak and that the Energy Department’s conclusion was made with “low confidence,” suggesting its level of certainty was not high. While the department shared the information with other agencies, none of them changed their conclusions, officials said.

Officials would not disclose what the intelligence was. But many of the Energy Department’s insights come from the network of national laboratories it oversees, rather than more traditional forms of intelligence like spy networks or communications intercepts.

Intelligence officials believe the scrutiny of the pandemic’s origins could be important to improving global response to future health crises, though they caution that finding an answer about the origin of the virus may be difficult or even impossible given Chinese opposition to further research. Scientists say there is a responsibility to explain how a pandemic that has killed almost seven million people began, and learning more about how it began could help researchers understand what poses the biggest threats of future outbreaks.

The new intelligence and the shift in the department’s view was first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Sunday.

Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, declined to confirm the intelligence. But he said President Biden had ordered that the national labs be brought into the effort to determine the origin of the outbreak so that the government was using “every tool” it had.

ny times logoNew York Times, Student Loan Case Before Supreme Court Poses Pressing Question: Who Can Sue? Adam Liptak, Feb. 26, 2023. Prompted by a 2007 decision giving states “special solicitude,” partisan challenges to federal programs from coalitions of state attorneys general have surged.

When the Supreme Court hears arguments on Tuesday in a challenge from six Republican-led states to President Biden’s plan to wipe out more than $400 billion in student debt, the first question it will explore is not whether the plan is lawful. It will be whether the states are even entitled to sue.

For most of American history, partisan lawsuits by states challenging federal programs were rare. That changed after a 2007 Supreme Court decision gave states “special solicitude” in determining when they have standing to sue, and the trend has been amplified by a rising partisan divide among state attorneys general.

“State politicians are using state standing as a way of waging what are political or policy battles against the current administration in court as opposed to through the political process,” said Jonathan H. Adler, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University. “There is good reason to think that this special solicitude stuff has kind of gotten out of hand and it needs to be curtailed. But it’s hard to curtail it in a way that doesn’t come across as opportunistic for one side or the other.”

Partisan lawsuits by states challenging federal actions, which thrust the judiciary into all manner of political controversies and boost its power, have exploded in recent years, said Paul Nolette, a political scientist at Marquette University. He said the surge in such cases started after 2014, in the final years of Barack Obama’s presidency.

There were 12 multistate lawsuits brought by Republican state attorneys general against the administration in Mr. Obama’s first term and 46 in his second term, according to data compiled by Professor Nolette. In President Donald J. Trump’s single term, Democratic attorneys general filed 155 such suits. And Republican attorneys general have filed 56 such suits against the Biden administration so far.

 

Falsely accused former Virginia high school teacher Kimberly Winters and defendant Virginia investigator Peter Roque.

Falsely accused former Virginia high school teacher Kimberly Winters and defendant Virginia investigator Peter Roque.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jury awards Va. teacher $5 million over wrongful sex abuse case, Tom Jackman, Feb. 26, 2023. The first clue that Kimberly Winters, a high school English teacher, had that a former student had accused her of sexually abusing him was when Loudoun County sheriff’s deputies in full riot gear burst into her bedroom one morning with their rifles drawn.

“It was very terrifying,” Winters said. “I still have nightmares. Big guns.”

Winters said the deputies yanked her out of bed, handcuffed her, and made her stand in the front yard of her Sterling, Va., home in her pajamas while they patted her down, in full view of the neighborhood.

When she went to the Loudoun jail, Winters said, she was strip-searched, which her lawyer said violated the sheriff’s policies because she wasn’t booked into the jail. But her mug shot was taken and distributed to the news media along with a press release saying she was charged with sexually abusing one of her students when he was 17. Soon, she was fired from her job at Park View High School, after teaching in Loudoun for eight years.

When Loudoun prosecutors looked at the case brought by Detective Peter Roque, they promptly dismissed all charges. Winters sued Roque and Loudoun Sheriff Mike Chapman (R). And after a five-day trial earlier this month, a Loudoun jury took less than two hours to find the two law enforcement officials liable for Winters’ economic and punitive damages. They awarded her $5 million.

It appeared Roque had not seriously investigated any of the student’s claims, Winters’s lawyer, Thomas K. Plofchan, said. On a sworn search warrant application in November 2018, Roque had written, “Witnesses’ statements are corroborated by phone records,” but there were no records, Plofchan said the evidence showed.

The settlement will be paid by a state fund in which many municipalities pool their moneys to pay for verdicts such as this, and a secondary insurance policy taken out by Loudoun.

 

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Fox News hosts Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson, shown left to right, each expressed contempt for the voting fraud allegations they were broadcasting to Fox audiences, according to newly released internal documents obtained as evidence in a forthcoming defamation trial against the network, its owners and personnel.

Fox News hosts Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson, shown left to right, each expressed contempt for the voting fraud allegations they were broadcasting to Fox audiences, according to newly released internal documents obtained as evidence in a forthcoming defamation trial against the network, its owners and personnel.

ny times logoNew York Times, What Fox News Hosts Said Publicly Vs. Privately About Voter Fraud, Stuart A. Thompson, Karen Yourish and Jeremy W. Peters, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Dozens of private messages, released as part of a lawsuit against Fox, revealed what was said behind the scenes.

Two days after the 2020 election, Tucker Carlson was furious.

Fox News viewers were abandoning the network for Newsmax and One America News, two conservative rivals, after Fox declared that Joseph R. Biden Jr. won Arizona, a crucial swing state.

fox news logo SmallIn a text message with his producer, Alex Pfeiffer, Mr. Carlson appeared livid that viewers were turning against the network. The message was among those released last week as part of a lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox. Dominion, an elections technology company, has sued Fox News for defamation.

At the same time, Mr. Carlson and his broadcasting colleagues expressed grave doubts about an unfounded narrative rapidly gaining momentum among their core audience: that the 2020 presidential election was stolen by Democrats through widespread voter fraud. The belief was promoted by then-President Trump and a coalition of lawyers, lawmakers and influencers, though they produced no evidence to support their assertions.

dominion voting systemsMany hosts, producers and executives privately expressed skepticism about those claims, even as they gave them significant airtime, according to private messages revealed last week by Dominion. What they said in those messages often differed significantly from what Fox hosts said in public, though they weren’t always contradictory.

Two days after the election, Mr. Pfeiffer said that voices on the right were “reckless demagogues,” according to a text message. Mr. Carlson replied that his show was “not going to follow them.”

But he did follow them. The same day, on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Mr. Carlson expressed some doubts about the voter fraud assertions before insisting that at least some of the claims were “credible.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why Fox News Lied to the Viewers It ‘Respects,’ David French, right, Feb. 26, 2023. There are some stories that are david french croppedimportant enough to pause the news cycle and linger on them, to explore not just what happened, but why.

And so it is with Fox News’s role in the events leading up to Jan. 6, 2021. Thanks to a recent filing by Dominion Voting Systems in its defamation lawsuit against Fox, there is now compelling evidence that America’s most-watched cable news network presented information it knew to be false as part of an effort to placate an angry audience. It knowingly sacrificed its integrity to maintain its market share.

Why? There are the obvious reasons: Money. Power. Fame. These are universal human temptations. But the answer goes deeper. Fox News became a juggernaut not simply by being “Republican,” or “conservative,” but by offering its audience something it craved even more deeply: representation. And journalism centered on representation ultimately isn’t journalism at all.

To understand the Fox News phenomenon, one has to understand the place it occupies in Red America. It’s no mere source of news. It’s the place where Red America goes to feel seen and heard. If there’s an important good news story in Red America, the first call is to Fox. If conservative Christians face a threat to their civil liberties, the first call is to Fox. If you’re a conservative celebrity and you need to sell a book, the first call is to Fox.

And Fox takes those calls. In the time before Donald Trump, I spent my share of moments in Fox green rooms and pitching stories to Fox producers. I knew they were more interested in stories about, say, religious liberty than most mainstream media outlets were. I knew they loved human-interest stories about virtuous veterans and cops. Sometimes this was good — we need more coverage of religion in America, for example — but over time Fox morphed into something well beyond a news network.

Fox isn’t just the news hub of right-wing America, it’s a cultural cornerstone, and its business model is so successful that it’s more accurate to think of the rest of the right-wing media universe not as a collection of competitors to Fox, but rather as imitators. From television channels to news sites, right-wing personalities aren’t so much competing with Fox as auditioning for it.

Take, for example, the online space. Fox News is so dominant that, according to data from December, you could take the total traffic of the next 19 conservative websites combined, and still not reach half of Fox’s audience.

But that kind of loyalty is built around a social compact, the profound and powerful sense in Red America that Fox is for us. It’s our megaphone to the culture. Yet when Fox created this compact, it placed the audience in charge of its content.

 

scott adams via proof

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Dilbert’ dropped by The Post, other papers, after cartoonist’s racist rant, Thomas Floyd and Michael Cavna, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Newspapers across the United States have pulled Scott Adams’s long-running “Dilbert” comic strip after the cartoonist called Black Americans a “hate group” and said White people should “get the hell away from” them.

The Washington Post, the USA Today network of hundreds of newspapers, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Los Angeles Times and other publications announced they would stop publishing “Dilbert” after Adams’s racist rant on YouTube on Wednesday. Asked on Saturday how many newspapers still carried the strip — a workplace satire he created in 1989 — Adams told The Post: “By Monday, around zero.”

The once widely celebrated cartoonist, who has been entertaining extreme-right ideologies and conspiracy theories for several years, was upset Wednesday by a Rasmussen poll that found a thin majority of Black Americans agreed with the statement “It’s okay to be White.”

“If nearly half of all Blacks are not okay with White people … that’s a hate group,” Adams said on his live-streaming YouTube show. “I don’t want to have anything to do with them. And I would say, based on the current way things are going, the best advice I would give to White people is to get the hell away from Black people … because there is no fixing this.”

Adams, 65, also blamed Black people for not “focusing on education” during the show and said, “I’m also really sick of seeing video after video of Black Americans beating up non-Black citizens.”

Outrage followed.

By Thursday, The Post began hearing from readers calling for the strip’s cancellation. On Friday, the USA Today Network said that it “will no longer publish the Dilbert comic due to recent discriminatory comments by its creator.” The Gannett-owned chain oversees more than 300 newspapers, including the Arizona Republic, Cincinnati Enquirer, Detroit Free Press, Indianapolis Star, Austin American-Statesman and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“In light of Scott Adams’s recent statements promoting segregation, The Washington Post has ceased publication of the Dilbert comic strip,” a spokesperson for the newspaper said Saturday, noting that it was too late to stop the strip from running in some upcoming print editions, including Sunday’s.

Chris Quinn, the vice president of content for Plain Dealer publisher Advance Ohio, wrote in a letter from the editor Friday that pulling “Dilbert” was “not a difficult decision.” “We are not a home for those who espouse racism,” Quinn wrote.

“Scott Adams is a disgrace,” Darrin Bell, creator of “Candorville” and the first Black artist to win the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning, told The Post on Saturday. “His racism is not even unique among cartoonists.” Bell compared Adams’s views to the Jim Crow era and more recent examples of White supremacy, including “millions of angry people trying to redefine the word ‘racism’ itself.”

In fact, Adams did exactly that on his YouTube show Saturday. He offered a long, quasi-Socratic defense of his comments, which he said were taken out of context, and seemed to define racism as essentially any political activity. “Any tax code change is racist,” he said at one point in the show. He denounced racism against “individuals” and racist laws, but said, “You should absolutely be racist whenever it’s to your advantage. Every one of you should be open to making a racist personal career decision.”

More Background: Proof, Investigative Commentary: Has Twitter Had a Far-Right Bent for Years? Are #TheTwitterFiles a Fraud? Seth Abramson, left, Jan. 24, 2023 (Long column excerpted below). The Debate Leads to seth abramson graphicStrange Words About Me By “Dilbert” Creator Scott Adams and Even Elon Musk Himself.

If you work on controversial topics, you draw attention from polarizing people. But my debunking of a major #TwitterFiles meme led to odder interactions than I expected—and some explosive revelations.

seth abramson proof logoThe New York Daily News and others have reported on Adams’ “many controversies and inflammatory comments”, which have led to the cancellation of Dilbert in newspapers across the United States. Dilbert is a comic strip about the banalities of office life in America.

I won’t detail here all of the stupid things that Scott Adams has said to become such a controversial figure—as they’re numberless, and after all, we all say stupid things at times, though few of us things as spectacularly tone-deaf and preposterous as Adams has said—but I will at least offer the summary from the Daily News referenced above: In 2020, reflecting on the cancellation of the TV adaptation of Dilbert decades earlier, he tweeted, “I lost my TV show for being white.” Adams claimed that wasn’t the first time he twitter bird Customsuspects being white worked against him professionally. He has also joked on Twitter that he was going to “self-identify as a Black woman” so that he’d be considered for the Supreme Court.

Always the entrepreneur, the creator of the Dilbert comic strip has lately positioned himself as the defender and interpreter of all things Trump. So far it’s been a winning bet. Adams’s book Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter has achieved bestseller status and his blog has racked up a whole lot of eyeballs.

In any case, while I seem to recall that I might have tilted with Adams once or twice online in the past—frankly, many have—I certainly didn’t think he’d devote a segment of his popular video blog-cum-podcast to me. But recently he did so, and it opened up a new narrative about #TheTwitterFiles and the Trump-Russia scandal I never would have expected.

instagram logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Instagram users are being served gory videos of killing and torture, Taylor Lorenz, Feb. 26, 2023. The videos have become a way for meme pages to up their engagement, helping them raise their income from advertising.

Kristoffer Reinman, a 32-year-old music producer and investor, was scrolling through Instagram last fall when he began to encounter violent videos — videos of people being shot and mutilated, posted by accounts he said he doesn’t follow.

“It was gory stuff, torture videos, stuff you just don’t want to see,” Reinman said. “Violent videos, they just started showing up. I was like, what is this? It’s nothing that I follow myself.” Feeling disturbed and disgusted, he immediately logged onto chat app Discord to tell his friends what was happening.

His friends replied that it wasn’t just him. They too were receiving violent videos in their feed. Twitter users also began posting about the phenomenon. “Hey @instagram,” one Twitter user posted in September, “why was the first thing on my feed today a beheading video from an account i don’t even follow? Thx!”

tiktok logo CustomSince Instagram launched Reels, the platform’s TikTok competitor, in 2020, it has taken aggressive steps to grow the feature. It rewarded accounts that posted Reels videos with increased views and began paying monthly bonuses to creators whose Reels content performed well on the app.

Instagram also announced last year it would be leaning harder into algorithmic recommendation of content. On Meta’s second-quarter mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wearnings call, CEO Mark Zuckerberg, left, noted that Reels videos accounted for 20 percent of the time people spent on Instagram, saying that Reels engagement was “growing quickly” and that the company saw a 30 percent increase in the meta logoamount of time people spent engaging with Reels.

But at least part of that engagement has come from the kinds of videos Reinman and other users have raised concerns about, a result that shows how Meta’s Instagram has failed to contain harmful content on its platform as it seeks to regain audience lost to TikTok.

 

Ohio Train Wreck Culture War

washington post logoWashington Post, How a small-town train derailment erupted into a culture battle, Toluse Olorunnipa, Justine McDaniel and Ian Duncan, Feb. 26, 2023. The East Palestine, Ohio, derailment, one of hundreds each year in America, morphed into the latest front in the nation’s culture wars, becoming a political flashpoint.

Two weeks after a train carrying toxic chemicals went off the tracks in northeastern Ohio, President Biden sat in the Oval Office listening intently as his national security team briefed him on a different train almost 5,000 miles away, ultimately agreeing to take a clandestine rail trip into war-besieged Kyiv.

His decision to make the trip won praise globally, but it further inflamed already brewing domestic tensions over his handling of the train derailment in the small town of East Palestine.

Biden had already taken a number of behind-the-scenes steps on the derailment before that Feb. 17 meeting — calling governors, dispatching federal experts to the area and receiving briefings from top advisers. It was seen in the White House as a by-the-book response to a nonfatal event in a lightly populated area, one that would require federal help but had not ballooned into a larger disaster.

But by the time the president arrived in Kyiv on Feb. 20, the accident in East Palestine had surprised the White House — and many others — by erupting into the country’s latest cultural firefight over identity, polarization and the role of government. And by the time Biden returned to Washington, his aides were battling accusations that he had forsaken a small, predominantly White town as it struggled with the aftermath of an environmental catastrophe caused by a multibillion-dollar company.

Many of the accusations were made by Biden’s political adversaries, abetted by a spate of criticism on mainly right-wing social media accounts, not all of them accurate — including the charge that federal officials ignored the crash, when they sent personnel as they normally would. Still, three weeks after the disaster, it seems clear that the administration was caught off guard, unprepared for the possibility that the nonfatal crash would become a prism for the country’s political battles.

“In an environmental crisis, the optics matter,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian who has written about the government’s handling of Hurricane Katrina. “There’s a lot of mistrust in the federal government, and there’s a lot of noise in our cluttered culture. So to break through that, you’ve got to be bold and clear and show some anger and deep humanitarian concern.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Here’s how to fix freight rail after the Ohio derailment debacle, Editorial Board, Feb. 26, 2023. No community in America wants to be the next East Palestine, Ohio. It will be known for generations as the site of the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern train derailment and the lingering scars of that day.

A slew of toxic chemicals burned in a black cloud over the town and ran off into nearby waterways killing thousands of fish and other aquatic life. Families had to evacuate swiftly. Weeks of panic have followed. Government and company officials have struggled to address safety concerns.

The No. 1 priority now is ensuring the well-being of nearby residents. Norfolk Southern chief executive Alan Shaw vows to “do the right things.” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) insists the company will “pay for everything.” That has to include immediate clean up and long-term health monitoring. The town of Paulsboro, N.J., should serve as a warning of what could lie ahead. A similar derailment there in 2012 also released vinyl chloride. Some residents did not encounter serious health problems until years later.

Equally urgent is stopping anything like this from happening again. The accident was “100 percent preventable,” National Transportation Safety Board chair Jennifer Homendy said. Her agency issued a preliminary report Thursday outlining what is known about what happened: On the 23rd car of the 9,000-foot-long, 149-car train, a bearing connecting a wheel to its axle was worn out and overheated. Norfolk Southern’s warning system went off. The crew tried to stop the train, but couldn’t in time. In other words, Norfolk Southern’s safeguards didn’t fail; the problem was, they were inadequate.

In the past decade, America’s freight rail companies have become zealots for efficiency. Trains are longer, and they don’t stop as often. Unprofitable customers are gone. Scheduling is meticulous. Nearly 60,000 jobs disappeared since 2015. The companies’ stock prices and profitability have surged. Still, derailments are at historic lows. But the East Palestine accident has shown how deficient the industry has been when it comes to investing in upgrades. Many trains still rely on a Civil War-era braking system, and they aren’t using the latest detectors that experts say could have caught the deteriorating bearing months before that fateful day.

Disappointingly — but predictably — the accident has become political fodder, with Democrats blaming former president Donald Trump for loosening safety rules, and Republicans claiming the Biden administration was slow to react. But even amid the finger-pointing, there are some concrete steps that all sides should agree upon and implement quickly. Here are four:

1 Catch bearing problems early
2 Better tank car design
3 Better brakes
4 High-hazard flammable train definition

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Global News, Migration, Human Rights Issues

ny times logoNew York Times, U.K. Nears Deal on Northern Ireland Trade, a Brexit Sore Point, Mark Landler and Stephen Castle, Feb. 26, 2023. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to meet on Monday with the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, to work out the final details.

United Kingdom flagBritain and the European Union neared a landmark agreement on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, announcing on Sunday that the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, would travel to Britain on Monday to work out european union logo rectanglethe final details with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

After two weeks of false starts, last-minute hitches and closed-door wrangling, Mr. Sunak and Ms. von der Leyen appeared on the cusp of a deal, which, if successful, could resolve one of the most bedeviling legacies of Brexit: the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol, which governs trade in the territory.

Rishi sunakIn a joint statement late on Sunday afternoon, Mr. Sunak,left, and Ms. von der Leyen said they had “agreed to continue their work in person towards shared, practical solutions for the range of complex challenges around the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland.”

While the deal could still fall apart, diplomats said it was highly unlikely that the leaders would agree to meet if they were not ready to sign. Earlier, Mr. Sunak said he was working through the weekend to nail down an agreement, telling The Sunday Times of London in an interview posted Saturday evening that he was optimistic there would be a “positive outcome.”

“There’s unfinished business on Brexit, and I want to get the job done,” Mr. Sunak said in his first public remarks about the deal. “As someone who believes in Brexit, voted for Brexit, campaigned for Brexit, I want to demonstrate that Brexit works, and it works for every part of the United Kingdom.”

This is not the first time Mr. Sunak has been on the brink of an announcement. Last weekend, he was expected to unveil a deal within days, only to pull back amid signs of a rebellion by the main pro-British party in Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionists, and the hard-line supporters of Brexit in his own Conservative Party.

The threat of a mutiny has not gone away — there was a new report of stinging opposition to Mr. Sunak’s plans by his predecessor Boris Johnson — but Mr. Sunak’s remarks suggested he was ready to face a confrontation with Mr. Johnson and other holdouts to settle a chronic dispute with Brussels.

“This is not about third parties or anyone else,” Mr. Sunak said. “It’s about the people and communities of Northern Ireland. It’s about what’s best for them, and that’s what everyone should have in the uppermost of their minds.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Desperate for Babies, China Races to Undo an Era of Birth Limits. Is It Too Late? Nicole Hong and Zixu Wang, Feb. 26, 2023. New incentives encouraging people to have children highlight the challenges China faces in trying to boost its declining birthrate.

China FlagIn China, a country that limits most couples to three children, one province is making a bold pitch to try to get its citizens to procreate: have as many babies as you want, even if you are unmarried.

The initiative, which came into effect this month, points to the renewed urgency of China’s efforts to spark a baby boom after its population shrank last year for the first time since a national famine in the 1960s. Other efforts are underway — officials in several cities have urged college students to donate sperm to help spur population growth, and there are plans to expand national insurance coverage for fertility treatments, including I.V.F.

But the measures have been met with a wave of public skepticism, ridicule and debate, highlighting the challenges China faces as it seeks to stave off a shrinking work force that could imperil economic growth. 

ap logoAssociated Press via Politico, Israeli settlers rampage after Palestinian gunman kills 2, Staff report, Feb. 26, 2023. The violence raised doubts about Jordan’s declaration it had received pledges from Israeli and Palestinian officials to calm a wave of violence.

Israel FlagScores of Israeli settlers went on a rampage in the northern West Bank late Sunday, setting cars and homes on fire after two settlers were killed by a Palestinian gunman. Palestinian medics said dozens were wounded.

politico CustomThe deadly shooting, followed by the late-night rampage, immediately raised doubts about Jordan’s declaration that it had received pledges from Israeli and Palestinian officials to calm a year-long wave of violence.

In what appeared to be the most serious burst of settler violence in years, photos and video on social media showed large fires burning throughout the town of Hawara — scene of the deadly shooting earlier in the day.

In one video, crowds of Jewish settlers could be heard reciting the Jewish prayer for the dead as they stared at a building in flames. And earlier, a prominent Israeli Cabinet minister and settler leader had called for Israel to strike “without mercy.”

Palestinian media said at least 20 vehicles and buildings were torched, and the Palestinian Red Crescent reported over 100 wounded.

As videos of the violence appeared on evening news shows, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appealed for calm. He said security forces were searching for the gunmen and urged against vigilante violence. “I ask that when blood is boiling and the spirit is hot, don’t take the law into your hands,” Netanyahu said in a video statement.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ahead of Crucial Election, Security Crises and Kidnappings Plague Nigeria, Elian Peltier, Feb. 25, 2023 (print ed.). As Nigerians go to the polls on Saturday, kidnappings are just one of the crises creating levels of violence unseen in the country for decades.

Nigerian FlagA 61-year-old civil engineer was supervising a digging project on a farm in southern Nigeria when five young men carrying AK-47s stormed the place and dragged him into the bush.

For five days, the kidnappers held the engineer, Olusola Olaniyi, and beat him severely. Only after his family and employer agreed to pay a ransom was he released, in the middle of the night, on a road a few miles away from where he had been kidnapped.

Nigeria has faced an outbreak of kidnappings in recent years, affecting people of all ages and classes: groups of schoolchildren, commuters traveling on trains and in cars through Nigeria’s largest cities, and villagers in the northern countryside. With youth gangs and armed bandits finding that kidnapping for ransom produces big payoffs, such crimes have only multiplied.

As Nigerians go to the polls on Saturday to choose a new president, insecurity is the top issue facing the country, according to a survey by SBM Intelligence, a Nigerian risk consultancy. Between July 2021 and June 2022, more than 3,400 people were abducted across the country, and 564 others were killed in kidnapping-related violence.

ny times logoNew York Times, Nigerian Election 2023: What to Know, What Polling Shows, Ruth Maclean, Feb. 23, 2023 (print ed.). he presidential election this week in Africa’s most populous country is completely unpredictable. An unexpected third candidate with a huge youth following may upend decades of traditional politics.

Nigerian FlagNigerians go to the polls this week to choose a new president — one of the most important elections happening anywhere in the world this year. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, with about 220 million people, and what happens there reverberates across the continent and the globe.

The Giant of Africa, as Nigeria is known, is at an inflection point. Nearly eight years of rule by an ailing president, Muhammadu Buhari — a military dictator turned reformed democrat — has seen the country lurch from one economic shock to the next. Over 60 percent of the people live in poverty, while security crises — including kidnapping, terrorism, militancy in oil-rich areas and clashes between herdsmen and farmers — have multiplied.

In recent weeks, shortages of fuel and cash — the latter because of a rushed currency redesign — have caused widespread suffering. Even people with money in the bank cannot get access to it and many are unable to buy food or pay for necessities. Protests in some cities have turned violent.

Many Nigerians see the 2023 election as a chance to change course, and are planning to break with the two traditional parties to vote for a third candidate. Not since the rebirth of Nigeria’s democracy in 1999 has the country faced an election as nail-biting — and as wide open — as this one.

The vote is scheduled for Feb. 25, unless it is postponed, as it was in 2019, just five hours before polls were to open. The head of the Independent National Electoral Commission, or I.N.E.C., has warned that if the myriad security challenges Nigeria is facing are “not monitored and dealt with decisively,” elections could be postponed or canceled in many wards, causing a constitutional crisis.

Who are the main candidates?

There is Bola Ahmed Tinubu, 70, who as the candidate of the governing All Progressives Congress has serious political machinery behind him. A canny, multimillionaire former governor of Lagos, Nigeria’s biggest city, Mr. Tinubu is a Muslim from the southwest and boasts that he brought Mr. Buhari to power. His catchphrase, “Emi lo kan” — Yoruba for “It’s my turn” — speaks to his record as a kingmaker in Nigerian politics, but alienates many young voters.

The former vice president and multimillionaire businessman Atiku Abubakar is the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, or P.D.P. Mr. Abubakar, 76, has run for the presidency five times since 1993, and this year could be his last shot. A Muslim from the north, he hopes to pick up far more votes there than he has in the past, now that he does not have to run against his old nemesis, Mr. Buhari, who had an ardent northern following.

The surprise candidate is Peter Obi, 61. Hailed as a savior by a large chunk of Nigeria’s digitally savvy youth, Mr. Obi — a Christian and former governor from the southeast who has hitched his wagon to the lesser-known Labour Party — has thrown this election open. His fans — mostly young, southern Nigerians walloped by economic hardship, joblessness and insecurity — call themselves the Obidients.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Economy, Governance

Politico, GOP primary candidates must agree to loyalty pledge in order to debate, RNC chair says, Kelly Garrity, Feb. 26, 2023. “We're saying you're not going to get on the debate stage unless you make this pledge,” Ronna McDaniel said.

politico CustomAny candidate who wants to take part in the GOP’s first primary debate in Milwaukee later this year will have to sign a pledge promising to support whoever wins the nomination, Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel said Sunday.

“We’re saying you’re not going to get on the debate stage unless you make this pledge,” McDaniel said during an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.” McDaniel, who recently won her fourth term as RNC chair after a contentious battle against Harmeet Dhillon, said that Republican voters are tired of “infighting” within the party, and “want to see us come together.”

rnc logoSo far, three prominent candidates have entered the GOP presidential primary — former President Donald Trump, former Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley and conservative entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. More are expected to join the race, potentially including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

McDaniel said she expects all candidates who decided to join what may become a crowded race to sign the pledge, describing it as “a no-brainer.”

“If you’re going to be on the Republican National Committee debate stage asking voters to support you, you should say, I’m going to support the voters and who they choose as the nominee,” McDaniel said.

But earlier this month, Trump told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt his support for the GOP candidate in the general election would depend on who the nominee was.

McDaniel, however, said she believes the former president will sign the pledge. “I think they all want to be on the debate stage. I think President Trump would like to be on the debate stage. That’s what he likes to do. And I expect they will all be there.”

Politico, Sanders supporters took over the Nevada Democratic Party. It’s not going well, Holly Otterbein, Feb. 25, 2023. The senator, below right, lets it be known that he’s unhappy with work his followers have done in the critical battleground state.

politico CustomBernie SandersWhen Bernie Sanders’ supporters took over the Nevada Democratic Party two years ago, progressives across the country were thrilled.

Socialists had managed to bring down one of the most powerful establishment forces in the nation, the famed Democratic machine built by former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. They saw it as a blueprint for the progressive transformation of state parties.

Two years after the experiment began, there are regrets.

Politico, Judge rejected Perry’s bid to shield thousands of emails from Jan. 6 investigators, Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein, Feb. 24, 2023.  The Pennsylvanian lawmaker's phone was seized and imaged by the FBI as part of the 2020 election investigation.

politico CustomRep. Scott Perry, a Republican lawmaker from Pennsylvania, had urged Howell to block the Justice Department from accessing 2,219 documents stored on his phone. | Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The chief judge of the federal district court in Washington, D.C., secretly rejected Rep. Scott Perry’s bid to shield more than 2,000 messages relevant to Justice Department investigators probing efforts by Donald Trump to subvert the 2020 election, according to newly unsealed court filings.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell unsealed her extraordinary Dec. 28 decision on Friday evening, determining that the “powerful public interest” in seeing the previously secret opinion outweighed the need for continued secrecy.

djt ron desantis cnn collage

washington post logoWashington Post, From Palm Beach to Staten Island, DeSantis makes 2024 moves on Trump’s turf, Hannah Knowles and Josh Dawsey, Paul Farhi, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). The Florida governor’s show of force was part of his increasingly open encroachments into Trump's longtime support base and ideological terrain.

Four miles down an oceanfront highway from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, more than 100 influential Republicans gathered at a luxe resort this weekend for cigars, cocktails and plenty of face time with the former president’s chief GOP rival: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, shown above in a file photo. “WELCOME TO THE FREEDOM BLUEPRINT,” blared a sign welcoming donors, influencers and lawmakers.
Congressional districts have changed. Find yours for the 2022 midterm elections.

djt maga hatThey mingled Friday at the Four Seasons ahead of discussions hosted by DeSantis’s political committee on “election integrity,” border security and “medical authoritarianism,” according to an agenda reviewed by The Washington Post. It all unfolded a day after a much smaller candlelight dinner fundraiser held at Mar-a-Lago for the super PAC supporting Trump’s White House bid — a group with less cash than the DeSantis committee in its coffers at the end of last year.

DeSantis’s show of force in Trump’s backyard was part of his increasingly open encroachments into the former president’s longtime support base and ideological turf. The gathering marked the latest step by DeSantis toward launching a bid for president, as he avoids public conflict with Trump but cultivates Trump donors and supporters, visits Trump strongholds and seeks to make his mark on some issues closely associated with Trump.

Trump’s grip on the Republican base is slipping — even among his fans

DeSantis touted his record as governor extensively in remarks to a packed room Friday night, according to an attendee who, like others interviewed for this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. The confab here was designed to showcase DeSantis’s record and show it could be applied nationally, people familiar with the event said. That’s an appealing prospect to many Republicans, including some who used to be staunch Trump supporters.

washington post logoWashington Post, Arizona governor seeks ethics review of former attorney general, Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). katie hobbsThe complaint to the State Bar of Arizona follows new details about how Mark Brnovich withheld records debunking claims of election fraud.

Arizona’s Democratic governor, Katie Hobbs, right, is seeking a review of what her office alleges was “likely unethical mark brnovich gage skidmoreconduct” by the state’s former attorney general, Mark Brnovich, shown below left in a Gage Skidmore photo.

A letter sent Friday from the governor’s office to the State Bar of Arizona follows the disclosure on Wednesday of records showing that Brnovich, a Republican, withheld findings by his own investigators refuting claims of fraud in the 2020 arizona mapelection and mischaracterized his office’s probe of voting in the state’s largest county.

The letter, signed by Hobbs’s general counsel, Bo Dul, calls the conduct “harmful to our democracy, our State, and the legal profession itself.”

Brnovich dismissed the allegations. “Katie Hobbs is wrong,” he said in a statement. “This is another misguided attempt by her to defame and cancel a political opponent instead of addressing the serious issues facing our state.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Marianne Williamson Says She Will Run for President Again, Maggie Astor, Feb. 26, 2023. Marianne Williamson, below right, the self-help author and spiritual adviser who ran unsuccessfully for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, will run again in 2024, she told marianne williamson screen shot 2019 07 31 Customsupporters this weekend.

“Since the election of 2016 it’s odd for anyone to think they can know who can win the presidency,” she said in a statement that was emailed to supporters and posted on Facebook. “And I’m not putting myself through this again just to add to the conversation. I’m running for president to help bring an aberrational chapter of our history to a close, and to help bring forth a new beginning.” She added, “Washington is filled with good political car mechanics, but the problem is that we are on the wrong road.”

Four years ago, Ms. Williamson was one of more than 25 candidates for the nomination that Joseph R. Biden Jr. ultimately won. This time around, so far, she is the only candidate — entering the 2024 race before even Mr. Biden has done so, though he is widely expected to run for re-election.

Ms. Williamson, 70, became famous within the self-help world as an author of several best-selling books and a spiritual adviser to Oprah Winfrey.

Ms. Williamson has promoted dubious or debunked medical theories, particularly on mental illness. In books, interviews and social media posts before and during her 2020 campaign, she described clinical depression as a “scam,” argued that antidepressants were recklessly overprescribed, and suggested with no evidence that they might have been to blame for some celebrity suicides.

Religion News Service via Washington Post, ‘Christian patriots’ are flocking from blue states to Idaho, Jack Jenkins, Feb. 25, 2023 (print ed.). North Idaho offers a window into what a right-wing vision for a Christian America can look like — and the power it can wield in state politics.

Earlier this month, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Georgia Republican, addressed the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee, whose purview runs from this small resort city up along the Washington state border. Before she spoke, a local pastor and onetime Idaho state washington post logorepresentative named Tim Remington, wearing an American-flag-themed tie, revved up the crowd: “If we put God back in Idaho, then God will always protect Idaho.”

idaho map localGreene’s remarks ran nearly an hour and touched on topics dear to her far-right fans: claims about the 2020 election being “stolen,” sympathy for those arrested in the attack on the U.S. Capitol, and her opposition to vaccine mandates.

She then insisted that Democrats in Washington have abandoned God and truth — specifically, the “sword” of biblical truth, which she said “will hurt you.”

The room of partisans applauded throughout, sometimes shouting “Amen!”

idaho mapThe event may be the closest thing yet to Greene’s vision for the GOP, which she has urged to become the “party of Christian nationalism.” The Idaho Panhandle’s especially fervent embrace of the ideology may explain why Greene, who has sold T-shirts reading “Proud Christian Nationalist,” traveled more than 2,300 miles to a county with fewer than 67,000 Republican voters to talk about biblical truth: Amid ongoing national debate over Christian nationalism, North Idaho offers a window at what actually trying to manifest a right-wing vision for a Christian America can look like — and the power it can wield in state politics.

washington post logoWashington Post, Report: George Santos lied to a judge about working for Goldman Sachs, Justine McDaniel, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). George Santos falsely told a judge in Seattle in 2017 that he worked for Goldman Sachs, Politico reported Friday, adding to the long list of lies by the now-New York Republican congressman.

Politico published an audio recording of part of Santos’s conversation with a judge during an arraignment for Gustavo Ribeiro Trelha, whom Santos told the judge was a family friend. Trelha later pleaded guilty to fraud, went to jail and was deported to Brazil, Politico reported.

Republican Rep. George Santos’s trail of untruths. Here’s a list.

“So what do you do for work?” King County Superior Court Judge Sean P. O’Donnell says in the recording of the May 15, 2017, arraignment hearing for Trelha.

“I am an aspiring politician and I work for Goldman Sachs,” Santos is heard to reply.

“You work for Goldman Sachs in New York?” O’Donnell says.

“Yup,” Santos replies.

It was a lie Santos would repeat five years later as he campaigned for Congress, and one of many parts of his biography that reporters found to be fabricated. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November, but his résumé has unraveled since. Though he temporarily stepped down from House committees, Santos has rebuffed calls to resign and has not been pushed to do so by Republican leaders.

Santos is the subject of multiple local, state and federal investigations as New York Republicans and some members of the House GOP have called for him to step down.

washington post logoWashington Post, Toxic air pollutants in East Palestine could pose long-term risks, researchers say, contradicting officials, Scott Dance, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Using EPA data, Texas A&M scientists found elevated levels of some chemicals at the derailment site. But EPA officials say the levels pose no short-term risks and are likely to dissipate.

Three weeks after the toxic train derailment in Ohio, an independent analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data has found nine air pollutants at levels that, if they persist, could raise long-term health concerns in and around East Palestine.
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The analysis by Texas A&M University researchers stands in contrast to statements by state and federal regulators that air near the crash site is completely safe, despite residents complaining about rashes, breathing problems and other health effects.

In response on Friday, EPA officials said that air quality levels of 79 chemicals they are monitoring remain below levels of concern for short-term exposure, and that current concentrations are likely to dissipate.

But the data only adds to questions and concerns that have weighed on residents for weeks, as they wonder how contaminated their community has become.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: George Santos speaks the truth! Dana Milbank, right, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). I’m not gonna lie. It was another bad week for the dana milbank newestGreat Prevaricator, Rep. George Santos.

The New York Republican (shown below) sat for a long interview with British broadcaster Piers Morgan and attempted to validate his previous lies — by serving up a batch of new ones. Santos lied about his lie about his religion: “I never claimed to be Jewish.” (He did, george santos headshotmany times.) He supplemented this with a lie about a speech he gave to the Republican Jewish Coalition, claiming “people were hysterically laughing” at his joke about being “Jew-ish.” (A recording shows there was no such joke, and no such laughter.)

Worse, Santos complained about Jews and others offended by his bogus Judaism claims and his false story about his family fleeing the Holocaust. “Now that everybody’s canceling me, everybody’s pounding down for a pound of flesh,” he complained.

Yes, “pound of flesh” comes from Shylock, the greedy Jew in Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice.”

But the interview offered some insight into the fabulist’s strategy for political survival — and why it may resonate with some in the MAGA crowd. True story: Santos claims he is the victim. His lies are everybody else’s fault — honest!

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Trump, Allies, GOP Probes, Prospects

  michael luttig house jan 6 hearing june 16 2022

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Embarrassing Spectacle That Mike Pence Is Heading For, J. Michael Luttig (shown testifying about last June 16 before the House Jan. 6 committee), Feb. 25, 2023 (print ed.). Former Vice President Mike Pence recently announced he would challenge Special Counsel Jack Smith’s subpoena for him to appear before a grand jury in Washington as part of the investigation into former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and the related Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Mr. Pence claimed that “the Biden D.O.J. subpoena” was “unconstitutional” and “unprecedented.” He added, “For me, this is a moment where you have to decide where you stand, and I stand on the Constitution of the United States.” Mr. Pence vowed to take his fight all the way to the Supreme Court.

A politician should be careful what he wishes for — no more so than when he’s a possible presidential candidate who would have the Supreme Court decide a constitutional case that could undermine his viability in an upcoming campaign.

The former vice president should not want the embarrassing spectacle of the Supreme Court compelling him to appear before a grand jury in Washington just when he’s starting his campaign for the presidency; recall the unanimous Supreme Court ruling that ordered Richard Nixon to turn over the fatally damning Oval Office tapes. That has to be an uncomfortable prospect for Mr. Pence, not to mention a potentially damaging one for a man who — at least as of today — is considered by many of us across the political spectrum to be a profile in courage for his refusal to join in the attempt to overturn the 2020 election in the face of Donald Trump’s demands. And to be clear, Mr. Pence’s decision to brand the Department of Justice’s perfectly legitimate subpoena as unconstitutional is a far cry from the constitutionally hallowed ground he stood on Jan. 6.

Injecting campaign-style politics into the criminal investigatory process with his rhetorical characterization of Mr. Smith’s subpoena as a “Biden D.O.J. subpoena,” Mr. Pence is trying to score points with voters who want to see President Biden unseated in 2024. Well enough. That’s what politicians do.

But Jack Smith’s subpoena was neither politically motivated nor designed to strengthen President Biden’s political hand in 2024. Thus the jarring dissonance between the subpoena and Mr. Pence’s characterization of it. It is Mr. Pence who has chosen to politicize the subpoena, not the D.O.J.

Mr. Luttig, a former judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, provided advice to then-Vice President Pence on the run-up to the Electoral College count on Jan. 6, 2021.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fight over Rep. Perry’s phone has prevented review of 2,200 documents in Jan. 6 probe, Spencer S. Hsu, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Six months after the FBI seized Perry’s phone, a U.S. appeals court is reviewing a judge’s order that 90 percent of Perry’s messages fall outside the congressman’s immunity from criminal investigation.

A secret legal fight over the cellphone of Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) has prevented the Justice Department for more than six months from reviewing more than 2,200 documents in the criminal investigation of former president Donald Trump and supporters’ efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, a federal judge disclosed Friday evening.

Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the U.S. District Court in D.C. released a number of previously sealed opinions after finding that the “powerful public interest” outweighed the need for secrecy in the constitutional battle over Perry’s claims and the historic investigation.

republican elephant logoThe Pennsylvania Republican has asserted that 2,219 documents contained on his phone are shielded by the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause, which grants members of Congress immunity from criminal investigation in their official capacities. But in a ruling in December, Howell rejected that claim for more than 90 percent of the records, ordering Perry to turn over 2,055 text messages, emails and attachments after concluding that they were only incidentally related to his status as a lawmaker, and not central to that status and constitutionally protected as part of his lawmaking.

“What is plain is that the Clause does not shield Rep. Perry’s random musings with private individuals touting an expertise in cybersecurity or political discussions with attorneys from a presidential campaign, or with state legislators concerning hearings before them about possible local election fraud or actions they could take to challenge election results in Pennsylvania,” Howell wrote.

The scope and nature of the Perry fight had been secret, because they involve an FBI search warrant used to seize Perry’s phone on Aug. 9. But Howell said the Justice Department agreed to unseal details Friday because a federal appeals court held fast-tracked public arguments this week after staying Howell’s order and approved the release of her key opinions to certain members of Congress and the House general counsel’s office. That office has taken Perry’s side. Perry’s lawyers objected to the unsealing, but Howell said redactions protected his interests, noting that the government’s specific allegations about why Perry’s phone might contain evidence of a crime remain under seal.

scott perryPerry, right, is a key figure who sought to help Trump replace the attorney general after the 2020 election with former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark and get the Justice Department to reverse its finding that Joe Biden had been elected fairly, according to the House committee that investigated the Jan. 6, 2021, attack by Trump supporters on the U.S. Capitol. The Justice Department has separately prioritized and obtained access to 37 emails between Perry and Trump-connected lawyers John Eastman, who pushed false claims of mass electoral fraud in 2020, Clark and aide Ken Klukowski, as well as 331 documents from Clark about his Jan. 6 role, according to the filings.

Rep. Scott Perry played key role in promoting false claims of fraud

In Thursday’s oral arguments, two members of a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit challenged the line drawn by the Justice Department and Howell distinguishing between a lawmaker’s work in formally sanctioned congressional investigations and Perry’s “informal legislative fact-finding.”

Perry attorney John P. Rowley III argued that such fact-finding is protected against intrusion by the executive branch of the government.

Over four separate opinions totaling 68 pages released Friday, Howell countered that she was relying on several opinions by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals itself laying out that distinction. She also said that the appeals court in a 2007 opinion about a bribery investigation of Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.) went further than the Supreme Court in finding that the “speech or debate” clause protects lawmakers not only from being questioned, but also shields them from disclosing documents in criminal or civil disputes.

Howell warned that accepting Perry’s “astonishing view” that the lawmakers are protected not only from questioning but also from even disclosing records in the first place would turn members of Congress into “supercitizens” — immune from investigative scrutiny, criminal or civil liability and political accountability.

“No matter the vigor with which Rep. Perry pursued his wide-ranging interest in bolstering his belief that the results of the 2020 election were somehow incorrect — even in the face of his own reelection — his informal inquiries into the legitimacy of those election results are closer to the activities described as purely personal or political [ …], since this ‘fact-finding’ was conducted entirely outside the auspices of a formal congressional inquiry or authorization,” Howell wrote.

Howell agreed that 164 of 611 communications Perry conducted with other House members were privileged because they concerned core legislative actions involving Congress’s joint session to confirm the 2020 electoral college vote, and matters such as committee assignments. But she rejected that claim for 678 messages with private outside parties — including many in which she said Perry was not obtaining information but relaying it.

Howell similarly rejected Perry’s bid to shield 930 messages involving executive branch officials, finding it “ironic” that Perry would turn the Constitution’s intended protection of lawmakers from executive branch interference in legislative matters “on its head.”

bruno cuaWXIA-TV, 11 Alive (Atlanta), Young man from Milton found guilty on 2 felony charges in Capitol Riot case, Jessica Moore and Joe Henke, Feb. 24, 2023. A young man from Milton, shown above, has been found guilty on two felony charges in connection with the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Randolph D. Moss found Bruno Cua guilty of assaulting a Capitol Police officer and obstruction of an official proceeding. The verdict comes after a disagreement between the prosecution and defense on what can be defined as an "assault," according to documents obtained by 11Alive.

Cua, 20, is set to be sentenced on Friday, May 12 at 9:30 a.m., court records show.

He's the youngest defendant from Georgia to be charged in connection to the insurrection. At the time of the riot, Cua was 18 years old.

Last year, Cua rejected a plea deal as he was previously facing a dozen charges. Federal prosecutors previously said photos and video images show Cua was one of the individuals to enter the U.S. Senate Chambers during the violence in D.C., and he entered the building with a baton in his hands.

During a February 2021 hearing, Cua's father testified drove his son to Washington D.C., and attended then President Donald Trump's rally near the capitol, along with his wife and son, but didn't enter the building with his son. In a later court hearing, a judge approved his release, but Cua was directed to live with a third-party custodian.

Cua is one of more than two dozen people from Georgia who were arrested and charged in connection to the insurrection. According to 11Alive's latest report, several of those defendants are set to head to trial later this year. And a dozen others have been sentenced after accepting plea deals from federal prosecutors.

 

Donald Trump, shown in a 2020 campaign hat.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump works state-by-state to improve chances at Republican convention, Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey and Maeve Reston, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). The former president’s team is looking to use experience and early start to find advantages.

Donald Trump’s team has launched a nationwide campaign to buttress his chances of getting sympathetic delegates at next year’s nominating convention and identify opportunities to shape party rules that could help his campaign, according to people familiar with the plans.

republican elephant logoThe behind-the-scenes effort comes at a time when most Trump rivals have not even launched campaigns and focuses on the most esoteric part of the Republican nominating process — the state rules and party leaders that actually select presidential nominating delegates.

rnc logoHis team has invited state party officials to Mar-a-Lago, arranged private meet-and-greets between state leaders and Trump as he travels, endorsed state officials they believe will be supportive of him and met with senior Republican Party officials in Washington to discuss how the delegate selection process will unfold, according to the people directly familiar with the efforts, who like many for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Trump advisers say the outreach is less about demanding changes now and more about cultivating relationships for the upcoming months — when they could call for some rule changes in states and try to shape who the delegates are for the convention. It also shows that while they are projecting political strength, there is a realization that they will likely face a long and difficult nomination fight and potentially a messy convention, some Trump advisers say.

“The Trump campaign has a political operation that is second to none, and will leverage its considerable experience to ensure complete and total victory in 2024,” Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said Friday.

Trump, the onetime outsider who patched together his successful 2016 campaign on the fly, has now built a team more adept at playing the inside game. Strategists for multiple rival political operations, who have not yet formally declared their candidacies, say they are concerned that Trump’s early blocking and tackling could pay major dividends next year and leave them racing to catch up.

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jeremy bertino anthony crider w

 

U.S. Politics & Ukraine War

washington post logoWashington Post, Mitch McConnell tells U.S. to ‘wake up’ to threat of Russia on Ukraine war anniversary, Liz Goodwin, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). The Senate minority leader's message marked a stark contrast to the one pushed by some other congressional Republicans and Donald Trump.

Mitchell_McConnellSenate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), right, on Friday urged the United States and its allies to renew their resolve to help Ukraine as it stands up to Russian “thuggery,” tacitly pushing back against members of his own party who have become loudly skeptical of Ukraine’s fight as the conflict passes the one-year mark.

“America and our friends need to finish waking up from our holiday from history, welcome Finland and Sweden into NATO by this summer, and make significant investments in military modernization and our defense-industrial capacities that are commensurate with the major challenges we face,” McConnell said in a statement, shortly before appearing alongside President Sauli Niinisto in Helsinki to support Finland’s bid to join NATO.

republican elephant logoThe message marked a stark contrast to the one pushed by former president Donald Trump and some congressional Republicans, who criticized President Biden’s trip to Kyiv earlier this week and have called for ending or slowing aid to Ukraine. In a tweet, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga), a hard-right ally of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and one of dozens of House Republicans to vote against Ukraine aid in May, called Biden’s trip “insulting” and proof that he “chose Ukraine over America.”

But nearly 50 U.S. lawmakers, including McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), traveled to the Munich Security Conference in Germany last week to reassure European allies that Congress, which is split between a GOP-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate, will continue to support Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with weapons and funds.

World Crisis Radio, Historical Commentary and Strategic Advocacy: Biden scores the greatest US strategic-diplomatic triumph of recent decades — at the expense of the aggressor Putin! Webster G. Tarpley, right, author, webster tarpley 2007historian and activist, Feb. 25, 2023. (117:09 mins.). Kyiv, Warsaw, the Bucharest Nine, and 54 nations in the Ramstein armaments group show the scope of world opposition to the Kremlin butchers;

UN Security Council hears unproven theories on Nordstream pipelines; General Assembly demands Russian forces leave Ukraine by vote of 141 to 7, with 32 abstentions; South Africa should remember Moscow’s food warfare vs. Africa; India’s Modi may seize moment for increased authoritarianism in what was once called the world’s largest democracy;

Putin’s major speech was a collection of threats to oligarchs and nomenklatura, demanding that they repatriate their foreign holdings and finance Russia; Low energy and tepid response;

Clumsy leaks from Fulton County GA grand jury foreperson suggest bad news is imminent for Don and 12 apostles; AG Garland is a threat to Biden’s re-election and must go; Jack Smith subpoenas Meadows, Meadows, and Jarvanka;

FDR’s landmark fireside chat of May 27 1941 explained the forward defense of the western hemisphere to isolationists: ”When your enemy comes at you in a tank or a bombing plane, if you hold your fire until you see the whites of his eyes, you will never know what hit you. Our Bunker Hill of tomorrow may be several thousand miles from Boston.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Putin pitches the American right with an ungodly invocation of God, E.J. Dionne Jr., Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Here’s a scoop ej dionne w open neckfor you: Vladimir Putin is sounding like someone who wants to enter the 2024 Republican presidential primaries.

How else do you explain that in the middle of his bellicose speech Tuesday promising success in his assault on Ukraine, the Russian dictator fired a series of heat-seeking verbal missiles into our culture wars.

“Look at what they’ve done to their own people,” he said of us Westerners. “They’re destroying family, national identity, they are abusing their children. Even pedophilia is announced as a normal thing in the West.” Never mind that Russia is a world leader in sex trafficking.

Putin didn’t stop there. In one rather convoluted passage, he came out against same-sex marriage, backed off a bit, and then doubled down:

“And they’re recognizing same-sex marriages,” he said. “That’s fine that they’re adults. They’ve got the right to live their life. And we always, we’re very tolerant about this in Russia. Nobody is trying to enter private lives of people, and we’re not going to do this.”

Well, not quite, but he pressed on: “However, we need to tell them, but look at the scriptures of any religion in the world. Everything is said in there. And one of the things is that family is a union of a man and a woman.”

Among his enemies, Putin charged, “even the sacred texts are subjected to doubt.” Also, watch out, Britain: The “Anglican Church is planning to consider the idea of a gender-neutral God,” Putin mourned. “What can you say here? Millions of people in the West understand that they are being led to spiritual destruction.”

It has become a habit to cast the struggle over Ukraine in Cold War terms. Maybe that’s natural, given Putin’s old job as a KGB agent and his determination to expand Russia’s imperial reach to something closer to the hegemony once enjoyed by the old Soviet Union.

But it’s closer to the truth to see Putin as trying to build a right-wing nationalist international movement (no pun intended). And it’s obvious that his embrace of social and religious traditionalism is aimed at winning over right-wing opinion in the democracies and splitting the traditional right.

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More On Ukraine War

ny times logoNew York Times, War in Ukraine Deepens Divide Among Major Economies at G20 Gathering, Alan Rappeport, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urged her counterparts at a summit in India to condemn Russia’s actions, and defended the cost of supplying aid to Kyiv.

washington post logoWashington Post, Significance of a 600-mile front line between Ukrainian, Russian forces, Júlia Ledur, Laris Karklis, Ruby Mellen, Chris Alcantara, Aaron Steckelberg and Lauren Tierney, Feb. 26, 2023. Over the last year, the war has morphed from a multi-front invasion to a conflict of attrition largely concentrated along a 600-mile stretch in the east and south.

washington post logoWashington Post, American veteran killed in Ukraine wanted to ‘make a difference,’ father says, Andrea Salcedo, Feb. 26, 2023. On Tuesday, Andrew Peters’s parents received a call from his unit informing them that the 28-year-old U.S. Army veteran serving on the front lines with the International Legion of the Defense of Ukraine was missing in action.

“If someone is missing in action, that usually means one of two things: Either they are dead, or they were taken prisoner,” his father, John Peters, who also served in the U.S. Army, told The Washington Post in an interview.

That same day, the family in Marshfield, Wis., received a call from U.S. officials saying he had died. The veteran, who had also served as an infantryman in Afghanistan, was killed on Feb. 16 during combat. His body had been located. Citing security concerns, his unit and officials did not disclose the specific location where he died, John Peters told The Post. The unit told him that the family would eventually learn those details.

For now, the family is waiting for Andrew Peters’s remains and his personal belongings to be shipped home.

The news of his death arrived days before the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion, which ended decades of relative stability in Europe and launched a cascade of human suffering.

The United Nations says it has verified more than 8,000 civilian deaths since the invasion began and many more injuries, but the true toll could be much higher.

More than 100,000 Ukrainian troops have been killed or wounded in the war, according to the Associated Press, citing Western officials. Russian casualties are believed to be similar. Peters is at least the seventh American killed in Ukraine after Russia’s invasion began last year.

Long before life would take him to Ukraine to fight for another country, Andrew Peters was set on fighting for his own country.

washington post logoWashington Post, Discreetly, and at peril, Russian volunteers help Ukrainian refugees, Mary Ilyushina and Ksenia Ivanova, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). A secret, loosely connected network of volunteers is helping Ukrainians in Russia to flee to Europe. But the Kremlin's special services are cracking down.

To avoid the authorities, thousands of displaced Ukrainians in Russia are relying on a discreet network of unofficial volunteers — a sort of Slavic echo of the Underground Railroad — working to bring war refugees through Russia to safety in Europe.

These volunteers are not linked to each other, and are not part of an organization. They often do not live in the same city and, for safety, most of them will never see each other in person. The common denominator is the risk they face from the Russian security forces, who are suspicious of citizen initiatives and have cracked down on all manner of civil society groups.

The independent volunteers do all kinds of things. Some work from home processing help requests. Others help care for pets, gather food, clothing and medicine, or deliver to makeshift warehouses. Hosts who open their doors to Ukrainians or drivers who transport them across the Russian border face the steepest risk as they are ones interacting directly with refugees and the authorities.

None of the volunteers’ activities are illegal but amid Russia’s wartime laws anything that involves Ukraine and does not fit with the current pro-war patriotic fervor is sensitive and regarded unfavorably by the security services.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Ukraine War Passes Year Mark, Eyes Are on China, James C. McKinley Jr. and Matt Surman, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). The president of Belarus, a staunch Kremlin ally, will visit Beijing next week. It is likely to highlight China’s efforts to walk a careful line.

While Western allies reaffirmed their unity with Ukraine as the war crossed the one-year point and fighting showed no signs of letting up, divisions with countries that have declined to cut ties with Russia — namely China and India — were on display Saturday.

China announced that its top leader would host the president of Belarus, a staunch Kremlin ally, with the pomp of a state visit next week. The move will likely increase international attention, and pressure, on China over its straddling position on the war amid warnings from Washington that Beijing is considering sending military aid to Russia.

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U.S. Courts, Crime, Immigration

 

ICE logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Alone and Exploited, Migrant Children Work Brutal Jobs Across the U.S., Hannah Dreier and Photographs By Kirsten Luce, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Arriving in record numbers, they’re doing dangerous work that violates child labor laws, a Times investigation found. Children are producing some of the best-known branded goods, in American factories for global corporations.

It was almost midnight in Grand Rapids, Mich., but inside the factory everything was bright. A conveyor belt carried bags of Cheerios past a cluster of young workers. One was 15-year-old Carolina Yoc, who came to the United States on her own last year to live with a relative she had never met.

About every 10 seconds, she stuffed a sealed plastic bag of cereal into a passing yellow carton. It could be dangerous work, with fast-moving pulleys and gears that had torn off fingers and ripped open a woman’s scalp.

The factory was full of underage workers like Carolina, who had crossed the southern border by themselves and were now spending late hours bent over hazardous machinery, in violation of child labor laws. At nearby plants, other children were tending giant ovens to make Chewy and Nature Valley granola bars and packing bags of Lucky Charms and Cheetos — all of them working for the processing giant Hearthside Food Solutions, which would ship these products around the country.

“Sometimes I get tired and feel sick,” Carolina said after a shift in November. Her stomach often hurt, and she was unsure if that was because of the lack of sleep, the stress from the incessant roar of the machines, or the worries she had for herself and her family in Guatemala. “But I’m getting used to it.”

These workers are part of a new economy of exploitation: Migrant children, who have been coming into the United States without their parents in record numbers, are ending up in some of the most punishing jobs in the country, a New York Times investigation found. This shadow work force extends across industries in every state, flouting child labor laws that have been in place for nearly a century. Twelve-year-old roofers in Florida and Tennessee. Underage slaughterhouse workers in Delaware, Mississippi and North Carolina. Children sawing planks of wood on overnight shifts in South Dakota.

Largely from Central America, the children are driven by economic desperation that was worsened by the pandemic. This labor force has been slowly growing for almost a decade, but it has exploded since 2021, while the systems meant to protect children have broken down.

The Times spoke with more than 100 migrant child workers in 20 states who described jobs that were grinding them into exhaustion, and fears that they had become trapped in circumstances they never could have imagined. The Times examination also drew on court and inspection records and interviews with hundreds of lawyers, social workers, educators and law enforcement officials.

In town after town, children scrub dishes late at night. They run milking machines in Vermont and deliver meals in New York City. They harvest coffee and build lava rock walls around vacation homes in Hawaii. Girls as young as 13 wash hotel sheets in Virginia.

In many parts of the country, middle and high school teachers in English-language learner programs say it is now common for nearly all their students to rush off to long shifts after their classes end.

“They should not be working 12-hour days, but it’s happening here,” said Valeria Lindsay, a language arts teacher at Homestead Middle School near Miami. For the past three years, she said, almost every eighth grader in her English learner program of about 100 students was also carrying an adult workload.

Migrant child labor benefits both under-the-table operations and global corporations, The Times found. In Los Angeles, children stitch “Made in America” tags into J. Crew shirts. They bake dinner rolls sold at Walmart and Target, process milk used in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and help debone chicken sold at Whole Foods. As recently as the fall, middle-schoolers made Fruit of the Loom socks in Alabama. In Michigan, children make auto parts for Ford and General Motors.

Hannah traveled to Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota and Virginia for this story and spoke to more than 100 migrant child workers in 20 states.

ny times logoNew York Times, After City Bans Sleeping at Homeless Youth Centers, a Center Resists, Joshua Needelman, Feb. 26, 2023. The number of runaway and homeless young people using drop-in programs has surged. Now, the city says they must stay awake, even overnight.

The city’s overnight drop-in centers for homeless and runaway youth, which are serving a rising number of young people, received a jarring message last month: “Effective immediately, providers are required to discontinue the practice of allowing youth and young adults to sleep overnight.”

At least one of the centers has responded in turn: no.

Alexander Roque, who runs Ali Forney, a Manhattan center that serves L.G.B.T.Q. youth, said “they would have to shut us down and put me in handcuffs” before he would comply with the directive.

“If the city threatens us and takes away our funding, I will continue to let our clients sleep, because that’s what’s at stake, their mental health is at stake,” Mr. Roque said.

The drop-in centers, operated by five city-funded nonprofits, are not homeless shelters, but there is one in each borough open 24 hours a day to serve teenagers and young people between the ages of 14 and 24. They provide food, laundry, education and career services, among other things. And, though they do not operate as official homeless shelters, many had also provided cots or other places for young people to sleep.

The directive has sent providers and clients into chaos, at a time when the population of young people served by the programs is soaring. In the first four months of fiscal year 2023, a total of 1,445 youth and young adults received case management services at the drop-in programs, an increase of 48 percent from the same period the previous year, according to the preliminary mayor’s management report published in January. (Three of the drop-in clinics included in the data were day clinics that did not offer 24-hour services.)

Last week, drop-in center providers spoke with department officials in an unsuccessful attempt to reverse the directive.

The city says the ban — issued Jan. 13 by the city agency that oversees them, the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development, and first reported by the news site The City — helps ensure the centers are in compliance with state law and not operating as “unlicensed shelters.” Clients are still permitted to “rest” at the centers, according to the directive.

The centers are funded through contracts from the city and expected to direct clients to one of the city’s 50 residential programs, which are run by the Department of Youth and Community Development, not the city’s main homeless agency, the Department of Homeless Services. These programs have 813 total allocated beds, including 753 for young people ages 16 to 20, and 60 for ages 21 to 24 according to the department.

 

The lead prosecutor, Creighton Waters, left, repeatedly attacked the credibility of the timeline put forth by Mr. Murdaugh (Pool photo by Joshua Boucher).

The lead prosecutor, Creighton Waters, left, repeatedly attacked the credibility of the timeline put forth by Mr. Murdaugh (Pool photo by Joshua Boucher).

washington post logoWashington Post, The Alex Murdaugh murder trial, explained, Timothy Bella, Feb. 26, 2023. Murdaugh, who is on trial for allegedly killing his wife, Maggie, and son Paul, has been at the center of media coverage for months. Here's what you should know.

In the more than 20 months since Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were found dead at their family’s sprawling South Carolina hunting estate, the public has been enthralled with Alex Murdaugh and the murder charges brought against him — a husband, father and member of a multigenerational legal dynasty who has come crashing down in a very public fashion.

Murdaugh, 54, who has been at the center of worldwide media coverage for months, took the stand this week to give his account of what happened on June 7, 2021, the day his wife, Maggie, 52, and son Paul, 22, were killed. His defense attorneys have argued during the murder trial that no physical evidence connects Murdaugh to the scene of the crime, and prosecutors have staked their case on what they say are his years of financial shadiness, opioid addiction, lies to authorities and struggles to recall key events. If Murdaugh is convicted, he could face up to life in prison.

Alex Murdaugh has pleaded not guilty in the murder case, which has sparked popular docuseries on Netflix and HBO Max; CNN and Court TV have carried the trial live, and media outlets have covered it aggressively since it started Jan. 25.

As the trial appears to be headed to a conclusion in the coming days, here are the background and facts of the case.

ny times logoNew York Times, Murdaugh Hammered by Prosecutor Over Where He Was on Night of Killings, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Updated Feb. 25, 2023. The cross-examination of Alex Murdaugh, the lawyer who has denied killing his wife and son, came as he concluded his testimony in his own defense.

After five weeks of trial, the murder case against Alex Murdaugh narrowed on Friday to the question of what happened in a critical few minutes after the prominent South Carolina lawyer went down to his family’s dog kennels where his wife and son were found shot to death later that night.

On the second and final day of Mr. Murdaugh’s crucial testimony in his own defense, prosecutors aggressively challenged him about those key minutes, showing that his new account of his movements that night — offered this week after more than 20 months of denying he was at the kennels at all — is difficult to reconcile with the timeline of the murders.

Armed with telephone calls, texts, videos, car navigation data and cellphone step counts, the lead prosecutor, Creighton Waters, showed that Mr. Murdaugh would have had to have left the kennels and returned to the house a short distance away only minutes before the killings — despite his claims that he had heard no gunshots.

Mr. Murdaugh had initially told the police that he had been napping in the house, but he told a different story on the witness stand this week after a video emerged showing that he had indeed been present at some point when his wife and son were out checking on the dogs.

 

Murder defendant Alex Murdaugh, shown at upper left (Pool photo).

Murder defendant Alex Murdaugh, shown at upper left (Pool photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, Alex Murdaugh Admits Lying and Stealing, but Denies Murders, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). In choosing to testify on Thursday, Mr. Murdaugh took a gamble that could determine whether he is acquitted or sent to prison for life.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The justices halt an execution — and reveal themselves in the process, Ruth Marcus, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). When a ruth marcus twitter Customprisoner on death row wins a case before this Supreme Court, the logical response is to breathe a sigh of relief. That doesn’t happen very often these days.

So good for John Montenegro Cruz, an Arizona man convicted in 2005 of murdering a Tucson police officer, and good for Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, who joined with the court’s three liberals to grant Cruz a new sentencing hearing.

But read the facts of Cruz’s case, and a less cheery, more chilling, reaction seems called for: How can it be that Cruz’s life was spared by only a bare majority? Four other conservatives, in a decision written by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, would have stuck with a cramped rules-are-rules mentality to let an obviously unconstitutional death sentence stand.

How unconstitutional? Eleven years before Cruz’s trial, in Simmons v. South Carolina, the Supreme Court had ruled that when prosecutors arguing for the death penalty cite the risk of future “dangerousness,” defendants have the right to let the jury know that the alternative to a death sentence would be life without the possibility of parole.

That’s what Cruz asked for at his trial. The judge not only refused — he incorrectly instructed the jury that Cruz could be eligible for parole after 25 years. And that seemed to make a difference to the jurors in deciding whether to impose a death sentence.

“Many of us would rather have voted for life if there was one mitigating circumstance that warranted it,” the jury foreperson and two other jurors said in a statement the day after the sentence was imposed. “In our minds there wasn’t. We were not given an option to vote for life in prison without the possibility of parole.”

So Cruz sought a new trial. He lost, and lost again before the Arizona Supreme Court, which, again incorrectly, asserted that Simmons didn’t apply to Arizona’s death penalty sentencing scheme because parole was available. In 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

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U.S. Abortion, #MeToo, Stalking, Rape Laws

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Access to abortion is a unifying issue, Jennifer Rubin, right, Feb. 26, 2023. Who could have guessed that preserving jennifer rubin new headshotaccess to abortion would be such a unifying position?

Given how divided our country is, and how loud voices seeking to criminalize the procedure have become, one might not expect abortion bans to be so unpopular. Yet polling shows that support for abortion care is remarkably consistent.
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A recent report from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) finds, “Just under two-thirds of Americans (64%) say that abortion should be legal in most or almost all cases,” including 68 percent of independents. Only one-third say it should be illegal in most or almost all cases. Even among Republicans, 36 percent favor legal abortion. And the percentage of the party that favors banning all or most abortions has declined from 21 to 14 percent in just over a year.

In fact, majority support for abortion access cuts across gender, racial, ethnic, educational attainment and age lines. That support also spans most religious groups. The PRRI finds, “White evangelical Protestants (27%), Jehovah’s Witnesses (27%), Latter-day Saints (32%), and Hispanic Protestants (44%) are the only major religious groups in which less than half of adherents say that abortion should be legal in most or all cases.”

ny times logoNew York Times, 12 States Sue F.D.A. Over Special Restrictions on Abortion Pill, Pam Belluck, Feb. 25, 2023 (print ed.). The suit argues that rules applying to mifepristone unnecessarily limit patients’ access to medication abortion.

The attorneys general of a dozen Democratic-controlled states sued the Food and Drug Administration on Friday, asking a judge to remove special restrictions that the federal agency has long applied to the first of two drugs used in medication abortion.

The suit, filed in a Federal District Court in Washington State, comes at a tense moment in the battle over the legal status of abortion pills, which are used in more than half of abortions in the United States. A federal judge in Texas is expected to issue an order soon in a case filed by anti-abortion groups that seeks to overturn the F.D.A.’s approval of the same abortion pill, mifepristone, and have it taken off the market.

The potential consequences of the Texas case have set the reproductive health community on edge out of concern that the judge, a Trump appointee who is politically conservative and wrote an article that was critical of Roe v. Wade, could issue an order effectively blocking access to mifepristone across the country. Such a ruling would immediately be appealed, but if it ultimately stands, it would have far-reaching implications, affecting states where abortion is legal, not just states where abortion is already restricted.

The new lawsuit filed by the 12 states does not address the possible outcomes of the Texas case, but it requests that the judge’s ruling in the Washington case include orders that would effectively contravene steps that might be imposed by the Texas judge. While the Washington case primarily asks the court to order the F.D.A. to eliminate a framework of extra restrictions applied to mifepristone, the suit also asks the judge to declare that the F.D.A.’s “approval of mifepristone is lawful and valid” and to enjoin the F.D.A. “from taking any action to remove mifepristone from the market or reduce its availability.”

Ameet Sarpatwari, a lawyer and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said the timing and content of the lawsuit were strategic.

“It is a legally and politically savvy move to file this complaint now,” he said. “If you have a federal judge in one jurisdiction saying the approval was lawful, and actually enjoining F.D.A. from taking action to restrict access, that would stand in exact conflict with what many presume the Texas judge may do, which is actually rescind the approval of the drug.”

If two federal rulings were to conflict, said Dr. Sarpatwari, an expert on F.D.A. regulations, “that gives ground for the federal government to say, ‘Look, I’ve got two courts saying two fundamentally different things, and the best we can do right now is to not do anything.’” That could result in both cases landing before the Supreme Court and in preserved access to mifepristone until a high court decision, he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Texas judge who could take down the abortion pill, Caroline Kitchener and Ann E. Marimow, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). A devout Christian, Matthew Kacsmaryk has been shaped by his deep antiabortion beliefs.

matthew kacsmarykMatthew Kacsmaryk, right, was a 22-year-old law student when he drove to a small city in west Texas to spend a day with a baby he would probably never see again.

He was in Abilene to support his sister, who, pregnant at 17, had fled to a faraway maternity home to avoid the scorn she feared from their Christian community. But holding his nephew in his arms — then leaving the baby with adoptive parents — also solidified Kacsmaryk’s belief that every pregnancy should be treasured, his sister recalled, even those that don’t fit neatly into a family’s future plans.

Then-law student Matthew Kacsmaryk holds his nephew, along with other members of the family, before the baby was handed off to adoptive parents in Abilene, Texas in 2000. (Courtesy of Jennifer Griffith)

Almost sixteen years later, in 2016, Kacsmaryk drove back to Abilene for his first meeting as a board member of Christian Homes and Family Services, the organization that had taken in his sister when she chose adoption over abortion.

“He’s very passionate about the fact that you can’t preach pro-life and do nothing,” said Kacsmaryk’s sister, Jennifer Griffith. “We both hold the stance of you have to do something. You can’t not.”

Now 45 and a federal judge, Kacsmaryk (kaz-MARE-ik) has the opportunity to impose the most far-reaching limit on abortion access since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

The judge, nominated by President Trump and confirmed in 2019, will soon rule on a lawsuit seeking to revoke U.S. government approval of mifepristone, a key abortion medication. That outcome could, at least temporarily, halt over half the legal abortions carried out across the country, including in states led by Democrats where abortion rights are protected.

While many experts have said the case relies on baseless medical claims, it is Kacsmaryk’s role as presiding judge that has the abortion rights movement bracing for another crippling defeat.

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More On Earthquake Disaster in Turkey, Syria

 

An aerial photo of a scene in the Turkish city of Hatay portrays earthquake damage on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023 (photo via SkyNews).

An aerial photo of a scene in the Turkish city of Hatay portrays earthquake damage on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023 (photo via SkyNews). Toll Is Rising as Rescuers Scour Rubble; Thousands of Buildings Are Down.

ny times logoNew York Times, Turkish Builders Are Under Intense Scrutiny Over Shoddy Construction, Ben Hubbard, Elif Ince and Safak Timur, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). The deaths of more than 43,000 people in Turkey from an earthquake have raised painful and angry questions over building standards.

Two dozen student volleyball players, four teachers and 12 parents visiting Turkey for a competition this month checked into the Grand Isias Hotel in the southern city of Adiyaman. When a powerful earthquake struck on Feb. 6, the building collapsed and killed dozens of people including everyone in the entourage except for four adults.

A university engineer who examined the wreckage found indications of weak concrete and insufficient steel reinforcements, he and his colleagues wrote in a preliminary report, concluding that shoddy construction had left the building vulnerable, even to smaller quakes.

In the weeks since, the Turkish authorities have arrested three men connected to the hotel on unspecified charges as part of a wide-ranging dragnet targeting hundreds of building contractors and owners among others suspected of criminal negligence that contributed to deadly building collapses.

The suspects — some nabbed at the airport with stacks of cash or perp-walked on national television — have become the focus of public Flag of Turkeyrage, with many now questioning whether they padded their profits by flouting the codes put in place over the last two decades to make buildings more quake resistant.

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

washington post logoWashington Post, News outlets demand release of Jan. 6 footage given to Tucker Carlson, Anumita Kaur, Feb. 25, 2023 (print ed.). Scores of news organizations — including The Washington Post — on Friday demanded congressional leaders release a trove of surveillance footage from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol that the House speaker provided exclusively to Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has downplayed the violence.

Attorney Charles Tobin sent a letter on behalf of CBS News, CNN, Politico, ProPublica, ABC, Axios, Advance, Scripps, the Los Angeles Times and Gannett, arguing that the footage should be available to other groups as well.

“Without full public access to the complete historical record, there is concern that an ideologically-based narrative of an already polarizing event will take hold in the public consciousness, with destabilizing risks to the legitimacy of Congress, the Capitol Police, and the various federal investigations and prosecutions of Jan. 6 crimes,” the letter stated.

McCarthy gives Tucker Carlson exclusive access to Jan. 6 riot video

The Post is part of another coalition of news outlets, which includes the Associated Press and the New York Times, that sent a letter to McCarthy seeking access to the material.

Carlson, the most watched prime-time host on Fox News, has yet to air the unseen footage given to him by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

On Monday, he said his producers have “unfettered” access to about 44,000 hours of security footage recorded when hundreds of President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral college win. Carlson said that his team has been analyzing the content “and how it contradicts or not the story we’ve been told for more than two years,” and that his producers would spend the week reviewing the video and air what they found next week. His show did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

McCarthy has remained silent about the footage, and has not spoken publicly or responded to questions about the release, which was first reported by Axios. His office did not respond to a request for comment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Voice of America journalists put on leave after ‘Russian propaganda’ accusations, Paul Farhi, Feb. 25, 2023 (print ed.).
The government-funded broadcaster Voice of America put two journalists on leave after 15 coworkers accused them of producing Kremlin propaganda in previous jobs.

VOA Voice of America Voice of America placed two journalists in its Russian-language service on leave Friday after colleagues accused them of producing “propaganda” benefiting Russian president Vladimir Putin before they joined the U.S. government-funded broadcaster.

The journalists, Garri “Harry” Knyagnitskiy and Daria Davydova, were hired by VOA in November after working for several years at media outlets controlled by the Russian government or closely allied with it.

The decision, which came coincidentally on the first anniversary of the Russian invasion, follows the disclosure of an unusual letter signed by 15 VOA staff members and addressed to managers of the organization’s Russian service. The journalists sought the dismissal of Knyagnitskiy and Davydova, writing that their previous work “contributed to the spread of Russian propaganda narratives and disinformation,” vilified the United States and “laid the groundwork for the Kremlin to justify their full-scale invasion” of Ukraine last year.

The allegation is a particularly explosive one at Voice of America, which was founded in 1942 by the U.S. government to produce news and information to counter propaganda from Nazi Germany. The organization has evolved into a source of broadcast and digital news and cultural programming aimed at people living in countries whose authoritarian governments censor and control the news media.

The organization has periodically defended itself against suggestions of infiltration and corruption of its reporting, including in 2020 when its former government overseer, Michael Pack, said VOA was “a great place to put a foreign spy.”

VOA has in the past hired reporters who’ve worked for state-controlled media organizations, valuing them for their language skills, cultural and historical knowledge and journalistic experience despite the censorship often imposed on them in their former countries. The organization says it subjects new employees to background investigations to vet any ties to foreign governments and supervises their work to ensure it meets American standards of neutrality and objectivity.

Editor and Publisher, The Winsted Citizen: Ralph Nader’s gift to his hometown, Bob Sillick, Feb. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Todd Arcelaschi, the mayor, was there, and so was Joshua Steele Kelly, the town manager. A seven-piece R&B jazz band kept the atmosphere lively. More than 100 guests had gathered in the American Museum of Tort Law in Winsted, Connecticut, to celebrate the launch of the Winsted Citizen for a community hungry for news. Winsted is also where Ralph Nader was born and delivered the local newspaper as a boy, and the Citizen is his gift to his hometown, which had become a news desert.

“The Winsted Journal folded in 2017, so we were without a newspaper. You can’t have a community without a newspaper. Studies show voting and social life decline, and fewer people attend town meetings. No one is holding the government accountable and supporting the business community with coverage of important events,” Nader said.

“I came to the conclusion there's no community in the country that can’t support a weekly newspaper. It’s just a lack of imagination and organization. It only takes a handful of people to make it happen.”

Nader asked Andy Thibault to become the editor and publisher. He is a veteran journalist and editor and held that position at various Connecticut newspapers, including The Hartford Courant. He also teaches Basic News Reporting/Writing, Investigative Reporting and Communication at the University of New Haven.

The first announcement about the Citizen stated it would publish a pilot issue first. However, the enthusiasm and positive response from the community prompted the paper to revise its plans. They’ve committed to a monthly edition throughout the remainder of 2023, then publishing weekly in 2024.

“On February 3rd, 1,000 copies of the inaugural issue of the Winsted Citizen were mailed by Trumbull Printing to households in our circulation area. The first 35 subscribers and all 192 Connecticut public libraries were included in the initial mailing. The Citizen is also available at multiple locations throughout the community. We now have almost 200 subscribers with an immediate goal of 1,000,” Thibault said. “We also had immediate interest from many local businesses to place ads in the first issue.”

“We have a big learning curve as we integrate ourselves with the community. We want to earn everyone's trust and respect. We’re extending our hand — ready to meet people and learn how we can serve them.”

Subscriptions and advertising are the immediate targets to generate revenue, but as a 501(c) 3 nonprofit, it will also explore resources available through grants and from foundations — a process that has already started.

Editor's Note: Justice Integrity Project Editor Andrew Kreig, a longtime journalist in Connecticut with the Hartford Courant and elsewhere, serves on the new newspaper's founding board of directors.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vice C.E.O.’s Departure Signals Fallen Hopes for Digital Media, Benjamin Mullin, Feb. 25, 2023 (print ed.). Nancy Dubuc is leaving the media company, which is exploring a sale of some or all of the business, after nearly five years there.

When Vice Media named Nancy Dubuc as its new chief executive in 2018, her contract hinted at one of her missions. Sell the company — at the time a darling of the media industry — and she could cash in on a big stock grant, according to a copy of the contract obtained by The New York Times.

So far, that hasn’t come to pass. On Friday, Ms. Dubuc said she was leaving Vice, which investors expect is worth far less than before she took over.

Just a month ago, Ms. Dubuc announced publicly that the company was for sale. No deal has materialized yet.

Her unexpected departure — her last day is Friday — and Vice’s struggles in recent years, highlight the fallen fortunes of a group of digital media companies that not long ago was talked about as the future of the industry.

ny times logoNew York Times, Linda King Newell, Feminist Scholar of Mormon History, Dies at 82, Clay Risen, Feb. 23, 2023. Her work exploring the idea of female subservience within the church won acclaim. But it also led to her being blacklisted by Mormon leaders.

Linda King Newell, whose pioneering work on the history of women in the Mormon faith won her acclaim as the leading feminist scholar in her field, but also led leaders in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to blacklist her for undermining traditional views about the religion’s founding era, died on Feb. 12 at a hospice facility in Salt Lake City. She was 82. She later served as the president of two leading Mormon scholarly organizations, the John Whitmer Historical Association and the Mormon History Association.

ny times logoNew York Times, John Macrae III, Eclectic Publisher and Rights Champion, Dies at 91, Sam Roberts, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). In addition to having a roster of authors that included Gail Sheehy, David Levering Lewis and Lech Walesa, he spoke out for the rights of writers worldwide.

John Macrae III, a dashing publisher who gambled on groundbreaking books and dauntlessly defended authors who defied injustices committed by their own governments, died on Feb. 1 at his home in Manhattan. He was 91.

His death was confirmed by his wife, the Manhattan gallerist Paula Cooper.

Mr. Macrae was president and publisher of E.P. Dutton from 1968 to 1981, representing the third generation of his family to run the company. He then worked for 35 years at Henry Holt & Company, where he was editor in chief and later had his own imprint.

A fervent human rights advocate, he was chairman of the International Freedom to Publish Committee of the Association of American Publishers.

Mr. Macrae was among those who urged his fellow publishers to boycott the Moscow Book Fair in 1983 to protest the Soviet Union’s treatment of dissidents.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Josh Hawley May Be Right About Social Media, Michelle Goldberg, right, Feb. 25, 2023 (print ed.). Last year, a study came out michelle goldberg thumbshowing that left-leaning adolescents were experiencing a greater increase in depression than their more conservative peers. Indeed, while girls are more likely to be depressed than boys, the study, by a group of epidemiologists at Columbia, showed that liberal boys had higher rates of depression than conservative girls.

Because I wrote quite a bit about the dire psychological fallout of Donald Trump’s abusive presidency, I was immediately interested in the study, titled “The Politics of Depression.”

The study speculated that left-leaning girls might simply be reacting to the political environment.

But as I looked closer at the data, I saw that the inflection point for liberal adolescent depression wasn’t 2016, but around 2012. That was the year of the devastating Sandy Hook mass shooting, but it was not otherwise a time of liberal political despair.

One person I hoped could make sense of the study was Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University and the author of the 2017 book iGen, about the deleterious psychological effects of social media. When I spoke to her last year, Twenge had preliminary data showing that liberal teenagers spent more time on social media than their conservative peers. Girls also use social media more than boys do, though boys tend to spend more time on screens, largely because of video games.

This month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published alarming findings from its Youth Risk Behavior Survey that demonstrated the gravity of the psychological crisis that adolescents, especially adolescent girls, are facing. In 2021, it found, nearly 60 percent of high school girls experienced persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness. Almost a quarter made a suicide plan.

Clearly, kids are in terrible pain. In trying to understand why, many conservatives have embraced ideas about the damaging effects of social media championed by Haidt and Twenge. The Republican senator Josh Hawley cited Twenge’s work in calling for a ban on social media use by kids under 16.

The steep decline in young people’s mental health around 2012 isn’t just an American problem: It also shows up in Britain, Canada and Australia.

Technology, not politics, was what changed in all these countries around 2012. That was the year that Facebook bought Instagram and the word “selfie” entered the popular lexicon.

The idea that unaccountable corporate behemoths are harming kids with their products shouldn’t be a hard one for liberals to accept, even if figures like Hawley believe it as well. I’m not sure if banning social media for young people is the right way to start fixing the psychic catastrophe engulfing so many kids.

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Disasters, Energy, Climate, Environment, Weather

 

climate change photo

 

ny times logoNew York Times, Europe Has Weathered an Energy Crisis, for Now, Stanley Reed and Melissa Eddy, Feb. 25, 2023 (print ed.). Worries about gas and oil supplies have greatly eased. But reverberations from the war in Ukraine continue to cloud longer-term forecasts.

Within months of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, there was near panic in Europe over energy supplies. Mainstay flows of natural gas through pipelines from Russia were dwindling to a relative trickle, pushing wholesale prices up more than 10 times the level of a year earlier. Oil prices were high. Lawmakers warned of fuel rationing and rolling blackouts, and winter loomed.

Now Europe has plenty of gas, much of it from Norway, the shale fields of Texas, and Qatar. The price has tumbled below preinvasion levels and has continued to slip lower almost daily. Oil prices appear steady. There no longer talk of imminent rationing.

But it’s unclear if the danger has been banished, or whether the maneuvering last year that secured this position — when European countries seemed to spare no expense buying shiploads of expensive liquefied natural gas and China cut its energy needs as it shuttered its cities in “zero Covid” lockdowns — will be needed again this year.

There are concerns that complacency has set in, and some leaders of the energy industry warn that Europe has been lucky this winter. They say the coming years, with a revived Chinese economy potentially sucking in more energy imports, may be more of a test.

washington post logoWashington Post, Crew tried to stop Ohio train after alert on overheating wheel bearing, NTSB says, Ian Duncan, Luz Lazo and Meryl Kornfield, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also visited the derailment scene, saying it is clear that regulatory changes are needed.

norfolk southern logoThe crew of the Norfolk Southern train that derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, received an alert about an overheating wheel bearing and was trying to slow the train before it came off the tracks, according to a preliminary National Transportation Safety Board report released Thursday.

As the engineer applied the brakes, an automatic braking system kicked in, according to the report. Investigators found that a wheel bearing was heating up over several miles as the train approached the derailment site, according to data from trackside sensors, but did not reach a critical threshold until shortly before the incident, when it registered 253 degrees above the air temperature.

The report was released as Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg visited the scene in East Palestine, where he got a briefing from investigators and met experts from his department aiding the response. He said it was clear from the scene that regulatory changes were needed within the industry.

Norfolk Southern freight train derailment in Ohio (Detroit News photo by Andy Morrison via Associated Press).

ny times logoNew York Times, After Chemical Release, Farm Owners Worry About a Cherished Way of Life, Emily Cochrane, Feb. 22, 2023. The derailment of a train carrying toxic chemicals upended a region of Ohio where families could afford to buy land, raise livestock and plant gardens.

Even with the trees still barren, Pam Mibuck could picture how the seasons would unfold on the land her uncle bought decades ago: a field of sunflowers in the summer, fresh apples for the horses and pie in the fall, and a tranquil place for her sons to come home to no matter the time of year.

But when officials decided two weeks ago to burn off the toxic chemical cargo of a derailed freight train a few miles away, sending a huge plume of smoke to blanket her farm and many others along the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, the sense of safety Ms. Mibuck had long felt there was upended.

When the Norfolk Southern freight train careened off the tracks this month and left a fiery heap of wreckage on the outskirts of East Palestine, Ohio, a town of roughly 4,700 people, it upended an area where generations of families could afford to buy acres of land, raise horses and plant gardens, hunt deer and birds and build lives undisturbed by the chaos of bigger cities nearby. Although farming provides only a small number of jobs in the immediate area, many residents say that raising livestock and working the land are profoundly important to their way of life.

Through a long global pandemic, national political tensions and the stress of inflation, the land, the water and the fresh air had been a source of comfort and safety. But the chemical threat spreading through the region has shattered many landowners’ confidence. Vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate, ethylhexyl acrylate and ethylene glycol monobutyl are among the substances that were released into the air, surface water and surface soil, the Environmental Protection Agency said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Storm hits much of the U.S., bringing ‘historic’ snow and blizzard conditions, Matthew Cappucci, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). Heavy snow will fall from California to Maine, and from the Canadian Border to Mexico.

A strong, intensifying storm system continued its trek across the Lower 48 early Wednesday, unleashing high-impact winter weather that could cause widespread power outages and grind travel to a halt. At least 75 million Americans are under winter storm, ice storm, blizzard warnings or winter weather advisories.

In addition to hefty precipitation in much of the Midwest and parts of the Plains, there could also be snow in notably low elevations — including in areas that rarely see measurable snowfall. Even the Los Angeles County mountains are included in a rare blizzard warning — the first issued by the National Weather Service office there since 1989. Snow levels could descend to below 1,000 feet elevation as extreme anomalous cold at high altitudes whips up a serious elevation storm.

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Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

washington post logoWashington Post, Doctors who touted ivermectin as covid fix now pushing it for flu, RSV, Lauren Weber, Feb. 26, 2023. This group of doctors championed ivermectin as a covid “miracle” drug without scientific evidence. Now they’re pushing the anti-parasitic for flu and RSV.

ny times logoNew York Times, Proposal Would Limit Online Prescribing of Certain Drugs, John Yoon, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Medications like Ritalin and Vicodin would require an in-person doctor’s visit under the new rules, a reaction to the rise of telemedicine.

The Biden administration on Friday proposed tighter limits on the online prescription of some medications, including the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder drug Adderall and highly addictive opioids such as oxycodone, a partial reversal of policy changes made during the coronavirus pandemic.

The new regulations, which would require health care providers to have at least one in-person visit with patients before prescribing or refilling certain drugs, would take effect after the public health emergency for Covid ends on May 11, the Drug Enforcement Administration said in a statement.

The rise of telemedicine expanded access to health care, particularly in rural areas, during the pandemic. It also allowed doctors to write millions of prescriptions without ever meeting patients in person — creating the potential for misuse, critics have said.

The rule change, part of the D.E.A.’s efforts to combat the deadly opioid epidemic in the United States, seeks to balance the advantages of telehealth with more safeguards, according to the agency.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: The Group Spending $1 Million to Attack a Struggling Hospital, Sharon Otterman, Feb. 26, 2023. A group called Save Maimonides has financed a relentless, monthslong campaign to disparage a Brooklyn medical center. Is it the best way to help?

The three protesters stood outside Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn on an autumn Wednesday, holding signs denouncing the hospital’s rock-bottom ranking for cleanliness and calling for the ouster of its chief executive, Kenneth Gibbs. They had been there nearly every day since the middle of summer, their presence a continual irritant to hospital leadership.

One of the protesters, Derrick Taylor, explained that he had found the job on Craigslist and that he was earning $600 per week to protest and collect petitions. But he added that he also believed in the cause. “We are here to restore, not just to be a black eye,” he said. “And we have high-profile people behind us.”

The campaign they represent, Save Maimonides, may seem quixotic, fronted by paid canvassers and dwarfed by the whir and hum of Brooklyn’s largest independent hospital. But it has money behind it — at least $1 million so far — as well as a mystery: Who is spending all this money to disparage a hospital, and why?

Since last June, Save Maimonides has run a barrage of commercials in Yiddish and English blasting the hospital for being ranked last in the state for patient satisfaction. It has wrapped local buses in ads asking for people to share their stories of suffering there. In December, it submitted petitions with 30,000 signatures calling for leadership change and independent oversight of the hospital by the state’s Department of Health.

The campaign, officially founded by Mendy Reiner, an Orthodox Jewish businessman and philanthropist, says that it is a grass roots effort that simply seeks to improve the quality of care at the hospital, for both the Orthodox Jewish population that lives nearby and every other community that relies on it.

But hospital leaders suggest there are more nefarious reasons behind Save Maimonides. Mr. Gibbs, the hospital’s chief executive, considers it an aggressive disinformation campaign that seeks to weaken the hospital. The actual person behind it, he and other hospital executives argue, is not Mr. Reiner. Instead, they claim, it a wealthy nursing home operator based just north of New York City named Eliezer Scheiner, who had recently been in discussions about management with the hospital and, they suggest, would gain personally from a takeover.

Save Maimonides denies that Mr. Scheiner is even involved. Mr. Scheiner himself denies he is behind the campaign. But the group also declined to provide the names of any of its donors, saying people feared that going public would endanger their ability to get good care at the facility. The campaign maintains that it is only being aggressive in pointing out the hospital’s flaws because otherwise they won’t be fixed.

Politico, Florida Surgeon General Joe Ladapo investigated for allegedly falsifying Covid report, Arek Sarkissian, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). The Florida Department of Health’s inspector general last fall investigated Joseph Ladapo, the state’s surgeon general, after the agency received an anonymous complaint alleging he falsified a report focusing on the safety of Covid-19 vaccines for young men.

politico CustomAmong other things, the complainant alleged Ladapo committed “scientific fraud” and “manipulated data” in a report that Ladapo later used to claim that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines could increase the risk of cardiac death among young men, according to the complaint. Both brands use mRNA technology, which Ladapo contends was rushed to the market by the urgency of the pandemic without the proper testing.

“The analysis performed in DOH did not find this,” the individual wrote without providing evidence, according to the complaint. “He manipulated the final draft of the analysis.”

Ladapo’s report was used as evidence in vaccine guidance he released in October that came under heavy criticism from the medical community, which said the surgeon general’s stance that the vaccine posed a health risk in healthy young men was flawed and went against Covid-vaccine recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The guidance even prompted Twitter to temporarily block a social media post from the surgeon general promoting the analysis, though the company later restored it.

The inspector general’s office opened the investigation in November after it received the complaint and later closed it at an undisclosed date after the complainant didn’t respond to follow-up questions regarding the accusations, according to state documents that include a copy of the original complaint.

Nothing is known about the complainant, and anyone can submit a grievance with the Department of Health’s inspector general. But the individual appeared to have detailed knowledge of state health agencies, according to the documents the Florida Department of Health provided to POLITICO.

Ladapo on Wednesday called the accusations against him untrue and said the report in question was completed by a team of staffers at the Florida Department of Health.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Alone and Exploited, Migrant Children Work Brutal Jobs Across the U.S., Hannah Dreier and Photographs By Kirsten Luce, Feb. 25, 2023. Arriving in record numbers, they’re doing dangerous work that violates child labor laws, a Times investigation found. Children are producing some of the best-known branded goods, in American factories for global corporations.

It was almost midnight in Grand Rapids, Mich., but inside the factory everything was bright. A conveyor belt carried bags of Cheerios past a cluster of young workers. One was 15-year-old Carolina Yoc, who came to the United States on her own last year to live with a relative she had never met.

About every 10 seconds, she stuffed a sealed plastic bag of cereal into a passing yellow carton. It could be dangerous work, with fast-moving pulleys and gears that had torn off fingers and ripped open a woman’s scalp.

The factory was full of underage workers like Carolina, who had crossed the southern border by themselves and were now spending late hours bent over hazardous machinery, in violation of child labor laws. At nearby plants, other children were tending giant ovens to make Chewy and Nature Valley granola bars and packing bags of Lucky Charms and Cheetos — all of them working for the processing giant Hearthside Food Solutions, which would ship these products around the country.

“Sometimes I get tired and feel sick,” Carolina said after a shift in November. Her stomach often hurt, and she was unsure if that was because of the lack of sleep, the stress from the incessant roar of the machines, or the worries she had for herself and her family in Guatemala. “But I’m getting used to it.”

These workers are part of a new economy of exploitation: Migrant children, who have been coming into the United States without their parents in record numbers, are ending up in some of the most punishing jobs in the country, a New York Times investigation found. This shadow work force extends across industries in every state, flouting child labor laws that have been in place for nearly a century. Twelve-year-old roofers in Florida and Tennessee. Underage slaughterhouse workers in Delaware, Mississippi and North Carolina. Children sawing planks of wood on overnight shifts in South Dakota.

Largely from Central America, the children are driven by economic desperation that was worsened by the pandemic. This labor force has been slowly growing for almost a decade, but it has exploded since 2021, while the systems meant to protect children have broken down.

The Times spoke with more than 100 migrant child workers in 20 states who described jobs that were grinding them into exhaustion, and fears that they had become trapped in circumstances they never could have imagined. The Times examination also drew on court and inspection records and interviews with hundreds of lawyers, social workers, educators and law enforcement officials.

In town after town, children scrub dishes late at night. They run milking machines in Vermont and deliver meals in New York City. They harvest coffee and build lava rock walls around vacation homes in Hawaii. Girls as young as 13 wash hotel sheets in Virginia.

In many parts of the country, middle and high school teachers in English-language learner programs say it is now common for nearly all their students to rush off to long shifts after their classes end.

“They should not be working 12-hour days, but it’s happening here,” said Valeria Lindsay, a language arts teacher at Homestead Middle School near Miami. For the past three years, she said, almost every eighth grader in her English learner program of about 100 students was also carrying an adult workload.

Migrant child labor benefits both under-the-table operations and global corporations, The Times found. In Los Angeles, children stitch “Made in America” tags into J. Crew shirts. They bake dinner rolls sold at Walmart and Target, process milk used in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and help debone chicken sold at Whole Foods. As recently as the fall, middle-schoolers made Fruit of the Loom socks in Alabama. In Michigan, children make auto parts for Ford and General Motors.

Hannah traveled to Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota and Virginia for this story and spoke to more than 100 migrant child workers in 20 states.

ny times logoNew York Times, War in Ukraine Deepens Divide Among Major Economies at G20 Gathering, Alan Rappeport, Feb. 25, 2023. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urged her counterparts at a summit in India to condemn Russia’s actions, and defended the cost of supplying aid to Kyiv.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Updates: On War’s Anniversary, Allies Support Ukraine With Words and Weapons, Staff Reports, Feb. 25, 2023 (print ed.). President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said that his country could win the war this year as long as its allies remain united “like a fist” and continue delivering weapons. ‘We Were Not Defeated,’ Zelensky Says.

With messages of support and new pledges of weapons, allies rallied around Ukraine on Friday as the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion prompted shows of solidarity around the world and a mix of anxiety and resolve in Ukraine.

“We will be victorious,” President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine told a news conference, saying that Ukraine could win the war this year as long as its allies remain united “like a fist” and continue delivering weapons.

 

Fox News hosts Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson, shown left to right, each expressed contempt for the voting fraud allegations they were broadcasting to Fox audiences, according to newly released internal documents obtained as evidence in a forthcoming defamation trial against the network, its owners and personnel.

Fox News hosts Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson, shown left to right, each expressed contempt for the voting fraud allegations they were broadcasting to Fox audiences, according to newly released internal documents obtained as evidence in a forthcoming defamation trial against the network, its owners and personnel.

ny times logoNew York Times, What Fox News Hosts Said Publicly Vs. Privately About Voter Fraud, Stuart A. Thompson, Karen Yourish and Jeremy W. Peters, Feb. 25, 2023. Dozens of private messages, released as part of a lawsuit against Fox, revealed what was said behind the scenes.

Two days after the 2020 election, Tucker Carlson was furious.

Fox News viewers were abandoning the network for Newsmax and One America News, two conservative rivals, after Fox declared that Joseph R. Biden Jr. won Arizona, a crucial swing state.

fox news logo SmallIn a text message with his producer, Alex Pfeiffer, Mr. Carlson appeared livid that viewers were turning against the network. The message was among those released last week as part of a lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox. Dominion, an elections technology company, has sued Fox News for defamation.

At the same time, Mr. Carlson and his broadcasting colleagues expressed grave doubts about an unfounded narrative rapidly gaining momentum among their core audience: that the 2020 presidential election was stolen by Democrats through widespread voter fraud. The belief was promoted by then-President Trump and a coalition of lawyers, lawmakers and influencers, though they produced no evidence to support their assertions.

dominion voting systemsMany hosts, producers and executives privately expressed skepticism about those claims, even as they gave them significant airtime, according to private messages revealed last week by Dominion. What they said in those messages often differed significantly from what Fox hosts said in public, though they weren’t always contradictory.

Two days after the election, Mr. Pfeiffer said that voices on the right were “reckless demagogues,” according to a text message. Mr. Carlson replied that his show was “not going to follow them.”

But he did follow them. The same day, on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Mr. Carlson expressed some doubts about the voter fraud assertions before insisting that at least some of the claims were “credible.”

 

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Dilbert’ dropped by The Post, other papers, after cartoonist’s racist rant, Thomas Floyd and Michael Cavna, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Newspapers across the United States have pulled Scott Adams’s long-running “Dilbert” comic strip after the cartoonist called Black Americans a “hate group” and said White people should “get the hell away from” them.

The Washington Post, the USA Today network of hundreds of newspapers, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Los Angeles Times and other publications announced they would stop publishing “Dilbert” after Adams’s racist rant on YouTube on Wednesday. Asked on Saturday how many newspapers still carried the strip — a workplace satire he created in 1989 — Adams told The Post: “By Monday, around zero.”

The once widely celebrated cartoonist, who has been entertaining extreme-right ideologies and conspiracy theories for several years, was upset Wednesday by a Rasmussen poll that found a thin majority of Black Americans agreed with the statement “It’s okay to be White.”

“If nearly half of all Blacks are not okay with White people … that’s a hate group,” Adams said on his live-streaming YouTube show. “I don’t want to have anything to do with them. And I would say, based on the current way things are going, the best advice I would give to White people is to get the hell away from Black people … because there is no fixing this.”

Adams, 65, also blamed Black people for not “focusing on education” during the show and said, “I’m also really sick of seeing video after video of Black Americans beating up non-Black citizens.”

Outrage followed.

By Thursday, The Post began hearing from readers calling for the strip’s cancellation. On Friday, the USA Today Network said that it “will no longer publish the Dilbert comic due to recent discriminatory comments by its creator.” The Gannett-owned chain oversees more than 300 newspapers, including the Arizona Republic, Cincinnati Enquirer, Detroit Free Press, Indianapolis Star, Austin American-Statesman and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“In light of Scott Adams’s recent statements promoting segregation, The Washington Post has ceased publication of the Dilbert comic strip,” a spokesperson for the newspaper said Saturday, noting that it was too late to stop the strip from running in some upcoming print editions, including Sunday’s.

Chris Quinn, the vice president of content for Plain Dealer publisher Advance Ohio, wrote in a letter from the editor Friday that pulling “Dilbert” was “not a difficult decision.” “We are not a home for those who espouse racism,” Quinn wrote.

“Scott Adams is a disgrace,” Darrin Bell, creator of “Candorville” and the first Black artist to win the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning, told The Post on Saturday. “His racism is not even unique among cartoonists.” Bell compared Adams’s views to the Jim Crow era and more recent examples of White supremacy, including “millions of angry people trying to redefine the word ‘racism’ itself.”

In fact, Adams did exactly that on his YouTube show Saturday. He offered a long, quasi-Socratic defense of his comments, which he said were taken out of context, and seemed to define racism as essentially any political activity. “Any tax code change is racist,” he said at one point in the show. He denounced racism against “individuals” and racist laws, but said, “You should absolutely be racist whenever it’s to your advantage. Every one of you should be open to making a racist personal career decision.”

 

Global News, Migration, Human Rights Issues

ny times logoNew York Times, Ahead of Crucial Election, Security Crises and Kidnappings Plague Nigeria, Elian Peltier, Feb. 25, 2023 (print ed.). As Nigerians go to the polls on Saturday, kidnappings are just one of the crises creating levels of violence unseen in the country for decades.

Nigerian FlagA 61-year-old civil engineer was supervising a digging project on a farm in southern Nigeria when five young men carrying AK-47s stormed the place and dragged him into the bush.

For five days, the kidnappers held the engineer, Olusola Olaniyi, and beat him severely. Only after his family and employer agreed to pay a ransom was he released, in the middle of the night, on a road a few miles away from where he had been kidnapped.

Nigeria has faced an outbreak of kidnappings in recent years, affecting people of all ages and classes: groups of schoolchildren, commuters traveling on trains and in cars through Nigeria’s largest cities, and villagers in the northern countryside. With youth gangs and armed bandits finding that kidnapping for ransom produces big payoffs, such crimes have only multiplied.

As Nigerians go to the polls on Saturday to choose a new president, insecurity is the top issue facing the country, according to a survey by SBM Intelligence, a Nigerian risk consultancy. Between July 2021 and June 2022, more than 3,400 people were abducted across the country, and 564 others were killed in kidnapping-related violence.

ny times logoNew York Times, Nigerian Election 2023: What to Know, What Polling Shows, Ruth Maclean, Feb. 23, 2023 (print ed.). he presidential election this week in Africa’s most populous country is completely unpredictable. An unexpected third candidate with a huge youth following may upend decades of traditional politics.

Nigerian FlagNigerians go to the polls this week to choose a new president — one of the most important elections happening anywhere in the world this year. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, with about 220 million people, and what happens there reverberates across the continent and the globe.

The Giant of Africa, as Nigeria is known, is at an inflection point. Nearly eight years of rule by an ailing president, Muhammadu Buhari — a military dictator turned reformed democrat — has seen the country lurch from one economic shock to the next. Over 60 percent of the people live in poverty, while security crises — including kidnapping, terrorism, militancy in oil-rich areas and clashes between herdsmen and farmers — have multiplied.

In recent weeks, shortages of fuel and cash — the latter because of a rushed currency redesign — have caused widespread suffering. Even people with money in the bank cannot get access to it and many are unable to buy food or pay for necessities. Protests in some cities have turned violent.

Many Nigerians see the 2023 election as a chance to change course, and are planning to break with the two traditional parties to vote for a third candidate. Not since the rebirth of Nigeria’s democracy in 1999 has the country faced an election as nail-biting — and as wide open — as this one.

The vote is scheduled for Feb. 25, unless it is postponed, as it was in 2019, just five hours before polls were to open. The head of the Independent National Electoral Commission, or I.N.E.C., has warned that if the myriad security challenges Nigeria is facing are “not monitored and dealt with decisively,” elections could be postponed or canceled in many wards, causing a constitutional crisis.

Who are the main candidates?

There is Bola Ahmed Tinubu, 70, who as the candidate of the governing All Progressives Congress has serious political machinery behind him. A canny, multimillionaire former governor of Lagos, Nigeria’s biggest city, Mr. Tinubu is a Muslim from the southwest and boasts that he brought Mr. Buhari to power. His catchphrase, “Emi lo kan” — Yoruba for “It’s my turn” — speaks to his record as a kingmaker in Nigerian politics, but alienates many young voters.

The former vice president and multimillionaire businessman Atiku Abubakar is the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, or P.D.P. Mr. Abubakar, 76, has run for the presidency five times since 1993, and this year could be his last shot. A Muslim from the north, he hopes to pick up far more votes there than he has in the past, now that he does not have to run against his old nemesis, Mr. Buhari, who had an ardent northern following.

The surprise candidate is Peter Obi, 61. Hailed as a savior by a large chunk of Nigeria’s digitally savvy youth, Mr. Obi — a Christian and former governor from the southeast who has hitched his wagon to the lesser-known Labour Party — has thrown this election open. His fans — mostly young, southern Nigerians walloped by economic hardship, joblessness and insecurity — call themselves the Obidients.

ny times logoNew York Times, Robert Hébras, Last Survivor of a 1944 Massacre in France, Dies at 97, Neil Genzlinger, Updated Feb. 25, 2023. Dead bodies shielded him as the Nazis killed 643 people in Oradour-sur-Glane. He spent his life keeping the memory of the slaughter alive.

Robert Hébras, who, shielded under dead bodies, survived an infamous 1944 massacre in which members of an SS Panzer division killed almost everyone in the village of Oradour-sur-Glane in France, died on Feb. 11 in a hospital in Saint-Junien, not far from Oradour. He was 97 and the last survivor of the massacre.

President Emmanuel Macron of France announced the death on Twitter, saying that Mr. Hébras had “devoted his life to transmitting the memories of the victims.”

Mr. Hébras was 19 on June 10, 1944, when soldiers from the Second SS Panzer Division, known as Das Reich, rolled into Oradour, in west central France, ordered its residents to assemble and slaughtered 643 of them. Men were herded into barns and shot, then the barns were set on fire. Women and children were confined in a church, and the Germans threw grenades into the building and burned it.

“Three or four generations of families were murdered,” Robert Pike wrote in Silent Village: Life and Death in Occupied France (2021), an account of the massacre, “and whole classes of schoolchildren were not spared.”

When the shooting started, Mr. Hébras, like others in the barn where he had been confined, dropped to the floor. He was hit by gunfire, suffering serious wounds, though he later played down his injuries.

“The bullets had passed through the others,” he said, “and by the time they reached me, they no longer had the power to go in deep.”

He made a harrowing escape through burning buildings and into the countryside, narrowly avoiding hostile soldiers. He was one of only a handful of survivors. His mother and two of his sisters were killed.

The massacre, which occurred days after the D-Day invasion, traumatized France. The ruins of the original village were declared a memorial, left in their burned-out condition as a reminder of the atrocity.

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 michael luttig house jan 6 hearing june 16 2022

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Embarrassing Spectacle That Mike Pence Is Heading For, J. Michael Luttig (shown testifying about last June 16 before the House Jan. 6 committee), Feb. 25, 2023 (print ed.). Former Vice President Mike Pence recently announced he would challenge Special Counsel Jack Smith’s subpoena for him to appear before a grand jury in Washington as part of the investigation into former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and the related Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Mr. Pence claimed that “the Biden D.O.J. subpoena” was “unconstitutional” and “unprecedented.” He added, “For me, this is a moment where you have to decide where you stand, and I stand on the Constitution of the United States.” Mr. Pence vowed to take his fight all the way to the Supreme Court.

A politician should be careful what he wishes for — no more so than when he’s a possible presidential candidate who would have the Supreme Court decide a constitutional case that could undermine his viability in an upcoming campaign.

The former vice president should not want the embarrassing spectacle of the Supreme Court compelling him to appear before a grand jury in Washington just when he’s starting his campaign for the presidency; recall the unanimous Supreme Court ruling that ordered Richard Nixon to turn over the fatally damning Oval Office tapes. That has to be an uncomfortable prospect for Mr. Pence, not to mention a potentially damaging one for a man who — at least as of today — is considered by many of us across the political spectrum to be a profile in courage for his refusal to join in the attempt to overturn the 2020 election in the face of Donald Trump’s demands. And to be clear, Mr. Pence’s decision to brand the Department of Justice’s perfectly legitimate subpoena as unconstitutional is a far cry from the constitutionally hallowed ground he stood on Jan. 6.

Injecting campaign-style politics into the criminal investigatory process with his rhetorical characterization of Mr. Smith’s subpoena as a “Biden D.O.J. subpoena,” Mr. Pence is trying to score points with voters who want to see President Biden unseated in 2024. Well enough. That’s what politicians do.

But Jack Smith’s subpoena was neither politically motivated nor designed to strengthen President Biden’s political hand in 2024. Thus the jarring dissonance between the subpoena and Mr. Pence’s characterization of it. It is Mr. Pence who has chosen to politicize the subpoena, not the D.O.J.

Mr. Luttig, a former judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, provided advice to then-Vice President Pence on the run-up to the Electoral College count on Jan. 6, 2021.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fight over Rep. Perry’s phone has prevented review of 2,200 documents in Jan. 6 probe, Spencer S. Hsu, Feb. 25, 2023. Six months after the FBI seized Perry’s phone, a U.S. appeals court is reviewing a judge’s order that 90 percent of Perry’s messages fall outside the congressman’s immunity from criminal investigation.

A secret legal fight over the cellphone of Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) has prevented the Justice Department for more than six months from reviewing more than 2,200 documents in the criminal investigation of former president Donald Trump and supporters’ efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, a federal judge disclosed Friday evening.

Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the U.S. District Court in D.C. released a number of previously sealed opinions after finding that the “powerful public interest” outweighed the need for secrecy in the constitutional battle over Perry’s claims and the historic investigation.

republican elephant logoThe Pennsylvania Republican has asserted that 2,219 documents contained on his phone are shielded by the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause, which grants members of Congress immunity from criminal investigation in their official capacities. But in a ruling in December, Howell rejected that claim for more than 90 percent of the records, ordering Perry to turn over 2,055 text messages, emails and attachments after concluding that they were only incidentally related to his status as a lawmaker, and not central to that status and constitutionally protected as part of his lawmaking.

“What is plain is that the Clause does not shield Rep. Perry’s random musings with private individuals touting an expertise in cybersecurity or political discussions with attorneys from a presidential campaign, or with state legislators concerning hearings before them about possible local election fraud or actions they could take to challenge election results in Pennsylvania,” Howell wrote.

The scope and nature of the Perry fight had been secret, because they involve an FBI search warrant used to seize Perry’s phone on Aug. 9. But Howell said the Justice Department agreed to unseal details Friday because a federal appeals court held fast-tracked public arguments this week after staying Howell’s order and approved the release of her key opinions to certain members of Congress and the House general counsel’s office. That office has taken Perry’s side. Perry’s lawyers objected to the unsealing, but Howell said redactions protected his interests, noting that the government’s specific allegations about why Perry’s phone might contain evidence of a crime remain under seal.

scott perryPerry, right, is a key figure who sought to help Trump replace the attorney general after the 2020 election with former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark and get the Justice Department to reverse its finding that Joe Biden had been elected fairly, according to the House committee that investigated the Jan. 6, 2021, attack by Trump supporters on the U.S. Capitol. The Justice Department has separately prioritized and obtained access to 37 emails between Perry and Trump-connected lawyers John Eastman, who pushed false claims of mass electoral fraud in 2020, Clark and aide Ken Klukowski, as well as 331 documents from Clark about his Jan. 6 role, according to the filings.

Rep. Scott Perry played key role in promoting false claims of fraud

In Thursday’s oral arguments, two members of a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit challenged the line drawn by the Justice Department and Howell distinguishing between a lawmaker’s work in formally sanctioned congressional investigations and Perry’s “informal legislative fact-finding.”

Perry attorney John P. Rowley III argued that such fact-finding is protected against intrusion by the executive branch of the government.

Over four separate opinions totaling 68 pages released Friday, Howell countered that she was relying on several opinions by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals itself laying out that distinction. She also said that the appeals court in a 2007 opinion about a bribery investigation of Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.) went further than the Supreme Court in finding that the “speech or debate” clause protects lawmakers not only from being questioned, but also shields them from disclosing documents in criminal or civil disputes.

Howell warned that accepting Perry’s “astonishing view” that the lawmakers are protected not only from questioning but also from even disclosing records in the first place would turn members of Congress into “supercitizens” — immune from investigative scrutiny, criminal or civil liability and political accountability.

“No matter the vigor with which Rep. Perry pursued his wide-ranging interest in bolstering his belief that the results of the 2020 election were somehow incorrect — even in the face of his own reelection — his informal inquiries into the legitimacy of those election results are closer to the activities described as purely personal or political [ …], since this ‘fact-finding’ was conducted entirely outside the auspices of a formal congressional inquiry or authorization,” Howell wrote.

Howell agreed that 164 of 611 communications Perry conducted with other House members were privileged because they concerned core legislative actions involving Congress’s joint session to confirm the 2020 electoral college vote, and matters such as committee assignments. But she rejected that claim for 678 messages with private outside parties — including many in which she said Perry was not obtaining information but relaying it.

Howell similarly rejected Perry’s bid to shield 930 messages involving executive branch officials, finding it “ironic” that Perry would turn the Constitution’s intended protection of lawmakers from executive branch interference in legislative matters “on its head.”

bruno cuaWXIA-TV, 11 Alive (Atlanta), Young man from Milton found guilty on 2 felony charges in Capitol Riot case, Jessica Moore and Joe Henke, Feb. 24, 2023. A young man from Milton, shown above, has been found guilty on two felony charges in connection with the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Randolph D. Moss found Bruno Cua guilty of assaulting a Capitol Police officer and obstruction of an official proceeding. The verdict comes after a disagreement between the prosecution and defense on what can be defined as an "assault," according to documents obtained by 11Alive.

Cua, 20, is set to be sentenced on Friday, May 12 at 9:30 a.m., court records show.

He's the youngest defendant from Georgia to be charged in connection to the insurrection. At the time of the riot, Cua was 18 years old.

Last year, Cua rejected a plea deal as he was previously facing a dozen charges. Federal prosecutors previously said photos and video images show Cua was one of the individuals to enter the U.S. Senate Chambers during the violence in D.C., and he entered the building with a baton in his hands.

During a February 2021 hearing, Cua's father testified drove his son to Washington D.C., and attended then President Donald Trump's rally near the capitol, along with his wife and son, but didn't enter the building with his son. In a later court hearing, a judge approved his release, but Cua was directed to live with a third-party custodian.

Cua is one of more than two dozen people from Georgia who were arrested and charged in connection to the insurrection. According to 11Alive's latest report, several of those defendants are set to head to trial later this year. And a dozen others have been sentenced after accepting plea deals from federal prosecutors.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump works state-by-state to improve chances at Republican convention, Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey and Maeve Reston, Feb. 25, 2023. The former president’s team is looking to use experience and early start to find advantages.

Donald Trump’s team has launched a nationwide campaign to buttress his chances of getting sympathetic delegates at next year’s nominating convention and identify opportunities to shape party rules that could help his campaign, according to people familiar with the plans.

republican elephant logoThe behind-the-scenes effort comes at a time when most Trump rivals have not even launched campaigns and focuses on the most esoteric part of the Republican nominating process — the state rules and party leaders that actually select presidential nominating delegates.

rnc logoHis team has invited state party officials to Mar-a-Lago, arranged private meet-and-greets between state leaders and Trump as he travels, endorsed state officials they believe will be supportive of him and met with senior Republican Party officials in Washington to discuss how the delegate selection process will unfold, according to the people directly familiar with the efforts, who like many for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Trump advisers say the outreach is less about demanding changes now and more about cultivating relationships for the upcoming months — when they could call for some rule changes in states and try to shape who the delegates are for the convention. It also shows that while they are projecting political strength, there is a realization that they will likely face a long and difficult nomination fight and potentially a messy convention, some Trump advisers say.

“The Trump campaign has a political operation that is second to none, and will leverage its considerable experience to ensure complete and total victory in 2024,” Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said Friday.

Trump, the onetime outsider who patched together his successful 2016 campaign on the fly, has now built a team more adept at playing the inside game. Strategists for multiple rival political operations, who have not yet formally declared their candidacies, say they are concerned that Trump’s early blocking and tackling could pay major dividends next year and leave them racing to catch up.

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U.S. Politics, Elections, Economy, Governance

 

djt ron desantis cnn collage

washington post logoWashington Post, From Palm Beach to Staten Island, DeSantis makes 2024 moves on Trump’s turf, Hannah Knowles and Josh Dawsey, Paul Farhi, Feb. 25, 2023. The Florida governor’s show of force was part of his increasingly open encroachments into Trump's longtime support base and ideological terrain.

Four miles down an oceanfront highway from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, more than 100 influential Republicans gathered at a luxe resort this weekend for cigars, cocktails and plenty of face time with the former president’s chief GOP rival: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, shown above in a file photo. “WELCOME TO THE FREEDOM BLUEPRINT,” blared a sign welcoming donors, influencers and lawmakers.
Congressional districts have changed. Find yours for the 2022 midterm elections.

djt maga hatThey mingled Friday at the Four Seasons ahead of discussions hosted by DeSantis’s political committee on “election integrity,” border security and “medical authoritarianism,” according to an agenda reviewed by The Washington Post. It all unfolded a day after a much smaller candlelight dinner fundraiser held at Mar-a-Lago for the super PAC supporting Trump’s White House bid — a group with less cash than the DeSantis committee in its coffers at the end of last year.

DeSantis’s show of force in Trump’s backyard was part of his increasingly open encroachments into the former president’s longtime support base and ideological turf. The gathering marked the latest step by DeSantis toward launching a bid for president, as he avoids public conflict with Trump but cultivates Trump donors and supporters, visits Trump strongholds and seeks to make his mark on some issues closely associated with Trump.

Trump’s grip on the Republican base is slipping — even among his fans

DeSantis touted his record as governor extensively in remarks to a packed room Friday night, according to an attendee who, like others interviewed for this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. The confab here was designed to showcase DeSantis’s record and show it could be applied nationally, people familiar with the event said. That’s an appealing prospect to many Republicans, including some who used to be staunch Trump supporters.

washington post logoWashington Post, Arizona governor seeks ethics review of former attorney general, Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Feb. 25, 2023. katie hobbsThe complaint to the State Bar of Arizona follows new details about how Mark Brnovich withheld records debunking claims of election fraud.

Arizona’s Democratic governor, Katie Hobbs, right, is seeking a review of what her office alleges was “likely unethical mark brnovich gage skidmoreconduct” by the state’s former attorney general, Mark Brnovich, shown below left in a Gage Skidmore photo.

A letter sent Friday from the governor’s office to the State Bar of Arizona follows the disclosure on Wednesday of records showing that Brnovich, a Republican, withheld findings by his own investigators refuting claims of fraud in the 2020 arizona mapelection and mischaracterized his office’s probe of voting in the state’s largest county.

The letter, signed by Hobbs’s general counsel, Bo Dul, calls the conduct “harmful to our democracy, our State, and the legal profession itself.”

Brnovich dismissed the allegations. “Katie Hobbs is wrong,” he said in a statement. “This is another misguided attempt by her to defame and cancel a political opponent instead of addressing the serious issues facing our state.”

Religion News Service via Washington Post, ‘Christian patriots’ are flocking from blue states to Idaho, Jack Jenkins, Feb. 25, 2023 (print ed.). North Idaho offers a window into what a right-wing vision for a Christian America can look like — and the power it can wield in state politics.

Earlier this month, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Georgia Republican, addressed the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee, whose purview runs from this small resort city up along the Washington state border. Before she spoke, a local pastor and onetime Idaho state washington post logorepresentative named Tim Remington, wearing an American-flag-themed tie, revved up the crowd: “If we put God back in Idaho, then God will always protect Idaho.”

idaho map localGreene’s remarks ran nearly an hour and touched on topics dear to her far-right fans: claims about the 2020 election being “stolen,” sympathy for those arrested in the attack on the U.S. Capitol, and her opposition to vaccine mandates.

She then insisted that Democrats in Washington have abandoned God and truth — specifically, the “sword” of biblical truth, which she said “will hurt you.”

The room of partisans applauded throughout, sometimes shouting “Amen!”

idaho mapThe event may be the closest thing yet to Greene’s vision for the GOP, which she has urged to become the “party of Christian nationalism.” The Idaho Panhandle’s especially fervent embrace of the ideology may explain why Greene, who has sold T-shirts reading “Proud Christian Nationalist,” traveled more than 2,300 miles to a county with fewer than 67,000 Republican voters to talk about biblical truth: Amid ongoing national debate over Christian nationalism, North Idaho offers a window at what actually trying to manifest a right-wing vision for a Christian America can look like — and the power it can wield in state politics.

washington post logoWashington Post, Report: George Santos lied to a judge about working for Goldman Sachs, Justine McDaniel, Feb. 25, 2023. George Santos falsely told a judge in Seattle in 2017 that he worked for Goldman Sachs, Politico reported Friday, adding to the long list of lies by the now-New York Republican congressman.

Politico published an audio recording of part of Santos’s conversation with a judge during an arraignment for Gustavo Ribeiro Trelha, whom Santos told the judge was a family friend. Trelha later pleaded guilty to fraud, went to jail and was deported to Brazil, Politico reported.

Republican Rep. George Santos’s trail of untruths. Here’s a list.

“So what do you do for work?” King County Superior Court Judge Sean P. O’Donnell says in the recording of the May 15, 2017, arraignment hearing for Trelha.

“I am an aspiring politician and I work for Goldman Sachs,” Santos is heard to reply.

“You work for Goldman Sachs in New York?” O’Donnell says.

“Yup,” Santos replies.

It was a lie Santos would repeat five years later as he campaigned for Congress, and one of many parts of his biography that reporters found to be fabricated. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November, but his résumé has unraveled since. Though he temporarily stepped down from House committees, Santos has rebuffed calls to resign and has not been pushed to do so by Republican leaders.

Santos is the subject of multiple local, state and federal investigations as New York Republicans and some members of the House GOP have called for him to step down.

washington post logoWashington Post, Toxic air pollutants in East Palestine could pose long-term risks, researchers say, contradicting officials, Scott Dance, Feb. 25, 2023. Using EPA data, Texas A&M scientists found elevated levels of some chemicals at the derailment site. But EPA officials say the levels pose no short-term risks and are likely to dissipate.

Three weeks after the toxic train derailment in Ohio, an independent analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data has found nine air pollutants at levels that, if they persist, could raise long-term health concerns in and around East Palestine.
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The analysis by Texas A&M University researchers stands in contrast to statements by state and federal regulators that air near the crash site is completely safe, despite residents complaining about rashes, breathing problems and other health effects.

In response on Friday, EPA officials said that air quality levels of 79 chemicals they are monitoring remain below levels of concern for short-term exposure, and that current concentrations are likely to dissipate.

But the data only adds to questions and concerns that have weighed on residents for weeks, as they wonder how contaminated their community has become.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: George Santos speaks the truth! Dana Milbank, right, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). I’m not gonna lie. It was another bad week for the dana milbank newestGreat Prevaricator, Rep. George Santos.

The New York Republican (shown below) sat for a long interview with British broadcaster Piers Morgan and attempted to validate his previous lies — by serving up a batch of new ones. Santos lied about his lie about his religion: “I never claimed to be Jewish.” (He did, george santos headshotmany times.) He supplemented this with a lie about a speech he gave to the Republican Jewish Coalition, claiming “people were hysterically laughing” at his joke about being “Jew-ish.” (A recording shows there was no such joke, and no such laughter.)

Worse, Santos complained about Jews and others offended by his bogus Judaism claims and his false story about his family fleeing the Holocaust. “Now that everybody’s canceling me, everybody’s pounding down for a pound of flesh,” he complained.

Yes, “pound of flesh” comes from Shylock, the greedy Jew in Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice.”

But the interview offered some insight into the fabulist’s strategy for political survival — and why it may resonate with some in the MAGA crowd. True story: Santos claims he is the victim. His lies are everybody else’s fault — honest!

 Relevant Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Politics & Ukraine War

washington post logoWashington Post, Mitch McConnell tells U.S. to ‘wake up’ to threat of Russia on Ukraine war anniversary, Liz Goodwin, Feb. 25, 2023. The Senate minority leader's message marked a stark contrast to the one pushed by some other congressional Republicans and Donald Trump.

Mitchell_McConnellSenate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), right, on Friday urged the United States and its allies to renew their resolve to help Ukraine as it stands up to Russian “thuggery,” tacitly pushing back against members of his own party who have become loudly skeptical of Ukraine’s fight as the conflict passes the one-year mark.

“America and our friends need to finish waking up from our holiday from history, welcome Finland and Sweden into NATO by this summer, and make significant investments in military modernization and our defense-industrial capacities that are commensurate with the major challenges we face,” McConnell said in a statement, shortly before appearing alongside President Sauli Niinisto in Helsinki to support Finland’s bid to join NATO.

republican elephant logoThe message marked a stark contrast to the one pushed by former president Donald Trump and some congressional Republicans, who criticized President Biden’s trip to Kyiv earlier this week and have called for ending or slowing aid to Ukraine. In a tweet, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga), a hard-right ally of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and one of dozens of House Republicans to vote against Ukraine aid in May, called Biden’s trip “insulting” and proof that he “chose Ukraine over America.”

But nearly 50 U.S. lawmakers, including McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), traveled to the Munich Security Conference in Germany last week to reassure European allies that Congress, which is split between a GOP-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate, will continue to support Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with weapons and funds.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Putin pitches the American right with an ungodly invocation of God, E.J. Dionne Jr., Feb. 25, 2023. Here’s a scoop ej dionne w open neckfor you: Vladimir Putin is sounding like someone who wants to enter the 2024 Republican presidential primaries.

How else do you explain that in the middle of his bellicose speech Tuesday promising success in his assault on Ukraine, the Russian dictator fired a series of heat-seeking verbal missiles into our culture wars.

“Look at what they’ve done to their own people,” he said of us Westerners. “They’re destroying family, national identity, they are abusing their children. Even pedophilia is announced as a normal thing in the West.” Never mind that Russia is a world leader in sex trafficking.

Putin didn’t stop there. In one rather convoluted passage, he came out against same-sex marriage, backed off a bit, and then doubled down:

“And they’re recognizing same-sex marriages,” he said. “That’s fine that they’re adults. They’ve got the right to live their life. And we always, we’re very tolerant about this in Russia. Nobody is trying to enter private lives of people, and we’re not going to do this.”

Well, not quite, but he pressed on: “However, we need to tell them, but look at the scriptures of any religion in the world. Everything is said in there. And one of the things is that family is a union of a man and a woman.”

Among his enemies, Putin charged, “even the sacred texts are subjected to doubt.” Also, watch out, Britain: The “Anglican Church is planning to consider the idea of a gender-neutral God,” Putin mourned. “What can you say here? Millions of people in the West understand that they are being led to spiritual destruction.”

It has become a habit to cast the struggle over Ukraine in Cold War terms. Maybe that’s natural, given Putin’s old job as a KGB agent and his determination to expand Russia’s imperial reach to something closer to the hegemony once enjoyed by the old Soviet Union.

But it’s closer to the truth to see Putin as trying to build a right-wing nationalist international movement (no pun intended). And it’s obvious that his embrace of social and religious traditionalism is aimed at winning over right-wing opinion in the democracies and splitting the traditional right.

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More On Ukraine War

washington post logoWashington Post, Discreetly, and at peril, Russian volunteers help Ukrainian refugees, Mary Ilyushina and Ksenia Ivanova, Feb. 25, 2023. A secret, loosely connected network of volunteers is helping Ukrainians in Russia to flee to Europe. But the Kremlin's special services are cracking down.

To avoid the authorities, thousands of displaced Ukrainians in Russia are relying on a discreet network of unofficial volunteers — a sort of Slavic echo of the Underground Railroad — working to bring war refugees through Russia to safety in Europe.

These volunteers are not linked to each other, and are not part of an organization. They often do not live in the same city and, for safety, most of them will never see each other in person. The common denominator is the risk they face from the Russian security forces, who are suspicious of citizen initiatives and have cracked down on all manner of civil society groups.

The independent volunteers do all kinds of things. Some work from home processing help requests. Others help care for pets, gather food, clothing and medicine, or deliver to makeshift warehouses. Hosts who open their doors to Ukrainians or drivers who transport them across the Russian border face the steepest risk as they are ones interacting directly with refugees and the authorities.

None of the volunteers’ activities are illegal but amid Russia’s wartime laws anything that involves Ukraine and does not fit with the current pro-war patriotic fervor is sensitive and regarded unfavorably by the security services.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Reports: As Ukraine War Passes Year Mark, Eyes Are on China, James C. McKinley Jr. and Matt Surman, Feb. 25, 2023. The president of Belarus, a staunch Kremlin ally, will visit Beijing next week. It is likely to highlight China’s efforts to walk a careful line.

While Western allies reaffirmed their unity with Ukraine as the war crossed the one-year point and fighting showed no signs of letting up, divisions with countries that have declined to cut ties with Russia — namely China and India — were on display Saturday.

China announced that its top leader would host the president of Belarus, a staunch Kremlin ally, with the pomp of a state visit next week. The move will likely increase international attention, and pressure, on China over its straddling position on the war amid warnings from Washington that Beijing is considering sending military aid to Russia.

ny times logoNew York Times, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned China against helping Russia evade sanctions, Alan Rappeport, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, right, said on Thursday that the United States would redouble its efforts to marshal global support to help Ukraine and janet yellen owarned that China would face repercussions if it helped Russia evade American sanctions.

She spoke as top policymakers from around the world gathered in southern India for a meeting that is expected to focus largely on accelerating a global economic recovery after three years of international crises. The warning to China underscores how the impact of the war continues to reverberate, straining ties between the world’s two largest economies as they were attempting to stabilize their relationship.

China Flag“We have made clear that providing material support to Russia or assistance with any kind of systemic sanctions evasion would be a very serious concern for us,” Ms. Yellen said. “We will certainly continue to make clear to the Chinese government and the companies and banks in their jurisdiction about what the rules are regarding our sanctions and the serious consequences they would face for violating them.”

Ms. Yellen declined to describe specific U.S. intelligence about Russian attempts to avoid sanctions but the Treasury Department has pointed to attempts by Russia to seek assistance from China to supply it with items such as semiconductors which face trade restrictions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Disillusionment with U.S. fuels a deepening global divide over Ukraine war, Liz Sly, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). Beyond the West, the world is far from united on the issues raised by the Ukraine war, and Russia often gets a sympathetic hearing in the Global South.

Clement Manyathela, who hosts a popular and influential talk show on South Africa’s Radio 702, remembers the outrage he felt when Russian troops first surged into Ukraine. He had believed Russia’s insistence that it wasn’t planning to attack and felt cheated when war broke out.

“We were lied to,” he said.

Russian FlagBut as the fighting continued, he, and many of those who call in to his show, began to ask questions: Why had President Vladimir Putin deemed it necessary to invade? Was NATO fueling the fire by sending so many weapons to Ukraine? How could the United States expect others around the world to support its policies when it had also invaded countries?

“When America went into Iraq, when America went into Libya, they had their own justifications that we didn’t believe, and now they’re trying to turn the world against Russia. This is unacceptable, too,” Manyathela said. “I still don’t see any justification for invading a country, but we cannot be dictated to about the Russian moves on Ukraine. I honestly feel the U.S. was trying to bully us.”

In the year since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a reinvigorated Western alliance has rallied against Russia, forging what President Biden has trumpeted as a “global coalition.” Yet a closer look beyond the West suggests the world is far from united on the issues raised by the Ukraine war.

washington post logoWashington Post, A Year of War in Ukraine: Leaders recall dismay, fury as war began, Staff Reports, Feb. 25, 2023 (print ed.). Political, military and intelligence officials describe their reaction to the Russian invasion and what they did that first day.

Shortly after 4 a.m. local time on Feb. 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. This oral history describes the first day of the war as recalled by Ukrainian, American and European leaders and senior political, military and intelligence officials.

Fears about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions had been mounting for months, and by the day before the war began, alarms were sounding loudly in Kyiv and Western capitals.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Biden-Zelensky Bond: Strong After a Tense Start, Peter Baker and Andrew E. Kramer, Feb. 25, 2023 (print ed.). The relationship between President Biden and President Volodymyr Zelensky has become critical to the international order.

After Russia invaded Ukraine last year, President Biden reflected privately on his long-distance conversations with President Volodymyr Zelensky. He did not know the man well — and might never get to. It was chilling, several people remember him observing grimly, to think that he might be talking with a dead man.

Mr. Biden was hardly the only one to assume that Mr. Zelensky might not survive the Russian onslaught, given the target the Kremlin had put on his back. But the American president was happy to be proved wrong — and surprised to discover, like the rest of the world, that Mr. Zelensky was more than a former comedian and tougher than anyone imagined.

By the time Mr. Biden made a dramatic unannounced visit to wartime Kyiv this week, the two had grown close enough to greet each other with the easy familiarity of old friends. “How are the children?” Mr. Biden asked. “It’s amazing to see you,” he added, perhaps still shocked that the Ukrainian president has escaped Russian efforts to kill him. Mr. Zelensky inquired about Jill Biden. “She’s doing well,” the president replied. “She’s still teaching.”

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U.S. Mass Shootings, Gun Control

washington post logoWashington Post, Orlando shooting leaves TV reporter, 9-year-old girl dead, police say, Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). A television journalist covering gun violence and a 9-year-old girl nearby were shot and killed in Orange County, Fla., Wednesday afternoon, local authorities said. Another journalist from the same network, Spectrum News 13, was also shot, as was the girl’s mother. Both were taken to the hospital, where they were being treated as of Wednesday evening.

The journalists were at the scene of a homicide of a woman in her 20s from earlier in the day when, police said, the gunman returned to the site of the morning killing and opened fired again. He also targeted a nearby house, police said. In total, he killed three.

The authorities did not immediately identify the victims.

There is no clear motive for the afternoon shootings at this time, according to Orange County Sheriff John Mina, who said it was uncertain if the shooter knew the journalists were with the media or covering the crime. The suspected shooter, identified as 19-year-old Keith Melvin Moses, has been detained. Other local journalists were also present when the shooting occurred but were not injured.

Speaking at a news conference Wednesday night, Mina expressed his appreciation for the work of the media and for the “very difficult job” they do in covering crime.

“No one in our community — not a mother, not a 9-year-old and certainly not news professionals — should become the victim of gun violence in our community,” he said.

Fellow Spectrum News 13 journalist Celeste Springer said during a live broadcast hours after the shooting that the co-worker who was shot remains in critical condition and asked for viewers to pray for the survival of her colleague.

“And while you’re at it, please say a prayer for every victim of gun violence in this country,” Springer said.

Moses has been charged with murder for the initial killing Wednesday morning, Mina said, adding that he expected Moses to be charged with the killing of the girl and journalist, too.

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U.S. Courts, Crime, Immigration

 

The lead prosecutor, Creighton Waters, left, repeatedly attacked the credibility of the timeline put forth by Mr. Murdaugh (Pool photo by Joshua Boucher).

The lead prosecutor, Creighton Waters, left, repeatedly attacked the credibility of the timeline put forth by Mr. Murdaugh (Pool photo by Joshua Boucher).

ny times logoNew York Times, Murdaugh Hammered by Prosecutor Over Where He Was on Night of Killings, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Updated Feb. 25, 2023. The cross-examination of Alex Murdaugh, the lawyer who has denied killing his wife and son, came as he concluded his testimony in his own defense.

After five weeks of trial, the murder case against Alex Murdaugh narrowed on Friday to the question of what happened in a critical few minutes after the prominent South Carolina lawyer went down to his family’s dog kennels where his wife and son were found shot to death later that night.

On the second and final day of Mr. Murdaugh’s crucial testimony in his own defense, prosecutors aggressively challenged him about those key minutes, showing that his new account of his movements that night — offered this week after more than 20 months of denying he was at the kennels at all — is difficult to reconcile with the timeline of the murders.

Armed with telephone calls, texts, videos, car navigation data and cellphone step counts, the lead prosecutor, Creighton Waters, showed that Mr. Murdaugh would have had to have left the kennels and returned to the house a short distance away only minutes before the killings — despite his claims that he had heard no gunshots.

Mr. Murdaugh had initially told the police that he had been napping in the house, but he told a different story on the witness stand this week after a video emerged showing that he had indeed been present at some point when his wife and son were out checking on the dogs.

In his own account, Mr. Murdaugh said he drove a golf cart down to the kennels and spoke briefly with his wife, but headed back to the house alone a few minutes later. About two minutes after he said he left, the phones of both victims — Paul Murdaugh, 22, and Maggie Murdaugh, 52 — were locked and were never unlocked again, suggesting that they were killed around then.

“Does that sound like real life to you, that you jet there and jet back?” Mr. Waters asked, one of many questions that attempted to paint Mr. Murdaugh’s chronology as absurd.

He emphasized that Mr. Murdaugh had not admitted to being at the kennels until the crucial video, shot by his son Paul that night, emerged in court.

“You had to sit in this courtroom and hear your family and your friends, one after the other, come in and testify that you were on that kennel video, so you — like you’ve done so many times over the course of your life — had to back up and make a new story that kind of fit with the facts that can’t be denied,” he said. “Isn’t that true, sir?”

 

Murder defendant Alex Murdaugh, shown at upper left (Pool photo).

Murder defendant Alex Murdaugh, shown at upper left (Pool photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, Alex Murdaugh Admits Lying and Stealing, but Denies Murders, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). In choosing to testify on Thursday, Mr. Murdaugh took a gamble that could determine whether he is acquitted or sent to prison for life.

The prominent South Carolina lawyer testified that he repeatedly lied to investigators about being at the location where his wife and son were murdered, and denied fatally shooting them.CreditCredit...Pool photo by Grace Beahm Alford

In the more than 20 months since his wife and son were killed, Alex Murdaugh, the scion of a South Carolina legal dynasty, has rarely spoken publicly, even when prosecutors charged him with the killings. As reports of his questionable financial dealings, a botched suicide plot and an expensive drug habit swirled in the national spotlight, he remained quiet.

But on Thursday, Mr. Murdaugh talked for hours. Taking the witness stand in his own murder trial, Mr. Murdaugh acknowledged that he had stolen from his law clients. He conceded that he had pocketed a check he was supposed to hand over to his law firm. And he admitted that he had lied to the police about his whereabouts on the night of the killings.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The justices halt an execution — and reveal themselves in the process, Ruth Marcus, Feb. 25, 2023. When a ruth marcus twitter Customprisoner on death row wins a case before this Supreme Court, the logical response is to breathe a sigh of relief. That doesn’t happen very often these days.

So good for John Montenegro Cruz, an Arizona man convicted in 2005 of murdering a Tucson police officer, and good for Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, who joined with the court’s three liberals to grant Cruz a new sentencing hearing.

But read the facts of Cruz’s case, and a less cheery, more chilling, reaction seems called for: How can it be that Cruz’s life was spared by only a bare majority? Four other conservatives, in a decision written by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, would have stuck with a cramped rules-are-rules mentality to let an obviously unconstitutional death sentence stand.

How unconstitutional? Eleven years before Cruz’s trial, in Simmons v. South Carolina, the Supreme Court had ruled that when prosecutors arguing for the death penalty cite the risk of future “dangerousness,” defendants have the right to let the jury know that the alternative to a death sentence would be life without the possibility of parole.

That’s what Cruz asked for at his trial. The judge not only refused — he incorrectly instructed the jury that Cruz could be eligible for parole after 25 years. And that seemed to make a difference to the jurors in deciding whether to impose a death sentence.

“Many of us would rather have voted for life if there was one mitigating circumstance that warranted it,” the jury foreperson and two other jurors said in a statement the day after the sentence was imposed. “In our minds there wasn’t. We were not given an option to vote for life in prison without the possibility of parole.”

So Cruz sought a new trial. He lost, and lost again before the Arizona Supreme Court, which, again incorrectly, asserted that Simmons didn’t apply to Arizona’s death penalty sentencing scheme because parole was available. In 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: A last, best chance to fix the D.C. criminal code, Editorial Board, Feb. 25, 2023 (print ed.). A controversial overhaul of Washington’s criminal code needs to be fixed.

The D.C. Council last month overrode Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s veto of the measure, which would reduce the maximum penalties for offenses such as carjacking. The bill eliminates life sentences and gets rid of mandatory minimums for every crime but first-degree murder. Congress is now considering whether to strike down the city’s handiwork. D.C. officials would do well to show that they can fix the problem on their own.

The federal government has the authority to nullify laws in the capital city under the enclave clause in Article I of the Constitution and the D.C. Home Rule Act, though it hasn’t done so since 1991. In the coming weeks, the U.S. Senate will likely hold an up-or-down vote on whether to let the law go into effect. It’s not a partisan effort: The measure to overturn the bill already passed the House with 31 Democrats joining every Republican. One of them, Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.), was mugged inside her H Street apartment building the morning of the House vote.

Federal lawmakers say their staffs and constituents should be able to work and visit the Capitol without fear or violence. They’re correct. So should the citizens in every corner of the city. At the same time, a congressional action to overturn the will of elected representatives in the District cannot be taken lightly. In our view, the D.C. Council should repair legislation that imperils the well-being of residents. Otherwise, the District will invite federal intervention. It’s a fight no one needs.

There is a framework for progress.

Ms. Bowser (D) has proposed significant revisions to the updated code, including increased penalties for carjacking, robbery and illegal gun possession. She would repeal the provision that allows people charged with certain misdemeanors to demand jury trials, which could overwhelm the already backlogged court system. She wants to undo the expansion of the Second Look Act, which lets inmates request resentencing after 15 years behind bars, from those convicted when they were young to all prisoners. Ms. Bowser also seeks to postpone implementation of the code from 2025 to 2027.

The mayor’s focus on carjacking is particularly urgent. From 2021 to 2022, motor vehicle thefts rose 8 percent, to 3,761. But there have already been more than 1,000 such thefts in the first eight weeks of the year, up 111 percent compared to the same period last year.

Council member Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2), the new chair of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, promises to hold hearings this spring to evaluate the mayor’s suggestions.

Those who helped write the new code resist the prospect of delaying its implementation, but they also don’t want to start from scratch, which is what would happen if Congress enters the picture.

ny times logoNew York Times, Doctor Describes and Denounces C.I.A. Practice of ‘Rectal Feeding’ of Prisoners, Carol Rosenberg, Feb. 25, 2023 (print ed.). In a hearing at Guantánamo Bay, an expert gave a graphic public depiction of torture after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

CIA LogoOver the years, the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of waterboarding and other forms of torture in its secret overseas prisons after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has been revealed in government leaks, testimony and a damning Senate investigation.

But an expert’s testimony this week in pretrial hearings at Guantánamo Bay offered some of the most graphic details made public about the C.I.A.’s shadowy use of rectal feeding on its prisoners, a discredited practice kept secret long after other torture methods had been exposed.

Dr. Sondra S. Crosby, a court-approved expert on torture and other trauma, testified in a long-running defense effort by lawyers for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is accused of orchestrating the 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole. The lawyers are seeking to suppress from his eventual trial admissions he made to federal investigators as tainted by torture.

She held up a tube that is designed to be put in a patient’s windpipe and said that — according to the agency’s once-secret records —C.I.A. prison staff inserted one just like it into Mr. Nashiri’s anus in May 2004. Agency personnel then used a syringe to inject a protein enriched nutritional shake into his body.

She testified that at Guantánamo Bay in 2013, Mr. Nashiri confided that, years earlier, C.I.A. personnel grabbed him from his cell, stripped him naked, shackled him at the wrists and ankles, bent him over a chair and administered the liquid.

He asked that she never again speak to him about it. And he did not attend the court session when she discussed it at length on Thursday.

“This was a very, very distressing painful, shameful stigmatizing event,” Dr. Crosby testified. “He experienced it as a violent rape, sexual assault.”

Another year would pass before Dr. Crosby found corroboration of the account. In December 2014, the Obama administration released a 500-page summary of a classified Senate study of the C.I.A.’s so-called black site program. It revealed the agency’s practice of using “rectal rehydration” and “rectal feeding” to punish prisoners.

At the time, the C.I.A. defended it as a sound medical procedure. The group Physicians for Human Rights then condemned the practice as “sexual assault masquerading as medical treatment.”

But this week the agency declined a request for a comment on the descriptions that were attributed to the C.I.A. in open court. Nor would an agency spokeswoman respond to Dr. Crosby’s testimony that Mr. Nashiri also told her that he was sodomized with a broom stick while the C.I.A. held him in a cell, nude with his wrists shackled above his head.

The testimony emerged in pretrial hearings in which the judge, Col. Lanny J. Acosta Jr., is being asked to decide which evidence can be used at Mr. Nashiri’s eventual capital trial. Mr. Nashiri, 58, is accused of orchestrating Al Qaeda’s Oct. 12, 2000, suicide attack on the U.S.S. Cole destroyer that killed 17 U.S. sailors during a refueling stop at the port of Aden, Yemen.

Defense lawyers argue that the testimony, in tandem with other litigation, should persuade the judge to exclude statements the prisoner gave to interrogators in 2007, soon after he was transferred to Guantánamo for trial — or, alternatively, to remove the possibility of a death sentence.

Dr. Crosby is a Boston internist who has been evaluating and treating torture victims since the 1990s. She is paid by the Pentagon to serve as a consultant to Mr. Nashiri’s legal defense team and was granted a security clearance.

In preparation for her testimony, Dr. Crosby said, she was given access to C.I.A. materials. She related the facts that she found in a clinical fashion.

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U.S. Abortion, #MeToo, Stalking, Rape Laws

ny times logoNew York Times, 12 States Sue F.D.A. Over Special Restrictions on Abortion Pill, Pam Belluck, Feb. 25, 2023 (print ed.). The suit argues that rules applying to mifepristone unnecessarily limit patients’ access to medication abortion.

The attorneys general of a dozen Democratic-controlled states sued the Food and Drug Administration on Friday, asking a judge to remove special restrictions that the federal agency has long applied to the first of two drugs used in medication abortion.

The suit, filed in a Federal District Court in Washington State, comes at a tense moment in the battle over the legal status of abortion pills, which are used in more than half of abortions in the United States. A federal judge in Texas is expected to issue an order soon in a case filed by anti-abortion groups that seeks to overturn the F.D.A.’s approval of the same abortion pill, mifepristone, and have it taken off the market.

The potential consequences of the Texas case have set the reproductive health community on edge out of concern that the judge, a Trump appointee who is politically conservative and wrote an article that was critical of Roe v. Wade, could issue an order effectively blocking access to mifepristone across the country. Such a ruling would immediately be appealed, but if it ultimately stands, it would have far-reaching implications, affecting states where abortion is legal, not just states where abortion is already restricted.

The new lawsuit filed by the 12 states does not address the possible outcomes of the Texas case, but it requests that the judge’s ruling in the Washington case include orders that would effectively contravene steps that might be imposed by the Texas judge. While the Washington case primarily asks the court to order the F.D.A. to eliminate a framework of extra restrictions applied to mifepristone, the suit also asks the judge to declare that the F.D.A.’s “approval of mifepristone is lawful and valid” and to enjoin the F.D.A. “from taking any action to remove mifepristone from the market or reduce its availability.”

Ameet Sarpatwari, a lawyer and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said the timing and content of the lawsuit were strategic.

“It is a legally and politically savvy move to file this complaint now,” he said. “If you have a federal judge in one jurisdiction saying the approval was lawful, and actually enjoining F.D.A. from taking action to restrict access, that would stand in exact conflict with what many presume the Texas judge may do, which is actually rescind the approval of the drug.”

If two federal rulings were to conflict, said Dr. Sarpatwari, an expert on F.D.A. regulations, “that gives ground for the federal government to say, ‘Look, I’ve got two courts saying two fundamentally different things, and the best we can do right now is to not do anything.’” That could result in both cases landing before the Supreme Court and in preserved access to mifepristone until a high court decision, he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Texas judge who could take down the abortion pill, Caroline Kitchener and Ann E. Marimow, Feb. 25, 2023. A devout Christian, Matthew Kacsmaryk has been shaped by his deep antiabortion beliefs.

Matthew Kacsmaryk was a 22-year-old law student when he drove to a small city in west Texas to spend a day with a baby he would probably never see again.

He was in Abilene to support his sister, who, pregnant at 17, had fled to a faraway maternity home to avoid the scorn she feared from their Christian community. But holding his nephew in his arms — then leaving the baby with adoptive parents — also solidified Kacsmaryk’s belief that every pregnancy should be treasured, his sister recalled, even those that don’t fit neatly into a family’s future plans.

Then-law student Matthew Kacsmaryk holds his nephew, along with other members of the family, before the baby was handed off to adoptive parents in Abilene, Texas in 2000. (Courtesy of Jennifer Griffith)

Almost sixteen years later, in 2016, Kacsmaryk drove back to Abilene for his first meeting as a board member of Christian Homes and Family Services, the organization that had taken in his sister when she chose adoption over abortion.

“He’s very passionate about the fact that you can’t preach pro-life and do nothing,” said Kacsmaryk’s sister, Jennifer Griffith. “We both hold the stance of you have to do something. You can’t not.”

Now 45 and a federal judge, Kacsmaryk (kaz-MARE-ik) has the opportunity to impose the most far-reaching limit on abortion access since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

The judge, nominated by President Trump and confirmed in 2019, will soon rule on a lawsuit seeking to revoke U.S. government approval of mifepristone, a key abortion medication. That outcome could, at least temporarily, halt over half the legal abortions carried out across the country, including in states led by Democrats where abortion rights are protected.

While many experts have said the case relies on baseless medical claims, it is Kacsmaryk’s role as presiding judge that has the abortion rights movement bracing for another crippling defeat.

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More On Earthquake Disaster in Turkey, Syria

 

An aerial photo of a scene in the Turkish city of Hatay portrays earthquake damage on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023 (photo via SkyNews).

An aerial photo of a scene in the Turkish city of Hatay portrays earthquake damage on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023 (photo via SkyNews). Toll Is Rising as Rescuers Scour Rubble; Thousands of Buildings Are Down.

ny times logoNew York Times, Turkish Builders Are Under Intense Scrutiny Over Shoddy Construction, Ben Hubbard, Elif Ince and Safak Timur, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). The deaths of more than 43,000 people in Turkey from an earthquake have raised painful and angry questions over building standards.

Two dozen student volleyball players, four teachers and 12 parents visiting Turkey for a competition this month checked into the Grand Isias Hotel in the southern city of Adiyaman. When a powerful earthquake struck on Feb. 6, the building collapsed and killed dozens of people including everyone in the entourage except for four adults.

A university engineer who examined the wreckage found indications of weak concrete and insufficient steel reinforcements, he and his colleagues wrote in a preliminary report, concluding that shoddy construction had left the building vulnerable, even to smaller quakes.

In the weeks since, the Turkish authorities have arrested three men connected to the hotel on unspecified charges as part of a wide-ranging dragnet targeting hundreds of building contractors and owners among others suspected of criminal negligence that contributed to deadly building collapses.

The suspects — some nabbed at the airport with stacks of cash or perp-walked on national television — have become the focus of public Flag of Turkeyrage, with many now questioning whether they padded their profits by flouting the codes put in place over the last two decades to make buildings more quake resistant.

Construction industry experts say that contractors responsible for flawed buildings should be punished. But they also caution that targeting only them obscures gross negligence throughout the system meant to make buildings safe, which may have contributed to thousands of deaths. During most of the past decade, contractors could freely choose which private companies to hire to inspect their buildings, an arrangement that the government eventually concluded had led to “illegal commercial ties.”

“Putting the blame only on the contractors would be the easy way out,” said Ali Ozgunduz, a former state prosecutor who investigated

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U.S. Media, Education, Sports, Religion, High Tech

washington post logoWashington Post, News outlets demand release of Jan. 6 footage given to Tucker Carlson, Anumita Kaur, Feb. 25, 2023 (print ed.). Scores of news organizations — including The Washington Post — on Friday demanded congressional leaders release a trove of surveillance footage from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol that the House speaker provided exclusively to Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has downplayed the violence.

Attorney Charles Tobin sent a letter on behalf of CBS News, CNN, Politico, ProPublica, ABC, Axios, Advance, Scripps, the Los Angeles Times and Gannett, arguing that the footage should be available to other groups as well.

“Without full public access to the complete historical record, there is concern that an ideologically-based narrative of an already polarizing event will take hold in the public consciousness, with destabilizing risks to the legitimacy of Congress, the Capitol Police, and the various federal investigations and prosecutions of Jan. 6 crimes,” the letter stated.

McCarthy gives Tucker Carlson exclusive access to Jan. 6 riot video

The Post is part of another coalition of news outlets, which includes the Associated Press and the New York Times, that sent a letter to McCarthy seeking access to the material.

Carlson, the most watched prime-time host on Fox News, has yet to air the unseen footage given to him by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

On Monday, he said his producers have “unfettered” access to about 44,000 hours of security footage recorded when hundreds of President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral college win. Carlson said that his team has been analyzing the content “and how it contradicts or not the story we’ve been told for more than two years,” and that his producers would spend the week reviewing the video and air what they found next week. His show did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

McCarthy has remained silent about the footage, and has not spoken publicly or responded to questions about the release, which was first reported by Axios. His office did not respond to a request for comment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Voice of America journalists put on leave after ‘Russian propaganda’ accusations, Paul Farhi, Feb. 25, 2023 (print ed.).
The government-funded broadcaster Voice of America put two journalists on leave after 15 coworkers accused them of producing Kremlin propaganda in previous jobs.

Voice of America placed two journalists in its Russian-language service on leave Friday after colleagues accused them of producing “propaganda” benefiting Russian president Vladimir Putin before they joined the U.S. government-funded broadcaster.

The journalists, Garri “Harry” Knyagnitskiy and Daria Davydova, were hired by VOA in November after working for several years at media outlets controlled by the Russian government or closely allied with it.

The decision, which came coincidentally on the first anniversary of the Russian invasion, follows the disclosure of an unusual letter signed by 15 VOA staff members and addressed to managers of the organization’s Russian service. The journalists sought the dismissal of Knyagnitskiy and Davydova, writing that their previous work “contributed to the spread of Russian propaganda narratives and disinformation,” vilified the United States and “laid the groundwork for the Kremlin to justify their full-scale invasion” of Ukraine last year.

The allegation is a particularly explosive one at Voice of America, which was founded in 1942 by the U.S. government to produce news and information to counter propaganda from Nazi Germany. The organization has evolved into a source of broadcast and digital news and cultural programming aimed at people living in countries whose authoritarian governments censor and control the news media.

The organization has periodically defended itself against suggestions of infiltration and corruption of its reporting, including in 2020 when its former government overseer, Michael Pack, said VOA was “a great place to put a foreign spy.”

VOA has in the past hired reporters who’ve worked for state-controlled media organizations, valuing them for their language skills, cultural and historical knowledge and journalistic experience despite the censorship often imposed on them in their former countries. The organization says it subjects new employees to background investigations to vet any ties to foreign governments and supervises their work to ensure it meets American standards of neutrality and objectivity.

Editor and Publisher, The Winsted Citizen: Ralph Nader’s gift to his hometown, Bob Sillick, Feb. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Todd Arcelaschi, the mayor, was there, and so was Joshua Steele Kelly, the town manager. A seven-piece R&B jazz band kept the atmosphere lively. More than 100 guests had gathered in the American Museum of Tort Law in Winsted, Connecticut, to celebrate the launch of the Winsted Citizen for a community hungry for news. Winsted is also where Ralph Nader was born and delivered the local newspaper as a boy, and the Citizen is his gift to his hometown, which had become a news desert.

“The Winsted Journal folded in 2017, so we were without a newspaper. You can’t have a community without a newspaper. Studies show voting and social life decline, and fewer people attend town meetings. No one is holding the government accountable and supporting the business community with coverage of important events,” Nader said.

“I came to the conclusion there's no community in the country that can’t support a weekly newspaper. It’s just a lack of imagination and organization. It only takes a handful of people to make it happen.”

Nader asked Andy Thibault to become the editor and publisher. He is a veteran journalist and editor and held that position at various Connecticut newspapers, including The Hartford Courant. He also teaches Basic News Reporting/Writing, Investigative Reporting and Communication at the University of New Haven.

The first announcement about the Citizen stated it would publish a pilot issue first. However, the enthusiasm and positive response from the community prompted the paper to revise its plans. They’ve committed to a monthly edition throughout the remainder of 2023, then publishing weekly in 2024.

“On February 3rd, 1,000 copies of the inaugural issue of the Winsted Citizen were mailed by Trumbull Printing to households in our circulation area. The first 35 subscribers and all 192 Connecticut public libraries were included in the initial mailing. The Citizen is also available at multiple locations throughout the community. We now have almost 200 subscribers with an immediate goal of 1,000,” Thibault said. “We also had immediate interest from many local businesses to place ads in the first issue.”

“We have a big learning curve as we integrate ourselves with the community. We want to earn everyone's trust and respect. We’re extending our hand — ready to meet people and learn how we can serve them.”

Subscriptions and advertising are the immediate targets to generate revenue, but as a 501(c) 3 nonprofit, it will also explore resources available through grants and from foundations — a process that has already started.

Editor's Note: Justice Integrity Project Editor Andrew Kreig, a longtime journalist in Connecticut with the Hartford Courant and elsewhere, serves on the new newspaper's founding board of directors.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vice C.E.O.’s Departure Signals Fallen Hopes for Digital Media, Benjamin Mullin, Feb. 25, 2023 (print ed.). Nancy Dubuc is leaving the media company, which is exploring a sale of some or all of the business, after nearly five years there.

When Vice Media named Nancy Dubuc as its new chief executive in 2018, her contract hinted at one of her missions. Sell the company — at the time a darling of the media industry — and she could cash in on a big stock grant, according to a copy of the contract obtained by The New York Times.

So far, that hasn’t come to pass. On Friday, Ms. Dubuc said she was leaving Vice, which investors expect is worth far less than before she took over.

Just a month ago, Ms. Dubuc announced publicly that the company was for sale. No deal has materialized yet.

Her unexpected departure — her last day is Friday — and Vice’s struggles in recent years, highlight the fallen fortunes of a group of digital media companies that not long ago was talked about as the future of the industry.

ny times logoNew York Times, Linda King Newell, Feminist Scholar of Mormon History, Dies at 82, Clay Risen, Feb. 23, 2023. Her work exploring the idea of female subservience within the church won acclaim. But it also led to her being blacklisted by Mormon leaders.

Linda King Newell, whose pioneering work on the history of women in the Mormon faith won her acclaim as the leading feminist scholar in her field, but also led leaders in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to blacklist her for undermining traditional views about the religion’s founding era, died on Feb. 12 at a hospice facility in Salt Lake City. She was 82. She later served as the president of two leading Mormon scholarly organizations, the John Whitmer Historical Association and the Mormon History Association.

ny times logoNew York Times, John Macrae III, Eclectic Publisher and Rights Champion, Dies at 91, Sam Roberts, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). In addition to having a roster of authors that included Gail Sheehy, David Levering Lewis and Lech Walesa, he spoke out for the rights of writers worldwide.

John Macrae III, a dashing publisher who gambled on groundbreaking books and dauntlessly defended authors who defied injustices committed by their own governments, died on Feb. 1 at his home in Manhattan. He was 91.

His death was confirmed by his wife, the Manhattan gallerist Paula Cooper.

Mr. Macrae was president and publisher of E.P. Dutton from 1968 to 1981, representing the third generation of his family to run the company. He then worked for 35 years at Henry Holt & Company, where he was editor in chief and later had his own imprint.

A fervent human rights advocate, he was chairman of the International Freedom to Publish Committee of the Association of American Publishers.

Mr. Macrae was among those who urged his fellow publishers to boycott the Moscow Book Fair in 1983 to protest the Soviet Union’s treatment of dissidents.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Josh Hawley May Be Right About Social Media, Michelle Goldberg, right, Feb. 25, 2023 (print ed.). Last year, a study came out michelle goldberg thumbshowing that left-leaning adolescents were experiencing a greater increase in depression than their more conservative peers. Indeed, while girls are more likely to be depressed than boys, the study, by a group of epidemiologists at Columbia, showed that liberal boys had higher rates of depression than conservative girls.

Because I wrote quite a bit about the dire psychological fallout of Donald Trump’s abusive presidency, I was immediately interested in the study, titled “The Politics of Depression.”

The study speculated that left-leaning girls might simply be reacting to the political environment.

But as I looked closer at the data, I saw that the inflection point for liberal adolescent depression wasn’t 2016, but around 2012. That was the year of the devastating Sandy Hook mass shooting, but it was not otherwise a time of liberal political despair.

One person I hoped could make sense of the study was Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University and the author of the 2017 book iGen, about the deleterious psychological effects of social media. When I spoke to her last year, Twenge had preliminary data showing that liberal teenagers spent more time on social media than their conservative peers. Girls also use social media more than boys do, though boys tend to spend more time on screens, largely because of video games.

This month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published alarming findings from its Youth Risk Behavior Survey that demonstrated the gravity of the psychological crisis that adolescents, especially adolescent girls, are facing. In 2021, it found, nearly 60 percent of high school girls experienced persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness. Almost a quarter made a suicide plan.

Clearly, kids are in terrible pain. In trying to understand why, many conservatives have embraced ideas about the damaging effects of social media championed by Haidt and Twenge. The Republican senator Josh Hawley cited Twenge’s work in calling for a ban on social media use by kids under 16.

The steep decline in young people’s mental health around 2012 isn’t just an American problem: It also shows up in Britain, Canada and Australia.

Technology, not politics, was what changed in all these countries around 2012. That was the year that Facebook bought Instagram and the word “selfie” entered the popular lexicon.

The idea that unaccountable corporate behemoths are harming kids with their products shouldn’t be a hard one for liberals to accept, even if figures like Hawley believe it as well. I’m not sure if banning social media for young people is the right way to start fixing the psychic catastrophe engulfing so many kids.

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Disasters, Energy, Climate, Environment, Weather

climate change photo

 

ny times logoNew York Times, Europe Has Weathered an Energy Crisis, for Now, Stanley Reed and Melissa Eddy, Feb. 25, 2023 (print ed.). Worries about gas and oil supplies have greatly eased. But reverberations from the war in Ukraine continue to cloud longer-term forecasts.

Within months of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, there was near panic in Europe over energy supplies. Mainstay flows of natural gas through pipelines from Russia were dwindling to a relative trickle, pushing wholesale prices up more than 10 times the level of a year earlier. Oil prices were high. Lawmakers warned of fuel rationing and rolling blackouts, and winter loomed.

Now Europe has plenty of gas, much of it from Norway, the shale fields of Texas, and Qatar. The price has tumbled below preinvasion levels and has continued to slip lower almost daily. Oil prices appear steady. There no longer talk of imminent rationing.

But it’s unclear if the danger has been banished, or whether the maneuvering last year that secured this position — when European countries seemed to spare no expense buying shiploads of expensive liquefied natural gas and China cut its energy needs as it shuttered its cities in “zero Covid” lockdowns — will be needed again this year.

There are concerns that complacency has set in, and some leaders of the energy industry warn that Europe has been lucky this winter. They say the coming years, with a revived Chinese economy potentially sucking in more energy imports, may be more of a test.

washington post logoWashington Post, Crew tried to stop Ohio train after alert on overheating wheel bearing, NTSB says, Ian Duncan, Luz Lazo and Meryl Kornfield, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also visited the derailment scene, saying it is clear that regulatory changes are needed.

norfolk southern logoThe crew of the Norfolk Southern train that derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, received an alert about an overheating wheel bearing and was trying to slow the train before it came off the tracks, according to a preliminary National Transportation Safety Board report released Thursday.

As the engineer applied the brakes, an automatic braking system kicked in, according to the report. Investigators found that a wheel bearing was heating up over several miles as the train approached the derailment site, according to data from trackside sensors, but did not reach a critical threshold until shortly before the incident, when it registered 253 degrees above the air temperature.

The report was released as Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg visited the scene in East Palestine, where he got a briefing from investigators and met experts from his department aiding the response. He said it was clear from the scene that regulatory changes were needed within the industry.

Norfolk Southern freight train derailment in Ohio (Detroit News photo by Andy Morrison via Associated Press).

ny times logoNew York Times, After Chemical Release, Farm Owners Worry About a Cherished Way of Life, Emily Cochrane, Feb. 22, 2023. The derailment of a train carrying toxic chemicals upended a region of Ohio where families could afford to buy land, raise livestock and plant gardens.

Even with the trees still barren, Pam Mibuck could picture how the seasons would unfold on the land her uncle bought decades ago: a field of sunflowers in the summer, fresh apples for the horses and pie in the fall, and a tranquil place for her sons to come home to no matter the time of year.

But when officials decided two weeks ago to burn off the toxic chemical cargo of a derailed freight train a few miles away, sending a huge plume of smoke to blanket her farm and many others along the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, the sense of safety Ms. Mibuck had long felt there was upended.

When the Norfolk Southern freight train careened off the tracks this month and left a fiery heap of wreckage on the outskirts of East Palestine, Ohio, a town of roughly 4,700 people, it upended an area where generations of families could afford to buy acres of land, raise horses and plant gardens, hunt deer and birds and build lives undisturbed by the chaos of bigger cities nearby. Although farming provides only a small number of jobs in the immediate area, many residents say that raising livestock and working the land are profoundly important to their way of life.

Through a long global pandemic, national political tensions and the stress of inflation, the land, the water and the fresh air had been a source of comfort and safety. But the chemical threat spreading through the region has shattered many landowners’ confidence. Vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate, ethylhexyl acrylate and ethylene glycol monobutyl are among the substances that were released into the air, surface water and surface soil, the Environmental Protection Agency said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Storm hits much of the U.S., bringing ‘historic’ snow and blizzard conditions, Matthew Cappucci, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). Heavy snow will fall from California to Maine, and from the Canadian Border to Mexico.

A strong, intensifying storm system continued its trek across the Lower 48 early Wednesday, unleashing high-impact winter weather that could cause widespread power outages and grind travel to a halt. At least 75 million Americans are under winter storm, ice storm, blizzard warnings or winter weather advisories.

In addition to hefty precipitation in much of the Midwest and parts of the Plains, there could also be snow in notably low elevations — including in areas that rarely see measurable snowfall. Even the Los Angeles County mountains are included in a rare blizzard warning — the first issued by the National Weather Service office there since 1989. Snow levels could descend to below 1,000 feet elevation as extreme anomalous cold at high altitudes whips up a serious elevation storm.

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Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

ny times logoNew York Times, Proposal Would Limit Online Prescribing of Certain Drugs, John Yoon. Feb. 25, 2023. Medications like Ritalin and Vicodin would require an in-person doctor’s visit under the new rules, a reaction to the rise of telemedicine.

The Biden administration on Friday proposed tighter limits on the online prescription of some medications, including the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder drug Adderall and highly addictive opioids such as oxycodone, a partial reversal of policy changes made during the coronavirus pandemic.

The new regulations, which would require health care providers to have at least one in-person visit with patients before prescribing or refilling certain drugs, would take effect after the public health emergency for Covid ends on May 11, the Drug Enforcement Administration said in a statement.

The rise of telemedicine expanded access to health care, particularly in rural areas, during the pandemic. It also allowed doctors to write millions of prescriptions without ever meeting patients in person — creating the potential for misuse, critics have said.

The rule change, part of the D.E.A.’s efforts to combat the deadly opioid epidemic in the United States, seeks to balance the advantages of telehealth with more safeguards, according to the agency.

Politico, Florida Surgeon General Joe Ladapo investigated for allegedly falsifying Covid report, Arek Sarkissian, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). The Florida Department of Health’s inspector general last fall investigated Joseph Ladapo, the state’s surgeon general, after the agency received an anonymous complaint alleging he falsified a report focusing on the safety of Covid-19 vaccines for young men.

politico CustomAmong other things, the complainant alleged Ladapo committed “scientific fraud” and “manipulated data” in a report that Ladapo later used to claim that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines could increase the risk of cardiac death among young men, according to the complaint. Both brands use mRNA technology, which Ladapo contends was rushed to the market by the urgency of the pandemic without the proper testing.

“The analysis performed in DOH did not find this,” the individual wrote without providing evidence, according to the complaint. “He manipulated the final draft of the analysis.”

Ladapo’s report was used as evidence in vaccine guidance he released in October that came under heavy criticism from the medical community, which said the surgeon general’s stance that the vaccine posed a health risk in healthy young men was flawed and went against Covid-vaccine recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The guidance even prompted Twitter to temporarily block a social media post from the surgeon general promoting the analysis, though the company later restored it.

The inspector general’s office opened the investigation in November after it received the complaint and later closed it at an undisclosed date after the complainant didn’t respond to follow-up questions regarding the accusations, according to state documents that include a copy of the original complaint.

Nothing is known about the complainant, and anyone can submit a grievance with the Department of Health’s inspector general. But the individual appeared to have detailed knowledge of state health agencies, according to the documents the Florida Department of Health provided to POLITICO.

Ladapo on Wednesday called the accusations against him untrue and said the report in question was completed by a team of staffers at the Florida Department of Health.

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Feb. 24

Top Headlines

 

Global News, Migration, Human Rights Issues

 

Trump, Allies, GOP Probes, Prospects

jeremy bertino anthony crider w

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

 

U.S. Politics & Ukraine War

 

Disasters, Energy, Climate, Environment

climate change photo

 

More On Ukraine War

 

President Joe Biden, center, poses with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, right, and Olena Zelenska, left, spouse of President Zelenskyy, at Mariinsky Palace during an unannounced visit in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 20, 2023 (Associated Press Pool photo by Evan Vucci).

 

U.S. Mass Shootings, Gun Control

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Immigration

Murder defendant Alex Murdaugh, shown at upper left (Pool photo).

 

More On Turkish-Syrian Quake Disaster


U.S. Abortion, #MeToo, Stalking, Rape Laws, Politics

 

U.S. Media, Education, Religion

 

More On Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: On War’s Anniversary, Allies Support Ukraine With Words and Weapons, Staff Reports, Feb. 24, 2023. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said that his country could win the war this year as long as its allies remain united “like a fist” and continue delivering weapons. ‘We Were Not Defeated,’ Zelensky Says.

With messages of support and new pledges of weapons, allies rallied around Ukraine on Friday as the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion prompted shows of solidarity around the world and a mix of anxiety and resolve in Ukraine.

“We will be victorious,” President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine told a news conference, saying that Ukraine could win the war this year as long as its allies remain united “like a fist” and continue delivering weapons.

washington post logoWashington Post, A Year of War in Ukraine: Leaders recall dismay, fury as war began, Staff Reports, Feb. 24, 2023. Political, military and intelligence officials describe their reaction to the Russian invasion and what they did that first day.

Shortly after 4 a.m. local time on Feb. 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. This oral history describes the first day of the war as recalled by Ukrainian, American and European leaders and senior political, military and intelligence officials.

Fears about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions had been mounting for months, and by the day before the war began, alarms were sounding loudly in Kyiv and Western capitals.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Biden-Zelensky Bond: Strong After a Tense Start, Peter Baker and Andrew E. Kramer, Feb. 24, 2023. The relationship between President Biden and President Volodymyr Zelensky has become critical to the international order.

After Russia invaded Ukraine last year, President Biden reflected privately on his long-distance conversations with President Volodymyr Zelensky. He did not know the man well — and might never get to. It was chilling, several people remember him observing grimly, to think that he might be talking with a dead man.

Mr. Biden was hardly the only one to assume that Mr. Zelensky might not survive the Russian onslaught, given the target the Kremlin had put on his back. But the American president was happy to be proved wrong — and surprised to discover, like the rest of the world, that Mr. Zelensky was more than a former comedian and tougher than anyone imagined.

By the time Mr. Biden made a dramatic unannounced visit to wartime Kyiv this week, the two had grown close enough to greet each other with the easy familiarity of old friends. “How are the children?” Mr. Biden asked. “It’s amazing to see you,” he added, perhaps still shocked that the Ukrainian president has escaped Russian efforts to kill him. Mr. Zelensky inquired about Jill Biden. “She’s doing well,” the president replied. “She’s still teaching.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned China against helping Russia evade sanctions, Alan Rappeport, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, right, said on Thursday that the United States would redouble its efforts to marshal global support to help Ukraine and janet yellen owarned that China would face repercussions if it helped Russia evade American sanctions.

She spoke as top policymakers from around the world gathered in southern India for a meeting that is expected to focus largely on accelerating a global economic recovery after three years of international crises. The warning to China underscores how the impact of the war continues to reverberate, straining ties between the world’s two largest economies as they were attempting to stabilize their relationship.

China Flag“We have made clear that providing material support to Russia or assistance with any kind of systemic sanctions evasion would be a very serious concern for us,” Ms. Yellen said. “We will certainly continue to make clear to the Chinese government and the companies and banks in their jurisdiction about what the rules are regarding our sanctions and the serious consequences they would face for violating them.”

Ms. Yellen declined to describe specific U.S. intelligence about Russian attempts to avoid sanctions but the Treasury Department has pointed to attempts by Russia to seek assistance from China to supply it with items such as semiconductors which face trade restrictions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Disillusionment with U.S. fuels a deepening global divide over Ukraine war, Liz Sly, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). Beyond the West, the world is far from united on the issues raised by the Ukraine war, and Russia often gets a sympathetic hearing in the Global South.

Clement Manyathela, who hosts a popular and influential talk show on South Africa’s Radio 702, remembers the outrage he felt when Russian troops first surged into Ukraine. He had believed Russia’s insistence that it wasn’t planning to attack and felt cheated when war broke out.

“We were lied to,” he said.

But as the fighting continued, he, and many of those who call in to his show, began to ask questions: Why had President Vladimir Putin deemed it necessary to invade? Was NATO fueling the fire by sending so many weapons to Ukraine? How could the United States expect others around the world to support its policies when it had also invaded countries?

“When America went into Iraq, when America went into Libya, they had their own justifications that we didn’t believe, and now they’re trying to turn the world against Russia. This is unacceptable, too,” Manyathela said. “I still don’t see any justification for invading a country, but we cannot be dictated to about the Russian moves on Ukraine. I honestly feel the U.S. was trying to bully us.”

In the year since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a reinvigorated Western alliance has rallied against Russia, forging what President Biden has trumpeted as a “global coalition.” Yet a closer look beyond the West suggests the world is far from united on the issues raised by the Ukraine war.

ny times logoNew York Times, How the West Finds Supplies for Ukraine’s Soviet-Era Arsenal, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Justin Scheck and Boryana Dzhambazova, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). Despite an influx of sophisticated arms, the Ukrainian military still relies on weapons that fire Soviet-standard munitions. That has Western countries scrambling to find alternative sources. And that brings them to remote areas of Eastern Europe.

The job is straightforward, dangerous and will soon be open to applicants: filling a 122-millimeter Soviet-style artillery shell with explosives that will turn it into a lethal projectile.

For the residents of Kostenets, a dying mountain town in western Bulgaria, it’s a welcome opportunity despite the risk of death. It means more jobs at the Terem ammunition plant on the outskirts of town.

The factory stopped making the 122-millimeter shells in 1988 as the Cold War came to a close. But soon the assembly lines will be running again. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has turned Soviet-era arms and ammunition into critically important matériel as western nations seek to supply Ukraine with the munitions it needs to foil Moscow’s assault.

And so in January, 35 years after the last 122-millimeter shells left the Terem plant, the company recommissioned production.

United Nations

ny times logoNew York Times, U.N. General Assembly Calls for Lasting Peace Deal in Ukraine, Anushka Patil, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). The assembly overwhelmingly adopted a resolution calling for a peace agreement that guarantees Ukraine’s sovereignty. Several of Russia’s key allies abstained, including China, Iran and India.

The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday adopted a resolution calling for a lasting peace in Ukraine and reiterating its demand for Russia to withdraw its troops and halt the conflict, in a nonbinding vote on the eve of the anniversary of Moscow’s invasion.

The resolution, introduced by Ukraine during a special session of the assembly that lasted two days, passed 141 to 7, with 32 abstentions.

The assembly overwhelmingly adopted a resolution calling for a peace agreement that guarantees Ukraine’s sovereignty. Several of Russia’s key allies abstained, including China, Iran and India.

The resolution demonstrated continued support for Ukraine and Russia’s isolation on the world stage even as many countries grapple with the far-reaching consequences of the war on their own populations, with the prices of energy and food soaring.

Among the countries that abstained were Russia’s allies China, Iran and India. Among the few countries siding with Russia in voting no were Belarus, Eritrea, Nicaragua, North Korea, Mali and Syria. Two amendments offered by Belarus to alter the resolution in favor of Russia were rejected.

“In this war there is no equal sides; there is an aggressor and a victim,” Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, told the assembly on Wednesday when he introduced the resolution. “We have no choice but to keep fighting for our survival.”

Resolutions passed by the General Assembly are not legally binding, but they carry symbolic and political weight. This was the third one adopted by the assembly in relation to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a year ago. The Security Council has been unable to bring stronger action because Russia has veto power against any resolutions brought against it.

 

Global News, Migration, Human Rights Issues

ny times logoNew York Times, Ahead of Crucial Election, Security Crises and Kidnappings Plague Nigeria, Elian Peltier, Feb. 24, 2023. As Nigerians go to the polls on Saturday, kidnappings are just one of the crises creating levels of violence unseen in the country for decades.

A 61-year-old civil engineer was supervising a digging project on a farm in southern Nigeria when five young men carrying AK-47s stormed the place and dragged him into the bush.

For five days, the kidnappers held the engineer, Olusola Olaniyi, and beat him severely. Only after his family and employer agreed to pay a ransom was he released, in the middle of the night, on a road a few miles away from where he had been kidnapped.

Nigeria has faced an outbreak of kidnappings in recent years, affecting people of all ages and classes: groups of schoolchildren, commuters traveling on trains and in cars through Nigeria’s largest cities, and villagers in the northern countryside. With youth gangs and armed bandits finding that kidnapping for ransom produces big payoffs, such crimes have only multiplied.

As Nigerians go to the polls on Saturday to choose a new president, insecurity is the top issue facing the country, according to a survey by SBM Intelligence, a Nigerian risk consultancy. Between July 2021 and June 2022, more than 3,400 people were abducted across the country, and 564 others were killed in kidnapping-related violence.

ny times logoNew York Times, Nigerian Election 2023: What to Know, What Polling Shows, Ruth Maclean, Feb. 23, 2023 (print ed.). he presidential election this week in Africa’s most populous country is completely unpredictable. An unexpected third candidate with a huge youth following may upend decades of traditional politics.

Nigerian FlagNigerians go to the polls this week to choose a new president — one of the most important elections happening anywhere in the world this year. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, with about 220 million people, and what happens there reverberates across the continent and the globe.

The Giant of Africa, as Nigeria is known, is at an inflection point. Nearly eight years of rule by an ailing president, Muhammadu Buhari — a military dictator turned reformed democrat — has seen the country lurch from one economic shock to the next. Over 60 percent of the people live in poverty, while security crises — including kidnapping, terrorism, militancy in oil-rich areas and clashes between herdsmen and farmers — have multiplied.

In recent weeks, shortages of fuel and cash — the latter because of a rushed currency redesign — have caused widespread suffering. Even people with money in the bank cannot get access to it and many are unable to buy food or pay for necessities. Protests in some cities have turned violent.

Many Nigerians see the 2023 election as a chance to change course, and are planning to break with the two traditional parties to vote for a third candidate. Not since the rebirth of Nigeria’s democracy in 1999 has the country faced an election as nail-biting — and as wide open — as this one.

The vote is scheduled for Feb. 25, unless it is postponed, as it was in 2019, just five hours before polls were to open. The head of the Independent National Electoral Commission, or I.N.E.C., has warned that if the myriad security challenges Nigeria is facing are “not monitored and dealt with decisively,” elections could be postponed or canceled in many wards, causing a constitutional crisis.

Who are the main candidates?

There is Bola Ahmed Tinubu, 70, who as the candidate of the governing All Progressives Congress has serious political machinery behind him. A canny, multimillionaire former governor of Lagos, Nigeria’s biggest city, Mr. Tinubu is a Muslim from the southwest and boasts that he brought Mr. Buhari to power. His catchphrase, “Emi lo kan” — Yoruba for “It’s my turn” — speaks to his record as a kingmaker in Nigerian politics, but alienates many young voters.

The former vice president and multimillionaire businessman Atiku Abubakar is the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, or P.D.P. Mr. Abubakar, 76, has run for the presidency five times since 1993, and this year could be his last shot. A Muslim from the north, he hopes to pick up far more votes there than he has in the past, now that he does not have to run against his old nemesis, Mr. Buhari, who had an ardent northern following.

The surprise candidate is Peter Obi, 61. Hailed as a savior by a large chunk of Nigeria’s digitally savvy youth, Mr. Obi — a Christian and former governor from the southeast who has hitched his wagon to the lesser-known Labour Party — has thrown this election open. His fans — mostly young, southern Nigerians walloped by economic hardship, joblessness and insecurity — call themselves the Obidients.

ny times logoNew York Times, Nigeria’s Cash Crunch Causes Chaos and Suffering Before Crucial Election, Ruth Maclean, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). Nigeria’s government changed the currency design before the presidential election, causing shortages and wreaking social havoc.

ny times logoNew York Times, More Than 50 Missing After Coal Mine Collapses in Northern China, Chang Che and John Liu, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). Rescuers in China Flagnorthern China were working on Thursday to save 53 coal miners who were missing after the collapse of an open-pit mine. At least four deaths had been confirmed, local officials and state media said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Shattered Homes and Lurking Disease: Quake Hardships Pile Up in Turkey, Cora Engelbrecht and Nimet Kirac, Feb. 24, 2023.  Hundreds of thousands of people are sheltering in tents, breathing air thick with pollutants unleashed from tombs of rubble.

After powerful earthquakes struck southern Turkey, Eylem Sahutoglu and her family endured two weeks of freezing nights under a blue tarpaulin. Then word came from government engineers who had inspected their building: They could return home.

But on Monday night, before they could move back into their house in Hatay Province, the earth began shaking again. Another powerful quake had hit the region.

“My legs went numb,” Ms. Sahutoglu said, recalling how she had fainted in her front yard as the house crumbled at her feet.

Ms. Sahutoglu’s ordeal is emblematic of the plight of thousands of Turks who were preparing to return home — only to be thrown deeper into uncertainty, lurching from one calamity to the next.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mexico Hobbles Election Agency That Helped End One-Party Rule, Natalie Kitroeff, Feb. 23, 2023 (print ed.). The changes come ahead of a presidential election next year and are part of a pattern of challenges to democratic institutions across the Western Hemisphere. Mexican lawmakers passed sweeping measures overhauling the nation’s electoral agency on Wednesday, dealing a blow to the institution that oversees voting and that helped push the country away from one-party rule two decades ago.

mexico flag1The changes, which will cut the electoral agency’s staff, diminish its autonomy and limit its ability to punish politicians for breaking electoral laws, are the most significant in a series of moves by the Mexican president to undermine the country’s fragile institutions — part of a pattern of challenges to democratic norms across the Western Hemisphere.

andrés lópez obrador wPresident Andrés Manuel López Obrador, right, whose party and its allies control Congress, argues that the measures will save millions of dollars and make voting more efficient. The new rules also seek to make it easier for Mexicans who live abroad to cast online ballots.

But critics — including some who have worked alongside the president — say the overhaul is an attempt to weaken a key pillar of Mexico’s democracy. The leader of the president’s party in the Senate has called it unconstitutional.

Now, another test looms: The Supreme Court, which has increasingly become a target of the president’s ire, is expected to hear a challenge to the measures in the coming months.

If the changes stand, electoral officials say it will become difficult to carry out free and fair elections — including in a crucial presidential contest next year.

“What’s at play is whether we’re going to have a country with democratic institutions and the rule of law,” said Jorge Alcocer Villanueva, who served in the interior ministry under Mr. López Obrador. “What’s at risk is whether the vote will be respected.”

The watchdog, called the National Electoral Institute, earned international acclaim for facilitating clean elections in Mexico, paving the way for the opposition to win the presidency in 2000 after decades of rule by a single party.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Picks Ajay Banga to Lead World Bank, Alan Rappeport, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). President Biden tapped the former Mastercard executive to run an organization mired in controversy over the outgoing leader’s comments on climate change.

ajay bangaThe Biden administration nominated Ajay Banga, right, the former longtime chief executive of Mastercard, to be the next president of the World Bank, a selection that is likely to drastically reshape the global development institution and broaden its ambitions to combat climate change.

The nomination will initiate a monthslong confirmation process before a final decision by the World Bank’s board. It is not clear if any other countries will nominate a candidate. The World Bank president is traditionally an American citizen chosen by the United States.

If confirmed, Mr. Banga will bring vast experience running large organizations and deep knowledge of the digital economy. Raised in India, he would bring a firsthand understanding of the challenges that developing countries face.

“Ajay is uniquely equipped to lead the World Bank at this critical moment in history,” President Biden said in a statement. “He has spent more than three decades building and managing successful, global companies that create jobs and bring investment to developing economies, and guiding organizations through periods of fundamental change.”

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Trump, Allies, GOP Probes, Prospects

 

jeremy bertino anthony crider w

ny times logoNew York Times, Former Proud Boy Says Group Prepared for ‘All-Out Revolution’ on Jan. 6, Zach Montague and Alan Feuer, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). The testimony of a former Proud Boys leader shed new light on the group’s growing desperation before the riot As a gang of Proud Boys stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Jeremy Bertino, above at center, one of the leaders of the far-right group, was at home in North Carolina, watching livestreams of the riot and offering advice to his compatriots on the ground.

Recovering from stab wounds he sustained during an earlier pro-Trump rally, Mr. Bertino was trying his best to aid his fellow Proud Boys in what he believed was another American Revolution. In a barrage of messages, he told his friends to “form a spear,” encouraging them to move en masse toward the Capitol.

“I was excited,” he testified Wednesday. “I thought I was watching history and watching the guys about to go into the building.”

Appearing for a second day of testimony at the seditious conspiracy trial of five members of the Proud Boys in Federal District Court in Washington, Mr. Bertino gave the proceeding a sudden burst of drama by taking the stand against his former associates. After nearly six weeks of arcane arguments about evidence and often lackluster testimony, Mr. Bertino offered jurors an insider’s glimpse of the growing sense of desperation within both the Proud Boys’ leadership and rank and file in the weeks leading up to the Capitol attack.

Since opening statements on Jan. 12, prosecutors have been seeking to convince the jury that Enrique Tarrio, the group’s leader at the time of the riot, and the other four defendants in the case — Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl and Dominic Pezzola — conspired to use force to stop the transfer of presidential power from Donald J. Trump to Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Mr. Bertino recalled frenetically swapping texts with Mr. Tarrio while the mob — with the Proud Boys in the lead — overran the Capitol. Mr. Bertino expressed pride and amazement to Mr. Tarrio, openly hoping that the rioters would track down Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“Brother, You know we made this happen,” Mr. Bertino wrote. “I’m so proud of my country today.”

“I know,” Mr. Tarrio responded.

The defense sought to cast doubt on Mr. Bertino’s account on Wednesday, noting that he had told federal investigators in several previous statements that the group never explicitly planned to stop the certification of the election.

Under questioning by Nicholas Smith, Mr. Nordean’s lawyer, Mr. Bertino seemed argumentative at times as he replied that some of his prior statements were false but added that the group was acting on an unspoken understanding, rather than a telegraphed plan to topple the government.

The two-day testimony of Jeremy Bertino, a former leader of the far-right group, shed new light on the Proud Boys’ growing desperation in the weeks before the riot. .As anxiety spread throughout the group after the Supreme Court declined to overturn Mr. Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania in December 2020, Mr. Bertino said that he and the group’s top leaders came to believe that “time was running out to save the country.” The Proud Boys, he went on, would have to take the lead in galvanizing other Trump supporters who came to Washington into realizing an “all-out revolution.”

But as he witnessed that effort break down in real time on Jan. 6, Mr. Bertino said he became outraged that other rioters had failed to follow the group’s leadership and commit fully to halting the certification of the vote.

“Going halfway into the Capitol and then relinquishing it did nothing but cause a lot of problems for people in the country and people that went in there,” he added. “It didn’t accomplish anything,”

Over more than 12 hours on the stand, Mr. Bertino described his personal trajectory from a new Proud Boys recruit to the only member of the group to have pleaded guilty to charges of seditious conspiracy. He also talked about the respect and status he gained for his often frontline role in clashing with the group’s political adversaries.

On Tuesday, Mr. Bertino recalled a rally in Washington on Nov. 14, 2020, when at least 100 Proud Boys went in search of counterprotesters and chased them away after “a big street brawl.”

Something similar took place when the group returned on Dec. 12, 2020, picking a fight after dark with leftist activists. During that melee, Mr. Bertino was stabbed and hospitalized with a broken rib and a punctured lung.

At times on Wednesday, he spoke fondly of the “brotherhood” he formed with other leaders and the shared ideals he would discuss with the men he is now testifying against.

“Most of us would have taken a bullet for each other,” he said. “We all shared some sort of trauma within the club.”

But at other times, Mr. Bertino betrayed a sense of frustration about simmering disorganization and “drama” within the group, and a feeling that Mr. Tarrio sometimes concealed his intentions from junior members and failed to keep the group as a whole focused on its political goals.

Mr. Bertino’s testimony also helped reinforce a key pillar of the government’s case: that the group became increasingly hostile toward the police in the wake of violence that erupted after the pro-Trump rallies in Washington.

The knife attack he suffered turned him and other Proud Boys against their perceived allies in the police, who they believed had protected the assailant, Mr. Bertino testified. He said it fueled a paranoid perception that the group was standing alone against a broad coalition of political opponents that included law enforcement, liberal-leaning mayors and the incoming Biden administration.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s grip on the Republican base is slipping — even among his fans, Isaac Arnsdorf, Josh Dawsey, Hannah Knowles, Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, Patrick Marley and Ashley Parker, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). More than 150 interviews in pivotal electoral states show Donald Trump maintains a bond with his GOP voters, but faces rising interest in a new standard-bearer.

The MAGA vs. RINO dichotomy that defined the GOP for much of the last eight years is increasingly obsolete. In its place, a new dynamic emerged from interviews with more than 150 Trump supporters across five pivotal electoral states. In between Republicans who remain firmly committed or opposed to the former president, there’s now a broad range of Trump supporters who, however much they still like him, aren’t sure they want him as the party’s next nominee.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump may be questioned in lawsuits by ex-FBI employees, Spencer S. Hsu, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.).  Two former senior FBI employees who allege they were targeted for retribution after FBI’s Trump-Russia probe may narrowly probe Trump, FBI Director Christopher Wray.

christopher wray oA federal judge on Thursday ordered that former president Donald Trump and FBI Director Christopher Wray, right, can be questioned under oath by attorneys for two former senior FBI employees who allege in separate lawsuits that they were illegally targeted for retribution after the FBI investigated Russia’s interference in the 2020 presidential election.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of Washington came in consolidated lawsuits against the FBI and Justice Department by former senior FBI agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page.

Strzok seeks reinstatement and back pay over what he alleges was his unfair termination for criticizing then-president Trump. Page alleges officials unlawfully released a trove of politically charged text messages she exchanged with Strzok, with whom she was having an affair.

 

mike pence bites lip Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Special Counsel Seeks to Force Pence to Testify Before Jan. 6 Grand Jury, Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). Prosecutors have asked a federal judge to set aside any claims of executive privilege that former Vice President Mike Pence might raise to avoid questioning.

The Justice Department has asked a federal judge to force former Vice President Mike Pence to testify fully in front of a grand jury investigating former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, seeking to cut short any attempt by Mr. Trump to use executive privilege to shield Mr. Pence from answering questions, two people familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

Justice Department log circularThe request — amounting to a pre-emptive motion to compel Mr. Pence’s testimony — came before the former vice president had even appeared in front of the grand jury, and before any privilege claims had actually been raised in court.

The sealed motion, filed in recent days in Federal District Court in Washington, is the latest step in a long-running behind-the-scenes struggle, first by the Justice Department and now by the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, to cut through the various assertions of privilege that witnesses close to Mr. Trump have repeatedly raised in an effort to avoid answering questions.

The privilege disputes have been handled by Judge Beryl A. Howell, the chief federal judge in Washington, who oversees all of the district’s grand jury matters, which as a rule are conducted in secret. Judge Howell is expected to step down from her position next month and be replaced by another chief judge.

 michael luttig house jan 6 hearing june 16 2022

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Embarrassing Spectacle That Mike Pence Is Heading For, J. Michael Luttig (shown testifying about last June 16 before the House Jan. 6 committee), Feb. 24, 2023. Former Vice President Mike Pence recently announced he would challenge Special Counsel Jack Smith’s subpoena for him to appear before a grand jury in Washington as part of the investigation into former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and the related Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Mr. Pence claimed that “the Biden D.O.J. subpoena” was “unconstitutional” and “unprecedented.” He added, “For me, this is a moment where you have to decide where you stand, and I stand on the Constitution of the United States.” Mr. Pence vowed to take his fight all the way to the Supreme Court.

A politician should be careful what he wishes for — no more so than when he’s a possible presidential candidate who would have the Supreme Court decide a constitutional case that could undermine his viability in an upcoming campaign.

The former vice president should not want the embarrassing spectacle of the Supreme Court compelling him to appear before a grand jury in Washington just when he’s starting his campaign for the presidency; recall the unanimous Supreme Court ruling that ordered Richard Nixon to turn over the fatally damning Oval Office tapes. That has to be an uncomfortable prospect for Mr. Pence, not to mention a potentially damaging one for a man who — at least as of today — is considered by many of us across the political spectrum to be a profile in courage for his refusal to join in the attempt to overturn the 2020 election in the face of Donald Trump’s demands. And to be clear, Mr. Pence’s decision to brand the Department of Justice’s perfectly legitimate subpoena as unconstitutional is a far cry from the constitutionally hallowed ground he stood on Jan. 6.

Injecting campaign-style politics into the criminal investigatory process with his rhetorical characterization of Mr. Smith’s subpoena as a “Biden D.O.J. subpoena,” Mr. Pence is trying to score points with voters who want to see President Biden unseated in 2024. Well enough. That’s what politicians do.

But Jack Smith’s subpoena was neither politically motivated nor designed to strengthen President Biden’s political hand in 2024. Thus the jarring dissonance between the subpoena and Mr. Pence’s characterization of it. It is Mr. Pence who has chosen to politicize the subpoena, not the D.O.J.

Mr. Luttig, a former judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, provided advice to then-Vice President Pence on the run-up to the Electoral College count on Jan. 6, 2021.

 

fani willis djt collage

washington post logoWashington Post, Georgia juror unsettles Trump investigation with revealing interviews, Amy Gardner and Matthew Brown, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). Emily Kohrs may have added to the challenge for Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis, above left, whose investigation has come under scrutiny for what some have described as legal and ethical missteps.

The foreman of a special grand jury in Georgia may have complicated an investigation into efforts by President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 election by speaking bluntly about its findings in interviews this week, several legal experts said.

Emily Kohrs, the 30-year-old Atlanta-area resident who served for eight months as foreman of the special grand jury, said in media interviews this week that the panel recommended multiple indictments in its report, the details of which a Fulton County judge had ordered sealed.

Kohrs said that the list of recommended indictments “is not short,” that there would be no “plot twist” when the public finally gets to see the contents of the report and that regarding “the big name that everyone keeps asking me about” — presumably Trump himself — “I don’t think you will be shocked.”

Several legal experts said they were surprised and concerned by Kohrs’s unusually candid commentary, which included evaluation of witnesses, tidbits about jurors socializing with prosecutors and a stated hope that the investigation yields charges because of how much time she and others invested in the case.

The remarks could cause additional challenges for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, whose investigation has come under scrutiny for what some have described as legal and ethical missteps. Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney effectively barred Willis from investigating Lt. Gov. Burt Jones (R), who served as one of Trump’s false electors in Georgia, after Willis hosted a fundraiser for his opponent.

Trump and his allies have repeatedly criticized Willis for her outspoken characterization of the investigation and frequent media appearances. She told The Washington Post in September that her team had heard credible allegations that serious crimes had been committed and that she believed some would see jail time.

\If Willis does indict Trump — becoming the first prosecutor to bring charges against a former president — Trump could use Kohrs’s remarks to advance the argument he’s made all along: that Willis’s probe has amounted to a political prosecution and not a serious investigative inquiry.

Trump weighed in on Kohrs’s comments on Wednesday, calling the case “ridiculous” and criticizing her for “going around and doing a Media Tour revealing, incredibly, the Grand Jury’s inner workings & thoughts. This is not JUSTICE, this is an illegal Kangaroo Court.”

Willis’s office declined to comment on Kohrs’s interviews.

Kohrs told CNN that former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows and other witnesses refused to answer questions by invoking their Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination. She also described an ice cream social she attended hosted by Willis’s office.

ny times logoNew York Times, Lawyers for former President Trump said an inquiry into election interference in Georgia had been “poisoned,” Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). Lawyers for former President Donald J. Trump said late Wednesday that details divulged this week by the forewoman of a special grand jury investigating election interference by Mr. Trump and his allies had “poisoned” the Georgia inquiry.

As of Thursday morning, however, the two lawyers had not filed any motions in court challenging the inquiry. Nor would they discuss what form such a challenge might take, saying only that they were weighing their options. “We’re just considering everything,” one of the lawyers, Drew Findling, said.

Earlier this week, the forewoman, Emily Kohrs, spoke in interviews with a number of news outlets after The Associated Press identified her through a public records request. She said that the 23-person special grand jury, which can only make recommendations on whether prosecutors should indict, had made such recommendations for more than a dozen people in the case. Fani T. Willis, the Fulton County district attorney, who is handling the case, will ultimately make charging decisions and bring them to a regular grand jury.

Ms. Kohrs declined to name names or say which laws the jurors believed had been broken. But asked if Mr. Trump was among those recommended for indictment, she told The New York Times: “You’re not going to be shocked. It’s not rocket science.”

Proof, Investigative Commentary: With the Breaking News in Georgia That Trump Is Almost Certain to Be Indicted, What Are We to Make of How seth abramson graphicMajor Media Seems to Be Already Trying to Discredit the Indictment? Seth Abramson, left, Feb. 23-24, 2023. 

A recent interview by former Fulton County grand juror Emily Kohrs is being used by certain figures in major media to cast doubt on a Trump indictment before it happens—for no good reason whatsoever.

seth abramson proof logoEmily Kohrs is a Georgia woman who will have no direct role whatsoever in indicting Donald Trump or anyone else for Election Fraud in any of the very high-profile cases now being investigated by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.

So the fact that American media has thus far been unable to discuss her acting unwisely following the end of her public service as a Georgia grand juror without also darkly intimating that her entirely legal conduct in granting a post-service interview could imperil a future Trump indictment in Georgia is a bad sign for American rule of law.

So let’s summarize what we know, following the recent Emily Kohrs interview: Legal experts agree that while Kohrs may have endangered herself physically and created “bad optics” by granting one interview following her grand jury service, she did not violate any court order or any Georgia statute or regulation regarding grand jury service in doing so.

Nor did she say anything that exhibited a preexisting bias against any of the 75 prospective Fulton County defendants, Trump included. There’s also no evidence that Kohrs plans on giving any further interviews, despite catty commentary suggesting that she is on a “media tour.”

djt march 2020 CustomWhat’s coming is an indictment the likes of which we have never seen before, in part because it’s that oddest of combinations, to wit, a slam-dunk case with a high-profile defendant who can rightly make only a single claim—that the prosecution of him is unprecedented.

It will be journalists’ job not to confuse the fact of an indictment of Trump being historic with there somehow being something wrong or bad or biased or sinister about any prosecution of him, and it will be the job of Trump to take every “first-ever” occurrence in his case as a sign of a vast left-wing conspiracy and use that false frame to try to stir up a Second Civil War in a desperate bid to save himself.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump Are Subpoenaed in Jan. 6 Investigation, Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt, Feb. 23, 2023 (print ed.). Former President Donald J. Trump’s daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, have been subpoenaed by the special counsel to testify before a federal grand jury about Mr. Trump’s efforts to stay in power after he lost the 2020 election and his role in a pro-Trump mob’s attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, according to two people briefed on the matter.

The decision by the special counsel, Jack Smith, to subpoena Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner underscores how deeply into Mr. Trump’s inner circle Mr. Smith is reaching, and is the latest sign that no potential high-level witness is off limits.

The disclosure about the subpoena comes two weeks after it was revealed that Mr. Smith had subpoenaed former Vice President Mike Pence to testify before the grand jury. Mr. Pence plans to fight the subpoena, invoking his role as the president of the Senate to argue that it violates the “speech or debate” clause of the Constitution.

It is unclear whether Mr. Trump will seek to block Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner from testifying on the grounds of executive privilege, as he has tried with some other witnesses. Both of them served as White House officials in the Trump administration. Mr. Trump declined to try to stop them from testifying before the House special committee that investigated the Jan. 6 attack and what led to it.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason Jack Smith is going at Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Bill Palmer, right, Feb. 22, 2023. When the news bill palmerbroke two weeks ago that DOJ Special Counsel Jack Smith had subpoenaed Mike Pence to testify to a federal grand jury against Donald Trump, it generated a lot of confusion and false narratives. People wanted to know why the DOJ had waited this long to go at Pence. And of course we had to sit through the media’s usual false narratives about how Pence will simply “run out the clock” and Trump will magically get away with it all.

bill palmer report logo headerBut back in the real world, that’s not at all how a federal criminal investigation works. You always start with the people at the bottom, who are usually eager to give up everything they know just so they don’t get in legal trouble themselves. Then you use that information as a basis for figuring out how to corner reluctant higher level witnesses. You keep moving upward until you have the highest level witnesses cornered. Then you force them to tell the real truth to a grand jury, and they know they can’t get away with lying to protect anyone, because you already know the truth.

So when the news broke that Pence was subpoenaed, it was a big clue that the DOJ is close to the end of the investigative and indictment phase of its Trump probe. For one thing, even though the news didn’t break until two weeks ago, it was reported that Pence had actually been subpoenaed the month before. And for all of Pence’s public bluster about how he’s supposedly going to fight the subpoena, the reality is that the courts tend to handle disputes over grand jury subpoenas rather swiftly (see Fulton County). In nearly all cases, any witness who challenges a grand jury subpoena still ends up having to swiftly testify; the court rulings merely define the scope of which questions have to be answered. Given how long ago Pence was subpoenaed, it’s probable that any legal challenges over his testimony are already over or mostly over.

More to the point, the witnesses closest to the situation (and the target) are subpoenaed last. So when the news broke that Jack Smith had subpoenaed Pence, we pointed out that there weren’t many more witnesses left who were closer to the situation than Pence – which means we were nearly at the end. But now the news has broken today that Jack Smith has also subpoenaed Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner to testify against Donald Trump to the grand jury.

This is not in any way surprising. Even when it came to the January 6th Committee probe, an arena in which subpoenas can be dragged out for years, Ivanka and Jared ultimately decided to testify against Trump rather than face potential legal consequences. So in the grand jury arena, where you either promptly comply with a subpoena or you promptly face legal consequences, it’s not surprising that Smith is pushing Ivanka and Jared to testify. If they’ve already quasi-volunteered useful testimony against Donald Trump to Congress, they’ll surely do the same in response to a grand jury subpoena.

The kicker is that Ivanka and Jared are, arguably, the only witnesses who are even closer to the situation (and closer to Donald Trump) than Mike Pence is. At this point it would be difficult to come up with any more names that Jack Smith could subpoena, at least in this 1/6 probe. Of course we’re about to hear a bunch of pundit nonsense about how Ivanka and Jared will somehow magically “run out the clock” on these subpoenas, even though that’s not how grand jury subpoenas work. But the reality is that they’ll have to swiftly testify – as will Pence – and we’re obviously very close to the end of the process.

Keep in mind that this “process” is the federal criminal indictment of Donald Trump. This isn’t for show. This isn’t for some mere report. This is the process of the DOJ hitting Trump with criminal charges. And it’s becoming clear that there will be charges against Trump on multiple fronts.

Even as Jack Smith plays out the endgame in his Trump 1/6 probe by putting Pence and the Trump family in front of the grand jury, Smith has also reportedly put three of Trump’s own attorneys in front of the grand jury in the classified documents probe. It’s becoming more obvious that the DOJ is gearing up to criminally indict Donald Trump on multiple fronts, and that these indictments will include witnesses who were the closest to his crimes.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: In Sharing Video With Fox Host, McCarthy Hits Rewind on Jan. 6, Luke Broadwater and Jonathan Swan, Feb. 23, 2023 (print ed.). Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s decision to grant the Fox News host Tucker Carlson exclusive access to thousands of hours of security footage from inside the Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack was his latest move to appease the right wing of his party, this time by effectively outsourcing a bid to reinvestigate the riot to its favorite cable news commentator, who has circulated conspiracy theories about the assault.

The most conservative Republican members of Congress — many of whom have worked to downplay or deny the reality of the Jan. 6 attack — have been pushing Mr. McCarthy for weeks to release the video after he promised to do so during his campaign for speaker.

kevin mccarthyMr. McCarthy, right, has shown little appetite for the kind of aggressive public re-litigation of what happened that day that some of his colleagues have called for, but he is sensitive to the dangers of angering his hard-core base by seeming to drop or disregard the matter.

That is where Mr. Carlson comes in.

“I promised,” Mr. McCarthy said on Wednesday in a brief phone interview in which he defended his decision to grant Mr. Carlson exclusive access to the more than 40,000 hours of security footage. “I was asked in the press about these tapes, and I said they do belong to the American public. I think sunshine lets everybody make their own judgment.”

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy granted exclusive access to the tapes to Tucker Carlson, a hero of the hard right.

Still, the sunshine Mr. McCarthy referred to will, for now, be filtered through a very specific prism — that of Mr. Carlson, a hero of the hard right who has insinuated without evidence that the Jan. 6 attack was a “false flag” operation carried out by the government.

After Mr. Carlson has had his way with the video, Mr. McCarthy said he planned to make the footage more widely available. His team has had internal conversations about providing the footage to other media outlets after Mr. Carlson has had his “exclusive” first airing, according to a source familiar with the deliberations who insisted on anonymity to speak about them.

For now, however, Mr. McCarthy has given a large head start to a purveyor of conspiracy theories about the attack.

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U.S. Politics, Elections, Economy, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Georgia Gun Laws Weigh on Atlanta’s Bid to Host 2024 Democratic Convention, Jonathan Weisman and Maya King, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). Boosters of Chicago’s bid are raising safety questions about Georgia’s lenient concealed-carry laws, jockeying for the upper hand as a decision nears.

georgia mapThe battle between Chicago and Atlanta over hosting the 2024 Democratic convention is heating up with a new claim from Illinois that Georgia’s lenient open-carry gun laws — already an issue with several public events in Atlanta — could make security a nightmare.

With a decision possibly weeks away, officials involved agree that Atlanta and Chicago now appear to lead New York, the third of the finalists still under consideration. Union officials have for weeks pressed President Biden and the Democratic dnc square logoNational Committee to pick the more union-friendly city; Chicago has 45 unionized hotels while Atlanta has just two, they say.

But recent events have brought a new argument: Georgia’s lenient gun laws could make it extremely difficult to keep firearms away from the delegates. The Secret Service is likely to declare the convention a “national security special event” and supersede state ordinances with its illinois mapown rules inside a fortified perimeter.

But in hotels, along bus routes and at meetings and parties far from the core convention sites, guns could find their way in, security consultants are warning, especially if Georgia’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, holds to his pro-gun views and refuses to intervene.

“It just creates a tense environment,” said Charles H. Ramsey, who once led police forces in Washington and Philadelphia and now does security consulting. “To me it’s an issue.”

Georgia Democrats have scoffed at the pitch. The State Farm Arena, which would be one of the main sites of the convention should Atlanta win the bid, has protocols in place that prohibit carrying a firearm, despite gun laws that ostensibly allow weapons into most public spaces.

Doug Shipman, president of the Atlanta City Council, said in an interview that the city had hosted big events since the state passed its first open-carry law — derided by opponents as the “guns everywhere” bill — in 2014. The city also had strong security relationships with federal, state and local law enforcement authorities, he added.

But, more to the point, the political significance of hosting the convention in a swing state that Mr. Biden narrowly carried in 2020 may supersede logistical and policy hurdles like gun laws, abortion bans and union hotels, Atlanta boosters said.

“Atlanta offers an enormous amount of historical and current symbolism. It’s obviously the home of the civil rights movement but also more recently the home of, you know, wins by Senators Ossoff and Warnock,” Mr. Shipman said, pointing to the narrow twin electoral victories of Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in 2020, and Mr. Warnock’s victory again last fall. “I think there are a lot of different factors that go into that calculus. I’m not sure that the gun laws are going to have any particular impact on the decision.”

ny times logoNew York Times, East Palestine Crisis Tests J.D. Vance, a Trump-Backed Senator, Jazmine Ulloa, Feb. 24, 2023. The freshman senator from Ohio is in the spotlight for the first time in his tenure as he responds to the train derailment and its aftermath.

jd vance w gage skidmoreAs Donald J. Trump criticized the federal response to the train derailment that has shaken this Ohio town, there was one leader in Washington he praised repeatedly — the man he helped propel to Congress, Senator J.D. Vance, shown at left in a photo by Gage Skidmore.

“J.D. Vance has been incredible,” Mr. Trump told reporters and local officials on Wednesday at an East Palestine firehouse, as Mr. Vance stood behind him.

While a fight brews between Democrats and Republicans over the role of the federal government in the derailment’s aftermath, Mr. Vance, 38, has been at the center of it all. Some of his actions have been the conventional response of any seasoned politician. He has drafted letters calling on federal officials for more oversight and met with some of the residents most affected by the derailment and chemical spill. But he also has joined far-right Republican figures in depicting the deep-red village in northeastern Ohio as a forgotten place, taking a page from Mr. Trump’s grievance-politics playbook.

“I grew up in a town that was neglected by the national media and was affected by a lot of dumb policies,” Mr. Vance said in a brief interview, as he briskly left the firehouse on Wednesday. “I worry that unless we keep the pressure on the federal policymakers and the corporations that caused this problem, a lot of people are going to be forgotten and left behind.”

The White House has pushed back on such criticism from Republicans, accusing both the Trump administration and Republican lawmakers of dismantling the Obama-era rail safety measures meant to prevent episodes like the East Palestine derailment. And at least one media critic has accused Mr. Vance of fanning the flames of white grievance by attacking the Biden administration as deserting white Americans.

For Mr. Vance, the response to the derailment could serve as a pivot point. It is the first major crisis in his tenure as a newly elected senator and it has provided him with the chance to show the voters who viewed him with skepticism during his campaign that he has not strayed far from his humble Ohio roots.

ny times logoNew York Times, To Retake the House, Democrats Put Early Money on New York, Nicholas Fandos, Feb. 23, 2023 (print ed.). Democrats’ House super PAC plans to spend $45 million trying to flip as many as six seats Republicans won in 2022. It could set off a major spending contest.

New York almost single-handedly cost Democrats their House majority in last fall’s midterm elections. Now, a leading Democratic group is preparing to pour record sums into the state, in hopes it can deliver the party back to power next year.

House Majority PAC, the main super PAC aligned with congressional Democrats, will unveil a first-of-its-kind, $45 million fund this week dedicated to winning back four seats Republicans flipped in New York, and targeting two other competitive districts. Republicans currently control the chamber by only a five-seat margin.

The planned Democratic infusion would dwarf outside spending in the state in recent election cycles, and reflects just how central traditionally blue New York has become to the national House battlefield for both parties. Of the 18 districts nationwide that President Biden won in 2020 that are now represented by Republicans, New York is home to six.

“The path to the majority runs through New York,” Mike Smith, the group’s president, said in an interview outlining its plans. “It’s not just us seeing it. It is the Republican Party seeing it. It’s every donor around the country seeing it.”

The announcement comes amid bitter Democratic infighting over how to regroup from last year’s whiplash elections. While the party outperformed expectations nationally, New York was a glaring outlier. On Election Day, Republicans here harnessed fears about rising crime and one-party Democratic rule to run a nearly clean sweep through competitive districts and secure their majority.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: George Santos speaks the truth! Dana Milbank, right, Feb. 24, 2023. I’m not gonna lie. It was another bad week for the dana milbank newestGreat Prevaricator, Rep. George Santos.

The New York Republican (shown below) sat for a long interview with British broadcaster Piers Morgan and attempted to validate his previous lies — by serving up a batch of new ones. Santos lied about his lie about his religion: “I never claimed to be Jewish.” (He did, george santos headshotmany times.) He supplemented this with a lie about a speech he gave to the Republican Jewish Coalition, claiming “people were hysterically laughing” at his joke about being “Jew-ish.” (A recording shows there was no such joke, and no such laughter.)

Worse, Santos complained about Jews and others offended by his bogus Judaism claims and his false story about his family fleeing the Holocaust. “Now that everybody’s canceling me, everybody’s pounding down for a pound of flesh,” he complained.

Yes, “pound of flesh” comes from Shylock, the greedy Jew in Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice.”

But the interview offered some insight into the fabulist’s strategy for political survival — and why it may resonate with some in the MAGA crowd. True story: Santos claims he is the victim. His lies are everybody else’s fault — honest!

washington post logoWashington Post, In texts, governor’s appointee plots ‘battle royale for the soul’ of University of Virginia, Nick Anderson, Feb. 24, 2023. Messages from Bert Ellis offer an unfiltered view into the thinking of the U-Va board newcomer who has voiced skepticism of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

After Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) named him last summer to the University of Virginia’s governing board, Bert Ellis had a platform to influence the school’s administration. He spotted a potential target, a vice provost named Louis P. Nelson, tasked with community engagement, public service and academic outreach programs.

Nelson, who reports to U-Va’s chief academic officer, Provost Ian Baucom, is also a professor of architectural history and an award-winning scholar and teacher. He has researched buildings and landscapes that shaped slavery in West Africa and the Americas, including at the prestigious public university that Thomas Jefferson founded in Charlottesville.

Ellis was unimpressed.

“Check out this numnut who works for Baucom and has nothing to do but highlight slavery at UVA,” Ellis wrote on July 22 in text messages to two other new board members, Stephen P. Long and Amanda Pillion. “This bloated bureaucracy has got to be slashed.”

That and other text messages from Ellis were obtained last week through Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act by Richmond-based author Jeff Thomas, who provided them to The Washington Post. They provide an unfiltered window into the conversations of a controversial board newcomer who has voiced skepticism of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, been protective of the legacy of Jefferson and advocated for a new course for the flagship university.

They also underscore mounting political tensions throughout public higher education as Republican governors and their appointees challenge university culture, norms and operations. Tenure protections for faculty and diversity offices are top targets of those who believe campuses are in thrall of a liberal indoctrination machine. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) recently appointed a slate of trustees that is engineering a major overhaul of the public New College of Florida.

The Virginia legislature voted this month to confirm Ellis, Pillion, Long and another Youngkin appointee, Douglas D. Wetmore, to four-year terms on the U-Va. Board of Visitors. For now, appointees from Youngkin’s Democratic predecessors continue to hold a majority of the 19 board seats. That will change as members rotate off and Youngkin fills openings.

Thomas, 38, author of the 2019 book The Virginia Way: Democracy and Power after 2016, has previously submitted FOIA requests to U-Va. on topics including university admissions. He has specialized in analyzing the state’s political culture and is an advocate for institutional transparency. He asked for the Ellis texts in August, but U-Va. refused to release them. Then he sued. A Richmond judge this month ordered the university to send him redacted documents.

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U.S. Politics & Ukraine War

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Ron DeSantis, potential GOP standard-bearer, sounds out of his depth, Eugene Robinson, right, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). eugene robinsonApparently no one told Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that if you’re going to wade into the deep waters of foreign policy, you should at least know how to dog paddle.

It turns out that the man many Republicans hope can run for president in 2024 as “Donald Trump without the baggage” is like a deer in headlights when asked, very politely, about the war in Ukraine. It’s not just that he’s unready for prime time. He can’t even handle “Fox & Friends.”

Appearing this week on that GOP-friendly morning show, DeSantis tried to take a Trumpist “America First” position about the war — questioning the level of U.S. military and economic aid President Biden and Congress have given to Ukraine while there are problems that need to be addressed here at home. He ended up sounding weak, ill-informed and incoherent.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Let’s All Do the DeSantis Shimmy! David Brooks, right, Feb. 24, 2023. I suppose all contemporary young politicians dream david brooksof meeting their moment. At the enthusiastic dawn of their politico careers, they entertain a fantasy that some day, as a great historical challenge looms into view, their future selves will rise to the occasion — and masterfully dodge it!

Ron DeSantis is now trying to live out that dream.

There are two dominant views on Ukraine within the Republican Party. The first one, embraced by, say, Nikki Haley and Tim Scott, holds that Russia’s assault on Ukraine threatens the liberal world order. Helping the Ukrainians push back is in America’s vital national interest.

The second view, embraced by the populist wing, is that the United States has no vital national interests in Ukraine. Tucker Carlson has said he doesn’t really care what Vladimir Putin does in Ukraine. Donald Trump has suggested that the war will last longer if the United States continues to send aid.

DeSantis has magically cast himself in between these two positions. In the past, DeSantis was tougher on Russia than Trump. In 2017, he noted that Putin “wants to reconstitute the Russian Empire,” and chided Trump for being too soft on Putin, saying that “you’re better off dealing with Putin by being strong.” If Putin thinks he can gain an inch, DeSantis argued, “he’s apt to take a mile.”

But this week DeSantis went on “Fox & Friends,” where great statesmen have always gone to unfurl their foreign policy doctrines, and he feinted in a Trump-like direction.

This has been DeSantis’s general approach to Trump. He doesn’t want to take on Trump directly, so he shimmies.

The problem with running a campaign in which you are trying to be Trumpy-but-not-Trump is that you’re never your own man.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Time is not on Ukraine’s side, Josh Rogin, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). As the Ukraine war enters its second year, the Biden administration is pledging to support Kyiv for “as long as it takes.” That language is calculated to send a message of resolve to Russian President Vladimir Putin, but it’s not what Ukrainians want to hear. Though they’re fighting valiantly, Ukrainians are also suffering greatly — and they are begging the West to help them speed up the war, not settle in for an endless slog.

Just a few days before the anniversary of Putin’s unprovoked invasion last year, Biden visited Kyiv and made a rousing speech in Poland promising that the West “will never waver” in the fight for freedom and democracy. A few days earlier, Vice President Harris took the stage at the Munich Security Conference to declare America’s endless commitment to the Ukraine effort.

“The daily agony of war will persist,” she said. “But if Putin thinks he can wait us out, he is badly mistaken. Time is not on his side.”

Nearly all the Ukrainian officials I met in Munich respectfully disagree. It’s not just about weapons (although they insist that more and better weapons are badly and quickly needed). These Ukrainian officials say they’re worried that the Biden administration’s stance could undermine support for Kyiv’s strategy, which is to accelerate the war effort now and avoid a protracted stalemate.

For them, an endless war means a win for Putin and the loss of their country as they know it.

“We are very grateful for the support that is coming, but there is one phrase that makes us very concerned,” Ukrainian member of parliament Yelyzaveta Yasko told me. “Many leaders right now are saying, ‘We will support you as long as it takes.’ And we feel this phrase is quite dangerous.”

Biden’s messaging signals that the West is psychologically and politically preparing for a long war. But Yasko told me the window of opportunity for winning is closing. Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure, energy production and agricultural facilities are taking a brutal toll on the economy. The Ukrainian military is incurring heavy losses.

The deepening destruction means Ukraine will become even more dependent on the West in the future and reconstruction will become exorbitantly expensive and difficult. The longer the war goes on, the less industry Ukrainian refugees will have to return to.

Ukrainian member of parliament Oleksii Honcharenko told me victory must see Ukraine emerge as a healthy democracy with a functioning economy, or it will all be for naught. This is why, he says, the war must be won this year.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Putin and the Right’s Tough-Guy Problem, Paul Krugman, right, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). A democracy — imperfect, as all paul krugmannations are, but aspiring to be part of the free world — is invaded by its much larger neighbor, a vicious dictatorship that commits mass atrocities. Defying the odds, the democracy beats back an attack most people expected to succeed in a matter of days, then holds the line and even regains ground over the months of brutal fighting that follow.

How can any American, a citizen of a nation that holds itself up as a beacon of freedom, not be rooting for Ukraine in this war?

Yet there are significant factions in U.S. politics — a small group on the left, a much more significant bloc on the right — that not only oppose Western support for Ukraine but also clearly want to see Russia win. And my question, on the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion, is what lies behind right-wing support for Vladimir Putin?

Until the invasion of Ukraine, Putinphilia also went hand in hand with extravagant praise for Russia’s supposed military effectiveness. Most famously, in 2021 Ted Cruz circulated a video contrasting a Russian military recruitment ad featuring a muscular man doing manly stuff with a U.S. ad highlighting the diversity of Army recruits. “Perhaps a woke, emasculated military isn’t the best idea,” Cruz declared.

What was the basis for this worship of Putinism? I’d argue that many people on the right equate being powerful with being a swaggering tough guy and sneer at anything — like intellectual openness and respect for diversity — that might interfere with the swagger. Putin was their idea of what a powerful man should look like, and Russia, with its muscleman military vision, their idea of a powerful country.

It should have been obvious from the beginning that this worldview was all wrong. National power in the modern world rests mainly on economic strength and technological capacity, not military prowess.

But then came the invasion, and it turned out that Putin’s not-woke, unemasculated Russia isn’t even very good at waging war.

Why has Russia’s military failed so spectacularly? Because modern wars aren’t won by strutting guys flexing their biceps. They’re won mainly through logistics, technology and intelligence (in both the military and the ordinary senses) — things, it turns out, that Russia does badly and Ukraine does surprisingly well.

Just to be clear, wars are still hell and can’t be won, even with superior weapons, without immense courage and endurance. But these are also qualities Ukrainians — men and women — turn out to have in remarkable abundance.

The key to understanding right-wingers’ growing Ukraine rage is that Russia’s failures don’t just show that a leader they idolized has feet of clay. They also show that their whole tough-guy view about the nature of power is wrong. And they’re having a hard time coping.

 

More On Earthquake Disaster in Turkey, Syria

 

An aerial photo of a scene in the Turkish city of Hatay portrays earthquake damage on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023 (photo via SkyNews).

An aerial photo of a scene in the Turkish city of Hatay portrays earthquake damage on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023 (photo via SkyNews). Toll Is Rising as Rescuers Scour Rubble; Thousands of Buildings Are Down.

ny times logoNew York Times, Turkish Builders Are Under Intense Scrutiny Over Shoddy Construction, Ben Hubbard, Elif Ince and Safak Timur, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). The deaths of more than 43,000 people in Turkey from an earthquake have raised painful and angry questions over building standards.

Two dozen student volleyball players, four teachers and 12 parents visiting Turkey for a competition this month checked into the Grand Isias Hotel in the southern city of Adiyaman. When a powerful earthquake struck on Feb. 6, the building collapsed and killed dozens of people including everyone in the entourage except for four adults.

A university engineer who examined the wreckage found indications of weak concrete and insufficient steel reinforcements, he and his colleagues wrote in a preliminary report, concluding that shoddy construction had left the building vulnerable, even to smaller quakes.

In the weeks since, the Turkish authorities have arrested three men connected to the hotel on unspecified charges as part of a wide-ranging dragnet targeting hundreds of building contractors and owners among others suspected of criminal negligence that contributed to deadly building collapses.

The suspects — some nabbed at the airport with stacks of cash or perp-walked on national television — have become the focus of public Flag of Turkeyrage, with many now questioning whether they padded their profits by flouting the codes put in place over the last two decades to make buildings more quake resistant.

Construction industry experts say that contractors responsible for flawed buildings should be punished. But they also caution that targeting only them obscures gross negligence throughout the system meant to make buildings safe, which may have contributed to thousands of deaths. During most of the past decade, contractors could freely choose which private companies to hire to inspect their buildings, an arrangement that the government eventually concluded had led to “illegal commercial ties.”

“Putting the blame only on the contractors would be the easy way out,” said Ali Ozgunduz, a former state prosecutor who investigated

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More On Ukraine War

 

vladimir putin 2 21 2023 gettyimages

washington post logoWashington Post, Putin says Russia will suspend participation in New START nuclear accord, Mary Ilyushina, Robyn Dixon and Niha Masih, Feb. 22, 2023 (print ed.). Russian President Vladimir Putin (shown above in a photo via Getty Images) announced in a state of the nation address Tuesday that Moscow is “suspending” its participation in the New START nuclear nonproliferation agreement, the last remaining arms control treaty between the United States and Russia.

Russian FlagPutin said Russia will not “withdraw” completely from the treaty, which has been extended to run through Feb. 4, 2026, but he said that Russia would not allow NATO countries to inspect its nuclear arsenal. He accused the alliance of helping Ukraine conduct drone strikes on Russian air bases that host strategic bombers that are part of the country’s nuclear forces.

The 2011 treaty placed “verifiable limits” on the number of intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads deployed by the countries.

“Our relations have degraded, and that’s completely and utterly the U.S.’s fault,” Putin said.

“If the U.S. conducts tests, then so will we,” Putin said. “Nobody should have any illusions that global strategic parity can be destroyed.” Other nonproliferation agreements, including the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, treaty have fallen apart in recent years.

Western officials reacted with alarm at Putin’s decision.

“I regret today’s decision by Russia to suspend participation in the START treaty,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said. As a result, Stoltenberg said, “the whole arms control architecture has been dismantled.” He added, “I strongly encourage Russia to reconsider its decision."

In a broad speech, Putin ranged from accusing the West of a plot to destroy Russia to promising to build a new highway from Moscow to Vladivostok. He attempted to portray Russia as open and resilient, ascending to the lost status of an independent superpower, and he laid out a neo-Soviet vision for Russia’s future.

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U.S. Mass Shootings, Gun Control

washington post logoWashington Post, Orlando shooting leaves TV reporter, 9-year-old girl dead, police say, Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). A television journalist covering gun violence and a 9-year-old girl nearby were shot and killed in Orange County, Fla., Wednesday afternoon, local authorities said. Another journalist from the same network, Spectrum News 13, was also shot, as was the girl’s mother. Both were taken to the hospital, where they were being treated as of Wednesday evening.

The journalists were at the scene of a homicide of a woman in her 20s from earlier in the day when, police said, the gunman returned to the site of the morning killing and opened fired again. He also targeted a nearby house, police said. In total, he killed three.

The authorities did not immediately identify the victims.

There is no clear motive for the afternoon shootings at this time, according to Orange County Sheriff John Mina, who said it was uncertain if the shooter knew the journalists were with the media or covering the crime. The suspected shooter, identified as 19-year-old Keith Melvin Moses, has been detained. Other local journalists were also present when the shooting occurred but were not injured.

Speaking at a news conference Wednesday night, Mina expressed his appreciation for the work of the media and for the “very difficult job” they do in covering crime.

“No one in our community — not a mother, not a 9-year-old and certainly not news professionals — should become the victim of gun violence in our community,” he said.

Fellow Spectrum News 13 journalist Celeste Springer said during a live broadcast hours after the shooting that the co-worker who was shot remains in critical condition and asked for viewers to pray for the survival of her colleague.

“And while you’re at it, please say a prayer for every victim of gun violence in this country,” Springer said.

Moses has been charged with murder for the initial killing Wednesday morning, Mina said, adding that he expected Moses to be charged with the killing of the girl and journalist, too.

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U.S. Courts, Crime, Immigration

 

Murder defendant Alex Murdaugh, shown at upper left (Pool photo).

Murder defendant Alex Murdaugh, shown at upper left (Pool photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, Alex Murdaugh Admits Lying and Stealing, but Denies Murders, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). In choosing to testify on Thursday, Mr. Murdaugh took a gamble that could determine whether he is acquitted or sent to prison for life.

The prominent South Carolina lawyer testified that he repeatedly lied to investigators about being at the location where his wife and son were murdered, and denied fatally shooting them.CreditCredit...Pool photo by Grace Beahm Alford

In the more than 20 months since his wife and son were killed, Alex Murdaugh, the scion of a South Carolina legal dynasty, has rarely spoken publicly, even when prosecutors charged him with the killings. As reports of his questionable financial dealings, a botched suicide plot and an expensive drug habit swirled in the national spotlight, he remained quiet.

But on Thursday, Mr. Murdaugh talked for hours. Taking the witness stand in his own murder trial, Mr. Murdaugh acknowledged that he had stolen from his law clients. He conceded that he had pocketed a check he was supposed to hand over to his law firm. And he admitted that he had lied to the police about his whereabouts on the night of the killings.

Still, Mr. Murdaugh, who at 54 has spent decades representing clients in courtrooms like the one where he has been on trial for the past four weeks, was adamant that he had never harmed his family.

In the courtroom, his lawyer, Jim Griffin, held up a shotgun. “Did you take this gun, or any gun like it, and blow your son’s brains out?” he asked.

“I didn’t shoot my wife or my son any time — ever,” Mr. Murdaugh replied, insisting that paranoia fueled by his painkiller addiction had led him to lie about his movements on the night of the June 2021 murders. “Oh, what a tangled web we weave,” he said. “Once I told a lie — then I told my family — I had to keep lying.”

Though Mr. Murdaugh was disbarred last year, he nonetheless managed to take the trial into his own hands on Thursday — and to become its star witness, for better or for worse. In choosing to testify, Mr. Murdaugh took a gamble that could determine whether he is acquitted or sent to prison for life.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Unseals Terrorism Charges Against Men Identified as MS-13 Leaders, Karen Zraick, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). Three men accused of being high-ranking leaders of the transnational criminal gang MS-13 were arrested in Mexico on Wednesday and will be sent to New York to face charges, the Justice Department announced on Thursday.

The three were among 13 people named as suspected gang leaders in an indictment, unsealed in federal court in Suffolk County on Thursday, that detailed MS-13’s vast criminal enterprise in El Salvador, Mexico and the United States. The gang employs horrific violence to extort money and exert control, officials say, and has been linked to more than 65 murders in the New York area since 2009.

The charges in Thursday’s indictment include racketeering, conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and narco-terrorism conspiracy. Four of the defendants are charged with human smuggling that resulted in deaths.

The three defendants deported from Mexico were taken into U.S. custody at the Houston airport, the authorities said. Vladimir Antonio Arevalo-Chavez, 47; Walter Yovani Hernandez-Rivera, 29; and Marlon Antonio Menjivar-Portillo, 47, were charged with overseeing the gang’s expansion into Mexico, where it forged alliances with Mexican cartels and trafficked in drugs, people and weapons — and even killed migrants and gang members who tried to flee. The illicit proceeds funded the gang’s attempts to control territory and influence the government in El Salvador.

ny times logoNew York Times, Bike Path Attacker’s Father Testifies as Defense Seeks Life Term, Lola Fadulu and Benjamin Weiser, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). A federal jury considering the death penalty heard testimony from the father of Sayfullo Saipov, who said he expected that he would never see his son again.

Habibulloh Saipov saw his son for the first time in 13 years this week. He said Thursday that he expected that he would never see him again.

The son, Sayfullo Saipov, was convicted last month in Manhattan federal court of using a truck to kill eight people on the West Side bike path on Halloween Day 2017 and to injure many others. On Thursday, his father, allowed into the United States to testify as a jury considers giving his son the death penalty, said through an interpreter that after he finishes, he will fly back to their native Uzbekistan.

“He committed a terrible tragedy,” Habibulloh Saipov said of his son’s attack as he responded to questions posed by a defense lawyer. “He ruined their lives.”

Prosecutors opened the trial’s penalty phase last week arguing in favor of capital punishment rather than life imprisonment without any chance of release, contending Sayfullo Saipov, 35, is too dangerous for prison. Relatives of people who had died testified about the impact of the loss of their loved ones.

Thursday’s appearance by Habibulloh Saipov was part of the defense lawyers’ case against death. They had told the jury during the trial that their client had been influenced by hours of Islamic State propaganda, and that he had spent long hours viewing martyrdom videos.

 sam bankman fried newshubweek

Politico, New indictment details Bankman-Fried's illegal campaign contributions, Declan Harty and Sam Sutton, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). Prosecutors said Bankman-Fried, shown above in a photo via Newsweek, required those who worked with him to use “encrypted and ephemeral messaging platforms” to prevent regulators and law enforcement from obtaining records of his actions.

politico CustomU.S. prosecutors on Thursday revealed new details of how FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried allegedly made millions of dollars of illegal campaign contributions using stolen customer money, as they hit the one-time crypto exchange executive with new fraud charges.

Justice Department log circularFederal prosecutors in New York alleged that Bankman-Fried and two unnamed co-conspirators took out loans from Alameda Research — his hedge fund — and siphoned FTX customer funds to pump money into campaigns and super PACs that supported candidates from both parties in the 2022 midterms. The charges indicate the misuse of funds for political activity contributed to the collapse of the FTX exchange last year.

ftx logoBankman-Fried improperly funneled contributions through other individuals to support dozens of Republicans as well as left-of-center Democrats whom he didn’t want associated with his personal brand, according to the indictment. Bankman-Fried and his partners used an encrypted Signal messaging channel to coordinate their efforts, which ultimately resulted in more than 300 unlawful contributions.

Bankman-Fried, along with fellow FTX exchange executives Ryan Salame and Nishad Singh, were among the most prolific political donors during the 2022 cycle. Salame and Singh have reportedly cooperated with regulators.

Amid the scrutiny of FTX since its bankruptcy and Bankman-Fried’s arrest in December, some congressional campaigns and super PACs have already set aside funds equal to the FTX team’s contributions until they receive further instruction.

FTX’s new management, which is overseeing the platform’s bankruptcy restructuring, formally requested political contractors and organizations return the funds earlier this year.

 ny times logoNew York Times, R. Kelly Sentenced to 20 Years for Child Sex Crimes, Robert Chiarito and Julia Jacobs, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). The singer will serve most of the sentence in federal prison at the same time as a 30-year term for racketeering and sex trafficking.

r kelly twitterA federal judge on Thursday sentenced R. Kelly, shown on a Twitter portrait, to 20 years in prison for child sex crimes, after a jury found that he had produced three videos of himself sexually abusing his 14-year-old goddaughter.

In a victory for the defense, the judge ruled that all but one year of the prison sentence would be served at the same time as a previous 30-year sentence that Mr. Kelly received after a jury in Brooklyn convicted him of racketeering and sex trafficking charges.

The jury in Chicago convicted Mr. Kelly of six of the 13 charges brought against him in connection with sexual abuse during the 1990s, including counts of coercing three minors into sexual activity and three of producing sex tapes involving a minor. He was acquitted of a charge that he had attempted to obstruct an earlier investigation into his abuse of the goddaughter, and two other counts of enticing minors to have sex.

Federal prosecutors had argued that Mr. Kelly, 56, deserved 25 years in prison on top of his earlier sentence, citing the singer’s “lack of remorse” as a reason he would pose a danger to society if released.

washington post logoWashington Post, Harvey Weinstein gets 16 more years in prison after Calif. rape trial, Helena Andrews-Dyer and Bethonie Butler, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 16 years in prison Thursday after he was found guilty of rape, forced oral copulation and sexual misconduct in Los Angeles last December. Those years will be added on to a 23-year sentence the once-powerful film producer is already serving harvey weinsteinin New York state prison, all but ensuring Weinstein, right, will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

The Los Angeles case stems from one victim. Referred to in court as Jane Doe 1, the Italian actress accused Weinstein of sexually assaulting her at a Beverly Hills hotel after a film festival in 2013. Three other women also accused the now 70-year-old Weinstein of misconduct during the Los Angeles trial. Weinstein was acquitted on one of those charges, and the jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision on the additional counts involving two other women.

Jane Doe 1 gave a statement in court Wednesday about the trauma she suffered from Weinstein’s attack. “Before that night I was a very happy and confident woman. I valued myself and the relationship I had with God. I was excited about my future.” she told Superior Court Judge Lisa B. Lench, according to the Associated Press. “Everything changed after the defendant brutally assaulted me. There is no prison sentence long enough to undo the damage.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Sarah Lawrence Sex Cult’s ‘Lieutenant’ Gets Over 4 Years in Prison, Colin Moynihan, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). Isabella Pollok’s lawyers had argued that she should not serve time for helping Lawrence Ray, saying she had become a “broken automaton.” But a judge said she had choices.

lawrence rayFor years, Lawrence V. Ray, right, manipulated and exploited a group of young people who had lived with his daughter in a dormitory at Sarah Lawrence College. He didn’t do it alone, prosecutors say: Among them was an enforcer.

Isabella Pollok became Mr. Ray’s “trusted lieutenant,” prosecutors have said, helping abuse her onetime roommates. Descriptions of how she played a part in keeping Mr. Ray’s followers compliant and terrified emerged last year as former students testified at his trial, which led to a 60-year sentence for extortion, sex trafficking, racketeering conspiracy and other charges.

Ms. Pollok ran the accounts and meted out discipline, prosecutors said, pushing group members to serve and fund Mr. Ray across a decade and several states. One former student testified that Ms. Pollok and Mr. Ray showed up to a hotel room where she had been earning money for them by working as a prostitute. Ms. Pollok taunted her, the former student, Claudia Drury, said, and Mr. Ray assaulted her for as long as eight hours, placing a plastic bag over her head and threatening to kill her.

When Ms. Pollok pleaded guilty, she offered no public explanation of why she had become devoted to Mr. Ray. Her lawyers since had argued that Ms. Pollok was “brainwashed” and that she had been too fully in Mr. Ray’s thrall to act independently.

Among those who seem to have arrived at a similar view was Ms. Drury, who wrote to the court that, although she still puzzled over Ms. Pollok’s behavior, she believed that her former roommate had lacked agency and deserved lenience.

On Wednesday, a judge in Manhattan sentenced Ms. Pollok, who pleaded guilty last fall to a single count of conspiracy to launder money, to four and a half years in prison. That ends a case that began on the campus of an elite college in Westchester County with a progressive intellectual tradition then devolved into squalid scenes of abuse and domination played out in hotel rooms and homes in New York City and beyond.

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U.S. Abortion, #MeToo, Stalking, Rape Laws, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Her baby has a deadly diagnosis. Her Florida doctors refused an abortion, Frances Stead Sellers, Feb. 19, 2023 (print ed.). Halfway through the pregnancy, a routine ultrasound revealed the fetus had devastating abnormalities, pitching the couple into the uncharted landscape of Florida’s new abortion law.

Deborah Dorbert is devoting the final days before her baby’s birth to planning the details of the infant’s death.

She and her husband will swaddle the newborn in a warm blanket, show their love and weep hello even as they say goodbye. They have decided to have the fragile body cremated and are looking into ways of memorializing their second-born child.

“We want something permanent,” Deborah said. Perhaps a glass figurine infused with ashes. Or an ornament bearing the imprint of a tiny finger. “Not an urn,” she said, cracking one of the rare smiles that break through her relentless tears. “We have a 4-year-old. Things happen.”

Nobody expected things to happen the way they did when halfway through their planned and seemingly healthy pregnancy, a routine ultrasound revealed the fetus had devastating abnormalities, pitching the dazed couple into the uncharted landscape of Florida’s new abortion law.

Deborah and Lee Dorbert say the most painful decision of their lives was not honored by the physicians they trust. Even though medical experts expect their baby to survive only 20 minutes to a couple of hours, the Dorberts say their doctors told them that because of the new legislation, they could not terminate the pregnancy.

deborah dorbert“That’s what we wanted,” Deborah, right, said. “The doctors already told me, no matter what, at 24 weeks or full term, the outcome for the baby is going to be the same.”

Florida’s H.B. 5 — Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality — went into effect last July, soon after th