Comments

  1. says

    Guardian – “Taliban decide against opening schools to girls in Afghanistan beyond age of 11”:

    The Taliban have decided against opening schools to girls in Afghanistan beyond secondary school age, an official said Wednesday on the first day of Afghanistan’s new school year.

    The latest setback for girls’ education is certain to receive widespread condemnation from the international community that has been urging the hardline leadership of Afghanistan’s new rulers to open schools and give [sic] women their right to public space….

  2. says

    Here’s a link to today’s Guardian (support them if you can!) Ukraine liveblog. From there:

    Italian PM Draghi: Putin doesn’t appear to be interested in ceasefire

    Speaking to the Italian parliament, Italian prime minister Mario Draghi said Russian President Vladimir Putin did not appear to be interested in agreeing a ceasefire that could allow negotiations to end the conflict to succeed.

    Reuters also report that Draghi urged China not to support Russia and to join efforts to bring peace to Ukraine.

    The Financial Times newspaper in the UK is carrying a letter today from Carl Scott, formerly a UK defence attaché in Moscow. He is keen to point out that in his view the UK prioritised the City of London’s economic relationship with Russian money over the ominous developments taking place under Putin’s watch while Scott was in Moscow from 2011 to 2016. He writes:

    This long, dark march to war was obvious, the path to conflict lit by the many pronouncements emanating from the dark red walls of Vladimir Putin’s palace. We reported the inevitability of conflict in detail, regularly and with the despair of Cassandra. The evidence of Putin’s chosen path was never concealed. His many declarations were meant to be heard and understood.

    It was not until I returned to the UK on the eve of our withdrawal from the EU, a manoeuvre which greatly emboldened those in Moscow, that I understood how our society had changed in the years I was serving overseas. All was subjugated to the City, all served the interests of our lucrative status as a safe haven for corrupt, and corrupting, wealth.

    Last night, in his nightly address, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that bus drivers and emergency services personnel seeking to rescue people from the port city of Mariupol through a route agreed by the Russian forces had been taken prisoner….

    Poland looks set to expel 45 Russian diplomats they accuse of spying

    Poland’s internal security and counter-espionage service ABW has identified 45 Russian diplomats as suspected spies and called on the foreign ministry to expel them, its spokesperson has said.

    It is reported that the Russian ambassador had been summoned to the foreign ministry in Warsaw. The RIA news agency in Russia is reporting that the foreign ministry there is already committed to retaliating if its diplomats are expelled from Poland.

    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has given his latest videolink address to a foreign parliament to Japan. In the session he thanked them for leading the way among Asian countries in condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and introducing sanctions.

    Reuters report he also asked Japan to increase sanctions pressure on Russia by introducing a trade embargo on Russian goods.

    Zelenskiy looks set to address the Swedish parliament on Thursday.

    Ukraine ambassador to UK: we need long-range anti-tank weapons

    Ukraine needs more long-range anti-tank weapons, the country’s ambassador to the UK has said. Vadym Prystaiko also told Sky News that the Ukrainian army need their weapon stocks replenishing.

    He said: “We didn’t have enough [weapons] in the first place. So, we’re running out of weaponry. That’s what we’ll be seeing in the week to come.”

    PA Media quote him adding “Tomorrow, President Zelensky will talk to Nato, the whole of Nato, and we will see how can we replenish our stocks and what we can have that has a much longer range and is stronger than ever.

    “We have enough weapons to stop tanks immediately when they approach us. But to clear out our land we need to have something with a much greater distance.”

  3. says

    Guardian – “Hillsong’s Brian Houston resigns from megachurch”:

    Hillsong’s founding pastor, Brian Houston, has resigned from the megachurch he founded in Sydney two decades ago after internal investigations found he had engaged in inappropriate conduct of “serious concern” with two women.

    Houston stood down last Friday, but following another emergency staff meeting on Wednesday the Sydney-based church issued a brief statement announcing his resignation.

    Over two decades, Hillsong grew from a small church in Sydney to a global brand with over 150,000 weekly attendees at its churches in 25 countries. Its brand of Christianity, which focused on rock concert-type services and attracting celebrity parishioners, proved enormously popular.

    Wednesday’s statement noted that Hillsong Church “was birthed” out of Brian and and his wife, Bobbie’s “commitment to the call of God” and asked congregants to pray for the entire Houston family “during this challenging time”.

    Houston was a close friend and spiritual guide to the prime minister, Scott Morrison, a fellow pentecostal. Morrison thanked Houston in his maiden speech to parliament and more recently was asked about whether he tried to get Houston an invitation to a White House dinner while he was in Washington….

  4. says

    BBC – “Some Disney staff stage walkout over Florida LGBT law”:

    Disney employees have staged a walkout to pressure the company into actively opposing a Florida bill that bans instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in primary schools.

    A handful of staff joined the walkout, with organisers accusing the firm of showing “apathy” to the bill.

    Disney said in a statement that it “stands in solidarity” with its LGBT cast, crew, guests and fans.

    It is expected to soon be signed into law by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, but it has faced significant criticism, including from the White House and their Democratic allies.

    LGBT leaders at Disney have been pushing the company to speak out against the bill, as Disney is a major tourism driver in the state, drawing millions of people annually to its flagship Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. It also employs 77,000 Floridians.

    Disney CEO Bob Chapek told employees earlier this month in a memo that he was wrong to have been silent on the controversial bill, and on Monday said he would use the moment as a catalyst for change at the company.

    Disney also committed to pausing donations to Florida lawmakers who backed the bill. On Tuesday, it released a social media statement saying it is “committed to creating experiences that support family values for every family, and will not stand for discrimination in any form”.

    But walkout organisers said in a statement that the recent steps taken by Disney leadership “have utterly failed to match the magnitude of the threat” presented by the legislation to the LGBT community. Among other measures, they want Disney to make the political donations pause permanent and to halt all construction and investment in Florida until the legislation is repealed.

    They began a week of 15-minute daily walkouts with a scheduled a day-long walkout for Tuesday. Social media posts on Tuesday show a number of Disney employees leaving the company headquarters in Burbank, California, though it’s unclear how widespread the walkout is.

    Other Disney brands, like ESPN, Hulu and FX Networks, have issued statements voicing their support of LGBT colleagues, friends and fans.

    Gov DeSantis has criticised Disney for denouncing the bill following the employee backlash, calling it a “woke” corporation and accusing it of buying into “false narratives”.

  5. says

    Reuters – “Reuters removes TASS Russian news agency from its content marketplace”:

    Reuters has removed TASS from its business-to-business marketplace for customers, according to a Reuters message to staff on Wednesday, amid growing criticism of how Russia’s state-owned news agency is portraying the war in Ukraine.

    “We believe making TASS content available on Reuters Connect is not aligned with the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles,” Matthew Keen, interim CEO of Reuters, wrote in an internal memo to staff on Wednesday.

    The Reuters Trust Principles, created in 1941 amid World War Two, commits Reuters to act with integrity, independence and freedom from bias.

    TASS declined to make immediate comment.

    Early in March, photo agency Getty Images cut ties with TASS, according to a Forbes report. The report quoted a Getty spokesman saying that “in order to ensure the integrity of the content we distribute, we require that partners and contributors comply.”…

    The TASS partnership with the Reuters Connect platform was struck in 2020….

    Since the invasion, the partnership has sparked sharp criticism on social media. A Politico story published on March 20 cited unnamed Reuters journalists saying they were embarrassed by the company’s partnership with TASS….

  6. says

    Kamil Galeev:

    The minority factor in Russian army is vastly underrated when discussing the course of Ukrainian war. Firstly, ethnic minorities are not so much a minority there. Judging from the casualty lists, minorities are wildly overrepresented on the battlefields as the cannon fodder…

    Informative thread follows.

  7. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    The Guardian’s tech editor, Alex Hern, has some insight on video game Fortnite’s fund-raising effort:

    The video game Fortnite has raised $50m (£38m) in aid for Ukraine in just three days, after Epic Games announced it would be donating 100% of its income from the game’s current chapter, which runs from 20 March through to 3 April.

    It’s an astronomical sum to have raised, a fifth of the total raised by the entire Disasters Emergency Committee fundraising appeal over its first two weeks, and will be split between the UN’s UNHCR, Unicef and World Food Programme appeals, as well as the charity Direct Relief.

    Epic Games has been donating 100% of its net proceeds from Fortnite since its latest chapter launched, and hit the $50m total less than a quarter of the way through the run.

    As well as the important impact of the donation, it’s a canny effort to head off some potential bad press: the latest update to Fortnite is rather unfortunately themed around an invasion plot line that calls on the player to “join the resistance in the final battle to free the zero point”.

    Owing to the timescales of game development, that decision will have been made months before Russia invaded, but Epic Games possibly felt it had to make clear that the company wasn’t trying to cash in on the invasion.

    Nestle is suspending brands including KitKat and Nesquik, among others, in Russia.

    A Nestle spokesperson said:

    We are focused on providing essential foods such as baby food and medical/hospital nutrition products. This means we will suspend the vast majority of our pre-war volume in Russia.”

    Russian climate envoy Anatoly Chubais has stepped down and left the country in protest against President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, making him the highest-level official to break with the Kremlin over the invasion.

    Bloomberg reports:

    Chubais, 66, is one of the few 1990s-era economic reformers who’d remained in Putin’s government and had maintained close ties with Western officials. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

    Since the war, the government has stepped up pressure on domestic critics of the invasion. Putin warned on 16 March that he would cleanse Russia of the “scum and traitors” he accuses of working covertly for the US and its allies. Facing economic meltdown, the Russian leader accused the West of wanting to destroy Russia.

  8. says

    Kevin Rothrock:

    Good catch here by journalist Dmitry Treshchanin: Russia’s defense minister, Sergey Shoigu, hasn’t been seen in public for 11 days. (The head of the National Guard, a real nutter named Viktor Zolotov, also seems to be curiously missing.)

    Before March 11, Shoigu appeared in public every few days. Sources told @wwwagentsmedia that he’s having heart problems. Valery Gerasimov, the head of Russia’s General Staff, is also missing from the public eye.

  9. says

    JUST IN:
    #NATO will double its number of deployed battlegroups, sending them to Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia.

    Sec Gen Stoltenberg says he expects further announcements tomorrow reinforcing the alliance’s eastern flank.”

  10. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    Russian Olympic athletes who participated in a rally supporting Vladimir Putin and the invasion of Ukraine are facing a backlash, with one losing a sponsorship deal and facing a disciplinary investigation.

    Medalists from cross-country skiing, gymnastics, figure skating and swimming gathered on stage at the Luzhniki Stadium on Friday as part of the concert and entertainment program around Putin’s speech.

    The athletes stood on stage as the national anthem was played in an apparent reference to how Russian teams at last year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo and this year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing didn’t have the anthem at their ceremonies due to a worldwide ban for Russia’s state-sponsored doping programme.

    (Yet another reminder of what a destructive force they are in every international sphere.)

    Nato expected to ramp up military forces on its eastern flank

    Nato will likely decide on Thursday to ramp up military forces on Ukraine’s eastern flank, according to the alliance’s chief Jens Stoltenberg.

    Reuters reports:

    Nato has sharply increased its presence at the eastern border of the alliance, with some 40,000 troops spread from the Baltic to the Black Sea, and is seeking to deploy four new combat units in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia.

    “I expect leaders will agree to strengthen Nato’s posture in all domains, with major increases in the eastern part of the alliance. On land, in the air and at sea,” Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference ahead of a Nato summit in Brussels on Thursday.

    The additional multinational battlegroups come on top of four existing combat units, with a total of some 5,000 troops, deployed by Nato to the three Baltic states and Poland after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Wednesday said he had spoken with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who had assured his support for Ukraine ahead of Nato, G7 and EU summits.

    “Received assurances of his (Johnson’s) support on the eve of tomorrow’s important meetings. Discussed the course of hostilities and defense assistance to Ukraine,” Zelenskiy said on Twitter.

    Thursday’s Nato summit in Brussels is expected to agree additional aid for Kyiv including equipment to protect against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.

    There are growing concerns about the situation in the encircled city of Chernihiv, north of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

    Ludmila Denisova, Ukraine’s human rights ombudsman, claimed that the population had effectively been turned into hostages by Russian forces who have cut off the main routes for humanitarian aid.

    She said: “Today Chernihiv remains completely cut off from the capital. The occupiers bombed the bridge across the river Desna, through which transported humanitarian aid to the city and evacuated civilians.

    “The city has no electricity, water, heat and almost no gas, infrastructure is destroyed. According to local residents, the occupiers are compiling lists of civilians for the ‘evacuation’ to Lgov [Kursk region of Russia]. The racists, cutting off Chernihiv from the capital, turned its inhabitants into hostages.”

    Chernihiv, which has a population of nearly 290,000 people, has been under siege by Russian forces for 12 days.

  11. says

    More about Boris Romanchenko, from Meduza (support them if you can) – “Holocaust survivor killed by Russian shelling in Kharkiv”:

    …According to the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation, Boris Romanchenko was the vice president of the Ukrainian chapter of the International Committee for Former Buchenwald-Dora Prisoners. He traveled to Buchenwald many times; according to a 2010 story dedicated to one of his trips, “Boris Timofeyevich explained that it’s difficult to be there, but it’s practically the only opportunity to meet with other people who survived the same terrible thing he did, and these people become fewer and fewer every year.”

    During a trip there in 2015, according to an obituary on the Memorials Foundation’s website, Romanchenko read the Oath of Buchenwald, which includes the words “The destruction of Nazism, down to its roots, is our motto. To build a new world of peace and freedom is our ideal.” In 2018, the Kharkiv city administration reported that Romanchenko was taking another trip to the site, along with two other former prisoners.

    “[My grandfather] told me a lot, he had a lot of stories. He had a manuscript, but I don’t know if my dad saved it or not. Grandpa wasn’t planning on publishing the book, he just wanted there to be something to remember him by after he was gone,” Yulia Romanchenko told Suspilne.

    The website of the Maximilian Kolbe Foundation, which supports concentration camp survivors, contains recent updates about Boris Romanchenko. According to the site, Romanchenko lived alone in a one-room apartment on the eighth floor, suffered from leg pain, and needed help paying for medicine and a nurse.

    According to Yulia, Romanchenko lived in his apartment in North Saltovka for over 30 years. “I suggested that he move, but he refused. He can’t walk well, can’t hear well, but wouldn’t leave,” she said. After the shell hit his apartment, “everything burned down completely,” said Yulia. “The only thing left were bones on the bed frame, just as he’d been lying.”

    The Kharkiv authorities have vowed to help Romanchenko’s family retrieve his remains from the apartment and to help with his funeral.

  12. says

    TPM – “Manafort Removed From Plane In Miami Bound For Dubai”:

    Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was blocked from traveling to Dubai on Sunday, after Customs and Border Protection found that he had an invalid passport.

    Miami-Dade Police Detective Albaro Zabaleta told TPM that Manafort had been blocked from traveling on an Emirates Airlines flight to Dubai, emphasizing that CBP, and not local police, handled it.

    It’s not entirely clear why Manafort was blocked from leaving the country.

    KNewz, which first reported the story, said that Manafort’s passport had been revoked. The Miami detective told TPM that his passport had expired.

    The AP cited unnamed officials as saying that Manafort was removed from the flight for having a revoked passport.

    CBP did not immediately return a request for comment.

    Manafort had to surrender his three passports in November 2017, after his first indictment. Prosecutors said at the time that each passport had a different identification number, and that Manafort had submitted 10 passport applications in as many years.

    Manafort suggested on a podcast last week that he was considering a return to the international political consulting business that he ran before his 2017 indictment and conviction the following year on bank and tax fraud charges.

    “I may activate myself somewhat in the next couple months,” he told radio host Frank Morano.

  13. tomh says

    ReligionClause:
    Indiana and Utah Governors Veto Bans Of Transgender Females On Sports Teams

    Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb on Monday vetoed HEA 1041 which bans transgender females from competing on female interscholastic athletic teams….
    AP reports on the governor’s action.

    Meanwhile, yesterday Utah Governor Spencer Cox vetoed H.B.11 (full text) which similarly prohibited transgender females from competing on female interscholastic athletic teams. The bill provided that if this ban was struck down by the courts, a School Activity Eligibility Commission would be created to determine the eligibility for gender-specific teams of students who are undergoing gender transition. The Commission would establish a baseline range of physical characteristics for different sports and ages to use in making its determinations.

    Governor Cox issued a lengthy and detailed veto letter (full text), which reads in part:

    Because the bill was substantially changed in the final hours of the legislative session with no public input and in a way that will likely bankrupt the Utah High School Athletic Association and result in millions of dollars in legal fees for local school districts with no state protection, and for several other reasons below, I have chosen to veto this bill….

    Four kids and only one of them playing girls sports. That’s what all of this is about. Four kids who aren’t dominating or winning trophies or taking scholarships. Four kids who are just trying to find some friends and feel like they are a part of something. Four kids trying to get through each day. Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few. I don’t understand what they are going through or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to live. And all the research shows that even a little acceptance and connection can reduce suicidality significantly. For that reason, as much as any other, I have taken this action in the hope that we can continue to work together and find a better way. If a veto override occurs, I hope we can work to find ways to show these four kids that we love them and they have a place in our state.

    AP reports on the governor’s action.

  14. says

    Senators are questioning Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson again today.

    Here are a few excerpts from the Talking Points Memo coverage:

    So far, and we are about two minutes in, Senator Lindsey Graham asked about:
    – Undocumented immigrants voting
    – Fetal pain

    Graham yanked out a text-heavy poster board with a statute on it related to expedited removal of immigrants.

    He’s getting at Jackson’s opinion in this case. It’s a wonky one — Jackson temporarily blocked the Trump administration’s plan to fast-track deportations of undocumented immigrants, finding that the administration had violated procedural requirements by not seeking public comment. The D.C. Circuit overturned her decision.

    Republicans haven’t used this case as much as you’d expect — it’s very tangled up in agency specifics, so it doesn’t allow for the easy hits they’ve been seeking.

    She tried to respond to his accusations stemming from the deportation case, but he cut her off, eager to move back onto the child pornography line of attack (again).

    Graham Is Interrupting Jackson Almost Every Time She Speaks
    Someone is working hard to get the spotlight back here. Durbin just interjected, asking him to let Jackson respond.

    Graham is clearly less interested in clearing up his questions than he is in making gotcha points. Also, basically everything he’s asking about has been asked already. [Graham didn’t stick around after his deplorable questioning of Judge Jackson yesterday. He made his stupid points and then left. So, maybe he doesn’t know that he is asking questions that have already been asked?]

    “Folks, what she is saying, the reason she’s always below the recommendation, I think, is because she does not use the enhancements available to her, she takes them off the table,” Graham said, addressing the crowd instead of Jackson.

    Audible reaction in the room to Graham’s hectoring of Jackson. Muttering and head-shaking as the interruptions became so constant that Durbin stepped in. Durbin called his behavior “reprehensible” — Graham just got up and left.

  15. says

    Ben Collins:

    Startling data:

    26 percent of unvaccinated people in Canada believe Russia invading Ukraine is justified.

    2 percent of vaccinated people in Canada believe the same.

    More evidence antivaxx communities are evolving into general pro-authoritarian spaces….

    He links to the Toronto Star – “How vaccination status might predict views on the Russian invasion of Ukraine”:

    Unvaccinated Canadians are about 12 times more likely than those who received three doses to believe Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was justified, according to a new survey by national polling firm EKOS.

    The poll found 26 per cent of those who identified as unvaccinated agreed the Russian invasion is justified, with another 35 per cent not offering an opinion. This compared to only two per cent of surveyed Canadians who said they had three doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and who supported the attack, and four per cent who offered no view.

    EKOS president Frank Graves said vaccination status strongly predicts views on the war, from seizing the property of Russian oligarchs to providing non-military aid to Ukraine. In each case, a vast majority of vaccinated Canadians agreed with measures to help Ukraine and oppose Russia, a view held by only a small minority of unvaccinated people.

    Torstar was granted access to results of the EKOS data that show a correlation between vaccination status and attitudes toward a host of political issues, including the war in Ukraine.

    The study concludes the results point “to the highly corrosive influences of disinformation.”

    “This is definitely a new and bluntly insidious force that’s contributing to polarization and disinformation and poor decision-making. And it doesn’t seem to be going away. Things are getting worse,” said Graves. “I don’t think this is because those people had an ingrained sympathy to the Russians. They’re reading this online, they’re consuming this from the same sources that were giving them the anti-vax stuff.”

    The EKOS survey comes out at a time when some of the loudest anti-vaccine voices that supported the Ottawa occupation are pushing disinformation about the Ukraine war over social media channels that reach tens of thousands of people….

    Much more at the Toronto Star link. (See also my links from yesterday.)

  16. says

    A followup of sorts to comment 18: Tucker Carlson Argues Black SCOTUS Noms Should Think Like Rappers, And I Can’t Make This Headline Sound Less Awful

    Fox News host Tucker Carlson wants to know: If Supreme Court Justice nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson really represents Black women, then why doesn’t she think like a street rapper?

    After the Senate finished its first day of questioning in Jackson’s confirmation hearings on Tuesday, Carlson complained on his show that the nominee’s views “really seem like those of every affluent white liberal I’ve ever met.”

    “If you want a Black candidate – I’m serious, I think the country would get better representation from…,” the Fox News host trailed off before saying, “She’s just a carbon copy of everyone in the neighborhood I spent my life in,” referring to La Jolla in San Diego.

    Then Carlson threw in an extra helping of racism when his guest, right-wing commentator Clay Travis, claimed that Democrats were angling for “cosmetic diversity” with Jackson’s nomination.

    “If you picked a rap star off the street, that person’s views would more likely be closer to the views of the average American than the views of this woman, I would argue,” Carlson said

    “I would bet money on it, actually,” he added.

    Carlson’s take came on the second day of Jackson’s confirmation hearings, during which Republicans like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) tried to paint the nominee as, among other things, a critical race theory ideologue, an endeavor that led to Cruz demanding to know if Jackson believed in racist babies.

    “Do you agree with this book that is being taught with kids that babies are racist?” the Texas senator asked after railing against “Antiracist Baby,” a book by Black activist Ibram Kendi.

    The GOP’s official Twitter account wasn’t subtle about it either. [video available at the link]

  17. says

    Text quoted by SC in comment 19: The study concludes the results point “to the highly corrosive influences of disinformation.”

    Yep. All too true.

    In related news: Ukraine update: Russian tactics point to a grim strategy of creating catastrophes

    […] It’s clear, from articles circulating in Russia weeks before the invasion, that Putin was told to expect an easy victory. Some of those in the army knew better, but the intelligence reaching the Kremlin was full of glowing expectations of Zelenskyy fleeing the country hours after Russian troops entered, of Kyiv falling with no more than token resistance, and of crowds rushing out to welcome Russian forces, especially in Russian-speaking areas of the east and south. Putin expected to have his puppet government installed within days of launching his invasion, and to be well into the part now where Ukraine changed its name to Nova Russia and declared its undying love.

    But within days of the start of the war, as the reality of Ukrainian resistance became clear, Russia began repositioning its army for the same old strategy it had used in Georgie, Chechnya, and Syria — pulverize cities until the number of dead civilians and lack of human necessities made surrender of local forces the only option.

    That plan has been most evident in Mariupol, where much of the city has been reduced to rubble, and much of the rubble has been turned into ashes. As of Wednesday morning, Russia still doesn’t completely control Mariupol. Even after weeks of continuous shelling, missiles, and bombs; even after Russia deliberately targeted children sheltering in the Theater, and an art school; even after the burning of food depots, the bombing of bread lines, the destruction of the water plant, the cutting off of the electrical supply; even after the kidnapping of thousands of citizens and hundreds of children to be hauled away to an unknown fate in Russia; even after armored vehicles crashed into the city center and began shooting down running civilians … After all that, Russia still has not taken Mariupol. […]

    But indications are that Mariupol is now considered a success by Russia. As street by street fighting continues, Russia is on the brink of finally achieving one of its strategic objectives — complete control of the Sea of Azov coastline and a land bridge between Donbas and Crimea. As objectives go in a war that has already cost Russia billions in equipment and over 10,000 lives, that accomplishment is simply pitiful. However, Russia is now taking actions that indicate it means to replicate Mariupol in other locations.

    In Chernihiv, northeast of Kyiv, Russia has cut the bridge leading out of the city to the south. That bridge was the route that was used to evacuate civilians from the heavily shelled city that’s just 40 miles from both Russia and Belarus, and Kyiv. It’s also the route that was used for bringing food, medicine, and other humanitarian aid into the city. By cutting the bridges, Russia is isolating Chernihiv, trapping what remains of its 286,000 population inside Russian lines, and breaking off any ability to provide them with resources.

    Also within the last two days, the Russian Air Force has actually stepped up the number of sorties it is flying over Ukraine. That number had declined precipitously after Ukraine showed consistent success in taking down planes using mobile air defenses and human-portable missiles. Now Russia is avoiding that issue by keeping planes away from Kyiv and other cities where air defenses are operational. Russia also doesn’t seem to be using its planes to provide air support to Russian troops engaged in battles with advancing Ukrainian forces near Kherson. In fact, on Wednesday Russia removed all its planes from the airport at Kherson — a move that seems to signal they believe the city could be retaken by Ukraine, and don’t want to risk those planes being captured.

    Russia seems to be limiting attacks on Kyiv and other defended locations to missiles, of which they have now fired over 1,100. Planes and UAVs are being saved for attacks on undefended civilian populations in places like Mariupol, where they can use high altitude unguided weapons to blast away blocks with impunity. They are, in short, treating their Air Force as an extension of their artillery. All of their forces are concentrated, not on battlefield advances, but on accelerating destruction of cities. […]

  18. says

    How Trump and His Crew Boost Putin’s Disinformation

    When war strikes, so does disinformation. It’s a vital component of a conflict, especially in these days of social media and hyper-interconnectedness. In the past four weeks, we’ve seen how quickly disinformation can shape the discourse of war. As the Kremlin attempted to legitimize Vladimir Putin’s illegal and brutal invasion of Ukraine, it generated the unsubstantiated allegation that the United States was involved with biolabs in Ukraine that were producing weapons that could threaten Russia. Fox host Tucker Carlson eagerly amplified the accusation, as did such conservative luminaries as Steve Bannon and Michael Flynn. This was more than just own-the-libs trolling, for this propaganda boosts the Russian justification for its war on Ukraine and could even become a rationale for strikes on US targets. […]

    What is with the right when it comes to promoting Russian talking points? Former Trump campaign mouthpiece A.J. Delgado inexplicably claimed that reports of Russian bombs hitting maternity wards and other civilian targets were “probably bullshit.” That was what Moscow propagandists said. Another Trump fangirl, Candace Owens, declared that Ukraine wasn’t a real country and called President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a “very bad character” who was involved in some plot with “globalists” against “the interests of his own people.” This, too, echoed the Kremlin line. Rep. Madison Cawthorn called Zelenskyy a “thug,” and his remarks were all over Russian state television. This noise from the right makes it tougher for the United States to have an honest debate about the vexing issue of the war in Ukraine. Which is what Putin wants. It also provides free content for Putin’s Big Lie machine in Russia.

    […] In September 2019, Russian state TV had said Trump should keep digging for “the sweetest” kompromat of all: “proving that Ukraine—not Russia—interfered in the US elections.” That’s what he was doing—assisting a Russian disinformation campaign.

    Russian intelligence has had a good winning streak in America in recent years. The 2016 attack. The Seth Rich smokescreen. The Ukraine-did-it operation. The latter served Moscow’s strategic interest of harming US-Ukraine relations. Putin’s spies and propagandists have a tougher task now that Russia is destroying cities and slaughtering civilians in Ukraine. But recent days have shown that on the right there’s still a strong market for Putin’s lies.

    More at the link.

  19. says

    Wonkette: “A List Of Josh Hawley’s Lies About Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson In Handy F*ck You Josh Hawley Form”

    In the Trump years, factchecking came to feel like an almost Sisyphean task. There was just so much complete bullshit, and so many of the Trump faithful didn’t care that it was bullshit, that the task seemed fruitless — but still necessary to make sure reality got on the record. Which brings us to our post-truthiness era, where a majority of Americans voted for reality and an entire political party has convinced itself that living in a world of lies is just plain more satisfying.

    That’s fully on display this week in the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson. Out here on Reality Earth, she’s an extremely well-qualified jurist with impeccable credentials and a commitment to justice, even Justice with a capital J. On GOP Planet, she’s automatically unqualified because Joe Biden said he’d appoint a Black woman, and that means he automatically excluded more-qualified candidates like Justice Freeze-In-Your-Truck And Justice Rapeybeer.

    But just in case the obvious racism weren’t enough, Sen. Josh Hawley and a few other Republicans have decided to lie outright about Jackson’s record. In mere reality, the sentences Jackson gave as a federal judge were in line with those of her peers. But in GOP moral panic world, Hawley has taken a bunch of cherry-picked examples and misleading quotes, taken out of context, to smear her with the false claim that she’s a big fan of people convicted in child pornography cases. It’s bullshit, and you can find very good, detailed fact checks of Hawley’s lies at Vox, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and even at the National Freaking Review.

    The chief thing to remember about Hawley is that he’s using a load of dishonest claims about Jackson’s record. He has already insisted that critics are being super unfair to him, because everything he claimed about her is a “fact.” But nah: Without proper context, they’re still misleading bullshit. Josh Hawley is a smart but evil man who knows how to twist the truth; that doesn’t make him any kind of truth-teller.

    As WaPo’s Glenn Kessler points out, Hawley posted a 17-part Twitter thread last week in which the senator offered a whole load of lies about KJB’s record. Most of the lies he told fell into three basic areas.

    1. Out Of Context Quotes

    Hawley quoted questions Jackson asked during US Sentencing Commission (USSC) hearings and pretended those questions about child porn defendants reflected Jackson’s own views. In each case, Jackson had restated something a witness had said in testimony, then asked for more information or a clarification […]

    Hawley seemed to deny that context exists, because if Jackson quoted any words, they now are her words:

    Judge Jackson’s words are right there in print, and they speak for themselves. […]

    2. Pretending Unanimous Recommendations Were Jackson’s Weird Radical Ideas

    Hawley also pretended on Twitter that Jackson had personally “advocated for drastic change in how the law treats sex offenders” when in fact all the USSC’s recommendations were the result of consensus among the seven members of the bipartisan commission, which had three Republican and four Democratic members.

    The New York Times points out that the commission

    noted in a 2012 report to Congress that existing sentencing guidelines on crimes involving images of child sexual abuse “fail to differentiate among offenders in terms of their culpability” and result in penalty ranges that “are too severe for some offenders and too lenient for other offenders.”

    […] the commission suggested changes in minimums for non-production offenses, but not for people who make child pornography. It also recommended equalizing the punishment for possession and for receipt, transportation and distribution.

    The members of the commission were divided on whether mandatory minimums were actually necessary for non-production crimes, but agreed unanimously that Congress should equalize the penalties for possession with those for the other charges, and that any minimum sentence be less than five years. Again, that was all the members, not Jackson on her own, and Congress didn’t act on the recommended changes.[…]

    Hawley’s very smart [/sarcasm] answer to the critique was that even if it was the USSC’s unanimous recommendation, Jackson nonetheless called for it, so it’s on her. Also too, the other commissioners who made the very same recommendations “probably shouldn’t be on the Supreme Court either.” One of the commission’s Republicans, Dabney Friedrich, was appointed to a federal judgeship by Donald Trump in 2017, before Hawley was elected. She was confirmed on a 97-3 vote, with all Senate Republicans supporting her.

    3. OMG Her Sentences For Child Porn Were What Prosecutors Asked For!

    Hawley also listed seven cases in which we’re supposed to be horribly outraged that Jackson sentenced convicted child-porn offenders to less time than recommended in the federal sentencing guidelines. […]

    “The non-production child pornography guideline has been subject to longstanding criticism from stakeholders and has one of the lowest rates of within-guideline range sentences each year,” the report said.

    After Hawley tweeted his thread of lies, another former member of the Sentencing Commission, NYU Law professor Rachel E. Barkow, tweeted that Hawley’s complaints were “silly,” explaining that Jackson’s sentences for non-production child porn offenders were in line with “what most of the federal bench does,” because “just about [every] federal judge realizes these Guidelines are too severe.”

    […] in three of the seven cases, Jackson had imposed a longer sentence than the recommendation (and in one, Hawley had entirely misstated the details, claiming Jackson’s sentence was much lower than the guidelines; in reality, it was within them). In two others, she had given the same sentence probation had recommended. Only two of the cases had sentences that were shorter than the prosecutors or probation had recommended. [Shorter: Hawley lied.]

    Further, in US v. Sears, a case that Hawley had cited as a horror story because Jackson gave a shorter sentence (71 months) than the guidelines recommended (97 to 121 months), Kessler notes that Jackson later returned to the case in 2020 when the offender asked for a compassionate medical release. She denied the request, noting in her ruling that

    The possession and distribution of child pornography is an extremely serious crime because it involves trading depictions of the actual sexual assault of children, and the abuse that these child victims endure will remain available on the internet forever.

    She said the offender’s behavior — which included showing clothed photos of a young female relative and a friend’s child to an undercover cop — made him a likely danger to children, especially since he hadn’t undergone the treatment she’d ordered in his original sentence.

    It’s difficult to read that order and decide Jackson is a pal to child pornographers. But then, Josh Hawley is all about smears, not about honesty.

  20. says

    From Wonkette’s coverage of the Jackson confirmation hearings:

    9:11: Dick Durbin begins the proceedings by explaining that these Republicans are full of shit, that one of Josh Hawley’s favorite judges ever has the same record on child porn as KBJ does, because 80 percent of federal judges have the same record, and did he mention Republicans are full of shit?

    9:13: John Cornyn is V. MAD that every time Republicans launch lie-filled lie attacks at Jackson, Dick Durbin just factchecks them afterward. How can they inject racism and lies into the political discourse about this judge, if they get factchecked in real time?

    9:15: Well now John Kennedy needs to talk and say he agrees with John Cornyn because he just doesn’t think this is appropriate. Durbin kindly explains that he is the chairman and the chairman gets chairman’s time and eat shit.

    9:17: Jon Ossoff is like yeah OK it is my turn so if old shitholes could shut their mouths please. He HUMBLY asks. And Durbin says in the name of Ossoff’s humility, we should def do that.

    9:18: Chuck Grassley says Democrats are doing a good job being civil, UNLIKE HOW THEY WERE DURING THOSE HEARINGS FOR an actual credibly accused sexual predator. […]

  21. says

    Twelve years later, the ACA is getting the last laugh

    […] CNN’s John Harwood summarized this week:

    Today, more Americans than ever have health care coverage under the ACA. That includes 14.5 million people purchasing plans for 2022 coverage from Obamacare insurance exchanges, well over the peak during President Barack Obama’s last year in office. A comparable number gained coverage from provisions of the ACA that expanded the Medicaid program to low-income adults. The proportion of Americans without health insurance has fallen by about half, to below 10%.

    Neera Tanden, an Obama administration health policy aide who now works in the Biden White House, added, “It’s not just that it has survived. It’s thriving.”

    […] the reform law continues to break its own record for extending health care coverage in part because the Biden administration launched an initiative to get people signed up — complete with a renewal of the navigator program — and in part because officials extended the length of the enrollment period.

    […] Democrats included generous new ACA subsidies in the party’s American Rescue Plan last year, with some consumers seeing their premiums fall to nearly or literally zero, thanks entirely to the investments in the Democrats’ Covid relief package from early last year.

    It caps a period that also saw the U.S. Supreme Court shield the ACA from its latest Republican attack, coinciding with Republicans quietly dropping ACA repeal from its to-do list.

    […] Before Obama signed the reform package into law, Republicans condemned it as an economy destroying attack on free enterprise and the American way of life. After the ACA became law, Republicans spent years, not only denouncing the reforms, but voting several dozen times to repeal it.

    Now, even many of Capitol Hill’s most conservative Republicans have moved on.

    It’s worth emphasizing that there are some clouds on the horizon. As regular readers know, the ACA-related benefits included in the American Rescue Plan are, at least for now, temporary. The White House and Democratic leaders want to make the current benefits permanent, and it’s a central pillar of the Build Back Better package, but it’s an open question as to whether some conservative Democrats will allow the new status quo to continue.

    For now, however, proponents of the law still have reason to celebrate. Twelve years after then-Vice President Joe Biden whispered to Obama that the reform measure was a big bleeping deal, there’s little doubt that he was right.

    The ACA is working; it’s popular; it’s affordable; it’s withstood far too many legal challenges; and it no longer has a Republican-imposed target on its back. Twelve years ago today, this dynamic was hard to predict, but to the benefit of millions of American families, it’s the truth.

  22. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 26

    Really? It’s “affordable?” After my gall bladder surgery I had file bankruptcy. I’m still trying to pay off an emergency room visit I had to make when I had a COVID scare back in 2020.

    Oh, did I mention that’s WITH health insurance, and I’m paying for the most expensive tier my employer allows us wage slaves to buy.

    Fuck the ACA, and fuck that lying, capitalist shit Barry Obama for his big, wet, slippery BJ to his corporate masters in the health insurance industry.

  23. says

    Followup to comment 24.

    Back To Child Pornography Again, Cruz Is Describing Upsetting Details
    He’s describing ages and numbers of photos, much like Hawley did yesterday. This is well-tread ground by now, but Republicans clearly think it’s a winner.

    Yes, Cruz is luxuriating in the details. He talks about toddlers being sexually abused by grown men. The case is not about the person who committed the abuse, and not about the person who distributed the photos, but about a person who had such photos on his computer. Judge Jackson tries several times to reply to Cruz’s questions about the length of sentencing, but every time she speaks, Cruz interrupts her with more disturbing details from child pornography cases.

    I think Cruz is sick.

  24. says

    Ukraine update: Russia’s cash crunch […]

    On Wednesday, Interfax reported that Russia is having difficulty funding its embassies abroad. The ruble is currently hovering around to 0.010 dollars, which is actually up from a value of 0.007 dollars a week ago, and Russia’s ability to move money around international banks severely checked, it’s getting difficult to keep the bills paid in D.C. and London and Tokyo. It’s a problem to which some Twitter commenters have proposed a creative solution. “Embassy staff are encouraged to contact western Intelligence services to arrange alternative funding.”

    But seriously, that would first require finding Russian embassy staff not already on the take, and considering how quickly U.S. intelligence was able to learn and make public every step of Putin’s plan in Ukraine, that number seems to be vanishingly small. However, Russia does have a scheme to rescue the ruble from the ash heaps of fiscal history—and that scheme may have a impact that gives Putin at least a little revenge on the world stage.

    Right now, Russia is selling about $500 million a day in crude oil. That number could be closer to $700 million today, as the instability of Russia’s supply, and shifting statements from other OPEC members, have generated a sudden bump in prices, putting oil back around $120 / barrel. But all that Russian oil is purchased in American dollars. Almost all oil is purchased in dollars, with only Venezuela and Iran regularly allowing purchasers to go home with a barrel using some other currency. Other currencies are used in countries where the oil is produced, but when moving from country to country, that oil trades in dollars and only dollars. It’s role as the world’s “petrocurrency” helps facilitate the trading of oil, because prices don’t get affected by the fluctuating relative value of currencies. It also helps hold the dollar’s value up as the world’s trading currency. On average, between 80% and 90% of oil sold on any day is transacted in dollars, and it’s been that way since the “petrodollar” took the crown in the 1970s.

    On Wednesday, Russia reportedly issued a demand that its oil, and the gas it ships into Western Europe at a price of over $700 million, be purchased in rubles and only rubles. This would require that nations seeking to buy Russian fossil fuels first purchase rubles with dollars, then buy the oil or gas with rubles. In terms more familiar to the average person—Russia is only going to accept payment in Chuck E. Cheese tokens, so you have to buy tokens first.

    The immediate goal of this is that it should help prop up the price of the the near-worthless ruble. In fact, just the announcement has the ruble halfway back to the 0.014 dollars it was selling for before the invasion got rolling. But it could also have an effect in terms of chipping into the dollars role as the one and only international petrocurrency. Earlier this month, there were reports that Saudi Arabia was considering allowing China to purchase oil in yuans, rather than first converting their international currency (China has another currency for internal use) rather than requiring that they first convert funds into dollars. Saudi Arabia has made such threats before, using it to blackmail Congress into not applying antitrust laws to OPEC members.

    Should Russia’s move help accelerate the end of the standard petrodollar, there could be a series of consequences that help to destabilize the global economy, resulting in higher inflation and increased borrowing costs, not just for individuals, but for governments.

    It would also reduce what’s known as “petrodollar recycling,” in which oil producing countries lend, spend, or otherwise spread around their excess stock of U.S. dollars, which is one of the factors that helps drive the purchase of U.S. securities and U.S. products. […] It also helps drive investments by oil producing countries within the U.S.

    Putin’s war is being waged in Ukraine, but from the outset it’s been clear that this is a global war, especially in terms of the sanctions being applied to Russia in the hopes of strangling its war effort economically. By demanding payment in rubles, Russia can strike back in a way that generates economic pain for everyone by raising the cost of oil in the short term, and potentially destabilizing both financial and commodities markets.

  25. says

    A bright spot in the confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson:

    Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff was a bright spot in Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing Wednesday mornings. Ossoff claimed his time to begin with by coming out strong against bickering and time-wasting in a take-charge moment likely to reinvigorate Ossoff-thirst on social media. He then kicked off his questions by giving Jackson a moment to humanize herself, lift up her family, and—not by accident—affirm her ties to law enforcement by talking about her brother the police officer.

    Jackson drew a link between her mission and her brother’s, placing them both in a family tradition of public service and saying her work as a lawyer at the time her brother went into law enforcement came out of an “understanding that to defend our country and its values, we also needed to make sure that, when we responded as a country to the terrible attacks on 9/11, we were upholding our constitutional values, that we weren’t allowing the terrorists to win by changing who we are.” In saying that, she neatly turned the response to a personal question into a rebuttal of Republican attacks on her for having represented Guantanamo Bay detainees.

    So even Ossoff’s softball opening wasn’t such a softball. But next, he moved to a series of substantive legal questions focused on constitutional rights—you know, the thing the Supreme Court is supposed to be responsible for protecting, about which a series of Republican senators with fancy law degrees have shown relatively little interest.

    Ossoff asked Jackson about the First Amendment, giving her space to talk about freedom of the press. He asked her about the Fourth Amendment’s protection from unreasonable search and seizure. He asked her about Gideon v. Wainwright, the 1963 Supreme Court decision that guaranteed criminal defendants the right to counsel. In answer to each of these, Jackson was able to talk about the important issues—the issues central to U.S. law and freedoms—she has been nominated to address.

    He also asked Jackson to speak to one of her most famous rulings thus far: the one in which, ruling that Donald Trump could not block former White House counsel Don McGahn from congressional testimony, she wrote, “presidents are not kings.” In response, Jackson spoke at length about the separation of powers, explaining how the framers designed the U.S. government not to replicate a monarchy, and saying, in lines even Republicans would have to reach to criticize, “The separation of powers is crucial to liberty. It is what our country is founded on, and it’s important, as consistent with my judicial methodology, for each branch to operate within their own sphere. That means for me that judges can’t make law, judges shouldn’t be policymakers. That’s a part of our constitutional design and it prevents our government from being too powerful and encroaching on individual liberty.”

    What do you know? A senator on the Judiciary Committee asking a Supreme Court nominee about her own past rulings on matters of constitutional importance and about key points in the Constitution itself, rather than asking about children’s books or misrepresenting her past sentencing decisions in individual criminal cases or using his time to revive grievances from previous Supreme Court confirmation hearings. […] Check out the videos below of key moments from Ossoff’s questions and Jackson’s answers. [video available at the link]

    Link

  26. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    The United States will announce a package of Russia-related sanctions on political figures and oligarchs on Thursday while US President Joe Biden meets with Nato leaders on Ukraine.

    US national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who spoke to reporters as Biden headed to Brussels for the Nato summit, said G-7 leaders will also agree on Thursday to coordinate on sanctions enforcement and plan to issue a statement.

    He also said officials will have more to say on Friday about European energy issues.

    US government concludes that Putin has committed war crimes

    The US government believes that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine based on its assessment of evidence that civilians have been deliberately targeted.

    Here’s the statement by US secretary of state Anthony Blinken published today (edited for length):

    Since launching his unprovoked and unjust war of choice, Russian President Vladimir Putin has unleashed unrelenting violence that has caused death and destruction across Ukraine. We’ve seen numerous credible reports of indiscriminate attacks and attacks deliberately targeting civilians, as well as other atrocities. Russia’s forces have destroyed apartment buildings, schools, hospitals, critical infrastructure, civilian vehicles, shopping centers, and ambulances, leaving thousands of innocent civilians killed or wounded.

    Last week, I echoed President Biden’s statement, based on the countless accounts and images of destruction and suffering we have all seen, that war crimes had been committed by Putin’s forces in Ukraine. I noted then that the deliberate targeting of civilians is a war crime. I emphasised that Department of State and other U.S. government experts were documenting and assessing potential war crimes in Ukraine.

    Today, I can announce that, based on information currently available, the US government assesses that members of Russia’s forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine.

    As with any alleged crime, a court of law with jurisdiction over the crime is ultimately responsible for determining criminal guilt in specific cases. The US government will continue to track reports of war crimes and will share information we gather with allies, partners, and international institutions and organisations, as appropriate. We are committed to pursuing accountability using every tool available, including criminal prosecutions.

    A Russian journalist has died after she was hit by Russian shelling in Kyiv while filming destruction from rocket fire in a shopping centre in the Podolsky district.

    Video journalist for an independent news website based in Russia, the Insider, and activist Oksana Baulina, died alongside one other civilian, while two people accompanying her were wounded and hospitalised.

    Baulina was in Ukraine as a correspondent, where she dispatched reports from Lviv and Kyiv, with a focus on Russian government corruption.

    Baulina began her career working lifestyle magazines including Time Out Moscow and In Style, but after a decade she shifted to more political work, becoming a producer for the Anti-Corruption Foundation.

    She was briefly jailed after the Russian police stormed the headquarters of the independent Anti-Corruption Foundation where she was coordinating a live broadcast from a national rally. After the Russian government classified the organisation as extremist, she had to leave the country, where she continued her reporting work for the Insider, which specialises in investigations, fact-checking and political analysis, and Coda Story, which investigates authoritarianism.

    In a new article reporting her death, The Insider said it “expresses its deepest condolences to Oksana’s family and friends”.

    The publication added: “We will continue to cover the war in Ukraine, including such Russian war crimes as indiscriminate shelling of residential areas which result in the deaths of civilians and journalists.”

    There are growing concerns over the dangers faced by Ukrainian journalists covering Russia’s invasion of their country. Photojournalist Maks Levin has not been heard from since 13 March.

    The Committee to Protect Journalists said two other journalists, Oleh Baturyn and Viktoria Roshchina, had previously gone missing but have since been released by their abductors, who are presumed to belong to the Russian armed forces.

    Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said that targeting journalists was a war crime, and said that three other journalists had been abducted since the invasion.

  27. says

    Mad In America – “Former NIMH Director’s New Book: Why, With More Treatment, Have Suicides and Mental Distress Increased?”:

    …Insel should be given credit for acknowledging: (1) psychiatry’s worsening treatment outcomes; (2) psychiatry’s jettisoning of its chemical imbalance theory of mental illness; and (3) the scientific invalidity of the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic manual, the DSM (“The DSM had created a common language, but much of that language has not been validated by science”). However, he can’t allow for the possibility that the institution of psychiatry, in its quest for parity with the rest of medicine, continues to apply a medical model that has not worked.

    What would have made for a more interesting book would have been at least a consideration of the possibility that psychiatry’s medical model—in which its patients are viewed as bio-chemically-electrically defective in need of bio-chemical-electrical treatments—is a failed paradigm no matter how much one acknowledges the importance of psychosocial variables….

  28. says

    Ukraine update: We were so focused on NW Kyiv, we didn’t notice all the action on the other side

    NBC’s Richard Engel got an unclassified look at the status map at a Ukrainian headquarters. […]

    For all the talk about Ukraine encircling the Russian spearhead at Bucha, northwest of the city, it’s actually the northeastern side of Kyiv where counter-attacks are having the most success. Here’s @War_Mappers latest map of the area, updated last night: [map available at the link]

    Both of these maps have Bohdanivka, just northeast of Brovary, in Russian hands. But look at the thin tendril supplying it in the official HQ map. Some reports claim that those supply lines have been cut. Certainly wouldn’t take much. The HQ map also seems to have cleared the supply routes to Chernihiv of all Russian forces (all that orange in the second map), and that critical highway that runs north of Nizhyn. With Russians out of the way, supples can now flow more easily into embattled Chernihiv.

    NASA’s forest fire satellite FIRMS is clearly showing the frontlines: [map available at the link]

    That entire lower tendril ending at Bohdanivka is under attack. According to the Pentagon, that line has now collapsed:

    Ukrainians have pushed the Russians back to about 55 kilometers east & northeast of Kyiv according to Sr. def official. “Yesterday we were telling you they were about 20-30 km away.”

    Bohdanivka is 40 kilometers (26 miles) away from Kyiv, so this would mean it’s been cleared of Russian troops. Yet there is no video confirmation anywhere that this has, indeed, happened. So take with a giant grain of salt. Similarly, Bucha is 32 kilometers away from central Kyiv. Is this Pentagon official suggesting Russians have been cleared from Bucha, Irpin, and Hostemel airport? There is zero indication this has happened. So let’s just assume something was lost in the translation, because the Pentagon (like the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense) have both been conservative when discussing territorial gains and losses.

    The Pentagon has been weird the last couple of days, like this: [tweet available at the link]

    Russia has been trying to encircle Ukraine’s significant fighting force on the Donbas front lines because it would isolate and potentially destroy a third of Ukraine’s armed forces. That’s a heck of a prize! It has nothing to do with “reinforcing cities,” since Russia has shown zero ability to take any cities. It still hasn’t managed to take Mariupol, despite having surrounded it from the beginning of the war, isolated, starved, and pounded to oblivion. A Ukrainian retreat from their prepared trench defenses, over open, flat land, would be a turkey shoot for Russian forces, artillery, and air force. The fact that Russia has been unable to dislodge the defenders from those positions speaks to their efficacy.

    Ukraine has plenty of defenders in their cities, and Russia severely lacks the troops to make a serious push into most of them. Indeed, it is this confidence in territorial defense forces and prepared urban defenses that has given Ukrainian high command the confidence to go on the offensive around Kyiv and Kherson in the south.

    Yesterday, Russia destroyed a key rail junction supplying Ukrainian forces on the Donbas front. If you’re wondering why Russia didn’t do that on day one, that’s an excellent question. It took them a month, but they finally wised up. And that’s the goal, to starve those troops of food and ammo, so that they can either prompt their surrender, or keep hitting them until they run out of ammo and have nothing left with which to fight back. […]

  29. says

    Followup to comment 37.

    More updated information:

    According to Ukrainian intelligence, those promised Syrian soldiers ain’t coming.

    On March 22, a meeting was held between the commander of the 8th Brigade in the southern Syrian province of Dera, Colonel Nasim Abu Irra, and Russian Armed Forces General Alexander Zhuravleov (performs the function of the commander of the Russian group in the southern provinces cíyah of Syria).

    During the meeting, the Russian general made a clear demand to formulate and provide a list of names and personal information of militants from Abu Irra units and the Syrian Defense Forces ready to participate in the war against Ukraine.

    The Syrian colonel did not provide a clear answer. Instead, he promised to get in touch after consultation “with other representatives of the management team of the 8th brigade”.

    “I’ll get back to you,” is hilarious. Just like Belorussian dictator Alexander Lukashenko. Who would want to send troops, knowing Russia would just feed them into the wood chipper? Russia doesn’t even treat its own troops well.

  30. says

    ‘It’s a Sh*tshow’: Russian Troops Are Now Turning on Each Other
    By Allison Quinn

    Two Russian soldiers have been caught venting about Putin’s “bullshit” war against Ukraine in an intercepted phone call as devastating losses reportedly led one soldier to drive over his colonel with a tank.

    “Basically, it’s a shitshow here, I’ll put it that way,” an unnamed soldier near Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine can be heard telling a colleague in a recording released by Ukraine’s Security Service late Tuesday.

    After telling his friend that Ukrainian forces “tore apart” a column of Russian forces sent along with his own unit, he described complete disarray among the Russian military, with 50 percent of the unit suffering from frostbite on their feet.

    “But they don’t plan to treat them in the [field] hospital,” he said.

    “It’s such trash here… our own plane dropped a bomb on us,” he said.

    He said soldiers are complaining about having Kevlar vests that lack the hard-armor panel, but they are ignored.

    “Even in Chechnya, there was nothing like this,” he said, describing the situation as a “madhouse.”

    “This ‘special operation,’ damnit… with respect to homes not meant to be destroyed… it’s bullshit.”

    Even though “on TV” they said the Russian troops were advancing, they were actually surrounded “on all sides” by Ukrainian forces, he said.

    Link

  31. says

    Madeleine Albright, First Woman to Serve as Secretary of State, Dies at 84

    https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/23/us/madeleine-albright-dead.html

    She rose to power and fame as a brilliant analyst of world affairs before serving as an aggressive advocate of President Bill Clinton’s policies.

    Madeleine K. Albright, a child of Czech refugees who fled from Nazi invaders and Communist oppressors and then landed in the United States, where she flourished as a diplomat and the first woman to serve as secretary of state, died on Wednesday in Washington. She was 84.

    The cause was cancer, her daughter Anne said.

    Enveloped by a veil of family secrets hidden from her for most of her life, Ms. Albright rose to power and fame as a brilliant analyst of world affairs and a White House counselor on national security. Under President Bill Clinton, she became the country’s representative to the United Nations (1993-97) and secretary of state (1997-2001), making her the highest-ranking woman in the history of American government at the time.

    It was not until after she became secretary of state that she accepted proof that, as she had long suspected, her ethnic and religious background was not what she had thought. She learned that her family was Jewish and that her parents had protectively converted to Roman Catholicism during World War II, raising their children as Catholics without telling them of their Jewish heritage. She also discovered that 26 family members, including three grandparents, had been murdered in the Holocaust.

    With her father, a diplomat, probably facing execution, the family’s odyssey from a Europe on the brink of World War II to safety in America took 10 years and two escapes to London. The first came as Nazi troops invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939, and the second came after the family’s postwar repatriation, when Czech Communists with Soviet support overthrew the government of Czechoslovakia in 1948.

    In America, Madeleine Korbel was a gifted student, married into the wealthy Albright-Medill newspaper family and wrote many books and articles on public affairs. She also climbed the ranks of the Democratic Party to pinnacles of success as a counselor to President Jimmy Carter and as a foreign policy adviser to three presidential candidates: former Senator Walter F. Mondale of Minnesota in 1984, Gov. Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts in 1988 and Mr. Clinton in 1992. She was also the campaign foreign policy adviser to Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman to run for vice president.

    […] Days after beginning his second term, Mr. Clinton nominated Ms. Albright as secretary of state. She was unanimously confirmed by the Senate (99-0) and soon made her first official trip, not to a foreign capital but to Texas, where she spoke at Rice University — determined, she said, to take United States foreign policy straight to the American people.

    […] She then embarked on a nine-nation world tour, with stops in Rome, Paris, London, Brussels, Bonn, Moscow, Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing.

    […] Ms. Albright dealt with regional conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Haiti, Northern Ireland and the Middle East, but no wide wars. She promoted the expansion of NATO into the former Soviet bloc nations of Eastern Europe and defended continued economic sanctions against Iraq.

    A crisis on Ms. Albright’s watch developed in late 1997 and early 1998, after Iraq’s president, Saddam Hussein, blocked the access of United Nations inspectors to sites where Iraqi chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction were believed to have been hidden, in violation of a Security Council resolution passed at the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf war.

    […] In an 11th-hour move to prevent war, the United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, carrying final terms drawn up by Ms. Albright, flew to Baghdad and secured the Iraqi leader’s agreement to restore unrestricted access to the sites by U.N. weapons inspectors and diplomatic chaperones. In December 1998, the United States and Britain bombed scores of Iraqi military targets and research installations to degrade Iraq’s ability to manufacture weapons of mass destruction.

    Ms. Albright championed NATO bombings in Kosovo that halted attacks on ethnic Albanians by Yugoslavian forces in 1999. She also promoted ratification of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. But American diplomats in Africa said she had failed to heed warnings that foreshadowed truck bombings in 1998 that killed 224 people at the American Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

    […] Throughout her tenure, Ms. Albright opposed the proliferation of nuclear weapons in rogue states. But on a visit to North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-il, in October 2000, she was unable to strike a deal to limit his country’s ballistic missile program before Mr. Clinton left office.

    Still, her performance as secretary of state won high marks from career diplomats abroad and ordinary Americans at home. Admirers said she had a star quality, radiating practicality, versatility and a refreshingly cosmopolitan flair. She spoke Czech, Polish, French and Russian.

    […] In 2008, Ms. Albright supported her longtime friend Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, and then supported Barack Obama, who won the nomination and the presidency, appointing Mrs. Clinton as his first-term secretary of state. […]

    More at the link.

  32. says

    WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Senator Ted Cruz’s abject failure to rattle the Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson at her confirmation hearing sent him fleeing to Cancun on Tuesday night.

    Cruz, spotted by reporters while rolling his suitcase through Reagan National Airport, said that he was “thoroughly drained” after strenuously trying to find a crack in Jackson’s equanimous demeanor.

    “When I asked her if she thought babies were racist, I was sure that would do the trick,” he said. “That was the best I had.”

    Drenched with flop sweat, a despondent Cruz left the Senate and immediately started packing his rolling bag for Cancun, hoping that a few days on the beach in Mexico would leave him refreshed and ready to pursue a new line of attack against Jackson.

    “I may have lost the battle, but I haven’t lost the war,” he said. “I think America needs to know where Judge Jackson stands on Mr. Potato Head, Big Bird, and the Smurfs.”

    New Yorker link

  33. tomh says

    Election Law Blog:
    Supreme Court, in Bizarre Unsigned Opinion, Strikes Wisconsin Legislative Maps on Voting Rights Grounds, Signalling New Hostility to the Voting Rights Act
    Rick Hasen / March 23, 2022

    In a per curiam (unsigned) opinion on the shadow docket, over the dissent of Justices Kagan and Sotomayor, the Supreme Court has rejected a redistricting plan that a divided Wisconsin Supreme Court had adopted for drawing state assembly and senate districts. …. the way this case was handled is quite bizarre and is another signal of a conservative supermajority of the Supreme Court showing increasing hostility to section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

    [Detailed analysis of the case snipped]

    This ruling is bizarre on many levels, all canvassed by the dissenting opinion. …. In reaching this decision, the Supreme Court majority resolved some uncertain issues of statutory and constitutional interpretation. The Court did so on skimpy briefing with no oral argument or a chance to fully consider the issues, treating the stay request as a cert petition and deciding the full case on the merits.

    So, to sum up: the Court used a case in an emergency procedural posture to reach out and decide an issue that could have waited for full briefing and argument either in a lower court in a challenge to the maps or if the Supreme Court had set the case for argument. It decided these issues in ways hostile to minority voting rights without giving a full opportunity for airing out the issues and pointing out how this will further hurt voters of color. It continues to chip away at the Voting Rights Act without acknowledging that it is killing off the last major protection for minority voters from discriminatory districting plans.

  34. Trickster Goddess says

    If true, I’m sure there will be some verrry interesting information coming out of this. Stay tuned I guess…

    Anonymous TV 🇺🇦
    @YourAnonTV
    JUST IN: The #Anonymous collective has hacked the Central Bank of Russia. More than 35.000 files will be released within 48 hours with secret agreements. #OpRussia

    Twitter

  35. says

    Here’s a link to today’s Guardian Ukraine liveblog. From their most recent summary:

    Western nations will warn the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, on Thursday that his country will pay “ruinous” costs for invading Ukraine during an unprecedented one-day trio of Nato, G7 and EU summits that will be attended by the US president, Joe Biden, in Brussels.

    Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he hoped for “meaningful steps” at the round of summits, noting they would reveal “who is a friend, who is a partner, and who betrayed us for money”.

    Zelenskiy has addressed the Swedish parliament, and told them that Ukraine deserves to be a full member of the European Union.

    Seven humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians from Ukrainian towns and cities have been agreed for Thursday, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk has said.

    Ukraine appears to have struck against the large Russian landing ship Orsk which was unloading supplies at the port of Berdyansk, about 75km away from Mariupol. Video footage appears to show a large fire in the port.

    Russian forces have been accused of taking hostage the people of the besieged Ukrainian city of Chernihiv, as local officials imposed drinking water rationing on trapped civilians.

    The UK government has announced that it is applying 65 new sanctions against Russia “targeting strategic industries, banks and business elites” including the Wagner Group – sometimes described as Vladimir Putin’s private army – and Polina Kovaleva, the Russian foreign minister’s stepdaughter.

    UK prime minister Boris Johnson has said Putin has already “crossed a red line” that merits ramping up the west’s response, and that the West could target Russia’s gold reserves.

    Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, has said that paying for Russian oil and gas in roubles, as Putin is demanding, would be ‘helping Russians kill Ukrainians’.

    Norwegian media is reporting that Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is set to extend his term as head of the alliance by another year due to the war in Ukraine.

    Russia’s ambassador to Warsaw has said that Poland has blocked the embassy’s bank accounts for allegedly financing “terrorist activity”. Bulgaria is recalling its ambassador from Russia “for consultations”….

  36. says

    Russian militarisation in children’s songs. They sing about their readiness to die for #Putin if he calls them for the last battle. Sevastopol & Crimea are ours, and we’ll return Alaska too. Parents, teachers and organisers who made this scary show possible are #NotJustPutin….”

    Video at the link. Alaska!

    I posted something a few years ago about the Putin youth movement. Will try to find it again…

  37. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    Nato urges China to refrain from supporting Russia’s war effort

    Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said China should use its “significant influence” on Russia….

    Nato leaders have agreed to provide further support by equipping Ukraine with significant military supplies, including anti-tank and air defence systems and drones, Stoltenberg says.

    However, he reiterated that Nato allies will not deploy troops on the ground in Ukraine….

    Here’s more on Nato leaders calling on China to abstain from supporting Russia’s war effort.

    In a joint statement following the Nato summit:

    We call on all states, including the People’s Republic of China (PRC), to uphold the international order including the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, as enshrined in the UN Charter, to abstain from supporting Russia’s war effort in any way, and to refrain from any action that helps Russia circumvent sanctions.

    We are concerned by recent public comments by PRC officials and call on China to cease amplifying the Kremlin’s false narratives, in particular on the war and on Nato, and to promote a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

    The US has announced fresh Russia-related sanctions against dozens of defence companies, 328 members of the Duma legislative body and the chief executive of Sberbank, Russia’s largest financial institution.

    In a statement, the US treasury department said:

    Today, in its latest action to impose severe costs on the Russian Federation for its illegal, unwarranted, and baseless war against Ukraine, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is designating key enablers of the invasion.

    It said sanctions on companies that produce weapons that have been used in Russia’s assault against Ukraine will have a “deep and long-lasting effect on Russia’s defence-industrial base and its supply chain”.

    Janet L. Yellen, secretary of the treasury, said:

    The United States, with our partners and allies, is striking at the heart of Russia’s ability to finance and carry out its warfare and atrocities against Ukraine.

    The Russian State Duma continues to support Putin’s invasion, stifle the free flow of information, and infringe on the basic rights of the citizens of Russia. We call on those closest to Putin to cease and condemn this cold-blooded war.

  38. says

    From the Meduza liveblog:

    Remembering slain journalist Oksana Baulina

    On March 23, an air strike in Kyiv killed two civilians, one of whom was Oksana Baulina, a Russian investigative journalist and former activist at Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation. News of Baulina’s death shocked her friends and colleagues in Russia’s news media and human rights community. On social media, people described their last interactions with her, often sharing screenshots of what proved to be their final correspondence.

    Olga Shakina, a friend who now works for the media wing of the human rights group Department One, remembered Baulina in a message shared on the organization’s Telegram channel. Meduza translates that text below.

    Oksana and I met literally under the splashes of champagne. She had a wonderful, sparkling Moscow career — top positions at glossy magazines, parties, press tours of five-star hotels on tropical islands. In 2014, she took over at CN [Condé Nast] Traveler — the Russian version of the most luxurious travel magazine on the planet. But it only lasted a few months because — the moment the magazine went against her wishes and ran a paid puff piece on the pleasures of vacationing in Crimea — Baulina immediately turned down the large salary, the fat insurance package, and the life of perpetual extravagance.

    As I recall, she was the only journalist in the entertainment industry who did anything like that, all while everyone else mumbled that “glossy magazines are outside politics” and kept spinning in their whirlwind of enchanting parties and marvelous travels — whether for a fashion show in Grozny staged by [Chechen ruler Ramzan] Kadyrov’s daughter or a celebration in Tashkent for [former Uzbekistani President Islam] Karimov’s daughter.

    Oksana went on to help make [the YouTube channel] Navalny LIVE and then left for Warsaw to work at Belsat and The Insider, and from there, from Warsaw, she moved to Lviv and Kyiv when the war began.

    She never could sit on the sidelines. She was always principled and ferociously unbending. It was even a bit exhausting at times.

    Ten years ago, when we stood there holding our bubbling glasses at that grand opening of whatever glittering Moscow thing, if I’d been told what would happen today, I… I don’t actually know how I would have reacted. I don’t know how to react now. How many more good people have to die before this war stalls and ends altogether? I offer my condolences to Oksana’s family and friends. For the Russian authorities, I have only hatred. No to war!

  39. blf says

    Apropos of absolutely nothing, at the outdoors market earlier this week, one of the fishmongers didn’t have very many clams left, so I asked « tous, s’il vous plaît », expecting somewhere between ½ and 1 kilogram. Instead, I got over a kilo, which presented a “problem”… the “excess” was solved by a poached eggs with clams breakfast yesterday, and today I finished off the clams in a chowder — BURP! (With a nice Italian vin.) In-between I also managed to confirm some critical documents were delivered to the demanding bureaucratseejits prior to their deadline, and even sorted out certain financial issues. In fact, I almost went to Marseille, mostly because the weather is improving and I haven’t been there since the start of the pandemic… and I’m toying with the idea of going to Paris next month (April! Paris in April!)… for similar non-consequential reasons (I can almost think upinvent practical reason(s?) for going to Marseille, but not really Paris…).

  40. says

    Kyiv Post – “Is Silence Golden? Hockey Caught in the Middle”:

    …For now, it’s game on for the NHL which is gearing up for its playoffs. Russians can play, but will they face pushback as the destruction mounts. Will some find the courage to speak against the war? It is naïve to think that top athletes can “just play sport” in a bubble isolated from world happenings.

    Top sports stars like Ovechkin have huge followings on their social media. They cultivate personal brands and endorse products. All this makes athletes public and economic figures operate from privileged positions of influence. Because some people listen to sports stars and emulate them, athletes should be accountable for their ethics to the public, just like corporations. Already the hockey equipment maker CCM has stopped using Ovechkin and other Russian players in global marketing campaigns.

    The debate about the war in the North American hockey world seems to revolve around the Russian hockey players. Little has been said about the millions of Ukrainians refugees or those left behind in siege conditions. This war has forced 10 million people from their homes and changed global energy and food supply lines. There can be no fence sitters….

  41. says

    Followup to comment 30.

    Despicable:

    Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) got what they set out to achieve in their performances during Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearings Wednesday: airtime on Fox News.

    The four hectored her, with raised voices and constant interruptions, on her record of sentencing people in possession of child pornography. Their theatrical intent was clear at the time: many repeatedly asked questions that she’d already answered, and cut her off when she tried to explain the process of sentencing those crimes.

    Hawley asked repeatedly if Jackson “regrets” her sentences, picking out lines from a handful of cases he thought sounded damning for her. Graham slapped the dias, and dramatically stormed from the chamber when his time concluded. Cruz appeared to check his mentions on Twitter after shouting at Jackson and trying to prevent the next questioner, Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), from taking over.

    The core of their argument, that Jackson has been unacceptably lenient with those in possession of child pornography, has been debunked by nearly every large news outlet. Representatives from the American Bar Association, after interviewing hundreds of people, said they found “no evidence,” including from prosecutors, that Jackson downgraded sentences for those kinds of crimes.

    […] a theatrical performance, rooted in an exceptionally dark fixation of the right wing of the party, made to smear and humiliate a Black woman, rates clicks and eyeballs. And it worked.

    All four got booked on Fox News Wednesday, the chyrons often furthering the senators’ defamation campaigns. “GOP Exposes Judge Jackson’s Radicalism,” blazed the screen beneath Cotton’s interview with host Laura Ingraham.

    Ingraham played clips of Cotton’s performance on her show, and hyped Cotton’s various accusations.

    “Judge Jackson, like so many far left activists, thinks that mandatory minimums for drug crimes are too harsh, just like she apparently thinks that mandatory minimums for child pornography are too harsh,” Cotton said. “She consistently sentences on the lowest end of the sentencing guidelines or even deviates downward from the sentencing guidelines. That’s what we’ve seen over the last few two days examining her record — she is a far left activist who always — almost always — finds a way to sympathize with the criminals, not with the victims.” […]

    Hawley got his performance showcased on Hannity, where he could spew the debunked claims without fear of a fact-check. “I think her record is pretty clear — when it comes to crime and especially crimes against children, this is somebody who apologizes to the criminals,” Hawley said. […]

    Cruz went on Jesse Watters Primetime saying much of the same, adding in some stomach-churning details from the child pornography cases the senators have cherry-picked. […]

    These kinds of performances, clearly made to enhance these men’s standing on the right, is more than the “jackassery” in service of fame that Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) dismissed on Wednesday. It’s a key part in turning a smear into a full-fledged disinformation campaign. Fox News amplifies the lies […] Republicans’ attempts to get pre-sentencing reports in the child ponography cases, potentially exposing details of violence to underage victims in the service of an attack line that’s a total distortion. […]

    Link

  42. tomh says

    ReligionClause:
    Idaho Governor Signs A Heartbeat Abortion Ban
    March 24, 2022

    Yesterday, Idaho Governor Brad Little signed Senate Bill 1309, the Fetal Heartbeat Preborn Child Protection Act (full text). While news media report that the law is modeled on Texas SB8, there are differences between the two laws. Like the Texas law, SB 1309 prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected– generally 6 weeks, and provides for private enforcement. However the Idaho law has an exception for rape or incest (if reported to law enforcement authorities) or for medical emergencies. The Texas law only excepts medical emergency. Under the Idaho law, a private enforcement action may be brought only by the father, grandparent, sibling, aunt or uncle of the pre-born child. They may sue for actual damages plus statutory damages of $20,000. Under the Texas law, anyone (other than a state or local official) may sue….

  43. says

    Excerpts from Ukraine updates posted by Mark Sumner:

    NATO leaders are discussing how to get anti-ship weapons to Ukraine. Based on the action at Berdyansk, it’s clear that Russia’s Black Sea fleet is already a lot less secure than it seemed.

    It’s hard to underestimate the effect that the action at Berdyansk could have on Russian morale — if it becomes widely known in Russia. Short of Great Britain in the Napoleonic era, there are few nations that have more pride invested in their naval power than Russia. Their superiority at sea is just assumed, and the Black Sea is their bathtub.

    For a Russian ship to be sunk in the Black Sea, is a gut punch. [A followup of sorts to SC @56]
    ———————-
    These are the other two ships reported to have been damaged in action at the port of Berdyansk. At the same time this was happening, Kherson ran up the Ukrainian flag, with Ukrainian forces reportedly approaching from the northwest. These two locations are far apart. Kherson is in the west, about 80 miles from Odessa. Berdyansk in the east, just 40 miles from Mariupol.

    But two major actions underway at points 200 miles from each other along the coast shows how even the south, which has been reported as the area where Russia was “consolidating its gains,” is far from securely under Russian control. The recapture of Kherson would deprive Russia of the single large urban area they’ve captured since the invasion began.

    Ukraine may not have scheduled these events to correspond with the NATO meeting, but they are certainly giving the world leaders a show. [Video available at the link. Scroll down to the 7:02:40 AM post.]
    ———————
    Zelenskyy is reporting that Russia used white phosphorus munitions in the city of Kramatorsk on Monday. White phosphorus are banned by international law, and this would be considered a chemical weapons attack.

    Link

  44. says

    Russian crew aboard a superyacht possibly linked to Putin have left their jobs, workers say.

    NY Times link

    Russian crew members on a mysterious $700-million luxury yacht that U.S. officials say could be owned by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia abruptly left their jobs and the Tuscan coastal town where it is undergoing repairs a couple of weeks ago amid scrutiny of the vessel, local union leaders and workers say.

    The crew members had been fixtures in the small port of Marina di Carrara since the fall of 2020, when the 459-foot-long yacht, Scheherazade, arrived at a dry dock less than four months after being built. No owner has been publicly identified.

    “They were replaced by a British crew,” said Paolo Gozzani, the local leader of Italy’s General Confederation of Labor trade union, on Wednesday. “I don’t know and don’t care whether the yacht is indeed Putin’s or not, but I worry about the repercussions on shipyard workers if police impound or confiscate the vessel.”

    Workers at the shipyard and regular visitors to its private lounge confirmed that the Russians had routinely supervised the work done on the yacht and had drinks at the bar or played pool there in the evenings. The yacht, estimated by the website SuperYachtFan to cost about $700 million, has two helicopter decks, a swimming pool with a retractable cover that converts to a dance floor and a gym.

    This week, the research team of Aleksei A. Navalny, the Russian opposition leader, published a video in which it argued, based on a 2020 crew manifest, that a dozen of the Russian crew members of the Scheherazade either worked for or had a connection with Russia’s Federal Protective Service. The team drew the conclusion that the yacht must belong to Mr. Putin or some of his closest aides.

    The Scheherazade’s real ownership is hidden by various shell companies. American officials said this month they had found initial indications that it was linked to Mr. Putin but would not describe what information they had.

    In an interview with The New York Times this month, the yacht’s captain, Guy Bennett-Pearce, declined to disclose the name of the owner, but denied that Mr. Putin owned or had ever been on the yacht. Mr. Bennett-Pearce said Thursday he wouldn’t comment further until an investigation by Italian authorities’ was finished.

    Italy’s financial police have been looking into Scheherazade’s ownership for weeks. Italian investigators wouldn’t comment on Thursday, saying that the investigation was continuing.

    In a speech to Italy’s Parliament this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Italy to prevent Russians from vacationing in the country, as well as to freeze their assets, bank accounts and yachts, “from the Scheherazade to the smallest ones.”

    Italian authorities have frozen over 800 million euros in assets from Russian oligarchs on the European sanctions list, including villas in Sardinia, Tuscany, Liguria and the Lake Como area, and three yachts.

  45. says

    Manhattan Prosecutor Who Quit Says Trump Did A Lotta Criming

    Mark Pomerantz, one of the two leading prosecutors who quit Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s stalled investigation into the Trump Organization, asserted in his Feb. 23 resignation letter (which was obtained by multiple outlets) that the former president is undoubtedly guilty of “numerous felony violations” despite Bragg’s decision not to pursue an indictment against him.

    “The team that has been investigating Mr. Trump harbors no doubt about whether he committed crimes — he did,” Pomerantz wrote in his letter to Bragg, who had reportedly decided against an indictment because he was skeptical the prosecutors could have Trump convicted.

    Pomerantz warned that Bragg’s decision “will doom any future prospects” of Trump getting prosecuted for his alleged crimes at the center of the investigation, including falsifying business records.

    The investigation is still continuing, according to Bragg’s office.

  46. says

    President Joe Biden wants Russia removed from the G-20 group of the world’s largest economies, the president said during a news conference Thursday.

    Asked during a press conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Thursday if Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should prompt the G-20 to kick Moscow out, Biden said “my answer is yes.”

    “That depends on the G-20,” Biden continued. “That was raised today.”

    Biden said he told NATO leaders that if Russia could not be removed from the G-20, Ukraine should be invited to attend the group’s meetings as an observer.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to attend the G-20 summit this October, Russia’s ambassador to Indonesia told Reuters Wednesday.

    Link

  47. blf says

    Here in France, besides an excess of clams (see @60), is an excess of kooks, French rightwing candidate focuses on immigration as she slips to fifth in polls:

    […]
    The rightwing presidential candidate Valérie Pécresse has promised to rewrite the French constitution in order to fight crime and illegal immigration, as she tried to boost a flagging campaign that risks her party imploding if she fails to reach the final round next month.

    I want to show that I’m ready to govern, Pécresse told journalists in Paris, vowing to restore order to the streets and to the public accounts.

    Shortly afterwards, Pécresse’s team announced she had Covid and would be stepping back from public appearances for the next few days.

    Polls this week showed Pécresse sinking into a damaging fifth position. The mood is palpably tense in Les Républicains, the traditional rightwing party of Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy[Sarkoführer], which could break apart amid ideological in-fighting if Pécresse does not make it to the second round final on 24 April. [Both Chirac and Sarkoführer are convicted criminals –blf]

    An Ipsos poll for France Info and Le Parisien this week placed Pécresse as low as 9.5% in the 10 April first round, far behind the centrist president Emmanuel Macron, on 29.5%, and the far-right Marine Le Pen, on 18.5%, who are predicted to make the final. Pécresse has also sunk behind the hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon, on 12.5%, as he gains ground, and the [über]far-right TV pundit Éric Zemmour, on 11%. [So are Le Pen and Zemmour (convicted criminals) –blf]

    […]

    Pécresse said her changes to the constitution would introduce minimum prison sentences for some crimes, quotas for immigration, and limit the Muslim headscarf in some public spaces, including banning headscarves from players in sporting events. No headscarves would be worn by mothers accompanying schooltrips, she said. She referred to her own clampdown on full-body swimsuits as head of the Île-de-France region, which includes Paris and the surrounding area, saying: There will be no burkinis in the swimming pools of the Republic.

    […]

  48. says

    World Trade Organization denies Belarus application for membership

    he World Trade Organization (WTO) has denied Belarus’ application to become a member of the organization, citing its involvement with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, NBC News reported.

    “Belarus is unfit for WTO membership,” WTO said in a statement on Thursday. “We will not further consider its application for accession.”

    WTO also said that Belarus has shown complicity in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to NBC News, calling it’s actions “incompatible with the values and principles of the WTO and of a just rules-based order.”

    “We collectively strongly condemn Russia’s unjustifiable and unprovoked military aggression against Ukraine, which is enabled by Belarus,” it added.

    Dozens of Western nations and major companies have either imposed sanctions on Russia and Belarus or suspended operations in the countries in response to Moscow’s ongoing war on Ukraine.

    The U.S. House earlier this month passed a bill to end normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus as the U.S. and its allies seek to tighten the economic vice on the Kremlin and its key ally in the invasion.

  49. blf says

    Übernazi French kook Éric Zemmour (see, e.g., @72), manages to increase his horribleness, Far-right Zemmour threatens to seize African leaders’ assets if they don’t take back immigrants:

    Far-right French presidential candidate Éric Zemmour said on Wednesday that he could seize the homes of African leaders and block remittances to their countries if they failed to take back immigrants, as he seeks to reboot his flagging campaign.

    Zemmour [… bellowed] this week that, if elected [as President], he would create a Ministry of Re-Immigration that would deport hundreds of thousands of immigrants over his five-year term.

    That campaign promise drew a rebuke from the National Rassemblement[teh lepenazi]’s Marine Le Pen, who is also far-right. She called the proposal “anti-republican” in a Tuesday interview with BFM TV, though she declined, when pressed, to say if it was racist.

    […]

    As president, Zemmour would go to Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia to negotiate accords for the expulsions, he [bellowed]. About 30% of French immigrants were born in one of those three countries, according to the French Institute of Demographic Studies.

    […]

    He also defended his focus on immigration despite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying France’s main challenges remained identity and security.

    […]

    Zemmour is notoriously pro-Putin, even more obviously so than Le Pen (who famously shredded(? burnt?) her campaign propaganda after Putin invaded Ukraine, because it feature a picture of her with Putin). Notably, I haven’t see any propaganda / posters for either of these two nazis, despite the first round being about two weeks away… this is unusual, teh le penazis are usually “flooding” the area.

  50. says

    From the most recent Guardian liveblog summary:

    Ukrainian forces have been bolstered by the dramatic destruction of a major Russian landing ship as it brought in supplies to its troops. Dramatic pictures showed bellowing fire and black smoke as the Orsk, docked in Berdyansk on the Azov Sea, was hit by Ukrainian ballistic missiles.

    The Ukrainian defence ministry said its troops had pushed back Russian forces from some areas around the capital, Kyiv, Reuters reports. Russian troops did not have enough resources to push ahead with their offensive in Ukraine, Motuzyanyk added, but he said Russian troops have not given up hope of surrounding and seizing Kyiv.

    Ukraine’s deputy prime minister said there were 40 buses waiting to take civilians out of Mariupol, but that Russian forces were not letting them through. There were meant to be seven humanitarian corridors open today – although Mariupol was not included among them.

    The chief prosecutor of the international criminal court (ICC), Karim Khan, asked a coalition of countries to back his war crimes investigation in Ukraine. “Things can get worse” if the international community fails to act now, Khan warned.

    The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, appealed to Nato allies to increase military support for his country against Russian forces. Speaking to leaders via video link, Zelenskiy thanked countries for the defensive equipment provided to Ukraine but appealed for offensive weapons. The Ukrainian leader also accused Russia of deploying phosphorus weapons.

    The US and its allies announced new sanctions on more than 400 Russian elites and institutions. Among those sanctioned were Russia’s lower house of parliament, the Duma, and 328 of its members. The US treasury department also issued guidance warning that gold-related transactions involving Russia may be sanctionable by US authorities.

    Biden said China understands the economic consequences that would ensue if it provides help to Russia in its war with Ukraine. Speaking to reporters in Brussels, the US president said the Nato alliance has never been more united than it is today.

    G7 leaders said they are resolved to impose severe consequences on Russia and stand ready to apply additional measures “as required”. In a joint statement, they condemned Vladimir Putin’s “war of choice” and his “unjustifiable, unprovoked and illegal” aggression in Ukraine.

    The Biden administration and European Union are expected to announce a major initiative to direct shipments of liquefied natural gas to Europe during the US president’s visit to Brussels this week, the Washington Post reported, citing three US officials familiar with the plan.

    The United Nations general assembly voted overwhelmingly to call on Russia to stop its war on Ukraine immediately and to provide more aid access and civilian protection in Ukraine. The resolution received 140 votes in favour and five votes against – Russia, Syria, North Korean, Eritrea and Belarus – while 38 countries abstained.

    Pope Francis levelled strong criticism against countries for increasing defence spending following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, describing it as “madness”. Francis said the conflict in Ukraine was a product of “the old logic of power that still dominates so-called geopolitics” and the real answer was not more weapons and more sanctions. [How stupid.]

  51. says

    CNN – “Rep. Mo Brooks says Trump repeatedly asks him to ‘rescind’ the 2020 election”:

    Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama repeated his claim Thursday that former President Donald Trump has personally asked him to work to rescind the 2020 election, remove Joe Biden from office and install Trump in his place.

    “The President has asked me to rescind the election of 2020,” Brooks told WIAT. “He always brings up, ‘we’ve got to rescind the election. We got to take Joe Biden down and put me in now’.”

    When asked if Trump still says that to him, Brooks said, “yes.”

    Brooks, who lost the endorsement of the former President in his race for the US Senate in Alabama said that despite Trump’s pleas he has made it clear to him that his request was impossible.

    “I knew that when I gave him straight shooting legal advice that it would perturb him because it’s not what he wanted to hear. And I knew it would put my endorsement at risk, but I thought it was the honorable thing to do. So I did it,” Brooks said.

    The Alabama Republican first made the claim in a statement responding to Trump’s decision to pull his endorsement in the Senate race. Brooks was once one of Trump’s most loyal supporters on Capitol Hill. He was among the first Republicans to pledge to work to use the certification of the election on January 6 to overturn the results. He also spoke during the “Stop the Steal” rally at the White House ellipse that preceded the Capitol attack. Donned in a Kevlar vest, Brooks told the crowd that they needed to “start taking down names and kicking ass.”

    He then told the crowd to “carry that message to Capitol Hill.”

    While Trump’s direct pressure on lawmakers and government officials at both the state and federal level to intervene in the election have been well documented, he largely gave up his public and legal push to overturn the results after the violence on January 6. Trump never directly conceded the election, though he did give a short speech the day after the riot acknowledging that a new administration would be inaugurated and promising a smooth and orderly transition.

    But according to Brooks, Trump was still working behind the scenes in attempt to convince lawmakers like him to prevent Biden from taking office. It is a claim that up until this point has not been made.
    In a text exchange with CNN, Brooks said that his conversations with Trump about pushing to rescind the election results came “After 9/1/2021 and multiple times.”

    Lawyers for Trump did not return a request for comment.

    The revelation from Brooks could put new focus on the work of the House Select Committee investigating January 6 to encourage cooperation from a collection of Republican lawmakers whom the committee believes played a role in either attempting overturn the election or encouraging the chaos on that day. So far, the committee has asked for voluntarily cooperation from Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, as well as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. All three men have turned the committee down.

    The committee has not formally asked Brooks to appear before the committee, but they have shown interest in his role….

  52. says

    These clowns:

    Panelist on Russian state TV got worried about the future of Tulsi Gabbard, who he said was canceled by every social media network.

    Another panelist replied: “But she still appears on [Tucker] Carlson.”

    He retorted: “I don’t know if he’ll manage to run away. I’m not joking.”

    Video at the link.

  53. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    The German chancellor Olaf Scholz has rebuffed Vladimir Putin’s demand that “unfriendly countries” pay for Russian gas in rubles.

    In a press conference Scholz said most gas deals with Russia had stipulations that money be paid in dollars or Euros.

    On Wednesday Putin said he had “decided to implement a series of measures to switch payments […] for our natural gas supplies to so-called unfriendly countries into Russian rubles”.

    Scholz suggested this was unlikely to happen.

    “We’ve looked at this to try to get an overview. What we have learned so far is that there are fixed contracts everywhere, which include the currency in which payments are made,” Scholz told reporters, according to Politico.

    “And most of the time it says euro or dollar … and that’s what counts then.”

    Putin’s attempts to be paid in rubles had been seen as an attempt to prop up Russia’s floundering economy, which has been hit by multiple sanctions.

  54. says

    Ukraine update: ‘The goal for the West must be to hasten the defeat of Putin’s army’

    There are few Russia analysts more experienced or more respected than Julia Ioffe. She’s been warning about Vladimir Putin and his intentions for years, and was one of the few regularly-aired pundits who did not instantly try to dismiss President Joe Biden when he began explaining that U.S. intelligence was predicting an invasion of Ukraine. So it wasn’t surprising that at the outset of the war, Stephen Colbert asked Ioffe to appear on The Late Show to explain the situation and speculate on where things go. When asked to describe the worst case scenario, Ioffe understandably went to a situation where NATO was dragged into the conflict, the scale of the war escalated, and nuclear weapons were exchanged.

    But when asked to describe the best case outcome, Ioffe said this (3:38 in the video below [video available at the link):

    “I think the best case scenario is … this sounds horrible … that [Russia] accomplishes what they want in Ukraine. That they decapitate the government, install a puppet regime, withdraw without occupying it, and scare Ukrainians enough to not have another revolution to bring in a new democratic government for another few years and keep things calm that way.”

    That’s the best case outcome for Ioffe on day 2 of the invasion.

    On the surface, that idea is frustrating. But it’s also understandable. Ioffee, looking at the situation, believed what almost everyone believed — Ukraine could not possibly win. And with that in mind, the best thing for everyone, especially Ukrainians, was that they lose quickly.

    Her assessment was certainly in line with the intelligence that was arriving on Putin’s desk. That intelligence said that Ukraine’s military was in “a pathetic state” and that “one crushing Russian strike will to be sufficient to finish such the war.” There’s a reason that the first Russian forces coming down from Belarus toward Kyiv brought their dress uniforms. They expected to wear them.

    I’m certainly in no position to cast stones at Ioffe. On the same day she appeared on Colbert, I was busy writing that, “Ukraine has survived two days of intense fighting with Russian forces, including a series of battles with outcomes that show the situation is definitely not following Vladimir Putin’s plans. … However, as of Friday morning, a large number of Russian forces are on the outskirts of Kyiv. Government officials have reported that the city has been entered by “sabotage squads” meant to start fires, plant explosives, and generate fear—a step outlined in what has been put forward as the Russian plan for Kyiv.”

    Those first few days were full of incidents in which Ukrainian forces took out some, or all, of approaching Russian convoys, but I continued to operate on the theory that assumed Russia would eventually occupy Ukrainian cities and the war would transition to years of guerilla conflict. It wasn’t until March 5, a week into the invasion, that I got my mind off that track and said this, “The outcome on the ground seems somehow less inevitable by the day. … the prospect that Ukraine might just win this thing—not in an ‘after 10, or 15, or 20 years of guerilla fighting’ sense, but 10, or 15, or 20 days from now—seems entirely… thinkable.”

    That was the first time I suggested that Ukraine might defeat Russia. On the battlefield. Soon.

    Markos has done a very good review of why neither Russia or Ukraine can actually win this thing in a traditional sense. Russia lacks the resources on any level to actually conquer and occupy Ukraine. But Ukraine also lacks the resources to drive Russia out of their country, especially when it comes to the previously occupied territories in Donbas and Crimea. But the idea that Russia would inevitably crush Ukrainian forces on the ground and turn the whole map of Ukraine red now seems among the least likely scenarios.

    Russia can’t win. Ukraine can’t sweep Russia away with their current resources. So what we have now is Ukraine trying to push Russia away from cities while Russia does everything it can to cause the most damage, kill the most people, and generate the most misery that it can. As a strategy.

    […] So what now? Well, there’s this suggestion from former ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, which was published in The Washington Post on March 16.

    Ukrainians will ultimately defeat Vladimir Putin’s army. Ukraine will be sovereign and free once again. Only two questions are unanswered: How long will it take? And how many Ukrainians will have to die before Putin’s soldiers finally leave?

    The goal for the West in general, and the United States in particular, must be to hasten the defeat of Putin’s army. Three scenarios for liberating Ukraine from Russian attack and occupation should shape the appropriate Western strategies for helping end this horrible war as fast as possible. […] The worst outcome would be a Russian occupation of major Ukrainian cities followed by a prolonged guerrilla war. With snipers, suicide and car bombs, and acts of nonviolent civic resistance, Ukrainians would continue to resist Putin’s occupation until Russian soldiers go home.

    And the answer that McFaul lands on is simple enough: Give Ukraine what it needs to win. Not win, as in hold Russia to a stalemate, but win. As in win. And if that involves giving Ukraine not just defensive weapons, but aircraft and other systems needed to launch counterattacks against Russian positions, he’s okay with that.

    Of course, President Biden and his team cannot escalate U.S. involvement in ways that might trigger nuclear war. Mutually assured destruction remains in place. Biden, Chinese leader Xi Jinping, and the leaders of other nuclear powers must engage directly with Putin to receive assurances that he does not intend to blow up the planet. [How is that possible? No assurances from Putin can be trusted.]

    But that worst-case, very low-probability scenario cannot be invoked as an excuse against new military supplies from NATO countries.

    For McFaul, Putin’s reactions to transfer of S-300 anti-missile systems (which is happening) or MiG-29 fighters (which is currently not) amounts to “cheap talk” because it doesn’t approach anything that would meet the threshold of triggering nuclear war. The same can be said about every threat Russia has made to invade the Baltics or other neighboring countries. Russia’s miserable performance on the battlefield makes all such threats essentially moot. In fact, the only thing that would lend Putin strength would be sitting back and failing to give Ukraine the support it needs.

    Putin may be angry and unhinged, but he’s not suicidal. Threats to NATO front-line states become serious only if Putin wins in Ukraine. [That makes some sense to me.]

    What’s amazing about McFaul’s scenarios is that he’s now playing in the same territory as most pundits. One where “In all three scenarios, Ukrainians eventually win. Our task in the West — those of us standing on the sidelines, watching Ukrainians bravely fight invading Russian armed forces alone — is to do all that we can to hasten the end of the war, and thus save Ukrainian (and Russian) lives. More weapons and more sanctions do just that.”

    That’s an amazing shift in the last month. The incredible shrinking Russia. It’s our job to figure out not just how to keep Ukraine from losing, but to help them win. Quickly.

    Link

  55. says

    NBC News:

    LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk says Ukraine and Russia exchanged a total of 50 military and civilian prisoners Thursday.

    Vereshchuk said in a statement on social media that Ukraine exchanged 10 “captured occupiers” for 10 Ukrainian troops.

    She also said that Ukraine had handed over 11 civilian Russian sailors who Ukraine had rescued from a sinking ship off Odesa, in return for 19 Ukrainian civilian sailors from a Ukrainian search and rescue boat. The boat will also be returned via Turkey, she said.

    There have previously been reports of local prisoner exchanges on a smaller scale than those announced by Vereshchuk. They included a swap of nine Russian soldiers for a captured Ukrainian mayor. The Russian Foreign Ministry said Wednesday two prisoner swaps had taken place but didn’t provide details of when they happened or who was involved.

  56. says

    […] Getting into combat in Ukraine isn’t as simple as booking a flight to Kyiv. In part, because there are no flights to Kyiv. Most of those signing up are heading for Poland, where they make their way to Lviv on the Ukraine side of the border, and get involved with training for some role with the Ukrainian military.

    As with the people in the regular military, most of these folks are unlikely to end up firing a gun in combat — and frankly, for a lot of them, that’s a very good thing. But the military needs truck drivers, medics, and all the other support positions that enable someone at the tip of the spear to carry that gun. Volunteers can fill many of those roles.

    Even so, some of those headed for Ukraine are finding themselves in the thick of the action, and some of those Americans have begun to arrive on the front lines. There they have joined Ukrainian farmers in the spring tank harvest … [video is available at the link]

    And helped defend Kyiv from the Russian forces in nearby suburbs. [video available at the link]

    […] Some of these men and women are going to die there, defending Kyiv or taking the fight to Russian soldiers. But they’re all volunteers, and that’s something that can’t be said about the civilians around them, or the Russian conscripts dragged into this fight.

    Link

  57. says

    FFS:

    Putin’s chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky and foreign intelligence chief Sergei Naryshkin just made fiery speeches to rally Russians around the Ukraine war.

    Their rhetoric provided an alarming window into Russia’s totalitarian tilt. Some more details

    The overarching theme was that Russia is facing an existential crisis

    Medinsky said it bluntly: “Russia’s very existence is at stake today”

    This appeals to long-standing conspiracies about Western efforts to dismember Russia, which gained popularity in the late 1990s

    In a striking parallel to Soviet-era allegations of “revisionism,” deviations from the Kremlin’s version of Russian history were described as acts of treason

    Medinsky accused those who “vilify Russian history in works of culture” are “worse than traitors”

    Themes from Putin’s recent “scum and traitors” speech were also invoked, as warnings of fifth columns inside Russia abounded

    Medinsky stated that he was unable to completely purge traitors from the Ministry of Culture. This opens the door for more crackdowns

    Russia was also presented as a country that was under attack from hostile ideologies

    Naryshkin warned that Russia was in a struggle against “totalitarian liberal regimes [LOL] supported by the West”

    Anti-war protests will no doubt be framed as unpatriotic stooges of the West

    Naryshkin also justified military force as an acceptable means of preserving Russia’s great power status

    Naryshkin praised those who chose military service to prevent the West from consigning Russia to the “sidelines of world history”

    The Kremlin is justifying the Ukraine war to its own people by linking it to patriotic values (conservatism and illiberalism) and imperial nostalgia, and creating a siege mentality

    History shows that this will keep Putin’s base intact and lead to a new wave of repression

  58. says

    How to Flood Putin’s “Information Desert”

    New Yorker link

    As Russia’s independent media fades to black, there is new demand in the country for U.S.-backed media and technology that has roots in the Cold War.

    On March 3rd—a week after Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and hours before his government criminalized independent reporting on the war—a Russian-language video started to circulate, offering an eerie glimpse of the era that had begun. In a series of short interviews on the streets of Russian cities, pedestrians reacted to news photos of the devastation in Ukraine of a kind not allowed on official airwaves. A fifty-ish woman wearing cat’s-eye glasses recoiled from the pictures, and declared, “I support Putin.” A young man in a black parka, choosing his words carefully, said, “I would rather not talk about it, because it can be dangerous here. I’d rather abstain. I’m for peace. I don’t want war.” But the most common reaction was a tone of genuine bewilderment as expressed by a middle-aged man in a black cap, who laughed nervously and said, “Putin couldn’t do this. Invade Ukraine?” He peered again at photos of a bombed-out building and of a woman’s bloodied, bandaged face, and added wanly, “It’s not what they are saying on the news. I didn’t hear that Putin sent troops to start a war.”

    The video—which spread widely, racking up at least sixteen million views—was not the product of local YouTubers or activists on Telegram. It was a piece of journalism by Russian freelancers working for Nastoyashcheye Vremya, or Current Time, a twenty-four-hour Russian-language television and digital channel that has broadcast from Prague since 2017—and which is funded by the U.S. Congress. Part of a system that traces its roots to the Cold War, Current Time is a product of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in coöperation with the Voice of America, two pillars of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, a branch of the American government that has grown over the decades to encompass five news networks and a technology incubator. (Though it is tempting to assume that these are propaganda outlets—and the Trump Administration attempted to make them precisely that—anyone who has tuned in recently knows that their news programs often cover negative features of American life. Their purpose is more fundamental; as the agency puts it, they seek to provide “unbiased news and information in countries where the press is restricted.”)

    […] In 2020, the conservative magazine National Review asked why taxpayers were “shelling out $200 million a year for VOA [Voice of America] in an Internet age saturated with media sources.” But the war has demonstrated that, for all the reach of citizen journalists and the battlefield coverage on cable news, filling the void left for Russian speakers is precisely what publicly funded media and technology are equipped to do. In addition to the clip from Current Time, other Russian videos from U.S.-backed news agencies have attracted hundreds of millions of views. There are clips of Ukrainian citizens upbraiding Russian troops, firsthand testimony of families who were shelled in the city of Kharkiv, and a selection of blatant falsehoods from Putin’s speeches about the war.

    The demand for such content has grown in step with Russia’s efforts to isolate its population from access to unfiltered information. Since March 4th, when the Duma imposed potential jail sentences for reporters who deviate from the Kremlin’s line, major independent outlets, including TV Rain and the radio station Echo of Moscow, have shut down. Many Western news organizations have left the country, and the Russian government has blocked access to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Yet the more surprising fact is how broadly those efforts are being subverted. One way or another, Russian citizens are tunnelling under firewalls to reach publicly funded broadcasters, such as the BBC and Germany’s Deutsche Welle. In the weeks after the Kremlin shut down access to VOA, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and Current Time, traffic to their Russian content nevertheless doubled, compared with before the war. Their videos recorded at least a billion views on Facebook and other digital platforms.

    […] Because the networks are overwhelmingly staffed by native Russian speakers, who are deeply embedded in real-time social media, they can move fast to identify gaps in awareness. “They could see that vast numbers of Russians really appear to overwhelmingly support what they understood Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to be,” Sindelar said. “Of course, that was mischaracterized as a ‘limited’ military engagement, or ‘special operation,’ but the support was there, and it was overwhelming.”

    To fill other gaps in official coverage, RFE/RL has focussed on the critical supply shortages confronting ordinary Russian citizens. […] “Russia is already running out of supplies of insulin. They don’t have a pharmaceutical industry that can simply step in and replace the drugs that they import. This is something where I think we continue to provide real value in what is going to be an information desert.”

    A particularly sensitive area of foreign coverage has been the numbers of Russian casualties and prisoners of war. Even as Russian media was declaring the campaign a limited incursion, with very few casualties, these alternative reports featured interviews with captured troops—their faces blurred to protect their identities. In one clip, a man in uniform says, “We came because of [military] exercises. But we were lied to.” Another prisoner identified himself as Aleksandr, a driver, and said, “We were just deceived and abandoned.” A third prisoner was a reservist so new to the unit that he wasn’t sure of the number of soldiers in his brigade. […]

    To get around Russian blockades, foreign-government-backed broadcasters are relying on an array of tools, both high-tech and low. The BBC recently revived shortwave broadcasts for Russia and eastern Ukraine, and the U.S. has launched a satellite channel and is looking into upgrading the reach of its AM broadcasts, in the hope that they will be easier for people to access than shortwave. “Even if Russia does manage to sever connections to the different major Internet backbones, the satellite should still work as long as people have electricity,” Shawn Powers, the chief strategy officer at the Agency for Global Media, told me.

    Other approaches have aimed to help Russian speakers hide their identities and get around digital blockades. Apple and Google have reported that more than half of the top twenty most-downloaded apps in Russia last week were virtual private networks, or V.P.N.s, which conceal users’ locations and allow them to leap the digital firewalls that the government has erected around them. […]

    Publicly funded media groups, after years of fighting for their survival in Washington, are enjoying an unfamiliar rush of support. […] Writing in the Washington Post this month, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called for expanding investment in “nonmilitary instruments of power,” including diplomacy, development aid, and media technology. In particular, he called for reviving the United States Information Agency, which oversaw “strategic communications” until it was disbanded after the Cold War.

    On the ground in Prague, Sindelar, the editor of RFE/RL, knows exactly where added investment would be put to use: for more circumvention and remote-reporting technologies, crowdsourcing tools, and secure communications; for subject-matter training for journalists, to be sure that they understand the subtleties of Russian audiences; for supporting local journalists who have been displaced or remain in-country and need legal aid, equipment, evacuation, and secure money transfers. “The days of walking around openly with a camera are over,” Sindelar said. But, she added, “we continue to employ reporters inside Russia. I hope that that will always be the case.”

  59. marner says

    SC (Salty Current) @45
    Senator Booker’s speech was beautiful. I loved it so much.

  60. says

    Texts between Ginni Thomas, Meadows reveal an extraordinary effort to destroy democracy

    The Washington Post and CBS just broke a bombshell of a story: a series of text messages sent between Ginni Thomas, spouse of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and then-Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows from early November 2020 to mid-January 2021, in which conservative activist Thomas urged Meadows to keep up efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. CNN broke the story that the Jan. 6 committee has obtained these text message, but the Post and CBS have actually obtained them—all 29 of them.

    “Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!!…You are the leader, with him, who is standing for America’s constitutional governance at the precipice,” Thomas texted to Meadows on Nov. 10, 2020 after the major media outlets declared Joe Biden the winner. “The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History.”

    In a text from Meadows to Thomas on Nov. 24, he told her “This is a fight of good versus evil. […] Evil always looks like the victor until the King of Kings triumphs. Do not grow weary in well doing. The fight continues. I have staked my career on it. Well at least my time in DC on it.” Thomas replied “Thank you!! Needed that! This plus a conversation with my best friend just now… I will try to keep holding on. America is worth it!”

    We don’t know for sure who her “best friend” is, but people close to the couple, including Armstrong Williams, have called the couple “best friends”—as in, Ginni and Clarence Thomas are each other’s best friend. When Ginni decided to call Anita Hill in 2010 because she is a horrible person, Armstrong says Clarence didn’t agree she should do it. “It’s his wife, it’s his best friend, his most trusted confidante, and he loves her unconditionally. He doesn’t agree with everything, but they work it out privately.” So we can speculate pretty safely on who she’s talking about there.

    On Nov. 19, she wrote, “The intense pressures you and our President are now experiencing are more intense than Anything Experienced (but I only felt a fraction of it in 1991),” speaking of Anita Hill’s accusations that Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her.

    The Post reports that “Among Thomas’s stated goals in the messages was for lawyer Sidney Powell, who promoted incendiary and unsupported claims about the election, to be ‘the lead and the face’ of Trump’s legal team.” Further, she “spread false theories, commented on cable news segments and advocated with urgency and fervor that the president and his team take action to reverse the outcome of the election,” the Post says. “She urged that they take a hard line with Trump staffers and congressional Republicans who had resisted arguments that the election was stolen.”

    She appears to have been an immediate election denier, sending a link to Meadows two days after the election to a YouTube video labeled “TRUMP STING w CIA Director Steve Pieczenik, The Biggest Election Story in History, QFS-BLOCKCHAIN.” Pieczenik is a former State Department official and conspiracy theorist who apparently suggested that the election was stolen; the video is no longer online.

    “I hope this is true; never heard anything like this before, or even a hint of it. Possible???” Thomas texted to Meadows. “Watermarked ballots in over 12 states have been part of a huge Trump & military white hat sting operation in 12 key battleground states.”

    Ginni Thomas has been under increasing media scrutiny because of her involvement in the Jan. 6 protests. Stories in both The New York Times and The New Yorker have tied Thomas to organizers of the Jan. 6 rally that led to the Capitol insurrection. The reports have noted the critical advisory role she played in the world of Washington politics and lobbying.

    Her husband may or may not be in the hospital now, having been hospitalized last Friday for an “infection” that is “not COVID.” No further information has been released, including whether he is indeed still hospitalized, his current condition, or a more precise diagnosis of his illness.

    Ginni Thomas sounds like she is gullible, ill-informed and on drugs to make her maniacally happy/intense. Weird. Who knows what really goes on in her head or in her life, (certainly I don’t), but sending texts like that to Trump’s chief of staff is beyond the pale.

  61. says

    Will Sommer on the WaPo report @ Lynna’s #86:

    These text messages between Ginni Thomas, the wife of Clarence Thomas, and Mark Meadows are truly revealed. They reveal that Ginni Thomas is into some heavy-duty QAnon stuff!

    Here are some of the QAnon references Ginni Thomas was making. This idea of watermarked ballots being used to catch Democratic voter fraud is big in QAnon, but I’m especially interested in her idea of military “white hats” (in other words, good guys). That’s a key QAnon phrase.

    Ginni Thomas sent Meadows a Steve Pieczenik video about a “QFS” system. QFS is the “Quantum Financial System,” an idea of a mythical money system that will bring on a sort of right-wing utopia. Pieczenik is a regular InfoWars guest.

    Finally, Ginni Thomas ref’s the idea of Dem elites being imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay — a huge QAnon tell! Interestingly, the text she’s pulling from, like “QFS”, is huge on Iraqi dinar forums, raising the possibility that she’s an Iraqi dinar fan!

    In conclusion, Ginni Thomas is dropping deep QAnon lore and may be, as they say on @QanonAnonymous, “red-pilled to the gills.”

  62. blf says

    Menopause Rhapsody — Bohemian Rhapsody Parody Song for every Queen (video):

    Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen in a parody song about Menopause — women will relate to the struggle!

    A rhapsody is an epic, episodic, highly emotional work. To be Bohemian is to be socially unconventional. Isn’t that combination the perfect description for a woman frustrated by menopause?

    For Queen fans, especially you older queens facing or who have already been through menopause, this parody song is for you!

    I am a grumpy hot potato, yes I am!

  63. says

    Trevor Burnard in the Guardian – “As a historian of slavery, I know just how much the royal family has to answer for in Jamaica”:

    It wasn’t supposed to go like this. Usually, royal tours are full of cheering people lining the streets and gushy accounts of glamorous dresses. There has been some of that during the royal visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to the Caribbean. But there also have been protests, especially in Jamaica, where many people want the royal family to apologise for its role in institutionalising slavery on the island. To top it all off, it has also been reported this week that Jamaica has begun the process of removing the Queen as the head of state.

    Such a reckoning with Britain and its state is long overdue. Jamaica in the 18th century was described by Charles Leslie as a “constant mine, whence Britain draws prodigious riches”. It contributed greatly to the wealth of individuals thousands of miles away, such as William Beckford, Lord Mayor of London and the owner of well over 1,000 enslaved people, whose statue still graces Guildhall in London. But more significantly, it enriched Britain by filling the coffers of the Treasury with money from taxes levied on sugar and rum. Britain was the greatest slave trader in the Atlantic world during the 18th century, sending nearly 1 million captive Africans to Jamaica between 1655 and 1807, resulting in a population of enslaved people barely over 300,000, due to horrific mortality rates. Black people suffered greatly for white people’s enjoyment of sweet things.

    Kingston, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited, is the Ellis Island of forced migration to places that were colonised by the British in the 17th and 18th centuries. More Africans arrived in Kingston to become plantation slaves than arrived in any other place in the British empire. The visiting royals might have acknowledged this fact by visiting the foreshore and noting the trauma for Jamaicans, most of whom are descendants of those people arriving from Africa some centuries back, rather than kicking a football around and playing bongos in Trench Town.

    If they had done so they might realise why many Jamaicans are so angry at their visit. The royal family has a long and undistinguished history in regard to Jamaican slavery….

  64. says

    Came across this DW report from 2020 – “Generation Putin”:

    Vladimir Putin came to power as Russian millennials were coming into the world. Everything they know about their homeland has been shaped by Putin’s authoritarian regime. Some revere him. But others long for democratic change.

    Boris Yeltsin stood down as the first President of the Russian Federation on New Year’s Eve 1999, just hours before the millennial celebrations began. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin stepped in as caretaker president and pledged to protect freedom of speech and the press and property rights. Since then, Putin has consolidated his grip on Russia and his promises have become just empty words.

    More and more Russians, particularly the young, are opposed to Putin’s authoritarian regime. Even though they have only ever known the former KGB officer as their leader, like their counterparts in the West, they have access via the Internet to information that is suppressed in the Russian media.

    This film asks young people from St. Petersburg to Eastern Siberia how they feel about life in today’s more powerful yet also more unstable country. Some are fanatical Putin supporters, while others are opposition activists. We look behind the barbed wire around a closed Siberian city, visit a Muslim village in Tatarstan, and talk to young Muscovites. And we also see how the Russian education system instils children with the regime’s propaganda from an early age.

    42-minute YT video at the link.

  65. says

    Guardian – “Russian activists sign open letter calling for end to war in Ukraine”:

    A group of veteran Russian human rights activists plan to publish an open letter calling on Russia to end its war in Ukraine, declaring it “our common duty” to “stop the war [and] protect the lives, rights and freedoms of all people, both Ukrainians and Russians”.

    The “manifesto”, signed by 11 prominent activists including Lev Ponomaryov, Oleg Orlov and Svetlana Gannushkina, announces the creation of a new anti-war council of Russian human rights defenders and is the broadest collective statement against the war by Russian human rights supporters to date.

    The activists say they will seek to help Russians avoid taking part in the war against Ukraine and demand that the ministry of defence releases accurate information about the number of Russian soldiers killed in the war.

    “Russian citizens are being involved in military operations on the territory of Ukraine, where they become accomplices in war crimes and die themselves,” a draft statement says. “Our first goal is to help them avoid this, relying on the constitution and Russian legislation, and to assist all those who are illegally forced to participate in hostilities.”

    The activists’ second goal is to provide legal assistance to the families of Russian military personnel who “find themselves in an information vacuum”.

    “There is no official updated information about the dead, about the transfer of bodies to families, about prisoners, about their release or exchange,” the letter says. “It is difficult or impossible for relatives to find out what has become of their sons and husbands, or to get the bodies of the dead.”

    The manifesto comes amid increased pressure on anti-war protesters, who have been targeted with arrest and intimidation; the closure of Russian media outlets including Echo of Moscow for violating censorship laws; and new legislation for publishing “fake” information about the Russian military that can lead to up to 15 years in prison.

    “Russia invaded the territory of Ukraine, starting a full-scale war unprecedented in recent history,” the letter says. “This war has neither just grounds nor a just purpose. The international court of justice of the United Nations recognised the grounds of the ‘special military operation’ declared by Russia as illegal and has demanded an immediate end to the aggression and withdrawal of troops.

    “But the fighting, bombing and shelling continue, levelling cities and vital infrastructure to the ground. Millions of residents of Ukraine have become refugees, many thousands have died – both civilians (among them more than 100 children) and military personnel from both sides.”

    The manifesto announces the creation of a council of human rights defenders in Russia whose goal is to coordinate the actions under the “new conditions” of working in Russia.

    Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader sentenced to an additional nine years in prison this week, has also called on Russians to attend anti-war protests. “You need to go to anti-war rallies every weekend, even if it seems that everyone has either left or got scared … You are the backbone of the movement against war and death.”…

  66. says

    Here’s a link to today’s Guardian Ukraine liveblog. From there:

    Local officials in the besieged city of Mariupol have said that at least 300 people are known to have been killed in the bombing on 16 March of the Drama Theatre. About 1,300 were believed to have been sheltering the building, with just 150 survivors having staggered out of the rubble immediately after the attack.

    Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said she hopes some civilians will be able to leave besieged Mariupol in private cars today. Those who manage to leave Mariupol will find buses awaiting in the nearby city of Berdiansk which will take them to the city of Zaporizhzhia, Vereshchuk said.

    The northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv has in effect been cut off by Russian forces, the regional governor said this morning.

    The UK’s ministry of defence said Ukrainian forces have reoccupied towns and defensive positions up to 35 kilometres east of Kyiv. In an earlier report, the ministry said Ukraine is striking “high value targets” that is forcing Russian forces to divert resources to defend their supply lines.

    Russia is claiming that it used “Kalibr” cruise missiles to destroy a major fuel depot outside Kyiv. Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the depot was used to supply Ukraine’s armed forces in the centre of the country, and that the missiles were fired from sea.

    US president Joe Biden will travel to a town near the Polish-Ukrainian border later today, in an attempt to signal Western resolve.

    Finland’s national railway operator will suspend services between Helsinki and Saint Petersburg in Russia on Monday, closing one of the last public transport routes to the European Union for Russians….

    Russia to focus on Donbass region – Russian Interfax news agency

    Russia will focus on completely so-called “liberating” Ukraine’s Donbass region and does not rule out the possibility of storming blockaded Ukrainian cities, according to Russian news agency Interfax, citing the defence ministry and army.

    The defence ministry said Russia had been considering two options for its so-called “special operation” in Ukraine – one solely within the self-proclaimed separatist republics in Donbass and the other on the whole territory of Ukraine, Interfax reported.

    Polish president’s plane forced to return to Warsaw

    The careful choreography of US President Joe Biden’s visit to Poland has been disrupted by news that the plane taking Polish president Andrzej Duda to meet him in the east of the country has had to return to Warsaw and make an emergency landing. According to statements by Duda’s advisor Jakub Kumoch to the news agency PAP, the president did not face any danger.

    Biden is expected to hear directly from US troops stationed near Poland’s border with Ukraine during his stop. It is unclear at the moment whether Duda will now be able to join him.

    I mentioned earlier that the Russian ambassador to Italy, Sergey Razov, is suing Italian newspaper La Stampa over an article that had raised the possibility of killing President Vladimir Putin. [see 10.12am]

    Razov said his suit accused the newspaper of soliciting and condoning a crime.

    The editor of La Stampa, Massimo Giannini, has dismissed the accusation with some strong words in a video posted on the newspaper’s website: “We do not take lessons from an illiberal regime that slaughters humanity and truth/”

    On 22 March, La Stampa published an analysis headlined “If killing the tyrant is the only option”. The piece had said if all other options failed to halt the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the only solution might be for someone to kill the president.

    Giannini said La Stampa’s contested analysis had concluded by saying that killing a tyrant hardly ever resolved problems and could make things even worse.

    Razov also criticised Italy’s decision to send weapons to Ukraine to help it fight off the Russians. “The thing that worries us is that the Italian weapons will be used to kill Russian citizens,” Razov said. “There are thousands and thousands of guns out there and it is not clear how and when they will be used”.

    Neither Poland or Hungary have enjoyed a particularly warm relationships with the core elements of the European Union over recent years, with both countries having governments with strong nationalistic tendencies. The invasion of Ukraine by Russia has now put those two countries slightly at odds with each other as well.

    Speaking on Polish public radio today, Reuters report that Poland’s ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said he is not pleased with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s cautious stance on Russia, but that he will wait to see what happens after Hungary’s April election.

    “If you asked me if I’m happy, then no, but I will wait for the election, we will see after the election.”

    Orban has condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine but has avoided personal criticism of President Vladimir Putin and is strongly opposed to sanctions on Russian energy.

  67. says

    Maria Zolkina in the Guardian – “Ukraine will not surrender one inch of land to Russia – the west must understand this”:

    Western analysts are trying to develop different scenarios for Russia’s actions in Ukraine. The “menu” is expansive: a protracted conflict with a gradual transition to low-intensity hostilities; a nuclear disaster; the use of chemical or biological weapons to bring victory in land operations; political compromise on the side of Ukraine and others.

    The only scenario that is not discussed is the full restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Everywhere there are some “buts”, as if the need to “sacrifice” something to Russia is considered unavoidable.

    It is impossible for Ukraine to accept any of Russia’s ultimatums. Not the recognition of the so-called “republics” within the borders of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, not the annexation of Crimea, and not the demilitarisation of Ukraine.

    Kyiv understands that these concessions will not bring any security and in no way will they guarantee the withdrawal of Russian troops. Moreover, these “compromises” will not prevent a new Russian attack. To the contrary, they can only provoke a new Russian offensive against Ukraine.

    The only issue that can be debated between the west and Ukraine is security guarantees in the form of a treaty, if Ukraine does not join Nato in the near future….

    Vladimir Putin is not ready to step back, but he cannot win on the ground. This means that Russia will continue to increase terror against the civilian population, and cities will be wiped off the face of the Earth by air and missile attacks. The use of strictly prohibited weapons, namely biological, chemical and even nuclear ones, is becoming more and more probable.

    For Ukraine, on the contrary, the strategic goal is the withdrawal of Russian troops from its territory. However, it seems impossible to achieve it diplomatically. Regardless of how uncomfortable the west may be about it, this goal can be achieved only by military means. And the Ukrainian army is absolutely capable of that.

    Ukraine must actively push Russian troops to the border. This can be achieved both physically, by Ukraine’s armed forces, and diplomatically and economically, with the support of sanctions and isolation launched by our western partners.

    We urgently need weapons, including air defence systems and antimissile systems. We need sanctions, especially the refusal of EU states to purchase Russian gas and oil, and the disconnection of all Russian banks from Swift. We need western support for the independence of all of Ukraine.

  68. tomh says

    Re: #86
    Quote of the Day
    RICK HASEN / March 25, 2022

    “‘Biden crime family & ballot fraud co-conspirators (elected officials, bureaucrats, social media censorship mongers, fake stream media reporters, etc) are being arrested & detained for ballot fraud right now & over coming days, & will be living in barges off GITMO to face military tribunals for sedition.’”

    Ginni Thomas (spouse of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas) to Trump’s Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, Nov. 5

  69. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    Ukrainian forces may have more main battle tanks and they had at the start of Russian invasion, my colleague Dan Sabbagh reports, because they’ve been remarkably successful at acquiring Russian vehicles (with the help of a few farmers).

    That’s according to western officials, who confirmed a seventh Russian general was killed and that a brigade commander was killed by his own troops “as a consequence of the scale of losses that had been taken by his brigade”.

    Dan Sabbagh reports:

    Around 20 Russian BTGs are “no longer combat effective” officials estimate – out of 115-120 who were in the original invasion force. So Russia has lost “a sixth, maybe a fifth” of its effective troops

    More on the Russian commander officials believe was killed by his own troops. The belief is he was “run over”. Was the commander of 37th motor rifle brigade.

    I assume this is what was being reported by people on Twitter yesterday. The reports were he was run over by a tank.

    In France, Russia’s [ambassador, presumably] was summoned to the French foreign ministry on Friday over an earlier embassy tweet that Paris deemed unacceptable.

    The Russian Embassy in Paris on Thursday had posted a picture depicting a body lying on a table called “Europe” with characters representing the US and EU jabbing needles into it.

    “These posts are unacceptable. We made that clear today to the Russian Ambassador,” the ministry said in a statement sent to Reuters. “We are trying to maintain a demanding channel of dialogue with Russia and these actions are completely inappropriate.”

    The picture is at the link @ #68 above.

  70. says

    Recognizing Trump’s new anti-Clinton lawsuit for what it is

    Clinging to the myth that the Russia scandal isn’t real, Donald Trump is suing dozens of people. He doesn’t seem to realize this is likely to backfire.

    On the surface, it appears Donald Trump has filed another misguided lawsuit, but the closer one looks at the Republican’s case, the worse it appears. Reuters reported:

    Donald Trump on Thursday sued Hillary Clinton and several other Democrats, alleging they tried to rig the 2016 U.S. presidential election by tying his campaign to Russia…. Trump, who beat Democratic nominee Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, alleges “racketeering” and a “conspiracy to commit injurious falsehood,” among other claims.

    The former secretary of state isn’t alone: The former president’s case features literally dozens of defendants, each of whom, according to the Republican, “maliciously conspired to weave a false narrative that their Republican opponent, Donald J. Trump, was colluding with a hostile foreign sovereignty.”

    He’s seeking a jury trial, as well as compensatory and punitive damages. In fact, the lawsuit claims the Russia scandal has cost him more than $24 million — a total that he believes continues to grow — and he apparently wants his legal targets to pay far more than that.

    There’s no shortage of problems with this, but let’s start with the obvious: It’s overly generous to perceive this lawsuit as a serious legal dispute that the former president wants to see adjudicated.

    As a Washington Post analysis explained, “From the very beginning of Donald Trump’s lawsuit against Hillary Clinton and a smattering of nearly 50 others, it becomes abundantly clear what this is about — and it’s not about winning a legal judgment…. This is a press release.”

    The piece added that the Republican litigation “contains a veritable smorgasbord of debunked and conspiratorial assertions,” as well as “false claims, errors and dubious inferences.”

    […] It was just last summer when Trump and his lawyers filed a bizarre “class-action lawsuit” against social-media companies, which proved to be little more than a vapid fundraising stunt.

    […] Trump’s case, to the extent that it’s real, is predicated on the idea that the Russia scandal was not, and is not, real. But that’s demonstrably ridiculous.

    […] investigations from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team and the GOP-led Senate Intelligence Committee documented the extent to which Trump and his team welcomed, received, benefited from, and lied about Russian campaign assistance.

    The evidence shows there was coordination and high-level connections between Trump’s political operation and those responsible for the attack on the U.S. election. The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report at one point literally described a “direct tie between senior Trump Campaign officials and the Russian intelligence services.”

    If the former president’s lawyers haven’t seen this, the documentation is online and readily available. [LOL]

    But there’s also a procedural element to keep in mind: If Trump’s case moves forward, he would likely to have to give testimony — answering questions under oath, for the first time, about his and his team’s interactions with their Russian benefactors — as part of the litigation.

    All of which suggests the Republican’s case might backfire in ways he’s unprepared for.

    Philippe Reines, a former State Department official and spokesperson for Clinton, is one of the many defendants in this case, and he hinted at what’s to come. “I look forward to deposing the plaintiff,” he wrote on Twitter yesterday.

  71. says

    Ukraine update: Russia is now playing for a draw, but the West can hand them a defeat

    Even before the invasion of Ukraine began, President Joe Biden did a masterful job of getting the warning out to the world, pulling the members of NATO together, and helping to see that the world presented a united front against Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked aggression. That united front helped take the steps that were absolutely necessary to give Ukraine a fighting chance in this war: A steady supply of anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, along with sanctions that crippled Russia’s economy and supply chain.

    Those two steps—along with the incredible resistance demonstrated by the Ukrainian people and unexpectedly powerful leadership of the Ukrainian government — was what it took to turn a rout into a stalemate. The persistence of that supply, along with volunteers, pouring into Ukraine has now tipped the war past a stalemate, to the point that on Friday, there was this report by Reuters, “Russia’s defense ministry said on Friday that the first phase of its military operation in Ukraine was mostly complete and that it would focus on completely ‘liberating’ eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.”

    Read this as a public recognition by Moscow that it has lost the attempt to capture Kyiv. Lost the attempt to replace the Ukrainian government. Lost any dream of conquering the whole of Ukraine. And is in the process of losing Kherson and other territories it might have taken not immediately adjacent to the regions it controlled at the outset of the invasion.

    Russia is now fighting for a negotiating position. It is murdering people in large numbers just in hopes that the final outcome of this most ill-conceiver invasion won’t be worse than where it started. Except that it will, because even if Russia manages to cling onto Crimea and some section of Donbas, its own economy will be so far down the toilet for the next decade, that it could not be located by an army of plumbers.

    […] Russia’s plan required a fast victory. Without it, they were already losers.

    By March 2, Russia’s obvious organizational and logistical failings made it certain that it could not win in any sense, not even in terms of defeating Ukraine on the battlefield in a head-to-head fight.

    […] as any possibility of a battlefield victory faded, Russia turned to the tactics it had used to reduce resistance in Georgia, Chechnya, and Syria with brutal attacks on civilian populations.

    Cities like Mariupol and Kharkiv were battered into rubble, and Russia made repeated attempts to capture Kyiv, even if that meant destroying it. But the supply of defensive and humanitarian aid remained strong.

    What looked like large areas captured by Russia turned out to be paper thin, the idea that Russia had any sort of second act faded away […]

    By March 19, Russia wasn’t even trying to advance. It was digging in resist the increasing strength of Ukrainian counter-attacks.

    But if Russia couldn’t win, neither could Ukraine. The weapons they have allow them to blunt any Russian assault, and since they’re operating on home turf, they can stage limited counter-attacks. That doesn’t mean they have what they need to really drive Russia from the battlefield.

    Even as Russia has given up on the idea of capturing Ukraine, it’s continuing to conduct operations of mass murder in order to improve its position at the negotiating table. Meaning that the best thing the U.S., NATO, and Western nations as a whole can do is to end this war as quickly as possible
    .
    The clear way to do that is not a No-Fly Zone, it’s not sending in NATO troops, and it’s not by matching Putin in waving a nuclear threat. It’s by giving the Ukrainian military everything they need to complete the victory in their own country.

    Right now, Russia is still reluctant to make concessions in negotiations because they are playing for position. They want to come out of this war with at least new territories in Donbas, and possibly that much-desired land bridge between Donbas and Crimea that would give them control of the Sea of Azov. They’re trying to win those territories by killing tens of thousands in Mariupol and by reducing border cities like Kharkiv and Sumy.

    Right now, the path to the best outcome for Ukraine — on both a military and humanitarian front — is the same: Give them weapons. Not just anti-tank and ant-aircraft weapons. Give them the body armor and other gear needed to fully utilize their infantry. Give them planes and UAVs that can provide air cover to troops on the move and strike at Russian forces digging in to networks of trenches. Give then anything it takes to silence Russian artillery.

    If there is a concern about what happens after the war, then don’t give possible offensive weapons to Ukraine. Loan them. Loan them with requirements that they only be used within Ukraine’s borders. Loan then with time limits and send around a truck at the end of the year to haul them home.

    Just give Ukraine what they need, right now. It’s the best thing that can be done to end this thing quickly. And ending it quickly is also the best thing that can be done to prevent this war from expanding to other countries, resulting in a larger conflict, or resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths.

    President Joe Biden led the way when it came to helping unite the West and preventing Russia from winning this war. Now he has an opportunity to do so again, and make sure that they lose. Quickly.

  72. says

    Climate change update:

    […] the entirety of the Conger ice shelf in East Antarctica has collapsed over a couple of days.

    An ice shelf is the marine extension of a land-based glacier, and it works like a cork in a bottle holding the land ice in place as not to add to sea-level rise from land ice. These ice shelves dominate West Antarctica, but they are rare in the eastern part of the continent as most of the ice of a glacier is on land. East Antarctica has been considered stable, but the past couple of weeks has shocked scientists on a couple of fronts.

    NASA planetary scientist and Woods Hole National Oceanographic Institution Dr. Catherine Colello Walker is quoted in the article describing the event as “one of the most significant collapse events anywhere in Antarctica since the early 2000s when the Larsen B ice shelf disintegrated”. Larsen B collapsed on the peninsular Antarctic in 2002 due primarily to surface melting. Because the Conger ice platform is nowhere near as enormous (comparable in size only to New York City) as other glaciers such as Totten and Thwaites, its effect on the sea-level rise will be minimal.

    The US National Ice Center confirmed the collapse of Conger, but two smaller icebergs calved from the Totten glacier and the Glenzer ice shelf, also located in East Antarctica. Conger and Glenzer are adjacent to each other, and both have had their ice underbelly tunneled out by the upwelling of wind-driven warm ocean water. But it is believed the extraordinary warming of East Antarctica by last week’s record-breaking atmospheric river with heavy rainfall was the likely trigger for the weakened ice to collapse. […]

    Link

    More at the link, including a video.

  73. says

    A joke from Moscow: ‘According to Putin the special military operation is really a conflict btw Russia and NATO about World dominance. Whats the situation now?’ ‘Russia has lost 15000 troops, 6 generals, 500 tanks, 3 ships, 100 planes and 1000 trucks. NATO hasn’t arrived yet’.”

  74. blf says

    Nasa/JPL’s Mars helicopter Ingenuity successfully completed its 22nd flight a few days ago, a short hop (c.70 metres) en route to rendezvousing with the Perseverance rover. In total, Ingenuity has now flown for more 40 minutes on Mars, and is apparently showing no signs of wear. Ingenuity’s mission has been officially extended, again, now to September (at least).

    The Ingenuity team has “received the [National Space C]lub’s preeminent award, the Dr Robert H Goddard Memorial Trophy, which honors a person or team who has provided leadership in groundbreaking space or aeronautics achievements in the US”, NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter and Asteroid-Monitoring System Honored. The team behind the 20-year-old recently upgraded Sentry system, which “calculat[es] impact probabilities for all known near-Earth asteroids” also received an award, the “Nelson P Jackson Aerospace Award for the most outstanding contribution to the missile, aircraft, or space field”.

  75. says

    Followup to comment 97.

    Wonkette:

    To call the pile of conspiratorial gibberish Donald Trump excreted onto the federal docket yesterday a “lawsuit” is to miss the point. Sure, he ponied up the $402 fee so he could file a case in Florida captioned Trump v. Clinton, suing his nemesis for doing THE RICO by “orchestrat[ing] a malicious conspiracy to disseminate patently false and injurious information about Donald J. Trump and his campaign, all in the hopes of destroying his life, his political career and rigging the 2016 Presidential Election.”

    But no one believes that 108 pages of 8chan-level nutbaggery alleging that Hillary Clinton presided over a vast conspiracy to weaponize the Democratic National Committee and the FBI to ruin Donald Trump’s life is going to lead to a $74 million payout. Because this isn’t really a lawsuit. It’s counterprogramming for the upcoming report from the House January 6 Select Committee, and the parallels to the House’s project are uncanny.

    The committee subpoenas upwards of a hundred witnesses, many of whom are well-known figures in the Republican movement? Trump drops a suit on 24 defendants, including Hillary Clinton, Andy McCabe, and Fusion GPS, as well as 20 “fictious” [sic] unnamed defendants. […]

    The committee accuses Trump of presiding over a vast conspiracy to overturn the results of the 2020 election? Trump accuses Clinton of deploying “agents to act on her behalf to carry out the plot against Trump to assure that he would be falsely implicated as colluding with a hostile foreign sovereignty,” even going so far as to suggest that he got booted off Twitter “due to the misinformation campaign waged by Hillary Clinton, whereby truth was deemed false and lies were deemed to be truth.”

    The committee says Trumpland lawyers Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani, and John Eastman carried out an attack on democracy and privilege is unavailing because of the crime-fraud exception? Trump sues election lawyers Marc Elias and Michael Sussmann, as well as their former law firm Perkins Coie, alleging a criminal plot to feed the Steele Dossier and allegations about the Alfa Bank server in the basement of Trump Tower to the FBI.

    The committee says former assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark tried to weaponize the Justice Department to chase down bogus allegations of election fraud as a pretext for swing states to claw back their electors and recast them for Trump? Trump claims that Clinton’s “public denigration of Trump and his campaign” led to a “large-scale investigation and expended precious time, resources and taxpayer dollars looking into the spurious allegation that the Trump Campaign had colluded with the Russian Government” thanks to “a small faction of Clinton loyalists who were well-positioned within the Department of Justice and the FBI.” So he sues Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and of course James Comey — the biggest Clinton loyalist of them all!

    The committee asks Reps. Jim Jordan and Scott Perry in to discuss their role in spreading lies about election fraud and convincing Trump that Mike Pence had the right to unilaterally reject electors? Trump sues Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, because she was head of the DNC and said mean words about him, which is CONSPIRACY!

    The committee subpoenas the RNC? Trump sues the DNC.

    The committee subpoenas former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn? Trump sues current NSA Jake Sullivan.

    The committee subpoenas Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows? Trump sues former Bill Clinton chief of staff John Podesta, as well as Philippe Reines, Hillary Clinton’s senior advisor at the State Department.

    The committee subpoenas Trump campaign manager Steve Bannon? Trump sues Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook. […]

    The committee subpoenas the leaders of Women for America First about its role in organizing the January 6 rally cum insurrection? Trump sues Fusion GPS and Christopher Steele.

    It ain’t subtle. Trump is hoping to leverage this lawsuit into discovery he can use to “balance” whatever damning shit is going to come out of the Select Committee. The problem with this plan, though, is that the lawsuit is complete garbage.

    It’s garbage from a factual standpoint […]

    It’s garbage from a procedural standpoint, since there’s no Florida jurisdiction over half these people. And not for nothing, but the statute of limitations on RICO is four years, and Trump has been shouting “NO COLLUSION!” since 2017.

    […] And it’s garbage because it’s full of outright lies and wild extrapolations. No, the DNC wasn’t hacked by “an individual” named “Guccifer 2.0” — that was a front for the Russian GRU. No, Robert Mueller didn’t “exonerate Donald Trump and his campaign” — he literally called a press conference to say that his report did not exculpate the president, but that any punishment had to be meted out by Congress. No, the Justice Department Inspector General’s Report didn’t conclude that “the scheme was conceived, coordinated and carried out by top-level officials at the Clinton Campaign and the DNC—including ‘the candidate’ herself—who attempted to shield her involvement behind a wall of third parties”: It found that the investigation was appropriately opened after Trump’s idiot coffee boy George Papadopoulos bragged to an Australian diplomat that Russia was about to release damaging info on Hillary Clinton. And speculating that “it seems all but certain that additional indictments are forthcoming” in the Durham investigation is wholly inappropriate to put in a federal pleading.

    […] the lawyers who filed this piece of shit — the infamous Alina Habba, and some personal injury lawyer in Florida who happens to have been Trump’s boarding school roommate in 1964 — will be lucky to get out of this without getting sanctioned. […]

  76. says

    Followup to comments 86 and 87.

    Wonkette:

    Did political activist Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court justice and noted pube enthusiast Clarence Thomas, have an inkling that reporters had gotten hold of a whole bunch of text messages she farted out of her brain directly to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in the months leading up to the January 6 attack, messages in which she revealed (again!) that she is easily several shingles short of a roof?

    We don’t know. But it sure makes re-reading this interview she gave the Washington Free Beacon 11 days ago more interesting.

    At the time, we assumed the interview was a response to recent pieces in the New Yorker and the New York Times Magazine examining how Ginni Thomas’s work as a political activist possibly makes her a walking spray-haired conflict of interest for her husband’s work. The pieces also looked hard at her possible involvement in the planning and cheerleading of the January 6 rally that took place just before the attack, including all the bragging she did about it on social media and in emails to a listserv Clarence’s former clerks use to keep in touch.

    Then Thursday the Washington Post revealed the texts Thomas exchanged with Meadows. We thought it would be fun to re-read the Beacon interview to contrast her coherent denials to the Q-Anon-themed gibberish in private messages that are likely a much more accurate look at the thousands of bats zooming around her belfry.

    For example, here is Ginni Thomas telling the Beacon she is just a citizen concerned with the harsh tone tearing apart politics and America today:

    “There are important and legitimate substantive questions about achieving goals like electoral integrity, racial equality, and political accountability that a democratic system like ours needs to be able to discuss and debate rationally in the political square. I fear we are losing that ability.”

    Now here’s what she was writing to Meadows on November 5, before the election was even called for Joe Biden:

    “Biden crime family & ballot fraud co-conspirators (elected officials, bureaucrats, social media censorship mongers, fake stream media reporters, etc) are being arrested & detained for ballot fraud right now & over coming days, & will be living in barges off GITMO to face military tribunals for sedition.”

    A couple of things: First, is Wonkette going to be put on this barge? Because we have some dietary requirements that we’ll need accommodated.

    Second: How in the fuckity fuck does this brain-poisoned nutbag reconcile that first statement with this text, you might be asking yourself. This is easy: Ginni Thomas has, objectively, the self-awareness of a turnip.

    Also, too on this text chain of statements […]:

    She sent him a link to a YouTube video labeled “TRUMP STING w CIA Director Steve Pieczenik, The Biggest Election Story in History, QFS-BLOCKCHAIN.”

    Pieczenik, a former State Department official, is a far-right commentator who has falsely claimed that the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was a “false-flag” operation to push a gun-control agenda.

    Frankly, we’re disappointed that video is no longer on YouTube, because we’re suckers for a good blockchain-adjacent conspiracy.

    More Thomas to Meadows:

    “Watermarked ballots in over 12 states have been part of a huge Trump & military white hat sting operation in 12 key battleground states,” she wrote.

    During that period, supporters of the QAnon extremist ideology embraced a false theory that Trump had watermarked mail-in ballots so he could track potential fraud.

    You will be shocked to learn that has been debunked. A bunch of times.

    Thomas also encouraged Meadows to make Sidney Powell the face of Trump’s legal efforts to challenge the election results. This is the same Sidney Powell whose own lawyers said in response to a defamation suit brought by Dominion Voting Systems that reasonable people would know not to believe anything she says. This is her defense.

    Ginni Thomas is a terrible judge of character. But of course we already knew that, she’s married to Clarence Thomas.

    Finally, Ginni told the Beacon that she has always involved herself in activism thanks to the influence of her mother, who gosh darn it was just a proud patriot who loved this country:

    “I have always been my mother’s daughter, as my mother loved America and worked hard in the political lane to preserve American exceptionalism with candidates and causes,” Thomas said. “She ran for office when I was a teenager.”

    Just for funsies, let’s contrast that with what the writer Kurt Andersen, who knew Ginni Lamp Thomas growing up because their families lived across the street from each other in Omaha, told Jane Mayer of the New Yorker:

    “Her parents were the roots of the modern, crazy Republican Party. My parents were Goldwater Republicans, but even they thought the Lamp family was nuts.”

    Remember when Barry Goldwater was the ur-example of a lunatic of a Republican? […].

    Link

    Additional summary from Wonkette:

    Several doughnuts short of the full dozen. Several sandwiches short of a picnic. Several bulbs short of a chandelier …

  77. says

    Germany released a report on Friday showing that the country was cutting its dependence on Russian energy sooner than many thought possible.

    Robert Habeck, the vice chancellor and economic minister, said Germany expected to cut its imports of Russian oil in half by the midsummer and nearly end the imports by end of this year.

    The need for Russian coal could be halved in “the coming weeks,” he said. And he estimated that Germany could be free of Russian gas by the middle of 2024, if all goes well.

    “We have made intensive efforts in recent weeks, together with all relevant stakeholders, to import less fossil energy from Russia and broaden the supply base,” Mr. Habeck said.

    The remarks came on the day when President Biden made a commitment to help the European Union become free of Russian of energy, pledging to secure an extra 15 billion cubic meters of natural gas by the end of this year.

    Speaking in Berlin at a news conference after presenting a progress report on German energy security, Mr. Habeck said the shift away from Russian gas was happening at an “insane pace.”

    “Every supply contract that is terminated hurts Putin,” he said.

    Russian natural gas, which Germany receives through fixed pipelines, will be the hardest to quit and require liquefied natural gas terminals and floating LNG storage tanks. The government is moving quickly to acquire both types of facilities. Germany currently imports 55 percent of its natural gas from Russia.

    Germany gets about half its coal from Russia but lately has been buying more supplies from other countries. The need for Russian coal could be phased out by the fall, he said.

    Mr. Habeck made the announcement a day after European leaders wrestled over further sanctions on Russia to penalize it for its invasion of Ukraine. While the United States and some Eastern European countries in NATO have been calling for an immediate boycott on Russian fuels, Germany and a number of smaller countries have insisted an energy boycott now would be too costly.

    […] “We still have a long way to go, and we will only be able to bid farewell to Russian gas with a joint show of strength — the federal government, the states, local authorities, companies and private households together,” Mr. Habeck said.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/25/business/germany-russia-gas.html

  78. blf says

    Extra-nutty fruitcake magic sky farie grifter bestinderest peoples wannabe, Bianca Gracia Claims Those Who Stole Her Texas State Senate Seat Are Gonna Have to Deal With God (RWW edits in {curly braces}):

    Bianca Gracia, a right-wing conspiracy theorist who served as president of Latinos For Trump, recently ran for a seat in the Texas state Senate because, she claimed, God had called her to take her rightful place in the state capitol and make the devil run. So positive was Gracia that God wanted her to inhabit that seat that she went around claiming victory in the Republican primary months before it even occurred, even warning Christians that they would be held accountable by God if they didn’t vote for her.

    When primary Election Day arrived March 1, Gracia came in last place, drawing single-digit support. Predictably, she refuses to accept that result and is insisting that the election was stolen from her (and God).

    God chose me for a reason, Gracia declared. I didn’t lose. I won.

    Now you’ve just gone and made me more dangerous, she added. {I} went into the lion’s den and those hyenas thought they were gonna eat me up, but guess what? They fed me and they fed me good. I now know your strategies. I know what you think. I know what you’re doing, and you’ve just made me more dangerous.

    [… burble burble burble…]

    Another burbler, albeit one some people believe is… well, something (including teh notorious thinker Marjorie Taylor Greene), I’m a 12th Century Man: White Nationalist Nick Fuentes Longs for the Days of Catholic Monarchy, Crusades, and Inquisitions:

    [… Nick] Fuentes has been unabashed about his love and admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his desire to see Russia conquer and crush the nation of Ukraine in order to humiliate the United States, which he calls the great Satan. […] Fuentes attacked those who criticize his retrograde worldview by asserting that the 21st century sucks and democracy is worthless.

    I’m a reactionary, Fuentes said. I support autocracy.

    I’m an 18th century thinker, he continued. {The} 21st century sucks. Okay? The 21st century is trash. You think the 21st century is good? It’s not.

    I’m an 18th century man, he added. The 18th century was kind of epic. Well, actually, there was a lot of problems but it’s better than what we have now. I’m a 17th century thinker. So yeah, you’re right. You’re damn right. I’m a 13th century thinker. I’m a 12th century thinker.

    Who said I’m a 21st century man? Fuentes bragged. I’m a 12th century man.

    Fuck the UN, and the internet, and democracy, Fuentes declared. You know what democracy has given us? Obesity. Low rates of literacy. It’s given us divorce, abortion, gay marriage, liberalism, pornography. That’s what democracy has given us. Ghettos and crime and political correctness. Diversity. Yeah, the track record of democracy? Not so good. Catholic autocracy? Pretty strong. Pretty strong record. Catholic monarchy? Catholic monarchy, and just war, and crusades, and inquisitions? Pretty good stuff.

  79. says

    Hillary Clinton: Madeleine Albright Warned Us, and She Was Right

    New York Times link

    Late one night in 1995, in a cramped airplane cabin high over the Pacific, Madeleine Albright put down a draft of a speech I was set to deliver in Beijing at the upcoming United Nations conference on women, fixed me with the firm stare that had made fearsome dictators shudder, and asked what I was really trying to accomplish with this address.

    “I want to push the envelope as far as I can,” I replied. “Then do it,” she said. She proceeded to tell me how I could sharpen the speech’s argument that women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights.

    That was Madeleine, always cutting right to the heart of the matter with clarity and courage. She pushed the envelope her entire life. She did it on behalf of women and girls, shattering the glass ceiling of diplomacy as the first woman to serve as secretary of state and calling out atrocities against women all over the world. She did it for the country that took her in as a child fleeing tyranny in Europe, championing the United States as an indispensable nation and the leader of the free world. She never stopped pushing the envelope for freedom and democracy, including cajoling sometimes skeptical generals and diplomats to see human rights as a national security imperative.

    […] Madeleine’s death is also a great loss for our country and for the cause of democracy at a time when it is under serious and sustained threat around the world and here at home. […]

    Stand up to bullies and dictators

    […] she went toe-to-toe with the blood-soaked Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic. She helped marshal American power and the NATO alliance to end the brutal war in Bosnia and ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. She saw the chronically underestimated Russian president Vladimir Putin for what he is: a vicious autocrat intent on reclaiming Russia’s lost empire and a committed foe of democracy everywhere. In a prescient column in The Times published Feb. 23, she warned that an invasion of Ukraine would be “a historic error” that would leave Russia “diplomatically isolated, economically crippled and strategically vulnerable in the face of a stronger, more united Western alliance.” As happened so often, the man with the guns was wrong and Madeleine was right. […]

    NATO and U.S. alliances are the cornerstone of world peace

    As secretary of state, Madeleine helped […] welcome Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into NATO after the end of the Cold War. Years later, I asked her to head up an international commission for the Obama administration to redefine NATO’s mission for the 21st century. Having experienced Europe’s historic traumas firsthand, she understood that the security provided by NATO was the key to keeping the continent free, peaceful and undivided. She saw it as a political alliance, not just a military pact, cementing democracy in countries that had only recently freed themselves from authoritarianism.

    Madeleine rejected the criticism, renewed recently, that NATO’s expansion needlessly provoked Russia and is to blame for its invasion of Ukraine. As the Princeton historian Stephen Kotkin has noted, that argument ignores Russia’s centuries-long efforts to dominate its neighbors. Madeleine would be quick to add that it also erases the aspirations and autonomy of the former Soviet bloc countries that threw off their chains, built fragile democracies and rightly worried about Russian revanchism. […]

    Make no mistake, if NATO had not expanded, Mr. Putin would be menacing not just Ukraine but the Baltic States and likely all of Eastern Europe. As the historian and journalist Anne Applebaum recently argued, “The expansion of NATO was the most successful […] piece of American foreign policy of the last 30 years.”

    Madeleine also strongly disagreed with Donald Trump’s approach of treating America’s alliances as a protection racket where our partners must pay tribute or fend for themselves. She knew that U.S. alliances — especially with other democracies — are a military, diplomatic and economic asset that neither Russia nor China can match, despite their best efforts, and are crucial for our own national security.

    Attacks on democracy at home play into the hands of dictators abroad

    They make it harder for the United States and our allies to champion human rights and the rule of law. In her searing 2018 book, “Fascism: A Warning,” Madeleine described Mr. Trump as the first U.S. president in the modern era “whose statements and actions are so at odds with democratic ideals.” She observed that his assault on democratic norms and institutions was “catnip” for autocrats like Mr. Putin. After the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, and Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn a free and fair election, Madeleine imagined Abraham Lincoln weeping. “My family came to America after fleeing a coup, so I know that freedom is fragile,” she wrote. “But I never thought I would see such an assault on democracy be cheered on from the Oval Office.” […]

    To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, she visited parts of the Czech Republic that had been liberated by American troops in 1945. Many people waved American flags as she passed, and to her surprise, some had just 48 stars. They had to be decades old. It turned out that American G.I.s had handed out the flags a half-century earlier. Czech families said they had kept them hidden all through the years of Soviet domination, passing them down from generation to generation as the embodiment of their hope for a better, freer future.

    […] She would have been thrilled by President Biden’s announcement on Thursday that the United States will welcome up to 100,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine, and she would encourage us to do more to respond to this unfolding humanitarian nightmare. She would warn, as she did in her book, about the “self-centered moral numbness that allows Fascism to thrive,” and urge us to keep pushing the envelope for freedom, human rights and democracy. We should listen.

  80. says

    blf @108, Nick Fuentes must also be a fan of scurvy, tuberculosis, and infectious diseases of all kinds. Also, if he was brought to justice during the Catholic monarchies is so admires, he could be disemboweled. “Pretty good stuff,” as he says.

  81. says

    Good news: Unemployment claims reach a 53-year low amidst economic recovery

    The week before President Joe Biden’s inauguration, weekly unemployment claims were still a painfully high 886,000. We’ve come a long way since then.

    […] CNBC’s report yesterday […]

    New applications for U.S. jobless benefits dropped to a 52-1/2-year low last week, while the number of Americans on unemployment rolls continued to shrink, pointing to rapidly diminishing labor market slack that will keep wage inflation rising. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 28,000 to a seasonally adjusted 187,000 for the week ended March 19, the lowest level since September 1969, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

    Note, the same data showed continuing claims — folks who received jobless aid after an initial week — also fell to their lowest level since January 1970.

    At face value, the significance of some of these numbers may seem elusive — in fact, 187,000 initial claims might even strike some as a large total — so let’s revisit our coverage from December to help add some context.

    It was exactly two years ago this week when jobless claims first spiked in response to the Covid-19 crisis, climbing to over 3 million. That weekly total soon after reached nearly 7 million as the economy cratered. For 55 consecutive weeks, the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits was worse than at any time during the Great Recession.

    Thankfully, all of that appears to be behind us.

    Periodically over the course of the crisis, there have been understated threshold-based celebrations. When unemployment claims finally dipped below 1 million in August 2020, it was a step in the right direction. When they fell below 800,000 in February 2021, it offered similar evidence of slow, gradual progress. Fortunately, the pattern continued: Totals fell below 700,000 in March, below 600,000 in April, below 500,000 in early May, and below 400,000 in late May.

    In early October 2020, jobless claims finally dipped below 300,000 — putting us within shouting distance of the levels seen before the Covid crisis began in earnest — and now we’re below 200,000, which hardly seemed possible in the recent past.

    For nearly two years, the goal was to reach a number that resembled normalcy. In the early months of 2020, the U.S. average on unemployment claims was roughly 211,000, and many have wondered how long it would take to get back to such a total.

    As of today, we’ve not only returned to the pre-pandemic average, we’ve also improved on it. This data comes on the heels of the latest jobs report, which showed the unemployment rate back below 4 percent and the economy having already created 1.16 million jobs so far in 2022.

    The economy still needs work, and inflation remains an obvious problem, but breakthroughs like these are still worth celebrating.

    […] the monthly report generates more attention [more attention than weekly unemployment claims and data]: It gives us a look into how many jobs are being created, whether wages are going up or down, what the overall unemployment rate is, etc.

  82. says

    Julia Davis, nonthreader but nester:

    Russian State Television Descends Into Screaming Match Over Putin’s War Failures in Ukraine: [Daily Beast link at the link, at the smallest Russian doll]

    Military experts on Russian state TV predict that Russia’s war against Ukraine will go on for 40 more years.

    Political analyst questioned the wisdom of “liberating” Ukrainians who don’t want to be “liberated” and vehemently hate seeing the Russian troops on their territory. He pointed out that societies tend to get tired of any military campaigns rather quickly.

    Visibly angered, state TV host Olga Skabeeva repeatedly shouted at the outspoken pundit, accusing him of panicking and questioning his support for the Russian military. Skabeeva yelled that his commentary “has a smell of something untoward.”

  83. says

    From the latest recap at the Guardian liveblog:

    Russia appeared to scale back its ambitions for the war. The defence ministry said the first phase of its military operation was “generally” complete, saying the country will focus on the “liberation” of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. It marks a downgrading of objectives – amid a haphazard war campaign – after an initial aim of ‘denazification,’ or in other words regime change.

    It came after Russia’s defence ministry admitted 1,351 Russian soldiers have died since the start of its so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine, the first update in over three weeks. US intelligence estimates the real figure is likely over 7,000.

    Ukrainian forces went on the offensive outside Kyiv. Reports from UK intelligence said Ukrainian forces had reoccupied towns and defensive positions up to 35km east of Kyiv.

    The immense human toll of the war continues to escalate. The UN said a confirmed 1,081 civilians had died and 1,707 had been injured, with the real toll expected to be significantly higher.

    The situation in Mariupol remains dire. The head of the UN human rights team in Ukraine said monitors had received increasing information on mass graves in the encircled city, including one that appeared to hold 200 bodies.

    The Russian president Vladimir Putin ranted the west was supposedly discriminating against Russian culture, comparing the treatment of Russian cultural figures with that of the “cancelled” Harry Potter author JK Rowling.

    Evidence of potential Russian warcrimes continues to mount. A video shows civilians reportedly shelled by receiving humanitarian aid in Kharkiv.

    Meanwhile, the city of Chernihiv had in effect been cut off by Russian forces, the regional governor said, after water was rationed in recent days.

    Mutinous Russian forces ran over a Russian commander with a tank, western officials said. The UK and other western countries believe that Russian forces are suffering from increasingly poor morale as they incur heavy losses in the fighting.

    In other news, the Ukrainian Air Force said Russian cruise missiles hit several buildings while attempting to strike the Air Force’s command in the Vinnytsia region. And Ukraine said Russian forces had managed partially to create a land corridor to Crimea.

    Spotify became the latest company to announce it will fully suspend services in Russia, citing new legislation that could ‘risk’ the ‘safety’ of employees or listeners.

  84. says

    Dunderhead is caught lying: Cawthorn Awkwardly Admits To Voting Against BIF During Photo-Op Bragging About BIF Funds

    Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s (R-NC) photo-op touting the infrastructure funding for his district that came from the bipartisan infrastructure package (BIF) didn’t go quite as planned on Thursday.

    A video published by American Muckrakers PAC, a Cawthorn opposition group, shows the GOP lawmaker being confronted by a person off-screen who asked him point-blank if he actually voted for the funds.

    “This particular appropriation we advocated for in the appropriations [inaudible], but the larger bill we voted against,” Cawthorn replied as he posed with a giant check in front of the cameras.

    “Did you vote for it, though?” the questioner pressed.

    “As I just said, I think the larger bill we voted against,” the Republican replied tersely. [video at the link]

    Cawthorn, who’s running for reelection against seven primary challengers, finds himself positively drowning in bad headlines lately: He was charged with driving with a revoked license earlier this month in his third traffic violation, he’s come under fire from members of his own party after he went off on a deranged tirade against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and a group of North Carolina voters are still trying to get him disqualified from office over his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, even after a Trump-appointed judge blocked their effort.

    Posted by readers of the article:

    “As I just said, I think the larger bill we voted against,” the Republican replied tersely.

    Note the use of first-person plural here; he can’t even say “I voted against it.”

    Spineless little fucker.
    —————————
    And why is he wearing camo???
    ———————–
    Even a jackass is hunted from time to time.
    ————————-
    I guess he realized the Insurrection Day shooting jacket he wore to the Ellipse looked a trifle too elite.
    —————————
    Stolen valor.
    ——————
    There is a Royal We and an Editorial We, and now there’s a Q-Anon We
    ———————-
    I’m sure paraplegics do not see Cawthorn as a poster boy for their interests
    ———————-
    “He must be the dumbest motherfucker in the House.”

    But there’s so much competition: Gaetz, Boebert, MT Greene, and the Emperor of Stupid, Louie Gohmert, plus countless other GOP/MAGA [cult followers]. How can one possibly choose from amongst that cornucopia of awfulness?

  85. says

    […] Russia has some news for all those Ukrainians who thought they had beaten back Russian attacks. According to a presentation given today by the Russian ministry of defense, they never wanted to capture Kyiv or Kharkiv in the first place. So there.

    In what may be the most ridiculous propaganda session ever aired before the public, Russian commanders now claim that everything is going exactly to plan. They meant to lose 15,000 troops [according to some estimates,; 7,000 troops according to other estimates] and at least 1,800 armored vehicles. Because all of that was just a feint, mean to draw Ukraine’s attention away from the real action. Which was … gaining a small amount of land next to the areas Russia already controlled in eastern Ukraine.

    Confirming that this was indeed the news from upside-down land, Russia also claimed that they had avoided damage to civilian infrastructure and avoided civilian casualties. [!!!! WTF?] Which would be news to Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Iprin, Bucha, dozens of other towns, and most particularly, to Mariupol. As a side note, Reuters is now reporting that 15,000 people have been shipped out of Mariupol to unknown locations in Russia. That didn’t merit a slide in the Russian presentation.

    But the biggest news in the Russian conference, and certainly the largest surprise to Ukraine, is the word that Russia has now destroyed the Ukrainian military. In fact, the details of the slides show that Russia has (not kidding) destroyed “180 out of 148 S-300 and Buk M1 air defense systems” and “300 out of 117 radars.” They’ve not just destroyed the forces that Ukraine has, they’ve destroyed forces that never existed. [eye roll, LOL]

    What this international display of “I meant to do that” actually means appears to be that Russia is no longer even pretending that it can contend with Ukrainian forces in the middle of the country, and is likely to withdraw its troops to the Donbas in the hopes of holding onto territory there in advance of negotiating an end to the invasion — which is something Russia will definitely want to do before their troops are reduced to hurling rocks at the enemy.

    For those Russian soldiers still parked in Bucha, where Ukrainian forces are moving in from the north, east, and west. Or Russian troops trying to hold onto Ukraine, where air defenses have already retreated and Ukrainian forces are moving into the NW suburbs, those briefing can also be read as “Good luck, it was nice knowing you.”

    Also, a correction:

    Correction: Apparently it was the Saratov that went down at Berdyansk, with the Orsk being one of the ships that fled the area, Both Saratov (BDK-65) and Orsk (BDK-69) are “Alligator class” large landing ships. Also leaving the area with damage was the Novocherkassk (SDK-46), a Ropucha-class landing ship. Both the Orsk and the Saratov were old ships, dating to the 1960s. Novocherkassk was launched in 1987

  86. blf says

    The usually-weekly France24 show French Connections (“A quirky, insider’s guide to understanding France and the French, from the sublime to the ridiculous.”) has been running a series on French (Presidential) elections. The latest installment (listed first below) seems a good explainer of just how France goes about electing the President, including what is and isn’t allowed w.r.t. polls, finances, adverts, etc., and how the rules are enforced. Each show is standalone, so they do not need to be watched in any particular order (the following listing is not chronological):

    ● The ins and outs of the French presidential election (video): “Presidential elections happen all over the world, but France has its own, unique way of doing things. While there’s always some suspense around who will end up in the Élysée Palace, there are some pretty clear rules about getting there: whether it’s campaign financing, how much media access the candidates get and how the vote happens on election day. […]”

    ● The powers of the French president: A modern-day monarch? (video): “[…] Twelve candidates are vying for the French presidency — a unique, immensely powerful institution. Experts say it’s the most powerful office in the democratic world. How much authority and might does France’s leader have on the national and international stages, and what are the other perks that come with the top job? […]”

    ● French presidential election: How France regulates candidates’ air time (video): “[… W]e explore a particularity of the French electoral system: a candidate’s access to mass media. France has a very egalitarian view when it comes to a candidate’s access to TV and radio. The idea is for candidates, big or small, to have an equal playing field and for voters to have access to a wide range of ideas. […]”

  87. says

    The Biden Official Who Pierced Putin’s “Sanction-Proof” Economy

    New Yorker link

    Vladimir Putin’s Russia, ancient in many ways, has been notably modern in the centralized management of money. Elvira Nabiullina, the longtime governor of the Russian Central Bank was Europe’s 2017 “Central Banker of the Year,” according to the Banker magazine. Russia’s treasury recoups about twenty per cent of its G.D.P. as tax revenue, a figure far exceeding most other petrostates and on par with the United States. Moscow enjoys both fiscal and trade surpluses, and its debt load is low. Every attempt to make sense of Putin’s ambitions in Ukraine has seemed obscured in an incense haze of past tsars, imperial designs, and Russian military history. But, to practitioners of economic statecraft, the situation is as clear as looking in a mirror. “It’s a pretty solid, talented group of technocrats there,” one senior Biden Administration official told me, of Russia’s central bankers. In any economic crisis, “we expected that they would respond smartly.”

    What modern Russian economists have done is assemble an immense stockpile of foreign currency and gold: six hundred and thirty billion dollars, […] euros, dollars, yen, pounds. The Russian currency stockpile eventually grew so vast that some Western financial analysts described it as “Fortress Russia”—if Russia were to be isolated in the event of a war, and the value of the ruble were to degrade, the foreign currencies could be used to stabilize the Russian economy and prevent a crisis. […] Even if Europe were to cut off all imports of Russian energy, depriving Moscow of its main source of revenue, one analyst at the Atlantic Council told the Times, the reserves would allow Moscow to fill the gap for “several years.”

    […] When the G-7 gathered in Cornwall, in June, 2021, for its first in-person summit since the pandemic, President Biden tried to summon a sense of renewed post-Trump urgency, of liberal democracies uniting against authoritarianism, […] among the American delegation in the room was a figure who surely flew below the radar of Russian intelligence: a forty-six-year-old North Carolinian named Daleep Singh, who had recently been appointed as Biden’s deputy national-security adviser for international economics. Singh, who spent part of his early career at Goldman Sachs [snipped more biographical/career details] spent part of the Trump years as the vice-president for markets at the New York Fed. Singh had watched, with some skepticism, the growing esteem in which Russia was held on Wall Street, which hinged on the idea of its economic foresight. […] one of the myths I felt like they held—and it was kind of perpetrated by the Russian government—was that it had built an economic fortress around its economy, and that it was due to years and years of genius planning by Putin himself.”

    […] The effects of economic sanctions are just now beginning to be seen, but Sergei Guriev, a professor of economics at Sciences Po, in Paris, told me that he foresaw “Soviet stagnation, Soviet decline.” (There was a slight Soviet ambience this week, as viral videos showed Russians fighting over sugar in grocery stores, and a Russian government minister appeared on television to urge the public not to panic-buy essentials such as buckwheat.) If Russia’s misestimation of the Ukrainians was psychological, then its misestimation of Western sanctions was political and technical. The sanctions have a complex architecture—based on rules, economic levers, and the responses of Western companies and investors—but they also have an architect, a former Obama official told me. “The architect of these sanctions was Daleep Singh.”

    […] When it came to sanctions, he had a characteristic mission: to expand on an Obama-era project. Run that scene again, but different this time.

    The precedent had taken place in 2014, in the debate about how to sanction Russia after its invasion of Crimea. Beyond freezing the assets of certain oligarchs close to Putin, the Obama Administration designed its sanctions to keep a few large and influential Russian corporations (mostly banks and energy companies) from accessing Western debt. The choice was designed to exploit a specific vulnerability, one that Singh helped identify: in 2014, many of the most important Russian entities were in the midst of a debt binge, and were overexposed. […] combined with a bigger bust in the oil market, they caused some trouble. […] The ruble crashed, and inflation surpassed twelve per cent in the year after the invasion. And yet Putin’s power was largely undisturbed. If anything, the sanctions’ larger effect was to convince the Kremlin that it needed to build its stockpile. […]

    Singh started thinking seriously about potential sanctions on Russia in early November, when U.S. intelligence assessments began to warn of a likely invasion of Ukraine. “We put our heads together and figured out where do we have strengths and where do our strengths intersect with Russian vulnerability—where is there an asymmetry,” Singh told me. One area was Russia’s access to Western technologies, such as microchips and software. Another potential vulnerability was the dependence of Russian banks on capital from overseas. Each of these moves exploited certain American advantages, but they did nothing to undermine the reserves Putin had built to make the Russian economy “sanction-proof.” So Singh turned to another point of asymmetry: the currency trade. […] when it came to the currency in which countries bought and sold things, saved money, and borrowed money, the dollar’s share was between sixty and eighty per cent. In the world of global finance, Singh said, “the dollar is still the operating system.”

    As a technical matter, sanctioning a central bank was within the scope of American expertise: the U.S. developed central-bank sanctions as a centerpiece of its economic war with Iran, and there had been some preliminary discussions of sanctioning the Russian Central Bank in 2014. The real obstacle was diplomatic. The more countries that coöperated, the more comprehensive the sanction—if Moscow could simply sell its assets to German, Swiss, or Japanese banks, a U.S. embargo on Putin’s foreign-exchange fortress would lose much of its impact. […] “It was important to float this at the right moment,” a senior Biden Administration official told me. “We almost had to wait until there was an emotional valence.”

    In the meantime, coöperation with overseas allies had begun. Singh spoke each week with his G-7 counterparts, and his conversations with Bjoern Seibert, the head of the cabinet for European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, eventually increased to several times each day. […] U.S. intelligence had also made the strategic decision to speed up the process through which it shared intelligence with nato so that the Western allies were “operating from a similar set of facts” […]

    If U.S. intelligence seemed especially sure that Russia would invade Ukraine, Moscow’s businessmen seemed less convinced. In prior crises, the senior Biden Administration official told me, Russian individuals and companies pulled back assets, investing in gold or foreign currency, bracing. “That was not something that happened in the immediate run-up to this,” the Administration official said. “Big state banks, big oligarchs—we weren’t seeing a lot of pullback. Frankly, I think there was this kind of disbelief, including by much of the Moscow business community, that this could actually come to materialize.”

    On February 24th, the Russian invasion of Ukraine began—columns moving ominously across the border, rockets firing into central Kharkiv, a phalanx of helicopters and paratroopers occupying Hostomel Airport just northwest of the capital, only to be repelled. Within hours, Washington and its allies announced the package of sanctions that they had long prepared. Four large Russian banks were made subject to “blocking sanctions,” which froze any assets that touched the U.S. financial system, […] Export controls were imposed, by the U.S. and many other Western countries, to degrade the high-tech parts of the Russian economy, and a day later came a round of personal sanctions […] But the oil and gas sector, which supplies forty per cent of the Russian budget, was left largely untouched, and there was no effort to move against the Russian Central Bank. […]

    War moves politics quickly. In Europe and the U.S., the press had picked up on a demand that was appearing in protests on both sides of the Atlantic, for Russian banks to be excised from the swift financial messaging system, which would make it harder for them to conduct transactions with the West. (The Italian and German governments, which had previously voiced reservations, quickly signalled that they were ready to consider such a step.) That was a technical measure, but the emotional intensity was rising. On the first night of the invasion, President Volodymyr Zelensky appeared on a video call with European leaders, during which he said, “This might be the last time you see me alive.” From Washington’s point of view, the change in perspective from Europe was immediate. The Biden Administration official told me, “Politics in Europe just did a one-eighty. There was this level of horror and outrage nightly on the news in Europe about Russia bombing a European city. And so the politics in Europe flipped from what I think of as standard European sanctions politics, where there’s sort of a nervousness about costs, to what I think is much more of an American politics on sanctions—like, you know, the S.O.B.s have it coming and we really need to stick it to them.”

    […] Seibert and Singh started talking “the moment Daleep was awake,” as the senior E.U. official put it to me. The political will seemed to exist for cutting off Russia’s access to swift. Singh and Seibert saw an opening for a less discussed—and more severe—action. “What if we just say that none of Russia’s counterparts can transact with them?” Singh said.

    The Western sanction on the Russian Central Bank came together in a matter of hours. On February 26th, the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and Canada jointly prohibited any banks, companies, and individuals from doing business with the Russian Central Bank, and threatened anyone who violated the order with further sanctions. […]

    No entity as large as the Russian Central Bank, nor so important to the global economy, had been sanctioned in modern times. (Its foreign-exchange stockpile exceeds the G.D.P. of Iran.) “That’s just unheard-of stuff,” Nicholas Mulder, a historian of sanctions at Cornell, said. To try to isolate an economy of this scale, sophistication, and entanglements, Mulder said, raised the question of whether “the consequences of an action like this can be predicted or foreseen.” […]

    It quickly became clear that Moscow had not anticipated anything like this. […] Bloomberg reported that Nabiullina, the Russian Central Bank’s governor, offered her resignation to Putin, but was ultimately appointed to a third term. According to the same report, other central bank officials have felt a sense of “hopelessness,” given that the current situation leaves “little use for their market-oriented skills and experience.”

    The U.S. government’s assessment, a senior Biden Administration official told me, is that the sanctions will plunge Russia into something between a deep recession and a depression. […] “None of us take pride or joy from the hardship that will be imposed on the Russian people as a result of these sanctions,” Singh told me last week. “It’s sobering and it’s tragic.” […]

    Russia means to forge an authoritarian axis with China, in which illiberalism is no barrier to prosperity. Biden intends to revive the patterns of diplomacy and technocracy that had defined late twentieth-century liberalism, and had been thought to have lost their potency. The markets are where these two systems touch—the supply of buckwheat, the joint energy ventures, the price of the ruble—and within this arena the sanctions were a demonstration that Washington still had levers to pull. “You know, we can play chess, too,” Singh said. “It was important for us to show that the fortress could come crumbling down.”

  88. blf says

    From about a week ago, Mali’s ruling junta orders suspension of FRANCE 24 and RFI (France24 edits in {curly braces}):

    Mali’s ruling miltary junta on Wednesday night ordered the suspension of FRANCE 24 television and RFI radio in the country, accusing the French public news service of reporting false allegations of abuse by the Malian army. In its response, France Médias Monde, the parent company of the two news organisations, said it deplored the decision and protested against the junta’s “unfounded accusations”.

    The Malian government categorically rejects these false allegations against the valiant FAMa {Malian Armed Forces} and has launched a procedure… to suspend the broadcasting of RFI… and France 24 until further notice, said the statement signed by government spokesman Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga.

    French President Emmanuel Macron condemned the Malian government’s decision on Thursday.

    […]

    The Malian junta has staged two coups since August 2020. It has been accused of violations by several human rights groups, including a March 15 report by the New York-based Human Rights Watch, which accused Malian soldiers of responsibility for the killing of at least 17 civilians since early December.

    Earlier this year, France announced the withdrawal of its troops from Mali after a breakdown in relations with the ruling junta. French troops were in Mali on a military mission, fighting against al Qaeda and Islamic State (IS)[daesh] group-linked jihadist groups in the Sahel area.

    In its statement, the Malian junta accused the two news organisations of having a premeditated strategy aimed at destabilising the political transition, demoralising the Malian people and discrediting the Malian army[, and insisting the Chicago Clubs won the 2016 World Series].

    The allegations of abuse in Mali were also made UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and subsequently reported by RFI and FRANCE 24 this week.

    […]

  89. says

    Julia Davis:

    Military expert on Russian state TV called for all Ukrainian flags and symbols to be destroyed, replaced by Russian and Soviet flags. He also demanded that Ukrainians who fled to NATO countries be denied the possibility of ever returning to Ukraine.

  90. says

    Humor from Andy Borowitz:

    WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Assailed for her texts to the former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Ginni Thomas accused her critics of ignoring her three decades of exemplary service as a Supreme Court Justice.

    “For the past thirty years, I have listened to oral arguments, studied legal precedents, and written opinions,” Thomas said. “All in all, I am confident that I have earned a place in history as one of our nation’s greatest Supreme Court Justices.”

    Thomas said that, after reading some of the criticism that she has received for her texts, she was “shocked, and quite frankly hurt, that my stellar Supreme Court record could be so casually swept aside.”

    “I have given thirty years of my life to the Supreme Court, and this is the thanks I get?” she asked.

    New Yorker link

  91. says

    Ukraine Update: Ukraine wins some, loses some, as France, Greece and Turkey plan Mariupol rescue

    […] Thanks to Russia, cats and dogs are working together with the French, to do something that should’ve been done weeks ago.

    The key here is that French President Emmanuel Macron hasn’t told Vladimir Putin yet. This isn’t some bullshit drawn-out negotiation. France, Greece and Turkey are working together to make it happen, and France will tell Putin, not ask for permission. Putin might threaten in return, which would lead to a standoff. Russia could blockade entrance to the Azov Sea. The whole area is heavily mined, so relief ships would be in great danger. Any evacuation would lead to shelling of the refugees making a run for the waiting ships. And Russians might try to block any escape, for fear of Azov members and other Ukrainian forces blending in and getting out. So this is by no means an easy operation. But so glad it’s being worked on.

    Kyiv/northern front: No territory changed hands. Artillery battles playing out in NW Kyiv, while another Russian attempt to break through Brovary on the northeastern side was repulsed by Ukraine. Makariv was declared liberated a couple of days ago, but Ukraine reports heavy fighting continues around that town.

    Kharkiv/Sumy/Northeast front: Ukrainian forces pushed Russians out of two villages east of Kharkiv, offering some relief to the besieged city. In Sumy Oblast, Russian forces are once again on the offensive, though no territory changed hands.

    Donbas front: Russian troops made gains in their efforts to fully encircle Izyum, gaining about 10 kms of ground to its southeast. This town is critical for both resupplying Ukrainian forces in the region, and because the Donets river that runs through the middle of the city creates a natural barrier to the Russian advance. Russia is most active on this front, and it’s clear they’re going to redouble their efforts here. Mariupol hangs on. Taking the city is costing Russia dearly, by the looks of all the destroyed equipment and dead bodies on Twitter and Telegram.

    Mykolaiv/Kherson/Crimea/South front: Ukraine was confirmed to have liberated Snihurivka and Novovorontsovka in the region. [Map at the link.]

    With Snihurivka taken, that’s a lot of Russian forces cut off to its northeast, though no one (aside from the Ukrainian and Russian armies) really knows what’s left up there. I’m torn between rooting for Russia to have pulled back, allowing Ukraine to roll up that territory with minimal loss, and having Russian forces trapped up there, easier pickings for the defenders. Regardless, that weird, under-resourced, and always doomed effort reaching out to Kryvyi Rih is officially over, just when I had finally learned to spell that city’s name without looking it up.

    To stress again (as I did in a previous update), the New York Times report that Ukraine had a presence in Kherson was utter bullshit, a mangling of a Pentagon report that Ukraine was now challenging Kherson Oblast, the administrative region. And it’s doing so, as far as we can tell, by shelling Kherson’s airport, currently occupied by Russia. The traditional media has done a great job covering the refugee and humanitarian crisis, but an abysmal job covering the military side. Don’t assume they know what they’re talking about just because they’re The New York Times or other such mainstream news outlet.

    Meanwhile, I’ve been saying that Russia’s weakness would embolden violence in the central Asian countries it has meddled in. For example, Armenia holds disputed territory in Azerbaijan, held with the help of Russian “peacekeepers.” Well, so much for that peace. […]

    Russia’s fall from grace will embolden not just an effort to retake many of these disputed territories, but could also spark new violence in some of Russia’s hinterland regions. Indeed, it might even be in China’s interest to quietly prod some of those along. Expect a lot of violence in the years ahead now that the myth of the Russian Bear has been shattered.

  92. says

    Rick Wilson puts the Ginni Thomas scandal in perspective:

    Imagine for a moment what the Republicans would say if the spouse of a Supreme Court Justice nominated by a Democrat joined in a conspiracy … to overthrow a free and fair American election. Imagine she or he was part of a conspiracy to launch a violent, shock-and-awe attack on the Capitol in its furtherance. An attack that led to lives lost, our Capitol desecrated.

    Imagine their response as she was discovered in the days leading up to the attack to be texting and emailing a Democratic White House Chief of Staff, encouraging him to illegally overturn the election and promote lurid conspiracy nonsense. Imagine she promoted the idea Republicans were “being arrested & detained for ballot fraud right now & over coming days, & will be living in barges off GITMO to face military tribunals for sedition.”

    Now imagine her husband was the sole vote to protect the losing President from scrutiny. I’ll tell you what they’d do.They’d burn Washington to the damn ground.They’d salt the earth.They’d call for sanctions, impeachment, removal.

    Their powerful media apparatus would turn it into a 24/7 scandal story that would never ever disappear. Facebook would amplify (and monetize!) a million pages calling for the removal of said Justice.

    They’d hold hearings and drag every person involved before them…in a televised Great Spectacle. It would become a centerpiece of their messaging for ages. It would be a drumbeat about the corruption of the opposing party. […]

    The GOP silence now is telling. They’ve become masters are working the media refs. This isn’t a trivial little scandal. It’s real, it stinks, and it’s outrageous.

    Link

    Commentary, available at the same link:

    […] Democrat’s in the Senate are demanding Clarence Thomas recuse himself from any cases involving Jan 6th or Trump’s election.

    To me that seems about 1/1000th as strong as it should be. Democrats should be demanding Thomas recuse himself permanently from the Supreme Court! They should be calling for hearings. They should be asking their colleagues during the current confirmation fight why they are not speaking out about this outrage? They should be talking about the corruption of past decisions.This isn’t even the first time with the Thomas’s. Democrats should be loudly pointing out if you don’t Believe in Free elections or Democracy itself, how can you be trusted to serve on the highest court in the land?

    In my opinion we can learn from Republicans on messaging. They would salt the earth as Rick Wilson has stated. I realize we don’t have talk radio and our own news network but that doesn’t mean we can’t do something. We need bring the kind outrage Republicans would to this issue. We need to call on our elected officials and ask for hearings ask for resignations We need to embrace the power of spectacle.

    MAKE THIS WOMAN TESTIFY BEFORE CONGRESS!!!! PUT IT ON TELEVISION!! Don’t say things like “This is disturbing!” call it an attack on our Democracy. IT IS! Call it Corruption. IT IS! Say that this has placed the entire legitimacy of the Supreme Court in question. IT HAS!! Just don’t be mild in your response.

  93. StevoR says

    Yikes.

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-03-26/explosion-near-saudi-arabia-grand-prix/100941680

    A problematic nation to race in already & concern for safety as well as ethics here. Really wish F1 wasn’t racing here for many reasons not least the Saudis horrendous war crimes in Yemen & Human Rights abuses.

    In other news :

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-03-26/russians-flee-via-the-few-remaining-escape-routes/100934896

    A lot of Russians are fleeing the country and ashamed of Putin’s war and regime.

    Also Rebecca Watson has a video on Russians views of Putin’s war here too.

  94. says

    NYRB – “The Nation Ukraine Has Become”:

    This civic nationalism that has been maturing in Ukraine is characterized by its political identification with a liberal-democratic state. Distinct from ethnic nationalism, this civic nationalist framework does not suppress differences in ethnicity, language, religion, or culture within the population but fosters people’s collective willingness to uphold shared democratic institutions and values, encouraging solidarity between groups and overcoming historical divisions.

    Putin uses a retrograde, mythic version of a Russian past not only to oppress Ukrainians, but also to prevent his own people from imagining a future in which their lives are worth more than serving as cannon fodder for his wars. In contrast, Ukrainians have a clear vision of the future for themselves and their country, and they will do everything to protect it.

    Much, much more at the link.

  95. says

    Here’s a link to today’s Guardian Ukraine liveblog. From their most recent summary:

    Joe Biden will argue that the “free world” is united in its efforts to support the Ukrainian people, in a speech to be delivered on Saturday during his visit to Poland. Biden will also talk of efforts to hold Russia accountable “for its brutal war” and defend “a future that is rooted in democratic principles”, the White House said in a statement.

    In a video address on Friday night, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said his country’s forces had “dealt powerful blows” to Russian troops, adding that their success in repelling attacks was leading the Russian leadership “to a simple and logical idea: talk is necessary.” He reiterated Ukraine’s terms, including sovereignty and territorial integrity.

    The UK’s ministry of defence warned on Saturday morning that it appeared likely Russia “will continue to use its heavy firepower on urban areas as it looks to limit its own already considerable losses, at the cost of further civilian casualties.” Russia continues to besiege a number of major Ukrainian cities including Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol, it said.

    According to a briefing by a US official on Friday, Russia does not at the moment appear to be pursuing a ground offensive towards Kyiv. The official added: “They are digging in, they are establishing defensive positions, they don’t show any signs of being willing to move on Kyiv from the ground.” Airstrikes on Kyiv, however, were ongoing.

    The immense human cost of the war has continued to mount….

    Also from there:

    The Russian defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, has been seen chairing an army meeting and discussing weapons supplies in a video posted by his ministry, Reuters reports; the first time he had publicly been shown speaking for more than two weeks.

    In the video, uploaded on social media, Shoigu said he had discussed issues related to the military budget and defence orders with the finance ministry….

    The meeting was attended by top Russian army officials; including the chief of the general staff, Valery Gerasimov, who also had not been seen in public recently….

    Western officials believe the Kremlin has lost eight high-level military officers since the invasion began; seven of whom have been killed. They are:

    – Major General Andrey Mordvich: killed in action
    – Major General Oleg Mityaev: killed in action
    – Lt General Yakov Rezanstev: killed in action
    – Major General Vitaliy Gerasimov: killed in action
    – Major General Andrei Sukhovetsky: killed in action
    – Major General Andrey Kolesnikov: killed in action
    – General Magomed Tushaev: killed in action
    – General Vlaislav Yershov: sacked

  96. says

    Andriy Khlyvniuk, frontman of a Ukrainian musical band Boombox, has joined the army and was wounded by mortar fire. Boombox used to be widely popular in Russia. ‘To my listeners in Russia, here’s what Nazis you are fighting here, idiots’, he wrote on Instagram”

    Photo at the link.

    Fundraiser – “Ukrainian Folk Song ARMY REMIX | Andriy Khlyvnyuk x The Kiffness”:

    …Andriy Khlyvnyuk, the frontman of top Ukrainian band Boombox (Бумбокс) dropped his tour of the US to defend his country. He was kind enough to let me remix this recent video of him singing a Ukranian folk song, й у лузі червона калина (Oy u luzi chervona kalyna)….

    Video at the link.

  97. says

    Someone called attention to this on Twitter – more re StevoR’s #128, from the BBC – “Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will go ahead after missile attack”:

    …Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the attack on an oil depot about nine miles from the track, according to the Associated Press.

    Second practice was delayed by 15 minutes after the attack as team bosses and drivers were called to a meeting with F1 president Stefano Domenicali.

    The drivers went into a meeting with Domenicali and managing director Ross Brawn about an hour after the end of practice and that meeting did not end for another four hours, as various senior figures came and went.

    BBC Sport has learned that a significant number of drivers had concerns about the safety of the event following the attack.

    But eventually they were convinced to go ahead and race after being given further information by bosses.

    Part of this information involved the possible consequences of not racing, such as how easily teams and drivers would be able to leave the country if the race did not happen.

    The first signs of the attack came as smoke had billowed across the track during the first practice session in the afternoon.

    Before second practice, Domenicali called teams and drivers to a meeting and told them the weekend would proceed as planned and that security for the grand prix has been a priority for the authorities.

    He said he would keep them updated through the weekend and met them again just over an hour after practice finished to share further information.

    But the drivers continued to be concerned about the potential risks of racing so close to a missile strike on a high-profile Saudi facility. The grand prix is also closely associated with the Saudi royal family.

    All the drivers’ post-practice media sessions were cancelled.

  98. says

    Wow:

    Absolutely insane new law proposed in Turkey:

    Three years in jail for anyone who undermines trust in companies or otherwise impacts their reputation or concerns in any form of media.

    The fact they need to do this implies A LOT of companies are close to going under.

    The first news about this law has been about the section which says you can go to jail even if you don’t use the company’s name. The first thought has been that this outlaws people saying “Gang of Five” about the AKP’s crony billionaires who siphon all state funds.

    I have a more basic concern.

    How on God’s green earth can you do financial journalism if you aren’t allowed to say anything negative about any company on any media?

    That and then this: just how bad is Turkey’s economy? Is it about to collapse?

    Because this law would be nuts.

  99. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    The US president Joe Biden was in the region just over the Polish border to meet US troops shortly before the strikes.

    The west of Ukraine has, until now, been lightly touched by the war, with attacks limited to strikes on a military base and an aircraft work shop.

    Russia’s strike on Lviv during a presidential visit will be taken as a message to the US president, who called Putin a “butcher” during his visit to Poland….

  100. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    Russian oligarchs are welcome in Turkey but must abide by international law in order to do any business, Reuters quotes the Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu as saying.

    Turkey has strongly criticised Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but opposes sanctions imposed by its Nato allies on principle [LOL]. Speaking at the Doha Forum international conference, Cavusoglu said:

    If Russian oligarchs … or any Russian citizens want to visit Turkey, of course they can. If you mean whether these oligarchs can do any business in Turkey, then of course – if it is legal and not against international law – I will consider it. If it is against international law, then that is another story.

    Two superyachts linked to the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich have docked in Turkish resorts, Reuters reports. Western governments have targeted Abramovich and several other Russian oligarchs with sanctions as they seek to isolate the Russian president Vladimir Putin and his allies over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

  101. says

    News:

    Russia will hold military exercises on the Kuril Islands, which are considered by Japan as its national territory.

    Russia withdrew from the process of peace negotiations with Japan.

    It seems that the mood is for the Third World War, but of course a small and victorious one.

  102. says

    From Chernihiv:

    Chernihiv city mayor, after Russian attacks: “City is destroyed.Easier to count houses that survived.More than 200 civilians killed.” Added: “City authorities are in place,everyone working,supporting our army.Nobody is going to surrender city”

    [photos at the link]

    The mayor added that Chernihiv is currently in an operational encirclement , and that the russians deliberately destroyed the bridge connecting the city with Kyiv direction.

  103. says

    Ukraine update: Russia’s perceived might kept much of Asia intact, but that’s coming to an end

    […] Russia can’t manage a full-scale offensive against any city literally on its border, against a inferior-equipped smaller country. Poland is okay. The Baltic states are small, but they have NATO backing. They’ll be okay. Meanwhile, Russia demilitarizes quite effectively by simply trying to wage its incompetent war.

    Russia wants the broader war. They want to face a peer opponent, so when they lose—and they’ll lose—it won’t be to a country they don’t even consider a country. Losing to the West would fuel decades of victim narratives. Losing to Ukraine is just sad. And the world will laugh at them. And with the myth shattered, their empire will disintegrate.

    Not that Poland isn’t taking the threat seriously: […] [the Polish army is growing quickly, photo at the link]

    How many people are lining up to join the Russian army? Instead, let’s see how many Russians avoid the draft next month, when the country has the first of its twice-a-year conscription.

    Meanwhile, on its other coast, Russia is dealing with a frisky Japan, who has reasserted its jurisdiction over a series of Russian-occupied islands. (I’ve always known them as the Kuril Islands, but just learned that Japan calls them the Northern Territories.) […] [Photo at the link]

    Those 3,000 Russian troops are the luckiest Russian troops in their entire army. They could be in Ukraine instead … but that’s Russia’s insecurities coming through. They’re trying to remind Japan that they’re a bear. No one buys it anymore. Could they really defend against a Japanese invasion of the islands? Not right now they couldn’t.

    Then there’s the Central Asian republics, many propped up by Russian forces.

    On March 17, as Moscow’s war on Ukraine intensified, Uzbekistan made a statement few observers anticipated.

    Speaking at the Senate’s plenary session, Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov said, “Firstly, the military actions and violence must be stopped right away. The Republic of Uzbekistan recognises Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.

    “We do not recognise the Luhansk and Donetsk republics.”

    Russia had recently supplanted China as Uzbekistan’s biggest trading partner. Oh well. Russian VDV airborne troops are literally propping up the despotic regime in Kazakhstan. Yet they’re reading the room.

    Kazakhstan, unlike Belarus, did not vote against the March 2 U.N. resolution condemning Russian aggression in Ukraine. Instead it abstained, like Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Ambivalence was also reflected in Tokayev’s March 1 statement on Twitter regarding Ukraine and Russia: “We call on both states to make utmost efforts to pursue a dialogue and work on a peaceful settlement,” which supports the position of neither side. This noncommittal position continued in official reports of phone calls between Tokayev and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on March 2 and between Tokayev and Putin on March 4.

    Moreover, Minster of Foreign Affairs Mukhtar Tleuberdi stated that there was “no question of recognizing the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics by Kazakhstan,” a position explicitly counter to Moscow’s intentions for these territories.

    And Russian “peacekeepers” in Nagorno-Karabakh, the disputed Azerbaijani territory currently held by Armenia, have sat helplessly by as Azerbaijan violated the cease-fire agreement that ended their 2020 war. Russia backs Armenia, Turkey backs Azerbaijan, but the alliances have nothing to do with politics, and lots to do with generations of ethnic conflict in the region. (Armenia is a rare Central Asia democracy (ish), while Azerbaijan has “an authoritarian regime […] elections are not free and fair, political power is concentrated in the hands of Aliyev and his extended family, corruption is rampant, and human rights violations are severe (including torture, arbitrary arrests, as well as harassment of journalists and non-governmental organizations).

    I’m not going to pretend to know the ins and outs of this conflict, but Russian troops used to keep Azerbaijan out, and now they don’t. Because no one fears them anymore.

    Russia is a great regional power. Russia was a great regional power. Unlike China and the United States, it has no soft power to exercise. Its economy was a joke, and countries that depended on it for energy are finding alternatives at lightning speed. Russia was 100% hard power—the fear of its military might. Vladimir Putin may convince Russia, and himself, that Donbas was the goal all along, but the world knows the truth. There is now a vacuum, and we’ll be dealing with the consequences for a long time. China will rush to fill the void (with Russia itself in play). India won’t stand pat. Nor will Iran. Or Pakistan. Europe will be a player, and the United States never stays out of these things. Russia’s own territorial integrity could be in play, as massive demographic shifts could very well sunder the country. [Population growth map is available at the link]

    Europe and North America are working hard to contain the conflict from spreading beyond Ukraine, but that focus is on Europe. The other direction will burn for a long time, without a powerful unifying force to keep it all together.

  104. tomh says

    Utah lawmakers override veto on transgender sports ban
    MATTHEW RENDA / March 25, 2022

    (CN) — Republican lawmakers in Utah overrode a veto by Governor Spencer Cox Friday, meaning a law that banned transgender youth from participating in women’s athletics will take effect.

    Cox, a Republican, drew national headlines for bucking his party’s increasingly sharp rhetoric about transgender women competing in women’s sports….

    Cox said in a letter explaining his veto earlier in the week that Utah does not have many transgender athletic competitors and that their exclusion from sports could further exacerbate their feelings of isolation and otherness.

    “There seems to be a belief that any biologically born male could simply say he was transgender and begin participating in women’s sports,” Cox said when explaining the veto. “This is incorrect. For many years now, the UHSAA has had in place a rule that only allows male-to-female transgender participation in women’s sports after a full year of difficult transition hormone therapy and in consultation with a health care professional.”

    The governor also said there are only four transgender athletes in the entire state of Utah, out of approximately 75,000 students who participate in high school athletics. He also said the Legislature rushed House Bill 11 and skipped typical negotiating processes that would have resulted in a better bill.

    But Utah, which has a deeply conservative base that is active in state politics, became the 11th state to pass a law forbidding biological males from competing in women’s sports….
    […]

    “Things are not simply black and white, in terms of gender orientation, sexual orientation, gender identification,” said House Minority Leader Brian King, a Democrat. “It’s definitely not accurate to say that girls are girls and boys are boys….”

    Transgender youth are particularly vulnerable to mental health issues and suicide, something that Cox cited in his veto letter….

    Besides Utah, least 25 states have introduced similarly constructed bans.

    Ryan Smith, who owns the Utah Jazz [NBA basketball team], criticized the law on Friday, saying it was rushed and wouldn’t hold up to long-term scrutiny. Salt Lake City is slated to hold the NBA All-Star Game in 2023 and similar laws against LGBT people have spurred the league to act.

    The Utah Athletic Association came out against the bill, saying it lacks funds to enforce the measure and to fight it in court should the parents of transgender youth sue. Lawsuits have already been filed in West Virginia and Tennessee that seek to dissolve similar laws.

  105. says

    Guardian – “Thousands gather in London to show solidarity with Ukraine”:

    Thousands have gathered in central London to express solidarity with the people of Ukraine, who the capital’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, said had endured “unimaginable pain and suffering” over the past month.

    Following the rallying call by Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, for people everywhere to protest against the bloodshed by taking to the streets, large crowds assembled in the capital to show support for the embattled country.

    On their route through London, demonstrators marched beneath Yoko Ono’s Imagine Peace message on a huge electronic billboard in Piccadilly, many waving the yellow and blue of the Ukrainian flag as they passed.

    Most of those gathered firmly believed that Ukraine would prevail in the ongoing brutal conflict against the forces of Vladimir Putin.

    Khan, who had organised the march to mark a month of Putin’s invasion and following Zelensky’s call for global support, told the Guardian that London stood “shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine in its darkest hour”.

    Later, the crowds congregated in Trafalgar Square, bedecked in the yellow and blue of Ukraine. Among those gathered was Izyma Savkina, who fled Ukraine’s capital Kiev last week.

    The 36-year-old said: “Eventually the Russians will kill Putin themselves. But in the meantime we need more air support and more weaponry from Nato.”

    Elsewhere friends, Yuliya Gavnylyuk, from Ivano-Frankivsk and Sofia Silina, from Zaporizhzhia also believed their country would ultimately win the war.

    “Absolutely, we will win. We are fighting for our freedom and for our homes,” said Gavnylyuk.

    Silina added that three of her family’s homes had been destroyed in the fighting and all they had left was their grandfather’s house, which he now guarded alone with a gun close to the frontline.

    When the conflict is over, they said, they will travel back to Ukraine for a huge party.

    As another day of fighting 1,600 miles to the east continued, a vigil was due to be held in Trafalgar Square with the crowd addressed by British, Ukrainian and European politicians.

    Hanya Dezyk, from the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain, said: “It has been incredibly difficult for Ukrainians living in the UK and across the world to see what is happening to our homeland, and the sight of people uniting in the streets in our name gives us hope and strengthens our resolve to fight for Ukraine’s freedom.”

    Celebrities were spotted offering their support….

    Since Zelenskiy’s call for the world to show their support for his embattled country sizeable protests have occurred in the Netherlands and Ecuador and cities including Bulgaria’s Sofia, Krakow in Poland and Mexico City.

  106. says

    It’s only taken five years of ongoing assaults and preplanned violence by right-wing thugs—accompanied by an obscene double standard in enforcement by police officers and prosecutors—for authorities in Portland, Oregon, to finally start taking the problem seriously. But two separate cases this week in Portland courts indicate that progress is finally happening.

    On Wednesday, notorious Proud Boys brawler Tusitala “Tiny” Toese was arraigned on multiple felonies related to the violence he led at a Portland rally on Aug. 22, 2021, and order detained without bail. Then on Thursday, the man who opened fire on a group of protesters in a park on Feb. 19 near his residence, killing one person and wounding four others before he was himself shot, was also arraigned in Multnomah County Circuit Court on multiple counts after he was released from his subsequent hospitalization.

    Benjamin Smith, 43, was in a wheelchair while making his court appearance by video. He now faces one count of murder, four counts of attempted murder and three counts of assault with a firearm, to which he pleaded not guilty.

    Toese was charged with a total of 11 felony counts, including six counts of assault, two counts of unlawful use of a weapon, two counts of riot, and two counts of criminal mischief. The judge ruled that he will be ordered to remain in the downtown Portland jail without bail.

    The prosecutions suggest that legal authorities, at least, have begun to awaken to the reality that, while they have been focused on suppressing left-wing protests and activists, right-wing extremists have been getting away with extreme violence directed at those same factions for the past five years. Toese in particular has been one of the more violent actors in those scenarios and yet has managed to largely escape serious legal consequences for them until now.

    Similarly, when a right-wing ex-Navy SEAL was believed to have tossed a pipe bomb at Portland residents protesting police brutality at a park in August 2020, the Portland Police Bureau only conducted a brief investigation and never filed charges, complaining that none of the people targeted were willing to cooperate with investigators.

    So when Smith opened fire on the crowd in February, and police initially described the incident by saying it “appeared to be a confrontation between armed protesters and an armed homeowner,” and complaining about uncooperative witnesses, there were concerns that the non-investigation might be repeated.

    […] despite the initial police spin, the facts soon emerged: the people who Smith confronted—a group of traffic-safety volunteers who were shepherding a demonstration at Normandale Park in northeastern Portland—were unarmed. Witnesses described how he confronted the group and yelled at them to leave the area; the volunteers responded by telling him to leave them alone.

    […] A person participating in the march with a concealed-carry permit stopped Smith’s rampage by rushing to the scene and shooting him in the hip. Smith was listed in critical condition for the first week of his hospitalization, but was discharged from the hospital this week and promptly booked into Multnomah County Jail on Wednesday.

    A respected and well-known 60-year-old activist named June Brandy Knightly was pronounced dead at the scene. Four others were injured, including one who was shot in the neck, paralyzing them from the neck down, while a second victim was shot multiple times and hospitalized.

    Smith’s roommate, Kristine Christenson, told Oregon Public Broadcasting shortly after the shooting that he had become increasingly radicalized during the late Obama administration and early Trump years. Eventually, she said, he would yell racial slurs in his room and make misogynistic remarks.

    “He got angrier and angrier,” Christenson said, noting that he owned a number of guns including rifles, shotguns and handguns. “I have not been comfortable living with him for a while. I did not feel safe with him, especially this last two years with the whole COVID thing. I think that made him even more angry.”

    “He talked about wanting to go shoot commies and antifa all the friggin‘ time,” Christenson said. “He was just a sad angry dude. … He talked about wanting to do this for a while. He was angry at the mask mandates, he was angry at the ‘damned liberals.’”

    Smith’s social-media trail revealed that he was a committed fan of Alex Jones, Andy Ngo and other far-right media agitators. He used far-right Telegram channels to spew misogynistic hate, anti-Semitic comments and claims like “Communists aren’t human beings… it’s okay to kill them.” He also once wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “Kyle Rittenhouse True Patriot.” He commented that he wished the Proud Boys would “shoot people up.”

    […] Smith’s tentative trial date is May 5, currently assigned to Circuit Judge Michael A. Greenlick.

    The charges against Toese were handed down in December by a grand jury naming both Toese and another Proud Boy, but only unsealed in late January. The second man—Miles Douglas Furrow, 41, of Oregon City, Oregon—faces multiple counts of assault and riot after he was identified as the man who jumped into the front seat of a parked car the Proud Boys had identified as being driven by an antifascist and began brutally beating the driver. Toese had bashed out the windows of the car just prior to the assault. [video at the link]

    […] Some Proud Boys returned to the abandoned van—a Metro ambulance van designed to carry people with disabilities—and proceeded, at Toese’s urging, to break out its windows, then tip it over and destroy the equipment inside.

    […] The affidavit depicts Toese—who had in fact helped organize the event as an ironic “Summer of Love” gathering—as the primary commander of the attacking Proud Boys. […]

    He later directly addressed a group of journalists and streamers: “That’s our message to you, Antifa: the Americans are coming out and they’re sick and tired of this shit. If we have to fight fire with fire, we’re going to fucking do it. Fuck Antifa.”

    Link

  107. says

    Ukraine update: How desperate is Russia to find an ally?

    As soon as it became obvious that Russia didn’t have nearly the force necessary to accomplish it’s goals in Ukraine—and that became obvious quickly—Vladimir Putin began casting around for some other source of young people to feed into the meat grinder.

    The first choice was Belarus. After all, it was right there, and the proudly self-labeled “last dictator in Europe” Alexander Lukashenko is one of Putin’s most loyal allies. Belarus shares a long border with Russia, has traditionally been a rubber stamp for Russian policies, and predictably was one of just five countries to vote against a UN resolution condemning Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Putin was, after all, the only world leader who supported Lukashenko after he forced Ryanair Flight 4978 to land at fighter-jet-point so that the dictator could make off with an opposition leader and journalist. They’re pals.

    Belarus doesn’t have either the numbers or the equipment necessary to make a huge difference in events near Kyiv, but if they tossed a few thousand hapless guys across the western edge of their shared border with Ukraine, it might force Ukraine to relocate some of those forces in the east, relieving at least some of the pressure on Russia troops that look increasingly pinned down near Bucha and Hostomel.

    Except Belarus doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to come across that line. For days, there were predictions that Belarusian forces were on their way into Ukraine, and convoys of trucks carried Belarusian soldiers toward points to the west. Then those convoys went back east. Then west again. Hopefully, gas prices are cheap in Belarus, because their country appears to have specialized in shuffling all the pieces around. Lukashenko was even called to Moscow to kneel before Zod, and still returned home to continue playing the game of Yes, boss, any minute now.

    Putin and Lukashenko are cut from the same cloth, and have supported each other on multiple occasions — that includes in “helping” refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, who were unfortunate enough to find their way into either Russia or Belarus, to find their way to a camp conveniently right on the border with Poland. Then shoving them across.

    But there was that one time when there seemed to be a bit of friction between Lukashenko and his CEO. That was in 2014, when Russia invaded Ukraine the first time. With protests in his own country, and concerns that Russia would gobble up Ukraine then look on Belarus as a tasty dessert, Lukashenko stopped delivering speeches in his usual Russian, switched to the Belarusian dialect, and made repeated statements saying “We are not Russian, we are Belarusians.” Not only was Lukashenko concerned by the opposition of people inside Belarus to Russia’s invasion of their neighbor, it’s hard to be a dictator when you don’t have a country left to dictate to.

    For the next three years, things were chilly between Minsk and Moscow, with a series of trade disputes and arguments over exactly where to draw the border. Since then, relationships have warmed up again — as is obvious by how Russia has based much of its attack on Ukraine from sites in Belarus. Not just planes and missiles, but that infamous “40 kilometer convoy” of forces moving down toward Kyiv came out of Belarus.

    Even so, Lukashenko has not yet provided Putin with any soldiers. On the other hand, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of Belarusian volunteers working with the Ukrainian military. Belarusians inside and outside Belarus are not supportive of Putin’s invasion. [video available at the link]

    So where can Putin go for more forces? There have certainly been attempts to pull more Russian troops off of other borders — though well-justified paranoia means that many of those troops have to remain in place. There have also been claims that “40,000 Syrians” were on their way to Ukraine. Putin seemed excited to have them. So long as they were coming for free. Those forces, if they exist at all, are still in Syria.

    But there was a sign on Saturday that the Russians had located an ally willing to send actual troops to Ukraine. [video available at the link] This truck is full of troops waving the banner of South Ossetia. That’s another “breakaway republic” where Russia has fanned dissatisfaction and recognized a country-within-a-country to help dissolve ideas of national unity, this time in Georgia. The problem with this particular ally is that the total population of South Ossetia is about 53,000 people. If they were actually sending their armed forces to Ukraine, they would all likely fit in the truck […]

    But it’s not likely that South Ossetia is actually sending anyone at all. Because to reinforce just how much South Ossetia really wants to be part of Russia, and not part of Georgia, Russia keeps about 3,500 troops stationed there — just under 7% of the total population — in case anyone forgets who they’re supposed to favor.

    So the truck likely contains some of those Russia troops, taken from one “breakaway republic” in Georgia, and shipped to another “breakaway republic” in Ukraine. It’s all for show, and the numbers aren’t enough to make even the most modest difference.

    What it really shows is just how few friends Putin really has left.

  108. says

    At least three missiles [some reports say two missiles] have hit targets near Lviv, on Ukraine’s western border. One hit a communications tower. Another hit near oil tanks. One may have targeted a military training area.

    The report on Friday that the Defense Department believes Russia may have a failure rate as high as 60% on precision guided weapons makes these strikes particularly concerning. It’s not difficult to imagine one of these going off course sufficiently to land in Poland.

    Link, the 10:31:55 AM post by Mark Sumner.

  109. says

    […] Operation: Little Man Vlad Plays War is still going exactly according to plan, assuming the intention was to ensure the world remembers Putin as the single dumbest agent of atrocity in all human history.

    The Russian military continues its extremely public deterioration into an impotent pile of roughly-used kitty litter. They’re actually losing ground now, losing officers, and even warships, in addition to the, you know, thousands and thousands of troops. Still, morale seems to be holding up; incidents of Russian soldiers running over their commanders with tanks have largely remained isolated thus far.

    Meanwhile, the West just keeps on finding new sanctions in the sofa cushions, while diligently filling Zelensky’s increasingly-specific shopping lists. Oh, and Europe is moving with impressive speed and efficiency* towards a massive decoupling from Russian energy, so I don’t think your adorable little “economy” will even qualify for the G20 in a couple weeks, but it’s certainly amusing that you imagine you can just show up at the meeting with a case of High Life, ready to dazzle Olaf Scholz with your Euphoria takes like nothing happened. Like anyone gives a shit what Dumber Hitler wants the global economy to look like.

    In fairness, you’ve been a bit off your game lately, Vlad-o. Now that you’re running out of missiles, […] I see the best the mighty strongman can muster is feeble whinging that he’s getting “cancelled,” like J.K. Rowling. Wallowing in mewling victimhood, like a third-rate Donald Trump. Ouch.

    […] it’s spectacular to behold. […] Incidentally, little man, superpowers don’t need to beg Belarus for battlefield bailouts.

    Speaking of Lukashenko’s pathetic little puppet state, they granted asylum to fugitive January 6th terrorist Evan Neumann, because sometimes history feels the need to tie a few threads together into one great big, fucked up bow. Either to amuse us or drive us insane, I can’t figure out which.

    Well, the Ye Gods Look Upon the Fallen State of American Conservatism Pageant, excuse me, “Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing,” went more or less exactly how you knew it would…hour upon hour of the cringiest imaginable posturing from the dullest assholes on the planet, as they competed for the affections of an attention span-challenged hate cult.

    Master sleuth Josh Hawley uncovered the Democratic Party’s nefarious court-packing plot to elevate the rights of child pornographers above all others. That’s right, Josh, QAnon is 100% real, and the endgame involves putting pedophiles in ultimate charge of just who has to bake whose cakes. Roy Moore is totally down with that plan, by the way. So is Matt Gaetz. And Josh Duggar. And Ruben Verastigui. And Adam Hageman. And Ralph Shortey. But sure, this is a huge problem…for the Left. Sure.

    Or, and bear with me, maybe Josh Hawley is […] intentionally spreading disinformation that’s widely understood to provoke violence, because he’s a fascist working to burn American democracy down in order to piss in the ashes.

    As for Hawley’s distinguished Judiciary Committee colleagues…oh, fucking hell, do I really have to catalog all this crap? What is it about a SCOTUS confirmation that makes these clowns waggle their subpar asses at the world so aggressively?

    Like, why did Marsha Blackburn feel it necessary to randomly demonstrate her inability to pass a fifth grade social studies test? WHY? What made Lindsey Graham wave his soiled trousers so proudly before the assembled cameras? Why in seven hells did Ted Cruz think Racist Story Time With My Shitty Beard would benefit him in any way? What meth-addled beetle burrowed into Mike Braun’s brain and told him to take an unprompted shot at interracial marriage? What is in the goddamn water over there, kids?

    […] you are not attracting the audience you think you are with your Trumpian tantrums. Shit, Tom Cotton’s such a dreary little freak, nothing from his sorry rant managed to even break through. […] I despise your ideology of hatred, but I’m also embarrassed for you.

    Now, despite the all-you-can-dog-whistle buffet presented by a Black woman’s confirmation hearing in the middle of a manufactured panic over “critical race theory,” Republican Senators still can’t get away with being quiiiiiiiiite as openly racist as they might like, but never fear, shitbags, wingnut pundits like Charlie Kirk are NOT shy about picking up the slack.

    Ron DeSantis apparently decided there’s no worthier use of a governor’s time or power than rearranging NCAA swimming results in the name of transphobia. […] what the fuck is wrong with you, dude? Why are you like this?

    Still, you keep hearing about how these acts of raw hatred are actually huge political winners for DeSantis. And like, yeah, I get it; the Republican base is primarily motivated by and interested in hurting people, and making them afraid; it’s called ascendant fascism, yo.

    […] check out the latest bit of fuckery from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, his barely restrained glee at deploying his shiny new powers to stamp out one individual school district’s Pride Week.

    Like…what a senselessly hateful thing to even want to do. I understand we have differing views on what government is for and what it should be allowed to do, but the idea that the state should intentionally harm children because…well, because that’s what bigots want…that’s a really fucked up idea, you guys.

    […] Hey House Republicans, I know that enabling wealthy criminals is sort of your thing, but now that Nebraska Congressthug Jeff Fortenberry has been convicted on three federal felony counts, could we maybe strip him of his lawmaking authority sometime soon? I wouldn’t want to interrupt anyone who’s preening for the cameras about how “tough on crime” they are, of course.

    Oh, and SPEAKING OF, turns out Mark Meadows’ insurrectionist bride joined him in his clumsy commission of that rarest of crimes: voter fraud! And friends, there is no damn way to plead ignorance here. “Your Honor, I sincerely believed that claiming a random mobile home where I have absolutely never once lived as my official residence was totally legal.” […].

    America, I ask you…where are the Meadows’ matching LOCK HIM/HER UP chants? Because I’ve been told, for fucking YEARS now, by pious politicians and rage-blind internet commenters alike, that voter fraud must be punished, responsible as it is for the theft of everything that’s pure and good and right about this country, and as many as thirty bald eagle deaths annually.

    […] these two twerps are nailed to the goddamn wall here, because they were too fucking stupid to not get caught.I […] I’m saying, YOU’RE RIGHT, REPUBLICANS, let us protect the integrity of our elections by prosecuting these crooks to the fullest extent of the law. I’ll give you a ride to the courthouse so we can watch the sentencing together.

    Oh, I suppose we shouldn’t move on from Meadows without mentioning his treasonously batshit text exchanges with Ginni Thomas during the period of the Attempted Assclown Autogolpe. I mean, not a huge deal or anything, just the CHIEF OF STAFF TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES and the wife of a Supreme Court Justice tossing Sydney Powell’s Q-sodden ravings around to justify their criminal conspiracy to steal the federal government from the American people, in the name of their malformed, mediocre, white nationalist god. Normal, healthy shit from a smoothly-functioning modern democracy.

    Oh man, the sad, shabby, loser slap fight between Donald Trump and Mo Brooks! Jeeeeezus. Loser un-endorses other loser, accomplishing little beyond shining a white-hot spotlight on both losers’ rapidly-vanishing clout. […]

    Mo, you traitorous taintwart, you knew he was a snake when you incited a terrorist mob to attack Congress in his name,so expect no tears over this reversal of fortune, though if you’re in the mood for a little payback, I don’t imagine the January 6th commission is difficult to reach. Oh, and Donnie? The loserstink is coming from YOU, dawg.

    The Deposed Dotard must be going stir-crazy, pacing around Marm-a-Lago, watching his endorsement lose value faster than the ruble, which explains why he’s lobbed another doomed nuisance lawsuit at Hillary Clinton n’ friends. There must be something sadomasochistically comforting about the dependable ritual of humiliating legal defeat, right? […]

    Well, speaking only for myself, I need to tear myself away from the news now, before my brain runs screaming from my skull, so I’m going to set my tablet down in favor of a craft beer tasting I hope will last through the weekend. […]

    Link

  110. says

    About the speech Biden gave in Warsaw today:

    President Biden on Saturday said that Russian President Vladimir Putin can’t remain in power and hit the autocrat over the destruction the American leader says Putin is wreaking on the Ukrainian people.

    “Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia, for free people refuse to live in a world of hopelessness and darkness. We will have a different future, a brighter future, rooted in democracy and principles, hope and light, of decency and dignity, of freedom, and possibilities,” Biden said during a speech in front of the Polish presidential palace Saturday night, local time. “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”

    Biden spoke directly to the Russian people, looking at the camera in front of 750 to 1000 people. The crowd was made up of a mix of Polish citizens, Ukrainian refugees and government officials from both countries.

    “You the Russian people are not our enemy. I refuse to believe that you welcome the killing of innocent children and grandparents. Or that you accept hospitals, schools, maternity wards, and for God’s sake, being pummeled with Russian missiles and bombs,” he said.

    He noted that Russian troops are stopping Ukrainians from fleeing and causing people to starve while they are trapped.

    “This war is not worthy of you, the Russian people. Putin can and must end this war. The American people will stand with you and the brave citizens of Ukraine who want peace,” he said.

    After his remarks, a White House official clarified Biden’s comments, saying that the president meant Putin should not have power outside of Russia.

    [The walkback:] “The President’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region. He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change,” the official said.

    In his remarks, the president also noted the courage of the Ukrainian people who are fighting back against the Russian forces in their country.

    “We’re seeing it once again today, the brave Ukrainian people showing that their power of many is greater than the will of any one dictator,” the president said.

    In a simple message to the Ukrainian people, Biden said: “We stand with you. Period.”

    Biden declared that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was democratically elected and called Putin’s claims that he is de-nazifying Ukraine cynical and obscene lies. […]

    Link

  111. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    Mayor: nobody killed in Saturday missile strikes on Lviv

    Nobody was killed in the missile strikes on Lviv today, according to Andriy Sadovyi, the mayor of Lviv.

    Reuters is reporting that the missiles were fired from the Sevastopol in Crimea. Maksym Kozytskyy, the governor of the Lviv region, said that the strikes hit a fuel depot and a defence facility.

    Though no one was killed, five people were wounded.

  112. says

    There was a message to all Russians in the first cases under Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hunt for what he calls “scum and traitors.”

    That message is that no one is too small to escape notice.

    Authorities arrested an Interior Ministry technician for talking privately on the phone. They also nabbed people holding blank placards inferring opposition to the war; a woman wearing a hat in Ukraine’s yellow-and blue colors, and a Siberian carpenter in Tomsk named Stanislav Karmakskikh who was holding a poster of an 1871 Vasily Vereshchagin artwork called “The Apotheosis of War.” […]

    The speed of Russia’s transformation to Soviet-style “self-purification” has been astonishing. When Russia invaded Ukraine last month, state TV went to wall-to-wall propaganda blaming Ukrainian “neo-Nazis” and “nationalists.” Now, shadowy pro-Putin figures are daubing the words “traitor to the motherland” on the doors of peace activists and others.

    […] Websites with names have sprung up encouraging Russians to denounce “traitors,” “enemies,” “cowards” and “fugitives” who oppose the war.

    One of the first three people charged Russia’s tough wartime censorship law was Marina Novikova, a 63-year-old pensioner with 170 Telegram followers. […]

    Others have headed for the borders. Actors, celebrities, business executives, singers, dancers, writers. IT workers and independent journalists are among those who have left Russia. […]

    State television staffer Marina Ovsyannikova — the Channel One producer who made global headlines on March 14 when she held up an antiwar poster during a news broadcast — feared she could face 15 years jail. […]

    Her words tumble out, one thought after another. She hesitates about saying something that might land her in more trouble but says it anyway.

    “Propaganda in Russia has become ugly. Our country is in a total darkness now. Anyone can be called a national traitor or a ‘fifth columnist’ now for just taking part in a rally,” she said in an interview before the court decision.

    For years, she looked away as repressions piled up, taking a good state salary telling herself she was doing it for her family. “But you get to the point of no return when it’s beyond the limit of absolute evil. And a normal person can’t stand it any longer. You just can’t go on.”

    That point came when she woke up to hear the invasion had started.

    “I was so shocked. I could not eat or sleep.” At work, “the atmosphere was very depressing and stressful. I saw these breaking news reports all the time. I realized that I could not work there anymore.”

    […] Cars carrying imperial flags and bearing the letter Z, a symbol of support for the war, have appeared in Russian cities and towns.

    “It’s hard to believe that these people are real and that they actually believe that this military operation is a way to save Russia, because none of this is going to bring any good,” she said.

    Kirill Martynov, political editor of Novaya Gazeta, was denounced as a traitor and dismissed recently by two universities where he taught two philosophy courses. A parent had heard him tell students that civilians were being killed in Ukraine. […]

    “There will be a kind of hunt for traitors in the next months and we’ll see a lot of criminal prosecutions, because they need some explanation of what is happening in Russia and, if Russia is so great and Putin is such a wise person, why is life in Russia so bad now,” he added.

    […] A prominently featured article on state-owned RIA Novosti news site by conservative commentator Pyotr Akopov bore the headline” “Russia of the future: Forward to the USSR.” He wrote that “the spirit of Russian history, the spirit of our ancestors gives us a chance not just to atone for the collapse of the Soviet Union. It gives us a chance to fix it through creation, through the rebirth of the great Russia.”

    Calling for new Russocentric thinking, he argued that Russian intellectuals and oligarchs were mental slaves of the West, who wanted to copy it […]

    “What does this mean?” tweeted historian Ian Garner, who specializes in the study of Russian propaganda. “In sum: a rooting out of anyone accused of being ‘un-Russian’ in thinking or culture.” […]

    Washington Post link

  113. says

    Guardian – “Russian soldiers release Ukraine town’s mayor and agree to leave after protests”:

    A mayor in a Ukrainian town occupied by Russian forces has been released from captivity and the soldiers have agreed to leave after a mass protest by residents.

    Slavutych, a northern town close to the Chernobyl nuclear site, was taken by Russian forces but stun grenades and overhead fire failed to disperse unarmed protesters on its main square on Saturday.

    The crowd demanded the release of mayor Yuri Fomichev, who had been taken prisoner by the Russian troops.

    Attempts by Russian troops to intimidate the growing protest failed and on Saturday afternoon Fomichev was let go by his captors.

    An agreement was made that the Russians would leave the town if those with arms handed them over to the mayor with a dispensation for those with hunting rifles.

    Fomichev told those protesting that the Russians had agreed to withdraw “if there are no [Ukrainian] military in the city”.

    The deal struck, the mayor said, was that the Russians would make a search for Ukrainian soldiers and arms and then depart. One Russian checkpoint outside the city would remain.

    The incident highlights the struggle that Russian forces have faced even where they have had military victories.

    Slavutych, population 25,000, sits just outside the so-called exclusion zone around Chernobyl – which in 1986 was the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster. The plant itself was seized by Russian forces soon after the start of the 24 February invasion.

    “The Russians opened fire into the air. They threw flash-bang grenades into the crowd. But the residents did not disperse, on the contrary, more of them showed up,” said Oleksandr Pavlyuk, a governor of the Kyiv region in which Slavutych sits.

    Meanwhile, Ukraine’s defence ministry claimed that Russia was “trying to intensify the activities of sabotage and reconnaissance groups in Kyiv in order to destabilise the socio-political situation, disrupt the system of public and military administration”….

  114. says

    Ukraine update: Stink, stank, stunk. The Russian military has always been awful

    In 1962, Barbara Tuchman wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Guns of August. The book tells the story of the first weeks of World War I, and in particular how assumptions and alliances that were supposed to make sure that such a war could not happen, turned into a house of cards that guaranteed a continent-spanning catastrophe.

    The fifth chapter of that classic text is called “The Russian Steam Roller,” and it focuses on the assumptions that Europe made about the key role Russia would play in preventing, or ending, any war. “The Russian colossus exercised a spell upon Europe,” wrote Tuchman. The perception of Russia’s size and might gave the French reassurance that the Germans would not dare to attack them. And perversely made the Germans anxious to attack quickly and conquer France before that “steam roller” could sweep them from the east.

    “Although the defects of the Russian army were notorious, although the Russian winter, not the Russian army had turned back Napoleon from Moscow, although it had been defeated on its own soil by the French and British in Crimea, although the Turks in 1877 had outfought it at the siege of Plevna, although the Japanese had outfought it in Manchuria, a myth of its invincibility prevailed. The savage cavalry charge of yelling Cossacks was such a fixture in European minds that newspaper artists in August 1914, were able to draw it in stirring detail without having been within a thousand miles of the Russian front.”

    Everyone knew that in Russia’s last engagement against Japan, that army’s performance had been nothing short of abysmal, and despite bringing huge numbers to the field, it has been simply taken apart in battle. Even so, “The army’s efforts to purge incompetence and corruption since the war with Japan were believed to have brought improvement.”

    Does any of that sound familiar? In much more recent writing, University of Chicago foreign policy professor Paul Poast picks up the theme.

    “Many are surprised by the poor performance of Russia’s military in Ukraine,” writes Poast. “But let’s be honest: when it comes to fighting wars, Russia has always — to use the formal term — ‘stunk’.”

    Poast cites one of histories most famous infographics to show how Russia’s victory against Napoleon is really one of cold weather and distance reducing a force to a shadow. [graph and tweet available at the link]

    He points out that even in the Russo-Finnish “Winter War” of 1939, Russia “won” the conflict by simply piling on the bodies. giving up between five and seven soldiers for every one lost by Finland. The ratio of losses when it came to tanks and aircraft were even worse.

    […] Wikipedia, has to say about the Winter War.

    “The Soviets made several demands, including that Finland cede substantial border territories … Most sources conclude that the Soviet Union had intended to conquer all of Finland, and [establish a] puppet Finnish Communist government.”

    Instead, Russia settled for those small border territories after four months of fighting, in which it’s total casualties were 168,000 killed, 207,000 wounded, and 5,600 captured. Of the Russian wounded, over 61,000 suffered from frostbite.

    Russia demanded territory, then made a move to capture the whole nation, then suffered extraordinary casualties before signing onto a deal for a chunk of territory roughly the size of it’s initial demands. The only reason Russia was able to get even that much was that … there was no organized opposition to assist Finland. Busy fretting over Germany, Europe and the U.S. watched from the sidelines. Meanwhile, it was Russia’s miserable performance that convinced Hitler to turn on them and attack. Because he forgot that Napoleon thing, about all the distance and cold.

    As Poast points out, even Russia’s wars on Chechen separatists, largely ignored by the West, were anything but romps. Russia genuinely lost the first of these wars, and before reducing Chechnya to rubble in the second, Russia suffered 160,000 casualties. Poast produces this graph, looking not so much at “wins” but at casualties. [Tweet, with graph available at the link]

    In half the wars that Russia has participated in, Russia lost more people than anyone else, regardless of the number of participants. Whether fighting someone head to head, or as one of several nations in a more extended conflict, Russia “won” the contest by losing more of its own.

    With all the pundits talking about the war now turning into a “war of attrition,” this is what that really means.

    “The Russian military essentially uses an ‘attrition model,’” writes Poast. “Keep taking losses until the other side quits, is destroyed, or, if the fighting goes long enough, Russia itself decides to stop fighting.”

    Russia has not changed these tactics in two centuries. Its miserably equipped, miserably led army wins conflicts not by defeating enemies on the battlefield, but by being willing to keep taking losses long after there is no rational way of achieving anything that makes sense as “victory” in a sense of value for the lives and cost expended. It’s a model that’s made possible by an almost unbroken of autocratic rule that makes it possible to feed intolerable numbers into the meat grinder without political consequences. [Good points, accurate.]

    Right now, the Ukrainian government sets Russia’s casualties at over 40,000 after a month, with 15,500 killed. That’s actually less than the rate at which Russia burned through its troops in the Winter War. For Ukraine, the losses are around 1,300 killed, and 5,000 wounded. Russia will take those odds. And if feeding the new crop of spring conscripts into the mix elevates the ratio to 15:1 or 20:1, they’ll do that, too.

    The only way to stop the war is to stop Russia’s ability to use the artillery, missiles, and bombs it uses to savage Ukrainian civilians. And to do that, Ukraine needs a steady resupply from the West — the one thing Finland did not have in 1940.

  115. says

    Wonkette: GOP Senate Candidate Excited To Murder All Us ‘Godless Communists’

    MAGA Pastor Jarrin Jackson announced his plans to run for state Senate in Oklahoma this week, complete with an extremely normal and well-adjusted seeming campaign ad. Standing in front of a pick-up-truck, donning his jazziest Osh Kosh B’Goshes, Jackson menacingly sharpens a knife and prattles on about how he wants to be “unleashed” for the purposes of fighting a war against communism.

    Jackson is a Christian nationalist and former soldier with a great love of militias and a penchant for extreme violence — a personality cocktail that has not, may we just note, always worked out so great for the state of Oklahoma. [video available at the link]

    “We are at war with communism. Or I should say, communism is at war with us. This war is designed to not look like a war,” Jackson, a person who definitely knows what communism is, explained. “They’re coming for our kids. They’ve destroyed the economy. They’ve hostaged the government. I’m a Bible-believing Christian. I believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. I also think it’s the only way we overcome. I think it’s the way that we win. I know it’s the way that we win. I’m running for state senate, and on June 28, I’d like to ask for your vote and for you to unleash me.”

    This, as RightWingWatch notes, is not the first time that Jackson has expressed his thirst for communist blood. In fact, he has been known to go on and on about how “fleshly” good it would feel to shoot “godless communists” in the face. The only things keeping him from doing this, he says, is that he is a Bible believing Christian and that it might be illegal, though he’s not sure about that. [Additional videos available at the link]

    Pastor Jackson also shared his beautiful dream of using military tribunals to send “godless communists” to “burn forever in a lake of fire,” while speaking at a rally last year for Oklahoma GOP Senate hopeful Jackson Lahmeyer. [Video available at the link.]

    I would just like to state that I would not personally wish for Jarrin Jackson or literally anyone else with whom I disagree to burn in a lake of fire for all eternity, and that I definitely do not see the appeal of shooting someone in the face — and not just because I’m an atheist. After all, while I may be a socialist, I am not a sociopath.

    Jackson also has some things to say on his campaign website that don’t sound at all like the manifesto of a mass murderer and/or a particularly angry post on an incel messageboard:

    Sexual “liberation” and Darwin’s lie of evolution have misled an entire generation of Americans to believe that God does not exist and that degenerate sexual behavior should be accepted. Our children are being exposed to sexually explicit materials at a young age in public school, and have become the targets of the worst kinds of sexual predators. We must speak out and root out perversion from our society for the sake of our children. Moreover, we must give every child the opportunity of life, and raise every child to love their neighbors as God loves us, instead of hating others because their skin color fits a narrative.

    Gee, I wonder what would happen were someone to make a chart detailing the numbers of convicted sexual predators who are teachers who tell kids that LGBTQ+ people exist vs. the numbers of convicted sexual predators who are members of the Christian clergy. That doesn’t exist, sadly, but there is a study showing that 93 percent of convicted child molesters describe themselves as religious, a far higher rate than the general population of the US, in which only 71 percent describe themselves as religious.

    The state of Oklahoma has outlawed red flag laws, but they just may want to consider keeping a close eye on whatever replaced the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building should Jackson lose his election, given his ideological similarities to another former US soldier who loved militias.

  116. says

    Julia Davis:

    They watch Russian state TV, which constantly tells them they’re winning in Ukraine, and this is what they come up with as the most logical next step:

    Meanwhile in #Russia: Deputy of the Moscow City Duma Sergei Savostyanov proposed for Russia to expand its so-called “military operation” and “denazify” Poland, the Baltics, Moldova and Kazakhstan.

  117. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 156

    And nothing is going to be done about this redneck shit, right? His threats are allowed and protected by our precious, outdated first amendment. When he gets into office and has the power to act out on his terrorist fantasies, the press won’t even report these comments. I bet the feds don’t know and don’t care that he’s there.

    Fuck this country.

  118. says

    SpyTalk – “Spy Agency Chat Room Hate Speech Draws Hill Scrutiny”:

    The House and Senate intelligence oversight committees are looking into hate speech that has flourished in spy agency chat rooms over the past five years, spokespersons there tell SpyTalk. The House Armed Services Committee is also “aware of these allegations and we are working with the relevant agencies to assess the claim,” said Caleb H. Randall-Bodman, the panel’s spokesman.

    Dan Gilmore, who worked in an administrative group overseeing internal chat rooms for the classified Intelink system for over a decade starting in 2011, says that by late in the third year of the Trump administration the system was afire with incendiary hate-filled commentary, especially on “eChirp,” the intelligence community’s clone of Twitter [LOL].

    “I was the admin of this application and after a couple years, it became a dumpster fire” of hate speech directed at minorities, women, gays, transexuals and Muslims,[“] Gilmore, a 30-year veteran of Navy and NSA cryptologic systems, wrote March 10 in an extraordinary public post on his own web site. Gilmore was an NSA contractor from 1999 until he was forced out last July “because I made someone look bad,” he wrote.

    “Professionalism was thrown out the window, and flame wars became routine,” he said. In a SpyTalk interview last week, he said he “can’t quantify” the degree to which the hate speech in the chat rooms was representative of the IC workforce at large, but he wrote on his blog that “there were many employees at CIA, DIA, NSA, and other IC agencies that openly stated that the January 6th terrorist attack on our Capitol was justified.”…

    Much more at the link.

  119. says

    Nature – “Evaluation of science advice during the COVID-19 pandemic in Sweden.”

    Abstract (I haven’t yet read the full article, which is available at the link):

    Sweden was well equipped to prevent the pandemic of COVID-19 from becoming serious. Over 280 years of collaboration between political bodies, authorities, and the scientific community had yielded many successes in preventive medicine. Sweden’s population is literate and has a high level of trust in authorities and those in power. During 2020, however, Sweden had ten times higher COVID-19 death rates compared with neighbouring Norway. In this report, we try to understand why, using a narrative approach to evaluate the Swedish COVID-19 policy and the role of scientific evidence and integrity. We argue that that scientific methodology was not followed by the major figures in the acting authorities—or the responsible politicians—with alternative narratives being considered as valid, resulting in arbitrary policy decisions. In 2014, the Public Health Agency merged with the Institute for Infectious Disease Control; the first decision by its new head (Johan Carlson) was to dismiss and move the authority’s six professors to Karolinska Institute. With this setup, the authority lacked expertise and could disregard scientific facts. The Swedish pandemic strategy seemed targeted towards “natural” herd-immunity and avoiding a societal shutdown. The Public Health Agency labelled advice from national scientists and international authorities as extreme positions, resulting in media and political bodies to accept their own policy instead. The Swedish people were kept in ignorance of basic facts such as the airborne SARS-CoV-2 transmission, that asymptomatic individuals can be contagious and that face masks protect both the carrier and others. Mandatory legislation was seldom used; recommendations relying upon personal responsibility and without any sanctions were the norm. Many elderly people were administered morphine instead of oxygen despite available supplies, effectively ending their lives. If Sweden wants to do better in future pandemics, the scientific method must be re-established, not least within the Public Health Agency. It would likely make a large difference if a separate, independent Institute for Infectious Disease Control is recreated. We recommend Sweden begins a self-critical process about its political culture and the lack of accountability of decision-makers to avoid future failures, as occurred with the COVID-19 pandemic.

  120. says

    From the Guardian:

    “Questions abound as Trump raises – and hoards – huge sums of 2024 cash”: “Without any declared candidacy, and with little spent on Republican candidates, the purpose of Trump’s war chest remains opaque…”

    “As the imperial ties are being cast aside, a royal tour was always going to be a farce”: “It’s not so much that William and Kate ‘performed’ badly on their Caribbean charm offensive. It’s more that the show is out of date…”

  121. says

    Here’s a link to today’s Guardian Ukraine liveblog. From there:

    Ukrainian troops are reporting that Russian forces are deploying white phosphorus against them near the eastern city of Avdiivka. While these reports cannot be confirmed, Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy told Nato leaders earlier this week that Russia had used phosphorus bombs that had killed adults and children.

    Russia is trying to split Ukraine in two to create a Moscow-controlled region after failing to take over the whole country, the head of Ukrainian military intelligence said on Sunday.

    “In fact, it is an attempt to create North and South Korea in Ukraine,” Kyrylo Budanov said in a statement, adding that Ukraine would soon launch guerrilla warfare in Russian-occupied territory.

    Despite reaching one of the darkest moments in more than 40 years as a dissident and human rights activist, Oleg Orlov says that he has no plans to flee Russia.

    “I made a decision a long time ago that I want to live and die in Russia, it’s my country,” Orlov told the Observer. “Even though it’s never been so bad.”

    That’s saying something for Orlov, who can recall printing homemade anti-war posters in the late 1970s to protest against the Russian invasion of Afghanistan or in support of Poland’s Solidarnost movement, and was an observer and negotiator during the bloody war in Chechnya in the 1990s.

    He has been arrested three times for holding pickets since late February, when Russian troops launched an assault on Ukraine. And he doesn’t rule out a prison term in his future.

    “I understand the high likelihood of a criminal case against me and my colleagues,” he said. “But we have to do something … even if it is just to go out with a picket and speak honestly about what is happening.”

    Tens of thousands of Russians have fled the country since it invaded Ukraine, fearing a wave of government repression and a possible closure of Russia’s borders similar to what happened in the Soviet Union.

  122. StevoR says

    FWIW (& yeah, this may be very little) one of my brothers – who was a nurse for many years – reckons Putin is on steroids due to the apparently characteristic “moonface” look he has. He does know what he’s talking about inmy view but of course I’m baised here but still maybe interesting?

  123. says

    ITV – “LGBT+ Ukrainians fight for ‘the freedom to be free’ as the global community offers support”:

    Ukrainians resisting the Russian invasion are fighting for their “freedom to be free”, none more so than LGBT+ people.

    ITV News has spoken to Kyiv Pride and Rebel Queers (an activist group founded in Kyiv) about how the war has impacted LGBT+ Ukrainians.

    Cay, from Rebel Queers, described how the group went from carrying out acts of defiance (graffitiing the capital and daubing buildings with the LGBT+ flag) to “fighting for our freedom and the freedom of other queer people” against Russia.

    “Russia’s fascist regime would kill queer people, there would be repressions, so of course we’re going to fight for our freedom and the freedom of other queer people as well,” they said.

    “Protecting their own rights is one of the things motivating queer people to fight, but it’s more complex because it’s our home and if someone comes to your home and tries to kill you of course you’re going to fight and protect yourself.”

    “How can Putin even think he can invade Ukraine and it would be easy and he would win? Ukrainians are different, we’re going to fight for our freedom and we’re not going to let some f****** fascist come and rule.”

    Though same-sex relationships in Russia are legal, the country has erased LGBT+ rights and offers no protections against discrimination. A federal law bans the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships” to under-18s (akin to the UK’s own Section 28 which was repealed in 2003).

    The fight of LGBT+ Ukrainians is taking many forms.

    Some people stayed and took up arms or volunteered as medical support to the Ukrainian army, others found safety elsewhere in Europe and from there have organised fundraising, emergency supplies, and offered support for refugees.

    Lenny Emson, director of Kyiv Pride, said: “In the past 29 days, we have reworked everything that we were doing and absolutely changed what we do.

    “We’re protecting our way of life, our freedom to be free.”

    “We feel that the community is united, despite the borders and the situation, we are together and as LGBTQIA people we help each other.”

    Like so many of the Ukrainian people ITV News has spoken to since February 24, she/he remains defiant that Russia will not succeed. Each June, Kyiv Pride organises an equality march through the capital and this year, Lenny says, will be no different.

    “This year the march of equality will turn 10 years and we hope to celebrate it along with a victory – when the Russians will be kicked out of Ukraine finally.”…

  124. says

    Ukraine update: The critical importance of rivers for Ukraine’s defense

    Western Ukraine has undulating-to-mountainous terrain, which is why Belarus will never attack. It’s easy to defend such territory. But out in the east, where the ground war is being fought, it’s as flat as a pancake, the western side of the great Eurasian Steppes, where nomads roamed for centuries. It’s great farmland, the breadbasket of Europe, and, it turns out, much of the Middle East and Northern Africa as well.

    Great farmland, however, makes for shitty defensive ground. Amber waves of grain might offer some visual cover in the summer, but you don’t even get that in the winter. Yet Russia and its separatist allies haven’t been able to push deep into Ukraine’s interior. Part of that, of course, is the ferocious tenacity of Ukraine’s defenders. But they also have two natural allies in the war—the spring mud, which we’ve already discussed, and the region’s network of rivers.

    Where are the battle lines drawn in northwest Kyiv? [map available at the link]

    Bucha, to the north of the Bucha River, is Russian held. Directly to the south? Irpin, Ukrainian held, and this is where we’ve been since the first week of the war. Further assisting defenders on that Northwest approach is the Irpin River, which Ukraine flooded to create, well, this: [video available at the link]

    Several Russian attempts to bridge the Irpin River with pontoon bridges were swept away by the rising river waters.

    In the south, Kherson sits on the north side of the Dneiper River, and you might remember the back-and-forth battles in the war’s first few days for the bridge crossing that river. No one knows why Ukraine didn’t blow it up, as it would’ve dramatically altered the Russian advance. [map available at the link]

    […] that’s a big river. There was no pontoon bridge crossing that sucker, which would’ve forced Russians to route to the east, lengthening supply lines and giving Kherson time to dig in for defense. The push up north to Mykolaiv would’ve been hindered. But speaking of Mykolaiv …[map available at the link]

    Russia wanted to push past Kherson, and head west to the strategic port city of Odesa. However, it’s impossible to do so without crossing the Southern Bug River. Russia thought, “fuck it, we’ll bypass it!” However, the next crossing wasn’t possible until the city of Voznesensk, 80 kilometers (50 miles) away! And if you’ve been paying attention, the battle of Voznesensk was the beginning of the great Ukrainian counterattack. But had Russian forces pushed their way into the city, defenders were ready to blow up the bridge. Russia was never going to cross there. Looking at the map, the next crossing wasn’t until Oleksandrivka, which was another 15 miles up the road, and that bridge would’ve been blown. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    Yesterday we took a look at Ukrainian offensives around the country, and we learned that the hamlet of Vilkhivka, just east of Kharkiv, had been liberated. Looking at the map, we see it opens up the highway that rings the outside of the city. But there’s another benefit. Let’s look at the map: [map available at the link]

    Well look at that, it’s a river! This one is called the Rohanka. And look at the closeup of this speck of a village: [map available at the link]

    That’s the whole town of Vilkhivka, but it has that all-important bridge. Now Ukraine can leave a garrison behind to defend the bridge, or, if necessary, blow it.

    Let’s go to Donbas front. Someone asked in a previous story of mine why Ukraine was fighting for Severodonetsk, since it was surrounded on three sides. [map available at the link]

    To the right you have Severodonetsk, under unbelievable shelling and constant attacks. To the left is Izyum. The fighting is desperate, existential. And you know why they hold on those cities so tightly? [map available at the link]

    Yup! There’s a river! Russia wants to encircle Ukraine’s defensive positions on that broader front, but to do so, they have to cross the Seversky Donets river. Same thing in Izyum, which Russia had captured, but Ukraine has been fighting to win it back.

    Russia has the north half of town, Ukraine has battled back to hold the southern half, and both those bridges have been blown. Therefore, Russia has had to find other ways to cross the river. [photo showing pontoon bridge build by Russians available at the link]

    Except Ukrainian artillery or drones target those pontoon bridges, as they did near Kyiv: [photos available at the link]

    Here’s another broken pontoon near Kyiv. Also, Mykolaiv Oblast [video available at the link]

    You know where Russia has had the most success? Around Mariupol. And you know what’s missing down there? Rivers, of course.

    Keep the geography of rivers in mind when you wonder why Ukraine is putting up a fight in one place, but not others. And also note, what helps Ukraine defend, could hinder Ukraine if it ever manages to go on a full-scale offensive. Once Kherson is liberated, do they blow the bridge south of the city, thus protecting it from southern approach, or do they keep it open for potentially pushing south into Crimea? All those bridges they’ve blown northwest of Kyiv can slow counterattacks. You get the picture.

    And thus concludes my big, long, extended look at rivers.

  125. says

    Kind of funny:

    A whole new level of corruption and theft may have affected Russian intelligence going into the war. FSB agents kept up a pretense of bribing Ukrainian officials to conduct a coup against Zelenskyy. Actually, the FSB just pocketed the cash.

    Link. Scroll down to the 9:30 AM post from Mark Sumner

    In addition to the corruption noted above, Luliia Mendel added that Ukrainian agents who did take the money just ditched the FSB and “screwed them over.”

    In Ukraine you can’t buy loyalty to Putin.

  126. lumipuna says

    Re 155 (Lynna quoting Daily Kos on Russian/Soviet military history):

    (E)ven in the Russo-Finnish “Winter War” of 1939, Russia “won” the conflict by simply piling on the bodies. giving up between five and seven soldiers for every one lost by Finland. The ratio of losses when it came to tanks and aircraft were even worse.

    […] Wikipedia, has to say about the Winter War.

    “The Soviets made several demands, including that Finland cede substantial border territories … Most sources conclude that the Soviet Union had intended to conquer all of Finland, and [establish a] puppet Finnish Communist government.”

    Instead, Russia settled for those small border territories after four months of fighting, in which it’s total casualties were 168,000 killed, 207,000 wounded, and 5,600 captured. Of the Russian wounded, over 61,000 suffered from frostbite.

    Russia demanded territory, then made a move to capture the whole nation, then suffered extraordinary casualties before signing onto a deal for a chunk of territory roughly the size of it’s initial demands.

    Actually, the territory ceded by Finland in March 1940 was substantially larger than what the USSR had originally demanded in October 1939. AFAIK, modern Russian history books tend to conflate what was initially “needed” to improve Leningrad’s strategic position vs. what was eventually gained. This is, of course, fully consistent with memory-holing the brief attempt to capture the whole of Finland.

    The only reason Russia was able to get even that much was that … there was no organized opposition to assist Finland. Busy fretting over Germany, Europe and the U.S. watched from the sidelines.

    To be fair, Finland did receive a substantial amount of materiel support from the Western community, most importantly Sweden. Foreign volunteer fighters also made a modest input. The general spirit in Scandinavia and western Europe was very supportive of Finland, but understandably there were few spare resources to offer, and the logistics were difficult. In February-March 1940 the UK and France did eventually organize a modest expedition force, but Finland rejected it because it was deemed too little, too late to change the course of the war. Peace negotiations were already underway, because the nation was at breaking point – though that may not have been apparent to the Soviet leadership. It is possible that the threat of having a really dragged-out war involving Western powers encouraged Stalin to make the peace.

    Meanwhile, it was Russia’s miserable performance that convinced Hitler to turn on them and attack. Because he forgot that Napoleon thing, about all the distance and cold.

    Personally, I suspect Hitler was simply obsessed with the idea of conquering Russia, and would’ve convinced himself to try it anyway, no matter how feasible it seemed. Compare to Putin and Ukraine.

    Right now, the Ukrainian government sets Russia’s casualties at over 40,000 after a month, with 15,500 killed. That’s actually less than the rate at which Russia burned through its troops in the Winter War. For Ukraine, the losses are around 1,300 killed, and 5,000 wounded. Russia will take those odds. And if feeding the new crop of spring conscripts into the mix elevates the ratio to 15:1 or 20:1, they’ll do that, too.

    I haven’t seen estimates on how many Soviets died during the first month of Winter War, but it may not have been more than 20 or 30 thousand because the most grinding battles were fought around 2-3 months in. If that 15,500/40,000 figure is true, it’s really staggering because the total strength of the invasion force in Ukraine has been less than half compared to the early stages of Winter War.

    Early Finnish estimates put the Winter War casualty ratio at roughly 1 Finn to 10 Soviets – hence the jingoistic saying “One Finn can take on ten Russkies”. However, some Finns have dryly responded to this with “What about when the eleventh comes at you?”

    The only way to stop the war is to stop Russia’s ability to use the artillery, missiles, and bombs it uses to savage Ukrainian civilians. And to do that, Ukraine needs a steady resupply from the West — the one thing Finland did not have in 1940.

    I’d agree that Ukraine should be given as much aid as possible, while still keeping it essentially Ukraine’s own fight, and also letting Ukraine negotiate their own peace, at the humanitarian cost of their own choosing.

  127. says

    Ukraine update: Russia’s war crimes stem from cowardice, not strategy

    We’ve rightly paid a lot of attention to the Russian military’s “strategy” of shelling densely populated civilian areas with little apparent concern for what is being hit (maternity hospitals, theaters serving as temporary shelters, seemingly random city neighborhoods) or credible justification for doing so. When it comes to the why of Russia’s actions, though, outside analysis generally begins and ends with a generic assertion that Russia is doing it to crush the “spirit” of the resistance, or to punish that resistance, or assertions that the Russian army has a modern history of using war crimes as supposed strategy—all variations of “the cruelty is the point.”

    All of that may be true but, as I’ve alluded to before, I think it misses a more central reason why the modern Russian military has repeatedly turned to leveling civilian population centers when put into armed conflict. It is not necessarily that Russian generals are itching, on each battlefield, to turn to war crimes. It’s more likely a symptom of entrenched military cowardice.

    Why are Russian generals firing into Ukrainian cities, at targets that can’t and won’t fire back? Because it’s one of the few logistical operations the grift-riddled, impossibly corrupt military infrastructure can still execute. If you’re a Russian general looking to show that you’re working hard to achieve implausible Kremlin objectives, parking yourself outside Mariupol or Kharkiv and shelling neighborhoods into wastelands of broken concrete is a no-muss path to, if not glory, at least not being called back to Russia in preparation for your fatal “heart attack.”

    It’s where Russian generals attempt to do almost anything else that the system breaks down. But hunkering down in one place, with a static defensive perimeter and a direct rail, road, or major port to provide supplies and ammunition? That, the generals can still do.

    We’ve now seen evidence of myriad structural problems within the Russian military, all of which were known in advance but with cumulative effects that have left professional analysts reeling as the nation is exposed as having a fraction of the apparent military prowess NATO countries have long presumed.

    Russia’s mostly-conscript army is significantly undertrained, which is leading to catastrophic battlefield losses. The lack of competent noncommissioned officers—a major difference between the Russian military complex and that of the United States—is forcing high-ranking officers towards the frontlines so as to give orders and see that they are carried out. This, in turn, is resulting in the death of a shocking number of Russian generals and other top brass. […]

    Behind it all lie two flaws which now seem existential. The first is such unrelenting corruption up and down the entire chain of command and in military procurement contracts that it’s no longer clear what percentage of Russia’s supposed military stores, from food to fuel to rifles, actually exist. The second is the modern Russian reorganization into small battle units, Battalion Tactical Groups, that are weighted towards defense, not offense and which top Russian leaders have been seemingly incapable of using for large-scale operations.

    And so, time and time again, we see GRAD units unloading barrages of rockets aimed squarely at residential areas. An attack like this isn’t meant to target Ukrainian troops—it’s implausible. There’s nothing being aimed at. It’s meant solely to cause urban damage and civilian deaths. […]

    Somewhere in the Kremlin, some high-level military bureaucrat ordered that towns like Kharkiv be taken. That quickly turned into a clusterfuck, when Russian troops were met with stiff resistance instead of rose petals, and Russian battalions that managed to barely make their way through rural Ukrainian territorial defense forces are getting ripped to pieces anywhere with terrain that favors Ukrainian ambushes. Taking these cities in military-to-military conflict would cause such heavy casualties that the Russian generals at the scene aren’t foolish enough to even try.

    Instead, they’re parking outside the cities, setting up defensive lines of the sort that the Battalion Tactical Groups are theoretically designed to be good at, and unleashing as many rockets and artillery rounds as their logistics allow. There’s no attempt at military-to-military battle; faced with implausible orders to “take” population centers, generals are instead parking outside those centers, allegedly “regrouping” for weeks on end, and reporting back that they are “softening up” the cities by shooting off whatever can be shot off. […] [video available at the link]

    Again, there are no “targets” being aimed at […] And in places like Mariupol, cities with high populations, wide spreads of infrastructure, and which present few supply difficulties for Russian generals, the resident brass population has spent many weeks systemically leveling buildings while keeping their (statistically) corrupt and incompetent selves away from the ever-bungled Russian advances and retreats elsewhere.

    So long as they go through all the ammunition, they can claim they are contributing to Russia’s great and glorious victory. Eventually. It’s either that or order battle groups inside the cities, and a lot of the officers who have chosen plan B have found themselves no longer in charge of a fully functioning battle group. We’re now far enough into the war for every Russian officer to know that that’s a good way to end up dead, either from Ukrainian strikes or being run over by one of your own tanks or being summoned for the aforementioned Kremlin-sponsored heart attack.

    So military-to-military conflict is, for career-centered Russian officers who want to get out of this alive, right out. Leveling Ukrainian cities in places where the Ukrainian military can’t easily dislodge you, however, allows you to give reports about how you fired X rockets at X “targets,” all of them invisible but now quite dead, and are now ready to fire however many more rockets the higher ranks provide.

    This may be the only means of military conquest for a military that proves incompetent at actual military operation time and time and time again. The story of Russia’s prolific war crimes likely starts with the same crucial flaws that have made Putin’s armies seemingly incapable of doing anything else. Logistical incompetence prevents its armies from conducting large-scale operations farther than a stone’s throw from its own borders; a generation of brazen, encouraged corruption at the top ranks has produced a Kafkaesque bureaucracy in which leveling civilian buildings is the only way for generals to “carry out” Kremlin orders while still keeping their heads attached to their necks.

    Cowardice, in other words. They are shelling civilians because they don’t dare do anything else. And the whole of Putin’s kleptocracy is finely tuned to produce just this sort of incompetent, self-serving criminality, so it’s hardly a surprise that it has become the country’s default method of warfare.

  128. says

    The First Big Cracks Appear in the Sino-Russian Alliance

    A major Chinese oil company just cancelled a half billion dollar deal to buy Russian oil.

    It came after the Chinese firm realised a senior executive at Russia’s largest petrochemical producer Sibur, a firm they were working with, was an ally of alleged war criminal Vladimir Putin.

    While humanitarian grounds never seem to motivate China, hitting them in the pocket book is a much bigger motivator.

    Beijing has continued trading with Moscow since the outbreak of war but Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government is said to be worried about potential sanctions they may face from the West if they support Putin.

    But that’s not all,

    A multilateral development bank based in China suspends activities in Russia and Belarus
    The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a multilateral development bank based in China, has put all activities related to Russia and Belarus on hold, the AIIB said in the statement. The projects are currently “under review.”

    China controls 26% of the voting power of the AIIB, according to the bank’s website. Russia has 6%. China spearheaded the founding of the AIIB to rival the U.S.-based World Bank in 2016.

    Putin’s isolation is now virtually complete. While bad news is clearly being kept from them, sooner or later the Russian public is going to figure out something has gone terribly wrong, and when that happens, President Biden’s words may begin to seem prophetic.

  129. StevoR says

    DOCO / NEWS ALERT! For those like me in Oz here – tonight’s episode of ‘Four Corners’ looks like it could be really interesting.

    Four Corners
    Monday, 28 Mar
    Series 2022 | Episode 8 | Wild Weather
    8:33 PM – 9:19 PM [46 mins]
    ctcCCRepeated on Tuesday 29 Mar at 10:30 PM, ABC TV

    Our planet under threat and the terrible cost of extreme weather. Australia is not the only nation experiencing wild, dangerous and unprecedented weather. A sobering look at increasing extreme weather events around the world.

    Source : https://www.abc.net.au/tv/epg/#/

    Meanwhile in somewhat related and disturbing Climate news :

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2022-03-28/antarctica-ice-shelf-size-new-york-city-collapses-heatwave/100944274

    &

    https://www.space.com/sinkholes-opening-arctic-seafloor

  130. StevoR says

    Also in local politics, the good news is that the ALP landslide election win has been confirmed with my seat finally, finally finally, going to someone I put top three in my ballot – the Labour candidate Catherine Hutchesson.

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-03-24/steven-marshall-retains-seat-of-dunstan-as-waite-falls-to-labor/100937670

    The bad news is, well, this :

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-03-28/one-nation-tight-lipped-on-sa-candidate-sarah-game/100943778

    One nation being a racist far reichwing party started by ex-Liberal (Aussie sense) candidate Pauline Hanson who was kicked out of that reich wing party for her anti-Asian racist rantings.. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pauline_Hanson%27s_One_Nation )

  131. says

    Guardian – “Myanmar’s military ruler vows to ‘annihilate’ resistance groups”:

    Myanmar’s top general has vowed to intensify action against homegrown militia groups fighting the military-run government, saying the armed forces would “annihilate” them.

    Gen Min Aung Hlaing, speaking at a military parade marking Armed Forces Day on Sunday, also urged ethnic minorities not to support groups opposed to army rule and ruled out negotiations with them.

    The military seized power last year from the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. Security forces have since used lethal force to suppress mass nationwide protests, resulting in the deaths of more than 1,700 civilians, according to a detailed tally compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

    Forced to turn away from peaceful protests, many of those opposed to military rule took up arms, forming hundreds of militia groups called People’s Defence Forces – better known as PDFs. In some parts of the country, they’ve joined forces with well-organised, battle-hardened ethnic armed groups, which have been fighting for greater autonomy for decades.

    His government [sic] has declared major resistance organisations – regardless of whether they are directly engaged in armed struggle – as terrorist groups. Membership or even contact with them carries harsh punishment under law.

    Despite a huge advantage in equipment and numbers, Myanmar’s military has struggled to crush the new militia units. Outgunned and outmanned, the PDFs have relied on support from local communities and knowledge of the terrain to carry out often surprisingly effective attacks on convoys, patrols, guard posts, police stations and isolated bases in remote areas.

    The military is currently conducting operations in Sagaing, in central Myanmar, and in Kayah State, in the country’s east, using airstrikes, artillery barrages and the burning of villages. The army recently seems to have expanded its offensive into Chin State in the west and Kayin State in the south-east as well.

    Last year’s Armed Forces Day was the single bloodiest since the military’s seizure of power on 1 February 2021. Security forces across the country opened fire on demonstrators, killing as many as 160 people.

    Anti-military protests were held on Sunday despite the risks in Yangon, the country’s biggest city, and elsewhere. To avoid arrest or injury, urban street protests usually involve flashmobs, which quickly disperse before security forces crack down.

    The main opposition group, the self-styled National Unity Government, urged people to join a “power strike” on Sunday night by switching off the lights and their televisions for 30 minutes while the military parade was broadcast on state-run TV channels.

    The group said the strike was also intended to protest daily power outages. The blackouts started several months ago, and the government blames them on high gas prices and damage to power lines caused by sabotage.

    The US, European Union and 20 other countries issued a statement marking Armed Forces Day by recalling “those killed and displaced by violence over the last year, including at least 100 people killed on this day alone one year ago”.

    It called on the military to cease its violence and return to democratic rule, and urged countries not to supply arms to Myanmar.

    The US, UK and Canada on Saturday imposed the latest in a series of coordinated sanctions on senior military officials and business leaders who allegedly act as arms dealers for Myanmar’s army.

  132. says

    Here’s a link to today’s Guardian Ukraine liveblog. From there:

    Kyiv sees no signs on the ground that Russia has given up a plan to surround the Ukrainian capital, according to Ukrainian defence ministry spokesperson Oleksander Motuzyanyk….

    The sale of a piece by Bristol-based street artist Banksy has raised £81,000 ($106,000) for a children’s hospital in Ukraine. All the money raised will be sent to the Ohmatdyt Children’s hospital in Kyiv….

    Russia is preparing to restrict entry for citizens of “unfriendly” countries, which would include the UK, all EU countries and the United States, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said….

    Ukrainian forces have seized back full control of the town of Irpin, a few miles from Kyiv, the local mayor said.

    Irpin is a commuter town west of the capital that has seen heavy fighting and has come under intense Russian bombardment since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine last month.

    In a video post on Telegram, local mayor Oleksandr Markushyn said:

    We have good news today – Irpin has been liberated.

    We understand that there will be more attacks on our town and we will defend it courageously.

    Markushyn spoke to CNN today:

    Irpin was freed last night.

    Now we need to clear the town totally. There are wounded Russian soldiers. They are offering to surrender or they will be destroyed. Irpin is a staging area for an attack.

    We will [next] liberate Bucha, Vorzel and Hostomel.

    The information could not immediately be verified….

    Novaya Gazeta, one of Russia’s last remaining independent news outlets, has said it will cease operations until the end of the war in Ukraine after it received a second warning from the state censor for allegedly violating the country’s “foreign agent” law.

    The warning came a day after its editor-in-chief, Dmitry Muratov, spoke with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in a group interview with Russian journalists that was quickly banned by the state media watchdog, Roskomnadzor.

    Novaya Gazeta is one of the country’s most important independent publications. A number of its journalists have been killed since the 1990s in retaliation for their reporting, including on the war in Chechnya….

    Roman Abramovich and Ukrainian peace negotiators suffered symptoms of suspected poisoning after a meeting in the capital, Kyiv, earlier this month, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

    Abramovich and at least two senior members of the Ukrainian delegation developed symptoms that included “red eyes, constant and painful tearing”, the paper cites sources familiar with the matter.

    The paper said individuals familiar with the matter blamed the suspected attack on Moscow who they said wanted to sabotage talks to end the war. A person close to Abramovich said it wasn’t clear who had targeted the group, the WSJ said.

    Abramovich and the members of the Ukrainian delegation have since improved, the people said. Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who has met with Abramovich, was not affected, they said.

  133. says

    Kyiv Independent also reporting: “Irpin declared liberated from Russian forces.

    According to Irpin Mayor Oleksandr Markushyn, civilians aren’t yet allowed to return to the city, which is located just northwest of Kyiv. There is a high risk of Russia’s further attacks.”

    Meanwhile US cable news remains fixated on a few words of Biden’s weekend speech to the point that it’s become unwatchable.

  134. says

    Bellingcat re the last item @ #185:

    Bellingcat can confirm that three members of the delegation attending the peace talks between Ukraine and Russia on the night of 3 to 4 March 2022 experienced symptoms consistent with poisoning with chemical weapons. One of victims was Russian entrepreneur Roman Abramovich.

    Abramovich, along with another Russian entrepreneur, had taken part in the negotiations alongside Ukraine’s MP Rustem Umerov. The negotiation round on the afternoon of 3 March took place on Ukrainian territory, and lasted until about 10 pm.

    Three members of the negotiating team retreated to an apartment in Kyiv later that night and felt initial symptoms – including eye and skin inflammation and piercing pain in the eyes – later that night. The symptoms did not abate until the morning.

    The next day the group of negotiators drove from Kyiv to Lviv on the way to Poland and then Istanbul, to continue informal negotiations with the Russian side. A Bellingcat investigator was asked to help provide an examination by chemical weapons specialists.

    Based on remote and on-site examinations, the experts concluded that the symptoms are most likely the result of international poisoning with an undefined chemical weapon.

    An alternative less likely hypothesis was use of microwave irradiation. The symptoms gradually subsided in the course of the following week.

  135. says

    Ukraine update: Making sense of a battlefield that defies logic in a war that defies reason

    There has been little new news on the ground in Ukraine—that is, of the confirmable sort. Video footage continues to suggest Ukraine continues to make some headway in rolling back the most tenuous of prior Russian advances, continuing to close in on Kherson and making substantial apparent progress northeast of Kyiv. Russian forces, meanwhile, continue to direct much of their fire towards non-military targets.

    Visegrád 24:

    The Azeri army is taking control of territories in Nagorno-Karabakh that have been abandoned by the Russian “peacekeeping forces” who have been ordered to fight in Ukraine instead.

    Russia is overextended.

    Wouldn’t be a surprise if Idlib flares up too.

    Mark Sumner:

    This is unconfirmed. Nagorno-Karabakh is another of those “disputed regions” whose persistence is supported by Russia, and which is—or was—occupied by Russian forces. Similar to South Ossetia in Georgia, or the two “republics” Russia recognized in the Donbas at the outset of the invasion

    In related news: Ukrainian intelligence published a list of 620 Russian FSB agents taking part in Russian criminal activities in European countries. The list includes names, passports, addresses, car models & license plates, etc. https://gur.gov.ua/content/sotrudnyky-fsb-rossyy-uchastvuiushchye-v-prestupnoi-deiatelnosty-stranyahressora-na-terrytoryy-evropy.html
    No translation.

  136. says

    Soldiers from Donbas launch a mutiny and declare that they won’t fight for Russia in Ukraine near Sumy.

    – “They took us illegally to the territory of the Russia and gave us weapons but without documents, without anything”
    – “Take us home”

    https://twitter.com/visegrad24/status/1508456266246631443

    Video and translation available at the link.

    -We are soldiers from Donbas
    – Ordinary workers, children, energy workers who were sent to Russia by force.
    – We are civilians
    – Some as young as 18
    – We’re all fucked
    – What are we even doing here?
    – Many of us have been killed.
    – We have been sent to the Sumy region in Ukraine

    -There is a video on youtube of our friends being taken prisoners-of-war
    – They cheated us … we are fucked
    – Know the truth! The Russian Ministry of Defense has no idea that we have been sent here
    – They took us illegally to Russia, gave us weapons but no documents, nothing!

    – Take us back home to Donbas!
    – They gave us AK47s against MLRS, artillery & mortars.
    – Please spread this message
    – We don’t fire these AK47s
    – Yenakiyevo is here, Gorlovka is here, the whole DNR is here, Shakhtiorsk, Torez & Snezhnoye
    – They took us all and said go and die

    This is 119th Division, 4th Battalion

  137. says

    Wonkette:

    During Donald Trump’s “Brian Kemp Sucks” hate rally Saturday, GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was released from the attic like Mr. Rochester’s crazy first wife. She is the perfect representation of the GOP’s platform, which appears to be little more than “cruel bigotry with the emotional maturity of a grade-school bully.”

    She tried discussing actual policy for a minute with a standard recitation of GOP gibberish. After Republicans stomp Democrats in the 2022 midterms, she said, “You’re going to see a new Republican Party — a Republican Party that defends our nation’s borders, a Republican Party that finishes the wall, a Republican Party that saves this economy and stops this inflation [and] ridiculously high gas prices … We’re going to drill oil right here in the U.S.A.”

    What an absurdly silly person. She’s obviously more at home smearing LGBTQ people. She started into a repulsive rant against Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who is harmless and normal and only a viable “target” because the GOP is a party of sick bigots. […]

    GREENE: And you know what? Pete Buttigieg can take his electric vehicles and his bicycles and he and his husband can stay out of our girls’ bathrooms.

    [WTF?]

    Greene begins with the implication that cycling and driving an electric vehicle will make you gay. Then she grossly suggests that Buttigieg and his husband, Chasten, who’s a man because they are both gay, spend their free time stalking little girls in the bathroom. That single sentence is an overstuffed Chipotle burrito of stupidity and hate.

    Pete and Chasten have a son and a daughter. They would take both with them into the men’s room, because normal parents have always taken their opposite sex children into the bathroom that’s appropriate for the adult parent. Greene has nothing but contempt for the LGBTQ community, which is consistent with the standard GOP position, but she doesn’t bother trying to hide it behind a superficial veneer of “family values.”

    After insinuating that the Buttigiegs are pedophiles — how very QAnon of her! — she attacked University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas. Politicians who aren’t total monsters would celebrate the NCAA swimming champion rather than demonize her because she’s trans, but that’s where we are now. It makes me sick to even quote Greene’s remarks because she dead-names and misgenders a private citizen who’s done nothing to anyone other than exist.

    GREENE: Yeah, and Lia Thomas? Lia’s going to remember his name is William, and he needs to go back to men’s swimming, because we’re going to kick the biological men out of the women’s sports.

    […] This isn’t just vicious. It’s a clear threat. Republicans are already passing anti-trans laws as part of their overall goal to criminalize trans identity in general. Greene and her fellow transphobes don’t give a shit about women’s sports or women’s athletes. Otherwise, they might occasionally mention the name Brittney Griner, the WNBA star who’s been rotting away in a Russian jail for weeks now.

    Republicans aren’t going to build the dumbass wall or save the economy or magically lower gas prices by drilling for oil in our national parks. What they can do is make life miserable for vulnerable Americans. That’s all Republicans really have to show for the past 50 years.

    Even Meghan McCain, who’s consistently awful, noted that “Trump supporters and GOP leadership have more of a problem with Liz Cheney than this freak.” It’s not as if Cheney supports LGBTQ rights — she voted against the Equality Act — but she’s not as openly bigoted. Maybe McCain and other Never Trumpers should admit that what the GOP base wants is open bigotry, in addition to bigoted policy. They want to live their bigoted truth out loud.

    https://www.wonkette.com/bigoted-pos-marjorie-taylor-greene

  138. says

    Washington Post link

    Finland suspends passenger rail service between Russia and E.U.

    Finland’s public railway operator on Monday will suspend passenger service between Helsinki and St. Petersburg, citing sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, the operator, VR, said in a statement.

    VR had kept the passenger service, Allegro, running until Sunday to provide Finnish citizens living in Russia “safe passage” back to Finland, Topi Simola, a VR official, said in a statement.

    “During these weeks, the people, who have wanted to depart from Russia, have had adequate time to leave,” Simola said. “Now, due to the sanctions, we will discontinue the service for now.”

    On Sunday, VR suspended freight traffic from Russia, saying it is “no longer possible because of the sanctions imposed on Russian Railways.”

    The Allegro train from St. Petersburg to Helsinki became a popular means of transportation for Russians hoping to leave their county behind. As Western sanctions set in, Russia became increasingly isolated, and some Russians harbored anger over the invasion. The trains were often overbooked, and Russians arrived at Helsinki’s main railway station by the hundreds.

    VR was among the last train lines between Russia and the European Union, Reuters reported, although the Russia-Finland border remains open for crossings by car.

  139. says

    CNN – “Judge: ‘More likely than not’ that Trump ‘corruptly attempted’ to block Congress from counting votes on January 6”:

    A federal judge said Monday that former President Donald Trump and right-wing attorney John Eastman may have been planning a crime as they sought to disrupt the January 6 congressional certification of the presidential election.

    “Based on the evidence, the Court finds it more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021,” Judge David Carter wrote Monday.

    Carter, a federal judge in California, ordered Eastman to turn over 101 emails from around January 6, 2021, that he has tried to keep secret from the House select committee investigating the US Capitol attack.

    Carter’s reasoning is a startling acknowledgment by a federal court that Trump’s interest in overturning the election could be considered criminal. He also revealed new details about the emails the House is seeking and even calls for more investigation.

    “The illegality of the plan was obvious,” Carter wrote. “Our nation was founded on the peaceful transition of power, epitomized by George Washington laying down his sword to make way for democratic elections. Ignoring this history, President Trump vigorously campaigned for the Vice President to single-handedly determine the results of the 2020 election … Every American — and certainly the President of the United States — knows that in a democracy, leaders are elected, not installed.”

    Neither the judge nor the House committee has the ability to prosecute Trump or his allies for the conspiracy being alleged. That decision falls to the Justice Department, which is facing pressure from the left to more aggressively go after those — like Trump and his inner circle — whose involvement in the January 6 insurrection went beyond physically breaching the Capitol.

    Trump has not been charged with any crime nor has Eastman. Eastman’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    The emails that Carter has now approved for disclosure will not immediately be made public, but instead will go to the committee — assuming that Eastman does not successfully appeal the rulings.
    Judge issues a plea for accountability

    In his order, Carter made an unusually bold statement wishing for accountability so that history does not repeat itself.

    “If the country does not commit to investigating and pursuing accountability for those responsible, the Court fears January 6 will repeat itself,” the judge wrote.

    While Carter agreed with the House’s argument that Eastman and Trump shouldn’t be able to keep secret emails that show them trying to plan a crime, the judge decided many of the emails should be released to the House for other reasons, in a resounding loss for Eastman and Trump.

    “Dr. Eastman and President Trump launched a campaign to overturn a democratic election, an action unprecedented in American history. Their campaign was not confined to the ivory tower — it was a coup in search of a legal theory. The plan spurred violent attacks on the seat of our nation’s government, led to the deaths of several law enforcement officers, and deepened public distrust in our political process.”

    “More than a year after the attack on our Capitol, the public is still searching for accountability. This case cannot provide it. The Court is tasked only with deciding a dispute over a handful of emails. This is not a criminal prosecution; this is not even a civil liability suit,” he wrote.

    “At most, this case is a warning about the dangers of ‘legal theories’ gone wrong, the powerful abusing public platforms, and desperation to win at all costs,” Carter added. “If Dr. Eastman and President Trump’s plan had worked, it would have permanently ended the peaceful transition of power, undermining American democracy and the Constitution.”

    Carter was considering the arguments about potential criminality in the context of the records disclosure dispute.

    While the emails won’t immediately be made public, Carter described several in detail.

    Carter specified that one document the committee can receive appears to be aiding Trump and Eastman’s alleged conspiracy to obstruct Congress: a draft memo written for another Trump attorney, Rudy Giuliani, recommending that Vice President Mike Pence reject some states’ electors during the January 6 congressional meeting.

    “This may have been the first time members of President Trump’s team transformed a legal interpretation of the Electoral Count Act into a day-by-day plan of action,” Carter says.

    In the other 100 documents the committee will receive, the judge describes extensive discussions about using court cases as a political argument to block Congress from certifying the vote.

    But, Carter ruled, many of those emails aren’t about litigation, and so they can’t be the protected work product of an attorney.

    Another document, according to the ruling’s description, includes Eastman’s explanations for arguments of a plan he had previously sent Pence’s lawyer.

    “In another email thread, Dr. Eastman’s colleagues discuss whether to publish a piece supporting his plan, and they touch on state lawsuits only to criticize how they are being handled by the Trump campaign,” the ruling said. “In a different email thread, Dr. Eastman and a colleague consider how to use a state court ruling to justify Vice President Pence enacting the plan. In another email, a colleague focuses on the ‘plan of action’ after the January 6 attacks.”

    The documents in question do not reference future litigation, the judge wrote in explaining why he was greenlighting their disclosure.

    All of the emails are from between January 4 and January 7.

    “The true animating force behind these emails was advancing a political strategy: to persuade Vice President Pence to take unilateral action on January 6,” Carter said. “In general, Dr. Eastman used evidence of alleged election fraud for two purposes: to support state litigation and to persuade legislators and Vice President Pence to act. Despite those possible dual purposes, these emails do not suggest that Dr. Eastman used them for litigation, make no mention of litigation, and would have had the same form without the prospect of litigation.”

  140. says

    Any story written about Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina must begin with the continent-sized caveat that Cawthorn is a liar. He’s a pathological liar. He has lied about getting accepted into the United States Naval Academy; he’s lied about his own friend’s responses to the car accident that left him without use of his legs; he’s lied about training for the Paralympics; he’s lied about running a racist website—there are only so many semicolons one can use before running out of runway with Madison Cawthorn’s lies.

    On Sunday, a clip popped up of Cawthorn talking about the “sexual perversion” he has come into contact with in Washington, D.C., since becoming an elected representative. The clip, like most clips we see these days emanating out of the stench that is Cawthorn, was filled with pretty wild assertions that if true really say something about the state of the Grand Old Party.

    The clip specifically begins with Cawthorn rubbing his hands together, saying excitedly, “It’s about to get serious,” before answering that he has watched the (American version) show House of Cards. The show follows U.S. Rep. Francis Underwood of South Carolina (played by Kevin Spacey) as he maneuvers his way up the political ladder in Washington. It is a dark, cutthroat, hyper-melodramatic thriller where most politicians are craven, soulless, and perverse political animals in a dog-eat-dog world. You can see why some people would find it very believable.

    […] “Aside from that, I mean the sexual perversion that goes on in Washington, I mean it, being kind of a young guy in Washington, with the average age is probably 60 or 70. And I look at all these people, a lot of them that I, you know, I’ve looked up to through my life. I’ve always paid attention to politics guys, that you know—“

    Let’s stop here for one second. So far, most of what Cawthorn is saying is almost demonstrably false, except the average age remark, which is basically true (with averages in the Senate in the low 60s and House in the late 50s). Was Cawthorn looking up to them? The “politics guys?” Maybe. […] But let’s be honest here: Based on Cawthorn’s politics and his history in politics, if this is true and little Madison went to school with his Jesse Helms lunch box in the early 2000s—when Madison was in grade school—it was the GOP that he “looked up to.”

    Madison is leading up to something here: “Then all of a sudden you get invited to like well, ‘Hey, we’re going to have kind of a sexual get together at one of our homes. You should come.’ Wha- what did you just ask me to? And then you realize they’re asking you to come to an orgy. Or the fact that you know, there’s some of the people that are leading on the movement to try and remove addiction in our country and then you watch them doing, you know, a key bump of cocaine right in front of you; and it’s like this is, this is wild.”

    Yes it is, Madison. Like how you know the term “a key bump of cocaine.” But whatevers! More important is that Madison is talking about conservatives. He’s alleging “sexual perversion” and illicit drug use by Republicans. […]

    There has been very little in the way of consequences for Cawthorn at this point. He seems to lie, not unlike Donald Trump, based entirely on the audience to whom he is speaking. It’s a mixture of wild insecurity and seemingly true pathology. His lies are in support of himself, of course, always putting him on a higher moral ground than those he is lying about, but he is also always trying to ingratiate himself to the audience he has cultivated […]

    Let’s be frank (Underwood! #DadJokes) here: Personally, I don’t care what your sexual thing is. Ain’t my business as long as you aren’t hurting or abusing people or taking advantage of people in a considerably less powerful position than you. However, I do find it gross when your entire political platform is based on the lie that you are protecting people from the kinds of sexual “perversions” you are freely participating in. The list of these kinds of moral and sexual hypocrites is a who’s who of the GOP.

    You have former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, who is a convicted child molester. You have former Missouri governor and GOP candidate Eric Greitens, who is allegedly a blackmailing rapist, adulterer sort of person. You have thousands and thousands of words logged about similarly sexually predatory and abusive GOP operatives […]

    It is interesting to watch what happens when this new breed of substance-free young corrupt politician feels cornered and unsupported by their fellow substance-free corrupt politicians. […]

    Link

  141. says

    Kyiv Independent – “Facing resistance in occupied Kherson, Russian forces crack down on disobedient residents”:

    Life is getting worse in the city of Kherson, which has been occupied by Russian forces for nearly a month.

    The near-total absence of critical drugs for chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure has left people who depend on them in a critical state. Food remains scarce and expensive, while the ability to buy it is limited and takes up the majority of the locals’ day.

    Kherson, a regional capital in southern Ukraine, is the only major city that the Russians managed to take control of. But the resistance inside Kherson hasn’t died with occupation.

    As the Russian forces grow increasingly impatient and frustrated with constant pro-Ukrainian protests, their ferocity has greatly increased over the past week. Violent crackdowns and abductions are on the rise as yet-unconfirmed threats of mass deportations loom.

    Journalists, once left alone, have shifted into working underground to avoid drawing attention from the Russian forces. As fighting continues near Kherson and multiple Ukrainian cities face devastation, locals fear that they may be subjected to the same atrocities.

    Battles are reportedly ongoing near Kherson. News sources including AFP and New York Times cited a Pentagon official on March 25, who said that Russians are losing control of the city and that it’s once again “contested.” Local residents denied this, saying Russian forces still patrol the streets in force. However, residents have reported hearing loud explosions happening not far from the city at night.

    “The battles are ongoing between Chornobaivka and Mykolaiv,” said Valentyn, who lives in Chornobaivka, a village outside Kherson, where Ukrainian forces have counterattacked a nearby airfield 11 times since Feb. 24, according to the President’s Office. “But it’s getting closer and closer to us. Evidently, our forces are advancing because we hear the fighting more and more.”…

    Much more at the link.

  142. says

    […] “I’ve talked to the defenders of Mariupol today,” Zelensky said in a video address on Sunday, praising the southern port city that has come under horrendous bombardment by Russian forces. “Their determination, heroism and firmness are astonishing,” he said. “If only those who have been thinking for 31 days on how to hand over dozens of jets and tanks had one percent of their courage.”

    […] Zelensky argued that Western nations, which have already imposed historic sanctions on Russia, hadn’t gone far enough in their efforts to cripple the country’s economy because they “have not completed the sanctions on disconnecting the banking system from SWIFT.” Zelensky was referring to the international consortium used to move money among banks. Although Western allies disconnected some Russian financial institutions from the system, they didn’t block Russia’s access entirely.

    He called for a full embargo on Russian oil and gas exports rather than what he called “incomplete” sanctions. “We are not guinea pigs to be experimented on.”

    […] This weekend, Zelensky repeated his earlier pleas for the West to send him additional planes, tanks, and armored personnel vehicles.

    Western officials contend that they have already provided an extraordinary amount of financial and military support to Ukraine and have promised to continue.

    About two-thirds of NATO members are providing lethal assistance, Julianne Smith, the U.S. permanent representative to the body, said Sunday. Since January 2021, the United States has provided $2 billion worth of lethal assistance, including Stinger and Javelin missiles, Smith said.

    “Every ally is making a contribution. Some are providing humanitarian support. Some are providing lethal. Most are doing both,” she said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

    […] Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States said the country was prepared to negotiate with Russia but would not surrender its territory.

    “There should be a solution and push and diplomatic pressure to stop Russia,” Oksana Markarova told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

    “So no, we are not ready to give up our territories. We are not ready to give up our people. We are asking everyone who can put pressure on Putin or who can help us to bring him to the table to stop this war,” Markarova said. […]

    Washington Post link

  143. says

    Dan Lamothe:

    A background briefing by a senior U.S. defense official about the war in Ukraine has concluded.

    Today is Day 33 of the Russian invasion.

    Here are a few takeaways:

    First, as reported a bit ago, the Pentagon is sending six EA-18 Growler aircraft to Germany to bolster security in eastern Europe.

    On the battlefield, lots of things remain static. Forces outside Kyiv, Chernihiv and Kharkiv remain stalled outside those cities, for instance, the senior U.S. defense official said.

    Ukrainian troops are continuing offensives to take back terrain.

    One new example: The Pentagon now assesses today for the first time that the town of Trostyanets’, about 30 miles south of Sumy, is back under Ukrainian control.

    Pentagon also assesses that Kherson, a southern city that Russian forces had full control of for weeks, is now contested.

    That first popped up Friday, and is still the case, the senior defense official says.

    Pentagon is aware that Ukrainian officials claim they now have control of Irpin, a Kyiv suburb, but the senior defense official said he cannot confirm that.

    Situation in Mariupol remains dire. Frequent shelling, long-range strikes, etc., by Russian. The city is “nearly encircled,” the senior U.S. defense official says.

    Russia also is continuing to press its efforts to take greater control in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. “Incremental” Russian gains have been made out of the Izyum area, senior defense official says.

    Pentagon also was asked for an assessment of how many people, including civilians, have been killed in Mariupol. Belief is that it is likely thousands.

    Senior defense official declines to disclose a number, saying the Pentagon has low confidence in their estimates.

  144. says

    Sergej Sumlenny:

    In many tapped phone calls between Russian soldiers and their relatives (Russians steal UKR mobile phones, use them, SBU taps) they tell same story: how rich Ukraine is, how much they have looted, and how cool ppl lived here. Some saw asphalt and street lights for the fist time.

    Many Western experts and politicians loved to repeat the story of “rich Russia and poor Ukraine”. The fact is, that except of extra rich Moscow and Petersburg, Russia is an underdeveloped country, and average Ukrainian province lives much better than average Russian province.

    I don’t even talk about political freedoms in Ukraine like election of mayors, free press, local self-governance etc. – soldiers do not see this. Ukrainians have better roads, better lights, more money, better food, better connection with neighbour countries. This shocks Russians

    They were told all the times that Ukraine is a failed state with people who work like slaves in Europe and have nothing. Now they see the reality where every gasoline station has a computer-operated coffee machine with 30 types of teas, coffee and hot chocolate, and a whisky bar.

    Of course they loot the whisky bar….

    More at the link, including pictures of Russian roads, hospitals, cities.

  145. says

    Lynna, OM #189

    No translation.

    FYI, Google Translate can translate entire sites. At the top, there’s a button called “websites”. Put the url in there and you get a window with the translation. It’s not perfect, but it’s workable.

  146. says

    In actual news – Guardian – “Biden to announce ‘billionaire minimum income tax’ in budget plan”:

    Joe Biden will propose a new tax on America’s richest households when he unveils his latest budget on Monday.

    The Biden administration is set to propose a 20% minimum tax on households worth more than $100m. The proposal would raise more than $360bn over the next decade and “would make sure that the wealthiest Americans no longer pay a tax rate lower than teachers and firefighters”, according to a factsheet released by the White House.

    The plan – called the “billionaire minimum income tax” – is the administration’s most aggressive move to date to tax the very wealthiest Americans.

    The tax is part of Biden’s $5.8tn budget proposal for 2023, which also sets aside billions for the police and military as well as investments in affordable housing, plans to tackle the US’s supply chain issues and gun violence.

    Billionaire wealth grew significantly during the coronavirus pandemic, helped by soaring share prices and a tax regime that charges investors less on their gains than those taxed on their income.

    The Biden administration calculates that the tax would affect only the top 0.01% of American households, those worth over $100m, and that more than half the revenue would come from households worth more than $1bn.

    The budget also looks set to tackle another issue that some economists have argued contributes to widening income inequality: share buybacks.

    The Biden proposal would stop executives from selling their shares for three years after a buyback is announced.

    Biden attempted to impose a 1% tax on share buybacks last year but the proposal failed in Congress. Both Biden’s billionaire tax and the share buyback proposal will also face tough opposition in Congress.

  147. says

    David Rothkopf:

    What an embarrassing display by the White House press corps. Over and over and over they asked the president about his comment that Putin should not remain in power. He said he was expressing his moral outrage and not signaling a policy change. His answer could not be clearer.

    But they did not want an answer. They did not want to accept the story at its face value. They wanted a controversy. Somehow they seemed to feel that it was more important to badger @POTUS over nine words that expressed the view of every sentient moral being on the planet…

    …than it was to focus on the tens of thousands of deaths caused by Putin. Somehow they felt that the story was how the president might have hurt the feelings of a war criminal rather than it being that we finally had a president who would call out Putin and stand up to him.

    No president since Putin assumed power has taken a tougher stance. No president has mobilized a more active, unified response from NATO. No president in his right mind would feel any other way about Putin than Biden has expressed he does.

    Further, the idea that somehow Putin would seize upon Biden’s remarks as reason or excuse to escalate the war does not withstand the slightest scrutiny. His every action has been underpinned with lies and false rationales.

    Further, it is Putin who is violently seeking regime change in Ukraine. (Contrary to what his lying mouthpieces may say.) And it was Putin who sought to effect regime change here in the United States–as our entirely intel and law enforcement community concluded.

    Biden gave a historic speech in Warsaw. It marked a fundamental change in relations between the West and Russia. Today, moments before the torrent of ridiculous questions, the president announced he was supporting that change with a major new defense budget request.

    How many questions were there about that? None. How many questions were there about POTUS’s announced plans to introduce greater fairness into our tax system or more assistance for those in need? None. How many questions were there about current state of the war in Ukraine? None.

    No. They were there for the game of gotcha. The result was they missed the big story of the president’s trip, they missed the big story of the day, they missed the stories that mattered to American families, they missed actually learning more about Ukraine policy.

    Instead, repeating the same question over and over and hoping for a different answer, they just did the work of the president’s opponents and of Putin, seeking through some perverse alchemy to turn strong remarks and an effective policy into an error they could promote.

    If there was any sensational story associated with the president’s ad libbed expression of a hope we share with our allies and the people of Ukraine it is in how badly it was covered, how easily the press was once again led away from real news by the prospect of…

    …winning a game of gotcha with the leader of the free world at a moment of great crisis when serious issues loom everywhere and far too many of the men and women of the White House press corps just don’t seem to be interested in any of them.

  148. says

    UK Ministry of Defence:

    Russian Private Military Company the Wagner Group has deployed to eastern Ukraine.

    They are expected to deploy more than 1,000 mercenaries, including senior leaders of the organisation, to undertake combat operations.

    Due to heavy losses and a largely stalled invasion, Russia has highly likely been forced to reprioritise Wagner personnel for Ukraine at the expense of operations in Africa and Syria.

  149. says

    SC @198, that’s interesting! The omission says a lot.

    Like @204, thanks.

    Ukraine update: Ukraine’s small-unit offensive makes gains in northwestern Kyiv

    […] The most likely end to this war would include losing territory—either the Donbas separatist region, the Crimean peninsula, or both. But that analysis is based on a determination that Ukraine doesn’t have the military capabilities to engage in large-scale offensive operations. […] But Ukraine is wily and creative, and it has found a temporary short-term solution for the lack of the ground-attack and heavy armor it would need to quickly recapture lost ground.

    I covered Ukraine’s new small-unit combined-arms tactics this weekend.

    The battlefield is buzzing with drones, giving Ukraine’s forces intelligence into what they’re facing up the road. Ukrainian artillery takes out exposed Russian positions. Infantry speeds up the road in civilian SUVs, stopping when the drones see danger up ahead, and letting armored personnel carriers clear out defensive positions in the approach to the village.

    In videos, we see these small-unit approaches with a single tank, several armored personnel carriers, and infantry in civilian vehicles. That’s it! There is a shocking lack of Russian close-air support and artillery targeting these small offensive operations. But let’s say Russia suddenly found some of those capabilities under a seat cushion: The damage to Ukraine’s military would be relatively small. Thus, with Russian forces shut down everywhere but the eastern Donbas front, the defenders can afford to take some risks.

    Kyiv axis [Map at the link]

    Irpin’s mayor announced that Russian forces had been completely expelled from this city, where its namesake river marked the front lines of Kyiv’s northwestern approach. […]

    Clearing Irpin of Russians opens up Bucha to counterattack, which is of particular importance since it’s the only Russian-held area remaining within artillery range of Kyiv. Indeed, other than some scattered missile attacks, Kyiv has been spared much damage in the past weeks, in large part because of this offensive.

    But there’s another objective here that is even more important than pushing some MLRS GRAD rocket artillery launchers a few kilometers back: logistics. Ukraine is within reach of reopening two critical east-west routes. [map at the link]

    You can see that orange shading around Makariv—that means the territory is still contested. Right now, supply routes to Kyiv require a circuitous southern route. Russia has done little to disrupt those lines, so as of now, the problem isn’t so much security as it is expending valuable diesel to run those supply trucks. There are several rail lines still feeding into Kyiv, which is of incalculable worth, but opening the highway through the Makariv area would dramatically simplify resupply logistics not just to Kyiv, but the rest of the country’s embattled east.

    The next major Ukrainian target is Borodyanka, which I highlighted on the first map above. The town runs through yet another major east-west highway, but also through another rail line. And, if you look closely at that map, Borodyanka is also at the intersection of the roads coming down from the Belarus border. In other words, taking that city would complete the encirclement of the remaining troops in Bucha and Hostomel (where the famous airfield is located). NASA FIRMS satellite imagery shows that entire front northwest of Kyiv remains under serious assault. [map at the link]

    You can see the highway running directly west of Kyiv is on fire, literally. There are reports that Russia made some moves near Brovary on Kyiv’s eastern front, but FIRMS shows it fairly quiet. It’s clear that the main effort is that western and northwestern flank. Not a single fire is burning in Kyiv, confirming it has been spared recent attack. And we’ve got fires in Borodyanka, confirming it is under attack. That mass of fires west of Borodyanka? That’s behind the front lines, and thus likely Russian artillery trying to hit Ukrainian forces coming in that direction.

    Ukraine’s push into northwest Kyiv, like everywhere else, is slow and methodical. Imagine large Ukrainian formations trying to maneuver through that mass artillery fire. Small units are nimble, quick, and harder to hit. The minimal amount of equipment used means that even a direct hit is more likely to take out some civilian SUVs (and there are plenty of those) than more valuable armored vehicles. And as we discussed over the weekend, these small-scale offensives are well-placed and time for very specific, important objectives—open up a road here, grab a railhead there, push Russians to the other side of a strategic river, or eliminate a source of artillery fire. If Ukraine regains land, then great! But that’s not the purpose. Victory and defeat have nothing to do with how much of the map is shaded red.

    Later today I’ll dig more into what’s happening near Kherson, Kharkiv, Sumy, and the Donbas front. Lots of fog of war to sift through. But if I was Ukrainian high command, my next major military objective after clearing out Bucha, Hostomel, and Borodyanka in northeastern Kyiv to open up that highway and railhead would be to push hard through northeastern Kyiv to break the siege of Chernihiv, which was just encircled this weekend. Ukraine can’t allow it to become the next Mariupol—surrounded, destroyed, massacred.

  150. says

    Signs that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is not going well:

    1. Your general in charge of production and supply of tanks just killed himself. (When it was revealed that you can’t really replace the hundreds of tanks the Ukes blew up or your guys abandoned, because your brass have stolen everything of value from the stock of replacements. Oops!)

    2. You just publicly gave up on roughly 90% of your declared ‘goals’ in this invasion.

    3. You just pulled several wrecked battalion groups back to Russia [or to Belarus] to ‘restore’ them, but it’s not clear you really have the troops or equipment with which to ‘restore’ them.

    4. Your Nazi puppet-regime in Belarus has been pledging to join in on your invasion for 3 weeks now, but still hasn’t done anything, and it looks like half their troops would probably refuse, and, oh, lots of Belarussian ‘partisans’ keep blowing up the train-tracks you’d use.

    5. You just lost the town of Irpin, west of Kyiv, which means your last hope of ever mounting an actual assault on Kyiv just evaporated, and also means those 5 or 8K troops you pretty much abandoned in the woods to the NW of Kyiv are one big step closer to getting exterminated. Ouch!

    6. You keep losing towns to the east of Kyiv as well, and losing lots of troops and equipment in the process.

    7. Stuff like this keeps happening to your convoys.
    https://twitter.com/NotWoofers/status/1508458449989947395

    8. You took another general and assigned him to production of fake videos designed to scare your soldiers out of surrendering to the Ukies –cuz you know that’s what lots of them will be doing in the coming days.

    9. The Ukies are getting ready to re-take Kherson City in the South, which will put a stake through the heart of your dream of a ‘land bridge’ across the whole southern tier.

    10. A whole bunch of fancy high-tech weapons are just now getting to the Ukes in the next few days –including British Star-Streak surface-to-air missiles, those Switchblade killer drones, maybe –finally– some S-300 SAMS, and possibly a few surprises. […]

    Link

  151. says

    Followup to SC’s comment 193.

    Is It Good When A Judge Says A Lawyer And His Client The President Did Crimes? Asking For John Eastman.

    Today a federal judge ruled that Donald Trump more likely than not attempted to criminally obstruct Congress when he sought to block the lawful certification of President Joe Biden’s Electoral College win. And because his lawyers actively participated in this criminal scheme, at least some of his communications with them are no longer shielded from review by the January 6 Select Committee, thanks to the crime-fraud exception to attorney-client privilege. […]

    John Eastman, the famous Coups 4 Dummies lawyer who cooked up those memos saying it was very cool and very legal for Mike Pence to unilaterally reject electors and throw the election to Trump, made a whole bunch of unforced errors that got us to this point. The first was to use his work account at Chapman University in California for his coup plotting, which meant those emails lived on the school’s server. The second was to sue the January 6 Select Committee in California when Chapman to agreed to hand the messages over.

    Because the DC trial court moves slower than molasses on the best of days — and there have been no “best” days since January 6, thanks to the gazillion criminal defendants with speedy trial rights whose cases have to be adjudicated — this decision would still be months away if he’d been smart enough to let it get bogged down in DC federal court with the rest of the Select Committee lawsuits. But instead Eastman opted for the Central District of California, where his case wound up on the docket of Judge David O. Carter, who has moved it along at a bracing clip.

    After swiftly dropkicking the claims made by Eastman and every other Trump dead-ender about the Committee being illegitimate because Liz Cheney isn’t a real Republican and thus the subpoenas were null and void, Judge Carter ordered Eastman to start reviewing his emails and either turn them over, or produce a privilege log explaining why he wasn’t doing it.

    […] “President Trump attempted to obstruct an official proceeding by launching a pressure campaign to convince Vice President Pence to disrupt the Joint Session on January 6,” Judge Carter wrote, laying out Trump’s extensive efforts with Eastman to convince Pence to either reject the electors outright or to send them back to the Republican-controlled swing state legislatures to recast them for Trump due to non-existent fraud.

    And indeed the court found that at least one of the contested emails implicates the crime-fraud exception:

    The eleventh document is a chain forwarding to Dr. Eastman a draft memo written for President Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani. The memo recommended that Vice President Pence reject electors from contested states on January 6. This may have been the first time members of President Trump’s team transformed a legal interpretation of the Electoral Count Act into a day-by-day plan of action. The draft memo pushed a strategy that knowingly violated the Electoral Count Act, and Dr. Eastman’s later memos closely track its analysis and proposal. The memo is both intimately related to and clearly advanced the plan to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021. Because the memo likely furthered the crimes of obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the United States, it is subject to the crime-fraud exception and the Court ORDERS it to be disclosed.

    This may be the first time a federal court has explicitly ruled that a sitting president likely committed crimes. And in case you missed it while Judge Carter was calling out President Crimetime, it looks like Eastman didn’t even come up with that cockamamie coup plot his own self. Doh!

    Eastman is still going through his correspondence and dutifully marking “blank emails” as privileged. He’s like, so good at this, you guys!

    But of the messages he’s claimed as privileged, the court just told him to hand over 101 of 110 documents. And 100 of those are coming out not because of the crime-fraud exception, but because Eastman’s claims of attorney-client and work product privilege are ridiculous on their face. You can only claim work product for documents prepared in anticipation of litigation, but Eastman was keen to keep the issue out federal court, where he knew they’d lose, culminating in a “9-0″ defeat at the Supreme Court. “The main thing here is that Pence should do this without asking for permission—either from a vote of the joint session or from the Court,” he wrote.

    Eastman made similarly generalized claims of attorney-client privilege, seeking to protect conversations with lawyers he designated as “co-counsel,” despite their having no discernible relationship with the campaign, and even randos who reached out to him trying to get in touch with the president.

    And now, thanks to this obstinate dumbfuckery, Eastman, Trump, Rudy, and the rest of the dipshits in Trumpland are stuck with a ruling that explicitly calls their scheme a crime and removes it from the realm of privileged communications.

    It’s also got some really unpleasant dicta for Team Trump.

    Dr. Eastman and President Trump launched a campaign to overturn a democratic election, an action unprecedented in American history. Their campaign was not confined to the ivory tower—it was a coup in search of a legal theory. The plan spurred violent attacks on the seat of our nation’s government, led to the deaths of several law enforcement officers, and deepened public distrust in our political process.

    Congratulations, Doctor Eastman, you played yourself. And your client, too.

  152. says

    Russian stocks slide as trading resumes for all companies

    Russian shares slumped as its stock market resumed trading of all companies Monday after a monthlong halt following the invasion of Ukraine.

    The benchmark MOEX index slid 2.2% after the Moscow Exchange reopened for all of its several hundred listed companies, but with restrictions still in place to limit volatility. State-owned energy giant Gazprom fell 3.7%, while airline Aeroflot was up 3%.

    The last full trading session in Moscow was on Feb. 25, a day after the index tumbled by a third after President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine.

    Prices whipsawed last week when the exchange tentatively reopened for two days of limited trading, with investors allowed to trade only 33 of the MOEX index’s 50 companies.

    Some restrictions remained in place Monday to prevent another big selloff, including the daily session shortened to four hours and a ban on short-selling, which essentially involves betting on stock prices to go down. Foreigners also are unable to sell shares until Friday — a restriction Russia put in place to counter Western sanctions against its financial system and the ruble, which has been sharply devalued.

  153. says

    Thread from Timothy Snyder:

    1/30 Putin is responsible for the invasion, and must redistribute blame for its failure. After a month, some vectors of discord in the Russian government have suggested themselves.

    2/30 I summarize here from open sources certain unusual features of this war. These are odd facts that would seem to suggest prior, or provoke future, dissension among Russian leaders. I draw no conclusions, and will at most suggest where to look.

    3/30 Putin is the supreme leader. The invasion of Ukraine was predicated on his idea that there was no Ukrainian state or nation. His views are widely repeated, though perhaps not as widely shared. They were immediately proven wrong.

    4/30 Putin’s idea of regime change in two days failed in practice. His victory declaration of February 26th, accidentally published, revealed a vast gap between aim and achievement.

    [link to sources at the link]

    5/30 Putin’s notion was that Russia would be negotiating with a puppet Ukrainian government on the third day of the invasion.

    6/30 Thus neither extensive Western sanctions nor heavy Russian troop losses could have been anticipated. These add considerable weight to Putin’s primary errors.

    7/30 To make reality fit Putin’s axioms, Russia must now use its military, National Guard, and Chechen irregulars to destroy the Ukrainian state and nation. Genocide does not necessarily enjoy broad support.

    8/30 The decision to invade Ukraine was discussed beforehand only among a small group of people.

    9/30 There are thus a large number of people just beyond Putin’s inner circle who could say, truthfully, that they had no part in the decision to invade Ukraine.

    10/30 The decision to invade Ukraine seems not to have been accompanied by much of an operational plan. This could well be a result of Putin’s erroneous premise and the lack of consultation.

    11/30 After Putin, the most important person involved in discussions of the invasion was presumably Sergei Shoigu, the minister of defense. Shoigu is or was a public friend of Putin.

    12/30 Shoigu has an excellent reputation as a manager, but no military experience as such. He has a large PR staff and is self-aggrandizing. Real generals might find him irritating.

    13/30 Seven real Russian generals are reported to have been killed in Ukraine, along with many other field commanders. Morale seems low. It is reasonable to connect all this to Putin’s error, Shoigu’s inexperience, and the lack of planning.

    14/30 Shoigu went missing for two weeks, and was reported to be having heart problems.

    15/30 When Russia’s war aims were publicly recalibrated on March 25th, the announcement came not from Shoigu but from General Sergei Rudskoi.

    16/30 Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the Russian general staff, is unlike Shoigu a real general. Because of the adroit propaganda of the last Russian invasion of Ukraine, 2014, he is associated with the idea of hybrid war.

    17/30 Whether or not that association is correct, the invasion of 2022 has been a propaganda disaster. Insofar as Gerasimov’s reputation was associated with hybrid war, it has suffered.

    18/30 Gerasimov is regarded as the mastermind of the decisive 2014 battlefield victory at Ilovaisk during the last Russian invasion of Ukraine. Insofar as his reputation was associated with outwitting Ukrainians on the battlefield, it has suffered.

    19/30 The American military leadership complains that their Russian counterparts (Shoigu and Gerasimov) will not take their phone calls. This is an unusual and dangerous practice.

    20/30 The Russians might not be taking the Americans’ phone calls because of a capricious decision by Putin. They might also be afraid of contact with Americans at a time of stress or suspicion.

    21/30 Putin might wish to believe that intelligence leaks explain the better-than-expected Ukrainian (and the worse-than-expected Russian) performance on the battlefield.

    22/30 The leak theory would be convenient, since it would distract attention from his own erroneous views about Ukraine, a major cause of both the invasion and its failures.

    23/30 Sergei Beseda is or was the head of the part of the Russian secret police (Federal Security Service, FSB) that is responsible for international affairs. He now seems to be under house arrest.

    24/30 Like Gerasimov, Beseda was associated with the last Russian intervention in Ukraine. He was in Kyiv with a team of colleagues on an official mission in February 2014, just when dozens of protestors were shot to death.

    25/30 Beseda would presumably have been responsible for providing Putin with intelligence on Ukraine prior to the invasion. It is hard to know what he said or whether Putin listened.

    26/30 Putin might prefer to blame faulty intelligence for the difficulties in Ukraine as a diversion from simpler explanations, ie: his premise was wrong; he failed to consult others.

    27/30 Perhaps Beseda yielded to Putin’s prejudices, perhaps he gave him good intelligence and was ignored. Either way, if Beseda is blamed, this is a blow to the FSB and its prestige.

    28/30 The FSB is presumably mindful of its position with respect to rival institutions, such as the National Guard and Chechen irregulars, both present in Ukraine.

    29/30 Summary: the supreme leader is consistently redistributing blame for his own errors; military leaders are scarcely and unpredictably visible during a war; other important services are under stress.

    30/30 It is worth looking for fault lines between Putin and his generals; among his generals; between higher officers and soldiers in the field; between Putin and his secret police, and between his secret police and rival services.

  154. says

    BBC – “Who Killed Nemtsov? New evidence on Russia’s most shocking assassination”:

    In February 2015 Russian politician Boris Nemtsov—a fierce critic of Vladimir Putin—was shot dead on a bridge in the shadow of the Kremlin.

    Five men were convicted for his murder, but urgent questions remained: Who ordered the killing…and why?

    Now, a new film from Bellingcat, The Insider, and BBC Eye Investigations reveals evidence that, in the year running up to the shooting, Boris Nemtsov was being shadowed by a government agent linked to a secret assassination squad.

    21-minute YT video at the link.

  155. lotharloo says

    A bit personal but I just realized one of my fellow distinguished colleagues at the Copenhagen IT University follows this James Lindsay guy who is the founder of this crap: https://newdiscourses.com/
    He keeps posting twitter thread from this guy, spouts nonsense about “lefty theory” and take over of everything by “Marxists”. Should make for interesting conversations at the next conference. Can’t imagine hearing all about how the left silences his critics and they are authoritarian and he has no freedom of speech!

  156. blf says

    The Onion, McDonald’s Launches $99 Ripoff Menu:

    Boasting that it was the absolute worst value of any fast food restaurant in the country, McDonald’s announced Tuesday that the company had launched a $99 ripoff menu. “Starting today, McDonald’s customers can buy all of their favorite classic items, like a quarter pounder with cheese, small fries, or four-piece chicken nuggets, for the highly unaffordable price of $99,” said CEO Chris Kempczinski, noting that for just a $100 upgrade, customers could also add on a small soft drink or hash brown to any inflated McDonald’s purchase. “No matter where you go, we guarantee you’ll never find prices more unreasonable than these. Plus, for $199, you can buy upgraded menu items like a bacon McDouble or a McChicken, and for $1,099, we’ll gouge you by letting you mix and match.” At press time, McDonald’s confirmed they had no choice but to double the Ripoff menu prices after only making 100 times the projected profits.

    Sadly, there is a scarf-and-barf here in the village. I’ve never been there, but assume they will be participating in this offer, using their usual many€ = 1$ exchange rate (current actual exchange rate is 0.90€ ≈ 1$).

  157. says

    HuffPo – “Records Given To House Panel Show 7-Hour Gap In Trump Jan. 6 Phone Log: Reports”:

    White House records handed over to the House select committee investigating the U.S. Capitol riot show a gap of seven hours and 37 minutes in former President Donald Trump’s Jan. 6, 2021, phone log, The Washington Post and CBS News reported Tuesday.

    The House of Representatives committee is investigating whether Trump used back channels, borrowed phones or disposable “burner phones” to communicate during the time the Capitol was attacked by his aggrieved supporters, the news outlets reported.

    Documents obtained by the outlets show no White House notation of calls to or from Trump from 11:17 a.m. until 6:54 p.m. on Jan. 6. The attack began unfolding about 1 p.m. that day, when protesters stirred by Trump’s false claims of election fraud broke through the outer police barrier around the Capitol.

    The 11 pages of records sent to the committee by the National Archives show that Trump was active on the phone in the morning and evening that day. He spoke with former White House strategist Steve Bannon twice, and also spoke with his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, among others.

    Trump also participated in phone calls that day that have been widely reported, but do not appear in the logs. One is a call to former Vice President Mike Pence in late morning, before Trump headed to the rally at the Ellipse at noon.

    The House select committee has been seeking documents and testimony from anyone who had access to Trump on the day of the insurrection. The committee on Monday recommended that the House refer criminal contempt charges for two more Trump aides — Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino — who have defied subpoenas.

    Members of the committee also complained that the Justice Department wasn’t moving fast enough to file criminal contempt of Congress charges.

  158. blf says

    France, Germany and Luxembourg seize assets of Lebanon’s central bank chief:

    France, Germany and Luxembourg have seized properties and frozen assets worth 120 million euros ($130 million) in a major operation linked to money laundering in Lebanon, the EU’s justice agency said Monday.

    The seizures are linked to a probe launched by French investigators last year into the personal wealth of Riad Salameh, the central bank chief in crisis-hit Lebanon.

    […]

    The Hague-based Eurojust said the operation on Friday was directed against five individuals who were suspected of embezzling public funds in Lebanon of more than $330 million and five million euros, respectively, between 2002 and 2021. [I’m not entirely certain how to parse that sentence — five individual but two amounts “respectively”? –blf]

    The five suspects include Salameh, a former Merrill Lynch banker and members of his family, a source close to the probe told AFP.

    Prosecutors are probing Salameh’s alleged links to criminal association and money laundering, judicial sources said, following a similar move by Switzerland.

    A Lebanese judge last week charged Salameh with “illicit enrichment” and money laundering after he failed to attend a court hearing for the fifth time.

    Legal proceedings opened against Salameh after complaints filed by anti-graft groups in April last year, supported by a group of Lebanese citizens who lost money since the crisis hit the country in 2019.

    […]

    The Lebanese public suspect him and other high officials of transferring money abroad during a 2019 uprising, when ordinary people were prevented from doing so.

    […]

    Al Jazeera’s report (albeit one of those done somehow involving Bloomberg), Lebanon central banker probed in money laundering investigation:

    […]
    Lebanon’s central bank head is one of the targets in a joint money-laundering probe spearheaded by three European countries over the alleged embezzlement of more than $330 million.

    Authorities in France, Germany and Luxembourg froze assets worth a total of 120 million euros ($132 million) on March 25 in an investigation involving five suspects, European Union officials said Wednesday.

    An apparent inconsistency in both date (last Friday vs. today) and estimated value (perhaps $330 million vs. $132 million)… Gaaaaa!

    […]
    The central banker has been at the forefront of Lebanon’s worst financial crisis in decades as many partly blamed him for the economic collapse that wiped out people’s life-savings, triggered triple-digit inflation and plunged the middle class into poverty.

    It’s probable something happened — but I find it very very annoying two generally-respectable news sources cannot agree on what Eurojust said (or when).

    The actual Eurojust press release (dated 28 March (yesterday, Monday)), Action against money laundering freezes EUR 120 million worth of Lebanese assets, seizing bank accounts, says:

    Authorities from France, Germany and Luxemburg carried out extensive measures to freeze EUR 120 million worth of assets linked to the investigation of a money laundering case in Lebanon, during an action day on 25 March [Friday]. Five properties in Germany and France were seized as well as several bank accounts. […]

    The main investigation is directed against five suspects accused of money laundering. They are suspected of embezzling public funds in Lebanon for amounts of more than USD 330 million and EUR 5 million, respectively, between 2002 and 2021.
    […]

    Ok, so the totally baffling wording comes from Eurojust — apologies to France24.

       It’s possible the “$330 million” quoted within the France24 article (first link) is a typo, as their own tagline says “$130 million” (broadly agreeing with Al Jazeera article’s $132 million (second link)). Except Eurojust has the same bafflement, saying both values ($330 and $132 millions).

       The dating confusion is easier to understand, the action was taken on Friday 25th but not reported until Monday 28th.

  159. says

    Here’s a link to today’s Guardian Ukraine liveblog. From there:

    There has been a flurry of diplomatic activity in the Benelux. Belgium has just announced that it is expelling 21 Russian diplomats for spying. The Netherlands is doing the same with 17 others.

    A Russian airstrike struck a government building in the southern Ukrainian port city of Mykolaiv on Tuesday, destroying a large portion of the structure and leaving people trapped under debris.

    Russia’s defence ministry said Russia will “drastically reduce” military activity outside Kyiv and Chernihiv.

    Speaking on television after talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiating teams in Istanbul, Russia’s deputy defence minister said Moscow has decided to “fundamentally cut back military activity in the direction of Kyiv and Chernihiv” in order to “increase mutual trust for future negotiations to agree and sign a peace deal with Ukraine.”…

    The United States is seeing Russia beginning to withdraw some of its forces from the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in a sign of a change in Russian strategy in Ukraine, senior US military officials said.

    Large numbers of military vehicles with Russian flags were reportedly seen retreating from the Kyiv direction.

    However, the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said he has not seen “signs of real seriousness” from Russia in pursuing peace, adding that Moscow should “end the aggression now, stop firing, pull its forces back and of course engage in talks”.

    Speaking today at a joint press conference with Morocco’s foreign minister, Nasser Bourita, Blinken said he has not seen signs the talks between Ukraine and Russia are “moving forward in an effective way”.

    There is what Russia says, and there is what Russia does. We’re focused on the latter.

    Ukraine’s military said it had noted withdrawals of some forces around Kyiv and Chernihiv.

  160. says

    France 24 – “Spooked by immigration, Islam and ‘woke’ ideas: Who are Éric Zemmour’s supporters?”:

    Far-right polemicist Éric Zemmour has vowed to reverse the immigration he blames for undermining France’s identity and core values if he wins the country’s upcoming presidential election. FRANCE 24 spoke to his supporters who gathered by the thousands in Paris on Sunday.

    A writer and talk show pundit known for his polarising attacks on Muslims and immigrants, Zemmour emerged as the election’s dark horse early on in the campaign, drawing from both the mainstream conservative camp and voters disappointed by the far right’s traditional champion, Marine Le Pen. He has since slipped down the table in voter surveys, polling at around 10-11 percent, though his supporters still rank among the most raucous and motivated ahead of the first round of the election on April 10.

    On Sunday, tens of thousands gathered at the Trocadéro in Paris, facing the Eiffel Tower, hoping to inject new momentum into his campaign. They included veteran far-rightists, staunch Catholics, anti-LGBT activists and anti-vaxxers for whom Zemmour is the best candidate to halt immigration, restore order and uphold traditional French values….

    Several individual portraits at the link. Oy.

  161. blf says

    Some snippets from the Meduza live blog (please note the updated URL):

    Insufficient bandwidth
    Citing the rising “unavailability of foreign equipment,” Russia’s federal government is now advising domestic telecoms operators to reduce mobile Internet service to keep Russia’s networks from overloading.

    Code switching
    An internal email at Google obtained by The Intercept [Google Ordered Russian Translators Not to Call War in Ukraine a War] shows that the company ordered Russian translators not to call the war in Ukraine a war, bowing at least in part to Kremlin censorship. The memo instructed translators to use euphemistic terms like emergency in Ukraine in their Russian version but “war in Ukraine” in the English version.

    Also, Meduza’s English translation of Zelensky’s interview with Russian media, ‘It’s not just a war. It’s much worse.’ Volodymyr Zelensky’s first interview with Russian journalists since the war began.

  162. says

    Kyiv Post:

    “An author of the legendary phrase about the “Russian warship”, border guard Roman Hrybov came back from the capture to his native Cherkasy region,” the head of the Cherkasy region administration reported

    :)!!!

  163. says

    Robert Reich in the Guardian – “Why do Putin, Trump, Tucker Carlson and the Republican party sound so alike?”:

    …To conclude from all of this that authoritarians think alike is to miss a deeper truth. Putin, Trump, Carlson, and a growing number of rightwing commentators and activists, have been promoting much the same narrative – for much the same reason.

    Remember, Putin was put into power by a Russian oligarchy made fabulously rich by siphoning off the wealth of the former Soviet Union. Likewise, Trump and the radical right in America have been bankrolled by an American oligarchy – Rupert Murdoch, Charles Koch, Rebekah Mercer (daughter of hedge fund tycoon Robert Mercer), Blackstone chief executive Stephen Schwarzman, and other billionaires.

    What do these two sets of oligarchs get in return? Strongmen who divert the public’s attention away from the oligarchs’ hijacking of their economies toward cultural fears of being overwhelmed by the “other.” Putin’s MO has been to fuel Russian ethnic pride and nationalism. The Trump-Carlson-radical right’s MO has been to fuel white American nationalism.

    In both cases, strongmen and their allies have mythologized a “superior” culture (replete with creation stories of blood ties, motherlands, and religion) supposedly endangered by decadent forces intent on attacking and overwhelming it.

    To Putin, the decadent force is the west. As he put it Friday, “domestic culture at all times protected the identity of Russia”, which “accepted all the best and creative, but rejected the deceitful and fleeting, that which destroyed continuity of our spiritual values, moral principles and historical memory”. Hence, a mythic justification for taking Ukraine back from a seductive but inferior western culture that threatens to overwhelm it and Russia.

    The Trump-Carlson-white nationalist narrative is similar: America’s dominant white Christian culture is endangered by Black people, immigrants and coastal elites who threaten to overwhelm it.

    The culture wars now being orchestrated by the Republican party against transgender people, gay people, poor women seeking abortions, and schools that teach about sex and America’s history of racism, emerge from the same narrative as Putin’s culture war against a “decadent” West filled with “sociocultural disturbances.” As does the right’s claim that “secularists” have, in the words of former Trump attorney general William Barr, mounted “an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values”.

    These tropes have served to distract attention from the systemic economic looting that oligarchs have been undertaking, leaving most people poor and anxious. Which is why the grievances that Putin, Trump, Carlson, and the Republican party use are unremittingly cultural; they are never economic, never about class, and most assuredly not about the predations of the super-rich.

    Ultimately, the oligarchs and strongmen will lose. Putin won’t succeed in subduing Ukraine, Trump won’t be re-elected president, and Carlson and his ilk won’t persuade Americans to give up on American ideals. But the culture wars won’t end any time soon, because so much wealth and power have consolidated at the top of America, Russia, and elsewhere around the world that anti-liberal forces have risen to justify it.

  164. blf says

    Follow-up of sorts to SC@222, President Macron snarks about Éric Zemmour’s facist mob shouting Macron murderer!, Emmanuel Macron hits back at Eric Zemmour over killer chants (video). Zemmour, rather implausibly, claimed he didn’t hear the very loud chanting, Macron snarked (paraphrasing), “perhaps the candidate is unaware hearing aids are available via the health service”.

    I have no idea what the chanting referred-to; I presume it’s projection.

  165. blf says

    This is not The Onion, Republican retracts false claim schools placing litter boxes for ‘furry’ students:

    Nebraska’s Bruce Bostelman apologises for repeating rumor that schools accommodating children who self-identify as cats

    A Nebraska state lawmaker apologized on Monday after he publicly cited a persistent but debunked rumor alleging that schools are placing litter boxes in school bathrooms to accommodate children who self-identify as cats.

    State senator Bruce Bostelman, a conservative Republican, repeated the false claim during a public, televised debate on a bill intended to help school children who have behavioral problems. His comments quickly went viral, with one Twitter video garnering more than 300,000 views as of Monday afternoon, and drew an onslaught of online criticism and ridicule.

    […]

    They meow and they bark and they interact with their teachers in this fashion, Bostelman said during legislative debate. And now schools are wanting to put litter boxes in the schools for these children to use. How is this sanitary?

    The rumor has persisted in a private Facebook group, Protect Nebraska Children, and also surfaced last month in an Iowa school district, forcing the superintendent to write to parents that it was “simply and emphatically not true”.

    […]

    The false claim that children who identify as cats are using litter boxes in school bathrooms has spread across the internet since at least December, when a member of the public brought it up at a school board meeting for Midland public schools north-west of Detroit.

    The claim was debunked by the district’s superintendent, who issued a statement that said there had “never been litter boxes within MPS schools”.

    Still, the baseless rumor has spread across the country, and become fuel for political candidates, amid the culture wars and legislative action involving gender identification in schools.

    Hours after his remarks, Bostelman backtracked and acknowledged that the story wasn’t true. He said he checked into the claims with state senator Lynne Walz, a Democrat who leads the legislature’s education committee, and confirmed there were no such incidents.

    It was just something I felt that if this really was happening, we needed to address it and address it quickly, Bostelman said[, explaining before establishing any facts it’s important to blurt out what teh alternative facts which will be proven by assertion am! Also, the Chicago Clubs did not win the 2016 World Series! –blf …]

  166. says

    blf @228, those two cartoons are both simple and effective. Funny stuff.

    SC @229, I’m very suspicious when Russian officials claim that they are withdrawing.

  167. says

    CNBC – “FDA authorizes fourth Pfizer and Moderna Covid vaccine doses for people age 50 and older”:

    The Food and Drug Administration has authorized fourth Pfizer and Moderna Covid vaccine doses for everyone age 50 and older, amid uncertainty over whether an even more contagious version of omicron will cause another wave of infection in the U.S. as it has in Europe and China.

    The FDA also said it authorized a second Pfizer booster shot for people age 12 and older who have compromised immune systems, and a second Moderna booster for adults ages 18 and older with compromised immune systems. All of the new boosters are to be administered at least fourth months after the last shot.

    The FDA made the decision without a meeting of its vaccine advisory committee, a rare move the agency has made more frequently over the course of the pandemic to expand uses of already-approved Covid vaccines. The drug regulator’s authorization comes just two weeks after Pfizer and Moderna asked the FDA to permit a second booster shot based on data from Israel. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to quickly sign off on the decision.

    The FDA’s advisory committee on vaccines is scheduled to meet on April 6 to discuss the future of booster shots in the U.S. The vaccine experts are expected to hold a broad discussion about boosters and will not vote on a specific recommendation.

    Dr. Paul Offit, a committee member, criticized the drug regulator for moving forward without holding an open meeting where the American public can hear experts weigh the data and make a recommendation to the FDA about the best path forward. The vaccine advisory committee’s recommendations are nonbinding, but they help provide transparency for the public.

    “It’s just sort of fait accompli,” Offit said of the FDA authorization. “So is this the way it works? We talk endlessly about how we follow the science — it doesn’t seem to work out that way.”

    The FDA has not called on the committee members to make a recommendation on booster shots since last fall when they voted in favor of a third Pfizer or Moderna dose for people age 65 and older and younger people at risk of severe Covid.

    Health experts disagree on whether a fourth vaccine dose is needed right now, though the debate is nuanced. There is broader agreement that the elderly or people with compromised immune systems may benefit from additional protection. Another booster shot for young, healthy adults is more controversial, as they are less susceptible to severe illness from Covid.

    Dr. Peter Hotez, a vaccine expert at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said some scientists believe the only purpose of the shots is to keep people out of the hospital. However, Hotez said vaccine policy should also seek to prevent infection and long Covid. The effectiveness of the third dose against hospitalization from omicron has also declined over time, he said.

    The CDC published a study in February that showed the effectiveness of the third dose against emergency room visits declined from 87% to 66% against emergency room visits, and from 91% to 78% against hospitalization at four months after receiving the shot.

    “That gives me pause for concern that the boosters are not necessarily holding up as well as we’d like,” said Hotez, who strongly supports a fourth dose based on Israeli data showing another booster increases protection for people older than 60.

    Israeli scientists, in a study published last week, found the death rate from omicron was 78% lower in senior citizens 60- to 100-years-old who received a fourth Pfizer dose compared with those who received just three shots. The study, which has not undergone peer review, examined the medical records of more than 500,000 people from January through February at Clalit Health Services, Israel’s largest health-care provider.

    The FDA decision to authorize fourth doses for those age 50 and older was broader than Pfizer’s request and narrower than Moderna’s. Pfizer had asked the FDA to clear fourth doses for those age 65 and older, while Moderna asked the drug regulator to permit them for all adults age 18 and older. Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel told CNBC last week that the biotech company filed a broader request in order to give the FDA flexibility to decide which age group needs a fourth dose right now.

    The authorization of fourth shots comes as a more contagious omicron subvariant, BA.2, has caused new waves of infection in major European nations and China, which is battling its worst outbreak since 2020. BA.2 has gained ground in the U.S. since February and is expected to become the dominant variant here in the coming weeks. White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has said infections might increase in the U.S. due to BA.2, though he doesn’t expect another wave.

    BA.2 generally does not make people sicker than the earlier version of omicron, BA.1, and the vaccines have the same level of effectiveness against both types of the variant, according to studies from South Africa and Qatar among others. Neither study has undergone peer review.

    It’s unclear if the FDA will also approve fourth doses for younger adults at some point, as there’s less data to support such a decision right now….

  168. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 225

    Ultimately, the oligarchs and strongmen will lose. Putin won’t succeed in subduing Ukraine, Trump won’t be re-elected president, and Carlson and his ilk won’t persuade Americans to give up on American ideals.

    Gag! More clueless liberal optimism. The fascists only lose when they are fought, and by “fight” I’m not talking about waving signs and chanting rhyming slogans. The Dems and the libs are too cowardly to stand up and literally get their hands bloody to defend the high-minded principles they claim to cherish.

    Putin, Trump, Carlson, and those who follow them are going to win and they are going to kill us.

  169. says

    More expulsions:

    NEW: Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands & the Czech Republic have today expelled a total of 43 Russian diplomats over alleged spying activities, taking to more than 100 the number of Russian officials to be kicked out of European nations this month.

    The expulsions are thought to be linked to the role played by Russia’s spy agencies in the war in Ukraine, two western officials told @SkyNews.
    The individuals being ejected might not themselves directly have been involved in the war.

    However, the decision to reduce the presence of what are understood to be a total of “high 100s” of Russian intelligence officers working under diplomatic cover in Europe signals a hardening of European states’ attitudes towards Russia’s vast intelligence network.

    One western official said Russia’s spy agencies had a “central role in planning the invasion” of Ukraine, including in shaping the false narratives used to justify the war.
    Russia’s spy agencies also pose a threat to individual countries where they operate, the officials said.

    They murder people!

  170. says

    Ukraine update: The Battle of Kyiv may be over, for now

    It’s less than 50 miles from Kyiv to the Belarus border—only that shortest route would be directly along the broad Dnieper River. Even so, getting from Belarus to Kyiv along major highways isn’t really much of a trip. The four-lane E25 highway runs straight from the border on the northeast. A network of several smaller highways on the northwest side of the city requires a series of turns and twists, but the total trip isn’t much longer. Either drive should take no more than a couple of hours.

    Getting to Kyiv from Russia takes somewhat longer, but is really in the kind of range that most Americans wouldn’t hesitate to take on a day trip. Just 175 miles up the M02, or slightly longer routes down the M03 or H07. Even the longest of these routes is the sort of drive that can usually be accomplished in a morning—with time out for a bathroom break and a stop for coffee.

    But when Russia crossed the borders of Ukraine, approaching from both north and east, on Feb. 24, they did not sit down to dinner in Kyiv, even if that’s what many of them had been expecting. In large part, that’s because many of these highways ran through cities. The E25 cuts through Chernihiv, the H07 starts in Sumy, and the M03 runs through Kharkiv. Considering that warnings provided by U.S. intelligence and the very visible 190,000-person force gathered along the border, these cities were already braced for impact. That’s why, on the first day of the Russia invasion, forces actually only penetrated quickly along the relatively uncontested M02. [map available at the link]

    Over the day, Russian forces fanned out on secondary streets and smaller dirt or gravel tracks that allowed them to somewhat bypass those cities, but these routes were tedious and slow. Soon enough they would also be muddy and all but impassable. So while Russia was able to “occupy” more territory as it spread around these city-sized roadblocks, it wasn’t able to actually place significant forces along the major highways to the east.

    It was really only on the set of secondary roads to the northwest of Kyiv that Russian forces managed to find a relatively uncontested route to the Kyiv suburbs. Though there were a series of minor actions and quite a number of vehicles left at the roadside, Russian forces advanced fairly rapidly through villages and towns west of the Dnieper. Just over a day into the war, there were startling pictures of advanced units of the Russian forces driving along suburban streets.

    Five days after the invasion began, the situation looked like this: Russia continued to advance slowly along the line of the M02 to the northeast, though it was meeting increased resistance. Some forces had been worked around Sumy from the south and were proceeding down the H07. And Russia was massing forces northwest of Kyiv. That purple box on this map represents a “significant” Russian build-up. Despite these advances, the bulk of Russian forces that might otherwise have advanced on Kyiv was still bottled up behind Chernihiv, Sumy, and most of all, Kharkiv. [map available at the link]

    Kharkiv is Ukraine’s second-largest city, sits on the best highway approaching Kyiv from the east, and is only a handful of miles from a Russian military base right across the border. Russia came at Kharkiv with a massive frontal assault, with paratroopers dropped into the city, and absolutely relentless shelling, missiles, and bombs. If Russian forces were able to mass northwest of the Kyiv suburbs, in Kharkiv, they massed right on the edge of the city. And still, Ukrainian forces refused to fold.

    Why is there an expanded view of Kyiv on Mar. 5? Because with the number of forces massed near the city and Russia moving forward, expectations were that the fighting would soon be street-to-street within the capital. [map available at the link]

    The map on Mar. 5 is all about Russia finally getting its act together and moving. Those slow creeping forces coming along the M02 are finally beginning to result in some equipment sitting on the outskirts of Kyiv, while all those giant “convoys” driving along roads to the west are on the move to the south. The intention is clearly to do to Kyiv what Russia has accomplished in other cities: Surround it, cut it off from resupply, and force defenders to confront a situation in which they get continually weaker, while Russia continues to both build its forces and shell the city from all sides.

    With Russian forces making gains in the western suburbs, and the second line of forces approaching along the H07 after bypassing Sumy, all of this seems possible. It’s not quite the “kick them out by this afternoon” speed Russia anticipated, but the story is still one of Russia on the advance, and Kyiv’s eventual capture seems almost inevitable.

    Now, let’s zip forward to Mar. 10 to see how that worked out …[map available at the link]

    The biggest change between this map and the last one is immediately obvious. @War_Mapper (who made all these terrific maps) has decided to switch to a darker shade of red. Other than that, the biggest change is that the expanded view of Kyiv has been dropped, because that street-to-street fighting no longer seems like something that’s going to happen any minute now. Russia’s move to encircle the city from the west still seems more aspirational than actual, the build-up of forces in the northeast continues to be slow. Chernihiv, Sumy, and Kharkiv continue to act as giant plugs around which Russia is only able to flow fractions of their armored columns. This is the period of that “40-kilometer convoy” that was being tracked seemingly inch by inch as it slowly advanced toward Kyiv. It was also the peak period of CNN’s breathless reporting of how close Russian forces were to the city, seemingly measured with calipers so that each report could be direr than the last.

    What did Russia actually accomplish in this period? Nothing. Around Kharkiv, Russia has actually already begun losing significant positions. Its massed forces are no longer along the city’s eastern border and it no longer threatens to encircle Kharkiv in the south. Fighting in Kyiv’s western suburbs continues to see Irpin, Bucha, and Hostomel as areas of active conflict, rather than safe Russian control. Those arrows are just arrows.

    Jump ahead to Mar. 15, and the stalemate of Russian forces is obvious. [map available at the link]

    That’s not to say that everything was calm during this period. There was continued hard fighting west of Kyiv as Ukraine attempted to retake those western suburbs and evacuate citizens over bridges and through the rubble. Russia also began to direct more missiles into Kyiv itself, including several that on Mar. 15 struck residential buildings and started extensive fires.

    Still, the city remained largely intact, with electricity, water, and other services running in the city core. And through it all, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy remained a visible presence in the city, refusing to leave when offered a chance to escape.

    By Mar. 20 [map available at the link], Russia had still failed to make a significant advance on encircling Kyiv. The western suburbs were still under contention, and the routes to the east looked to be, if anything, less secure than they had a few days earlier. @War_Mapper updated his maps to show villages known to be under Russian control, but the big splash of orange east of Kyiv reclassified this area as a “forward operating area.” Russia might be able to move forces through these areas, but not without a risk of ambush or a more serious attack by Ukrainian forces.

    This showed that supply lines to that Russian force on the east side of Kyiv were not—and probably never had been—secure. Russia continued to be dependent on what it could get down the M02 highway to the northeast—a route that had significant opposition west of Nizhyn—and what could be slipped around Sumy or Chernihiv. None of those major cities had fallen. None of them seemed about to fall.

    Many of the arrows have disappeared from this map because it’s obvious that Russia is no longer moving forward. This map may represent the greatest advance of Russian forces in the north. It also illustrates just how tenuous that position really was.

    During this period, Russia’s missile attacks on Kyiv expanded and became even more indiscriminate. Along with increased attempts to encircle Chernihiv, it seemed clear that Russia was bringing the same tactics of simply pounding a city to death that it had employed at Mariupol […]

    But after weeks of near stalemate, things are about to change.

    There are significant differences between Mar. 20 and Mar. 25 [map available at the link], and almost all of them represent a shift in Ukraine’s favor. On the west, Russia has lost firm control of suburbs south of Bucha as Ukrainian forces engage in an active counterattack of the area. On the east, Russian forces have been completely dislodged from their position immediately adjacent to the city and forced to relocate to the area of Nova Basan, about 25 miles to the east. The large suburb of Brovary, under full or partial Russian control since the first week of the war, is back in Ukrainian hands.

    Russian forces have less control of the area around Chernihiv. Less control of the route along the H0 west of Sumy. And even less control along the M02 around Nizhyn. East and west of Kyiv, Russian forces are being pressed into falling back and regrouping as Ukrainian troops engage in an active counteroffensive.

    Inside Kyiv, stores and offices began to reopen and some citizens that had been sheltering in subways and other shelters began to move back into their homes. For some, this meant picking through the rubble of disaster, and the threat of daily missile strikes remained. But for most, the immediate fear of Russian tanks rolling down the street, or Russian artillery letting go from some location close enough to reach the heart of the city, had passed. At least for the moment.

    That map position on Mar. 25 is not much changed four days later. On Monday, Ukrainian forces reportedly recaptured the suburb of Irpin on the west, and took several small villages beyond Brovary on the east. However, it’s not clear how much of the Ukrainian gains are the result of serious counterattacks in this area versus Russia simply pulling back.

    On Mar. 24, Russian officials first indicated that it intended to withdraw from the war in the north and refocus the invasion on the Donbas region and southern Ukraine. On Tuesday, both Ukrainian and U.S. intelligence indicated that significant movements were underway, with Russian forces pulling back from both Chernihiv and Kyiv.

    The utter destruction of Mariupol is a humanitarian disaster to the rest of the world, but for Russia, it’s their one success. As Russian forces continue to advance in street-to-street fighting in the ruined city, they’re getting closer and closer to gaining their much-desired land bridge between the Donbas and Crimea.

    With Russia and Ukraine now moving toward another round of not-very-hopeful talks, it’s expected that Russia will attempt to break Ukraine north and south. In occupied towns like Kherson and Melitopol, they’re already not just installing puppet governments, but creating tiny new puppet “republics.” Russia will want to use these micro-states as pawns in the negotiations, with the goal of bringing together the whole of southeast Ukraine as a new extension of Russia.

    That’s a deal that Ukraine is very, very unlikely to accept. This means that all those forces on both sides, still fighting around Kyiv and Chernihiv and Sumy, are going to get a chance to do it again—this time, in the south.

  171. says

    Julia Davis: “I can’t believe some in our media are still feverishly perturbed about the impact of Biden’s factual remarks regarding Putin, while Putin is massacring people in a country he invaded and is brutally trying to destroy. Get a grip and focus on what matters. Please. Enough nonsense.”

  172. says

    Wonkette: “DeSantis surrounds Himself With Happy Cis White Kids To Celebrate Bill Kicking Everyone Else”

    If you ever think that one person can’t make a difference in this big, cruel world … turns out Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Bill was started by one really shitty parent. See, back in September a middle schooler in Tallahassee told their mom, January Littlejohn, that they might be non-binary and would like to go by a different name. And instead of saying, “Sweetheart, Daddy and I love you, and we will always support you no matter what,” like a decent human being, she said, “No.” Littlejohn refused to call her child by their preferred name, and only allowed the kid to go by a nickname at school […]

    So far, so shitty, right?

    But then the school had the temerity to ask the student which restroom was appropriate for them to use. At which point, all hell broke loose, because January Littlejohn wasn’t going to put up with educators treating her non-binary child with respect, so she sued Leon County schools for supposedly helping her child “transition” against her wishes, and then launched herself at the legislature with the aid of the Child & Parental Rights Campaign. So now it’s illegal to even mention to children that gay families exist in the state of Florida.

    […] So now schools have to get parents’ permission to let kids use the restroom appropriate for their gender identity, and educators are required to tell parents about changes to services for a student’s “mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being.” Which is slightly less worse than an older version of the bill that required schools to out students if they admitted to being gay or transgender … but it still sucks a lot.

    Also, from a legal perspective, this bill is garbage. Aside from the obvious First Amendment issues in content-based regulation of speech, the bill is larded with vague phrasing. What does it mean that “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate”? If a gay teacher is married and expecting a child, will that teacher risk a lawsuit if she tells students she’s going on parental leave? And if a gay teacher isn’t permitted to acknowledge her family, then it’s clearly discriminatory to allow straight teachers to talk about their families as well.

    And who is this “reasonably prudent person” who will decide that disclosing a child’s health information to their parent will result in abuse? Because it seems pretty likely that the very parents who are most likely to abuse a child are also the ones who have just been empowered to sue the school for something innocuous like, say, asking which bathroom is appropriate for a child to use. And that is the entire point of this law. As with Texas’s abortion ban, it makes individual parents responsible for enforcing it through lawsuits, and so teachers and schools will police themselves by refusing to provide support to the gay and trans kids with shit parents — i.e. the ones who most need acceptance and help — and will censor all LGBT content in an effort to avoid litigation.

    […] Meanwhile, there’s been massive pushback from students themselves who keep rejecting the ministrations of DeSantis and mothers like January Littlejohn, staging walkouts and waving signs saying “We say gay.” [video available at the link]

    And after getting roundly shamed by its staff, Disney has finally halted all political donations in the state to protest the law. Which is perhaps why DeSantis made sure that there wouldn’t be any pesky protesters around when he signed the bill yesterday, and certainly no surly high school students […]

    Surrounded by cherubic white kids and their happy parents at a charter prep school north of Tampa, DeSantis promised to “make sure that parents can send their kids to school to get an education, not an indoctrination.” As for the kids who need adults in their life to protect them, not use them to score cheap political points, well … […].

  173. says

    Quoted in Lynna’s #234:

    This is the period of that “40-kilometer convoy” that was being tracked seemingly inch by inch as it slowly advanced toward Kyiv. It was also the peak period of CNN’s breathless reporting of how close Russian forces were to the city, seemingly measured with calipers so that each report could be direr than the last.

    The most amazing part was the whiplash between two contrasting scenarios, sometimes minutes apart: at one moment Kyiv was BRACING FOR ATTACK as the RUSSIANS were CLOSING IN, and in the next Russian forces CONTINUED TO BE STALLED. That they couldn’t both be stalled for days while also relentlessly closing in didn’t seem to trouble the hosts or chyron writers.

  174. says

    AP – “Afghan women traveling alone boarding flights despite ban”:

    Afghan women unaccompanied by a male guardian have been allowed to board aircraft in the capital of Kabul since Saturday, airport officials said Tuesday, despite a Taliban order banning them from flying.

    There has been no official reversal of the order by the hard-liners in the Taliban leadership, who have been crafting increasingly repressive edicts.

    A senior airport official told The Associated Press on Tuesday that it is business as usual for women traveling alone, a sign that at least some of the orders coming from a conflicted Taliban leadership are being ignored.

    The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media and he feared retaliation from the Taliban leadership. A second senior Taliban official also confirmed that the order was being ignored. That official also spoke on condition of anonymity for the same reasons.

    In a separate show of dissent from within the Taliban ranks, police official Gen. Mobin Khan criticized a new order from the Ministry of Vice and Virtue ordering all government workers to have beards and wear the traditional turban. Beards are seen as a sign of piety.

    Khan tweeted that it is a “strange system” that effectively shuts down a police or government department for three months until its officers can grow beards.

    The edict demanding the wearing of beards and turbans was just the latest in a flurry of repressive edicts that followed a three-day meeting more than a week ago of Taliban leaders in their southern heartland of Kandahar.

    The edicts have taken many Afghans and a wary international community by surprise as hard-liners appear to be pushing for dominance.

    Since sweeping into power in August, the Taliban have struggled to transition from war to governing as their nation suffers a devastating humanitarian crisis and an economy that is in free fall. Taliban officials and Afghans familiar with the Taliban leadership say there are deep divisions about the way to govern Afghanistan.

    Hard-liners, led by movement leader Haibatullah Akhunzada, would seem to want to return to the harsh rule of the late 1990s. But the more pragmatic among them — including many from the younger generation of Taliban — see the need to engage with the world. That group sees women and girls in schools and in the workplace as still being in line with their interpretation of Islam.

    Akhunzada reportedly was the one to veto a return to school last week of girls beyond the sixth grade, shocking the world and many Afghans. It was not immediately clear how these repressive moves will impact a virtual donor summit being co-hosted by Britain this week where the U.N. is seeking $4.4 billion to provide humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.

    Among the regressive edicts that emerged following the Kandahar meeting was a ban on women traveling alone on both domestic and international flights and restricting women to public parks on separate days from men. While stopping short of ordering them to wear the all-encompassing burqa, orders over loudspeakers warned women on the streets against showing their hair and telling them to wear large, heavy shawls.

    On Monday, officials from the notoriously strict vice and virtue ministry sat outside government ministries ordering men who had no beards to go home.

    Khan, the police official, tweeted that the vice and virtue ministry would do better to win over people’s hearts and minds and find jobs for the unemployed.

    “Recognize the priorities and feed the thousands of people standing in front of the bakeries in Kabul (seeking free food),” Khan tweeted.

    The United Nations estimates that 95% of Afghans are not getting enough to eat and that rises to 100% in households headed by families. The World Food Program has said that Afghanistan has the highest number of women-only households, the result of more than four decades of war.

    “The nation has suffered a lot have mercy on them,” Khan tweeted.

  175. says

    Then-President Donald Trump and his cronies were made fully aware in advance that their sustained campaign to steal the 2020 election could lead to violence on the day the election results were to be certified on Jan. 6, according to House Jan. 6 Committee vice chair Liz Cheney (R-WY).

    “We have learned that President Trump and his team were warned, in advance and repeatedly, that the efforts they undertook to overturn the 2020 election would violate the law and our Constitution,” Cheney said during a committee meeting on Monday night.

    “They were warned that January 6th could, and likely would, turn violent,” she added.

    The panel has spoken to “hundreds” of witnesses, including more than a dozen ex-Trump aides, in its investigation into the Capitol insurrection, according to Cheney.

    Cheney’s remarks came as the committee voted to recommend criminal contempt charges for ex-Trump advisers Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino on Monday.

    The fact that Trump and his team were apparently warned their actions could potentially trigger violence adds extra weight to the multiple instances of them invoking warlike rhetoric while falsely claiming the election was fraudulent, especially during the Trump rally that preceded the insurrection.

    That’s when, after then-Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani infamously called for a “trial by combat,” Trump told his angry supporters that they’ll “never take back our country with weakness.” […]

    Link

  176. says

    Ukraine update: Don’t expect much from the negotiations in Istanbul

    After two rounds of fruitless discussions just across the border in Belarus, Ukrainian and Russian negotiators are meeting today in Istanbul, Turkey. In advance of that meeting, both sides are trying to position themselves to gain the upper hand in negotiations. In the case of Ukraine, that means fighting to regain every inch of territory as the delegations take their seats. In the case of Russia, that means trying to complete the destruction of Mariupol while pretending that losses in the north were intentional.

    In other words, [Russians are] leaving Irpin and Brovary as a good faith gesture. Not because they got their butts handed to them on a platter.

    In any case, no matter where events stand on the ground going in, it’s unlikely that negotiators are going to emerge from this round of talks with an agreement. The reason is simple enough: Land.

    When Vladimir Putin launched the invasion of Ukraine, he did so on a pretense of being concerned about “de-Nazification” and demilitarization of his neighbor to the west. Since then, it’s seemed clear that Russia does not actually give a damn about either of these items. The de-Nazification statements, in which Putin referred to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s as an “illegal Nazi junta,” were a justification for replacing that government. Now that it looks like Putin has failed in every effort to scare, assassinate, or capture Zelenskyy, he’s willing to wave off that claim.

    When it comes to demilitarization, Putin’s position now seem almost as pointless. The negotiations seem to have come down to Ukraine agreeing not to be a part of NATO, but instead gaining some other collection of countries which would guarantee Ukraine’s security and have a legal right, or obligation, to intervene if the country was attacked in the future. It doesn’t really matter if that group is NATO, the EU, or an assortment of eight selected nations, the effect is the same.

    If it was just these two points to be hashed out, a cease fire and some form of solution might be underway today. But it’s really the third item where things are almost bound to founder. That third point is Putin’s insistence that he was launching this invasion to “protect” the two “breakaway republics” of Luhansk and Donetsk which were recognized by Russia just hours before sending tanks across the line.

    Now it’s clear that not only is Russia going to seek to simply absorb these portions of Ukraine into Russia, it’s trying to expand them. The purpose of crushing Mariupol at all costs is to build a land bridge between the area Russia controls in the Donbas and the previously captured Crimean Peninsula. In addition, Russia is already setting up puppet governments in the captured cities of Melitopol and Kherson, expressly for the purpose of creating more “republics” that Russia can then recognize.

    It’s clear that what Putin wants is to ultimately cleave off the south eastern portion of Ukraine, creating a coherent, contiguous block that could be absorbed directly into Russia. This would secure Russia’s control over Crimea, give it complete ownership of the Sea of Azov, and set it up for the next round of funding unrest in what remains of Ukraine. That’s the kind of result that would allow Putin to exult over his victory—even though the value of the area gained wouldn’t come close to the losses generated. It’s also clear that Russia originally intended to create additional “republics” in Mykolaiv and Odesa, except for the messy fact that it failed to capture them. (The same goes for Zaporizhzhia, but that doesn’t mean they won’t ask for it). [Map available at the link]

    This is the one demand that Russia actually cares about. It also happens to be the one demand that Ukraine absolutely will not give them. Because Zelenskyy, and everyone else in Ukraine, recognizes that ceding a single acre of land to Russia for this unprovoked invasion would be seen as a betrayal.

    Russia is continuing to attack towns and villages in this area, deliberately blocking previously agreed on humanitarian corridors, depopulating the region by shipping thousands to prison camps in Russia, and launching missiles into government buildings in Mykolaiv as Ukrainian forces try to close on Kherson.

    There’s no doubt Ukraine will try to retake the captured towns, but Russia has one significant advantage: Ukraine will try its best to avoid large scale civilian casualties. Russia does not give a f##k. They are trying to set up a region where the only thing that moves is their army and their puppet regime.

    Russia wants Ukraine to agree to not just recognizing the land it stole in 2014, but expanding on that theft. Ukraine will not agree. Which makes it very likely that another phase of this war is coming soon, one in which both Russia and Ukraine shift more forces to the south. None of that is likely to change so long as Putin believes he can bludgeon Ukraine into accepting peace at any price.

  177. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    According the UK ministry of defence’s latest update, “it is almost certain that the Russian offensive has failed in its objective to encircle Kyiv.”

    “Russian statements regarding a reduction in activity around Kyiv, and reporting indicating the withdrawal of some Russian units from these areas, may indicate Russia’s acceptance that it has now lost the initiative in the region,” said UK defence attaché, Mick Smeath in a statement. “It is highly likely that Russia will seek to divert combat power from the north to their offensive in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the east.”

    The assessment mirrors that of the Pentagon. “Russia has failed in its objective of capturing Kyiv,” a Pentagon spokesman said earlier. “It does not mean that the threat to Kyiv is over.”

  178. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    In is latest address, Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that Ukraine wouldn’t be reducing its defensive efforts despite Russian promises to ease off some parts of the country.

    “We can say the signals we are receiving from the talks are positive but they do not drown out the explosions of Russian shells,” he said.

    “The Russian army still has significant potential to continue attacks against our state,” he added. “Therefore we are not reducing our defensive efforts.”

    Zelenskiy signaled optimism about talks in Turkey, but noted that any peace deal couldn’t compromise Ukrainian sovereignty.

  179. says

    Interesting details:

    In areas where Internet service has failed, often as the result of a strike that damaged fiber cables or because of a power outage, Ukraine’s telecommunications companies are sending workers into the field to fix what they can.

    Ukrainian telecom workers have been mounting a heroic effort to keep their fellow citizens connected, “working around-the-clock to maintain availability of these services,” Ukraine’s minister for digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov told The Post in an interview.

    Kyivstar has been sending out engineers for repairs and is also providing Internet service to more than 200 bomb shelters in the country.

    Washington Post link

  180. says

    Followup to comment 247.

    The government of Ukraine has also been preparing backup options for when traditional service fails. After Fedorov tweeted at SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk last month, the billionaire arranged to have equipment for his satellite Internet service Starlink sent to Ukraine. The country has received thousands of Starlink terminals, which communicate with satellites in orbit to provide service.

    Satellite service is generally not as fast or powerful as Internet connections on the ground, but it can be a useful backup, and Ukrainian civilians and the military are already using it
    .
    “The quality of the link is excellent,” Fedorov told The Post earlier this month. “We are using thousands — in the area of thousands — of terminals, with new shipments arriving every other day.”

  181. says

    ‘Biggest fraud in a generation’: The looting of the Covid relief plan known as PPP

    The official in charge of Covid relief tells NBC News’ Lester Holt that programs like PPP were structured in ways that were “an invitation” to fraudsters.

    They bought Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Bentleys.

    And Teslas, of course. Lots of Teslas.

    Many who participated in what prosecutors are calling the largest fraud in U.S. history — the theft of hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer money intended to help those harmed by the coronavirus pandemic — couldn’t resist purchasing luxury automobiles. Also mansions, private jet flights and swanky vacations. [“hundreds of billions!]

    They came into their riches by participating in what experts say is the theft of as much as $80 billion — or about 10 percent — of the $800 billion handed out in a Covid relief plan known as the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP. That’s on top of the $90 billion to $400 billion believed to have been stolen from the $900 billion Covid unemployment relief program — at least half taken by international fraudsters — as NBC News reported last year. And another $80 billion potentially pilfered from a separate Covid disaster relief program.

    The prevalence of Covid relief fraud has been known for some time, but the enormous scope and its disturbing implications are only now becoming clear.

    […] the total fraud in all Covid relief funds amounts to a mind-boggling sum of taxpayer money that could rival the $579 billion in federal funds included in President Joe Biden’s massive 10-year infrastructure spending plan […]

    “Nothing like this has ever happened before,” said Matthew Schneider, a former U.S. attorney from Michigan who is now with Honigman LLP. “It is the biggest fraud in a generation.”

    Most of the losses are considered unrecoverable, but there is still a chance to stanch the bleeding, because federal officials say $600 billion is still waiting to go out the door. The Biden administration imposed new verification rules […]

    Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who oversees Covid relief spending, told “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt in an exclusive interview that Covid relief programs were structured in ways that made them ripe for plunder.

    “The Small Business Administration, in sending that money out, basically said to people, ‘Apply and sign and tell us that you’re really entitled to the money,’” said Horowitz, the chair of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee. “And, of course, for fraudsters, that’s an invitation. … What didn’t happen was even minimal checks to make sure that the money was getting to the right people at the right time.”

    […] The looting of the Paycheck Protection Program worked differently — and it could be far more lucrative. The program authorized banks and other financial institutions to make government-backed loans to businesses, loans that were to be forgiven if the companies spent the money on business expenses. Nearly 10 million such loans have already been forgiven. Many of the loans-turned-grants were for millions of dollars, public records show.

    […] For much of 2020, lenders did little to verify the applications, prosecutors and experts say, in part because Congress required the Small Business Administration, or SBA, which ran the program, to issue explicit guidance that in the interest of getting the money out fast, lenders “will be held harmless for borrowers’ failure to comply with program criteria.” The Government Accountability Office warned of fraud risk, but the program continued under that rule.

    […] The SBA’s inspector general has identified $78.1 billion in potentially fraudulent Economic Injury Disaster Loans, another Covid relief program for businesses. The Secret Service has its own estimate: $100 billion.

    The basic scheme, Talcove said, was “really simple.” People went on state websites and took the names of existing businesses or registered new, fake ones.

    “There’s absolutely no security on there. There’s no validation of any information,” Talcove said. “And voila, you have company ABC with 40 employees and a payroll of $10 million. And you go and apply for a PPP loan. It was a piece of cake.”

    […] In one case it found that a phone number for a gas station in Houston was used on 150 loan applications. […]

    One of the centers of the fraud is Miami, where Juan Gonzalez is the U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Florida.

    Gonzalez said that unlike with unemployment relief, which went to every person who qualified, lenders had to stop making PPP loans when the money ran out, even though demand continued. The fraud didn’t harm just the taxpayers — it hurt people who needed the money.

    The public, he said, “should be very angry.”

    “This is billions of taxpayer dollars that has been stripped from them,” he said. “And more angry should be the people who did lose their jobs, who worked for businesses that couldn’t apply for this money because it was gone. Those are really the ones who should be the angriest of all.”

    […] David Hines, 29, of Miami, for example, admitted to a fraud scheme that netted him $3.9 million, according to his guilty plea. Hines, who said in court papers that he struggled with addiction, bought a $318,000 Lamborghini Huracán. He also spent thousands on luxury hotels, jewelry, clothing and dating sites, say prosecutors, who seized the car and recovered much of the money.

    Also in Miami, a man and a woman admitted to a complex scheme in which, among other things, they claimed they were operating farms — with many employees — out of small, single-family homes in the middle of the city.

    […] In another Florida case, prosecutors have charged a man who they say used proceeds from a $7.2 million emergency loan to buy a 12,579-square-foot mansion, a Lincoln Navigator car, a Maserati and a Mercedes-Benz.

    A California couple were convicted in June of stealing $18 million, with which they bought three houses, diamonds, gold coins, luxury watches, expensive furniture and other valuables, prosecutors said. Just as they were to be sentenced, they cut off their ankle bracelets and fled, leaving their children behind, according to the FBI.

    They were captured in February in Montenegro. The man was sentenced to 17 years in prison, and his wife got six years.

    Their case underscores that most of the defendants have been freed while they have awaited trial and sentencing, even though they have been accused of stealing huge sums.

    […] In the annals of Covid fraud cases, few have matched the brazenness suspected of Danielle Miller, according to federal prosecutors in Boston, where she was charged. The charging documents in her case say she stole identifying information from a Massachusetts state website and used the information to apply for Covid relief loans.

    In 40 minutes, she had $100,000 in taxpayer money, court documents say. She soon booked a private jet from Florida to California, where she spent $5,500 at a luxury hotel in West Hollywood, court papers allege.

    On her Instagram account, which has 34,000 followers, Miller posted photos from two posh hotel stays paid for with criminal proceeds, prosecutors say. […]

    Hines got six years in prison, and the fraudulent farmers got 18 and 30 months. But Gonzalez and other government officials acknowledge that for every person caught, many, many more have gotten away with it. And while prosecutors have 10 years to go after the fraud, given the enormous scope of the criminality, the Justice Department simply doesn’t have the resources to go after it all.

    […] So how was this allowed to happen? There are two prevailing theories, one more forgiving of the government than the other. […] “Some fraud is inevitable. That’s the price that the government was willing to pay to get the money as quickly as possible into the hands of those that really needed it.”

    As for the lenders, he said, “perhaps because it was not their money that was on the line, some of these institutions didn’t do the type of diligence they should’ve done.”

    […] Congressional officials say they are investigating a half-dozen lenders and service providers, including Bluevine, which processed loan applications for $4.5 billion and touted that a business could get loan approval in five minutes.

    Bluevine said in a statement that it used “robust compliance” to reduce fraud in accordance with government guidelines and that it was “regrettable” that the government’s loan programs were “abused by bad actors … despite our best efforts.”

    Talcove, whose company maintains huge databases of public records and sells verification services to governments, says the government and the lenders and banks could and should have prevented such widespread fraud.

    When Covid relief was proposed, he said, he spoke to Larry Kudlow, then a top economic adviser to President Donald Trump. “And I explained to him that this was going to be the biggest fraud in the history of our country. And then I was told that you can have speed or you can have security. And that they’d rather just get the money out.”

    Talcove said he told Kudlow that banks have the ability to rapidly identify their customers.

    […] The idea that there is a tradeoff between speed and security “is a false premise,” Talcove said. “It’s not true. […] It is very easy to stop the type of fraud that we’re looking at. In fact, the private sector stopped this a decade ago.

    […] an official who works on Covid relief and wasn’t authorized to speak publicly acknowledged that Talcove is correct. In the early stages of the loan program, he said, there were few controls. And it didn’t have to be that way.

    “I agree,” he said, “that the notion that you had to sacrifice certainty for speed is categorically false.”

    Kudlow and Trump have a lot to answer for. They threw away hundreds of billions of taxpayer’s money.

  182. says

    NBC News:

    Americans ages 50 and older can now receive a second booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine. Hours after the Food and Drug Administration authorized the second booster on Tuesday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued a statement allowing shots to begin immediately.

    Also from NBC News:

    The BA.2 subvariant of omicron was estimated to be more than half, or 54.9 percent, of the coronavirus variants circulating in the United States as of Saturday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday.

    Get your second booster shot!

  183. says

    PALM BEACH (The Borowitz Report)—After the House select committee investigating January 6th revealed that there was a seven-hour gap in Donald J. Trump’s phone records for that day, the former President said that the hiatus was caused by a marathon of shark documentaries on the Discovery Channel.

    “I was flipping around the channels, and suddenly I see the sharks,” he said. “I never miss the sharks.”

    Trump said that the moment he saw that Discovery was airing shark documentaries, he turned off his phone and did not turn it on again until the marathon had concluded.

    “I’m told I was watching the sharks for seven, maybe eight hours,” he said. “Quite frankly, I wasn’t paying attention to the time. I was paying attention to the sharks.”

    Trump lashed out at critics of his behavior on January 6th and claimed that, by monitoring the sharks, he was “protecting the country.”

    “Sleazy Adam Schiff might have a problem with me saving the country from sharks, but that’s the President’s job,” he said. “Sharks are horrible people.”

    New Yorker link

  184. says

    Here’s a link to today’s Guardian (support them if you can!) Ukraine liveblog. From there:

    Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, speaking with reporters today, said Russia had not noticed anything really promising or that looked like a breakthrough yet in peace talks with Ukraine, Reuters is reporting….

    The mayor of Chernihiv, Vladyslav Atroshenko, said the northern Ukrainian city has been under “colossal attack” despite a promise by Moscow to scale down military operations there.

    In an interview with CNN, Atroshenko hit out at Russia’s claim that it planned to “drastically reduce” its military assault on Chernihiv and the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

    Atroshenko said:

    This is yet another confirmation that Russia always lies.

    Contrary to Russia’s statement that it would de-escalate attacks, Atroshenko said hostilities have increased in Chernihiv since the claim was made.

    They’re saying reducing intensity, they actually have increased the intensity of strikes.

    Today we have a colossal attack on the center of Chernihiv. Twenty-five people have been wounded and are now in hospitals. They’re all civilians.

    So whenever Russia says something, this needs to be checked carefully.

    Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, hailed China as part of a new “world order” ahead a meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi.

    In his first visit to China since Russia invaded Ukraine last month, Lavrov said the world was “living through a very serious stage in the history of international relations”, AFP reports.

    In a video released by the Russian foreign ministry ahead of his meeting, Lavrov said:

    We, together with you, and with our sympathisers will move towards a multipolar, just, democratic world order.

    Lavrov and Wang were later photographed in face masks bumping elbows in front of their national flags.

    China has not published a readout of the two ministers, but foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin later told reporters that Moscow and Beijing will continue efforts in “advancing global multipolarity and the democratisation of international relations”.

    Repeating a line used by the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to characterise ties, Wang added:

    Our striving for peace has no limits, our upholding of security has no limits, our opposition towards hegemony has no limits.

  185. says

    Guardian – “Ramzan Kadyrov: Putin’s ‘attack dog’ and Ukraine”:

    It’s not just Vladimir Putin who has staked his reputation on the war in Ukraine. The Chechen warlord and leader Ramzan Kadyrov has also led his own forces into Ukraine in lockstep with his firm ally Putin.

    It’s an unlikely alliance that dates to the late 1990s. Following the implosion of the Soviet Union and the bitter and brutal Chechen wars, Kadyrov’s father Akhmad gave up fighting for the separatists and instead formed an alliance with Putin as he rose to power.

    It was a grand bargain that gave him complete power over Chechnya and to stamp out separatist and Islamist militants as well as massive riches. In exchange for all this power, Putin demanded total loyalty: and a promise to remove Chechen separatism as a live issue for the Russian federation.

    When Akhmad Kadyrov was killed in a car bomb, his son Ramzan took over the Chechen leadership where he has remained ever since.

    As Julius Strauss tells Nosheen Iqbal, Ramzan Kadyrov makes no secret of his vast wealth and relish for violence. Now as Russian negotiators were saying they are moving their military operation away from Kyiv, Kadyrov was telling his followers on Telegram that he wanted to “end what had been started”.

    28-minute podcast at the link.

  186. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    The governor of Chernihiv in Ukraine has said he saw no let-up in Russian attacks despite a promise by Moscow to scale down military operations there.

    Governor Viacheslav Chaus said of Russia’s pledge:

    Do we believe in it? Of course not.

    He said all-night strikes on Nizhyn and Chernihiv included residential buildings, libraries and shopping centres. With each rocket, Vladimir Putin was putting ‘another nail’ in his coffin, he added.

  187. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, said Beijing and Moscow are “more determined” to develop bilateral ties and boost cooperation, following a meeting in China with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, Reuters reports.

    Wang said bilateral ties had withstood new tests amid the changing international situation but had maintained the “correct” direction of development

    He also reaffirmed China’s support for continued peace talks between Russia and Ukraine.

  188. blf says

    Apropos of nothing really at all, today I remembered I had some veal cutlets I’d bought over a week ago, and decided to investigate it they could be ate. At first they looked and smelt edible, but I as started to cut them up, they began to stink. Oops. Nuts. So a quick change of ingredient for the risotto… and whilst rummaging through the fresh vegetables, found they were very fresh indeed, quite lively, uttering berserker yells & screams and attacking everything in sight, including the mildly deranged penguin. (I said they were bersekers !) End result is except for a few oranges I was able to salvage, I had to throw everything out.

    This isn’t actually too surprising. I’d stocked-up two or more weeks ago, but hadn’t used all that much. More likely, the mildly deranged one was trying to evolve something and lost interest…

       Is freshly-squeezed orange juice supposed to be blueish, emitting sparks, and sliding across the floor snail-like, leaving a trail that fizzes and seems to be dissolving the tiles?

  189. says

    Irpin mayor: about 50 people from army/territorial defence died liberating the town just outside Kyiv, 100 injured.

    Civilian casualties not counted yet. ‘I think abt 200-300 people died. Lots of bodies are in the ruins. We need time to find them’

    50% of the city is destroyed.”

  190. blf says

    ‘Refusing to kill people isn’t a crime’ The Russian National Guard is firing officers who refuse to join the war in Ukraine (Meduza edits in {curly braces}; my own minor edits for formatting reasons (not marked)):

    On March 24, Pavel Chikov, a lawyer from the international human rights organization Agora, reported that 12 Russian National Guard officers from Krasnodar who were participating in military exercises in Crimea had refused to follow their commander’s orders to join the war in Ukraine. The officers were subsequently fired, though they’ve challenged the decision in court and are seeking to have their employment reinstated. Meduza spoke with Krasnodar-based lawyer Mikhail Benyash, who’s representing the officers in court, about the case and its possible consequences.

    […]

    Q. Are there legal grounds for reinstatement? To what degree were they required to take part in the special military operation?
    A. If there was an armed conflict, an emergency situation, or martial law, the terms of the contract could be changed without their consent for six months. But we don’t have an armed conflict or a war, it’s just a special military operation. The law doesn’t say anything about that. You can go there {as a Rosgvardia [Russian National Guard] officer}, but only if you agree to it.

    […]

    Q. [… I]f your clients manage to get their employment reinstated, is it possible that this will set a precedent, and that other contract officers will start refusing to take part in the special military operation en masse?
    A. They’re already refusing en masse. It’s just that they used to be afraid that what they were doing was illegal. And now they’ll know there’s a legal basis for this.

    […]

    Q. What’s motivating the officers who refuse to take part in the special military operation?
    A. It’s very simple. People don’t want to kill or to be killed. When they first got hired, their contracts were about something slightly different. On top of that, Rosgvardia worked differently. These guys can’t shoot surface-to-air missiles, they can’t operate tanks. What are they going to do against a trained army? And with what, a club and a shield? Their job is to disperse Navalny supporters, and they’ve done a great job at that. This is something different.

    I want other officers to know: refusing to kill people isn’t a crime. It’s not shameful. It’s all right. If someone says no to an order that requires him to kill someone, he can fully count on our protection. Me and the lawyers from Agora will defend him.

    Q. Aren’t you scared they’ll start pressuring you, too?
    A. What, do you think I haven’t been pressured by them before? Two weeks ago, they kicked my door down. You should see what they did to it. It’s like a hippopotamus chewed it up.

  191. blf says

    From the Grauniad’s current States live blog:

    Ketanji Brown Jackson will almost certainly become the first Black woman to sit on the US supreme court following a declaration by the Maine senator Susan Collins that she will vote for her confirmation.

    Collins is the first Republican to announce support for Joe Biden’s pick, citing Jackson’s “stellar qualifications.” […]

    Mitt Romney of Utah is seen as another possible Republican vote, and has said he is still making up his mind. […]

  192. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    Ukrainian refugees in Poland are frustrated and confused by British asylum rules, which they say appear designed more to keep people out than offer shelter to those fleeing war….

    Vladimir Putin’s advisers are “too afraid to tell him the truth” about how poorly the war in Ukraine is going and how damaging Westerns sanctions have been to Russia’s economy, according to a US official.

    Reuters quotes the official, speaking on condition of anonymity:

    We believe that Putin is being misinformed by his advisers about how badly the Russian military is performing and how the Russian economy is being crippled by sanctions, because his senior advisors are too afraid to tell him the truth.

    In a call with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, on Tuesday night, Vladimir Putin said Russian shelling of Mariupol will only end when Ukrainian troops surrender, the Kremlin said….

  193. says

    Dmytro Kuleba: “While negotiations continue, Russia has not ceased hostilities. It is crucial that partners continue to provide Ukraine with more arms and apply more sanctions on Russia. The stronger Ukraine is, the better agreement we can achieve for the sake of Ukraine’s and Europe’s security.”

  194. says

    To hear Ted Cruz tell it, Democrats “don’t believe in democracy.” The slander isn’t just wrong; it’s unusually ironic.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reflected this week on the importance of the 2022 midterm elections. “It is absolutely essential for our democracy that we win,” she said, referring to Democratic officials and candidates. “I fear for our democracy if the Republicans were ever to get the gavel.” [Me too]

    For Sen. Ted Cruz, the comments were emblematic of a larger problem. Here’s what the Texas Republican said on Fox News last night:

    “They know they’re gonna lose and Nancy Pelosi’s not gonna go quietly. She’s gonna scream, she’s already preparing to scream the election was stolen. And by the way, what she means by ‘stolen’ is people showed up to vote against Democrats. That’s what stealing the election is. And remember, Democrats don’t believe in democracy.”

    [JFC]

    So, a couple of things.

    First, Pelosi never said anything about the 2022 elections being “stolen.”

    Second, Cruz’s timing could’ve been better.

    Literally the day before the Republican senator claimed that Democrats “don’t believe in democracy,” The Washington Post published a thorough and well researched report on Cruz’s efforts to keep Donald Trump in power after the then-president lost in 2020.

    An examination by The Washington Post of Cruz’s actions between Election Day and Jan. 6, 2021, shows just how deeply he was involved, working directly with Trump to concoct a plan that came closer than widely realized to keeping him in power. As Cruz went to extraordinary lengths to court Trump’s base and lay the groundwork for his own potential 2024 presidential bid, he also alienated close allies and longtime friends who accused him of abandoning his principles.

    The article quoted Republican Rep. Liz Cheney explaining, “I think that Senator Cruz knew exactly what he was doing. I think that Senator Cruz is somebody who knows what the Constitution calls for, knows what his duties and obligations are, and was willing, frankly, to set that aside.”

    By his own admission, Cruz “led the charge” to stand in the way of certifying the rightful winner’s election. It’s what led the editorial board of The Houston Chronicle last year to call for the Texas Republican to resign. The editorial board of The San Antonio Express News even called for Cruz’s expulsion from Congress.

    Around the same time, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey on appeared on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” and said, in reference to Cruz and Josh Hawley, “They’re going to have a lot of soul searching to do. And the problem is they were complicit in the Big Lie.”

    Longtime Cruz friend Chad Sweet, a former CIA operative who chaired the senator’s 2016 presidential campaign, also denounced Cruz for abetting an “assault on our democracy.”

    Cruz now wants people to believe Democrats are the ones “don’t believe in democracy”? After his own well documented efforts to attack democracy as recently as last year?

  195. says

    As Vladimir Putin wages a brutal and unprovoked war, Donald Trump is seeking his help in undermining his own country’s president.

    As the brutal war in Ukraine continues, much of the international community has made appeals to Russia and Vladimir Putin. The messages are impassioned and unambiguous: End the war, stop committing war crimes, and agree to a diplomatic solution.

    Donald Trump also has a message for Russia’s authoritarian leader, though as NBC News’ report made clear, it in no way resembles what the international community wants Putin to hear.

    Amid widespread criticism of his praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin, former President Donald Trump publicly called on Putin on Tuesday to release any dirt he might have on Hunter Biden, the [American] president’s son.

    If you haven’t seen the video excerpt, it’s worth your time. The Republican, speaking to a conservative outlet called Just The News, brought up the idea of Putin intervening in U.S. politics unprompted.

    “While I’m on your show, as long as Putin now is not exactly a fan of our country, let him explain, where did — because Chris Wallace wouldn’t let me ask the question — why did the mayor of Moscow’s wife give the Bidens, both of them, $3.5 million?”

    The former president added, “I would think Putin would know the answer to that. I think he should release it…. You won’t get the answer from Ukraine…. I think Putin now would be willing to probably give that answer.”

    There’s no shortage of relevant angles to this, but let’s focus on three key points.

    First, Trump’s claims are as dubious as they are ironic. The Republican who’s relied on Moscow as a benefactor wants the public to believe that somehow the Bidens are beholden to Russia, but the idea that Joe and Hunter Biden, “both of them,” received $3.5 million from the spouse of a Russian mayor is disconnected from reality.

    Second, the pattern of misconduct is extraordinary. Trump first solicited foreign election interference in July 2016, when the then-candidate publicly called on his Russian allies to expose emails from Hillary Clinton’s server. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” the Republican said. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

    In other words, Trump wanted Putin’s espionage services to intervene in the election in order to put him in the White House. It was a step without precedent in the American tradition. Dr. Eliot A. Cohen, a veteran of the Bush/Cheney State Department, told Greg Sargent the comments were “appalling.” William Inboden, who served on George W. Bush’s National Security Council, told Politico that Trump had launched “an assault on the Constitution.”

    Four years later, Trump again welcomed foreign intervention in a U.S. election when he launched an illegal extortion campaign against our Ukrainian allies: Ukraine wanted military aid, which Trump was willing to provide if officials in Kiev helped him cheat in his race against Biden.

    After he was impeached, Republican Sen. Susan Collins said, “I believe that the president has learned from this case. The president has been impeached. That’s a pretty big lesson.”

    Except, there he was yesterday, once again urging a foreign government to intervene in our political system.

    […] Trump sees an opportunity: So long as Putin is angry with the United States, the former American president believes the Russian autocrat can exact some revenge on our country by releasing disinformation that might help undermine the current American president.

    Sure, Putin is killing civilians and destroying Ukrainian communities indiscriminately, but Trump sure would appreciate it if, when the Russian leader has some free time, Putin could also help Trump’s political interests.

    Basic patriotism and decency should prevent such behavior. And yet, here we are.

  196. blf says

    In India, Rana Ayyub, journalist and Modi critic, barred from leaving India:

    Ayyub stopped at Mumbai airport while flying to Europe to speak about intimidation of journalists in the world’s largest democracy.

    A prominent Indian journalist and activist says she has been barred from boarding a flight to London where she was scheduled to address an event on targeting of journalists in the world’s largest democracy.

    Rana Ayyub, a vocal critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government, was due to take the London flight on Tuesday and then to Italy to attend different events.

    Ayyub tweeted that immigration officials at Mumbai airport stopped her from boarding the flight.
    […]
    Ayyub said she also received a summons via email from the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which investigates financial crimes, an hour after she reached the airport.

    The ED, controlled by the federal government, is investigating the 37-year-old Washington Post columnist for alleged money laundering and froze her bank account last month.

    […]

    [Ayyub told The Indian Express newspaper] “I was supposed to receive an award and also address the newsroom of the Guardian newspaper. My entire plan has been public all this while and I have always been in touch with ED.”

    […]

    ED officials did not respond to Al Jazeera’s queries about the case against Ayyub. However, Kavinder Gupta, a politician belonging to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), alleged that people (like Ayyub) take money from foreign agencies to create disturbances in the country.

    It is important that all her connections are thoroughly investigated. The Enforcement Directorate is probing her and till the time the investigation has not reached its conclusion, she should not be allowed to leave the country, Gupta told Al Jazeera.

    Ayyub was scheduled to speak on April 1 at an event organised by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), Doughty Street Chambers and the International Bar Association.

    […]

    Ayyub, author of a book on the 2002 pogrom in Modi’s home state of Gujarat, has been a victim of relentless attacks — including rape threats — by members of right-wing Hindu groups for her reports and columns, mainly on the persecution of Muslims in India.

    Last month, human rights experts at the United Nations urged the Indian authorities to investigate “relentless misogynistic and sectarian” attacks on social media against her.

    The Washington Post also issued a full-page advertisement in her support, saying “the free press is under attack in India.”

    [… many more condemnations of the Indian alleged-government’s actions…]

    Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also said the travel restrictions were “the latest example of growing pressure against her”. […]

    A Grauniad article on Ms Ayyub (about a month ago), Reviled, harassed, abused: Narendra Modi’s most trenchant critic speaks out (“The Indian journalist Rana Ayyub speaks about the campaign to silence her that has led to charges of sedition and defaming Hindus“).

  197. says

    Ukraine update: Russian ‘super weapons’ are a no-show on the battlefield

    Though the videos supposedly showing a glowing white streak tearing across the Ukrainian sky are apparently fake, it does seem that Russia has deployed some form of hypersonic missile in Ukraine. Two of them. Out of about 1,300 missiles launched into Ukraine. Those two may not actually be the tricky, defense-dodging Kh-47M2 Kinzhal that Russia first showed off in 2017, and are more likely the air-launched 9M723 Iskander-M first hinted at in 2009, but still—two real missiles.

    Which sets them far above the rest of Russia’s “super weapons,” which are simply missing from the battlefields of Ukraine.

    The MiG-29 that both Russia and Ukraine are flying is a third-generation air superiority fighter, designed in the 1970s. The MiG-29 was always an amazingly nimble plane in close combat, and the current version have been updated with all new electronics, and even more agile flight controls. It’s still more than capable of taking out relatively slow ground support aircraft like the Su-25 (which dates from 1975), and the Su-34 fighter / bomber. As a dedicated air-superiority fighter, whose primary task is taking out other planes, the updated MiG-29 can even give a good account of itself against the fourth-generation Su-27. (Note: Not all fourth-generation fighters are by any means equal—the U.S. F-15 has an air-to-air combat record of 104 kills to no losses.)

    But Russia is supposed to have something much better—the Su-57 “Felon.” With stealth that’s supposed to equal the F-22 and maneuverability better than an F-35, the Su-57 was introduced back in 2010 and was intended to replace all those older Soviet-era planes in the Russian arsenal. It’s the first real “clean sheet” design since the end of the USSR, and a staple of defense contractors talking up Russia’s growing military power.

    So why aren’t Su-57s ripping across the skies of Ukraine, unseen by radar, unbothered by aging air defenses, and dunking on those three-generations-behind MiG-29s? Well, that’s because original plans to buy hundreds of these planes got scaled back to just a few dozen. As of today, only 14 Su-57s have been built, and 10 of those are prototype aircraft used for testing. Russia has four (4) actual production planes. None of which it seems willing to risk over Ukraine.

    There’s a similar story on the ground. The T-80U and T-90 series tanks may be frequently touted as “Russia’s most modern equipment,” but it’s not supposed to be that way. In 2010, Russia first showed off prototypes for the T-14 Armata tank, designed as a direct competitor to the U.S. M1 Abrams (which itself dates back to 1979). With a new gun that outclassed anything else on treads, a 2000hp engine, multiple missile launchers, and a sophisticated armor system that includes elements of stealth, the T-14 is a beast of a tank. Oh, and it’s also been designed with a more complex tread system and lighter frame that is supposed to, among other things, keep it from getting stuck in the mud.

    In 2012, Russia announced that it had ordered 2,300 of the new tanks, which would roll onto the battlefield between 2015 and 2020. Seven more prototypes appeared in Russia’s annual Victory Parade in 2018 — though one of them had to be towed away after the fancy new suspension system either broke down or proved to be too difficult for the driver to operate.

    So why aren’t these mechanized monsters out there terrorizing Ukrainian farmers? That’s because the real number of T-14 tanks delivered so far is … none. A 22 tank “pilot batch” is slated to come out before the end of the year, but don’t count on it. There have been continuous delays in development, and that was before sanctions cut off supplies to Russian manufacturers.

    The truth about Russia’s superweapons is that they are super-rare. If Russia was able to take the field with the army it brags about—and the army that defense contractors in the U.S. count on to scare up more funding—things in Ukraine might be very different. […]

    But in Russia’s case, their system is plagued by the same problem that has trucks breaking down and soldiers carrying antique rifles: Theft. The money being shoveled into development of new weapons has to make it through so many levels of kleptocracy, that it’s a wonder anything ever moves at all.

    Going back to those T-80 tanks, Russia theoretically has over 4,000 of them. Only most of those tanks are “in storage.” Only around 480 are considered to be active. Considering the state of those rolling down the road, it’s hard to imagine how neglected, picked over, and inoperable the “in storage” tanks really are. Assuming they haven’t been sold for scrap metal.

    Of those 480 active tanks, about 310 rolled into Ukraine. Of those 310, 84 have now been verified as destroyed, captured, or otherwise lost to service. Those are just the ones that survived well enough to count, not including those reduced to fragments when their own ammo exploded.

    Most of the tanks Russia brought to Ukraine are actually T-72s, which entered service in 1969. These are the tanks that Russia deploys everywhere, with a supposed 2,000 T-72s up and rolling (minus the 192 confirmed lost in Ukraine). Which raises a real question: If Russia has 200 T-90s and another 4,000 T-80s sitting “in storage,” why does it keep 2,000 older, less capable T-72s rolling around? Why did it also bring to Ukraine a selection of 1950s-era T-64 tanks that no one thought were still running?

    Do those “in storage” tanks actually exist? Just how long has Russia been playing the game of vastly inflating its capability?

    The emperor has no war machines.

  198. says

    Trump lied when he denied knowing what ‘burner phones’ are

    Donald Trump was on the phone at least several time during the seven hour and 37-minute gap in White House records of his calls while his supporters were attacking the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. In response to speculation that in addition to personal phones of people around him he may have used disposable “burner phones,” Trump denied knowing what a burner phone even is.

    Not so fast, though. Former national security adviser John Bolton says that Trump had mentioned burner phones to him more than once, and, in filings for Trump’s lawsuit against his niece Mary Trump, attorneys referred repeatedly to burner phones. Everyone knows Trump lies—and not knowing what the phone he was using to avoid official records was called wouldn’t mean he didn’t use one—but it’s worth having each specific lie on the record.

    Whatever phone Trump was using, the real question is who he was talking to and what he was saying to them as his supporters broke down doors and windows, attacked law enforcement officers, and roamed the hallways chanting “Hang Mike Pence.” Reports have established that Trump called Sen. Mike Lee (looking for Sen. Tommy Tuberville) and spoke with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, responding to McCarthy’s plea that he stop the violence by saying, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.” Other reports have witnesses describing Trump on the phone at other times throughout the day. But those calls aren’t reflected in official White House records, and it’s unlikely that even getting the records for Trump’s personal cell phone would complete the picture.

    While Trump was known to frequently use phones other than the White House landlines despite the security risks of doing so, the hours on Jan. 6 during which he was definitely at the White House and definitely talking on the phone but not on White House phones stand out: There’s a reason he stopped using those phones, with their official records of who he talked to and when, for those hours. The gap in his call records heightens the urgency of investigators finding out who he was talking to and about what, because it sure looks like he knew those were conversations he didn’t want a record of. Just like he tore up official papers or even flushed them down the toilet. Just like he left the White House with official documents, including classified ones.

    That was the end of Trump’s time in the White House: a coup attempt by a sore loser and the supporters he duped into believing the election was stolen rather than lost. Four years earlier, Trump arrived in the White House in 2017 after efforts by Russia to help install him there. And now, during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russian state television is openly cheerleading for Trump’s return to the White House, offering up lines of attack connecting Hunter Biden to conspiracy theories about biolabs in Ukraine. [Tweet from Julia Davis and video from Russian state television are available at the link]

    The Jan. 6 select committee needs a full record of Trump’s calls from that day. And come 2024, the Biden administration cannot hold back on any U.S. intelligence about Russian efforts to help Trump win, as the Obama administration did in 2016. You can’t sacrifice the nation’s future just to avoid looking partisan if you investigate a likely criminal.

  199. says

    Former Russian Troops form the Legion of Free Russia to fight alongside Ukrainians

    Ukrainian Independent Information Agency) reports that former Russian troops who have agreed to fight for Ukraine created the “Legion of Free Russia”. They are undergoing training by the Ukrainian armed forces. Once training is complete they will take an oath and be deployed under the command of the Ukrainian army.

    In the above image [image available at the link] members of the Legion receive instruction in the use of the NLAW rocket launcher antitank weapon. Their first mission will be to take on Putin’s Kadyrovite Chechen mercenaries in Ukraine. […]

    Video of Russian military units who changed sides is available at the link.

    More details:

    Ukraine has become the front line for all the former Soviet Republics that have been subject to Putin’s brutality. Chechens, Georgians, Belorussians, and others are flocking to Ukraine to fight Putin’s army. Their hope is after destroying Putin in Ukraine they will then return to their home countries and defeat Putin there as well. Now free Russians have joined the fight.

    Putin has opened Pandora’s box in Ukraine. This is only the beginning. I expect as more advanced weapons flow into Ukraine, as Ukrainian strategy and tactics continue to improve, as masses of Ukrainians are trained and armed, and as more and more foreign fighters looking to avenge Russian atrocities are trained and deployed… Putin will lose his entire army in Ukraine and find himself facing modern battle-hardened military forces along his entire border, all veterans of the Ukraine war.

    Слава Україні! (Glory to Ukraine!) the front line in the war between Democracy and Fascism.

  200. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    The United States will provide $500m (£380m) in budgetary assistance to Ukraine, President Joe Biden told Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskiy on a call today.

    The two leaders spoke over the phone for nearly an hour about the ongoing efforts by the US and its allies to provide military, economic and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, according to a White House readout.

    A White House statement read:

    The leaders discussed how the United States is working around the clock to fulfill the main security assistance requests by Ukraine, the critical effects those weapons have had on the conflict, and continued efforts by the United States with allies and partners to identify additional capabilities to help the Ukrainian military defend its country.

    In addition, President Biden informed President Zelenskyy that the United States intends to provide the Ukrainian government with $500 million in direct budgetary aid. He also reviewed the additional sanctions and humanitarian assistance announced last week. President Zelenskyy updated President Biden on the status of Ukraine’s negotiations with Russia.

    Zelenskiy said he spoke with Biden about “specific defensive support” and “a new package of enhanced sanctions”.

  201. says

    Defense One – “Confederate Names and Symbols on Hundreds of Military Roads, Structures, Ships Under Review”:

    How many of the streets U.S. servicemembers drive on, signs they pass, buildings they work in, and fields they play on are named for traitors to the United States? Possibly hundreds, according to a new list of features of U.S. military bases that may be renamed.

    The list was released Wednesday by the Naming Commission, the group established by Congress to look into and furnish new names for bases and other features that honor the Confederacy. Just weeks ago, the group released its list of potential new names for nine Army bases.

    The new list identifies 757 items the commission’s members will look at to see whether their names commemorate the Confederacy and to determine whether they should recommend their renaming or even removal. Most of the items are named after Confederate leaders, but others commemorate battles won by Confederate forces. Some warships are on the list because their official crests use Confederate iconography or mottos.

    The commission’s recommendations will be included in its report to Congress, which is due by Oct. 1, 2022.

    On the list for review are 330 signs; 252 street names; 59 facilities; 26 markers, memorials, monuments, and statues; 24 buildings; 14 vessels; seven entry signs; nine structures; six recreation areas; six “land areas”; four “displays”; three paintings, plaques, and portraits; three “civil works”; and one water tank.

    Many of these items are located at Army bases that are already slated for renaming: 213 at Fort AP Hill, Virginia; 140 at Fort Polk, Louisiana; 61 at Fort Rucker, Alabama; 41 at Fort Benning, Georgia; and 31 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

    The U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York has streets, buildings, and memorials named after Robert E. Lee, an 1829 graduate of the school who later served as its superintendent before leading troops in rebellion against the government.

    The U.S. Naval Academy has two buildings on the list—the superintendent’s house and a classroom building—and one street. Several Navy warships also made the list.

    Fort Benning has four ridges and a hill on the list that are named in honor of Confederate generals. There are also a few memorial pavers named after Confederate volunteers at the National Ranger Monument on the base.

  202. says

    Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a new interview said comments from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) about his marriage illustrates a plan to “divide and demonize and demoralize.”

    Greene spoke at a rally in Georgia over the weekend in support of former Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), who is running for governor in the Peach State. The freshman congresswoman made headlines when she remarked on Buttigieg’s marriage with his husband, Chasten Buttigieg.

    “You know what? Pete Buttigieg can take his electric vehicles and his bicycles, and he and his husband can stay out of our girls’ bathrooms,” Greene said, eliciting applause from the crowd.

    Buttigieg is now responding to Greene’s remarks, calling them “nonsensical comments.”

    “The reason you hear somebody like that making nonsensical, literally nonsensical comments like that — I don’t know what you’d do with an electric vehicle in any bathroom — they don’t want to talk about what we’re actually working on,” Buttigieg said during an appearance on Yahoo! News’ “Skullduggery” podcast when asked about the congresswoman’s remarks.

    “So they’re going to keep tripling down on anything that can divide and demonize and demoralize, and through that capture attention,” he added.

    Greene’s comments came days before Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed the controversial Parental Rights in Education bill, which some have referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The legislation prohibits educational instruction regarding sexual orientation and gender identity for children in kindergarten through third grade.

    Buttigieg told Yahoo! News that the bill is “hurting kids.” He and his husband adopted twins last summer.

    “I think about what life might be like for our kids when they start school. If they were in a place like Florida, it might stop them from mentioning they had a great time over the weekend with their dads,” the Transportation secretary said.

    Link

  203. says

    Poland to end Russian oil imports; Germany warns on gas

    Poland announced steps Wednesday to end all Russian oil imports by year’s end, while Germany issued a warning about natural gas levels and called on people to conserve, new signs of how Russia’s war in Ukraine has escalated tensions about securing energy supplies to power Europe.

    Poland, which has taken in millions of Ukrainian refugees, has taken the lead in the European Union on swiftly cutting off Russian fossil fuels. The 27-nation bloc has declined to sanction energy because it depends on Moscow for the fuel needed for cars, electricity, heating and industry, but it has announced proposals to wean itself off those supplies.

    “We are presenting the most radical plan in Europe for departing from Russian oil by the end of this year,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said at a news conference.

    […] the EU plans to reduce Russian gas imports by two-thirds by the end of the year and eliminate them before 2030. In the meantime, rattled energy markets have pushed up already high oil and natural gas prices for Europeans and others worldwide.

    The EU is turning to investments in renewable energy as a long-term fix but also is scrambling to shore up alternative sources of fossil fuels, including a new agreement with the U.S. to receive more liquefied natural gas, or LNG, that arrives by ship.

    Poland is expanding an LNG terminal to receive deliveries from Qatar, the U.S., Norway and other exporters. A new Baltic pipeline bringing gas from Norway is expected to open by the end of the year. It also has been reducing dependence on Russian oil through contracts with Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and Norway and is considering imports from Kazakhstan.

    Germany, the EU’s biggest economy and one of the most reliant on Russia’s natural gas, has signed deals with several suppliers of LNG, which is shipped to neighboring European countries and then pumped in. Officials say they aim to end the use of Russian oil and coal this year and natural gas by mid-2024.

    […] Germany’s gas storages are filled to about 25% capacity.

    “The question how long the gas will last basically depends on several factors (such as) consumption and weather,” he said. “If there’s a lot of heating, then the storage facilities will be emptied.”

    He added that Germany is prepared for a sudden stop in Russian gas supplies but warned of “considerable impacts” and urged consumers to help prevent a shortage by reducing their use.

    […] Italy issued a pre-alert of the risks to its natural gas supply days after the war broke out, given its heavy reliance on Russia. Energy transition minister Roberto Cingolani said the warning aimed to inform users of the “uncertainties linked to the conflict,” while confirming supplies remained adequate to cover demand. It has not asked people to conserve.

    France’s gas storage facilities are “well filled,” according to the head of its Regulatory Energy Commission, but still asked for some efforts to save energy.

    “If we don’t do that, there is a risk next winter for consumption demand to be superior to our ability to meet that demand,” Jean-Francois Carenco told the BFM news broadcaster.

    France gets about 70% of its electricity from nuclear plants. But during peak demand at winter time, the country needs to import electricity, some of which is produced by gas-powered plants.

  204. blf says

    [Texas (of course!) congressloon] Rep Pete Sessions Agrees That the Democrat Party Embraces Racism Against White People:

    […]
    We’re being attacked at our southern border, [far-right broadcaster Stew] Peters said. And they don’t want to talk about this because the great replacement is real. White Christian Americans, America First patriots, people who believe in conservative core values, they want them out and replaced. … The Democrat Party claims to be anti-discrimination, yet they want more and more discrimination against certain groups all the time. Are you willing to say that the modern Democrat Party embraces racism against white people?

    Well, I don’t think [agreed, the rest of this burbling is redundant:]there’s any question that they are pushing not just the narrative but the answers that would be exactly to that point, Sessions replied. When you look at the things which this Congress does, the conversation, when you look at the committee hearings, the outright lies that are being told about creation of wealth in this country, who is doing the things that are good for everybody, they’re attempting to throw that back. Not just on bankers, not just on the energy sector, not just on education, they are trying to throw this entire matter back.

    Sessions went on to complain about an unnamed “white student” who is captain of the football team and scored a perfect score of 36 on his SAT and has been deferred by every Ivy League school to which he has applied.

    I have no idea how SATs are scored thesedays, but back when we had to chisel our answers on lumps of stone, there were two scores, one for maths and one for “verbal” (other stuff), both scored in the range 0(?)–800, with 800 being “perfect”. So a single 36 is laughingly bad. (According to Ye Pffft! of All Knowledge, that is still the case.)

    It’s possible what is meant is the ACT, which does have a single score (1–36).

    He’s being deferred by every single one of these schools. Sessions griped. And it makes you wonder whether education has caught on also on being woke.

    Even ignoring the possible SAT-ACT confusion, there are so many reasons to be dubious about the story, starting with the presumption the alleged deferments have anything to do with the individual’s skin colour (assuming the individual even exists).

  205. blf says

    A snippet from the Meduza live blog:

    Because Russia’s gone postal
    The Russian Postal Service has stopped receiving shipments from Poland and Denmark. Denmark has stopped processing shipments to and from Russian [sic], while the lack of shipments from Poland is due to a lack of logistic options on the part of the Polish Postal Service, according to the Russian Postal Service. Two days ago, Russia stopped receiving shipments from Sweden after the Swedish mail operator PostNord announced it would cease operations with Russia.

  206. Akira MacKenzie says

    @278

    You know what? Pete Buttigieg can take his electric vehicles and his bicycles, and he and his husband can stay out of our girls’ bathrooms…”

    Having to reach back to the mentality I had when I was a right-winger, the references to bicycles and EVs are cracks against Buttigieg’s masculinity. Along with homosexuality, right-wingers consider bikes and electric cars to be desired by the effete and weak. REAL American men drive REAL cars, fueled by powerful REAL fossil fuels. Just the right boob bait for the bubbas in her audience.

    And yes, Greene is also conflicting homosexuality with transsexuality.

  207. blf says

    Distant star found by Hubble telescope may be earliest we will ever see:

    Light from Earendel has travelled for an estimated 12.9bn years to reach Earth

    The most distant star ever seen has been captured by the Hubble space telescope in images that appear to give a remarkable glimpse into the ancient universe.

    Light from the star, named Earendel, has travelled an estimated 12.9bn years to reach the Earth — a huge leap from the previous most distant star, which dates to nine billion years. The observations were possible thanks to a rare cosmic alignment [gravitational lensing –blf], meaning that Earendel may be the only individual star from this epoch that we will ever see.

    […]

    Scientists estimate that Earendel, whose name means “morning star” in Old English, is at least 50 times the mass of the Sun and millions of times as bright, placing it among the most massive stars known. But even such a brilliant star would not normally be detectable. At such vast distances, even an entire galaxy is just a smudge of light.

    […]

    The observations have been hailed as hugely significant and been prioritised for the first cycle of observations using Nasa’s James Webb Space Telescope, due to begin in June. This will allow scientists to definitively confirm that they are looking at a single, very distant star. An alternative possibility, deemed very unlikely, is that it is a dim, nearby brown dwarf.

    […]

    The Universe would only have been at most one billion years old when the light from Earendel we are now seeing was emitted. It’s not the most distant (oldest) object ever seen, what is unique is it seems to be a single star. (It is unknown if it has any companions.)

    The mildly deranged penguin says there are no known cheese plants — nor any planets made of cheese — in the vicinity. The blueish freshly-squeezed orange juice (see @258) emitted more sparks when it (apparently) heard the news, stopped sliding around and dissolving the floor tiles, and is now shaking, spewing occasional puffs of steam and smoke, with the odd BOOM WOORST BLURP! — the mildly deranged penguin thinks it’s either trying to build a spaceship, brew some cheese, or say “phone home”.

  208. blf says

    Trump used White House phone for call on January 6 that was not on official log:

    […]
    Donald Trump used an official White House phone to place at least one call during the Capitol attack on January 6 last year that should have been reflected in the internal presidential call log from that day but was not, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

    The former president called the phone of a Republican senator, Mike Lee, with a number recorded as 202-395-0000, a placeholder number that shows up when a call is incoming from a number of White House department phones, the sources said.

    The number corresponds to an official White House phone and the call was placed by Donald Trump himself, which means the call should have been recorded in the internal presidential call log that was turned over to the House select committee investigating the Capitol attack.

    Trump’s call to Lee was reported at the time, as well as its omission from the call log, by the Washington Post and CBS. But the origin of the call as coming from an official White House phone, which has not been previously reported, raises the prospect of tampering or deletion by Trump White House officials.

    It also appears to mark perhaps the most serious violation of the Presidential Record Act […] by the Trump White House concerning January 6 records to date.

    […]

    The call [at 2:26pm] was notable as Trump mistakenly dialed Lee thinking it was the number for Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville. Lee passed the phone to Tuberville, who told Trump Mike Pence had just been removed from the Senate chamber as rioters stormed the Capitol.

    [… T]he presidential call log, typically generated from data recorded when calls are placed by the White House operators, is supposed to be a comprehensive record of all incoming and outgoing calls involving the president through White House channels, the officials said.

    […]

    The only instance where a call might not be reflected on the unclassified presidential call log, the officials said, would be if the call was classified, which would seem to be unlikely in the case of the call to Lee. The absence of Trump’s call to Lee suggests a serious breach in protocol and possible manipulation, the officials said.

    It was not immediately clear how a Trump White House official might obfuscate or tamper with the presidential call log, or who might have the authority to make such manipulations.

    [… speculations about how the call log may have been tampered-with or manipulated, and other details…]

  209. blf says

    Facebook[Factsborked] owner [Meta] reportedly paid Republican firm to push message TikTok is the real threat’ (my added emboldening, Grauniad edits in {curly braces}):

    […]
    Meta, the owner of Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms, is reportedly paying a notable GOP consulting firm to create public distrust around TikTok.

    The campaign, launched by Republican strategy firm Targeted Victory, placed op-eds and letters to the editor in various publications, accusing TikTok of being a danger to American children, along with other disparaging accusations.

    The firm wanted to get the message out that while Meta is the current punching bag, TikTok is the real threat especially as a foreign owned app that is #1 in sharing data that young teens are using, wrote a director for the firm in a February email, part of a trove of emails revealed by the Washington Post.

    Dream would be to get stories with headlines like ‘From dances to danger: how TikTok has become the most harmful social media space for kids,’ another staffer wrote.

    Campaign operatives promoted stories to local media, including some unsubstantiated claims, that tied TikTok to supposedly dangerous trends popular among teenagers — despite those trends originating on Facebook.

    […]

    Campaign workers also used anti-TikTok messages to deflect from criticisms that Meta had received for its privacy and antitrust policies.

    Bonus point if we can fit this into a broader message that the current bills / proposals aren’t where {state attorneys general} or members of Congress should be focused, wrote a Targeted Victory staffer.

    […]

    A Meta representative, Andy Stone, defended the campaign to the Washington Post, saying: We believe all platforms, including TikTok, should face a level of scrutiny consistent with their growing success.

  210. blf says

    From the Grauniad’s current one madman’s war live blog:

    Kate Bedingfield, director of communications at the White House, told reporters on Wednesday: “We have information that Putin felt misled by the Russian military which has resulted in persistent tension between Putin and his military leadership.

    “We believe that Putin is being misinformed by his advisers about how badly the Russian military is performing and how the Russian economy is being crippled by sanctions because his senior advisers are too afraid to tell him the truth.”

    She added: “So, it is increasingly clear that Putin’s war has been a strategic blunder that has left Russia weaker over the long term and increasingly isolated on the world stage.”

  211. says

    Ukraine update: Russia would be losing even if it had the best supply lines

    […] Logistics have certainly hindered Russia’s war effort, but it’s just a reason Russia is losing, not the reason. And even if it had the best logistical system in modern warfare, Russia would still be losing.

    Let’s look at the map: [map available at the link]

    The first thing you might notice is how little penetration Russia has had into Ukraine’s interior. All those red areas, except for the south (and its wide open terrain with few rivers), hug its territory. It’s hard to talk about supply lines when we’re talking supply lines in the dozens of kilometers, not hundreds. But what’s worse is that Russia has been unable to capture any of the cities on its actual border—Chernihiv (pop. 285,000), Sumy (pop. 265,000), and Kharkiv (pop. 1.4 million). Imagine if the United States invaded Mexico, and it was unable to immediately capture Nogales (pop. 261,000) or Cuidad Juarez (pop. 1.5 million).

    Chernihiv is around 100 kilometers (~60 miles) from the Russian border, and closer yet to Belarus. Sumy is 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Russia, and Kharkiv is around 22 kilometers away (16 miles). Those are distances that military vehicles can travel on a single tank of gas. We’re not talking extended lines, like the 300-400 miles American forces moved to get from Kuwait to Baghdad during the Iraq War. Russian artillery can literally sit on Russian soil and bombard Sumy and Kharkiv, and yet they’ve failed to make much headway.

    Let’s zoom in on those last two cities: [map available at the link]

    That orange blob south of Sumy is mostly clear, the result of Ukraine’s stunning victory against the supposedly “elite” 4th Guards Tank Division (GTD). Other than a single village between Sumy and the border, Yunakivka (pop. 1,740), Russia has been unable to take any other settlements. […]

    North of Kharkiv, Russia holds three small settlements, but the situation is the same—Russia “holds” territory between its border and the city, but has had trouble pushing into a city that is 74% Russian-speaking, and presumably had higher pre-invasion affinities toward Russia. Yet every time Russia attempts a move in the area, they get spanked. [Tweet an map available at the link]

    […] A battalion tactical group (BTG) is 10 tanks and 40 armored personnel carriers (APC). A BTG is considered “destroyed” if it loses three tanks or 13 APCs; the remnants would then need to be removed from the field of battle for reconstitution in the rear with reinforcements. (I suspect that “combined BTG” in the tweet above is exactly that, a bunch of smashed BTGs smushed together into a new one.)

    We see four destroyed vehicles in that video, so hardly enough to destroy a single BTG, much less three. But we don’t know how many other losses those units suffered in the past few weeks, nor do we have a complete picture of Russia’s actual losses beyond this one single video. We are still seeing additional pictures of losses suffered by the 4th GTD emerge days after their epic rout.

    Regardless of whether Ukraine exaggerated Russian losses or not, this tells us that 1) Russia is still unable to secure key supply lines south and east of Kharkiv, and 2) Ukraine has the maneuver capability to extend out from the city to wreak havoc on any approaching marauders. And all of this is happening just kilometers from Russia’s border. Even worse, check out what’s across the border from Kharkiv: [map available at the link]

    Belgorod, Russia, is home to several large Russian army units. They didn’t even need to travel from elsewhere in Russia. This is home base! Belgorod also hosts a major railhead, with direct connection to Moscow, and an international airport. And it is located just 80 kilometers (50 miles) away from Kharkiv. That’s the distance to a forward deployment, not something any competent military would sweat resupplying.

    Russia’s military failures in this border region can’t be blamed on logistics. This was supposed to be the easy part of their lightning invasion. Ukraine had prepared its armed forces to transition into between four and six soldier teams of guerrilla partisans, to harass Russia’s rear while Ukraine desperately held on to the western half of the country. Instead, one month in, Russia can’t even manage to take cities on its own border.

    […] Munitions were set off at Russia’s military base in town, reportedly killing four soldiers. Russia blamed artillery shelling from Ukraine, across the border, before changing their story and blaming an accident. (The latter is the most plausible explanation […]

  212. says

    Sandy Hook Victims’ Families reject Alex Jones’ settlement offer

    Professional liar and hate monger Alex Jones’ settlement offer was rejected by the victims’ families who were traumatized by Jones’ vicious lies, and by the chumps who swallowed those malicious lies.

    Details:

    Infowars host Alex Jones offered to pay $120,000 per plaintiff to resolve a lawsuit by relatives of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims who said he defamed them by asserting the massacre never happened, according to court filings Tuesday. The offer was quickly rejected by the families.

    A Connecticut judge found Jones liable for damages in November, and a trial is planned to determine how much he should pay the families.

    The plaintiffs said they have been subjected to harassment and death threats from Jones’ followers because of the hoax conspiracy promoted on his show.

    Alex Jones is even more trouble:

    Last week Jones defied a court order to attend a deposition near his home in Austin, Texas, to provide testimony ahead of the trial. Jones said he was ill. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday on a request by the plaintiffs to sanction Jones for not cooperating.

    Lawyers for the families rejected the settlement offer within a few hours, saying in court filings that it was a “transparent and desperate attempt by Alex Jones to escape a public reckoning under oath with his deceitful, profit-driven campaign against the plaintiffs and the memory of their loved ones lost at Sandy Hook.”

    Twenty first graders and six educators were killed in the 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

  213. says

    Wonkette: “Glenn Greenwald Pretty Sure Putin Winning So Much He’s Gonna Get Sick Of Winning”

    We’re hearing a lot right now about so-called peace negotiations between Ukraine and Russia. Ukraine may be ready to call itself “neutral” and maybe make a couple other concessions, in order to get Russia to stop murdering it. Everybody’s pretty skeptical of claims that Russia is really truly pulling back “to increase trust” in the peace talks. Meanwhile, Ukraine is telling its own peace negotiators to make sure not to eat or drink anything or touch any handrails when they meet with the Russians, since it’s always likely Russia is in the mood to be poison-y. (There have been reports that Ukrainian negotiators and Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich were poisoned in earlier negotiations.)

    But regardless, on day 34, this war is clearly in a different place from where Vladimir Putin and his defenders thought it would be at this point. Hell, even western intelligence thought Kyiv would probably fall to the Russians within the first few days. Ukraine still has Kyiv, and says it’s pushing Russians further and further back now.

    In terms of where Russia finds itself right now, and what it’s given up, this thread David Frum posted today is excellent. Here are just a few of the highlights: [Tweets showing good news highlights posted by David Frum are available at the link]

    Of course, Putin has lost thousands upon thousands of military personnel, including a number of top commanders, and god knows how much materiel.

    Russia had to announce the other day that on second or third thought, it’s going to just focus on the eastern sections of Ukraine, and maybe not focus so much on Kyiv or other parts of the country. Oh no, were Putin’s eyes bigger than his stomach?

    As the New York Times put it:

    [T]he statement amounted to the most direct acknowledgment yet that Russia may be unable to take full control of Ukraine and would instead target the Donbas region, where Russia has recognized the independence of two Kremlin-backed separatist areas that it calls the “Donetsk People’s Republic” and the “Luhansk People’s Republic.”

    […] But for Putin apologists like Glenn Greenwald, it’s time to rewrite currently ongoing history and say Putin meant to do all of this, because obviously Putin never wanted to conquer Ukraine anyway. [Tweet from Greenwald is available at the link]

    Yes, we remember when Putin declared independence on behalf of Donetsk and Luhansk, right before he started bombing the shit out of the entire country and heading toward Kyiv. Of course, we weren’t dense enough to believe Putin at the time. Glenn bought it, though. Strange, considering the number of times Putin has said out loud that his real goal is to take all of Ukraine, since he considers the fall of the Soviet Union the worst thing that ever happened in the history of the world. Hell, the day the Kremlin announced Putin’s very limited and surgical “peacekeeping” operation in eastern Ukraine, Putin called the very existence of Ukraine a “fiction.”

    But sure, Glenn, tell us about how Putin just wanted these few little places in eastern Ukraine in the first place, and how efficiently he’s accomplished that task in the last 34 days of bloodshed. It sure is clever how Putin is making sure to murder all those civilians in Russian-speaking areas of Ukraine, the very people he’s pretending to “liberate” from “genocide” committed by “Ukraine.” All part of his master plan, we bet.

    Glenn added, “Zelensky is already suggesting Ukraine would accept neutrality (with a security guarantee), and accepts it can’t reclaim those parts of Eastern Ukraine, let alone Crimea. Trying to depict that as some grave humiliating loss for Russia will work only with NBC, CNN & BBC viewers.” We guess NBC, CNN and BBC viewers are unique among media consumers in that they think when countries declare wars, the plan is to win them.

    What’s that, Michael Tracey? [Tweet available at the link]

    As we were saying.

    As Jonathan Last notes at the Bulwark, there is a “serious version” of the question Glenn is asking in these tweets, and amazingly enough, it’s asked by Bret Stephens in yesterday’s New York Times. Spoiler: Bret Stephens’s article is not a picture of Glenn Greenwald with his hand on his hip saying Putin meant to do all this.

    Of course, Last examines all the available evidence and finds that Stephens and other conservatives asking the “serious version” of Glenn’s question are also wrong.

    Also, there’s this:

    US official says Putin is being misinformed about how poorly Russian military is doing because advisers “are too afraid to tell him the truth.” Putin “didn’t even know his military was using and losing conscripts … showing a clear breakdown in the flow of accurate information.”

    […] Elsewhere in News Of Glenn, he’s mad that liberals always say his tweets probably sounded better in the original Russian:

    Do liberals think it’s healthy that there are literally mullions of Americans wo now walk around talking as if they’re the love child of Joseph McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover, conditioned to believe their American adversaries are clandestine Kremlin agents? Seems Unhealthy. [written in response to this tweet from Michael Scott: “Whoa Bro you’re so cool. I’d say that in Russian so you would understand it but I don’t know how to speak it.”]

    That would be a good tweet [from Greenwald] if “literally millions” wasn’t doing the same work as it did when it was used to describe the 12 dumpy tourists who stumbled upon Donald Trump’s inauguration and decided to sit a spell.

    Also he’s throwing out hot takes about how ACTUALLY “many Americans” don’t want the war on Ukraine to end and ACTUALLY the media wants it to keep going because of something Adam Smith wrote in 1776.

    Also he’s really excited about the ruble rebounding against the dollar.

    Also he’s babbling about Hunter Biden’s laptop. […]

    Glenn Greenwald is aiding and abetting Putin … sort of like Trump used to do, but with more Greenwald-ish education and proper spelling. I can’t help but note that Greenwald now considers himself a victim of “liberals.”

  214. says

    Joanna Szostek:

    The infamous “ideologist of the Russian World” Aleksandr Dugin has given a long interview to the Russian tabloid MK.
    If anyone in Russia has given up on capturing Kyiv, it is definitely not Dugin.
    A [thread], if you can stomach it.

    He says: Russia has been battling for Kyiv since the middle ages in a “conflict between Great Russians and the Galicians”, so “Kyiv will be ours”.

    He says: “The siege of Kyiv is a battle for the unity of Eastern Slavs and the creation of a sovereign civilization of the Russian World, which is directed against the West.”

    He says: “We are waging an eschatological military operation, a special operation between Light and Darkness in the sitution of the end of times…”

    He says: “Truth and God are on our side. We are fighting the absolute evil, embodied in Western civilization, its liberal-totalitarian hegemony, in Ukrainian Nazism…”

    Asked about nuclear weapons, he says: “We are always balancing on a tightrope. Any weapon is created to be fired… nuclear weapons in certain circumstances, if it’s a clash of civilizations, can become offensive weapons. Of course, Russia will never fire first.”

    He says Russia is “an empire in a sense, which absorbed everything… it won’t be complete until we have united all Eastern Slavs and all Eurasian brothers into a common big space.”

    Asked “how to explain to Russian mothers from Mariupol that it’s all a blessing”, he says explanations will follow “as soon as the flag of East Ukraine, Russia, freedom and independence is raised over Kherson and Novorossiya” and republics are created in other Ukrainian regions.

    Asked if Putin reads his work, he says: “I think we read the same letters written in gold in the sky of Russian history”.

    Now would be a good time for someone to reassure us all that Dugin is not as influential as his reputation suggests. Please?

    For several thousand more words of this toxic, terrifying BS, see [Russian link at the link]

  215. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    Over the last 24 hours, the first six of “around 30” shipments of US security assistance arrived in Ukraine, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said.

    “Material is getting into the region every single day, including over the last 24 hours,” Kirby said. According to CNN, Kirby said the US is prioritizing “the kinds of material that we know the Ukrainians need the most,” including anti-armor and anti-air systems. He also said the Switchblade drones promised to Ukraine will begin shipping in “relatively soon.”

  216. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    In a televised speech, Volodymyr Zelenskiy said peace talks with Russia continue “but for the moment there are just words, nothing concrete,” Reuters reported. Zelenskiy also said Ukraine was preparing for Russian attacks on Donbas.

  217. says

    RFE/RL – “‘We Object, We Object’: Outrage After Iran Blocks Women From Attending Soccer Match”:

    Iranian authorities had made around 2,000 tickets available to women to attend the country’s soccer World Cup qualifying match against Lebanon.

    But when the ticketed female supporters arrived outside the Imam Reza stadium in the northeastern city of Mashhad on March 29, police blocked them from entering. When they protested, the women were pepper sprayed.

    The exclusion of women from the stadium and the use of force against the female supporters has triggered an uproar in Iran, where soccer is hugely popular.

    Iranian media published videos and images that showed scores of women and girls, some draped in the Iranian flag, standing outside the Imam Reza stadium as the match was played with only male spectators. Iran won the game 2-0.

    “Yesterday, we managed to purchase tickets online,” an unnamed woman said in a video posted online. “All of the women here have tickets. We took a day off, we spent a lot of money, and now they won’t let us in.”

    Other women said there was confusion among stadium staff about whether they should allow female spectators in.

    The semiofficial ISNA news agency said 12,500 tickets were sold online, with 2,000 reserved for women.

    After being locked out of the stadium, dozens of Iranian women staged a protest. In a video posted by the Khabaronline[dot]ir news site, women can be heard chanting, “We object, we object.”

    The flood of footage and images led to widespread outrage in Iran, where some compared the country’s clerical regime to the Taliban…

    Other Iranians called on FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, to punish the country. Prominent photojournalist Arash Ashourinia said on Twitter that it was only “fair” that Iran would be banned from competing in this year’s World Cup in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar.

    Women have been barred from attending soccer matches since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Iran’s clerical establishment has long opposed the idea of women being allowed in stadiums with male fans.

    But under pressure from FIFA, Iranian authorities have allowed some women to attend games in recent years.

    In September 2019, FIFA ordered Iran to allow women access to stadiums without restriction and in numbers to be determined according to demand for tickets.

    The FIFA directive, which threatened to ban Iran from international competitions, came after the death of Sahar Khodayari, a soccer fan. Khodayari died after setting herself on fire over fears that she would be jailed for trying to attend a soccer match in disguise.

    In October 2019, Iranian authorities allowed about 4,000 women into Tehran’s Azadi Stadium for a World Cup qualifying match against Cambodia, for the first time in decades.

    Women were to be allowed in the stadium again in early October for a World Cup qualifier against South Korea, but a late decision was made to hold the event behind closed doors amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    The Iranian Football Federation (FFI) fears the incident in Mashhad could lead to the country being banned from the World Cup, which will start on November 21.

    “We’re hearing worrying news from FIFA and the AFC [Asian Football Confederation],” FFI board member Mehrdad Seraji said on Twitter, without elaborating.

    Should Iran be banned “then those involved in the bitter incident in Mashhad are responsible,” he added.

    The FFI claimed on March 30 that that only nine women had purchased tickets for the match.

    In a written statement to RFE/RL, FIFA said it “heard with concerns reports that women were not allowed at the match in Mashhad” and was asking the FFI for “more information on this matter.”

    FIFA said that “historic progress has been achieved” and it “expects this to continue, as there can be no turning back.” [Imagine allowing any other category of people to attend public events in limited numbers being described as historic progress in 2022.]

    In the face of the controversy, Iran’s ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi on March 30 ordered the Interior Ministry to investigate the incident.

    Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi later said that those behind the “violations” in Mashhad will be “seriously” dealt with.

    It was unclear who decided to ban the female spectators.

    Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda, an influential and hard-line cleric in Mashhad and Raisi’s father-in-law, was critical of the 2019 decision to allow female spectators into stadiums. “The place of women in the stadiums should be such that their excitement cannot be [seen], unfortunately it was not the case,” said Alamolhoda, who has previously banned musical concerts in the conservative city.

    In an interview after the match with Lebanon, Iranian team captain Alireza Jahanbakhsh said he would like to see women in stadiums in the future “so that we can make them happy.”

    But state TV censored Jahanbakhsh’s comments, removing his reference to women.

    Meanwhile, 91,553 fans were in attendance at Camp Nou today for the Barcelona-Madrid match, a world record for a women’s game.

  218. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a video address to Ukraine on Wednesday that he doesn’t believe Russia’s vows to de-escalate its fighting, AFP is reporting.

    “We don’t believe anyone, not a single beautiful phrase,” he said. After Moscow said it would scale back its attacks around Kyiv and the northern city of Chernigiv, shelling reportedly continued through the night. However, Russian forces did begin to retreat from the Chernobyl nuclear plant.

    Zelenskiy also said that Ukraine has the right to demand weapons from the international community because it was the center for the global fight for freedom.

    “Freedom must be armed as well as tyranny,” he said.

    On Wednesday, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) chief Jeremy Fleming said that there’s new intelligence that shows some Russian soldiers in Ukraine have sabotaged their own equipment and accidentally shot down one of their own aircrafts, Reuters is reporting.

    “We’ve seen Russian soldiers short of weapons and morale – refusing to carry out orders, sabotaging their own equipment and even accidentally shooting down their own aircraft,” Fleming said in a speech in Canberra at the Australian National University.

    “Putin has massively misjudged the situation,” Fleming said. “We believe Putin*s advisers are afraid to tell him the truth.” Reuters was unable to independently confirm GCHQ’s analysis….

    Russia and Ukraine will resume peace talks on 1 April [no comment]

  219. says

    New episode of FRONTLINE – “Plot to Overturn the Election”:

    How did false claims of election fraud make their way to the center of American politics? FRONTLINE and ProPublica investigate the plot to overturn the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

    FRONTLINE and ProPublica uncover how a small group of people helped to create some of the core narratives of fraud that President Donald Trump and many others would go on to champion after the election — and how the legacy of their effort is impacting democracy and shaping elections to come….

    53-minute YT video at the link.

  220. Trickster Goddess says

    7 busses with Russian soldiers suffering from Acute Radiation Syndrome have arrived to a hospital in Belarus from the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in Ukraine.

    They allegedly dug trenches in the highly radioactive Red Forest – UNIAN News Agency

    Source: Facebook post by the member of the Public Council of State at the Ukrainian Agency for the Exclusion Zone, Yaroslav Yemelyanenko.

    Twitter

  221. StevoR says

    @152. Lynna, OM :

    I looked up that painting mentioned as among the small protests mentioned. Wow. :

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Apotheosis_of_War

    Vereshchagin dedicated his work “to all great conquerors, past, present and to come”. Done in oil on canvas, the painting depicts a pile of skulls outside the walls of a city in Central Asia.

    Powerful story via Al jazeera here :

    https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2022/3/31/transgender-day-of-visibility-how-invisibility-killed-my

    Oh and breaking new sthat follows up a story from last year here :

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-03-31/shell-qld-citipoint-resignation-brian-mulheran/100956022

    Citipointe Christian College was thrust into the spotlight after a contract emerged demanding students and families denounce homosexuality and that students identify by birth gender.

    The contract sparked weeks of controversy at the beginning of the school year as parents and students expressed their dismay.

    The school eventually withdrew the contract, and its principal, Pastor Brian Mulheran, took leave to give the school “time to heal”.

    Although the person they call Principal is actually a pastor here. Technically I ‘spose both but think we can all tell what he puts first – and its isn’t the interests of all the students.

  222. StevoR says

    PS. Does anyone know if Andreas Avester is okay? He hasn’t posted anything on his blog or seen him in comments for months now.

  223. says

    Guardian – “Concerns raised over possible risk for LGBTQ+ people at Qatar World Cup”:

    Measures to ensure the safety of LGBTQ+ people in Qatar remain inadequate with less than eight months to go to the World Cup, groups supporting the community have said.

    Same-sex relationships are directly criminalised under the laws of the Gulf state, leading to concerns over the wellbeing of LGBTQ+ people visiting the country for the tournament and those from that community who reside there. [Seems like something that should probably have been considered before the decision to let them host the World Cup…]

    An international grouping of 16 organisations focused on LGBTIQ+ rights has issued eight action points to the tournament organisers Fifa and the local organising committee.

    These include repealing laws that target LGBTIQ+ people, providing explicit safety guarantees to members of the community, guaranteed right of entry to Qatar, the communication of a clear welcome and of the right to free expression and ensuring there is no censorship or ban on the discussion of LGBTIQ+ issues.

    The group said in a letter sent to the PA news agency that Fifa had responded in writing but that Qatar’s Supreme Committee, in charge of World Cup delivery, had not yet.

    “Progress has been slow, reassurances about the safety of LGBTIQ+ people and the mechanisms in place to ensure safety have not been adequate,” the letter stated. “If acknowledgement of the issues facing LGBTIQ+ people in Qatar and reassurances of safety cannot be offered, we will be forced to question if the risk facing LGBTIQ+ people wanting to attend or work at the World Cup in Qatar is too high.

    “Further meetings are planned with both Fifa and the Supreme Committee in the coming weeks where it is hoped progress can be made.”

    The letter added that a failure to act in the run-up to the tournament could be viewed as an endorsement of the laws as they stand and make life for LGBTIQ+ visitors and residents even tougher in the future….

  224. says

    Guardian – “Facebook fails to label 80% of posts promoting bioweapons conspiracy theory”:

    As social media companies promise to crack down on Russian disinformation about the war in Ukraine, studies show they continue to fall short, allowing disproven narratives to reach millions.

    Facebook failed to label 80% of articles on its platform promoting a fast-spreading conspiracy theory that the US is funding the use of bioweapons in Ukraine, according to a study released Friday by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH).

    “If our researchers can identify false information about Ukraine openly circulating on its platform, it is within Meta’s capability to do the same,” said CCDH chief executive Imran Ahmed. “But we found that in the vast majority of cases, conspiracy theories are given a free pass.”

    “Russia’s propaganda campaigns have benefited for years from Meta turning a blind eye to disinformation,” Ahmed said. “Despite taking action against state channels under enormous pressure, Meta is failing badly to contain major disinformation narratives that benefit Putin’s regime.”

    Previous studies published by CCDH found Facebook struggled to enforce its own rules surrounding the labeling of state-sponsored news sources. And it is not alone: another study from Media Matters for America found YouTube had not only failed to remove thousands of videos about the biolabs theory, but had also profited off them through monetized channels….

  225. says

    Here’s a link to today’s Guardian Ukraine liveblog. From their most recent summary:

    An evacuation mission is under way from Ukraine’s besieged southern port city of Mariupol. Ukraine’s deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk said it was planning to send a convoy of 45 buses from Zaporizhzhia to make the 220 kilometre (136 mile) journey. At least 17 of the buses have already departed.

    Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has told the Australian parliament that his country is “undefeatable” against Russia as long as it can count on the support of the global community. Zelenskiy accused Putin of “nuclear blackmail” and said that an unchecked Russia was a “threat” to the world, suggesting its actions may inspire other nations to follow suit, in a thinly veiled warning about China to the parliament he was addressing.

    As well as appearing before the Australian parliament today, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has appeared in the Netherlands via video link and asked the Dutch parliament for weapons, reconstruction aid and to halt all business with Russia in response to the invasion of his country.

    Taiwan’s defence ministry has set up a working group to study the tactics of the war in Ukraine, including how the country has been able to hold out against Russia. Taiwan, claimed by China as its own territory, has raised its alert level since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

    Oil prices tumbled on reports that the United States is considering tapping its reserves to combat a supply crisis sparked by the Ukraine war. The Russian rouble meanwhile has recovered to its pre-war value despite western sanctions on the country’s exports and financial systems.

  226. says

    Eleanor Beardsley, NPR:

    Incredible testimony on BFMTV from this mayor of Melitopol who was kidnapped for several days by the Russians. He says they had no idea what’s going on. They told him we’re here to get the Nazis – he said I’ve been in this town 30 years and I’ve never met one…. then they said

    well we’re here to help the Russian speakers snd he said 95% of us speak Russian and we’re fine. They said they heard that the World War II veterans of the town had been beaten in the patriot day and he said au contraire they’re venerated and there’s not very many of them left.

    It seems these Russian soldiers truly thought that. This entire war is being fought on propaganda – for false pretenses. Its not only Putin who doesn’t know what’s going on. This mayor, Ivan Fedorov, said the soldiers were completely unprepared and clueless.

    Someone shared a link to the interview (video, no English subtitles) in the responses: “Enlevé par l’armée russe, le maire de Melitopol témoigne après sa libération sur BFMTV.”

    Fedorov is part of a Ukrainian delegation in France this week – there are others in other European countries – bearing witness to what’s happening in Ukraine. He describes how Melitopol’s choosing to develop stronger links to Europe made it symbolic, and praises the courage of the thousands of unarmed demonstrators protesting the Russian occupation in the city. They show the video clip of him being taken away with a black bag over his head; he was later exchanged for Russian POWs. I hope NPR can translate these interviews into English or conduct some in English.

  227. says

    I knew I was forgetting something – Fedorov also describes how Russia’s not just waging war on Ukraine but on Europe and says if they succeed in Ukraine they won’t stop there.

  228. says

    Related to Lynna’s #s 234 and 291:

    What’s happening around Kharkiv recently is telling us alot about how the war could develop in the next few weeks. For those who dont know, Kharkiv is the second largest city in Ukraine (pop before the war of almost 1.5 million, with a large Russian speaking population.

    Taking Kharkiv seemed to be an early high priority objective of the Russians, as the city is not far from the border with Russia and in Putin’s worldview would probably have been the centre of pro-Russian identity in Ukraine.

    However the Russian assault stalled around Kharkiv and the Russian army, not willing to engage in street by street fighting, chose the tactics of cutting off the city and bombarding at distance. Some of the most terrible images of city bombardment at the start came from Kharkiv.

    However in the last two weeks, with the attention mostly on Kyiv and Mariupol, the Ukrainians have started pushing the Russians back from Kharkiv, not only is the city not surrounded, it seems the Ukrainians are pushing Russian forces back in the direction of the Russian border.

    Here is an AFP story. sorry that there is a glimpse of a dead soldier, but its reputable press. Its also worth seeing for the continuing failure of Russian air power, two Ukrainian tanks in broad daylight on a road near the Russian border. Remarkable

    Quite where the border is now is not clear, but traffic in and out of Kharkiv from the west seems open. Here is one attempt at mapping.

    There are even reports that Kharkiv residents who have left are returning home. They are far braver than I ever would be as there are also stories of Russian army kidnappings throughout the area.

    Strategically why this is important is that Kharkiv controls the roads from the northern from near Kyiv and Sumy, down to the Donbas and Donetsk/Luhansk. See the UK MOD maps at the start of the thread.

    Without road access around Kharkiv, the Russians cant redeploy forces from north to south, They will have to take the longer route of sending troops back into Belarus or Russia and around. Basically Kharkiv divides the war into two, unsupporting fronts for the Russians

    It means it will take far longer for the Russians to consolidate forces in the Donbas (if that is their priority) lead to more wastage, possible troop dissatisfaction, etc. The longer the Ukrainians consolidate the position around Kharkiv, the more problems the Russians will have

    Sumy, to the north of Kharkiv, is also being relieved by Ukrainian forces, which means the separation between the Kyiv front and the Donbas is even larger.

    A good map to show the problems the Russians are facing [maps and links at the link]

  229. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 294

    He says: “We are waging an eschatological military operation, a special operation between Light and Darkness in the sitution [sic] of the end of times…”

    That sounds ominous; not to mention, familiar. At the end of WWII, Hitler was obsessed with the Wagnerian imagery of Gotterdammerung.

  230. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    Here is some more detail on what Vladimir Putin has just said about gas contracts. Reuters reports that the president said he had signed a decree saying foreign buyers must pay in roubles for Russian gas from 1 April, and contracts would be halted if these payments were not made.

    “In order to purchase Russian natural gas, they must open rouble accounts in Russian banks. It is from these accounts that payments will be made for gas delivered starting from tomorrow,” Putin said in televised remarks.

    “If such payments are not made, we will consider this a default on the part of buyers, with all the ensuing consequences. Nobody sells us anything for free, and we are not going to do charity either – that is, existing contracts will be stopped.”

    Russia supplies about a third of Europe’s gas, but to date western companies and governments have rejected this demand for payment in roubles as a breach of existing contracts, which are set in euros or dollars.

    Germany and France have again rejected demands by Russia that European countries pay for its gas in roubles, saying it was an unacceptable breach of contracts and amounted to “blackmail”, Reuters reports.

    Speaking during a news conference, Germany’s economy minister, Robert Habeck, said he had not yet seen a new decree signed by President Valdimir Putin mandating gas payments in roubles, adding that Germany was prepared for all scenarios, including a stoppage of Russian gas flows to Europe.

    The French finance minister, Bruno le Maire, said France and Germany rejected Russia’s demand.

    European leaders are reacting to the news that Vladimir Putin has threatened not to honour gas contracts unless the payments are made in roubles from tomorrow. Germany’s economy minister, Robert Habeck, has said:

    With regard to the threat, demand or consideration – one doesn’t know how to call it any more – to be made to pay in rouble, it is crucial for us that the contracts are respected. It is important for us not to give a signal that we will be blackmailed by Putin.

    The country’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, said: “By all means, it remains the case that companies want [to?], can and will pay in euros.” and the French economy minister Bruno Le Maire said: “Contracts are contracts.”

    The UK does not plan to pay for Russian gas in roubles, the prime minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman has said, adding that the government was monitoring the implications for the European market of Putin’s demand.

    The Russian president said he had signed a decree saying foreign buyers must pay in roubles for Russian gas from 1 April – and contracts would be halted if these payments were not made.

    Asked if there were any circumstances in which the UK would pay in roubles for Russian gas, the spokesman told reporters: “That is not something we will be looking to do.”

  231. says

    Axios – “Study: Ivermectin does not prevent COVID-19 hospitalization”:

    The anti-parasitic ivermectin does not reduce the risk of COVID-19 hospitalization, according to a new study published Wednesday.

    …”Treatment with ivermectin did not result in a lower incidence of medical admission to a hospital due to progression of Covid-19 or of prolonged emergency department observation among outpatients with an early diagnosis of COVID-19,” the study’s authors wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine.

    …The researchers studied more than 1,300 patients infected with the virus in Brazil — half received ivermectin and the other half received a placebo.

    …Ivermectin, which is primarily used for veterinary purposes, soared in popularity over the pandemic, despite clinical trials showing that the drug was not effective in treating COVID-19.

    …The Food and Drug Administration urged people to stop taking the anti-parasitic, warning that it could cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, seizures, coma and, in some cases, death.

    …”Now that people can dive into the details and the data, hopefully that will steer the majority of doctors away from ivermectin towards other therapies,” David Boulware, an infectious-disease expert at the University of Minnesota, told the New York Times.

  232. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 316

    None of which matters because this study comes from “Establishment Science.” Therefore, it MUST be all a lie. Ivermectin doesn’t just cure COVID, it cures cancer, it cures diabetes, it’s an angathic that will give us eternal youth! Get your prescription from Dr. Stella “Demon Jizz” Emmanuel at the Infowars Store TODAY!