Comments

  1. says

    From today’s Guardian Ukraine liveblog:

    Russia replaces general in charge of Ukraine war in latest military shake-up

    Russia appointed Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff, as its overall commander for the war in Ukraine on Wednesday, in the latest of several major shake-ups of Moscow’s military leadership during the stumbling invasion of its neighbour.

    In a statement, the defence ministry said that Gerasimov’s appointment constituted a “raising of the status of the leadership” of the military force in Ukraine and was implemented to “improve the quality … and effectiveness of the management of Russian forces.”

    Sergei Surovikin, a notorious general nicknamed “General Armageddon” by the Russian media, who was appointed as overall commander of the army in October, would stay on as a deputy of Gerasimov, the defence ministry said.

    From today’s Guardian US liveblog:

    While they may have momentum in the US House, anti-abortion groups continue to lose ground at the state level, with a special election in Virginia bringing the latest setback for their movement.

    Last night, Democrat Aaron Rouse claimed victory in the race for a vacant seat in Virginia’s state Senate, which, if confirmed, would expand the party’s margins in the chamber. It would also mean Republican governor Glenn Youngkin would not have the votes he needs to pass a proposed ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, which he unveiled last month.

    Abortion rights have faired well at ballot boxes ever since the supreme court last year overturned Roe v Wade. In the November midterms, voters rejected new limits on abortion or expanded access in every state where it was on the ballot.

  2. says

    New podcast episode – NBN – “Richard Wolin, Heidegger in Ruins: Between Philosophy and Ideology:

    What does it mean when a radical understanding of National Socialism is inextricably embedded in the work of the twentieth century’s most important philosopher? Martin Heidegger’s sympathies for the conservative revolution and National Socialism have long been well known. As the rector of the University of Freiburg in the early 1930s, he worked hard to reshape the university in accordance with National Socialist policies. He also engaged in an all-out struggle to become the movement’s philosophical preceptor, “to lead the leader.” Yet for years, Heidegger’s defenders have tried to separate his political beliefs from his philosophical doctrines. They argued, in effect, that he was good at philosophy but bad at politics. But with the 2014 publication of Heidegger’s “Black Notebooks,” it has become clear that he embraced a far more radical vision of the conservative revolution than previously suspected. His dissatisfaction with National Socialism, it turns out, was mainly that it did not go far enough. 

    The notebooks show that far from being separated from Nazism, Heidegger’s philosophy was suffused with it. In Heidegger in Ruins: Between Philosophy and Ideology (Yale University Press, 2022), Richard Wolin explores what the notebooks mean for our understanding of arguably the most important philosopher of the twentieth century, and of his ideas–and why his legacy remains radically compromised.

    The book was released yesterday. Two points: First, I question the status accorded to Heidegger in philosophy. Second, this is yet another work confirming many of the worst accusations about Heidegger; the more that’s publicly available (and accurately translated), the worse he’s revealed to have been.

    Here’s an LARB article by Wolin from August – ““The Leprosy of the Soul in Our Time”: On the European Origins of the ‘Great Replacement’ Theory.”

  3. says

    New York state Republicans have now joined the Nassau County Republicans in calling for George Santos to resign, as has NY Republican Rep. Anthony D’Esposito. I believe I heard that the party is encouraging people in the district to direct their issues to D’Esposito.

    Santos tweeted:

    I was elected to serve the people of #NY03 not the party & politicians, I remain committed to doing that and regret to hear that local officials refuse to work with my office to deliver results to keep our community safe and lower the cost of living.

    I will NOT resign!

    Were you, though? Were “you” elected?

  4. Reginald Selkirk says

    @5: …and regret to hear that local officials refuse to work with my office to deliver results to keep our community safe and lower the cost of living.

    What does he think his local office is supposed to be doing? Usually local offices assist constituents with access to federal programs and coordinate with people who want nominations to service academies. They do not handle law enforcement and they do not set store prices.

  5. Reginald Selkirk says

    Barbara Lee tells lawmakers she’s running for Senate

    Rep. Barbara Lee has told her fellow lawmakers she’s running for Senate in California, according to two sources familiar with the situation…
    Lee’s decision to run comes a day after Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) also announced a bid for the seat currently held by Feinstein (D-Calif.). Feinstein’s future has been the subject of much speculation by Democrats in recent months, though she’s remained publicly noncommittal on her plans. It represents a safe Democratic seat for whoever can muscle through a likely crowded primary.

  6. whheydt says

    10 Norway-donated bridges to be installed in liberated parts of Ukraine
    by The Kyiv Independent news deskJanuary 11, 2023 8:56 pm
    Share

    Ukraine’s Ministry of Infrastructure reported on Jan. 11 that Norway had sent 10 bridges worth over $3 million to Ukraine in December. The first trucks with this aid have already arrived.

    The bridges will be installed as temporary constructions in the liberated parts of Ukraine to allow the movement of heavy vehicles with humanitarian aid and ambulances, the ministry said.

    According to the ministry, Norway became the third country that provides roadway infrastructure aid to Ukraine. Previously, France and the Czech Republic have also donated temporary bridges.

    The ministry also noted that in the near future, Ukraine is expecting bridges from Sweden and another batch from the Czech Republic.

    https://kyivindependent.com/news-feed/10-norway-donated-bridges-to-be-installed-in-liberated-parts-of-ukraine
    I recall reading about a company that was making temporary bridge segments out of railroad flatcars 30 or 40 years ago. Would seem to be just what Ukraine could use and could probably do the–rather minimal–conversion work themselves.

  7. whheydt says

    Re: Reginald Selkirk @ #7…
    I consider Barbara Lee rather past her “sell by” date for that job at 76. By the time she took office, she’d be 78 and at the end of a full term, 84.

  8. Reginald Selkirk says

    House Republicans to vote on bill abolishing IRS, eliminating income tax

    Republicans in the House of Representatives will vote on a bill that would abolish the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), eliminate the national income tax, and replace it with a national consumption tax.
    Fox News Digital has learned that the House will be voting on Georgia Republican Rep. Buddy Carter’s reintroduced Fair Tax Act that aims to reel in the IRS and remove the national income tax, as well as other taxes, and replace them with a single consumption tax…

    Why are they dealing with this triviality before tackling the important work of investigating Hunter Biden’s laptop?

  9. says

    Barak Ravid in Axios (quite a contrast between his lucid writing and their perverse template and formatting) – “Israeli opposition calls for protests over Netanyahu’s judicial reform plan”:

    The Israeli opposition is calling for mass street protests against the new government’s plan to weaken the Supreme Court and other democratic institutions.

    Why it matters: The plan, announced less than two weeks after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government took office, has deepened political divisions and stoked fear among some that the heightened tensions could tear Israeli society apart.

    Catch up quick: Israel’s Justice Minister Yariv Levin last week presented the government’s plan for what he called “judicial reform.” 

    The plan, if implemented, will significantly limit the Supreme Court’s ability to review laws and strike them down.

    The plan includes passing a law that would allow the governing coalition to override Supreme Court rulings by a simple majority of 61 votes in the 120-member Knesset.

    It also seeks to end the Supreme Court’s ability to revoke administrative decisions by the government on the grounds of “reasonability,” significantly decreasing judicial oversight.

    The plan envisions giving the government and the coalition in parliament absolute control over appointing judges.

    Additionally, the plan includes changing the law so that ministers would be able to install political appointees as legal advisers in their ministries, something that is not under their authority today.

    The impact: Experts say the implementation of the plan will eliminate the ability of the judicial branch to do the checks and balances against the executive and legislative branches, which are both controlled by the governing coalition.

    The plan could also have consequences for the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli Supreme Court has been the only institution that Palestinians in the West Bank can go to defend their rights, mainly regarding land disputes with Israeli settlers. [Not that it’s been a fully reliable defender, either.]

    Driving the news: Up to 10,000 people in Tel Aviv on Saturday rallied against the plan in the first demonstration organized by several popular movements. The organizers said they were surprised by the wide-ranging participation.

    On Monday, all opposition parties announced they would join the protests and called on their supporters to participate in demonstrations planned for this Saturday in Tel Aviv and other cities.

    Opposition leader Yair Lapid said the government’s plan is “a radical regime change” that will destroy Israel’s democracy. He also said he would fight against the planned reforms “in the streets.’

    Calling the plan “a constitutional coup,” former Defense Minister Benny Gantz urged people to take to the streets. “It is time for the public to go out and rock the country. … If Netanyahu continues down this path, the responsibility for the civil war in Israeli society will be his,” Gantz said.

    Netanyahu, who backed Levin’s plan, called Gantz’s remarks “incitement for insurrection.”

    Between the lines: Levin’s plan was presented as Netanyahu stands trial for fraud, breach of trust and bribery. He denies any wrongdoing.

    The Israeli opposition has warned that Netanyahu is pushing for the new plan as part of his effort to stop the trial.

    State of play: On Monday, ultranationalist National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir ordered the police to crack down on protesters by using water cannons and arresting those who try to block roads.

    A day later, Tzvika Fogel, a lawmaker from Ben-Gvir’s party, said Lapid and Gantz should be arrested for treason. Several ministers and lawmakers from his party backed him. Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir, however, distanced themselves from this remark, but they didn’t condemn it.

    Separately on Tuesday, anti-government protesters were allegedly attacked in the city of Beer Sheva by a Netanyahu supporter. A member of Lapid’s party who criticized the government on the radio received a phone call from a right-wing activist who allegedly threatened to kill him.

    What they’re saying: President Isaac Herzog issued a statement on Tuesday urging calm on “all sides.” Herzog said he was working on starting a dialogue that could lead to understandings around a possible judicial reform.

    The legislation process is expected to start next week in the Knesset.

  10. says

    Followup to Reginald’s comment #10.

    See:
    https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2022/10/13/infinite-thread-xxv/comment-page-9/#comment-2164213

    This is comment 243 in the previous chapter of this thread. Here is an excerpt:

    […] it doesn’t just abolish the IRS, though that’s the only thing spelled out in the text. It threatens Social Security and Medicare, which run on payroll taxes. […] ends the dedicated funding source for the programs in the future. When all the functions of government are coming from one pot of money and social insurance programs have to compete with defense for money, guess what gets sacrificed?

  11. says

    Ukraine update: Russia replaces another failed war commander while Ukraine gets its battle tanks

    Polish President Duda is welcomed by the people in Lviv like a rockstar. Somebody in the Chancellory in Berlin should take note of. That reflex of some German politicians to not antagonize Russia has been long outdated and must be put on the trash heap of history. [video at the link]

    Putin’s decision to appoint Chief of the General Staff Gerasimov as new overall commander of Ukraine op is significant. Is it a demotion for former joint commander Surovikin? Implicitly, yes, of course – even if being framed simply as a response to the increased ‘status’ of the op.

    What did Surovikin do wrong? Nothing, really (in context – this is not about his morality…). Yes, there were all kinds of reversals, including the recent Makiivka strike, but there is a limit to what one new commander can do in 3 months. But Putin doesn’t necessarily understand this (remember: no military experience and a court full of sycophants) nor care.

    For Gerasimov (who were were being assured was out of favour and about to be sacked… or who was Putin’s right hand man…) it is a kind of demotion, or at least the most poisoned of chalices. It’s now on him, and I suspect Putin has unrealistic expectations again.

    It has been pretty clear that there will be spring offensives – that’s what the 150,000 mobiks not thrown into the fight are being held for. 150k fresh troops, however poor quality, will make a difference, but not, I suspect enough for Putin. […] In many ways, I don’t think Moscow’s strategy hinges anyway on battlefield victory – it’s more about politics. In other words, demonstrating to the West that Russia is in this for the long haul, and hoping that we will lose the will and unity to continue to support Kyiv. (I think Putin will be disappointed, but he *has* to believe this – it’s his only real shot at some kind of victory).

    So what does this actually mean? (a) Confirmation, if we needed it, that there will be serious offensives coming, and that even Putin recognises that poor coordination has been an issue (though can even Gerasimov truly command Wagner + Kadyrovtsy?)

    Gerasimov is hanging by a thread. I don’t think this is intended to create a pretext to sack him as the war is too important and Putin can sack who he wants. But he needs some kind of win or a career ends in ignominy. This may well suggest some kinds of escalation. Not the nuclear option, but more mobilisation or, arguably more militarily logical but politically dangerous, also deploying conscripts. They are better trained and equipped than most mobiks!

    Putin doesn’t understand/care about his officer corps. If you keep appointing, rotating, burning your (relative) stars, setting unrealistic expectations, arbitrarily demoting them, that’s not going to win loyalty […] [Posted on Twitter by Mark Galeotti]

    General Sergey Surovikin began Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as its commander of the “South” grouping (meaning, based in southern Russia), in charge of the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine. He led Russia’s efforts to capture Popasna, Severodonetsk, and Lysychansk back in June. Later, he was tasked with protecting Kherson city in southern Ukraine.

    This was a time when Russia’s war effort incredibly lacked an overall commander: Each axis of attack (Kyiv, Kharkiv, Donbas, and Kherson) was commanded by a different general, with little coordination with each other.

    That all changed on Oct. 8, when Surovikin was named overall commander of the entire war effort. Russia’s war effort remained fragmented—he had no control over Rosgvardia (Putin’s private army), Wagner mercenaries, or Kadyrovite Chechen militias, but at least Russia’s army itself was finally under unified command.

    The first thing he did upon the announcement was to vaguely declare that “tough decisions” would have to be made, the first major hint that Russia would be retreating from its positions in northern Kherson oblast. Ukraine had destroyed the two key bridges into the region and it wasn’t feasible to support military operations via barge. His second major accomplishment was the orderly withdrawal of the 20,000–40,000 troops in that area despite serious Ukrainian pressure. Russia’s loss of life and equipment was minimal, a stark contrast to the chaotic, panicked retreat just a few months prior from Kharkiv oblast in northeastern Ukraine, the one that gifted Ukraine hundreds of pieces of abandoned armor and artillery.

    Surovikin then worked to lock in Russian gains across the entire contact line, digging an extensive network of defensive emplacements, multiple layers deep, signaling to Ukraine that any new counteroffensive would be (prohibitively?) costly. It worked. After Ukraine’s massive gains in Kharkiv and Kherson, the front lines stabilized. A wet autumn certainly helped, but it was now clear that Ukraine had picked the low-hanging fruit. Anything moving forward would require serious effort.

    Surovikin had one last gambit up his sleeve: He commanded Russia’s costly effort to destroy Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, betting it would generate a brand new European refugee crisis, driving millions of Ukrainians toward the west. Putin expected these refugees, along with cutting off Europe from Russian gas, would plunge the continent into crisis, raise public discontent, and severely amp pressure both internationally, and internally in Ukraine, to negotiate a “peace” that would freeze the current lines until Russia could regroup, refit, and restart the conflict on its own terms.

    In reality, none of that happened. It took some serious work, but Europe hasn’t had any trouble maintaining its energy stocks, to the point that gas prices have dropped below the levels when Russia cut off supplies in the summer. Thanks to large-scale international assistance and local ingenuity, Ukraine was able to quickly repair damage to its energy grid, giving Ukrainians little reason to leave their homeland. The attacks certainly didn’t break Ukraine’s fighting spirit—quite the opposite, in fact.

    But there was one unintended consequence: Russia’s wanton brutality against civilian targets opened the floodgates for new weapons like advanced air defense systems, infantry fighting vehicles, and as of today, main battle tanks.

    In other words, Russia wasted billions of dollars in dwindling missile stocks hitting nonmilitary targets, and left Ukraine stronger than before.

    Perhaps it was that failure, or perhaps there’s Kremlin palace intrigue at play, but for whatever reason, Surovikin was demoted today. Russia’s top defense official Valery Gerasimov (equivalent to the chair of our Joint Chiefs of Staff) was put in charge of the war effort, with Surovikin named his deputy. This will put the Russian armed forces in direct conflict with his fierce critic Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner mercenaries group.

    In fact, they’re already taking shots at each other. Remember this video? [video at the link] These two Wagner mercenaries are talking about Gerasimov. The next day, Prigozhin recorded a video with these same two soldiers lauding them for their actions. His message of contempt to Russia’s Ministry of Defense was clear. And today, both the Russian army and Prigozhin are taking credit for capturing Soledar.

    Soledar hasn’t even been captured.

    In any case, Surovikin seemed a capable commander, stabilizing the fronts after massive Ukrainian advances and creating the conditions to stymie future Ukrainian gains. The missile attacks against civilian infrastructure were stupid and counterproductive, but I suspect that approach was made to satiate Putin’s blood lust, as it lacked military purpose. But it seems obvious, as well, that Putin wants to see progress. It’s embarrassing for him to say “Kherson is Russia” while Ukraine holds the important parts of the oblast (in particular, the regional capital). So off we go, with a new commander, and one that is in open conflict with one of the main armies in the field, those Wagner mercenaries.

    What could go wrong?

    Don’t ask me what is going on in Soledar. Both sides are making 100% mutually exclusive claims about the status of the fighting. The fog of war is thick, with both sides incentivized to lie or exaggerate the state of play.

    But until we see Russian video of their soldiers on the grounds of the salt mine without bullets whizzing by, we can assume that at least part of that town is still contested.

    And it’s never a bad time to reflect on how Mighty Russia has put everything it has left into trying to take a town with little strategic value and a pre-war population of 10,000. It’s beyond laughable, except that hundreds, if not thousands, are dying on those streets. […]

    More updates from Ukraine coming soon.

  12. says

    Chicago Sun Times:

    Assault weapons can no longer be sold in Illinois. The state immediately banned the sale of the military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines Tuesday evening, with Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature on a bill the House had passed just hours earlier.

    With Illinois added to the list, there are now nine states in the USA that have taken this step.

  13. says

    New York Times:

    The climate and tax bill President Biden signed in August to increase the use of green energy and electric cars while expanding domestic manufacturing appears to be yielding some results. A Korean solar company, Hanwha Qcells, announced on Wednesday that it would spend $2.5 billion to build a large manufacturing complex in Georgia.

  14. says

    […] On Tuesday, the bill to create that new subcommittee — the so-called Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, passed by a vote of 221 to 211. All Democrats opposed.

    Some, including Rachel on her show Monday night, have expressed concern about the subcommittee’s mandate, which starts with studying the executive branch’s power to “collect information on or otherwise investigate citizens of the United States, including ongoing criminal investigations.”

    Enabling Congress to interfere with pending criminal matters is alarming, especially given that at least one potential member of the subcommittee is believed to be under investigation by Department of Justice. And while the DOJ can be expected to push back, any showdown between two coequal branches of government that begs for resolution by the third — a federal judiciary transformed in former President Donald Trump’s wake — is itself frightening.

    But there’s another, more fundamental problem. This retributive project of the ultra-right seems to bear little resemblance to the committee it’s invoking as a model. For starters, the subcommittee, which House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan will lead, would have 15 members (including Jordan and Jerry Nadler, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee), no more than six of whom could be Democrats and all of whom have to be approved by McCarthy, the GOP’s speaker-by-a-squeaker.

    Jordan has never been known for smoothing the waters; he even explained a near-brawl on the House floor last week as the sort of conflict the founders intended. By contrast, the Church Committee was almost evenly divided with six Democrats to five Republicans. And to the extent Church, a Democrat from Idaho, was criticized for partisan leanings, it was for catering too much to his committee’s Republicans in his quest for unanimity.

    More significantly, the Church Committee used a wide lens to examine intelligence failures and lawlessness. It reviewed multiple agencies on a timeframe spanning multiple presidencies of both parties. And it did so, despite Church’s own dreams of higher office, without any personal or partisan fixations. That sounds worlds away from the “radical left” and “Biden Crime Family” blame-and-shame game Jordan and House Republicans have in mind.

    Indeed, as Nadler reflected earlier this week, the new Jordan effort is “likely to be more similar to the notorious House Un-American Activities Committee of the mid-20th century.” Or as Rep. Jim McGovern said even more pointedly Tuesday, “I call it the McCarthy Committee, and I’m not talking about Kevin.”

    […] most glaring differences between the Church Committee and the GOP’s new subcommittee […]

    Link

    More at the link

  15. says

    Seventeen House Republicans will now serve as powerful committee chairs. Eleven of them voted to reject the results of the 2020 presidential election.

  16. says

    Followup to comment 13.

    Additional updates from Ukraine:

    With Germany resisting calls to “free the Leopards” (their European-standard main battle tank), a coalition of operator nations is lobbying for the necessary approval to gift them to Ukraine. Three days ago (was it really that recent?), Finland was the first to pledge Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine as part of any future international coalition. Poland seconded the motion a day later. Today, Poland flat-out pledged to send a company, 14 tanks, to Ukraine. [tweet and image at the link in comment 13] I picked that Tweet because that’s a sweet picture, one that would send shivers down the spine of any Russian opposite them in the battlefield.

    To be clear, Poland can’t send those tanks without German approval, as it’s a standard clause in any weapons sale. Third-party sales have to always be approved by the original country, or a country could act as a third-party conduit for unsanctioned arms transfers. But along with Finland, Denmark has also joined this coalition of the willing. Spain offered earlier last year.

    As I’ve written, don’t expect Germany to lead. But they’re happy to follow. So while they may be reticent to be the first to approve a modern main battle tank for the battlefield, they no longer have to go first, as the United Kingdom just announced they are sending some of their Challenger 2s to Ukraine. [tweet and image at the link]

    From a practical standpoint, this is a terrible option. A main battle tank (MBT) has severe logistical costs, and it’s hard enough to support one tank. Now Ukraine is supposed to support a handful of Challengers? Making things worse, while NATO standard MBTs have smooth-bore cannons and standard ammunition, Challengers have a rifled barrel and specialized rounds. It’s the last thing Ukraine needs.

    But as a political decision, this is masterful! Heck, get these challengers into Ukraine and park them in Lviv, who cares. What matters is the Leopards. Except …

    […] the U.K. might be considering buying back Challenger 1 tanks currently being phased out by Jordan. Jordan doesn’t just have 400 of them, but they are upgraded with NATO-standard cannons. […] Regardless, those Jordanian upgraded first-generation Challengers are an intriguing possibility.

    Back to the Leopard 2, current operators:

    300+ Turkey, Spain
    200+ Germany, Poland
    100+ Austria, Finland, Greece, Sweden
    50+ Denmark, Norway, Portugal

    Turkey and Greece won’t share theirs; they’re in their own simmering Cold War. Spain has already offered some and would likely donate, as well as Poland (which is phasing out their 250 or so), Finland, and Denmark. Germany’s army is in shambles out of neglect, so they may not have any to give beyond a symbolic dozen or so, but even that helps. If Ukraine can get several hundred from this group, they’ll be in much better shape for their spring offensive.

    As an aside, Poland has hundreds of Soviet-era tanks still in their possession, being replaced by M1 Abrams and South Korean K2 tanks. Polish President Andrzej Duda said today that all of its equipment being phased out would be sent to Ukraine. The sooner that happens, the better.

    Live sports (and the NFL, in particular) accounted for the majority of the top 100 broadcasts of 2022. 88th on the list, and 17th if you exclude the NFL, was Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s address at U.S. Capitol, with 16 million viewers—the same number who watched the Beijing Winter Olympics opening ceremonies.

  17. says

    Oh FFS.

    Shady firm that built crumbling private border wall is awarded massive contract by Texas

    It was just this past weekend when Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was crying to reporters that Texas needs lots more money after spending billions upon billions of state taxpayer funds on political stunts vaguely disguised as supposed border enforcement initiatives.

    But as Abbott complains about cash strains, he’s just also awarded a $224 million dollar contract for nearish-to-the-international-border (more on this later) wall construction. Hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts have already gone to contractors; this latest agreement is the largest one yet and goes to the company that not only has a history of shady dealings, but that built the notorious privately funded section of wall that’s been on the verge of collapse. [Well, that’s just brilliant.]

    Fisher Sand & Gravel “drew national attention for constructing a private border fence in South Texas that was part of a fraudulent crowdfunding scheme called We Build the Wall,” Texas Observer reports. “The 3-mile steel fence that Fisher built prompted federal lawsuits and is reportedly at risk of collapsing into the Rio Grande.”

    That privately funded wall wasn’t just a legal disaster for the likes of indicted-but-later-pardoned white nationalist creep Steve Bannon, it’s been an actual physical disaster. ProPublica and The Texas Tribune said in a 2020 that one engineer who reviewed reports on the thing “likened Fisher’s fence to a used Toyota Yaris.” Recall that the company’s president had called it “the ‘Lamborghini’ of border walls” on the Fox propaganda network, where he did lots of sucking up to the insurrectionist president. It was clear the company was rushing construction and cutting corners in order to build as much in time for his reelection campaign as possible because the wall has never actually been intended as some sort of immigration policy (which it’s clearly not), but rather a racist, political tool.

    And a money-making venture for Fisher Sand & Gravel. Texas Observer reports the company will get nearly a quarter of a billion dollars to build just 9 miles of wall in Webb County, coming to $24 million per mile. “Contract records indicate that the planned wall segment will stretch south from the outskirts of Laredo through the small border towns of El Cenizo and El Bravo,” the report said. The tiny town of El Cenizo, I should mention, made national news in 2017 when it led the first lawsuit against Texas’ discriminatory “show me your papers” law.

    Fisher Sand & Gravel has landed itself these lucrative contracts all thanks to corrupt dealings. The Army Corps of Engineers had initially rejected the company’s bid to be a federal contractor, pointing “to the company’s lack of experience building border walls,” 60 Minutes reported in 2020. But both the insurrectionist president and the state’s senator, Republican Kevin Cramer, highly favored company. When the former found out Fisher wasn’t picked, he “exploded into a tirade,” the report said.

    Sources in fact said that Department of Homeland Security officials “explained to the president [Trump] that it was inappropriate for the president to influence the bidding process.” Hilarious, like that would ever stop him. Fisher Sand & Gravel got the $1.3 billion contract to build the wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for, reported at that time as the single largest agreement. Now it gets that distinction in Texas, too.

    When it comes to what Fisher Sand & Gravel will build under contract with Texas, it won’t actually be at the international border, because that’s the federal government’s purview. So ongoing plans have involved state lands as well as trying to secure private lands from Texans. But reports say that process has dragged out, so not much building has actually been happening. “I believe we have about every landman available in South Texas working on this project,” Texas Facilities Commission Chair Steven Alvis said in the Texas Observer report. “If I could find some more, I’d do it.”

    Great, great use of state resources here. Republicans like to push this racist trope about immigrants sucking up state resources, but it’s more than clear who the actual moochers are here.

    Fisher Sand & Gravel, by the way, is under a settlement with the federal government and has to conduct regular inspections of its private wall disaster. “A $3 million bond also must be kept on the property for 15 years, or until it is transferred to the federal government, in case the structure falters,” Border Report said last year. Still, a pittance compared to the vast earnings it has made from these projects.

  18. says

    “Sarah Huckabee Sanders Spends First Day As AR Governor Being Dishonest A-Hole. Surprise!

    She banned ‘Latinx’ on government forms, because she cares so much about cultural sensitivity.

    […] it’s a problem for Arkansas, which just made the amateur mistake of electing Sanders governor. You’ll remember that a few years after Bill Clinton left Arkansas and went to the White House, Arkansas quit electing Democrats and put Mike Huckabee, Sanders’s father, in the governor’s mansion […]

    Because she is a very serious politician, Sanders spent Tuesday, her first day in office, doing productive things like banning the word “Latinx” from all official Arkansas documents.

    Sanders, who was sworn in as the first female governor of Arkansas on Tuesday, justified the ban of the word “Latinx” in government documents and name titles by citing a Pew Research poll that found only 3% of American Latinos and Hispanics used the term to describe themselves.

    “Ethnically insensitive and pejorative language has no place in official government documents or government employee titles,” Sanders’ executive order states. “The government has a responsibility to respect its citizens and use ethnically appropriate language, particularly when referring to ethnic minorities.”

    OK go fuck yourself.

    There is a real debate among serious and kind people over the term “Latinx,” and it’s true that probably most of the Hispanic community has no interest in using it. Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego has some interesting thoughts about it.

    But that’s not what this post is about, because that’s not why Sarah Huckabee Sanders really did this. Let us not fall into the trap of pretending that Sanders gives a fuck whether the term is “ethnically insensitive and pejorative” or whether she is giving appropriate respect to “ethnic minorities.” Raise your hand if Sanders, one of the country’smostprolificliars, is fooling you, so that we can smack the shit out of your ignorant hand.

    She is doing this to be a hateful asshole toward transgender people. That’s it. “Latinx” is code for “woke” and “transgender” with these people. That’s why she did it. [I know … it doesn’t make sense, but when did über rightwing politics make sense?]

    Sanders also spent part of her first day being a hateful asshole toward Black people under the guise of protecting minorities from “discrimination.” How? By banning Critical Race Theory. In other words, more anti-“woke” trolling and still no governing.

    Sanders’ order says the Secretary of the Department of Education shall review rules, policies and regulations to identify anything that may promote teaching that would, “indoctrinate students with ideologies, such as CRT, that conflict with the principle of equal protection under the law or encourage students to discriminate against someone based on the individual’s color, creed, race, ethnicity, sex, age, marital status, familial status, disability, religion, national origin, or any other characteristic protected by federal or state law.”

    […] an Ohio school shut down Dr. Seuss’s The Sneetches when a third grader noticed it was against racism. But Sarah Huckabee Sanders will protect students from race-based discrimination by Making Education White Supremacist Again, preventing little white children like her own perfect angels from ever learning that maybe a handful of times in American history — definitely for only the first several hundred years and counting — white Christian people have been absolute fucking garbage toward everybody who wasn’t white and created a country that’s designed to work for them, at the expense of everyone else.

    She signed this in Little Rock, presumably, mere blocks from Little Rock Central High. Yeah, as in 1957 “Little Rock Nine” Central High.

    Welcome to hell, everybody in Arkansas who isn’t a white fascist. That ignorant country bumpkin piece of shit up there thinks Jesus picked her to make your life miserable. […]

  19. says

    Kyiv Independent:

    Satellite imagery shows magnitude of destruction in Soledar.

    New images published by U.S. satellite imagery company Maxar shows Soledar, Donestk Oblast after Jan. 10, 2023, revealing apartment buildings that have been completely destroyed.

    Photos: Maxar Technologies

    The salt-mining town of Soledar is “almost completely destroyed,” but the fighting with Russian troops continues, and the eastern front line is “holding,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Jan. 11.

  20. says

    Y’all do realize that by labelling this thread “Red” we’re all gonna get hauled before Rep. Jim Jordan’s new HUAC committee concerning the Weaponization of the Federal Government, don’t you?

    “Are you now, or have you ever been, a godless scientist?”

    “Name all godless scientists known to you. Right now, you godless commie pinko TRAITOR! Or I’ll blacklist you, and you’ll never work in Hollywood again!” (“Excuse me, sir, I know all too many of them so that sounds like a reward…” “Shut up and name names, you weasel!”)

    Have you any shred of decency, sir? (On all available evidence, I’d say not.) The irony of the new meaning of “better dead than Red [State]” appears to have escaped notice by the chattering classes… and too many of my fellow military officers (current and past).

  21. StevoR says

    @1. SC (Salty Current) :Seconded.

    Seconded.

    One more time. One more time.Thankyou Tim Minchin. You. Legend. Truth. Sung.

    Pell didn’t come home. Didn’t sue Tim MInchin. Didn’t tell the truth. Never faced the victims. Died a coward and hypocrite and scum. Sheltered by his enablers and fellow child abuse, child rape coverer-uppers – the Vatican. World’s most disgraced religion / Overgrown cult. The world’s most notorius and yet to be taken down child sex trafficking gang. Time they were raided and arrested. All of them that committed and covered up and were accomplices and enablers and, oh yeah, child rapists.

    Times i wish there was hell..

  22. says

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

    The latest intelligence update from the UK Ministry of Defence said over the last two days heavy fighting has continued around the town of Soledar, Donetsk oblast, and on the approaches to Kremina, Luhansk oblast.

    The Ukrainian military has claimed its forces killed more than 100 Russian soldiers in a single strike in Soledar. Ukrainian forces reportedly launched a missile at Russian troops, the command of Ukraine’s special operations forces said in an update early this morning.

    Ukrainian forces are “holding on” as “fierce fighting” continues in the eastern city of Soledar, Ukraine’s deputy defence minister Hanna Maliar has said.

    Kyiv has denied that Moscow’s forces have encircled and captured Soledar, after claims by the head of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, that the city had fallen.

    Russia is building up its forces in Ukraine, with the number of Russian military units rising to 280 from 250 a week earlier, Maliar told a news briefing this morning.

    She said:

    Fighting is fierce in the Soledar direction. They [the Russians] are moving over their own corpses.

    She added:

    Russia is driving its own people to the slaughter by the thousands, but we are holding on.

    The Russian capture of Soledar and the city’s saltmines would have symbolic, military and commercial value for Moscow. But the situation in and around Soledar appears fluid and neither side’s claim can be independently verified.

    The military situation in Ukraine remained “difficult”, with the heaviest fighting on the eastern front, Brig Gen Oleksiy Gromov told the briefing.

    Russian forces were trying to cut through Ukrainian lines and surround Ukrainian troops, he said.

    A Russian-installed official in Ukraine’s Donetsk region has said “pockets of resistance” remain in the eastern city of Soledar.

    Andrei Bayevsky, a military figure and Russian-installed local politician, said:

    At the moment, there are still some small pockets of resistance in Soledar.

    He added:

    Our guys continue to push the enemy in these places. In general, the operation has been going well, and already the western outskirts of Soledar are completely under our control.

    [The western outskirts…of Soledar.]

    Bayevsky’s comments today undermine claims made yesterday by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner private military group, that the city had been taken by Russian forces.

    An update from last night at the DKos report linked @ Lynna’s #13 links to this WarTranslated piece about the battles around Bakhmut. Kos notes: “Interesting interview with a Ukrainian sergeant withdrawn from the Soledar fight because of frostbite. Even with a healthy dose of skepticism (propaganda is a thing), there are some interesting nuggets.”

  23. says

    Also in the Guardian:

    “Chinese warned not to visit elderly relatives as Covid spreads from cities”:

    People in China have been warned against travelling to visit their elderly relatives during the lunar new year holiday, as Covid spreads rapidly through cities and into regional and poorer areas.

    Prof Guo Jianwen, a member of the state council’s pandemic prevention team, urged people “don’t go home to visit them” if elderly relatives had not yet been infected….

    “Exclusive: more than 70 US and Brazilian lawmakers condemn Trump-Bolsonaro alliance”:

    More than 70 progressive US and Brazilian lawmakers have condemned the collaboration between the Bolsonaro family and Trumpists in the US aimed at overturning elections in both countries, and called for those involved to be held to account.

    “As lawmakers in Brazil and the United States, we stand united against the efforts by authoritarian, anti-democratic far right actors to overturn legitimate election results and overthrow our democracies,” said the joint statement, led by Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar.

    “Democracies rely on the peaceful transfer of power,” the lawmakers’ statement said. “Just as far-right extremists are coordinating their efforts to undermine democracy, we must stand united in our efforts to protect it.”

    “‘A little life update for 2023’: Naomi Osaka announces pregnancy”:

    Naomi Osaka has provided context for her absence from this year’s Australian Open, posting a photo and text to Twitter announcing that she is pregnant with her first child.

    The 25-year-old tennis star and four-time grand slam champion posted a picture of a sonogram of a baby dated last month along with the message: “Can’t wait to get back on the court but here’s a little life update for 2023.”

    She also included screenshots of a statement in both English and Japanese in which she wrote: “These few months away from the sport has really given me a new love and appreciation for the game I’ve dedicated my life to.

    “I know that I have so much to look forward to in the future; one thing I’m looking forward to is for my kid to watch some of my matches and tell someone, ‘That’s my mom.’”

    Osaka officially withdrew from the Australian Open, which she has won twice, on Sunday, prompting questions and speculation over her absence. She added that she expected to return to Melbourne Park to take part in next year’s tournament….

  24. Oggie: Mathom says

    So if President Biden was solely responsible for the inflation spike last year, does this mean that he is solely responsible for bringing it back under control? Will Fox News devote as much programme time to low inflation as they did to high inflation? Will the GOP admit that the US economy has grown faster during the last two years than at any time during the Trump administration? Will giant winged porcupines fly backwards out of my arse?

  25. Reginald Selkirk says

    Michigan’s Muslim-majority city council approves animal sacrifice for religious purposes

    A Detroit-area city on Tuesday voted to approve allowing residents to sacrifice animals at home for religious purposes.
    The Hamtramck City Council, whose members are all Muslims, approved the practice, 3-2, Tuesday…
    Hamtramck residents will be required to notify the city, pay a fee and make their property available for inspection.
    Hamtramck has a population 28,000. More than half of the residents are of Yemeni or Bangladeshi descent, the Free Press said.

  26. tomh says

    Detroit Free Press
    Hamtramck council approves Islamic animal sacrifices at home
    Niraj Warikoo / January 11, 2023

    After several months of contentious debate and pressure from Muslim residents, Hamtramck City Council voted Tuesday night to allow the religious sacrifice of animals on residential property.

    Muslims often slaughter animals during the holiday of Eid al-Adha and Hamtramck has one of the highest percentage of Muslim residents among cities in the U.S.

    The all-Muslim city council voted 3-2, with Mayor Amer Ghalib casting an additional vote in favor making it 4-2, to amend a city ordinance to allow religious sacrifice of animals at home. After the vote to approve, applause broke out from members of the public, who packed the meeting to speak out before the vote.
    […]

    The passing of the amendment is an example of the growing political and cultural clout of the city’s Muslim population, most with roots in Yemen or Bangladesh. At Tuesday’s meeting, some also expressed objections to the flying of a LGBTQ Prideflag on city property along Jos. Campau Avenue, saying it clashes with their faith. Some residents have accused the city of trying to undermine their religion with the flag and by trying to restrict animal sacrifices.
    […]

    Councilman Nayeem Choudhury said this is an issue of religious freedom.

    “Our rights come first,” he said. I was “born … Muslim, and that’s my faith, and I will stick with my same faith.”

  27. says

    Ukraine update: Russia’s propaganda attack is far bigger than the actual assault on Soledar

    As of Thursday morning, it’s difficult to say who actually controls the town of Soledar. Russia’s massive assault on that location has certainly gained them ground, though numerous videos of different groups of Russian soldiers being taken out by artillery, or drones, or a heavy machine gun emplacement certainly show that the cost of Russia’s advance has been extremely high.

    As of this moment, videos just released by Ukrainian sources show Ukrainian soldiers reportedly in a portion of Soledar talking about how they were continuing to hold that position. On the other hand, the moneyman behind Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, announced yesterday that Soledar had been completely captured. He was then contradicted by the Russian ministry of defense.

    Right now, any attempt to determine the situation in Soledar means sorting through an astounding flood of propaganda. Prigozhin may have only declared the town captured yesterday, but plenty of Russian sources, military bloggers, bots, and enthusiastic tankies got there ahead of him, declaring that Soledar had been taken now, or now, or absolutely now. Of course, with devastating loses by Ukraine. The sheer number of such reports is overwhelming, and it’s hard to read page after page on Telegram or Twitter declaring that the town has fallen—statements often repeated in the news media—without coming to the conclusion that Russia has somehow made some huge achievement. In fact, there are plenty of accounts ready to testify that the capture of Soledar is far more important than Ukraine’s counteroffensive in Kharkiv. Because come on, what’s the liberation of 12,000 square kilometers, hundreds of localities, and cities like Izyum, Borova, and Lyman next to moving the line 2 km at Soledar?

    But that’s not even the most bizarre claim Russian sources are making this morning.

    Thursday morning in Soledar. The soldier in this video insists that Ukrainian troops hold the town and that Russians have not captured Soledar. [tweet and video at the link]

    The best of the worst of Russian propaganda on Thursday has to be the claim that citizens of Kharkiv—a city that had been battered by Russian missiles and artillery daily since the beginning of the invasion—were so thrilled to get the news about Russia’s capture of Soledar that they decided to celebrate Russia’s achievement with a fireworks display. This claim is repeated over and over on both Twitter and Telegram across hundreds of accounts and channels.

    As twisted as that idea may be, it’s not as dark as the claims circulating on pro-Russian sites that 100, or 300, or 400, or maybe 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers were “trapped” in Soledar and decided to commit suicide. Yes, that’s also a thing the tankies are claiming this morning.

    Because it’s been so long since Russia had anything that even looked like a marginal victory, pro-Russian sources are trying to turn Soledar into “proof” of every claim out of the Kremlin. Soledar has already been turned into a banner they can wave to show that everything is going according to plan. Those feints at Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Kherson? Bah. Only now is Russia seriously beginning to fight.

    There’s a good reason for this propaganda flood: If Russia captures Soledar, it would be their first significant advance since July. If.

    There’s no doubt that Ukraine is also attempting to paint the situation favorably. However, their motivations for exaggerating the ability of Ukrainian forces to withstand a large assault are certainly mixed. Would the loss of Soledar and increasing threat to Bakhmut make it more likely or less likely that modern main battle tanks roll into Ukraine in the next few weeks? Good question. Ukraine is not denying Russian gains in the area—Russia’s overrunning of the smaller Bakmutske was likely the most significant threat in the area for some months, as it displaced Ukraine from well-established defensive lines—and where Ukrainian forces can establish a position secure against what even Russians are calling “zerg assaults” isn’t clear. The answer may be “not in Soledar.”

    By looking at the surrounding buildings, it would appear that video that appeared this morning showing Ukrainian forces still in the town was shot in the western part of Soledar. Each of the little explosion markers on today’s map doesn’t reflect shelling by Russian forces, but locations in which the Ukrainian army reported on Thursday morning that a Russian ground assault had been repelled. [map at the link]

    Note that for Soledar, the UA report says nothing more than “Soledar,” so the position of that marker was pulled from my own … let’s say hat. In any case, I think it’s safe to say this morning that Ukraine still controls a portion of Soledar, that fighting in the town continues, and that losses have been significant on both sides.

    One thing that Ukraine is emphasizing this morning is that they still hold control over the highways leading into both Bakhmut and Soledar. This would seem to indicate that any Russian penetration to the west has not crossed the rail line running north-south into Bakhmut and Russia is not currently threatening access along the T0513 highway. [video at the link: "The main roads connecting Bakhmut and Soledar with Sloviansk and Kostyantynivka are under the full control of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The enemy tried to break through to the road, but all attempts failed with devastating consequences for the enemy. Filmed at Bakhmut."]

    To the south of Bakhmut, there has also been a flood of claims on Thursday stating that Wagner has taken the suburb of Optyne. However, as best I can determine, lines in that area haven’t actually moved. The Ukrainian military denies that Optyne has been captured by Russian forces.

    What’s happening in Soledar at the moment is also unclear. Russia appears to be continuing to attempt movement, but Ukrainian videos don’t indicate Russia is engaging in anything that looks like a combined arms assault. Instead … zerg. [Tweet and video at the link: “[…] Wagners (just infantry, no armored vehicles to protect them are visible) trying to advance.]

    The scene of that video actually appears to be a wooded area east of downtown Soledar. (On the map, it’s near where the “dot” for Soledar is located.) If this was actually shot on Thursday, then Russian forces are still having difficulty capturing the central portion of the town. However, as with everything else, it’s hard to be sure when this video was actually shot. The snow on the ground is accurate to conditions in Soledar over the last two days.

    Time to sum up. Has Russia captured all of Soledar? No. Will it be important if it does? Possibly. That depends on whether Ukraine is able to establish new positions that safeguard the highways leading to Bakhmut. Even if Russia is able to reach the T0513 highway, Ukraine will still be able to supply Bakhmut from the northwest along the M03, but it would represent a loss of flexibility and could be a threat to other locations north of Bakhmut.

    More updates from Ukraine coming soon.

  28. says

    @SC (Salty Current) and others: Why aren’t there a lot of people shouting for professional liar Santos to show his original birth certificate?? His statement should have read ‘I was elected by the people based on my fraud’
    And, while I have great respect for the ethics and morality of many of my Jewish friends, the Netanyahooo Israeli theocracy just made it illegal to fly the Palestinian flag. WTF.

  29. says

    Followup to Reginald @7.

    Katie Porter has picked up her first high-profile endorsement: Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts threw her backing behind the congresswoman this morning. It’s notable in part because Warren’s current colleague, incumbent Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, has not officially announced her 2024 plans.

    NBC News

  30. says

    “Donald Trump is lashing out at special counsel Jack Smith in increasingly hysterical ways. These are not the actions of someone expecting exoneration.”

    “The Special ‘Prosecutor’ assigned to the ‘get Trump case,’ Jack Smith(?), is a Trump Hating THUG whose wife is a serial and open Trump Hater, whose friends & other family members are even worse, and as a prosecutor in Europe, according to Ric Grenell, put a high government official in prison because he was a Trump positive person. Smith is known as ‘an unfair Savage,’” & is best friends with the craziest Trump haters….”

    Commentary:

    […] For good measure, Trump published a follow-up item, saying Smith “may very well turn out to be a criminal.” Trump added, “His conflicts, unfairness, and mental state of derangement make him totally unfit for the job of ‘getting Trump.’”

    There’s a lot to unpack here, including the question mark after Smith’s name — suggesting that Trump isn’t sure that Jack Smith is actually Jack Smith. I was also struck by the suggestion that Smith prosecuted “a high government official” because “he was a Trump positive person” — an apparent reference to a suspected war criminal in Kosovo.

    As why Trump thinks the special counsel might himself be “a criminal,” I’m sure the former president will come up with something eventually.

    The point, of course, goes well beyond Trump’s incoherent rant and the degree to which they’re detached from reality. Rather, what matters most is the former president’s apparent panic: He appears desperate to discredit a highly respected career prosecutor, and he apparently believes frantic online tantrums will do the trick. […]

    Link

  31. says

    @20 Reginald Selkirk Second batch of classified Biden documents found
    My org. does not support the insanity of the Repugnantcants. But, we cannot support the Crpaitallist Corporate Dems either. And, it was obvious that biden is a braindead cardboard cutout of a corp. shill. His (and his staff’s) incompetence has given the repugnantcant aholes an excuse (not accurate, but an excuse anyway) for their ‘both-sides-ism’ of the classified documents issue. The waters in this shithole country are too muddy for any honesty to prevail.

  32. says

    Classified documents:

    […] The White House counsel’s office added additional clarity this morning, explaining that “a small number” of Obama-era records with classified markings were found at Biden’s residence in Delaware. They were then immediately turned over to the Justice Department.

    At this point, it’s worth pausing to acknowledge the difference between legitimate questions and blisteringly dumb questions. Asking about the timing of the disclosures seems entirely fair. Asking how the materials were handled and how they arrived at these locations in the first place is hardly unreasonable.

    Asking why the FBI hasn’t conducted a raid on the incumbent president’s properties — a question posed by House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, among many other GOP voices — is not a smart question.

    Not to put too fine a point on this, but the basic contours of the story haven’t changed. Biden’s team found some materials, then they returned the materials. By all accounts, the National Archives didn’t even know these documents were missing, and NARA officials hadn’t asked for their return.

    […] the Biden and Trump stories are wildly different in every way that matters. Trump took hundreds of classified materials to his glorified country club. He ignored requests to return them. He failed to comply with a federal subpoena. He lied repeatedly. He returned some documents, but held on to others, all while refusing to cooperate in good faith. He even proposed a possible trade in which he’d consider giving the documents back, but only if officials gave him something else in return.

    According to a Justice Department court filing, there’s even evidence that classified documents held at Mar-a-Lago were “likely concealed and removed” before the FBI search to retrieve them.

    Based on everything we know, none of this applies to Biden. That remains the bottom line, and it hasn’t budged.

    Link

    These two stories about classified documents are not the same.

  33. says

    Sigh.

    […] the Committee on Education and Labor has been renamed the Committee on Education and the Workforce.

    […] And why, pray tell, are GOP lawmakers so reluctant to include the word “labor” in the panel’s name? As it turns out, the new Republican leadership of the committee, under the control of Chairwoman Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, issued a written statement this week explaining the rationale behind the change:

    “Labor” is an antiquated term that excludes individuals who contribute to the American workforce but aren’t classified as conventional employees. “Labor” also carries a negative connotation that ignores the dignity of work; the term is something out of a Marxist textbook that fails to capture the accomplishments of the full spectrum of the American workforce. The Left prefers the term labor because it creates a sense of enmity between employees and employers which union bosses and left-wing activists seek to stoke for political gain. … Though the Left likes to treat employers like predators, we know that most job creators have their employees’ best interests in mind.

    Just so we’re clear, this is not intended as satire. I didn’t make this up to make congressional Republicans appear foolish. They released this statement to the public, and published it online, deliberately. […]

    Link

  34. says

    @ 52 Lynna, OM, you are right. The stories are not the same. However, the main slime media will not provide the whole stories to compare. And, few people will bother to learn that. Too many people will see the misleading headlines and say, ‘See , both sides do it.’ However, what I said about biden and his staff’s incompetence has given the repugnantcant aholes an excuse (not accurate, but an excuse anyway) for their ‘both-sides-ism’ of the classified documents issue. The waters in this shithole country are too muddy for any honesty to prevail.

  35. says

    @ 53 Lynna, OM, There is a tragic truth to that renaming. The repugnancants don’t want an ‘educated’ populace. All they want are mindless worker bees.

  36. says

    Followup to comment 47.

    More updates from Ukraine:

    […] While sifting through the morning reports from the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense listing those areas assaulted by Russia on Thursday morning, there is one that stands out. In fact, there are two big names making their first appearance. See if you can catch it:

    In the direction of Lyman, the Russian army shelled Terny in Kharkiv Oblast, along with Makiivka, Ploshchanka, Nevske, Chervonopopivka, Kreminna, Kuzmyne and Dibrova in Luhansk Oblast.

    Not to ruin the surprise, but one of the names in there is Kreminna. It also shows up on the list of areas where Ukraine claims to have repelled a Russian attack overnight. This follows reports on Wednesday that Ukrainian forces were advancing on Kreminna from the southwest. While some of those reports place Ukrainian forces “near” the western outskirts of the city, others indicate that the Ukrainian military has already entered areas of Kreminna.

    The official statements from the Ukrainian military don’t really confirm this either way since they are always carefully worded as “in the direction of” or “in the area of.” However, the fact that the list includes Kuzmyne and Dibrova as well as Kreminna is a good indicator that the Ukrainian forces they’re talking about are not those at surrounding villages. There are numerous videos that reportedly show Ukrainian forces reportedly advancing on Kreminna; however, those videos are fairly strewn with bodies.

    There have also been several versions of this video spread around. I’m using this one because it leaves off the ending in which both men in the video are shot with a burst of machine gun fire. [Tweet and video available at the link in comment 47. “SHOCKING Outside #Kreminna Two Russian soldiers pretending to be Ukrainian. I have edited the video to remove the ending. Essentially it didn’t end well for the Russians.”]

    Pro-Russian sources are claiming that this shows Ukrainian forces in the woods south of Kreminna being overrun by Russian forces. However, Ukrainian sources are claiming that these men are Russians who have adopted Ukrainian uniforms. There are other reports that Russians in the area have adopted blue or yellow armbands to increase confusion—already high because of the low visibility among the trees. What’s the truth? I do not know.

    In any case, Ukraine is apparently in or very near Kreminna with multiple reports of advancement. This is the first day that Kreminna has appeared in the “shelled” or “repulsed attack” lists—that’s significant.

    But I promised you there were two names in that list that were significant, and the answer is right back at the very front of the list: Terny in Kharkiv Oblast. That’s because Terny is at the extreme northeast corner of Kharkiv Oblast. If Ukraine has forces there, it would represent an advance of some 15 km from their last known positions north of Kupyansk. So is this real, or does it represent some confusion on the part of Ukrainian military (or Russian artillery)? Stay turned. We’ll try to find out.

  37. says

    George Santos:

    […] I, I, I. What does “I” or “me” even mean, coming from George Santos? If everything voters know about a candidate other than his party affiliation is a lie, were they really voting for him? In a dark red district the party affiliation is probably all that matters, but in swingy NY-03, not so much. Voters elected a guy descended from Holocaust survivors, with a degree from Baruch College, a career in the finance industry, a pet rescue charity, and a significant real estate portfolio. They got a guy not descended from Holocaust survivors, with no college degree, recent employment at a Ponzi scheme, no pet rescue charity, and not only no real estate portfolio but a record of evictions. Can Santos in any meaningful way claim voters elected him, the person he actually is?

    Then again, saying “voters elected me” on questionable grounds is far from the most blatant lie he’s told, so of course he’s not self-conscious about making the claim.

    In fact, what we know about Santos’ lies continues, unbelievably, to grow. At the time of the original New York Times report on his essentially fake identity, it didn’t seem like there could possibly be much left to uncover. And yet every couple of days there’s a new revelation. That Santos didn’t actually attend Baruch College, as he claimed, is old news. That he told the chair of the Nassau County GOP that he was a volleyball star at Baruch is new. Not just a star—one who led the team to a “league championship.” At the school he was lying about having attended.

    During Santos’ time in Brazil more than a decade ago, the most significant lie we know of that Santos told was the criminal one, in which he fraudulently used checks belonging to a deceased former patient of his mother’s. That wasn’t a victimless crime. Mother Jones reports that a store clerk who accepted Santos’ fraudulent checks had to pay back more than $1,300 to cover what Santos stole. But Santos’ lies in Brazil are still coming to light, with a television show now reporting that Santos used multiple different names and nationalities on dating apps in the country. While Santos can legitimately claim two nationalities—Brazilian and U.S.—there’s no credible evidence that he’s Russian, which he also claimed.

    Voters have a reasonable expectation that biographical information from a major party nominee for Congress is more reliable than biographical information from some rando on a dating site, but this highlights that Santos didn’t just start lying to get elected to Congress. He’s a longtime prolific liar who doesn’t just lie for fun. He lies to get things from people. But getting elected to Congress was probably the biggest thing he’s gotten from his lies—and there’s no doubt that it was his lies that made him look like a serious candidate.

    But despite all this, Santos will maintain the support of House Republican leadership because they need him too much to do the right thing. On Wednesday, McCarthy chimed in with a “but the voters” message similar to Santos’ tweet, telling reporters, “He has to answer to the voters”—something that conveniently won’t happen for nearly two years—and “it’s the voters who made that decision he has to answer to the voters, and the voters get to make another decision in two years.” And Kevin McCarthy is not worrying about two years from now. He’s trying to survive day to day with a narrow Republican majority and substantial internal opposition.

    Santos is under criminal investigation by federal and local prosecutors, so we may yet get to see whether McCarthy will stick by him through criminal charges in this country in addition to the ones outstanding in Brazil. And honestly, I wouldn’t bet against it.

    Link

  38. rorschach says

    “According to a Justice Department court filing, there’s even evidence that classified documents held at Mar-a-Lago were “likely concealed and removed” before the FBI search to retrieve them.

    Based on everything we know, none of this applies to Biden. That remains the bottom line, and it hasn’t budged.”

    Well, if your opponents are fascists who seek to establish a kleptocrat theocracy backed by Russia and transnational crime syndicates, then just maybe you should be extra careful to not give them any kind of ammunition that makes it easy for them to run a “but her emails” kind of campaign against you, so that traitor Garland can now be instrumentalised to investigate you. Just saying.

  39. Reginald Selkirk says

    Twitter Employees Escorted Out of Singapore Office

    According to Bloomberg, Twitter employees were told to leave the company’s 22,000-square-foot office at the CapitaGreen building in Singapore, which had served as its Asia-Pacific headquarters since 2015, on Wednesday before 5 p.m. The Platformer newsletter reported that Twitter workers were walked out by the building’s landlords because the company had not paid rent, a practice Musk has been also been employing in leased offices in San Francisco and Seattle. Insider reported that Musk paid the overdue rent late Wednesday Pacific Time and that employees were told to return to the office.

  40. says

    DeSantis ignores FDA medication abortion rule, threatening providers with criminal charges

    The FDA finalized a rule last week allowing more pharmacies to dispense mifepristone, one of the two pills used in medication abortions, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis saw a chance to posture and bluster ahead of the 2024 Republican presidential primaries. The DeSantis administration sent an “all provider alert” on Wednesday, threatening medical providers with criminal charges if they use the expanded access provided by the FDA in violation of either of two Florida anti-abortion laws.

    State law does not trump the FDA, legally. But many states have restricted medication abortion beyond FDA recommendations, and this hasn’t gone through the courts and, well, we know about this Supreme Court. Either way, DeSantis is going for pure intimidation factor here. Florida medical providers are intended to think, “Shoot, this guy is arresting people for voting, so what’s he going to do to me if I dispense abortion medication in a way he doesn’t like?” […]

  41. Oggie: Mathom says

    Yes.

    I rediscovered it about two months ago.

    Weird, isn’t it? Some of the old crowd, some of the new crowd. Like magnets. You can’t explain that.

  42. Oggie: Mathom says

    I think it was hiatusized for a few years. Not sure. I kinda fell out of touch after the broken back. And then the broken neck. And then becoming a grandfather. And retiring.

  43. Reginald Selkirk says

    US Navy veteran released from Russian custody

    An American Navy veteran who has been detained in Russia for nearly a year was released from Russian custody on Thursday, his family’s spokesperson told CNN, after months of negotiations spearheaded by former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.
    Taylor Dudley, 35, of Lansing, Michigan, was detained by Russian border patrol police in April 2022 after crossing from Poland into Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave which is territory governed by Moscow between Poland and Lithuania. He was in Poland attending a music festival, and it is not clear why he crossed the border…

  44. says

    Welcome back to PZ’s Infinite Thread @61 Audley Z Darkheart, @62 Oggie: Mathomand and others.
    You are just in time to comment on the ongoing apocalypse going on outside this refuge of relative sanity. (I’m a relative newcomer here, but appreciate PZ and all who make constrictive contributions)

  45. Tethys says

    Holy hell, the Infinte Thread still exists?!

    Hi Audley! Yup, Lynna is our fabulous curator, though clearly multiple horde members contribute various news. Sadly, it’s much less social than TET was, but it’s great for current events and Ukraine updates.

  46. Oggie: Mathom says

    Anti-Pamthalassa:

    So did this thread evolve out of the old thread curated by Lynna that focused on politics?

  47. Oggie: Mathom says

    Damnit! That’s Anti-Panthalassa, not Anti-Pamthalassa. Sorry, Tethys. I ruined my attempted semi-joke.

  48. cicely says

    Audley Z Darkheart @ 61:

    Holy hell, the Infinte Thread still exists?!

    I was amazed, as well, when I re-found it maybe 2 weeks (more? less? what is Time, anyways???) ago. :)
    Mostly, I lurk, scanning the surrounds for Horses and marauding hordes of peas.
    _

  49. Oggie: Mathom says

    Reginald Selkirk:

    That is cool. The red shift is impressive. The only way I can get my green peas to look red is to douse them in Frank’s Red Hot (one of about ten different hot sauces I use (Frank’s just goes really well with peas)).

  50. Audley Z Darkheart says

    It tickles me to think that the mass Twitter exodus might be impacting Pharyngula, too…

  51. says

    Oggie @70: “So did this thread evolve out of the old thread curated by Lynna that focused on politics?”

    Yes, sort of. PZ changed the Moments of Political Madness thread to be more encompassing, and thus the resurrection of The Infinite Thread.

    We adhere to all of PZ’s usual rules, like avoiding gendered slurs, and in addition we do not advocate violence in any way. Do not advocate violence as a joke, or as satire. Just don’t do it.

  52. says

    Followup to comment 78: Don’t embed YouTube or other videos in this thread.

    Each “chapter” of The Infinite Thread runs for 500 comments and then it automatically renews … until it hits a certain Freethought Blogs time limit and then PZ has to resuscitate it.

    I usually notice when the thread hits the time limit, and then I send email to PZ asking him to bring us back to life. For this current chapter, I didn’t have to do that. PZ noticed without any prompting.

  53. Tethys says

    @Oggie
    So did this thread evolve out of the old thread curated by Lynna that focused on politics?

    I don’t know exactly? I too was busy with a shit tonne of tragedy and loss for a few years, so I was absent from Pharyngula for several years. I miss Caine. :(

    Grand babies are truly wonderful creatures. I adore being Grummy. Don’t worry about the joke, I got it anyway and the offering to typos was obviously mandatory. Traditions must be upheld, even if we retired the porcupines.

  54. says

    NBC News:

    U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Thursday he was appointing Robert Hur to serve as a special counsel to review classified material found in President Joe Biden’s Delaware residence and a Washington office he used. Hur, now a lawyer at a Washington, D.C. firm, was the U.S. Attorney for Maryland during the Trump administration, and is also the former principal counselor to former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversaw the Mueller investigation.

    Commentary:

    […] For Democrats, it’s unlikely that today’s announcement will cause much agita. There simply isn’t any reason to believe Biden broke the law. Given everything we currently know, it’s very easy to believe the then-vice president inadvertently took materials he shouldn’t have, and when they were discovered, they were quickly returned.

    The idea that Biden knowingly, and with deliberate intent, took and hid a small number of sensitive documents is far-fetched — and wholly at odds with all of the available information.

    Indeed, there’s nothing adversarial about any of this. While Trump spends months lashing out wildly at federal law enforcement, the White House counsel’s office said in a written statement this afternoon, “We have cooperated closely with the Justice Department throughout its review, and we will continue that cooperation with the Special Counsel.”

    But while many Democrats will probably shrug with general indifference to these developments, let’s not brush past the Republicans’ perspective.

    […] House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told reporters this morning, “We don’t think there needs to be a special prosecutor.” The California Republican added, in reference to the Biden disclosures, “I think Congress has to investigate this.” [Sigh]

    Here’s the thing to keep in mind: A special counsel investigation, even one led by a former Trump-appointed prosecutor, will very likely uncover the truth. But for GOP leaders and lawmakers, Hur and his team will also act quietly and methodically, failing to share information with Congress, before reaching the likely conclusion that the Democratic president didn’t do anything illegal.

    None of that will pay any political dividends for Republicans.

    […] If given a choice, the new House speaker would much prefer far-right House committee chairs — I’m looking in your direction Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan — take the lead on this, not an experienced Justice Department professional. […]

    Link

  55. says

    It was a crazy day in the Proud Boys seditious conspiracy trial yesterday, and they didn’t even get to opening statements.

    The entire day was devoted to pretrial issues (which look likely to spill over into today and could further delay opening statements):

    The biggest news coming out of the day was the judge’s decision to allow prosecutors in their opening statement to use video of then-President Trump calling for the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”

    U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly ruled that Trump’s comments showed “an additional motive to advocate for Mr. Trump (and) engage in the charged conspiracy” to keep Trump in power.

    At one point, the judge ended up in a shouting match with one of the defense attorneys, after which he put all counsel on notice: “Everyone take note – you talk over me, and contempt will be coming down the line. It’s going to be a long trial.”

    Still unresolved is the status of defense lawyer Norm Pattis, who has been suspended from the practice of law by a Connecticut judge for allegedly improper conduct during his representation of Alex Jones in the Sandy Hook defamation cases.

    Pattis lost his bid yesterday to delay his suspension and says he will appeal it to the state Supreme Court
    .
    Buckle up! The Proud Boys trial is going to be a scene.

    Link

  56. raven says

    George Santos was a small time petty crook, running a variety of scams to eke out a living. Then a year ago, his fortunes changed dramatically.
    He managed to raise and spend millions to get elected to the House of Representatives.
    No one knows where that money came from or where it went.

    But the authorities are on their way to finding out.
    At this point, it looks like numerous campaign finance laws were broken.
    No surprise.
    George Santos is not at all concerned with any rules or laws.

    The Mysterious, Unregistered Fund That Raised Big Money for Santos

    The New York Times
    The Mysterious, Unregistered Fund That Raised Big Money for Santos

    George Santos
    Alexandra Berzon and Grace Ashford
    Thu, January 12, 2023 at 5:10 AM PST·9 min read
    In this article:

    George Santos
    American politician from New York
    A month before George Santos was elected to Congress, one of his large donors received a call asking him to consider making another sizable contribution.

    The request came from a Republican loyalist calling on behalf of RedStone Strategies, which was described in an email to the donor as an “independent expenditure” group that was supporting Santos’ bid to flip a Democratic House seat in New York. The group had already raised $800,000 and was seeking to raise another $700,000, according to the email, which was reviewed by The New York Times.

    The donor came through: Days later, on Oct. 21, he sent $25,000 to a Wells Fargo Bank account belonging to RedStone Strategies.

    Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times

    Three months later, Santos is now in Congress, but where the donor’s money went is unclear. The Federal Election Commission said it had no evidence that RedStone Strategies was registered as a political group, and there do not appear to be any records documenting its donors, contributions or spending.

    Santos and his lawyer refused to answer questions about RedStone’s fundraising efforts and whether Santos was involved in them. But he did have ties to a Redstone Strategies LLC, registered to an address in Merritt Island, Florida, in November 2021, as Santos was preparing his second run for Congress. The firm listed the Devolder Organization, a company owned by Santos, as one of its managing officers.

    A company website describes that Redstone as being run by “experters in marketing and others in politics” whose services in ad creation, communications and fundraising have value “no matter if you are in a local race or if you are going to be the next president of the United States.”

    Yet the firm’s body of work — at least for candidates and committees that are required to file campaign expense reports — appears limited. A Times search of campaign finance records uncovered payments from a failed House candidate on Long Island, New York, and two groups tied to New York legislative candidates.

    It also shows a payment from a PAC called Rise NY, run by Santos’ sister, Tiffany. State records show the group sent a wire transfer for $6,000 in April 2022 to Red Stone Strategies. It listed a Wells Fargo Bank branch on Merritt Island as its address.

    The murkiness around the fundraising operations on behalf of Santos makes it difficult to know whether any laws were broken. But a close examination of available records suggest RedStone may have skirted the law.

    The email to the donor described it as an “independent expenditure committee under federal campaign finance law” with the “singular purpose” of electing Santos.

    Such groups, also known as super PACs, can support candidates by raising vast sums of money far beyond strict campaign donor limits. Even so, there are rules: They must register with the Federal Election Commission and disclose their donors. And they must not coordinate directly with campaigns.

    Yet the FEC has no record of RedStone Strategies. The Daily Beast has reported that Redstone Strategies LLC of Florida had a connection to Santos, but the existence of a group operating under the name RedStone raising large sums of money for his election has not previously been revealed.

    “I don’t see a record by a committee of that name registered with the FEC, and our regulations would be if a political group raises more than $1,000 for the purpose of influencing a federal election, they would be required to register with the F.E.C. within 10 days,” said Christian Hilland, an F.E.C. spokesperson.

    The person who solicited the donor said he was asked by Santos in the weeks leading up to the campaign to approach donors, some of whom had already given the maximum allowed to Santos’ election campaign, and to help coordinate their donations to RedStone, according to a person familiar with the arrangement who wished to remain anonymous.

    A lawyer for Santos declined to respond to the Times’ questions about RedStone, saying that “it would be inappropriate to respond to anything related to this apparent investigation of my client’s campaign finances.”

    Santos’ finances have come under scrutiny after the Times reported last month that his successful run for Congress in New York was built on lies, including fabrications of real estate fortune, academic distinction and a glittering career on Wall Street.

    Much about his web of personal and political entities — and whether or how they are in fact interrelated — is still unknown and has attracted interest from local state and federal investigators. His sudden claim to wealth has also raised questions.

    According to financial disclosures that he filed as a candidate, Santos claimed that he went from earning $55,000 to running a company worth more than $1 million in just a few years. That ostensibly enabled him to lend his campaign more than $700,000 — slightly less than the amount that RedStone Strategies claimed to have raised.

    Santos’ campaign spending has also come under question, with scores of expenses for $199.99 — one cent below the threshold for requiring receipts. The suspicious spending pattern served as a partial basis of a complaint that the Campaign Legal Center filed Monday with the Federal Election Commission, accusing Santos of not only using campaign funds for personal use and misrepresenting spending but also of scheming to obscure the true source of his campaign funding.

    The fundraising efforts by RedStone Strategies seem equally opaque.

    The person who solicited the $25,000 donation to RedStone has been active in the Queens Republican Party and described himself as Santos’ friend.

    The donor, who did not wish to be identified, confirmed that he was told by the Queens Republican operative that the $25,000 that he gave to RedStone in October would be used as part of a large ad buy for Santos.

    But the donor said he did not hear anything back on how the funds were spent. A review of spending by the company AdImpact does not show the group making any ad buys on Santos’ behalf, nor did it show any spending for Santos from other independent groups in the months leading up to Election Day.

    If a group raised money under false political pretense, that activity could lead federal election officials to regard it as what is commonly known as a “scam PAC” — a group that raises money without spending it on the stated political purpose, a practice that is increasingly a concern of the F.E.C., Hilland said.

    Redstone Strategies LLC of Florida listed one other manager in its incorporation records: Jayson Benoit, a business partner of Santos and former colleague at Harbor City Capital, which shut down after the SEC filed a lawsuit accusing it of operating as a Ponzi scheme. (Neither Santos nor Benoit, who did not respond to requests for comment, were named in that suit.)

    Santos ultimately acknowledged having misled voters about his educational and work history, saying that his sins were embellishing his resume and nothing more. He was sworn in last weekend, even as colleagues in Congress have called for ethics inquiries into his behavior, and Republican leaders in New York, including four first-term congressmen, have called for his resignation. Prosecutors at the local, state and federal level have indicated they are looking at Santos.

    Another potential area of concern about RedStone Strategies was the way it was described in its donor solicitation email as a 501c4 — a type of tax-exempt group organized for the promotion of social welfare. These entities pay no federal taxes and may engage in politics so long as their major purpose is not electing candidates to office.

    “They can spend up to 49.9% of their budget on candidate election work,” explained Paul S. Ryan, an expert in federal election law, who added that political spending was allowed as long as it was not the group’s primary purpose.

    But while the donor email describes the group as a 501c4, it also pledges to dedicate “all its resources” to electing Santos — language that Ryan suggested was troubling.

    “You can get away with it if you are not foolish enough to put in writing that you’re all about candidate elections,” Ryan said.

    RedStone Strategies was not the only group whose activity raised warning flags among campaign finance experts.

    Rise NY is a state PAC created in December 2020 by Santos’ campaign treasurer, Nancy Marks, and Tiffany Santos. A Twitter profile of the group describes its purpose as “new voter registration & education as well as raising election awareness & voter enthusiasm.” The PAC raised vast sums from donors who had otherwise maxed out donating to Santos’ campaign, as reported by Newsday. One donor contributed $150,000, according to New York State Board of Election records, well beyond the limits of $2,900 per election placed on federal campaign contributions for direct campaign activity.

    Social media posts show that Rise NY organized demonstrations and voter registration events on Long Island. In a Twitter post from August 2021, Rise NY claimed it had “pulled in 7800+ new Republican voters on LONG ISLAND, NY alone.”

    A close examination of the group’s spending, however, reveals that many of Rise NY’s actions would be considered unusual, if not a violation. PACs like Rise NY are allowed under New York state law to give directly to candidates or authorized committees, but may not spend in other ways to help a campaign.

    Yet Rise NY issued payments for wages and professional services to Santos campaign workers, including Santos’ press secretary. It also directed $10,000 in payments to a company run by Marks, the campaign treasurer. And Tiffany Santos earned $20,000 for her work as the PAC’s president. She did not respond to a request for comment.

    Its expenditures took place at many of the spots that George Santos’ campaign filings show he liked to frequent, including Il Bacco, a restaurant in Queens where his campaign spent roughly $14,000, and an Exxon Mobil gas station that is a two-minute drive from his former apartment in Whitestone, Queens.

    One donor said that he gave to the PAC after being contacted by Samuel Miele, who said in an email that he was the vice president of Rise NY. Miele was also working directly for Santos, but was later fired after he was caught impersonating a staffer for Rep. Kevin McCarthy, at the time the Republican minority leader, in a fundraising appeal, several people close to the campaign said.

    A company that Miele manages, the One 57 Group, was paid $43,000 by the Santos campaign and nearly $10,000 from Rise NY PAC. Miele did not respond to requests for comment.

    Two former consultants to the Santos campaign who requested anonymity in order to speak freely about their former client said that they were concerned about the close arrangement between the campaign and Rise NY, and told Santos that he should shut it down. A third former consultant turned down what it described as a lucrative offer from Santos to fundraise for the PAC, citing legal concerns.

    © 2023 The New York Times Co

  57. says

    McCarthy gave the farm away to be speaker

    This seems too cute by half from Politico: “It’s the three-page document everyone in Washington is talking about—except it may not even exist.” It’s a “mirage of a backroom-deal doc,” the headline says. Is it a three-page document? Is it an addendum to the House Rules package passed this week? Is it official? It doesn’t have to be any of those things, and if you focus on one three-page document, you’re missing the point. There were lots of concessions granted by Kevin McCarthy to the Freedom Caucus in return for them letting him “win” on the 15th vote for speaker.

    And some of those agreements are on paper. At least according to a number of Republicans who’ve told reporters they’ve seen them and haven’t recanted. More to the point, Freedom Caucus types are getting plum assignments and have been spilling the beans about what else they got.

    But there’s also paper. National Republican Congressional Committee chair Richard Hudson (R-NC) told Axios he’s seen it, and that it doesn’t contain promises of committee chairmanships to specific members: “No names, just representation [on panels].” So the only promise is committee seats to unspecified whackjobs, just not which ones specifically.

    […] It” might not exist, if by “it” we’re specifically saying “a three-page addendum,” but there is definitely paper out there documenting McCarthy’s capitulations. It’s not the “mirage” the Politico headline suggests. McCarthy and “allies insist that no back-room promises were made to land his gavel after 15 frenetic ballots, that no plum committee spots, precise spending cuts, or debt limit strategy were guaranteed in a quid pro quo,” Politico says. […]

    And there are the plum committee assignments that were handed out Wednesday, six of them to various members of the Freedom Caucus who were among the holdouts during the first 14 votes: Rep. Byron Donalds (FL) is now on the House Financial Services Committee along with freshman Andy Ogles (TN); Reps. Michael Cloud (R-TX), and Andrew Clyde (GA) got coveted Appropriations seats; Rep. Andy Harris (MD) netted an appropriations subcommittee gavel, making him one of the “cardinals,” the 12 who hold the purse strings for every federal agency.

    Oh, and Donalds is also now on the influential Republican Steering Committee, he told Fox News, “as Speaker McCarthy’s designee.”

    McCarthy also promised to put what might be the worst tax bill ever on the House floor this session, something Republican leaders have refused to do for over 20 years. Because it’s a really stupid idea. “That was part of the negotiation. The 20 conservatives who were holding out, one of the things that they wanted was to see it come to the floor for a vote,” Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) said.

    Everyone knows the deals were made because the people who were on the receiving end are crowing about it. Pretending otherwise is par for the course with the GOP leadership.

  58. raven says

    Florida medical providers are intended to think, “Shoot, this guy is arresting people for voting, so what’s he going to do to me if I dispense abortion medication in a way he doesn’t like?” […]

    As usual the GOP hasn’t thought things through very far.

    Both of the abortion drugs have important non-abortion uses.

    Why is this medication prescribed? Misoprostol is used to prevent ulcers in people who take certain arthritis or pain medicines, including aspirin, that can cause ulcers. It protects the stomach lining and decreases stomach acid secretion.Nov 15, 2017

    Misoprostol: MedlinePlus Drug Information https://medlineplus.gov › druginfo › meds

    Misprostol is commonly prescribed to people who have problems with gastric ulcers.

    The GOP always goes a long way out of their way to increase the suffering of the people they govern.

  59. says

    Wonkette: “Did Joe Biden Just Fix Student Loan Debt Going Forward? Mayyyyybe!”

    On Tuesday, the US Department of Education proposed new rules for federal student loan repayment that could take much of the pain and anxiety out of having student loans. The proposal would significantly change how Income Based Repayment works, resulting in lower student loan payments for millions of Americans. It would even mean that many lower-income Americans would have no monthly payments at all, and would make it easier for borrowers who keep up their payments to have the remaining balance of their loans forgiven.

    […] The new rules are expected to go into effect by July 1 this year, although some parts may be rolled out sooner. As The American Prospect’s David Dayen explains, the Education Department’s proposed rule will essentially put an end to student loans as we’ve known them up to now, as long as most people who qualify take advantage of the new income-based-repayment arrangement.

    Dayen explainers:

    The popular conception of a student loan, or any loan, is that you take out a sum of money from a lender—in this case, the Department of Education—with a promise to pay the principal back over a certain time frame, with interest. […]

    Under income-driven repayment, all of the nuts and bolts of loans can be ignored. The borrower will pay a percentage of their income over a certain threshold for a set number of years, and then the obligation will be met. Notions of a “principal balance” or “interest” or anything else will be immaterial when the amount due is just based on what you earn.

    Under the current income-based repayment plan (or plans; the New York Times notes there are currently five of them), people making over roughly $20,000 have their payments set at 10 percent of their discretionary income. Depending on the plan, the balance of the loan would be forgiven after 20 or 25 years. The new plan would reduce the number of available income-driven plans; most people would be able to take advantage of a revised version of the least expensive […] payments are based on the borrower’s monthly income and family size.

    [snipped some details, which are available at the link]

    Here’s another hell of a good idea: Currently, if you have income-based repayment and your payments aren’t enough to pay the interest on the loan (pretty common with big grad school debts, just ask me), the unpaid amount of interest is capitalized back into your loan, so your balance still keeps rising every year. As the Times explains,

    In the proposed plan, if a borrower’s payment isn’t high enough to cover the interest due that month, the remaining interest will not be charged or tacked onto the balance.

    [Yay! That is a good idea.]

    […] the new proposal would tweak the definition of “discretionary income” — which currently uses a formula designed to exclude costs of food and rent for a given area — to exempt more income, which would result in lower payments, too. […]

    [snipped more details]

    […] The new rules are separate from Joe Biden’s earlier plan to forgive up to $20,000 in federal student debt, which is still awaiting arguments before the Supreme Court next month. In another development in that case, the Public Rights Project has filed an amicus brief on behalf of 40 local governments in 24 states, arguing that the multi-state lawsuit against debt forgiveness is balderdash and applesauce, because the states offer only “speculative and indirect financial harms,” while for most states and local governments, loan forgiveness would increase tax revenue, give citizens greater housing security, and other benefits. Sounds good to us […]

  60. lumipuna says

    Re: Ukraine Update at 18

    With Germany resisting calls to “free the Leopards” (their European-standard main battle tank), a coalition of operator nations is lobbying for the necessary approval to gift them to Ukraine. Three days ago (was it really that recent?), Finland was the first to pledge Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine as part of any future international coalition. Poland seconded the motion a day later. Today, Poland flat-out pledged to send a company, 14 tanks, to Ukraine.

    Finland hasn’t pledged anything specific, but supports collective action to organize a fleet of Leopard 2 tanks for Ukraine.

    There is currently discussion on how much we could/should contribute in this project. It’d be likely only a few tanks, or possibly just training/maintenance assistance. There’s the argument that countries that aren’t physically neighboring Russia, like Germany, should give up the actual tanks needed.

    Germany’s army is in shambles out of neglect, so they may not have any to give beyond a symbolic dozen or so, but even that helps. If Ukraine can get several hundred from this group, they’ll be in much better shape for their spring offensive.

    Uh-oh.

  61. raven says

    Satellite images hint at Covid outbreak’s true toll in China.
    China is just refusing to count the Covid-19 virus dead.
    It’s estimated that by April 2023 there will be 1 to 1.7 million dead from this wave of the pandemic.

    “Until the pandemic is over, “it is impossible to identify the exact death rate,” he said at a news conference in Beijing.”
    This isn’t even remotely true.
    It is simple and routine to count the dead. Being alive or dead is a binary condition.

    Satellite images hint at Covid outbreak’s true toll in China

    NBC News
    Satellite images hint at Covid outbreak’s true toll in China
    1 / 3
    Satellite images hint at Covid outbreak’s true toll in China
    Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies
    38
    Olivia Guan and Angie Ling and Eric Baculinao and Jennifer Jett and Janis Mackey Frayer
    Thu, January 12, 2023 at 5:46 AM PST·4 min read

    HONG KONG — Satellite images taken over multiple cities in China show heightened activity outside crematoriums and funeral homes, appearing to contradict the country’s low official Covid-19 death figures and illustrating the severity of the outbreak in the world’s most populous nation.

    The images, taken by Maxar in late December and early January and shared with NBC News, show a new parking lot has been built since early December at a funeral home in Tongzhou on the outskirts of Beijing, the capital. Other images from cities around the country show a greater number of cars parked outside funeral homes compared with similar periods in past years.

    The satellite images are consistent with firsthand NBC News reporting in Beijing, where officials say the outbreak has already peaked.

    Construction equipment was visible at the Tongzhou funeral home during a visit on Dec. 22, while workers in white hazmat suits could be seen unloading caskets from a steady stream of vans at the Dongjiao funeral home during multiple visits that week. Police were patrolling both places.

    Elsewhere in Beijing, crematoriums have been operating 24/7, with one major funeral home telling NBC News the wait time for a cremation slot was up to two weeks. With some funeral homes no longer allowing memorial services, reporters have witnessed families instead holding them at hospitals, where empty caskets are being stored outside in alleys.

    While the Chinese government says the outbreak is predictable and under control, the World Health Organization says that official Chinese data underrepresents the current number of Covid hospitalizations and deaths and that it cannot form a clear picture of the outbreak without more information.

    China has reported fewer than 40 Covid-related deaths since Dec. 7, when officials abruptly lifted “zero-Covid” restrictions that had largely shielded China’s 1.4 billion people from the virus for the past three years but fueled rare widespread protests. The country’s official death toll is about 5,270 since the start of the pandemic, but international experts say the true number of deaths could reach 1 million or more in the coming months — about the same as in the United States.

    China’s older population, which has a relatively low vaccination rate, is expected to be especially affected. Experts also predict the virus will spread beyond major cities into rural areas as people return to their hometowns to celebrate the upcoming Lunar New Year.

    Commenters on Chinese social media have also questioned the government’s reporting, pointing to the recent deaths of prominent artists, scientists and academics, some of whose obituaries named Covid as the cause, as well as the experience of their own families.

    “It’s the sixth day since my grandfather left, and I still can’t stop crying,” a commenter in Sichuan province wrote on the social media platform Weibo, adding: “I hate Covid and this inexplicable decision to lift all the restrictions — to hell with you, false death data!”

    Chinese officials reject criticism of the data they have provided and say the true death toll will become clearer after analysis of “excess deaths.”

    Dr. Liang Wannian, an epidemiologist and senior adviser to the Chinese government, said Wednesday that the priority at the moment should be treating severe cases.

    Until the pandemic is over, “it is impossible to identify the exact death rate,” he said at a news conference in Beijing.

    He also defended the way China determines whether a death was Covid-related — counting only those that involve respiratory failure — a definition the WHO has criticized as too narrow.

    There is no global consensus on how to define Covid deaths, Liang said, “so each country has their own individual way of calculating.”

    China briefed all WHO member states on its Covid outbreak last week, and has provided additional information on its response, said Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead.

    “However, there are some very important information gaps that we are working with China to fill,” she said at a news briefing on Wednesday.

    Citing the lack of data on China’s outbreak, the United States and other countries have imposed restrictions on travelers from China in recent weeks. Beijing calls the measures unscientific, excessive and discriminatory, taking the first of its promised countermeasures on Tuesday with the suspension of short-term visas for citizens of South Korea and Japan.

    Japan has lodged a protest to China over the suspension, while South Korea says its Covid border measures are based on science and that China’s response is “very regrettable.”

    China’s new foreign minister, Qin Gang, who is visiting Ethiopia, told Phoenix TV in an interview Wednesday that the South Korean and Japanese restrictions had hindered China’s personnel exchanges with the two countries, “so we, the Chinese side, have a reason to respond.”

    Jennifer Jett reported from Hong Kong, and Janis Mackey Frayer reported from Beijing.
    This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

  62. says

    About all those flight cancellations in the USA yesterday:

    […] The problem was specifically in the FAA’s Notice to Air Missions System (NOTAM), which NBC News explains sends pilots information they need in order to fly. Bookmark this fact in your brain for a few paragraphs down.

    All the usual suspects started getting red in the face and out of breath moaning about how this was caused by “woke.” As you should know by now, “woke” is the new catchall excuse for any white conservative moaning about literally anything. Dirty dishes in the sink? WOKE. Get passed over for a job by a smarter candidate? Probably WOKE hiring policies. Wife leave you for a younger man? Kids won’t come home for Thanksgiving because they hate you? WOKE WOKE WOKE WOKE WOKE.

    Jesse Watters had a weird one on Fox News yesterday afternoon. Really just melted down over this. Let’s follow him on his journey.

    JESSE WATTERS: Here’s what I want. If this happens, I want to see ferocity. I want to see someone like, “This is unacceptable! This is never going to happen again. This cannot happen again and I’m going to get to the bottom of this and I’m going to stay here and take every single question.” But Pete — and this is why he looks so good — he looks like he’s twelve because the guy’s never stressed. He’s like, “You know what? We’ll get to — we’ll fix it. We got this.” No, I don’t want that.

    Jesse Watters needs Secretary Mayor Pete to be more emotional, because these things make Jesse feel emotional.

    And I’m not saying it’s his fault, I’m not saying he downloaded some virus from this computer and it wrecked the whole system,

    Good, because that would be a really deranged thing to say.

    although I’m not ruling that out.

    Oh.

    But he sets the tone for the FAA. And the tone is woke.

    And if the tone is woke and Pete sets the tone (gay) then the computers crash.

    WATTERS: Because they’re not spending money on these computers, these computers are 40 years old. They’re changing the word “airmen” because a transvestite pilot might get offended? Like, she’s not going to take off, or he’s not going to take off because she’s called an airman —

    GREG GUTFELD: They, Jesse.

    JEANINE PIRRO: They.

    WATTERS: It’s impossible. […]

    GUTFELD: Did you say transvestite?

    JESSICA TARLOV: He did. He said “transvestite.”

    GUTFELD: There’s a word you don’t hear from —

    WATTERS: We’ll talk about it during the commercial break.

    TARLOV: It’s 2023.

    WATTERS: Well, wait a second. Okay, well let’s get into this. What is the difference?

    Oh sweet Lord, where do we even start?

    First of all, you might be surprised Jesse and pals went directly to trans panic. Considering Jesse’s own personal history, we would have expected him to tell a story about the time he tried to let the air out of a lady pilot’s airplane wheels to try to trick her into getting into his car.

    Instead, trans panic, something new and different! But what is Watters [complaining] about, changing the word “airmen” and that is how Gay Mayor Pete kept the transvestite planes on the ground?

    On Fox News’s website right now, there is a sneering white conservative victim diatribe masquerading as a serious news article, written by somebody named “Aubrie Spady” (we shit you not), claiming that “pilots” are “outraged” by “woke FAA spending” after this event yesterday. Which pilots? Oh, just all of ’em. […]

    In fact, Spady quotes one (1) pilot, who upon brief googling does not appear to actually be working as a pilot right now. Dude writes for the Daily Caller, though!

    In the first sentence of “news article,” Spady says “pilots” are outraged over the FAA’s “woke 2023 budget that invests millions in ‘inclusion’ and ‘environmental justice’ initiatives.” And Spady explains that in December 2021, Buttigieg changed the NOTAM acronym from standing for “Notice to Airmen” to “Notice to Air Missions.” She quotes some wingnut aviation lawyer who has a whole lot to whine about that.

    The article claims the Department of Transportation is “under fire” for “focusing on staying woke” INSTEAD OF doing all the other things. You know, as if DOT being “under fire for woke” isn’t 100 PERCENT SOLELY a creation of the ass-to-mouth circular rage pipeline that runs between Fox News’s on-air talent and its “news” department.

    So that is how we got to Jesse Watters dying of consumption on a fainting couch because they’re changing the word “airmen” to keep the transvestite pilots from getting offended.

    And Greg Gutfeld and Judge Boxwine both correct Jesse and say “they” when he refers to the imaginary transvestite pilot as “she,” as if Greg and Judge Boxwine are the experts on Jesse’s imaginary transvestite pilot’s pronouns.

    And Jesse gets confused because he doesn’t know why even the Fox News idiots surrounding him are like “Transvestite? What century do you even live in?”

    Real people think Fox News is the news. It is astounding.

    Wonkette link

  63. Reginald Selkirk says

    ‘Not An Accurate Description’: MSNBC Anchor Chides Reporter for Using ‘Pro-Life’ On-Air

    MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell chided the network’s senior Capitol Hill correspondent, Garrett Haake, on Thursday for using the term “pro-life” during an on-air discussion of the Republican-backed Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Act…
    “At the end of the day she was, as she described herself, ‘pro-life,’ and that she felt that it was important to vote for these measures despite their potentially politically damaging or politically unappealing appearance,” Haake said, referring to Representative Nancy Mace’s (R., N.C.) support for the bill.
    Mitchell interjected during Haake’s response to correct his terminology.
    “Let me just interrupt and say that pro-life is a term that they–an entire group wants to use–but that’s not an accurate description.”

  64. says

    Followup to comment 89.

    The software blamed for FAA outage is three decades old and years from an upgrade, official says

    This system, installed in 1993, runs the Notice to Air Missions system, or NOTAM, which sends pilots vital information they need to fly.

    The software that failed and forced the Federal Aviation Administration to ground thousands of flights on Wednesday is 30 years old and not scheduled to be updated for another six years, according to a senior government official.

    This system was installed in 1993 and runs the Notice to Air Missions system, or NOTAM, which sends pilots vital information they need to fly, the official said.

    After the FAA was able to get planes flying again, a government official said a corrupted file that affected both the primary and the backup NOTAM systems appeared to be the culprit.

    But the new revelation raised questions about why the FAA is still relying on software that was introduced the year President Bill Clinton entered the White House.

    […] President Joe Biden ordered an investigation after he was briefed Wednesday by Buttigieg.

    Tens of thousands of travelers were left stranded Wednesday after the FAA sent out a tweet at 7:20 a.m. ordering the airlines to pause all domestic departures until 9 a.m. ET “to allow the agency to validate the integrity of flight and safety information” as it worked to restore the NOTAM system.

    The FAA lifted the ground stop around 8:50 a.m., and normal air traffic operations began resuming gradually. But by then airports across the country were already crowded with frustrated travelers and a backlog of flights.

  65. Oggie: Mathom says

    Do not advocate violence as a joke, or as satire. Just don’t do it.

    I didn’t realize I had.

    Sorry.

    I’ll back away.

  66. raven says

    Speaks for itself.
    I can’t even…

    Ukrainska Pravda in English
    @pravda_eng

    🕯A 6 y.o. girl from Avdiivka, Elia, lived 5 km from the front line for the past 11 months and spent most of the time hiding in the family basement out of fear of loud Russian artillery fire.
    She eventually died from a heart attack due to constant stress.
    #russiaisateroriststate

  67. raven says

    Poland is Europe’s next great military power.
    They are spending large amounts of money on advanced weapons systems.

    This is typical of former captive nations of the old Soviet Union.
    The Polish have suffered greatly from Russian imperialism over the centuries, even before the USSR. The last Russian invasion came close to ending them forever when Stalin and Hitler divided Poland up before WW II.

    Now that they are out from under the Russians, they all say “never again”. This is their big chance to get rid of Russia forever and they are going to take it.

    Poland is Europe’s next great military power

    Poland is Europe’s next great military power
    One nation has learned the lessons of the Russian invasion

    January 11, 2023 | 10:18 pm

    Written by: John Pietro

    As Russia’s war in Ukraine rages into its eleventh month, there is one country that can truly be said to have learned its lesson: Poland. By the mid-2030s, when the majority of its equipment purchases have been delivered, Warsaw will command one of the most modern, well-equipped armies in Europe. It’s not cheap, but Poland is taking decisive action to be able to face the threats of tomorrow.

    Poland’s $20.5 billion 2023 defense budget is a huge increase over the previous year, and is over 3 percent of gross domestic product (well above the NATO-suggested 2 percent). Aside from equipment, this money will be used to help expand the manpower that Poland can bring to bear, upping its active-duty forces from 140,000 to 300,000 troops. For a country of about 38 million, this is a significant fighting force.

    On the equipment front, 2022 was something of a military renaissance for Poland, seeing Warsaw pursue billions of dollars worth of new advanced weapons. While the US was a major sender, a large share of the equipment was also sourced from South Korea, whose arms industry does not have the backlogs that America’s does. That, however, is not a bad thing: Seoul’s weapons are just as advanced as those offered by Washington.

    In July, Poland said that it would buy 1,000 K2 Black Panther main battle tanks and 672 K9 self-propelled howitzers (SPH). In August, Poland and South Korea finalized a contract worth $5.76 billion for 180 K2s and 212 K9s, with deliveries to be finished in a few years. Some have already reached Polish soil.

    Tanks are not just coming from Seoul, though. In two separate deals, the Poles purchased 250 of America’s most advanced Abrams variant, the M1A2 SEPv3, and 116 of the older M1A1 variant, worth $4.75 billion and $1.4 billion respectively. This alone would more than double the number of modern Western tanks in Polish inventory. Add 1,000 K2s and Poland’s tank fleet will be virtually unmatched on the Continent.

    But if there’s one weapon system the Russian invasion has proven is key on the modern battlefield, it is long-range rocket systems. Poland plans to purchase 288 K239 Chunmoo multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) from South Korea, which are comparable to the HIMARS of Ukraine fame. But the Poles want the HIMARS too, with Warsaw set to have 220 once all are delivered. To put these numbers in perspective, the US had around 400 HIMARS in 2022 (though it will be raising that by 500 soon enough).

    Poland’s helicopter fleet, which is still dominated by Soviet-era equipment, is also getting major upgrades. In July, Warsaw purchased 32 new AW149 choppers from Italy for $1.83 billion, which is more or less comparable to the American Blackhawk helicopter. The game-changing purchase, however, was the September decision to purchase 96 Apache attack helicopters from the United States. The capabilities of the Apache are well-documented, having seen massive success against Iraq in 1991 and in its numerous deployments since. A force of 96 will mean Poland will have the largest attack helicopter fleet in NATO after the United States and Turkey.

    Finally — and this still only scratches the surface — Warsaw is procuring a brand-new short-range air defense system of the kind that has proven invaluable in defending Ukrainian airspace. The new acquisition will consist of 23 systems, and will allow the Poles to ditch more of their Soviet-era air defense. Defending critical infrastructure and military sites is much harder in the age of drones, so this purchase would pay dividends in any conflict.

    There is so much more Poland is doing, from modernizing its army’s service rifles to purchasing F-35s and South Korean jets. But the point is clear: Poland is willing to act on threats to its security in a way very uncharacteristic for European nations post-1991. This is not to discredit the huge strides countries like Germany have made since the Russian invasion, but the Germans have yet to undertake the scale of action that Poland has.

    In the coming decades, assuming Poland stays the course and remains stable economically, Warsaw will be able to play a much larger role in NATO than its size would indicate. The security implications for Europe are immense, not least because Poland will be able to act as a firewall against any Russian attack (importantly, Poland borders Russia’s militarized Kaliningrad Oblast). Warsaw’s tank fleet is particularly notable, because such a force would be necessary to break through the Suwalki Gap and reach the Baltic States if Russia ever attacked NATO.

    Poland’s military strength will offer Eastern Europe a bit of relief. Nations at the alliance’s flank have long been worried about NATO’s ability to defend them effectively. Warsaw has been an assertive player in the East, particularly in supporting Ukraine, and the other countries in the region — particularly the Baltics — will be able to find some solace in the fact that a stalwart nation like Poland has the capacity and the willingness to stand up to Russia.

    Warsaw’s military buildup is an unquestionably expensive endeavor, but it is also a necessary one. And it is certainly less costly than if deterrence were to fail.

  68. says

    Oggie @93, oh no … miscommunication. I did not mean to say that you had in any way broken that rule. It’s just a rule I’ve had to repeat multiple times in the past. I was trying to be thorough while discussing this thread—in case newcomers needed more information. I goofed up. Please accept my apologies.

  69. says

    Trump discussed using a nuclear weapon on North Korea in 2017 and blaming it on someone else, book says

    In a new section of his book on Trump’s presidency, The New York Times’ Michael Schmidt details John Kelly’s tenure as White House chief of staff from July 2017 to January 2019.

    Behind closed doors in 2017, President Donald Trump discussed the idea of using a nuclear weapon against North Korea and suggested he could blame a U.S. strike against the communist regime on another country, according to a new section of a book that details key events of his administration.

    Trump’s alleged comments, reported for the first time in a new afterword to a book by New York Times Washington correspondent Michael Schmidt, came as tensions between the U.S. and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un escalated, alarming then-White House chief of staff John Kelly.

    The new section of “Donald Trump v. the United States,” obtained by NBC News ahead of its publication in paperback Tuesday, offers an extensive examination of Kelly’s life and tenure as Trump’s chief of staff from July 2017 to January 2019. Kelly previously was Trump’s secretary of homeland security. For the account, Schmidt cites in part dozens of interviews on background with former Trump administration officials and others who worked with Kelly.

    Eight days after Kelly arrived at the White House as chief of staff, Trump warned that North Korea would be “met with fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.” When Trump delivered his first speech to the U.N. General Assembly in September 2017, he threatened to “totally destroy North Korea” if Kim, whom he referred to as “Rocket Man,” continued his military threats.

    Later that month, Trump continued to goad North Korea through his tweets. But Kelly was more concerned about what Trump was saying privately, Schmidt reports.

    “What scared Kelly even more than the tweets was the fact that behind closed doors in the Oval Office, Trump continued to talk as if he wanted to go to war. He cavalierly discussed the idea of using a nuclear weapon against North Korea, saying that if he took such an action, the administration could blame someone else for it to absolve itself of responsibility,” according to the new section of the book.

    Kelly tried to use reason to explain to Trump why that would not work, Schmidt continues.

    “It’d be tough to not have the finger pointed at us,” Kelly told the president, according to the afterword.

    Kelly brought the military’s top leaders to the White House to brief Trump about how war between the U.S. and North Korea could easily break out, as well as the enormous consequences of such a conflict. But the argument about how many people could be killed had “no impact on Trump,” Schmidt writes.

    Kelly then tried to point out that there would be economic repercussions, but the argument held Trump’s attention for only so long, according to the afterword.

    Then, Trump “would turn back to the possibility of war, including at one point raising to Kelly the possibility of launching a preemptive military attack against North Korea,” Schmidt said.

    Kelly warned that Trump would need congressional approval for a pre-emptive strike, which “baffled and annoyed” Trump, according to the afterword.

    Trump tweeted in early January 2018: “North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.’ Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

    Schmidt also writes that it was well-known among senior U.S. officials for several decades that North Korea sought to spy on U.S. decision-makers. So White House aides were alarmed “that Trump would repeatedly talk on unclassified phones, with friends and confidants outside the government, about how he wanted to use military force against North Korea.”

    Schmidt writes that there is no indication North Korea had a source in the White House, but he said it “was well within the realm of American intelligence assessment” that it could have been listening to Trump’s calls.

    “Kelly would have to remind Trump that he could not share classified information with his friends,” Schmidt writes.

    According to the new section, Kelly came up with a plan he believes ultimately prompted Trump to dial back the rhetoric in spring 2018: appealing directly to Trump’s “narcissism.”

    Kelly convinced the president he could prove he was the “greatest salesman in the world” by trying to strike a diplomatic relationship, Schmidt writes, thereby preventing a nuclear conflict that Kelly and other top military leaders saw as a more immediate threat than most realized at the time. […]

  70. says

    Washington Post:

    The Republican-controlled Missouri House of Representatives used its session’s opening day Wednesday to tighten the dress code for female legislators, while leaving the men’s dress code alone.

    They passed a measure requiring women in the chamber to conceal their arms.

    WTF?

    Missouri Republicans adopt stricter House dress code — but just for women

    […] “The caucus that lost their minds over the suggestion that they should wear masks during a pandemic to respect the safety of others is now spending its time focusing on the fine details of what women have to wear (and specifically how many layers must cover their arms) to show respect in this chamber,” Merideth [Rep. Pete Merideth (D)] tweeted. […]

  71. johnson catman says

    re Lynna @98: Perhaps those Missouri republicans would also like the women to cover their hair and faces with scarves so that the men would not be driven insane by the women’s irresistible sexuality.

  72. Reginald Selkirk says

    Czech presidential vote

    Czechs go to the polls over the next two days to elect a successor to President Milos Zeman, whose second term ends in March.
    Seven men and one woman are in the race to succeed him, and a second-round run-off is likely in a fortnight’s time…

  73. says

    New podcast episodes:

    Guardian – “How a far right assault on Brazil’s democracy failed”:

    When the Guardian’s Tom Phillips toured the presidential palace in Brasília on Monday, he witnessed utter devastation. He tells Michael Safi of multimillion-dollar works of art destroyed, a copy of the constitution defaced, furniture wrecked and human waste everywhere. But the pro-Jair Bolsonaro rioters who stormed Brazil’s democratic institutions on Sunday ultimately failed in their attempt to topple the new president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and hundreds have since been arrested.

    However, troubling questions remain: how did the mob get into what should have been highly protected state buildings? How was the riot organised without being disrupted by the security forces? After being sworn in to office less than a fortnight ago, who can Lula trust?

    (Also from the Guardian: “Lula says he suspects pro-Bolsonaro staff helped mob enter presidential palace.”)

    If Books Could Kill – “The Secret”:

    Rhonda Byrne’s “The Secret” sold millions of copies based on a simple premise: All of science is fake and the only reason anything ever happens is because people manifest it by communicating with the universe.

  74. says

    GOP House’s first immigration bill would shut off asylum to all migrants, including children

    […] Chip Roy’s “Border Safety and Security Act” provides anything but safety and security, ordering the mandatory expulsion of all people seeking asylum—every single one of them, no matter if they are unaccompanied children, no matter how strong their case, all of them—indefinitely.

    It is as draconian and catastrophic as you’d imagine […] it imposes completely unrealistic standards before U.S. officials would be allowed to again process migrants seeking refuge, it would represent an end to the U.S. asylum system, our laws and international obligations be damned.

    […] Experts said that the bill closes off asylum until all recently arrived migrants can be detained, an impossible requirement. The organizations further noted the bill gives the Department of Homeland Security “discretion to suspend all asylum access until ‘operational control’ of the border is achieved” under standards described by experts as “tremendously unrealistic,” the organizations said.

    This sort of impossible threshold is a Republican trademark. […] The fact is that as House Republicans introduce their nativist agenda, the vast majority of Americans support the US asylum system. “In fact, a majority of Democrats (87%), Republicans (57%), and Independents (74%) support asylum,” polling released by the #WelcomeWithDignity campaign last month said. […]

    But despite all their feigned outrage over immigration, Republican lawmakers are really not interested in resolving any issues at the southern border. They want perceived chaos, they want continued migrant suffering, they want to continue using human beings as props in order to divide and to win elections. […]

  75. Reginald Selkirk says

    Republican candidate’s wife arrested, charged with casting 23 fraudulent votes for her husband in the 2020 election

    The wife of an Iowa Republican who ran for Congress in 2020 was arrested Thursday and accused of casting 23 fraudulent votes on behalf of her husband.
    In an 11-page indictment, prosecutors allege that Kim Phuong Taylor “visited numerous households within the Vietnamese community in Woodbury County,” where she collected absentee ballots for people who were not present at the time. Taylor, who was born in Vietnam, then filled out and cast those ballots herself, the indictment alleges, “causing the casting of votes in the names of residents who had no knowledge of and had not consented to the casting of their ballots.”
    Taylor is also accused of signing voter registration forms on behalf of residents who were not present. In all, prosecutors allege, she engaged in 26 counts of providing false information and voting, three counts of fraudulent registration, and 23 counts of fraudulent voting. Each charge carries a maximum 5-year prison sentence…

  76. says

    House Republicans want to un-impeach Donald Trump, and Kevin McCarthy is weak enough to let them

    Donald Trump set the record by being impeached in the House of Representatives twice, both times for very good cause. The first of those impeachments came when Trump attempted to blackmail Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy into providing false claims about Joe Biden in exchange for military support. The second after Trump tired of threatening other nations and directly attempted to overturn the results of a U.S. election.

    Now Republicans want to get out the Wite-Out and “expunge” at least one of Trump’s impeachments—both would be better—and Kevin McCarthy is there for it.

    In laying out all the critical challenges the House faces, McCarthy didn’t seem sure how they would fit this in between investigating Hunter Biden’s laptop and pretending to build a wall, but as The Washington Post reports, the modern record-holder in losing votes for the House speakership expressed “sympathy” for the idea of giving Trump a clean slate because of all Trump “went through” during investigations into his connections to Russia.

    This might not be the best time to pretend that withholding military assistance from Ukraine had nothing to do with Trump’s ties to Russia, and McCarthy might want to revisit the nation’s most overlooked document, the report produced by a Republican-led Senate committee showing Trump’s numerous, substantial, and dangerous connections to Russia. But hey, none of that really matters because none of this has anything to do with reality.

    Even on the surface, McCarthy’s suggestion that Trump get a do-over because people had been mean to him is ridiculous. […] Trump’s elaborate efforts to secure false statements from Ukraine to help him defeat Joe Biden in the election weren’t a matter of a few statements in one very much not “perfect” phone call. As the investigators showed during his impeachment trial, Trump’s attempts to wring arms in Ukraine extended back over months, and included false stories funneled through Rudy Giuliani that were handily published by The New York Times. The threat posed by this attempt is currently being vividly illustrated just north of Bakhmut.

    When it comes to the second impeachment, the evidence for that impeachment is still visible in damage to the building where Congress sits. It’s also still very much on the minds of Americans. […] Americans remain intensely aware of the damage done to the nation through the Jan. 6 insurrection as well as Trump’s involvement. That connection was not only confirmed in the impeachment investigation, but underlined by the findings of the Jan. 6 select committee. The voting that took place in November can be seen as a verdict on how America feels about the former seditionist-in-chief.

    … the Jan. 6 panel’s ingenuity in making Trump central to the story and indicting him in the court of public opinion was the key to making his endorsees utterly toxic on the campaign trail.

    Neither of Trump’s impeachments was over a trivial matter. They were historic abuses of power that went well beyond the crimes of any recent leader, including Richard Nixon. Neither of those impeachments were partisan, except in the sense that the modern Republican Party would not indict Trump for anything, no matter how terrible.

    What did the holder of the limp gavel think about Trump’s actions following Jan. 6? […] McCarthy and other Republican leaders believed that “Trump was directly responsible for the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol” and reportedly told other Republicans in Congress that they would ask Trump to resign. But that was, of course, before McCarthy touched base with his funders, checked in with the most radical faction of his party, or surrendered the House to people who think he’s a dunce.

    […] There is no mechanism in the Constitution that allows an impeachment to be expunged. Yes, say Republicans, but there’s also nothing in the Constitution that says an impeachment can’t be expunged. So there.

    […] A new Congress can certainly issue a statement disagreeing with the opinion of a past House, but that new statement in no way invalidates the opinion of the House that issued the impeachment in the first place.

    They cannot make it as if this never happened. It happened. […]

    The fact that Republicans are even talking about this makes it likely that they’re going to try it. In fact, Republicans put even more pointless bills before the House twice already that would have expunged both impeachments, even though they knew those bills would go nowhere. Because this isn’t about justice. It’s about show.

    Letting the Republicans once again show that protecting Donald Trump’s ego is their highest priority? […]

  77. says

    A side comment on the classified documents:

    This is not a defense of anyone mishandling classified documents, but there’s a hippopotamus in the room: Were the documents properly classified in the first place? Once upon a time, I had responsibility for such, and (a) about 70% of what came in front of me was overclassified, and (b) at least 40% didn’t merit any “classification” at all under the rubric spelled out in (then-effective) DODR 5200.1, or any of the related executive orders… and the definitions for what qualifies for each of the three levels (Confidential, Secret, Top Secret) haven’t changed since 1947. So I’m pretty confident that things have only gotten worse.

    None of which excuses mishandling material bearing clear markings. Rule 11.2: Even when one “knows” material is improperly classified, one handles it as marked until the appropriate authorities revise the markings.

    Some of what has been disclosed as having been retrieved from Mar-a-Lago was compartmented material (still Top Secret — there isn’t an “above Top Secret” — but requiring greater demonstration of “need to know” than normal; I can neither confirm nor deny the nature or existence of any such knowledge, past or present access, etc.). There haven’t been any such public disclosures regarding material turned over voluntarily by Biden’s people, or any indication of continued personal access. Both could change, but from the perspective of a former Security Manager for [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], AWACS, and [redacted] units and above I know where I’d put my investigative resources… until I learn more, anyway. I’d continue looking at both, but not equally.

  78. StevoR says

    Not that surprising or new but confirmation of criminal witholding of predicted knowledge whilst denying its truth here :

    Scientists working for oil giant Exxon Mobil accurately predicted global warming even as the company publicly contradicted them, according to a new report. The study, published in the journal Science, looked at research funded by Exxon that confirmed what climate scientists were saying by using more than a dozen different computer models to forecast the coming warming with precision equal to or better than government and academic scientists.

    At the same time, the multinational oil and gas corporation publicly cast doubt that global warming was real and dismissed climate models’ accuracy.

    Source : https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-01-13/exxon-mobil-accurately-predicted-global-warming/101854578

    Also from our ABC news, another one for the ACAB files :

    A Northern Territory police officer is due to front court after being charged with assault, making a threat to kill and other offences. NT Police said in a statement the 46-year-old woman had been served with a summons to appear in court over the alleged offending. She faces charges of unlawful entry, trespass, assault, make a threat to kill and disorderly behaviour.
    NT Police said the woman remained a serving police officer, but it was unclear if she remained in her regular duties.

    Source : https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-01-13/nt-police-officer-charged-assault-making-threat-to-kill/101854746

    Whilst the Catholic extremist Christianist Premier of NSW has a disgusting secret revealed :

    NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet’s leadership has been labelled as untenable following the revelation that he wore a Nazi uniform to his 21st birthday party. On Thursday, Mr Perrottet said he was “deeply ashamed” for wearing the uniform to a fancy dress party, saying it had caused him “much anxiety” through the course of his life. He told a press conference in Sydney he decided to come forward after receiving a phone call from a cabinet colleague two days ago. “When I was 21, at my 21st fancy dress party, I wore a Nazi uniform,” he said.

    Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-01-12/dominic-perrottet-apologises-for-wearing-nazi-costume-to-21st/101849280

  79. jo1storm says

    Ben Shapiro’s movie considered “too woke” for conservative audiences: https://god.dailydot.com/ben-shapiro-movie/

    The relationship conservative pundits have with Hollywood has always been fraught and hilarious. They rail against the entertainment industry, frequently after having been rejected by it themselves, while also making demands and considering themselves experts.

    One of the most prominent figures fitting into this pathetic pattern is Ben Shapiro, whose website, The Daily Wire, recently pivoted to making movies of their own in an attempt to further influence the culture. And how’s that going? Well, not great.

    Their fourth scripted film, Terror on the Prairie, was released last summer, but recent tweets are drawing renewed attention to just how poorly that went.

  80. StevoR says

    Once in a millennium stellar eclipse for Gaia17bpp here :

    We believe that this star is part of an exceptionally rare type of binary system, between a large, puffy older star  —  Gaia17bpp  —  and a small companion star that is surrounded by an expansive disk of dusty material,” one half of the duo, University of Washington astronomer Anastasios Tzanidakis, said in a statement(opens in new tab). “Based on our analysis, these two stars orbit each other over an exceptionally long period of time  —  as much as 1,000 years. So, catching this bright star being eclipsed by its dusty companion is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

    Source : https://www.space.com/dusty-white-dwarf-star-dimming-once-in-lifetime

    With spectacular space art.

    Interesting new exoplanet idea on the formation of super-earths here :

    The scientists propose that this narrow band can act as a planet factory, with rocky worlds forming within it until they become large enough to exit the ring due to forces exerted by the gas. Over time, this process can produce several similarly sized rocky planets. This might help explain why all the super-Earths around one star might closely resemble each other but look quite different from the super-Earths around another star, which might have a significantly different planet factory.

    Source : https://www.space.com/super-earth-alien-planet-formation-explanation

    Fascinating article on how a couple of Queensland swamps reveal our bushfire related climate history :

    These aquatic archives capture traces of the environment around them, such as charcoal blown in from bushfires that sinks and gets trapped in the muddy sediment.

    As those sediment layers build up, the mud becomes a natural chronological record of changing conditions around the lake.

    By analysing what’s in those layers, we can, in effect, look back through time significantly further than written records.

    Source : https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2023-01-13/bushfires-australia-history-lakes-sediment-cores-charcoal/101588236

  81. Reginald Selkirk says

    Ancient Americans Crossed Back into Siberia in a Two-Way Migration, New Evidence Shows

    Science has long known that people living in what is now Siberia once walked (and later paddled boats) across the Being Strait into North America. But new evidence now shows that these early migrations weren’t one-way trips: in a study published on Thursday in Current Biology, researchers say they have uncovered traces of Native American ancestry in the DNA of Siberians who lived centuries ago.
    This American heritage—still present in the genomes of some Siberians today—adds to a scattering of archeological evidence suggesting that North Americans were in contact with their northern Asian neighbors for thousands of years before Europeans arrived…

  82. lumipuna says

    Re 113: A “scattering of archaeological evidence”? IIRC, the distribution of Inuit languages also extends from Alaska slightly to the Asian side of Bering Strait.

  83. raven says

    Tesla is having trouble selling its cars right now.
    It is a variety of factors including the economy.

    But not mentioned in this article is that Elon Musk has come out of his cave after buying Twitter and people have taken a hard look at him and don’t like what they see.

    I’ve also read that people are taking a hard look at Tesla cars and they have some problems as well. HIgh price for what they are which is a car, inconsistent build problems, and a plain interior are common complaints. The self driving feature doesn’t work as a self driving feature.

    Tesla Cuts Prices Sharply as It Moves to Bolster Demand

    Tesla Cuts Prices Sharply as It Moves to Bolster Demand
    The price reductions in the United States will make more of the company’s electric vehicles eligible for a federal tax credit.

    A red 2021 Model 3 sedan connected to a charger.
    Tesla’s Model 3 Performance compact is selling for just under $54,000, down from $63,000.Credit…David Zalubowsk/Associated Press
    By Neal E. Boudette NYT
    Jan. 13, 2023

    Tesla has cut prices on its two most popular electric cars in the United States and Europe by as much as 20 percent in a bid to spur slackening demand.

    The move comes as Tesla faces increasingly stiff competition in the global market for electric vehicles.

    Tesla recently lowered prices in China and reported a global sales total for 2022 that was below analysts’ expectations. After the latest price cuts were reported, Tesla stock was down about 5 percent in early trading on Friday. The share price has fallen by roughly 70 percent since November 2021.

    The latest price cut on Tesla vehicles appeared on the company’s website late Thursday. The automaker now shows a high-end Model 3 Performance compact selling in the United States for just under $54,000, down from $63,000, a cut of 14 percent.

    The most affordable version of the Model 3 now sells for just under $44,000, a reduction of about $4,000.

    For some of the lower-priced models, the cuts put them in range to qualify for federal tax credits of $7,500 that were made available starting Jan. 1 under the Inflation Reduction Act. The credit is available on electric cars priced under $55,000.

    Tesla sold 1.3 million cars in 2022, a 40 percent increase from the year before, but short of the 50 percent annual growth target the automaker had set for itself. In recent months, rising borrowing rates made its electric cars more expensive for people taking out loans.

    Tesla’s fourth-quarter production of 440,000 cars was 34,000 more than the company delivered, suggesting that the sluggishness went beyond supply chain problems and production issues.

  84. lumipuna says

    Just today I heard a new rocket launch facility was formally opened at an existing space research centre near Kiruna, in Sweden’s far north:

    https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20230113-sweden-inaugurates-new-satellite-launch-site

    Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson cut the ribbon during a ceremony at “Spaceport Esrange”, described as “mainland Europe’s first satellite launch complex”. [The ribbon looks curiously like Ukraine’s flag, while ostensibly showing the colours of Swedish flag]

    “There are many good reasons why we need to accelerate the European Space Programme,” von der Leyen said. “Europe has its foothold in space and will keep it.”

    The site is an extension of the Esrange Space Centre in Sweden’s Arctic, around 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the town of Kiruna.

    Around 15 million euros ($16.3 million) have been invested in the site, which is expected to serve as a complement to Europe’s space hub at Kourou in French Guiana.

    It will also provide launch capabilities at a time when cooperation with Russia and the Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan has been curtailed by the war in Ukraine [There’s also a major launch site in Plesetsk, Archangel region].

    Esrange’s state-owned operator, the Swedish Space Corporation (SSC), aims to launch its first satellite from the site “in the first quarter of 2024”, a spokesman told AFP on Friday.

    That would make Sweden the first country in continental [as opposed to French Guiana etc.] Europe — excluding Russia — to send up a satellite from its soil.

    Other European spaceports are also in the race.

    Projects in Portugal’s Azores archipelago, Norway’s Andoya island, Spain’s Andalusia and Britain, among others, are all vying to be the first to succeed.

    An attempt to launch the first rocket into orbit from Britain — on a Virgin Orbit Boeing 747 that took off from a spaceport in Cornwall — ended in failure on Tuesday.

  85. Reginald Selkirk says

    Donald Trump’s company sentenced to pay $1.61 million penalty for tax fraud

    NEW YORK (Reuters) -A New York judge on Friday sentenced Donald Trump’s namesake real estate company to pay a $1.61 million criminal penalty after it was convicted of scheming to defraud tax authorities for 15 years.
    Justice Juan Merchan of the Manhattan criminal court imposed the sentence, the maximum possible under state law, after jurors found two Trump Organization affiliates guilty of 17 criminal charges last month.

  86. Reginald Selkirk says

    Bolsonaro party boss says violent Brasilia protesters will be expelled

    BRASILIA (Reuters) – The leader of far-right former President Jair Bolsonaro’s political party said on Wednesday that any member identified in videos taking part in the ransacking of government buildings on Sunday would be immediately expelled from the party.
    Valdemar Costa Neto, president of the right-wing Liberal Party, said his party, the largest in Brazil’s Congress, condemned the rampage on Sunday in which Bolsonaro supporters vandalized the Supreme Court, Congress and presidential palace.
    “If members of the party are seen on videos smashing up those government buildings, we will expel them right away,” he said in an interview, adding that the vandalism was caused by an extremist minority that did not represent his party…

    This is a step the Republican Party never took. It hasn’t expelled anyone and has done its best to block investigation and prosecution of participants.

  87. Reginald Selkirk says

    Bipartisan duo reintroduces bill banning members of Congress, family from trading individual stocks

    Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Chip Roy (R-Texas) dropped the Trust in Congress Act on Thursday, marking the third time that the unlikely duo has introduced the legislation. It would stop members of Congress, their spouses and their dependent children from trading individual stocks while serving in their elected position. They previously introduced it in June 2020 and January 2021.

  88. raven says

    “‘Putin is crazy’: Chinese officials back away from Kremlin amid grave concerns over Russian President’s mental state”

    Or so this article claims.
    Since it can’t be confirmed or not, I wouldn’t fully trust it.
    But it is at least plausible.
    Most of the world has condemned the Russian attempted genocide of Ukraine and Ukrainians.
    The Chinese risk being part of the new Evil Empire of outcast states that includes Russia, Syria, Serbia, and Iran.

    Russia is on track to be the North Korea of Europe for the forseeable future.
    As far as I’m concerned, the USSR’s best idea was to build the Iron Curtain.
    We are now at the point, where rebuilding the Iron Curtain is the West’s best idea.

    ‘Putin is crazy’: Chinese officials back away from Kremlin amid grave concerns over Russian President’s mental state

    World News
    Global Affairs
    ‘Putin is crazy’: Chinese officials back away from Kremlin amid grave concerns over Russian President’s mental state
    Chinese officials have privately expressed disbelief in President Vladimir Putin’s ability to win the war in Ukraine and have begun distancing themselves from Russia as a result.

    Amy Landsey Digital Reporter
    January 13, 2023 – 2:40PM

    Chinese officials have slammed Russian President Vladimir Putin as “crazy” in a bid to distance Beijing from the Kremlin’s ailing war in Ukraine.

    Several Chinese Communist Party representatives have privately spoken to the UK’s Financial Times to express their discontent with President Putin and the war in Ukraine.

    “Putin is crazy,” one official told the paper under the condition of anonymity.

    “The invasion decision was made by a very small group of people. China shouldn’t simply follow Russia.”

    As the war in Ukraine drags into its twelfth month, China has begun reconsidering whether a close relationship with Russia will serve its ongoing diplomatic goals.

    The CCP reportedly believe Russia will fail in the war and be left isolated and significantly diminished both diplomatically and economically, emerging from the conflict a “minor power”.

    Chinese officials have also expressed distrust toward President Putin, telling the paper Moscow had not made Beijing aware of the invasion before it took place.

    Despite the private revelations, publicly China has reaffirmed its commitment to strengthening bilateral relations with Russia.

    In a regular press conference last Tuesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told reporters China and Russia were “committed to building a new type of major-country relations featuring mutual respect and win-win cooperation”.

    “President Xi Jinping and President Putin have maintained close communication over China-Russia relations and major international and regional issues, and provided strategic guidance for the strategic partnership of coordination,” Ms Mao said.

    “In the new year, the two sides will strengthen exchanges at all levels and continue to advance the growth of bilateral relations.”

    She did not comment on whether Xi Jinping would accept President Putin’s invitation to visit Moscow in 2023.

    Just last month, the two countries’ respective presidents also pledged to deepen their strategic partnership of coordination for a new era in a virtual meeting.

  89. says

    Ukraine update: Why Bakhmut is not a strategic goal, but is vitally important to Ukraine

    As of Friday morning, the Ukrainian ministry of defense reported that Ukrainian forces were still holding positions within Soledar. However, Ukrainian Telegram channels such as DeepState working with images released by Wagner Group forces moving within Soledar confirmed that Russian forces have occupied the central area of the town. Those Ukrainian forces that remain seem to be on the western edge of the town, where they are keeping Russian forces back from the important railway and highway just west of Soledar. [map at the link]

    […] Most reports indicate that Ukrainian forces are still being pressed as fighting continues in a town where not a single building is still intact.

    In the whole area north of Bakhmut, the lines haven’t changed much in the last 24 hours. Additional images and videos have allowed the boundaries of the Russian advance to be refined. Reports of small Russian assaults being repulsed from Krasnopolivka and other points north of Bakhmut indicate Russia (or rather, Wagner) hasn’t yet cemented control over the area well enough to organize a serious next step. [map at the link]

    Even if Russia’s claims to have captured all of Soledar remain untrue, that doesn’t mean Russia’s advance in the area hasn’t been significant. Two weeks ago, the line of dispute fell through the villages of Bakhmutske and Nova Kamyanka. Since then, Russia has moved the boundary in this area roughly 5 kilometers to the northwest.

    They did this in spite of the fact that Ukrainians were largely occupying positions that they had prepared for defense over weeks or months. They did this over open ground using the same tactics that Russian forces have used consistently across multiple conflicts: Prepare the route with heavy artillery, then follow with waves of infantry. All of this is bad.

    No, this doesn’t mean that taking two-thirds of Soledar is the equivalent of Ukraine’s counteroffensive in Kharkiv, or that even a complete retreat from Bakhmut would be a bigger loss than Russia’s retreat from Kherson. Of course not. The pro-Russian channels making exactly those claims are ridiculous.

    However, that doesn’t mean that what’s happening north of Bakhmut can be dismissed. It’s easy to say that “Bakhmut is not a strategic target,” but clearly both Ukraine and Russia believe this is a location worth the expenditure of thousands of lives. In the case of Russia, some estimates place that number at around 20,000 losses in this one place on the line. (And yes, there are sources currently claiming that Ukraine has lost 55,000 soldiers in the defense of Soledar. Those sources are known as tankies in need of serious help.)

    To see why Bakhmut both isn’t and is worth all the bloodshed going on around it, let’s first expand the view. [map at the link]

    Bakhmut is roughly at the center of this map with Soledar just above. Down at the bottom of the map is the city of Donetsk, where Ukrainian forces have held the line against attempts to break out of the area since the war began. Now, locate the pale blue line that runs just east of Oskil near the top of the map and trace that line around. That’s the boundary of Donetsk Oblast. Obtaining all of that oblast has been not just one of Russia’s strategic goals in this invasion, but one of the targets it set in 2014.

    Now, why does Russia want Bakhmut?

    Well, look at it. For one thing, it’s in the middle of a series of road and rail junctions. Capturing them would not only give Russia better access to the the surrounding area, it would make it more difficult for Ukraine to supply its front-line forces and shift troops along the line. That has value.

    When the war began, the line between Ukrainian control and Russian control was 25 kilometers east at Popasna. I wrote a lot about the importance of Popasna in the the early weeks of the invasion. The map below shows how a small area of the front stood in mid-April. [map at the link]

    Stop me if this sounds familiar: Over a period of weeks Russia pulverized every building in Popasna, leaving not a single residence or structure intact. Ukrainian forces staged one heroic defense after another, holding back waves of Russian assaults that left the fields east of the town covered in broken tanks and shattered bodies. The bodycount of Russian losses was sickening, but Russian forces kept coming, pushing Ukrainian troops west mostly by using artillery to shatter every possible shelter in the town. Eventually, when Ukrainian soldiers had been pushed from their defensive positions, Russia was able to make an assault that got their forces within the ruins of Popasna. Over a period of days, they engaged in house to house fighting while new waves of Russians moved forward to reinforce the gains. On May 7, after 72 days of constant attacks, Popasna was captured. Russian forces came through that opening in the lines to assault positions to the west and north. Ukrainian troops were forced to abandon prepared positions and move back.

    In the 251 days since Popasna fell, Russia has moved west from there at an average rate of 0.1 km (or not quite a soccer pitch) a day, but that’s an obvious oversimplification. Russia largely gained ground in the weeks immediately after Popasna fell and has been stuck in the same little area within 5-10 km east of Bakhmut ever since.

    Bakhmut represents a roadblock in a path Russia has been trying to carve since before day one of this invasion. It’s an important transport junction and key piece of Ukraine’s second line of defense established after points like Popasna were captured.

    Now, let’s wind the clock back a few months in another area and see why everyone—myself included—so easily falls into saying that “Bakhmut is not strategically important.” [map at the link]

    Those who have been following the progress of this war from the beginning are likely to remember the long red finger of the “Izyum Salient” stretching across Kharkiv Oblast. Launching out from Svatove, Russian forces secured the bridge at Kupyansk then day by day began moving west and south toward the city of Izyum, where eventually—thanks to someone who helpfully showed Russian forces a low-water crossing—they were able to get behind defending Ukrainian troops and capture the city.

    Right below that big “potential breakout” text is that location that everyone can agree is a strategic target of Russia: the neighboring cities of Kramatorsk and Slovyansk. With Donetsk city under Russian occupation since 2014, this area has become the de facto capital of Donetsk Oblast in Ukraine. It represents the most populous, most industrialized, and by far the most valuable location in the area. When Russia says they intend to take all of Donetsk Oblast, what they really mean is Kramatorsk. The rest is cleaning up.

    By mid-summer, Russia had that area surrounded. They had Izyum to the northwest. They had Lyman to the north. They had Severodonetsk and Lysychansk to the east. And they were pushing into Bakhmut from the southeast.

    Russia fully expected to place Kramatorsk in a “pincer” that closed on it from all sides. In fact, that capture of Izyum already made supply to the region a PITA that often required forces and materiel to move south then east, then north—often through Bakhmut—to reach Ukrainian lines north and east of Kramatorsk.

    Then … bam. The Ukrainian counteroffensive in Kharkiv swept Russian forces out of Izyum, Lyman, and Bilohorivka, leaving the Russians at Lysychansk much more worried about digging in for defense than advancing on Kramatorsk. Obviously it was a lot more complicated than that. The full story included a number of tiny “hero towns” south of Izyum that withstood everything Russia could throw […] as well as Russia’s initial advance culminating due to the limits of their logistical and organizational structures.

    In any case, suddenly most of the “pincer” was gone. When the dust cleared, Bakhmut was the only place where Russia was still trying to push toward a goal that had seemed so easily within reach just weeks earlier.

    Kramatorsk is still the goal. Bakhmut is still the next step to that goal. It’s just that achieving the goal seems far less likely than it did when Bakhmut was just one potential finger in a big squeezing hand.

    So … Is the Bakhmut area important?

    Of course it is. It holds not just tactical value in terms of being at a transportation nexus, but symbolic value as the one place where Russia can point to “wins,” no matter the cost.

    More importantly, Russia is still trying to capture the remainder of Donetsk Oblast, and no matter how unlikely that now seems, Ukraine has to fight them somewhere. If they walk away from the the Bakhmut area, they’ll just be doing this somewhere else. That doesn’t mean moving the whole show down the road, it means another set of towns being turned into rubble over a period of weeks or months of bombardment.

    Bakmut, Soledar, Bakmutske, Optyne, and just about every other town or village nearby has already been reduced to a tragic rubble. Why would Ukraine want to repeat this disaster in another area if they can keep fighting at Bakhmut? Forget the “because Russian casualties are high” reasoning. Russian casualties will be high anywhere the battle moves. Feeding the meat grinder is just how Russia fights.

    Bakhmut is important because it’s a sacrifice to protect other towns, villages, and cities from suffering the same fate. And as long as Ukraine can keep the fight in Bakhmut, it will.

    More updates from Ukraine coming soon.

  90. tomh says

    New Report on Antisemitism In U.S.
    January 13, 2023

    The ADL yesterday issued its annual report on Antisemitic Attitudes in America (full text). According to the Executive Summary:

    Over three-quarters of Americans (85 percent) believe at least one anti-Jewish trope, as opposed to 61 percent found in 2019. Twenty percent of Americans believe six or more tropes, which is significantly more than the 11 percent that ADL found in 2019 and is the highest level measured in decades….

    Many Americans believe in Israel-oriented antisemitic positions – from 40 percent who at least slightly believe that Israel treats Palestinians like Nazis treated the Jews, to 18 percent who are uncomfortable spending time with a person who supports Israel.

    Religion Clause

  91. whheydt says

    Re: raven @ #123…
    I suspect that Putin’s problem is that, like so many people who have–or want–absolute control, he is being fed “information” that he wants to hear. He is not being provided with an accurate assessment of the conditions “on the ground”, either militarily in Ukraine, nor about the state of the Russian economy.
    An obvious result of this is that the orders issuing from him have little bearing on actual events and conditions. Plus, it will likely only get worse as those around him try to cover up failures, or even minor mis-steps, and Putin’s view of what is going on diverge from reality more and more over time.
    One is reminded of one of the exercises for managers that Gerald Weinberg included in his book, “The Secrets of Consulting.” Draw a chart for your organization showing the formal lines of communication. Now add the informal lines of communication. If both sets of lines are the same, get out there on the floor and find out what’s really going on.

  92. says

    Trump’s longest-serving Chief of Staff did not realize they made men at Trump’s level of stupid.

    Former Trump’s longest-serving Chief of Staff did not realize how stupid Trump really is, according to the author of the book “Donald Trump v. The United States,” Michael Schmidt.

    Michael Schmidt, author of “Donald Trump v. The United States,” has some revealing information about the thoughts of the longest-serving Trump Chief of Staff, John Kelly.

    “I wrote a 12,000-word biography of John Kelly that looks at his history and his time working directly for Trump,” Schmidt said. “It tells the story of someone who came in as chief of staff thinking that Trump needed to have better processes around him. He needed to be staffed better. There needed to be a better system in the West Wing that would keep Trump on track.”

    But then John Kelly realized something about Trump that even a blind and a deaf person could figure out.

    “Hours and just days into Kelly’s tenure, he realized that the problem was far greater than that,” Schmidt said. “The problem was Trump. And Trump was stupider, more impulsive, more limited than he ever thought he would be. Kelly later told someone who I talked to that that he didn’t know they made human beings like that. And the biggest issue that Kelly was concerned about was whether Trump was using highly incendiary language about North Korea at the time, publicly and privately, was going to set off a massive military conflict.”

    All of those on the inside understood that Trump was a clear and present danger to the entire country. Yet, the 25th Amendment was never considered seriously until he almost overthrew the country with his failed coup attempt. […]

  93. says

    Kevin McCarthy tried to explain why he’ll block specific Democrats from serving on the House Intelligence Committee. His pitch went surprisingly badly.

    By any fair measure, the House Republicans’ newly created committee on the “weaponization” of government is a potentially dangerous and wildly unnecessary mess. That said, Democratic members will be able to participate in the conspiratorial investigation, and as my MSNBC colleague Ja’han Jones explained this week, the minority party has learned that boycotting panels like these doesn’t work.

    Indeed, it’s a lesson Democrats learned by watching House Speaker Kevin McCarthy himself, who boycotted the bipartisan Jan. 6 committee — a decision the GOP ultimately came to regret.

    [Kevin McCarthy] bragged during a news conference yesterday that he’ll let Democrats name their own committee members. A reporter quickly reminded McCarthy that, despite his boast, he actually intends to use his power to keep Democratic Reps. Eric Swalwell and Adam Schiff — among others — from serving on the House Intelligence Committee, regardless of Democrats’ wishes.

    At that point, the new House speaker shifted from bragging about letting Democrats name their own committee members to explaining why he wouldn’t let Democrats name some of their own committee members:

    “Let me phrase something very direct to you. If you got the briefing I got from the FBI, you wouldn’t have Swalwell on any committee. … He cannot get a security clearance in the private sector. So would you like to give him a government clearance? … The FBI came and told the leadership then, ‘He’s got a problem,’ and [Democrats] kept him on [the House Intelligence Committee]. That jeopardized all of us.”

    It’s important to emphasize that Swalwell has never been publicly accused of any wrongdoing that would necessitate his removal from the House Intelligence Committee. The California Democrat had been targeted by a suspected Chinese intelligence operative several years ago, but Swalwell cooperated with the FBI’s investigation into the matter, and there’s no available evidence suggesting the congressman did anything wrong.

    What McCarthy argued yesterday, however, is that he has seen secret evidence — and that we should all just take his word for it. [JFC]

    I seem to recall another member of Congress named McCarthy, who also made provocative allegations against his political foes, pointing to secret evidence he couldn’t share. It gave rise to a practice you’ve probably heard of: It’s known as McCarthyism.

    It’s a legacy the House speaker should try to avoid.

    As for the former chairman of the intelligence panel, McCarthy added yesterday: “Adam Schiff openly lied to the American public. … He put America for four years through an impeachment that he knew was a lie.”

    First, McCarthy hasn’t actually pointed to any evidence of Schiff lying about anything. […] Second, both of Trump’s impeachments were legitimate and based on facts. And third, neither of Trump’s impeachments lasted four years.

    Nevertheless, the speaker, who has the authority to restrict membership on the Intelligence Committee, intends to proceed in blocking Swalwell and Schiff, telling reporters yesterday, “I’m doing exactly what we’re supposed to do.”

    For his part, Swalwell explained to MSNBC’s Chris Hayes this week that McCarthy is obviously pursuing partisan “vengeance,” adding that “there’s no substantive reason to remove us” from the panel.

    Link

    The Republican Party has a platform, and that platform is vengeance.

  94. says

    Anti-LGBTQ attitudes show up again in Idaho:

    The monthly meeting of the school board in Caldwell, Idaho, about 30 miles west of Boise, ended in fracas and affray Monday night as a brand-new member of the state Legislature berated the board and threatened the the members with lawsuits if it passed a proposed policy to protect LGBTQ kids.

    The proposed Policy 3281 was the focus of the usual anger and moral panic by the far Right, because it would allow transgender students to use school restrooms and changing rooms appropriate to the gender identity kids express at school, as long as a parent requests it. It would also require teachers to use a trans kid’s preferred name and pronouns, and would let same-sex couples dance together at school dances, which would surely bring God’s wrath on Idaho. (I mean, just the dancing, never mind the gay part.) [LOL]

    Oh, and to freak out all the rightwing Fox News watchers, the policy would provide confidentiality to students who prefer their parents not be notified they’re out at school, meaning parents would be denied their sacred right to thrash the demon-possessed stranger they no longer recognize as the child they once had, in the spirit of Christian love. [Yep. Yikes. And all too true.]

    The board had already taken some steps to keep the meeting minimally civil, limiting public comment to an hour, giving preference to actual residents of Caldwell, and limiting speakers to three minutes each. Even so, there were several moments when the audience grew so loud and aggressive that the board nearly adjourned, including when three Caldwell High School students gave a joint statement in favor of the rule change, because why the hell would you let THEM speak all together, it’s madness!

    Yep, they grumbled about the children, because the children weren’t afraid of imaginary scary LGBTQ monsters. […]

    KTVB-TV, perhaps stifling a snicker or two, describes the objectors as having

    made statements invoking God and condemning transgender people. Further, many people said the policy would violate God, the constitution and hasten the destruction of the United States.

    Apart from the faulty parallelism there, that’s some fine reporting. If you’d like to ruin your day, you can watch the entire meeting on the YouTube; I’ve cued the video link to the start of the public comments, which also include a self-proclaimed “civil rights attorney” who promised to sue the board for forcing “a government-sponsored religion” on his children if it respected trans kids.

    The board ultimately adjourned well before the hour was up, after state Sen. Chris Trakel (R) stepped up to the mic and complained that the board’s rules for public comments violated the People’s First Amendment rights how dare they, and he was just getting started.

    This five-minute video includes Trakel’s meltdown and the raucous end of the meeting, complete with cops stepping in to protect members of the school board from We The People. [video at the link]

    Trakel announced that he was not at the meeting in his role as a parent, but “on my official position” as a state senator. He was elected in November, and the Lege opened its 2023 session that day, so he was fully ready to go mad with power we guess.

    Trakel admonished the school board that

    You, under Idaho law, are required to maintain the morals and health of all the students. How can you do that when like that little girl came up here and said, and you allow a male student to use a female bathroom. You are going to put all of their moral health and safety at risk, and like I told you before you will face litigation. You call that a threat, I’m telling you that is what will happen. It has already happened in several states and there’s already been rulings on it.

    So before you waste taxpayer money, before you put a kid in harm’s way, you better throw this policy out and not even consider it.

    Trakel was apparently referring to a line in state law on school boards that says boards have a duty “To protect the morals and health of the pupils,” although it’s not any more specific than that. Not that the mental health or well-being of LGBTQ+ kids even matters […]

    We won’t know what other great insights Trakel planned to offer, because at that moment, board Chair Marisela Pesina whispered something to another board member and Trakel lost his mind, telling Pesina that he had the floor and she had to listen to him, then ranting, “You claim you want people to follow the rules, but you break the rules left and right! Last month you allowed two people …”

    At that point, Pesina called a recess and the audience went batshit, shouting that they’d recall the board and causing the Zoom recording to cut out automatically from the sudden noise. As the shouts and outrage continued (“The PEOPLE are SPEAKING!!”), a board member motioned for the meeting to adjourn, someone else seconded, […] Caldwell Police came in to protect the board members until the room was cleared, and happily no one was assaulted […]

    As Idaho Ed News notes, the draft policy is still in the early stages of being adopted; if the board decides to continue on with it, it will need a first and second reading in future board meetings before the board votes. Sounds like fun! I’ll have to find some cardboard and a marker and make a sign saying “TRANSPHOBES ARE WEAK SAD POOP.”

    Link

  95. says

    If you’re looking for a cool, dispassionate assessment of Donald Trump’s political career, The New York Times has got you covered … in the worst, most cynical possible way.

    The author of a major new op-ed soberly weighs Trump’s 2024 prospects, writing not at all generically, “Mr. Trump has both political assets to carry him forward and political baggage holding him back. For Mr. Trump to succeed, it means fewer insults and more insights; a campaign that centers on the future, not the past, and that channels the people’s grievances and not his own; and a reclamation of the forgotten Americans, who ushered him into the White House the first time and who are suffering economically under Mr. Biden.”

    The author of this profundity? Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s former campaign manager and White House adviser. In an op-ed headlined “Kellyanne Conway: The Case for and Against Trump.”

    When I want to hear the case for and against someone, I turn to a loyalist who spent years working to promote them. Don’t you?

    The whole thing is studiously bland. The Times did not get the Kellyanne Conway who would blurt out a lie about the fictive “Bowling Green Massacre.” […]

    She’s engaging in a project of trying to rescue Trump from his absolute flop of a campaign launch and ensuing months. Pretending to take a step back and weigh his strengths and weaknesses and where he would stand in a Republican presidential primary field is a strategic move to reframe Trump from a wounded loser sulking at Mar-a-Lago to an imperfect but enormously powerful figure ready to reemerge.

    And the Times gave her a venue for this rehabilitation project. [Fuck you, New York Times. How much lower will your standards go?]

    Naturally, Conway spends some key early real estate in her piece attacking Trump’s critics. “Trump Derangement Syndrome is real. There is no vaccine and no booster for it,” she writes. “Cosseted in their social media bubbles and comforted within self-selected communities suffering from sameness, the afflicted disguise their hatred for Mr. Trump as a righteous call for justice or a solemn love of democracy and country. So desperate is the incessant cry to ‘get Trump!’ that millions of otherwise pleasant and productive citizens have become naggingly less so.” [OMFG]

    Oh, no, not becoming naggingly less pleasant and productive by calling for consequences for someone who attempted to overturn an election and incited a violent insurrection. But that’s the strategy here. This is all just a difference of opinion; why are people being so rude and uncivil about it?

    […] it’s not so surprising that it’s the Times giving Conway this platform to write, maybe even with a straight face, “The case against Trump 2024 rests in some combination of fatigue with self-inflicted sabotage; fear that he cannot outrun the mountain of legal woes; the call to ‘move on’; a feeling that he is to blame for underwhelming Republican candidates in 2022; and the perception that other Republicans are less to blame for 2022 and have more recent records as conservative reformers.”

    Not to be too naggingly unpleasant, but the case against Trump 2024 also rests on the idea that people who attempt to overthrow the government should not be eligible for future office.

    That Kellyanne Conway is dishonest in service of Donald Trump is nothing new. This op-ed seems like a desperation move, implicit recognition that things are not going well for him. What’s really noteworthy is that it didn’t appear on Fox News or in The Wall Street Journal. No, The New York Times made very prominent space for this, a clear indication that the paper is continuing its insistence on normalizing Trump and downplaying the historic nature of his lies, his incitement, and the way he has mainstreamed racism and bigotry in U.S. politics. […] it’s a marker that we should not miss.

    Link

  96. Akira MacKenzie says

    Many Americans believe in Israel-oriented antisemitic positions – from 40 percent who at least slightly believe that Israel treats Palestinians like Nazis treated the Jews…

    Yeah, forget about Kayne, Trump, and Fuentes. The REAL antisemitism that threatens Jews is pointing out that Israel is a genocidal ethnostate. Nothing fascist about Netanyahu and Co. at all.

    …to 18 percent who are uncomfortable spending time with a person who supports Israel.

    Yeah, who WOULDN’T want to spend time with the cheerleaders for an apartheid state?

  97. Reginald Selkirk says

    Ukrainian-made attack UAV with range of 1,000 kilometres already tested

    Source: Nataliia Sad, spokesperson for Ukroboronprom, during a briefing, as cited by Interfax-Ukraine news agency
    Quote: “Today, the project of developing an unmanned aerial vehicle with a range of more than 1000 kilometres, capable of carrying a payload of up to 75 kg has reached such a stage that, unfortunately, we cannot share any details about it now.”
    Details: The Concern also reported that they have accelerated the production of the first sample as much as possible, “tested it in the airspace” and are preparing for the next stage: the demonstration of the capabilities of this system to the leadership of Ukraine’s Armed Forces.

  98. Reginald Selkirk says

    Explosions ring out in Berdiansk, occupiers state Russian-appointed governor’s car was blown up

    Updated at 19:50: Russian media claim that at 19:30 in Berdiansk, the car of the so-called “head of the Civil Military Administration” of the Berdiansk district, Oleksiy Kychyhin, was detonated. The occupiers say that “thanks to a lucky chance”, the Russian-appointed puppet leader was not injured, as he “noticed a suspicious object on the bottom of the service car in time.”

  99. whheydt says

    Re: Reginald Selkirk @ #136…
    One might well wonder if the demonstration will start by asking said leadership if there is anything Russian in range they’d particularly like to be rid of.

  100. Reginald Selkirk says

    16 Michigan GOP electors sued over documents claiming Trump won 2020 election

    In the lawsuit filed Wednesday in the Kent County Circuit Court, three Democratic presidential electors accused the 16 Republicans of submitting fraudulent election certificates in a scheme “to steal the election and install the losing candidate as President.” Michigan’s Democratic electorate had already filed their official documentation certifying President Biden’s win.
    The lawsuit alleges that the GOP electorates created a fake election “certificate signed by the defendants and styled ‘Certificate of the Votes of the 2020 Electors from Michigan, which they offered as an official public record.”
    The plaintiffs — Blake Mazurek, Robin Smith and Timothy Smith — also noted in the suit that the GOP electors claimed they had “convened and organized in the State Capitol on December 14, 2020 to cast Michigan’s 16 electoral votes for Donald Trump, when in fact none of this was true.” They allege that, in reality, a group of the electors had walked to the Capitol after a Michigan Republican Party meeting and were denied entry.

  101. says

    CBP seized drugs and weapons valued at nearly $440 million at Texas ports of entry, no thanks to GOP

    Cocaine seizures by U.S. officials at ports of entry rose nearly 20% compared to the previous fiscal year, official government data reveals. Border Report said that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized more than five tons of cocaine at ports of entry along southern Texas. “That was a 19% increase from Fiscal Year 2021,” the report said. What’s all that about so-called “open borders” again?

    Officials also seized large amounts of other illegal drugs, including more than 30,000 pounds of meth, and hundreds of pounds of fentanyl and heroin. Additionally, hundreds of guns and nearly 80,000 rounds of ammunition were also confiscated. All in all, U.S. border officials estimated the street value of all the seizures coming to nearly $440 million. […]

    In a separate release, CBP said that officers found cocaine valuing more than $154,000 hidden in a 2015 Ford during a crossing at the Brownsville and Matamoros International Bridge.

    “The seizure took place on Saturday, Jan. 7, at the Brownsville and Matamoros International Bridge when a 22-year-old female United States citizen who resides in Brownsville, Texas, attempted entry into the United States driving a 2015 Ford,” the release said. The packages were found when the driver was sent to a secondary inspection area, where officials found the stash with “the aid of a non-intrusive inspection system” and a canine unit. Good doggie.

    Please also note that the driver was a U.S. citizen. While available data has shown that its overwhelmingly U.S. citizens who’ve been caught with drugs at U.S. ports of entry, Republicans have sought to use this to further their nativist agenda, like RNC chair Ronna Romney McDaniel basically accusing migrants of personally stashing “rainbow fentanyl” into children’s mouths. Unfortunately, polling has shown way too many Americans have been successfully duped by these lies.

    […] Republicans have also sought to use the very serious issue of fentanyl use to further their retribution agenda. Among the grievances listed in the ridiculous impeachment resolution filed by a House Republican against Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas cites in part fentanyl seizures at the southern border as justification. They want him out for stopping the drugs from coming in, apparently.

    Republicans have done everything possible to create havoc at the border, in reality. That includes derailing an immigration compromise in the last session of Congress and voting against hundreds of millions of dollars in land ports of entry modernization. “Fentanyl seizures have increased under the Biden administration, which made cracking down on drug traffickers a major component of the White House plan,” immigrant rights advocacy group America’s Voice has said.

    Last August, border officials seized more than $4 million dollars worth of fentanyl in one bust. That’s anything but “open borders.” […]

  102. says

    Good news: CDC and FDA find no increased risk of ischemic stroke for elderly who get Pfizer’s bivalent booster

    Following an analysis of vaccine surveillance data, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) say they have found no evidence of increased risk of ischemic stroke among people 65 and older who receive Pfizer’s bivalent booster. […]

    An ischemic stroke, more common than hemorrhagic strokes, occurs when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel in the brain, stopping blood flow and potentially leading to brain cells dying. If a stroke is not treated quickly, the effects can be debilitating.

    A similar safety signal was not identified for Moderna’s bivalent booster dose.

    […] The CDC concluded that no change was needed for its recommendation regarding the bivalent boosters, which advises that everyone over the age of 6 months stays up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations. […]

  103. says

    NBC News:

    Wisconsin Republicans voted Thursday to again allow therapists, social workers and counselors to try to change LGBTQ clients’ gender identities and sexual orientations — a discredited practice known as conversion therapy.

  104. says

    Just a note† on Israel, Palestinians, settlements, tribalist/royalist decrees, etc.: in the Levant:

    (a) Two wrongs don’t make a right. No, three don’t, either. Don’t just keep adding on, it’s not going to change the answer (it’s not some moral/ethical variant on modular arithmetic). That goes for everyone involved.

    (b) It is not the privilege of the bullied to become the bully. That it happens (far too often) doesn’t make it healthy or right, concerning individuals or groups. And kicking person/group A because you’re mad at/were abused by person/group B just makes you look stupid.

    (c) It’s not only OK, but only intellectually honest, to blame the French and the more-antisemitic elements in the British Foreign Office from the late 1880s all the way up to 1948 for, at minimum, setting the stage for the particulars. (Conflict was, I’m afraid, inevitable; but it didn’t have to be this one.) Side-eye at Türkiye is also appropriate.

    † n.b. I probably have/would have had relatives “involved”; one side of the family was, until shortly after Versailles, in and around Lviv and Krakow.

  105. Reginald Selkirk says

    U.S. National Parks, including Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, will be free on MLK Day—and 4 other days this year

    The US National Park Service will be offering no-cost admission to all of its parks, including Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon and Zion National Park on Monday, Jan. 16 as part of its 2023 “fee-free days.”
    Though a majority of the nation’s parks are free year-round, roughly 100 of them have entrance fees ranging from $5 to $35 depending on the location…
    Monday, January 16 (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day)
    Saturday, April 22 (The start of National Park Week)
    Friday, August 4 (Great American Outdoors Day)
    Saturday, September 23 (National Public Lands Day)
    Saturday, November 11 (Veterans Day)

  106. Reginald Selkirk says

    Indiana Lab Worker Fired Following Vicious Threats To Rep. Eric Swalwell, Family

    A tweet sent to Swalwell Friday night from the account of lab worker Jonathan Reeser vowed to “break” Swalwell’s “f**king face” if he ever saw him in person and said he wished the lawmaker’s family would be “raped and murdered.”…
    Patients Choice Laboratories soon after issued a statement Saturday, saying an employee, whom it did not name, had been terminated, “effective immediately,” following an internal investigation into the comments.

  107. raven says

    A large number of people see Twitter as seriously wounded and heading towards death or Myspace territory, all thanks to Musk and the Nazis.
    And, there are already a large number of companies trying to take over their space on the internet.
    Here is a new startup called T2, whose main feature is that it is Twitter without Elon Musk.

    “That concept is less set in stone than you might think. Speaking to Cselle, the idea with T2, he said, is to create a “familiar place that is very close to the original.”

    I just use Twitter to read the headlines for news stories.
    It’s already been overrun with trolls, notably it is now full of Russian trolls bashing Ukraine and the West.

    Twitter rival ‘T2’ raises its first outside funding, $1.1M from a group of high-profile angels

    Social
    Twitter rival ‘T2’ raises its first outside funding, $1.1M from a group of high-profile angels
    Ingrid Lunden@ingridlunden / 11:35 AM PST•January 12, 2023

    It hasn’t decided on a name, it’s still on the hunt to fill some important roles and its early alpha has less than 100 users as of today. But, riding the wave of interest in the current state of Twitter, a startup hoping to disrupt it has raised $1.1 million in funding. T2, the project being led by Gabor Cselle, has closed its first outside investment from a group of angels that includes Bradley Horowitz, Rich Miner and the former CEO of Wikipedia, Katherine Maher.

    Cselle himself has founded and sold startups to Twitter and Google, and he spent a number of years at both companies building products. In recent times, he has also been a popular presence on Twitter on subjects like building companies and products. His track record shows in the list of people who have pitched in money to back him and his latest efforts.

    Horowitz, a seasoned exec at Google, has led and built a number of products there (including some ill-fated social efforts like Google+); he also wrote the first check for Slack. Miner is one of the co-creators of Android and also helped build out the powerhouse that is Google Ventures (now known as GV).

    Others in this early seed round — 17 in all — include Kayak’s Paul English, Hubspot’s Dharmesh Shah, Twitter’s ex-engineering director Vijay Pandurangan, Mercury CEO Immad Akhund, Paul Lambert (an ex-Twitter, ex-Google director), Jackie Bernhelm (a director of Area 120 at Google), Coco Mao of OpenArt.ai, Yelp’s ex-SVP of engineering Michael Stoppelman, Brian McCullough of the Techmeme Ride Home Podcast via his Ride Home Fund (independent of Techmeme), the ex-product lead of Twitter’s consumer division Jeff Seibert, YC partner Jared Friedman, the former head of news partnerships at Google Natalie Gross, Squarespace’s Janani SriGuha, and CEO and co-founder of Byteboard Sargun Kaur.

    T2, to be clear, is not the company’s final name.

    It is the working title for the startup and its new service. That service had a somewhat unlikely beginning. It started life as a series of Cselle’s Tweets, where he thought aloud about the missed opportunity at Twitter in the wake of Musk’s takeover. Those eventually evolved into statements (Tweets) about what Caselle saw as a prime opportunity to build on that potential. Those then became his battle call, and he launched the T2 effort in earnest last November.

    Since that early public commitment, T2, based out of the Bay Area, has launched a very early-stage closed alpha. It has already brought together a staff of seven, including some Twitter alums like Cselle himself. He tells me the plan is to use the funding both to continue hiring in a range of roles, some of which are pretty big — he’s in the market for a CTO — and to continue developing the product and the concept behind it.

    That concept is less set in stone than you might think. Speaking to Cselle, the idea with T2, he said, is to create a “familiar place that is very close to the original.”

    But what version of “the original” he means is still up in the air, since Twitter has shifted quite a lot over the years, and T2 is being selective on what it’s prioritizing to build and what it might leave out altogether. (For one thing, the character count on the “original” Twitter was 140 characters. In the purple-hued T2 it’s 280.)

    The overriding aim seems to encourage use of T2 by making it as easy as possible to use, and the route to that ease is coming from tapping into familiarity. The hope is that activity will breed conversations and connections. “In consumer social, it’s all about the community,” said Cselle.

    There is probably a key critical mass that it will need to reach, too. Right now, there are still less than 100 people in this early version. But Cselle tells me that the sign-up list is in the region of tens of thousands already, and it wants to onboard more of them.

    “We have a product and we are going as quickly as possible,” he said.

    Growth will be intrinsically connected not just to T2 understanding whether it has something here worth building and the makings of that community, but to it raising more money. He told me that he’s already having early conversations with VCs and other institutional investors. But they will be unlikely to back T2 until it reaches some milestones.

    Specifically the metrics they are looking for are 5,000 active users.

    In the meantime while the product is being developed, there is a second track of messaging happening over a publicly accessible Google Spreadsheet, titled “What Would It Take To Build Another Twitter.” which not only is meant to steer the effort (Twitter is the north star) but to serve as a kind of out-in-the-open brainstorm for Cselle and his team and those watching.

    (If the world is roughly divided into people who like to write out plans/put things into forms and lists; and those who do not; Cselle is in the former category. “I plan family vacations in spreadsheets,” he told me.)

    T2 may be one of the first to close (modest) funding in the wave of services out there, established and emerging, that are looking to dethrone Twitter, but it’s not the only one that will be looking to capitalize on the situation. Among them, Spill, founded by Twitter alums, is also looking to raise some $1.3 million; Post, already well backed, is looking to raise more at a $250 million valuation.

    The big questions for T2, or whatever it will be eventually called, will be the same faced by other would-be competitors. Will Twitter face a sustained exodus of users and will it be to another product similar to it or something else entirely?

  108. says

    Ukraine update: It’s a done deal. UK is sending its ‘invincible’ Challenger 2 tank to Ukraine

    On Monday, the U.K. government is expected to hold a press conference at which it will formally announce the transfer of a dozen Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine. However, we don’t have to wait for Monday. Because the transcript of a phone call between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and freshly installed U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has already made it clear that Britain’s best is on its way. Best of all, as Ukrainians and the world are watching the damage done from a new wave of Russian missiles, the first of those tanks are said to be on their way “immediately.”

    In an invasion where more than half the tanks deployed were built before 1991, the Challenger 2 is a relatively new device. Though it’s based on designs going back to the 1970s, it didn’t officially enter service with the British army until 1998. Plans call for the Challenger to remain as U.K.’s main battle tank into the next decade, with 149 of them being upgraded to the new Challenger 3 spec. That leaves roughly 70 of the tanks in British service that are not slated for upgrade, and it’s likely from that list that a dozen will be peeled off and sent to Ukraine.

    Though experts constantly mull which is the best modern tank, there’s no doubt that the Challenger 2 is near the top of any list. It’s has it’s quirks (gun) and concerns (engine), but it also has an armor system and a service record that has given it a reputation being nearly indestructible. Now it’s taking that reputation to Ukraine.

    In his phone call to Zelenskyy, PM Sunak said that he hoped the tanks would help “push Russian troops back,” but as the first fully Western tanks head for Ukraine, Zelenskyy has to be hoping for more. Mostly, he has to be hoping that this first stream of tanks will turn into a flood. It will certainly add to the pressure in Germany and the U.S. to dispatch their armor.

    It may not be the perfect start to getting Ukraine what it needs. But it’s a good one. [Video: “How These tanks Outclass Putin’s” available at the link]

    Main Battle Tanks (MBT) are at a somewhat awkward moment. There are new tanks on the way, like Germany’s Panther KF51 or the U.S. AbramsX which promise better instruments, better guns, more speed, tougher armor, improved sneakiness, and “smart” everything, but in terms of entering service, these tanks are still years, if not decades, away. Britain’s Challenger 3 is likely to be the first of the new generation that gets handed over to an actual grunt, and that’s because it’s more of an elaborate upgrade than a clean sheet design.

    That’s where most of the world is right now, on some iteration of a tank that’s been around for far longer than their operators have been alive. The first Abrams entered service in 1980. The first Leopard 2 in 1979. The Challenger 2 may be a quarter century old, but that makes it the baby among these tanks. (Note: in terms of really nice, new tanks that someone might send to Ukraine, it wouldn’t hurt to ask South Korea for a few K2 Black Panthers, which entered service in 2016, and might actually be better than anything in Europe).

    On paper, the only nation in this fight with a genuinely new tank is Russia. The first copy of the T-14 Armata rolled off the lines in 2015 … and promptly became stuck on a Moscow street during a parade, reportedly when the tank’s new controls confused the driver.

    However, the difference between on paper and on the ground is huge. For one thing, all those “old” Western tanks aren’t so old at all. All of them have been given upgrades, large and small, almost from the moment they rolled out. The difference between the first Abrams to go through testing and the latest M1A2 SEPv3 or SEPv4 is like comparing … something old with something not at all old. Similar upgrades, though arguably not as extensive, have happened with both the Challenger 2 and the Leopard 2.

    […] For now, back to the tank we already know is arriving in Ukraine — the Challenger 2. If you looked at the video at the top of the page (and you should), you’ve already gotten a sense of how potent the British tank can be. Here’s another video, with plenty of Challenger 2 footage, contrasting the tank with the Russian T-90M. [video at the link]

    […] When it comes to the best tank to send to Ukraine, I’ve expressed my opinion multiple times that the Leopard 2 enjoys both solid performance and the benefit of wide use across NATO, including in Poland, meaning that experienced crews for training and maintenance—as well as in place logistics streams and repair parts—are available right across the border from Ukraine. Poland, which is starting to receive new M1A2s from the U.S., is more than willing to hand over the keys on some of its Leopard 2s, as soon as Germany stops getting in the way.

    […] Another concern about the Challenger 2 is one it largely shares with the M1A2 Abrams: Weight. Both tanks are hefty boys, starting out in the mid-60 tonne range. Fully outfitted with armor and kit, a Challenger 2 is likely to be between 70 and 75 tonnes. That’s not just torture on every road it drives along, but a real test to bridges and overpasses. Destroying bridges has been a big factor for both sides in Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, and both sides have thrown up replacement bridges. How many of these will bear the Challenger 2’s weight?

    Finally, even if the word “immediately” was part of the conversation between Zelenskyy and Sunak, what does that really mean? A Challenger 2 can go better than 300 miles down the road, so they might just arrive at Lviv tomorrow and start driving toward Bakhmut, but any reasonable approach has to include at least a modicum of training and the establishment of a logistical chain. The last thing that needs to happen is seeing a Challenger stuck along the roadway somewhere in eastern Donetsk, helpless because it needs a part, or someone with the knowledge about where to stick that part.

    Moving any Western tank into the Ukrainian military is likely to mean channelling them all to a single unit, one where the training and logistics can be optimized to support that tank, rather than adding them piecemeal into units that are also supporting Soviet-era tanks. That unit is likely to be formed well off the front lines, and to involve crews that have been out of Ukraine for training on operation and maintenance.

    So in this case, “immediately” is unlikely to mean “now arriving at Soledar” and where the tanks are eventually sent will probably be an expression of where Ukraine wants to move forward, not hold ground.

    In any case, let’s hope that the U.K. decision does really open the floodgate, possibly triggering the flight of a few Abrams and definitely setting free those Leopards. There were reports on Friday that the whole of the German government is currently on shaky ground, as the Greens are threatening to leave the coalition unless Germany stops blocking Ukraine from getting what it needs. Shake them, Greens, shake them. [Tweet about upgrades to Challenger 2 armor]

    And hopefully, the Challenger 2 will roll into Ukraine while keeping its record for never suffering a loss.

    More updates from Ukraine coming soon.

  109. says

    Campaigns Linked To Santos Left Donors Feeling Ripped Off After Questionable Credit Card Charges

    Late in the 2020 election cycle, one regular Republican donor said they were getting bombarded with messages asking them to contribute to a New York congressional candidate named George Santos. The donor, who asked that their name be withheld since they are not a public person, checked in with then-Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), who, at the time, was representing a House district adjacent to the one where Santos was running on Long Island.

    “I did reach out to Lee Zeldin and I said, ‘You know, who’s this George Santos? I’m getting nonstop phone calls, texts, everything,’” the donor recounted in a conversation with TPM.

    According to the donor, Zeldin noted Santos was a “gay Republican.” Those are two of the aspects of the story Santos presented on the campaign trail that actually seem to be true. The donor was glad to offer Santos their support.

    “That kind of diversity for the party, I thought, would be good,” said the donor. “So, the next time someone from his campaign called, which was probably very soon after, I gave my credit card over the phone for a $1,000 donation.”

    Santos lost the 2020 race soon afterward. However, the donor’s brief interaction with Santos’ first unsuccessful House bid was the beginning of a long odyssey that they said resulted in more than $15,000 in false credit card charges. Some of that money inexplicably went to the campaign of Tina Forte, another Republican congressional candidate in New York whose campaign had links to Santos.

    “It’s just wrong on so many levels,” the donor said.

    [snipped a lot of details which are available at the link]

    This donor apparently isn’t the only one who felt like they were ripped off by the Santos and Forte campaigns.

    Denise Robichaud, a 75-year-old retiree, told TPM that she attempted to make a small donation of $25 to the Forte campaign last year. However, after setting up the transaction, Robichaud received a confirmation that she had been charged a whopping $5,800, the maximum allowable political contribution for a federal candidate in a given election cycle.

    “I freaked out at the time,” Robichaud said. “I was on the phone saying, ‘Hello, you stupid idiots. That’s not what I’m donating. … Oh my god, don’t you do this to me.’”

    Campaign finance reports that the Forte campaign filed with the FEC show that Robichaud was charged $5,800 on Aug. 24 of last year. According to the records, Robichaud received a refund the following day. […]

    “I don’t have $5,800 to give her,” Robichaud said of Forte. “My main thing all through those election things was twenty-five bucks. … I would never have sent her that amount of money.”

    While Robichaud got all of her money back, she said the experience soured her on making political donations. […]

  110. says

    Followup to comment 150.

    More updates from Ukraine:

    Russia launched a large number of ballistic missiles into Ukraine on Saturday, with some coming from the airspace of Belarus. All of them appear to have been directed at civilian targets. One of these strikes in Dnipro was particularly hideous. [image at the link in comment 150]

    I’m warning you right now, this video from the scene is the worst thing that I’ve ever posted. Worse than any image from the battlefield. This is the sound of people trapped under the rubble in Dnipro. Do not play it unless you want to hear it in your head for a long time. Those bastards. Send Ukraine the tanks. Send them everything. [video at the linking comment 150]

    The morning report from Kyiv insists that portions of Soledar are still in Ukrainian hands. Videos seem to agree. [video at the link]

  111. says

    Ukraine updates from the Washington Post:

    […] At least five people were killed and about 40 injured in the residential building attack, Dnipro regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko said on Telegram. Seven of the wounded were children, and a 9-year-old girl was in critical condition. Residents were trapped as flames engulfed part of the structure, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president’s office, said on Telegram. About 20 people had been rescued, three of them children.

    The initial blasts hit the city early Saturday, Kyiv’s mayor said, urging residents to go to shelters. He said missile fragments landed in a nonresidential part of the city, where a fire erupted with no casualties. The regional administration reported a fire at an infrastructure site, and the deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office said the strike targeted “critical infrastructure facilities.” […]

    “Most likely, these are missiles that flew along a ballistic trajectory from the northern direction,” Yuri Ignat, a spokesman for Ukraine’s air force said about the earlier blast. He said Ukraine was unable to detect or shoot down ballistic missiles.

    A leader of the Wagner Group suggested the Kremlin stole credit for advances in Soledar</b?. The Russian Defense Ministry, which had credited its troops for the offensive, later said the Wagner Group’s private military forces were responsible for attacks in the town.[…]

    Battlefield updates
    Kharkiv’s governor also reported a missile attack on infrastructure in the northeast region on Saturday. Oleh Synehubov warned there could be emergency power outages as a result. The mayor of Kharkiv city said missiles struck an industrial district of the regional capital and authorities were assessing the damage.

    [snipped tank info, which was already presented in comment 150]

    The U.N. atomic energy agency is set to station safety experts at Ukraine’s nuclear power facilities, as part of efforts to avert a nuclear accident during the war, it said in a statement. International Atomic Energy Agency head Rafael Mariano Grossi will visit Ukraine next week to launch the plan and meet with government officials.

    Western fighting vehicles promised to Ukraine could provide tactical advantages, […] The vehicles, including U.S. Bradley Fighting Vehicles, could help Ukraine scout enemy positions, transport its troops and fire on armored Russian vehicles.

    Global impact
    An explosion hit a gas pipeline between Lithuania and Latvia on Friday, causing a fire that was extinguished after hours. Officials said there were no immediate signs of an attack. The two countries are on the Baltic Sea, where blasts last year hit the Nord Stream pipeline built to carry natural gas from Russia to Europe.

    Russia is slowing down the inspection of ships leaving Ukraine’s Black Sea ports and delaying grain exports to the developing world, according to the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield. She said grain was “moving at just half the rate of the pace back in September and October.”

    NATO surveillance aircraft are being deployed to Romania on Jan. 17 to monitor Russian activity. The Airborne Warning and Control System planes have conducted frequent patrols over Eastern Europe to keep track of Russian warplanes during the conflict in Ukraine.

    4. From our correspondents
    Ukraine liberated Kherson city. Now, Russia is destroying it: Residents of the port on the Black Sea “say that now that their city is back under Ukrainian control, they face a painful reality: If Russia can no longer have the city, it seems hellbent on destroying it,” Siobhán O’Grady and Anastacia Galouchka write from Kherson.

    Russian forces have hit medical facilities in Kherson at least five times since early December, and in recent weeks, have also struck a market, a museum and many homes, they report.

    Washington Post link

  112. Reginald Selkirk says

    Rep. Paul Gosar targets Joint Chiefs of Staff chair as ‘traitor,’ vows investigation

    U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar is zeroing in on Gen. Mark Milley, calling the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff a “traitor” and signaling that an investigation is coming.
    On Twitter, Gosar, R-Ariz., this month wrote that the new Republican-controlled House of Representatives will conduct “a real investigation” into the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot and “the effort to attempt a coup between traitor Gen. Mark Milley and (then-House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi will be reviewed and exposed.” …

    Gosar has been re-elected repeatedly since first joining Congress in 2011.

  113. Reginald Selkirk says

    Assistant attorney general who launched dubious Arizona election probe ousted

    Jennifer Wright, who publicly supported right-wing candidates and then used her office to investigate their election losses, was removed from her position, a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office said on Jan. 4.
    The spokesperson for newly elected Attorney General Kris Mayes said one of the administration’s first official acts was to tell Wright to resign or be fired, her office confirmed a day later. Pressed on the matter, the Mayes administration said it didn’t know if she ever received the information directly.
    Mayes has pledged to shift the unit’s primary mission from investigating allegations of voter fraud to combating acts of voter intimidation and threats to elections officials. She said the office should be ensuring the rights of voters are upheld and that there is “no voter suppression in the state of Arizona.”

  114. lumipuna says

    Also welcome back, Audley and Oggie! I’ve lurked on Pharyngula since 2009, but almost never commented prior to 2017.

    Re 78 and 79:

    PZ changed the Moments of Political Madness thread to be more encompassing, and thus the resurrection of The Infinite Thread.

    Each “chapter” of The Infinite Thread runs for 500 comments and then it automatically renews … until it hits a certain Freethought Blogs time limit and then PZ has to resuscitate it.

    I usually notice when the thread hits the time limit, and then I send email to PZ asking him to bring us back to life. For this current chapter, I didn’t have to do that. PZ noticed without any prompting.

    The time limit is three months, so we get four new threads a year, each accumulating many pages. Since the current thread is numbered XXVI, I think the series started over six years ago, ie. in late 2016. I don’t remember for sure if this same series was originally titled Moments of Political Madness (as opposed to MPM being a prior series), but the timing seems to check out. IIRC, when the MPM started we had a separate social thread, but it soon fizzled out.

  115. chigau (違う) says

    There are 500 comments per page.
    It’s the same thread until PZ makes a new thread.
    You can tell it’s a new thread when the Roman numeral changes.

  116. raven says

    Most of us have heard about the rocket attack on a 9 story apartment building in Dnipro.

    Zelenskiy – “As of now, 39 people were rescued, including 6 children. 25 people died, including 1 child. 73 people were injured, including 13 children. 43 people are missing.”

    The death toll is up to 25.
    It is ominous that 43 people are missing.
    Most of those are going to end up in the death toll column.

  117. says

    Kansas Republicans kick off bold new agenda: Ignore the public, advance hate agenda

    Oh, Kansas Republicans. When it comes time to show your true colors, we can count on you. Despite redrawing congressional districts in hopes of ousting Democrat Sharice Davids from Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District, she won in a blowout, with 54.91% of the vote. Then Republicans thought they really had a chance to rack up and take back the governor’s mansion, believing Kansas was conservative enough they’d beat back Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly. She showed Republican efforts the door.

    Before all this, Kansas Republicans virtually guaranteed that they would end abortion in Kansas with a constitutional ballot initiative that was outright destroyed with 59% voting “no” in August. Now, these same crafty Republicans have an incredible idea: double down on policies that have been rejected by Kansas voters and have cemented a Kansas Democratic congresswoman and governor. What do they call it? Why, it’s the “Better Way” agenda. What does it offer? Plenty of hate, but not a lot of substance, economics, or reason.

    […] Republican Secretary of State Scott Schwab has contended Kansas elections are fair, well run, and devoid of any fraud. Now that Laura Kelly has put Kansas in a position where we have a budget surplus, Kansas Republicans are committed to using some of that money to fund anti-abortion “pregnancy centers” with taxpayer funds. Doubling down on all of the issues that failed at the ballot box only a few months before seems to be how Kansas Republicans feel they can win in 2024. It’s a bold strategy, but is there a sly, well-thought-out plan behind this mess? Let’s find out.

    […] this plan isn’t a plan at all. Instead, it is just a laundry list of hate-filled demands that Republicans believe will really resonate with their home audience.

    The agenda delved into outright comedy when Senate President Ty Masterson was stumped […] From the Kansas Reflector:

    When asked what specifically what woke ideology was, Masterson said the definition varied from person to person.

    “Woke means the focus on identity and dividing us up into different groups and causing fractions,” Masterson said. “That’s the woke agenda. Woke has all kinds of meanings to different people. That’s what it means to me, is this focus on somebody’s individual – your innate characteristics, about somehow you’re different than everyone else.”

    So, you are bitterly opposed to an agenda you can’t define and can mean very different things to different people? […]

    The agenda includes everything from new abortion restrictions to anti-LGBTQ proposals that attack students and parents. This could go as far as seeking criminal statutes against those that help trans youth and break down rules that help gay parents adopt or foster children.

    Republicans are even more ambitious and may consider legislation that goes after banks that do not invest in fossil fuels or guns, according to Sunflower State Journal, as well as protecting the fossil fuel industry from organized boycotts. You know, just protecting the common folk.

    Hate. Drama. Anger. Rage. Sorry you lost all those elections in 2022, Kansas Republicans, including the two you thought you had rigged in your favor. You’ll get over it. Becoming abusive just won’t make it any better.

  118. tomh says

    Federal court rejects challenge to California’s ban on marketing guns to kids
    Jon Parton / January 13, 2023

    (CN) — A federal judge struck down an effort by gun groups to overturn California’s recent law that bans the marketing of firearms to children.

    U.S. District Judge Dale Drozd of the Eastern District of California ruled Thursday evening that the groups were unlikely to succeed in challenging the law and denied their request for a preliminary injunction.

    The plaintiffs, including youth sports and pro-hunting groups, argued that the law violated gun manufacturers’ freedom of speech. Judge Drozd countered that argument in his 41-page opinion, saying that states had the right to regulate commercial speech.

    “The court concludes that there is ample documentation of the serious and ever-increasing problem of gun violence involving minors, and the state has a substantial interest in addressing that problem,” the opnion stated.

    The law, AB 2571, was signed by Governor Gavin Newsom in July last year. It was promptly met with challenges from pro-gun organizations.

    “Today’s decision is another victory in our fight to protect California from this epidemic of senseless gun violence,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta in a statement. “The idea of marketing dangerous weapons to kids is despicable, and I will not stand for it…. My office will continue fighting with every tool we have at our disposal to defend our state’s lifesaving gun safety laws.”

    Courthouse News Service

  119. says

    The Wagner Group’s apparent success in capturing Soledar appears to have been a Pyrrhic victory, with the mercenaries suffering such massive casualties that their future and ability to recover are now reportedly in doubt. [video at the link]

    It was previously reported that Wagner’s head Yevgeny Prigozhin saw the assault on Soledar as a way of strengthening his hand against the Russian Ministry of Defence (see below). However, Wagner’s losses may now make this more difficult.

    The Russian VChK-OGPU Telegram channel reports that a source has told it that Prigozhin has gone to St Petersburg to discuss Wagner’s fate, possibly with Putin. The source says: “There are suspicions that Wagner will be merged into the military. The Ministry of Defence troops in Soledar are now so spread out that it is not very clear whom they are blocking: the ‘Musicians’ [Wagner] or the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

    “Prigozhin flew away ‘grey’, but promises to deal with the situation at the top. It certainly doesn’t look like a win.”

    Wagner also reportedly has major problems in replacing its losses. According to the source, “New raids on the zones [penal colonies] have started, but it’s like a spoon poking at the bottom of an empty pot. Everyone who could was taken earlier. […]

    https://twitter.com/ChrisO_wiki/status/1614335364671348736

    The Ukrainian Army leaders still maintain that they hold a position at the west end of the town of Soleder.

  120. says

    Updates from Ukraine:

    […] Kreminna showed up again on today’s list of location in which the Ukrainian military reports repulsing a Russian attack. This follows multiple, but unconfirmed, reports that Ukrainian forces have entered the residential area at the southwest edge of the city.

    The Russians continue to experiment with their missile launches. Today’s strikes on Ukraine feature something new: missiles fired on a looping ballistic trajectory from the north. Likely a tactic to defeat air defenses; only a few systems can do this.

    If true(ballistic missile launched from north) warning times would be very short, explaining a siren lag. Looping ballistic trajectories are air defense defeat mechanisms that usually aren’t possible for older systems – probably meaning a newer system. Not Kalibr either, leaving something like the Islander SS-26 SRBM, or it’s air launched version, the Kinzhal ALBM. I don’t have all the info so this view is caveated. Based on other things the Russians have done lately, there are now a few types of targeting experimentation, they are learning.

    On Monday, the U.K. government is expected to hold a press conference at which it will formally announce the transfer of a dozen Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine. However, we don’t have to wait for Monday. Because the transcript of a phone call between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and freshly installed U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has already made it clear that Britain’s best is on its way. Best of all, as Ukrainians and the world are watching the damage done from a new wave of Russian missiles, the first of those tanks are said to be on their way “immediately.”

  121. says

    Conservatives Threaten Brewery For Canceling MAGA Killer Kyle Rittenhouse Event

    Last week, the Southern Star Brewery in Conroe, Texas, canceled an upcoming “Rally Against Censorship” event they were meant to host after they learned that the keynote speaker was none other than Kyle Rittenhouse.

    “Southern Star Brewery is an apolitical organization,” read a statement posted on social media by the venue, “But we feel that this event doesn’t reflect our own values and we could not in good faith continue to rent our space for the event on 1/26. We don’t do rallies, we make beer for people who like beer.”

    This was, of course, entirely fair. It is quite reasonable for a venue to decide “Hey, we don’t want some kid who is exclusively famous for shooting people at a protest to speak at our brewery. We’d rather not encourage that.” Giving Rittenhouse a platform like that and making a celebrity out of him sends a message that it is okay to go to protests armed to the teeth and then shoot people for no reason. While he was found innocent in a court of law, no one is obligated to encourage people to follow in his footsteps.

    “It’s really disappointing to see that places continue to censor me and not allow my voice and many other voices to be heard because they bend to the woke crowd,” Rittenhouse, who is not legally allowed to “like beer” in a bar responded on Twitter. “I’ll keep you guys updated on the event on the 26th that I was supposed to speak at.”

    To be clear, the brewery was not censoring Kyle Rittenhouse or barring any voices from being heard. Rittenhouse and others were and are entirely free to take their act to any other venue that wishes to host them. The brewery merely told him “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here,” a phrase he should probably get used to hearing.

    Southern Star Brewery CEO Dave Fougeron says that they did not bend to the “woke crowd” or the “woke mob” or any other figment of the Right’s imagination, but canceled the event after hearing concerns from their actual patrons. He says he had booked the event before he know that Rittenhouse would be speaking.

    “Our place is super inclusive,” Fougeron told the Texas Tribune. “We are super pro-veteran, super pro-law enforcement. We’re trying to be good people in the community. We’re friends with our firefighters, with our police department…. We have a lot of gay patrons who come in because it’s a place of inclusivity. It’s crazy that we’re getting threats from people.”

    Fougeron says that ever since the announcement, they have been harassed and threatened by Rittenhouse’s loyal supporters […]

    “It’s been kind of a shitstorm,” Fougeron said, “But now I’m more certain than ever that I made the right decision.” And he did.

    If I were Kyle Rittenhouse, which thankfully I am not, I would just be grateful that the brewery chose to simply cancel an event rather than censoring anyone’s voice the way Kyle Rittenhouse has censored people’s voices in the past. At least he’s walking out of this alive.

  122. says

    George Santos/Anthony Devolder/ George Devolder/George Glass May Be Dirty Rotten Scarf Thief

    Another 24 hours, another 12 million new ways in which former volleyball champion, American Idol winner, Post-It Note inventor and current congressman George Santos has proved to be more than a little sketchy.

    Yesterday, we learned that newly minted Congressman from Long Island once introduced himself at an event for LGBTQ Trumpublicans as “Anthony Devolder,” founder of an organization called “United For Trump” that does not appear to exist now or have ever actually existed.

    He assumed the sobriquet to ask far-right trans YouTuber Blair White what she was doing to “help educate other trans people from not having to follow the narrative that the media and the Democrats put forward,” whatever the hell that means. [video at the link]

    The event was put on by January 6 insurrectionist Brandon Straka as part of his grifty #WalkAway campaign, which encouraged LGBTQ people to #WalkAway from the Democratic Party and join a club that doesn’t want them as a member.

    It has also turned out that this is not the only alias Santos has assumed. He also went around calling himself George Devolder for a while, back when he was working at Harbor City Capital Corp, which would later turn out to be a Ponzi scheme.

    CNN found a 2020 exchange in which George Santos—going by George Devolder—was confronted by a potential customer who looked into his Ponzi scheme and was told by Deutsche Bank that it was “a complete fraud” (Which, it turns out, was true) [more at the link]

    […] It appears, according to emails obtained by WaPo, that at least one other investor reached out to Santos—then going by George Devolder—to explain that the Deutsche Bank letter was a fraud.

    Despite multiple warnings, Santos stayed at the Ponzi scheme.

    Santos’ full name is George Anthony Devolder Santos, so the names are his — he just jumbles up the order sometimes. The only truly surprising thing here is that he never went by “George Glass.”

    It now turns out that Santos is not just a liar, but a thief. Allegedly. Sure, we already knew that because of the whole Brazil thing where he stole an old man’s checkbook to go clothes shopping, but he’s now being accused of stealing more than that.

    By now, you have likely seen the video of Santos giving a speech at the January 5th Stop the Steal rally (organized in part by one Brandon Straka, whom we can assume knew Santos’ real name by that point), encouraging Trump supporters to overthrow the election. [video at the link]

    See that Burberry scarf he’s wearing? Two of his former roommates, Gregory Morey-Parker and Yasser Rabello, told Patch.com reporter Jacqueline Sweet that Santos stole the scarf from Morey-Parker while they were living together. They say he stole other things as well, including phones, checks and some very expensive dress shirts, including a $500 Burberry dress shirt and an Armani. Armani dress shirts can run into the thousands, which means it could qualify as grand larceny on its own had they pressed charges. Certainly all of the items taken together would qualify.

    Via Patch.com:

    Morey-Parker said he was “100 percent” certain the scarf was his when he saw video footage of Santos at the 2021 rally in Washington, D.C. A friend gifted it to him as he visited Santos, he remembered, and his missing scarf’s color was “lighter than regular camel check.”

    Morey-Parker told Patch that he also spotted the shirt he was missing in one of Santos’ 2020 Instagram posts. He also shared his anger when he saw the post with Rabello in 2020.

    […] I may not be a fan of Burberry scarves. I may find it sad to pay $500 for a wealth-indicating, status symbol accessory that everyone has and of which there are knockoffs everywhere — but they’re pretty damned expensive and this guy has every reason to be super pissed. I thought I left my (far less basic) Skull Cashmere infinity scarf at a bar the other night and nearly had a heart attack. Scarves are very important and scarf crime is not to be tolerated in our society! We can’t have people running around unaccessorized and cold. […]

    The former roommates are not the only ones accusing Santos of stealing from them. In fact, there is an entire WhatsApp group text for people to share their stories of being swindled by Santos — more money, jewelry, etc. He’s like the male Anna Delvey at this point, just going around scamming people from Brazil, to Florida, to New York. He makes far more sense subject of an Netflix original series based on an article from The Cut than he does a Congressman.

    It’s been well over three years since either of the two lived with Santos, so the statute of limitations for them to press charges on grand larceny has run out — but given the way people are coming out of the woodwork to accuse Santos of stealing from them, it may not be too long until someone else does.

  123. says

    Followup to comments 160, 162 and 166.

    Excerpt from a Washington Post article:

    Just before 8 p.m., rescue workers finally dug Lyuba out of the remains of her home and slowly lowered her to the ground in a yellow stretcher. She lay silently as they wrapped her in a foil blanket.

    One of the workers who carried her down blew her a kiss and leaned over her. “I promised I was going to save you and I did,” he said. “Everything is going to be okay.”

    Then they whisked her away in an ambulance.

    One of the Ukrainian Red Cross medics who helped carry her to safety said she believed both her legs were broken. Her face was covered in blood.

    When asked what message she would want to send the world after this attack, the medic, who identified herself only as Natalya, 36, didn’t hesitate.

    “Stop Russia,” she said.

  124. says

    Sigh. “Woke M&Ms”

    While Jair Bolsonaro fanatics attempted their own Jan. 6 style coup d’état of the government in Brazil, a war continued to rage in Ukraine and Russia, and the Republican Party took forever to figure out who their figurehead leader would be in the House of Representatives, Fox News had bigger fish to fry: woke M&M’s.

    With Christmas almost a year away and Halloween nowhere in sight, Fox News needed to come up with something to scream about, and they came up with “woke M&M’s.” What made the candy so “woke,” in their estimation? The parent company of the candy, Mars Wrigley, announced they would be donating some of the profits from their M&M sales to organizations that support a variety of professional pursuits by women.

    That was over the weekend. By Monday, someone had clipped a 14-second clip of Tucker Carlson reckoning with an upcoming “woke M&M’s” segment. We live in interesting and difficult times. […]

    In the clip, Tucker says. Verbatim. Into a microphone. On camera: “Woke M&M’s have returned. The green M&M got her boots back, but apparently is now a lesbian, maybe? And there’s also a plus-sized obese purple M&M, so we’re gonna cover that, of course. Because that’s what we do.” [video at the link]

    [Examples of responses to Tucker Carlson’s nonsense are all over Twitter and other social media outlets. See the main link for examples. Here is just one: “Tuckum’s prefers his M&Ms to be racist and homophobic, just like he is. Remember kids, this guy isn’t just a homophobic white nationalist, he’s also a misogynistic creep.”]
    https://twitter.com/morbidcuriosit9/status/1613596373714358272

    Link

  125. says

    Ukraine updates from understanding war.org:

    Russian forces launched two waves of missile strikes targeting Ukrainian critical infrastructure on January 14.

    The Kremlin continues to falsely claim Ukraine poses an existential threat to Russia to reject Ukrainian offers of a peace summit and retain Putin’s original maximalist goals.

    The Kremlin continues to use long-standing false narratives that the Ukrainian government is oppressing religious liberties as moral justification for its refusal to negotiate with Ukraine and likely in the hopes of turning international public opinion against Ukraine.

    Wagner financier Yevgeny Prigozhin continued to leverage the Wagner Group’s role in capturing Soledar to elevate his political stature and indirectly criticize the conventional Russian military.

    Russian forces continued limited counterattacks along the Svatove-Kreminna line.

    Russian forces continued offensive operations around Soledar as well as in the Bakhmut and Avdiivka areas. […]

    Russian forces continued defensive operations and reinforced frontlines positions on the east (left) bank of the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast.

    Western officials are increasingly joining Ukrainian authorities in warning that Russia is preparing for an imminent second wave of mobilization.

    Russian occupation officials in Kherson continued measures to forcibly relocate residents to Russia.

    Ukrainian partisan attacks continue to disrupt Russian rear security efforts.

  126. says

    Yellen Says US Will Reach Debt Ceiling Next Week As GOP Prepares To Take It Hostage

    Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Friday the U.S. is projected to reach its roughly $31.4 trillion borrowing limit on Jan. 19. In a letter to Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and other congressional leaders, Yellen said the Treasury Department will begin taking “extraordinary measures” starting next week to prevent the U.S. government from defaulting on its obligations. [Tweet and letter at the link]

    […] Republicans have for months telegraphed that they hope to use the debt limit as a bargaining chip, essentially taking the full faith and credit of the U.S. hostage to achieve policy objectives.

    In particular, House Republicans have been warning that they will seek cuts to Medicare and Social Security.

    “We’ve got to change the way we’re spending money wastefully in this country. And we’re going to make sure that happens,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told reporters on Thursday.

    It’s unclear how long the extraordinary measures will keep the government going but Yellen did stress that this is only a temporary solution. If the lawmakers can’t come to an agreement in time, the U.S. government would not be able to borrow to pay its existing bills.

    A failure to find a compromise would have devastating consequences not only for the U.S. economy but also the world economy and financial stability. Just the prospect of a U.S. debt default due to Republican brinkmanship resulted in credit-rating agencies downgrading their rating for the U.S. federal government in 2011. In that case, Republicans extracted concessions and the U.S. did not default.

    “The use of extraordinary measures enables the government to meet its obligations for only a limited amount of time,” Yellen said. “It is therefore critical that Congress act in a timely manner to increase or suspend the debt limit. Failure to meet the government’s obligations would cause irreparable harm to the U.S. economy, the livelihoods of all Americans, and global financial stability.”

    Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) echoed Yellen’s sentiment in a joint statement on Friday.

    “A default forced by extreme MAGA Republicans could plunge the country into a deep recession and lead to even higher costs for America’s working families on everything from mortgages and car loans to credit card interest rates,” they wrote. “Democrats want to move quickly to pass legislation addressing the debt limit so there is no chance of risking a catastrophic default.” […]

  127. says

    Ukraine Update: Russia’s campaign against civilians may prove its undoing

    Russia is really stupid.

    Really, really f’n stupid. [tweet from Zelenskyy about number of people dead or injured when the apartment building in Dnipro was attacked.]

    There is some confusion as to whether Russia targeted this apartment complex directly, or whether the Russian missile was knocked off course by a Ukrainian air defense missile. It doesn’t matter either way. Here are the basic facts:

    Russia is engaging in a massive rocket, missile, and drone assault on Ukrainian civilian infrastructure. That infrastructure is, by definition, in civilian areas. Those Russian anti-ship missiles are notoriously inaccurate. In a best-case scenario, a certain number of them will veer off course and hit unintended targets.

    And the ones who do hit their targets? Some Ukrainians lose power and/or heat for a day or three.

    None of that brings Russia closer to winning the war. Quite the opposite, in fact.

    Ukraine’s allies are meeting this Friday, January 20, in Ramstein Germany for the next round of coordinated aid. The alliance is currently riven by disagreements over transferring two critical pieces of weaponry to Ukraine—main battle tanks, and long-range ATACMS artillery rockets.

    A smart Russia lays low at this time, focusing on their tactical advances around Soledar, near Bakhmut. They make fake noises about “peace process” and string Germany along, pretending to be interested in finding resolution, if only the West didn’t encourage Ukraine to be so unreasonable!

    Instead, Russia engaged in a war crime so blatant, so viscerally horrifying, that a recalcitrant German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will have no choice but to agree to “free the Leopards”—the European-standard battle tanks manufactured by Germany’s arms industry. And it gets even harder for the United States to justify holding back on its own capabilities—whether it’s those ATACMS long-range rockets, or F-16 fighter jets, or even M-1 battle tanks. Europe may have several hundred Leopards potentially available to Ukraine, but the United States has thousands of M1s sitting in storage in the desert. We’ve long argued about the horrific logistical challenges of fielding the Abrams, but at this point, the hell with it all.

    Even if it takes 6-12 months to get Abrams fielded, and 18-24 months to get F-16s in the air, just announcing them would not only give Ukraine a necessary morale boost, but remove cover from laggards like Germany’s Scholz who want others to lead the way and send a clear message to Russia that things aren’t going to get any better for them. That while they struggle to mobilize another 500,000 fodder for the Ukrainian wood chipper, without any heavy armor to support them, Ukraine’s capabilities will only improve and modernize.

    Russia is still banking on the West losing its patience and pressuring Ukraine to freeze the current lines. Announcing everything would dash those Russian dreams, and might even spur a reassessment of their war effort.

    I would now also send cluster munitions.

    I’ve argued against the use of cluster munitions twice before (here and here), but I’ve changed my mind. Turkey has been the first to send cluster munitions to Ukraine, which (depending on the munition) scatters dozens or hundreds of grenade-style bomblets over a wide area. The MLRS cluster rocket carries between 518 to 644 bomblets depending on the version, dispersing them over the area of a football field. In this war, they’d be incredibly effective in clearing out entire sections of trenches and defensive lines, and would also be effective in stopping the human-charge tactics Russia has employed to some success in Soledar and Bakhmut.

    On the other hand, cluster munitions are banned under international treaty. The problem is that the dud rate on those bomblets is extremely high, exceeding 5% at times. The original MLRS rocket carried 644 of the cluster bomblets. A 5% dud rate means about 32 of them remain unexploded. Imagine them dug into the ground, or hidden under rubble. They remain a constant threat to follow-on friendly forces and perhaps more importantly from a moral standpoint, civilians, for years to come.

    The United States, Russia, and Ukraine are not signatories to the treaty. Despite that, the U.S. has been decommissioning MLRS rockets containing the cluster bomblets and has resisted Ukrainian requests for them (which is particularly salient given the extreme overall shortage in MLRS/HIMARS munitions). Ukraine would love to worry about unexploded munitions in the future, but doesn’t have the luxury of engaging in that moral debate today. Civilians are already dying, by the thousands, and that number will only climb the longer the war lasts.

    There’s a utilitarian argument to be made here—would unexploded cluster munitions kill more civilians in the future than the number of civilians dying in Russian attacks now? Maybe, maybe not. But that doesn’t consider the overall benefits of shortening the war—fewer combat deaths, less destruction of core Ukrainian infrastructure, and less economic devastation (for both Ukraine, as well as globally). Ukraine knows the potential costs of fielding cluster munitions, and has decided that on balance, it would come out ahead if it had them. (Not to mention, Russia is already using them in the war.)

    The key question is whether the Pentagon even has cluster-munition-MLRS rockets left. The Pentagon had budgeted money to decommission the rockets, and had been in the process of doing so when the Trump administration halted the effort. There is no public information on how many, if any, remain. It would be ironic if an asshole decision by Trump ended up helping Ukraine today. Still, given that destruction of those rockets began in 2007, I would be personally shocked if we had any left.

    Regardless, the Dnipro catastrophe has brought renewed focus on the need to end this war as quickly as possible, and that means delivering to Ukraine everything possible, as quickly as possible. The United Kingdom has already announced a potent package of 14 Challenger main battle tanks, which is a great political decision, as well as 30 AS-90 Self propelled howitzers, an even better military contribution. Artillery is the King of Battle, and even more so in Ukraine where air power is nearly non-existent. Towed artillery is great for defense or in a static front, but any offensive effort needs self-propelled guns to keep up with the armor vanguard.

    […] if the allies want to send a clear message to Russia that it will suffer exponentially greater losses the longer it insists on remaining in Ukraine, then everyone needs to follow the U.K. lead.

    That means the U.S. announces ATACMS long-range artillery rockets. It announces even more M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles. Rather than announce 50 more every 2-4 weeks, just say “we’re sending 500 this year.” They should announce M-1 Abrams, or, at the very least, offer to backfill tank units of any European power currently fielding Leopards, allowing those to be donated to Ukraine. The U.S. should further announce that it will begin training Ukrainian pilots and maintenance personnel on F-16 fighter jets. We have hundreds in storage. There’s no need to announce plane shipments. Training will take over a year, more like two. But let Russia know that they’ll eventually face F-16s if they insist on a protracted war.

    […] Poland has hundreds of remaining Soviet-era tanks, as well as almost 250 Leopards. They should hand them over now, and the U.S. should accelerate M-1 shipments to the Polish army. Poland’s security is assured by existing emergency NATO deployments, including an American armored division seen offloading in the Netherlands en route to Eastern Europe. It’s not as if Russia has an armored vanguard left able to punch into Poland. Any such effort certainly wouldn’t survive NATO’s massive air fleet.

    Altogether, if the allies can announce 300-500 tanks, 1,000 infantry fighting vehicles, and hundreds more artillery pieces, it has in place the pieces for several offensive-minded mechanized armored brigades. If it can announce the delivery of long-range rockets like ATACMS, it can allow Ukraine to further degrade Russian logistics, pushing out their critical rail hubs another 100 miles from the front lines. And if it can announce the training of Ukrainian pilots and maintenance personnel on modern NATO fighter jets, it’ll let Russia know that its floundering war effort will only get more challenging in the next two years.

    We’ll have a few days before we know what the allies will announce. But the Dnipro apartment attack has just made it a lot more likely that the allies go big. It would sure be fitting if Russia’s unfathomably cruel campaign on Ukrainian infrastructure was what finally compelled the allies to throw everything they have into Ukraine’s hands.

    Russia has taken Soledar. The question is now whether it was worth the cost to Russia.

    The intensity of the fighting has ebbed the last 24-48 hours. The copium take is that Russia’s Wagner mercenary troops are exhausted, while Wagner’s Yevgeny Prigozhin and Russia’s ministry of defense are locked in a battle for “credit.” That could be, or maybe they’re consolidating their gains while they refit and resupply. As is, Ukraine continues to hold the Western edge of Soledar. So all it means is that Ukraine falls back to the next defensive line.

    And even consolidating gains in Soledar is a lot harder than it looks. Here is rare drone video of a HIMARS strike on a concentration of Wagner infantry. [video at the link]

    […] Now, while the intensity is down, Wagner continues to try and push forward.

    Failed attempt by three Wagner PMC groups of 10 soldiers each to storm Krasna Hora west of Soledar. Nobody survived. [video at the link]

    […] Ukraine now appears to have a foothold in Kreminna, to the north of Bakhmut. Things are vague and the fog of war is thick, but Ukrainian general staff has, for several days now, reported coming under attack in Kreminna.

    Fun facts:

    Pre-war population of Soledar: 10,000, Ukraine’s 316th largest city, and it took Russia five months to capture. Strategically irrelevant. Its value to Ukraine is that if Ukraine doesn’t defend here, it just means the next town will be razed to the ground.

    Pre-war population of Kreminna: 18,000. Very strategic city—guarding the southern approach to Svatove, and ultimately Starobilsk (and Russia’s entire supply line from Belgorod into northern Ukraine), as well as the gateway to cities of Rubizhne, Severodonetsk, and Lysychansk.

  128. teal4two says

    Hamline University has been praised here in the past. But the school recently did not renew the teaching contract for instructor Erika López Prater who displayed a 14th-century painting showing Muhammad’s face in her art-history survey class. President Fayneese Miller is vigorously defending the contract non-renewal and Islamophobic interpretation in the face of criticism by NYT, U Minn art history tenure faculty, FIRE, etc. Was this Islamophobic? Do students and outside groups get to decide what can be taught? More importantly, if a Creationist student complained, would the Biology, Geology, etc classes and faculty all be reformed?

  129. whheydt says

    Re: teal4two @ #176…
    From what I’ve seen it’s worse than you have presented it. That there were going to be image of Mohammed was included in the (printed) syllabus and announced in class prior to the picture being shown.

  130. Reginald Selkirk says

    Twitter starts auction to flip the bird, furniture, pizza ovens, gadgets galore

    Twitter has arranged an auction rid itself of 631 “surplus corporate assets”.
    An outfit called Heritage Global Partners got the job of selling off kit including six espresso machines, two lesser coffee-makers, two refrigerated tables dedicated to the making of pizza, and two ovens also intended only for Napoli’s finest culinary creation.
    There’s also 107 boxes of N95 masks on offer, a Yamaha digital mixing console, 68 eight-port Belkin power strips still in the box and a Kegerator Beer Dispenser.
    Most items are listed at starting prices of either $25 or $50.
    That’s a very good price for some of the items, such as the bicycle-powered USB charger that sells for $4,025 new…

  131. StevoR says

    Save the planet,
    Save the trees,
    Save the oceans,
    Save the bees,
    If we don’t we’re in trouble,
    All us ‘u’s’ & us ‘me’s’ so please?

    With an arrow back to the first line looping it after the last sentence.. Too complicated, too simple? Can we not just please do these things for all our sakes?

    Some doggrel in the Dr Suess style.. Curtailed to not lose my fb colour background – &, no, I haven’t seen the Lorax movie..

    Feel free to use as y’all see fit folks as best suits for doing what the lines suggest.

  132. Reginald Selkirk says

    Wyoming wants to phase out sales of new EVs by 2035

    While jurisdictions like California and New York move toward banning the sale of new gasoline-powered cars, one US state wants to go in the opposite direction. Wyoming’s legislature is considering a resolution that calls for a phaseout of new electric vehicle sales by 2035. Introduced on Friday, Senate Joint Resolution 4 has support from members of the state’s House of Representatives and Senate.

    Oil industry fans say “No I’ m not, you are.”

  133. StevoR says

    A cartoon. By someone whose signatiure I cannot make out. Sums up Humanity and our stupidity perfectly.

    Shows a tree, a big tree, in a desert.

    There are two people, sitting underneath it having a cup of tea (or maybe coffee or something else.

    There is yellow sand everywhere. There is a blue sky with a few clouds in it.

    The tree is casting the only shade around.

    The men are sitting in the shade of that one and only tree.

    Their axes are on the ground in the tree’s shade.

    They are cutting the tree down and about two thirds or so the way through its trunk.

  134. Reginald Selkirk says

    Trump Hails Jan. 6 Insurrectionists As ‘Great Patriots,’ Calls Prison Sentences A ‘Disgrace’

    Even after nearly 1,000 Capitol rioters have been charged with crimes, Donald Trump hailed them this week as “great patriots” and their prison terms “a disgrace.”

    But he also insisted that “virtually nothing happened” during the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, so it was apparently no big deal.

    The former president was asked on the far-right cable program “Real America’s Voice” on Friday to say a few words to lift the spirits of the “political prisoners” behind bars in the “gulag.”

    “I think it’s a disgrace what’s been happening,” Trump responded. “So many of these people are great patriots, and what they’ve gone through. Then you look at antifa and BLM [Black Lives Matter]. You look at what’s gone on there, with what they’ve done in all sorts of places over the last … two years, where they’ve burned down cities.”

    However, no cities have been burned down by Black Lives Matter or antifa activists…

  135. Reginald Selkirk says

    Brazil’s crowdfunded insurrection leaves paper trail for police

    A wildly successful government-run payments system, Pix has become a key financial pillar underpinning Bolsonaro’s election-denial movement, allowing his most ardent fans to crowdfund their alternative media outlets and far-right demonstrations culminating in the chaos of Jan. 8.

    But now, as authorities seek to identify the funders of the Brasilia riots, the same tool that helped to forge the insurgent movement will be used by investigators to take it down, around a dozen police and anti-money laundering officials told Reuters.

    “We have a secure and consistent line of investigation focused on tracking financial movements undertaken via Pix,” said a senior federal police officer involved in the sprawling, nationwide investigation, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing probe. “The financiers’ time is up.”..

  136. says

    Surprise (Not): George Santos has ties to sanctioned Russian oligarch

    The murkiness and secrecy around the sudden wealth of disgraced, super-lying Congressman George Santos/Anthony Devolder has become a bit clearer thanks to some new exclusive reporting by the Washington Post. The Post has revealed that Santos/Devolder has closer financial ties to the cousin of sanctioned Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg than was previously known.

    According to the Post, Andrew Intrater, the cousin of Vekselberg, and his wife each gave the maximum $5,800 to Santos’ main campaign committee and “tens of thousands more since 2020 to committees linked to him, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.” And there’s more:

    The relationship between Santos and Intrater goes beyond campaign contributions, according to a statement made privately by Santos in 2020 and a court filing the following year in a lawsuit brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission against a Florida-based investment firm, Harbor City Capital, where Santos worked for more than a year.

    Taken together, the evidence suggests Santos may have had a business relationship with Intrater as Santos was first entering politics in 2020. It also shows, according to the SEC filing, that Intrater put hundreds of thousands of dollars into Santos’ onetime employer, Harbor City, which was accused by regulators of running a Ponzi scheme.

    The Post notes that Intrater’s investment firm Columbus Nova has historically had extensive ties to the business interests of Vekselberg. As recently as 2018, when Vekselberg was sanctioned by the Treasury Department, his conglomerate was Columbus Nova’s largest client. In a Harbor City Zoom meeting in 2020, Santos/Devolder stated that Columbus Nova as a “client” of his.

    Also, Harbor City received a $625,000 deposit from a company registered in Mississippi, FEA Innovations, that identifies Intrater as its lone officer, according to an exhibit included in the SEC’s complaint against Harbor City.

    In addition, the Post report notes extensive ties between Intrater and Former Trump fixer Michael Cohen.

    The Post reporting does not make a direct connection between Vekselberg and Intrater and the sudden influx of cash received by the company that Santos/Devolder established in 2021 after Harbor City’s assets were frozen. That company paid Santos/Devolder more than $3.5 million over the next two years. But I wouldn’t be at all surprised if those links eventually come out.

  137. says

    The New York Times interviews random Republican voters for the millionth time, still learns nothing

    There is some unfortunate news to report today. Sadly, I have died. My cause of death was, as I always knew it would be, The New York Times. Seldom do we talk about the ongoing dangers presented by the Times, which is the unregulated gas stove of newspapers, but anyhow I read this new Times focus group piece talking to yet another band of unrepentant Trump voters and it caused me to immediately die. It’s a damn shame, but I probably had it coming.

    The premise of the piece is the same premise used for each of its one hundred million previous incarnations: The Times gathered up a dozen average-Joe Republican Americans it had previously talked to and asked them yet again what they thought about seditious coup conspirator Donald Trump, about the Republican Party, and about oh right the Jan. 6 insurrection and subsequent hearings publicizing what investigators have been able to learn about the origins of the violence.

    […] Most. Americans. Do. Not. Pay. Attention. To. Politics. They know only what they have heard thirdhand. The most useable quotes almost always come from the volunteers who are the least informed but the most hardheadedly confident in themselves, a bad combination that never gets any better than absolutely awful.

    This is a very useful exercise if you want to lose all hope in America. It’s one of the best approaches possible if your paper is looking to collect all its readers who do pay close attention to politics for the purpose of killing them all off at once.

    […] The murder weapons? Quotes from Americans still willing to say they support Republicans even after the party egged an attempted coup into being, Americans who have been selected for inclusion based explicitly on their utter disinterest in any politics that cannot be sloganed onto a hat.

    (Sandy, 48, white, Calif., property manager) Well, I think Republicans are our only option as far as getting us out of this mess that the Democrats have started with inflation and all that. Do they have a plan at this point? Doesn’t look like it. But are they organized? Doesn’t look like it. But there is hope there.

    […] I don’t have to write about politics. I’ve got a vivid imagination that could, like, totally nail a story about racist dwarves that conspire with even more racist mountain trolls to keep anyone from getting cheap insuli-I mean, health potions.

    But no, here I am, a corpse, because the Times had to kill me before I even had the chance to switch careers in self-defense.

    Q: Is there a particular idea or value that you’d like [Republicans] to stand up for?

    (Judi, 73, white, Okla., retired) Honesty.

    See, I’m dead now. Everything you’re hearing from me after this point is just gas escaping.

    (Andrea, 49, white, N.J., executive assistant) Just start putting things back on the right track. It makes me scratch my head that the country never did better than when Trump was president — never. You know what I mean? The gas prices were low. The border was under control. Everything was just great. And he got run out of town just because he sends mean tweets and has a big mouth. They’d rather elect a nice guy and have the country in the toilet.

    Andrea, a MILLION PEOPLE DIED and you’re fucking on about cheap gas prices? THERE WAS A COUP, ANDREA. How the hell did The New York Times ever even find you, how is it that you even became aware that something called The New York Times even existed and wasn’t just a phishing effort aimed at getting hold of your Social Security number?

    (Alissa, 29, Latina, Fla., procurement) Just thinking back to how well we were doing as a country when [Trump] was running it, I would love to see that again. I think he’s strong. I thought he was a great president. If DeSantis decides to run, I might turn a little bit. It depends.

    What Donald Trump brought to America was hats. That’s it. There’s not a damn thing he actually did except the hat thing. And public belligerence. And being a rapist who bought an entire beauty pageant brand so that he could see teen girls change in the dressing rooms. Oh, and the international extortion bits. And the complete upending of American standing overseas, selling out allies while prodding enemies to open up new beach resorts. And using the presidency of the United States as a reason to mark up cocktail prices in his Washington hotel. […]

    Q: Is there anything about [Trump] that’s turned you off over the last year or that you sort of lost steam on?

    (Judi, 73, white, Okla., retired) Well, when Covid started, I think he was swayed into the vaccine thing. He listened to the wrong people. I’ll leave it at that.

    Yeah, that’s when I died the second time, becoming double-dead. So far I cannot report any meaningful differences from just being the usual kind of dead. […]

    (Lorna, 60, white, Mo., customer service representative) I think it is ridiculous people want to put him in prison. For what? And look at Biden and his son.

    Again, there is only one reason why any journalistic outlet should ever do any of these diner-inspired stories about The Common American. It is a window into which news outlets they consume and nothing else. There is not one glitteringly enfuckened thing Lorna, 60, of Missouri could tell us about the relative legal jeopardy of Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, or Beefystevo Biden that would be the slightest bit informative or useful.

    And I do mean that: You could concoct an entirely fictional Biden son named “Beefystevo,” ask 12 Republican voters about Beefystevo’s crimes, and at least eight of them would insist that Beefystevo has done many, many crimes, all very bad, some of them in Ukraine and some of them in Narnia, and they will tell you that The New York Times is crookedly covering up the very existence of Beefystevo Biden in coordination with Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and a giraffe in Texas that looks kind of similar to Bill Gates. […]

    (Sandy, 48, white, Calif., property manager) I want DeSantis to run. He’s just like Trump. He’s just as cantankerous, but I think he’s a little bit more refined. For example, you have Jack Daniels, or you have Gentleman Jack. Gentleman Jack is a lot smoother, but it’s still whiskey.

    Thank God we finally have someone willing to be honest about Republican politics. That’s the word that comes to mind when you think about Florida’s Ron DeSantis: Refined. The man is refined, in that you can either suck on what he’s selling or what Trump’s selling and both will get you nice and politically shitfaced but the DeSantis version goes down smooooother. […]

    Hey, so do any of our fine Normal Republican Americans want to revise or extend their past remarks about the 2020 presidential election being stolen just because a traitorous crapsack and his eight syphillitic reindeer shouted about it way back when? Anyone want to walk that back, or not walk that back? […]

    (Andrea, 49, white, N.J., executive assistant) Cheated as in ballots — truckloads of ballots showing up in the middle of the night. There’s videos of it. There is proof. […]

    (Sandy, 48, white, Calif., property manager) I know the videos that Andrea is talking about. It’s well documented, but the media doesn’t want to cover that type of stuff.

    (Judi, 73, white, Okla., retired) No, I still think [Trump] won the election and that he should still be our president. He should be our president right now.

    […] It is very important that we, the readers of The New York Times, are exposed to the free and unfettered opinions of our nation’s most thickheaded and source-agnostic of opinion havers, because reasons! How would America know that one specific retired Oklahoma vaccine skeptic believes Joe Biden is not the legitimate president if The New York Times did not create an entire “interactive” web feature highlighting this important fucking information? How could the readership survive if we did not contact these people not once, but a second time so that they could rub their curlicue opinions in our eyeballs twice instead of once?

    What about the whole coup thing? You know, the attempted coup, the one in which Trump advertised for a rally coinciding with the certification of the United States presidential election, got angry when his security forces tried to deprive the mob of their weapons, and told them all to march to the Capitol during a joint session of Congress as means of threatening Congress if they did not overturn the election’s results? That whole thing? The thing that should have made any decent person look for an exit sign, rather than being thought a supporter of a genuine bona-fide traitor to the nation?

    (Andrea, 34, biracial, N.H., I.T. support) The internet was just ablaze. I made a post in support of it, and a lot of people came to attack me in the comment section. That day was really crazy. […]

    When I saw videos of everything that happened, I was pretty embarrassed. I was like, “Oh, no. We’re going to hear about this forever.” It did look very chaotic and violent. I knew it was going to come down to blaming Trump somehow, saying that he was a ringleader and he’s responsible, he riled everybody up.

    Ah, the very American view of “you make comments supporting one violent riot and everybody gets on your case about it” followed by “oh jeez, this turned out very fucky, now we’re all going to be stuck hearing about it.” Can’t kill me any more than twice, New York Times. Not in a single day, anyway.

    What about all those congressional hearings detailing what investigators found out about the coup’s organizers, allies, and origins? […]

    (Sandy, 48, white, Calif., property manager) If anything, I think my views have become more solidified. If you look, they made a big thing out of it in the media. They didn’t cover Black Lives Matter, antifa. I mean, you talk about Jan. 6 being planned. Antifa, throughout the whole summer of 2020, I mean, those things were planned, organized. The media didn’t cover it.

    I cannot emphasize how enraging it was that the media kept covering things that did happen while ignoring things that did not happen. […] everybody made a Big Damn Deal out of a Republican-led attempt to erase a constitutional United States election. Gawd.

    Please tell me any of these Informed Public Voices at least watched the hearings they’re now being asked to opine on?

    (Barney, 72, white, Del., retired) I didn’t see anything live. It was a waste of $3 million.

    […] But the crowd Donald Trump gathered to march on the Capitol was a pretty violent bunch, at least we can all agree on—

    (Alissa, 29, Latina, Fla., procurement) No, I don’t think it was. I’ve personally been to Trump rallies. They’re very peaceful. So I don’t think what happened that day had anything to do with Trump. I think it was planned.

    […] Surely the news of an attempt to violently overturn the results of a U.S. election have left at least some small impression on Republican Jus’ Folks.

    (Lorna, 60, white, Mo., customer service representative) Well, a couple of people locally here were arrested. So of course, they’d show them every news clip, on every channel. It just got old. It was just a waste of taxpayers’ money, in my opinion.

    I mean, that’s the thing about failed violent coups, they’re just so boooooring and everybody keeps going on about them all the time and it makes channel surfing sooooo tedious. Thank you again, New York Times, for exposing us to the very important views of that class of Americans that tries very hard to know nothing about politics and gets bitter and resentful when you shove it onto their television channels anyway.

    Because, you know, the Jan. 6 hearings were a farce to begin with. How the hell would the United States Congress know more things than Andrea of New Jersey does? How would anyone in the White House know more about Trump’s actions than Andrea does, or Barney does? They wouldn’t, so that means this was all a set up.

    (Andrea, 49, white, N.J., executive assistant) I 100 percent agree with what Barney said. I think they testified because they weren’t part of the cool kids anymore or bribes. I’m not really sure what it is, but to make up blatant stories like that, there’s got to be some kind of underlying “What’s in it for me?” kind of thing, I think.

    Well, we’ve rediscovered a core Republican voter tenet so we can’t say this was a total waste of time. Ask pretty much anyone in the Republican Party, from the common voter to your average sex-crime-covering-up Republican lawmaker, and they’ll tell you that there’s no possible reason anyone would want to offer evidence about a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol unless there was something in it for them. The idea that anyone would be sincerely shaken by, say, a mob of pole-wielding cop-beating weirdlings hunting down Trump’s political enemies in the halls of the Capitol is utterly foreign to Every Single Republican. The notion eludes them. […]

    If people are going to jump in to “testify” every single time an armed mob beats police officers inside the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to hunt down the vice president then where will it end? It’s all very suspicious. They probably just want to make the coup guy look bad.

    I really wish I hadn’t died. Well, I suppose it’s more accurate to say I really wish The New York Times hadn’t gone out of its way to write an interactive fancy-pants feature specifically intended to kill me, because it seems like a jerk move every time they’ve tried it and yet they just keep pushing.

    Bring us home, Timesy. Show us that any of these people have opinions even an onion-skin thickness above the buzzword generic. Show us that you have gathered up a small crowd who, while admirably anonymous and no doubt chosen according to best dice-throwing the editorial staff of the Times can provide, is worthy of national attention because these dozen people have at least thought about any of this stuff long enough to have any opinion that could not be more efficiently produced by an artificial intelligence exposed only to the opening monologues of weekday Fox News opinion hosts. […]

    Q: Sandy, what would be a sign that our democracy is healthy?

    (Sandy, 48, white, Calif., property manager) I would say getting back to the basics, sticking with the Constitution. There’s just too much government interference in everything. We’ve got so many regulations, taxes and controls and spending and everything. Get back to the fundamentals. Less government involvement. We should have an army, a military. That’s about it. Otherwise, just stay out of the way.

    (Michael, 65, white, Utah, retired) I tend to agree with Sandy, just hoping that we could start letting the Constitution be the Constitution and let us have our rights with freedom of speech and just start living the way that they did hundreds of years ago, when they believed in our country.

    There you go. How wonderful. I am so, so glad I didn’t live to see that.

  138. raven says

    Petr Pavel wins the first round of Czech presidential elections

    An anti-Russian politician won the first round of elections for the Czech President. His main opponent is a lot more sympathetic to Russia.
    This position is largely ceremonial so he doesn’t have much actual power. But it shows which way the Czech people are leaning.
    I’m always surprised at how many pro-Russians there are in the West. After what Russia did to Czechoslovakia with their invasions and captive nations status, there shouldn’t be any.

    Russo-Ukrainian War
    Petr Pavel is often asked about the current situation in Ukraine. He admitted that he was surprised by a direct military clash between the two countries. He stated that under specific circumstances, he would also promote declaring a no-fly zone or sending NATO troops to Ukraine to protect humanitarian corridors.

    Petr Pavel wins the first round of Czech presidential elections

    Petr Pavel wins the first round of Czech presidential elections
    Czech Republic, Europe, Politics / By Mike Oaks / January 16, 2023

    Reddit Facebook Twitter
    Petr Pavel, a retired general, won in the first round of the presidential elections in the Czech Republic. Former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš comes second. The Czechs made their choice in the first round, which took place on January 13 and 14. With results that were both expected and unexpected.

    In the second round, the two candidates they considered most favored from the start of the campaign passed: General Petr Pavel and former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, leader of the main opposition ANO (YES in English) party.

    Pabel and Babiš go to the second round
    Still, the results for both leaders were significantly higher than sociologists had predicted, with less than half a percentage point between them, making the election even more exciting. Meanwhile, first-round turnout in the Czech Republic reached record levels — around 67 percent.

    One of the key contenders for the post, Danuše Nerudova, who did not make it to the second round and received almost 14%, has already declared her support for Pavel for his victory over Babis.

    The second round of the election will be held from Friday, January 27, to Saturday, January 28.

    Candidates’ views
    The fact that Andrej Babiš will run for the title was more than a year ago since his ANO movement lost the parliamentary elections. The former PM remained silent for a long time, although regular trips to the regions began in the spring due to work in the lower palace.

    He finally announced his candidacy in late October, saying he felt the need to distance himself from the government of Petr Fiala. “When I see how the government does not work, how it does not support the people, it is largely inactive, I decided to go for it,” Babis said. Ex-president Milos Zeman publicly supported them.

    The candidacy of retired general Petr Pavel was also speculated for several years, especially after he actively participated in the fight against the pandemic. Last year, he surrounded himself with the team with which he officially started the campaign. According to him, the Czech Republic needs a calm and clear president.

    Pavel said that he is running so that the values represented by his rival Andrej Babiš do not win. “This primarily means populism, lies, and, quite often, the adaptation of rules. This is not what I would like to wish for the Czech Republic.” It is worth mentioning that Pavel has won the 1st round among Czech citizens abroad.

    Russo-Ukrainian War
    Petr Pavel is often asked about the current situation in Ukraine. He admitted that he was surprised by a direct military clash between the two countries. He stated that under specific circumstances, he would also promote declaring a no-fly zone or sending NATO troops to Ukraine to protect humanitarian corridors.

    Andrej Babiš has been criticizing Fiala’s government from the beginning. He stated that the Czech Republic should not send weapons to Ukraine and aid refugees. Babiš said the government should seek peace, and he discussed the matter with French President Emmanuel Macron a few days before the elections.

    “He is one of the few European politicians who promote peace negotiations. Nobody wants war. I agree that the world’s biggest players should sit at the same table, just as they were able to sit at the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War in 2018, which took place long after the occupation of Crimea.”

    Energy crisis
    According to Pavel, the government should coordinate its actions with the National Bank of the Czech Republic to reduce inflation again. “Low and stable inflation is primarily the task of the central bank, which is independent, but it is appropriate if both components of the state’s economic policy, i.e., monetary and fiscal policy, proceed in harmony.” He stated that the most important thing is for the government to try consolidating state finances and reducing the budget deficit.

    In response to rising inflation, the ANO movement presented a 12-point “anti-cost” plan in April. This is a combination of increasing social benefits, including pensions above the statutory assessment, capping fuel and food prices, or reducing VAT on electricity, gas, and heating to zero. Its implementation would cost the state treasury 250 billion crowns, which, according to economists, would, on the contrary, support inflation.

    Second round on 27-28 January
    As mentioned, the second round will be held on 27 and 28 January. Liberal-minded Petr Pavel has more chances over populist billionaire Andrej Babiš. Lately, Babiš gained more votes after fraud allegations, but Pavel could get more from Babiš’s opponents. The President’s title has no executive power. Still, his voice is crucial in appointing the Prime Minister and the Head of The Constitutional Court.

  139. says

    Ukraine Update: Ukrainian forces inch closer to Kreminna, a city with actual strategic value

    While Wagner mercenaries continue their slow grind down in Soledar, Ukrainian forces have their own slow grind around Kreminna. Here are the main war fronts at the moment: [map at the link]

    Bakhmut is important because if Ukrainians fall back, the next town over will be leveled to the ground. It has no real strategic value. It just pushes the flattened front line a few kilometers west.

    Kreminna (pre-war population, 18,000) is strategically important for two major reasons: it opens up a southern approach to Svatove and, beyond that, Starobilsk. If Ukraine takes those towns, it cuts Russia’s largest supply line feeding its war effort, from Belgorod, Russia.

    Kreminna is also the gateway to the three cities of Rubizhne, Severodonetsk, and Lysychansk. As you can see on the map, Kreminna severs the road down from Svatove. That’s step one. If Ukraine can liberate Starobilsk, then that cluster of cities will have to be resupplied by a single road from the southeast—a road that also helps supply … Bakhmut. Russia’s rickety supply lines would be stressed even further.

    That’s the difference between Ukraine’s war strategy and Russia’s. There’s a point to Ukraine’s actions—it is working to cut Russia’s struggling logistical lines. There’s no point to Russia’s, beyond ridiculous and useless war propaganda.

    With Russia fully dug in and defending a shrinking swatch of occupied territory, the kind of massive gains we saw in Kharkiv and Kherson oblasts last year are unlikely until Ukraine receives the heavy armor currently being pledged. But that doesn’t mean it can’t methodically make gains. And that’s what we’re seeing around Kreminna.

    Here is Mark Sumner’s latest map of Kreminna. [map at the link]

    As you might immediately note, Mark has put southwest Kreminna into contested territory. There has been much chatter, though certainly no confirmation, that Ukrainian forces have a foothold in that corner of the town. Ukrainian general staff has been cagey, reporting fending off Russian attacks in Kreminna, without offering any more specificity as to what exactly they’re talking about. It could be Ukrainian troops are holding positions inside Kreminna, right outside it, or it could be “in the vicinity of” Kreminna. Here’s yesterday morning report, which referred to the Kreminna “axis”:

    Lymanskyi axis: Makiivka, Ploshanka, Nevske, Kreminna, Dibrova and Chervonopivka of the Luhansk Oblast came under fire.

    In today’s evening update, General Staff wrote that “the enemy fired at districts of more than 10 settlements. Among them are … Kreminna.” Don’t ask me what that means, exactly. It’s likely supposed to be purposefully vague. My guess is that while Ukrainian elements might have probed some of those edge neighborhoods in Kreminna, that most of the work remains in the town’s surrounding woods, working to surround the town and thus, like in so many other places, force the retreat or surrender of its Russian garrison.

    Those woods are certainly different than the moonscaped open fields we see around Bakhmut. The Kreminna forests have featured heavily in videos these last several weeks. [video at the link]

    Another one: [video at the link]

    And yet another one: [video at the link]

    Looking at Mark’s map, we’re seeing something that hasn’t happened in a while—the formation of a salient. By all indications, Ukrainian forces are advancing from the north and east. There’s some question as to what presence Ukraine has in the forests south of Kreminna, but there’s no doubt Ukraine will want to advance on that side as well, squeeze Russia’s defenders inside the town and force them to retreat. [map at the link]

    There’s a video above about a captured Russian T-90M, Russia’s most advanced tank in the battlefield. Yesterday, a Russian telegram channel posted an interview of a tank maintenance facility servicing five T-90Ms. [video at the link, shows a warehouse full of T-90 tanks]

    The facility was promptly geolocated to next-door Rubizhne, and if all is going well, the warehouse has been HIMAR’d into rubble. Regardless, this proves that as much as Wagner is spilling blood around Bakhmut, this is where Russia sees the biggest threat. Not only are they fielding their remaining top-end armor here, but there’s been reports of Russian VDV airborne forces at Kreminna as well.

    At this point, it’s hard to not see the VDV as cursed, harbingers of Russian doom. They were first deployed in the assault toward Kyiv, where they suffered catastrophic losses. Then they were sent to Kherson, where they faced their second humiliating retreat. And now they’re at Kreminna, where things are looking increasingly bleak for them.

    Down around Bakhmut, Wagner mercenary forces took the train station at Silj, on Soledar’s western edge. That completes Russia’s conquest of Soledar (pre-war population: 10,000). Ukrainian forces have moved to their next line of defense—the bluffs overlooking Soledar: [map at the link]

    And therein lies Wagner/Russia’s next challenge—how to keep its depleted and tired forces moving forward, with even longer supply lines, against yet another defensive line, and another after that, and another. All on a series of high-ground ridges overlooking their advances over yet more open ground. There aren’t that many prison fodder left to keep this up.

    Meanwhile, Soledar itself remains a Wagner killing field. [video at the link]

    I’ve already posted this, but it’s a rare daytime view of a HIMARS strike: [video at the link]

    It’s all so bloody, and frustrating. But utterly strategically meaningless. So if you find yourself stressing over Soledar/Bakhmut, this meme is for you: [Meme at the link showing “tactical Russian feint,” “orderly regroup,” “withdrawal to more favorable frontiers,” “complete collapse of the front,” Non existent counter offensive,” and “Gesture of Goodwill.”] Gesture of goodwill is pointing to Snake Island.

  140. says

    As part of the Republicans’ debt-ceiling plot, the party has come up with one of the worst ideas in the history of bad ideas: a debt prioritization scheme.

    Americans may never know all of the details about the assorted side deals Kevin McCarthy struck to become House speaker, but The Washington Post reported over the weekend on one of the more dangerous promises the Republican agreed to with some of his far-right members.

    House Republicans are preparing a plan telling the Treasury Department what to do if Congress and the White House don’t agree to lift the nation’s debt limit later this year, underscoring the brinkmanship newly empowered conservatives will bring to the high-stakes negotiations over averting a U.S. default, according to six people aware of the internal discussions.

    […] McCarthy reached a “private deal” on this debt-ceiling plan as part of the negotiations that allowed him to gain the speaker’s gavel.

    And the closer one looks at the details of the plan, the more ridiculous it becomes. From the Post’s report:

    In the preliminary stages of being drafted, the GOP proposal would call on the Biden administration to make only the most critical federal payments if the Treasury Department comes up against the statutory limit on what it can legally borrow. For instance, the plan is almost certain to call on the department to keep making interest payments on the debt, according to four people familiar with the internal deliberations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. House Republicans’ payment prioritization plan may also stipulate that the Treasury Department should continue making payments on Social Security, Medicare and veterans benefits, as well as funding the military, two of the people said.

    I can appreciate why such talk about budgetary policy might make some readers’ eyes glaze over, so let’s take a step back and provide some additional context.

    The whole point of raising the debt ceiling is to do precisely one thing: allow the United States to pay its bills. That’s it. That’s why this has to happen. Republicans are preparing a hostage crisis in which GOP lawmakers will only allow the United States to pay its bills if Democrats agree to a series of demands set out by Republican leaders.

    If Democrats refuse to go along with the extortion scheme, the U.S. government will default on its obligations for the first time, creating economic chaos.

    What the Post’s report is describing is some kind of prioritization scheme: Republicans are prepared to tell the Treasury Department, in effect, “If we refuse to do our jobs, you won’t be able to pay all of the nation’s bills, but you will still be able to pay some of the nation’s bills, so you should first pay for Social Security, Medicare, veterans benefits, the military, and interest on the national debt.”

    The first reason this is stark raving mad is that the Treasury Department would be under no obligation to follow such instructions, since the plan would have no force of law. It would represent little more than a suggestion from the hostage takers about what they’d like to see happen after they shoot their hostage.I would like to see Katie Porter present one of her famous whiteboard lectures showing Republicans why this plan isn’t feasible, and why it is stupid (ignorant at least).

    The second reason this is stark raving mad is that it would create an obvious political nightmare for the Republicans who support such an approach. As the Post explained, “A hypothetical proposal that protects Social Security, Medicare, veterans benefits and the military would still leave out huge swaths of critical federal expenditures on things such as Medicaid, food safety inspections, border control and air traffic control, to name just a handful of thousands of programs. Democrats are also likely to accuse Republicans of prioritizing payments to U.S. bondholders — which include Chinese banks — over American citizens.”

    The article quoted a senior Democratic aide who said, “Any plan to pay bondholders but not fund school lunches or the FAA or food safety or XYZ is just target practice for us.”

    The third reason this is stark raving mad is that it can’t happen. I don’t mean that in a figurative sense; I mean the idea literally cannot work.

    We know this for certain because we’ve been down this road before: When Tea Party Republicans helped create the first debt ceiling crisis 12 years ago, there was similar talk about “partial” default and “debt prioritization” schemes in which the country would pay some bills while ignoring others.

    What we learned at the time — or rather, what some of us who are not currently in the House Republican conference learned at the time — is that our government simply doesn’t have the mechanisms to execute such a plan.

    As Politico noted, “Besides the obvious political headaches, debt prioritization poses some practical complications, as well. When the notion was floated a decade ago, the Obama Administration argued that such a plan was unworkable given that government computers automatically make millions of payments every day.”

    And finally, the fourth reason this is stark raving mad is that even if the Treasury Department were to take the GOP’s suggestion seriously, it wouldn’t prevent the dire economic consequences: Republicans would still cause a crash.

    So, the bad news is the new House GOP majority has apparently come up with one of the worst ideas in the history of bad ideas, and the new House speaker privately promised to pursue it. The worst news is that the radicalized Republican Party is so serious about its hostage crisis that it’s already working on plans related to the plot.

    The nation will hit the debt ceiling on Thursday, and congressional action will be necessary by early June.

  141. says

    The news according to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy:

    While President Joe Biden wants to control the kind of stove Americans can cook on, House Republicans are certainly cooking with gas. It has been only one week since the 118th Congress was sworn in, and House Republicans have already shown we will keep our Commitment to America, work on behalf of the American people and deliver them a better future. This isn’t just the start of a new Congress. This is the start of a new direction in Washington.

    Facts and commentary from Steve Benen:

    […] For now, let’s put aside the fact that McCarthy’s first sentence included tiresome nonsense about gas stoves. Instead, let’s consider what House Republicans actually did in their first full week controlling the chamber since late 2018.

    The new GOP majority approved a new rules package that, among other things, weakened congressional ethics rules.

    House Republicans approved a bill to increase the deficit, help tax cheats, and target IRS agents who do not actually exist.

    The new GOP majority created a dangerous new committee to investigate the “weaponization” of government, which will pursue ridiculous conspiracy theories, while clashing with law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

    House Republicans opened the door to impeaching a cabinet secretary, while simultaneously opening the door to undoing at least one of Donald Trump’s impeachments.

    The new GOP majority put an outlandish number of election deniers in charge of powerful congressional committees.

    House Republicans began trying to impose new abortion restrictions, despite public sentiments on the issue.

    The new GOP majority changed the names of some House committees, in part because the word “labor” hurts their feelings.

    House Republicans pretended to care about the mishandling of classified materials, after spending months insisting the issue was irrelevant, while simultaneously pretending to be outraged by a gas-stove-confiscation plan that doesn’t exist.

    McCarthy would have Americans see these developments as evidence of a great start […]

    Link

  142. says

    Trump’s deposition in Carroll case clearly does him no favors

    It’s tough to predict what Donald Trump might say when he sits down for a deposition. In October 2021, for example, the former president insisted under oath that people “can be killed” by protestors who throw “very dangerous” fruit.

    About a year later, Trump sat down for another deposition in a very different kind of case, and the result wasn’t nearly as amusing. The Washington Post reported:

    Donald Trump used a sworn deposition in a case brought by his sexual assault accuser E. Jean Carroll to continue calling her a liar and to claim she is mentally ill — denying that he sexually assaulted her even as he falsely claimed Carroll said in a CNN interview that she enjoyed being raped.

    [JFC]

    […] It wasn’t until Friday that the public learned what Trump said after a federal judge unsealed parts of a transcript of Trump’s deposition.

    Not surprisingly, he reiterated his denial, calling the allegations a “hoax,” and deriding his accuser as a “nut job” and someone who’s “mentally sick.”

    But he also focused on an interview Carroll did with CNN in 2019, in which she said she’s avoiding using the word “rape” to describe the alleged incited because, Carroll put it, the word “has so many sexual connotations” and is a “fantasy” for many.

    “I think most people think of rape as being sexy,” she said at the time, adding that she instead thinks of the alleged attack involving Trump as a “fight.” As the Post’s report added, Trump cited the interview in telling Carroll’s attorney that the plaintiff “loved” sexual assault.

    “She actually indicated that she loved it. Okay?” Trump said in the deposition. “In fact, I think she said it was sexy, didn’t she? She said it was very sexy to be raped.” [Carroll attorney Roberta Kaplan] then asked: “So, sir, I just want to confirm: It’s your testimony that E. Jean Carroll said that she loved being sexually assaulted by you?” And Trump answered: “Well, based on her interview with Anderson Cooper, I believe that’s what took place.”

    In the same proceedings, the former president was asked whether he’d ever touched a woman’s intimate parts without consent. Trump’s lawyer objected, though the Republican nevertheless responded, “Well, I will tell you no, but you may have some people like your client that lie.”

    The case is expected to go to trial in April. […]

  143. says

    Followup to comment 197.

    President Biden on Monday called Republicans “fiscally demented” and knocked GOP priorities during the keynote speech at the National Action Network’s (NAN) annual breakfast to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

    “They’re gonna talk about big-spending Democrats again. Guess what? I reduced the deficit last year $350 billion. This year, federal deficit is down $1 trillion-plus. That’s a fact. And there’s gonna be hundreds of billions reduced over the next decade. But so what? These guys are the fiscally demented, I think. They don’t quite get it,” Biden said of Republicans, prompting laughter from the crowd. […]

    “Like many Americans, I was disappointed to see the very first bill that House Republicans … are bringing to the floor. It would help the wealthy people and big corporations cheat on their taxes at the expense of ordinary middle-class taxpayers … This is their first bill and they campaigned on inflation. They didn’t say if elected their plan was to make inflation worse,” Biden said. […]

    Link

  144. says

    Science and Roman-era concrete:

    […] Up until now, scientists and researchers have never been able to figure out exactly why Roman concrete has had such great lasting power. Roman concrete mixes—the recipes of which we have had for centuries—far outlast our modern concoctions. And probably most impressively, Roman concrete has lasted in difficult areas, like areas with serious seismic activity, sewers, active aqueducts, and seawalls. It was a true mystery. But not anymore.

    Researchers from from MIT, Harvard University, and laboratories in Italy and Switzerland have published their findings, solving the mystery. For many years people trying to solve the enigma of the secret of Roman concrete believed that the secret ingredient must be pozzolanic material such as volcanic ash. This ash was considered key to Roman concrete recipes. It turns out that the part MIT researchers focused on here were tiny white chunks found in Roman concrete called “lime clasts.”

    These little things have long been passed off as sloppy concrete-mixing artifacts, but MIT professor of civil and environmental engineering Admir Masic, who is an author of the paper, told MIT that the dismissiveness of Roman quality control “always bothered me. If the Romans put so much effort into making an outstanding construction material, following all of the detailed recipes that had been optimized over the course of many centuries, why would they put so little effort into ensuring the production of a well-mixed final product? There has to be more to this story.”

    It turns out that the presence of these lime clasts means that Romans must have used a process of “hot mixing,” using quicklime at extreme temperatures in order to create their concrete. What’s more, according to researchers this process creates a self-healing property within the concrete that’s not seen in our more modern treatments.

    During the hot mixing process, the lime clasts develop a characteristically brittle nanoparticulate architecture, creating an easily fractured and reactive calcium source, which, as the team proposed, could provide a critical self-healing functionality. As soon as tiny cracks start to form within the concrete, they can preferentially travel through the high-surface-area lime clasts. This material can then react with water, creating a calcium-saturated solution, which can recrystallize as calcium carbonate and quickly fill the crack, or react with pozzolanic materials to further strengthen the composite material. These reactions take place spontaneously and therefore automatically heal the cracks before they spread. Previous support for this hypothesis was found through the examination of other Roman concrete samples that exhibited calcite-filled cracks.

    The researchers were able to test this theory by creating two hot-mixed concrete samples that used ancient and modern formulations for concrete, then cracking those samples and beginning to run water through the cracks. The concrete made with the ancient recipe that included quicklime began healing those cracks within two weeks, while the other concrete sample did not.

    You can read the team’s findings here.

    Link

  145. raven says

    The Genetic Mutation That Makes ‘Kraken’ Covid XBB.1.5 So Contagious

    We have a good evolutionary history of the current dominant Covid-19 virus. It is called XBB.1.5 or sometimes nicknamed Kraken.
    It’s a recombinant between two Omicron strains that then picked up a mutation in the spike protein that then mutated once again to become more transmissable.

    There is no way that this will be the last variant we have to deal with.

    The Genetic Mutation That Makes ‘Kraken’ Covid XBB.1.5 So Contagious

    The Genetic Mutation That Makes ‘Kraken’ Covid So Contagious
    57
    David Axe
    Mon, January 16, 2023 at 2:04 PM PST·5 min read

    There’s a new, more contagious form of the novel-coronavirus. It’s got a greater ability to evade our antibodies. And it’s spreading easier than ever.

    You’ve read these words before, and you’ll almost certainly read them again as the Covid pandemic grinds into its fourth calendar year. But pay attention, because there’s something new about XBB.1.5, also known as Kraken, the latest Omicron subvariant that’s quickly becoming the dominant form of SARS-CoV-2 across much of the world. XBB.1.5 evolved after a couple of big genetic twists and turns.

    The virus still has the potential to surprise us. And that can mean only one thing: “SARS-CoV-2 seems like it’s going to be with us for a long time,” says Matthew Frieman, a University of Maryland School of Medicine immunologist and microbiologist.

    Kraken features a key mutation that geneticists call “F486P.” It’s a seemingly small change on the spike protein, the part of the virus that helps it to grab onto and infect our cells. F486P works by boosting the spike’s ability to “bind” to one particular part of our cells called the ACE2 receptor. That small change has enormous implications. F486P allows XBB.1.5 to retain all the most dangerous qualities of its parent subvariants, while also adding a new quality: extreme transmissibility.

    Basically, F486P makes XBB.1.5 really, really contagious — much more contagious than its immediate predecessors. But it also inherited from these same predecessors an alarming potential to evade our antibodies. “Due to the F486P spike mutation, XBB.1.5 exhibits a substantially higher viral receptor-binding affinity … while it retains similar antibody-evasion [properties],” says Lihong Liu, a Columbia University Covid Covid researcher. In short, XBB.1.5 is the first subvariant in its immediate family to be both more immune-evasive and more contagious.

    The appearance of the F486P mutation is a reminder that, even as many people get on with their lives, the pandemic isn’t nearly over. The virus keeps finding ways to spread faster while also increasingly sneaking past all those antibodies we’ve built up from vaccines, boosters, and past infection.

    XBB.1.5 first showed up in viral samples in the northeast United States back in October. Two months later, it’s present in nearly 30 countries and, according to the latest projection from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, could already be the dominant form of Covid in the United States. Not coincidentally, there’s been a surge in serious Covid cases in the Northeast U.S., XBB.1.5’s birthplace and the region where it’s thickest in the air.

    We’ve been through this sort of thing before, of course. Some new subvariant evolves, becomes dominant and drives a surge in cases. But by now, most people in most countries have a healthy mix of Covid antibodies from vaccines, past infection, or both. So while infection rates rise and fall to the rhythm of viral evolution, hospitalizations and deaths have been trending downward in most of the world for many months now.

    There’s no reason to expect XBB.1.5 will significantly alter this dynamic. For all its new genetic wrinkles, it’s still Omicron. And between vaccines, boosters, and immunity from past infection, we’ve got lots of ways to protect against that particular variant and its offspring.

    If there’s a big exception, it’s China, where three years of lockdown finally began lifting in early December following widespread public protest. Now the Chinese health system is buckling under the country’s first big, nationwide Covid outbreak. Notably, XBB.1.5 hasn’t shown up in China. Yet.

    Most of the world is in a pretty good position to struggle through XBB.1.5. China isn’t. For many hundreds of millions of Chinese with weaker immunity, COVID’s evolutionary twists and turns are pretty ominous.

    It started with BA.2 and BA.2.75, two of the early Omicron subvariants that were dominant in many countries last spring and summer, respectively. At some point, someone — or several someones — who had recovered from BA.2 caught BA.2.75, or vice versa. The two forms of the virus combined in those hosts, producing the “recombinant” XBB, which later evolved into XBB.1 and then XBB.1.5.

    Peter Hotez, an expert in vaccine development at Baylor College, describes these recombinants as “Scrabble” variants. “Because they tend to use high-value Scrabble letters like X, B and Q.” What they all have in common is that they’re “receptor-binding domain escape variants,” Hotez says.

    In plain English, they’ve got sticky spike proteins and they’re really good at dodging our antibodies, especially the antibodies we get from vaccines. “In my understanding, XBB.1, the parent of XBB.1.5 is almost completely resistant to vaccine-induced humoral immunity,” says Kei Sato, a University of Tokyo virologist.

    But XBB.1.5 is even stickier and more evasive. And it’s all because of the F486P mutation. The original XBB and its immediate offspring XBB.1 included F486S rather than F486P. F486S altered the spike protein, but didn’t make the spike protein any stickier and thus more transmissible.

    With F486P, XBB and XBB.1 achieved greater immune-evasion without also adding greater transmissibility. Then XBB.1.5 came around and bucked that comforting trend. The mutation upgrade, from F486S to F486P, made the spike protein stickier and the virus more transmissible.

    For most of us, this genetic innovation is most worrying for the trend that it signals. There was some speculation as early 2021 — just six months or so into the pandemic — that SARS-CoV-2 would run out of genetic space, so to speak, and stop mutating in significant ways.

    That hasn’t happened. “There seems to be still more mutational space in the genome,” Frieman says. XBB.1.5 is proof that the virus can still change, still get more contagious and more evasive. That it can, after all this time, still surprise us.

  146. StevoR says

    Far reichwing architect of our xenophobic, racist, evil anti-Refugees “Operation Sovereiegn Borders” policy, ( See : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Sovereign_Borders ) LNP Senator & General known by the nickname the “Butcher of Fallujah” apparently Jim Molan has died today. His life made the world a worse place and the avoidable misery, torment and human suffering he caused is incalculable. Molan was also a Climate Reality Denier famously admitting he doesn’t rely on evidence – 4min 8 seconds mark here – in a Q&A show and a notorious Islamophobe who shared racist neo-nazi material unapologetically. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Molan#Political_career.) Things that will no doubt be glossed over in the post mortem eulogising of a man who was evil and caused so much harm to innocent people.

  147. Reginald Selkirk says

    Ex-GOP candidate arrested in shootings at homes of Democratic New Mexico elected officials

    Albuquerque police arrested a former Republican state House candidate in connection with recent shootings at the homes of Democratic lawmakers.
    At a news conference on Monday night, Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina announced that Solomon Pena, 39, was in police custody following a SWAT standoff in Southwest Albuquerque Monday afternoon.
    “It is believed that he is the mastermind behind this and that was organizing this,” Medina told reporters in front of a projected picture of Pena wearing a red hoodie that reads “Make America Great Again” in front of two Trump flags…
    Pena is accused of conspiring with and paying four other men to shoot at the homes of 2 county commissioners and 2 state legislators, police said.
    Investigators said that five people were involved in the conspiracy and that Pena was directly involved in the final shooting. Evidence against Pena includes firearms, cell phone and electronic records, surveillance footage and multiple witnesses, investigators said…

  148. Reginald Selkirk says

    Marjorie Taylor Greene Warns Enemies of God’s Vengeance

    “Vengeance is mine declares the Lord. God will not let evil go unpunished,” Greene’s tweet stated. “The [House GOP] must do what is right for the American people and no longer serve the Uniparty and the Globalist agenda. America First!]
    The exact targets of Greene’s message and the motivation for it remain unclear. However, her tagging of the official House GOP Twitter account indicated that she might be addressing her colleagues in the House of Representatives, who have been engulfed in tumultuous infighting for the last few months.

  149. StevoR says

    Trio of news tales :

    A former commander of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group who fought in Ukraine said he has fled to Norway and is seeking asylum after witnessing the killing and mistreatment of Russian prisoners brought to the frontline as recruits.

    Source : https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-01-17/wagner-medvedev-seeks-asylum-in-norway-after-fleeing-russia/101865628

    A failed Republican candidate who authorities said was angry over his electoral defeat and made baseless claims the election last November was “rigged” against him has been arrested in connection with a series of drive-by shootings targeting the homes of Democratic politicians in New Mexico’s largest city. Solomon Pena, 39, was arrested on Monday evening, just hours after SWAT officers took him into custody and served search warrants at his home, police said.

    Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina described Mr Pena as the “mastermind” of what he said appears to be a politically motivated conspiracy leading to shootings at the homes of two county commissioners and two state legislators between early December and early January.

    Mr Pena ran unsuccessfully in November against incumbent state Representative Miguel Garcia, the long-time Democrat representing House District 14 in the South Valley.

    Mr Garcia won by 48 percentage points, or roughly 3,600 votes.

    After the election, police said, Mr Pena showed up uninvited at the elected officials’ homes with what he claimed were documents proving he had won his race.

    There was no evidence of widespread voter fraud in New Mexico in 2020 or 2022.

    The shootings began shortly after those conversations.

    Source : https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-01-17/republican-candidate-arrested-over-new-mexico-shootings/101865212

    Scientists say they have used a laser beam to guide lightning for the first time, hoping the technique will help provide protection against deadly bolts — and one day maybe even trigger them. ..(snip) .. They lugged a car-sized laser — which can fire up to a thousand pulses of light a second — up the 2,500-metre peak of Santis mountain in north-eastern Switzerland.

    The peak is home to a communications tower that is struck by lightning about 100 times year.

    After two years building the powerful laser, it took several weeks to move it in pieces via a cable car.

    Finally, a helicopter had to drop off the large containers that would house the telescope.

    The telescope focused the laser beam to maximum intensity at a spot about 150 metres in the air — just above the top of the 124-metre tower.

    The beam has a diameter of 20 centimetres at the beginning, but narrows to just a few centimetres at the top.

    Ride the lightning

    During a storm in the summer of 2021, the scientists were able to photograph their beam driving a lightning bolt for 50 around metres.

    Source : https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-01-17/scientists-use-laser-to-guide-lightning-bolt-for-first-time/101861990

    Bold original.

    Laser guided lightning. Rather impressive tech. Got potential here..

  150. StevoR says

    More on the late unlamented Molan :

    the Greens intensified their criticisms of Senator Molan during Question Time, lambasting his record as chief of operations for coalition forces in Iraq almost 15 years ago.

    American, British and Iraqi forces launched multiple assaults on Fallujah in 2004 as they tried to root out Sunni insurgents in the city.

    Greens leader Richard Di Natale said the attack on Fallujah was a disaster for civilians, and Senator Molan had to bear responsibility.

    “At the time of the assault on Fallujah under the command of now-Senator Molan, a UN special rapporteur said coalition forces used hunger and deprivation as a weapon of war against the civilian population — a flagrant violation of international law,” Senator Di Natale said.

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-02-06/greens-attack-new-liberal-senator-jim-molan-over-iraq-record/9401416

    Plus :

    Newly-elected Liberal senator and retired senior Army officer Jim Molan is defending his decision to share anti-Muslim videos posted by far-right UK group Britain First on Facebook. In March last year Mr Molan, who was sworn in as a senator this morning, shared posts from the group on his personal, public Facebook page.

    One of the Britain First videos purports to show Muslim men attacking a police car in France, while the other purports to show Muslim men harassing and assaulting young women in France and the Netherlands.

    The second video has been discredited by online fact-checkers.

    Today Senator Molan said he did not remember sharing the videos, but upon watching them again, was shocked by the violence within them.

    He said the videos were not inflammatory, and not racist.

    “I have no apologies, I have no regrets,” he said.

    Source : https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-02-05/liberal-senator-jim-molan-shares-anti-muslim-videos/9397246

    Oh & a reminder who ‘Britian First’ are here : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Britain_First

  151. whheydt says

    Re; Reginald Selkirk @ #208…
    Hey, MTG…how about you let your god take care his vengeance on his own? On the other hand, watching Republicans tear each other apart is amusing. Now if only they weren’t getting ready to crash the US economy while they do it.

  152. says

    Ukraine update: Russia finally redefines ‘success’ downward far enough to score a ‘win’

    For more than a week, Russia has been claiming to have captured all of the town of Soledar. On Monday morning, that was still not completely true. However, during the day on Monday, Ukrainian forces either withdrew from or were pushed out of the Silj area on the extreme northwest of the town. With that, it was over: Russia really has captured all of Soledar.

    What they got doesn’t amount to much—2 kilometers in which not a single building remains intact and most of the structures are absolutely flattened. Comparing satellite images of Soledar made a year ago to the current state is almost like looking at before and after images of construction, except in the wrong order. The Russians have unmade Soledar. Erased it. As with every town and village along this front going back to Popasna, they have removed Soledar from the Earth then parked their equipment on the space where it once stood.

    The Russian media calls this “liberation.”

    […] Just to repeat what we’ve said before, the tactical or strategic value of Soledar is extremely limited. Holding the town does give Russia fire control over the TO503 highway. That highway was already under threat, but now it’s likely difficult or impossible for Ukraine to move forces between Bakhmut and Siversk without taking a several-kilometer jog to the west. That highway was of high importance when Ukraine was engaged with Russia in Lysychansk and Severodonetsk. Russia’s ability to disrupt traffic along this highway could be a factor when Ukraine moves to liberate those cities. Likely not. The important highway in supplying this area was the T1302, and that one has been impassable for months. Taking Soledar makes no difference there.

    I’m grabbing this map from War Mapper because I never do a good job of preserving past positions on my own map and in this case, our estimates are close enough. This gives a fair sense of just what Russia has gained, at least in terms of occupied territory. [map at the link]

    The destruction of Soledar may also better position Russia for another of its endless runs at Bakhmut. It certainly extends the area of contact along the north side of the city. However, should Russia turn the forces in this area south, it would make them vulnerable to attack from the north and west, where other Ukrainian troops are positioned at Vesele and Rozdolivka. It seems more likely that Russian forces that moved into the space-that-was-Soledar will continue in an attempt to press west, hoping to isolate Bakhmut or threaten other locations rather than make an immediate swing to the south.

    Still, none of that is really what Soledar is all about.

    Soledar was captured because Russia identified it as a weak point in the line, a point where it could bring together more pressure than the defenders could withstand, and where an advance could be made to capture territory. That’s what every army does. That’s what Ukraine did when it moved against the area north of Balakliya in early September and kicked off the Kharkiv counteroffensive. Right now, Ukraine is maneuvering, as best the mud and weather allows, along the front line just 40 km north of Soledar, looking for the best way around Russian defenses at Kreminna.

    The difference between what Ukraine is doing and what Russia did at Soledar comes down to two things: cost and goals. In terms of the losses it was willing to sustain to take the location, it appears Russia had no limits. […]

    […]. The Ukrainian advance near Balakliya broke Russian defensive lines, opened a route deep into occupied territory, and resulted in the liberation of over 12,000 square kilometers of Ukrainian territory in the next three weeks. Taking Soledar offers … the opportunity to try and take the next small town, at an equally high cost.

    Even so, there have been many reports that capturing Soledar, at any cost, was exactly the order that had been laid down to both Wagner group mercenary leaders and other Russian commanders in the area. So why? Well …

    Russia didn’t manage to capture Kyiv. So it redefined victory down to taking the eastern and southern areas of Ukraine. Then it failed to hold Kharkiv, so it redefined victory to capturing all of Luhansk and holding the sea coast. Kherson is Russia forever! Then Russia lost Kherson in an absolutely humiliating defeat. Then Russia decided that taking Bakhmut, Bakhmut would be a victory! Only they couldn’t capture Bakhmut.

    Russia threw everything at Soledar because it needed a “win.” And any win would do. The strategic value of taking this flat space that used to hold a town is negligible, except in terms of the media reports announcing “Russia scores its first victory in months,” backed by the sound of 10,000 cheering tankies.

    Which does make you think. Not so much about Soledar, but about exactly why Russia felt it needed a win so badly that it was willing to reset the bar of victory so low and raise the level of acceptable loss so high. […]

    More updates from Ukraine coming soon.

  153. says

    Olena Zelenska, the first lady of Ukraine, slammed Russia on Tuesday for a recent missile attack on an apartment building in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Dnipro that killed more than 40 people.

    “There is nothing off limits for Russia,” Zelenska said at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “As we speak, in our city of Dnipro, people are still working and sorting through the debris of a residential area, a house that was destroyed by an anti-ship missile. This missile was built to destroy aircraft carriers and was used against the civilian infrastructure.”

    “These were ordinary people at home on a Saturday and that’s enough reason for Russia to kill,” she added.

    Forty-four people, including five children, were killed in the strike in Dnipro on Saturday, according to Ukrainian emergency services. The strike was among the latest barrage of missiles that Moscow fired on its neighbor on Saturday, pummeling cities across Ukraine.

    Zelenska urged those in attendance at the World Economic Forum gathering, including heads of state, business leaders, prominent economists and other public figures, to use their influence to help halt Russian aggression. […]

    Link

  154. says

    Followup to comment 212.

    More Ukrainian updates:

    Task & Purpose has put together a sharp video looking at the potential impact of the Bradley Armored Fighting Vehicle in Ukraine. [video at the link in comment 212, scroll down]

    It gives a good sense of how the vehicle matches up with Russia’s BMP, but more importantly, how the Bradley is designed as a component of a different fighting strategy than the vehicles now being used in this war. Good insights into the source and level of equipment likely to be featured on those Bradleys now headed for active service, but why the U.S. could easily follow with many more, and why the Bradley is “finally getting to do what it was designed to do.” Finally, they do a decent job talking about that demon logistics and how it impacts the Bradley’s likely deployment in Ukraine.

    We love us some logistics at Daily Kos, and we’ve talked often about the constraints that affect Russia’s ability to keep its forces supplied or to support a deep penetration. Something as simple as the use of palettes affects not just how quickly a truck or train can be unloaded, but how materiel is stored, how ammunition is positioned adjacent to the battlefield, and how many times HIMARS has converted heaps of Russian shells into truly impressive explosions.

    This thread from a Ukrainian military officer does a fantastic job of illuminating how Russia has begun to address those issues, particularly when it comes to protecting their stores of equipment and ammo, and what effect that’s having on actions in Ukraine.

    We love us some logistics at Daily Kos, and we’ve talked often about the constraints that affect Russia’s ability to keep its forces supplied or to support a deep penetration. Something as simple as the use of palettes affects not just how quickly a truck or train can be unloaded, but how materiel is stored, how ammunition is positioned adjacent to the battlefield, and how many times HIMARS has converted heaps of Russian shells into truly impressive explosions.

    This thread from a Ukrainian military officer does a fantastic job of illuminating how Russia has begun to address those issues, particularly when it comes to protecting their stores of equipment and ammo, and what effect that’s having on actions in Ukraine.

    During the Kherson liberation, Russian occupational forces (ROF) continued to utilize Myrne railway station and surrounding facilities to provide continuous logistical support for the entire Kherson army group.

    Myrne station received several trains per day, loaded with ammo, vehicles, and troops. Some of these supplies were stored in facilities around the station. As soon as they became within Ukrainian reach, these facilities were stricken.

    While the damage wasn’t as significant as anticipated, Russian occupational forces were forced to abandon their major supply routes and move their supply routes further south.

    Sokolohirne – a tiny town located right on the border between Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblast. Unfortunately, it’s outside of any reasonable means that Ukraine can use to establish persistent fire control over the area.

    Keep in mind that it’s not always possible to fire HIMARS from the edge of the range – even if that looks like the target is within range, there are other details that an independent observer might not be aware of:
    1. Enemy artillery or air fire control over the territory.
    2. Mined areas.
    3. Unjustified risk due to strong EW, AD, radar, or intelligence saturation in the area

    Sokolohirne is used by ROF to move vehicles, personnel, supplies, and construction materials between Zaporizhzhia, Crimea, and Kherson regions. To ease logistical constraints, they actively use civilian trucks.

    Some cargo is moved in shipping containers by civilian trucks, making it more difficult to identify whether those contain ammo, MRE, or construction materials: [this image and many others are available at the Twitter link provided within the main article]

    Until Ukraine will get enough deep-striking capabilities, Russians will keep their major logistics hubs just slightly away from the longest-ranged weapon that Ukraine has in significant numbers.

    The best way to keep Russia away from Ukraine is to keep pushing Russian logistical routes out of it, saving the lives of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers.

    This is what remains of a Russian armored unit that attempted to move out from the Donetsk area toward the small town of Vodyane on Saturday. That town has been under attack since the invasion began. In fact, it was the front lines on the day Russia rolled into Ukraine. It’s still on the front line. [images at the link]

    Don’t get the impression that just because Russia took Soledar, they’ve somehow gained some new level of competence. They have not.

  155. raven says

    We found out the hard way that pregnancy and Covid-19 virus was a bad combination.
    Here is another study.
    Pregnant women were 7 times more likely to die.
    They were also at much higher risk of having babies with medical problems such as low birth rate or preterm birth.

    “Across the studies about 3% of pregnant women with Covid-19 needed intensive care, and about 4% needed any kind of critical care, but this was far higher than the numbers of pregnant women who needed that kind of care outside of a Covid-19 infection.

    Compared to pregnant individuals who weren’t infected, those who got Covid-19 were nearly 4 times more likely to be admitted to an intensive care unit. They were 15 times more likely to be ventilated and were 7 times more likely to die.”

    Large new review underscores the risks of Covid-19 during pregnancy

    Large new review underscores the risks of Covid-19 during pregnancy | CNN
    By Brenda Goodman
    Updated 6:37 AM EST, Tue January 17, 2023

    Pregnant women and their developing babies are at higher risk for severe outcomes if they get Covid-19, and now a large, international review is helping to underscore how devastating those risks can be.

    The study draws on data from 12 studies from as many countries—including the United States. Altogether, the studies included more than 13,000 pregnant women—about 2,000 who had a confirmed or probable case of Covid-19. The health outcomes for these women and their babies were compared to about 11,000 pregnancies where the mother tested negative for Covid-19 or antibodies to it at the time of their deliveries.

    Across the studies about 3% of pregnant women with Covid-19 needed intensive care, and about 4% needed any kind of critical care, but this was far higher than the numbers of pregnant women who needed that kind of care outside of a Covid-19 infection.

    Compared to pregnant individuals who weren’t infected, those who got Covid-19 were nearly 4 times more likely to be admitted to an intensive care unit. They were 15 times more likely to be ventilated and were 7 times more likely to die. They also had higher risks for pre-eclampisa, blood clots, and problems caused by high blood pressure. Babies born to moms who had Covid-19 were at higher risk for preterm birth and low birth weights.

    Previous studies have suggested that Covid-19 may increase the risk of stillbirth, but this study didn’t find that same link.

    Risks persist across nations
    Still, the findings paint a clear picture that shows the risks of pregnancy are amplified by Covid-19 infections.

    “It’s very clear and even it’s consistent, you know, whether we’re talking about Sweden where we have really generally great pregnancy outcomes to other countries that you know, have bigger problems with maternal morbidity and mortality, that having COVID and pregnancy increases risk for both mom and baby,” said lead study author Emily Smith, who is an assistant professor of global health at George Washington University.

    The study has some caveats that may limit how applicable the findings are to pregnant individuals in the Omicron era.

    First, the studies were conducted relatively early in the pandemic, at a time when most people were still unvaccinated and uninfected. That means people in the study were likely at higher risk not just because they were pregnant, but also because they were immunologically naïve to the virus—they didn’t have any pre-existing immunity to help them fight off their infections.

    Since then, many pregnant individuals have gotten vaccinated, or had Covid-19 or both. As of the first week of January, about 72% of pregnant people in the U.S. have had their primary series of Covid-19 vaccines, and about 95% of Americans are estimated to have had Covid-19 at least once, or been vaccinated against it, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means it’s likely they have some immune memory against the virus that may help protect against severe outcomes.

    That immune memory appears to fade over time, however. CDC data show just 19% of pregnant women have had an updated booster, meaning many people may not have as much protection against the virus as they think they do.

    Lead study author Emily Smith, who is an assistant professor of global health at George Washington University, says the study results reflect the risk of Covid-19 and pregnancy in unvaccinated people.

    Unfortunately, Smith says, many countries still don’t have clear guidelines advising vaccination during pregnancy. And there are some parts of the world, such as China, that still have substantial proportions of their population who’ve never been been infected.

    Vaccination is vital
    For people who are trying to weigh the risks and benefits of Covid-19 vaccination during pregnancy, Smith says this study helps tip the scales firmly on the side of vaccination.

    “It’s worth it to protect yourself in pregnancy,” Smith said.

    She says this study didn’t look at the benefits of vaccination in pregnancy, but other studies have, showing big decreases in the risk of stillbirth, preterm birth and severe disease or death for mom.

    “And so that’s kind of the complementary story,” said Smith.

    Dr. Justin Lappen, division director of Maternal Fetal Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, praised the study and said its findings reinforce and advance previous research, which has found that Covid-19 markedly increases the risk of severe outcomes for mom and baby. He wasn’t involved in the study.

    He says the findings highlight the importance of preventing and treating Covid-19 in pregnant women.

    Therapies that are indicated or otherwise recommended should not be withheld specifically due to pregnancy or breastfeeding, Lappen wrote in an email to CNN.

    The study is published in the journal BMJ Global Health.

  156. says

    […] Donald John Trump, America’s redoubtable documents protector, once reportedly advised Rudy Giuliani to take secret government documents home so he’d have more time to work on them. Rudy Effing Giuliani, the top Trump administration cybersecurity expert who permanently got locked out of his iPhone. The leaky-headed lout. The guy who’s basically a Tiny Toons version of Nosferatu. That Rudy Giuliani.

    Business Insider:

    When I was his lawyer, I mean, there was a period of time I was there like, uh, 10 straight days,” Giuliani said on a Sunday episode of the WABC77 radio show, “Uncovering the Truth with Rudy Giuliani & Dr. Maria Ryan.”

    “I didn’t take, listen to this, this is my training on ‘top secret:’ I didn’t take them out of Mar-a-Lago,” Giuliani said, describing how he handled the documents.

    “He told me, ‘Oh, take them home with you,'” Giuliani said of Trump. “I’m not going to take Wilbur Ross’ tax returns home with me. I could misplace them!”

    […] Giuliani, somewhat oddly, added, “I—you know, I never, ever, ever, ever, ever, knowingly, and I never got caught—but I don’t remember ever taking a doc.”

    Oh, well, if Rudy Giuliani doesn’t remember it, it must not have happened. Whew. And here I thought his brain was mostly sour mash at this point. Seriously, he’d be lucky if he remembered what he had for breakfast this morning—and whether it was single-malt or blended. […]

    Link

  157. Reginald Selkirk says

    China tells the world that the Maoist madness is over – we can all make money again

    China has extended the olive branch to Western democracies and global capitalists alike, promising a new era of detente after the coercive “wolf warrior” diplomacy of the last five years.

    Vice-premier Liu He, the economic plenipotentiary of Xi Jinping’s China, told a gathering of business leaders and ministers in Davos that China is back inside the tent and eager to restore the money-making bonhomie of the golden years…

  158. Reginald Selkirk says

    Parents angry as Texas football practice sends students to hospital

    The students were forced to do nearly 400 push-ups without a water break, said Dr Osehotue Okojie, a parent of one student who had to go to hospital…
    He was diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a medical condition that involves the breakdown of muscle tissue that causes the release of a damaging protein into the blood, she said. He spent a week in the hospital before coming home…

    “Rhabdo” for short.

  159. says

    More updates from Ukraine:

    Dnipro (from Ukraine department of emergency services)

    At 1:00 p.m. on January 17, search and rescue operations in the city of Dnipro at the site of a rocket attack were completed.

    44 people died, including 5 children
    79 people were injured, including 16 children
    39 people were rescued, including 6 children

    Unconfirmed reports today of fighting near Zmiivka, less than 5km NW of Svatove. If true, this would be the first time Ukrainian forces had reached this location.

    There has been a tremendous amount of back and forth in a small area west of the highway near Svatove over the last two weeks. […]

    It’s inevitable that, once Challengers and Leopard 2s (and M1A2?) reach the front lines in Ukraine, we’re going to see news of losses. However, I don’t think they’re going to go down with the frequency that we’re seeing from T-90Ms. [video at the link]

    From Tagesspiegel: FDP member of the German Bundestag Marcus Faber after a visit to the front in Ukraine: “I am sure that we will deliver Leopard 1 and Leopard 2, which will be official in the next few days.” […]

    Link

  160. says

    Satire from Andy Borowitz:

    Declaring that “it’s time for a victory lap,” Representative Kevin McCarthy celebrated one week of being barely tolerated by his Republican colleagues.

    The California congressman was unable to contain his jubilation after a week in which the G.O.P. caucus appeared to keep its profound loathing of him marginally in check.

    “I’m deeply honored by the display of grudging acceptance through gritted teeth that the caucus has shown me,” he said.

    The House Speaker said that, though his fellow-Republicans could vote to oust him at a moment’s notice, he has decided to “be in the now.”

    “If it turns out that this week was the only week my colleagues managed not to recoil in disgust at the sight of me holding the gavel, I will have had a good run,” he said.

    New Yorker link

  161. says

    Mass shooting updates:

    * The latest on the mass shooting in Fort Pierce: “A 30-year-old woman died one day after eight people were shot at a party held after a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade, Florida police said Tuesday.”

    * The latest on the mass shooting in Goshen: “Six people — including a 17-year-old mother and her 6-month-old baby — were killed in a shooting early Monday at a home in central California, and authorities are searching for at least two suspects, sheriff’s officials said.”

    Information comes from NBC News and from the Associated Press

  162. says

    Associated Press:

    Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte during a meeting with President Joe Biden on Tuesday said that the Netherlands plans to ‘join’ the U.S. and Germany’s efforts to train and arm Ukraine with advanced Patriot defense systems.

  163. says

    Bloomberg:

    Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin — who foiled Democrats’ efforts to pass a voting-rights overhaul by a simple majority — shared a high-five on the stage in Davos as they reaffirmed their opposition to overturning the Senate’s filibuster rule.

  164. says

    Things are not okay in Oklahoma public schools, thanks (yet again) to Republicans

    As we embark into 2023, the general American public—and the world at large, really—is still navigating how to live amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This is true for the obvious folks, like those who work in hospitals and clinics, but also for, well, everyone. It’s true for bus drivers and janitors and servers. It’s really, really, really true for people who work with or around children, including teachers.

    We’d hope at this point in the pandemic public school officials and administrators would have a handle on how to keep all involved safe. But thanks in no small part to Republican hysteria and the seemingly inherent desire to distract and misinform, conservatives in power are still stoking the flames of fear and ignorance instead of putting all hands on deck during a public health crisis.

    One recent example comes to us from Oklahoma, where a state superintendent has ordered staff to investigate not one but two teachers he insists are “indoctrinating” students. And if that doesn’t feel like a conservative code word on its own, don’t worry—this guy ran on an anti-woke agenda just to make where he stands super, super clear.

    Ryan Walters, who serves as the Oklahoma state superintendent, shared his perspective in a video posted to Twitter.

    “I have instructed my staff to immediately begin the processes to hold the two teachers accountable who actively violated state law, admitted to violating state law, to indoctrinate our kids,” Walters states in the video.

    “We will not allow the indoctrination of Oklahoma students here in the state of Oklahoma,” he continues. “And I, as the state superintendent and the Department of Education, will do everything within our power to not allow our kids to be indoctrinated by far-left radicals and to hold those accountable who have done so.” [video at the link]

    Who are the “far-left radicals?” He doesn’t say. Walters hasn’t yet named the teachers or specified where or what they teach. Obviously, this is a relative good because it will hopefully save them from public shaming and possible threats and harassment, but the bigger picture issue is that he wants to investigate them at all.

    Walters, by the way, has been the state superintendent for less than one month […] he’s explicitly told news outlets his mission is to fight “woke” ideology in public schools. Like many of the folks spouting anti-critical race theory and anti-queer fearmongering, Walters frames this as an issue of parental rights or parental consent, but really it’s anti-intellectualism and hate.

    […] In speaking to local outlet KOCO 5 in an interview, Walters insisted he’s been getting “messages, emails, everything from parents at every hour” about indoctrination concerns. “They continue to talk about examples of critical race theory in their schools. They continue to talk about this radical transgender education that’s been put in schools.” […] he didn’t offer specific examples to the outlet. [video at the link]

    As reported over at EdWeek, the education department for the state of Oklahoma has actually already punished two school districts by reducing their accreditation because of reported violations of HB 1775, which essentially bars teachers from discussing racism and sexism in the classroom. This downgrade impacted one of the largest school districts in the state: Tulsa.

    […] Campaign, campaign, campaign with no helpful action, empathy, or ability to dive into the issues that matter. The conservative game plan continues to distract, enrage, and scare people into voting against the collective good.

  165. Pierce R. Butler says

    Somebody who knows more about economics, please correct me if/where I’m wrong.

    If the US – as the Republicans apparently want – defaults on its debt payments, part of the ensuing financial chaos will include a significantly lowered international credit rating, meaning higher interest rates on American bonds and other borrowing. Since (especially in case of default) increased social needs and reduced tax revenue will necessitate even more borrowing, that will move an even greater stream of dollars to major US creditors and bondholders, primarily big banks and capital funds, thus providing further incentives for those institutions to support the GOP’s high-stakes game of chicken.

    However, aforesaid chaos would also do a lot of damage to those institutions’ portfolios all the way around, especially by flattening consumer demand for practically everything as well as tearing apart corporate revenues and planning, thereby harming the financiers’ interests much more than they might reasonably expect to gain from raised federal borrowing rates. That not only bollixes my nascent conspiracy theory, but raises the question of why Wall Street (et alia) allows even one major US political party to strew such bombs across the monetary landscape.

    What have I missed here?

  166. raven says

    Elon Musk Warns of ‘Massive Danger’ Looming Over the World.
    Musk is an idiot.
    This is beyond any doubt by now.

    The earth’s population is 8 billion and it is wrecking our biosphere and climate. It’s also still going up and is projected to peak at 9.7 billion around 2050.

    The reason why China’s and many other places birth rates have fallen is because it is becoming harder and harder to support a family of 4 or more. And the future doesn’t look so great much of anywhere.

    Elon Musk Warns of ‘Massive Danger’ Looming Over the World

    TheStreet.com
    Elon Musk Warns of ‘Massive Danger’ Looming Over the World
    392
    Tue, January 17, 2023 at 10:50 AM PST·4 min read

    Elon Musk sees himself as the CEO of everything. China, the world’s most populous country — one-sixth of the planet’s inhabitants live there — saw its population decline in 2022. The country’s population had doubled since the 1960s, to more than 1.4 billion today.

    As his influence has grown alongside the number of his Twitter followers, the Tesla (TSLA) – Get Free Report boss and SpaceX founder has been making his voice heard on global issues.

    He doesn’t limit his areas of interest, and his blunt approach draws acclaim from his followers. He has established himself as a kind of global CEO.

    And China has just given him a new opportunity to put on his visionary’s hat.

    China, the world’s most populous country — one-sixth of the planet’s inhabitants live there — saw its population decline in 2022. That’s a statistic that was unheard of for six decades, and demographers say that it’s a historic turning point.

    The country’s population had doubled since the 1960s, to more than 1.4 billion today.

    But in 2022, the number of births in China was 9.56 million, the National Bureau of Statistics reported. At the same time, 10.41 million deaths were recorded. The drop in the population was thus 850,000 people.

    Musk Calls Population Decline a ‘Massive Danger’
    This is a first since 1960-1961, when a famine that began in 1959 killed tens of millions of people. That famine followed the errors of the economic policy known as the Great Leap Forward.

    Paradoxically, this current decline occurred even as China relaxed its birth-control policy in recent years. Ten years ago, the Chinese were allowed to have only one child. Since 2021, they can have three.

    This drop, which could continue until the end of the century, could severely harm the economy and the pension system.

    For Musk, the Chinese announcements reinforce his warning that the biggest problem facing the world is population decline.

    “Population collapse is a massive danger to the future of civilization!” the billionaire commented on Jan. 16.

    He then highlighted a message from the 2018 World Economic Forum to hammer out his warning and, above all, to indicate that he was right. In its message the forum warned against overcrowding, but Musk has been estimating for years that the world doesn’t have enough people.

    “Even as birth rates decline overpopulation remains a global challenge,” the World Economic Forum tweeted on April 5, 2018.

    “Population collapse is an existential problem for humanity, not overpopulation!” Musk tweeted back on Jan. 17, 2023.

    The United Nations has estimated that India should dethrone China this year as the country with the most inhabitants.

    In 2019, the UN still believed that China would not reach its peak population until 2031-2032. But since then the fertility rate has collapsed to 1.15 children per woman in 2021, a bit more than half the generation-renewal threshold of 2.1.

    Many local Chinese authorities have launched measures to encourage couples to procreate.

    The metropolis of Shenzhen in south China recently began offering a birth bonus and allowances paid until the children are three years old. A couple welcoming their first baby will automatically receive 3,000 yuan ($443); they’ll get 10,000 yuan ($1,476) if it is their third. In total, a family with three children will receive 37,500 yuan ($5,536) in bonuses and allowances.

    But whether such incentives can reverse the curve is uncertain. China’s population could decline by an average of 1.1% each year, according to a study by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. The country could have only 587 million inhabitants in 2100, less than half of the population today, according to the most pessimistic projections of these demographers.

    Although he is not a demographer, Musk said several months ago that the Chinese population was going to collapse.

    “Most people still think China has a one-child policy. China had its lowest birthdate ever last year, despite having a three-child policy!” Musk wrote last June. “At current birth rates, China will lose ~40% of people every generation! Population collapse.”

    Besides China, the tech tycoon warns of population decline in wealthy countries like Japan.

    The remedy, he says, is to encourage people to have children. The billionaire, 51, is the father of nine, three of whom were born at the end of 2021.

  167. tomh says

    Students Can Carry Guns at the University of Texas — But They Can’t Use TikTok
    By Nikki McCann Ramirez / Rolling Stone
    January 17, 2023

    “You are no longer able to access TikTok on any device if you are connected to the university via its wired or WIFI networks.”

    So reads a notice that appears on the devices of students at the University of Texas at Austin after the school announced it would be blocking the use of the social media app on university WiFi and servers. The decision was prompted by an order from Governor Greg Abbott banning the use of the app on state-owned devices on grounds of security concerns. Students can still, however, carry a gun on campus.
    […]

    While students and faculty, under the guise of their own and the university’s safety, will no longer be allowed to access TikTok via university WiFi, under Abbott’s governance they can still carry a firearm on campus. Texas’ “campus carry” laws permit students to carry concealed handguns on campus, including in classrooms.
    […]

  168. tomh says

    Re: whheydt @ #232
    Sounds about right for Texas. Not sure I’d look forward to going to class in those classrooms.

  169. Reginald Selkirk says

    Helicopter crash near Kyiv kills 16, including Ukrainian interior minister

    A helicopter crash near a kindergarten in the Kyiv region has killed at least 16 people, including the leadership team of Ukraine’s interior ministry who were traveling on the aircraft and three children on the ground, according to officials.

    At least 30 others, including 12 children, are in the hospital following the incident in the city of Brovary on Wednesday, according to Kyrylo Tymoshenko, head of the Ukrainian Presidential Administration.

    Tymoshenko has revised down the number of people killed in the crash on the outskirts of Ukraine’s capital – the previous death toll was 18.

    Interior Minister Denis Monastyrsky, First Deputy Minister Yevheniy Yenin and State Secretary Yuriy Lubkovychis died, Anton Geraschenko, a ministry adviser, confirmed on social media.

    All nine people onboard the helicopter (six ministry officials and three crew members) were killed, leaving another seven dead on the ground, including three children, Tymoshenko said. A search and rescue operation is continuing, he added…

  170. Reginald Selkirk says

    NASA Reveals Tantalizing Details About Webb Telescope’s Successor

    NASA officials disclosed information about a planned next-generation space telescope, the Habitable Worlds Observatory, during a recent session of the American Astronomical Society,
    In the session, Mark Clampin, the Astrophysics Division Director NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, offered a few details about the telescope, which could be operational in the early 2040s…
    One of the key findings of the most recent decadal survey was the necessity of finding habitable worlds beyond our own, using a telescope tailored specifically for such a purpose.

    “Necessity”? Srsly. I think scientific exploration is good, but I think “necessity” is overstating the case.

    The report suggested an $11 billion observatory—one with a 6-meter telescope that would take in light at optical, ultraviolet, and near-infrared wavelengths…
    Like the Webb telescope, the future observatory will be located at L2, a region of space one million miles from Earth that allows objects to remain in position with relatively little fuel burn…
    As reported by Science, Clampin said that the Habitable Worlds Observatory would be designed for maintenance and upgrades, which Webb is not. That could make the next observatory a more permanent presence in NASA’s menagerie of space telescopes…

  171. raven says

    US preps another major Ukraine aid package but Kyiv pleads for tanks

    I would just send them the tanks. And the long range missiles.
    The Ukrainians are fighting for us against the world’s major enemy right now, Russia.
    This incrementalism in providing weapons and help is just making the war last longer.

    I’ve been spending too much time lately on Ukrainian war focused websites.
    There is no doubt the Russians are taking heavy casualties.
    AFAICT, so are the Ukrainians.
    They don’t announce their numbers of dead but everything says it is now very high.

    That really stops an army for a lot of reasons.
    One key reason is that experienced and trained soldiers are hard to produce but a lot more valuable than just handing a rifle to some kid. The soldiers that Ukraine is losing are their best.

    US preps another major Ukraine aid package but Kyiv pleads for tanks

    US preps another major Ukraine aid package but Kyiv pleads for tanks | CNN Politics CNN

    The US is expected to announce one of its largest military aid packages for Ukraine in the coming days, according to two US officials familiar with the plans. But Kyiv has been pleading for modern tanks, a request the US is not yet willing to grant, despite the United Kingdom and Poland saying they will.

    So far the US has appeared resistant to sending them, even though the UK and other key allies are preparing to send tanks that could make a crucial difference in the war as Kyiv braces for a possible large-scale Russian counter-offensive.

    The UK has already announced it will send 12 of their Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, heralding a new phase in the international effort to arm Kyiv and cross what had previously appeared to be a red line for the US and its European allies.

    Earlier this month, Polish President Andrzej Duda said his country would provide Ukraine with a company of Leopard tanks, while Finland said tanks are under consideration.

    The US, which has led the way on providing military aid to Ukraine to combat’s Russia’s invasion, now appears more cautious than key allies, even as it has far outpaced other countries in sending aid to Ukraine.

    The largest US security package to date, announced earlier this month, totaled more than $3 billion and included the first shipment of Bradley infantry fighting vehicles. The previous largest package was $1.85 billion and was announced in late December.

    Tanks represent the most powerful direct offensive weapon provided to Ukraine so far, a heavily armed and armored system designed to meet the enemy head on instead of firing from a distance. If used properly with the necessary training, they could allow Ukraine to retake territory against Russian forces that have had time to dig defensive lines. The US has begun supplying refurbished Soviet-era T-72 tanks, but modern western tanks are a generation ahead in terms of their ability to target enemy positions.

    British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said on Tuesday that the UK decided to “intensify our support” for the Ukrainians by sending tanks and other heavy equipment because they want to send “a really clear message” to Russian President Vladimir Putin that they will support Ukraine until they are “victorious.”

    “It’s in no one’s interest for this to be a long, drawn out, attritional war,” Cleverly said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “I mean, we seeing terrible images of civilian infrastructure, residential buildings being hit by missiles, women, children being killed, bodies being taken out of collapsed buildings. We cannot allow that to go on any longer than is absolutely necessary … So the moral imperative is to bring this to a conclusion.”

    Ukraine has asked for ‘1%’ of NATO’s tanks
    Ukraine has been asking for such tanks since nearly the start of Russia’s invasion. President Volodymyr Zelensky famously asked for “1%” of NATO’s tanks in April, but it was a weapon the West was not willing to seriously consider amid concerns of managing escalation with Russia and the time it takes to train tank operators and maintainers.

    Despite Britain’s change of heart, the US has not shown any indication that it’s preparing to send its M-1 Abrams tank. It has acknowledged a willingness to consider sending modern tanks, but they have been floated as a long-term option. But critics say the time is now as Ukraine braces for the possibility Russia will mobilize more troops and launch a new offensive. It would take weeks to train Ukrainian troops to use the Abrams effectively, so the window for a spring deployment is closing rapidly.

    Retired Army Gen. Robert Abrams – the former commander of US Forces Korea whose father was the namesake for the tank – told CNN that “the longer we delay a decision, and the longer we slow-roll this, we’re taking away valuable time.”

    “If in the end, five months from now we say, ‘Okay fine, we’re going to give them some M1 tanks, choose your variety’ – we’ve just lost five months of prep time. So the politics decision actually has to come sooner rather than later,” he said.

    Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division load a M1A1 Abrams tank onto a C5 “Super Galaxy” at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga, March 28, 2017.
    Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division load a M1A1 Abrams tank onto a C5 “Super Galaxy” at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga, March 28, 2017.
    US Army/Lt. Col. Brian Fickel
    On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the support Washington has provided to Kyiv has evolved throughout the course of the war and teased more announcements as he reiterated that the United States is determined to give Ukraine “what it needs to succeed on the battlefield.”

    Speaking alongside Cleverly, Blinken praised the UK’s decision to send tanks. “We applaud the prime minister’s commitment over the weekend to send Challenger 2 tanks and additional artillery systems to Ukraine, elements that will continue to reinforce and add to what the United States has provided, including in our most recent drawdown.”

    But so far, no US official has signaled the administration is likely to change its mind and send American tanks.

    The Pentagon says it’s not a question of managing escalation with Russia or questions over heavy US weaponry falling into Russian hands. The concern is how difficult it is to operate and maintain the Abrams tank and whether the 70-ton tank would work for Ukrainian forces.

    “It is a very, very different system than the generation of tank they’re currently operating,” said retired Army Maj. Gen. Patrick Donahoe, former commander of the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia. “So we would have to go through a sizeable training program with their Army. It would not be something that you can just, ‘Hey we field Abrams to you today and you’re fighting with it tomorrow.’ That’s not even in the realm of the possible.”

    Similar to the Patriot missile system training that Ukrainians are now beginning in Oklahoma, the Abrams tank would not be an overnight fix – on top of significant maintenance and logistics challenges, Ukrainians would also need to undergo more training to learn how to use and maintain the Abrams.

    Recent announcements show how far the US and its allies have come within a short period, from a focus on the HIMARS and howitzers they have already provided to heavy armor, marking a “substantive” change in the types of offensive weaponry heading for Ukraine that will give their military “much more capability.”

    Aim is to make Ukraine ‘more deadly on the battlefield’
    “We are attempting to help Ukraine transform as fast as they can into better, capable, newer advanced weapons systems that are more deadly on the battlefield,” said retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling. But he warned that such an effort requires a massive military infrastructure to support it with people, parts and supplies in place.

    Only days earlier, before Poland said it would send tanks, the US announced that it would ship Ukraine Bradley infantry fighting vehicles for the first time – not tanks, but “tank killers,” the Pentagon said – as France and Germany promised to send own their versions of the armored vehicle.

    The coordinated announcements from Washington and Berlin, as well as the Paris announcement shortly thereafter, underscore how the US and its NATO allies have moved forward largely in unison on the issue of advanced and heavy weaponry. Instead of a single country unilaterally stepping out far ahead of others, the alliance has stayed in close coordination, using the monthly Ukraine Contact Group meetings to find and organize shipments of weapons.

    02 bakhmut report january intl
    All eyes will be on the next such meeting, occurring in Germany on Friday, as top officials meet to discuss what else should be provided to the embattled country.

    The UK can send its Challenger 2 tank to Ukraine on its own, but Poland acknowledged it requires approval from Berlin before exporting its German-made Leopard tanks. A spokeswoman for Germany’s government, Christiane Hoffmann, said last week they had received no such request from Poland or Finland. Hoffmann added that Germany is in close contact with the US, France, the UK, Poland and Spain about ongoing military assistance to Ukraine.

    Germany on Tuesday signaled a reluctance to approving the shipments unless the US sends its own tanks.

    “We are never going alone, because this is necessary in a very difficult situation like this,” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

    If Germany offered approval for countries to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine, it would open up a previously off-limits cache of potential arms for Kyiv. About a dozen European countries operate the Leopard, which could provide Ukraine with an abundance of potential ammo and spare parts, as well as additional tanks once Ukrainian forces become familiar with the Leopard.

    While the Ukrainians welcomed the UK’s decision to send Challenger 2 tanks, experts cautioned that too many tank variants would only stretch Ukraine thinner on its ability to maintain them.

    “The more variations of tanks that you put into the Ukrainian Army, it’s going to challenge their logistics more and more,” said Donahoe. “I mean the Challenger is a completely different system than the [US-made] Abrams and a completely different system than the Leopard … There’s significant challenges with them integrating Challenger as well if they’re going to get more variants of other westerns [main battle tanks].”

    CNN’s Jennifer Hansler and Alex Marquardt contributed reporting.

  172. raven says

    This Dutch general is claiming the Russians are mobilizing for an all out offensive this spring.
    Maybe, I wouldn’t know one way or the other.
    But what choice do the Russians have anyway?

    “Former Army Commander Mart de Kruif thinks a new offensive is inevitable. “Putin is going all out and preparing a major mobilization, all-out war. He is running his industry at full throttle, seven days a week, 24 hours a day.” There is no other way, says De Kruif. “The only option he has to win this war is to let time work for him. Mobilize everything he has and hope that in that war of attrition the West will give up support for Ukraine.

    Whoever starts, as soon as the terrain and weather permit, the Grand Operation will begin.”

    New Russian offensive? ‘The Grand Operation will start this spring’

    AFP
    Yesterday, 4:08 PM

    New Russian offensive? ‘The Grand Operation will start this spring’

    Russia and Belarus are conducting military air exercises which Belarus says are “defensive in nature”. But Ukraine fears a new Russian offensive. Will the Russians strike again on a large scale soon?

    Peter Wijninga, of the Center for Strategic Studies in The Hague, says that the Russians have been relying on Belarus for some time for their training. “For training with ground troops and now also with the air force. The air force of Belarus serves as a sparring partner for the Russian air force. Because it is needed for a new attack on Ukraine, especially for aerial reconnaissance and support of ground troops.”

    Former Army Commander Mart de Kruif thinks a new offensive is inevitable. “Putin is going all out and preparing a major mobilization, all-out war. He is running his industry at full throttle, seven days a week, 24 hours a day.” There is no other way, says De Kruif. “The only option he has to win this war is to let time work for him. Mobilize everything he has and hope that in that war of attrition the West will give up support for Ukraine.”

    Whoever starts, as soon as the terrain and weather permit, the Grand Operation will begin.

    Mart de Kruif, former Commander of the Army
    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says the war is at a critical stage. “So it’s important that we give Ukraine the weapons it needs to win and survive as an independent nation.” Next Friday there will be a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group , which coordinates arms deliveries from NATO countries to Kiev, among others.

    De Kruif thinks that the war on the ground is not possible without heavy equipment. “Ukraine has nothing left and is therefore completely dependent on what we in the West still have or want to give to Ukraine.”

    Wijninga: “Supplying tanks to Ukraine to defend itself against a land grab war from Russia is nothing more than enabling it to better defend itself against Russian aggression.”

    tanks
    Ukraine has long been asking the West for heavy equipment, such as tanks. Last weekend, Britain announced that it would be the first country to send modern Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine. Germany is also considering the delivery of heavy weapons such as the Leopard 2 tanks, which Ukraine would like to have, but is still hesitating.

    “You can’t box with one fist,” says De Kruif. Russia is doing everything it can to bring all its armored vehicles, tanks, everything it has to the front. “And that is typically Russian, suddenly trying to break through with very high firepower. The best weapons against tanks are still tanks. So delivery has to be done quickly.”

    With attacks, such as this week in Dnipro, Russia wants to break the will of the Ukrainian people. “But the effect is reversed. Ukrainians only seem more determined to win the war.”

  173. raven says

    Opinion | Heavy tanks — and a push from the U.S. — are key to Ukraine’s success
    washingtonpost.com/opinio…

    This is behind a paywall.

    I don’t care anyway.

    This is a fallacy we’ve been seeing for a while.
    Ukraine is always a few dollars and a few weapons short of winning their war.
    If we just send them the magic weapons, they will win.
    (Russia says the same thing about their army.)

    It isn’t that easy.
    We sent them the highly effective HIMARS and they helped a lot.
    We sent them a lot of air defenses recently and they helped a lot.
    I’m sure more modern tanks and other weapons will help a lot.

    I doubt that any of that is going to be all that decisive though.
    We should do it anyway, since no one has any better ideas right now.

    We saw the same thing in Vietnam.
    Just a few more tanks, a few hundred thousand more soldiers, a few millions of tons of more bombs dropped, a few million more dead Vietnamese, a few more years and then…we will win.
    After a while, no one believed this any more.

  174. says

    Just popping in to say hello from the vicinity of the private club and residence of one lying idiot fascist in a state “governed” by another lying idiot fascist (no gummies allowed but COVID can run riot – freedom!). But I’m in a pretty spot and the weather’s lovely! I hope to have a chance to check in more later.

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

    At least 14 people including Ukraine’s interior minister, Denys Monastyrsky, and other senior officials have been killed after a helicopter crashed by a kindergarten in a suburb of Kyiv. A number of children at the school in Brovary were among the casualties after debris hit the building. The most recent update, on Wednesday afternoon, suggested one child had been killed, after previous reports that the number was at least three.

    Officials gave no immediate account of the cause of the crash. The SBU state security service said it was investigating possible causes including a breach of flight rules, a technical malfunction and the intentional destruction of the helicopter.

    Monastyrskiy, who was responsible for the police and security inside Ukraine, is the most senior Ukrainian official to die since the war began. Ukraine’s national police chief, Ihor Klymenko, has been appointed acting interior minister. Among the victims of the crash include Monastyrskiy’s first deputy Yevhen Yenin, state secretary of the ministry of internal affairs Yuri Lubkovych, their assistants and the helicopter crew.

    Separately, Ukraine reported intense fighting overnight in the east of the country, where both sides have taken huge losses for little gain in intense trench warfare over the last two months. Ukrainian forces repelled attacks in the eastern city of Bakhmut and the nearby village of Klishchiivka, the Ukrainian military said. Russia has focused on Bakhmut in recent weeks, claiming last week to have taken the mining town of Soledar on its northern outskirts.

    Vladimir Putin has said he has “no doubt” that Russia’s victory in Ukraine is “inevitable”…. In a separate speech, the Russian leader also claimed Moscow’s actions in Ukraine were intended to stop a “war” that had been raging in eastern Ukraine for many years….

    Bulgaria helped Ukraine survive Russia’s early onslaught by secretly supplying it with large amounts of desperately needed diesel and ammunition, the politicians responsible have said. The former Bulgarian prime minister Kiril Petkov and finance minister Assen Vassilev said their country, one of the poorest EU members and long perceived as pro-Moscow, provided 30% of the Soviet-calibre ammunition Ukraine’s army needed during a crucial three-month period last spring, and at times 40% of the diesel.

    Nato’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, has said Ukraine needs a “significant increase” in weapons in order to reach a “negotiated peaceful solution”. He was cautious on whether Germany would lift its opposition to sending its Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine, or at least approve their transfer, saying consultations were ongoing. Nato’s deputy secretary general, Mircea Geoană, warned that the military alliance must be prepared “for the long haul” and support Ukraine for as long as it takes

    Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has ducked a question about allowing Leopard 2 Tanks to be sent to Ukraine. Speaking to delegates in Davos, Scholz said Germany has been among the biggest supporters of Ukraine, adding that Kyiv can rely on Berlin’s support, but must avoid this becoming a war between Russia and Nato. [FFS!]

    Canada has announced that it will donate 200 armoured personnel carriers (APCs) to Ukraine. The move came during a visit to Kyiv by Canada’s defence minister, Anita Anand. Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, thanked the Canadian people and its prime minister, Justin Trudeau, “on this difficult day”.

  175. says

    Ukraine update: The floodgates are already open, Wednesday could bring the flood

    Reports circulating that Sweden intends to provide FH77BW “Archer” artillery systems to Ukraine. This is another 155mm artillery system with range between 30-50km depending on the type of shell. The primary thing that differentiates it from other self-propelled artillery is that this one is on a 6×6 wheeled base made by Volvo rather than tracks, making it nimble and highly mobile (up to 70 kph). The second thing is that this gun has an autoloader and a 20 shell magazine, making its operation quite different from most big guns.

    No details. Awaiting official confirmation.

    Cause and effect is the simplest, the most basic, element of any system. Add heat to water, get steam. Release the apple, it falls. Swing the bat, and the ball goes flying. But there are aspects of this most basic relationship that Russia still seems to be confused about. For example: Commit fresh and highly visible atrocities on the brink of an international conference concerning the war you are currently waging, watch nations of the world step up their support for the nation you are victimizing.

    From the beginning of this illegal and unprovoked invasion, there have been two big factors fueling international assistance to Ukraine. One is the incredible toughness and resilience demonstrated by the Ukrainian people. Their ability to survive and respond to a massive assault was inspirational far beyond their own borders, and had Ukraine not showed they could weather the initial storm, nothing else would have mattered.

    The second factor fueling support for Ukraine is Russia’s willingness to engage in wanton cruelty, not as the necessary side effect of waging war, but as a tactic. From the Mariupol Theater to the Dnipro apartment building, Russia has moved under a delusion that causing suffering would bring victory. Even when things were going poorly on the front—especially when things were going poorly on the front—Russia has reached out with drones and missiles to leave parents weeping over tiny bundles and create a generation of orphans. Mass graves, mass abductions, and a massively tone-deaf strategy that seems to operate as if sufficient horrors will bring on surrender. Or maybe they just enjoy it.

    Either way: cause and effect. That cruelty is bringing something new to Ukraine, and it’s starting to look as if it could come in a flood.

    Back in April, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had a succinct proposal for the leaders of NATO: Send him 1% of their available tanks. Just 1%. And Ukraine would defeat the Russian military. Western leaders listened sympathetically, but agreed to send no tanks.

    April was a military age ago. Maybe two. The number of ridiculous lines that Western leaders have drawn, then been forced to erase, is hard to even count at this point. Still … they keep drawing lines.

    Right now, defense ministers from nearly 50 nations are meeting at Rammstein Air Base in Germany. The primary topic of this meeting is, of course, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The primary result is expected to be the announcement of additional military hardware that Ukrainian troops can use to halt Russian attacks and push Russian forces back to their own borders.

    Already in the last week:

    France announced that it was sending the AMX-10rc armored fighting vehicle to Ukraine. Even as experts rushed to explain why this vehicle was not actually a tank (wheels, people, look at those wheels!), there’s no doubt that the AMX-10 announcement helped to crack open the floodgates and increase the pressure to send more potent vehicles to Ukraine. [Tweet and image at the link]

    The U.S. announced a new $3 billion assistance package that, for the first time, includes Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles. This is far from the first time that the U.S. has sent armored vehicles to Ukraine, but those past vehicles have been more about transport and support rather than firepower. The Bradley is most definitely a step up and the first time the U.S. is sending a vehicle to Ukraine that the U.S. military itself describes as “a tank killer.” Along with the Bradleys, the U.S. is sending the M109 “Paladin” howitzer, more armored transport, and a genuinely massive amount of ammunition. [Tweet and image at the link: “Bradley is not a tank but a tank killer […]]

    The U.K. announced that it is sending modern Challenger 2 Main Battle Tanks to Ukraine, shattering that self-erected Western taboo against sending full-blown tanks to Ukraine. Those 16 Challenger tanks are far from the only thing the Brits are sending. Those tanks are part of what has now been revealed as a large package including hundreds of other armored vehicles and self-propelled artillery. [Tweet and video at the link]

    Canada announced that it would send 200 more of the Senator armored vehicles. This isn’t the first time these vehicles have been sent, but they’ve developed a reputation as a reliable and speedy mount. They’re reportedly the favorite ride for Ukraine’s “Kraken” regiment. [Tweet and image at the link]

    The Netherlands has promised to provide Ukraine with another Patriot missile battery, following a U.S. agreement to deliver a Patriot system in late December that came after another round of Russian missile strikes on Ukrainian cities. [Tweet and image at the link]

    More updates from Ukraine coming soon.

  176. says

    Anton Gerashchenko:

    My friends, statesmen Denys Monastyrskyi, Yevhen Yenin, Yurii Lubkovych, everyone who was on board of that helicopter, were patriots who worked to make Ukraine stronger.

    We will always remember you. Your families will be cared for.

    Eternal memory to my friends.

    https://twitter.com/Gerashchenko_en/status/1615633416300404736

    Photos at the link.

    Krzysztof Kwiatkowski:

    🕯🇺🇦🇵🇱Farewell my friend 🥀Every day tragic info from Ukraine,today about the helicopter crash in which the interior minister MONASTYRSKI dies🪔I recall our first meeting in 2016 when you came to Poland for training at NIK. You were fascinated by Poland – we are losing a friend🕯

  177. rorschach says

    The pandemic is not over if you are rich and powerful, they know better, and they protect themselves, with fresh air, HEPA filters, PCR tests and quick access to Paxlovid. Check out the pics on SocMed today of politicians, billionaires etc sitting in thick jackets in rooms protected by max ventilation, air filters and screening PCR tests at the Davos economic forum. You are being lied to.

  178. says

    About the helicopter crash mentioned in comment 244, and Reginald’s comment 234:

    The crash occurred near a kindergarten just as parents were bringing their children in to begin their day, adding a new trauma for kids (and parents) who must already being each school day wondering what will happen next.

  179. says

    A few more details about the tanks being offered to Ukraine:

    The numbers being offered up right now aren’t huge, but they are significant. As things stand, Ukraine could end up with a company of Challenger 2 tanks and possibly enough Leopard 2 tanks to shape a whole battalion. Forming those tanks as a unit could make them a potent spearhead for the next Ukrainian counteroffensive, or they could be split into multiple companies to provide a hard core of protection at several points on the front. Whatever logistics allows.

    Even right now, as things stand with the AMX-10rc, Bradley, and Challenger announcements, the army that Ukraine fields in the spring is going to be a different beast than what has operated against Russian forces so far. That current Ukrainian military is in most ways driving hardware that mirrors the Russian forces attacking them. The Russians are absolutely familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of everything they see in their scope.

    Somewhere around March, a Russian tanker is going to look out and see alien forms approaching. That engagement is going to be world-defining. No exaggeration. […]

    Link

  180. says

    Voter suppression news from Richmond, Virginia:

    Despite the fact that Virginia Republicans fared very well in the commonwealth’s 2021 elections, GOP legislators are moving forward with plans to slash Virginia’s early voting period from the 45 days before Election Day to 14 days.

  181. says

    Solomon Pena, the failed Republican candidate who is accused of hiring men to shoot at the homes of Democratic Party officials in his home state of New Mexico, believed [a lot of crazy stuff].

    […] Pena’s comments [on social media] were tinged with the QAnon-adjacent idea that liberal ideology as a whole is part of some larger, nefarious plot with roots in the supernatural. [JFC]

    “Critical Race Theory, the entire Black Lives Matter movement, aborting the unborn, food stamps, affirmative action, etc. are all demonic,” Pena wrote in an essay posted on his main campaign site.

    That was one of four main items on Pena’s campaign site including another essay arguing that various environmentally-friendly energy technologies were “hoaxes,” a link promoting an article posted by a political action committee that was led by the late conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche, and a report that purportedly outlined issues with New Mexico’s elections last year. There was no credible evidence of widespread fraud in those races.

    Pena was arrested in Albuquerque on Monday. According to police, the arrest was the end of a dangerous spree that began after Pena lost his bid to represent the 14th District in the New Mexico House of Representatives last November. Pena, who garnered a paltry 26.4 percent of the vote, reportedly followed his defeat by visiting the homes of three local Democrats who were involved in certifying the race.

    During those visits, Pena presented the officials with supposed evidence backing his belief that the election was illegitimate. That packet of information apparently included “graphs,” Debbie O’Malley, a former county commissioner, told TPM Tuesday as she recounted his visit to her house. O’Malley’s home was later shot at, according to police. The three officials visited by Pena were among four Democrats whose homes were allegedly shot at in separate incidents last month and on Jan. 3.

    […] On his Twitter page, Pena challenged the election even before it took place. He paired these messages, too, with worries about demons. Pena’s election conspiracy theories and fears about the spiritual realm were also combined with more standard far-right concerns about cultural issues including civil rights and abortion.

    In mid October, Pena sent a pair of tweets ten minutes apart where he attacked Democrats and cast the progressive agenda as “demonic.” […]

    Pena followed that up by attacking Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-NM), […] “You are a demon possessed liar,” Pena wrote. […] his writings show he saw his beliefs through the lens of a larger, spiritual battle, too. […] he decried a laundry list of progressive causes as “demonic,” Pena devoted a full section to feminism.

    “Feminism is demonicism. All of our accumulated thoughts and knowledge are steadily being erased by it,” Pena wrote, adding, “Of the movements of our time, it is the most potentially corrosive and radical. Women and men are not equal. They have immutable characteristics that separate them from each other.”

    […] Pena promoted the ideas of LaRouche, a noted anti-Semite and conspiracist […]

    Pena wasn’t solely focused on the world of the demonic. Like the LaRouche acolytes, he also had an eye towards outer space and was eager to see moon colonies. In one November 2022 tweet where he attacked Stansbury for claiming to be “PRO-SCIENCE.” In that message, he framed abortion as an obstacle that would prevent the spread of civilization to other planets.

    “I disagree. We need a global population of ten billion people in order to have the proper division of labor so we can colonize the moon and Mars, but you are highly focused on helping abort 890,000 babies a year, in the U.S,” Pena wrote adding, “You are anti science.”

    Link

  182. says

    George Santos raised money for a disabled vet’s dog’s surgery, then pocketed the money? What next?

    Just when you think the George Santos stories can’t get worse, they do.

    The one is by Patch staff reporter Jacqueline Sweet. In “Disabled Veteran: George Santos Took $3K From Dying Dog’s GoFundMe”, Sweet reported late yesterday that in March 2016 the disabled veteran Richard Osthoff, who was living in a tent in an abandoned chicken coop in Howell, NJ, had a problem with his service dog Sapphire, a pit mix given him by a veteran’s charity.

    Sapphire had developed a stomach tumor that would be deadly without surgery, and Osthoff learned that surgery would cost $3,000. A vet tech steered Ostoff to a pet charity named Friends of Pets United, a charity that it turns out was run by Anthony Devolder — who now calls himself George Santos.

    […] The story gets worse when Osthoff finds out that the surgery won’t happen and writes to Santos: Santos brushes him off, saying that Osthoff is trying to mooch off Santos’s charity!

    As Josh Marshall wrote: “This is deep level sociopathy.”

    So it’s perfect for a Republican, no? Is it any wonder that McCarthy and his fellow DC Republicans are still backing Santos?

  183. whheydt says

    Re: Lynna, OM @ #243…
    A comment on the Russian penchant for attacks on civilians… In the 1920s, Italian general Guilio Douhet propounded the theory that, using the emerging air power, it would be possible to defeat a country by bombing the civilian population into giving up and collapsing your enemies economy, especially war materiel production.
    During WW2, both sides bought into this theory…with respect to their opponents, all while maintaining that their own civilian population was “tough” and could take it without morale cracking and keep working to support the war effort. Eventually, the Allies did manage–in some localities–to break the German civilian morale, but it took 1000 bomber raids and firestorms (which no one had realized would happen until they did) to do it.
    It appears that Putin and the Russian high command still hold to Douhet’s theory, and without the means to truly deliver what that theory requires in sheer munitions delivery.
    None of the reports we’ve been getting have, so far as I’ve seen, made this connection to a hundred year old theory of warfare and it’s history as it applies to Russian military theory.

  184. says

    Kyrsten Sinema, throughout her first and worst term as senator, has pointedly refused to engage meaningfully with her constituents. She’s held few town halls and won’t meet with representatives from groups who helped elect her in the first place. However, she always finds time for her beloved donor class.

    This week, she enjoyed a private fancypants luncheon with billionaire CEOs at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, which is not a city in Arizona. Joining her were fellow bipartisan crusaders Sen. Joe Manchin and Chris Coons, plus special guest villains Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and former House Speaker Paul Ryan. Sinema hasn’t looked this happy since she voted against a minimum wage increase.

    Watch her pour on that Sinema charm! (Available for purchase wherever big-money donors gather.) [Tweet and video at the link]

    Wonkette link

  185. says

    Republicans Launch Wingnut Trench War For Open Indiana Senate Seat

    […]. As Governor Eric Holcomb will be term-limited out in 2024, Senator Mike Braun will vacate his US Senate seat to run for governor. And that in turn leaves a hole in the Senate, which Rep. Jim Banks is pretty sure he’s the right guy to fill.

    WAIT, WHO?

    Look, Jim Banks may not have the knack for bug-eyed histrionics of Reps. Jim Jordan or James Comer. But make no mistake, this guy is fucking crazy, or at the very least, totally craven and willing to go pedal to the metal on culture war issues instead of governing. And there’s a reason that then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected his nomination to the House January 6 Select Committee — not that it stopped him from cosplaying as its ranking member and sending a letter to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland demanding information about the attack on the Capitol.

    Banks isn’t interested in governing, per se. He’s part of a new breed of edgelord Republicans who think that misgendering trans folks is hi-freakin-larious and it’s the height of sophisticated thinking to pretend that taxation is theft. Naturally he announced his candidacy by promising to banish trans athletes from sports and ban the teaching of critical race theory in schools. How he will accomplish this from the Senate he does not say.

    But as Politico points out, the point here isn’t to actually set out legislative priorities. Banks needs to differentiate himself from former Governor Mitch Daniels, his likeliest primary rival in what is almost certainly a safe Republican hold. Daniels, who is a full three decades older than Banks, can seem like a man out of another time — a time when Republicans had dumb ideas, but they hadn’t yet lost their goddamn minds. […]

    Naturally Daniels’s heresy earned him a rebuke from then Rep. Mike Pence, and made him an enemy for life of the anti-tax Club for Growth, which has grokked that the best way to drown government in the proverbial bathtub is to make sure it’s totally ineffective. Toward that end, they’ve lined up behind Banks, promising to drop $10 million on the primary, where they’re already running ads saying that Daniels is “not the right guy for Indiana anymore.”

    Meanwhile, Banks promises that he’ll “never be calling for a truce on social issues or cultural issues,” when Hoosiers are “looking for a fighter in the United States Senate.”

    Culture war today, culture war tomorrow, culture war forever. Just as white Jesus and the Founding Fathers intended.

  186. whheydt says

    Re: Lynna, OM @ #247….
    In any competent military organization (yeah, I know…that lets Russia out right there), those going into combat are going to be provided with the best knowledge their side has gleaned about enemy equipment.
    During the Battle of Britain, the British, using parts from crashed and shot down German aircraft to reconstruct working examples and let their top pilots fly them and report on what they could discover about them. The Germans did the same work on Spitfires. Thus you get people like Adolf Galland who was quite familiar with the Spitfire and British ace Douglas Bader who knew how to fly a Bf-109.
    If you’ve read Chuck Yeager’s first autobiographical book, you know about his sudden trip to Taiwan to check out the Mig fighter that a defector flew there.
    So–at least in theory–along about March or April, those Russian tank crews should look out there and be able to identify any current Western main battle tanks they see and adjust their munition choice and aiming point accordingly. I don’t expect that to happen in practice, though.

  187. Reginald Selkirk says

    Canadian Defence Minister announces passage of 200 Senator APCs to Ukraine

    Anita Anand, Canadian Defence Minister, is visiting Kyiv; she has announced that her country will hand over 200 Senator APCs (armoured personnel carriers) to Ukraine.

    Source: statement of the Canadian government, European Pravda reported

    Quote: “This new package of military assistance responds to a specific Ukrainian request for these vehicles, which are being purchased from Roshel [Canadian company based in Mississauga, Ontario – ed.]. This aid is valued at over $90 million and is allocated as part of the additional $500 million in military aid for Ukraine announced by Prime Minister Trudeau in November 2022,” the statement said.

    Details: Senator APCs are equipped with state-of-the-art, best-in-class technology, and weapons can easily be mounted on them. These vehicles allow for the safe transport of personnel and equipment, and medical evacuations…

  188. Reginald Selkirk says

    Man is own lawyer in trial over threat to Kansas lawmaker

    TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A man charged with threatening to kill a Kansas congressman said in federal court Wednesday that he has a “very religious” defense and is now acting as his own attorney, despite a judge’s warnings that he is making a big mistake.

    Prosecutors hoped to call U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner, the Republican whose Topeka office received the phone call prompting the criminal charge, as a witness Wednesday afternoon.

    The trial of Chase Neill, 32, of the northeastern Kansas city of Lawrence, came amid what authorities say is a sharp rise in threats against the nation’s lawmakers and their families.

    Prosecutors contend Neill became fixated on LaTurner and threatened to kill him in a call the night of June 5 and subsequent calls the next day. Federal public defenders initially representing Neill said he saw himself as having a special relationship with God that allowed him to call down “meteors and plagues” on officials and that local authorities saw him as harmless.

    Twice within the past week, Neill has asked to represent himself, withdrawing one request before his federal court jury was selected Tuesday. He said Wednesday in court that he has been portrayed as “a false Christ,” damaging his reputation…

  189. tomh says

    AZ Law
    Appeals Court UPHOLDS Arizona’s Mail-In Voting Laws, Blasts AZGOP/Kelli Ward Arguments

    Arizona’s mail-in voting system is not unconstitutional, the Court of Appeals ruled today, [full text of ruling], blasting a lawsuit filed last year by the Arizona Republican Party and Chairwoman Kelli Ward. The unanimous decision upholds the previous dismissal of the case.

    New legislator Alexander Kolodin had filed the case for the AZGOP, along with nationally-known law professor Alan Dershowitz. They were claiming that mail-in ballots violated the Arizona Constitution’s Secrecy Clause. Today’s decision notes that Kolodin tried to back off of their original position during both briefing and oral arguments, suggesting now that the Secrecy Clause requires a “secure restricted zone around a voter who fills in a mail-in ballot.”

    The 11-page decision then blasts through three arguments made by Kolodin and Dershowitz*
    […]

    *The Court lists Dershowitz as “pro hac vice counsel”, meaning that he is co-counsel approved to represent the plaintiffs/appellants in this case, but is not regularly admitted to practice in Arizona courts. In a companion case challenging another part of Arizona’s elections, filed in federal court, Dershowitz is currently making the claim that he should not be sanctioned because he was *only* “of counsel” and/or a legal consultant.

  190. says

    Ukraine Update:

    This is jackassery of the highest order, and it’s now been confirmed by multiple sources. Germany refusing to either send its own Leopards, or allow anyone else to send them, unless the U.S. sends Abrams first, even though Germany is well aware of how much more quickly and efficiently Leopards could be sent to work. [tweet and image at the link]

    Reports circulating that the U.S. will provide Ukraine with the Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB) for use with HIMARS. This missile has a range of about 130km and, in tests at least, took out a moving target at 100km. The Pentagon may see this as a good compromise between the range of the M30/M30A1 rockets now in use and the up to 300km range of ATACMS. Swedish publication Expressen on those potential Archer artillery systems. “On Thursday, the government will instruct the Armed Forces to send the Swedish Archer artillery system to Ukraine, according to documents on the government’s website.”

    The current PM called last year’s decision not to send the Archer “pitiful and weak.”

    Don’t expect this to be a large number of systems. Sweden has only built a reported 48 units. Expect about a dozen of these to head for Ukraine.

    Also hearing that the US is likely to send some version of the Stryker vehicle. Expect updates soon.

    Reports circulating that the U.S. will provide Ukraine with the Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB) for use with HIMARS. This missile has a range of about 130km and, in tests at least, took out a moving target at 100km. The Pentagon may see this as a good compromise between the range of the M30/M30A1 rockets now in use and the up to 300km range of ATACMS.

    […] there are aspects of this most basic relationship that Russia still seems to be confused about. For example: Commit fresh and highly visible atrocities on the brink of an international conference concerning the war you are currently waging, watch nations of the world step up their support for the nation you are victimizing. […]

    Link

  191. says

    Mohammed bin Salman ‘has been paying Donald Trump unknown millions for the past two years’

    It’s not often that an article in Golfweek sets the tone for the actual week, but on Saturday the premier journal of hitting small balls with sticks noted continuing problems for the nascent LIV Golf tour. The schedule of tournaments isn’t full. The roster of big name players that LIV needs to make itself seem a legit competitor to the 93-year-old PGA Tour have failed to materialize. The team-based structure of LIV has failed to create the kind of rivalries that the creators suggested would help raise interest in the new offering.

    However, all those concerns could turn out to be minor. That’s because a court case in California, where LIV has filed an antitrust suit against the PGA, has gone in a direction that LIV definitely, definitely did not want. While fighting back against this suit, the PGA has sought to compel discovery about the real sources behind the fund picking up the ticket on LIV’s considerable expenses. As it happens, a slip of the tongue from a LIV attorney during the trial revealed that the fund owns 93% of LIV Golf and covers all of its expenses.

    The chairman and controlling officer of that fund is Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Its bin Salman paying all the bills and taking all the risks for LIV Golf. But who is making a profit?

    [LIV Golf] has paid Trump-owned golf resorts unknown millions of dollars to hold its events there, and former President Trump has publicly championed the new league, made prominent appearances at its events, and urged PGA players to sign on with LIV Golf.

    Exactly how many millions is bin Salman funneling to Donald Trump through LIV? We don’t know.

    That LIV Golf was at least partially owned by Saudi sources was never a secret and has been a concern since the tour began. However, as a private company, its internal ownership and funding was obscured until the unfolding court case opened up the details of just how little involvement there is from anyone else. It’s not just that bin Salman owns 93% of the tour on paper. He’s picking up 100% of the bill.

    In response to the effort to compel discovery on LIV’s finances, the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF) insisted that it could not be forced to reveal anything. They don’t have to talk, because they are an “organ of the Saudi state” and protected by “foreign sovereign immunity.”

    That doesn’t exactly make things better.

    According to Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of Democracy for the Arab World Now, “The revelation that a fund controlled by Crown Prince MBS actually 100% funds LIV Golf means that MBS has been paying Donald Trump unknown millions for the past two years, via their mutual corporate covers.” She also stresses that this has implications that go way beyond golf and beyond Trump fattening his wallet. “The national security implications of payments from a grotesquely abusive foreign dictator to a president of the United States who provided extraordinary favors to him are as dangerous as they are shocking,” said Whitson.

    […] in 2018, bin Salman had Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi lured into a Saudi embassy, bound, tortured, dissected, killed, and burned. In that order. Later reports showed that, while he would not admit it, Trump was aware of bin Salman’s role in the journalist’s horrific death.

    In 2022, the classified documents found in Trump’s private office in Mar-a-Lago reportedly included nuclear secrets from a foreign nation. Many reports have indicated that this information related to the Iranian nuclear program — information that would certainly be of direct interest to bin Salman.

    Still, Donald Trump is being paid millions by Mohammed bin Salman. How many millions? We don’t know. What did bin Salman get from Trump in return? We don’t know.

    But we shouldn’t be getting revelations from Golfweek.

  192. says

    Jon Stewart discusses George Santos:

    Jon Stewart says that when it comes to new Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), the public shouldn’t “mistake absurdity for lack of danger.”

    “That’s the beauty of his lies, is you wouldn’t even think to check because it’s just so stupid,” the former “Daily Show” host said of Santos on his Apple podcast […]

    the comedian warned, “The thing we have to be careful of — and I always caution myself on this and I ran into this trouble with [former President] Trump — is we cannot mistake absurdity for lack of danger.”

    “It takes people with no shame to do shameful things,” Stewart said.

    “Absurdity is where the real danger always is,” he added.

    […] “You’d see [former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi] and you’d be like, ‘Oh my God, he’s dressed like Michael Jackson. What a ridiculous person!’ He’s like, ‘And I’m developing a nuclear bomb,’” Stewart said.

    “You’re like, ‘Oh f—. Its absurdity always makes you think something is more benign than it is.”

    “I misjudged Trump because he’s so ridiculous,” Stewart told listeners. “And then you think about, well, the worst people in history have been ridiculous!” he exclaimed.

    Link

  193. says

    Wonkette:

    […] we found out about Trump’s new theory of how it’s totally fine that he had all those classified documents in his pool locker because he was just taking souvenirs.

    Page 1: The Fake News Media & Crooked Democrats (That’s been proven!) keep saying I had a “large number of documents” in order to make the Biden Classified Docs look less significant. When I was in the Oval Office, or elsewhere, & “papers” were distributed to groups of people & me, they would often be in a striped paper folder with “Classified” or “Confidential” or another word on them. When the session was over, they would collect the paper(s), but not the folders, & I saved hundreds of them… [OMG. LOL. Bullshit]

    Page 2: Remember, these were just ordinary, inexpensive folders with various words printed on them, but they were a “cool” keepsake. Perhaps the Gestapo took some of these empty folders when they Raided Mar-a-Lago, & counted them as a document, which they are not. It’s also possible that the Trump Hating Marxist Thugs in charge will “plant” documents while they’re in possession of the material. As President, and based on the Presidential Records Act & Socks Case, I did NOTHING WRONG. JOE DID!

    Alrighty then!

    Let’s unpack, shall we? Because, as usual, this jackass is full of shit. And we know he’s full of shit since he filed that idiotic lawsuit against the Justice Department and lucked onto Judge Aileen Cannon’s docket, where he managed to kick loose a crapton of details about the DOJ’s search, including an inventory of the items seized.

    Oh, hai, Box #2 (of 33), making very clear that the Justice Department differentiated between the “43 Empty Folders with ‘CLASSIFIED’ Banners” and the 24 “US Government Documents with CONFIDENTIAL/SECRET/TOP SECRET Classification Markings.” [List at the link]

    And Trump had a chance to argue that some of that stuff was “planted.” He adamantly refused to do so when Special Master Raymond Dearie told him he had to put up or shut up […]

    As for the “Presidential Records Act & Socks Case,” that’s probably a reference to the disastrous advice Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton gave him, citing a 2011 case his organization filed against the National Archives, demanding that it designate tapes Bill Clinton made for his biographer Taylor Branch as presidential records. The records were supposedly stored in Clinton’s sock drawer, making this the “Socks Case” for a particular kind of online red hat weirdo. Judge Amy Berman Jackson dismissed the complaint, holding that the Archives could not unilaterally classify a record as presidential. From which Fitton, who is not a lawyer, inferred that Trump has the power to magically declare any record personal and take it home with him, and there was nothing the Justice Department could do about it because the Presidential Records Act contains no enforcement mechanism.

    Which sounds so blazingly stupid that no one could possibly believe it — particularly since the unsealed portions of the affidavit make reference to, among other things, the Espionage Act, and not the PRA. But in fact Trump’s lawyers made this exact argument in court, before the Eleventh Circuit told Judge Cannon that she was an embarrassment to the profession and shut the whole misbegotten exercise down.

    WHICH DID NOT DISAPPEAR ALL THE STUFF WE LEARNED WHILE IT WAS GOING ON!

    OMG, he’s still talking:

    Page 3: Biden is being treated so smuch better than me [sic], I’m shocked (not really!). Why aren’t they raiding his house, & how come his representatives and lawyers are allowed to work together with the Gestopo [sic] in looking for documents, when my lawyers & representatives were not allowed anywhere near the search. We weren’t even allowed to know what they took when they raided my home. “Please leave the premises,” they said, & then lugged out everything they could, including my Passports & Med Recs.

    Now, don’t faint, kids, but this is also abject nonsense. Let’s start with the “Passports and Med Recs,” since that’s another gift from the Cannon debacle. The passports weren’t seized because the “Gestopo” was lugging out everything they could. Thanks to Trump’s stupid lawsuit, we know that “the government seized the contents of a desk drawer that contained classified documents and governmental records commingled with other documents” which included two expired passports whose location is “relevant evidence in an investigation of unauthorized retention and mishandling of national defense information.”

    As for the medical records, they were similarly next to classified docs, and anyway it was just that dumb letter from Trump’s weirdo doctor saying he was a great golden god who would live forever, or words to that effect. Trump himself published that letter years ago, and then sent his goons to raid the guy’s office.

    And as we have pointed out here, the reason the FBI didn’t treat Biden the way it treated Trump is that Biden didn’t spend months telling the Archives and then the DOJ to get fucked. Trump had a chance to do it the right way, and he chose to take Tom Fitton’s advice instead. […].

    Trump wants to be back on Twitter and Facebook in order to spread this kind of toxic disinformation.

  194. says

    Parts of Greenland now hotter than at any time in the past 1,000 years, scientists say. (That’s a Washington Post link.)

    New research in the northern part of Greenland finds temperatures are already 2.7 degrees warmer than they were in the 20th century

    The coldest and highest parts of the Greenland ice sheet, nearly two miles above sea level in many locations, are warming rapidly and showing changes that are unprecedented in at least a millennium, scientists reported Wednesday.

    That’s the finding from research that extracted multiple 100-foot or longer cores of ice from atop the world’s second-largest ice sheet. The samples allowed the researchers to construct a new temperature record based on the oxygen bubbles stored inside them, which reflect the temperatures at the time when the ice was originally laid down.

    “We find the 2001-2011 decade the warmest of the whole period of 1,000 years,” said Maria Hörhold, the study’s lead author and a scientist at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, Germany.

    And since warming has only continued since that time, the finding is probably an underestimate of how much the climate in the high-altitude areas of northern and central Greenland has changed. That is bad news for the planet’s coastlines, because it suggests a long-term process of melting is being set in motion that could ultimately deliver some significant, if hard to quantify, fraction of Greenland’s total mass into the oceans. Overall, Greenland contains enough ice to raise sea levels by more than 20 feet.

    The study stitched together temperature records revealed by ice cores drilled in 2011 and 2012 with records contained in older and longer cores that reflect temperatures over the ice sheet a millennium ago. The youngest ice contained in these older cores was from 1995, meaning they could not say much about temperatures in the present day.

    The work also found that compared with the 20th century as a whole, this part of Greenland, the enormous north-central region, is now 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer, and that the rate of melting and water loss from the ice sheet — which raises sea levels — has increased in tandem with these changes.

    The research was published in the journal Nature on Wednesday by Hörhold and a group of researchers at the Alfred Wegener Institute, the Neils Bohr Institute in Denmark, and the University of Bremen in Germany. […]

    More at the link.

  195. says

    Trump’s presidential campaign formally petitioned Facebook’s parent company Tuesday to unblock his account, according to a letter reviewed by NBC News.

    […] With access to his Twitter account back, Trump’s campaign is formally petitioning Facebook’s parent company to unblock his account there after it was locked in response to the U.S. Capitol riot two years ago.

    “We believe that the ban on President Trump’s account on Facebook has dramatically distorted and inhibited the public discourse,” Trump’s campaign wrote in its letter to Meta on Tuesday, according to a copy reviewed by NBC News.

    […] Facebook and Twitter banned Trump a day after a mob of his supporters — many of whom have admitted in federal court that they were whipped up by his lies of a stolen election — stormed the Capitol and interfered with Congress as it was counting the electoral votes to certify Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential victory.

    Facebook ultimately decided to institute a limited ban on Trump that would come up for review after two years, starting Jan. 7 of this year.

    Twitter planned a permanent ban, but new owner Elon Musk reinstated Trump’s account on Nov. 19 and then criticized the company’s previous leadership for the ban.

    Trump, however, hasn’t yet tweeted.

    “Trump is probably coming back to Twitter. It’s just a question of how and when,” said a Republican who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations with Trump about returning to the platform. “He’s been talking about it for weeks, but Trump speaks for Trump, so it’s anyone’s guess what he’ll do or say or when.” […]

    Link

  196. Reginald Selkirk says

    Church of England refuses to back same-sex marriage

    LONDON (AP) — The Church of England said Wednesday it will allow blessings for same-sex, civil marriages for the first time but same-sex couples still will not be allowed to marry in its churches.

    The decision followed five years of debate and consultation on the church’s position on sexuality. It is expected to be outlined in a report to the church’s national assembly, the General Synod, which meets in London next month.

    Under the proposals, the Church of England’s stance that the sacrament of matrimony is restricted to unions between one man and one woman will not change.

    However, same-sex couples would be able to have a church service with prayers of dedication, thanksgiving or for God’s blessing after they have a civil wedding or register a civil partnership.

  197. raven says

    Lynna already posted about the newest findings for the Greenland ice sheet.
    This article from CNN adds some details and perspective.

    Temperatures on Greenland haven’t been this warm in at least 1,000 years, scientists report

    Temperatures on Greenland haven’t been this warm in at least 1,000 years, scientists report | CNN

    As humans fiddle with the planet’s thermostat, scientists are piecing together Greenland’s history by drilling ice cores to analyze how the climate crisis has impacted the island country over the years. The further down they drilled, the further they went back in time, allowing them to separate which temperature fluctuations were natural and which were human-caused.

    After years of research on the Greenland ice sheet – which CNN visited when the cores were drilled – scientists reported Wednesday in the journal Nature that temperatures there have been the warmest in at least the last 1,000 years – the longest amount of time their ice cores could be analyzed to. And they found that between 2001 and 2011, it was on average 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than it was during the 20th century.

    The report’s authors said human-caused climate change played a significant role in the dramatic rise in temperatures in the critical Arctic region, where melting ice has a considerable global impact.

    “Greenland is the largest contributor currently to sea level rise,” Maria Hörhold, lead author of the study and a glaciologist with the Alfred Wegener Institute, told CNN. “And if we keep on going with the carbon emissions as we do right now, then by 2100, Greenland will have contributed up to 50 centimeters to sea level rise and this will affect millions of people who live in coastal areas.”

    Weather stations along the edge of the Greenland ice sheet have detected that its coastal regions are warming, but scientists’ understanding of the effects of rising temperatures there had been limited due to the lack of long-term observations.

    Understanding the past, Hörhold said, is important to prepare for future consequences.

    “If you want to state something is global warming, you need to know what the natural variation was before humans actually interacted with the atmosphere,” she said. “For that, you have to go to the past – to the pre-industrial era – when humans have not been emitting [carbon dioxide] into the atmosphere.”

    During pre-industrial times, there were no weather stations in Greenland that gathered temperature data like today. That’s why the scientists relied on paleoclimate data, such as ice cores, to study the region’s warming patterns. The last robust ice core analysis in Greenland ended in 1995, and that data didn’t detect warming despite climate change already being apparent elsewhere, Hörhold said.

    “With this extension to 2011, we can show that, ‘Well, there is actually warming,’” she added. “The warming trend has been there since 1800, but we had the strong natural variability that has been hiding this warming.”

    Before humans began belching fossil fuel emissions into the atmosphere, temperatures near 32 degrees Fahrenheit in Greenland were unheard of. But recent research shows that the Arctic region has been warming four times faster than the rest of the planet.

    Significant warming in Greenland’s ice sheet is nearing a tipping point, scientists say, which could trigger catastrophic melting. Greenland holds enough ice that if it all melted, it could lift global sea levels by roughly 24 feet, according to NASA.

    Although the study only covered temperatures through 2011, Greenland has seen extreme events since then. In 2019, an unexpectedly hot spring and a July heat wave caused almost the entire ice sheet’s surface to begin melting, shedding roughly 532 billion tons of ice into the sea. Global sea level would rise by 1.5 millimeters as a result, scientists reported afterward.

    Then in 2021, rain fell at the summit of Greenland – roughly two miles above sea level – for the first time on record. The warm air then fueled an extreme rain event, dumping 7 billion tons of water on the ice sheet, enough to fill the Reflecting Pool at Washington, DC’s National Mall nearly 250,000 times.

    With these extreme events in Greenland happening more often, Hörhold said the team will continue to monitor the changes.

    “Every degree matters,” Hörhold said. “At one point, we will go back to Greenland and we will keep on extending those records.”

  198. raven says

    Some good news for once.
    A school board in Newberg, Oregon was taken over by right wingnuts in 2021. They promptly fired the school administration and banned Black Lives Matters and Rainbow Pride flags and symbols.

    This is a First Amendment violation and the teachers union took them to court.
    They lost in court.
    “The Yamhill County Circuit Court ruled earlier that the school board’s policy violated the state constitution’s free speech guarantee.”

    Usually if you stand up and fight the right wingnut extremists, they end up losing. They usually get voted out of office, sometimes in recall elections, and/or they lose in court.

    Newberg school board drops ban on gay pride and other symbols

    Newberg school board drops ban on gay pride and other symbols
    by ANDREW SELSKY Associated Press Wednesday, January 18th 2023

    SALEM, Ore. — A school district in Oregon has quietly rescinded its ban on educators displaying symbols of the Black Lives Matter movement or gay pride, following a court settlement with a teachers’ union.

    Newberg, Ore., a town of about 25,000 residents nestled in Oregon’s wine country, had become an unlikely focal point for the national battle over schooling between the left and right. Newberg lies 25 miles (40 kilometers) southwest of Portland.

    In 2021, the board banned school staff from displaying Black Lives Matter and gay pride symbols, then expanded the ban to all political or controversial signs after being advised the first rule wouldn’t survive a legal challenge.

    The Newberg City Council and multiple Democratic members of the Oregon House and Senate all condemned the school board’s action.

    The Newberg School Board voted unanimously on Jan. 10 to rescind the controversial policy, a month after the Newberg Education Association announced it had settled its federal civil rights lawsuit over the matter.

    “The policy will not be amended or changed, it is gone,” Newberg schools Superintendent Stephen Phillips told Oregon Public Broadcasting.

    Opponents had said the rules emboldened racists.

    In September 2021, a special education staffer at a Newberg elementary school showed up for work in blackface, saying she was portraying anti-segregation icon Rosa Parks to protest a statewide vaccine mandate for educators. The same week, word emerged that some Newberg students had participated in a Snapchat group in which participants pretended to buy and sell Black students.

    The local teachers’ union said the court settlement includes the school board reimbursing both the National Education Association and the Oregon Education Association for part of their legal fees. The Yamhill County Circuit Court ruled earlier that the school board’s policy violated the state constitution’s free speech guarantee.

    “It protects the marginalized populations in our student and staff bodies,” the Newberg Education Association said of the ruling. “We can continue to create safe spaces in our schools and offer support to students who identify as LGBTQIA+ and students of color without fear of retaliation.”

    The union lamented that it took so long for the school board to reverse itself.

    “We could have saved hours of legal preparation and public funds,” the Oregon Education Association said in a statement.

  199. says

    From raven’s comment 269:

    Then in 2021, rain fell at the summit of Greenland – roughly two miles above sea level – for the first time on record. The warm air then fueled an extreme rain event, dumping 7 billion tons of water on the ice sheet, enough to fill the Reflecting Pool at Washington, DC’s National Mall nearly 250,000 times.

    “7 billion” really! Yikes!

    Sort of related: The Greenland Ice sheet lost 18 billion tons of water in 3 days after unusually warm temperatures between July 15 and 17 [2022].

    Between 15 and 17 July, Greenland’s north-western ice sheet lost 6 million tons of water per day. This exceptional melting was caused by exceptionally high temperatures which particularly affected the northernmost area of Greenland. Meanwhile, the Arctic sea ice extent continues to decline at moderate rates with slightly higher values than in recent years. […]

  200. says

    Satire from Andy Borowitz:

    Elon Musk said that he was “elated” to be going on trial because “finally people are being forced to be in the same room with me.”

    Speaking outside a federal courthouse, the boss of Tesla and Twitter said that he had been trying for years to compel people to be in the same room with him but had been repeatedly foiled in those efforts.

    “Last November, I thought if I required Twitter employees to come to work in the office, that would do the trick,” he said. “Instead, they quit en masse.”

    However, during a trial, Musk observed, “people have to be in the same room with you. They’re trapped. It’s a beautiful thing.”

    Musk said that he had thus far “loved” jury selection, noting, “Lawyers keep asking prospective jurors what they think of me, and then the jurors have to answer. I’m hearing my name being said over and over again. If I had known that it would be like this, I would have gone on trial sooner.”

    New Yorker link

  201. says

    NBC News:

    he Supreme Court on Wednesday turned away a challenge by a group of firearms dealers in New York to numerous Democratic-backed measures adopted by the state last year regulating gun purchases that the businesses said hurt their businesses. The justices, with no public dissents, denied a request by the dealers to block the laws, some of which imposed gun safety requirements on retailers, while their appeal of a lower court’s decision in favor of New York proceeds.

    So far, good news.

  202. John Morales says

    None of the reports we’ve been getting have, so far as I’ve seen, made this connection to a hundred year old theory of warfare and it’s history as it applies to Russian military theory.

    I’ve seen multiple such reports.

    Here:

  203. KG says

    Well, the UK Government has blocked the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, passed 86-39 by the Scottish Parliament. Their claim is that it would interfere with the operation of the Equalities Act, which applies at UK level. There justifications, which are set out here, look pretty feeble to me, but they may have scraped up enough for the court (this is bound to go to the UK Supreme Court once the Scottish Government sets the legal process going) to rule in favour of the UK Government. Basically, Sunak and those around him are using transgender people as a political football. They hope to use opposition to aspects of the bill in Scotland (because of the overwhelmingly hostile and often blatantly misleading media coverage) against the SNP, and internal divisions within both Labour (most Labour MSPs voted for the bill, while Starmer has been distinctly negative) and the SNP (which suffered its worst rebellion among the party’s MSPs) for electoral advantage. Scum – and I doubt whether it will make a significant difference, relative to the cost of living and collapsing health and transport services. The SNP transphobes, and the We-Hate-Nicola-Sturgeon-And-Transgender-People Party (“Alba”) of former First Minister Alex Salmond will be in a tricky position, as they should clearly oppose the UK Government’s intervention, but they would have blocked the bill themselves if they could.

  204. says

    Ukraine update: Western nations are still playing games, Ukraine is still paying the price

    Russia is now reportedly attacking south of Bakhmut in the area of Klishchiivka. In fact, Wagner Group commanders appear to have skipped the whole fighting bit before announcing this morning that they had captured the village (pre-war population around 400). However, before the tankies schedule another Great Victory dance, it’s worth noting that this has not actually happened. [map at the link]

    What’s actually going on here can be better illustrated by moving the perspective around to the west of Klishchiivka and looking back toward the area of Russian occupation. [image at the link]

    This is a recent (within the last month) look at the Klishchiivka area with the perspective lowered to show some of the local topography. The area west of the village is a series of hills; hills that have been heavily prepared with defensive trenches and reinforced positions, many of which are visible in the image. These positions have artillery range back over the town and into the fields to the east.

    So far, not only has Russia not taken this location, but attempting to take this location is costing Wagner Group dearly. This is yet another example of Wagner’s claims getting way ahead of reality on the ground.

    Those CV-90s coming from Sweden are a big deal. We’ll look at them in detail later, but take a look at this thread for a sense of what these vehicles are about. [Tweet and video available at the link. “What makes the Swedish CV90 truly stand out: they use a variant of the Bofors 40mm anti-aircraft autocannon. That’s a massive gun. No other NATO IFV has such a potent cannon.

    The Swedish APFSDS rounds can smash through at least 120-150 mm of armor. russia most modern IFV”]
    And don’t forget to watch this video on the horror show that is the 3p 40mm shell which can be fired by the CV-90.

    Announcements so far today:
    Denmark: 19 CAESAR self-propelled guns
    Estonia: FH-70 towed howitzers, D-30 howitzers, M2 anti-tank grenade launchers
    Latvia: 2 Mi-17 helicopters, Stinger missiles, UAVs, training
    Lithuania: 2 Mi-18 helicopters
    Poland: S-60 anti-aircraft guns and ammunition
    Sweden: 50 CV-90 combat vehicles, 12 Archer artillery systems
    UK: 600 Brimstone missiles
    Several of these packages also include large amounts of ammunition, including extended range GMLRS rockets, and numerous additional systems.

    Yesterday’s news from German Chancellor Olaf Scholz shutting down the transfer of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine unless a set of conditions are met—including the transfer of M1A2 Abrams tanks by the United States—is extraordinarily frustrating. For a number of reasons, from fuel to training to support, the Abrams is less suited to being deployed to Ukraine than the Leopard. In fact, in Pentagon briefings on Tuesday, it was made clear that the reason for not sending the Abrams “logistical and maintenance challenges,” not any concern over how Russia might react. To satisfy Scholz, President Joe Biden would have to send a weapon he knows would be difficult to deploy and that might not give Ukraine what it needs on the battlefield.

    That’s not the only way that Scholz’s position harms the process of bringing Ukraine the assistance it needs. In addition to giving weight to widely derided decisions by Switzerland that were already standing in the way of deploying other weapons systems, any announcement of the U.S. shipping M1A2s at this point will be treated as a throwing a sop to Scholz; something that helps those forces wanting a stop to providing assistance to Ukraine at all. The tanks are right there. Countries are ready to send them. Ukraine could easily end up with a couple of Leopard-based tank companies even if Germany never parted with one of its own tanks. In the immortal words of Charlie Brown, aaugh.

    But just because the Leopards are currently staying in their artificial and arbitrary cage doesn’t mean that other important weapons systems aren’t pouring in. Even as Germany is sitting on everyone’s hands, assistance packages are being announced. And one of those packages keeps getting better.

    Last week, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that the U.K. would be sending 15 Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine—enough to form a company of the formidable vehicles and an end to all the semantic wrangling required to maintain the idea that the West would not send Ukraine a “tank.” In fact, the announcement from Downing Street makes it clear that the U.K. isn’t just sending its tanks, it’s sending along a whole tank unit, including the armored vehicles needed to recover and repair the tanks in the field. It appears they’re going to pick up a company and shift it to Ukraine, complete with everything but the drivers and support staff.

    In addition, the U.K. package includes more AS-90 self-propelled artillery systems, ”hundreds” of the precision guided GLMRS missiles (the family of M30 / M30A1 used with the M270), Starstreak air defense systems, “dozens” of unspecified UAVs, and as many as 200 additional armored transports. [tweet and image at the link]

    As of Thursday morning, the U.K. is still adding on to its latest promises to Ukraine. The latest announcement includes 600 of the new “Brimstone 2” anti-tank missiles. This is the latest generation of such weapons carrying a tandem-shaped charge warhead designed to defeat spaced armor and even advanced reactive armors. The U.K. earlier supplied a limited number of the original Brimstone missiles to Ukraine (something that didn’t become known until about six months after it actually happened), but this is a big shipment of the latest tool for infantry attempting to take out armored vehicles.

    When it comes to this round of assistance packages to Ukraine, Britannia rules.

    However, Biden is still getting his bid in. U.S. assistance packages have come back to back over the last week, and it now looks like Ukraine is likely to receive, not 50, but 100 Bradley fighting vehicles. On top of that, the U.S. is sending another 100 Stryker vehicles to Ukraine. Considering just how many variants there are of this system, it’s worth asking which Stryker Ukraine will be getting. We don’t know yet, but we may learn that today.

    Right now, no one is sending a signal that Biden is likely to send the M1A2 to Ukraine. But sticking one on a transport plane, flying it to Rzeszów in Poland, handing off the keys to a Ukrainian soldier, and letting him drive it across the border has to be tempting, if only so Biden could say, “There, asshat. Are you happy now?”

    What was I saying again? Oh yeah, aaugh. But stay tuned today and tomorrow as these packages of assistance get finalized and announced. There are already signals that Ukraine will be receiving Swedish Archer and French CAESAR self-propelled guns in addition to those already announced AMX-10 yes-I-know-we’re-not-supposed-to-call-them-tanks. [Tweet and image at the link]

    There are still some big announcements to come and things could still change radically. We’ll see.

    Meanwhile, The Telegraph is reporting that Poland may just decide to tell Scholz where he can put his permission slips.

    Poland’s prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki has suggested he could go at it alone as Warsaw grows tiresome of Germany’s refusals to sanction the delivery of Leopard II tanks to Ukraine.

    “Permission is a secondary matter. We will either get it quickly or do what we see fit,” Mr Morawiecki said.
    Is this just Morawiecki trying to place more pressure on Scholz, or is Poland serious about ignoring transfer agreements just because there happens to be an invading Russian army in a neighboring country? Probably.

    But here’s one thing for sure: In 2022, the German defense industry set a record with nearly $10 billion in exports. That record is going to stand for a long, long time. […]

    More updates will be added later today.

  205. says

    Laughable.

    Trump posted about his 2024 campaign for president:

    Do not fear, MANY GIANT RALLIES and other events coming up soon. It will all be wild and exciting.

    So, he knows his campaign is floundering already … and he knows that he is boring everyone.

  206. Reginald Selkirk says

    New York’s Democratic Governor May Sue Her Own Party to Force Through Anti-Abortion Judge

    And yet, the governor is now considering suing the New York State Senate to force a full vote over Hector LaSalle, her nominee to be a judge on the state’s highest court, whose nomination has been roundly criticized by abortion and labor rights activists in recent weeks.

    After questioning LaSalle throughout a lengthy hearing, the Senate judiciary committee rejected the nomination 10-9 on Wednesday evening—a vote that would usually mark the end of the road for LaSalle. “Nothing makes it to the floor that doesn’t go through the committee first,” Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal (D) said after. “We have rejected the nominee.”

    But Hochul’s response suggested otherwise: “While the committee plays a role, we believe the Constitution requires action by the full Senate.” …

    On abortion rights, LaSalle intervened to shield an anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy center” from regulation. His move not only overrode the New York City Council, which had determined the CPC in question was practicing medicine without a license, but also the state attorney general, which was conducting a further investigation into the claim based on its “conduct including locating its centers in medical buildings and making them look like medical offices, requesting the medical histories of its clients, performing pregnancy tests and sonograms, estimating gestational age, and evaluating fetal health,” according to the 2017 lawsuit.

    LaSalle also made it easier for corporations to sue union organizers as individuals, which Sen. Sean Ryan (D) likened during the hearing to “protecting Goliath against David.” …

  207. says

    Republican leaders keep comparing the debt ceiling to families’ credit cards. That makes far less sense than they seem to realize.

    Late last week, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen sent an important letter to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. The cabinet secretary explained that the United States would hit the debt ceiling on Jan. 19, and it was time for Congress to begin taking necessary steps to prevent default in early June.

    Jan. 19, of course, is today.

    At this point, the sensible thing for federal lawmakers to do would be to prepare to pay the nation’s bills. It can be an incredibly simple process, which costs literally nothing and does not add to the debt, involving passage of one short bill. […]

    the new House Republican majority has a very different approach in mind: Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his members have said they’ll only agree to address the issue if Democrats accept massive and unspecified spending cuts. If Democrats disagree, GOP lawmakers have indicated they’re prepared to push the nation into default and cause a deliberate economic catastrophe.

    To that end, Republican leaders have come up with a metaphor they’re a little too fond of. On Tuesday, for example, the new House speaker’s pushed this message:

    “If you gave your child a credit card and they kept hitting the limit, you wouldn’t just keep increasing it. You would sit down with them to identify where they are overspending and where they can change their behavior. It’s time for the federal government to do the same thing.”

    [head/desk]
    McCarthy used nearly identical rhetoric on Sunday. And on Jan. 12. And on Jan. 10. And three months ago.

    Unfortunately, he’s not the only one. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise also insisted last week that the debt ceiling is “like a credit card limit.”

    […] The entire metaphor makes far less sense than GOP leaders seem to realize.

    For now, let’s put aside the macroeconomic distinctions between an individual American family and the government of the planet’s preeminent economic superpower. Let’s also put aside the often overlooked fact that if House Republicans want to introduce legislation to cut spending they consider unnecessary, they’re welcome to do so at any time. They’re not obligated to threaten us with deliberate harm. While we’re at it, let’s also put aside the exasperating fact that GOP officials only seem to care about fiscal issues when there’s a Democrat in the White House, abandoning the matter altogether when the Oval Office changes party hands.

    […] let’s consider the badly flawed metaphor itself.

    There are some superficial similarities between the debt ceiling and a credit card bill: Both involve receiving a bill for things that have already been bought.

    But the similarities break down quickly. For one thing, we’re the credit card company. We can raise our credit limit whenever we want, to any level we want, as many times as we want. Indeed, we’ve already done so dozens of times over the course of the last century, during eras when Republicans were in charge and when Democrats were in charge.

    In fact, it happened three times during Donald Trump’s presidency, and each time was unremarkable. At no point did McCarthy, Scalise, or other GOP leaders express any anxiety about “maxing out the credit card” or make any demands about changing our “behavior.”

    But just as notably, if we take this dumb metaphor just a little further, the family that received the bill doesn’t get to tell the credit card company, “We’ll refuse to pay this bill unless you meet our demands and pay us a ransom.”

    Republicans insist that the government’s approach to bills should mirror that of typical American families. Fine. If families can’t refuse to meet their financial obligations unless they receive some kind of reward, why exactly do GOP leaders think the government should do this?

  208. tomh says

    “Cartels” Control Arizona and Stole the Gubernatorial Election from Her, Kari Lake Claims without Evidence
    Rick Hasen / January 19, 2023

    Oh my:

    So far, several Arizona judges have ruled against the former television news anchor turned right-wing thought leader’s case, stating she has thus far failed to prove her approximately half-point loss to Hobbs was the result of intentional manipulation of ballots.

    However, Lake has remained adamant that her case—reportedly backed and funded by MyPillow CEO and prominent election denier Mike Lindell—will ultimately make its way through the appeals process to the Arizona Supreme Court.

    “We don’t want to have this cartel operative, this cartel-owned goon, Katie Hobbs, sitting in the governor’s office,” Lake told former Donald Trump advisor Steve Bannon on his War Room podcast over the weekend.

    “Our state government is controlled by the cartels right now. The Secretary of State Adrian Fontes is a cartel attorney. And the cartels completely control Arizona, and that’s not what the people voted for. We know they stole the election. We know they had intentionally sabotaged Election Day. And we’ve proved that in court, and we will continue to prove it,” she said.

    Election Law Blog

  209. Reginald Selkirk says

    Kremlin Spars With Ukrainian President Zelensky Over Whether Putin Is Still Alive

    Nearly a year into Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine, the Kremlin has gotten into a bizarre bickering match with Ukraine’s leader over whether or not Vladimir Putin is still alive.

    The squabble started when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told an audience at Davos that he’s not entirely convinced the Russian leader is still among the living.

    “I don’t quite understand who to speak with and about what. I’m not sure the president of Russia, who sometimes appears against a green screen, is the right one. I don’t quite understand if he is alive, if he is making the decisions, or who is making the decisions there,” he said, according to Ukrainska Pravda.

    Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov quickly hit back—without actually addressing the condition of the Russian leader.

    “Clearly, Zelensky would prefer for neither Russia nor Putin to exist. The sooner he realizes that Russia exists and will exist, the better for such a country as Ukraine,” Peskov said in comments published by Russian media.

    Projection. It is pretty clear which country is trying to make the other not exist.

  210. says

    Followup to comment 279.

    More updates from Ukraine:

    Though movements along the line have been very small in both directions, there has been some action up near Svatove, though you might not know it from looking at this map. [map at the link in comment 279, scroll down]

    Back before Christmas, Ukraine moved against the line of villages west of the highway and appeared to have liberated them all in a series of fast strikes. However, Russia pushed back into the area principally along a kind of cross-country miniature salient that stretched out to the small village of Dzherelne. From there they began sending forces against Kolomyichykha and Stelmakhivka to the northwest. As best as I can determine at this point, all of this area is genuinely in dispute. Locations like Kolomyichykha appear to be unoccupied by Russia, Ukraine, or any civilians. They’ve ceased to be more than a georeference for forces that are skirmishing back and forth through muddy fields.

    Russia also appears to have pushed back in the Nezhuryne area at the southern end of this map. I’ve marked the whole area in the middle as disputed, but the truth is that I have absolutely no news on it since the first couple of days of the new year.

    At the north end of the map is where the most significant action took place. For weeks, Ukraine and Russia sparred across the highway between Novoselivske and Kuzemivka. Each side at times took portions of the town on the other side of the highway only to lose their grip in the next counterattack. However, shortly after the start of the year, Russia moved against Novoselivske and appeared to push Ukraine entirely out of the area, which would have been a significant setback to efforts in liberating Svatove. It would have been, except that earlier this week Ukraine surged back into Novoselivske in force, apparently delivering a decisive defeat to Russian forces in the area and leaving them well positioned to dominate this position. In theory, Russia still has Kuzemivka, but that may be more a matter of Ukraine hasn’t moved there yet than Russian forces still in occupation.

    Everything along this front has been frustrating, and the casualties to both sides continue to be hideous. But things in this area may still move well before any new gear arrives on the scene.

    Russia has become obsessed with adding more air defense systems in Moscow, and it’s going to great lengths to make it happen. [Tweet and video at the link. “Patsir systems being placed in central Moscow …”]

    Be warned: If you go looking for pictures of Ukrainians celebrating Epiphany Day, not all the images are going to be as ethereal as the one below today’s title. Most of them will look like your local bowling league celebrating a Polar Bear Challenge.

  211. Reginald Selkirk says

    Mystery night divers vanish after rescue near key energy infrastructure

    Coast guards rescued three divers off the northern coast of Poland over the weekend whose dubious explanation of their night-time dive near critical energy infrastructure, along with their mysterious identities, has reportedly sparked a cross-agency investigation. The three men, who told authorities they were Spanish nationals, were rescued by lifeguards near the Polish coastal city of Gdansk on Saturday night after their small motorboat broke down and they couldn’t return to shore.

    Since then, doubts over their intentions have mounted. They were rescued not far from the Naftoport facility at the Port of Gdansk, which receives tanker shipments of oil and other and petroleum products. They were also found near an area where there are plans to build a new floating natural gas terminal…

  212. says

    Followup to Reginald @277.

    https://www.wonkette.com/tucker-carlson-jacinda-ardern-resignation

    Jacinda Ardern is resigning as prime minister of New Zealand. Or is it Jacaranda Aardvark? Or Jackie Tabernacle?

    Tucker Carlson does not know, all names more complicated than “David Duke” are too hard to pronounce. Because pretending to be too stupid to pronounce names is the sort of thing that appeals to his viewers, we guess. (Surprise, it tends to be a woman and/or person of color when he does it.) [tweet and video at the link]

    Because Tucker’s show was on when the news broke of Ardern’s resignation, Tucker got to deliver the news. He’s a real newsman, that Tucker. So he dramatically and with much flair mangled Ardern’s name and explained that “the lady with the big teeth who tormented her citizens” had resigned.

    It’s so healthy how he talks about women. Wonder where that came from.

    Anyway, as a non-New Zealand writer, we don’t have any particular insight into why Ardern is resigning, and we don’t pretend to have a good read on New Zealand’s politics. NBC News notes, though, that her approval ratings have gone way down, which would have made re-election much tougher. It also notes that she’s been subject to “vitriolic abuse” while in office. (Guess some New Zealanders carry the spirit of Tucker Carlson with them in their hearts.)

    The young prime minister said in her announcement that she didn’t have “enough in the tank” to keep going in the job:

    “With such a privileged role comes responsibility — the responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead, and also when you are not,” Ardern said in a surprise announcement in Napier, where her governing center-left Labour Party is holding a caucus retreat. “I know what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice.”

    We wish her the best. From this side of the pond, she’s always seemed pretty fuckin’ rad.

    Announcing the news, Tucker took the opportunity to get in some last-minute dishonest fearmongering about Ardern. Maybe he was worried this would be his final opportunity to sneer at a woman who obviously doesn’t respect the authority of men like him. [video at the link]

    TUCKER CARLSON: Most authoritarian leader that country has ever had and no one else comes close.

    Tucker Carlson tongue-fucks the hems of Viktor Orban’s and Vladimir Putin’s garments, but Jacinda Ardern is the “authoritarian.” Got it.

    Also we’re amused by Tucker presenting himself as an expert qualified to rank the authoritarianism of New Zealand’s leaders. We’re sure he has encyclopedic knowledge of the subject, regaling all his dinner guests with funny anecdotes from Kiwi history.

    An appalling abuser of human rights of her own people.

    LOL.

    She, of course, earned the admiration of Western leaders including former CIA director Michael Hayden by ushering in an era of near totalitarianism in New Zealand.

    Totalitarianism. Like Michael Hayden likes.

    She shut down the entire country over a single COVID case. She told everyone to stay in their bubbles, she told citizens to inform on their neighbors by calling the police if they saw them outside.

    Yes, we know that COVID deniers and anti-vaxxers view Ardern’s efforts to protect her country as those of a tyrant on par with history’s evilest evildoers. This is because they are very stupid people. Tucker also dropped this uncertain mathematical certainty.

    What are the chances she was a puppet of the Chinese government? We don’t have enough evidence to prove that, but we would rate that as about 100 percent likely.

    We don’t have any evidence to prove Ardern was a Chinese puppet but it’s 100 percent likely. Okeydoke.

    And now she is resigning to let the citizens of New Zealand freely elect a new leader. Just like the CHINESE DICTATOR she is!

    Cool story, Tucker. Got your finger on the geopolitical pulse, as usual.

  213. says

    McCarthy puts a spin on spending math to justify debt limit fight.

    Washington Post link

    […] The Facts
    The debt limit is really what filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock used to call a “MacGuffin” — a device used to propel the plot forward, even though it may be meaningless. Congress instituted the debt limit in 1917, during World War I, so that it could stop having to approve every single spending request by the Treasury — but still have a measure of control over spending.

    Even under the most conservative budget plans, the United States would have to keep adding to the national debt to meet all sorts of obligations, such as Social Security and Medicare payments. So the debt limit will have to be raised or suspended, one way or the other. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, in a letter to McCarthy last week, said the debt limit would be reached on Thursday and only “extraordinary measures” by Treasury would stave off default, and then only until June.

    House Republicans believe they can use the looming debt limit crisis to force the White House to agree to big cuts in what Washington denizens call “discretionary” spending — annual appropriations approved by Congress to fund the military, government operations and the like. The White House says it will not negotiate over the debt limit.

    Discretionary spending is a relatively small part of the budget, about 30 percent, with the rest made up of mandatory spending, required by law, and interest payments on the debt. Mandatory spending, including programs such as Social Security and Medicare, cannot be reduced unless laws are changed.

    […] what happened in 2020? Oh, yes, the coronavirus pandemic tanked the economy, and the federal government scrambled to fund a vaccine. Small wonder that health spending nearly tripled that year.

    […] McCarthy suggests that the Republican-controlled Congresses never increased spending at all. That’s false. Spending after 2010 was held in check by a bipartisan budget deal, known as the Budget Control Act, negotiated by House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and President Barack Obama, along with other top leaders. In the House, the bill passed with the support of 174 Republicans and 95 Democrats. That agreement held until 2018. At the time, Republicans controlled the White House, the House and the Senate. They decided to blow through the bipartisan spending caps set in 2011 — and boosted discretionary spending by 16 percent.

    Their late-night deal, The Washington Post reported at the time, “abandons GOP claims of fiscal discipline in a stark reversal of the promises many Republicans ran on in capturing control of the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014 as they railed against what they described as a profligate President Barack Obama.” If the bill passed, it would bring “budget increases to federal agencies large and small, from the National Institutes of Health to the National Park Service to the Election Assistance Commission.”

    It passed, with the support of 145 Republicans and 111 Democrats. Ninety Republicans and 77 Democrats opposed it.

    Among those voting for the bill: McCarthy himself.

    […] “The truth of the matter is that the first two years of the Trump administration, when the Republicans had the House and the Senate, we raised spending faster than the last couple of years of the Obama administration,” Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s White House budget director at the time, told the Dispatch.

    Marc Goldwein, senior vice president at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said the increases were codified in 2019 when Democrats took control. He also noted that spending increases set in 2018 probably did not flow into outlays until 2019 and 2020, making it difficult to separate the spending from congressional action.

    There’s another clever aspect about this talking point. McCarthy focuses only on spending, not the federal budget deficit, which is supposedly the issue making the debt limit relevant. Republicans say the debt limit is being breached because the budget deficit is out of control. But the budget deficit also increased because of the tax cut passed by the GOP-led Congress in 2017.

    […] We wavered between Two and Three Pinocchios. McCarthy can point to numbers that appear to back up his point. But those numbers do not tell the full story about what happened — especially the fact that Republicans were in power when spending limits were discarded. That’s enough to tip it to Three Pinocchios.

    Yep, this is true: “the budget deficit also increased because of the tax cut passed by the GOP-led Congress in 2017.”

  214. Reginald Selkirk says

    First look: U.S. wants to help export Ukraine’s e-governance app to other countries

    DAVOS, Switzerland — The U.S. hopes to replicate the success of an e-governance app used in Ukraine in other countries, USAID Administrator Samantha Power told Axios on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting.

    Driving the news: Ukraine rolled out its Diia app in 2020 to allow citizens to access ID documents, register a business and obtain various government services from their smartphones. Since Russia’s invasion began last year, the app has been expanded to include additional tools like reporting damage from Russian strikes…

  215. says

    JFC:

    Donald Trump mistook his sexual assault accuser E. Jean Carroll for his ex-wife Marla Maples when shown a photograph from the 1990s in a deposition at Mar-a-Lago last year, potentially undermining one of the common defenses he has used to deny an attack.

    Trump, who is being sued by Carroll, an author and advice columnist, for defamation and sexual assault stemming from the same alleged encounter, has repeatedly said Carroll is not his “type,” suggesting an assault could not have occurred because he would not have pursued her romantically.

    “That’s Marla, yeah. That’s my wife,” Trump said under examination from Carroll’s lawyer Roberta Kaplan, in a new selection of excerpts from the deposition that was unsealed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. […]

    Washington Post link

  216. Reginald Selkirk says

    Increase Our Taxes: Global Millionaires Demand To Have Their Wealth Taxed More

    More than 200 millionaires from around the globe are calling on the “global elite” at this week’s World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos to address global inequality and tax the ultra-rich now, as it’s “simple, common-sense economics.“
    In an open letter, “Cost of Extreme Wealth,” the “Patriotic Millionaires” — a group of a group of high-net worth individuals — in conjunction with Patriotic Millionaires UK, Tax Me Now and Millionaires for Humanity, said that the “current lack of action is gravely concerning.”
    Some of the letter’s signatories include actor Mark Ruffalo and Disney heiress Abigail Disney…

  217. Reginald Selkirk says

    US Coast Guard tracking suspected Russian spy ship off coast of Hawaii in international waters

    The Coast Guard noted the situation is not unusual but that it is tracking it closely. “While foreign military vessels may transit freely through the U.S. economic exclusive zone (EEZ), as per customary international laws, foreign-flagged military vessels have often been observed operating and loitering within Coast Guard District Fourteen’s area of response,” the release stated.

  218. says

    […] Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration seem interested in sports, but not in an especially constructive way. The Daily Beast reported that the Florida Republican “is squaring off with an unlikely opponent: the NHL.”

    In the latest battle of the culture wars, the NHL … has somehow become the new epitome of woke culture gone awry. Over the weekend, the DeSantis administration got the NHL to fold on a local hiring event aimed at diversifying the league’s workforce ahead of its annual All-Star Game.

    As my MSNBC colleague Ja’han Jones explained in a terrific piece this week, the National Hockey League recently conducted research on its workforce, and found that most of the people working for the NHL are white straight men. Like many employers, the league started exploring ways to create a more diverse team.

    With this in mind, as part of the NHL’s upcoming All-Star Game festivities, the league scheduled a Pathway to Hockey Summit as part of a diversity program. On LinkedIn, the NHL marketed the event specifically to people who are women, veterans, Black, Asian, Pacific Islander, Hispanic, Latino, Indigenous, LGBTQ, or disabled.

    And as far as DeSantis’ office was concerned, this was outrageous.

    “Discrimination of any sort is not welcome in the state of Florida, and we do not abide by the woke notion that discrimination should be overlooked if applied in a politically popular manner or against a politically unpopular demographic,” DeSantis press secretary Bryan Griffin said in a statement.

    Or as Ja’han summarized, the response from [DeStantis’] office “is reflective of the governor’s belief that efforts to thwart discrimination are, themselves, discriminatory.”

    DeSantis’ team nevertheless got its way: The NHL pulled its LinkedIn post just hours after the complaint.

    As striking as it was to see the far-right governor pick a fight with the league, let’s also not forget that DeSantis has taken related steps against other sports. Last year, for example, the Florida Republican used the power of his office to penalize a Major League Baseball team for speaking out against gun violence in a way he found ideologically unsatisfying. [authoritarian dunderhead]

    Around the same time, DeSantis also threatened to penalize the Special Olympics for trying to take steps to prevent its athletes from getting Covid.

    […] Ten years ago Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell contacted the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, PGA, and NASCAR directly, demanding that they play no role in helping inform the public about the Affordable Care Act. Others on the right threatened to retaliate against leagues that partnered with the government on any kind of public-information campaigns.

    In the years that followed, the relationship between the GOP and sports periodically became even more contentious. Trump, for example, during his White House tenure, lashed out at professional football, professional basketball, and threatened a boycott of professional soccer. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida also picked a weird fight with his hometown NBA team, the Miami Heat.

    Team DeSantis’ efforts are bizarre, but they have a lot of partisan company.

    Link

  219. says

    Josh Marshall:

    […] People have a great desire and a great ability to believe what they want to believe, to believe what is functional for them, to believe things that justify or facilitate things they want to do.

    Do people really believe Hillary Clinton runs a pedophilia ring or that Joe Biden — the guy who didn’t control the federal government — rigged the 2020 election? Some do certainly. But for many we should think more of belief as a form of aggression or as a system of permissioning. I chose to believe or say I believe X because it demeans you, because it justifies my hurting you. This is a key: belief or pretending to belief as a form of aggression.

    This makes fact-checking sites or building more media trust basically irrelevant to the phenomenon. We know this to be the case. If you really want a critical view of Trump’s Big Lie claims they’re not hard to find. You have an appetite for myths that justify aggression and people pop up to provide them. The issue is one of demand rather than supply.

    […] Fox News and the cinematic universe it propagates completely dominates the news consumption of a big chunk of the American population. In big swathes of the country, Sinclair Broadcasting (a Fox or worse type operation which runs local affiliates) dominates the local news airwaves. Mix in various online operations and you have big chunks of the population that can reasonably be seen as siloed off into wholly alternate news realities.

    This becomes a question of the broader political economy. What is the effect if an erratic billionaire, suddenly besotted by the far right, can just buy one of the country’s major communications platforms? The creation of these siloed news ecosystems is part of the story of the oligarchification of the U.S. economy. But just how they are is complicated to explain. […]

    To connect misinformation and aggression, we should probably go back to an older word: propaganda. This is where you get to the connection between “fake news” and authoritarianism. […]

    Link

  220. says

    Ukraine Update:

    Increasing indications that even if Germany doesn’t send Leopards of its own, the “Leopard alliance” of Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, Poland, and United Kingdom have put sufficient pressure on Scholz that permission to transfer some of the over 2,300 Leopard 2 tanks slumbering across Europe will be given. There may be limits on numbers, or other conditions, but it’s likely some kind of announcement that allows the Leopards to move will come today or tomorrow.

  221. raven says

    Ford Lost a Multibillion-Dollar Deal Over Right-Wing Governor’s ‘Communism’ Fears

    This headline is misleading.
    The small brained GOP governor of Virginia was the one who lost the multibillion dollar deal.
    Ford with a Chinese company were planning on a large lithium phosphate EV plant in Virginia.
    The governor Youngkin vetoed it because of the commies.

    I’m no fan of the Chinese government either, but we are talking about a battery plant here, not a TV station for Chinese media or a chip plant for Huawei.

    I’m sure Ford and CATL will find some other state that wants a multi-billion dollar EV plant.

    “While Ford is an iconic American company, it became clear that this proposal would serve as a front for the Chinese Communist Party, which could compromise our economic security and Virginians’ personal privacy,”

    Ford Lost a Multibillion-Dollar Deal Over Right-Wing Governor’s ‘Communism’ Fears
    Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin claims pursuing a partnership in the state is taking a chance with Marxism.
    JENA GREENE 22 MINUTES AGO thestreet.com

    Ford (F) – Get Free Report is the second-biggest electric vehicle manufacturer in America behind Elon Musk’s Tesla (TSLA). Its recent rollouts, including the electric F-150 Lightning pickup truck and the people-moving Supervan, have been hyped on social media. Many of its new products are hotly anticipated by electric vehicle enthusiasts who want to buy U.S.-made vehicles with distinctive American utility and flair.

    Ford already produces the now-iconic Model E, a crossover version of its Mustang, which crushed sales records and delighted drivers in 2022.

    Interestingly, the legacy American motor company plans to scale like a startup, producing 600,000 or more electric vehicles by the end of 2023 and 2 million by 2026. For reference, Tesla sold more than 1.3 million cars in 2022.

    Ford F-150 Lightning 2 JS Lead
    Ford

    Ford Had Big Production Plans in Virginia
    For years, Ford was planning a massive lithium iron phosphate battery production plant to go into its TVs in Berry Hill, VA. The plant had been in talks and establishment stages for 15 years and Ford had put over $200 million into the investment. The total investment was rumored to be more than $3.5 billion once all was said and done.

    Currently, Ford has production plants primarily focused in the Midwest (namely Michigan, where its headquarters are). So bringing a factory that would create 2,500 jobs to a new location would have been quite the boon for the state of Virginia. The plant also would have been the largest publicly owned operation in the Southeast. Berry Hill is also located in one of the poorest parts of Virginia, so a boost to its employment numbers may have stood to benefit the area.

    Over a year into his reign, however, Virginia’s governor has changed his tune about the plant.

    Ford Is No Longer a Candidate Due to Communism Scare
    Gov. Youngkin put the brakes on the EV production plant late in December, citing concerns about ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

    Specifically, the governor objects because the project, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, entailed a partnership with a Chinese battery maker, CATL.

    “While Ford is an iconic American company, it became clear that this proposal would serve as a front for the Chinese Communist Party, which could compromise our economic security and Virginians’ personal privacy,” Youngkin spokesman Macaulay Porter told The Detroit News.

    “Virginians can be confident that companies with known ties to the Chinese Communist Party won’t receive a leg up from the Commonwealth’s economic incentive packages,” she added. “When the potentially damaging effects of the deal were realized, the plant proposal never reached a final discussion stage.”

    The factory now has no official tenant and remains vacant.

    Democrats, for what it’s worth, have taken the opportunity to chastise the governor for his anti-labor decision.

    “During his campaign, the Governor made a promise to bring economic development and manufacturing jobs to our communities that are struggling — especially in rural Virginia — to attract industries that offer competitive wages,” Sen. Ghazala Hashmi, told The Richmond Times Dispatch. “The Governor’s decision to pull Virginia out of the competition for the new Ford facility puts the Commonwealth at a severe disadvantage.”

    Gov. Youngkin’s office could not be immediately reached for comment.

  222. says

    Followup to comments 199 and 294

    After longtime Elle advice columnist E. Jean Carroll accused Donald Trump of sexually assaulting her in a Bergdorf Goodman in the 1990s, he had but one defense: “She’s not my type.” He repeated it constantly, seemingly agitated that someone would think he would go for a blonde former beauty queen. In fact, he went on such a campaign to disparage her that she sued him not just for sexual assault (after New York state lifted the statute of limitations) but for defamation.

    To be clear, rape is a crime of power and control, not of overwhelming, uncontrollable sexual desire. As much as people may like the idea of dismissing true fault for rape by saying the man couldn’t help himself because of a woman’s miniskirt or dismissing the possibility of rape because they do not consider the victim “attractive enough,” sexual attraction is not a necessity or even a factor in most cases of sexual assault. This is why we have heterosexual men raping other men in prison and why there is such a serious problem with sexual assault in nursing homes.

    With that said — it turns out that E. Jean Carroll is, in fact, Trump’s type.

    On Wednesday, the US District Court in Manhattan unsealed a selection of excerpts from Trump’s deposition last year with Carroll’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan. Among them is a comment that rather clearly undermines this whole “defense.”

    Upon being shown a picture of himself and his then-wife Ivana Trump with Carroll, Trump remarked, “That’s Marla, yeah. That’s my wife.” He was quickly corrected by attorney Alina Habba.

    The photo in question has been making the rounds on the internet for some time now. [photo at the link]

    […] Trump, who has insisted he never met Carroll, then claimed that he was regularly introduced to people he didn’t know, and explained that the picture of him was probably of him meeting and greeting people in the receiving line at a fundraiser.

    While it may not prove that he knew Carroll outside of meeting her at a fundraiser, it certainly undermines his primary argument, which is that she was “not his type.” For instance, someone who looks like Marla Maples.

    The Washington Postreports that the unsealed excerpts also show that Trump “used the deposition to make false claims about the success of his social media start-up Truth Social and used it to argue that Carroll’s lawsuit is one of many ‘hoaxes’ that have been directed at him.” It is not clear if he followed it up with “I’m still big, it’s the pictures that got small,” but that would certainly track. [LOL]

    Trump, who has already announced his candidacy for the 2024 presidential election, is scheduled to stand trial for defamation and sexual assault against Carroll in April.

    https://www.wonkette.com/e-jean-carroll-trumps-type

  223. Reginald Selkirk says

    As egg prices rise, so do seizures at US border

    Attempts to smuggle eggs from Mexico or Canada can result in fines of up to $10,000 (£8,140), officials warn.

    And yet, soaring egg prices in the US have tempted many to cross the border, where they can be bought for half the price, to bring back the delicate cargo,

    Seizures at border posts have spiked by more than 100%.

    US egg prices were up 60% in December compared to the previous year. Between 1 October and 31 December alone, egg and poultry seizures rose 108%, according to Department of Agriculture statistics…

  224. says

    Satire from Andy Borowitz:

    Lawyers scouring President Biden’s garage in Wilmington, Delaware, have been unable to find any plans to overthrow the United States government through a violent insurrection, the lawyers have reported.

    In addition, the lawyers said, a thorough search had not turned up any instructions to subvert election results by spreading baseless claims about voter fraud or by promoting slates of fake electors.

    “If, in searching President Biden’s garage, we had uncovered evidence of plans to end democracy as we know it—or, for that matter, proof of systematic tax fraud spanning a period of many years—we would have informed Attorney General Garland immediately,” the lawyers’ official statement read.

    The lawyers revealed that they did discover plans to build a Jacuzzi and a barrel sauna on the President’s deck but said that they would not be forwarding those documents to the Department of Justice.

    In Washington, House Republicans flatly rejected the lawyers’ account. “The American people are sick and tired of President Biden being less than honest with them,” Rep. George Santos said.

    New Yorker link

  225. says

    Ukraine update: The growing list of new equipment for Ukraine is Vladimir Putin’s worst nightmare

    Is this what “furious backpedalling” sounds like?

    New German 🇩🇪 Defense Minister #Pistorius announces in an interview with @tagesschau extra: „There will be news in the next few hours” – at the same time he denied that Germany 🇩🇪 will send #Leopard2 tanks only if the US sends 🇺🇸 #Abrams. “I am not aware of that,” Pistorius said.

    On the other hand, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz sounds pretty definitive here, according to a group of Democratic senators who spoke with him at Davos.

    There have been many points in the last year where Russian dictator Vladimir Putin had to be pulling out what remains of his carefully numbered hairs. There was Ukraine’s failure to fold in the opening days of the invasion. The loss of the area around Kyiv. The massive 12,000 square kilometers liberated by Ukraine in the Kharkiv counteroffensive. The humiliating withdrawal of Russian forces from Kherson. The failure of Republicans to secure the Senate in a red wave.

    Hey, does anyone remember that at the outset of this disaster, 50% of all the natural gas used in Europe came from Russia? You better bet Putin’s oligarch pals do. And they have to be thrilled with the job he’s done in wiping out their bank accounts.

    But what’s happening in Europe right now might be the capstone for his despair. In spite of a year of terrorizing and torture, in spite of enough nuclear threats to populate a thousand Tom Clancy novels, in spite of feeding untrained Russian soldiers wholesale into a meat-grinder for a “victory” over an area the size of a Walmart parking lot … Ukraine’s support in the West Just. Will. Not. Go. Away.

    By now, Russia expected Europe to be fretting about the cost of keeping their homes warm, the U.S. to be launching investigations into Zelenskyy’s laptop, and Ukraine’s army to be running on fumes. Instead, no matter what false claims Wagner may be making, Ukraine is having a stellar week—a week that sends a signal not just to Putin, but to China and to anyone else who thinks anything good can come from invasion.

    Before I even post this list of what’s been pledged to Ukraine this week, here’s something to consider: It’s already out of date. That’s because new announcements are rolling out today in what might be called a Zerg rush of good news. Also worth noting is that today is not even the big day—it’s tomorrow that all the major announcements were expected. That’s when we’ll likely get final tallies on everything promised to Ukraine, along with word on whether countries that want to send heavy tanks will be sending heavy tanks. [List at the link shows assistance promised to Ukraine by Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, United Kingdom, and USA.]

    That barely scratches it. It leaves out drones. It leaves out ammunition (including missiles ranging up to 150 km). It even leaves out helicopters. Expect a more complete list soon.

    Also, writing it up this way diminishes the contribution that some of these nations are making. The latest package from Estonia includes far more than what appears above. In fact, this single package is greater than 1% of their national GDP. Not their military budget. Their GDP. So, yeah, that’s stepping up. Those 19 CAESAR artillery pieces Denmark is handing over? That would be all the SPGs that Demark owns.

    People are going to the well on this one.

    The resulting list of equipment is—and there can be no doubt about this—a logistical nightmare. This is equipment from every time and place and sorting it into coherent companies that can be supplied and maintained is going to take some careful planning and not a small amount of training. When Ukraine comes out of this war, it will be able to teach Walmart and FedEx about moving things around and getting them to the right place. […]

  226. says

    From Variety:

    The death came as a surprise to those who followed his very active Twitter account, which he’d kept tweeting on as recently as Wednesday.

    Eight months ago, Crosby made headlines when he said he was done performing live, declaring, “I’m too old to do it anymore. I don’t have the stamina; I don’t have the strength.” But he said he was recording as busily as possible: “I’ve been making records at a startling rate. … Now I’m 80 years old so I’m gonna die fairly soon. That’s how that works. And so I’m trying really hard to crank out as much music as I possibly can, as long as it’s really good… I have another one already in the can waiting.” Crosby subsequently backtracked about doing concerts, saying recently that he’d changed his mind and expected to be out playing live again.

    Crosby reentered the public consciousness in a big way in 2018 with a theatrical documentary, “David Crosby: Remember My Name,” narrated and produced by Cameron Crowe. Crosby spoke about his own mortality in the film, and Crowe remarked on that in an interview with Variety, saying the singer was thinking about “’telling the truth in my last huge interview that I’ll probably ever do’…”In the second question of the first interview we did with Crosby, he came right out with ‘Time is the final currency. What do you do with the time you have left?’ …What’s great is, he’s got more energy than all of us. He’s gonna outlive us all. He’s batting his eyes like he’s on his deathbed. He ain’t on his deathbed at all! Maybe it all is a con job, like he says at the end. You don’t know.”

    Link in comment 307. There’s also a video of Crosby talking about getting old and about dying. Crosby was 81, and was a founder of two of the most important rock groups of the 1960s, The Byrds and Crosby, Stills, and Nash.

  227. says

    Associated Press:

    The Biden administration said Thursday it’s time for Turkey to ratify Finland and Sweden’s applications to join NATO, bluntly saying that holdout members of the alliance should quickly approve their memberships.

  228. says

    Ah, David Crosby. I’m bummed.
    I’ve been listening to the Byrds since about 1966. Still have half a dozen 45s. Bought my first Byrds album in 1971.
    I could say it’s that time of my life, when my childhood heroes start dying off, but of course some of them died when I was still a kid.
    Just a few months ago I was thrilled to get a “like” on Twitter from Mr. Crosby. Someone had tweeted at him a couple of drawings of him, saying, “a friend of mine drew these. Do you like them?”
    Crosby replied, “No. They are bad copies of photographs.”
    I replied, “Don’t sugarcoat it, Dave. Give it to them straight.”
    Always loved his harmony work with the Byrds. Most guys have to really punch it to hit those notes, but Crosby did it almost effortlessly, creating a graceful, gentle, subtle sound.
    So long, Dave. If there’s a Rock ‘n Roll Heaven, you know they’re probably arguing about some shit right now. You’ll fit right in.

  229. Reginald Selkirk says

    Trump, lawyers sanctioned nearly $1 million for ‘political’ lawsuit vs Clinton

    Jan 19 (Reuters) – A federal judge on Thursday ordered former U.S. President Donald Trump and his attorneys to pay more than $937,000 in sanctions for suing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over claims the 2016 presidential election was rigged.

    U.S. District Judge John Middlebrooks, who threw out Trump’s lawsuit in September, said the sanctions were warranted because the former president had exhibited a pattern of misusing the courts to further his political agenda.

    “This case should never have been brought. Its inadequacy as a legal claim was evident from the start. No reasonable lawyer would have filed it. Intended for a political purpose, none of the counts of the amended complaint stated a cognizable legal claim,” Middlebrooks wrote in the 45-page written ruling…

  230. Reginald Selkirk says

    Jury deliberates; man says threat to lawmaker was from God

    TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A jury began deliberating Thursday in the federal criminal case of a man who told them that a death threat he made against U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner came from God, prompted by the Kansas Republican ignoring concerns about sorcery, wizards, extraterrestrials and a war for people’s souls.

    Federal prosecutors say Chase Neill, 32, from Lawrence in northeastern Kansas, fixated on LaTurner before leaving an after-hours voicemail with the congressman’s Topeka office that included, “I will kill you.” Neill’s trial comes amid a sharp rise in reported threats against elected officials and their families.

    Representing himself in court, Neill admitted that he left that message and others with more death threats the next day. But he told jurors that he was merely the messenger, telling LaTurner and other officials that they faced death by an act of God, such as a tornado or hurricane, for attacking God’s creation.

    “This is not me saying, ‘I’m going to chase you down with a knife,’ or something like that,” Neill said in his closing argument.

  231. Reginald Selkirk says

    3 Active-Duty Marines Who Work in Intelligence Arrested for Alleged Participation in Jan. 6 Riot

    Three Marines were arrested Wednesday for their participation in the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, according to court documents unsealed Thursday.

    Micah Coomer, Joshua Abate, and Dodge Dale Hellonen — three men identified by investigators as active-duty Marines — were arrested on four charges each stemming from their participation in the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol in a bid to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election.

    The three men are the first active-duty military members to be arrested in connection with the siege since Marine Maj. Christopher Warnagiris, who was taken into custody in May 2021 on nine charges. All three Marines, who were arrested more than two years after the attack, work in jobs connected to the intelligence community.

  232. Reginald Selkirk says

    Russian arrested in Miami on charges of illegally transmitting millions in cryptocurrency

    A Russian operator of a China-based cryptocurrency exchange with links to South Florida and other parts of the world appeared in federal court in Miami Wednesday on charges of running an unlicensed money transmitting business that is suspected of laundering hundreds of millions of dollars in drug trafficking and other criminal proceeds, federal authorities said.

    Anatoly Legkodymov, 40, the founder and majority owner of Hong Kong-based Bitzlato Ltd., which authorities say he also managed from Miami over the past year, was arrested Tuesday night at a family home in the Miami-Dade area while he was on vacation.

  233. says

    Woke is so scary people who are afraid of it can’t speak of the threat.

    That’s a vulnerability in addition being an expression of bigotry. That’s a defective sense of social threat at best, especially when DeFascist is willing to legislate with the word in names of legislation.

    (I decided that name mockery that incorporated the bad behavior in question was worth thinking about. It punches up too. If the disparagement means something useful I’m good with it)

  234. Reginald Selkirk says

    @319: I find that a translation of “insufficiently racist” or “insufficiently bigoted” usually works pretty well.

  235. Reginald Selkirk says

    @322: That is my understanding of what they mean by “woke.”
    And to me, that puts it in an unfavorable (and correct) light.

  236. says

    I see now. Thank you. Guessing at their meaning is useful too, I do that after their opportunity to fail to show a social threat. I’m working on pressing the fact that an honest person would already have concrete and useful evidence for social threats.
    I figure it identifies wolf crying sooner, but that’s useful too. I like to be explicit about the fact that I’m guessing because they are defiant about showing a supposedly bad thing.

  237. says

    Ukraine update: The Great Tank Standoff is foolish politicians fiddling while Ukraine bleeds

    Across Europe, there are more than 2,300 Leopard 2 tanks manufactured in Germany and now distributed over 13 nations. Many of those nations, including Poland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, would like to provide Leopard 2 tanks for Ukraine to use in its ongoing struggle against Russia’s illegal and unprovoked invasion. Ukrainian military officials feel this tank would directly address their need for more modern equipment. However, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has refused to allow this, saying that “Germany will not go alone” in sending tanks. Scholz made this statement even after the United Kingdom announced that it would send a company of its Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank, along with supporting vehicles, to Ukraine.

    And that’s where things stand on Friday morning. Officials in some nations, including Poland, have threatened to send tanks without Germany’s permission, but they have not made any formal announcement that they will do so. Other German officials have indicated that requirements set by Scholz were flexible, but Scholz has quickly corrected them.

    In an interview with CNN, an official from the Biden administration declares that Scholz has the whole world “over a barrel.” Only no one seems to understand why.

    The question of the M1A2 Abrams, and Scholz’s insistence that it has to be sent first, doesn’t even really matter at this point. It’s just one of the lines that Scholz has drawn. He can always draw another one. Lines are cheap.

    Occupier calls his wife/girlfriend and expresses his opinion about the war with Ukraine and its people. This record once again confirms that this is not just a war with appropriate military goals, but a purposeful genocide of the Ukrainian nation. Military Intelligence of Ukraine. From the translation: […] this nation will not exist soon, it will be wiped off the face of the earth, all these people will be finished […] They themselves are to blame for what they have done. […] “What about the children?” Fuck them too. I don’t give a damn about their children. All the children of fuckers, bastards are trained in camps, you know, to hate Russians, that’s all. […] You need to strangle the fuck still in the womb, fuck it. Therefore, that is what I will do. And I do already. Alright, enough. […]

    The whole cycle of the war in Ukraine looks like this:

    Step one: Ukraine requests assistance of a specific type.
    Step two: Western nations say, “No, we can’t give you that, but we can give you this.”
    Step three: “This” turns out to be insufficient to halt the horrific flow of blood and end Russian aggression.
    Step four: Western nations draw a new line for what’s acceptable to send, which is slightly beyond where they were before.
    Step five: See step one.

    This isn’t a new observation. Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, have been noting this reluctant inching forward of Western support from even before the day Russian tanks rolled across the border.

    All types of heavy weapons were off the table. Until they weren’t. Armor was off the table. Until it wasn’t. Artillery wasn’t possible. Until it was. Modern air defense systems were, absolutely inexplicably, something that couldn’t be sent. Now they are.

    The big barriers that remain fall mostly into three categories: Tanks, aircraft, and medium-range missiles. The first two have already been broken multiple times by Western nations that have shipped Ukraine updated versions of old Soviet-era T-64 and T-72 tanks, along with a variety of Soviet-design helicopters. The unbelievably picayune thing everyone is arguing over now, the thing that is causing untold numbers of deaths and injuries, is whether it’s okay to send tanks, aircraft, and missiles that weren’t originally based on a design out of Moscow.

    It’s as if the entire Western world were an insurance adjuster who steps into a hospital room where surgery is desperately needed to offer either aspirin or a nice vat of medical leeches. But that modern surgery, the one that might help? That you cannot have.

    This draw a line, erase a line, draw a new line frustration has been going on so long that I’m certain you’re tired of reading about it. I’m absolutely tired of writing about it. And neither of us is dying because of it. Ukrainians are.

    As we’ve talked about in these updates endlessly, there are reasons to not do what’s threatening to happen now: Flood Ukraine with the sweepings of every military barn in Europe and the United States, leaving them with a hodge podge of has-beens, the effectiveness of which is questionable and the logistical challenge of which is supra-Everest. It’s exciting to see the announcements rolling out almost by the hour this week and to chart the growing list of hardware soon to roll along a rail line from Lviv. But for some of those in the Ukrainian military, it must look like the pieces of a dozen unconnected jigsaw puzzles, all being shoved their way with expectations of gratitude.

    They really can’t say what they must be thinking: This looks great, but it’s not what we asked for.

    What Ukraine needs is all of the Western allies working toward a coherent strategy to provide them with a modern military that can be actually put to work in the field. If the Great Tank Standoff shows anything, it shows that Western unity doesn’t extend to providing the coherent planning and consistent response that Ukraine needs.

    Why Scholz can’t see that in refusing to release the Leopards Germany really is standing alone, I don’t know. I’m not sure anyone does. Whether the standoff ends with a relieved sigh or bitter words between allies, we’re likely to learn today.

    To complete driving Russia off its land and end the incredibly high rate of civilian and military casualties, Ukraine needs to field a modern military. That military must include tank battalions. Those tank battalions need to be headed by a vehicle that is better than the alphabet soup of T-72, T-80, and T90 models now acting as ersatz monuments to aggression in fields all over Ukraine. The Leopard 2 is a good choice to fill that role. Only it may not happen.

    In fact, right now it looks like this standoff is going to end up giving Ukraine none of what it needs. [Tweet and image at the link]

    It’s too bad there’s no way to weaponize frustration. Because Ukraine must have that by the gigaton.

    I’ll post more updates soon.

  238. says

    The fact that Donald Trump called for the incarceration of innocent journalists was predictable. The public pushback from the Biden White House was not

    The U.S. Supreme Court launched a lengthy, months-long investigation, but in the end, it couldn’t determine who was responsible for the leak of a monumental draft ruling last May. By any fair measure, it marked an embarrassing chapter for the institution.

    […] not only did Republican-appointed justices overturn Roe v. Wade and undo a constitutional right Americans had come to rely on, undermining the judiciary’s reputation and credibility, the Supreme Court did so while failing to keep its house in order, and then failing to determine how and why that happened.

    But don’t worry, Donald Trump knows just what to do. HuffPost reported:

    Donald Trump insisted Thursday that “the reporter” who published the leaked Supreme Court draft ruling overturning Roe v. Wade be jailed until the source of the leak can be determined. Though Trump did not name any particular individual or publication, the draft majority opinion was first reported on in Politico last May by journalists Josh Gerstein and Alexander Ward.

    By way of his social media platform, the former president added, “Stop playing games, this leaking cannot be allowed to happen. It won’t take long before the name of this slime is revealed!”

    In a follow-up missive, Trump went on to call for the “arrest” of the reporters, editors, and publisher who ran the original article, at which point “you’ll get your answer fast.”

    Part of what made this interesting to me is the way in which the former president believes every question has a simple answer […] The immigration system is broken? Build a wall. Opioids are ravaging communities? Execute drug dealers. Hurricanes are approaching American soil? Hit them with nuclear weapons. Shooters are killing children in schools? Put more guns in the hands of those who might shoot back. The Supreme Court sprung a leak? Put journalists behind bars and then we’ll find out who was responsible.

    It’s like listening to a child who doesn’t understand why grown-ups make things so complicated.

    The comments also stood out as a reminder of the Republican’s reflexive hostility toward the First Amendment and democratic institutions. Journalists at Politico did nothing wrong, but in Trump’s mind, they can and should be incarcerated anyway.

    But the unexpected angle to these developments was the Biden White House’s willingness to publicly push back against the former president.

    “The freedom of the press is part of the bedrock of American democracy,” White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement to Politico. “Calling for egregious abuses of power in order to suppress the Constitutional rights of reporters is an insult to the rule of law and undermines fundamental American values and traditions. Instead, it’s the responsibility of all leaders to protect First Amendment rights. These views are not who we are as a country, and they are what we stand against in the world.”

    Most of the time, the Democratic White House doesn’t bother to take issue with Trump’s assorted nonsense. But the former president is the current frontrunner for the Republican Party’s 2024 nomination, and he is freely expressing his opposition to the rule of law.

    Looking ahead, this probably won’t be the last time Team Biden makes the case publicly that “the former guy” is wrong.

  239. says

    Good news:

    Though there was considerable uncertainty surrounding Sen. Tim Kaine’s re-election plans, the Virginia Democrat announced this morning that he will seek a third term. The incumbent will be favored to win next year.

    More good news:

    On a related note, incumbent Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, as expected, have now both announced that they’ll also seek re-election in the 2024 cycle.

    As summarized from NBC News articles.

  240. says

    Followup to comment 327.

    Additional updates from Ukraine:

    Something very interesting has been going on with Sweden and Finland this morning. Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin has been one of the most impassioned speakers in support of Ukraine for some time, and she’s pushed hard this week to get other leaders to meet Ukraine’s needs. Earlier today, Ukraine and Finland announced that an assistance package had been agreed on valued at €400 million, but that Finland would not be detailing the contents of that package. [video available at the link in comment 327]

    For those who are hoping, however, an adviser to Marin specifically noted that the package does not include Leopard 2 tanks.

    That announcement was swiftly followed by another as Finland and Sweden signed a mutual protection pact. Both nations are still seeking to join NATO, but in the meantime, the new agreement specifically falls on Sweden to support Finland as needed after Finland provides equipment to Ukraine. This makes it sound as if, tanks or no tanks, Marin is reaching deep to provide everything she can to Ukraine.

    Poland is now talking about a scheme in which it sends just two Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine without Germany’s permission. Why two and not the full 14 it had proposed earlier in the week? That’s not clear. It’s possible that some of the Leopard 2 tanks in Poland may have had different language in their export license when it comes to requiring Germany’s permission for transfer to a third party, but that’s just guessing.

    [Amended list of assistance promised to Ukraine from Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Sweden, United Kingdom and USA available at the link in comment 327, scroll down]

  241. says

    Iowa Republicans are gearing up to really punish those poor people for daring to be poor. A new bill that has nearly 40 Republican cosponsors would limit people on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to using those benefits for foods already approved for WIC, a completely different program. That means no fresh meat, no nuts, only 100% whole wheat pasta.

    SNAP recipients can currently use that program to get most grocery food items, not including food sold hot. WIC, on the other hand, is an extra supplementary program that sharply limits what its recipients—who are pregnant or have infants or young children—can get. It’s obnoxiously paternalistic as a program for new mothers and young children, but people often get WIC in addition to regular food stamps, so people have a way to get things like fresh meat or brands that haven’t made it onto the WIC-approved list. Iowa Republicans want to cut off those options for everyone who needs help with food.

    This comes on top of the end of free school meals for kids and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds rejecting $30 million in federal childcare money. Great times for struggling families in Iowa and across the country.

    People on SNAP, by definition, shop with a limited food budget. But Iowa Republicans want to add a very specific list of things people can and can’t buy to that limited budget.

    Yes to chunk or shredded cheese; no to sliced, cubed, or crumbled cheese.

    Yes to chunk light tuna in containers with a minimum size of five ounces; no to white albacore, solid, or yellowfin tuna. Yes to canned pink salmon; no to canned red salmon. Definitely no to fresh fish or meat.

    Beans are a good source of cheap protein. But if they’re canned, “NO baked beans, refried bean or chili beans,” and if whether they’re dried or canned, they cannot be a soup mix. In fact, if they’re dried, luxuries such as a bean mix are prohibited. You’re getting one kind of beans per bag, dammit.

    Want oatmeal? There are three brands allowed, and you’re getting the 16-ounce container.

    […] This bill needs to die a swift death, and maybe it will. But even if they get scared off of following through, it shows the kind of policy Republicans want to impose. And making sure struggling families know they’re held in contempt—that they’re reminded of that every time they go grocery shopping or sit down to a meal of beans and brown rice and cheese that is definitely not sliced, cubed, or crumbled—is an outcome Republicans want.

    Passage of such a bill would also cause administrative challenges for grocery stores.

  242. says

    Republicans Propose Flurry Of Stupid Bigot Anti-Trans Laws, And When We Say Flurry We Mean 167.

    It is only January 20. We’re 20 days into 2023 and so far, Republicans in states across the country have already proposed 167 anti-trans and anti-drag discrimination laws. 167.

    I want you to remember that number for the inevitable few years down the road when conservatives do the thing where they rewrite history and claim that it was just a few bigots here and there who weren’t real conservatives anyway because real conservatives value individualism and the government staying out of people’s business […]

    167.

    But for now we’re just gonna talk about the ones that were introduced this week.

    West Virginia
    Here’s a new and especially disturbing one one — West Virginia Republicans hope to amend the state’s current law regulating the distribution of obscene materials within 2500 feet of schools to make it an actual crime for a trans person to be around children.

    West Virginia SB 252: “For the purposes of any prohibition, protection or requirement under any and all articles and sections of the Code of West Virginia protecting children from exposure to indecent displays of a sexually explicit nature, such prohibited displays shall include, but not be limited to, any transvestite and/or transgender exposure, performances or display to any minor.”

    Violation of this “crime” calls for a five year prison sentence. So a trans parent would not be allowed to pick their kid up from school, on account of how their mere existence, according to Republicans in the state, is “of a sexually explicit nature.” A trans person would not be allowed to be employed as a teacher or live across the street from a school or walk past a school without risking five years in prison.

    Mississippi
    On Thursday, the Mississippi House voted 78-28 to ban doctors from providing gender affirming care, including hormone therapy, drugs, and corrective surgery to minors under the age of 18 — and to instruct the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure to revoke the licenses of any doctor who provides that care. Gender-affirming care is the current standard of care recommended by the American Psychological Association and American Medical Association.

    […] It hurts children in order to protect people like Nick Bain who are personally squicked out by the fact that trans people exist. While he may indeed feel that way, he may want to reconsider how good his personal instincts could possibly be when it was these very same instincts that led him to believe that comb-over bangs would be a good idea. [Photo of dunderhead available at the link]

    Creating laws based on the “feelings” of people like Nick Bain and other Mississippi Republicans, while ignoring the recommendations of the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Counseling Association, American Public Health Association, American School Counselor Association, American School Health Association, Child Welfare League of America, Mental Health America, National Association of School Nurses, National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of Social Workers seems like it might not be a great idea.

    Utah
    The Utah Senate passed not one, not two, but three new anti trans bills on Thursday. SB16, like Mississippi’s, bans gender affirming care for anyone under the age of 18. SB93 would bar anyone under the age of 18 from having their gender changed on their birth certificate.

    “What is the compelling state interest in telling people that they can’t change their birth certificates?” asked Sen. Daniel Thatcher (R-West Valley City). “What is the problem we’re trying to solve?”

    Thatcher was recovering from several strokes but went to work against his doctor’s advice in order to argue against the bills. Good for him! Although no one actually answered his questions, because there literally is no answer other than “We would like to do everything in our power to prevent trans people from existing.”

    SB100, the final bill, would require parents to be informed if their child has come out as trans at school and is being referred to by different names or pronouns so that said parents can do … whatever it is the kind of parents whose kids would be afraid to come out to would do in these kinds of situations.

    “We have truckloads of data that show that this [surgery] is lifesaving. This care is supported by every single credible medical and mental health organization on the planet. Everyone that actually looks at data instead of the politics,” Thatcher later told Jeff Caplan’s Afternoon News “So why are we prohibiting current best practices?”

    He also said he feels like he’s “the only conservative on that floor,” but he may want to revisit what being “conservative” actually means in this country. […]

    More at the link, including anti-trans news from North Dakota, South Carolina, and Nebraska.

  243. whheydt says

    Re: Lynna, OM a@ #328…
    A good ggrilling of Clarence and Ginni Thomas might very well reveal who released the Dobbs decision. My money is still on Ginni Thomas, as provided by Clarence.

  244. raven says

    “Germany’s foreign intelligence service (BND) is alarmed by the losses the Ukrainian army is suffering in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut,”

    “The army is losing a three-digit number of soldiers every day fighting against Russian forces in Bakhmut, …” It is obvious that Ukraine is suffering huge losses in the war these days. In close encounter combat that is what happens.
    This article isn’t very definite on the losses, since three digit numbers can be anything from 100 to 999.

    It is clear though that Ukraine is losing huge numbers of soldiers. It’s a lot for a country of 44 million people.

    It will also likely continue since lately, the war seems to be a draw or stalemate. The lines barely move from day to day.

    Germany’s foreign intelligence service (BND) is alarmed by the losses the Ukrainian army is suffering in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut,

    7h ago 08.12 EST
    Germany’s foreign intelligence service (BND) is alarmed by the losses the Ukrainian army is suffering in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, according to a report.

    The army is losing a three-digit number of soldiers every day fighting against Russian forces in Bakhmut, Der Spiegel reports, citing information it had received.

    The Russian capture of Bakhmut would have significant consequences as it would allow Russia to make further advances, the BND warned.

    It comes after Russian proxy forces in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic in the Donbas region said they had taken control of Klishchiivka, a small settlement south of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.

  245. says

    The Fyre Festival fraudster is launching his latest thing, and it looks like a party on an island

    Fresh off four years in prison, barred from ever serving as director of a public company, and buried beneath $26 million in victim paybacks, Billy McFarland, founder of the fraudulent Fyre Festival, wants to make a comeback.

    “I was talking to somebody yesterday and they’re like, ‘You can crawl in a hole and die, or you can go and try to do something and just like not promise any results,’’’ McFarland said in a recent interview with NBC News.

    It was, basically, the promises that got him last time. McFarland went from obscure New York City entrepreneur to world-renowned fraudster after the collapse of his festival became a cultural moment: an event promoted on social media by high-profile models and celebrities overpromising a Coachella for the Bahamas with luxury villas and decadent dishes. The festival instead imploded, leaving many attendees in FEMA tents and eating packaged sandwiches — and none of the promised entertainment. Attendees’ desperate posts went viral, and the disaster spawned two documentaries and dozens of podcasts.

    In October 2018, McFarland was sentenced to six years in prison for fraud.

    His new venture, PYRT (pronounced “Pirate”), launched on social media in October and is supposed to kick things off by hosting, yes, a remote island extravaganza — one that McFarland insists is not a festival. [OMG] Featuring a slew of influencers and creators, the purported tropical experience will include virtual reality technology that the company says will allow users to participate and control what happens on the island in real time from home.

    […] “Billy’s still Billy. He’s using different words, but he’s selling the same thing,” said Shiyuan Deng, a former product designer at Fyre Media, the company behind Fyre Festival. Deng resigned from Fyre Media shortly before it collapsed.

    […] “PYRT appears to be an exercise in smoke and mirrors, buzzwords and empty promises of lavish trips to the Bahamas,” they said.

    […] McFarland joins a wave of made-famous fraudsters who are in the process of making a comeback in part by leveraging their notoriety. Socialite scammer Anna Sorkin, who was the subject of a Netflix drama that portrayed her swindling banks and stealing a private jet for which she was convicted of multiple counts of grand larceny, launched a collection of NFTs while serving time in an ICE detention center and recently announced a monthly dinner series, according to Eater, hosting a dozen VIP celebrity and influencer type guests out of her apartment while on house arrest. Kari Farrell, who was labeled the “hipster grifter” for a variety of scams and frauds including writing fake checks, is also on the comeback trail.

    […] PYRT’s online promotion contains global treasure hunts and luxurious footage of the Bahamas. Though he’s pledged to try to change his ways, McFarland has still at times looked to build hype around his new effort. […]

    McFarland said he believes PYRT will look considerably different from Fyre Festival. There’s no urgent timeline, no contribution from outside investors, and the intent to host only dozens on the island at a time, he said.

    It’s still unclear which island that will be, despite a heavy push from McFarland to return to the Bahamas, where he defrauded islanders in 2017.

    […] the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism said in a statement that no application had been filed by McFarland for an event in the Bahamas. The statement, verified by NBC News, listed him as a “fugitive” and asked that his whereabouts be reported to the national police. […]

    Despite the videos he posted, McFarland told NBC News there are currently no plans for PYRT to be in the Bahamas. He said he believes the relationship with the island nation is fixable. […] “It’s still a journey for me and I’m not perfect in terms of marketing,” he said.

    McFarland said he has taken on several consulting jobs focused on marketing and branding for startups, serving as a source of funding for PYRT […]

    Since McFarland’s release from prison in March, he has made the media rounds — carefully teetering the line between a public plea of forgiveness and a speedy push to PYRT.

    […] Now attempting to forge ahead, McFarland said he is refocusing on what he lost sight of during Fyre: his emphasis on technology and product design.

    “Really kind of getting back to tech, which I think is where my unique skillset lies,” said McFarland.

    Deng, the former product designer, said the opposite.

    “He was really good at pitching but had no technical skills,” she said. [JFC. Kind of reminds one of the worst of the cryptocurrency scams.]

    […] Despite over $25 million in restitution, restrictions limiting him from ever serving as director of a public company, and a nationwide Bahamas ban, McFarland still sees a festival in his future — even if it’s not yet on the horizon.

    “I’d love to do that. I feel like I have to at some point in the future. It’s not happening right now.”

  246. says

    For those of you who remember the embarrassment of the Times coverage of the ‘Whitewater’ scandal it must seem like deja vu all over again. It does to me. The papers editors are trying, really trying, to make the Biden classified documents issue a thing. And I mean a grave thing. The stage was ably set by the subject line of the email I received blasting out their latest deep dive on the story: “Inside Biden’s 68 days of silence”. […] a Gabriel García Márquez homage? I mean good lord. Are we really doing this again? Of course we are. It’s how they roll.

    I took the liberty of a short set of annotations. [Image of the amusingly annotated article is available at the link]

    You can see the air of fateful and perhaps fatal errors, consequences that could shake the Biden presidency. There is the repeated effort to elevate a fairly mundane set of facts into something Shakespearean in its scope. The Biden ‘strategy’ was to completely cooperate to show that the whole thing was just a good faith error nothing like President Trump’s antics. And yet the ‘strategy’ was “profoundly influenced by the Trump case.”

    I mean, what? Not committing crimes and not trying to retain government property is a pretty good policy in general and one Biden likely would have followed on his own. […] a pretty stark contract with Trump’s behavior. Was it “profoundly influenced by the Trump case”? It’s hard to see how this is clear if there’s no reason to think Biden would have done anything different if the Trump thing had never happened. The fact that the President’s lawyers obviously knew the Trump case was on-going is true but does it actually mean anything?

    What we have here is a case where someone working for the now-President was sloppy and commingled a number of classified documents in with various of Biden’s presidential papers. It’s quite unlikely in the nature of things that Biden himself was the one who did this. And there’s little reason to think whoever did had any bad intent. They were discovered when the papers were being moved from Biden’s Penn Center. They were immediately turned over to the National Archives. The DOJ was immediately notified. Once those were found they decided to comb through the records stored at Biden’s home. They found a few more. They immediately turned those over too.

    There’s simply not a lot of meat on this bone. But there’s so much appetite for the bone that doesn’t really seem to matter. It’s both an opportunity to curry a bit of bothsidesist favor since most mainstream media reporters primarily focus on how not to be accused of liberal bias. (I know them. This is true.) But perhaps even more than that there are the cinematic qualities, fateful decisions with unknown and potentially grave consequences into the future. […]

    The bigs really, REALLY want this one.

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/nyt-whitewatering-very-strongly

  247. says

    Ukraine updates:

    White House national security spokesperson John Kirby says the U.S. will designate Russia’s Wagner Group as a “Transnational Criminal Organization.” This freezes any U.S. assets of Wagner and opens them to new sanctions. It’s a move Ukraine has been urging for some time. [Good. That’s good news.]

    Russia sources are claiming that Russia has launched a major offensive in Zaporizhzhia and captured multiple villages. There appears to be no evidence that any of this has actually happened.

  248. says

    The force behind Trump’s stacked Supreme Court is stinkier and more corrupt than we knew

    The vast right-wing conspiracy has gotten vaster since Hillary Clinton first warned of it 25 years ago, and way more right-wing. It’s flourished in no small part because of Mitch McConnell’s single-minded pursuit of getting as much corporate money into politics as possible, and it has dragged the nation’s institutions along with it. Most particularly, the U.S. Supreme Court.

    A tiny beam of light has broken through all that dark money to expose the foothold one arm of the conspiracy—specifically, the one seizing the Supreme Court—had in the Trump White House. Last month, Politico’s Heidi Przybyla reported new information that had surfaced about the 2017 sale of former White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway’s polling company.

    That sale was facilitated by Leonard Leo, the Catholic fundamentalist who was the long-time vice president of the Federalist Society, friend to many Republican lawmakers. […] Conway was at the time part of the small circle of advisers telling Trump who to put on the court, and “proved from the earliest days of Trump’s presidency to be an outspoken advocate for Leo’s list of handpicked candidates.” Candidates who were virulent forced birth proponents, when Trump’s own convictions on the abortion issue were unclear.

    Leo didn’t only facilitate the sale of Conway’s firm to Creative Response Concepts Inc., it appears from records filed that he helped pay for it through one of his dark money groups. That company, now headed up by Leo and called CRC Advisors, was also awash in dark money and was active in promoting Leo’s Supreme Court picks. While Leo wouldn’t confirm any of this to Politico, he more or less proved it by dissolving the dark money group, the BH Fund, three days after Politico inquired about the story.

    When people talk about the web of dark money, boy howdy. It’s like one huge pot of it with all these tentacles oozing out of it, which is mixing metaphors, but you get the idea. At the center is Susan Collins’ pal Leonard Leo, in control of something like $1.6 billion that he’s using to construct even more groups to funnel the money through.

    Does this stink? Yes, says Saurav Ghosh, director of federal campaign finance reform for the Campaign Legal Center. It’s a nonpartisan nonprofit founded by a former Republican member of the Federal Elections Commission. “Nothing screams ‘efforts to conceal’ quite like folding up an organization just as you start getting questions about it,” Gosh told Politico. Leo’s involvement in the sale of Conway’s firm, valued at between $1 and $5 million in her disclosure statement, shows why the “influence of dark money is doubly problematic once someone is in office because they’re [potentially] able to influence outcomes.”

    This time, Leo and KellyAnne might just be caught up in something criminal. Watchdog group Campaign for Accountability has asked Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Chair Gary Peters (D-MI) to investigate the sale conducted while Conway was serving as an executive branch employee. In that role, federal law barred her from participating “personally and substantially” in a matter before the government. Like a Supreme Court nomination.

    “There are clear indications based on the facts at hand that Ms. Conway participated personally and substantially in advising President Trump to nominate Justices to the Supreme Court, and that her personal financial interests were affected,” Campaign for Accountability said in its complaint to Peters. “It is all the more urgent that [the committee] investigate this matter because it is possible criminal charges against Ms. Conway may be precluded by the general five-year statute of limitations governing most federal crimes,” said the complaint.

    House Democrats don’t have the investigative power of the Senate now, but a group of them has once again introduced a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizen’s United ruling that triggered this flood of dark money. […]

  249. Reginald Selkirk says

    Trump to GOP: Don’t touch Medicare or Social Security in debt ceiling fight

    “Under no circumstances should Republicans vote to cut a single penny from Medicare or Social Security,” Trump said in a video message…
    Republicans have vowed not to raise the federal government’s borrowing capacity unless Biden makes steep cuts to federal spending, potentially impacting social insurance programs like Social Security and Medicare. Trump’s video is a warning to his fellow party members not to go there. Instead, he suggests targeting foreign aid, cracking down on migration, ending “left wing gender programs from our military,” and “billions being spent on climate extremism.”

    Does he know or care that no one listens to him any more?

  250. whheydt says

    Re: Reginald Selkirk @ #339…
    I keep wondering what would happen if Biden cut the hell out of Federal transfer funds to states? So many red states run on a net intake of Federal money, basically being subsidized by blue states.

  251. Reginald Selkirk says

    Md. Gov. Moore releases millions in held funding; issues executives orders

    It wasn’t uncommon for the previous governor, Republican Larry Hogan, to decide not to release funding for something he didn’t see eye-to-eye on with state lawmakers.
    But on his first full day in office, the state’s new governor, Democrat Wes Moore, announced he was releasing around $69 million in funds Hogan would not. Changes to state law that took effect this year mean similar situations won’t arise again…
    The bulk of the released funds, totaling $46.5 million, are related to the legalization of marijuana, which takes effect on July 1 after voters overwhelmingly supported it back in November…
    Moore is also releasing money to help with the expunging of criminal records for convictions of anyone whose sole offense was the possession of marijuana. A legislative report issued last year said just over 1,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession back in 2020.
    About $9 million will be spent on programs that deal with the impact of climate change…
    The new governor is also allocating $19 million for paid family and medical leave programs…
    The last $3.5 million will be released to fund the Abortion Care Access Act. Noting that Maryland has stronger abortion access laws than other states, Moore told reporters, “Maryland needs to be a state that’s a safe haven for abortion rights.”
    The program is aimed at guaranteeing abortion access around the state, and will provide grants for clinical training of abortion care providers and their teams. Moore also vowed to work with lawmakers to further expand abortion in the future…

  252. says

    As part of the Supreme Court’s leak investigation, the institution’s marshal conceded this afternoon that while sitting justices spoke to investigators, none of the jurists signed sworn affidavits, even as other employees at the high court did.

  253. says

    Bloomberg:

    Senator Joe Manchin said Thursday he didn’t realize the US and the European Union do not have a free trade agreement when he wrote stringent new requirements for the electric vehicle tax credit that the EU says will unfairly disadvantage its members.

  254. says

    Followup to comments 327 and 330.

    Ukraine Update:

    This is good: Ukrainian defense minister Oleksii Reznikov has announced that nations which are considering donations of Leopard 2 tanks have agreed to begin training courses on operation and maintenance of the tanks. Since this is a necessary step anyway, it could mean that no time actually ends up being lost in eventually getting these tanks in the field.

    Link

  255. Reginald Selkirk says

    @345: Cut him some slack, he’s just a guy. It’s not like he has a staff to do research for him, and all the resources of the U.S. Congress to draw upon.

  256. raven says

    Xposted from the N. Dakota library thread.

    More fascist anti-Trans trash from North Dakota.
    I’m sure the GOPers compete to see who can be the most bigoted, hate filled creep in the state.

    Use the wrong pronoun, go to jail.
    They must have never heard of freedom of speech in North Dakota.

    N. Dakota bill would bar people from using pronouns according to gender identity; $1,500 fines threatened

    NY Daily News
    N. Dakota bill would bar people from using pronouns according to gender identity; $1,500 fines threatened
    1k
    Muri Assunção, New York Daily News
    Thu, January 19, 2023 at 3:25 PM PST·2 min read

    Republican lawmakers in North Dakota have introduced legislation seeking to prohibit transgender and nonbinary people from using pronouns according to their gender identity.

    Senate Bill 1299 states that “words referring to an individual, person, employer, employee, contestant, participant, member, student, or juvenile must be used in the context of that person’s sex as determined at birth.

    “Any person [who] violates this section must be assessed a fee of one thousand five hundred dollars,” the bill adds.

    If the person’s gender identity or expression is contested, that determination should be established by the “individual’s deoxyribonucleic acid,” or DNA, the legislation states.

    Speaking in defense of the bill on Wednesday, state Sen. David Clemens said if a person’s gender is ever challenged, the responsibility to prove their gender will fall on that individual.

    “Say, they’re a boy, but they come to school and say they’re a girl. As far as that school is concerned in this bill, that person is still a boy,” Clemens, one of the authors of the legislation, said Wednesday when speaking in favor of the bill.

    “If it becomes contested, the burden will be on the girl, the so-called girl, or the boy, to prove that he is a girl,” he added, according to local station KYFR-TV.

    The proposed bill was put forth to the state Senate’s Judiciary Committee this week.

    Clemens, who was the only person to give testimony in favor of the legislation, was at times “at a loss for words,” according to trans rights advocate Erin Reed, who live-tweeted the hearing.

    The Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to give this bill a “do not pass” recommendation.

    North Dakota Sen. Ryan Braunberger, a freshman Democrat, celebrated the committee’s recommendation on Twitter, calling it a “positive step in protecting transgender ND.”

    However, according to Reed the bill can still move forward, “as committees don’t have veto power there, and the chair indicated more bills are coming.”

  257. KG says

    raven@334,
    I wonder if the BND is trying to push the German Government into sending Leopard tanks.

  258. raven says

    “China says COVID outbreak has infected 80% of population”
    Maybe.
    China’s statistics are unreliable.
    This 80% number is at least plausible.

    The death toll is unknown and may neve be known.
    Modeling says it will be between 1 million and 1.7 million dead by April 2023.

    It would be a lot higher if most Chinese weren’t vaccinated. Their vaccines don’t work very well but they are a lot better than no vaccines.

    China says COVID outbreak has infected 80% of population

    Reuters
    China says COVID outbreak has infected 80% of population
    Sat, January 21, 2023 at 1:59 AM PST·1 min read

    BEIJING (Reuters) – The possibility of a big COVID-19 rebound in China over the next two or three months is remote as 80% of people have been infected, a prominent government scientist said on Saturday.

    The mass movement of people during the ongoing Lunar New Year holiday period may spread the pandemic, boosting infections in some areas, but a second COVID wave is unlikely in the near term, Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said on the Weibo social media platform.

    Hundreds of millions of Chinese are travelling across the country for holiday reunions that had been suspended under recently eased COVID curbs, raising fears of fresh outbreaks in rural areas less equipped to manage large outbreaks.

    China has passed the peak of COVID patients in fever clinics, emergency rooms and with critical conditions, a National Health Commission official said on Thursday.

    Nearly 60,000 people with COVID had died in hospital as of Jan. 12, roughly a month after China abruptly dismantled its zero-COVID policy, according to government data.

    But some experts said that figure probably vastly undercounts the full impact, as it excludes those who die at home, and because many doctors have said they are discouraged from citing COVID as a cause of death.

  259. says

    Reginald @347, LOL.

    In other news: State employee alleges Florida sidestepped process in excluding gender-affirming care from Medicaid

    Florida health officials circumvented traditional regulatory channels to draft a report recommending gender-affirming health care be excluded from coverage under Medicaid, a state employee alleges in an exchange included in new court filings.

    Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), which controls most of the state’s Medicaid program, wrote in a June report that available medical literature provides “insufficient evidence” that puberty blockers, hormones and gender-affirming surgeries are safe and effective treatments for gender dysphoria and therefore excluded them from Medicaid coverage because they are “experimental and investigational.”

    The ensuing state rule, which took effect in August, bars transgender youths and adults in Florida from using Medicaid to help pay for any “procedures that alter primary or secondary sexual characteristics” when those procedures are used to treat gender dysphoria, stripping more than 9,000 transgender Floridians of access to critical health care.

    But new court documents filed late Friday by plaintiffs in a case challenging Florida’s Medicaid exclusion include allegations from an AHCA employee that state health officials did not follow customary procedures for developing generally accepted professional medical standards (GAPMS) in creating the June report.

    Documentation of an email exchange between Christopher Cogle, the chief medical officer of Florida Medicaid, and Jeffrey English, an AHCA employee, show evidence of tension within the agency over the GAPMS recommendation on treatments for gender dysphoria.

    Cogle in the June correspondence inquired whether the AHCA has a standard operating procedure for GAPMS recommendations, to which English responded in the affirmative, adding, “If you will excuse me, I feel obligated to include this information: I was not informed or consulted, did not in any way participate, and did not write the GAPMS concerning gender dysphoria treatment.”

    “That particular GAPMS did not come through the traditional channels and was not handled through the traditional GAPMS process,” English wrote.

    “I do not cherry pick data or studies and would never agree to if I were so asked,” he continued. “All I can say about that report, as I have read it, is that it does not present an honest and accurate assessment of the status of the current evidence and practice guidelines as I understand them to be in the existing literature.” […]

  260. says

    Ukraine update: To save Ukraine this year, there is something the United States could do right now

    As the various foreign ministers and defense secretaries depart from the meeting at Ramstein, Ukraine is left with a long list of donated equipment to assist in its fight against an illegal and unprovoked Russian invasion. That list includes a single company (squadron, in Brit speak) of Challenger 2 tanks, along with the associated vehicles necessary to maintain them, fuel them, repair them in the field, and drag them home when damaged. Those 14 main battle tanks represent the erasing of yet another artificial barrier in getting Ukraine what it needs to actively push Russia off the remaining occupied territory. It’s the tip of the spear on a shopping list that includes some of the best military hardware in the world. However, at the end of the day, the equipment to be shipped following the meetings at Davos and Ramstein are simply not enough.

    For the moment, multiple nations have agreed to train Ukrainian soldiers on the operation and maintenance of Leopard 2 tanks built by Germany, planning against the day when German Chancellor Olaf Scholz decides to either send tanks or release those nations which have purchased Leopard 2 tanks from Germany from the limitations of their export licenses. Polish officials continue to insist that they could send the tanks anyway, no matter what Germany says. They could. However, this is unlikely.

    For now, the immediate task for Ukraine is looking at the list of what’s been promised, getting their forces up to speed on the support of this new hardware, and establishing both the structural and logistical chains needed to make it workable. But the failure of Western nations to step up and give Ukraine everything it needs and more, is greater than just another missed opportunity. It’s not just a failure that will be weighed out in Ukrainian blood, it represents give Russia and Vladimir Putin more time to plan, react, and to continue their terror campaign against civilians.

    There is one more very important thing the U.S. could, and should, do right now.

    Here’s one way of looking at the situation when it comes to providing one of the two major main battle tanks available to Western forces. (Note: The way that just about any image in Twitter related to Ukraine, even a map, ends up clamped behind a “sensitive” label, is maddening.) [Tweet and image at the link: The image shows european countries that use Leopard 2 tanks and therefore have training and maintenance facilities. The nearest M1A2 Abrams tank facility is at Fort Stewart, Georgia, USA)

    The tweet above is only partially true. There are a 250 Abrams M1A2 SEPv3 already on their way to Poland, with the possibility of 250 more, though the facilities to handle these tanks are not currentl