March News 2024

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Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and March 2024 news and views

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

 

March 31

Top Headlines

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Israel-Hamas War, Civilian Deaths

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

jennifer rubin new headshot

 

U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

rfk jr cesar chavez

 

More On Russian Terror Attacks, Hostages

 

More Trump-Related News

 

More On U.S. Bridge Disaster

Aerial view of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, after it was struck by a cargo ship and partly collapsed on March 26, 2024. It opened in 1977 and is named for Francis Scott Key, who wrote the words of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” (Photo by CBS News Baltimore).

 

U.S. Immigration News

 

Claims Against Bidens

 

Russia-Ukraine War, Navalny Death, Russian Goals

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is shown via an Associated Press photo in the prisoner's area during a sham proceeding in Russia's prosecution of him on spy charges.

 

More On Global Disputes, Disasters, Human Rights

 

More On U.S. Military, Security, Intelligence, Foreign Policy

 

More On U.S. Supreme Court

United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (l) with his wife of thirty-five years, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas (r). (Safe Image)

 

More On U.S. Courts, Crime, Guns, Civil Rights, Immigration

 

Convicted crypto-currency fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried, center, at the time of arrest (Photo by Austin Fernander via The Tribune Bahamas and Associated Press.)

 

Climate Change, Environment, Energy, Disasters, Transportation

climate change photo

 

Pandemics, Public Health, Covid, Privacy

 

U.S. Reproductive Rights, #MeToo, Trafficking, Culture Wars

 

U.S. Economy, Jobs, Poverty, Space, High Tech

 

U.S. Education, Religion, Media, High Tech, Free Speech, Culture

 

Top Stories

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Republican-appointed judges raise alarm over Trump attacks on law, Spencer S. Hsu, March 31, 2024 (print ed.). Federal D.C. Judge Reggie B. Walton warned Trump’s attacks on hush-money trial judge and others could lead to violence. Reagan, Bush-appointed judges decry Jan. 6 revisionism, threats.

A Republican-appointed judge, right, denounced Donald Trump’s social media attacks against the judge presiding over the former president’s hush money trial in Manhattan and his daughter, calling them assaults on the rule of law that could lead to violence and tyranny.

reggie b walton“When judges are threatened, and particularly when their family is threatened, it’s something that’s wrong and should not happen,” U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton, told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins in a live interview Thursday. He added, “It is very troubling because I think it is an attack on the rule of law.”

djt maga hatThe unusual media statement by a sitting federal judge came after Trump blasted New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan and his daughter, Loren Merchan, criticizing her affiliation with a digital marketing company that works with Democratic candidates and erroneously attributing to her a social media post showing Trump behind bars.

Walton, who was appointed by presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush to courts in Washington in 1981 and 1991, said “any reasonable, thinking person” would appreciate the impact of Trump’s rhetoric on some followers, intentional or not. The judge recalled how a disgruntled litigant killed the son and wounded the husband of New Jersey federal Judge Esther Salas at her home in a 2020 shooting.

Since late 2020, as Trump began escalating his attacks on the judiciary, serious investigated threats against federal judges have more than doubled, from 224 in 2021 to 457 in 2023, according to the U.S. Marshals Service, as first reported by Reuters. Federal judges in Washington say at least half of trial judges handling cases arising from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol have received a surge in threats and harassment, including death threats to their homes, with Trump’s election obstruction trial judge, Tanya S. Chutkan, placed under 24-hour protection.

“The rule of law can only be maintained if we have independent judicial officers who are able to do their job and ensure that the laws are in fact enforced and that the laws are applied equally to everybody who appears in our courthouse,” Walton told CNN. He was prompted to speak out of concern for the “future of our country and the future of democracy in our country,” Walton said, “because if we don’t have a viable court system that’s able to function efficiently, then we have tyranny.”

Walton’s remarks came as several federal judges in Washington appointed by Republican presidents have spoken with increasing urgency about Trump’s disregard for historical facts and alarmed at his increasingly graphic and at times violent description of defendants prosecuted in the Jan. 6 riot as “political prisoners” and “hostages” who did nothing wrong.

royce lamberth (Shown in a Reuters photo by Evelyn Hockstein)“In my 37 years on the bench, I cannot recall a time when such meritless justifications of criminal activity have gone mainstream,” U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth (shown above in a Reuters photo by Evelyn Hockstein) said in a January sentencing. “I have been dismayed to see distortions and outright falsehoods seep into the public consciousness.”

U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan similarly told a group of Georgetown Law School students in January that false claims that riot defendants were acting like tourists or patriots were destructive rewriting of reality. “There’s a danger that is embedded now in our communities across the country,” Hogan said.

Donald Trump is shown with his former counsel, Michael Cohen, right, author of a best-selling book

Donald Trump is shown with his former counsel, Michael Cohen, right, author of a best-selling book "Disloyal" and an expected star witness at Trump's New York trial in April.

ny times logoNew York Times, Some Potential Trump Witnesses Get Carrots. Michael Cohen Got the Stick, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum, Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Swan and Alan Feuer, March 31, 2024 (print ed.). Donald Trump takes different approaches to those who may testify at his trials. He attacks some, like Mr. Cohen, publicly. Others he rewards for loyalty.

Donald J. Trump watched anxiously from the White House in April 2018 as news broke about federal agents searching the home of Michael D. Cohen, the man entrusted to conceal some of the president’s deepest secrets. After initially coming to Mr. Cohen’s defense, Mr. Trump washed his hands of his fixer within weeks, brushing aside Mr. Cohen’s feelers about a pardon and disavowing his legal bills.

Mr. Trump took a different tack when prosecutors shifted their scrutiny to Allen H. Weisselberg, the Trump family’s longtime financial gatekeeper. Mr. Trump’s company paid Mr. Weisselberg’s legal bills and awarded him a $2 million severance, with a condition: He could not voluntarily cooperate with any law enforcement agency.

After Mr. Weisselberg signed the deal last year, Mr. Trump’s lawyers privately pressed him to testify in a civil fraud case filed against the former president, hoping the finance chief’s testimony would aid their defense, according to people with knowledge of the discussions, which have not previously been reported. But prosecutors say Mr. Weisselberg lied during his testimony, and this month he pleaded guilty to perjury.

The fixer and the moneyman both landed behind bars. But while Mr. Weisselberg remained loyal, refusing to implicate his boss, Mr. Cohen is poised to become a central witness for the Manhattan district attorney at Mr. Trump’s criminal trial next month, the first prosecution of a former U.S. president.

The contrasting cases of Mr. Cohen and Mr. Weisselberg — detailed in court records and interviews with 18 people directly involved in the cases, some of whom requested anonymity to discuss confidential conversations — demonstrate the power and peril of Mr. Trump’s tactics for avoiding a crisis like the one he now faces. The trial is the realization of Mr. Trump’s long-held fear that prosecutors would flip trusted aides into dangerous witnesses.

The former president, facing four indictments and several lawsuits while seeking to reclaim the White House, careens from one case to the next, seeking to exert control over witnesses. In screeds posted on his social media site, he mixes enticements with threats, praise with scorn, and when all else fails, he makes life miserable for anyone audacious enough to cross him.

Mr. Trump’s company praised Mr. Weisselberg as a “fine and honorable man,” but Mr. Cohen felt the brunt of the former president’s attacks. Mr. Trump has sued him, called him a “rat” and referred to him as “death.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Trump, whose attacks have grown increasingly personal, shared a video with an image of a hog-tied President Biden, Chris Cameron, March 31, 2024 (print ed.). The social media post reflects the increasingly violent and personal attacks that Donald J. Trump has employed during the presidential campaign.

trump 2024Former President Donald J. Trump posted a video on Friday to his social media website that features an image of President Biden with his hands and feet tied together.

Mr. Trump posted the video to Truth Social early Friday afternoon with a line that said it was filmed on Long Island on Thursday, when Mr. Trump attended the wake of a slain New York City police officer in Massapequa Park, N.Y. The video shows two moving trucks decorated with flags and decals supporting Mr. Trump. The tailgate of the second vehicle features the image of Mr. Biden.

Macabre imagery targeting Mr. Trump’s perceived enemies frequently circulates online among right-wing provocateurs and pro-Trump groups, and in some cases has been featured at conservative conferences. Photos of trucks featuring similar images of Mr. Biden tied up have been shared across social media, and online vendors sell vehicle stickers with the image.

Mr. Trump’s promotion of the video featuring the image reflects the increasingly caustic and personal attacks that he has directed against Mr. Biden — for example, in a speech this month he said that “everything Joe Biden touches turns to” filth, though he used an expletive — and it extends a record in which the former president features violent imagery on his social media accounts.

Steven Cheung, a spokesman for the Trump campaign, said “that picture was on the back of a pickup truck that was traveling down the highway,” adding that “Democrats and crazed lunatics have not only called for despicable violence against President Trump and his family, they are actually weaponizing the justice system against him.”

The video was still on Mr. Trump’s Truth Social page as of late Friday evening.

ny times logoNew York Times, Dispute Over Conscription for Ultra-Orthodox Jews Presents New Threat to Netanyahu, Patrick Kingsley and Johnatan Reiss, March 31, 2024 (print ed.). Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet is divided about whether ultra-Orthodox Jews should be required to join the Israeli army.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing his most challenging political threat since the start of the Gaza war because of a disagreement among members of his coalition about whether ultra-Orthodox Jews should retain their longstanding exemption from military service.

Israel FlagAn unwieldy right-wing alliance of secular and ultra-Orthodox lawmakers, the coalition’s members are divided about whether the state should continue to allow young ultra-Orthodox men to study at religious seminaries instead of serving in the military, as most other Jewish Israelis do. If the government abolishes the exemption, it risks a walkout from the ultra-Orthodox lawmakers; if it lets the exemption stand, the secular members could withdraw. Either way, the coalition could collapse.

The situation poses the gravest challenge to Mr. Netanyahu’s grip on power since Hamas raided Israel on Oct. 7, prompting Israel to invade Hamas’s stronghold in the Gaza Strip. Criticized by many Israelis for presiding over the October disaster, Mr. Netanyahu is trailing in the polls and faces growing calls to resign. But until now, there were few obvious ways in which his coalition might collapse.

The end of the coalition would most likely lead to new elections, and polling suggests that Mr. Netanyahu would not win.

A new Israeli government led by centrists is unlikely to take a markedly different approach to the war in Gaza, but it may be more open to allowing the Palestinian leadership in the Israeli-occupied West Bank to play a bigger role in Gaza after the war. That arrangement could create a more conducive environment for Israel to normalize relations with Saudi Arabia, which had edged closer to sealing diplomatic ties with Israel before the war broke out.

The ultra-Orthodox have been exempt from military service since the founding of Israel in 1948, but as the numbers of the ultra-Orthodox have grown — and especially in the months since the war began — so have resentment and anger over these privileges.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Thousands rallied against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in Tel Aviv, Staff Reports, March 31, 2024. Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Tel Aviv on Saturday night in one of the largest demonstrations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government since October, when the Hamas-led attack on Israel ignited a war.

Tel Aviv has been the scene of weekly demonstrations calling on the government to strike a cease-fire deal to free the hostages who have been held in Gaza since October. Those protests have been growing in size as the war has dragged on and anger at Mr. Netanyahu’s government has mounted. On Saturday night, the sounds of whistles, horns and drums filled the air along with chants from the crowds, video from The Associated Press showed. Protesters waved flags and carried pictures of the Israeli hostages with signs reading “Hostage deal now.” Other banners made clear the anger directed at Mr. Netanyahu over the plight of the hostages — with one reading “Replace him, save them.”

“We demand our government to sign a deal now, no matter what is the cost,” Lee Hoffmann Agiv, who attended the protest, told The A.P. “It’s a life or death situation — we will not forgive our government if another hostage dies in captivity.”

As the night wore on, some scuffles broke out. The police said that while the demonstration was largely peaceful, “several hundred protesters” had violated public order by lighting bonfires, blocking a highway and confronting police. Officers used a water cannon to disperse some protesters from a highway and made 16 arrests, according to the police.

Here’s what we’re covering:

  • Cease-fire negotiations are set to resume in Cairo.
  • ‘Replace him’: Thousands rally against Netanyahu’s government in Tel Aviv.
  • Aid is slow to enter Gaza, despite a top U.N. court ruling demanding ‘unhindered’ access.
  • A second boat carrying aid to Gaza departs Cyprus.

ny times logoNew York Times, Battles Rage at Two Hospitals in Gaza, Staff Reports, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). Israel said it was still carrying out raids in and around the Al-Shifa and Al-Amal hospitals, which Israel claims are being used by Hamas militants.

Israel FlagThe Israeli military said on Thursday that it was carrying out raids in and around two hospitals in Gaza, as the United Nations and aid groups expressed alarm for patients and medical workers there and warned of the rapidly deteriorating state of Gaza’s health care system.

Fierce battles have been raging in and around Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest in the strip, since an Israeli assault there began 11 days ago. The Israeli military said in a statement that nearly 200 people whom it called “terrorists” had been killed in the area and that its troops had taken fire from militants inside and outside one of the hospital’s buildings. These claims could not be independently verified.

palestinian flagIn related news, relatives of Israeli soldiers held captive in Gaza expressed frustration just before an expected first meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying on Thursday that their loved ones had been “abandoned” by the government.

Hamas took more than 240 people captive when it attacked Israel on Oct. 7. About 100 hostages, most of them women and children, were released during a cease-fire in November, and at least 30 others are believed to have died in captivity, according to Israeli officials. That may leave around 100 alive, most of them men who are Israeli citizens. It is unclear how many were members of the military on active duty when they were captured.

Politico, Turkey’s Erdoğan suffers blow in crucial mayoral elections as secular opposition surges, Elçin Poyrazlar, April 1, 2024. Opposition’s triumph in Istanbul, where the president had invested significant electoral resources, boosts a party that was left reeling by a general election defeat last year.

politico CustomTurkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan suffered a major blow on Sunday, with initial results showing the country’s main opposition party notched up regional election victories around the country.

Flag of TurkeyThe opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) held onto or captured the country’s five biggest cities in Sunday’s vote, which had been seen as a make-or-break moment for a movement still reeling from Erdoğan’s victory in the Turkish presidential contest in May 2023.

The CHP saw its biggest triumph in Istanbul, where Ekrem Imamoğlu was reelected mayor. Europe’s biggest city, Istanbul accounts for 18 percent of Turkey’s population and a third of its economy.

In his victory speech delivered late Sunday, Imamoğlu said the local election results would have big implications for the country’s political future.

“Turkey will blossom into a new era in democracy as of tomorrow. March 31, 2024 is the day when democratic erosion ends and democracy begins to recover,” he told a big crowd in Istanbul.

Imamoğlu is seen as a future challenger to Erdoğan, and winning the city which catapulted the current president to national prominence when he won the mayorship 30 years ago is a symbolic achievement.

Erdoğan conceded defeat and promised to listen to the message delivered by Turkish voters. “March 31 is not an end for us, but a turning point,” he said.

Turkey’s long-serving leader — in office as president or prime minister since 2003 — had vowed to recapture the city where he had made his political career, and sent no fewer than 17 government ministers to campaign in Istanbul ahead of voting.

The CHP also won in Turkey’s capital, Ankara, as well as Izmir, Bursa and Adana, pushing its support to 37.4 percent nationwide with more than 90 percent of the votes counted.

 

Israel-Hamas War, Civilian Deaths

ny times logoNew York Times, A U.N. official pressed Israel to open more border crossings for aid to reach the Gaza Strip, March 31, 2024 (print ed.). A United Nations relief official called on Friday for increased global pressure on Israel to open more border crossings for aid to reach the Gaza Strip after an order by the top U.N. court that said famine was “setting in.”

The top court, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, ordered Israel on Thursday, using its strongest language yet, to ensure “in full cooperation with the United Nations, the unhindered provision” of aid into Gaza.

Philippe Lazzarini, the U.N. official who leads the organization’s agency that aids Palestinians, known as UNRWA, has said that Israel refuses to work with his agency to bring aid to northern Gaza, the part of the enclave hit hardest by shortages of food and other vital supplies.

Mr. Lazzarini urged the court’s member states on Friday to “exert more pressure” to carry out the court order, adding that countries who paused their funding to UNRWA should reconsider their decision and help the organization avert a famine in the enclave.

In other news, airstrikes near the northern Syrian city of Aleppo early Friday killed a number of soldiers, Syria’s state news media and an independent organization reported, in what appeared to be one of the biggest Israeli attacks in the country in years.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group that tracks the war in Syria, said that the overnight strikes killed at least 44 people — at least 36 Syrian soldiers, seven members of the Lebanese group Hezbollah and one member of a pro-Iranian militia — and that the toll could rise. The group said the attack appeared to have hit multiple targets, including a weapons depot belonging to Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Lebanese militia that also has a presence in Syria.

Here’s what we know:

  • Israel’s military did not comment, but it has previously acknowledged carrying out hundreds of assaults on Iran-linked targets in Syria.
  • An Israeli strike near Aleppo killed Syrian soldiers, the state media says.
  • Iran and its proxies are a common link in Mideast conflicts.
  • Israel cites its ‘new initiatives’ on getting aid into Gaza, but progress has been slow.
  • Israel must work with the U.N., an aid official says.
  • Days after the U.N. cease-fire resolution, has anything changed in the war in Gaza?
  • The U.N.’s top court orders Israel to allow ‘unhindered’ aid into Gaza.
  • The Palestinian Authority has formed a new cabinet, but doubts remain about its independence.

ny times logoNew York Times, Cease-fire talks between Israel and Hamas are expected to resume in Cairo, Staff Reports, March 31, 2024.  An Israeli delegation was scheduled to arrive in Cairo on Sunday to participate in talks for a cease-fire in the war in the Gaza Strip and the release of hostages held by militants there, according to a senior Israeli official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic matters.

An Egyptian state-owned TV channel, Al Qahera News, had reported on Saturday that the talks would resume on Sunday, citing an Egyptian security official.

The resumption of negotiations comes as the devastating war nears the end of its sixth month and as humanitarian officials are warning that only a cease-fire would allow aid groups to transport enough food and other aid into Gaza to avert a looming famine.

washington post logoWashington Post, Court ruling on ultra-Orthodox in the army imperils Netanyahu’s coalition, Loveday Morris, March 30, 2024 (print ed.). Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing a coalition crisis over drafting ultra-Orthodox Jews into the military, an intractable battle at the heart of the state’s identity that has been sharpened by country’s manpower needs during the war with Hamas.

Israel FlagIn a decision that has deep ramifications for society — not to mention Netanyahu’s government — Israel’s Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the suspension of state subsidies for ultra-Orthodox Jews studying in yeshivas instead of doing military service. It came just days ahead of an April 1 deadline for the government to agree on a new law to allow the community to avoid being drafted.

“There is a chance that this could be the first break in the wall for this coalition,” said Gilad Malach, an expert on the ultra-Orthodox at the Israel Democracy Institute, a Jerusalem think tank. Ultra-Orthodox leaders see the ruling as a betrayal of promises from Netanyahu, he said, including assurances of financial aid and military exemptions in return for their political support.

Military exemptions date to the first days of the Israeli state, when in 1949 David Ben Gurion, the country’s founder, granted exemptions for 400 religious yeshiva students of conscription age.

Since then, however, the number qualifying for exemption has mushroomed, and the ultra-Orthodox make up 13 percent of the population. Their political parties have been key members of Netanyahu’s successive governments.

Now, Netanyahu’s political survival hinges on whether he can keep them appeased. He must do that while also balancing the demands of other members of his cabinet, who insist that all members of society should contribute equally to Israel’s war against Hamas.

The dispute underscores a central tension in modern Israel, one that has become increasingly acute as Israeli soldiers fight and die in the more than five-month-long war in Gaza.

Many ultra-Orthodox, also known as Haredim in Israel, see military conscription as a threat to their existence, putting their normally cloistered young men in contact with secular life. But an increasing number of Israelis resent them for not pulling their weight; 70 percent of Israeli Jews support an end to blanket military exemptions, according to an Israel Democracy Institute survey.

If ultra-Orthodox parties pull out of the coalition in protest, it would propel Israel into elections at a time when Netanyahu is deeply unpopular, his security credentials shattered by Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack.

 

international court of justice icc

Among other major global courts is the International Court of Justice (ICJ), shown above, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. As described by its website, the ICJ is a civil tribunal that hears disputes between countries. It has no prosecutor or jurisdiction to try individuals, including those joan donoghueaccused of war crimes or crimes against humanity. Its current president, Joan Donoghue, right, is a United States citizen who became a justice on the court in 2010 following election by United Nations members. Other current members are shown here.

ny times logoNew York Times, Top U.N. Court Orders Israel to Ensure Aid to Gaza, Staff Reports, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). In its strongest language yet, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to ensure “the unhindered provision” of humanitarian assistance.

In its strongest language yet, the International Court of Justice in The Hague on Thursday ordered Israel to take concrete steps to ensure humanitarian aid reaches Gaza as famine sets in, including cooperating with the United Nations and increasing the number of crossing points for aid.

The ruling is part of a case filed by South Africa at the I.C.J., the United Nations’ highest court, that accused Israel of committing genocide, an allegation that Israel has categorically denied. In an interim ruling in January, the court ordered Israel to ensure that more aid would be allowed into Gaza. Since then, the “catastrophic living conditions of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have deteriorated further,” the court said on Thursday.

ny times logoNew York Times, Israel Deploys Expansive Facial Recognition Program in Gaza, Sheera Frenkel, March 28, 2024 (print ed.). The experimental effort, which has not been disclosed, was being used to conduct mass surveillance of Palestinians, military officials and others said.

Israel FlagWithin minutes of walking through an Israeli military checkpoint along Gaza’s central highway on Nov. 19, the Palestinian poet Mosab Abu Toha was asked to step out of the crowd. He put down his 3-year-old son, whom he was carrying, and sat in front of a military jeep.

Half an hour later, Mr. Abu Toha heard his name called. Then he was blindfolded and led away for interrogation.

palestinian flag“I had no idea what was happening or how they could suddenly know my full legal name,” said the 31-year-old, who added that he had no ties to the militant group Hamas and had been trying to leave Gaza for Egypt.

ny times logoNew York Times, Hezbollah and Israel Trade Fire Across Lebanon Border, March 28, 2024 (print ed.). At least one person died in Israel and seven were reported killed in Lebanon in the latest exchange of fire, which has raised fears of a wider conflict.

Israel FlagHezbollah fired dozens of rockets into northern Israel on Wednesday, killing at least one person in a barrage that it said was retaliation for an Israeli strike that the authorities said killed seven medics overnight in southern Lebanon.

For months, Hezbollah and Israel’s military have traded fire across the Israel-Lebanon border, raising fears that the war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas — an ally of Hezbollah — could spiral into a wider regional conflict. The violence has displaced tens of thousands of people from their homes.

 

United Nations

washington post logoWashington Post, U.N. Security Council passes resolution calling for Gaza cease-fire, Staff Report, March 26, 2024 (print ed.). The United Nations Security Council on Monday passed its first resolution calling for a Gaza cease-fire after four failed attempts.

The United States abstained, allowing it to pass. The resolution, backed by 14 nations including China and Russia, demands an palestinian flagimmediate cease-fire during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and the release of all hostages. Four previous cease-fire resolutions had failed, including one proposed by the United States on Friday. The U.S. abstention is likely to further strain U.S. relations with Israel amid sharp disagreements over Israel’s planned military offensive in Rafah.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

brian pritchard

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP official who claimed 2020 election was stolen voted illegally 9 times, judge rules, Amy B Wang, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). A Georgia Republican official who pushed false claims that the 2020 election was “stolen” was found to have voted illegally nine times, a judge ruled this week.

Brian Pritchard, first vice chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine, as well as investigative costs, and be publicly reprimanded.

republican elephant logoPritchard had been sentenced in 1996 in Pennsylvania to three years’ probation for felony check forgery charges. His probation was revoked three times — once in 1999, after he moved to Georgia, and again in 2002 and 2004. In 2004, a judge imposed a new seven-year probationary sentence on Pritchard, thus making him ineligible to vote until at least 2011 in Georgia, where state law prohibits felons from voting.

Despite that, court documents showed that Pritchard signed voter registration forms in 2008 in which he affirmed that he was “not serving a sentence for having been convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude.” He then cast ballots in four Georgia primary and general elections in 2008, as well as five special, primary and general elections in 2010.
According to court documents, Pritchard testified that he thought his felony sentence had ended in 1999.

“Do you think the first time I voted, I said, ‘Oh, I got away with it. Let’s do it eight more times?' ” Pritchard said, as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Representatives for the Georgia GOP and for Pritchard’s attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Pritchard is a conservative talk show host and the owner of fetchyournews.com, which he has described as a conservative political news site. He also ran unsuccessfully in a special election for a Georgia state House seat last year.

In a 2022 story for his website, Pritchard railed against those who had alleged he had voted illegally, accusing them in turn of trying to “manipulate an election.” He also maintained he had done nothing wrong.

“Yes, for those who think a person charged with a felony can’t vote, wrong. First, in the state of Pennsylvania the only time you lose your voting rights is if you are incarcerated,” Pritchard wrote. “Considering I have never spent a night in jail in my entire life …(can everyone say that) I never lost my voting rights in PA. Once your sentence has expired you can vote in the state of Georgia. Yes it’s true!”

Pritchard has also touted former president Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was “stolen” from him. In a 2022 episode of his talk show, Pritchard criticized the “corrupt media” and Georgia election officials for being “complicit” in what he called stealing the election.

“I do not believe 81 million people voted for this guy,” Pritchard said, referring to Joe Biden.

ny times logoNew York Times, Woman Who Received 5-Year Sentence in Voter Fraud Case Is Acquitted, Orlando Mayorquín, March 30, 2024 (print ed.). A Texas appeals court reversed itself and acquitted Crystal Mason. She said that she did not know she was ineligible to vote in 2016.

In a case that has prompted outrage from voting-rights activists for years, a Texas appeals court reversed itself on Thursday and acquitted a woman who had been sentenced to five years in prison for illegally casting a provisional ballot in the 2016 election.

The decision came two years after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest criminal court, ruled that the lower appeals court, the Second Court of Criminal Appeals, had misconstrued the illegal voting statute under which Crystal Mason was found guilty in 2018.

Ms. Mason, 49, of Fort Worth, had been charged with illegally voting in the 2016 general election by casting a provisional ballot while she was a felon on probation. That ballot was never officially counted, and Ms. Mason insisted that she did not know she was ineligible to vote and had acted on the advice of a poll worker who said she could cast the ballot.

Ms. Mason, who has remained free on bond, appealed her conviction. In 2020, the Second Court of Appeals ruled that whether or not she knew she was ineligible to vote was “irrelevant to the prosecution.”

But in 2022, the Court of Criminal Appeals disagreed and asked the lower court to revaluate the case. It stated that the prosecution had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms. Mason, who had been on a three-year probation after serving a five-year sentence on a federal conspiracy charge, knew that her circumstances had made her ineligible to vote.

In its decision to reverse her conviction and acquit her, the Second Court of Appeals said that the prosecution did not have enough evidence to prove that she knew.

A copy of the ruling was provided by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Texas Civil Rights Project.

“I was thrown into this fight for voting rights and will keep swinging to ensure no one else has to face what I’ve endured for over six years, a political ploy where minority voting rights are under attack,” Ms. Mason said in a statement Thursday. “I’ve cried and prayed every night for over six years straight that I would remain a free Black woman.”

Thomas Buser-Clancy, an A.C.L.U. lawyer who represented Ms. Mason, called her victory a win for democracy.

“We are relieved for Ms. Mason, who has waited for too long with uncertainty about whether she would be imprisoned and separated from her family for five years simply for trying to do her civic duty,” he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: These two GOP Senate candidates exemplify today’s political squalor, George F. Will, right, March 31, 2024 (print ed.). In Arizona and in Ohio, GOP Senate candidates Kari Lake, left, and Bernie Moreno force conservatives to choose between awful outcomes: the consequences of losing the Senate, or the disappearance of the conservative party.

Running for Arizona’s governorship in 2022, Lake practiced the kamikaze politics of subtraction. Today, she says she was joking when she told John McCain voters — they elected him to two House and six Senate terms — to “get the hell out” of a GOP event. McCain voters were not amused. She lost, then mimicked her hero, saying that her election was stolen. Courts disagreed.

Today, she seems intermittently aware that many Arizonans are weary of her high-decibel imitation of Donald Trump’s sour, self-absorbed, backward-looking, fact-free, sore-loser, endless grievance tour. So, she sometimes seems to say of her protracted harping on 2022: Oh, never mind.

In Ohio, three-term Democratic Senate incumbent Sherrod Brown is a progressive reliably wrong — and indistinguishable from Trump — regarding many matters. These include ignoring the unsustainable trajectories of Social Security and Medicare. And embracing the nonsensical notion that national security will be jeopardized if a superior steel company (Nippon) from an allied nation (Japan) buys U.S. Steel, which has a market capitalization about equal to the Skechers shoe company and fewer employees than BJ’s Wholesale Club. Brown is, however, a progressive more concerned about practicalities (e.g., jobs) than pronoun protocols.

His Republican opponent, Bernie Moreno, once called Trump a “maniac” and a “lunatic” akin to “a car accident that makes you sick.” He scoffed at Trump’s claims of election fraud and called the Jan. 6, 2021, rioters “morons” and “criminals.” But Trump, like a marsupial, has tucked Moreno into his pouch, and the amazingly malleable Moreno calls (as does Lake) the Jan. 6 defendants “political prisoners” and says the 2020 election was “stolen,” Joe Biden should be impeached and Trump is swell.

Moreno, who projects the Trumpkins’ chest-thumping faux toughness, disdains bipartisanship. Evidently, he plans to advance his agenda with 60 Republican votes. There have not been 60 Republican senators since 1910.

washington post logoWashington Post, Many GOP billionaires balked at Jan. 6. They’re coming back to Trump, Josh Dawsey, Jeff Stein, Michael Scherer and Elizabeth Dwoskin, March 30, 2024 (print ed.). Elite donors are rediscovering their affinity for the former president over taxes — even as he vows to free Jan. 6 defendants, promises mass deportations and faces 88 felony charges.

djt march 2020 CustomThe day after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, billionaire and GOP megadonor Nelson Peltz called the attempted insurrection a “disgrace” and expressed remorse for voting for Donald Trump. “I’m sorry I did that,” Peltz said of supporting Trump in 2020.

But earlier this month, Peltz had breakfast with Trump and other billionaires — including hotelier Steve Wynn, Tesla and X CEO Elon Musk and former Marvel chairman Isaac Perlmutter — at Trump’s luxurious Palm Beach oceanfront mansion, according to people with knowledge of the meeting, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private gathering.

Peltz, a renowned activist investor currently in a battle over Disney, then told the Financial Times that he would “probably” vote for the GOP front-runner in 2024. The New York Times first reported that Trump dined with Musk and other donors but did not name Peltz, Wynn or Perlmutter.

As hopes of a Republican alternative have crumbled, elite donors who once balked at Trump’s fueling of the Capitol insurrection, worried about his legal problems and decried what they saw as his chaotic presidency are rediscovering their affinity for the former president — even as he praises and vows to free Jan. 6 defendants, promises mass deportations and faces 88 felony charges.

The shift reflects many conservative billionaires’ fears of President Biden’s tax agenda, which if approved would drastically reduce their fortunes. In some cases, it also points to their discomfort with the Biden administration’s foreign and domestic policy decisions. Some of these billionaires have been assiduously courted by Trump and his advisers in recent months.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump can’t remember much. He hopes you won’t be able to, either, Dana Milbank, right, March 31, 2024 (print ed.).dana milbank newest The Very Stable Genius is glitching again.

This week, he announced that he is not — repeat, NOT — planning to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He apparently forgot that he had vowed over and over again to do exactly that, saying as recently as a few months ago that Republicans “should never give up” on efforts to “terminate” Obamacare.

“I’m not running to terminate the ACA, AS CROOKED JOE BUDEN DISINFORMATES AND MISINFORMATES ALL THE TIME,” the Republican nominee wrote this week on his Truth Social platform. Rather, he said, he wants to make Obamacare better for “OUR GREST AMERICAN CITIZENS.”

Joe Buden disinformates and misinformates? For a guy trying to make an issue of his opponent’s mental acuity, this was not, shall we say, a grest look.

The previous day, Trump held a news conference where he nailed some equally puzzling planks onto his platform. “We’ll bring crime back to law and order,” he announced.

Also: “We just had Super Tuesday, and we had a Tuesday after a Tuesday already.”

And, most peculiar of all: “You can’t have an election in the middle of a political season.”

If he can’t recall that elections frequently do overlap with political seasons, then he surely can’t be expected to remember what was happening at this point in 2020. “ARE YOU BETTER OFF THAN YOU WERE FOUR YEARS AGO?” he asked last week. The poor fellow must have forgotten all about the economic collapse and his administration’s catastrophic bungling of the pandemic.

Or maybe he didn’t forget. Maybe he’s just hoping the rest of us will forget. In a sense, Trump’s prospects for 2024 rely on Americans experiencing mass memory loss: Will we forget just how crazy things were when he was in the White House? And will we forget about the even crazier things he has said he would do if he gets back there?

 

kentucky map

 
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, right, with his father, former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, right, with his father, former Gov. Steve Beshear

Politico, Kentucky Legislature cuts Democratic governor out of picking potential McConnell replacement, Madison Fernandez,  March 29, 2024 (print ed.). Supporters of the change said it has nothing to do with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — but they’ve stripped Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear of his power anyway.

politico CustomThe Kentucky state Legislature passed legislation on Thursday that would change how vacancies in the U.S. Senate are filled, over the objections of Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.

international criminal court logoThe Republican-sponsored bill, which would require a special election to choose a senator in the case of an open seat in the unexpired term, passed with bipartisan support as the Legislature nears the end of its session. It passed both chambers with veto-proof majorities.

Mitchell_McConnellIt’s a significant change from how the process currently works. A majority of states — including Kentucky — pick successors in vacant Senate seats by gubernatorial appointment. But there are some notable restrictions in the commonwealth: The governor must choose a nominee from a list of three names the outgoing senator’s party submits. Beshear would have to choose a Republican, should either Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell or Sen. Rand Paul’s seats become vacant.

McConnell last month announced he will not run for another term as GOP conference leader later this year. But he has vowed to serve out the rest of his term, which runs through 2027. Last year, the 82-year-old faced questions about his future after bouts of freezing in public, although Kentucky Republicans who sponsored the bill have insisted that it was not prompted by McConnell’s health.

But with the change, Kentucky Republicans now have a backup plan in case there is an opening for the longtime senator’s seat before his term expires.

Beshear has not hidden his disdain for the current arrangement. When the appointment rule was passed in 2021, he said it “improperly and unconstitutionally restricts the governor’s power.” He has also not explicitly committed to following it; when asked over the summer whether he would abide by the law should there be a vacancy, he refused to “speculate about something that hasn’t happened and isn’t going to happen.”

After the bill passed on Thursday, Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams hit Beshear for refusing to “commit to following the law.”

The bill now heads to Beshear’s desk. Should he veto the legislation, the GOP supermajority can override it, even without Democrats.

Last month, he spoke out against the bill, calling it an example of “rank partisanship.”

“Last November, people said, ‘Knock it off,’” Beshear said, pointing to his successful reelection bid that was a major win for Democrats in a red state. “We don’t want a candidate or a general assembly that just sees Team R or Team D or red or blue. We want good government that focuses on our people.”

Beshear has adamantly shot down a run for the open seat in 2026.

washington post logoWashington Post, Va. Gov. Youngkin arrived like a GOP star, but arena failure clouds legacy, Gregory S. Schneider, March 29, 2024 (print ed.).  The political novice burst onto the scene in 2021 and drew national attention as a fresh face with glenn youngkin headshotbusiness acumen. But he has lost the legislature to Democrats and seen his priorities slip away, including his plan to bring the Washington Wizards and Capitals to Alexandria.

No Virginia governor has come into office with a deeper dealmaking background than Glenn Youngkin, right, who as former co-chief executive of the Carlyle Group made a fortune acquiring and merging companies around the globe.

But as the Republican chief executive of a purple state, Youngkin has struggled to translate that business acumen into political success — or even economic development success, with the demise Wednesday of his much-touted plan to bring the Washington Wizards and Capitals to Alexandria.

republican elephant logoWhile Youngkin and his group of financial experts had negotiated with team owner Ted Leonsis to cut what the governor called “the single largest economic development deal in Virginia’s history,” the governor was never able to work the same magic with members of the General Assembly who had to sign off on the $2 billion project.

The plan’s failure wipes out a significant legacy-making opportunity for a novice politician who burst onto the scene in 2021 and drew national attention as a fresh Republican face. In his first two years in office, Youngkin enjoyed state coffers overflowing with federal pandemic relief funds and a friendly GOP-controlled House of Delegates. But as the clock winds down on his four-year term, the governor has lost the legislature to Democrats and seen his priorities slip away.

“He’s a total lame duck right now,” said Robert Holsworth, a Richmond political analyst who has studied Virginia governors for decades. “He has shown tremendous political inexperience.”

 

south carolina map

washington post logoWashington Post, South Carolina latest state to use congressional map deemed illegal, Patrick Marley, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). The Supreme Court heard arguments on the redistricting case in October but has yet to rule, essentially running out the clock for this year’s election.

In a scenario that has played out in three states in recent years, a federal court ruled Thursday that time had run out to draw a new congressional district in South Carolina and that the state would have to proceed this fall with an existing election map the court had previously deemed illegal.

The ruling echoes redistricting cases in other Southern states where courts found that congressional maps violated the voting rights of Black voters and other people of color but allowed them to be used anyway, at least temporarily. In recent years, that happened in Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana.

In the latest instance, a panel of three judges decided to let South Carolina use a new map drawn by the Republican-led legislature because the Supreme Court had not yet decided an appeal that will ultimately determine how the district should be drawn. Voting rights advocates decried the ruling, saying it is unjust to hold even one election in districts that are unconstitutional.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Long Does New York Take to Fix a Staircase? 10 Years and Counting, Jay Root, March 29, 2024. The 77 steps at the foot of the New York State Capitol have been cordoned off to the public for a decade, as the cost of much-needed repairs rises.

Ten years ago, the agency overseeing the upkeep of the majestic New York State Capitol reported that the granite staircase leading to the main entrance was warped and bulging so badly that part of it might collapse at any moment.

Inspectors discovered leaning balustrades, rusted steel supports, cracked and displaced granite, failed drainage systems and load-bearing brick walls so weakened by time and neglect that individual bricks could be removed by hand.

A thorough repair, estimated at $17 million, was recommended. Instead, only a handful of urgent fixes were made.

The entrance, known as the Eastern Approach, has been closed to this day, with access-blocking barricades now a familiar part of the downtown landscape.

In a state capital known for its inefficiency and inability to meet deadlines, the staircase and the Capitol’s exterior are visual reminders of Albany’s tendency toward disrepair and dysfunction.

There are scaffolding “sidewalk sheds,” bicycle rack barricades or construction fencing on every side of the French Renaissance- and Romanesque-styled Capitol. During winter months, most of the adjacent Empire State Plaza is also walled off with temporary barricades to keep people from slipping and getting hurt on the icy plaza — even though there has hardly been any snow or ice this winter.

The late Ambassador Esther Coopersmith, who died on March 28 at age 94 after befriending innumerable political advocates, is shown with friends and allies.

The late Ambassador Esther Coopersmith, who died on March 28 at age 94 after befriending innumerable political advocates, is shown in recent photos with friends and allies.

washington post logo

Washington Post, Esther Coopersmith, Washington diplomat and doyenne, dies at 94, Emily Langer, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). Esther Coopersmith, who nurtured generations of Democratic politicians — among them a young Joe Biden — and conducted diplomacy at the dinner table as one of Washington’s longest-reigning social doyennes, died March 26 at her home in the District. She was 94.

The cause was cancer, said her son Jonathan Coopersmith.

Mrs. Coopersmith, the daughter of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, grew up in small-town Wisconsin and came to Washington in the early 1950s after being drawn in to politics as a member of the Young Democrats.

She idolized Eleanor Roosevelt, the former first lady who had also served as a delegate to the United Nations, and harbored aspirations of running for Congress. But after marrying a successful real estate developer and starting a family, Mrs. Coopersmith found another seat at the table of power as a fundraiser, philanthropist, diplomat (official and unofficial) and hostess in the tradition of Perle Mesta and Pamela Harriman.
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Over the decades — from her stint organizing coast-to-coast barbecues for Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 White House campaign to a private fundraiser at her home in October headlined by President Biden — Mrs. Coopersmith helped raise millions of dollars for Democratic candidates.

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U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

 

rfk jr cesar chavez

washington post logoWashington Post, Cesar Chavez’s family tells RFK Jr. to stop using activist’s name, image, Meryl Kornfield, March 30, 2024 (print ed.). The family of labor activist Cesar Chavez sent a letter to independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on Friday, warning him to stop referencing the late patriarch in election campaigns or face potential legal action.

The letter, signed by Cesar Chavez’s eldest son, Fernando, reiterates the family’s support for President Biden, according to a copy obtained by The Washington Post. Julie Chavez Rodriguez, the granddaughter of the labor union leader, leads Biden’s reelection campaign.

“We respectfully call upon you and your campaign to cease using images of our father to associate yourself with him and suggest your campaign’s goals are compatible,” Fernando Chavez writes.

The letter comes a day before Kennedy is set to host a campaign event in Los Angeles on Cesar Chavez’s birthday to launch a Latino outreach program. In promoting the event, Kennedy called Chavez a good friend.

“Join us for a day of Mexican food, drinks, culture, voter registration assistance, and inspiring remarks from RFK, Jr. and other special guests,” the campaign website advertises, featuring a photo of Kennedy’s father and Chavez, the founder of the United Farm Workers. The activist’s birthday is also observed as a California state holiday.

In a statement, Kennedy chalked the criticism up to “politics” and said that he has stood for the labor leader’s values for a long time.

“I worked with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers on multiple issues, events, and campaigns for nearly 50 years,” he said, adding that Saturday was a day to “honor Cesar Chavez and his close friendship with my father, my family and me and his impact on our country.”

In the letter, Fernando Chavez says the family remains grateful to the younger Kennedy for helping carry Chavez’s casket after his death in 1993, as did other prominent figures.

“To our knowledge, none of them have featured images carrying the casket in their political campaign materials and promotions,” Fernando Chavez writes. “We take offense at the use of such sacred moments purely for political purposes.”

Before joining the Biden campaign, Chavez Rodriguez worked in both the Obama and Biden White Houses. Biden also has a bust of Cesar Chavez in the Oval Office.

 

President Biden, center, holds a fundraiser rally with former presidents Barack Obama, left, and Bill Clinton on Thursday, March 28, 2024, at Radio City Music Hall in New York (Reuters photo by Elizabeth Frantz).

President Biden, center, holds a fundraiser rally with former presidents Barack Obama, left, and Bill Clinton on Thursday, March 28, 2024, at Radio City Music Hall in New York (Reuters photo by Elizabeth Frantz).

ny times logoNew York Times, Behind Closed Doors, Biden Campaign Gathers Major Donors in New York, Shane Goldmacher, March 29, 2024. At a daylong retreat, 175 of the president’s biggest financiers and fund-raisers will hear from top campaign officials.

The morning after President Biden’s fund-raiser with former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, his campaign has planned a daylong retreat on Friday for 175 of his biggest financiers and fund-raisers in New York.

biden harris 2024 logoThe gathering of what the campaign calls Mr. Biden’s national finance committee will feature a half-dozen briefings from his top political advisers, including his campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, and two former top White House advisers who have moved over to help lead his campaign, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon and Mike Donilon.

The meeting at the InterContinental New York Barclay hotel is a sign of how the president has drawn his financial strength not only from grass-roots contributors but also from major donors who can cut checks as large as $929,600 to the Biden Victory Fund, a shared venture of Mr. Biden and the national and state Democratic Parties.

To qualify as a member of Mr. Biden’s national finance team, donors are asked to write a check for at least $47,900.

But that is just the entry level. To be considered a “presidential partner,” donors have been asked to raise $2.5 million, while a “principal shareholder” is asked to raise $750,000.

The donors are also slated to hear from Quentin Fulks and Rob Flaherty, who serve as deputy campaign managers, as well as Dan Kanninen and Lauren Brainerd, the battleground states director and deputy director. A polling and messaging presentation and a finance presentation are planned, as well.

The gathering comes on one of the last days of the first quarter of 2024, a key fund-raising deadline, as the Biden campaign hopes to expand its early financial advantage over former President Donald J. Trump.

The Biden campaign has said that it entered March with $155 million in cash on hand combined with the party. The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee had a combined $44.8 million.

Already this month, the Biden campaign has announced that the joint Obama-Clinton event is expected to raise more than $25 million.

It has not been announced whether Mr. Biden, who was expected to spend Thursday evening in New York, will speak to the donors, though he addressed the last gathering of the national finance committee when he first entered the race at the end of April 2023.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden campaign launches ad targeting Haley voters, Tyler Pager, March 30, 2024 (print ed.). Democrats seek to lure Republicans disenchanted with presumptive nominee Donald Trump.

President Biden’s reelection campaign launched a digital ad Friday aimed at supporters of Nikki Haley, who dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination this month. The ad is part of an effort by the president’s team to win over Republicans who may be disinclined to vote for Donald Trump.

nikki haley oThe Biden campaign, which is spending more than $1 million on the ad across digital platforms, will run the spot for three weeks in battleground states, campaign officials said. It is part of a six-week, $30 million ad buy the campaign launched after the State of the Union.

The ad features clips of Trump denigrating Haley during campaign rallies and telling reporters that he does not need her supporters to win.

“If you voted for Nikki Haley, Donald Trump doesn’t want your vote,” the ad says. “Save America. Join us.”

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djt nikki haley Custom 2

 More On Russian Terror Attacks, Hostage Taking

ny times logoNew York Times, A Russian Defector’s Killing Raises Specter of Hit Squads, Michael Schwirtz and José Bautista, March 31, 2024. The death in Spain of a pilot who delivered a helicopter and secret documents to Ukraine has stoked fears that the Kremlin is again targeting its enemies.

maksym kuzminov shown in a photo via EPA, EFE and ShutterstockThe men who killed Maksim Kuzminov (shown in a photo via EPA, EFE and Shutterstock) wanted to send a message. This was obvious to investigators in Spain even before they discovered who he was. Not only did the killers shoot him six times in a parking garage in southern Spain, they ran over his body with their car.

They also left an important clue to their identity, according to investigators: shell casings from 9-millimeter Makarov rounds, a standard ammunition of the former Communist bloc.

“It was a clear message,” said a senior official from Guardia Civil, the Spanish police force overseeing the investigation into the killing. “I will find you, I will kill you, I will run you over and humiliate you.”

Mr. Kuzminov defected from Russia to Ukraine last summer, flying his Mi-8 military helicopter into Ukrainian territory and handing the aircraft along with a cache of secret documents to Ukrainian intelligence operatives. In doing so, he committed the one offense President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has said again and again he will never forgive: treachery.

His killing in the seaside resort town of Villajoyosa last month has raised fears that Russia’s European spy networks continue to operate and are targeting enemies of the Kremlin, despite concerted efforts to dismantle them after Mr. Putin invaded Ukraine in 2022.

ny times logoNew York Times, Moscow Concert Hall Shooting: Why Russia’s Vast Security Services Fell Short on Deadly Attack, Paul Sonne, Eric Schmitt and Michael Schwirtz, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). The factors behind the failure to prevent a terrorist attack include a distrust of foreign intelligence, a focus on Ukraine and a political crackdown at home.

ny times logoNew York Times, Worries Over Ethnic Tensions Have Kremlin Treading Carefully on Massacre, Anton Troianovski and Milana Mazaeva, March 28, 2024 (print ed.).  Anti-migrant rhetoric in the aftermath of the attacks at the concert venue outside Moscow has spurred fears that it could cause ethnic strife inside Russia.

Russian FlagAt a memorial service this week outside the concert hall where Islamist extremists are suspected of carrying out a deadly terrorist attack, one of Russia’s most popular pro-Kremlin rappers warned “right-wing and far-right groups” that they must not “incite ethnic hatred.”

At a televised meeting about the attack, Russia’s top prosecutor, Igor Krasnov, pledged that his service was paying “special attention” to preventing “interethnic and interfaith conflicts.”

And when President Vladimir V. Putin made his first comments on the tragedy last weekend, he said he would not allow anyone to “sow the poisonous seeds of hatred, panic and discord in our multiethnic society.”

In the wake of the assault near Moscow that killed 139 people last Friday, there has been a recurring theme in the Kremlin’s response: a fear that the tragedy could spur ethnic strife inside Russia. While Mr. Putin and his security chiefs are accusing Ukraine — without evidence — of having helped organize the killing, the fact that the four detained suspects in the attack are from the predominantly Muslim Central Asian country of Tajikistan is stoking anti-migrant rhetoric online.

For Mr. Putin, the problem is magnified by the competing priorities of his war in Ukraine. Members of Muslim minority groups make up a significant share of the Russian soldiers fighting and dying. Migrants from Central Asia are providing much of the labor that keeps Russia’s economy running and its military supply chain humming.

But many of the most fervent supporters of Mr. Putin’s invasion are Russian nationalists whose popular, pro-war blogs on the Telegram messaging app have brimmed with xenophobia in the days since the attack.

“The borders have to be shut down as much as possible, if not closed,” said one. “The situation now has shown that Russian society is on the brink.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Amps Up Online Campaign Against Ukraine Before U.S. Elections, Julian E. Barnes and David E. Sanger, March 28, 2024 (print ed.). Moscow has found better ways to conceal influence campaigns that amplify arguments for isolationism, officials and experts say.

Russian FlagRussia has intensified its online efforts to derail military funding for Ukraine in the United States and Europe, largely by using harder-to-trace technologies to amplify arguments for isolationism ahead of the U.S. elections, according to disinformation experts and intelligence assessments.

In recent days, intelligence agencies have warned that Russia has found better ways to hide its influence operations, and the Treasury Department issued sanctions last week against two Russian companies that it said supported the Kremlin’s campaign.

The stepped-up operations, run by aides to President Vladimir V. Putin and Russian military intelligence agencies, come at a critical moment in the debate in the United States over support for Ukraine in its war against Russia. While opposition to additional aid may have started without Russian influence, the Kremlin now sees an opportunity.

Russian operatives are laying the groundwork for what could be a stronger push to support candidates who oppose aiding Ukraine, or who call for pulling the United States back from NATO and other alliances, U.S. officials and independent researchers say.

 

Shamsidin Fariduni, with bruising on his face, inside the Moscow courtroom (Reuters photo by Yulia Morozova).

Shamsidin Fariduni, with bruising on his face, inside the Moscow courtroom (Reuters photo by Yulia Morozova).

ny times logoNew York Times, Display of Battered Men Was Russia’s Warning to the Public, Analysts Say, Valerie Hopkins and Neil MacFarquhar, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). Videos showing the torture of four suspects in the deadly attack outside Moscow indicate what some call the state’s growing tolerance for public violence.

The four men accused of carrying out Russia’s deadliest terror attack in decades appeared in a Moscow court on Sunday night bandaged and battered. One entered with his partially severed ear covered. Another was in an orange wheelchair, his left eye bulging, his hospital gown open and a catheter on his lap.

Many people around the world, including Russians, already knew what had happened to them. Since Saturday, videos of the men being tortured during interrogation circulated widely on social media, in what analysts called an apparent retaliation for the concert hall attack they are accused of committing last Friday, which killed at least 139 people and injured 180 more.

Dalerjon B. Mirzoyev, one of the men accused of the attack, in the Moscow courtroom (Associated Press photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

Dalerjon B. Mirzoyev, one of the men accused of the attack, in the Moscow courtroom (Associated Press photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

 

Scores of  Russians, stunned by a terrorist attack, brought flowers on Sunday, March 24, to a memorial at Crocus City Hall, where the attack took place,  in the Moscow suburbs (New York Times photo by Nanna Heitmann). Scores of  Russians, stunned by a terrorist attack, brought flowers on Sunday, March 24, to a memorial at Crocus City Hall, where the attack took place,  in the Moscow suburbs (New York Times photo by Nanna Heitmann).

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Begins Day of Mourning for Concert Hall Victims, Staff Reports, March 25, 2024 (print ed.). American officials attribute Friday’s attack in a Moscow suburb, which killed at least 133 people, to a branch of the Islamic State active in Iran and Afghanistan.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Russia, Fingers Point Anywhere but at ISIS for Concert Hall Attack, Ivan Nechepurenko, Paul Sonne and Kayla Guo, March 25, 2024 (print ed.). Russian state media pushed the idea that Ukraine was the obvious culprit, but at least three of the four suspects charged on Sunday are from the Central Asian nation of Tajikistan.

 

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is shown via an Associated Press photo in the prisoner's area during a sham proceeding in Russia's prosecution of him on spy charges.Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is shown via an Associated Press photo in the prisoner's area during a sham proceeding in Russia's prosecution of him on spy charges.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia-Ukraine War: It Has Been One Year Since Russia Put Evan Gershkovich in Jail, Katie Robertson, March 29, 2024. In a high-security prison, The Wall Street Journal reporter stays in touch with supporters through letters as they keep up the pressure for his release.

Russian FlagOne year ago on Friday, Ella Milman and Mikhail Gershkovich received a chilling phone call from the managing editor of The Wall Street Journal. Their son, Evan, a foreign correspondent for The Journal who was on a reporting assignment in Russia, had missed his daily security check-in.

 

evan gershkovitz kate helster npc

More than three dozen journalists and other supporters gathered Thursday on Freedom Plaza to call for the release of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been wrongfully detained in Russia for a year, and whose sister, Danielle Gershkovich, is shown at front, center, with Press Club President Emily Wilkins at her right and Club Press Freedom Consultant William McCarren at her left. Among others shown are Justice Integrity Project editor Andrew Kreig, a member of the National Press Club's Press Freedom Committee, at top center. Photo by Kate Helster for the National Press Club.

National Press Club, D.C. journalists stand with Evan Gershkovich in Washington on Thursday, Staff report, March 29, 2024.  national  press club logoWashington-based journalists gathered at Freedom Plaza Thursday to mark one year of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich being jailed on bogus charges in Russia.

Carrying signs saying, "#IStandWithEvan," about 40 people stood on the plaza with the Capitol in the background. Several members of the National Press Club, led by President Emily Wilkins, front row at right,were among them. So too were Gershkovich's sister, Danielle, and Paul Beckett, the Journal associate editor leading the efforts to free him.

The photo will be used to support the Journal's efforts to free Gershkovich, who was arrested while working and has been held without trial for a year.

washington post logoWashington Post, Evan Gershkovich’s sister was the quiet one. Now she’s his voice, Manuel Roig-Franzia, March 29, 2024. On the first anniversary of his detention in Russia, the Wall Street Journal reporter’s sister is on a crusade to get him out of prison, one interview at a time.

The wind was ripping hard and cold down the busy city street. But the camera crew and the famous television anchor were waiting.

wsj logoSo the hipster sister, with her raven-black bangs and her chunky orange boots, pulled her fuzzy coat close, cast a glance at her husband, screwed up her courage and stepped outside.

Danielle Gershkovich never wanted this, never wanted the spotlight. Her charismatic younger brother, Evan, was the globe-trotting foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, a magnetic personality who was at ease as the center of attention. She was the shy one, Danielle said in an interview, “afraid of public speaking … self-conscious of that sort of thing.”

National Press Club, Imprisoned Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich could get a hearing in Russia next week, national  press club logoGwen Flanders, March 21, 2024. Almost a year into reporter Evan Gershkovich's imprisonment by Russian uthorities, his friends, family and Wall Street Journal colleagues are redoubling their efforts to secure his release.

Panelists at a briefing Thursday at the National Press Club, calling attention to the one-year anniversary of Gershkovich's arrest on March 29, expressed optimism tempered with caution. Jason Conti, general counsel for Dow Jones, the Journal's parent company, said Russian prosecutors have obtained several extensions of Gershkovich's hearing, saying they need more time to investigate the espionage charges against him -- which are baseless, according to Gershkovich, The Wall Street Journal and the U.S. State Department. The last extension ends March 30, which could result in a hearing next week. After that would be a trial held in secret.

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More Trump-Related News

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The recommendation of Eastman’s disbarment is a big deal — for Trump, Jennifer Rubin, jennifer rubin new headshotright, March 31, 2024. A State Bar Court of California judge on Wednesday recommended stripping John Eastman, Donald Trump’s former attorney, of his California law license. Eastman, mastermind of the former president’s scheme to overturn the 2020 election results by recruiting phony electors, is not the first ex-Trump lawyer to face discipline over election-related matters.

Rudy Giuliani’s law license is suspended in New York, and he has been recommended for disbarment by the D.C. Bar Association. Sidney Powell was sanctioned by a federal judge in Michigan. Jenna Ellis was censured in Colorado and, after pleading guilty in Georgia to election-related charges, faces possible disbarment. Former Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark testified last week in a D.C. Bar investigation that could result in the loss of his law license.

Eastman can appeal, but Judge Yvette Roland’s meticulous 128-page ruling rests on devastating factual findings and airtight legal analysis.

Eastman lost on 10 of the 11 counts of misconduct stemming from the failed coup. Roland reviewed Eastman’s memos advocating for “alternate” electors, his representations to multiple courts and his public comments to determine whether Eastman “acted dishonestly in his comments and advice” and pursued legal action to obstruct the “lawful electoral process.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump Is Financially Ruining the Republican Party, Michelle Cottle, March 31, 2024. Donald Trump is someone you should think carefully about hitching your financial fortunes to. The guy is a gifted carnival barker, no doubt.

One might assume that a presidential nominee who generates as much devotion as Mr. Trump would be a financial boon to his party. One would be wrong. With Mr. Trump, everything is about Mr. Trump. Other candidates and committees are an afterthought, left to squabble over his scraps. Which might not be problematic if the party’s money machine were whirring along smoothly. But it is not. Whether we’re talking about the battle for Congress or the basic health of the state parties, the G.O.P. is going through a rough financial patch, fueled in no small part by the MAGA king and his minions.

The most recent campaign finance reports show that his campaign coffers are notably lighter than President Biden’s. Crunching the numbers, Axios noted recently, “The Biden campaign and the D.N.C. ended February with more than twice as much cash on hand ($97.5 million) as Trump and the R.N.C. ($44.8 million).” While the Republican base may be smitten with Mr. Trump, plenty of big-money donors are skittish about bankrolling his nonsense. The former president has been scrambling to close the gap, leering at potential funders as if they were contestants at the Miss Universe pageant.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Trump Cases: After Trump attacks hush money judge’s daughter, DA seeks broader gag order, Shayna Jacobs, March 29, 2024. Donald Trump has made repeated online posts criticizing the adult daughter of the judge in his New York hush money case.

The prosecutor in Donald Trump’s upcoming hush money trial has asked the judge to clarify whether a gag order issued for the former president this week bars him from publicly attacking the judge’s adult daughter — and to expand the order if it doesn’t.

djt michael cohen disloyalManhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, left, made the request after social media posts by Trump attacking the daughter of New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan for her professional affiliations with Democratic candidates and politicians.

As Trump’s April 15 trial date nears, he and his advocates insist Merchan is influenced by his daughter’s job and her ties to Democrats.

Bragg’s office wrote in a letter filed Thursday and unsealed Friday that in light of the attacks, the judge “should make abundantly clear that the [gag order] protects family members of the Court, the District Attorney, and all other individuals mentioned in the Order.”

It also said that Merchan should “warn [Trump] that his recent conduct is contumacious and direct him to immediately desist” and that ignoring the warning should warrant sanctions.

Meidas Touch Network, Trump Has PANIC ATTACK on Easter About GOING TO JAIL, Ben Meiselas, March 31, 2024. , mtn meidas touch networkMeidasTouch host Ben Meiselas reports on Donald Trump freaking out on Easter and attacking Judge Merchan and Judge Merchan’s daughter.

 

juan merchan djt

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Imposes Gag Order on Trump in Manhattan Criminal Trial, Ben Protess and William K. Rashbaum, March 26, 2024. The order limiting Donald Trump’s speech came the day after Justice Juan Merchan set an April 15 trial date for the hush-money case.

ICE logoThe New York judge presiding over one of Donald J. Trump’s criminal trials imposed a gag order on Tuesday that prohibits him from attacking witnesses, prosecutors and jurors, the latest effort to rein in the former president’s wrathful rhetoric about his legal opponents.

The judge, Juan M. Merchan, shown above, imposed the order at the request of the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which brought the case against Mr. Trump. The district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, left, has accused Mr. Trump of covering up apotential sex scandal during and after his 2016 campaign.

The ruling comes on the heels of Justice Merchan’s setting an April 15 trial date, rejecting Mr. Trump’s latest effort to delay the proceeding. It will mark the first criminal prosecution of a former American president.

 Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks during a press conference to discuss his indictment of former President Donald Trump, outside the Manhattan Federal Court in New York on April 4, 2023 (Angela Weiss photo via AFP, Getty Imagesand TNS).

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks during a press conference to discuss his indictment of former President Donald Trump, outside the Manhattan Federal Court in New York on April 4, 2023 (Angela Weiss photo via AFP, Getty Images and TNS).

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Keeps April 15 as Start of Trump Hush-Money Trial, Ben Protess, Jesse McKinley and Kate Christobek, March 26, 2024 (print ed.). Here’s the latest on the hearing. The former president had wanted a Manhattan judge to further delay his trial on charges related to a porn star’s affair claim as he seeks to regain the White House.

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More On U.S. Bridge Disaster

Aerial view of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, after it was struck by a cargo ship and partly collapsed on March 26, 2024. It opened in 1977 and is named for Francis Scott Key, who wrote the words of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” (Photo by CBS News Baltimore).

Aerial view of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, after it was struck by a cargo ship and partly collapsed on March 26, 2024. It opened in 1977 and is named for Francis Scott Key, who wrote the words of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” (Photo by CBS News Baltimore).

ny times logoNew York Times, Baltimore Bridge Collapse: Baltimore Investigation Turns to Ship’s Deadly Mechanical Failure, Mike Baker and Peter Eavis, March 31, 2024 (print ed.). The ship reported a power blackout and steering problems before hitting the Francis Scott Key Bridge, but its failure has not yet been explained.

Just minutes before the cargo ship Dali was set to glide under Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge, the ship’s alarms began to blare. The lights went out. The engine halted. Even the rudder, which the crew uses to maneuver the vessel, was frozen.

As a frantic effort to restore the ship was underway, the pilot soon recognized that the aimless vessel was drifting toward disaster, and called for help.

The cascading collapse of the vessel’s most crucial operating systems left the Dali adrift until it ultimately collided with the Key bridge, knocking the span into the river and killing six people. But as crews this week were still sorting out how to disentangle the ship and recover the bodies of those who died, investigators were also turning to the most central question: What could have caused such a catastrophic failure at the worst possible moment?

washington post logoWashington Post, City begins massive and dangerous cleanup as first relief funds approved, Justin Jouvenal, Jacob Bogage and Erin Cox, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). Huge crane ships and thousands of relief workers headed toward Baltimore, as efforts turned from recovery to a massive cleanup that some experts described as unprecedented.

Huge crane ships, thousands of relief workers and millions of dollars headed toward Baltimore on Thursday, as efforts turned from recovery after the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge to a massive cleanup that some experts described as unprecedented and highly dangerous.
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The U.S. Navy deployed several floating cranes, including one that could lift 1,000 tons, while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it would send more than 1,100 engineering specialists and other experts to begin removing the hulking debris that has crippled the Port of Baltimore.

Federal officials also announced the first relief funds — $60 million sought by Maryland officials — would flow toward disaster recovery just hours after the request was submitted.

Top officials with the Corps, which is leading the effort to clear the Patapsco River, described a three step effort to get one of the nation’s largest shipping hubs back online. They are racing to stem the rippling economic fallout from a cargo ship striking the bridge on Tuesday.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tangled in Steel With No Way Out: How the Crew Stuck in Baltimore Is Faring, Eduardo Medina, March 31, 2024 (print ed.). Twenty-two seafarers from India find themselves not only trapped in the ship that struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge, but also in an unexpected spotlight.

Even from miles away, the destruction of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore is a jarring visual: Chunks of steel jut above the water like metallic icebergs. Twisted gray beams protrude in crooked positions. From a park near Fort McHenry, visitors can see the giant cargo ship that struck the bridge and remains lodged in the wreckage.

Less visible, however, are the 22 crew members from India who have remained on the ship, named the Dali, since the disaster on Tuesday.

Little is publicly known about them other than that they are seafarers who embarked on a journey aboard the 985-foot-long cargo ship that was on its way to Sri Lanka, carrying 4,700 shipping containers, when it lost power and struck the Key Bridge, causing the structure to collapse.

Since the accident, which killed six construction workers, the crew members have found themselves in an unexpected spotlight. While keeping the ship operable, they are answering a deluge of questions from officials investigating the nighttime catastrophe, as the evidence of what occurred lies around them in mangled ruins stretching across the bow and deck.

While officials investigate what could have caused the tragedy, another question has emerged this week: What could the crew members, who have limited access to the outside world, be going through right now?

washington post logoWashington Post, More than $500,000 raised to help families of Key Bridge victims, Joe Heim and Emily Davies, March 30, 2024 (print ed.). More than $500,000 has been donated so far for the families of the six construction workers killed and two injured in the collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge. The financial outpouring, in contributions large and small, has streamed in over the past four days to fundraisers hosted by nonprofit organizations, the Baltimore city government, the company that employed the men and individuals.

The workers were filling potholes on the bridge when the Dali cargo ship slammed into it around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday. The bodies of Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes, 35, and Dorlian Ronial Castillo Cabrera, 26, were recovered from the water Wednesday. The other four men are missing and presumed dead, including Maynor Suazo Sandoval, 38, and Miguel Luna, 49. The names of two victims have not been released.

Susana Barrios, vice president of the Latino Racial Justice Circle, a Baltimore-based nonprofit that provides scholarships and legal funding assistance for Latinos in Maryland, said her organization launched a GoFundMe the day after the bridge collapsed when they learned the victims were Latino. They coordinated with other Baltimore area groups that work with immigrants and set a goal of raising $18,000.

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U.S. Immigration News

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ny times logoNew York Times, Georgia Lawmakers Approve Tougher Immigration Rules After Student’s Killing, Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon and Rick Rojas, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). A bill prompted by the death of Laken Riley, 22, would require law enforcement agencies to report undocumented immigrants to federal officials.

ny times logoNew York Times, House Republicans Demand Full Impeachment Trial for Mayorkas, Luke Broadwater, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). They argue that quickly dispensing with the charges, as senators in both parties are inclined to do, would be an affront to Americans. 

U.S. House logoSpeaker Mike Johnson on Thursday wrote to Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, demanding that the Senate hold an impeachment trial next month of Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary. The speaker called plans to quickly dismiss the charges against Mr. mike johnson oMayorkas “a violation of our constitutional order and an affront to the American people.”

In a letter signed by the 11 Republicans he named as impeachment managers to try Mr. Mayorkas, Mr. Johnson, right, wrote that they planned to send over the charges on April 10, after the Senate returns from its Easter break. Senators in both parties, who serve as the jury for impeachment trials, have indicated that they do not want to sit through such a proceeding in the case of Mr. Mayorkas, notwithstanding House Republicans’ insistence on it.

The letter rehashed the accusations against the homeland security secretary, with signatories including Representatives Mark E. Green of Tennessee, the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, and Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who introduced articles of impeachment against Mr. Mayorkas. The Republicans condemned what they called a “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law and his breach of the public trust,” accused the secretary of lying to Congress, and blamed him for the state of the southern border with Mexico.

There is little doubt that the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, will side with Mr. Mayorkas. Leaders are expected to dispense with a trial quickly, either by dismissing the charges immediately or moving to a quick vote in which Republicans have no chance of securing the two-thirds necessary to convict and remove Mr. Mayorkas.

Mr. Schumer has called the impeachment effort a “sham” and “another embarrassment for House Republicans.”

ny times logo New York Times, With Immigration a Key Issue for U.S. Voters, Mexico Emerges as Power Player, Natalie Kitroeff, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Paulina Villegas, Photographs by Guillermo Arias, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). The situation at the border has given Mexico and its president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, immense power to potentially shape the U.S. election.

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Claims Against Biden Family

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: James Comer sums up his ‘evidence’ of Biden crimes. It’s scant, Glenn Kessler, March 28, 2024. In an interview Monday with conservative talk radio host Jimmy Failla, Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, provided an unusually succinct description of his case against President Biden. House Republicans appear to have abandoned their impeachment drive against the president, which Comer has led, and instead may go straight to the Justice Department with criminal referrals.

Comer’s remarks provide a rough guide to what the House GOP may have in mind.

Here are the comments in full, with the relevant sections in bold type.

Here’s the evidence, Jimmy. There’s ten different Biden family members that received incremental payments through 20 shell companies that received wires from, from at least five foreign countries that were for services that we have yet to determine. For nearly $30 million. And then according to the IRS whistleblowers, they didn’t pay a penny of taxes on it.
But this all revolves around Joe because not only have we proven Joe got $250,000, a quarter of $1 million of that money, but Joe met with all the people who were wiring the Bidens money even though he lied and said he never met with any of them; he met with all of them. At the end of the day, who are these people? They’re bad people in bad countries who were being investigated for corruption, who were needing pardons, who were needing access to Americans banks because they had sanctions put against them by the government. They all needed something from the government and they were paying for access to Joe Biden.

Let’s dissect Comer’s comments.

‘Ten different Biden family members’

Documents and interviews released by Comer’s committee identified payments to Hunter Biden, the president’s son; Jim Biden, the president’s brother; Sara Biden; his sister-in-law; and Hallie Biden, his son Beau’s widow. Comer is also counting the president (more on that below). Committee staff say payments were also received by Melissa Cohen, Hunter’s current spouse; Kathleen Buhle, his ex-wife; and three minor children who are not being identified, adding up to 10. Even that is being generous to Comer’s theory, because virtually all of this money flowed to Hunter Biden. The others received relatively small amounts.

‘20 shell companies … for services that we have yet to determine’

This is false. As we have shown before, virtually all of the companies that received the funds in question had legitimate business interests — which shell companies by definition do not. Comer claims that it is not clear what Hunter Biden did to earn the money, when it is often quite evident. For instance, Hunter Biden earned millions as a board member of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company. (Whether he was qualified for the post is another matter.) The committee rejects this analysis and says that the “majority of these companies did not provide services and the Bidens certainly did nothing of substance for these entities justifying millions of dollars in payment.”
‘Five foreign countries’

Comer is referring to payments from people or companies based in China ($6.5 million), Ukraine ($4 million), Romania ($1 million), and Kazakhstan ($142,300 from a businessman to Hunter Biden to pay for a Porsche sports car). The fifth country is Russia, but that requires an asterisk. The committee is counting a transfer of $3.5 million from Russian billionaire Elena Baturina. Hunter’s former business partner Devon Archer testified that that money was not intended for Hunter, as has Hunter. “That was Devon’s,” Hunter said in his congressional interview. “I never received a dime from Ms. Baturina. I didn’t have any involvement with her in any way.” The committee staff says “five” is a conservative figure that does not include other countries that were allegedly sources of payments, such as Panama and Cyprus.
‘Nearly $30 million’

The last time we investigated this matter, the committee could document between $11.7 million and $15.18 million in transfers to Biden family members. (The difference depends on whether you include Baturina’s $3.5 million.) The committee says the number now also includes loans to pay Hunter’s taxes and the sale of his artwork.
‘They didn’t pay a penny of taxes on it’

Hunter Biden faces a criminal indictment for failing to pay $1.4 million in taxes between 2016 and 2019. He has repaid these taxes in full, his attorney says. Jim Biden was hit with a tax lien in 2018, but it was paid off a year later, so it’s also wrong to say he didn’t pay a penny in taxes. Twenty-five years of Joe Biden’s tax returns are publicly available. Comer’s broad-brush wording suggests 10 Biden family members did not pay any taxes on whatever money was transferred to them. The committee staff did not explain this comment.
‘$250,000, a quarter of $1 million of that money’

Comer appears to be referring to the repayment of two interest-free loans — one for $40,000 in 2017 and one for $200,000 in 2018 — that Jim Biden received from his brother. The committee has suggested that Jim Biden repaid the loans with money he received from overseas, such as a Chinese company. Jim Biden has told congressional investigators that his brother was never involved in his business activities. There is no indication that Joe Biden knew the source of funding. The committee staff notes that Biden associate Eric Schwerin, who handles financial matters for the family, did not recall such loans during his interview with investigators.
‘Met with all the people who were wiring the Bidens money’

The committee had published a list of alleged Biden meetings but, again, even that shows Comer is making a sweeping generalization that Joe Biden met with all of these people. The committee’s list shows people from four countries (not Romania). The “meetings” include handshake greetings and being at the same table during a meal — though accounts vary on whether Joe Biden did more than a meet-and-greet. The committee staff acknowledges that Biden did not meet with Romanian businessman Gabriel Popoviciu, later convicted on bribery-related charges, but says he met with Romanian public officials around the time that money started flowing into Hunter Biden’s account for services connected to Popoviciu.
‘Bad people in bad countries’

Another sweeping generalization. The United States is a strong supporter of Ukraine in its war against Russia. Romania is described as a “steadfast ally” by the State Department, while the department says the United States and Kazakhstan have developed a “strong and wide-ranging bilateral relationship.” The committee staff notes that Comer did not identify what countries are bad.

‘Who were needing pardons … ’

The pardon reference is mysterious. The committee’s “Biden influence peddling timeline” makes no reference to any pardon being sought. The committee staff did not explain this comment.
‘... who were needing access to Americans’ banks because they had sanctions put against them’

Jason Galanis, a former Hunter Biden associate now in prison, testified that Baturina “was having trouble opening a U.S. bank account based on reports of her ties to criminal figures in Russia and corruption allegations related to her politician husband.” But she has never been sanctioned. Both Archer and Hunter Biden testified that she was Archer’s client and was not in business with Hunter. The committee also did not explain this reference.

robert hur us attorneywashington post logo

Washington Post, Garland says it would’ve been ‘absurd’ to edit Hur report, Patrick Svitek, March 22, 2024 (print ed.). Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday defended his handling of special counsel Robert K. Hur’s report on President Biden’s handling of classified documents, saying it would have been “absurd” to make changes to it.

merrick garlandHur announced in the February report that he would not seek charges against Biden but included unflattering details about Biden’s memory, upsetting Democrats and emboldening Republicans.

At an unrelated news conference Thursday morning, Garland was asked to respond to anonymous White House criticism of the report, including the notion he should have reined in Hur’s descriptions of Biden’s memory. Garland said “no one from the White House has said that to me.”

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U.S. Justice Department photo of sawdust used in the prosecution of President's son Hunter Biden (shown at left in a file photo) to allege falsely that the photo was by the defendant showing cocaine (Justice Department photo seized from a transmission by Defendant's psychiatrist).

U.S. Justice Department photo of sawdust used in the prosecution of President's son Hunter Biden (shown at left in a file photo) to allege falsely that the photo was by the defendant showing cocaine (Justice Department photo seized from a transmission by defendant's psychiatrist).

 

More On Global Disputes, Disasters, Human Rights

 

Pope Francis took a prolonged spin in his popemobile around St. Peter’s Square on Sunday (Associated Press photo by Alessandra Tarantino).

 Pope Francis took a prolonged spin in his popemobile around St. Peter’s Square on Sunday (Associated Press photo by Alessandra Tarantino).

ny times logoNew York Times, Amid Health Concerns, Pope’s Easter Message Calls for Gaza Cease-Fire, Jason Horowitz, March 31, 2024. After reducing his participation in two major Holy Week events, Pope Francis appealed for peace in the Middle East, and between Russia and Ukraine.

Amid renewed concerns about his health, Pope Francis presided over Easter Sunday Mass, and with a hoarse but strong voice, he delivered a major annual message that touched on conflicts across the globe, with explicit appeals for peace in Israel, Gaza and Ukraine.

The appearance came after the pope decided to reduce his participation in two major Holy Week events, seemingly at the last minute.

Those decisions seemed to mark a new phase in a more than 11-year papacy throughout which Francis has made the acceptance of the limits that challenge and shape humanity a constant theme. Now, he seems to have entered a period in which he is himself scaling back to observe, and highlight, the limits imposed by his own health constraints, and to conserve strength for the most critical moments.

On Sunday after the Mass, Francis took a prolonged spin in his popemobile around St. Peter’s Square before ascending to a balcony overlooking it to deliver his traditional Easter message.

“Let us not allow the strengthening winds of war to blow on Europe and the Mediterranean,” he said to the tens of thousands of faithful, dignitaries, Swiss Guards and clergy filling the square.

washington post logoWashington Post, Nigerian families are pleading for answers after mass kidnapping by extremists, Mouta Ali and Rachel Chason, March 31, 2024. One month after suspected Islamist militants abducted more than 100 people in this remote area of northern Nigeria, their families are pressing local authorities for news of the missing — mostly girls and young women — and pleading with foreign governments for help with their rescue.

Nigerian FlagIn a dilapidated camp for displaced people, Alkhali Adam, the father of an 11-year-old boy who was kidnapped, said that families are passing sleepless nights and spending their days asking God to return those who were abducted, many of them while collecting firewood. He said government authorities have barred the families of those who were kidnapped from talking about what happened, saying that community leaders should speak for them.

“How can you keep quiet if your only son has been kidnapped?” Adam, 40, said in an interview. “I ask the international communities not to forget us … our state is doing nothing, and so their help is important.”

A woman named Bintou Mohamed, whose only daughter — 14-year-old Falmata — was among those abducted, said the families have heard nothing from authorities except that they are searching. She said parents have been sacrificing animals and asking God for their children’s return.

“We need help in every sense of the word,” she said. “Humanitarian help, psychological help and lots of prayers.”

Nigeria has been grappling for more than a decade with Islamist militants from the Boko Haram group and a splinter faction associated with the Islamic State in the country’s northernmost regions and also with a variety of criminal groups, loosely termed “bandits,” in the northwest.

This month, Nigeria has been racked by multiple abductions. While authorities have in recent days celebrated the rescue of 138 students taken from their school in Kaduna State, Maj. Gen. Edward Buba, the spokesman for the military’s defense operations, said authorities are still searching for those who were captured March 1 near the Gamboru Ngala camp by Islamist extremists.

Buba put the number of people taken from the camp at 112, but a community leader, who declined to give his name, said that 217 people were abducted, many of them girls between the ages of 9 and 15.

This abduction, analysts say, appears to be the largest kidnapping by an Islamist extremist group in Nigeria since 2014, when Boko Haram — whose name roughly translates to “Western education is forbidden” — took 276 girls in the town of Chibok, triggering an international effort to return the girls. The Nigerian government has in recent years touted its progress in defeating Boko Haram, which was born in the early 2000s out of political grievances. There is currently confusion about which group carried out the latest abduction, with the military blaming the Islamic State — West Africa Province, and some researchers and locals saying it was more likely Boko Haram, which goes by the name Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad (JAS).

Malik Samuel, a research consultant with the Institute for Security Studies based in Abuja, Nigeria, said this abduction has gained less attention than other recent kidnappings in part because the area is so remote and dangerous to reach. The government has also tried to limit information about the incident, he said, “because the more information gets out, the more the government looks bad.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Election Today: Turkey’s Political Future, Ben Hubbard and Safak Timur, March 31, 2024. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has campaigned for his party to retake the city from the incumbent mayor, whom many see as a potential future president.

Flag of TurkeyThe contest to run city hall in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city and economic dynamo, is in many ways between one man who is on the ballot and another who is not.

The first is the incumbent, Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, a rising star in the political opposition who won in a surprise victory in 2019 and is widely seen as a potential contender for the presidency.

The second is President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who served as Istanbul’s mayor decades ago and has wanted to return his hometown to the control of his governing Justice and Development Party since Mr. Imamoglu’s win.

The outcome will be decided by municipal elections on Sunday that will in many ways shape Turkey’s political future.

A win for Mr. Erdogan’s party would allow it to reclaim the political and financial clout of running Turkey’s largest city, further empowering a leader whom critics accuse of leading the country toward autocracy. A win for the incumbent mayor, however, could reinvigorate the anti-Erdogan opposition and propel Mr. Imamoglu toward the next presidential election, expected in 2028, when he could face off against Mr. Erdogan.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Angry Farmers Are Reshaping Europe, Roger Cohen, Photographs by Ivor Prickett, March 31, 2024.  Farm protests are changing not only Europe’s food system but also its politics, as the far right senses an opportunity.

ny times logoUnited Kingdom flagNew York Times, King Charles, Hoping to Reassure Public, Attends Easter Service, Mark Landler, March 31, 2024. The family has been thrown off balance by health crises, including cancer diagnoses for the king and Catherine, Princess of Wales. She did not appear.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Yemen, Renewed Conflict and Rising Hunger During a Lean Ramadan, Saeed Al-Batati and Vivian Nereim, March 31, 2024. Airstrikes, crippling inflation and a drop in foreign aid are raising alarms about a new humanitarian crisis in the world’s poorest Arab country.

In the years before war and hunger upended daily life in Yemen, Mohammed Abdullah Yousef used to sit down after a long day of fasting during Ramadan to a rich spread of food. His family would dine on meat, falafel, beans, savory fried pastries and occasionally store-bought crème caramel.

This year, the Islamic holy month looks different for Mr. Yousef, 52, a social studies teacher in the coastal city of Al Mukalla. He, his wife and their five children break their fast with bread, soup and vegetables. Earning the equivalent of $66 a month, he frets that his salary sometimes slips from his hands in less than two weeks, much of it to pay grocery bills.

“I’m fighting to make ends meet,” Mr. Yousef said in an interview, describing how even before Ramadan he had begun skipping meals to stretch his meager paychecks, yet could barely afford bus fare to his job at a primary school.

A decade ago, his salary covered his family’s needs and more. But conflict, poverty and hunger have overtaken much of Yemen. As rapid inflation eats away at their spending power, middle-class Yemenis like Mr. Yousef have found themselves sliding into economic collapse.

Muslims abstain from food and water between dawn and sunset in observance of Ramadan, which is meant to be a time of worship, celebratory gatherings and nightly feasts. But it has been a desperate occasion this year for many across Yemen. The country is home to one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, precipitated by a war that began 2014, which experts warn may be drifting toward a deeper disaster.

washington post logoWashington Post, India reacts sharply to U.S. criticism over democracy and rights, Gerry Shih, March 29, 2024. After the Indian government last week arrested opposition leader Arvind Kejriwal in a case of alleged corruption just weeks before a national election, U.S. and German officials issued public statements gently reminding India about the importance of the rule of law.

The response from New Delhi was anything but gentle. Instead, it reflected the tough new brand of diplomacy embraced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and cheered by his nationalist supporters.

The Indian Foreign Ministry immediately summoned German and U.S. diplomats for a dressing-down in New Delhi. It lashed out at Washington for “casting aspersions” and making “completely unacceptable” comments about India’s internal affairs after the State Department reiterated its concerns about Kejriwal’s arrest and the freezing of an opposition party’s campaign funds.

On Thursday, Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar raised a complaint frequently heard among Modi’s supporters: that the United States is moralizing, overbearing and prone to meddling.

“There are people in the world who want to lecture us on our judicial behavior,” Dhankhar told the American Bar Association at a conference in New Delhi. Dhankhar went on to dismiss U.S. officials’ recent comments about a controversial new Indian citizenship law as “ignorant.”

 

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is shown via an Associated Press photo in the prisoner's area during a sham proceeding in Russia's prosecution of him on spy charges.Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is shown via an Associated Press photo in the prisoner's area during a sham proceeding in Russia's prosecution of him on spy charges.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia-Ukraine War: It Has Been One Year Since Russia Put Evan Gershkovich in Jail, Katie Robertson, March 29, 2024. In a high-security prison, The Wall Street Journal reporter stays in touch with supporters through letters as they keep up the pressure for his release.

Russian FlagOne year ago on Friday, Ella Milman and Mikhail Gershkovich received a chilling phone call from the managing editor of The Wall Street Journal. Their son, Evan, a foreign correspondent for The Journal who was on a reporting assignment in Russia, had missed his daily security check-in.

“We were hoping this was some kind of error, that everything is going to be fine,” the older Mr. Gershkovich recalled. But the stunning reality became clear: The Russian authorities had detained Evan and accused him of spying for the American government, making him the first American reporter to be held on espionage charges in Russia since the end of the Cold War.

Since his arrest, Mr. Gershkovich, 32, has been held in the notorious high-security Lefortovo prison in Moscow, the same facility holding the people accused in the deadly attack at a concert venue in the city this month. The Journal and the U.S. government have vehemently denied that Mr. Gershkovich is a spy, saying he was an accredited journalist doing his job.

 

 Prime Minister Viktor Orbán

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Tens of Thousands Protest Against Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Troy Matthews, March 28, 2024. Back-to-back scandals have rocked the government of Donald Trump's favorite autocrat.

mtn meidas touch networkThousands turned out to protest Trump favoritein the Hungarian capital Budapest Tuesday. The protestors packed into Heroes’ Square demanding the resignation of Orbán after public outcry over back-back-scandals that have rattled faith in the far-right government.

A month ago, Hungarian President Katalin Novák resigned along with Orbán's Justice Minister, Judit Varga when it became public that Novák had issued a Presidential pardon to a man who had covered up sexual assault in a children's facility. Tens of thousands of protestors took the streets organized by social media influencers to express their rage at the government for the cover up.

Then earlier this week tapes were released that implicated Varga and her aides in a scheme to cover up a bribery scandal at the Justice Ministry. The case involved justice Ministry State Secretary Pal Volner who was charged in 2022 with accepting bribes and faces jail time.

The tapes were released by Peter Magyar, a lawyer that formerly worked in the Orbán government. Magyar has founded an opposition party and plans to challenge Orbán's government. "Hungarians thank you ... for coming in the thousands tonight ... to tell those in power that we have had enough," Magyar told protesters in a speech on Tuesday.

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Prince William, Prince of Wales and heir to the British throne, is shown with his wife, Princess Catherine of Wales, as they attend a cremonial welcome for South Korean President Yoon Suk and Korea's First Lady, Yeol Kim Keon Hee, on Nov. 21, 2023 (WPA Pool photo by Chris Jackson via Getty Images).Prince William, Prince of Wales and heir to the British throne, is shown with his wife, Princess Catherine of Wales, as they attend a cremonial welcome for South Korean President Yoon Suk and Korea's First Lady, Yeol Kim Keon Hee, on Nov. 21, 2023 (WPA Pool photo by Chris Jackson via Getty Images).

 

Russia-Ukraine War

ny times logoNew York Times, Putin Offers Both Reassurance and Threat on a Wider War, Ivan Nechepurenko, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). President Vladimir Putin dismissed claims that Russia planned to invade other countries, but warned nations against hosting warplanes meant for Ukraine.

Russian FlagPresident Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has warned that if F-16 fighter jets supplied to Ukraine by its Western allies operated from airfields in other countries, the bases would be “legitimate targets” for attack.

In a speech to Russian Air Force pilots late Wednesday, however, Mr. Putin rejected suggestions from some Western leaders that Russia is planning to invade NATO countries as “complete nonsense.”

The threat that Russia might move against other countries has become one of the main arguments used by the Ukrainian government and its supporters to try to persuade the U.S. to dispatch more military aid to the country.

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said again in an interview with CBS News published on Thursday that war “can come to Europe, and to the United States of America.”

“It can come very quickly to Europe,” said Mr. Zelensky.

At the United Nations on Thursday, Russia vetoed a resolution that would have extended U.N. oversight of sanctions tied to North Korea’s nuclear program, prompting accusations from Western nations that it was acting to keep the pipeline of weaponry open from the North Koreans for use in Ukraine.

The Russian vote — a reversal from its past support for the monitoring program — drew condemnation from world leaders. In the United States, the White House national security spokesman, John Kirby, called it a “reckless action” that made clear the growing ties between Pyongyang and Moscow.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vowing the U.S. Will ‘Do Our Job,’ Johnson Searches for a Path on Ukraine, Catie Edmondson, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). Speaker Mike Johnson, with his job on the line, has privately said he would make sure the House assists Ukraine, a step that many Republicans oppose.

mike johnson oWhen Speaker Mike Johnson, right, opened the floor for questions at a closed-door luncheon fund-raiser in New Jersey last month, Jacquie Colgan asked how, in the face of vehement opposition within his own ranks, he planned to handle aid for Ukraine.

What followed was an impassioned monologue by Mr. Johnson in which he explained why continued American aid to Kyiv was, in his view, vital — a message starkly at odds with the hard-right views that have overtaken his party. He invoked his political roots as a Reagan Republican, denounced President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia as a “madman” and conceded the issue had forced him to walk a “delicate political tightrope.”

Reminded by Ms. Colgan, a member of the American Coalition for Ukraine, a nonprofit advocacy group, of the adage that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil was for good people to do nothing, Mr. Johnson replied that he kept a copy of the quotation framed in his office.

“That’s not going to be us,” he assured her. “We’re going to do our job.”

The exchange reflects what Mr. Johnson has privately told donors, foreign leaders and fellow members of Congress in recent weeks, according to extensive notes Ms. Colgan took during the New Jersey event and interviews with several other people who have spoken with him.

While the speaker has remained noncommittal about any one option, he has repeatedly expressed a personal desire to send aid to Ukraine — something he has voted against repeatedly in the past — and now appears to be in search of the least politically damaging way to do it.

The challenge for Mr. Johnson is that any combination of aid measures he puts to a vote will likely infuriate the growing isolationist wing of his party, which considers the issue toxic. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, who has repeatedly said she would call a snap vote to unseat the speaker if he allowed a vote for Ukraine aid before imposing restrictive immigration measures, filed a resolution on Friday calling for his removal, saying she wanted to send him “a warning.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia-Ukraine War: On Ukraine’s Front Lines, Collecting the Dead Russia Left Behind, Photographs by Tyler Hicks, Written by Marc Santora, March 22, 2024. Civilians who gather the bodies of Russian soldiers face many of the war’s perils along the front, where death is ubiquitous.

navigating minefields and hoping not to be targeted by Russian artillery as he races to collect the remains of fallen soldiers from the battlefield.

In just three shattered tree lines around the ruined village of Klishchiivka outside Bakhmut, where Ukrainian and Russian forces have fought seesaw battles for well over a year, he collected 300 bodies. They were almost all Russian, he said, left behind in maelstrom of violence where the struggle to stay alive often outweighs concern for the dead.

Mr. Yusov has been collecting bodies from the bloody fields and battered villages of eastern Ukraine for a decade. He is now the head of a group of civilian volunteers called Platsdarm, and has witnessed more death than he would care to remember.

But as Russia presses a slow-moving offensive at great human cost, Mr. Yusov says the toll is still shocking.

ny times logoNew York Times, A large-scale Russian attack damaged power plants and caused blackouts for more than a million Ukrainians, Constant Méheut and Ivan Nechepurenko, March 22, 2024. A large-scale Russian missile and drone attack damaged power plants and caused blackouts for more than a million Ukrainians on Friday morning, in what Ukrainian officials said was one of the war’s largest assaults on energy infrastructure.

At least three people were killed in the assault, and 15 others were injured, according to the office of Ukraine’s general prosecutor.

The strikes came as ​the Kremlin escalated its rhetoric over the conflict, saying that Russia was “in a state of war” in Ukraine — and moving beyond the euphemism “special military operation” — because of the West’s heavy involvement on the Ukrainian side.

In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, traffic lights were not working and the water supply was disrupted. A fire raged at the country’s largest hydroelectric dam, in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia. A few dozen miles to the southwest, a power line supplying a Russian-occupied nuclear power plant was temporarily knocked out.

“The enemy is now launching the largest attack on the Ukrainian energy sector in recent times,” Herman Halushchenko, Ukraine’s energy minister, said on Facebook. “The goal is not just to damage, but to try again, like last year, to cause a large-scale failure of the country’s energy system.”

 

vladimir putin hand up palmer

ny times logoNew York Times, Putin Hails Conquests in Ukraine in Red Square Spectacle, Paul Sonne, Anton Troianovski and Nanna Heitmann, March 19, 2024 (print ed.). A day after a rubber-stamp presidential election, President Vladimir Putin said he would not back down in Russia’s war against Ukraine.

His most beloved crooner sang a nationalistic ballad with an appeal to Russians: “The Motherland is calling. Don’t let her down.”

His favorite band belted out a moody song about wartime sacrifice.

And then he took the stage, under a banner celebrating the 10th anniversary of Crimea’s seizure from Ukraine, to remind thousands of Russians gathered on Red Square that his fight to add territory to Russia wasn’t over.

President Vladimir V. Putin, a day after declaring victory in a performative election, signaled on Monday that the war against Ukraine would continue to dominate his rule and called for unity in bringing the people of eastern Ukraine “back to their home family.”

“We will move on together, hand in hand,” Mr. Putin told the crowd, boasting of a restored railroad line that he said would soon connect to Crimea through territory taken from Ukraine. “And this is precisely what really makes us stronger — not words, but deeds.”

The display of nationalistic fervor came as the capstone of a three-day election whose foregone conclusion prompted comparisons of Mr. Putin’s Russia to other authoritarian dictatorships. On Sunday night, the state news swiftly declared that he had won more than 87 percent of the vote.

Underscoring the artificial nature of the election, Mr. Putin brought the three puppet competitors the Kremlin had picked to run against him onto the stage on Red Square and offered each a turn at the microphone, saying they all took “different approaches” but had “one Motherland.”

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More On U.S. Military, Security, Intelligence, Foreign Policy

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s plan for Gaza pier endangers U.S. troops, experts warn, Dan Lamothe, March 31, 2024. The floating pier, to be constructed by U.S. military personnel off the Gaza coast, will be an enticing target for Hamas or other militants, skeptics say.

The Biden administration’s plan to install a floating pier off the Gaza coast as part of a broad international initiative to feed starving Palestinians will endanger the U.S. service members who must build, operate and defend the structure from attack, military experts say, a risk with enormous political consequences for the president should calamity strike.
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The effort, U.S. officials say, could deliver up to 2 million meals per day into the war-ravaged territory, where a famine is feared amid Israel’s sustained bombardment and what critics say are its extreme restrictions on the flow of food, medicine and other humanitarian aid.

While the Pentagon maintains that no U.S. troops will deploy into Gaza, it has disclosed little about how long the operation could last and how it intends to ensure the safety of those involved, alarming some in Congress and other critics of the president’s plan. Military officials declined to answer questions from The Washington Post about where the pier will be located and what security measures will be taken, citing a desire not to telegraph its plans.

The Americans’ fixed proximity to the fighting and the intense anger at the United States for its support of Israel will render the pier an enticing target for Hamas or another of the region’s militant groups — many of whom receive arms and military guidance from adversary Iran, skeptics of the operation warn. Rocket fire, attack drones and divers or speedboats hauling explosives all will pose a threat, they said.

Paul Kennedy, a retired Marine Corps general who led major humanitarian operations after natural disasters in Nepal and the Philippines, called it a “worthy goal” for the United States to reduce civilian suffering in Gaza. But he questioned whether the U.S. military is the proper entity to be involved.

washington post logoWashington Post, Americas: The underwater hunt for the lost ship of an American slave trafficker, Terrence McCoy, Photos by Rafael Vilela, March 31, 2024.

Gilson Rambelli motored out into the dark waters, thinking of the crime that had haunted him for years. The evidence of it was down there, in the bay’s depths. That was where the researcher believed he’d find the Camargo, the long-lost slave ship of Nathaniel Gordon, the only person ever executed in the United States for the crime of trafficking enslaved Africans.

As dense clouds muffled the December morning sky, Rambelli and his research team approached a small island off the coastline of Rio de Janeiro state. There wasn’t much to distinguish it from the dozens of others dotting this vast bay. But it was here that the crew dropped anchor.

“This is it,” Rambelli said.

For decades, Rambelli and others have researched the shipwreck. According to contemporaneous accounts, Gordon sailed his American-made vessel into Brazilian waters in December 1852. As authorities closed in on him, Gordon sold his “cargo” — more than 500 enslaved Mozambicans — to the coffee plantations in the mountains beyond. Then he burned and sank his ship somewhere in the bay and escaped arrest dressed as a woman, scandalizing Brazil’s government and leading to its first crackdown on the country’s illegal slave trade.

The remarkable story is part of a forgotten chapter in the history of America and slavery, when American ships and the American flag were used to illegally transport enslaved Africans to Brazil by the tens of thousands.

In the first half of the 19th century, after much of the world had banned the transatlantic slave trade but before the end of slavery, a highly lucrative contraband trade continued to supply Brazil with enslaved Africans. Some of its most important players, according to historians and a Washington Post review of thousands of pages of records, were American merchants and sailors.

Santa Rita do Bracuí, a community founded by descendants of enslaved Africans, has passed down the story of the Camargo for generations. Here, community members Maria Madalena da Silva and Natalina Adriano da Silva sit in pews after Sunday Mass.

They sold ships, captained slaving voyages and ultimately assumed such an active role in the illegal commerce that senior U.S. diplomats at the time suggested it couldn’t have happened without them.

“The African slave trade ‘thickens around us,’” wrote U.S. Brazil Minister Henry A. Wise in an 1845 letter to Secretary of State John C. Calhoun. “Without the aid of our citizens and our flag, it could not be carried on with success at all.”

In all, between 1831 and 1850, American-made ships brought approximately 430,000 enslaved Africans to Brazil — nearly as many as were shipped to the United States during its entire history of slavery, Brazilian historian Leonardo Marques has found. During the latter half of that period, according to Marques’s review of British consular reports, more than one-third of all slaving vessels that made landfall in Rio de Janeiro did so under an American flag.

 

djt biden resized smiles

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Bidenomics Is Making China Angry. That’s OK, Paul Krugman, right, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). A paul krugmanpersistent theme in Republican campaigning these past few years has been the effort to portray Democrats in general, and President Biden in particular, as being soft on China — in contrast to Donald Trump’s supposed toughness.

One of the major planks in the G.O.P. case against Biden’s China policies, by the way, was that he was showing his softness by not banning TikTok. This looks ironic now, since Trump, who had favored a ban, suddenly reversed his position, reportedly around the same time that he had a sit-down with a billionaire who donates to Republican campaigns and has a large stake in the Chinese-controlled company.

China FlagEven before his TikTok flip-flop, however, the reality was that while Trump talked a xenophobic line that shaded into racism — for example, trying to relabel Covid-19 as the “Chinese virus” — and imposed showy but ineffective tariffs, he never had a coherent strategy for confronting our biggest rival. Biden, on the other hand, has quietly taken a very tough line on trade, especially with China.

I’ve been pointing out for a while that Biden’s sophisticated economic nationalism is a very big deal, much more so than Trump’s protectionist thrashing. In fact, Biden’s policies are so tough on China that, while I support them, they make me a bit nervous. But in case you don’t believe what I’m saying, let me point to someone who apparently agrees with me: the Chinese government.

China just filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization about the Inflation Reduction Act, which, despite its name, is at its core an attempt to fight climate change by subsidizing the transition to a low-emission economy. Specifically, China complained about electric vehicle subsidies that it says unfairly discriminate against production using car battery components made in China.

Honestly, I didn’t see that coming. America’s new industrial policy does favor domestic production and — we’ll see — might be in violation of W.T.O. rules. But for China, of all countries, to complain about targeted subsidies is an act of colossal chutzpah.

China spends vast sums on subsidies for favored companies, far more so than any other major economy. And it has often engaged in blatantly discriminatory policy — for example, for several years, until 2019, non-Chinese companies were essentially prevented from supplying electric vehicle batteries to Chinese car manufacturers.

It’s also unclear what China hopes to achieve with this complaint. In 2022, the W.T.O. ruled that U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum, imposed under Trump but retained under Biden, were illegitimate. The Biden administration responded by, in effect, telling the organization to take a hike.

The administration would surely do the same in defending subsidies that aren’t just Trump legacies, but rather a key element of its climate strategy — an attempt to make a transition to green energy politically feasible by linking that transition to job creation. The buy-American provisions may make this climate strategy more costly — but without them the I.R.A. may never have become law.

Biden officials have made it clear that they won’t allow Chinese exports to sever the link between climate policy and job creation. On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned China about the “overcapacity” it is developing in green energy as a result of subsidies. Given this, it’s hard to imagine that the administration would accept a ruling against its own subsidies, even if China manages to win its case.

So what is the Chinese government really doing here? I guess it’s possible that there’s some deeper strategy at play, although I have no idea what that might be. A more likely explanation is that Chinese officials are simply lashing out — perhaps in response to demands from the top that they do something — because they’re feeling the pressure from Biden’s policies.

These policies go far beyond electric vehicle subsidies, although they are the current flashpoint. The U.S. is also promoting semiconductor production, in part to reduce dependence on China. And the Biden administration has imposed stiff limits on technology exports to China, with the clear goal of crimping Chinese technological progress in advanced semiconductors and computing. As I said, Biden’s China policy is so tough that it makes me, someone who generally favors a rules-based system, nervous, although unlike many economists — who, I’d argue, don’t fully grasp how the world has changed — I do believe it’s the right approach.

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charles mcgonigle

 

U.S. Supreme Court

 

United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (l) with his wife of thirty-five years, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas (r). (Safe Image)

United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (l) with his wife, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas (r).

ny times logoNew York Times, How Justice Clarence Thomas’s ‘Nearly Adopted Daughter’ Became His Law Clerk, Steve Eder and Abbie VanSickle, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). Justice Clarence Thomas gave Crystal Clanton a home and a job after she left a conservative youth organization in controversy. Then the justice picked her for one of the most coveted positions in the legal world.

The email went out to members of Justice Clarence Thomas’s law clerk network late last month celebrating his newest addition to an exclusive club. The justice’s selection needed no introduction.

“Crystal Clanton’s clerkship for OT ’24 was announced by Scalia Law today!” wrote an assistant to Virginia Thomas, the justice’s wife, who is known as Ginni. The email referred to the 2024 October term of the court, and the tone was jubilant: “Please take a look at these posts of congratulations and support. Consider reposting, replying or adding your own!”

The Thomases and Ms. Clanton, a 29-year-old conservative organizer turned lawyer, have built such a close relationship that the couple informally refer to her as their “nearly adopted daughter.” Ms. Clanton, who was previously accused of sending racist text messages, including one that read “I HATE BLACK PEOPLE,” has lived in the Thomas home, assisted Ms. Thomas in her political consulting business and joined her in a “girls trip” to New York.

 

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

The official portrait of the U.S. Supreme Court

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court skeptical of limiting access to abortion pill, Abbie VanSickle, March 27, 2024 (print ed.).The Supreme Court on Tuesday seemed skeptical of efforts to limit access to mifepristone, a key medication used in more than 60 percent of U.S. abortions and first approved more than two decades ago.

supreme court graphicA majority of justices from across the ideological spectrum questioned whether the antiabortion doctors challenging the government’s loosening of regulations have sufficient legal grounds — or standing — to bring the lawsuit.

During oral argument, the government and the drug company that makes the medication emphasized the safety of the drug but also focused much of their arguments on standing.

erin hawleyErin Hawley, left, lawyer for Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, argued that mifepristone is dangerous, even though multiple studies have shown it to be overwhelmingly safe. She says that if complications emerge from medication abortions, antiabortion doctors are forced to choose between helping a woman with a life-threatening condition and violating their conscience.

The justices are examining rule changes in 2016 and 2021 that, among other things, made the drug available by mail and from a medical provider other than a doctor.

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The five most radical right Republican justices on the U.S. Supreme Court are shown above, with the sixth Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts, omitted in this view.

The five most radical right Republican justices on the Supreme Court are shown above, with the sixth Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts, omitted in this photo array.

Then-President Trump speaking to supporters on Jan. 6, 2021 outside the White House in advance of a mob moving east to overrun the U.S. Capitol, thereby threatening the election certification djt jan 6 speech

 

More On U.S. Courts, Crime, Guns, Civil Rights

 

Convicted crypto-currency fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried, center, at the time of arrest (Photo by Austin Fernander via The Tribune Bahamas and Associated Press.)

Convicted crypto-currency fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried, center, at the time of arrest (Photo by Austin Fernander via The Tribune Bahamas and Associated Press).

ny times logoNew York Times, Sam Bankman-Fried Is Sentenced to 25 Years in Prison, David Yaffe-Bellany and J. Edward Moreno, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). Mr. Bankman-Fried, who was convicted of stealing $8 billion from customers of his FTX cryptocurrency exchange, faced a maximum sentence of 110 years.

ftx logoSam Bankman-Fried, the former cryptocurrency mogul who was convicted of fraud, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Thursday, capping an extraordinary saga that upended the multi-trillion-dollar crypto industry and became a cautionary tale of greed and hubris.

Mr. Bankman-Fried’s sentence was shorter than the 40 to 50 years that federal prosecutors had recommended, but above the six-and-a-half-year sentence requested by the defense lawyers. A federal probation officer had recommended 100 years, just under the maximum possible penalty of 110 years behind bars.

lewis kaplanThe sentence was handed down by Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, left, at the Federal District Court in Manhattan. Mr. Bankman-Fried, 32, was in the courtroom, clean shaven and wearing a loose fitting brown jail uniform.

Before the sentence was delivered, Mr. Bankman-Fried apologized to FTX customers, investors and employees. “A lot of people feel really let down, and they were very let down,” he said. “I’m sorry about that. I’m sorry about what happened at every stage.” He added that his decisions “haunt” him every day.

The sentencing signified the finale of a sweeping fraud case that exposed the rampant volatility and risk-taking across the loosely regulated world of cryptocurrencies. In November 2022, Mr. Bankman-Fried’s crypto exchange, FTX, imploded virtually overnight, erasing $8 billion in customer savings. At a trial last fall, he was convicted of seven counts of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here’s how Mr. Bankman-Fried’s sentence compares with penalties faced by other high-profile white-collar criminals, David Yaffe-Bellany, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). Two years in prison for tax and securities violations. Eleven years for deceiving investors. A 150-year sentence for the largest Ponzi scheme in history.

The country’s most notorious white-collar fraudsters — like Bernie Madoff and Elizabeth Holmes — have received a range of punishments for their crimes, from relatively short prison terms to effectively a life sentence.

On Thursday, Sam Bankman-Fried, the onetime cryptocurrency mogul, joined their ranks, receiving a 25-year sentence for fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.

ftx logoMr. Bankman-Fried was convicted of stealing $8 billion from customers of his international crypto exchange, FTX — charges that carry a maximum sentence of 110 years. In legal filings, prosecutors cited 13 examples of white-collar prosecutions that involved a loss of more than $100 million. In all but two of those cases, the defendant was sentenced to 40 years or more.

ny times logoNew York Times, Accused Subway Shover Found Little Help in New York’s Chaotic Shelters, Amy Julia Harris, Jan Ransom, Wesley Parnell and Andy Newman, March 31, 2024. Carlton McPherson had been placed by New York City in a specialized homeless shelter for people with serious mental illness. It was not enough.

As New York has struggled to provide services for homeless mentally ill people across the city, its mental health shelters were supposed to help fill a crucial need, with on-call psychiatrists and social workers on staff to ensure that the thousands of people like Mr. McPherson were connected to treatment, and did not harm themselves or someone else.

The reality has been different, a New York Times examination of the shelters has found. Based on city records and interviews with shelter workers, residents and their family members, the review showed that mental health services have been offered only sporadically across the 38 specialized facilities, which were operated by city contractors at a cost of about $260 million a year. Episodes of violence, disorder and preventable harm, meanwhile, have become commonplace.

Fifty people died in the mental health shelters during a recent four-year period, records show. About half of those deaths occurred after suspected drug overdoses, when staff members found the bodies of men and women slumped on bathroom floors, next to empty pill bottles or in bed with foam coming out of their mouths. Eight people staying in the shelters killed themselves.

More than 1,400 fights broke out during the same span, with more than half of those resulting in “serious injury.” At a shelter in Queens, a woman threatened her roommate with a Swiss Army knife before hurling a nail-studded two-by-four at a facility glass front door, records show. Another woman at the shelter tried to suffocate her roommate with a plastic bag.

The mental health shelters were also the scene of more than 40 fires — half of which appeared to have been set deliberately. On at least 344 occasions, the facilities lost heat, water or power for four hours or longer, The Times found.

Although the first mental health shelters opened decades ago, the city has dramatically expanded their reach in recent years, steadily adding funding and creating beds for about 5,500 people.

 tennessee map

ny times logoNew York Times, One Grieving Mother Hasn’t Given Up Hope for a Gun Control Compromise, Emily Cochrane, March 28, 2024 (print ed.). A year after losing her daughter, Evelyn, in a school shooting in Nashville, Katy Dieckhaus is speaking about her and the changes she wants to see.

The essence of Evelyn Dieckhaus is still there, captured in the pink Bible where she underlined the word “covenant” in silver ink, and in the beaming photos of her with her family.

It is there in her journal, recovered from the scene of the Covenant School mass shooting, where Evelyn, 9, had copied out by hand a New Testament verse about maintaining sympathy, tenderness and humility.

Her mother, Katy Dieckhaus, has since placed those pieces of her daughter’s memory into what she calls her “little Ev bag,” which she has carried with her as she take her first steps into the intractable debate over gun control in Tennessee.

“I just thought, ‘O.K., Ev, let’s go — let’s go try something,’” Ms. Dieckhaus said this week, holding back tears as she recalled her first meeting with lawmakers. “Let’s go try to help people work together. Let’s see what we can do.”

Ms. Dieckhaus and her husband, Mike, have rarely spoken publicly since their daughter and five others were killed at the Covenant School in Nashville on March 27, 2023. But they are now stepping forward at a moment when Tennessee remains deeply divided on whether to limit access to guns.

ny times logoNew York Times, Man Is Killed by New York Subway Train After Being Pushed Onto Tracks, Christopher Maag, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). The attack in East Harlem was the latest in a series of violent episodes that have led officials to increase the police presence in the subway.

A man was killed Monday evening after being pushed onto the subway tracks in an unprovoked attack at the 125th Street station along Lexington Avenue in East Harlem, according to the Police Department.

At 6:48 p.m., a man on the uptown platform shoved the person onto the tracks in front of an oncoming No. 4 train, which was unable to stop, a police spokeswoman said. The suspected attacker is in custody, according to the spokeswoman. The police did not identify either the victim or the suspect, but a senior law enforcement official said the man in custody was 24 years old and appeared to have a history of mental illness. He had several arrests in Brooklyn, the first one at age 16, the official said.

ap logoAssociated Press via Politico, Texas AG Ken Paxton reaches deal to end securities fraud charges after 9 years, Staff Report, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). Paxton was first indicted in 2015 after being accused of duping investors in a tech startup near Dallas before he was elected attorney general.

politico CustomProsecutors on Tuesday announced an agreement with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that would ultimately dismiss securities fraud charges he has been facing for nearly a decade.

Under the 18-month pre-trial agreement, the special prosecutors in the case would drop three felony counts against Paxton. As part of the deal, Paxton must pay full restitution to victims — roughly $300,000 — and must also complete 100 hours of community service and 15 hours of legal ethics education.

 

matt schlapp cpacPolitico, Sexual assault lawsuit against Matt Schlapp is dropped, Daniel Lippman, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). In a statement, the man who accused the ACU header said he regretted bringing the suit.

politico CustomThe Republican operative who accused the American Conservative Union head Matt Schlapp, shown above in a file photo, of sexual assault has dropped his lawsuits against him and his wife, Mercedes Schlapp, according to statements from the main parties.

Soon after the 2022 Herschel Walker Senate campaign, Carlton Huffman — a staffer working for that campaign — accused Schlapp of sexual battery and defamation. In a lawsuit, he sought $9.4 million in damages.

But in a statement on Tuesday, Huffman said he was discontinuing his lawsuits and issued an apology for bringing them.

“The claims made in my lawsuits were the result of a complete misunderstanding, and I regret that the lawsuit caused pain to the Schlapp family,” Huffman said, according to a statement shared by a spokesperson for Schlapp.

“The Schlapps have advised that the statements made about me were the result of a misunderstanding, which was regrettable,” he added, referring to comments the couple had made about Huffman after he filed his suit. “Neither the Schlapps nor the ACU paid me anything to dismiss my claims against them.”

Asked about the statement, Huffman said in a text message to POLITICO: “We have resolved our differences” and confirmed the accuracy of the statement.

Huffman had earlier said Schlapp, without consent, “groped” and “fondled” his groin while he was driving Schlapp back to his hotel while the two were trying to help get Walker elected. Huffman had accused Schlapp of then inviting him up to his hotel room, which he said he had declined.

Schlapp asserted his innocence. It later was revealed that Huffman himself had been accused of sexual assault in an unrelated case.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Sues Apple, Accusing It of Maintaining an iPhone Monopoly, David McCabe and Tripp Mickle, March 22, 2024 (print ed.). apple logo rainbowThe lawsuit caps years of regulatory scrutiny of Apple’s popular devices and services, which have fueled its growth into a nearly $3 trillion company.

The Justice Department joined 16 states and the District of Columbia to file an antitrust lawsuit against Apple on Thursday, the federal government’s most significant challenge to the reach and influence of the company that has put iPhones in the hands of more than a billion people.

Justice Department log circularIn an 88-page lawsuit, the government argued that Apple had violated antitrust laws with practices that were intended to keep customers reliant on their iPhones and less likely to switch to a competing device.

The tech giant prevented other companies from offering applications that compete with Apple products like its digital wallet, which could diminish the value of the iPhone, the government said. Apple’s policies hurt consumers and smaller companies that compete with some of Apple’s services, in the form of “higher prices and less innovation,” the lawsuit said.

“Each step in Apple’s course of conduct built and reinforced the moat around its smartphone monopoly,” the government said in the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

The lawsuit caps years of regulatory scrutiny of Apple’s wildly popular suite of devices and services, which have fueled its growth into a nearly $2.75 trillion public company that was for years the most valuable on the planet. It takes direct aim at the iPhone, Apple’s most popular device and most powerful business, and attacks the way the company has turned the billions of smartphones it has sold since 2007 into the centerpiece of its empire.

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U.S. Reproductive Rights, #MeToo, Trafficking, Culture Wars

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Supreme Court Got It Wrong: Abortion Is Not Settled Law, Melissa Murray and Kate Shaw, March 26, 2024. In his majority opinion in the case overturning Roe v. Wade, Justice Samuel Alito insisted that the high court was finally settling the vexed abortion debate by returning the “authority to regulate abortion” to the “people and their elected representatives.”

Despite these assurances, less than two years after Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, abortion is back at the Supreme Court. In the next month, the justices will hear arguments in two high-stakes cases that may shape the future of access to medication abortion and to lifesaving care for pregnancy emergencies. These cases make clear that Dobbs did not settle the question of abortion in America — instead, it generated a new slate of questions. One of those questions involves the interaction of existing legal rules with the concept of fetal personhood — the view, held by many in the anti-abortion movement, that a fetus is a person entitled to the same rights and protections as any other person.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Obamacare Is in Grave Danger, Again, Paul Krugman, right, March 26, 2024 (print ed.). Are you better off than you would paul krugmanhave been 14 years ago? If you’re one of the millions of Americans who have a preexisting medical condition and don’t have a job that comes with health benefits, the answer is, overwhelmingly, yes.

Why? Because before the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare — signed into law on March 23, 2010, although many of its provisions didn’t kick in until 2014 — you probably wouldn’t have been able to get health insurance. Today you can, thanks to provisions in the law that prevent insurers from discriminating based on medical history and that subsidize insurance premiums for many Americans. (These subsidies also provide healthy people with an incentive to purchase insurance, improving the risk pool.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Man Who Threatened to Kill Arizona Official Over Election Gets 2½ Years in Prison, Orlando Mayorquín, March 26, 2024 (print ed.). Joshua Russell, 46, of Ohio, left threatening messages for Katie Hobbs in 2022, when she was Arizona’s secretary of state and successfully ran for governor. An Ohio man who threatened to kill Katie Hobbs in 2022 when she was secretary of state in Arizona and running to be governor was sentenced Monday to two and a half years in prison, prosecutors announced.

FBI logoThe man, Joshua Russell, 46, of Ohio, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Arizona in August to one count of making an interstate threat, according to the Justice Department. He was indicted in December 2022 on charges that he had left several voice messages containing death threats with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office during the midterm election season, in which Ms. Hobbs was elected governor.

ny times logoNew York Times, Federal Agents Raid Homes Tied to Sean Combs in L.A. and Miami, Ben Sisario, Julia Jacobs and William K. Rashbaum, March 26, 2024 (print ed.). Homeland Security Investigations said the searches were part of “an ongoing investigation.” The hip-hop mogul has been accused of sexual assault and trafficking.

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Climate Change, Environment, Energy, Space, Transportation

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Shortcuts Everywhere’: How Boeing Favored Speed Over Quality, Niraj Chokshi, Sydney Ember and Santul Nerkar, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). Problems have plagued the manufacturer even after two fatal crashes, and many current and former employees blame its focus on making planes more quickly.

boeing logoIn February last year, a new Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max plane was on one of its first flights when an automated stabilizing system appeared to malfunction, forcing the pilots to make an emergency landing soon after they took off.

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Pandemics, Public Health, Covid, Privacy

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Do you know a vaccine skeptic? Here are 10 simple responses, Leana S. Wen, right, March 29, leana wen2024 (print ed.). This week, I wrote about anti-vaccine messages in political discourse, prompting many readers to ask how they should respond if a family member or friend expresses skepticism toward routine childhood immunizations.

I spoke with Sean O’Leary, a specialist of pediatric infectious diseases and a professor at the University of Colorado, whose expertise is vaccines and vaccine communication. He told me that when he has conversations with parents who are hesitant about immunizations, he keeps in mind that they are just trying to figure out what is best for their kids.
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A similar approach could help people who aren’t medical professionals who want to help loved ones. Here’s how to respond to 10 common vaccine concerns.

1. “I don’t need to vaccinate my kids because the chance of contracting the disease is so low.”

2. “Natural immunity is better than immunity from vaccination....”

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U.S. Economy, Jobs, Poverty, Consumers, Space, High Tech

ny times logoNew York Times, Fed Holds Rates Steady and Projects Three Cuts This Year, Jeanna Smialek, March 21, 2024 (print ed.). Federal Reserve officials left interest rates unchanged on Wednesday and continued to forecast that borrowing costs will come down somewhat by the end of the year as inflation eases.

Fed policymakers have been battling rapid inflation for two full years as of this month, and while they have been encouraged by recent progress, they are not yet ready to declare victory over price increases. Given that, they are keeping interest rates at a high level that is expected to weigh on growth and inflation, even as they signal that rate cuts are likely in the months ahead.

federal reserve system CustomOfficials held interest rates steady at about 5.3 percent, where they have been set since July, in their March policy decision.

Policymakers also released a fresh set of quarterly economic estimates for the first time since December, and those projected that borrowing costs will end 2024 at 4.6 percent. That unchanged forecast suggests that they still expect to make three quarter-point rate cuts this year.

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Media, Religion, High Tech, Education, Free Speech, Culture

The Hartmann Report, Commentary: The Early Days of Fox: Losing Money to Gain Political Power, Thom Hartmann, right,
thom hartmannMarch 31, 2024. Excerpt from one of Thom Hartmann's bestselling book, "The Hidden History of Monopolies: How Big Business Destroyed the American Dream."

Conservative commentator Brit Hume noted, in a 1999 interview with PBS, “This operation [Fox News] loses money. It doesn’t lose nearly as much as it did at first, and it’s—well, it’s hit all its projections in terms of, you know, turning a profit, but it’s—it will lose money now, and we expect for a couple more years. I think it’s losing about $80 million to $90 million a year.”

But that loss wasn’t viewed by these right-wing billionaires as a “loss”—rather, it was an investment.

It’s what Reverend Moon believed, as his Washington Times newspaper lost hundreds of millions of dollars but spread right-wing perspectives that influenced the nation. It’s how the Koch brothers have referred to the hundreds of millions they shower on right-wing politicians and causes. And it’s what the people who started Air America Radio believed, although they couldn’t get big funders to understand the stakes.

While Rupert Murdoch lost hundreds of millions of dollars (Air America’s bankruptcy was for $14 million) in its first few years, Murdoch hung on and kept pouring in the cash. And it put George W. Bush in the White House, according to several independent analyses.

As Richard Morin wrote for the Washington Post in 2006, asking rhetorically, “Does President Bush owe his controversial win in 2000 to Fox cable television news?”18 The answer was an emphatic “Yes!” according to academics who did exhaustive research into what they called “the Fox Effect.”

As Morin reported:

“‘Our estimates imply that Fox News convinced 3 to 8 percent of its audience to shift its voting behavior towards the Republican Party, a sizable media persuasion effect,’ said Stefano DellaVigna of the University of California at Berkely [sic] and Ethan Kaplan of Stockholm University.”

In Florida alone, they estimate, the Fox Effect may have produced more than 10,000 additional votes for Bush— clearly a decisive factor in a state he carried by fewer than 600 votes.

The analysis looked at the vote from 1996 to 2004 in 9,256 American cities and towns where Fox was available on basic cable.

“They found,” reported Morin, “clear evidence of a Fox Effect among non-Republicans in the presidential and Senate races, even after controlling for other factors including vote trends in similar nearby towns without access to Fox.” The researchers added that “the Fox effect seems to [be] permanent and may be increasing.” And that was in 2006.

This is problematic, because no democracy can survive intact when only one voice or political perspective overwhelmingly dominates any major branch of the media.

Literally hundreds of right-wing talk show hosts, both local and national, are broadcasting every day, all day, in every town and city in America.

Progressive voices, on the other hand, are few and far between; in most parts of America (and virtually all of rural America), the only radio signal that carries any progressive programming whatsoever is SiriusXM, which requires a subscription and special receiver—costs that are hard to bear among voters in the reddest states where Republican policies have destroyed unions and exported jobs overseas, thus lead- ing to widespread poverty.

Jefferson made his comment about newspapers being vital to America just at the time he was being most viciously attacked in the newspapers. The core requisite of democracy is debate. When there’s only a single predominant voice in the media, American democracy itself is at greatest risk, be that voice on the right or the left.

It’s time to enforce antitrust in our media landscape and to bring back media ownership rules that both limit the number of outlets and prioritize local ownership.

ny times logoNew York Times, AT&T Resets Millions of Passcodes After Customer Records Are Leaked, Aimee Ortiz, March 31, 2024 (print ed.). The telecommunications giant AT&T announced on Saturday that it had reset the passcodes of 7.6 million customers after it determined that compromised customer data was “released on the dark web.”

“Our internal teams are working with external cybersecurity experts to analyze the situation,” AT&T said. “To the best of our knowledge, the compromised data appears to be from 2019 or earlier and does not contain personal financial information or call history.”

The company said that “information varied by customer and account,” but that it may have included a person’s full name, email address, mailing address, phone number, Social Security number, date of birth, AT&T account number and passcode.

In addition to those 7.6 million customers, 65.4 million former account holders were also affected.

The company said it would be “reaching out to individuals with compromised sensitive personal information separately and offering complimentary identity theft and credit monitoring services.”

Nearly eight million customers and 65.4 million former account holders were affected by the data breach, the company said.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Newsmax Runs Debunked Story to Smear Judge, Acyn, March 28, 2024. Greg Kelly attacks the credibility of the judge overseeing the New York criminal case of Donald Trump.

mtn meidas touch networkIt appears as though a host at the right-wing network Newsmax didn’t thoroughly research a report he referenced while attacking the credibility of the judge overseeing the New York criminal case of Donald Trump. Host Greg Kelly referenced a report claiming that Judge Juan Merchan’s daughter has a social media account on X with a profile picture depicting Trump behind bars.

Kelly: This from a very close family member, reportedly, of the judge. It’s a Twitter account… Instead of their own face, they put Donald Trump behind bars. This is a member, reportedly, of the Merchan family. This would suggest that the judge is hideously biased.. He looks all regal and dignified in the robe there sitting for his picture, but that's what's inside his heart. I can make that case. Well it's somebody in his family. It's not him. Well, the appearances suggest that he is totally unqualified and should be removed from this case. And this is still America and we’re allowed to say that and so is President Trump.

The problem with Kelly’s statements is that a report emerged earlier today calling into question claims that the account belonged to Merchan’s daughter. The article from The Spectator suggests that the original account that possibly belonged to the Merchan’s daughter was switched at some point last year and the account being referenced by Kelly and others may not belong to Merchan’s daughter.

Another detail that conflicts with Kelly’s assertions is that a spokesman for the court noted that the account referenced doesn’t belong to the Merchan’s daughter.

"The X, formerly Twitter, account being attributed to Judge Merchan's daughter no longer belongs to her since she deleted it approximately a year ago. It is not linked to her email address, nor has she posted under that screenname since she deleted the account. Rather, it represents the reconstitution, last April, and manipulation of an account she long ago abandoned."

This isn’t the first time this has happened on Newsmax. Kelly found himself in a similar situation last year when he aired the wrong photo of an individual he suggested was the mass shooter at a Texas outlet mall last year.

washington post logoWashington Post, Exclusive: Qatari royal invested about $50 million in pro-Trump network Newsmax, David Kenner, Sarah Ellison and Jonathan O'Connell, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). A member of the Qatari royal family invested roughly $50 million in Newsmax, according to documents and representatives for the media company and the royal, in a moment of acute Middle East tensions during the Trump administration.

newsmax logoThe investment bolstered a key conservative media outlet at a time when Qatar was facing intense diplomatic pressure from its neighbors and seeking allies in the United States.

At the time the investment was made, a coalition of countries led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had established a diplomatic and economic blockade against Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorist groups across the Middle East. Qatar had counted on its relationship with the United States for protection, but President Donald Trump initially sided with its regional rivals, praising their move in 2017 and criticizing Qatar for funding terrorism.

In 2019 and 2020, Sheikh Sultan bin Jassim Al Thani, a former Qatari government official and the owner of a London-based investment fund, Heritage Advisors, invested in Newsmax. The investment has not been previously reported.

Newsmax had been looking for outside investors to better compete with its much larger rival, Fox News, according to people who spoke at the time with its founder and CEO, Christopher Ruddy. Before and after the investment, senior newsroom leaders urged Newsmax staff to soften coverage of Qatar, current and former employees said. A representative for Newsmax strongly disputed that the network “slanted coverage to be favorable to Qatar,” and that Ruddy had told staff not to criticize the country.

Newsmax and Heritage Advisors confirmed the investment after being presented with documents detailing the transaction, which show that Sultan subsequently transferred his stake to a Cayman Islands-based corporate structure. The $50 million investment represents a significant minority stake in Newsmax, a privately held media company estimated to be worth between $100 million and $200 million, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The documents came from a trove of roughly 100,000 leaked files from Genesis Trust, a Cayman Islands-based financial services provider, which were obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and reviewed by The Washington Post.

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, ‘The Truth vs. Alex Jones’: How Sandy Hook lies got peddled for profit, Jada Yuan, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). A new HBO documentary explores the mainstreaming of “grift” in a post-truth era.

Robbie Parker’s 6-year-old daughter, Emilie, had been dead for less than 48 hours, gunned down alongside 19 of her classmates and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School, when right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones went on Infowars and claimed Parker was “a soap opera actor” who’d made it all up.

All Parker had done was nervously laugh before giving a statement to the press about who his daughter was, the father says in the documentary, “The Truth vs. Alex Jones,” debuting March 26 on HBO. The movie premiered this month at South by Southwest in Austin, where Jones, shown above, is based, stood trial and was once heckled at a chicken restaurant.

But Jones was on a roll. He’d called the massacre of 20 children “a false flag” hours after it happened in December 2012 — “before the bodies were even cold,” as a lawyer for the parents says in a deposition for one of two defamation trials featured in the film that were eventually brought against Jones. Soon he was urging his listeners to pick apart video of Parker for evidence that the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history had been staged as an elaborate ruse by liberals to take away Americans’ guns.

Immediately, Parker says in the film, Emilie’s memorial Facebook page became inundated with people who called her “a whore” and threatened to show up at their home with guns demanding proof that she was still alive.

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 March 30

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Donald Trump is shown with his former counsel, Michael Cohen, right, author of a best-selling book


Israel-Hamas War, Civilian Deaths

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

 

U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

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World Press Freedom

 

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is shown via an Associated Press photo in the prisoner's area during a sham proceeding in Russia's prosecution of him on spy charges.Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is shown via an Associated Press photo in the prisoner's area during a sham proceeding in Russia's prosecution of him on spy charges.

 

More On Terror Attack In Moscow

 

More Trump-Related News

 

Probes Of Elon Musk's Foreign Ties, Energy Plans

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More On U.S. Bridge Disaster

Aerial view of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, after it was struck by a cargo ship and partly collapsed on March 26, 2024. It opened in 1977 and is named for Francis Scott Key, who wrote the words of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” (Photo by CBS News Baltimore).

 

U.S. Immigration News

 

Claims Against Bidens

 

Russia-Ukraine War, Navalny Death, Russian Goals

 

More On Global Disputes, Disasters, Human Rights

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is shown via an Associated Press photo in the prisoner's area during a sham proceeding in Russia's prosecution of him on spy charges.

 

More On U.S. Military, Security, Intelligence, Foreign Policy

 

More On U.S. Supreme Court

United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (l) with his wife of thirty-five years, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas (r). (Safe Image)

 

More On U.S. Courts, Crime, Guns, Civil Rights, Immigration

 

 

Convicted crypto-currency fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried, center, at the time of arrest (Photo by Austin Fernander via The Tribune Bahamas and Associated Press.)

 

Climate Change, Environment, Energy, Disasters, Transportation

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Pandemics, Public Health, Covid, Privacy

 

U.S. Reproductive Rights, #MeToo, Trafficking, Culture Wars

 

U.S. Economy, Jobs, Poverty, Space, High Tech

 

U.S. Education, Religion, Media, High Tech, Free Speech, Culture

 

 

 

 

Proof, Investigative Commentary: Elon Musk’s Many Years As An Illegal Immigrant, Seth Abramson, left, March 28-29, 2024. This seth abramson graphiccarefully researched and sourced series investigating Musk’s immigration status from 1988 through his receiptof US citizenship in 2002 reveals shocking new details about the world’s richest man.

Introduction: It’s hard for me not to feel bad for Elon Musk biographer Ashlee Vance.

seth abramson proof logoAs a Donald Trump biographer and presidential historian who wrote three national bestsellers on the most prolific liar in American political history, I had to decide early on that I would never cite—at least not for the truth of the matter—any source with a clear and consistent reputation for deceit unless the source in question was making what we criminal defense attorneys would call “a statement against [self-]interest.”

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Donald Trump is shown with his former counsel, Michael Cohen, right, author of a best-selling book

Donald Trump is shown with his former counsel, Michael Cohen, right, author of a best-selling book "Disloyal" and an expected star witness at Trump's New York trial in April.

ny times logoNew York Times, Some Potential Trump Witnesses Get Carrots. Michael Cohen Got the Stick, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum, Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Swan and Alan Feuer, March 30, 2024. Donald Trump takes different approaches to those who may testify at his trials. He attacks some, like Mr. Cohen, publicly. Others he rewards for loyalty.

Donald J. Trump watched anxiously from the White House in April 2018 as news broke about federal agents searching the home of Michael D. Cohen, the man entrusted to conceal some of the president’s deepest secrets. After initially coming to Mr. Cohen’s defense, Mr. Trump washed his hands of his fixer within weeks, brushing aside Mr. Cohen’s feelers about a pardon and disavowing his legal bills.

Mr. Trump took a different tack when prosecutors shifted their scrutiny to Allen H. Weisselberg, the Trump family’s longtime financial gatekeeper. Mr. Trump’s company paid Mr. Weisselberg’s legal bills and awarded him a $2 million severance, with a condition: He could not voluntarily cooperate with any law enforcement agency.

After Mr. Weisselberg signed the deal last year, Mr. Trump’s lawyers privately pressed him to testify in a civil fraud case filed against the former president, hoping the finance chief’s testimony would aid their defense, according to people with knowledge of the discussions, which have not previously been reported. But prosecutors say Mr. Weisselberg lied during his testimony, and this month he pleaded guilty to perjury.

The fixer and the moneyman both landed behind bars. But while Mr. Weisselberg remained loyal, refusing to implicate his boss, Mr. Cohen is poised to become a central witness for the Manhattan district attorney at Mr. Trump’s criminal trial next month, the first prosecution of a former U.S. president.

The contrasting cases of Mr. Cohen and Mr. Weisselberg — detailed in court records and interviews with 18 people directly involved in the cases, some of whom requested anonymity to discuss confidential conversations — demonstrate the power and peril of Mr. Trump’s tactics for avoiding a crisis like the one he now faces. The trial is the realization of Mr. Trump’s long-held fear that prosecutors would flip trusted aides into dangerous witnesses.

The former president, facing four indictments and several lawsuits while seeking to reclaim the White House, careens from one case to the next, seeking to exert control over witnesses. In screeds posted on his social media site, he mixes enticements with threats, praise with scorn, and when all else fails, he makes life miserable for anyone audacious enough to cross him.

Mr. Trump’s company praised Mr. Weisselberg as a “fine and honorable man,” but Mr. Cohen felt the brunt of the former president’s attacks. Mr. Trump has sued him, called him a “rat” and referred to him as “death.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Trump, whose attacks have grown increasingly personal, shared a video with an image of a hog-tied President Biden, Chris Cameron, March 30, 2024. The social media post reflects the increasingly violent and personal attacks that Donald J. Trump has employed during the presidential campaign.

trump 2024Former President Donald J. Trump posted a video on Friday to his social media website that features an image of President Biden with his hands and feet tied together.

Mr. Trump posted the video to Truth Social early Friday afternoon with a line that said it was filmed on Long Island on Thursday, when Mr. Trump attended the wake of a slain New York City police officer in Massapequa Park, N.Y. The video shows two moving trucks decorated with flags and decals supporting Mr. Trump. The tailgate of the second vehicle features the image of Mr. Biden.

Macabre imagery targeting Mr. Trump’s perceived enemies frequently circulates online among right-wing provocateurs and pro-Trump groups, and in some cases has been featured at conservative conferences. Photos of trucks featuring similar images of Mr. Biden tied up have been shared across social media, and online vendors sell vehicle stickers with the image.

Mr. Trump’s promotion of the video featuring the image reflects the increasingly caustic and personal attacks that he has directed against Mr. Biden — for example, in a speech this month he said that “everything Joe Biden touches turns to” filth, though he used an expletive — and it extends a record in which the former president features violent imagery on his social media accounts.

Steven Cheung, a spokesman for the Trump campaign, said “that picture was on the back of a pickup truck that was traveling down the highway,” adding that “Democrats and crazed lunatics have not only called for despicable violence against President Trump and his family, they are actually weaponizing the justice system against him.”

The video was still on Mr. Trump’s Truth Social page as of late Friday evening.

Washington Post, Donald Trump shares image of Joe Biden with hands and feet tied, Azi Paybarah, March 30, 2024 (print ed.). Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has been increasingly turning to violent imagery and hostile rhetoric as he seeks to return to the White House. 

ny times logoNew York Times, Baltimore Bridge Collapse: Baltimore Investigation Turns to Ship’s Deadly Mechanical Failure, Mike Baker and Peter Eavis, March 30, 2024. The ship reported a power blackout and steering problems before hitting the Francis Scott Key Bridge, but its failure has not yet been explained.

Just minutes before the cargo ship Dali was set to glide under Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge, the ship’s alarms began to blare. The lights went out. The engine halted. Even the rudder, which the crew uses to maneuver the vessel, was frozen.

As a frantic effort to restore the ship was underway, the pilot soon recognized that the aimless vessel was drifting toward disaster, and called for help.

The cascading collapse of the vessel’s most crucial operating systems left the Dali adrift until it ultimately collided with the Key bridge, knocking the span into the river and killing six people. But as crews this week were still sorting out how to disentangle the ship and recover the bodies of those who died, investigators were also turning to the most central question: What could have caused such a catastrophic failure at the worst possible moment?

ny times logoNew York Times, Dispute Over Conscription for Ultra-Orthodox Jews Presents New Threat to Netanyahu, Patrick Kingsley and Johnatan Reiss, March 30, 2024. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet is divided about whether ultra-Orthodox Jews should be required to join the Israeli army.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing his most challenging political threat since the start of the Gaza war because of a disagreement among members of his coalition about whether ultra-Orthodox Jews should retain their longstanding exemption from military service.

Israel FlagAn unwieldy right-wing alliance of secular and ultra-Orthodox lawmakers, the coalition’s members are divided about whether the state should continue to allow young ultra-Orthodox men to study at religious seminaries instead of serving in the military, as most other Jewish Israelis do. If the government abolishes the exemption, it risks a walkout from the ultra-Orthodox lawmakers; if it lets the exemption stand, the secular members could withdraw. Either way, the coalition could collapse.

The situation poses the gravest challenge to Mr. Netanyahu’s grip on power since Hamas raided Israel on Oct. 7, prompting Israel to invade Hamas’s stronghold in the Gaza Strip. Criticized by many Israelis for presiding over the October disaster, Mr. Netanyahu is trailing in the polls and faces growing calls to resign. But until now, there were few obvious ways in which his coalition might collapse.

The end of the coalition would most likely lead to new elections, and polling suggests that Mr. Netanyahu would not win.

A new Israeli government led by centrists is unlikely to take a markedly different approach to the war in Gaza, but it may be more open to allowing the Palestinian leadership in the Israeli-occupied West Bank to play a bigger role in Gaza after the war. That arrangement could create a more conducive environment for Israel to normalize relations with Saudi Arabia, which had edged closer to sealing diplomatic ties with Israel before the war broke out.

The ultra-Orthodox have been exempt from military service since the founding of Israel in 1948, but as the numbers of the ultra-Orthodox have grown — and especially in the months since the war began — so have resentment and anger over these privileges.

Aerial view of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, after it was struck by a cargo ship and partly collapsed on March 26, 2024. It opened in 1977 and is named for Francis Scott Key, who wrote the words of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” (Photo by CBS News Baltimore).

Aerial view of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, after it was struck by a cargo ship and partly collapsed on March 26, 2024. It opened in 1977 and is named for Francis Scott Key, who wrote the words of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” (Photo by CBS News Baltimore).

washington post logoWashington Post, City begins massive and dangerous cleanup as first relief funds approved, Justin Jouvenal, Jacob Bogage and Erin Cox, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). Huge crane ships and thousands of relief workers headed toward Baltimore, as efforts turned from recovery to a massive cleanup that some experts described as unprecedented.

Huge crane ships, thousands of relief workers and millions of dollars headed toward Baltimore on Thursday, as efforts turned from recovery after the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge to a massive cleanup that some experts described as unprecedented and highly dangerous.
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The U.S. Navy deployed several floating cranes, including one that could lift 1,000 tons, while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it would send more than 1,100 engineering specialists and other experts to begin removing the hulking debris that has crippled the Port of Baltimore.

Federal officials also announced the first relief funds — $60 million sought by Maryland officials — would flow toward disaster recovery just hours after the request was submitted.

Top officials with the Corps, which is leading the effort to clear the Patapsco River, described a three step effort to get one of the nation’s largest shipping hubs back online. They are racing to stem the rippling economic fallout from a cargo ship striking the bridge on Tuesday.

ny times logoNew York Times, Battles Rage at Two Hospitals in Gaza, Staff Reports, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). Israel said it was still carrying out raids in and around the Al-Shifa and Al-Amal hospitals, which Israel claims are being used by Hamas militants.

Israel FlagThe Israeli military said on Thursday that it was carrying out raids in and around two hospitals in Gaza, as the United Nations and aid groups expressed alarm for patients and medical workers there and warned of the rapidly deteriorating state of Gaza’s health care system.

Fierce battles have been raging in and around Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest in the strip, since an Israeli assault there began 11 days ago. The Israeli military said in a statement that nearly 200 people whom it called “terrorists” had been killed in the area and that its troops had taken fire from militants inside and outside one of the hospital’s buildings. These claims could not be independently verified.

palestinian flagIn related news, relatives of Israeli soldiers held captive in Gaza expressed frustration just before an expected first meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying on Thursday that their loved ones had been “abandoned” by the government.

Hamas took more than 240 people captive when it attacked Israel on Oct. 7. About 100 hostages, most of them women and children, were released during a cease-fire in November, and at least 30 others are believed to have died in captivity, according to Israeli officials. That may leave around 100 alive, most of them men who are Israeli citizens. It is unclear how many were members of the military on active duty when they were captured.

Here’s what we know:

  • Israel says its forces are still carrying out raids in and around Al-Shifa and Al-Amal hospital as it tries to root out Hamas militants.
  • Aid organizations sound the alarm for patients at embattled hospitals.
  • Netanyahu has ‘abandoned’ Israel’s captive soldiers, their relatives say.
  • The U.S. says Israel has agreed to try to reschedule a canceled trip.
  • The United States and Britain impose sanctions on a Gazan news outlet over ties to Hamas.
  • A majority of Americans disapprove of Israel’s actions in Gaza, a new poll shows.

 

Israel-Hamas War, Civilian Deaths

ny times logoNew York Times, A U.N. official pressed Israel to open more border crossings for aid to reach the Gaza Strip, March 30, 2024. A United Nations relief official called on Friday for increased global pressure on Israel to open more border crossings for aid to reach the Gaza Strip after an order by the top U.N. court that said famine was “setting in.”

The top court, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, ordered Israel on Thursday, using its strongest language yet, to ensure “in full cooperation with the United Nations, the unhindered provision” of aid into Gaza.

Philippe Lazzarini, the U.N. official who leads the organization’s agency that aids Palestinians, known as UNRWA, has said that Israel refuses to work with his agency to bring aid to northern Gaza, the part of the enclave hit hardest by shortages of food and other vital supplies.

Mr. Lazzarini urged the court’s member states on Friday to “exert more pressure” to carry out the court order, adding that countries who paused their funding to UNRWA should reconsider their decision and help the organization avert a famine in the enclave.

In other news, airstrikes near the northern Syrian city of Aleppo early Friday killed a number of soldiers, Syria’s state news media and an independent organization reported, in what appeared to be one of the biggest Israeli attacks in the country in years.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group that tracks the war in Syria, said that the overnight strikes killed at least 44 people — at least 36 Syrian soldiers, seven members of the Lebanese group Hezbollah and one member of a pro-Iranian militia — and that the toll could rise. The group said the attack appeared to have hit multiple targets, including a weapons depot belonging to Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Lebanese militia that also has a presence in Syria.

Here’s what we know:

  • Israel’s military did not comment, but it has previously acknowledged carrying out hundreds of assaults on Iran-linked targets in Syria.
  • An Israeli strike near Aleppo killed Syrian soldiers, the state media says.
  • Iran and its proxies are a common link in Mideast conflicts.
  • Israel cites its ‘new initiatives’ on getting aid into Gaza, but progress has been slow.
  • Israel must work with the U.N., an aid official says.
  • Days after the U.N. cease-fire resolution, has anything changed in the war in Gaza?
  • The U.N.’s top court orders Israel to allow ‘unhindered’ aid into Gaza.
  • The Palestinian Authority has formed a new cabinet, but doubts remain about its independence.

washington post logoWashington Post, Court ruling on ultra-Orthodox in the army imperils Netanyahu’s coalition, Loveday Morris, March 29, 2024. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing a coalition crisis over drafting ultra-Orthodox Jews into the military, an intractable battle at the heart of the state’s identity that has been sharpened by country’s manpower needs during the war with Hamas.

Israel FlagIn a decision that has deep ramifications for society — not to mention Netanyahu’s government — Israel’s Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the suspension of state subsidies for ultra-Orthodox Jews studying in yeshivas instead of doing military service. It came just days ahead of an April 1 deadline for the government to agree on a new law to allow the community to avoid being drafted.

“There is a chance that this could be the first break in the wall for this coalition,” said Gilad Malach, an expert on the ultra-Orthodox at the Israel Democracy Institute, a Jerusalem think tank. Ultra-Orthodox leaders see the ruling as a betrayal of promises from Netanyahu, he said, including assurances of financial aid and military exemptions in return for their political support.

Military exemptions date to the first days of the Israeli state, when in 1949 David Ben Gurion, the country’s founder, granted exemptions for 400 religious yeshiva students of conscription age.

Since then, however, the number qualifying for exemption has mushroomed, and the ultra-Orthodox make up 13 percent of the population. Their political parties have been key members of Netanyahu’s successive governments.

Now, Netanyahu’s political survival hinges on whether he can keep them appeased. He must do that while also balancing the demands of other members of his cabinet, who insist that all members of society should contribute equally to Israel’s war against Hamas.

The dispute underscores a central tension in modern Israel, one that has become increasingly acute as Israeli soldiers fight and die in the more than five-month-long war in Gaza.

Many ultra-Orthodox, also known as Haredim in Israel, see military conscription as a threat to their existence, putting their normally cloistered young men in contact with secular life. But an increasing number of Israelis resent them for not pulling their weight; 70 percent of Israeli Jews support an end to blanket military exemptions, according to an Israel Democracy Institute survey.

If ultra-Orthodox parties pull out of the coalition in protest, it would propel Israel into elections at a time when Netanyahu is deeply unpopular, his security credentials shattered by Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack.

 

international court of justice icc

Among other major global courts is the International Court of Justice (ICJ), shown above, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. As described by its website, the ICJ is a civil tribunal that hears disputes between countries. It has no prosecutor or jurisdiction to try individuals, including those joan donoghueaccused of war crimes or crimes against humanity. Its current president, Joan Donoghue, right, is a United States citizen who became a justice on the court in 2010 following election by United Nations members. Other current members are shown here.

ny times logoNew York Times, Top U.N. Court Orders Israel to Ensure Aid to Gaza, Staff Reports, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). In its strongest language yet, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to ensure “the unhindered provision” of humanitarian assistance.

In its strongest language yet, the International Court of Justice in The Hague on Thursday ordered Israel to take concrete steps to ensure humanitarian aid reaches Gaza as famine sets in, including cooperating with the United Nations and increasing the number of crossing points for aid.

The ruling is part of a case filed by South Africa at the I.C.J., the United Nations’ highest court, that accused Israel of committing genocide, an allegation that Israel has categorically denied. In an interim ruling in January, the court ordered Israel to ensure that more aid would be allowed into Gaza. Since then, the “catastrophic living conditions of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have deteriorated further,” the court said on Thursday.

ny times logoNew York Times, Israel Deploys Expansive Facial Recognition Program in Gaza, Sheera Frenkel, March 28, 2024 (print ed.). The experimental effort, which has not been disclosed, was being used to conduct mass surveillance of Palestinians, military officials and others said.

Israel FlagWithin minutes of walking through an Israeli military checkpoint along Gaza’s central highway on Nov. 19, the Palestinian poet Mosab Abu Toha was asked to step out of the crowd. He put down his 3-year-old son, whom he was carrying, and sat in front of a military jeep.

Half an hour later, Mr. Abu Toha heard his name called. Then he was blindfolded and led away for interrogation.

palestinian flag“I had no idea what was happening or how they could suddenly know my full legal name,” said the 31-year-old, who added that he had no ties to the militant group Hamas and had been trying to leave Gaza for Egypt.

ny times logoNew York Times, Hezbollah and Israel Trade Fire Across Lebanon Border, March 28, 2024 (print ed.). At least one person died in Israel and seven were reported killed in Lebanon in the latest exchange of fire, which has raised fears of a wider conflict.

Israel FlagHezbollah fired dozens of rockets into northern Israel on Wednesday, killing at least one person in a barrage that it said was retaliation for an Israeli strike that the authorities said killed seven medics overnight in southern Lebanon.

For months, Hezbollah and Israel’s military have traded fire across the Israel-Lebanon border, raising fears that the war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas — an ally of Hezbollah — could spiral into a wider regional conflict. The violence has displaced tens of thousands of people from their homes.

ny times logoNew York Times, Israeli Hostage Says She Was Sexually Assaulted and Tortured in Gaza, Patrick Kingsley and Ronen Bergman, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). Amit Soussana is the first hostage to publicly say she was sexually abused in captivity. A U.N. report said it found “clear and convincing information” that some hostages suffered sexual violence.

Israel FlagThe reporters interviewed Amit Soussana for eight hours and doctors she spoke with immediately after her release. They also reviewed medical records, videos, text messages and photographs.

Amit Soussana, an Israeli lawyer, was abducted from her home on Oct. 7, beaten and dragged into Gaza by at least 10 men, some armed. Several days into her captivity, she said, her guard began asking about her sex life.

Ms. Soussana said she was held alone in a child’s bedroom, chained by her left ankle. Sometimes, the guard would enter, sit beside her on the bed, lift her shirt and touch her, she said.

He also repeatedly asked when her period was due. When her period ended, around Oct. 18, she tried to put him off by pretending that she was bleeding for nearly a week, she recalled.

Around Oct. 24, the guard, who called himself Muhammad, attacked her, she said.

Early that morning, she said, Muhammad unlocked her chain and left her in the bathroom. After she undressed and began washing herself in the bathtub, Muhammad returned and stood in the doorway, holding a pistol.

“He came towards me and shoved the gun at my forehead,” Ms. Soussana recalled during eight hours of interviews with The New York Times in mid-March. After hitting Ms. Soussana and forcing her to remove her towel, Muhammad groped her, sat her on the edge of the bathtub and hit her again, she said.

He dragged her at gunpoint back to the child’s bedroom, a room covered in images of the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants, she recalled.

“Then he, with the gun pointed at me, forced me to commit a sexual act on him,” Ms. Soussana said.

Ms. Soussana, 40, is the first Israeli to speak publicly about being sexually assaulted during captivity after the Hamas-led raid on southern Israel. In her interviews with The Times, conducted mostly in English, she provided extensive details of sexual and other violence she suffered during a 55-day ordeal.

Ms. Soussana’s personal account of her experience in captivity is consistent with what she told two doctors and a social worker less than 24 hours after she was freed on Nov. 30. Their reports about her account state the nature of the sexual act; The Times agreed not to disclose the specifics.

Ms. Soussana described being detained in roughly half a dozen sites, including private homes, an office and a subterranean tunnel. Later in her detention, she said, a group of captors suspended her across the gap between two couches and beat her.

For months, Hamas and its supporters have denied that its members sexually abused people in captivity or during the Oct. 7 terrorist attack. This month, a United Nations report said that there was “clear and convincing information” that some hostages had suffered sexual violence and there were “reasonable grounds” to believe sexual violence occurred during the raid, while acknowledging the “challenges and limitations” of examining the issue.

After being released along with 105 other hostages during a cease-fire in late November, Ms. Soussana spoke only in vague terms publicly about her treatment in the Gaza Strip, wary of recounting such a traumatic experience. When filmed by Hamas minutes before being freed, she said, she pretended to have been treated well to avoid jeopardizing her release.

Ms. Soussana said she had decided to speak out now to raise awareness about the plight of the hostages still in Gaza, whose number has been put at more than 100, as negotiations for a cease-fire falter.

Hours after her release, Ms. Soussana spoke with a senior Israeli gynecologist, Dr. Julia Barda, and a social worker, Valeria Tsekhovsky, about the sexual assault, the two women said in separate interviews with The Times. A medical report filed jointly by them, and reviewed by The Times, briefly summarizes her account.

 

United Nations

washington post logoWashington Post, U.N. Security Council passes resolution calling for Gaza cease-fire, Staff Report, March 26, 2024 (print ed.). The United Nations Security Council on Monday passed its first resolution calling for a Gaza cease-fire after four failed attempts.

The United States abstained, allowing it to pass. The resolution, backed by 14 nations including China and Russia, demands an palestinian flagimmediate cease-fire during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and the release of all hostages. Four previous cease-fire resolutions had failed, including one proposed by the United States on Friday. The U.S. abstention is likely to further strain U.S. relations with Israel amid sharp disagreements over Israel’s planned military offensive in Rafah.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

brian pritchard

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP official who claimed 2020 election was stolen voted illegally 9 times, judge rules, Amy B Wang, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). A Georgia Republican official who pushed false claims that the 2020 election was “stolen” was found to have voted illegally nine times, a judge ruled this week.

Brian Pritchard, first vice chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine, as well as investigative costs, and be publicly reprimanded.

republican elephant logoPritchard had been sentenced in 1996 in Pennsylvania to three years’ probation for felony check forgery charges. His probation was revoked three times — once in 1999, after he moved to Georgia, and again in 2002 and 2004. In 2004, a judge imposed a new seven-year probationary sentence on Pritchard, thus making him ineligible to vote until at least 2011 in Georgia, where state law prohibits felons from voting.

Despite that, court documents showed that Pritchard signed voter registration forms in 2008 in which he affirmed that he was “not serving a sentence for having been convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude.” He then cast ballots in four Georgia primary and general elections in 2008, as well as five special, primary and general elections in 2010.
According to court documents, Pritchard testified that he thought his felony sentence had ended in 1999.

“Do you think the first time I voted, I said, ‘Oh, I got away with it. Let’s do it eight more times?' ” Pritchard said, as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Representatives for the Georgia GOP and for Pritchard’s attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Pritchard is a conservative talk show host and the owner of fetchyournews.com, which he has described as a conservative political news site. He also ran unsuccessfully in a special election for a Georgia state House seat last year.

In a 2022 story for his website, Pritchard railed against those who had alleged he had voted illegally, accusing them in turn of trying to “manipulate an election.” He also maintained he had done nothing wrong.

“Yes, for those who think a person charged with a felony can’t vote, wrong. First, in the state of Pennsylvania the only time you lose your voting rights is if you are incarcerated,” Pritchard wrote. “Considering I have never spent a night in jail in my entire life …(can everyone say that) I never lost my voting rights in PA. Once your sentence has expired you can vote in the state of Georgia. Yes it’s true!”

Pritchard has also touted former president Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was “stolen” from him. In a 2022 episode of his talk show, Pritchard criticized the “corrupt media” and Georgia election officials for being “complicit” in what he called stealing the election.

“I do not believe 81 million people voted for this guy,” Pritchard said, referring to Joe Biden.

ny times logoNew York Times, Woman Who Received 5-Year Sentence in Voter Fraud Case Is Acquitted, Orlando Mayorquín, March 30, 2024 (print ed.). A Texas appeals court reversed itself and acquitted Crystal Mason. She said that she did not know she was ineligible to vote in 2016.

In a case that has prompted outrage from voting-rights activists for years, a Texas appeals court reversed itself on Thursday and acquitted a woman who had been sentenced to five years in prison for illegally casting a provisional ballot in the 2016 election.

The decision came two years after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest criminal court, ruled that the lower appeals court, the Second Court of Criminal Appeals, had misconstrued the illegal voting statute under which Crystal Mason was found guilty in 2018.

Ms. Mason, 49, of Fort Worth, had been charged with illegally voting in the 2016 general election by casting a provisional ballot while she was a felon on probation. That ballot was never officially counted, and Ms. Mason insisted that she did not know she was ineligible to vote and had acted on the advice of a poll worker who said she could cast the ballot.

Ms. Mason, who has remained free on bond, appealed her conviction. In 2020, the Second Court of Appeals ruled that whether or not she knew she was ineligible to vote was “irrelevant to the prosecution.”

But in 2022, the Court of Criminal Appeals disagreed and asked the lower court to revaluate the case. It stated that the prosecution had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms. Mason, who had been on a three-year probation after serving a five-year sentence on a federal conspiracy charge, knew that her circumstances had made her ineligible to vote.

In its decision to reverse her conviction and acquit her, the Second Court of Appeals said that the prosecution did not have enough evidence to prove that she knew.

A copy of the ruling was provided by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Texas Civil Rights Project.

“I was thrown into this fight for voting rights and will keep swinging to ensure no one else has to face what I’ve endured for over six years, a political ploy where minority voting rights are under attack,” Ms. Mason said in a statement Thursday. “I’ve cried and prayed every night for over six years straight that I would remain a free Black woman.”

Thomas Buser-Clancy, an A.C.L.U. lawyer who represented Ms. Mason, called her victory a win for democracy.

“We are relieved for Ms. Mason, who has waited for too long with uncertainty about whether she would be imprisoned and separated from her family for five years simply for trying to do her civic duty,” he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: These two GOP Senate candidates exemplify today’s political squalor, George F. Will, right, March george f will29, 2024. In Arizona and in Ohio, GOP Senate candidates Kari Lake, left, and Bernie Moreno force conservatives to choose between awful outcomes: the consequences of losing the Senate, or the disappearance of the conservative party.

Running for Arizona’s governorship in 2022, Lake practiced the kamikaze politics of subtraction. Today, she says she was joking when she told John McCain voters — they elected him to two House and six Senate terms — to “get the hell out” of a GOP event. McCain voters were not amused. She lost, then mimicked her hero, saying that her election was stolen. Courts disagreed.

Today, she seems intermittently aware that many Arizonans are weary of her high-decibel imitation of Donald Trump’s sour, self-absorbed, backward-looking, fact-free, sore-loser, endless grievance tour. So, she sometimes seems to say of her protracted harping on 2022: Oh, never mind.

In Ohio, three-term Democratic Senate incumbent Sherrod Brown is a progressive reliably wrong — and indistinguishable from Trump — regarding many matters. These include ignoring the unsustainable trajectories of Social Security and Medicare. And embracing the nonsensical notion that national security will be jeopardized if a superior steel company (Nippon) from an allied nation (Japan) buys U.S. Steel, which has a market capitalization about equal to the Skechers shoe company and fewer employees than BJ’s Wholesale Club. Brown is, however, a progressive more concerned about practicalities (e.g., jobs) than pronoun protocols.

His Republican opponent, Bernie Moreno, once called Trump a “maniac” and a “lunatic” akin to “a car accident that makes you sick.” He scoffed at Trump’s claims of election fraud and called the Jan. 6, 2021, rioters “morons” and “criminals.” But Trump, like a marsupial, has tucked Moreno into his pouch, and the amazingly malleable Moreno calls (as does Lake) the Jan. 6 defendants “political prisoners” and says the 2020 election was “stolen,” Joe Biden should be impeached and Trump is swell.

Moreno, who projects the Trumpkins’ chest-thumping faux toughness, disdains bipartisanship. Evidently, he plans to advance his agenda with 60 Republican votes. There have not been 60 Republican senators since 1910.

washington post logoWashington Post, Many GOP billionaires balked at Jan. 6. They’re coming back to Trump, Josh Dawsey, Jeff Stein, Michael Scherer and Elizabeth Dwoskin, March 30, 2024 (print ed.). Elite donors are rediscovering their affinity for the former president over taxes — even as he vows to free Jan. 6 defendants, promises mass deportations and faces 88 felony charges.

djt march 2020 CustomThe day after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, billionaire and GOP megadonor Nelson Peltz called the attempted insurrection a “disgrace” and expressed remorse for voting for Donald Trump. “I’m sorry I did that,” Peltz said of supporting Trump in 2020.

But earlier this month, Peltz had breakfast with Trump and other billionaires — including hotelier Steve Wynn, Tesla and X CEO Elon Musk and former Marvel chairman Isaac Perlmutter — at Trump’s luxurious Palm Beach oceanfront mansion, according to people with knowledge of the meeting, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private gathering.

Peltz, a renowned activist investor currently in a battle over Disney, then told the Financial Times that he would “probably” vote for the GOP front-runner in 2024. The New York Times first reported that Trump dined with Musk and other donors but did not name Peltz, Wynn or Perlmutter.

As hopes of a Republican alternative have crumbled, elite donors who once balked at Trump’s fueling of the Capitol insurrection, worried about his legal problems and decried what they saw as his chaotic presidency are rediscovering their affinity for the former president — even as he praises and vows to free Jan. 6 defendants, promises mass deportations and faces 88 felony charges.

The shift reflects many conservative billionaires’ fears of President Biden’s tax agenda, which if approved would drastically reduce their fortunes. In some cases, it also points to their discomfort with the Biden administration’s foreign and domestic policy decisions. Some of these billionaires have been assiduously courted by Trump and his advisers in recent months.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump can’t remember much. He hopes you won’t be able to, either, Dana Milbank, right, March 31, 2024 (print ed.).dana milbank newest The Very Stable Genius is glitching again.

This week, he announced that he is not — repeat, NOT — planning to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He apparently forgot that he had vowed over and over again to do exactly that, saying as recently as a few months ago that Republicans “should never give up” on efforts to “terminate” Obamacare.

“I’m not running to terminate the ACA, AS CROOKED JOE BUDEN DISINFORMATES AND MISINFORMATES ALL THE TIME,” the Republican nominee wrote this week on his Truth Social platform. Rather, he said, he wants to make Obamacare better for “OUR GREST AMERICAN CITIZENS.”

Joe Buden disinformates and misinformates? For a guy trying to make an issue of his opponent’s mental acuity, this was not, shall we say, a grest look.

The previous day, Trump held a news conference where he nailed some equally puzzling planks onto his platform. “We’ll bring crime back to law and order,” he announced.

Also: “We just had Super Tuesday, and we had a Tuesday after a Tuesday already.”

And, most peculiar of all: “You can’t have an election in the middle of a political season.”

If he can’t recall that elections frequently do overlap with political seasons, then he surely can’t be expected to remember what was happening at this point in 2020. “ARE YOU BETTER OFF THAN YOU WERE FOUR YEARS AGO?” he asked last week. The poor fellow must have forgotten all about the economic collapse and his administration’s catastrophic bungling of the pandemic.

Or maybe he didn’t forget. Maybe he’s just hoping the rest of us will forget. In a sense, Trump’s prospects for 2024 rely on Americans experiencing mass memory loss: Will we forget just how crazy things were when he was in the White House? And will we forget about the even crazier things he has said he would do if he gets back there?

 

kentucky map

 
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, right, with his father, former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, right, with his father, former Gov. Steve Beshear

Politico, Kentucky Legislature cuts Democratic governor out of picking potential McConnell replacement, Madison Fernandez,  March 29, 2024 (print ed.). Supporters of the change said it has nothing to do with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — but they’ve stripped Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear of his power anyway.

politico CustomThe Kentucky state Legislature passed legislation on Thursday that would change how vacancies in the U.S. Senate are filled, over the objections of Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.

international criminal court logoThe Republican-sponsored bill, which would require a special election to choose a senator in the case of an open seat in the unexpired term, passed with bipartisan support as the Legislature nears the end of its session. It passed both chambers with veto-proof majorities.

Mitchell_McConnellIt’s a significant change from how the process currently works. A majority of states — including Kentucky — pick successors in vacant Senate seats by gubernatorial appointment. But there are some notable restrictions in the commonwealth: The governor must choose a nominee from a list of three names the outgoing senator’s party submits. Beshear would have to choose a Republican, should either Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell or Sen. Rand Paul’s seats become vacant.

McConnell last month announced he will not run for another term as GOP conference leader later this year. But he has vowed to serve out the rest of his term, which runs through 2027. Last year, the 82-year-old faced questions about his future after bouts of freezing in public, although Kentucky Republicans who sponsored the bill have insisted that it was not prompted by McConnell’s health.

But with the change, Kentucky Republicans now have a backup plan in case there is an opening for the longtime senator’s seat before his term expires.

Beshear has not hidden his disdain for the current arrangement. When the appointment rule was passed in 2021, he said it “improperly and unconstitutionally restricts the governor’s power.” He has also not explicitly committed to following it; when asked over the summer whether he would abide by the law should there be a vacancy, he refused to “speculate about something that hasn’t happened and isn’t going to happen.”

After the bill passed on Thursday, Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams hit Beshear for refusing to “commit to following the law.”

The bill now heads to Beshear’s desk. Should he veto the legislation, the GOP supermajority can override it, even without Democrats.

Last month, he spoke out against the bill, calling it an example of “rank partisanship.”

“Last November, people said, ‘Knock it off,’” Beshear said, pointing to his successful reelection bid that was a major win for Democrats in a red state. “We don’t want a candidate or a general assembly that just sees Team R or Team D or red or blue. We want good government that focuses on our people.”

Beshear has adamantly shot down a run for the open seat in 2026.

washington post logoWashington Post, Va. Gov. Youngkin arrived like a GOP star, but arena failure clouds legacy, Gregory S. Schneider, March 29, 2024 (print ed.).  The political novice burst onto the scene in 2021 and drew national attention as a fresh face with glenn youngkin headshotbusiness acumen. But he has lost the legislature to Democrats and seen his priorities slip away, including his plan to bring the Washington Wizards and Capitals to Alexandria.

No Virginia governor has come into office with a deeper dealmaking background than Glenn Youngkin, right, who as former co-chief executive of the Carlyle Group made a fortune acquiring and merging companies around the globe.

But as the Republican chief executive of a purple state, Youngkin has struggled to translate that business acumen into political success — or even economic development success, with the demise Wednesday of his much-touted plan to bring the Washington Wizards and Capitals to Alexandria.

republican elephant logoWhile Youngkin and his group of financial experts had negotiated with team owner Ted Leonsis to cut what the governor called “the single largest economic development deal in Virginia’s history,” the governor was never able to work the same magic with members of the General Assembly who had to sign off on the $2 billion project.

The plan’s failure wipes out a significant legacy-making opportunity for a novice politician who burst onto the scene in 2021 and drew national attention as a fresh Republican face. In his first two years in office, Youngkin enjoyed state coffers overflowing with federal pandemic relief funds and a friendly GOP-controlled House of Delegates. But as the clock winds down on his four-year term, the governor has lost the legislature to Democrats and seen his priorities slip away.

“He’s a total lame duck right now,” said Robert Holsworth, a Richmond political analyst who has studied Virginia governors for decades. “He has shown tremendous political inexperience.”

 

south carolina map

washington post logoWashington Post, South Carolina latest state to use congressional map deemed illegal, Patrick Marley, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). The Supreme Court heard arguments on the redistricting case in October but has yet to rule, essentially running out the clock for this year’s election.

In a scenario that has played out in three states in recent years, a federal court ruled Thursday that time had run out to draw a new congressional district in South Carolina and that the state would have to proceed this fall with an existing election map the court had previously deemed illegal.

The ruling echoes redistricting cases in other Southern states where courts found that congressional maps violated the voting rights of Black voters and other people of color but allowed them to be used anyway, at least temporarily. In recent years, that happened in Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana.

In the latest instance, a panel of three judges decided to let South Carolina use a new map drawn by the Republican-led legislature because the Supreme Court had not yet decided an appeal that will ultimately determine how the district should be drawn. Voting rights advocates decried the ruling, saying it is unjust to hold even one election in districts that are unconstitutional.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Long Does New York Take to Fix a Staircase? 10 Years and Counting, Jay Root, March 29, 2024. The 77 steps at the foot of the New York State Capitol have been cordoned off to the public for a decade, as the cost of much-needed repairs rises.

Ten years ago, the agency overseeing the upkeep of the majestic New York State Capitol reported that the granite staircase leading to the main entrance was warped and bulging so badly that part of it might collapse at any moment.

Inspectors discovered leaning balustrades, rusted steel supports, cracked and displaced granite, failed drainage systems and load-bearing brick walls so weakened by time and neglect that individual bricks could be removed by hand.

A thorough repair, estimated at $17 million, was recommended. Instead, only a handful of urgent fixes were made.

The entrance, known as the Eastern Approach, has been closed to this day, with access-blocking barricades now a familiar part of the downtown landscape.

In a state capital known for its inefficiency and inability to meet deadlines, the staircase and the Capitol’s exterior are visual reminders of Albany’s tendency toward disrepair and dysfunction.

There are scaffolding “sidewalk sheds,” bicycle rack barricades or construction fencing on every side of the French Renaissance- and Romanesque-styled Capitol. During winter months, most of the adjacent Empire State Plaza is also walled off with temporary barricades to keep people from slipping and getting hurt on the icy plaza — even though there has hardly been any snow or ice this winter.

washington post logoWashington Post, Esther Coopersmith, Washington diplomat and doyenne, dies at 94, Emily Langer, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). Esther Coopersmith, who nurtured generations of Democratic politicians — among them a young Joe Biden — and conducted diplomacy at the dinner table as one of Washington’s longest-reigning social doyennes, died March 26 at her home in the District. She was 94.

The cause was cancer, said her son Jonathan Coopersmith.

Mrs. Coopersmith, the daughter of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, grew up in small-town Wisconsin and came to Washington in the early 1950s after being drawn in to politics as a member of the Young Democrats.

She idolized Eleanor Roosevelt, the former first lady who had also served as a delegate to the United Nations, and harbored aspirations of running for Congress. But after marrying a successful real estate developer and starting a family, Mrs. Coopersmith found another seat at the table of power as a fundraiser, philanthropist, diplomat (official and unofficial) and hostess in the tradition of Perle Mesta and Pamela Harriman.
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Over the decades — from her stint organizing coast-to-coast barbecues for Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 White House campaign to a private fundraiser at her home in October headlined by President Biden — Mrs. Coopersmith helped raise millions of dollars for Democratic candidates.

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U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

 

rfk jr cesar chavez

washington post logoWashington Post, Cesar Chavez’s family tells RFK Jr. to stop using activist’s name, image, Meryl Kornfield, March 30, 2024 (print ed.). The family of labor activist Cesar Chavez sent a letter to independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on Friday, warning him to stop referencing the late patriarch in election campaigns or face potential legal action.

The letter, signed by Cesar Chavez’s eldest son, Fernando, reiterates the family’s support for President Biden, according to a copy obtained by The Washington Post. Julie Chavez Rodriguez, the granddaughter of the labor union leader, leads Biden’s reelection campaign.

“We respectfully call upon you and your campaign to cease using images of our father to associate yourself with him and suggest your campaign’s goals are compatible,” Fernando Chavez writes.

The letter comes a day before Kennedy is set to host a campaign event in Los Angeles on Cesar Chavez’s birthday to launch a Latino outreach program. In promoting the event, Kennedy called Chavez a good friend.

“Join us for a day of Mexican food, drinks, culture, voter registration assistance, and inspiring remarks from RFK, Jr. and other special guests,” the campaign website advertises, featuring a photo of Kennedy’s father and Chavez, the founder of the United Farm Workers. The activist’s birthday is also observed as a California state holiday.

In a statement, Kennedy chalked the criticism up to “politics” and said that he has stood for the labor leader’s values for a long time.

“I worked with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers on multiple issues, events, and campaigns for nearly 50 years,” he said, adding that Saturday was a day to “honor Cesar Chavez and his close friendship with my father, my family and me and his impact on our country.”

In the letter, Fernando Chavez says the family remains grateful to the younger Kennedy for helping carry Chavez’s casket after his death in 1993, as did other prominent figures.

“To our knowledge, none of them have featured images carrying the casket in their political campaign materials and promotions,” Fernando Chavez writes. “We take offense at the use of such sacred moments purely for political purposes.”

Before joining the Biden campaign, Chavez Rodriguez worked in both the Obama and Biden White Houses. Biden also has a bust of Cesar Chavez in the Oval Office.

 

 

President Biden, center, holds a fundraiser rally with former presidents Barack Obama, left, and Bill Clinton on Thursday, March 28, 2024, at Radio City Music Hall in New York (Reuters photo by Elizabeth Frantz).

President Biden, center, holds a fundraiser rally with former presidents Barack Obama, left, and Bill Clinton on Thursday, March 28, 2024, at Radio City Music Hall in New York (Reuters photo by Elizabeth Frantz).

ny times logoNew York Times, Behind Closed Doors, Biden Campaign Gathers Major Donors in New York, Shane Goldmacher, March 29, 2024. At a daylong retreat, 175 of the president’s biggest financiers and fund-raisers will hear from top campaign officials.

The morning after President Biden’s fund-raiser with former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, his campaign has planned a daylong retreat on Friday for 175 of his biggest financiers and fund-raisers in New York.

biden harris 2024 logoThe gathering of what the campaign calls Mr. Biden’s national finance committee will feature a half-dozen briefings from his top political advisers, including his campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, and two former top White House advisers who have moved over to help lead his campaign, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon and Mike Donilon.

The meeting at the InterContinental New York Barclay hotel is a sign of how the president has drawn his financial strength not only from grass-roots contributors but also from major donors who can cut checks as large as $929,600 to the Biden Victory Fund, a shared venture of Mr. Biden and the national and state Democratic Parties.

To qualify as a member of Mr. Biden’s national finance team, donors are asked to write a check for at least $47,900.

But that is just the entry level. To be considered a “presidential partner,” donors have been asked to raise $2.5 million, while a “principal shareholder” is asked to raise $750,000.

The donors are also slated to hear from Quentin Fulks and Rob Flaherty, who serve as deputy campaign managers, as well as Dan Kanninen and Lauren Brainerd, the battleground states director and deputy director. A polling and messaging presentation and a finance presentation are planned, as well.

The gathering comes on one of the last days of the first quarter of 2024, a key fund-raising deadline, as the Biden campaign hopes to expand its early financial advantage over former President Donald J. Trump.

The Biden campaign has said that it entered March with $155 million in cash on hand combined with the party. The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee had a combined $44.8 million.

Already this month, the Biden campaign has announced that the joint Obama-Clinton event is expected to raise more than $25 million.

It has not been announced whether Mr. Biden, who was expected to spend Thursday evening in New York, will speak to the donors, though he addressed the last gathering of the national finance committee when he first entered the race at the end of April 2023.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden campaign launches ad targeting Haley voters, Tyler Pager, March 30, 2024 (print ed.). Democrats seek to lure Republicans disenchanted with presumptive nominee Donald Trump.

President Biden’s reelection campaign launched a digital ad Friday aimed at supporters of Nikki Haley, who dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination this month. The ad is part of an effort by the president’s team to win over Republicans who may be disinclined to vote for Donald Trump.

nikki haley oThe Biden campaign, which is spending more than $1 million on the ad across digital platforms, will run the spot for three weeks in battleground states, campaign officials said. It is part of a six-week, $30 million ad buy the campaign launched after the State of the Union.

The ad features clips of Trump denigrating Haley during campaign rallies and telling reporters that he does not need her supporters to win.

“If you voted for Nikki Haley, Donald Trump doesn’t want your vote,” the ad says. “Save America. Join us.”

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Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is shown via an Associated Press photo in the prisoner's area during a sham proceeding in Russia's prosecution of him on spy charges.Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is shown via an Associated Press photo in the prisoner's area during a sham proceeding in Russia's prosecution of him on spy charges.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia-Ukraine War: It Has Been One Year Since Russia Put Evan Gershkovich in Jail, Katie Robertson,March 29, 2024. In a high-security prison, The Wall Street Journal reporter stays in touch with supporters through letters as they keep up the pressure for his release.

Russian FlagOne year ago on Friday, Ella Milman and Mikhail Gershkovich received a chilling phone call from the managing editor of The Wall Street Journal. Their son, Evan, a foreign correspondent for The Journal who was on a reporting assignment in Russia, had missed his daily security check-in.

“We were hoping this was some kind of error, that everything is going to be fine,” the older Mr. Gershkovich recalled. But the stunning reality became clear: The Russian authorities had detained Evan and accused him of spying for the American government, making him the first American reporter to be held on espionage charges in Russia since the end of the Cold War.

Since his arrest, Mr. Gershkovich, 32, has been held in the notorious high-security Lefortovo prison in Moscow, the same facility holding the people accused in the deadly attack at a concert venue in the city this month. The Journal and the U.S. government have vehemently denied that Mr. Gershkovich is a spy, saying he was an accredited journalist doing his job.

On Tuesday, Mr. Gershkovich’s detention was extended for yet another three months. A trial date has not been set.

“Every day is very hard — every day we feel that he is not here,” Ms. Milman said. “We want him at home, and it has been a year. It’s taken a toll.”

evan gershkovitz kate helster npc

More than three dozen journalists and other supporters gathered Thursday on Freedom Plaza to call for the release of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been wrongfully detained in Russia for a year, and whose sister, Danielle Gershkovich, is shown at front, center, with Press Club President Emily Wilkins at her right and Club Press Freedom Consultant William McCarren at her left. Among others shown are Justice Integrity Project editor Andrew Kreig, a member of the National Press Club's Press Freedom Committee, at top center. Photo by Kate Helster for the National Press Club.

National Press Club, D.C. journalists stand with Evan Gershkovich in Washington on Thursday, Staff report, March 29, 2024.  national  press club logoWashington-based journalists gathered at Freedom Plaza Thursday to mark one year of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich being jailed on bogus charges in Russia.

Carrying signs saying, "#IStandWithEvan," about 40 people stood on the plaza with the Capitol in the background. Several members of the National Press Club, led by President Emily Wilkins, front row at right,were among them. So too were Gershkovich's sister, Danielle, and Paul Beckett, the Journal associate editor leading the efforts to free him.

The photo will be used to support the Journal's efforts to free Gershkovich, who was arrested while working and has been held without trial for a year.

Former Club Executive Director Bill McCarren, who helped organize the event and is shown at front row center, noted on X that it was the Club's ninth event in support of Gershkovich since his arrest. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Evan Gershkovich’s sister was the quiet one. Now she’s his voice, Manuel Roig-Franzia, March 29, 2024. On the first anniversary of his detention in Russia, the Wall Street Journal reporter’s sister is on a crusade to get him out of prison, one interview at a time.

The wind was ripping hard and cold down the busy city street. But the camera crew and the famous television anchor were waiting.

wsj logoSo the hipster sister, with her raven-black bangs and her chunky orange boots, pulled her fuzzy coat close, cast a glance at her husband, screwed up her courage and stepped outside.

Danielle Gershkovich never wanted this, never wanted the spotlight. Her charismatic younger brother, Evan, was the globe-trotting foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, a magnetic personality who was at ease as the center of attention. She was the shy one, Danielle said in an interview, “afraid of public speaking … self-conscious of that sort of thing.”
Evan Gershkovich in July 2021, nearly two years before his arrest in Russia. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images/Getty Images)

Circumstances have forced the siblings to switch roles. Evan, 32, is now shielded from public view except for the rare video news clip, in a Russian prison, where he will mark one year behind bars on Friday since his arrest on universally condemned and unsubstantiated charges of spying on the Russian military. Danielle, a 34-year-old university fine-arts program administrative assistant, must speak for him.

And so she has found herself at the podium during journalism award ceremonies, on panels with high-powered media executives and as the featured interviewee on satellite media tours where reporters around the world dial in to ask her versions of the same questions over and over.

How’s her brother doing? What’s he like? Is there any progress getting him home?

Evan Gershkovich was arrested by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) on March 29, 2023, while reporting in Yekaterinburg, about 1,000 miles east of Moscow — the first American journalist accused of espionage in Russia since the Cold War.

He has denied being a spy, and the United States quickly determined he had been wrongfully detained — qualifying his case for a special status at the State Department that is generally thought to improve a detainee’s chances of release. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the arrest (“journalism is not a crime,” he declared in April), and the United States imposed sanctions on the FSB.

But Evan remains in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison awaiting trial. On Tuesday, in his 12th court appearance, a judge extended Evan’s detention until June 30.

National Press Club, Imprisoned Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich could get a hearing in Russia next week, national  press club logoGwen Flanders, March 21, 2024. Almost a year into reporter Evan Gershkovich's imprisonment by Russian uthorities, his friends, family and Wall Street Journal colleagues are redoubling their efforts to secure his release.

Panelists at a briefing Thursday at the National Press Club, calling attention to the one-year anniversary of Gershkovich's arrest on March 29, expressed optimism tempered with caution. Jason Conti, general counsel for Dow Jones, the Journal's parent company, said Russian prosecutors have obtained several extensions of Gershkovich's hearing, saying they need more time to investigate the espionage charges against him -- which are baseless, according to Gershkovich, The Wall Street Journal and the U.S. State Department. The last extension ends March 30, which could result in a hearing next week. After that would be a trial held in secret.

"Nobody thinks that the legal route is the path to get Evan free," Conti said. "The conviction rate is 99 percent plus in Russia. ... This is going to get resolved in diplomatic channels."

He noted "an expressed willingness" by Russian President Vladimir Putin "to do a trade of some sort."

"It's quite a difficult business, this business of trading humans," Conti said.

Nobody on the panel Thursday discussed particulars, but news reports have speculated that Putin may want to swap Gershkovich for a Russian who was convicted of murder in Germany.

npc journalism institute logoMeanwhile, press conferences and other public events keep the case visible. Many journalists wear "#ISTANDWITHEVAN" buttons.

The tone at the news conference was optimistic. Danielle Gershkovich, Evan's sister, expressed appreciation for the "incredible community of journalists" who have rallied to keep his cause in the public eye. She also talked about his ability to maintain his sense of humor, making jokes in their weekly exchange of letters.

Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post journalist who was imprisoned in Iran from July 22, 2014, to Jan. 16, 2016, described the deprivation of imprisonment in an autocratic country, especially being unable to access the internet or "witness the people who have stepped up for him."

Eventually, Gershkovich could be tried, said Paul Beckett, whose current title at The Wall Street Journal is "associate editor/Evan," and he worries about the challenge for journalists to report a conviction factually. A headline saying "Wall Street Journal reporter convicted of spying ... would be grossly misleading."

 

More On Terror Attack In Moscow

ny times logoNew York Times, Moscow Concert Hall Shooting: Why Russia’s Vast Security Services Fell Short on Deadly Attack, Paul Sonne, Eric Schmitt and Michael Schwirtz, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). The factors behind the failure to prevent a terrorist attack include a distrust of foreign intelligence, a focus on Ukraine and a political crackdown at home.

A day before the U.S. embassy in Moscow put out a rare public alert this month about a possible extremist attack at a Russian concert venue, the local C.I.A. station delivered a private warning to Russian officials that included at least one additional detail: The plot in question involved an offshoot of the Islamic State known as ISIS-K.

Russian FlagAmerican intelligence had been tracking the group closely and believed the threat credible. Within days, however, President Vladimir V. Putin was disparaging the warnings, calling them “outright blackmail” and attempts to “intimidate and destabilize our society.”

Three days after he spoke, gunmen stormed Crocus City Hall outside Moscow last Friday night and killed at least 143 people in the deadliest attack in Russia in nearly two decades. ISIS quickly claimed responsibility for the massacre with statements, a photo and a propaganda video.

What made the security lapse seemingly even more notable was that in the days before the massacre Russia’s own security establishment had also acknowledged the domestic threat posed by the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan, called Islamic State Khorasan Province, or ISIS-K.

Internal Russian intelligence reporting that most likely circulated at the highest levels of the government warned of the increased likelihood of an attack in Russia by ethnic Tajiks radicalized by ISIS-K, according to information obtained by the Dossier Center, a London research organization, and reviewed by The New York Times.

Russia has identified the four men suspected of carrying out the attack as being from Tajikistan.

ny times logoNew York Times, Worries Over Ethnic Tensions Have Kremlin Treading Carefully on Massacre, Anton Troianovski and Milana Mazaeva, March 28, 2024 (print ed.).  Anti-migrant rhetoric in the aftermath of the attacks at the concert venue outside Moscow has spurred fears that it could cause ethnic strife inside Russia.

Russian FlagAt a memorial service this week outside the concert hall where Islamist extremists are suspected of carrying out a deadly terrorist attack, one of Russia’s most popular pro-Kremlin rappers warned “right-wing and far-right groups” that they must not “incite ethnic hatred.”

At a televised meeting about the attack, Russia’s top prosecutor, Igor Krasnov, pledged that his service was paying “special attention” to preventing “interethnic and interfaith conflicts.”

And when President Vladimir V. Putin made his first comments on the tragedy last weekend, he said he would not allow anyone to “sow the poisonous seeds of hatred, panic and discord in our multiethnic society.”

In the wake of the assault near Moscow that killed 139 people last Friday, there has been a recurring theme in the Kremlin’s response: a fear that the tragedy could spur ethnic strife inside Russia. While Mr. Putin and his security chiefs are accusing Ukraine — without evidence — of having helped organize the killing, the fact that the four detained suspects in the attack are from the predominantly Muslim Central Asian country of Tajikistan is stoking anti-migrant rhetoric online.

For Mr. Putin, the problem is magnified by the competing priorities of his war in Ukraine. Members of Muslim minority groups make up a significant share of the Russian soldiers fighting and dying. Migrants from Central Asia are providing much of the labor that keeps Russia’s economy running and its military supply chain humming.

But many of the most fervent supporters of Mr. Putin’s invasion are Russian nationalists whose popular, pro-war blogs on the Telegram messaging app have brimmed with xenophobia in the days since the attack.

“The borders have to be shut down as much as possible, if not closed,” said one. “The situation now has shown that Russian society is on the brink.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Amps Up Online Campaign Against Ukraine Before U.S. Elections, Julian E. Barnes and David E. Sanger, March 28, 2024 (print ed.). Moscow has found better ways to conceal influence campaigns that amplify arguments for isolationism, officials and experts say.

Russian FlagRussia has intensified its online efforts to derail military funding for Ukraine in the United States and Europe, largely by using harder-to-trace technologies to amplify arguments for isolationism ahead of the U.S. elections, according to disinformation experts and intelligence assessments.

In recent days, intelligence agencies have warned that Russia has found better ways to hide its influence operations, and the Treasury Department issued sanctions last week against two Russian companies that it said supported the Kremlin’s campaign.

The stepped-up operations, run by aides to President Vladimir V. Putin and Russian military intelligence agencies, come at a critical moment in the debate in the United States over support for Ukraine in its war against Russia. While opposition to additional aid may have started without Russian influence, the Kremlin now sees an opportunity.

Russian operatives are laying the groundwork for what could be a stronger push to support candidates who oppose aiding Ukraine, or who call for pulling the United States back from NATO and other alliances, U.S. officials and independent researchers say.

Investigators say that firms working in the “Doppelgänger” network — and Russian intelligence agencies duplicating the tactics — are using the techniques to replicate and distort legitimate news sites in order to undermine continued aid to Ukraine.

These techniques are subtle and far more skillful than what Russia attempted in 2016, when it made up Facebook posts or tweets in the names of nonexistent Americans, and used them to fuel protests over immigration or other hot-button issues.

The loosely linked “Doppelgänger” creates fake versions of real news websites in the United States, Israel, Germany and Japan, among other countries. It often promotes websites previously associated with Russia’s military intelligence agency, known as the G.R.U.

The result is that much of the original speech is First Amendment-protected — say a member of Congress declaring that resources being sent to Ukraine should instead be used to patrol the southern border of the United States. But the amplification is engineered in Russia or by Russian influencers.

Mr. Putin has given responsibility for a growing number of influence operations to a key lieutenant, Sergei Kiriyenko, according to American and European officials. The Treasury Department last Wednesday imposed sanctions on people associated with Mr. Kiriyenko’s operations.

Researchers at Alethea, an anti-disinformation company, have identified a group affiliated with the G.R.U. that is using hard-to-detect techniques to spread similar messages on social media. A report by Alethea echoed a recent assessment by American intelligence agencies that said Russia would continue to “better hide their hand” while conducting influence operations.

 

Shamsidin Fariduni, with bruising on his face, inside the Moscow courtroom (Reuters photo by Yulia Morozova).

Shamsidin Fariduni, with bruising on his face, inside the Moscow courtroom (Reuters photo by Yulia Morozova).

ny times logoNew York Times, Display of Battered Men Was Russia’s Warning to the Public, Analysts Say, Valerie Hopkins and Neil MacFarquhar, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). Videos showing the torture of four suspects in the deadly attack outside Moscow indicate what some call the state’s growing tolerance for public violence.

The four men accused of carrying out Russia’s deadliest terror attack in decades appeared in a Moscow court on Sunday night bandaged and battered. One entered with his partially severed ear covered. Another was in an orange wheelchair, his left eye bulging, his hospital gown open and a catheter on his lap.

Many people around the world, including Russians, already knew what had happened to them. Since Saturday, videos of the men being tortured during interrogation circulated widely on social media, in what analysts called an apparent retaliation for the concert hall attack they are accused of committing last Friday, which killed at least 139 people and injured 180 more.

One of the most disturbing videos showed one defendant, identified as Saidakrami M. Rajabalizoda, having part of his ear sliced off and shoved in his mouth. A photograph circulating online showed a battery hooked up to the genitals of another, Shamsidin Fariduni, while he was being detained.

How the videos began circulating was not immediately clear, but they were spread by nationalistic, pro-war Telegram channels that are regarded as close to Russia’s security services.

 

Dalerjon B. Mirzoyev, one of the men accused of the attack, in the Moscow courtroom (Associated Press photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

Dalerjon B. Mirzoyev, one of the men accused of the attack, in the Moscow courtroom (Associated Press photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

Though the goriest clips were not shown on state television, the brutal treatment of the defendants was made clear. And the decision by the Russian authorities to showcase it so publicly in court, in a way they had almost never done before, was intended as a sign of revenge and a warning to potential terrorists, analysts said.

In Russia’s recent history, videos of torture were not shown on state television, said Olga Sadovskaya of the Committee Against Torture, a Russian human rights organization.

“There were two intentions” to circulating the videos, Ms. Sadovskaya said. “First, to show people who could plan another terrorist attack what could happen to them, and second, to show society that there is revenge for all that people suffered in this terrorist attack.”

 

Scores of  Russians, stunned by a terrorist attack, brought flowers on Sunday, March 24, to a memorial at Crocus City Hall, where the attack took place,  in the Moscow suburbs (New York Times photo by Nanna Heitmann). Scores of  Russians, stunned by a terrorist attack, brought flowers on Sunday, March 24, to a memorial at Crocus City Hall, where the attack took place,  in the Moscow suburbs (New York Times photo by Nanna Heitmann).

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Begins Day of Mourning for Concert Hall Victims, Staff Reports, March 25, 2024 (print ed.). American officials attribute Friday’s attack in a Moscow suburb, which killed at least 133 people, to a branch of the Islamic State active in Iran and Afghanistan.

Russian FlagRussia was beginning a national day of mourning on Sunday for victims of a fiery terrorist attack on a suburban Moscow concert venue that killed at least 133 people, as a search for bodies in the charred premises continued and questions lingered about the identities and motives of the perpetrators.

There are two primary narratives about the violence on Friday night, Russia’s deadliest terrorist attack in 20 years.

American officials say it was the work of Islamic State-Khorosan, or ISIS-K, an Islamic State offshoot that has been active in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.

But on Saturday, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia did not mention ISIS-K or the identities of the perpetrators in his first public remarks on the tragedy. Russian state news broadcasts have largely ignored or cast doubt on the ISIS theory, instead laying the groundwork to suggest that Ukraine and its Western backers were responsible — a charge Kyiv denies.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Russia, Fingers Point Anywhere but at ISIS for Concert Hall Attack, Ivan Nechepurenko, Paul Sonne and Kayla Guo, March 25, 2024 (print ed.). Russian state media pushed the idea that Ukraine was the obvious culprit, but at least three of the four suspects charged on Sunday are from the Central Asian nation of Tajikistan.

Bodies were recovered, flowers were laid and fingers were pointed on Sunday as competing narratives took shape over who was behind the terrorist attack on a Russian concert hall where at least 137 people out to enjoy an evening of music were killed.

President Vladimir V. Putin has hinted that Ukraine was behind the Friday night attack. He stopped short of accusing Kyiv directly, but on Sunday, some of his allies showed no such compunction.

Russian FlagAmerican officials have said that the attack appeared to be the work of an offshoot of the Islamic State, and that there is no evidence connecting Kyiv to it. But many Russian nationalist commentators and ultraconservative hawks are pushing the idea that Ukraine is the obvious culprit.

A pro-Kremlin analyst who is a regular on Russian state television, Sergei A. Markov, wrote in a post on Telegram that the Kremlin must work at isolating the Ukrainian leadership by “connecting the terrorist act not with ISIS but with the Ukrainian government as much as possible.”

Russian state news outlets barely mentioned that ISIS itself claimed that it was responsible for the attack at Crocus City Hall, a concert venue in the outskirts of Moscow. The ISIS offshoot U.S. officials believe was tied to the attack, the Islamic State Khorasan, which is known as ISIS-K, has been active in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.

Late Sunday, four men who appeared to have been badly beaten appeared in a Russian courtroom and were charged with committing a terrorist attack.

Three of the men told the court they were from Tajikistan, and according to Russian news outlets, the fourth suspect is, too. The Islamic State has attracted thousands of adherents from countries in Central Asia, including Tajikistan.

All four suspects had visible bruising, and one had bandages on his head. Another had to be wheeled in and out of the courtroom. Videos purporting to show the men being brutalized while under interrogation have been circulating widely on Russian social media.

On Sunday, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria V. Zakharova, said that the West was pointing at ISIS-K to shift the blame away from Ukraine. Russia has not presented any evidence of Ukraine’s involvement, and Ukrainian officials have dismissed the accusations.

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juan merchan djt

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Imposes Gag Order on Trump in Manhattan Criminal Trial, Ben Protess and William K. Rashbaum, March 26, 2024. The order limiting Donald Trump’s speech came the day after Justice Juan Merchan set an April 15 trial date for the hush-money case.

ICE logoThe New York judge presiding over one of Donald J. Trump’s criminal trials imposed a gag order on Tuesday that prohibits him from attacking witnesses, prosecutors and jurors, the latest effort to rein in the former president’s wrathful rhetoric about his legal opponents.

The judge, Juan M. Merchan, shown above, imposed the order at the request of the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which brought the case against Mr. Trump. The district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, left, has accused Mr. Trump of covering up a djt michael cohen disloyalpotential sex scandal during and after his 2016 campaign.

The ruling comes on the heels of Justice Merchan’s setting an April 15 trial date, rejecting Mr. Trump’s latest effort to delay the proceeding. It will mark the first criminal prosecution of a former American president.

Mr. Trump recently clinched the Republican presidential nomination for the third time, and with three other criminal cases against him mired in delay, the Manhattan case could be the only one to go to trial before voters head to the polls in November.

Under the judge’s gag order, Mr. Trump cannot make, or direct others to make, statements about witnesses’ roles in the case. Mr. Trump is also barred from commenting on prosecutors, court staff and their relatives — if he intended to interfere with their work on the case. Any comments whatsoever about jurors are banned as well, the judge ruled.

There is one notable exception to the gag order: Mr. Trump is not prohibited from attacking Mr. Bragg, who has received numerous death threats in recent months.

The narrowly tailored gag order hewed closely to the terms of an order that was upheld by a federal appeals court in Washington in another of Mr. Trump’s criminal cases. And in seeking the gag order last month, Mr. Bragg’s prosecutors highlighted Mr. Trump’s “longstanding history of attacking witnesses, investigators, prosecutors, judges, and others involved in legal proceedings against him” — comments that the judge seized on in his ruling.

“His statements were threatening, inflammatory, denigrating,” Justice Merchan wrote in the Tuesday order.

 

 Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks during a press conference to discuss his indictment of former President Donald Trump, outside the Manhattan Federal Court in New York on April 4, 2023 (Angela Weiss photo via AFP, Getty Imagesand TNS).

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks during a press conference to discuss his indictment of former President Donald Trump, outside the Manhattan Federal Court in New York on April 4, 2023 (Angela Weiss photo via AFP, Getty Images and TNS).

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Keeps April 15 as Start of Trump Hush-Money Trial, Ben Protess, Jesse McKinley and Kate Christobek, March 26, 2024 (print ed.). Here’s the latest on the hearing. The former president had wanted a Manhattan judge to further delay his trial on charges related to a porn star’s affair claim as he seeks to regain the White House.

Donald J. Trump’s Manhattan criminal trial on charges that he covered up a sex scandal will start on April 15 after a judge on Monday denied the former president’s attempts to delay it further.

The judge, Juan M. Merchan, appeared unmoved by Mr. Trump’s request for more time to prepare for his criminal trial on charges linked to conduct that could have derailed his stunning victory in the 2016 presidential election.

For roughly an hour, he slammed arguments from Mr. Trump’s lawyers that his case should be delayed further because of newly disclosed documents from a related federal investigation, saying that he found no harm had been done to the former president by the delay. After a 45-minute break, he returned with the new trial date.

Justice Merchan suggested that Mr. Trump’s lawyers were dragging their feet and scolded them for accusing Manhattan prosecutors of misconduct without seeming to substantiate their allegations.

“You are literally accusing the Manhattan D.A.’s office and the people assigned to this case of prosecutorial misconduct and trying to make me complicit in it,” the judge exclaimed incredulously.

He noted that many of the new documents were not relevant to the case. “This court is of the opinion that there are really not significant facts to be resolved,” Justice Merchan said, a sign that he might be close to finalizing a trial date.

todd blancheThe judge also pressed one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Todd Blanche, on the number of documents the defense thinks are relevant, saying, “I just want to get a sense of how much time you need.”

A little taken aback, Mr. Blanche consulted papers on the desk before him, and finally came up with “tens of thousands.” Unsatisfied, the judge said that Mr. Blanche was not answering his questions.

One of prosecutors, Matthew Colangelo, estimated that only about 300 documents were pertinent to the trial, and that “99 percent” were irrelevant.

The Manhattan case stems from Mr. Cohen’s $130,000 hush-money payment to Ms. Daniels, who had hoped to sell her story of a one-night sexual encounter with Mr. Trump. That payment was made just before the 2016 election. After Mr. Trump became president, he reimbursed Mr. Cohen, and therein lay the crime, prosecutors say. Mr. Trump allowed his family business to falsify internal records, claiming that the reimbursement payments were legal expenses. The cover-up hid the scandal from voters, Mr. Bragg contends, casting it as an election-interference case.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s Bible grift is going to backfire, Eugene Robinson, right, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). Donald Trump eugene robinsoncould be making a big mistake hawking the “God Bless the USA” Bible to his MAGA supporters. Some of them might actually read it.

ICE logoThis latest grift might well flop, like Trump Steaks and those hideous gold-colored “Never Surrender” sneakers he’s trying to sell for $399. For its opportunistic timing alone — the rollout is happening during Holy Week, the most sacred time on the Christian calendar — the Bible venture deserves to be smitten by a wrathful marketplace.

If the MAGA faithful do buy those Bibles and look inside, however, they will find myriad reasons to forsake their profoundly flawed political hero.

They need only read as far as Exodus 20, in which Moses comes down from the mountain and pronounces the Ten Commandments. “Thou shalt not commit adultery” is an injunction Trump has bragged about habitually violating, as heard on the “Access Hollywood” tape. In that same recording, he also boasted about violating another commandment — “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife” — by saying he “did try and f---” a married woman.

Trump is scheduled to be tried in a New York courtroom next month on felony charges that stem from a brief sexual liaison with adult-film star Stormy Daniels. At the same time, he is appealing an $83 million civil judgment against him for defaming writer E. Jean Carroll, whom he sexually abused in a department store dressing room, according to the court’s findings. I could go on and on.

“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” is yet another commandment Trump routinely ignores. Of the tens of thousands of documented lies he has told, many have been falsehoods about his real or perceived enemies. Just this week, he has been telling lies about the daughter of the judge who presides in his impending criminal trial — and who angered Trump by issuing a gag order prohibiting him from lying about witnesses, prosecutors, jurors and court staff.

Of course, the commandments are found in the Old Testament, where God’s judgments can be harsh and definitive. The New Testament tells us that we all are sinners — and that we all can be saved. 

That is the theological basis on which Trump’s unlikeliest loyal followers — evangelical Christians and their pastors — justify looking past the way Trump scoffs at so many of the Bible’s instructions. Yes, he is far from perfect, they tell themselves; but like all of us, he can find salvation through Jesus Christ. As we give him our campaign contributions and our votes, we can also pray for his redemption.

Anyone who forks over $59.99 for a “God Bless the USA” Bible and reads it, however, will see that Jesus — whose resurrection Christians celebrate this weekend, on Easter Sunday — gave detailed instructions for believers to obey. They are encapsulated in the Sermon on the Mount as related in Matthew 5-7.

“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth,” Jesus said. “… Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” 

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump benefits from an unequal system. Still, he can’t outrun justice, Jennifer Rubin, right, March 28, 2024. jennifer rubin new headshotUnderstandably, many Americans are frustrated by the interminable delays in four-times-indicted former president Donald Trump’s criminal trials and enforcement of New York’s massive civil judgment for fraudulent valuation of his properties.

Trump can pay for a fleet of lawyers to file every imaginable defense and appeal. Certainly, the average criminal defendant would not enjoy “luxuries” such as the freedom to bad-mouth judges, prosecutors and court personnel practically without consequence, as Trump has.

In sum, some Trump cases will likely get pushed beyond the election. He might even wriggle out of the Mar-a-Lago documents charges. The New York civil judgment against him could get reduced. Less-wealthy defendants would not get such breaks. However, with tough-minded judges doing their jobs in the D.C. court and in Manhattan, plus major civil judgments (including two in E. Jean Carroll’s favor) already in the bag, Trump will not escape justice entirely. In less than three weeks, he will face a jury in a criminal case — something he has sought to avoid for so long.

Only voters can spare Trump the consequences of his conduct — by electing him president again in November. That would be the true miscarriage of justice.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump wins partial stay of fraud judgment, allowed to post $175 million, Mark Berman, Jonathan O'Connell and Shayna Jacobs, March 26, 2024 (print ed.). An appeals court significantly lowered the amount of money Trump must put up as he appeals a civil fraud judgment from last month.

A New York judge earlier this year hit Trump with penalties totaling more than $450 million. The former president immediately vowed to appeal that ruling, but to stop James from collecting in the meantime, he was required to put up a bond in the full amount. His attorneys have said that the cost of securing such a large bond would exceed $550 million. The appeals court panel did not reduce the initial judgment Monday, only the amount he needs to put up for a bond while appealing.

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Probes Of Elon Musk's Foreign Ties, Energy Plans

 

elon musk sideviewProof, Investigative Commentary: Elon Musk’s Many Years As An Illegal Immigrant, Seth Abramson, left, March 28-29, 2024. This seth abramson graphiccarefully researched and sourced series investigating Musk’s immigration status from 1988 through his receiptof US citizenship in 2002 reveals shocking new details about the world’s richest man. (Continued from above.)

Introduction: It’s hard for me not to feel bad for Elon Musk biographer Ashlee Vance.

seth abramson proof logoAs a Donald Trump biographer and presidential historian who wrote three national bestsellers on the most prolific liar in American political history, I had to decide early on that I would never cite—at least not for the truth of the matter—any source with a clear and consistent reputation for deceit unless the source in question was making what we criminal defense attorneys would call “a statement against [self-]interest.”

But when Vance was writing his 2015-published Musk biography in the early- to mid-2010s, he couldn’t have known—as really, far fewer of us in journalism did than would be the case today—that he was using as his foremost source a man who may well be the most prolific liar in the history of American business.

The result of Musk consistently pulling the wool over Vance’s eyes, as Musk has done to so many people across the world over the last 25 years, is that a bestselling book (Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future) is filled with claims and timelines that make no sense whatsoever.

These (at best) misstatements and (at worst) deliberate deceptions were—and are—essential to Musk’s self-made mythology because (a) they enable him to demagogue on Twitter on a daily basis the political question of U.S. immigration policy without his highly inflammatory rhetoric being ignored due to his evident hypocrisy on the matter of illegal immigration; (b) they help ensure that few or no questions will be asked of either Elon or his brother Kimbal Musk about whether they lied on federal forms to gain their U.S. citizenship (with any such lies causing problems for Elon’s status as a U.S. citizen and perhaps his status as one of the leading federal contractors with the Department of Defense, as that position is threatened by a contractor’s vulnerability to blackmail); and (c) they give him a jumping-off point for performing a sinister breed of racism and white identity politics that clearly appeals to him personally but also bolsters his newest quest, that being to re-elect Donald Trump—a bigot whose return to the White House would ensure Musk remains a federal government contractor in good standing, a presidential adviser who is actually listened to (rather than a pariah in the eyes of the Biden administration), and an influential mover-and-shaker behind the party that would rule Washington in the event of a return to power by Mr. Trump.

Musk’s two primary goals—making money and being loved—are both served, and served best, by backing MAGA demagogues in 2024. And right now those people are focused on a topic that clearly means little to Musk personally: illegal immigration.

But to stand alongside MAGA demagogues on immigration as Trumpism continues its decade of expansion in American politics, Musk has had to ensure that articles and books about him published during The MAGA Era—which began in June 2015—don’t encourage enterprising journalists or citizen researchers to look at the possibility that Musk was a longtime crypto-illegal immigrant himself. Which, as it happens, he was.

How the Bestselling Vance Book Devolved Into a Scam

Elon’s fellow South African-born techie, Ashlee Vance, neither authored nor intended to advance a scam with his book. But Musk also had no problem with his own actions—his deceit in his many interviews with Vance—creating precisely that appearance.

While Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future is well-written, well-researched, and even accurate as to much it details—though this last feature is finally impossible to gauge, given how much of the book is Musk’s self-reporting (and given how often Vance says Musk shut him down from investigating certain topics further)—some portions of it are nevertheless credulous to the point of being embarrassing.

To hear Musk tell it, he was the smartest child anyone had ever seen; he was bullied by comically evil adversaries; South Africa wasn’t big enough to contain his intellect; when he failed in certain subjects in school, it wasn’t for any lack of intelligence or aptitude but simply a lack of interest; and he displayed endless ingenuity in all of his hobbies and other pursuits, most of which lay beyond the ken, interest, or capacity of normal children.

What Vance (and Musk) are at greater pains to explain or justify, however, are several events that the latter clearly wishes not to revisit. Perhaps foremost among these is the question of why he would choose, at age 10 or 11, to live with his psychologically abusive father, Errol Musk—a man who happened to be, it turns out, an international gem smuggler—rather than his loving mother, Maye, after she and Errol divorced.

Proof, Investigative Commentary: ICYMI: Elon Musk Has Been Outed As A Former Illegal Immigrant By His Brother Kimbal Musk, Seth seth abramson graphicAbramson, left, March 26-27, 2024. In a 2013 interview, Kimbal Musk admitted that he and Elon were in the United States illegally when they secured millions in investments to launch their careers. And he shut down Elon’s lies about it.

seth abramson proof logoIn 2013, the Milken Institute conducted a 45-minute interview with Elon Musk, shown above in a file photo, and Kimbal Musk, two extremely wealthy South Africans who came to the United States in the early 1990s to try to become even more wealthy. (As Proof will exhaustively detail in an upcoming book-chapter excerpt, much of the Musk Family’s wealth came from several illegal, Apartheid-era Zambian emerald mines partly owned by Errol Musk, Elon and Kimbal’s father and a rather virulent racist who would have had minimal concern about the exploitation of cheap Black labor in Zambia in the 1980s and 1990s.)

During this long-since-forgotten interview, Elon’s brother Kimbal confesses that when the two sought—and received—millions of dollars in investments for their first start-up, Zip2, the company that launched their careers and ultimately made both of them (for the first time, apart from their father Errol) multi-millionaires, they were hiding from those investors they were pitching to that they were illegal immigrants.

Now Musk spends his days attacking poor, nonwhite men, women, and children who are fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries—reasons considerably more noble than Musk’s own for entering or remaining in the United States without proper documentation.

Indeed, under the not just strident but wildly inflammatory view of illegal immigration Musk has advanced in postings online and in interviews, he shouldn’t just be deported from the United States to South Africa, he should also lose any contracts (particularly taxpayer-funded ones with the Department of Defense) requiring him to be a citizen and go to the very back of the very long line for legal re-entry to America—an arduous process that possibly would take Musk until he was in his seventies to fully complete.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Pivot to China Saved Elon Musk. It Also Binds Him to Beijing, Mara Hvistendahl, Jack Ewing and John Liu, March 28, 2024 (print ed.). Tesla and China built a symbiotic relationship that made Mr. Musk ultrarich. Now, his reliance on the country may give Beijing leverage.

When Elon Musk unveiled the first Chinese-made Teslas in Shanghai in 2020, he went off script and started dancing. Peeling off his jacket, he flung it across the stage in a partial striptease.

China FlagMr. Musk had reason to celebrate. A few years earlier, with Tesla on the brink of failure, he had bet on China, which offered cheap parts and capable workers — and which needed Tesla as an anchor to jump-start its fledgling electric vehicle industry.

tesla logoFor Chinese leaders, the prize was a Tesla factory on domestic soil. Mr. Musk would build one in Shanghai that would become a flagship, accounting for over half of Tesla’s global deliveries and the bulk of its profits.

Mr. Musk initially seemed to have the upper hand in the relationship, securing concessions from China that were rarely offered to foreign businesspeople. But in a stark shift, Tesla is now increasingly in trouble and losing its edge over Chinese competitors in the very market he helped create. Tesla’s China pivot has also tethered Mr. Musk to Beijing in a way that is drawing scrutiny from U.S. policymakers.

Interviews with former Tesla employees, diplomats and policymakers reveal how Mr. Musk built an unusually symbiotic relationship with Beijing, profiting from the Chinese government’s largess even as he reaped subsidies in the United States.

As Mr. Musk explored building the factory in Shanghai, Chinese leaders agreed to a crucial policy change on national emissions regulations, following lobbying by Tesla that was not previously reported. That change directly benefited Tesla, bringing in an estimated hundreds of millions of dollars in profits as China production took off, The New York Times found.

Mr. Musk also gained unusual access to senior leaders. He worked closely with a top Shanghai official who is now the premier, Li Qiang. The Shanghai factory went up at lightning speed and without a local partner, a first for a foreign auto company in China.

Mr. Musk, who has insinuated that American workers are lazy, got employees accustomed to long hours, without the strong protections that have led U.S. and European regulators to scrutinize Tesla and unions to target it for organizing. After a Tesla worker in Shanghai was crushed to death last year, a report citing safety gaps was taken offline.

And he got the emissions policy. Modeled after a California program that has been a boon for Tesla, the policy awards automakers credits for making clean cars. To lobby for the regulatory change, Tesla teamed up with California environmentalists, who were trying to clean up China’s soupy skies.

China helped make Tesla the most valuable car company in the world. But Tesla’s success there also forced homegrown brands to innovate. China is now churning out cheap but well-made electric cars, as the Chinese leader Xi Jinping aims to transform the country into an “automotive power.” Chinese automakers like BYD and SAIC are pushing into Europe, threatening established carmakers like Volkswagen, Renault and Stellantis. Detroit is also scrambling to keep pace.

“There’s Before Tesla and After Tesla,” said Michael Dunne, an auto consultant and a former General Motors executive in Asia, about the company’s effect on Chinese industry. “Tesla was the rainmaker.”

Mr. Musk is now treading a fine line. He has sounded the alarm about Chinese rivals, even as he remains reliant on the Chinese market and supply chain and repeats Beijing’s geopolitical talking points.

He warned in January that unless the Chinese auto brands were blocked by trade barriers, they would “pretty much demolish most other car companies in the world.” Earlier this month, Tesla’s share price plunged following lagging China sales, causing him to lose the title of richest man in the world.

The company is so ensconced in China that Mr. Musk cannot easily extricate himself, should he ever want to. Teslas cost significantly less to make in Shanghai than elsewhere, a key saving when the company is in a price war with its competitors.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are studying his ties to China and how he balances Tesla with his other endeavors. SpaceX, another company he owns, has lucrative Pentagon contracts and boasts near total control of the world’s satellite internet through its Starlink network. He also owns the social media platform X, which China has used for disinformation campaigns.

“Elon Musk has deep financial exposure to China — including his plant in Shanghai,” said Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here are four factors that led to Elon Musk becoming “kind of pro-China,” Mara Hvistendahl, March 28, 2024 (print ed.). Mr. China FlagMusk helped create China’s electric vehicle industry. But he is now facing challenges there as well as scrutiny in the West over his reliance on the country.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellin is shown with China's counterpart, Li Qiang, right, during a 2023 meeting in China (Pool photo).

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellin is shown with China's counterpart, Li Qiang, right, during a 2023 meeting in China (Pool photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, Janet Yellen, the U.S. Treasury secretary, is set to warn China against a flood of cheap green energy exports, Alan Rappeport, March 28, 2024 (print ed.). The Treasury secretary, who plans to make her second trip to China soon, will argue that the country’s excess industrial production warps supply chains.

The Biden administration is growing increasingly concerned that a glut of heavily subsidized green technology exports from China is distorting global markets and plans to confront Chinese officials about the problem during an upcoming round of economic talks in Beijing.

China FlagThe tension over industrial policy is flaring as the United States invests heavily in production of solar technology and electric vehicle batteries with funding from the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, while China pumps money into its factory sector to help stimulate its sluggish economy. President Biden and Xi Jinping, China’s leader, have sought to stabilize the relationship between the world’s two largest economies, but differences over trade policy, investment restrictions and cyberespionage continue to strain ties.

In a speech on Wednesday afternoon, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen will lay out her plans to raise the issue of overcapacity with her Chinese counterparts. At the Suniva solar cell factory in Norcross, Ga., she will warn that China’s export strategy threatens to destabilize global supply chains that are developing around industries such as solar, electric vehicles and lithium-ion batteries, according to a copy of her prepared remarks reviewed by The New York Times.

“China’s overcapacity distorts global prices and production patterns and hurts American firms and workers, as well as firms and workers around the world,” Ms. Yellen will say. “Challenges for individual firms can lead to concentrated supply chains, negatively impacting global economic resilience.”

The Treasury secretary is expected to make her second trip to China in the coming weeks. The South China Morning Post reported that she will visit Guangzhou and Beijing in early April. The Treasury Department declined to comment on her travel plans.

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Associated Press via Politico, Judge dismisses Musk’s lawsuit against nonprofit researchers tracking hate speech on X

 

More On U.S. Bridge Disaster

ny times logoNew York Times, Force of Baltimore Ship Impact Was on the Scale of a Rocket Launch, Aatish Bhatia and Francesca Paris, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). A Times analysis used preliminary data to estimate the force of the impact. It involved “more energy than you can really get your mind around,” an expert said.

The container ship Dali appeared to move sluggishly before striking the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore on Tuesday. Yet it delivered a force so large that one reasonable comparison is to a rocket launch.

How could something traveling slower than a casual bike rider cause such a devastating impact? The answer lies in its mass: roughly a third to a half of the Empire State Building.

It may be months or even years before engineers conduct careful simulations of this disaster that take into account all the variables. But we used the limited available data to start to understand how strong the collision might have been.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Baltimore bridge disaster that killed six men from Latin America has shaken the city’s Hispanic community, Eduardo Medina, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). The six men who were killed were all immigrants from Latin America. Their deaths have shaken the growing Hispanic community in and around Baltimore.

Jose López was one of the first in his family to leave Guatemala for a new life in the United States. He wanted work that would give him a better life. So in the early 2000s he found his way to Baltimore, a city where strivers have long found a home and where Mr. López made one for himself and his family.

He found fellow Guatemalans along with Mexicans and others who had left their countries with similar aspirations. He and his wife settled in a house with a porch, his brother Jovani said. The couple had two children, and Jose López often picked them up from school.

About two years ago, he took a new job, working late nights for a contractor repairing roads on Maryland bridges. He didn’t mind the arduous hours because he viewed his purpose in life as providing food and shelter for his family, Mr. López’s older brother said.

The authorities have said there are six victims.

They were men who had gone to work on a bridge late into the night, in cold temperatures, to ensure that thousands of other Marylanders could use the Francis Scott Key Bridge to make it to their own jobs.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Five Minutes That Brought Down the Baltimore Bridge, Annie Correal, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Campbell Robertson, Michael Forsythe and Mike Baker, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). When a massive cargo ship lost power, crews rushed to control it and to evacuate the Francis Scott Key Bridge. But it was too late.

“Hold all traffic on the Key Bridge.”

The terse command from an officer in Baltimore’s busy commercial shipping port was one of the first warnings of a disaster that experts now predict will transform shipping on the Eastern Seaboard and change how ships and bridges function around the world. But after the cargo ship Dali lost power early Tuesday, there were precious few minutes to act.

In those minutes, many people — from the ship’s crew, who sent out a mayday signal, to the transportation authority police officers, who stopped traffic heading onto the Francis Scott Key Bridge — did what they could to avert catastrophe, most likely saving many lives.

And yet — no matter what anyone did — several factors made catastrophe all but inevitable. When a ship of this size loses engine power, there is little to be done to correct its course, even dropping an anchor down. And the Key Bridge was particularly vulnerable. As long ago as 1980, engineers had warned that the bridge, because of its design, would never be able to survive a direct hit from a container ship.

ny times logoNew York Times, Efforts Begin to Clear Bridge Debris and Reopen Baltimore Port, Victoria Kim, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). Officials paused the search for bodies and were shifting their focus to removing the twisted ruins of the Francis Scott Key Bridge. Efforts were underway early Thursday to dismantle the wreckage of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, the first step on a long path toward reopening the Port of Baltimore and alleviating the disruptions to global shipping and the local economy.

Officials said late Wednesday that they were pausing the search for the bodies of four road workers believed to have plunged into the Patapsco River during the bridge’s collapse, the deadliest in the United States in more than a decade. The focus is now on removing the warped and jagged ruins of the structure. Divers on Wednesday found a red pickup truck in the water with the bodies of two workers.

The Dali, the cargo ship that struck the bridge early Tuesday, triggering its collapse, has sat at anchor since, damaged and trapped under the bridge’s wreckage. More than 50 of the ship’s load of 4,700 containers contained potentially hazardous materials, the Coast Guard said, and some containers have fallen into the water.

The voyage data recorder, the equivalent of an aircraft’s black box, and police radio captured details of the frantic minutes leading up to the impact. Alarms rang as the ship lost power. The harbor pilot directing the ship called on nearby tugboats for help, then ordered an anchor dropped, to no avail.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigators Seek Answers on How Ship Lost Power and Hit Baltimore Bridge, Victoria Kim, March 28, 2024 (print ed.). Investigators were piecing together on Wednesday what had caused a massive cargo ship to lose propulsion as it left Baltimore and strike a major bridge, making it collapse. Rescue workers were trying to recover the bodies of six workers who plunged into the cold waters from the Francis Scott Key Bridge when it fell.

Jennifer Homendy, the chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, said that agency investigators had boarded the ship overnight and had begun to interview the crew and collect data. She told CNN that the agency hoped to release more information gleaned from the ship’s data recorders later Wednesday.

The disaster severed Interstate 695 and upended operations at one of the nation’s busiest ports, causing a major disruption to shipping and global supply chains that is likely to ripple for weeks. The port is a vital link for the auto and coal industries.

Divers resumed the search for the workers in the Patapsco River early Wednesday, Mayor Brandon M. Scott of Baltimore told a local television station. The Coast Guard suspended the search for survivors shortly after dusk on Tuesday, some 18 hours after the impact. Officials said they were presuming that the missing members of a road repair crew that had been working on the bridge were dead, given the elapsed time and the cold water temperature. Two surviving workers had been plucked from the river earlier Tuesday.

Investigators were also beginning to piece together what led the cargo ship, a Singapore-flagged vessel nearly three football fields in length, to abruptly lose propulsion and plow into a mid-river pylon holding up the bridge.

ny times logoNew York Times, Major Bridge in Baltimore Collapses After Being Struck by Cargo Ship, John Yoon, Mike Ives, Victoria Kim and Derrick Bryson Taylor, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). The authorities said that two people had been pulled from the water after the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed early Tuesday and that a search was underway for “upwards of seven people.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Vows Federal Help After Bridge Collapse in Baltimore, Reid J. Epstein, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). President Biden, who said the federal government would “pay the entire cost of reconstructing” the collapsed bridge, will have another high-profile opportunity to respond to a major civic calamity.

joe biden black background resized serious filePresident Biden said on Tuesday that the federal government would “pay the entire cost of reconstructing” the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, adding that he hoped it would be rebuilt and reopened “as soon as humanly possible.”

 

baltimore key bridge

Axios Sneak Peek, 1 big thing: Rebuilding the bridge, Justin Green, March 26-27, 2024. Congress has plenty of incentives to back up axios logoPresident Biden's promise today that the federal government will pay to rebuild Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge.

The big picture: The bridge's stunning collapse after being hit by a freight ship will have economic impacts far beyond the city of Baltimore, Axios' Ivana Saric reports.

The Port of Baltimore handled a record 52.3 million tons of international cargo in 2023, worth about $80.8 billion, according to state archives. It's closer to the Midwest than any other East Coast port and is within an overnight drive of one-third of the country's population, per the Maryland State Archives.

ny times logoNew York Times, Recent collapses raise questions on bridges and modern shipping, Keith Bradsher, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). Tuesday’s crash was at least the second in just over a month in which a container ship hit a major road bridge, raising questions about the safety standards of increasingly large ships and the ability of bridges around the world to withstand crashes.

On Feb. 22 in Guangzhou, a port in southern China, a much smaller vessel carrying stacks of containers hit the base of a two-lane bridge, causing vehicles to fall. Officials said that five people were killed.

The crashes have also raised questions about whether more ships should be required to be ready to drop anchors quickly during port emergencies, and whether tugboats should accompany more vessels as they enter and leave harbors.

There has not been a final report on the Guangzhou incident, and investigators have barely begun to look at what happened in Baltimore. But ship collision barriers are standard around the support piers of bridges over major waterways like the entrance to Baltimore’s harbor. The Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge in New York City, for example, has massive barriers of concrete and rocks around the bases of the piers that support it.

It was not immediately clear how old the barriers are around the piers that supported the bridge in Baltimore. The bridge was built almost half a century ago and designed before then. Vessels have become considerably larger in that time.

washington post logoWashington Post, The history of Key Bridge, Baltimore’s engineering marvel of the 1970s, Jennifer Hassan, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). The Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore partially collapsed into the Patapsco River early Tuesday after a freighter crashed into it. The steel-arched bridge was considered an engineering feat when it was built in the 1970s.

The 1.6-mile-long bridge spans the Patapsco River as it runs from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor out to the Chesapeake Bay.

The bridge served as a key part of Interstate 695, carrying north-south traffic around the city of Baltimore. The structure carried four lanes of traffic, two in each direction, separated by a concrete divider.

According to the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA), the bridge served as part of a network of crossings that offered “convenient” transportation for local and interstate traffic.

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U.S. Immigration News

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ny times logoNew York Times, Georgia Lawmakers Approve Tougher Immigration Rules After Student’s Killing, Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon and Rick Rojas, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). A bill prompted by the death of Laken Riley, 22, would require law enforcement agencies to report undocumented immigrants to federal officials.

ny times logoNew York Times, House Republicans Demand Full Impeachment Trial for Mayorkas, Luke Broadwater, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). They argue that quickly dispensing with the charges, as senators in both parties are inclined to do, would be an affront to Americans. 

U.S. House logoSpeaker Mike Johnson on Thursday wrote to Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, demanding that the Senate hold an impeachment trial next month of Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary. The speaker called plans to quickly dismiss the charges against Mr. mike johnson oMayorkas “a violation of our constitutional order and an affront to the American people.”

In a letter signed by the 11 Republicans he named as impeachment managers to try Mr. Mayorkas, Mr. Johnson, right, wrote that they planned to send over the charges on April 10, after the Senate returns from its Easter break. Senators in both parties, who serve as the jury for impeachment trials, have indicated that they do not want to sit through such a proceeding in the case of Mr. Mayorkas, notwithstanding House Republicans’ insistence on it.

The letter rehashed the accusations against the homeland security secretary, with signatories including Representatives Mark E. Green of Tennessee, the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, and Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who introduced articles of impeachment against Mr. Mayorkas. The Republicans condemned what they called a “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law and his breach of the public trust,” accused the secretary of lying to Congress, and blamed him for the state of the southern border with Mexico.

There is little doubt that the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, will side with Mr. Mayorkas. Leaders are expected to dispense with a trial quickly, either by dismissing the charges immediately or moving to a quick vote in which Republicans have no chance of securing the two-thirds necessary to convict and remove Mr. Mayorkas.

Mr. Schumer has called the impeachment effort a “sham” and “another embarrassment for House Republicans.”

ny times logo New York Times, With Immigration a Key Issue for U.S. Voters, Mexico Emerges as Power Player, Natalie Kitroeff, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Paulina Villegas, Photographs by Guillermo Arias, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). The situation at the border has given Mexico and its president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, immense power to potentially shape the U.S. election.

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Claims Against Biden Family

robert hur us attorneywashington post logo

Washington Post, Garland says it would’ve been ‘absurd’ to edit Hur report, Patrick Svitek, March 22, 2024 (print ed.). Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday defended his handling of special counsel Robert K. Hur’s report on President Biden’s handling of classified documents, saying it would have been “absurd” to make changes to it.

merrick garlandHur announced in the February report that he would not seek charges against Biden but included unflattering details about Biden’s memory, upsetting Democrats and emboldening Republicans.

At an unrelated news conference Thursday morning, Garland was asked to respond to anonymous White House criticism of the report, including the notion he should have reined in Hur’s descriptions of Biden’s memory. Garland said “no one from the White House has said that to me.”

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U.S. Justice Department photo of sawdust used in the prosecution of President's son Hunter Biden (shown at left in a file photo) to allege falsely that the photo was by the defendant showing cocaine (Justice Department photo seized from a transmission by Defendant's psychiatrist).

U.S. Justice Department photo of sawdust used in the prosecution of President's son Hunter Biden (shown at left in a file photo) to allege falsely that the photo was by the defendant showing cocaine (Justice Department photo seized from a transmission by defendant's psychiatrist).

 

More On Global Disputes, Disasters, Human Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, India reacts sharply to U.S. criticism over democracy and rights, Gerry Shih, March 29, 2024. After the Indian government last week arrested opposition leader Arvind Kejriwal in a case of alleged corruption just weeks before a national election, U.S. and German officials issued public statements gently reminding India about the importance of the rule of law.

The response from New Delhi was anything but gentle. Instead, it reflected the tough new brand of diplomacy embraced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and cheered by his nationalist supporters.

The Indian Foreign Ministry immediately summoned German and U.S. diplomats for a dressing-down in New Delhi. It lashed out at Washington for “casting aspersions” and making “completely unacceptable” comments about India’s internal affairs after the State Department reiterated its concerns about Kejriwal’s arrest and the freezing of an opposition party’s campaign funds.

On Thursday, Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar raised a complaint frequently heard among Modi’s supporters: that the United States is moralizing, overbearing and prone to meddling.

“There are people in the world who want to lecture us on our judicial behavior,” Dhankhar told the American Bar Association at a conference in New Delhi. Dhankhar went on to dismiss U.S. officials’ recent comments about a controversial new Indian citizenship law as “ignorant.”

 

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is shown via an Associated Press photo in the prisoner's area during a sham proceeding in Russia's prosecution of him on spy charges.Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is shown via an Associated Press photo in the prisoner's area during a sham proceeding in Russia's prosecution of him on spy charges.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia-Ukraine War: It Has Been One Year Since Russia Put Evan Gershkovich in Jail, Katie Robertson, March 29, 2024. In a high-security prison, The Wall Street Journal reporter stays in touch with supporters through letters as they keep up the pressure for his release.

Russian FlagOne year ago on Friday, Ella Milman and Mikhail Gershkovich received a chilling phone call from the managing editor of The Wall Street Journal. Their son, Evan, a foreign correspondent for The Journal who was on a reporting assignment in Russia, had missed his daily security check-in.

“We were hoping this was some kind of error, that everything is going to be fine,” the older Mr. Gershkovich recalled. But the stunning reality became clear: The Russian authorities had detained Evan and accused him of spying for the American government, making him the first American reporter to be held on espionage charges in Russia since the end of the Cold War.

Since his arrest, Mr. Gershkovich, 32, has been held in the notorious high-security Lefortovo prison in Moscow, the same facility holding the people accused in the deadly attack at a concert venue in the city this month. The Journal and the U.S. government have vehemently denied that Mr. Gershkovich is a spy, saying he was an accredited journalist doing his job.

On Tuesday, Mr. Gershkovich’s detention was extended for yet another three months. A trial date has not been set.

“Every day is very hard — every day we feel that he is not here,” Ms. Milman said. “We want him at home, and it has been a year. It’s taken a toll.”

 

 Prime Minister Viktor Orbán

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Tens of Thousands Protest Against Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Troy Matthews, March 28, 2024. Back-to-back scandals have rocked the government of Donald Trump's favorite autocrat.

mtn meidas touch networkThousands turned out to protest Trump favoritein the Hungarian capital Budapest Tuesday. The protestors packed into Heroes’ Square demanding the resignation of Orbán after public outcry over back-back-scandals that have rattled faith in the far-right government.

A month ago, Hungarian President Katalin Novák resigned along with Orbán's Justice Minister, Judit Varga when it became public that Novák had issued a Presidential pardon to a man who had covered up sexual assault in a children's facility. Tens of thousands of protestors took the streets organized by social media influencers to express their rage at the government for the cover up.

Then earlier this week tapes were released that implicated Varga and her aides in a scheme to cover up a bribery scandal at the Justice Ministry. The case involved justice Ministry State Secretary Pal Volner who was charged in 2022 with accepting bribes and faces jail time.

The tapes were released by Peter Magyar, a lawyer that formerly worked in the Orbán government. Magyar has founded an opposition party and plans to challenge Orbán's government. "Hungarians thank you ... for coming in the thousands tonight ... to tell those in power that we have had enough," Magyar told protesters in a speech on Tuesday.

ny times logoNew York Times, 8-Year-Old Survives Bus Plunge Off Bridge That Left 45 People Dead, John Eligon, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). The bus, which was carrying people from Botswana to an Easter weekend pilgrimage in South Africa, fell 165 feet into a ravine.

washington post logoWashington Post, Catherine, Princess of Wales, has cancer, she says in video, Karla Adam and Bryan Pietsch, March 23, 2024 (print ed.). Catherine, shown above in a still shot from a video, said she was in the early stages of chemotherapy and that she was feeling “well and getting stronger every day.”

 Catherine, Princess of Wales, said she has been diagnosed with cancer and that she was in the early stages of chemotherapy, as she asked for “time, space and privacy” while completing treatment.

The news came as a “huge shock,” Catherine said in a prerecorded message posted on X on Friday and broadcast on the BBC. “William and I have been doing everything we can to process and manage this privately for the sake of our young family,” she said.

She said that after she underwent major abdominal surgery in January, she thought that her condition was noncancerous.

United Kingdom flag“The surgery was successful, however, tests after the operation found that cancer had been present,” she said. “As you can imagine, this has taken time. It has taken me time to recover from major surgery in order to start my treatment. But most importantly it has taken us time to explain everything to George, Charlotte and Louis,” she said, referring to her three children, “in a way that is appropriate for them and to reassure them that I will be okay.”

She said that she was undergoing preventive chemotherapy and was focused on making a full recovery. “I am well and getting stronger every day,” she said.

The disclosure follows the announcement by Buckingham Palace in February that King Charles III was diagnosed with cancer. The palace has not revealed what type of cancer he has, only that he is receiving treatment.

Referring to his daughter-in-law, Charles said he was “so proud of Catherine for her courage in speaking as she did.”

The announcement was her first public address following months of speculation about her health, as she had not made an official public appearance since Christmas. Kensington Palace said in January that she had “successful” abdominal surgery and would not resume her official duties until after Easter. The palace did not disclose what kind of procedure it was, only that it was “planned” and the issue was “noncancerous.”

rishi sunakBritish Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, above, said in a statement that his thoughts were with Catherine and her family. “The Princess of Wales has the love and support of the whole country as she continues her recovery,” he said, adding that her video address showed “tremendous bravery.”

Sunak said that Catherine had been “subjected to intense scrutiny and has been unfairly treated by certain sections of the media around the world and on social media” since her operation.

Prince William, Prince of Wales and heir to the British throne, is shown with his wife, Princess Catherine of Wales, as they attend a cremonial welcome for South Korean President Yoon Suk and Korea's First Lady, Yeol Kim Keon Hee, on Nov. 21, 2023 (WPA Pool photo by Chris Jackson via Getty Images).Prince William, Prince of Wales and heir to the British throne, is shown with his wife, Princess Catherine of Wales, as they attend a cremonial welcome for South Korean President Yoon Suk and Korea's First Lady, Yeol Kim Keon Hee, on Nov. 21, 2023 (WPA Pool photo by Chris Jackson via Getty Images).

Catherine’s time out of the public eye had fueled concern, conspiracy theories and memes about her well-being and whereabouts. In an apparent attempt to quell the frenzy, the palace released a photo showing Catherine, 42, and her three children on Mother’s Day in Britain. But news agencies pulled the photo, citing concerns that it was altered. In a note posted to social media attributed to Catherine, she apologized for editing the photo.

washington post logoWashington Post, Flood of support, calls for privacy after Princess Catherine’s cancer news, Adela Suliman, March 24, 2024 (print ed.). Catherine, Princess of Wales, has been greeted with an outpouring of support and sympathy after she revealed Friday she had been diagnosed with cancer and was in the early stages of chemotherapy treatment.

King Charles III said in a statement he was “so proud of Catherine for her courage in speaking as she did,” and that he had “remained in the closest contact with his beloved daughter-in-law throughout the past weeks.”

Last month, Charles postponed public duties as Buckingham Palace revealed he had been diagnosed with cancer. Neither Charles, 75, nor Catherine, 42, have disclosed the type of cancer they have.

However, Catherine, in particular, faced weeks of intense speculation about her health and whereabouts after she took time away from the public eye following major abdominal surgery in January.
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ny times logoNew York Times, Catherine’s Cancer Diagnosis Puts U.K. Royals on Even More Uncertain Terrain, Mark Landler, March 23, 2024 (print ed.). The health concerns of King Charles and, now, the Princess of Wales are stretching an already slimmed down monarchy.

Her diagnosis follows that of King Charles III, who announced his own cancer diagnosis and treatment in early February. Like the king, Catherine, 42, did not specify what type of cancer she had, nor what her prognosis was.

Speaking in a prerecorded video released on Friday evening, Catherine said, “It has been an incredibly tough couple of months for our entire family” as she described having major abdominal surgery in January and then learning through subsequent tests that she had a form of cancer.

Looking fatigued but determined to express hope about her recovery, Catherine said she and her husband, Prince William, were helping their three children, George, Charlotte, and Louis, cope with having a sick mother.

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Russia-Ukraine War

ny times logoNew York Times, Putin Offers Both Reassurance and Threat on a Wider War, Ivan Nechepurenko, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). President Vladimir Putin dismissed claims that Russia planned to invade other countries, but warned nations against hosting warplanes meant for Ukraine.

Russian FlagPresident Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has warned that if F-16 fighter jets supplied to Ukraine by its Western allies operated from airfields in other countries, the bases would be “legitimate targets” for attack.

In a speech to Russian Air Force pilots late Wednesday, however, Mr. Putin rejected suggestions from some Western leaders that Russia is planning to invade NATO countries as “complete nonsense.”

The threat that Russia might move against other countries has become one of the main arguments used by the Ukrainian government and its supporters to try to persuade the U.S. to dispatch more military aid to the country.

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said again in an interview with CBS News published on Thursday that war “can come to Europe, and to the United States of America.”

“It can come very quickly to Europe,” said Mr. Zelensky.

At the United Nations on Thursday, Russia vetoed a resolution that would have extended U.N. oversight of sanctions tied to North Korea’s nuclear program, prompting accusations from Western nations that it was acting to keep the pipeline of weaponry open from the North Koreans for use in Ukraine.

The Russian vote — a reversal from its past support for the monitoring program — drew condemnation from world leaders. In the United States, the White House national security spokesman, John Kirby, called it a “reckless action” that made clear the growing ties between Pyongyang and Moscow.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vowing the U.S. Will ‘Do Our Job,’ Johnson Searches for a Path on Ukraine, Catie Edmondson, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). Speaker Mike Johnson, with his job on the line, has privately said he would make sure the House assists Ukraine, a step that many Republicans oppose.

mike johnson oWhen Speaker Mike Johnson, right, opened the floor for questions at a closed-door luncheon fund-raiser in New Jersey last month, Jacquie Colgan asked how, in the face of vehement opposition within his own ranks, he planned to handle aid for Ukraine.

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More On U.S. Military, Security, Intelligence, Foreign Policy

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Bidenomics Is Making China Angry. That’s OK, Paul Krugman, right, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). A paul krugmanpersistent theme in Republican campaigning these past few years has been the effort to portray Democrats in general, and President Biden in particular, as being soft on China — in contrast to Donald Trump’s supposed toughness.

One of the major planks in the G.O.P. case against Biden’s China policies, by the way, was that he was showing his softness by not banning TikTok. This looks ironic now, since Trump, who had favored a ban, suddenly reversed his position, reportedly around the same time that he had a sit-down with a billionaire who donates to Republican campaigns and has a large stake in the Chinese-controlled company.

China FlagEven before his TikTok flip-flop, however, the reality was that while Trump talked a xenophobic line that shaded into racism — for example, trying to relabel Covid-19 as the “Chinese virus” — and imposed showy but ineffective tariffs, he never had a coherent strategy for confronting our biggest rival. Biden, on the other hand, has quietly taken a very tough line on trade, especially with China.

I’ve been pointing out for a while that Biden’s sophisticated economic nationalism is a very big deal, much more so than Trump’s protectionist thrashing. In fact, Biden’s policies are so tough on China that, while I support them, they make me a bit nervous. But in case you don’t believe what I’m saying, let me point to someone who apparently agrees with me: the Chinese government.

China just filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization about the Inflation Reduction Act, which, despite its name, is at its core an attempt to fight climate change by subsidizing the transition to a low-emission economy. Specifically, China complained about electric vehicle subsidies that it says unfairly discriminate against production using car battery components made in China.

Honestly, I didn’t see that coming. America’s new industrial policy does favor domestic production and — we’ll see — might be in violation of W.T.O. rules. But for China, of all countries, to complain about targeted subsidies is an act of colossal chutzpah.

China spends vast sums on subsidies for favored companies, far more so than any other major economy. And it has often engaged in blatantly discriminatory policy — for example, for several years, until 2019, non-Chinese companies were essentially prevented from supplying electric vehicle batteries to Chinese car manufacturers.

It’s also unclear what China hopes to achieve with this complaint. In 2022, the W.T.O. ruled that U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum, imposed under Trump but retained under Biden, were illegitimate. The Biden administration responded by, in effect, telling the organization to take a hike.

The administration would surely do the same in defending subsidies that aren’t just Trump legacies, but rather a key element of its climate strategy — an attempt to make a transition to green energy politically feasible by linking that transition to job creation. The buy-American provisions may make this climate strategy more costly — but without them the I.R.A. may never have become law.

Biden officials have made it clear that they won’t allow Chinese exports to sever the link between climate policy and job creation. On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned China about the “overcapacity” it is developing in green energy as a result of subsidies. Given this, it’s hard to imagine that the administration would accept a ruling against its own subsidies, even if China manages to win its case.

So what is the Chinese government really doing here? I guess it’s possible that there’s some deeper strategy at play, although I have no idea what that might be. A more likely explanation is that Chinese officials are simply lashing out — perhaps in response to demands from the top that they do something — because they’re feeling the pressure from Biden’s policies.

These policies go far beyond electric vehicle subsidies, although they are the current flashpoint. The U.S. is also promoting semiconductor production, in part to reduce dependence on China. And the Biden administration has imposed stiff limits on technology exports to China, with the clear goal of crimping Chinese technological progress in advanced semiconductors and computing. As I said, Biden’s China policy is so tough that it makes me, someone who generally favors a rules-based system, nervous, although unlike many economists — who, I’d argue, don’t fully grasp how the world has changed — I do believe it’s the right approach.

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U.S. Supreme Court

 

United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (l) with his wife of thirty-five years, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas (r). (Safe Image)

United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (l) with his wife, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas (r).

ny times logoNew York Times, How Justice Clarence Thomas’s ‘Nearly Adopted Daughter’ Became His Law Clerk, Steve Eder and Abbie VanSickle, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). Justice Clarence Thomas gave Crystal Clanton a home and a job after she left a conservative youth organization in controversy. Then the justice picked her for one of the most coveted positions in the legal world.

The email went out to members of Justice Clarence Thomas’s law clerk network late last month celebrating his newest addition to an exclusive club. The justice’s selection needed no introduction.

“Crystal Clanton’s clerkship for OT ’24 was announced by Scalia Law today!” wrote an assistant to Virginia Thomas, the justice’s wife, who is known as Ginni. The email referred to the 2024 October term of the court, and the tone was jubilant: “Please take a look at these posts of congratulations and support. Consider reposting, replying or adding your own!”

The Thomases and Ms. Clanton, a 29-year-old conservative organizer turned lawyer, have built such a close relationship that the couple informally refer to her as their “nearly adopted daughter.” Ms. Clanton, who was previously accused of sending racist text messages, including one that read “I HATE BLACK PEOPLE,” has lived in the Thomas home, assisted Ms. Thomas in her political consulting business and joined her in a “girls trip” to New York.

 

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

The official portrait of the U.S. Supreme Court

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court skeptical of limiting access to abortion pill, Abbie VanSickle, March 27, 2024 (print ed.).The Supreme Court on Tuesday seemed skeptical of efforts to limit access to mifepristone, a key medication used in more than 60 percent of U.S. abortions and first approved more than two decades ago.

supreme court graphicA majority of justices from across the ideological spectrum questioned whether the antiabortion doctors challenging the government’s loosening of regulations have sufficient legal grounds — or standing — to bring the lawsuit.

During oral argument, the government and the drug company that makes the medication emphasized the safety of the drug but also focused much of their arguments on standing.

erin hawleyErin Hawley, left, lawyer for Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, argued that mifepristone is dangerous, even though multiple studies have shown it to be overwhelmingly safe. She says that if complications emerge from medication abortions, antiabortion doctors are forced to choose between helping a woman with a life-threatening condition and violating their conscience.

The justices are examining rule changes in 2016 and 2021 that, among other things, made the drug available by mail and from a medical provider other than a doctor.

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The five most radical right Republican justices on the U.S. Supreme Court are shown above, with the sixth Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts, omitted in this view.

The five most radical right Republican justices on the Supreme Court are shown above, with the sixth Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts, omitted in this photo array.

Then-President Trump speaking to supporters on Jan. 6, 2021 outside the White House in advance of a mob moving east to overrun the U.S. Capitol, thereby threatening the election certification djt jan 6 speech

 

More On U.S. Courts, Crime, Guns, Civil Rights

 

Convicted crypto-currency fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried, center, at the time of arrest (Photo by Austin Fernander via The Tribune Bahamas and Associated Press.)

Convicted crypto-currency fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried, center, at the time of arrest (Photo by Austin Fernander via The Tribune Bahamas and Associated Press).

ny times logoNew York Times, Sam Bankman-Fried Is Sentenced to 25 Years in Prison, David Yaffe-Bellany and J. Edward Moreno, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). Mr. Bankman-Fried, who was convicted of stealing $8 billion from customers of his FTX cryptocurrency exchange, faced a maximum sentence of 110 years.

ftx logoSam Bankman-Fried, the former cryptocurrency mogul who was convicted of fraud, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Thursday, capping an extraordinary saga that upended the multi-trillion-dollar crypto industry and became a cautionary tale of greed and hubris.

Mr. Bankman-Fried’s sentence was shorter than the 40 to 50 years that federal prosecutors had recommended, but above the six-and-a-half-year sentence requested by the defense lawyers. A federal probation officer had recommended 100 years, just under the maximum possible penalty of 110 years behind bars.

lewis kaplanThe sentence was handed down by Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, left, at the Federal District Court in Manhattan. Mr. Bankman-Fried, 32, was in the courtroom, clean shaven and wearing a loose fitting brown jail uniform.

Before the sentence was delivered, Mr. Bankman-Fried apologized to FTX customers, investors and employees. “A lot of people feel really let down, and they were very let down,” he said. “I’m sorry about that. I’m sorry about what happened at every stage.” He added that his decisions “haunt” him every day.

The sentencing signified the finale of a sweeping fraud case that exposed the rampant volatility and risk-taking across the loosely regulated world of cryptocurrencies. In November 2022, Mr. Bankman-Fried’s crypto exchange, FTX, imploded virtually overnight, erasing $8 billion in customer savings. At a trial last fall, he was convicted of seven counts of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here’s how Mr. Bankman-Fried’s sentence compares with penalties faced by other high-profile white-collar criminals, David Yaffe-Bellany, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). Two years in prison for tax and securities violations. Eleven years for deceiving investors. A 150-year sentence for the largest Ponzi scheme in history.

The country’s most notorious white-collar fraudsters — like Bernie Madoff and Elizabeth Holmes — have received a range of punishments for their crimes, from relatively short prison terms to effectively a life sentence.

On Thursday, Sam Bankman-Fried, the onetime cryptocurrency mogul, joined their ranks, receiving a 25-year sentence for fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.

ftx logoMr. Bankman-Fried was convicted of stealing $8 billion from customers of his international crypto exchange, FTX — charges that carry a maximum sentence of 110 years. In legal filings, prosecutors cited 13 examples of white-collar prosecutions that involved a loss of more than $100 million. In all but two of those cases, the defendant was sentenced to 40 years or more.

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ny times logoNew York Times, One Grieving Mother Hasn’t Given Up Hope for a Gun Control Compromise, Emily Cochrane, March 28, 2024 (print ed.). A year after losing her daughter, Evelyn, in a school shooting in Nashville, Katy Dieckhaus is speaking about her and the changes she wants to see.

The essence of Evelyn Dieckhaus is still there, captured in the pink Bible where she underlined the word “covenant” in silver ink, and in the beaming photos of her with her family.

It is there in her journal, recovered from the scene of the Covenant School mass shooting, where Evelyn, 9, had copied out by hand a New Testament verse about maintaining sympathy, tenderness and humility.

Her mother, Katy Dieckhaus, has since placed those pieces of her daughter’s memory into what she calls her “little Ev bag,” which she has carried with her as she take her first steps into the intractable debate over gun control in Tennessee.

“I just thought, ‘O.K., Ev, let’s go — let’s go try something,’” Ms. Dieckhaus said this week, holding back tears as she recalled her first meeting with lawmakers. “Let’s go try to help people work together. Let’s see what we can do.”

Ms. Dieckhaus and her husband, Mike, have rarely spoken publicly since their daughter and five others were killed at the Covenant School in Nashville on March 27, 2023. But they are now stepping forward at a moment when Tennessee remains deeply divided on whether to limit access to guns.

ny times logoNew York Times, Man Is Killed by New York Subway Train After Being Pushed Onto Tracks, Christopher Maag, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). The attack in East Harlem was the latest in a series of violent episodes that have led officials to increase the police presence in the subway.

A man was killed Monday evening after being pushed onto the subway tracks in an unprovoked attack at the 125th Street station along Lexington Avenue in East Harlem, according to the Police Department.

At 6:48 p.m., a man on the uptown platform shoved the person onto the tracks in front of an oncoming No. 4 train, which was unable to stop, a police spokeswoman said. The suspected attacker is in custody, according to the spokeswoman. The police did not identify either the victim or the suspect, but a senior law enforcement official said the man in custody was 24 years old and appeared to have a history of mental illness. He had several arrests in Brooklyn, the first one at age 16, the official said.

ap logoAssociated Press via Politico, Texas AG Ken Paxton reaches deal to end securities fraud charges after 9 years, Staff Report, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). Paxton was first indicted in 2015 after being accused of duping investors in a tech startup near Dallas before he was elected attorney general.

politico CustomProsecutors on Tuesday announced an agreement with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that would ultimately dismiss securities fraud charges he has been facing for nearly a decade.

Under the 18-month pre-trial agreement, the special prosecutors in the case would drop three felony counts against Paxton. As part of the deal, Paxton must pay full restitution to victims — roughly $300,000 — and must also complete 100 hours of community service and 15 hours of legal ethics education.

 

matt schlapp cpacPolitico, Sexual assault lawsuit against Matt Schlapp is dropped, Daniel Lippman, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). In a statement, the man who accused the ACU header said he regretted bringing the suit.

politico CustomThe Republican operative who accused the American Conservative Union head Matt Schlapp, shown above in a file photo, of sexual assault has dropped his lawsuits against him and his wife, Mercedes Schlapp, according to statements from the main parties.

Soon after the 2022 Herschel Walker Senate campaign, Carlton Huffman — a staffer working for that campaign — accused Schlapp of sexual battery and defamation. In a lawsuit, he sought $9.4 million in damages.

But in a statement on Tuesday, Huffman said he was discontinuing his lawsuits and issued an apology for bringing them.

“The claims made in my lawsuits were the result of a complete misunderstanding, and I regret that the lawsuit caused pain to the Schlapp family,” Huffman said, according to a statement shared by a spokesperson for Schlapp.

“The Schlapps have advised that the statements made about me were the result of a misunderstanding, which was regrettable,” he added, referring to comments the couple had made about Huffman after he filed his suit. “Neither the Schlapps nor the ACU paid me anything to dismiss my claims against them.”

Asked about the statement, Huffman said in a text message to POLITICO: “We have resolved our differences” and confirmed the accuracy of the statement.

Huffman had earlier said Schlapp, without consent, “groped” and “fondled” his groin while he was driving Schlapp back to his hotel while the two were trying to help get Walker elected. Huffman had accused Schlapp of then inviting him up to his hotel room, which he said he had declined.

Schlapp asserted his innocence. It later was revealed that Huffman himself had been accused of sexual assault in an unrelated case.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Sues Apple, Accusing It of Maintaining an iPhone Monopoly, David McCabe and Tripp Mickle, March 22, 2024 (print ed.). apple logo rainbowThe lawsuit caps years of regulatory scrutiny of Apple’s popular devices and services, which have fueled its growth into a nearly $3 trillion company.

The Justice Department joined 16 states and the District of Columbia to file an antitrust lawsuit against Apple on Thursday, the federal government’s most significant challenge to the reach and influence of the company that has put iPhones in the hands of more than a billion people.

Justice Department log circularIn an 88-page lawsuit, the government argued that Apple had violated antitrust laws with practices that were intended to keep customers reliant on their iPhones and less likely to switch to a competing device.

The tech giant prevented other companies from offering applications that compete with Apple products like its digital wallet, which could diminish the value of the iPhone, the government said. Apple’s policies hurt consumers and smaller companies that compete with some of Apple’s services, in the form of “higher prices and less innovation,” the lawsuit said.

“Each step in Apple’s course of conduct built and reinforced the moat around its smartphone monopoly,” the government said in the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

The lawsuit caps years of regulatory scrutiny of Apple’s wildly popular suite of devices and services, which have fueled its growth into a nearly $2.75 trillion public company that was for years the most valuable on the planet. It takes direct aim at the iPhone, Apple’s most popular device and most powerful business, and attacks the way the company has turned the billions of smartphones it has sold since 2007 into the centerpiece of its empire.

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U.S. Reproductive Rights, #MeToo, Trafficking, Culture Wars

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Supreme Court Got It Wrong: Abortion Is Not Settled Law, Melissa Murray and Kate Shaw, March 26, 2024. In his majority opinion in the case overturning Roe v. Wade, Justice Samuel Alito insisted that the high court was finally settling the vexed abortion debate by returning the “authority to regulate abortion” to the “people and their elected representatives.”

Despite these assurances, less than two years after Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, abortion is back at the Supreme Court. In the next month, the justices will hear arguments in two high-stakes cases that may shape the future of access to medication abortion and to lifesaving care for pregnancy emergencies. These cases make clear that Dobbs did not settle the question of abortion in America — instead, it generated a new slate of questions. One of those questions involves the interaction of existing legal rules with the concept of fetal personhood — the view, held by many in the anti-abortion movement, that a fetus is a person entitled to the same rights and protections as any other person.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Obamacare Is in Grave Danger, Again, Paul Krugman, right, March 26, 2024 (print ed.). Are you better off than you would paul krugmanhave been 14 years ago? If you’re one of the millions of Americans who have a preexisting medical condition and don’t have a job that comes with health benefits, the answer is, overwhelmingly, yes.

Why? Because before the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare — signed into law on March 23, 2010, although many of its provisions didn’t kick in until 2014 — you probably wouldn’t have been able to get health insurance. Today you can, thanks to provisions in the law that prevent insurers from discriminating based on medical history and that subsidize insurance premiums for many Americans. (These subsidies also provide healthy people with an incentive to purchase insurance, improving the risk pool.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Man Who Threatened to Kill Arizona Official Over Election Gets 2½ Years in Prison, Orlando Mayorquín, March 26, 2024 (print ed.). Joshua Russell, 46, of Ohio, left threatening messages for Katie Hobbs in 2022, when she was Arizona’s secretary of state and successfully ran for governor. An Ohio man who threatened to kill Katie Hobbs in 2022 when she was secretary of state in Arizona and running to be governor was sentenced Monday to two and a half years in prison, prosecutors announced.

FBI logoThe man, Joshua Russell, 46, of Ohio, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Arizona in August to one count of making an interstate threat, according to the Justice Department. He was indicted in December 2022 on charges that he had left several voice messages containing death threats with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office during the midterm election season, in which Ms. Hobbs was elected governor.

ny times logoNew York Times, Federal Agents Raid Homes Tied to Sean Combs in L.A. and Miami, Ben Sisario, Julia Jacobs and William K. Rashbaum, March 26, 2024 (print ed.). Homeland Security Investigations said the searches were part of “an ongoing investigation.” The hip-hop mogul has been accused of sexual assault and trafficking.

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Climate Change, Environment, Energy, Space, Transportation

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Shortcuts Everywhere’: How Boeing Favored Speed Over Quality, Niraj Chokshi, Sydney Ember and Santul Nerkar, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). Problems have plagued the manufacturer even after two fatal crashes, and many current and former employees blame its focus on making planes more quickly.

boeing logoIn February last year, a new Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max plane was on one of its first flights when an automated stabilizing system appeared to malfunction, forcing the pilots to make an emergency landing soon after they took off.

Less than two months later, an Alaska Airlines 737 Max plane with eight hours of total flight time was briefly grounded until mechanics resolved a problem with a fire detection system. And in November, an engine on a just-delivered United Airlines 737 Max failed at 37,000 feet.

These incidents, which the airlines disclosed to the Federal Aviation Administration, were not widely reported. There were no indications that anyone was in danger, and it was not clear who was ultimately responsible for those problems. But since Jan. 5, when a panel on a two-month-old Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 jet blew off in midair, episodes like these have taken on new resonance, raising further questions about the quality of the planes Boeing is producing.

“There’s a lot of areas where things don’t seem to be put together right in the first place,” said Joe Jacobsen, an engineer and aviation safety expert who spent more than a decade at Boeing and more than 25 years at the F.A.A.

“The theme is shortcuts everywhere — not doing the job right,” he added.

Such reports, and interviews with aviation safety experts and more than two dozen current and former Boeing employees, paint a worrying picture about a company long considered to be at the pinnacle of American engineering. They suggest that Boeing is struggling to improve quality years after two crashes of Max 8 planes in 2018 and 2019 killed nearly 350 people.

Some of the crucial layers of redundancies that are supposed to ensure that Boeing’s planes are safe appear to be strained, the people said. The experience level of Boeing’s work force has dropped since the start of the pandemic. The inspection process intended to provide a vital check on work done by its mechanics has been weakened over the years. And some suppliers have struggled to adhere to quality standards while producing parts at the pace Boeing wanted them.

Under pressure to show regulators, airlines and passengers that the company is taking its latest crisis seriously, Boeing announced sweeping changes to its leadership on Monday. The chief executive, Dave Calhoun, will leave at the end of the year, and Stan Deal, the head of the commercial planes division, which makes the 737 Max, retired immediately. The company’s chairman, Larry Kellner, stepped down from that position and will not seek re-election to the board.

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Pandemics, Public Health, Covid, Privacy

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Do you know a vaccine skeptic? Here are 10 simple responses, Leana S. Wen, right, March 29, leana wen2024 (print ed.). This week, I wrote about anti-vaccine messages in political discourse, prompting many readers to ask how they should respond if a family member or friend expresses skepticism toward routine childhood immunizations.

I spoke with Sean O’Leary, a specialist of pediatric infectious diseases and a professor at the University of Colorado, whose expertise is vaccines and vaccine communication. He told me that when he has conversations with parents who are hesitant about immunizations, he keeps in mind that they are just trying to figure out what is best for their kids.
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A similar approach could help people who aren’t medical professionals who want to help loved ones. Here’s how to respond to 10 common vaccine concerns.

1. “I don’t need to vaccinate my kids because the chance of contracting the disease is so low.”

2. “Natural immunity is better than immunity from vaccination....”

washington post logoWashington Post, 62-year-old receives gene-edited pig kidney in milestone transplant surgery, Mark Johnson, March 22, 2024 (print ed.). After once losing hope because of end-stage kidney disease, a 62-year-old man is now the first living person to receive a genetically edited kidney from a pig, according to doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital who performed the landmark surgery Saturday.

Richard Slayman, whom doctors praised for his courage, is doing well after the four-hour surgery and is expected to be discharged from the Boston hospital soon, officials said.

The advance, which builds on decades of work, gives hope to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who depend on dialysis machines to do the work of their failing kidneys. Each day, 17 Americans die awaiting a kidney transplant, a problem further complicated by unequal access given to Black and other patients. Doctors expressed hope that using pigs to vastly increase the supply of kidneys might correct the inequity.

ny times logoNew York Times, Four Years On, Covid Has Reshaped Life for Many Americans, Julie Bosman, March 14, 2024 (print ed.). covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Covid was declared a national emergency on March 13, 2020. Even as the threat of severe illness and death has faded, the pandemic’s effects linger.

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U.S. Economy, Jobs, Poverty, Consumers, Space, High Tech

ny times logoNew York Times, Fed Holds Rates Steady and Projects Three Cuts This Year, Jeanna Smialek, March 21, 2024 (print ed.). Federal Reserve officials left interest rates unchanged on Wednesday and continued to forecast that borrowing costs will come down somewhat by the end of the year as inflation eases.

Fed policymakers have been battling rapid inflation for two full years as of this month, and while they have been encouraged by recent progress, they are not yet ready to declare victory over price increases. Given that, they are keeping interest rates at a high level that is expected to weigh on growth and inflation, even as they signal that rate cuts are likely in the months ahead.

federal reserve system CustomOfficials held interest rates steady at about 5.3 percent, where they have been set since July, in their March policy decision.

Policymakers also released a fresh set of quarterly economic estimates for the first time since December, and those projected that borrowing costs will end 2024 at 4.6 percent. That unchanged forecast suggests that they still expect to make three quarter-point rate cuts this year.

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Media, Religion, High Tech, Education, Free Speech, Culture

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Newsmax Runs Debunked Story to Smear Judge, Acyn, March 28, 2024. Greg Kelly attacks the credibility of the judge overseeing the New York criminal case of Donald Trump.

mtn meidas touch networkIt appears as though a host at the right-wing network Newsmax didn’t thoroughly research a report he referenced while attacking the credibility of the judge overseeing the New York criminal case of Donald Trump. Host Greg Kelly referenced a report claiming that Judge Juan Merchan’s daughter has a social media account on X with a profile picture depicting Trump behind bars.

Kelly: This from a very close family member, reportedly, of the judge. It’s a Twitter account… Instead of their own face, they put Donald Trump behind bars. This is a member, reportedly, of the Merchan family. This would suggest that the judge is hideously biased.. He looks all regal and dignified in the robe there sitting for his picture, but that's what's inside his heart. I can make that case. Well it's somebody in his family. It's not him. Well, the appearances suggest that he is totally unqualified and should be removed from this case. And this is still America and we’re allowed to say that and so is President Trump.

The problem with Kelly’s statements is that a report emerged earlier today calling into question claims that the account belonged to Merchan’s daughter. The article from The Spectator suggests that the original account that possibly belonged to the Merchan’s daughter was switched at some point last year and the account being referenced by Kelly and others may not belong to Merchan’s daughter.

Another detail that conflicts with Kelly’s assertions is that a spokesman for the court noted that the account referenced doesn’t belong to the Merchan’s daughter.

"The X, formerly Twitter, account being attributed to Judge Merchan's daughter no longer belongs to her since she deleted it approximately a year ago. It is not linked to her email address, nor has she posted under that screenname since she deleted the account. Rather, it represents the reconstitution, last April, and manipulation of an account she long ago abandoned."

This isn’t the first time this has happened on Newsmax. Kelly found himself in a similar situation last year when he aired the wrong photo of an individual he suggested was the mass shooter at a Texas outlet mall last year.

washington post logoWashington Post, Exclusive: Qatari royal invested about $50 million in pro-Trump network Newsmax, David Kenner, Sarah Ellison and Jonathan O'Connell, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). A member of the Qatari royal family invested roughly $50 million in Newsmax, according to documents and representatives for the media company and the royal, in a moment of acute Middle East tensions during the Trump administration.

newsmax logoThe investment bolstered a key conservative media outlet at a time when Qatar was facing intense diplomatic pressure from its neighbors and seeking allies in the United States.

At the time the investment was made, a coalition of countries led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had established a diplomatic and economic blockade against Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorist groups across the Middle East. Qatar had counted on its relationship with the United States for protection, but President Donald Trump initially sided with its regional rivals, praising their move in 2017 and criticizing Qatar for funding terrorism.

In 2019 and 2020, Sheikh Sultan bin Jassim Al Thani, a former Qatari government official and the owner of a London-based investment fund, Heritage Advisors, invested in Newsmax. The investment has not been previously reported.

Newsmax had been looking for outside investors to better compete with its much larger rival, Fox News, according to people who spoke at the time with its founder and CEO, Christopher Ruddy. Before and after the investment, senior newsroom leaders urged Newsmax staff to soften coverage of Qatar, current and former employees said. A representative for Newsmax strongly disputed that the network “slanted coverage to be favorable to Qatar,” and that Ruddy had told staff not to criticize the country.

Newsmax and Heritage Advisors confirmed the investment after being presented with documents detailing the transaction, which show that Sultan subsequently transferred his stake to a Cayman Islands-based corporate structure. The $50 million investment represents a significant minority stake in Newsmax, a privately held media company estimated to be worth between $100 million and $200 million, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The documents came from a trove of roughly 100,000 leaked files from Genesis Trust, a Cayman Islands-based financial services provider, which were obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and reviewed by The Washington Post.

 

alex jones screen shot 2020 05 01 at 12.02.06 pm

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘The Truth vs. Alex Jones’: How Sandy Hook lies got peddled for profit, Jada Yuan, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). A new HBO documentary explores the mainstreaming of “grift” in a post-truth era.

Robbie Parker’s 6-year-old daughter, Emilie, had been dead for less than 48 hours, gunned down alongside 19 of her classmates and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School, when right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones went on Infowars and claimed Parker was “a soap opera actor” who’d made it all up.

All Parker had done was nervously laugh before giving a statement to the press about who his daughter was, the father says in the documentary, “The Truth vs. Alex Jones,” debuting March 26 on HBO. The movie premiered this month at South by Southwest in Austin, where Jones, shown above, is based, stood trial and was once heckled at a chicken restaurant.

But Jones was on a roll. He’d called the massacre of 20 children “a false flag” hours after it happened in December 2012 — “before the bodies were even cold,” as a lawyer for the parents says in a deposition for one of two defamation trials featured in the film that were eventually brought against Jones. Soon he was urging his listeners to pick apart video of Parker for evidence that the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history had been staged as an elaborate ruse by liberals to take away Americans’ guns.

Immediately, Parker says in the film, Emilie’s memorial Facebook page became inundated with people who called her “a whore” and threatened to show up at their home with guns demanding proof that she was still alive.

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March 29

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Convicted crypto-currency fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried, center, at the time of arrest (Photo by Austin Fernander via The Tribune Bahamas and Associated Press.)


U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

 

U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

 

Israel-Hamas War, Civilian Deaths

 

World Press Freedom

 

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is shown via an Associated Press photo in the prisoner's area during a sham proceeding in Russia's prosecution of him on spy charges.Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is shown via an Associated Press photo in the prisoner's area during a sham proceeding in Russia's prosecution of him on spy charges.

 

More On Terror Attack In Moscow

 

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Probes Of Elon Musk's Foreign Ties, Energy Plans

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More On U.S. Bridge Disaster

Aerial view of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, after it was struck by a cargo ship and partly collapsed on March 26, 2024. It opened in 1977 and is named for Francis Scott Key, who wrote the words of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” (Photo by CBS News Baltimore).

 

U.S. Immigration News

 

Claims Against Bidens

 

Russia-Ukraine War, Navalny Death, Russian Goals

 

More On Global Disputes, Disasters, Human Rights

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is shown via an Associated Press photo in the prisoner's area during a sham proceeding in Russia's prosecution of him on spy charges.

 

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United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (l) with his wife of thirty-five years, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas (r). (Safe Image)

 

More On U.S. Courts, Crime, Guns, Civil Rights, Immigration

 

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Pandemics, Public Health, Covid, Privacy

 

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Convicted crypto-currency fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried, center, at the time of arrest (Photo by Austin Fernander via The Tribune Bahamas and Associated Press.)

Convicted crypto-currency fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried, center, at the time of arrest (Photo by Austin Fernander via The Tribune Bahamas and Associated Press).

ny times logoNew York Times, Sam Bankman-Fried Is Sentenced to 25 Years in Prison, David Yaffe-Bellany and J. Edward Moreno, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). Mr. Bankman-Fried, who was convicted of stealing $8 billion from customers of his FTX cryptocurrency exchange, faced a maximum sentence of 110 years.

ftx logoSam Bankman-Fried, the former cryptocurrency mogul who was convicted of fraud, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Thursday, capping an extraordinary saga that upended the multi-trillion-dollar crypto industry and became a cautionary tale of greed and hubris.

Mr. Bankman-Fried’s sentence was shorter than the 40 to 50 years that federal prosecutors had recommended, but above the six-and-a-half-year sentence requested by the defense lawyers. A federal probation officer had recommended 100 years, just under the maximum possible penalty of 110 years behind bars.

lewis kaplanThe sentence was handed down by Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, left, at the Federal District Court in Manhattan. Mr. Bankman-Fried, 32, was in the courtroom, clean shaven and wearing a loose fitting brown jail uniform.

Before the sentence was delivered, Mr. Bankman-Fried apologized to FTX customers, investors and employees. “A lot of people feel really let down, and they were very let down,” he said. “I’m sorry about that. I’m sorry about what happened at every stage.” He added that his decisions “haunt” him every day.

The sentencing signified the finale of a sweeping fraud case that exposed the rampant volatility and risk-taking across the loosely regulated world of cryptocurrencies. In November 2022, Mr. Bankman-Fried’s crypto exchange, FTX, imploded virtually overnight, erasing $8 billion in customer savings. At a trial last fall, he was convicted of seven counts of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here’s how Mr. Bankman-Fried’s sentence compares with penalties faced by other high-profile white-collar criminals, David Yaffe-Bellany, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). Two years in prison for tax and securities violations. Eleven years for deceiving investors. A 150-year sentence for the largest Ponzi scheme in history.

The country’s most notorious white-collar fraudsters — like Bernie Madoff and Elizabeth Holmes — have received a range of punishments for their crimes, from relatively short prison terms to effectively a life sentence.

On Thursday, Sam Bankman-Fried, the onetime cryptocurrency mogul, joined their ranks, receiving a 25-year sentence for fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.

ftx logoMr. Bankman-Fried was convicted of stealing $8 billion from customers of his international crypto exchange, FTX — charges that carry a maximum sentence of 110 years. In legal filings, prosecutors cited 13 examples of white-collar prosecutions that involved a loss of more than $100 million. In all but two of those cases, the defendant was sentenced to 40 years or more.

ny times logoNew York Times, New York Is Politics Central as Four Presidents Descend on Region, Lisa Lerer, March 29, 2024 (print ed). President Biden raised $25 million at a Radio City Music Hall event, adding to his huge cash edge, after Donald Trump pushed his law-and-order message at a wake for a police officer killed on duty.

The epicenter of the presidential campaign shifted to New York on Thursday, as the incumbent president and three of his predecessors descended on the area for dueling events that illustrated the kinds of political clashes that could come to define the general election.

For Democrats, it was a high-profile, celebrity-studded fund-raiser for President Biden in Manhattan. On Long Island, former President Donald J. Trump attended a wake for a New York City officer who was killed during a traffic stop on Monday. Together, the day’s events struck an unusual contrast in a general election campaign that has so far been largely defined by appearances in courtrooms and at small, invitation-only events.

biden harris 2024 logoMr. Biden, along with Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, appeared before 5,000 donors at a Radio City Music Hall event that campaign aides said raised $25 million. The eye-popping number set a record for a single political event, according to the aides, and offered a star-studded show of Democratic unity as the president heads into a difficult re-election campaign.

The three Democratic presidents spent much of their time in New York City wrapped in the glitz of their celebrity supporters. Tieless and in matching white shirts, they sat for an interview on a celebrity podcast, were roasted by the comedian Mindy Kaling and interviewed by Stephen Colbert, a late-night host.

“Our democracy is at stake, not a joke. I think democracy is literally at stake,” Mr. Biden said. “We’re at an inflection point in history.”

Both Mr. Obama and Mr. Clinton made the case for re-electing Mr. Biden, praising his work expanding health care coverage, creating jobs, capping insulin prices and navigating the competing demands of the war in Gaza.

“It’s not just the negative case against the presumptive nominee on the other side. It’s the positive case for somebody who’s done an outstanding job,” said Mr. Obama. “We also have a positive story to tell about the future and that is something that Joe Biden has worked on, diligently, each and every day.”

trump 2024Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, made his own appearance in the area several hours earlier, at a funeral home on Long Island surrounded by hundreds of police officers and family members of the slain officer. While not officially a campaign stop, aides used the appearance to draw a sharp contrast with Mr. Biden, attacking the Democrats for spending their evening with donors and celebrities. In recent weeks, Mr. Trump has spent far more time battling in court than in battleground states.

 

international court of justice icc

Among other major global courts is the International Court of Justice (ICJ), shown above, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. As described by its website, the ICJ is a civil tribunal that hears disputes between countries. It has no prosecutor or jurisdiction to try individuals, including those joan donoghueaccused of war crimes or crimes against humanity. Its current president, Joan Donoghue, right, is a United States citizen who became a justice on the court in 2010 following election by United Nations members. Other current members are shown here.

ny times logoNew York Times, Top U.N. Court Orders Israel to Ensure Aid to Gaza, Staff Reports, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). In its strongest language yet, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to ensure “the unhindered provision” of humanitarian assistance.

In its strongest language yet, the International Court of Justice in The Hague on Thursday ordered Israel to take concrete steps to ensure humanitarian aid reaches Gaza as famine sets in, including cooperating with the United Nations and increasing the number of crossing points for aid.

The ruling is part of a case filed by South Africa at the I.C.J., the United Nations’ highest court, that accused Israel of committing genocide, an allegation that Israel has categorically denied. In an interim ruling in January, the court ordered Israel to ensure that more aid would be allowed into Gaza. Since then, the “catastrophic living conditions of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have deteriorated further,” the court said on Thursday.

ny times logoNew York Times, House Republicans Demand Full Impeachment Trial for Mayorkas, Luke Broadwater, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). They argue that quickly dispensing with the charges, as senators in both parties are inclined to do, would be an affront to Americans. 

U.S. House logoSpeaker Mike Johnson on Thursday wrote to Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, demanding that the Senate hold an impeachment trial next month of Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary. The speaker called plans to quickly dismiss the charges against Mr. mike johnson oMayorkas “a violation of our constitutional order and an affront to the American people.”

In a letter signed by the 11 Republicans he named as impeachment managers to try Mr. Mayorkas, Mr. Johnson, right, wrote that they planned to send over the charges on April 10, after the Senate returns from its Easter break. Senators in both parties, who serve as the jury for impeachment trials, have indicated that they do not want to sit through such a proceeding in the case of Mr. Mayorkas, notwithstanding House Republicans’ insistence on it.

The letter rehashed the accusations against the homeland security secretary, with signatories including Representatives Mark E. Green of Tennessee, the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, and Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who introduced articles of impeachment against Mr. Mayorkas. The Republicans condemned what they called a “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law and his breach of the public trust,” accused the secretary of lying to Congress, and blamed him for the state of the southern border with Mexico.

There is little doubt that the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, will side with Mr. Mayorkas. Leaders are expected to dispense with a trial quickly, either by dismissing the charges immediately or moving to a quick vote in which Republicans have no chance of securing the two-thirds necessary to convict and remove Mr. Mayorkas.

Mr. Schumer has called the impeachment effort a “sham” and “another embarrassment for House Republicans.”

 

Aerial view of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, after it was struck by a cargo ship and partly collapsed on March 26, 2024. It opened in 1977 and is named for Francis Scott Key, who wrote the words of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” (Photo by CBS News Baltimore).

Aerial view of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, after it was struck by a cargo ship and partly collapsed on March 26, 2024. It opened in 1977 and is named for Francis Scott Key, who wrote the words of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” (Photo by CBS News Baltimore).

washington post logoWashington Post, City begins massive and dangerous cleanup as first relief funds approved, Justin Jouvenal, Jacob Bogage and Erin Cox, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). Huge crane ships and thousands of relief workers headed toward Baltimore, as efforts turned from recovery to a massive cleanup that some experts described as unprecedented.

Huge crane ships, thousands of relief workers and millions of dollars headed toward Baltimore on Thursday, as efforts turned from recovery after the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge to a massive cleanup that some experts described as unprecedented and highly dangerous.
Fast, informative and written just for locals. Get The 7 DMV newsletter in your inbox every weekday morning.

The U.S. Navy deployed several floating cranes, including one that could lift 1,000 tons, while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it would send more than 1,100 engineering specialists and other experts to begin removing the hulking debris that has crippled the Port of Baltimore.

Federal officials also announced the first relief funds — $60 million sought by Maryland officials — would flow toward disaster recovery just hours after the request was submitted.

Top officials with the Corps, which is leading the effort to clear the Patapsco River, described a three step effort to get one of the nation’s largest shipping hubs back online. They are racing to stem the rippling economic fallout from a cargo ship striking the bridge on Tuesday.

ny times logoNew York Times, Battles Rage at Two Hospitals in Gaza, Staff Reports, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). Israel said it was still carrying out raids in and around the Al-Shifa and Al-Amal hospitals, which Israel claims are being used by Hamas militants.

Israel FlagThe Israeli military said on Thursday that it was carrying out raids in and around two hospitals in Gaza, as the United Nations and aid groups expressed alarm for patients and medical workers there and warned of the rapidly deteriorating state of Gaza’s health care system.

Fierce battles have been raging in and around Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest in the strip, since an Israeli assault there began 11 days ago. The Israeli military said in a statement that nearly 200 people whom it called “terrorists” had been killed in the area and that its troops had taken fire from militants inside and outside one of the hospital’s buildings. These claims could not be independently verified.

palestinian flagIn related news, relatives of Israeli soldiers held captive in Gaza expressed frustration just before an expected first meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying on Thursday that their loved ones had been “abandoned” by the government.

Hamas took more than 240 people captive when it attacked Israel on Oct. 7. About 100 hostages, most of them women and children, were released during a cease-fire in November, and at least 30 others are believed to have died in captivity, according to Israeli officials. That may leave around 100 alive, most of them men who are Israeli citizens. It is unclear how many were members of the military on active duty when they were captured.

Here’s what we know:

  • Israel says its forces are still carrying out raids in and around Al-Shifa and Al-Amal hospital as it tries to root out Hamas militants.
  • Aid organizations sound the alarm for patients at embattled hospitals.
  • Netanyahu has ‘abandoned’ Israel’s captive soldiers, their relatives say.
  • The U.S. says Israel has agreed to try to reschedule a canceled trip.
  • The United States and Britain impose sanctions on a Gazan news outlet over ties to Hamas.
  • A majority of Americans disapprove of Israel’s actions in Gaza, a new poll shows.

 

elon musk sideviewProof, Investigative Commentary: Elon Musk’s Many Years As An Illegal Immigrant, Seth Abramson, left, March 28-29, 2024. This seth abramson graphiccarefully researched and sourced series investigating Musk’s immigration status from 1988 through his receiptof US citizenship in 2002 reveals shocking new details about the world’s richest man.

Introduction: It’s hard for me not to feel bad for Elon Musk biographer Ashlee Vance.

seth abramson proof logoAs a Donald Trump biographer and presidential historian who wrote three national bestsellers on the most prolific liar in American political history, I had to decide early on that I would never cite—at least not for the truth of the matter—any source with a clear and consistent reputation for deceit unless the source in question was making what we criminal defense attorneys would call “a statement against [self-]interest.”

But when Vance was writing his 2015-published Musk biography in the early- to mid-2010s, he couldn’t have known—as really, far fewer of us in journalism did than would be the case today—that he was using as his foremost source a man who may well be the most prolific liar in the history of American business.

The result of Musk consistently pulling the wool over Vance’s eyes, as Musk has done to so many people across the world over the last 25 years, is that a bestselling book (Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future) is filled with claims and timelines that make no sense whatsoever. Some of these should have been detected by Vance’s editors at Ecco—I know from thirty years of experience as a working author that it can difficult to catch your own errors and false presumptions—but others are quite simply the product of a now decades-long disinformation campaign that’s been waged by the world’s second-richest man against journalists purely out of spite.

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Government Clampdowns on Social Media Are Not the Answer, David French, right, March 29, 2024 david french cropped(print ed.). In my time, I’ve witnessed several distinct public panics over television, video games and music. They’ve all been overblown.

This time, however, I’m persuaded — not that smartphones are the sole cause of increasing mental health problems in American kids, but rather that they’re a prime mover in teen mental health in a way that television, games and music are not. No one has done more to convince me than Jonathan Haidt. He’s been writing about the dangers of smartphones and social media for years, and his latest Atlantic story masterfully marshals the evidence for smartphones’ negative influence on teenage life.

At the same time, however, I’m wary of government intervention to suppress social media or smartphone access for children. The people best positioned to respond to their children’s online life are parents, not regulators, and it is parents who should take the lead in responding to smartphones. Otherwise, we risk a legal remedy that undermines essential constitutional doctrines that protect both children and adults.

I don’t want to minimize the case against phones. Haidt’s thesis is sobering:

Once young people began carrying the entire internet in their pockets, available to them day and night, it altered their daily experiences and developmental pathways across the board. Friendship, dating, sexuality, exercise, sleep, academics, politics, family dynamics, identity — all were affected.

The consequences, Haidt argues, have been dire. Children — especially teenagers — are suffering from greater rates of anxiety and depression, and suicide rates have gone up; and they spend less time hanging out with friends, while loneliness and friendlessness are surging.

Neither smartphones nor social media are solely responsible for declining teen mental health. The rise of smartphones correlates with a transformation of parenting strategies, away from permitting free play and in favor of highly managed schedules and copious amounts of organized sports and other activities. The rise of smartphones also correlates with the fraying of our social fabric. Even there, however, the phones have their roles to play. They provide a cheap substitute for in-person interaction, and the constant stream of news can heighten our anxiety.

I’m so convinced that smartphones have a significant negative effect on children that I’m now much more interested in the debate over remedies. What should be done?

ron desantis hands outThat question took on added urgency Tuesday, when Ron DeSantis, left, the governor of Florida, signed a bill banning children under 14 from having social media accounts and requiring children under 16 to have parental permission before opening an account. The Florida social media bill is one of the strictest in the country, but Florida is hardly the only state that is trying to regulate internet access by minors. Utah passed its own law; so have Ohio and Arkansas. California passed a bill mandating increased privacy protections for children using the internet.

So is this — at long last — an example of the government actually responding to a social problem with a productive solution? New information has helped us understand the dangers of a commercial product, and now the public sector is reacting with regulation and limitation. What’s not to like?

Quite a bit, actually. Federal courts have blocked enforcement of the laws in Ohio, Arkansas and California. Utah’s law faces a legal challenge and Florida’s new law will undoubtedly face its day in court as well. The reason is simple: When you regulate access to social media, you’re regulating access to speech, and the First Amendment binds the government to protect the free-speech rights of children as well as adults.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: These two GOP Senate candidates exemplify today’s political squalor, George F. Will, right, March george f will29, 2024. In Arizona and in Ohio, GOP Senate candidates Kari Lake, left, and Bernie Moreno force conservatives to choose between awful outcomes: the consequences of losing the Senate, or the disappearance of the conservative party.

Running for Arizona’s governorship in 2022, Lake practiced the kamikaze politics of subtraction. Today, she says she was joking when she told John McCain voters — they elected him to two House and six Senate terms — to “get the hell out” of a GOP event. McCain voters were not amused. She lost, then mimicked her hero, saying that her election was stolen. Courts disagreed.

Today, she seems intermittently aware that many Arizonans are weary of her high-decibel imitation of Donald Trump’s sour, self-absorbed, backward-looking, fact-free, sore-loser, endless grievance tour. So, she sometimes seems to say of her protracted harping on 2022: Oh, never mind.

In Ohio, three-term Democratic Senate incumbent Sherrod Brown is a progressive reliably wrong — and indistinguishable from Trump — regarding many matters. These include ignoring the unsustainable trajectories of Social Security and Medicare. And embracing the nonsensical notion that national security will be jeopardized if a superior steel company (Nippon) from an allied nation (Japan) buys U.S. Steel, which has a market capitalization about equal to the Skechers shoe company and fewer employees than BJ’s Wholesale Club. Brown is, however, a progressive more concerned about practicalities (e.g., jobs) than pronoun protocols.

His Republican opponent, Bernie Moreno, once called Trump a “maniac” and a “lunatic” akin to “a car accident that makes you sick.” He scoffed at Trump’s claims of election fraud and called the Jan. 6, 2021, rioters “morons” and “criminals.” But Trump, like a marsupial, has tucked Moreno into his pouch, and the amazingly malleable Moreno calls (as does Lake) the Jan. 6 defendants “political prisoners” and says the 2020 election was “stolen,” Joe Biden should be impeached and Trump is swell.

Moreno, who projects the Trumpkins’ chest-thumping faux toughness, disdains bipartisanship. Evidently, he plans to advance his agenda with 60 Republican votes. There have not been 60 Republican senators since 1910.

washington post logoWashington Post, Many GOP billionaires balked at Jan. 6. They’re coming back to Trump, Josh Dawsey, Jeff Stein, Michael Scherer and Elizabeth Dwoskin, March 29, 2024. Elite donors are rediscovering their affinity for the former president over taxes — even as he vows to free Jan. 6 defendants, promises mass deportations and faces 88 felony charges.

djt march 2020 CustomThe day after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, billionaire and GOP megadonor Nelson Peltz called the attempted insurrection a “disgrace” and expressed remorse for voting for Donald Trump. “I’m sorry I did that,” Peltz said of supporting Trump in 2020.

But earlier this month, Peltz had breakfast with Trump and other billionaires — including hotelier Steve Wynn, Tesla and X CEO Elon Musk and former Marvel chairman Isaac Perlmutter — at Trump’s luxurious Palm Beach oceanfront mansion, according to people with knowledge of the meeting, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private gathering.

Peltz, a renowned activist investor currently in a battle over Disney, then told the Financial Times that he would “probably” vote for the GOP front-runner in 2024. The New York Times first reported that Trump dined with Musk and other donors but did not name Peltz, Wynn or Perlmutter.

As hopes of a Republican alternative have crumbled, elite donors who once balked at Trump’s fueling of the Capitol insurrection, worried about his legal problems and decried what they saw as his chaotic presidency are rediscovering their affinity for the former president — even as he praises and vows to free Jan. 6 defendants, promises mass deportations and faces 88 felony charges.

The shift reflects many conservative billionaires’ fears of President Biden’s tax agenda, which if approved would drastically reduce their fortunes. In some cases, it also points to their discomfort with the Biden administration’s foreign and domestic policy decisions. Some of these billionaires have been assiduously courted by Trump and his advisers in recent months.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump can’t remember much. He hopes you won’t be able to, either, Dana Milbank, right, March 29, dana milbank newest2024. The Very Stable Genius is glitching again.

This week, he announced that he is not — repeat, NOT — planning to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He apparently forgot that he had vowed over and over again to do exactly that, saying as recently as a few months ago that Republicans “should never give up” on efforts to “terminate” Obamacare.

“I’m not running to terminate the ACA, AS CROOKED JOE BUDEN DISINFORMATES AND MISINFORMATES ALL THE TIME,” the Republican nominee wrote this week on his Truth Social platform. Rather, he said, he wants to make Obamacare better for “OUR GREST AMERICAN CITIZENS.”

Joe Buden disinformates and misinformates? For a guy trying to make an issue of his opponent’s mental acuity, this was not, shall we say, a grest look.

The previous day, Trump held a news conference where he nailed some equally puzzling planks onto his platform. “We’ll bring crime back to law and order,” he announced.

Also: “We just had Super Tuesday, and we had a Tuesday after a Tuesday already.”

And, most peculiar of all: “You can’t have an election in the middle of a political season.”

If he can’t recall that elections frequently do overlap with political seasons, then he surely can’t be expected to remember what was happening at this point in 2020. “ARE YOU BETTER OFF THAN YOU WERE FOUR YEARS AGO?” he asked last week. The poor fellow must have forgotten all about the economic collapse and his administration’s catastrophic bungling of the pandemic.

Or maybe he didn’t forget. Maybe he’s just hoping the rest of us will forget. In a sense, Trump’s prospects for 2024 rely on Americans experiencing mass memory loss: Will we forget just how crazy things were when he was in the White House? And will we forget about the even crazier things he has said he would do if he gets back there?

 

kentucky map

 
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, right, with his father, former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, right, with his father, former Gov. Steve Beshear

Politico, Kentucky Legislature cuts Democratic governor out of picking potential McConnell replacement, Madison Fernandez,  March 29, 2024 (print ed.). Supporters of the change said it has nothing to do with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — but they’ve stripped Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear of his power anyway.

politico CustomThe Kentucky state Legislature passed legislation on Thursday that would change how vacancies in the U.S. Senate are filled, over the objections of Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.

international criminal court logoThe Republican-sponsored bill, which would require a special election to choose a senator in the case of an open seat in the unexpired term, passed with bipartisan support as the Legislature nears the end of its session. It passed both chambers with veto-proof majorities.

Mitchell_McConnellIt’s a significant change from how the process currently works. A majority of states — including Kentucky — pick successors in vacant Senate seats by gubernatorial appointment. But there are some notable restrictions in the commonwealth: The governor must choose a nominee from a list of three names the outgoing senator’s party submits. Beshear would have to choose a Republican, should either Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell or Sen. Rand Paul’s seats become vacant.

McConnell last month announced he will not run for another term as GOP conference leader later this year. But he has vowed to serve out the rest of his term, which runs through 2027. Last year, the 82-year-old faced questions about his future after bouts of freezing in public, although Kentucky Republicans who sponsored the bill have insisted that it was not prompted by McConnell’s health.

But with the change, Kentucky Republicans now have a backup plan in case there is an opening for the longtime senator’s seat before his term expires.

Beshear has not hidden his disdain for the current arrangement. When the appointment rule was passed in 2021, he said it “improperly and unconstitutionally restricts the governor’s power.” He has also not explicitly committed to following it; when asked over the summer whether he would abide by the law should there be a vacancy, he refused to “speculate about something that hasn’t happened and isn’t going to happen.”

After the bill passed on Thursday, Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams hit Beshear for refusing to “commit to following the law.”

The bill now heads to Beshear’s desk. Should he veto the legislation, the GOP supermajority can override it, even without Democrats.

Last month, he spoke out against the bill, calling it an example of “rank partisanship.”

“Last November, people said, ‘Knock it off,’” Beshear said, pointing to his successful reelection bid that was a major win for Democrats in a red state. “We don’t want a candidate or a general assembly that just sees Team R or Team D or red or blue. We want good government that focuses on our people.”

Beshear has adamantly shot down a run for the open seat in 2026.

washington post logoWashington Post, Va. Gov. Youngkin arrived like a GOP star, but arena failure clouds legacy, Gregory S. Schneider, March 29, 2024 (print ed.).  The political novice burst onto the scene in 2021 and drew national attention as a fresh face with glenn youngkin headshotbusiness acumen. But he has lost the legislature to Democrats and seen his priorities slip away, including his plan to bring the Washington Wizards and Capitals to Alexandria.

No Virginia governor has come into office with a deeper dealmaking background than Glenn Youngkin, right, who as former co-chief executive of the Carlyle Group made a fortune acquiring and merging companies around the globe.

But as the Republican chief executive of a purple state, Youngkin has struggled to translate that business acumen into political success — or even economic development success, with the demise Wednesday of his much-touted plan to bring the Washington Wizards and Capitals to Alexandria.

republican elephant logoWhile Youngkin and his group of financial experts had negotiated with team owner Ted Leonsis to cut what the governor called “the single largest economic development deal in Virginia’s history,” the governor was never able to work the same magic with members of the General Assembly who had to sign off on the $2 billion project.

The plan’s failure wipes out a significant legacy-making opportunity for a novice politician who burst onto the scene in 2021 and drew national attention as a fresh Republican face. In his first two years in office, Youngkin enjoyed state coffers overflowing with federal pandemic relief funds and a friendly GOP-controlled House of Delegates. But as the clock winds down on his four-year term, the governor has lost the legislature to Democrats and seen his priorities slip away.

“He’s a total lame duck right now,” said Robert Holsworth, a Richmond political analyst who has studied Virginia governors for decades. “He has shown tremendous political inexperience.”

 

south carolina map

washington post logoWashington Post, South Carolina latest state to use congressional map deemed illegal, Patrick Marley, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). The Supreme Court heard arguments on the redistricting case in October but has yet to rule, essentially running out the clock for this year’s election.

In a scenario that has played out in three states in recent years, a federal court ruled Thursday that time had run out to draw a new congressional district in South Carolina and that the state would have to proceed this fall with an existing election map the court had previously deemed illegal.

The ruling echoes redistricting cases in other Southern states where courts found that congressional maps violated the voting rights of Black voters and other people of color but allowed them to be used anyway, at least temporarily. In recent years, that happened in Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana.

In the latest instance, a panel of three judges decided to let South Carolina use a new map drawn by the Republican-led legislature because the Supreme Court had not yet decided an appeal that will ultimately determine how the district should be drawn. Voting rights advocates decried the ruling, saying it is unjust to hold even one election in districts that are unconstitutional.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Long Does New York Take to Fix a Staircase? 10 Years and Counting, Jay Root, March 29, 2024. The 77 steps at the foot of the New York State Capitol have been cordoned off to the public for a decade, as the cost of much-needed repairs rises.

Ten years ago, the agency overseeing the upkeep of the majestic New York State Capitol reported that the granite staircase leading to the main entrance was warped and bulging so badly that part of it might collapse at any moment.

Inspectors discovered leaning balustrades, rusted steel supports, cracked and displaced granite, failed drainage systems and load-bearing brick walls so weakened by time and neglect that individual bricks could be removed by hand.

A thorough repair, estimated at $17 million, was recommended. Instead, only a handful of urgent fixes were made.

The entrance, known as the Eastern Approach, has been closed to this day, with access-blocking barricades now a familiar part of the downtown landscape.

In a state capital known for its inefficiency and inability to meet deadlines, the staircase and the Capitol’s exterior are visual reminders of Albany’s tendency toward disrepair and dysfunction.

There are scaffolding “sidewalk sheds,” bicycle rack barricades or construction fencing on every side of the French Renaissance- and Romanesque-styled Capitol. During winter months, most of the adjacent Empire State Plaza is also walled off with temporary barricades to keep people from slipping and getting hurt on the icy plaza — even though there has hardly been any snow or ice this winter.

ny times logoNew York Times, Woman Who Received 5-Year Sentence in Voter Fraud Case Is Acquitted, Orlando Mayorquín, March 29, 2024. A Texas appeals court reversed itself and acquitted Crystal Mason. She said that she did not know she was ineligible to vote in 2016.

In a case that has prompted outrage from voting-rights activists for years, a Texas appeals court reversed itself on Thursday and acquitted a woman who had been sentenced to five years in prison for illegally casting a provisional ballot in the 2016 election.

The decision came two years after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest criminal court, ruled that the lower appeals court, the Second Court of Criminal Appeals, had misconstrued the illegal voting statute under which Crystal Mason was found guilty in 2018.

Ms. Mason, 49, of Fort Worth, had been charged with illegally voting in the 2016 general election by casting a provisional ballot while she was a felon on probation. That ballot was never officially counted, and Ms. Mason insisted that she did not know she was ineligible to vote and had acted on the advice of a poll worker who said she could cast the ballot.

Ms. Mason, who has remained free on bond, appealed her conviction. In 2020, the Second Court of Appeals ruled that whether or not she knew she was ineligible to vote was “irrelevant to the prosecution.”

But in 2022, the Court of Criminal Appeals disagreed and asked the lower court to revaluate the case. It stated that the prosecution had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms. Mason, who had been on a three-year probation after serving a five-year sentence on a federal conspiracy charge, knew that her circumstances had made her ineligible to vote.

In its decision to reverse her conviction and acquit her, the Second Court of Appeals said that the prosecution did not have enough evidence to prove that she knew.

A copy of the ruling was provided by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Texas Civil Rights Project.

“I was thrown into this fight for voting rights and will keep swinging to ensure no one else has to face what I’ve endured for over six years, a political ploy where minority voting rights are under attack,” Ms. Mason said in a statement Thursday. “I’ve cried and prayed every night for over six years straight that I would remain a free Black woman.”

Thomas Buser-Clancy, an A.C.L.U. lawyer who represented Ms. Mason, called her victory a win for democracy.

“We are relieved for Ms. Mason, who has waited for too long with uncertainty about whether she would be imprisoned and separated from her family for five years simply for trying to do her civic duty,” he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP official who claimed 2020 election was stolen voted illegally 9 times, judge rules, Amy B Wang, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). A Georgia Republican official who pushed false claims that the 2020 election was “stolen” was found to have voted illegally nine times, a judge ruled this week.

Brian Pritchard, first vice chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine, as well as investigative costs, and be publicly reprimanded.

republican elephant logoPritchard had been sentenced in 1996 in Pennsylvania to three years’ probation for felony check forgery charges. His probation was revoked three times — once in 1999, after he moved to Georgia, and again in 2002 and 2004. In 2004, a judge imposed a new seven-year probationary sentence on Pritchard, thus making him ineligible to vote until at least 2011 in Georgia, where state law prohibits felons from voting.

Despite that, court documents showed that Pritchard signed voter registration forms in 2008 in which he affirmed that he was “not serving a sentence for having been convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude.” He then cast ballots in four Georgia primary and general elections in 2008, as well as five special, primary and general elections in 2010.
According to court documents, Pritchard testified that he thought his felony sentence had ended in 1999.

“Do you think the first time I voted, I said, ‘Oh, I got away with it. Let’s do it eight more times?' ” Pritchard said, as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Representatives for the Georgia GOP and for Pritchard’s attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Pritchard is a conservative talk show host and the owner of fetchyournews.com, which he has described as a conservative political news site. He also ran unsuccessfully in a special election for a Georgia state House seat last year.

In a 2022 story for his website, Pritchard railed against those who had alleged he had voted illegally, accusing them in turn of trying to “manipulate an election.” He also maintained he had done nothing wrong.

“Yes, for those who think a person charged with a felony can’t vote, wrong. First, in the state of Pennsylvania the only time you lose your voting rights is if you are incarcerated,” Pritchard wrote. “Considering I have never spent a night in jail in my entire life …(can everyone say that) I never lost my voting rights in PA. Once your sentence has expired you can vote in the state of Georgia. Yes it’s true!”

Pritchard has also touted former president Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was “stolen” from him. In a 2022 episode of his talk show, Pritchard criticized the “corrupt media” and Georgia election officials for being “complicit” in what he called stealing the election.

“I do not believe 81 million people voted for this guy,” Pritchard said, referring to Joe Biden.

washington post logoWashington Post, Esther Coopersmith, Washington diplomat and doyenne, dies at 94, Emily Langer, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). Esther Coopersmith, who nurtured generations of Democratic politicians — among them a young Joe Biden — and conducted diplomacy at the dinner table as one of Washington’s longest-reigning social doyennes, died March 26 at her home in the District. She was 94.

The cause was cancer, said her son Jonathan Coopersmith.

Mrs. Coopersmith, the daughter of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, grew up in small-town Wisconsin and came to Washington in the early 1950s after being drawn in to politics as a member of the Young Democrats.

She idolized Eleanor Roosevelt, the former first lady who had also served as a delegate to the United Nations, and harbored aspirations of running for Congress. But after marrying a successful real estate developer and starting a family, Mrs. Coopersmith found another seat at the table of power as a fundraiser, philanthropist, diplomat (official and unofficial) and hostess in the tradition of Perle Mesta and Pamela Harriman.
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Over the decades — from her stint organizing coast-to-coast barbecues for Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 White House campaign to a private fundraiser at her home in October headlined by President Biden — Mrs. Coopersmith helped raise millions of dollars for Democratic candidates.

ny times logoNew York Times, Joseph Lieberman, Senator and Vice-Presidential Nominee, Dies at 82, Robert D. McFadden, March 28, 2024 (print ed.). He served four terms in the Senate from Connecticut and was chosen by Al Gore as his running mate in 2000. He was the first Jewish candidate on a major-party ticket.

joe liebermanJoseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut’s four-term United States senator and Vice President Al Gore’s Democratic running mate in the 2000 presidential election, which was won by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney when the Supreme Court halted a Florida ballot recount, died on Wednesday in Manhattan. He was 82.

His family said in a statement that the cause was complications of a fall. His brother-in-law Ary Freilich said that Mr. Lieberman’s fall occurred at his home in the Riverdale section of the Bronx and that he died at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in Upper Manhattan.

At his political peak, on the threshold of the vice presidency, Mr. Lieberman — a national voice of morality as the first major Democrat to rebuke President Bill Clinton for his sexual relationship with the White House intern Monica Lewinsky — was named Mr. Gore’s running mate at the Democratic National Convention that August in Los Angeles. He became the nation’s first Jewish candidate on a major-party presidential ticket.

In the ensuing campaign, the Gore-Lieberman team stressed themes of integrity to sidestep the Clinton administration’ scandals, and Mr. Lieberman urged Americans to bring religion and faith more prominently into public life.

The ticket won a narrow plurality of the popular votes — a half-million more than the Bush-Cheney Republican ticket. But on the evening of Election Day, no clear winner had emerged in the Electoral College, and an intense legal struggle took center stage.

After weeks of dispute, it came down to the results in Florida, where fewer than 600 votes appeared to separate the opposing candidates. In an unsigned landmark decision on Dec. 12, the United States Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, that different standards of recounting in different counties had violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution and ordered an end to the recounts. The decision effectively awarded Florida’s 25 electoral votes, and the presidency, to Mr. Bush.

“It was a miscarriage of justice on two levels,” Mr. Lieberman said in a 2023 interview for this obituary. “One was that the Florida Supreme Court had already ruled in our favor to continue the recounts, and the other was that it was an extrajudicial political decision made in the crisis of a transition of power, and out of line with precedents of the Supreme Court.”

Mr. Lieberman sought the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination but lost multiple primaries and withdrew from the race in February. He believed his support for the war in Iraq had doomed his candidacy.

 

john eastman jan 6

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: John Eastman Disbarred, Ron Filipkowski, March 27, 2024. Another Trump lawyer goes down. The architect of Donald Trump's conspiracy to overturn a lawful presidential election has been disbarred in California. A judge ordered his mtn meidas touch networkdisbarment effective three day from today.

Eastman, shown above at center, was the author of the infamous memo urging Mike Pence to reject the slate of electors certified by the states. Mike Pence's legal counsel Greg Jacobs and his Chief of Staff Marc Short both testified against Eastman, stating that he told Pence to reject the electors.

Eastman testified in his own defense at the disbarment hearing and was cross examined extensively on his lack of investigation into his claims of voter fraud, the fact that he was aware of evidence that the election was secure and ignored it, and ignored court rulings that directly contradicted the position he was taking with Trump and Pence.

Eastman has already been fired from his jobs as a law professor at Chapman University and the University of Colorado. He is also under a criminal RICO indictment in Georgia.

ron desantis hands out

washington post logoWashington Post, DeSantis tourism board and Disney reach settlement to end legal feud, Lori Rozsa, March 28, 2024 (print ed.). The board appointed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, above, to oversee Disney’s former special taxing district has agreed to settle a lawsuit with the entertainment giant.

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight board voted unanimously in favor of the agreement Wednesday, dropping most of the legal wrangling between Disney and the Republican governor.

The settlement is the latest development in a lengthy legal dispute between Disney and DeSantis.

disney logoThe feud erupted in 2022 when Disney’s then-chief executive came out in opposition to the state’s Parental Rights in Education bill, known by critics as the “don’t say gay” law. The legislation prohibits instruction on matters related to gender identity and sexual orientation in public classrooms.

DeSantis fired back by pushing for legislation dismantling the Reedy Creek tax district, which for decades has managed the 25,000 acres that encompass Walt Disney World in central Florida. Opponents of the governor saw it as a retaliatory power grab.

washington post logoWashington Post, Congressman sued over tweet wrongly IDing man as Super Bowl parade gunman, Jonathan Edwards, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) incorrectly claimed the shooter was an ‘illegal Alien.’

Denton Loudermill Jr. was briefly detained in the chaos following a shooting that erupted at the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl parade on Feb. 14. Within hours, a U.S. congressman had tweeted a photo of him in handcuffs and a caption that implied he was one of the shooters and an “illegal Alien.”

republican elephant logoBut Loudermill wasn’t one of the shooters or in the country illegally. He was a lifelong Chiefs supporter from Olathe, Kan., who had traveled to nearby downtown Kansas City, Mo., to revel with hundreds of thousands of his fellow fans.

But soon after the social media post, Loudermill received death threats and experienced anxiety, paranoia and trouble sleeping, he told The Washington Post.

djt maga hatOn Monday, Loudermill, 48, sued Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), alleging that the congressman painted him in a false light while invading his privacy. In an eight-page complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Kansas, he accused Burchett of calling him an “illegal Alien” and the “shooter” while sharing a photo of him with millions of people on social media. That misidentification led to “emotional suffering, humiliation, embarrassment, insult, and inconvenience,” according to the lawsuit.

“This is never going to go away for me. This is going to go away for him. I will still have people looking at me and judging me for what he said,” Loudermill told The Post.

Three men have been charged with second-degree murder following the shooting, and two juveniles were charged with illegally buying high-powered rifles and guns with extended magazines. One person was killed by gunfire: Elizabeth “Lisa” Lopez-Galvan, 43, a mother of two and a popular local DJ.

But unbeknownst to Loudermill, the photos people had taken of him were already swirling around the internet.

washington post logoWashington Post, New Hampshire Democratic Rep. Ann Kuster to retire from Congress, Mariana Alfaro, March 28, 2024 (print ed.). Rep. Ann Kuster (D-N.H.), chair of the influential New Democratic Coalition, will not seek reelection this year.

Kuster, who was first elected to Congress in 2012 and has served six terms on the Hill, said in a statement Wednesday that she will retire at the end of this Congress.

 

marilyn lands teddy powell

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrat Running on Abortion and I.V.F. Access Wins Special Election in Alabama, Maggie Astor, March 28, 2024 (print ed.). Marilyn Lands, above right, flipped a State House seat in the deep-red state by 25 percentage points, underscoring the continued political potency of reproductive rights.

Marilyn Lands, a Democrat, won a special election Tuesday for a State House seat in Alabama after campaigning on access to abortion and in vitro fertilization, underscoring the continued political potency of reproductive rights.

Ms. Lands defeated her Republican opponent, Teddy Powell, above left, by about 25 percentage points — an extraordinary margin in a swing district where she lost by seven points in 2022. The special election was called when David Cole, the Republican who had held the seat, resigned and pleaded guilty to voter fraud.

“Today, Alabama women and families sent a clear message that will be heard in Montgomery and across the nation,” Ms. Lands, a licensed counselor, said Tuesday night. “Our legislature must repeal Alabama’s no-exceptions abortion ban, fully restore access to I.V.F. and protect the right to contraception.”

Her election, in the largely suburban House District 10 in northern Alabama, does not change the balance of power in the state; Republicans still hold supermajorities in both its House and its Senate. And the race was small, with only about 6,000 votes cast.

But the outcome and the margin add further evidence to the pile of election results over the nearly two years since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade that abortion, and, now, I.V.F., is a reliably motivating issue. Democrats are counting on abortion rights in 2024 to continue to help power wins in key states.

Alabama has banned abortion at all stages of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape and incest. And last month, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos were people with rights — upending I.V.F. care, which typically involves creating multiple embryos but implanting only one at a time, and indefinitely freezing or sometimes destroying those left over.

In response to the backlash over that ruling, the Alabama Legislature passed a law giving I.V.F. clinics criminal and civil immunity and Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, signed it. It did not address embryos’ legal status.

Mr. Powell, the Republican candidate, avoided talking about abortion and I.V.F. during the campaign, focusing instead on issues including education and local infrastructure. That strategy, which many national candidates have also adopted over the past two years, does not appear to have been effective.

Heather Williams, the president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which works to elect Democrats to state legislatures, called Ms. Lands’s victory “a harbinger of things to come.”

“Republicans across the country have been put on notice that there are consequences to attacks on I.V.F.,” Ms. Williams said.

President Biden’s re-election campaign, which is planning to focus heavily on abortion as well, also highlighted the result, calling it a “major warning sign” for former President Donald J. Trump. Mr. Trump, who appointed three of the Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe, has indicated that he is likely to support a 15-week federal abortion ban.

“Voters will not stand for his attacks on reproductive health care,” Mr. Biden’s campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, said in a statement.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden, Promising Corporate Tax Increases, Has Cut Taxes Overall, Jim Tankersley, March 26, 2024 (print ed.).  President Biden has called for $5 trillion in new taxes on corporations and high earners. But his record so far is as a net tax cutter.

joe biden resized oPresident Biden, amping up a populist pitch in his re-election campaign, has repeatedly said he would raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations to make them pay their “fair share.”

Republicans say Mr. Biden has “an unquenchable thirst for taxing the American people.” His Republican opponent in the election, former President Donald J. Trump, said recently that Mr. Biden was “going to give you the greatest, biggest, ugliest tax hike in the history of our country.”

So it might come as a surprise that, in just over three years in office, Mr. Biden has cut taxes overall.

biden harris 2024 logoThe math is straightforward. An analysis prepared for The New York Times by the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, a Washington think tank that studies fiscal issues, shows that the tax cuts Mr. Biden has signed for individuals and corporations are larger than the tax increases he has imposed on big corporations and their shareholders.

The analysis estimates that the tax changes Mr. Biden has ushered into law will amount to a net cut of about $600 billion over four years and slightly more than that over a full decade.

“It’s reasonable to conclude from those numbers that the Biden tax policy hasn’t been some kind of radical tax-raising program,” said Benjamin R. Page, a senior fellow at the center and author of the analysis.

ny times logoNew York Times, New Jersey’s Ballot Must Be Immediately Redesigned, Federal Judge Rules, Tracey Tully, March 29, 2024. The ruling is expected to abolish a practice that has allowed the state’s Democratic and Republican political machines to flourish.

In a landmark ruling, a federal judge on Friday ordered New Jersey to redesign its election ballot before the June primary, upending a longstanding source of electoral power for the state’s Democratic and Republican political machines.

The decision by Judge Zahid N. Quraishi of U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey is expected to fundamentally reshape politics in New Jersey.

“The integrity of the democratic process for a primary election is at stake,” Judge Quraishi wrote in a 49-page decision.

Candidates who had sued to request a redesign of the ballot had proved that “their constitutional rights are violated by the present ballot design,” he added.

At issue is the unique way New Jersey designs its primary election ballots, a system that gives a significant advantage to establishment candidates at the expense of outsiders. In most counties, the ballots bracket together candidates in the same column based on endorsements by political party leaders, rather than grouping candidates together based on the office for which they are running.

The implications of Judge Quraishi’s decision have loomed over a high-stakes race to replace Senator Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat accused of accepting bribes in exchange for political favors.

Representative Andy Kim, a Democrat running for Mr. Menendez’s seat, had made concerns over the ballot’s fairness a defining theme of the race, and last month he joined with two other candidates to file a lawsuit that led to Friday’s judicial decision.

For months, Tammy Murphy, the wife of Gov. Philip D. Murphy, was Mr. Kim’s main Senate opponent. Ms. Murphy’s path to victory was heavily dependent on the support of influential Democratic Party bosses who had ties to her husband and enough clout to ensure that her name would appear in the pre-eminent spot on the June 4 primary ballot in the state’s most populous counties.

Ms. Murphy dropped out of the race on Sunday, but the legal battle over the ballot’s design — a banal but fundamental component of electoral power in New Jersey — continued to dominate the political discussion in the state.

In 19 of the state’s 21 counties, local political leaders have for decades clustered their preferred candidates for every office in a prominent row or column on primary ballots — a position that in New Jersey is known simply as “the line.” Primary challengers’ names appear off to the side or at the ballot’s edge, a spot candidates call “ballot Siberia.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Congressional leaders mark year since Evan Gershkovich’s detainment, Maegan Vazquez, March 29, 2024. The top four leaders in Congress issued a joint statement on Friday marking one year of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich’s wrongful detainment in Russia and calling for his release, in a rare moment of bipartisan unity in Washington.

Gershkovich, a 32-year-old American citizen, was arrested in late March 2023 while on a reporting trip and faces espionage charges. Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal and the U.S. government have vehemently denied the allegations. A Moscow court has again extended his detention until at least late June.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said in the statement that they “continue to condemn his baseless arrest, fabricated charges, and unjust imprisonment.”

Politico, Pro-Trump fake electors in Arizona have pleaded the Fifth before grand jury, Betsy Woodruff Swan, March 29, 2024.  Requiring the targets of the probe to invoke their rights in front of grand jurors is an unusual tactic that raises a risk of bias, legal experts say.

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, seen here speaking at a rally in Phoenix in 2022, is probing the efforts of Donald Trump's allies to overturn the state's 2020 election results. | Mario Tama/Getty Images

Arizona Republicans who falsely posed as electors for Donald Trump in 2020 have appeared before a grand jury in recent days and invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, as state prosecutors near a decision on potential criminal charges against those who helped Trump try to overturn his loss in the state.

The prosecutors’ decision to require these people to appear in person is the latest escalation of the long-running probe by the state’s attorney general, Kris Mayes, into election interference by Trump allies. The tactic is also highly unusual and risks biasing the grand jury against key targets of the probe, according to independent legal experts who have worked as both prosecutors and defense lawyers.

If the grand jury charges them, it could even provide a longshot basis for the targets to challenge the indictment.

“My view is that the better practice is not to call people before the grand jury who you know are going to invoke the Fifth Amendment,” said Paul Charlton, a former Arizona assistant attorney general. “Why? Because all that does is unnecessarily prejudice the grand jury.”
Committee links Trump campaign to plot attempting to replace electors on Jan. 6

The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution allows people to avoid answering questions from investigators if they fear those answers could incriminate them. Pleading the Fifth is not an admission of wrongdoing, but grand jurors who watch someone invoke the amendment might unfairly assume the person is guilty. That’s why targets of an investigation are seldom asked to testify in front of a grand jury, especially if prosecutors know in advance that the targets will invoke their rights to not answer questions, experts say.

But prosecutors working for Mayes have required some of the false electors they’re investigating to physically appear before the grand jury and formally assert their Fifth Amendment rights — despite the fact that their defense lawyers told prosecutors they would take that step, according to two people familiar with the probe who were granted anonymity to share the details on the sensitive investigation.

“Is it weird? Yeah,” said Omer Gurion, a Phoenix criminal defense lawyer who is not involved in the case but has defended clients facing other attorney general probes. “I would say this is highly unusual. Is it permissible? Yes. Is it a good idea? Definitely not.”

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ronna mcdaniel djt

 

U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

President Biden, center, holds a fundraiser rally with former presidents Barack Obama, left, and Bill Clinton on Thursday, March 28, 2024, at Radio City Music Hall in New York (Reuters photo by Elizabeth Frantz).

President Biden, center, holds a fundraiser rally with former presidents Barack Obama, left, and Bill Clinton on Thursday, March 28, 2024, at Radio City Music Hall in New York (Reuters photo by Elizabeth Frantz).

ny times logoNew York Times, Behind Closed Doors, Biden Campaign Gathers Major Donors in New York, Shane Goldmacher, March 29, 2024. At a daylong retreat, 175 of the president’s biggest financiers and fund-raisers will hear from top campaign officials.

The morning after President Biden’s fund-raiser with former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, his campaign has planned a daylong retreat on Friday for 175 of his biggest financiers and fund-raisers in New York.

biden harris 2024 logoThe gathering of what the campaign calls Mr. Biden’s national finance committee will feature a half-dozen briefings from his top political advisers, including his campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, and two former top White House advisers who have moved over to help lead his campaign, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon and Mike Donilon.

The meeting at the InterContinental New York Barclay hotel is a sign of how the president has drawn his financial strength not only from grass-roots contributors but also from major donors who can cut checks as large as $929,600 to the Biden Victory Fund, a shared venture of Mr. Biden and the national and state Democratic Parties.

To qualify as a member of Mr. Biden’s national finance team, donors are asked to write a check for at least $47,900.

But that is just the entry level. To be considered a “presidential partner,” donors have been asked to raise $2.5 million, while a “principal shareholder” is asked to raise $750,000.

The donors are also slated to hear from Quentin Fulks and Rob Flaherty, who serve as deputy campaign managers, as well as Dan Kanninen and Lauren Brainerd, the battleground states director and deputy director. A polling and messaging presentation and a finance presentation are planned, as well.

The gathering comes on one of the last days of the first quarter of 2024, a key fund-raising deadline, as the Biden campaign hopes to expand its early financial advantage over former President Donald J. Trump.

The Biden campaign has said that it entered March with $155 million in cash on hand combined with the party. The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee had a combined $44.8 million.

Already this month, the Biden campaign has announced that the joint Obama-Clinton event is expected to raise more than $25 million.

It has not been announced whether Mr. Biden, who was expected to spend Thursday evening in New York, will speak to the donors, though he addressed the last gathering of the national finance committee when he first entered the race at the end of April 2023.

 

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are shown in a file photo at the White House during the Obama presidency.iden new high res

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are shown in a file photo at the White House during the Obama presidency.

ny times logoNew York Times, Obama, Fearing Biden Loss to Trump, Is on the Phone to Strategize, Katie Rogers, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). The former president and the current one are now on the same page about Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s political future. It was not always that way.

biden harris 2024 logoAs the election approaches, President Biden is making regular calls to former President Barack Obama to catch up on the race or to talk about family. But Mr. Obama is making calls of his own to Jeffrey D. Zients, the White House chief of staff, and to top aides at the Biden campaign to strategize and relay advice.

This level of engagement illustrates Mr. Obama’s support for Mr. Biden, but also what one of his senior aides characterized as Mr. Obama’s grave concern that Mr. Biden could lose to former President Donald J. Trump. The aide, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said that Mr. Obama has “always” been worried about a Biden loss. And so, the aide added, he is prepared to “eke it out” alongside his former vice president in an election that could come down to slim margins in a handful of states.

Perhaps for the first time, the two are on the same page about Mr. Biden’s future. In a sign of things to come, they are to appear together, with former President Bill Clinton, at a major fund-raiser for the Biden campaign at Radio City Music Hall in New York on Thursday.

It was not always this way.

In 2015, as Mr. Biden was grieving the loss of his eldest son, Beau, and contemplating running for the presidency, it was Mr. Obama who gently suggested that it was not his time. In a memoir, “Promise Me, Dad,” Mr. Biden wrote that Mr. Obama told him that if he “could appoint anyone to be president for the next eight years,” it would have been Mr. Biden. The vice president wrote that “the mere possibility of a presidential campaign, which Beau wanted, gave us purpose and hope — a way to defy the fates.”

But after discussing the stakes with Mr. Obama, he took himself out of contention and stepped aside for Hillary Clinton, seen by the Obama White House as the far stronger candidate. The decision bred distrust and lasting resentment among some of Mr. Biden’s aides. Several of them work in the White House today, and they believe that Mr. Obama and his advisers sidelined Mr. Biden, whom they think could have changed the course of history and beaten Mr. Trump in 2016.

In the 16 years since their first campaign together, the relationship has been defined by its odd-couple characteristics: The Harvard-trained professor and the guy from Scranton. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman who went on to serve a former junior member. The cool head and the Irish temper.

Politico Magazine, Why Won’t Biden Court the Anti-Trump GOP? Jonathan Martin, The man who never misses a funeral seems to have lost his personal touch when it comes to Republicans he needs — badly — in the fall.

politico CustomChris Christie’s extended flirtation with No Labels should be a wake-up call — for President Joe Biden.

Christie seriously considered whether to run for president as an independent, according to people who spoke to him, and was being actively courted by No Labels. The group shared extensive polling and modeling data with the former joe biden twitterNew Jersey governor to make their pitch and even presented Christie with a list of potential Democratic running mates to fill out a unity ticket.

For his part, the former New Jersey governor commissioned polling of his own and drafted a potential budget, as first reported by The Washington Post.

That Christie decided not to run is a result of No Labels’ well-documented shortcomings, the structural challenges for any independent presidential candidate and the legacy-defining consequences of being the person who enabled Donald Trump to reclaim the White House.

democratic donkey logoThat Christie considered a third-party bid at all is in part an indictment of Biden.

biden harris 2024 logo oIt has been well over two months since Christie dropped out of the Republican presidential primary. How has Biden not called Christie, whom he’s known since the former governor was in student government as a University of Delaware undergraduate, to ask for his support? Or, if he thought that too soon or too direct, he could at least have asked Christie to get together. But that ask has not been made.

republican elephant logoChristie has made it abundantly clear he will not support Trump. And last month, in a conversation on Pod Save America, he even held open the possibility of voting for Biden, while noting: “I’m not there yet.” Why wouldn’t Biden want to enlist one of the most talented public speakers in either party, somebody who ran for the GOP nomination in no small part to be a rhetorical battering ram against Trump? A Caribbean, or evenMediterranean, ambassadorship would be a small price to pay for campaign services rendered.

It’s political malpractice. And Christie isn’t the only anti-Trump Republican or independent waiting for their phone to ring.

Prominent former GOP officeholders, from George W. Bush to Mike Pence to Paul Ryan, also haven’t been contacted.

The same goes for former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who, like Christie, flirted with a No Labels run. Asked in January if Biden ever contacted him, perhaps about an ambassadorship, Hogan said no. As if to drive home the point, Hogan, whose wife is Korean American, happened to mention that he has a nickname in South Korea that translates to “son-in-law.” About two months later, Hogan announced his candidacy, as a Republican, for the Senate.

I reached out to every current Republican lawmaker who has refused to commit to Trump in the general election. Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) Mitt Romney (Utah), Todd Young (Indiana), Bill Cassidy (Louisiana) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) all said the same: they’ve not heard from Biden.

“It is surprising,” Collins told me. “It’s especially surprising because President Biden does understand the Senate, he has personal relationships with some of us.”

And that’s what makes the lack of any overtures so remarkable.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden campaign launches ad targeting Haley voters, Tyler Pager, March 29, 2024. Democrats seek to lure Republicans disenchanted with presumptive nominee Donald Trump.

President Biden’s reelection campaign launched a digital ad Friday aimed at supporters of Nikki Haley, who dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination this month. The ad is part of an effort by the president’s team to win over Republicans who may be disinclined to vote for Donald Trump.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosThe Biden campaign, which is spending more than $1 million on the ad across digital platforms, will run the spot for three weeks in battleground states, campaign officials said. It is part of a six-week, $30 million ad buy the campaign launched after the State of the Union.

The ad features clips of Trump denigrating Haley during campaign rallies and telling reporters that he does not need her supporters to win.

“If you voted for Nikki Haley, Donald Trump doesn’t want your vote,” the ad says. “Save America. Join us.”

djt nikki haley Custom 2

ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Trump Isn’t Reaching Out to Haley and Her Voters. Will It Matter? Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). Republicans are debating the wisdom of the former president’s decision to bypass any reconciliation with Nikki Haley.

When Nikki Haley dropped out of the 2024 presidential race in early March, she withheld endorsing Donald J. Trump and extended a pointed invitation for him to court her and the political coalition she constructed. “This is now his time for choosing,” she said then.

It has been nearly three weeks. He has not called.

There has never been very much magnanimity in the MAGA movement.

But as Mr. Trump prepares for a rematch against President Biden that is expected to offer little margin for error — the last race was decided by fewer than 50,000 votes across three states — the question is whether Mr. Trump’s decision to bypass any sort of reconciliation with Ms. Haley after a brutal and personal primary will matter.

Even out of the race, Ms. Haley has continued to pull in a significant number of voters in ongoing primary contests. Across the five swing states that have held primaries so far — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina and Nevada — a total of about 750,000 people cast ballots for Ms. Haley.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden campaign launches ad targeting Haley voters, Tyler Pager, March 29, 2024. Democrats seek to lure Republicans disenchanted with presumptive nominee Donald Trump.

President Biden’s reelection campaign launched a digital ad Friday aimed at supporters of Nikki Haley, who dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination this month. The ad is part of an effort by the president’s team to win over Republicans who may be disinclined to vote for Donald Trump.

nikki haley oThe Biden campaign, which is spending more than $1 million on the ad across digital platforms, will run the spot for three weeks in battleground states, campaign officials said. It is part of a six-week, $30 million ad buy the campaign launched after the State of the Union.

The ad features clips of Trump denigrating Haley during campaign rallies and telling reporters that he does not need her supporters to win.

“If you voted for Nikki Haley, Donald Trump doesn’t want your vote,” the ad says. “Save America. Join us.”

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World Press Freedom

 

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is shown via an Associated Press photo in the prisoner's area during a sham proceeding in Russia's prosecution of him on spy charges.Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is shown via an Associated Press photo in the prisoner's area during a sham proceeding in Russia's prosecution of him on spy charges.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia-Ukraine War: It Has Been One Year Since Russia Put Evan Gershkovich in Jail, Katie Robertson, March 29, 2024. In a high-security prison, The Wall Street Journal reporter stays in touch with supporters through letters as they keep up the pressure for his release.

Russian FlagOne year ago on Friday, Ella Milman and Mikhail Gershkovich received a chilling phone call from the managing editor of The Wall Street Journal. Their son, Evan, a foreign correspondent for The Journal who was on a reporting assignment in Russia, had missed his daily security check-in.

“We were hoping this was some kind of error, that everything is going to be fine,” the older Mr. Gershkovich recalled. But the stunning reality became clear: The Russian authorities had detained Evan and accused him of spying for the American government, making him the first American reporter to be held on espionage charges in Russia since the end of the Cold War.

Since his arrest, Mr. Gershkovich, 32, has been held in the notorious high-security Lefortovo prison in Moscow, the same facility holding the people accused in the deadly attack at a concert venue in the city this month. The Journal and the U.S. government have vehemently denied that Mr. Gershkovich is a spy, saying he was an accredited journalist doing his job.

On Tuesday, Mr. Gershkovich’s detention was extended for yet another three months. A trial date has not been set.

“Every day is very hard — every day we feel that he is not here,” Ms. Milman said. “We want him at home, and it has been a year. It’s taken a toll.”

evan gershkovitz kate helster npc

More than three dozen journalists and other supporters gathered Thursday on Freedom Plaza to call for the release of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been wrongfully detained in Russia for a year, and whose sister, Danielle Gershkovich, is shown at front, center, with Press Club President Emily Wilkins at her right and Club Press Freedom Consultant William McCarren at her left. Among others shown are Justice Integrity Project editor Andrew Kreig, a member of the National Press Club's Press Freedom Committee, at top center. Photo by Kate Helster for the National Press Club.

National Press Club, D.C. journalists stand with Evan Gershkovich in Washington on Thursday, Staff report, March 29, 2024.  national  press club logoWashington-based journalists gathered at Freedom Plaza Thursday to mark one year of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich being jailed on bogus charges in Russia.

Carrying signs saying, "#IStandWithEvan," about 40 people stood on the plaza with the Capitol in the background. Several members of the National Press Club, led by President Emily Wilkins, front row at right,were among them. So too were Gershkovich's sister, Danielle, and Paul Beckett, the Journal associate editor leading the efforts to free him.

The photo will be used to support the Journal's efforts to free Gershkovich, who was arrested while working and has been held without trial for a year.

Former Club Executive Director Bill McCarren, who helped organize the event and is shown at front row center, noted on X that it was the Club's ninth event in support of Gershkovich since his arrest. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Evan Gershkovich’s sister was the quiet one. Now she’s his voice, Manuel Roig-Franzia, March 29, 2024. On the first anniversary of his detention in Russia, the Wall Street Journal reporter’s sister is on a crusade to get him out of prison, one interview at a time.

The wind was ripping hard and cold down the busy city street. But the camera crew and the famous television anchor were waiting.

wsj logoSo the hipster sister, with her raven-black bangs and her chunky orange boots, pulled her fuzzy coat close, cast a glance at her husband, screwed up her courage and stepped outside.

Danielle Gershkovich never wanted this, never wanted the spotlight. Her charismatic younger brother, Evan, was the globe-trotting foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, a magnetic personality who was at ease as the center of attention. She was the shy one, Danielle said in an interview, “afraid of public speaking … self-conscious of that sort of thing.”
Evan Gershkovich in July 2021, nearly two years before his arrest in Russia. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images/Getty Images)

Circumstances have forced the siblings to switch roles. Evan, 32, is now shielded from public view except for the rare video news clip, in a Russian prison, where he will mark one year behind bars on Friday since his arrest on universally condemned and unsubstantiated charges of spying on the Russian military. Danielle, a 34-year-old university fine-arts program administrative assistant, must speak for him.

And so she has found herself at the podium during journalism award ceremonies, on panels with high-powered media executives and as the featured interviewee on satellite media tours where reporters around the world dial in to ask her versions of the same questions over and over.

How’s her brother doing? What’s he like? Is there any progress getting him home?

Evan Gershkovich was arrested by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) on March 29, 2023, while reporting in Yekaterinburg, about 1,000 miles east of Moscow — the first American journalist accused of espionage in Russia since the Cold War.

He has denied being a spy, and the United States quickly determined he had been wrongfully detained — qualifying his case for a special status at the State Department that is generally thought to improve a detainee’s chances of release. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the arrest (“journalism is not a crime,” he declared in April), and the United States imposed sanctions on the FSB.

But Evan remains in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison awaiting trial. On Tuesday, in his 12th court appearance, a judge extended Evan’s detention until June 30.

National Press Club, Imprisoned Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich could get a hearing in Russia next week, national  press club logoGwen Flanders, March 21, 2024. Almost a year into reporter Evan Gershkovich's imprisonment by Russian uthorities, his friends, family and Wall Street Journal colleagues are redoubling their efforts to secure his release.

Panelists at a briefing Thursday at the National Press Club, calling attention to the one-year anniversary of Gershkovich's arrest on March 29, expressed optimism tempered with caution. Jason Conti, general counsel for Dow Jones, the Journal's parent company, said Russian prosecutors have obtained several extensions of Gershkovich's hearing, saying they need more time to investigate the espionage charges against him -- which are baseless, according to Gershkovich, The Wall Street Journal and the U.S. State Department. The last extension ends March 30, which could result in a hearing next week. After that would be a trial held in secret.

"Nobody thinks that the legal route is the path to get Evan free," Conti said. "The conviction rate is 99 percent plus in Russia. ... This is going to get resolved in diplomatic channels."

He noted "an expressed willingness" by Russian President Vladimir Putin "to do a trade of some sort."

"It's quite a difficult business, this business of trading humans," Conti said.

Nobody on the panel Thursday discussed particulars, but news reports have speculated that Putin may want to swap Gershkovich for a Russian who was convicted of murder in Germany.

npc journalism institute logoMeanwhile, press conferences and other public events keep the case visible. Many journalists wear "#ISTANDWITHEVAN" buttons.

The tone at the news conference was optimistic. Danielle Gershkovich, Evan's sister, expressed appreciation for the "incredible community of journalists" who have rallied to keep his cause in the public eye. She also talked about his ability to maintain his sense of humor, making jokes in their weekly exchange of letters.

Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post journalist who was imprisoned in Iran from July 22, 2014, to Jan. 16, 2016, described the deprivation of imprisonment in an autocratic country, especially being unable to access the internet or "witness the people who have stepped up for him."

Eventually, Gershkovich could be tried, said Paul Beckett, whose current title at The Wall Street Journal is "associate editor/Evan," and he worries about the challenge for journalists to report a conviction factually. A headline saying "Wall Street Journal reporter convicted of spying ... would be grossly misleading."

Proof, Investigative Commentary: Elon Musk’s Many Years As An Illegal Immigrant, Seth Abramson, left, March 28, 2024. This seth abramson graphiccarefully researched and sourced series investigating Musk’s immigration status from 1988 through his receiptof US citizenship in 2002 reveals shocking new details about the world’s richest man.

Introduction: It’s hard for me not to feel bad for Elon Musk biographer Ashlee Vance.

seth abramson proof logoAs a Donald Trump biographer and presidential historian who wrote three national bestsellers on the most prolific liar in American political history, I had to decide early on that I would never cite—at least not for the truth of the matter—any source with a clear and consistent reputation for deceit unless the source in question was making what we criminal defense attorneys would call “a statement against [self-]interest.”

But when Vance was writing his 2015-published Musk biography in the early- to mid-2010s, he couldn’t have known—as really, far fewer of us in journalism did than would be the case today—that he was using as his foremost source a man who may well be the most prolific liar in the history of American business (with some consideration of this question accessible via these reports by Gizmodo, The Washington Post, Jalopnik, CNN, The Verge, The Los Angeles Times, Inc, The Wrap, Yahoo News, CBS News, Le Monde, The Times of India, Business Insider, Forbes, WIRED, NDTV, Boing Boing, India Today, HuffPost, Philanthropy News Digest, Fortune, Drive, WIRED (again), Yahoo Finance, Road and Track, Platformer, MIT Technology Review, Cheapism, The Associated Press, The American Genius and Techdirt, to name just a few of hundreds).

The result of Musk consistently pulling the wool over Vance’s eyes, as Musk has done to so many people across the world over the last 25 years, is that a bestselling book (Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future) is filled with claims and timelines that make no sense whatsoever. Some of these should have been detected by Vance’s editors at Ecco—I know from thirty years of experience as a working author that it can difficult to catch your own errors and false presumptions—but others are quite simply the product of a now decades-long disinformation campaign that’s been waged by the world’s second-richest man against journalists purely out of spite.

Ashlee Vance was, in my estimation, an unwitting mark for and victim of this spite, not a willing accomplice.

Even so, what this entry in the ongoing Proof series analyzing Elon Musk’s years as an illegal immigrant aims to do is tease out some of the worst lies Musk appears to have told Vance. Most of these apparent lies have one thing in common: they obscure Mr. Musk’s immigration status during a decade-long period in his life: from 1988 to 1997.

These (at best) misstatements and (at worst) deliberate deceptions were—and are—essential to Musk’s self-made mythology because (a) they enable him to demagogue on Twitter on a daily basis the political question of U.S. immigration policy without his highly inflammatory rhetoric being ignored due to his evident hypocrisy on the matter of illegal immigration; (b) they help ensure that few or no questions will be asked of either Elon or his brother Kimbal Musk about whether they lied on federal forms to gain their U.S. citizenship (with any such lies causing problems for Elon’s status as a U.S. citizen and perhaps his status as one of the leading federal contractors with the Department of Defense, as that position is threatened by a contractor’s vulnerability to blackmail); and (c) they give him a jumping-off point for performing a sinister breed of racism and white identity politics that clearly appeals to him personally but also bolsters his newest quest, that being to re-elect Donald Trump—a bigot whose return to the White House would ensure Musk remains a federal government contractor in good standing, a presidential adviser who is actually listened to (rather than a pariah in the eyes of the Biden administration), and an influential mover-and-shaker behind the party that would rule Washington in the event of a return to power by Mr. Trump.

Musk’s two primary goals—making money and being loved—are both served, and served best, by backing MAGA demagogues in 2024. And right now those people are focused on a topic that clearly means little to Musk personally: illegal immigration.

But to stand alongside MAGA demagogues on immigration as Trumpism continues its decade of expansion in American politics, Musk has had to ensure that articles and books about him published during The MAGA Era—which began in June 2015—don’t encourage enterprising journalists or citizen researchers to look at the possibility that Musk was a longtime crypto-illegal immigrant himself. Which, as it happens, he was.
How the Bestselling Vance Book Devolved Into a Scam

Elon’s fellow South African-born techie, Ashlee Vance, neither authored nor intended to advance a scam with his book. But Musk also had no problem with his own actions—his deceit in his many interviews with Vance—creating precisely that appearance.

While Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future is well-written, well-researched, and even accurate as to much it details—though this last feature is finally impossible to gauge, given how much of the book is Musk’s self-reporting (and given how often Vance says Musk shut him down from investigating certain topics further)—some portions of it are nevertheless credulous to the point of being embarrassing.

To hear Musk tell it, he was the smartest child anyone had ever seen; he was bullied by comically evil adversaries; South Africa wasn’t big enough to contain his intellect; when he failed in certain subjects in school, it wasn’t for any lack of intelligence or aptitude but simply a lack of interest; and he displayed endless ingenuity in all of his hobbies and other pursuits, most of which lay beyond the ken, interest, or capacity of normal children.

What Vance (and Musk) are at greater pains to explain or justify, however, are several events that the latter clearly wishes not to revisit. Perhaps foremost among these is the question of why he would choose, at age 10 or 11, to live with his psychologically abusive father, Errol Musk—a man who happened to be, it turns out, an international gem smuggler—rather than his loving mother, Maye, after she and Errol divorced.

(His younger brother Kimbal, his junior by about a year, made the same decision four years later—perhaps tellingly, right around the time Errol Musk’s life had changed dramatically due to his recent purchase of a stake in several Zambian emerald mines.)

What exactly did the “alpha male”-obsessed (Vance pg. 34, Amazon Kindle version) Elon and Kimbal hope to gain by living with an international jet-setting criminal who was not only a multimillionaire, not only smuggled and sold off fabulously valuable Zambian emeralds in illicit deals around the world, but was willing to whisk his boys off with him on these seat-of-your-pants globe-trotting adventures?

 

More On Terror Attack In Moscow

ny times logoNew York Times, Moscow Concert Hall Shooting: Why Russia’s Vast Security Services Fell Short on Deadly Attack, Paul Sonne, Eric Schmitt and Michael Schwirtz, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). The factors behind the failure to prevent a terrorist attack include a distrust of foreign intelligence, a focus on Ukraine and a political crackdown at home.

A day before the U.S. embassy in Moscow put out a rare public alert this month about a possible extremist attack at a Russian concert venue, the local C.I.A. station delivered a private warning to Russian officials that included at least one additional detail: The plot in question involved an offshoot of the Islamic State known as ISIS-K.

Russian FlagAmerican intelligence had been tracking the group closely and believed the threat credible. Within days, however, President Vladimir V. Putin was disparaging the warnings, calling them “outright blackmail” and attempts to “intimidate and destabilize our society.”

Three days after he spoke, gunmen stormed Crocus City Hall outside Moscow last Friday night and killed at least 143 people in the deadliest attack in Russia in nearly two decades. ISIS quickly claimed responsibility for the massacre with statements, a photo and a propaganda video.

What made the security lapse seemingly even more notable was that in the days before the massacre Russia’s own security establishment had also acknowledged the domestic threat posed by the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan, called Islamic State Khorasan Province, or ISIS-K.

Internal Russian intelligence reporting that most likely circulated at the highest levels of the government warned of the increased likelihood of an attack in Russia by ethnic Tajiks radicalized by ISIS-K, according to information obtained by the Dossier Center, a London research organization, and reviewed by The New York Times.

Russia has identified the four men suspected of carrying out the attack as being from Tajikistan.

ny times logoNew York Times, Worries Over Ethnic Tensions Have Kremlin Treading Carefully on Massacre, Anton Troianovski and Milana Mazaeva, March 28, 2024 (print ed.).  Anti-migrant rhetoric in the aftermath of the attacks at the concert venue outside Moscow has spurred fears that it could cause ethnic strife inside Russia.

Russian FlagAt a memorial service this week outside the concert hall where Islamist extremists are suspected of carrying out a deadly terrorist attack, one of Russia’s most popular pro-Kremlin rappers warned “right-wing and far-right groups” that they must not “incite ethnic hatred.”

At a televised meeting about the attack, Russia’s top prosecutor, Igor Krasnov, pledged that his service was paying “special attention” to preventing “interethnic and interfaith conflicts.”

And when President Vladimir V. Putin made his first comments on the tragedy last weekend, he said he would not allow anyone to “sow the poisonous seeds of hatred, panic and discord in our multiethnic society.”

In the wake of the assault near Moscow that killed 139 people last Friday, there has been a recurring theme in the Kremlin’s response: a fear that the tragedy could spur ethnic strife inside Russia. While Mr. Putin and his security chiefs are accusing Ukraine — without evidence — of having helped organize the killing, the fact that the four detained suspects in the attack are from the predominantly Muslim Central Asian country of Tajikistan is stoking anti-migrant rhetoric online.

For Mr. Putin, the problem is magnified by the competing priorities of his war in Ukraine. Members of Muslim minority groups make up a significant share of the Russian soldiers fighting and dying. Migrants from Central Asia are providing much of the labor that keeps Russia’s economy running and its military supply chain humming.

But many of the most fervent supporters of Mr. Putin’s invasion are Russian nationalists whose popular, pro-war blogs on the Telegram messaging app have brimmed with xenophobia in the days since the attack.

“The borders have to be shut down as much as possible, if not closed,” said one. “The situation now has shown that Russian society is on the brink.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Amps Up Online Campaign Against Ukraine Before U.S. Elections, Julian E. Barnes and David E. Sanger, March 28, 2024 (print ed.). Moscow has found better ways to conceal influence campaigns that amplify arguments for isolationism, officials and experts say.

Russian FlagRussia has intensified its online efforts to derail military funding for Ukraine in the United States and Europe, largely by using harder-to-trace technologies to amplify arguments for isolationism ahead of the U.S. elections, according to disinformation experts and intelligence assessments.

In recent days, intelligence agencies have warned that Russia has found better ways to hide its influence operations, and the Treasury Department issued sanctions last week against two Russian companies that it said supported the Kremlin’s campaign.

The stepped-up operations, run by aides to President Vladimir V. Putin and Russian military intelligence agencies, come at a critical moment in the debate in the United States over support for Ukraine in its war against Russia. While opposition to additional aid may have started without Russian influence, the Kremlin now sees an opportunity.

Russian operatives are laying the groundwork for what could be a stronger push to support candidates who oppose aiding Ukraine, or who call for pulling the United States back from NATO and other alliances, U.S. officials and independent researchers say.

Investigators say that firms working in the “Doppelgänger” network — and Russian intelligence agencies duplicating the tactics — are using the techniques to replicate and distort legitimate news sites in order to undermine continued aid to Ukraine.

These techniques are subtle and far more skillful than what Russia attempted in 2016, when it made up Facebook posts or tweets in the names of nonexistent Americans, and used them to fuel protests over immigration or other hot-button issues.

The loosely linked “Doppelgänger” creates fake versions of real news websites in the United States, Israel, Germany and Japan, among other countries. It often promotes websites previously associated with Russia’s military intelligence agency, known as the G.R.U.

The result is that much of the original speech is First Amendment-protected — say a member of Congress declaring that resources being sent to Ukraine should instead be used to patrol the southern border of the United States. But the amplification is engineered in Russia or by Russian influencers.

Mr. Putin has given responsibility for a growing number of influence operations to a key lieutenant, Sergei Kiriyenko, according to American and European officials. The Treasury Department last Wednesday imposed sanctions on people associated with Mr. Kiriyenko’s operations.

Researchers at Alethea, an anti-disinformation company, have identified a group affiliated with the G.R.U. that is using hard-to-detect techniques to spread similar messages on social media. A report by Alethea echoed a recent assessment by American intelligence agencies that said Russia would continue to “better hide their hand” while conducting influence operations.

 

Shamsidin Fariduni, with bruising on his face, inside the Moscow courtroom (Reuters photo by Yulia Morozova).

Shamsidin Fariduni, with bruising on his face, inside the Moscow courtroom (Reuters photo by Yulia Morozova).

ny times logoNew York Times, Display of Battered Men Was Russia’s Warning to the Public, Analysts Say, Valerie Hopkins and Neil MacFarquhar, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). Videos showing the torture of four suspects in the deadly attack outside Moscow indicate what some call the state’s growing tolerance for public violence.

The four men accused of carrying out Russia’s deadliest terror attack in decades appeared in a Moscow court on Sunday night bandaged and battered. One entered with his partially severed ear covered. Another was in an orange wheelchair, his left eye bulging, his hospital gown open and a catheter on his lap.

Many people around the world, including Russians, already knew what had happened to them. Since Saturday, videos of the men being tortured during interrogation circulated widely on social media, in what analysts called an apparent retaliation for the concert hall attack they are accused of committing last Friday, which killed at least 139 people and injured 180 more.

One of the most disturbing videos showed one defendant, identified as Saidakrami M. Rajabalizoda, having part of his ear sliced off and shoved in his mouth. A photograph circulating online showed a battery hooked up to the genitals of another, Shamsidin Fariduni, while he was being detained.

How the videos began circulating was not immediately clear, but they were spread by nationalistic, pro-war Telegram channels that are regarded as close to Russia’s security services.

 

Dalerjon B. Mirzoyev, one of the men accused of the attack, in the Moscow courtroom (Associated Press photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

Dalerjon B. Mirzoyev, one of the men accused of the attack, in the Moscow courtroom (Associated Press photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

Though the goriest clips were not shown on state television, the brutal treatment of the defendants was made clear. And the decision by the Russian authorities to showcase it so publicly in court, in a way they had almost never done before, was intended as a sign of revenge and a warning to potential terrorists, analysts said.

In Russia’s recent history, videos of torture were not shown on state television, said Olga Sadovskaya of the Committee Against Torture, a Russian human rights organization.

“There were two intentions” to circulating the videos, Ms. Sadovskaya said. “First, to show people who could plan another terrorist attack what could happen to them, and second, to show society that there is revenge for all that people suffered in this terrorist attack.”

 

Scores of  Russians, stunned by a terrorist attack, brought flowers on Sunday, March 24, to a memorial at Crocus City Hall, where the attack took place,  in the Moscow suburbs (New York Times photo by Nanna Heitmann). Scores of  Russians, stunned by a terrorist attack, brought flowers on Sunday, March 24, to a memorial at Crocus City Hall, where the attack took place,  in the Moscow suburbs (New York Times photo by Nanna Heitmann).

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Begins Day of Mourning for Concert Hall Victims, Staff Reports, March 25, 2024 (print ed.). American officials attribute Friday’s attack in a Moscow suburb, which killed at least 133 people, to a branch of the Islamic State active in Iran and Afghanistan.

Russian FlagRussia was beginning a national day of mourning on Sunday for victims of a fiery terrorist attack on a suburban Moscow concert venue that killed at least 133 people, as a search for bodies in the charred premises continued and questions lingered about the identities and motives of the perpetrators.

There are two primary narratives about the violence on Friday night, Russia’s deadliest terrorist attack in 20 years.

American officials say it was the work of Islamic State-Khorosan, or ISIS-K, an Islamic State offshoot that has been active in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.

But on Saturday, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia did not mention ISIS-K or the identities of the perpetrators in his first public remarks on the tragedy. Russian state news broadcasts have largely ignored or cast doubt on the ISIS theory, instead laying the groundwork to suggest that Ukraine and its Western backers were responsible — a charge Kyiv denies.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Russia, Fingers Point Anywhere but at ISIS for Concert Hall Attack, Ivan Nechepurenko, Paul Sonne and Kayla Guo, March 25, 2024 (print ed.). Russian state media pushed the idea that Ukraine was the obvious culprit, but at least three of the four suspects charged on Sunday are from the Central Asian nation of Tajikistan.

Bodies were recovered, flowers were laid and fingers were pointed on Sunday as competing narratives took shape over who was behind the terrorist attack on a Russian concert hall where at least 137 people out to enjoy an evening of music were killed.

President Vladimir V. Putin has hinted that Ukraine was behind the Friday night attack. He stopped short of accusing Kyiv directly, but on Sunday, some of his allies showed no such compunction.

Russian FlagAmerican officials have said that the attack appeared to be the work of an offshoot of the Islamic State, and that there is no evidence connecting Kyiv to it. But many Russian nationalist commentators and ultraconservative hawks are pushing the idea that Ukraine is the obvious culprit.

A pro-Kremlin analyst who is a regular on Russian state television, Sergei A. Markov, wrote in a post on Telegram that the Kremlin must work at isolating the Ukrainian leadership by “connecting the terrorist act not with ISIS but with the Ukrainian government as much as possible.”

Russian state news outlets barely mentioned that ISIS itself claimed that it was responsible for the attack at Crocus City Hall, a concert venue in the outskirts of Moscow. The ISIS offshoot U.S. officials believe was tied to the attack, the Islamic State Khorasan, which is known as ISIS-K, has been active in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.

Late Sunday, four men who appeared to have been badly beaten appeared in a Russian courtroom and were charged with committing a terrorist attack.

Three of the men told the court they were from Tajikistan, and according to Russian news outlets, the fourth suspect is, too. The Islamic State has attracted thousands of adherents from countries in Central Asia, including Tajikistan.

All four suspects had visible bruising, and one had bandages on his head. Another had to be wheeled in and out of the courtroom. Videos purporting to show the men being brutalized while under interrogation have been circulating widely on Russian social media.

On Sunday, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria V. Zakharova, said that the West was pointing at ISIS-K to shift the blame away from Ukraine. Russia has not presented any evidence of Ukraine’s involvement, and Ukrainian officials have dismissed the accusations.

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Israel-Hamas War, Civilian Deaths

washington post logoWashington Post, Court ruling on ultra-Orthodox in the army imperils Netanyahu’s coalition, Loveday Morris, March 29, 2024. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing a coalition crisis over drafting ultra-Orthodox Jews into the military, an intractable battle at the heart of the state’s identity that has been sharpened by country’s manpower needs during the war with Hamas.

Israel FlagIn a decision that has deep ramifications for society — not to mention Netanyahu’s government — Israel’s Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the suspension of state subsidies for ultra-Orthodox Jews studying in yeshivas instead of doing military service. It came just days ahead of an April 1 deadline for the government to agree on a new law to allow the community to avoid being drafted.

“There is a chance that this could be the first break in the wall for this coalition,” said Gilad Malach, an expert on the ultra-Orthodox at the Israel Democracy Institute, a Jerusalem think tank. Ultra-Orthodox leaders see the ruling as a betrayal of promises from Netanyahu, he said, including assurances of financial aid and military exemptions in return for their political support.

Military exemptions date to the first days of the Israeli state, when in 1949 David Ben Gurion, the country’s founder, granted exemptions for 400 religious yeshiva students of conscription age.

Since then, however, the number qualifying for exemption has mushroomed, and the ultra-Orthodox make up 13 percent of the population. Their political parties have been key members of Netanyahu’s successive governments.

Now, Netanyahu’s political survival hinges on whether he can keep them appeased. He must do that while also balancing the demands of other members of his cabinet, who insist that all members of society should contribute equally to Israel’s war against Hamas.

The dispute underscores a central tension in modern Israel, one that has become increasingly acute as Israeli soldiers fight and die in the more than five-month-long war in Gaza.

Many ultra-Orthodox, also known as Haredim in Israel, see military conscription as a threat to their existence, putting their normally cloistered young men in contact with secular life. But an increasing number of Israelis resent them for not pulling their weight; 70 percent of Israeli Jews support an end to blanket military exemptions, according to an Israel Democracy Institute survey.

If ultra-Orthodox parties pull out of the coalition in protest, it would propel Israel into elections at a time when Netanyahu is deeply unpopular, his security credentials shattered by Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack.

ny times logoNew York Times, Israel Deploys Expansive Facial Recognition Program in Gaza, Sheera Frenkel, March 28, 2024 (print ed.). The experimental effort, which has not been disclosed, was being used to conduct mass surveillance of Palestinians, military officials and others said.

Israel FlagWithin minutes of walking through an Israeli military checkpoint along Gaza’s central highway on Nov. 19, the Palestinian poet Mosab Abu Toha was asked to step out of the crowd. He put down his 3-year-old son, whom he was carrying, and sat in front of a military jeep.

Half an hour later, Mr. Abu Toha heard his name called. Then he was blindfolded and led away for interrogation.

palestinian flag“I had no idea what was happening or how they could suddenly know my full legal name,” said the 31-year-old, who added that he had no ties to the militant group Hamas and had been trying to leave Gaza for Egypt.

It turned out Mr. Abu Toha had walked into the range of cameras embedded with facial recognition technology, according to three Israeli intelligence officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. After his face was scanned and he was identified, an artificial intelligence program found that the poet was on an Israeli list of wanted persons, they said.

Mr. Abu Toha is one of hundreds of Palestinians who have been picked out by a previously undisclosed Israeli facial recognition program that was started in Gaza late last year. The expansive and experimental effort is being used to conduct mass surveillance there, collecting and cataloging the faces of Palestinians without their knowledge or consent, according to Israeli intelligence officers, military officials and soldiers.

The technology was initially used in Gaza to search for Israelis who were taken hostage by Hamas during the Oct. 7 cross-border raids, the intelligence officials said. After Israel embarked on a ground offensive in Gaza, it increasingly turned to the program to root out anyone with ties to Hamas or other militant groups. At times, the technology wrongly flagged civilians as wanted Hamas militants, one officer said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Hezbollah and Israel Trade Fire Across Lebanon Border, March 28, 2024 (print ed.). At least one person died in Israel and seven were reported killed in Lebanon in the latest exchange of fire, which has raised fears of a wider conflict.

Israel FlagHezbollah fired dozens of rockets into northern Israel on Wednesday, killing at least one person in a barrage that it said was retaliation for an Israeli strike that the authorities said killed seven medics overnight in southern Lebanon.

For months, Hezbollah and Israel’s military have traded fire across the Israel-Lebanon border, raising fears that the war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas — an ally of Hezbollah — could spiral into a wider regional conflict. The violence has displaced tens of thousands of people from their homes.

ny times logoNew York Times, Israeli and U.S. Defense Ministers to Meet in Washington With Tensions High, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). A rift is growing between the U.S. and Israel after the U.N. Security Council, with the U.S. abstaining, adopted a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza.

Israel FlagRelations between President Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel appear to have sunk to a new low, with both men pressed hard by domestic politics and looming elections.

Mr. Biden is facing outrage from his own supporters and global allies about the toll of civilian deaths in the war against Hamas and Israel’s seeming reluctance to allow into Gaza adequate amounts of food and medicine. On Monday, Mr. Biden chose to allow a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire in Gaza to pass, abstaining from the vote rather than vetoing the measure as the United States had done in the past.

yoav gallant 2016Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, left, was scheduled to hold a second day of meetings on Tuesday with top Biden administration officials in Washington, as friction ratcheted up between the two allies over the U.S. decision to allow the passage of a U.N. resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.

Mr. Gallant is expected to meet with his U.S. counterpart, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin, and the C.I.A. director, William J. Burns, who was in Doha, Qatar, last week to partake in the negotiations between Israel and Hamas.

ny times logoNew York Times, Israeli Hostage Says She Was Sexually Assaulted and Tortured in Gaza, Patrick Kingsley and Ronen Bergman, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). Amit Soussana is the first hostage to publicly say she was sexually abused in captivity. A U.N. report said it found “clear and convincing information” that some hostages suffered sexual violence.

Israel FlagThe reporters interviewed Amit Soussana for eight hours and doctors she spoke with immediately after her release. They also reviewed medical records, videos, text messages and photographs.

Amit Soussana, an Israeli lawyer, was abducted from her home on Oct. 7, beaten and dragged into Gaza by at least 10 men, some armed. Several days into her captivity, she said, her guard began asking about her sex life.

Ms. Soussana said she was held alone in a child’s bedroom, chained by her left ankle. Sometimes, the guard would enter, sit beside her on the bed, lift her shirt and touch her, she said.

He also repeatedly asked when her period was due. When her period ended, around Oct. 18, she tried to put him off by pretending that she was bleeding for nearly a week, she recalled.

Around Oct. 24, the guard, who called himself Muhammad, attacked her, she said.

Early that morning, she said, Muhammad unlocked her chain and left her in the bathroom. After she undressed and began washing herself in the bathtub, Muhammad returned and stood in the doorway, holding a pistol.

“He came towards me and shoved the gun at my forehead,” Ms. Soussana recalled during eight hours of interviews with The New York Times in mid-March. After hitting Ms. Soussana and forcing her to remove her towel, Muhammad groped her, sat her on the edge of the bathtub and hit her again, she said.

He dragged her at gunpoint back to the child’s bedroom, a room covered in images of the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants, she recalled.

“Then he, with the gun pointed at me, forced me to commit a sexual act on him,” Ms. Soussana said.

Ms. Soussana, 40, is the first Israeli to speak publicly about being sexually assaulted during captivity after the Hamas-led raid on southern Israel. In her interviews with The Times, conducted mostly in English, she provided extensive details of sexual and other violence she suffered during a 55-day ordeal.

Ms. Soussana’s personal account of her experience in captivity is consistent with what she told two doctors and a social worker less than 24 hours after she was freed on Nov. 30. Their reports about her account state the nature of the sexual act; The Times agreed not to disclose the specifics.

Ms. Soussana described being detained in roughly half a dozen sites, including private homes, an office and a subterranean tunnel. Later in her detention, she said, a group of captors suspended her across the gap between two couches and beat her.

For months, Hamas and its supporters have denied that its members sexually abused people in captivity or during the Oct. 7 terrorist attack. This month, a United Nations report said that there was “clear and convincing information” that some hostages had suffered sexual violence and there were “reasonable grounds” to believe sexual violence occurred during the raid, while acknowledging the “challenges and limitations” of examining the issue.

After being released along with 105 other hostages during a cease-fire in late November, Ms. Soussana spoke only in vague terms publicly about her treatment in the Gaza Strip, wary of recounting such a traumatic experience. When filmed by Hamas minutes before being freed, she said, she pretended to have been treated well to avoid jeopardizing her release.

Ms. Soussana said she had decided to speak out now to raise awareness about the plight of the hostages still in Gaza, whose number has been put at more than 100, as negotiations for a cease-fire falter.

Hours after her release, Ms. Soussana spoke with a senior Israeli gynecologist, Dr. Julia Barda, and a social worker, Valeria Tsekhovsky, about the sexual assault, the two women said in separate interviews with The Times. A medical report filed jointly by them, and reviewed by The Times, briefly summarizes her account.

 

United Nations

washington post logoWashington Post, U.N. Security Council passes resolution calling for Gaza cease-fire, Staff Report, March 26, 2024 (print ed.). The United Nations Security Council on Monday passed its first resolution calling for a Gaza cease-fire after four failed attempts.

The United States abstained, allowing it to pass. The resolution, backed by 14 nations including China and Russia, demands an palestinian flagimmediate cease-fire during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and the release of all hostages. Four previous cease-fire resolutions had failed, including one proposed by the United States on Friday. The U.S. abstention is likely to further strain U.S. relations with Israel amid sharp disagreements over Israel’s planned military offensive in Rafah.

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Trump-Related News

 

juan merchan djt

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Imposes Gag Order on Trump in Manhattan Criminal Trial, Ben Protess and William K. Rashbaum, March 26, 2024. The order limiting Donald Trump’s speech came the day after Justice Juan Merchan set an April 15 trial date for the hush-money case.

ICE logoThe New York judge presiding over one of Donald J. Trump’s criminal trials imposed a gag order on Tuesday that prohibits him from attacking witnesses, prosecutors and jurors, the latest effort to rein in the former president’s wrathful rhetoric about his legal opponents.

The judge, Juan M. Merchan, shown above, imposed the order at the request of the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which brought the case against Mr. Trump. The district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, left, has accused Mr. Trump of covering up a djt michael cohen disloyalpotential sex scandal during and after his 2016 campaign.

The ruling comes on the heels of Justice Merchan’s setting an April 15 trial date, rejecting Mr. Trump’s latest effort to delay the proceeding. It will mark the first criminal prosecution of a former American president.

Mr. Trump recently clinched the Republican presidential nomination for the third time, and with three other criminal cases against him mired in delay, the Manhattan case could be the only one to go to trial before voters head to the polls in November.

Under the judge’s gag order, Mr. Trump cannot make, or direct others to make, statements about witnesses’ roles in the case. Mr. Trump is also barred from commenting on prosecutors, court staff and their relatives — if he intended to interfere with their work on the case. Any comments whatsoever about jurors are banned as well, the judge ruled.

There is one notable exception to the gag order: Mr. Trump is not prohibited from attacking Mr. Bragg, who has received numerous death threats in recent months.

The narrowly tailored gag order hewed closely to the terms of an order that was upheld by a federal appeals court in Washington in another of Mr. Trump’s criminal cases. And in seeking the gag order last month, Mr. Bragg’s prosecutors highlighted Mr. Trump’s “longstanding history of attacking witnesses, investigators, prosecutors, judges, and others involved in legal proceedings against him” — comments that the judge seized on in his ruling.

“His statements were threatening, inflammatory, denigrating,” Justice Merchan wrote in the Tuesday order.

 

 Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks during a press conference to discuss his indictment of former President Donald Trump, outside the Manhattan Federal Court in New York on April 4, 2023 (Angela Weiss photo via AFP, Getty Imagesand TNS).

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks during a press conference to discuss his indictment of former President Donald Trump, outside the Manhattan Federal Court in New York on April 4, 2023 (Angela Weiss photo via AFP, Getty Images and TNS).

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Keeps April 15 as Start of Trump Hush-Money Trial, Ben Protess, Jesse McKinley and Kate Christobek, March 26, 2024 (print ed.). Here’s the latest on the hearing. The former president had wanted a Manhattan judge to further delay his trial on charges related to a porn star’s affair claim as he seeks to regain the White House.

Donald J. Trump’s Manhattan criminal trial on charges that he covered up a sex scandal will start on April 15 after a judge on Monday denied the former president’s attempts to delay it further.

The judge, Juan M. Merchan, appeared unmoved by Mr. Trump’s request for more time to prepare for his criminal trial on charges linked to conduct that could have derailed his stunning victory in the 2016 presidential election.

For roughly an hour, he slammed arguments from Mr. Trump’s lawyers that his case should be delayed further because of newly disclosed documents from a related federal investigation, saying that he found no harm had been done to the former president by the delay. After a 45-minute break, he returned with the new trial date.

Justice Merchan suggested that Mr. Trump’s lawyers were dragging their feet and scolded them for accusing Manhattan prosecutors of misconduct without seeming to substantiate their allegations.

“You are literally accusing the Manhattan D.A.’s office and the people assigned to this case of prosecutorial misconduct and trying to make me complicit in it,” the judge exclaimed incredulously.

He noted that many of the new documents were not relevant to the case. “This court is of the opinion that there are really not significant facts to be resolved,” Justice Merchan said, a sign that he might be close to finalizing a trial date.

todd blancheThe judge also pressed one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Todd Blanche, on the number of documents the defense thinks are relevant, saying, “I just want to get a sense of how much time you need.”

A little taken aback, Mr. Blanche consulted papers on the desk before him, and finally came up with “tens of thousands.” Unsatisfied, the judge said that Mr. Blanche was not answering his questions.

One of prosecutors, Matthew Colangelo, estimated that only about 300 documents were pertinent to the trial, and that “99 percent” were irrelevant.

The Manhattan case stems from Mr. Cohen’s $130,000 hush-money payment to Ms. Daniels, who had hoped to sell her story of a one-night sexual encounter with Mr. Trump. That payment was made just before the 2016 election. After Mr. Trump became president, he reimbursed Mr. Cohen, and therein lay the crime, prosecutors say. Mr. Trump allowed his family business to falsify internal records, claiming that the reimbursement payments were legal expenses. The cover-up hid the scandal from voters, Mr. Bragg contends, casting it as an election-interference case.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s Bible grift is going to backfire, Eugene Robinson, right, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). Donald Trump eugene robinsoncould be making a big mistake hawking the “God Bless the USA” Bible to his MAGA supporters. Some of them might actually read it.

ICE logoThis latest grift might well flop, like Trump Steaks and those hideous gold-colored “Never Surrender” sneakers he’s trying to sell for $399. For its opportunistic timing alone — the rollout is happening during Holy Week, the most sacred time on the Christian calendar — the Bible venture deserves to be smitten by a wrathful marketplace.

If the MAGA faithful do buy those Bibles and look inside, however, they will find myriad reasons to forsake their profoundly flawed political hero.

They need only read as far as Exodus 20, in which Moses comes down from the mountain and pronounces the Ten Commandments. “Thou shalt not commit adultery” is an injunction Trump has bragged about habitually violating, as heard on the “Access Hollywood” tape. In that same recording, he also boasted about violating another commandment — “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife” — by saying he “did try and f---” a married woman.

Trump is scheduled to be tried in a New York courtroom next month on felony charges that stem from a brief sexual liaison with adult-film star Stormy Daniels. At the same time, he is appealing an $83 million civil judgment against him for defaming writer E. Jean Carroll, whom he sexually abused in a department store dressing room, according to the court’s findings. I could go on and on.

“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” is yet another commandment Trump routinely ignores. Of the tens of thousands of documented lies he has told, many have been falsehoods about his real or perceived enemies. Just this week, he has been telling lies about the daughter of the judge who presides in his impending criminal trial — and who angered Trump by issuing a gag order prohibiting him from lying about witnesses, prosecutors, jurors and court staff.

Of course, the commandments are found in the Old Testament, where God’s judgments can be harsh and definitive. The New Testament tells us that we all are sinners — and that we all can be saved. 

That is the theological basis on which Trump’s unlikeliest loyal followers — evangelical Christians and their pastors — justify looking past the way Trump scoffs at so many of the Bible’s instructions. Yes, he is far from perfect, they tell themselves; but like all of us, he can find salvation through Jesus Christ. As we give him our campaign contributions and our votes, we can also pray for his redemption.

Anyone who forks over $59.99 for a “God Bless the USA” Bible and reads it, however, will see that Jesus — whose resurrection Christians celebrate this weekend, on Easter Sunday — gave detailed instructions for believers to obey. They are encapsulated in the Sermon on the Mount as related in Matthew 5-7.

“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth,” Jesus said. “… Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” 

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump benefits from an unequal system. Still, he can’t outrun justice, Jennifer Rubin, right, March 28, 2024. jennifer rubin new headshotUnderstandably, many Americans are frustrated by the interminable delays in four-times-indicted former president Donald Trump’s criminal trials and enforcement of New York’s massive civil judgment for fraudulent valuation of his properties.

Trump can pay for a fleet of lawyers to file every imaginable defense and appeal. Certainly, the average criminal defendant would not enjoy “luxuries” such as the freedom to bad-mouth judges, prosecutors and court personnel practically without consequence, as Trump has.

In sum, some Trump cases will likely get pushed beyond the election. He might even wriggle out of the Mar-a-Lago documents charges. The New York civil judgment against him could get reduced. Less-wealthy defendants would not get such breaks. However, with tough-minded judges doing their jobs in the D.C. court and in Manhattan, plus major civil judgments (including two in E. Jean Carroll’s favor) already in the bag, Trump will not escape justice entirely. In less than three weeks, he will face a jury in a criminal case — something he has sought to avoid for so long.

Only voters can spare Trump the consequences of his conduct — by electing him president again in November. That would be the true miscarriage of justice.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump wins partial stay of fraud judgment, allowed to post $175 million, Mark Berman, Jonathan O'Connell and Shayna Jacobs, March 26, 2024 (print ed.). An appeals court significantly lowered the amount of money Trump must put up as he appeals a civil fraud judgment from last month.

A New York judge earlier this year hit Trump with penalties totaling more than $450 million. The former president immediately vowed to appeal that ruling, but to stop James from collecting in the meantime, he was required to put up a bond in the full amount. His attorneys have said that the cost of securing such a large bond would exceed $550 million. The appeals court panel did not reduce the initial judgment Monday, only the amount he needs to put up for a bond while appealing.

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djt indicted proof

 

Probes Of Elon Musk's Foreign Ties, Energy Plans

 

elon musk sideviewProof, Investigative Commentary: Elon Musk’s Many Years As An Illegal Immigrant, Seth Abramson, left, March 28-29, 2024. This seth abramson graphiccarefully researched and sourced series investigating Musk’s immigration status from 1988 through his receiptof US citizenship in 2002 reveals shocking new details about the world’s richest man. (Continued from above.)

Introduction: It’s hard for me not to feel bad for Elon Musk biographer Ashlee Vance.

seth abramson proof logoAs a Donald Trump biographer and presidential historian who wrote three national bestsellers on the most prolific liar in American political history, I had to decide early on that I would never cite—at least not for the truth of the matter—any source with a clear and consistent reputation for deceit unless the source in question was making what we criminal defense attorneys would call “a statement against [self-]interest.”

But when Vance was writing his 2015-published Musk biography in the early- to mid-2010s, he couldn’t have known—as really, far fewer of us in journalism did than would be the case today—that he was using as his foremost source a man who may well be the most prolific liar in the history of American business.

The result of Musk consistently pulling the wool over Vance’s eyes, as Musk has done to so many people across the world over the last 25 years, is that a bestselling book (Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future) is filled with claims and timelines that make no sense whatsoever.

These (at best) misstatements and (at worst) deliberate deceptions were—and are—essential to Musk’s self-made mythology because (a) they enable him to demagogue on Twitter on a daily basis the political question of U.S. immigration policy without his highly inflammatory rhetoric being ignored due to his evident hypocrisy on the matter of illegal immigration; (b) they help ensure that few or no questions will be asked of either Elon or his brother Kimbal Musk about whether they lied on federal forms to gain their U.S. citizenship (with any such lies causing problems for Elon’s status as a U.S. citizen and perhaps his status as one of the leading federal contractors with the Department of Defense, as that position is threatened by a contractor’s vulnerability to blackmail); and (c) they give him a jumping-off point for performing a sinister breed of racism and white identity politics that clearly appeals to him personally but also bolsters his newest quest, that being to re-elect Donald Trump—a bigot whose return to the White House would ensure Musk remains a federal government contractor in good standing, a presidential adviser who is actually listened to (rather than a pariah in the eyes of the Biden administration), and an influential mover-and-shaker behind the party that would rule Washington in the event of a return to power by Mr. Trump.

Musk’s two primary goals—making money and being loved—are both served, and served best, by backing MAGA demagogues in 2024. And right now those people are focused on a topic that clearly means little to Musk personally: illegal immigration.

But to stand alongside MAGA demagogues on immigration as Trumpism continues its decade of expansion in American politics, Musk has had to ensure that articles and books about him published during The MAGA Era—which began in June 2015—don’t encourage enterprising journalists or citizen researchers to look at the possibility that Musk was a longtime crypto-illegal immigrant himself. Which, as it happens, he was.

How the Bestselling Vance Book Devolved Into a Scam

Elon’s fellow South African-born techie, Ashlee Vance, neither authored nor intended to advance a scam with his book. But Musk also had no problem with his own actions—his deceit in his many interviews with Vance—creating precisely that appearance.

While Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future is well-written, well-researched, and even accurate as to much it details—though this last feature is finally impossible to gauge, given how much of the book is Musk’s self-reporting (and given how often Vance says Musk shut him down from investigating certain topics further)—some portions of it are nevertheless credulous to the point of being embarrassing.

To hear Musk tell it, he was the smartest child anyone had ever seen; he was bullied by comically evil adversaries; South Africa wasn’t big enough to contain his intellect; when he failed in certain subjects in school, it wasn’t for any lack of intelligence or aptitude but simply a lack of interest; and he displayed endless ingenuity in all of his hobbies and other pursuits, most of which lay beyond the ken, interest, or capacity of normal children.

What Vance (and Musk) are at greater pains to explain or justify, however, are several events that the latter clearly wishes not to revisit. Perhaps foremost among these is the question of why he would choose, at age 10 or 11, to live with his psychologically abusive father, Errol Musk—a man who happened to be, it turns out, an international gem smuggler—rather than his loving mother, Maye, after she and Errol divorced.

Proof, Investigative Commentary: ICYMI: Elon Musk Has Been Outed As A Former Illegal Immigrant By His Brother Kimbal Musk, Seth seth abramson graphicAbramson, left, March 26-27, 2024. In a 2013 interview, Kimbal Musk admitted that he and Elon were in the United States illegally when they secured millions in investments to launch their careers. And he shut down Elon’s lies about it.

seth abramson proof logoIn 2013, the Milken Institute conducted a 45-minute interview with Elon Musk, shown above in a file photo, and Kimbal Musk, two extremely wealthy South Africans who came to the United States in the early 1990s to try to become even more wealthy. (As Proof will exhaustively detail in an upcoming book-chapter excerpt, much of the Musk Family’s wealth came from several illegal, Apartheid-era Zambian emerald mines partly owned by Errol Musk, Elon and Kimbal’s father and a rather virulent racist who would have had minimal concern about the exploitation of cheap Black labor in Zambia in the 1980s and 1990s.)

During this long-since-forgotten interview, Elon’s brother Kimbal confesses that when the two sought—and received—millions of dollars in investments for their first start-up, Zip2, the company that launched their careers and ultimately made both of them (for the first time, apart from their father Errol) multi-millionaires, they were hiding from those investors they were pitching to that they were illegal immigrants.

Now Musk spends his days attacking poor, nonwhite men, women, and children who are fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries—reasons considerably more noble than Musk’s own for entering or remaining in the United States without proper documentation.

Indeed, under the not just strident but wildly inflammatory view of illegal immigration Musk has advanced in postings online and in interviews, he shouldn’t just be deported from the United States to South Africa, he should also lose any contracts (particularly taxpayer-funded ones with the Department of Defense) requiring him to be a citizen and go to the very back of the very long line for legal re-entry to America—an arduous process that possibly would take Musk until he was in his seventies to fully complete.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Pivot to China Saved Elon Musk. It Also Binds Him to Beijing, Mara Hvistendahl, Jack Ewing and John Liu, March 28, 2024 (print ed.). Tesla and China built a symbiotic relationship that made Mr. Musk ultrarich. Now, his reliance on the country may give Beijing leverage.

When Elon Musk unveiled the first Chinese-made Teslas in Shanghai in 2020, he went off script and started dancing. Peeling off his jacket, he flung it across the stage in a partial striptease.

China FlagMr. Musk had reason to celebrate. A few years earlier, with Tesla on the brink of failure, he had bet on China, which offered cheap parts and capable workers — and which needed Tesla as an anchor to jump-start its fledgling electric vehicle industry.

tesla logoFor Chinese leaders, the prize was a Tesla factory on domestic soil. Mr. Musk would build one in Shanghai that would become a flagship, accounting for over half of Tesla’s global deliveries and the bulk of its profits.

Mr. Musk initially seemed to have the upper hand in the relationship, securing concessions from China that were rarely offered to foreign businesspeople. But in a stark shift, Tesla is now increasingly in trouble and losing its edge over Chinese competitors in the very market he helped create. Tesla’s China pivot has also tethered Mr. Musk to Beijing in a way that is drawing scrutiny from U.S. policymakers.

Interviews with former Tesla employees, diplomats and policymakers reveal how Mr. Musk built an unusually symbiotic relationship with Beijing, profiting from the Chinese government’s largess even as he reaped subsidies in the United States.

As Mr. Musk explored building the factory in Shanghai, Chinese leaders agreed to a crucial policy change on national emissions regulations, following lobbying by Tesla that was not previously reported. That change directly benefited Tesla, bringing in an estimated hundreds of millions of dollars in profits as China production took off, The New York Times found.

Mr. Musk also gained unusual access to senior leaders. He worked closely with a top Shanghai official who is now the premier, Li Qiang. The Shanghai factory went up at lightning speed and without a local partner, a first for a foreign auto company in China.

Mr. Musk, who has insinuated that American workers are lazy, got employees accustomed to long hours, without the strong protections that have led U.S. and European regulators to scrutinize Tesla and unions to target it for organizing. After a Tesla worker in Shanghai was crushed to death last year, a report citing safety gaps was taken offline.

And he got the emissions policy. Modeled after a California program that has been a boon for Tesla, the policy awards automakers credits for making clean cars. To lobby for the regulatory change, Tesla teamed up with California environmentalists, who were trying to clean up China’s soupy skies.

China helped make Tesla the most valuable car company in the world. But Tesla’s success there also forced homegrown brands to innovate. China is now churning out cheap but well-made electric cars, as the Chinese leader Xi Jinping aims to transform the country into an “automotive power.” Chinese automakers like BYD and SAIC are pushing into Europe, threatening established carmakers like Volkswagen, Renault and Stellantis. Detroit is also scrambling to keep pace.

“There’s Before Tesla and After Tesla,” said Michael Dunne, an auto consultant and a former General Motors executive in Asia, about the company’s effect on Chinese industry. “Tesla was the rainmaker.”

Mr. Musk is now treading a fine line. He has sounded the alarm about Chinese rivals, even as he remains reliant on the Chinese market and supply chain and repeats Beijing’s geopolitical talking points.

He warned in January that unless the Chinese auto brands were blocked by trade barriers, they would “pretty much demolish most other car companies in the world.” Earlier this month, Tesla’s share price plunged following lagging China sales, causing him to lose the title of richest man in the world.

The company is so ensconced in China that Mr. Musk cannot easily extricate himself, should he ever want to. Teslas cost significantly less to make in Shanghai than elsewhere, a key saving when the company is in a price war with its competitors.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are studying his ties to China and how he balances Tesla with his other endeavors. SpaceX, another company he owns, has lucrative Pentagon contracts and boasts near total control of the world’s satellite internet through its Starlink network. He also owns the social media platform X, which China has used for disinformation campaigns.

“Elon Musk has deep financial exposure to China — including his plant in Shanghai,” said Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here are four factors that led to Elon Musk becoming “kind of pro-China,” Mara Hvistendahl, March 28, 2024 (print ed.). Mr. China FlagMusk helped create China’s electric vehicle industry. But he is now facing challenges there as well as scrutiny in the West over his reliance on the country.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellin is shown with China's counterpart, Li Qiang, right, during a 2023 meeting in China (Pool photo).

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellin is shown with China's counterpart, Li Qiang, right, during a 2023 meeting in China (Pool photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, Janet Yellen, the U.S. Treasury secretary, is set to warn China against a flood of cheap green energy exports, Alan Rappeport, March 28, 2024 (print ed.). The Treasury secretary, who plans to make her second trip to China soon, will argue that the country’s excess industrial production warps supply chains.

The Biden administration is growing increasingly concerned that a glut of heavily subsidized green technology exports from China is distorting global markets and plans to confront Chinese officials about the problem during an upcoming round of economic talks in Beijing.

China FlagThe tension over industrial policy is flaring as the United States invests heavily in production of solar technology and electric vehicle batteries with funding from the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, while China pumps money into its factory sector to help stimulate its sluggish economy. President Biden and Xi Jinping, China’s leader, have sought to stabilize the relationship between the world’s two largest economies, but differences over trade policy, investment restrictions and cyberespionage continue to strain ties.

In a speech on Wednesday afternoon, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen will lay out her plans to raise the issue of overcapacity with her Chinese counterparts. At the Suniva solar cell factory in Norcross, Ga., she will warn that China’s export strategy threatens to destabilize global supply chains that are developing around industries such as solar, electric vehicles and lithium-ion batteries, according to a copy of her prepared remarks reviewed by The New York Times.

“China’s overcapacity distorts global prices and production patterns and hurts American firms and workers, as well as firms and workers around the world,” Ms. Yellen will say. “Challenges for individual firms can lead to concentrated supply chains, negatively impacting global economic resilience.”

The Treasury secretary is expected to make her second trip to China in the coming weeks. The South China Morning Post reported that she will visit Guangzhou and Beijing in early April. The Treasury Department declined to comment on her travel plans.

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Associated Press via Politico, Judge dismisses Musk’s lawsuit against nonprofit researchers tracking hate speech on X

 

More On U.S. Bridge Disaster

ny times logoNew York Times, Force of Baltimore Ship Impact Was on the Scale of a Rocket Launch, Aatish Bhatia and Francesca Paris, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). A Times analysis used preliminary data to estimate the force of the impact. It involved “more energy than you can really get your mind around,” an expert said.

The container ship Dali appeared to move sluggishly before striking the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore on Tuesday. Yet it delivered a force so large that one reasonable comparison is to a rocket launch.

How could something traveling slower than a casual bike rider cause such a devastating impact? The answer lies in its mass: roughly a third to a half of the Empire State Building.

It may be months or even years before engineers conduct careful simulations of this disaster that take into account all the variables. But we used the limited available data to start to understand how strong the collision might have been.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Baltimore bridge disaster that killed six men from Latin America has shaken the city’s Hispanic community, Eduardo Medina, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). The six men who were killed were all immigrants from Latin America. Their deaths have shaken the growing Hispanic community in and around Baltimore.

Jose López was one of the first in his family to leave Guatemala for a new life in the United States. He wanted work that would give him a better life. So in the early 2000s he found his way to Baltimore, a city where strivers have long found a home and where Mr. López made one for himself and his family.

He found fellow Guatemalans along with Mexicans and others who had left their countries with similar aspirations. He and his wife settled in a house with a porch, his brother Jovani said. The couple had two children, and Jose López often picked them up from school.

About two years ago, he took a new job, working late nights for a contractor repairing roads on Maryland bridges. He didn’t mind the arduous hours because he viewed his purpose in life as providing food and shelter for his family, Mr. López’s older brother said.

The authorities have said there are six victims.

They were men who had gone to work on a bridge late into the night, in cold temperatures, to ensure that thousands of other Marylanders could use the Francis Scott Key Bridge to make it to their own jobs.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Five Minutes That Brought Down the Baltimore Bridge, Annie Correal, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Campbell Robertson, Michael Forsythe and Mike Baker, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). When a massive cargo ship lost power, crews rushed to control it and to evacuate the Francis Scott Key Bridge. But it was too late.

“Hold all traffic on the Key Bridge.”

The terse command from an officer in Baltimore’s busy commercial shipping port was one of the first warnings of a disaster that experts now predict will transform shipping on the Eastern Seaboard and change how ships and bridges function around the world. But after the cargo ship Dali lost power early Tuesday, there were precious few minutes to act.

In those minutes, many people — from the ship’s crew, who sent out a mayday signal, to the transportation authority police officers, who stopped traffic heading onto the Francis Scott Key Bridge — did what they could to avert catastrophe, most likely saving many lives.

And yet — no matter what anyone did — several factors made catastrophe all but inevitable. When a ship of this size loses engine power, there is little to be done to correct its course, even dropping an anchor down. And the Key Bridge was particularly vulnerable. As long ago as 1980, engineers had warned that the bridge, because of its design, would never be able to survive a direct hit from a container ship.

ny times logoNew York Times, Efforts Begin to Clear Bridge Debris and Reopen Baltimore Port, Victoria Kim, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). Officials paused the search for bodies and were shifting their focus to removing the twisted ruins of the Francis Scott Key Bridge. Efforts were underway early Thursday to dismantle the wreckage of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, the first step on a long path toward reopening the Port of Baltimore and alleviating the disruptions to global shipping and the local economy.

Officials said late Wednesday that they were pausing the search for the bodies of four road workers believed to have plunged into the Patapsco River during the bridge’s collapse, the deadliest in the United States in more than a decade. The focus is now on removing the warped and jagged ruins of the structure. Divers on Wednesday found a red pickup truck in the water with the bodies of two workers.

The Dali, the cargo ship that struck the bridge early Tuesday, triggering its collapse, has sat at anchor since, damaged and trapped under the bridge’s wreckage. More than 50 of the ship’s load of 4,700 containers contained potentially hazardous materials, the Coast Guard said, and some containers have fallen into the water.

The voyage data recorder, the equivalent of an aircraft’s black box, and police radio captured details of the frantic minutes leading up to the impact. Alarms rang as the ship lost power. The harbor pilot directing the ship called on nearby tugboats for help, then ordered an anchor dropped, to no avail.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigators Seek Answers on How Ship Lost Power and Hit Baltimore Bridge, Victoria Kim, March 28, 2024 (print ed.). Investigators were piecing together on Wednesday what had caused a massive cargo ship to lose propulsion as it left Baltimore and strike a major bridge, making it collapse. Rescue workers were trying to recover the bodies of six workers who plunged into the cold waters from the Francis Scott Key Bridge when it fell.

Jennifer Homendy, the chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, said that agency investigators had boarded the ship overnight and had begun to interview the crew and collect data. She told CNN that the agency hoped to release more information gleaned from the ship’s data recorders later Wednesday.

The disaster severed Interstate 695 and upended operations at one of the nation’s busiest ports, causing a major disruption to shipping and global supply chains that is likely to ripple for weeks. The port is a vital link for the auto and coal industries.

Divers resumed the search for the workers in the Patapsco River early Wednesday, Mayor Brandon M. Scott of Baltimore told a local television station. The Coast Guard suspended the search for survivors shortly after dusk on Tuesday, some 18 hours after the impact. Officials said they were presuming that the missing members of a road repair crew that had been working on the bridge were dead, given the elapsed time and the cold water temperature. Two surviving workers had been plucked from the river earlier Tuesday.

Investigators were also beginning to piece together what led the cargo ship, a Singapore-flagged vessel nearly three football fields in length, to abruptly lose propulsion and plow into a mid-river pylon holding up the bridge.

ny times logoNew York Times, Major Bridge in Baltimore Collapses After Being Struck by Cargo Ship, John Yoon, Mike Ives, Victoria Kim and Derrick Bryson Taylor, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). The authorities said that two people had been pulled from the water after the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed early Tuesday and that a search was underway for “upwards of seven people.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Vows Federal Help After Bridge Collapse in Baltimore, Reid J. Epstein, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). President Biden, who said the federal government would “pay the entire cost of reconstructing” the collapsed bridge, will have another high-profile opportunity to respond to a major civic calamity.

joe biden black background resized serious filePresident Biden said on Tuesday that the federal government would “pay the entire cost of reconstructing” the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, adding that he hoped it would be rebuilt and reopened “as soon as humanly possible.”

 

baltimore key bridge

Axios Sneak Peek, 1 big thing: Rebuilding the bridge, Justin Green, March 26-27, 2024. Congress has plenty of incentives to back up axios logoPresident Biden's promise today that the federal government will pay to rebuild Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge.

The big picture: The bridge's stunning collapse after being hit by a freight ship will have economic impacts far beyond the city of Baltimore, Axios' Ivana Saric reports.

The Port of Baltimore handled a record 52.3 million tons of international cargo in 2023, worth about $80.8 billion, according to state archives. It's closer to the Midwest than any other East Coast port and is within an overnight drive of one-third of the country's population, per the Maryland State Archives.

ny times logoNew York Times, Recent collapses raise questions on bridges and modern shipping, Keith Bradsher, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). Tuesday’s crash was at least the second in just over a month in which a container ship hit a major road bridge, raising questions about the safety standards of increasingly large ships and the ability of bridges around the world to withstand crashes.

On Feb. 22 in Guangzhou, a port in southern China, a much smaller vessel carrying stacks of containers hit the base of a two-lane bridge, causing vehicles to fall. Officials said that five people were killed.

The crashes have also raised questions about whether more ships should be required to be ready to drop anchors quickly during port emergencies, and whether tugboats should accompany more vessels as they enter and leave harbors.

There has not been a final report on the Guangzhou incident, and investigators have barely begun to look at what happened in Baltimore. But ship collision barriers are standard around the support piers of bridges over major waterways like the entrance to Baltimore’s harbor. The Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge in New York City, for example, has massive barriers of concrete and rocks around the bases of the piers that support it.

It was not immediately clear how old the barriers are around the piers that supported the bridge in Baltimore. The bridge was built almost half a century ago and designed before then. Vessels have become considerably larger in that time.

washington post logoWashington Post, The history of Key Bridge, Baltimore’s engineering marvel of the 1970s, Jennifer Hassan, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). The Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore partially collapsed into the Patapsco River early Tuesday after a freighter crashed into it. The steel-arched bridge was considered an engineering feat when it was built in the 1970s.

The 1.6-mile-long bridge spans the Patapsco River as it runs from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor out to the Chesapeake Bay.

The bridge served as a key part of Interstate 695, carrying north-south traffic around the city of Baltimore. The structure carried four lanes of traffic, two in each direction, separated by a concrete divider.

According to the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA), the bridge served as part of a network of crossings that offered “convenient” transportation for local and interstate traffic.

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U.S. Immigration News

ICE logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Georgia Lawmakers Approve Tougher Immigration Rules After Student’s Killing, Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon and Rick Rojas, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). A bill prompted by the death of Laken Riley, 22, would require law enforcement agencies to report undocumented immigrants to federal officials.

ny times logo New York Times, With Immigration a Key Issue for U.S. Voters, Mexico Emerges as Power Player, Natalie Kitroeff, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Paulina Villegas, Photographs by Guillermo Arias, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). The situation at the border has given Mexico and its president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, immense power to potentially shape the U.S. election.

Migrants were streaming across the U.S. southern border in record numbers, international rail bridges were abruptly shut down and official ports of entry closed.

Desperate for help in December, President Biden called President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico, who told him to quickly send a delegation to the Mexican capital, according to several U.S. officials.

The White House rushed to do so. Soon after, Mexico beefed up enforcement. Illegal border crossings into the United States plummeted by January.

As immigration moves to the forefront of the U.S. presidential campaign, Mexico has emerged as a key player on an issue with the potential to sway the election, and the White House has worked hard to preserve Mr. López Obrador’s cooperation.

The administration says publicly that its diplomacy has been a success.

But behind closed doors, some senior Biden officials have come to see Mr. López Obrador as an unpredictable partner, who they say isn’t doing enough to consistently control his own southern border or police routes being used by smugglers to bring millions of migrants to the United States, according to several U.S. and Mexican officials. None of them would speak on the record about delicate diplomatic relations.

“We aren’t getting the cooperation we should be getting,” said John Feeley, former deputy chief of mission in Mexico from 2009 to 2012. Mr. Feeley said the two countries did more joint patrols and investigations to secure the border during the Obama administration.

“I know what it looks like when there is genuine cooperation,” Mr. Feeley said, “as opposed to what we have now, which is being touted as great cooperation but I think is bupkis.”

 

ICE logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Appeals Court Rules Against Texas in Clash Over Migrant Arrest Law, J. David Goodman, March 28, 2024 (print ed.). The decision in favor of the federal government left in place a trial court injunction blocking implementation of the law.

A federal appeals court late Tuesday ruled against Texas in its bitter clash with the federal government, deciding that a law allowing the state to arrest and deport migrants could not be implemented while the courts wrestled with the question of whether it is legal.

texas mapA three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which has a reputation for conservative rulings, sided in its 2-to-1 decision with lawyers for the Biden administration who have argued that the law violates the U.S. Constitution and decades of legal precedent.

The panel’s 50-page majority opinion left in place an injunction imposed last month by a lower court in Austin, which found that the federal government was likely to succeed in its arguments against the law. The opinion was written by the Fifth Circuit’s chief judge, Priscilla Richman, a nominee of President George W. Bush, and was joined by Judge Irma Carrillo Ramirez, who was nominated to the bench by President Biden last year.

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Claims Against Biden Family

robert hur us attorneywashington post logo

Washington Post, Garland says it would’ve been ‘absurd’ to edit Hur report, Patrick Svitek, March 22, 2024 (print ed.). Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday defended his handling of special counsel Robert K. Hur’s report on President Biden’s handling of classified documents, saying it would have been “absurd” to make changes to it.

merrick garlandHur announced in the February report that he would not seek charges against Biden but included unflattering details about Biden’s memory, upsetting Democrats and emboldening Republicans.

At an unrelated news conference Thursday morning, Garland was asked to respond to anonymous White House criticism of the report, including the notion he should have reined in Hur’s descriptions of Biden’s memory. Garland said “no one from the White House has said that to me.”

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U.S. Justice Department photo of sawdust used in the prosecution of President's son Hunter Biden (shown at left in a file photo) to allege falsely that the photo was by the defendant showing cocaine (Justice Department photo seized from a transmission by Defendant's psychiatrist).

U.S. Justice Department photo of sawdust used in the prosecution of President's son Hunter Biden (shown at left in a file photo) to allege falsely that the photo was by the defendant showing cocaine (Justice Department photo seized from a transmission by defendant's psychiatrist).

 

More On Global Disputes, Disasters, Human Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, India reacts sharply to U.S. criticism over democracy and rights, Gerry Shih, March 29, 2024. After the Indian government last week arrested opposition leader Arvind Kejriwal in a case of alleged corruption just weeks before a national election, U.S. and German officials issued public statements gently reminding India about the importance of the rule of law.

The response from New Delhi was anything but gentle. Instead, it reflected the tough new brand of diplomacy embraced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and cheered by his nationalist supporters.

The Indian Foreign Ministry immediately summoned German and U.S. diplomats for a dressing-down in New Delhi. It lashed out at Washington for “casting aspersions” and making “completely unacceptable” comments about India’s internal affairs after the State Department reiterated its concerns about Kejriwal’s arrest and the freezing of an opposition party’s campaign funds.

On Thursday, Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar raised a complaint frequently heard among Modi’s supporters: that the United States is moralizing, overbearing and prone to meddling.

“There are people in the world who want to lecture us on our judicial behavior,” Dhankhar told the American Bar Association at a conference in New Delhi. Dhankhar went on to dismiss U.S. officials’ recent comments about a controversial new Indian citizenship law as “ignorant.”

 

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is shown via an Associated Press photo in the prisoner's area during a sham proceeding in Russia's prosecution of him on spy charges.Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is shown via an Associated Press photo in the prisoner's area during a sham proceeding in Russia's prosecution of him on spy charges.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia-Ukraine War: It Has Been One Year Since Russia Put Evan Gershkovich in Jail, Katie Robertson, March 29, 2024. In a high-security prison, The Wall Street Journal reporter stays in touch with supporters through letters as they keep up the pressure for his release.

Russian FlagOne year ago on Friday, Ella Milman and Mikhail Gershkovich received a chilling phone call from the managing editor of The Wall Street Journal. Their son, Evan, a foreign correspondent for The Journal who was on a reporting assignment in Russia, had missed his daily security check-in.

“We were hoping this was some kind of error, that everything is going to be fine,” the older Mr. Gershkovich recalled. But the stunning reality became clear: The Russian authorities had detained Evan and accused him of spying for the American government, making him the first American reporter to be held on espionage charges in Russia since the end of the Cold War.

Since his arrest, Mr. Gershkovich, 32, has been held in the notorious high-security Lefortovo prison in Moscow, the same facility holding the people accused in the deadly attack at a concert venue in the city this month. The Journal and the U.S. government have vehemently denied that Mr. Gershkovich is a spy, saying he was an accredited journalist doing his job.

On Tuesday, Mr. Gershkovich’s detention was extended for yet another three months. A trial date has not been set.

“Every day is very hard — every day we feel that he is not here,” Ms. Milman said. “We want him at home, and it has been a year. It’s taken a toll.”

 

 Prime Minister Viktor Orbán

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Tens of Thousands Protest Against Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Troy Matthews, March 28, 2024. Back-to-back scandals have rocked the government of Donald Trump's favorite autocrat.

mtn meidas touch networkThousands turned out to protest Trump favoritein the Hungarian capital Budapest Tuesday. The protestors packed into Heroes’ Square demanding the resignation of Orbán after public outcry over back-back-scandals that have rattled faith in the far-right government.

A month ago, Hungarian President Katalin Novák resigned along with Orbán's Justice Minister, Judit Varga when it became public that Novák had issued a Presidential pardon to a man who had covered up sexual assault in a children's facility. Tens of thousands of protestors took the streets organized by social media influencers to express their rage at the government for the cover up.

Then earlier this week tapes were released that implicated Varga and her aides in a scheme to cover up a bribery scandal at the Justice Ministry. The case involved justice Ministry State Secretary Pal Volner who was charged in 2022 with accepting bribes and faces jail time.

The tapes were released by Peter Magyar, a lawyer that formerly worked in the Orbán government. Magyar has founded an opposition party and plans to challenge Orbán's government. "Hungarians thank you ... for coming in the thousands tonight ... to tell those in power that we have had enough," Magyar told protesters in a speech on Tuesday.

ny times logoNew York Times, 8-Year-Old Survives Bus Plunge Off Bridge That Left 45 People Dead, John Eligon, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). The bus, which was carrying people from Botswana to an Easter weekend pilgrimage in South Africa, fell 165 feet into a ravine.

washington post logoWashington Post, Catherine, Princess of Wales, has cancer, she says in video, Karla Adam and Bryan Pietsch, March 23, 2024 (print ed.). Catherine, shown above in a still shot from a video, said she was in the early stages of chemotherapy and that she was feeling “well and getting stronger every day.”

 Catherine, Princess of Wales, said she has been diagnosed with cancer and that she was in the early stages of chemotherapy, as she asked for “time, space and privacy” while completing treatment.

The news came as a “huge shock,” Catherine said in a prerecorded message posted on X on Friday and broadcast on the BBC. “William and I have been doing everything we can to process and manage this privately for the sake of our young family,” she said.

She said that after she underwent major abdominal surgery in January, she thought that her condition was noncancerous.

United Kingdom flag“The surgery was successful, however, tests after the operation found that cancer had been present,” she said. “As you can imagine, this has taken time. It has taken me time to recover from major surgery in order to start my treatment. But most importantly it has taken us time to explain everything to George, Charlotte and Louis,” she said, referring to her three children, “in a way that is appropriate for them and to reassure them that I will be okay.”

She said that she was undergoing preventive chemotherapy and was focused on making a full recovery. “I am well and getting stronger every day,” she said.

The disclosure follows the announcement by Buckingham Palace in February that King Charles III was diagnosed with cancer. The palace has not revealed what type of cancer he has, only that he is receiving treatment.

Referring to his daughter-in-law, Charles said he was “so proud of Catherine for her courage in speaking as she did.”

The announcement was her first public address following months of speculation about her health, as she had not made an official public appearance since Christmas. Kensington Palace said in January that she had “successful” abdominal surgery and would not resume her official duties until after Easter. The palace did not disclose what kind of procedure it was, only that it was “planned” and the issue was “noncancerous.”

rishi sunakBritish Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, above, said in a statement that his thoughts were with Catherine and her family. “The Princess of Wales has the love and support of the whole country as she continues her recovery,” he said, adding that her video address showed “tremendous bravery.”

Sunak said that Catherine had been “subjected to intense scrutiny and has been unfairly treated by certain sections of the media around the world and on social media” since her operation.

Prince William, Prince of Wales and heir to the British throne, is shown with his wife, Princess Catherine of Wales, as they attend a cremonial welcome for South Korean President Yoon Suk and Korea's First Lady, Yeol Kim Keon Hee, on Nov. 21, 2023 (WPA Pool photo by Chris Jackson via Getty Images).Prince William, Prince of Wales and heir to the British throne, is shown with his wife, Princess Catherine of Wales, as they attend a cremonial welcome for South Korean President Yoon Suk and Korea's First Lady, Yeol Kim Keon Hee, on Nov. 21, 2023 (WPA Pool photo by Chris Jackson via Getty Images).

Catherine’s time out of the public eye had fueled concern, conspiracy theories and memes about her well-being and whereabouts. In an apparent attempt to quell the frenzy, the palace released a photo showing Catherine, 42, and her three children on Mother’s Day in Britain. But news agencies pulled the photo, citing concerns that it was altered. In a note posted to social media attributed to Catherine, she apologized for editing the photo.

washington post logoWashington Post, Flood of support, calls for privacy after Princess Catherine’s cancer news, Adela Suliman, March 24, 2024 (print ed.). Catherine, Princess of Wales, has been greeted with an outpouring of support and sympathy after she revealed Friday she had been diagnosed with cancer and was in the early stages of chemotherapy treatment.

King Charles III said in a statement he was “so proud of Catherine for her courage in speaking as she did,” and that he had “remained in the closest contact with his beloved daughter-in-law throughout the past weeks.”

Last month, Charles postponed public duties as Buckingham Palace revealed he had been diagnosed with cancer. Neither Charles, 75, nor Catherine, 42, have disclosed the type of cancer they have.

However, Catherine, in particular, faced weeks of intense speculation about her health and whereabouts after she took time away from the public eye following major abdominal surgery in January.
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ny times logoNew York Times, Catherine’s Cancer Diagnosis Puts U.K. Royals on Even More Uncertain Terrain, Mark Landler, March 23, 2024 (print ed.). The health concerns of King Charles and, now, the Princess of Wales are stretching an already slimmed down monarchy.

Her diagnosis follows that of King Charles III, who announced his own cancer diagnosis and treatment in early February. Like the king, Catherine, 42, did not specify what type of cancer she had, nor what her prognosis was.

Speaking in a prerecorded video released on Friday evening, Catherine said, “It has been an incredibly tough couple of months for our entire family” as she described having major abdominal surgery in January and then learning through subsequent tests that she had a form of cancer.

Looking fatigued but determined to express hope about her recovery, Catherine said she and her husband, Prince William, were helping their three children, George, Charlotte, and Louis, cope with having a sick mother.

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Russia-Ukraine War

ny times logoNew York Times, Putin Offers Both Reassurance and Threat on a Wider War, Ivan Nechepurenko, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). President Vladimir Putin dismissed claims that Russia planned to invade other countries, but warned nations against hosting warplanes meant for Ukraine.

Russian FlagPresident Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has warned that if F-16 fighter jets supplied to Ukraine by its Western allies operated from airfields in other countries, the bases would be “legitimate targets” for attack.

In a speech to Russian Air Force pilots late Wednesday, however, Mr. Putin rejected suggestions from some Western leaders that Russia is planning to invade NATO countries as “complete nonsense.”

The threat that Russia might move against other countries has become one of the main arguments used by the Ukrainian government and its supporters to try to persuade the U.S. to dispatch more military aid to the country.

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said again in an interview with CBS News published on Thursday that war “can come to Europe, and to the United States of America.”

“It can come very quickly to Europe,” said Mr. Zelensky.

At the United Nations on Thursday, Russia vetoed a resolution that would have extended U.N. oversight of sanctions tied to North Korea’s nuclear program, prompting accusations from Western nations that it was acting to keep the pipeline of weaponry open from the North Koreans for use in Ukraine.

The Russian vote — a reversal from its past support for the monitoring program — drew condemnation from world leaders. In the United States, the White House national security spokesman, John Kirby, called it a “reckless action” that made clear the growing ties between Pyongyang and Moscow.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vowing the U.S. Will ‘Do Our Job,’ Johnson Searches for a Path on Ukraine, Catie Edmondson, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). Speaker Mike Johnson, with his job on the line, has privately said he would make sure the House assists Ukraine, a step that many Republicans oppose.

mike johnson oWhen Speaker Mike Johnson, right, opened the floor for questions at a closed-door luncheon fund-raiser in New Jersey last month, Jacquie Colgan asked how, in the face of vehement opposition within his own ranks, he planned to handle aid for Ukraine.

What followed was an impassioned monologue by Mr. Johnson in which he explained why continued American aid to Kyiv was, in his view, vital — a message starkly at odds with the hard-right views that have overtaken his party. He invoked his political roots as a Reagan Republican, denounced President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia as a “madman” and conceded the issue had forced him to walk a “delicate political tightrope.”

Reminded by Ms. Colgan, a member of the American Coalition for Ukraine, a nonprofit advocacy group, of the adage that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil was for good people to do nothing, Mr. Johnson replied that he kept a copy of the quotation framed in his office.

“That’s not going to be us,” he assured her. “We’re going to do our job.”

The exchange reflects what Mr. Johnson has privately told donors, foreign leaders and fellow members of Congress in recent weeks, according to extensive notes Ms. Colgan took during the New Jersey event and interviews with several other people who have spoken with him.

While the speaker has remained noncommittal about any one option, he has repeatedly expressed a personal desire to send aid to Ukraine — something he has voted against repeatedly in the past — and now appears to be in search of the least politically damaging way to do it.

The challenge for Mr. Johnson is that any combination of aid measures he puts to a vote will likely infuriate the growing isolationist wing of his party, which considers the issue toxic. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, who has repeatedly said she would call a snap vote to unseat the speaker if he allowed a vote for Ukraine aid before imposing restrictive immigration measures, filed a resolution on Friday calling for his removal, saying she wanted to send him “a warning.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia-Ukraine War: On Ukraine’s Front Lines, Collecting the Dead Russia Left Behind, Photographs by Tyler Hicks, Written by Marc Santora, March 22, 2024. Civilians who gather the bodies of Russian soldiers face many of the war’s perils along the front, where death is ubiquitous.

navigating minefields and hoping not to be targeted by Russian artillery as he races to collect the remains of fallen soldiers from the battlefield.

In just three shattered tree lines around the ruined village of Klishchiivka outside Bakhmut, where Ukrainian and Russian forces have fought seesaw battles for well over a year, he collected 300 bodies. They were almost all Russian, he said, left behind in maelstrom of violence where the struggle to stay alive often outweighs concern for the dead.

Mr. Yusov has been collecting bodies from the bloody fields and battered villages of eastern Ukraine for a decade. He is now the head of a group of civilian volunteers called Platsdarm, and has witnessed more death than he would care to remember.

But as Russia presses a slow-moving offensive at great human cost, Mr. Yusov says the toll is still shocking.

ny times logoNew York Times, A large-scale Russian attack damaged power plants and caused blackouts for more than a million Ukrainians, Constant Méheut and Ivan Nechepurenko, March 22, 2024. A large-scale Russian missile and drone attack damaged power plants and caused blackouts for more than a million Ukrainians on Friday morning, in what Ukrainian officials said was one of the war’s largest assaults on energy infrastructure.

At least three people were killed in the assault, and 15 others were injured, according to the office of Ukraine’s general prosecutor.

The strikes came as ​the Kremlin escalated its rhetoric over the conflict, saying that Russia was “in a state of war” in Ukraine — and moving beyond the euphemism “special military operation” — because of the West’s heavy involvement on the Ukrainian side.

In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, traffic lights were not working and the water supply was disrupted. A fire raged at the country’s largest hydroelectric dam, in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia. A few dozen miles to the southwest, a power line supplying a Russian-occupied nuclear power plant was temporarily knocked out.

“The enemy is now launching the largest attack on the Ukrainian energy sector in recent times,” Herman Halushchenko, Ukraine’s energy minister, said on Facebook. “The goal is not just to damage, but to try again, like last year, to cause a large-scale failure of the country’s energy system.”

 

vladimir putin hand up palmer

ny times logoNew York Times, Putin Hails Conquests in Ukraine in Red Square Spectacle, Paul Sonne, Anton Troianovski and Nanna Heitmann, March 19, 2024 (print ed.). A day after a rubber-stamp presidential election, President Vladimir Putin said he would not back down in Russia’s war against Ukraine.

His most beloved crooner sang a nationalistic ballad with an appeal to Russians: “The Motherland is calling. Don’t let her down.”

His favorite band belted out a moody song about wartime sacrifice.

And then he took the stage, under a banner celebrating the 10th anniversary of Crimea’s seizure from Ukraine, to remind thousands of Russians gathered on Red Square that his fight to add territory to Russia wasn’t over.

President Vladimir V. Putin, a day after declaring victory in a performative election, signaled on Monday that the war against Ukraine would continue to dominate his rule and called for unity in bringing the people of eastern Ukraine “back to their home family.”

“We will move on together, hand in hand,” Mr. Putin told the crowd, boasting of a restored railroad line that he said would soon connect to Crimea through territory taken from Ukraine. “And this is precisely what really makes us stronger — not words, but deeds.”

The display of nationalistic fervor came as the capstone of a three-day election whose foregone conclusion prompted comparisons of Mr. Putin’s Russia to other authoritarian dictatorships. On Sunday night, the state news swiftly declared that he had won more than 87 percent of the vote.

Underscoring the artificial nature of the election, Mr. Putin brought the three puppet competitors the Kremlin had picked to run against him onto the stage on Red Square and offered each a turn at the microphone, saying they all took “different approaches” but had “one Motherland.”

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More On U.S. Military, Security, Intelligence, Foreign Policy

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Bidenomics Is Making China Angry. That’s OK, Paul Krugman, right, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). A paul krugmanpersistent theme in Republican campaigning these past few years has been the effort to portray Democrats in general, and President Biden in particular, as being soft on China — in contrast to Donald Trump’s supposed toughness.

One of the major planks in the G.O.P. case against Biden’s China policies, by the way, was that he was showing his softness by not banning TikTok. This looks ironic now, since Trump, who had favored a ban, suddenly reversed his position, reportedly around the same time that he had a sit-down with a billionaire who donates to Republican campaigns and has a large stake in the Chinese-controlled company.

China FlagEven before his TikTok flip-flop, however, the reality was that while Trump talked a xenophobic line that shaded into racism — for example, trying to relabel Covid-19 as the “Chinese virus” — and imposed showy but ineffective tariffs, he never had a coherent strategy for confronting our biggest rival. Biden, on the other hand, has quietly taken a very tough line on trade, especially with China.

I’ve been pointing out for a while that Biden’s sophisticated economic nationalism is a very big deal, much more so than Trump’s protectionist thrashing. In fact, Biden’s policies are so tough on China that, while I support them, they make me a bit nervous. But in case you don’t believe what I’m saying, let me point to someone who apparently agrees with me: the Chinese government.

China just filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization about the Inflation Reduction Act, which, despite its name, is at its core an attempt to fight climate change by subsidizing the transition to a low-emission economy. Specifically, China complained about electric vehicle subsidies that it says unfairly discriminate against production using car battery components made in China.

Honestly, I didn’t see that coming. America’s new industrial policy does favor domestic production and — we’ll see — might be in violation of W.T.O. rules. But for China, of all countries, to complain about targeted subsidies is an act of colossal chutzpah.

China spends vast sums on subsidies for favored companies, far more so than any other major economy. And it has often engaged in blatantly discriminatory policy — for example, for several years, until 2019, non-Chinese companies were essentially prevented from supplying electric vehicle batteries to Chinese car manufacturers.

It’s also unclear what China hopes to achieve with this complaint. In 2022, the W.T.O. ruled that U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum, imposed under Trump but retained under Biden, were illegitimate. The Biden administration responded by, in effect, telling the organization to take a hike.

The administration would surely do the same in defending subsidies that aren’t just Trump legacies, but rather a key element of its climate strategy — an attempt to make a transition to green energy politically feasible by linking that transition to job creation. The buy-American provisions may make this climate strategy more costly — but without them the I.R.A. may never have become law.

Biden officials have made it clear that they won’t allow Chinese exports to sever the link between climate policy and job creation. On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned China about the “overcapacity” it is developing in green energy as a result of subsidies. Given this, it’s hard to imagine that the administration would accept a ruling against its own subsidies, even if China manages to win its case.

So what is the Chinese government really doing here? I guess it’s possible that there’s some deeper strategy at play, although I have no idea what that might be. A more likely explanation is that Chinese officials are simply lashing out — perhaps in response to demands from the top that they do something — because they’re feeling the pressure from Biden’s policies.

These policies go far beyond electric vehicle subsidies, although they are the current flashpoint. The U.S. is also promoting semiconductor production, in part to reduce dependence on China. And the Biden administration has imposed stiff limits on technology exports to China, with the clear goal of crimping Chinese technological progress in advanced semiconductors and computing. As I said, Biden’s China policy is so tough that it makes me, someone who generally favors a rules-based system, nervous, although unlike many economists — who, I’d argue, don’t fully grasp how the world has changed — I do believe it’s the right approach.

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U.S. Supreme Court

 

United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (l) with his wife of thirty-five years, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas (r). (Safe Image)

United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (l) with his wife, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas (r).

ny times logoNew York Times, How Justice Clarence Thomas’s ‘Nearly Adopted Daughter’ Became His Law Clerk, Steve Eder and Abbie VanSickle, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). Justice Clarence Thomas gave Crystal Clanton a home and a job after she left a conservative youth organization in controversy. Then the justice picked her for one of the most coveted positions in the legal world.

The email went out to members of Justice Clarence Thomas’s law clerk network late last month celebrating his newest addition to an exclusive club. The justice’s selection needed no introduction.

“Crystal Clanton’s clerkship for OT ’24 was announced by Scalia Law today!” wrote an assistant to Virginia Thomas, the justice’s wife, who is known as Ginni. The email referred to the 2024 October term of the court, and the tone was jubilant: “Please take a look at these posts of congratulations and support. Consider reposting, replying or adding your own!”

The Thomases and Ms. Clanton, a 29-year-old conservative organizer turned lawyer, have built such a close relationship that the couple informally refer to her as their “nearly adopted daughter.” Ms. Clanton, who was previously accused of sending racist text messages, including one that read “I HATE BLACK PEOPLE,” has lived in the Thomas home, assisted Ms. Thomas in her political consulting business and joined her in a “girls trip” to New York.

 

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

The official portrait of the U.S. Supreme Court

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court skeptical of limiting access to abortion pill, Abbie VanSickle, March 27, 2024 (print ed.).The Supreme Court on Tuesday seemed skeptical of efforts to limit access to mifepristone, a key medication used in more than 60 percent of U.S. abortions and first approved more than two decades ago.

supreme court graphicA majority of justices from across the ideological spectrum questioned whether the antiabortion doctors challenging the government’s loosening of regulations have sufficient legal grounds — or standing — to bring the lawsuit.

During oral argument, the government and the drug company that makes the medication emphasized the safety of the drug but also focused much of their arguments on standing.

erin hawleyErin Hawley, left, lawyer for Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, argued that mifepristone is dangerous, even though multiple studies have shown it to be overwhelmingly safe. She says that if complications emerge from medication abortions, antiabortion doctors are forced to choose between helping a woman with a life-threatening condition and violating their conscience.

The justices are examining rule changes in 2016 and 2021 that, among other things, made the drug available by mail and from a medical provider other than a doctor.

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The five most radical right Republican justices on the U.S. Supreme Court are shown above, with the sixth Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts, omitted in this view.

The five most radical right Republican justices on the Supreme Court are shown above, with the sixth Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts, omitted in this photo array.

Then-President Trump speaking to supporters on Jan. 6, 2021 outside the White House in advance of a mob moving east to overrun the U.S. Capitol, thereby threatening the election certification djt jan 6 speech

 

More On U.S. Courts, Crime, Guns, Civil Rights, Immigration 

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ny times logoNew York Times, One Grieving Mother Hasn’t Given Up Hope for a Gun Control Compromise, Emily Cochrane, March 28, 2024 (print ed.). A year after losing her daughter, Evelyn, in a school shooting in Nashville, Katy Dieckhaus is speaking about her and the changes she wants to see.

The essence of Evelyn Dieckhaus is still there, captured in the pink Bible where she underlined the word “covenant” in silver ink, and in the beaming photos of her with her family.

It is there in her journal, recovered from the scene of the Covenant School mass shooting, where Evelyn, 9, had copied out by hand a New Testament verse about maintaining sympathy, tenderness and humility.

Her mother, Katy Dieckhaus, has since placed those pieces of her daughter’s memory into what she calls her “little Ev bag,” which she has carried with her as she take her first steps into the intractable debate over gun control in Tennessee.

“I just thought, ‘O.K., Ev, let’s go — let’s go try something,’” Ms. Dieckhaus said this week, holding back tears as she recalled her first meeting with lawmakers. “Let’s go try to help people work together. Let’s see what we can do.”

Ms. Dieckhaus and her husband, Mike, have rarely spoken publicly since their daughter and five others were killed at the Covenant School in Nashville on March 27, 2023. But they are now stepping forward at a moment when Tennessee remains deeply divided on whether to limit access to guns.

ny times logoNew York Times, Man Is Killed by New York Subway Train After Being Pushed Onto Tracks, Christopher Maag, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). The attack in East Harlem was the latest in a series of violent episodes that have led officials to increase the police presence in the subway.

A man was killed Monday evening after being pushed onto the subway tracks in an unprovoked attack at the 125th Street station along Lexington Avenue in East Harlem, according to the Police Department.

At 6:48 p.m., a man on the uptown platform shoved the person onto the tracks in front of an oncoming No. 4 train, which was unable to stop, a police spokeswoman said. The suspected attacker is in custody, according to the spokeswoman. The police did not identify either the victim or the suspect, but a senior law enforcement official said the man in custody was 24 years old and appeared to have a history of mental illness. He had several arrests in Brooklyn, the first one at age 16, the official said.

ap logoAssociated Press via Politico, Texas AG Ken Paxton reaches deal to end securities fraud charges after 9 years, Staff Report, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). Paxton was first indicted in 2015 after being accused of duping investors in a tech startup near Dallas before he was elected attorney general.

politico CustomProsecutors on Tuesday announced an agreement with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that would ultimately dismiss securities fraud charges he has been facing for nearly a decade.

Under the 18-month pre-trial agreement, the special prosecutors in the case would drop three felony counts against Paxton. As part of the deal, Paxton must pay full restitution to victims — roughly $300,000 — and must also complete 100 hours of community service and 15 hours of legal ethics education.

 

matt schlapp cpacPolitico, Sexual assault lawsuit against Matt Schlapp is dropped, Daniel Lippman, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). In a statement, the man who accused the ACU header said he regretted bringing the suit.

politico CustomThe Republican operative who accused the American Conservative Union head Matt Schlapp, shown above in a file photo, of sexual assault has dropped his lawsuits against him and his wife, Mercedes Schlapp, according to statements from the main parties.

Soon after the 2022 Herschel Walker Senate campaign, Carlton Huffman — a staffer working for that campaign — accused Schlapp of sexual battery and defamation. In a lawsuit, he sought $9.4 million in damages.

But in a statement on Tuesday, Huffman said he was discontinuing his lawsuits and issued an apology for bringing them.

“The claims made in my lawsuits were the result of a complete misunderstanding, and I regret that the lawsuit caused pain to the Schlapp family,” Huffman said, according to a statement shared by a spokesperson for Schlapp.

“The Schlapps have advised that the statements made about me were the result of a misunderstanding, which was regrettable,” he added, referring to comments the couple had made about Huffman after he filed his suit. “Neither the Schlapps nor the ACU paid me anything to dismiss my claims against them.”

Asked about the statement, Huffman said in a text message to POLITICO: “We have resolved our differences” and confirmed the accuracy of the statement.

Huffman had earlier said Schlapp, without consent, “groped” and “fondled” his groin while he was driving Schlapp back to his hotel while the two were trying to help get Walker elected. Huffman had accused Schlapp of then inviting him up to his hotel room, which he said he had declined.

Schlapp asserted his innocence. It later was revealed that Huffman himself had been accused of sexual assault in an unrelated case.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Sues Apple, Accusing It of Maintaining an iPhone Monopoly, David McCabe and Tripp Mickle, March 22, 2024 (print ed.). apple logo rainbowThe lawsuit caps years of regulatory scrutiny of Apple’s popular devices and services, which have fueled its growth into a nearly $3 trillion company.

The Justice Department joined 16 states and the District of Columbia to file an antitrust lawsuit against Apple on Thursday, the federal government’s most significant challenge to the reach and influence of the company that has put iPhones in the hands of more than a billion people.

Justice Department log circularIn an 88-page lawsuit, the government argued that Apple had violated antitrust laws with practices that were intended to keep customers reliant on their iPhones and less likely to switch to a competing device.

The tech giant prevented other companies from offering applications that compete with Apple products like its digital wallet, which could diminish the value of the iPhone, the government said. Apple’s policies hurt consumers and smaller companies that compete with some of Apple’s services, in the form of “higher prices and less innovation,” the lawsuit said.

“Each step in Apple’s course of conduct built and reinforced the moat around its smartphone monopoly,” the government said in the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

The lawsuit caps years of regulatory scrutiny of Apple’s wildly popular suite of devices and services, which have fueled its growth into a nearly $2.75 trillion public company that was for years the most valuable on the planet. It takes direct aim at the iPhone, Apple’s most popular device and most powerful business, and attacks the way the company has turned the billions of smartphones it has sold since 2007 into the centerpiece of its empire.

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U.S. Reproductive Rights, #MeToo, Trafficking, Culture Wars

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Supreme Court Got It Wrong: Abortion Is Not Settled Law, Melissa Murray and Kate Shaw, March 26, 2024. In his majority opinion in the case overturning Roe v. Wade, Justice Samuel Alito insisted that the high court was finally settling the vexed abortion debate by returning the “authority to regulate abortion” to the “people and their elected representatives.”

Despite these assurances, less than two years after Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, abortion is back at the Supreme Court. In the next month, the justices will hear arguments in two high-stakes cases that may shape the future of access to medication abortion and to lifesaving care for pregnancy emergencies. These cases make clear that Dobbs did not settle the question of abortion in America — instead, it generated a new slate of questions. One of those questions involves the interaction of existing legal rules with the concept of fetal personhood — the view, held by many in the anti-abortion movement, that a fetus is a person entitled to the same rights and protections as any other person.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Obamacare Is in Grave Danger, Again, Paul Krugman, right, March 26, 2024 (print ed.). Are you better off than you would paul krugmanhave been 14 years ago? If you’re one of the millions of Americans who have a preexisting medical condition and don’t have a job that comes with health benefits, the answer is, overwhelmingly, yes.

Why? Because before the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare — signed into law on March 23, 2010, although many of its provisions didn’t kick in until 2014 — you probably wouldn’t have been able to get health insurance. Today you can, thanks to provisions in the law that prevent insurers from discriminating based on medical history and that subsidize insurance premiums for many Americans. (These subsidies also provide healthy people with an incentive to purchase insurance, improving the risk pool.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Man Who Threatened to Kill Arizona Official Over Election Gets 2½ Years in Prison, Orlando Mayorquín, March 26, 2024 (print ed.). Joshua Russell, 46, of Ohio, left threatening messages for Katie Hobbs in 2022, when she was Arizona’s secretary of state and successfully ran for governor. An Ohio man who threatened to kill Katie Hobbs in 2022 when she was secretary of state in Arizona and running to be governor was sentenced Monday to two and a half years in prison, prosecutors announced.

FBI logoThe man, Joshua Russell, 46, of Ohio, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Arizona in August to one count of making an interstate threat, according to the Justice Department. He was indicted in December 2022 on charges that he had left several voice messages containing death threats with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office during the midterm election season, in which Ms. Hobbs was elected governor.

ny times logoNew York Times, Federal Agents Raid Homes Tied to Sean Combs in L.A. and Miami, Ben Sisario, Julia Jacobs and William K. Rashbaum, March 26, 2024 (print ed.). Homeland Security Investigations said the searches were part of “an ongoing investigation.” The hip-hop mogul has been accused of sexual assault and trafficking.

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Climate Change, Environment, Energy, Space, Transportation

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Shortcuts Everywhere’: How Boeing Favored Speed Over Quality, Niraj Chokshi, Sydney Ember and Santul Nerkar, March 29, 2024 (print ed.). Problems have plagued the manufacturer even after two fatal crashes, and many current and former employees blame its focus on making planes more quickly.

boeing logoIn February last year, a new Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max plane was on one of its first flights when an automated stabilizing system appeared to malfunction, forcing the pilots to make an emergency landing soon after they took off.

Less than two months later, an Alaska Airlines 737 Max plane with eight hours of total flight time was briefly grounded until mechanics resolved a problem with a fire detection system. And in November, an engine on a just-delivered United Airlines 737 Max failed at 37,000 feet.

These incidents, which the airlines disclosed to the Federal Aviation Administration, were not widely reported. There were no indications that anyone was in danger, and it was not clear who was ultimately responsible for those problems. But since Jan. 5, when a panel on a two-month-old Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 jet blew off in midair, episodes like these have taken on new resonance, raising further questions about the quality of the planes Boeing is producing.

“There’s a lot of areas where things don’t seem to be put together right in the first place,” said Joe Jacobsen, an engineer and aviation safety expert who spent more than a decade at Boeing and more than 25 years at the F.A.A.

“The theme is shortcuts everywhere — not doing the job right,” he added.

Such reports, and interviews with aviation safety experts and more than two dozen current and former Boeing employees, paint a worrying picture about a company long considered to be at the pinnacle of American engineering. They suggest that Boeing is struggling to improve quality years after two crashes of Max 8 planes in 2018 and 2019 killed nearly 350 people.

Some of the crucial layers of redundancies that are supposed to ensure that Boeing’s planes are safe appear to be strained, the people said. The experience level of Boeing’s work force has dropped since the start of the pandemic. The inspection process intended to provide a vital check on work done by its mechanics has been weakened over the years. And some suppliers have struggled to adhere to quality standards while producing parts at the pace Boeing wanted them.

Under pressure to show regulators, airlines and passengers that the company is taking its latest crisis seriously, Boeing announced sweeping changes to its leadership on Monday. The chief executive, Dave Calhoun, will leave at the end of the year, and Stan Deal, the head of the commercial planes division, which makes the 737 Max, retired immediately. The company’s chairman, Larry Kellner, stepped down from that position and will not seek re-election to the board.

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Pandemics, Public Health, Covid, Privacy

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Do you know a vaccine skeptic? Here are 10 simple responses, Leana S. Wen, right, March 29, leana wen2024 (print ed.). This week, I wrote about anti-vaccine messages in political discourse, prompting many readers to ask how they should respond if a family member or friend expresses skepticism toward routine childhood immunizations.

I spoke with Sean O’Leary, a specialist of pediatric infectious diseases and a professor at the University of Colorado, whose expertise is vaccines and vaccine communication. He told me that when he has conversations with parents who are hesitant about immunizations, he keeps in mind that they are just trying to figure out what is best for their kids.
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A similar approach could help people who aren’t medical professionals who want to help loved ones. Here’s how to respond to 10 common vaccine concerns.

1. “I don’t need to vaccinate my kids because the chance of contracting the disease is so low.”

2. “Natural immunity is better than immunity from vaccination....”

washington post logoWashington Post, 62-year-old receives gene-edited pig kidney in milestone transplant surgery, Mark Johnson, March 22, 2024 (print ed.). After once losing hope because of end-stage kidney disease, a 62-year-old man is now the first living person to receive a genetically edited kidney from a pig, according to doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital who performed the landmark surgery Saturday.

Richard Slayman, whom doctors praised for his courage, is doing well after the four-hour surgery and is expected to be discharged from the Boston hospital soon, officials said.

The advance, which builds on decades of work, gives hope to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who depend on dialysis machines to do the work of their failing kidneys. Each day, 17 Americans die awaiting a kidney transplant, a problem further complicated by unequal access given to Black and other patients. Doctors expressed hope that using pigs to vastly increase the supply of kidneys might correct the inequity.

ny times logoNew York Times, Four Years On, Covid Has Reshaped Life for Many Americans, Julie Bosman, March 14, 2024 (print ed.). covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Covid was declared a national emergency on March 13, 2020. Even as the threat of severe illness and death has faded, the pandemic’s effects linger.

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U.S. Economy, Jobs, Poverty, Consumers, Space, High Tech

ny times logoNew York Times, Fed Holds Rates Steady and Projects Three Cuts This Year, Jeanna Smialek, March 21, 2024 (print ed.). Federal Reserve officials left interest rates unchanged on Wednesday and continued to forecast that borrowing costs will come down somewhat by the end of the year as inflation eases.

Fed policymakers have been battling rapid inflation for two full years as of this month, and while they have been encouraged by recent progress, they are not yet ready to declare victory over price increases. Given that, they are keeping interest rates at a high level that is expected to weigh on growth and inflation, even as they signal that rate cuts are likely in the months ahead.

federal reserve system CustomOfficials held interest rates steady at about 5.3 percent, where they have been set since July, in their March policy decision.

Policymakers also released a fresh set of quarterly economic estimates for the first time since December, and those projected that borrowing costs will end 2024 at 4.6 percent. That unchanged forecast suggests that they still expect to make three quarter-point rate cuts this year.

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Media, Religion, High Tech, Education, Free Speech, Culture

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Newsmax Runs Debunked Story to Smear Judge, Acyn, March 28, 2024. Greg Kelly attacks the credibility of the judge overseeing the New York criminal case of Donald Trump.

mtn meidas touch networkIt appears as though a host at the right-wing network Newsmax didn’t thoroughly research a report he referenced while attacking the credibility of the judge overseeing the New York criminal case of Donald Trump. Host Greg Kelly referenced a report claiming that Judge Juan Merchan’s daughter has a social media account on X with a profile picture depicting Trump behind bars.

Kelly: This from a very close family member, reportedly, of the judge. It’s a Twitter account… Instead of their own face, they put Donald Trump behind bars. This is a member, reportedly, of the Merchan family. This would suggest that the judge is hideously biased.. He looks all regal and dignified in the robe there sitting for his picture, but that's what's inside his heart. I can make that case. Well it's somebody in his family. It's not him. Well, the appearances suggest that he is totally unqualified and should be removed from this case. And this is still America and we’re allowed to say that and so is President Trump.

The problem with Kelly’s statements is that a report emerged earlier today calling into question claims that the account belonged to Merchan’s daughter. The article from The Spectator suggests that the original account that possibly belonged to the Merchan’s daughter was switched at some point last year and the account being referenced by Kelly and others may not belong to Merchan’s daughter.

Another detail that conflicts with Kelly’s assertions is that a spokesman for the court noted that the account referenced doesn’t belong to the Merchan’s daughter.

"The X, formerly Twitter, account being attributed to Judge Merchan's daughter no longer belongs to her since she deleted it approximately a year ago. It is not linked to her email address, nor has she posted under that screenname since she deleted the account. Rather, it represents the reconstitution, last April, and manipulation of an account she long ago abandoned."

This isn’t the first time this has happened on Newsmax. Kelly found himself in a similar situation last year when he aired the wrong photo of an individual he suggested was the mass shooter at a Texas outlet mall last year.

washington post logoWashington Post, Exclusive: Qatari royal invested about $50 million in pro-Trump network Newsmax, David Kenner, Sarah Ellison and Jonathan O'Connell, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). A member of the Qatari royal family invested roughly $50 million in Newsmax, according to documents and representatives for the media company and the royal, in a moment of acute Middle East tensions during the Trump administration.

newsmax logoThe investment bolstered a key conservative media outlet at a time when Qatar was facing intense diplomatic pressure from its neighbors and seeking allies in the United States.

At the time the investment was made, a coalition of countries led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had established a diplomatic and economic blockade against Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorist groups across the Middle East. Qatar had counted on its relationship with the United States for protection, but President Donald Trump initially sided with its regional rivals, praising their move in 2017 and criticizing Qatar for funding terrorism.

In 2019 and 2020, Sheikh Sultan bin Jassim Al Thani, a former Qatari government official and the owner of a London-based investment fund, Heritage Advisors, invested in Newsmax. The investment has not been previously reported.

Newsmax had been looking for outside investors to better compete with its much larger rival, Fox News, according to people who spoke at the time with its founder and CEO, Christopher Ruddy. Before and after the investment, senior newsroom leaders urged Newsmax staff to soften coverage of Qatar, current and former employees said. A representative for Newsmax strongly disputed that the network “slanted coverage to be favorable to Qatar,” and that Ruddy had told staff not to criticize the country.

Newsmax and Heritage Advisors confirmed the investment after being presented with documents detailing the transaction, which show that Sultan subsequently transferred his stake to a Cayman Islands-based corporate structure. The $50 million investment represents a significant minority stake in Newsmax, a privately held media company estimated to be worth between $100 million and $200 million, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The documents came from a trove of roughly 100,000 leaked files from Genesis Trust, a Cayman Islands-based financial services provider, which were obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and reviewed by The Washington Post.

 

alex jones screen shot 2020 05 01 at 12.02.06 pm

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘The Truth vs. Alex Jones’: How Sandy Hook lies got peddled for profit, Jada Yuan, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). A new HBO documentary explores the mainstreaming of “grift” in a post-truth era.

Robbie Parker’s 6-year-old daughter, Emilie, had been dead for less than 48 hours, gunned down alongside 19 of her classmates and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School, when right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones went on Infowars and claimed Parker was “a soap opera actor” who’d made it all up.

All Parker had done was nervously laugh before giving a statement to the press about who his daughter was, the father says in the documentary, “The Truth vs. Alex Jones,” debuting March 26 on HBO. The movie premiered this month at South by Southwest in Austin, where Jones, shown above, is based, stood trial and was once heckled at a chicken restaurant.

But Jones was on a roll. He’d called the massacre of 20 children “a false flag” hours after it happened in December 2012 — “before the bodies were even cold,” as a lawyer for the parents says in a deposition for one of two defamation trials featured in the film that were eventually brought against Jones. Soon he was urging his listeners to pick apart video of Parker for evidence that the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history had been staged as an elaborate ruse by liberals to take away Americans’ guns.

Immediately, Parker says in the film, Emilie’s memorial Facebook page became inundated with people who called her “a whore” and threatened to show up at their home with guns demanding proof that she was still alive.

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Convicted crypto-currency fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried, center, at the time of arrest (Photo by Austin Fernander via The Tribune Bahamas and Associated Press.)

 

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Convicted crypto-currency fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried, center, at the time of arrest (Photo by Austin Fernander via The Tribune Bahamas and Associated Press.)

Convicted crypto-currency fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried, center, at the time of arrest (Photo by Austin Fernander via The Tribune Bahamas and Associated Press).

ny times logoNew York Times, Sam Bankman-Fried Is Sentenced to 25 Years in Prison, David Yaffe-Bellany and J. Edward Moreno, March 28, 2024. Mr. Bankman-Fried, who was convicted of stealing $8 billion from customers of his FTX cryptocurrency exchange, faced a maximum sentence of 110 years.

Sam Bankman-Fried, the former cryptocurrency mogul who was convicted of fraud, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Thursday, capping an extraordinary saga that upended the multi-trillion-dollar crypto industry and became a cautionary tale of greed and hubris.

Mr. Bankman-Fried’s sentence was shorter than the 40 to 50 years that federal prosecutors had recommended, but above the six-and-a-half-year sentence requested by the defense lawyers. A federal probation officer had recommended 100 years, just under the maximum possible penalty of 110 years behind bars.

lewis kaplanThe sentence was handed down by Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, left, at the Federal District Court in Manhattan. Mr. Bankman-Fried, 32, was in the courtroom, clean shaven and wearing a loose fitting brown jail uniform.

Before the sentence was delivered, Mr. Bankman-Fried apologized to FTX customers, investors and employees. “A lot of people feel really let down, and they were very let down,” he said. “I’m sorry about that. I’m sorry about what happened at every stage.” He added that his decisions “haunt” him every day.

The sentencing signified the finale of a sweeping fraud case that exposed the rampant volatility and risk-taking across the loosely regulated world of cryptocurrencies. In November 2022, Mr. Bankman-Fried’s crypto exchange, FTX, imploded virtually overnight, erasing $8 billion in customer savings. At a trial last fall, he was convicted of seven counts of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here’s how Mr. Bankman-Fried’s sentence compares with penalties faced by other high-profile white-collar criminals, David Yaffe-Bellany, March 28, 2024. Two years in prison for tax and securities violations. Eleven years for deceiving investors. A 150-year sentence for the largest Ponzi scheme in history.

The country’s most notorious white-collar fraudsters — like Bernie Madoff and Elizabeth Holmes — have received a range of punishments for their crimes, from relatively short prison terms to effectively a life sentence.

On Thursday, Sam Bankman-Fried, the onetime cryptocurrency mogul, joined their ranks, receiving a 25-year sentence for fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.

Mr. Bankman-Fried was convicted of stealing $8 billion from customers of his international crypto exchange, FTX — charges that carry a maximum sentence of 110 years. In legal filings, prosecutors cited 13 examples of white-collar prosecutions that involved a loss of more than $100 million. In all but two of those cases, the defendant was sentenced to 40 years or more..

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden, Fighting for Credit and Raising Cash, Gets Help From Clinton and Obama, Lisa Lerer and Reid J. Epstein, March 28, 2024. A fund-raiser on Thursday intends to raise $25 million to help re-elect President Biden, whose approval ratings are the lowest of the three presidents.

President Biden will lock arms with two of his Democratic predecessors at a campaign fund-raising event on Thursday evening in New York City, a public display of support from the two men who understand like few others what he faces.

Yet in one key way he will be standing alone.

Of the triumvirate of recent Democrats in the White House, Mr. Biden is the one who historians, political strategists and policy experts argue has racked up the most expansive list of legislative accomplishments — and has received the least amount of credit for them.

In a first term with a closely divided Congress, Mr. Biden signed legislation to provide $1.9 trillion in pandemic stimulus, $1 trillion in infrastructure spending and $370 billion to fight climate change, as well as the first gun control measures in 28 years. It is a roster of achievement that surpasses Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the two Democratic former presidents who will join him on Thursday in New York. And yet Mr. Biden’s approval ratings are the lowest of all three men. While voters broadly support some of Mr. Biden’s key policies, they are far more pessimistic about the future. And they’re not confident in his ability to serve a second term.

“His biggest problem is not so much his ability to get things done, as we’ve seen, but his ability to put together a message that reaches the average American, no matter where they’re located, whether it’s a red state or a blue state, and to be able to get them to understand just exactly what he’s trying to do for the country,” Leon Panetta, who served as Mr. Clinton’s chief of staff and also in Mr. Obama’s cabinet, said of Mr. Biden.

That central political paradox reflects the unique circumstances of the Biden era.

Mr. Biden is running in a tumultuous political climate unlike any the country has experienced before in modern times, seeking re-election in the first presidential contest since the pandemic was a major threat, the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning a half-century-old constitutional right to an abortion.

Mr. Biden’s predicament also highlights just how deeply Americans have lost faith in politics and government since Mr. Clinton and Mr. Obama were in office. 

international court of justice icc

Among other major global courts is the International Court of Justice (ICJ), shown above, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. As described by its website, the ICJ is a civil tribunal that hears disputes between countries. It has no prosecutor or jurisdiction to try individuals, including those joan donoghueaccused of war crimes or crimes against humanity. Its current president, Joan Donoghue, right, is a United States citizen who became a justice on the court in 2010 following election by United Nations members. Other current members are shown here.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Top U.N. Court Orders Israel to Ensure Aid to Gaza, Staff Reports, March 28, 2024. In its strongest language yet, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to ensure “the unhindered provision” of humanitarian assistance.

In its strongest language yet, the International Court of Justice in The Hague on Thursday ordered Israel to take concrete steps to ensure humanitarian aid reaches Gaza as famine sets in, including cooperating with the United Nations and increasing the number of crossing points for aid.

The ruling is part of a case filed by South Africa at the I.C.J., the United Nations’ highest court, that accused Israel of committing genocide, an allegation that Israel has categorically denied. In an interim ruling in January, the court ordered Israel to ensure that more aid would be allowed into Gaza. Since then, the “catastrophic living conditions of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have deteriorated further,” the court said on Thursday.

ny times logoNew York Times, House Republicans Demand Full Impeachment Trial for Mayorkas, Luke Broadwater, March 28, 2024. They argue that quickly dispensing with the charges, as senators in both parties are inclined to do, would be an affront to Americans. 

Speaker Mike Johnson on Thursday wrote to Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, demanding that the Senate hold an impeachment trial next month of Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary. The speaker called plans to quickly dismiss the charges against Mr. Mayorkas “a violation of our constitutional order and an affront to the American people.”

In a letter signed by the 11 Republicans he named as impeachment managers to try Mr. Mayorkas, Mr. Johnson wrote that they planned to send over the charges on April 10, after the Senate returns from its Easter break. Senators in both parties, who serve as the jury for impeachment trials, have indicated that they do not want to sit through such a proceeding in the case of Mr. Mayorkas, notwithstanding House Republicans’ insistence on it.

The letter rehashed the accusations against the homeland security secretary, with signatories including Representatives Mark E. Green of Tennessee, the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, and Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who introduced articles of impeachment against Mr. Mayorkas. The Republicans condemned what they called a “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law and his breach of the public trust,” accused the secretary of lying to Congress, and blamed him for the state of the southern border with Mexico.

There is little doubt that the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, will side with Mr. Mayorkas. Leaders are expected to dispense with a trial quickly, either by dismissing the charges immediately or moving to a quick vote in which Republicans have no chance of securing the two-thirds necessary to convict and remove Mr. Mayorkas.

Mr. Schumer has called the impeachment effort a “sham” and “another embarrassment for House Republicans.”

 

Aerial view of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, after it was struck by a cargo ship and partly collapsed on March 26, 2024. It opened in 1977 and is named for Francis Scott Key, who wrote the words of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” (Photo by CBS News Baltimore).

Aerial view of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, after it was struck by a cargo ship and partly collapsed on March 26, 2024. It opened in 1977 and is named for Francis Scott Key, who wrote the words of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” (Photo by CBS News Baltimore).

washington post logoWashington Post, City begins massive and dangerous cleanup as first relief funds approved, Justin Jouvenal, Jacob Bogage and Erin Cox, March 28, 2024. Huge crane ships and thousands of relief workers headed toward Baltimore, as efforts turned from recovery to a massive cleanup that some experts described as unprecedented.

Huge crane ships, thousands of relief workers and millions of dollars headed toward Baltimore on Thursday, as efforts turned from recovery after the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge to a massive cleanup that some experts described as unprecedented and highly dangerous.
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The U.S. Navy deployed several floating cranes, including one that could lift 1,000 tons, while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it would send more than 1,100 engineering specialists and other experts to begin removing the hulking debris that has crippled the Port of Baltimore.

Federal officials also announced the first relief funds — $60 million sought by Maryland officials — would flow toward disaster recovery just hours after the request was submitted.

Top officials with the Corps, which is leading the effort to clear the Patapsco River, described a three step effort to get one of the nation’s largest shipping hubs back online. They are racing to stem the rippling economic fallout from a cargo ship striking the bridge on Tuesday.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Five Minutes That Brought Down the Baltimore Bridge, Annie Correal, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Campbell Robertson, Michael Forsythe and Mike Baker, March 28, 2024. When a massive cargo ship lost power, crews rushed to control it and to evacuate the Francis Scott Key Bridge. But it was too late.

“Hold all traffic on the Key Bridge.”

The terse command from an officer in Baltimore’s busy commercial shipping port was one of the first warnings of a disaster that experts now predict will transform shipping on the Eastern Seaboard and change how ships and bridges function around the world. But after the cargo ship Dali lost power early Tuesday, there were precious few minutes to act.

In those minutes, many people — from the ship’s crew, who sent out a mayday signal, to the transportation authority police officers, who stopped traffic heading onto the Francis Scott Key Bridge — did what they could to avert catastrophe, most likely saving many lives.

And yet — no matter what anyone did — several factors made catastrophe all but inevitable. When a ship of this size loses engine power, there is little to be done to correct its course, even dropping an anchor down. And the Key Bridge was particularly vulnerable. As long ago as 1980, engineers had warned that the bridge, because of its design, would never be able to survive a direct hit from a container ship.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Efforts Begin to Clear Bridge Debris and Reopen Baltimore Port, Victoria Kim, March 28, 2024. Officials paused the search for bodies and were shifting their focus to removing the twisted ruins of the Francis Scott Key Bridge. Efforts were underway early Thursday to dismantle the wreckage of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, the first step on a long path toward reopening the Port of Baltimore and alleviating the disruptions to global shipping and the local economy.

Officials said late Wednesday that they were pausing the search for the bodies of four road workers believed to have plunged into the Patapsco River during the bridge’s collapse, the deadliest in the United States in more than a decade. The focus is now on removing the warped and jagged ruins of the structure. Divers on Wednesday found a red pickup truck in the water with the bodies of two workers.

The Dali, the cargo ship that struck the bridge early Tuesday, triggering its collapse, has sat at anchor since, damaged and trapped under the bridge’s wreckage. More than 50 of the ship’s load of 4,700 containers contained potentially hazardous materials, the Coast Guard said, and some containers have fallen into the water.

The voyage data recorder, the equivalent of an aircraft’s black box, and police radio captured details of the frantic minutes leading up to the impact. Alarms rang as the ship lost power. The harbor pilot directing the ship called on nearby tugboats for help, then ordered an anchor dropped, to no avail.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Battles Rage at Two Hospitals in Gaza, Staff Reports, March 28, 2024. Israel said it was still carrying out raids in and around the Al-Shifa and Al-Amal hospitals, which Israel claims are being used by Hamas militants.

Israel FlagThe Israeli military said on Thursday that it was carrying out raids in and around two hospitals in Gaza, as the United Nations and aid groups expressed alarm for patients and medical workers there and warned of the rapidly deteriorating state of Gaza’s health care system.

Fierce battles have been raging in and around Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest in the strip, since an Israeli assault there began 11 days ago. The Israeli military said in a statement that nearly 200 people whom it called “terrorists” had been killed in the area and that its troops had taken fire from militants inside and outside one of the hospital’s buildings. These claims could not be independently verified.

palestinian flagIn related news, relatives of Israeli soldiers held captive in Gaza expressed frustration just before an expected first meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying on Thursday that their loved ones had been “abandoned” by the government.

Hamas took more than 240 people captive when it attacked Israel on Oct. 7. About 100 hostages, most of them women and children, were released during a cease-fire in November, and at least 30 others are believed to have died in captivity, according to Israeli officials. That may leave around 100 alive, most of them men who are Israeli citizens. It is unclear how many were members of the military on active duty when they were captured.

Here’s what we know:

  • Israel says its forces are still carrying out raids in and around Al-Shifa and Al-Amal hospital as it tries to root out Hamas militants.
  • Aid organizations sound the alarm for patients at embattled hospitals.
  • Netanyahu has ‘abandoned’ Israel’s captive soldiers, their relatives say.
  • The U.S. says Israel has agreed to try to reschedule a canceled trip.
  • The United States and Britain impose sanctions on a Gazan news outlet over ties to Hamas.
  • A majority of Americans disapprove of Israel’s actions in Gaza, a new poll shows.

Proof, Investigative Commentary: Elon Musk’s Many Years As An Illegal Immigrant, Seth Abramson, left, March 28, 2024. This seth abramson graphiccarefully researched and sourced series investigating Musk’s immigration status from 1988 through his receiptof US citizenship in 2002 reveals shocking new details about the world’s richest man.

Introduction: It’s hard for me not to feel bad for Elon Musk biographer Ashlee Vance.

seth abramson proof logoAs a Donald Trump biographer and presidential historian who wrote three national bestsellers on the most prolific liar in American political history, I had to decide early on that I would never cite—at least not for the truth of the matter—any source with a clear and consistent reputation for deceit unless the source in question was making what we criminal defense attorneys would call “a statement against [self-]interest.”

But when Vance was writing his 2015-published Musk biography in the early- to mid-2010s, he couldn’t have known—as really, far fewer of us in journalism did than would be the case today—that he was using as his foremost source a man who may well be the most prolific liar in the history of American business (with some consideration of this question accessible via these reports by Gizmodo, The Washington Post, Jalopnik, CNN, The Verge, The Los Angeles Times, Inc, The Wrap, Yahoo News, CBS News, Le Monde, The Times of India, Business Insider, Forbes, WIRED, NDTV, Boing Boing, India Today, HuffPost, Philanthropy News Digest, Fortune, Drive, WIRED (again), Yahoo Finance, Road and Track, Platformer, MIT Technology Review, Cheapism, The Associated Press, The American Genius and Techdirt, to name just a few of hundreds).

The result of Musk consistently pulling the wool over Vance’s eyes, as Musk has done to so many people across the world over the last 25 years, is that a bestselling book (Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future) is filled with claims and timelines that make no sense whatsoever. Some of these should have been detected by Vance’s editors at Ecco—I know from thirty years of experience as a working author that it can difficult to catch your own errors and false presumptions—but others are quite simply the product of a now decades-long disinformation campaign that’s been waged by the world’s second-richest man against journalists purely out of spite.

Ashlee Vance was, in my estimation, an unwitting mark for and victim of this spite, not a willing accomplice.

Even so, what this entry in the ongoing Proof series analyzing Elon Musk’s years as an illegal immigrant aims to do is tease out some of the worst lies Musk appears to have told Vance. Most of these apparent lies have one thing in common: they obscure Mr. Musk’s immigration status during a decade-long period in his life: from 1988 to 1997.

These (at best) misstatements and (at worst) deliberate deceptions were—and are—essential to Musk’s self-made mythology because (a) they enable him to demagogue on Twitter on a daily basis the political question of U.S. immigration policy without his highly inflammatory rhetoric being ignored due to his evident hypocrisy on the matter of illegal immigration; (b) they help ensure that few or no questions will be asked of either Elon or his brother Kimbal Musk about whether they lied on federal forms to gain their U.S. citizenship (with any such lies causing problems for Elon’s status as a U.S. citizen and perhaps his status as one of the leading federal contractors with the Department of Defense, as that position is threatened by a contractor’s vulnerability to blackmail); and (c) they give him a jumping-off point for performing a sinister breed of racism and white identity politics that clearly appeals to him personally but also bolsters his newest quest, that being to re-elect Donald Trump—a bigot whose return to the White House would ensure Musk remains a federal government contractor in good standing, a presidential adviser who is actually listened to (rather than a pariah in the eyes of the Biden administration), and an influential mover-and-shaker behind the party that would rule Washington in the event of a return to power by Mr. Trump.

Musk’s two primary goals—making money and being loved—are both served, and served best, by backing MAGA demagogues in 2024. And right now those people are focused on a topic that clearly means little to Musk personally: illegal immigration.

But to stand alongside MAGA demagogues on immigration as Trumpism continues its decade of expansion in American politics, Musk has had to ensure that articles and books about him published during The MAGA Era—which began in June 2015—don’t encourage enterprising journalists or citizen researchers to look at the possibility that Musk was a longtime crypto-ill