1. Rob Grigjanis says

    @497: That seemed to be the case in my household, November last. Everyone tested positive and became symptomatic within a few days of my mum returning from having some (unrelated to covid) tests done at the hospital.

  2. says

    Satire from Andy Borowitz:

    In a speech to the House of Representatives, George Santos disclosed that he is an M1 Abrams battle tank.

    Representative Santos apologized for not previously including his battle-tank status on his résumé, calling the omission a “careless error.”

    Describing his many outstanding features, Santos said that he is equipped with two six-barrel smoke-grenade launchers and an AN/VLQ-6 Missile Countermeasure Device.

    “The Ukrainians have called battle tanks the punching fist of democracy,” Santos said. “I, George Santos, am that fist.”

    In recognition of Santos’s career as an M1 Abrams battle tank, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy named him the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

    New Yorker link

  3. says

    NBC News:

    Five former Memphis police officers were indicted Thursday on murder charges in the death of Tyre Nichols, whose beating following a traffic stop was captured on video that ‘sickened’ a top Tennessee law enforcement official.

    The video is supposed to be released tomorrow, Friday, probably late in the day.

  4. says

    USA Today:

    Faced with a steady stream of disclosures about improperly kept classified documents, the National Archives on Thursday asked former presidents and vice presidents to look for any sensitive and potentially top-secret material they might have, according to a source familiar with the matter.

  5. says

    NBC News:

    The FBI infiltrated and disrupted a major cybercriminal group that extorted schools, hospitals and critical infrastructure around the world, federal officials said Thursday.

  6. says

    California Bar Moves To Nix Eastman’s Attorney License

    ‘Moral turpitude’ is cited as a reason.

    The California state bar moved to revoke attorney John Eastman’s law license on Thursday, saying that he lied over and over again to support President Trump’s effort to stay in office after losing the 2020 election.

    The chief trial counsel of the California bar slapped Eastman with eleven counts of violating attorney ethics rules during the effort. They include eight counts of moral turpitude, two counts of trying to mislead a court, and one count of failing to support the laws and Constitution of the United States.

    Eastman, the bar said, either knew or was negligent in not knowing “that there was no evidence upon which a reasonable attorney would rely of election fraud or illegality that could have affected the outcome of the election, and that there was no evidence upon which a reasonable attorney would rely that the election had been ‘stolen’ by the Democratic Party or other parties acting in a coordinated conspiracy to fraudulently ‘steal’ the election from Trump.”

    In spite of that, the bar found, Eastman “continued to work with Trump and others to promote the idea that the outcome of the election was in question and had been stolen from Trump as the result of fraud, disregard of state election law, and misconduct by election officials.”

    Via an attorney, Eastman issued a statement saying that he “disputes ‘every aspect’” of the filing, and characterized his own involvement with Trump as part of the “fluid and fast-moving aftermath of the 2020 election” while doubling down on long-debunked allegations of “illegality” in the vote.

    Bar officials said that Eastman violated his duty as an attorney by providing legal advice based on allegations of voter fraud that he knew were false, and that he propagated a legal theory regarding Vice President Mike Pence’s supposed power to reject electoral votes that he also knew to be baseless.

    […] The 35-page notice of disciplinary charges reads like a greatest hits of Eastman’s involvement in Trump’s attempt to stay in power. It cites as evidence of his misdeeds the speech he gave on the Ellipse on the morning of Jan. 6, the memos he penned arguing that Pence could reject electors, and alleged lies he included in legal filings before federal district judges and the Supreme Court.

    In the Supreme Court matter, Eastman allegedly included information that he knew to be false as part of an attempt to support a coalition of Republican attorneys general, led by Texas, in convincing the court to flip the result to Trump.

    […] In his case, because the matter deals with disbarment, the state bar court’s recommendation will go to the California Supreme Court, which will make the ultimate decision on whether to yank Eastman’s law license. […]

  7. says

    Behind the scenes of Durham investigation reveals special counsel engaged in serious abuse of power

    Almost four years after launching his investigation into the less than two year Russia investigation, John Durham came up with no proof that the FBI, DOJ, or any member of Robert Mueller’s team did anything wrong. But that doesn’t mean that Durham did nothing wrong.

    In fact, according to The New York Times, after finding nothing but actions taken in good faith by other investigators, Durham ended up chasing down several avenues that he never shared with the America people. That includes covering up evidence provided by Italian intelligence that Donald Trump might have undisclosed fiscal ties to Russia.

    But that’s far from the worst aspect of Durham’s investigation. Because it certainly seems as if, in his attempt to prove that the FBI stepped over the line when looking into Trump, Durham didn’t just step over the lines, he erased them. And in at least one extraordinary instance, the man investigating the Russia investigation took his marching orders straight from … Russia.

    What’s amazing about the Times look into the Durham investigation is that [irony alert] Durham seems to have done almost everything that Trump accused the Mueller investigators of doing. For example, where Republicans have repeatedly gone apoplectic in their efforts to prove that the information collected by former British Intelligence officer Christopher Steele was central to the Russia investigation (it wasn’t) and pretended that Steele’s memos were all unsourced rumors planted by the Russian government. Durham based parts of his operation on information that was without a doubt being shipped straight from Moscow.

    Mr. Durham used Russian intelligence memos—suspected by other U.S. officials of containing disinformation—to gain access to emails of an aide to George Soros, the financier and philanthropist who is a favorite target of the American right and Russian state media. Mr. Durham used grand jury powers to keep pursuing the emails even after a judge twice rejected his request for access to them. The emails yielded no evidence that Mr. Durham has cited in any case he pursued.

    Read that again. In his attempts to prove that there were flaws in the investigation linking Donald Trump to the Russian government, John Durham relied on information from the Russian government to break into the emails of a private citizen who had no connection to the Russia investigation. He found nothing, but kept violating the privacy of his target repeatedly, even after a judge found his further requests unjustified.

    […] When then attorney general William Barr appointed John Durham as a special investigator in May of 2019, he had just one task—find a way to blame the FBI and DOJ for Donald Trump’s collaboration with Russia. Durham was changed with following up on every possible conspiracy claim that Trump had made since 2016, looking for any way in which the FBI could be pinned with exaggerating Trump’s connections to Russia, Russia, Russia, or some reason why the investigation might be accused of being prejudice against Trump.

    Then Barr kicked off the investigation by calling the head of the National Security Agency into his office to meet with Durham, accusing the NSA of being somehow involved in a conspiracy against Trump, and promising to use his power at the Department of Justice to “f**k” the NSA if they didn’t give Durham everything he wanted. That’s how the investigation started.

    […] Durham had disagreements with his own staff, leading to the resignation of his top assistant back in 2020, but only now is the extent to which others involved in the investigation became disgusted with Durham becoming clear. Two more members of Durham’s team marched out the door when he decided to indict attorney Michael Sussman on the filmiest of charges — charges that a jury swiftly dismissed when Durham took the case to court.

    […] For months, Barr dropped hints that the investigation was turning up big news, which would soon be relayed to the public. That included announcing that Durham’s scope had been expanded beyond just looking at those who were directly involved in collecting evidence against Trump, but peeking into the CIA to see if they had a hand in setting Trump up to fail and looking into the Clinton foundation because … why not look at the Clinton Foundation?

    […] The big bombshell turned into a dud well before Election Day.

    Even after Trump packed up hundreds of highly classified documents and scurried away to Mar-a-Lago, Durham declared that his investigation would continue. Throughout the next year, Durham surfaced now and then to make obscure statements that thrilled Fox News and created ripples among the QAnon crowd still hoping for those gallows to be erected on the White House lawn. [Durham kept the conspiracy theories alive.]

    […] Except there was no crime. Durham never charged a crime. As it turned out, there wasn’t even a finding of conflict of interest.

    As the end of 2022 approached, it became clear that all Durham had really done was vindicate everything about the original Russia investigation. […] The reason the Russia investigation found connections between Trump and Russia was simple enough — there were connections between Trump and Russia.

    […] At this point, a month into 2023, Durham still hasn’t issued an official final report. […] don’t be surprised if Durham’s final report includes plenty of vague statements that have Trump and his supporters in Congress demanding more investigations into the investigation.

    Durham’s last act isn’t just a sad end to a long career, it’s a genuine example of how the special counsel’s office can be used as a means of persecuting for political purposes, not prosecuting based on facts. And don’t be surprised if Durham has another day in court — as the subject of lawsuits from those who suffered from this genuine “witch hunt.”

    In MSNBC’s coverage of this debacle it was pointed out that Barr and Durham apparently became buddies. They traveled together to Italy to try to get dirt on the USA’s CIA agents from Italian intelligence officers. That aim was not accomplished, but they did get dirt on Trump that they failed to follow up on properly (apparently). Also, Barr and Durham shared meals and drinks frequently while, I assume, Barr pressured Durham to keep the ill-conceived witch hunt going. Sounds almost like Barr was grooming Durham.

  8. says

    Followup to comment 8.

    How Barr’s Quest to Find Flaws in the Russia Inquiry Unraveled

    New York Times link

    It became a regular litany of grievances from President Donald J. Trump and his supporters: The investigation into his 2016 campaign’s ties to Russia was a witch hunt, they maintained, that had been opened without any solid basis, went on too long and found no proof of collusion.

    Egged on by Mr. Trump, Attorney General William P. Barr set out in 2019 to dig into their shared theory that the Russia investigation likely stemmed from a conspiracy by intelligence or law enforcement agencies. To lead the inquiry, Mr. Barr turned to a hard-nosed prosecutor named John H. Durham, and later granted him special counsel status to carry on after Mr. Trump left office.

    But after almost four years — far longer than the Russia investigation itself — Mr. Durham’s work is coming to an end without uncovering anything like the deep state plot alleged by Mr. Trump and suspected by Mr. Barr.

    Moreover, a monthslong review by The New York Times found that the main thrust of the Durham inquiry was marked by some of the very same flaws — including a strained justification for opening it and its role in fueling partisan conspiracy theories that would never be charged in court — that Trump allies claim characterized the Russia investigation.

    Interviews by The Times with more than a dozen current and former officials have revealed an array of previously unreported episodes that show how the Durham inquiry became roiled by internal dissent and ethical disputes as it went unsuccessfully down one path after another even as Mr. Trump and Mr. Barr promoted a misleading narrative of its progress. [Yep. I remember that phase well.]

    Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham never disclosed that their inquiry expanded in the fall of 2019, based on a tip from Italian officials, to include a criminal investigation into suspicious financial dealings related to Mr. Trump. The specifics of the tip and how they handled the investigation remain unclear, but Mr. Durham brought no charges over it.

    Mr. Durham used Russian intelligence memos — suspected by other U.S. officials of containing disinformation — […] Mr. Durham used grand jury powers to keep pursuing the emails even after a judge twice rejected his request for access to them. The emails yielded no evidence that Mr. Durham has cited in any case he pursued.

    There were deeper internal fractures on the Durham team than previously known. The publicly unexplained resignation in 2020 of his No. 2 and longtime aide, Nora R. Dannehy, was the culmination of a series of disputes between them over prosecutorial ethics. A year later, two more prosecutors strongly objected to plans to indict a lawyer with ties to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign based on evidence they warned was too flimsy, and one left the team in protest of Mr. Durham’s decision to proceed anyway. (A jury swiftly acquitted the lawyer.)

    […] Robert Luskin, a criminal defense lawyer and former Justice Department prosecutor who represented two witnesses Mr. Durham interviewed, said that he had a hard time squaring Mr. Durham’s prior reputation as an independent-minded straight shooter with his end-of-career conduct as Mr. Barr’s special counsel. […] “When did these guys drink the Kool-Aid, and who served it to them?” […]

    After Mr. Sussmann’s acquittal, Mr. Barr, by then out of office for more than a year, suggested that using the courts to advance a politically charged narrative was a goal in itself. Mr. Durham “accomplished something far more important” than a conviction, Mr. Barr told Fox News, asserting that the case had “crystallized the central role played by the Hillary campaign in launching as a dirty trick the whole Russiagate collusion narrative and fanning the flames of it.” [OMFG!!!!]

    […] two failed cases are likely to be Mr. Durham’s last courtroom acts as a prosecutor. […]

    Much more at the link.

  9. Reginald Selkirk says

    Jury: $1M to Oregon woman told ‘I don’t serve Black people’

    PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A jury has awarded an Oregon woman $1 million in damages after finding she was discriminated against by a gas station employee who told her, “I don’t serve Black people.”

    The Multnomah County jury’s award this week to Portland resident Rose Wakefield, 63, included punitive damages of $550,000.

    Wakefield’s lawyer, Gregory Kafoury, said she stopped for gas at Jacksons Food Store in Beaverton on March 12, 2020, and saw the attendant, Nigel Powers, ignore her and instead pump gas for other drivers…

    Surveillance video showed Wakefield go inside to ask for help. Another employee followed her back outside to pump her gas. Kafoury said as she was leaving, Wakefield asked Powers why he refused to help her and that he said, “I don’t serve Black people.” …

    During the following week, Wakefield complained twice to managers, but her phone calls were largely disregarded, Kafoury said.

  10. Reginald Selkirk says

    US will send Ukraine more advanced Abrams tanks, but without “secret armour”

    The Abrams tanks that the United States intends to transfer to Ukraine are the modern M1A2, not the A1, which the US military has in stock, but they will also be stripped of their so-called secret armour, which includes depleted uranium.
    The M1A2 Abrams has more advanced optics and a control system than the A1, which allows for more accurate targeting, and a separate thermal camera for the crew commander, allowing him independent identification of targets in any weather and battlefield conditions.

    The new modification of the tank contains digitised control mechanisms, which allow machines to continuously and automatically exchange information, quickly track the location of allied machines, identify enemy positions and process artillery requests.

    At the same time, those Abrams that Ukraine will receive will be deprived of the secret armour packages used by the American military, which include depleted uranium. The USA uses the same practice when selling tanks to other countries…

  11. Reginald Selkirk says

    Abortion front and center in Wisconsin Supreme Court race

    MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A liberal judge running in a pivotal race to determine majority control of the Wisconsin Supreme Court touts her support for abortion rights in the first two television ads of the closely watched race launched Thursday.

    The winner of the April 4 election will determine whether the court remains under control of conservative justices or flips to a liberal majority. Everything from redistricting to abortion rights to election laws heading into the 2024 presidential election and after in the swing state could be determined by the court…

  12. raven says

    Here is a short explanation of corruption in Ukraine from a Ukrainian economist.
    This corruption is a holdover from the USSR days. 70 years of communism and Russian rule left Ukraine with no experience and no idea how to run a modern nation.
    They are learning rapidly.

    Twitter thread rollup
    Tymofiy Mylovanov

    Twitter logo
    9h • 16 tweets • 3 min read
    A perspective on corruption in Ukraine. I am an academic economist, a former Ukrainian minister, and a public figure, in that order. I did a land market reform after 20 years of sabotage by vested interest. That experience helped me understand 1/
    how corruption works in Ukraine and how one can fight it. Corruption is a culture problem. The culture of disregard for rules, zero respect for others, zero empathy, egoism, and belief that all other people are also corrupt, but they simple havent had the opportunity 2/
    Corrupt people believe that they can bribe everyone else because everyone else is the same as they. When they meet honest people they consider them crazy or losers. When they get arrested and prosecuted, they are surprised and attribute it to some conspiracies or political 3/
    enemies. They find it unfair! The Ukrainian public hate corrupt officials. This hate transpires across all areas of public life and office. The peak of the corruption happened around 2013 under the pro Russian president Yanukovich. His culture was that of a thug,

    the rule of the strong one rather than the rule of law or justice. That’s why people revolted and he was ousted. Russia took advantage of the situation and annexed Crimea and set up a “separatist” movement in the East of Ukraine. The Ukrainians then learned how 4/
    incapable Ukrainian institutions had become under Yanukovich, with the army being unable to resist the Russian annexation and the security and police services being inept in resisting the Russians in the East. It is the Ukrainian public, the volunteers who took up arms 5/
    to defend Ukraine in 2014-2016. It is them who now constitute the backbone of the Ukrainian military leadership. Today, the Ukrainian army is nothing like what it was in 2013. Today it defends Ukraine against one of the largest armies in the world – russia. 6/
    And so the clean up of the corruption started in 2014. The Ukrainians realized that corruption is destroying the state and it must stop. There has been a lot of progress in some areas. The central bank has been reformed, half of the banks – about 100 – have been shut down
    Many of them were just fronts to steal money from the taxpayers through the fraudulent refinancing from the central bank. That was over. The state procurement has been reformed too. An electronic system has been introduced and it was heralded across the world as one of the most8/
    advanced, transparent, and effective. I am proud I have participated in designing parts of it – the auction for selling assets of bankrupt banks. The patrol police has been changed from an extremely brutal and corrupt agency that instilled fear into everyone to a modern civil 9/
    Service. Today, I am more afraid when I get pulled over in the US than in Ukraine. A framework of anti corruption agencies has been set up – a special court, an investigative bureau, a special prosecutor, a reporting agency. All of this has not been easy. There have 10/
    been reversals, mixed results, challenges.
    But the trend is clear and the progress is steady. There is also a vibrant civil society and a good network of investigative journalists and a culture of whistleblowing. The competency of the anti corruption agencies and 11/
    the civil society and investigative journalists has been improving. There are plenty of challenges and pockets of corruptions. First, the courts, especially at the lower level. Many judges are corrupt. The situation is improving but we have a long way to go. Corporate 12/
    governance at the state owned enterprises continues to be an issue – a lot of work is ahead. Oligarchs still control many of the monopolies, so the competition authority reform needs to be done. Lobbying and political campaign donations have to be cleaned up and regulated. 13/
    Media reform that balances the freedom of speech with the transparency of funding must be done too. Defense procurement (outside of weapons) is another not fully reformed area – and this is where the latest corruption scandal has happened. So, much work remains 14/
    , but a lot has been done and achieved already. We must fight the culture of corruption and we must reform the way the political system is financed. But it can be done as the experience of the last 8 years shows. 15/15

  13. KG says

    Lynna, OM@8,9,

    There really needs to be a special counsel appointed to carry out a full-scale investigation into the investigation into the investigation!

  14. KG says

    Oggie: Mathom@495, Reginald Selkirk@497,
    My wife tested positive and had symptoms less than 48 hours after the earliest possible exposure (we know exactly who infected her, because we were both being extremely careful in the run-up to our son’s wedding, until a relative came to stay with us for that event (despite already having a sore throat). She tested positive the morning after arriving. We missed most of the wedding.

  15. KG says

    I had a weird dream last night. Someone I knew to be Noam Chomsky (I did wonder why he appeared to be in his 30s or 40s, but this didn’t clue me in that I was dreaming) and asked me what I was reading at present. I couldn’t think of the titles of the books I’m actually reading, and said “The New Cold War”, which – in the dream – Chomsky had co-authored (it’s by Edward Lucas and I haven’t read it). However, I then told him:
    “I’m one of many who disagree with you completely about Ukraine. Fascism must be defeated, and the centre of fascism today is in Moscow.”
    So there!

  16. StevoR says

    The late Archie Roach Took the Children Away true stories sung

    There’s a place just down the road from where I live (Colebrook House) where they took stolen Indigenous children up unti the 1970’s .

  17. raven says

    MTG never misses a chance to demonstrate what a monster she is.
    She is an open supporter of the Russians and a supporter of the Russian genocide of Ukraine.
    The other prominent GOPer who supports the Russian genocide is of course, Trump.

    Marjorie Taylor Greene

    We must stop funding Ukraine. This war needs to end.

    America has sent over $113 billion to Ukraine, now sending tanks, and
    have funded the Ukraine government at $1.5 billion every month.

    It’s a corrupt slush fund and it’s just killing people.

    FWIW, MTG very easily won her reelection in 2020.
    It wasn’t even close.

    Ms. Greene, a far-right conservative, has represented northwest Georgia for two years.
    With nearly two-thirds of votes counted, Ms. Greene had 64.5% of the vote, to 35.5% for Mr. Flowers.

  18. raven says


    Alfons López Tena 🦇 @alfonslopeztena
    Russia plans to build 25 prisons and 3 forced labor camps in occupied areas of Ukraine. The Russian prime minister has ordered the construction of a large network of prisons to control the population in the illegally annexed territories

    I can’t confirm this but it is at least plausible.

    Russia has been controlling its population with the Gulags and slave labor camps since before the USSR. It’s deeply embedded in their culture.

    And, they really hate and are determined to wipe out the Ukrainians.
    Especially since the Ukrainians had the courage to stand up and oppose their own genocide.

    The author here, Alfons López Tena, is at least a reliable source, a Spanish journalist.

  19. raven says

    Russian lawmakers warn Moldova’s Nato aspirations may lead to its destruction

    Another day, another Russian threat.
    They are going to destroy Moldova.
    This threat at least isn’t fake. Moldova only has 2.6 million people and doesn’t have much of an army. If Ukraine falls, Moldova is next and they wouldn’t last a week.

    Russian lawmakers warn Moldova’s Nato aspirations may lead to its destruction

    Russian lawmakers warn Moldova’s Nato aspirations may lead to its destruction

    Moldovan President Maia Sandu commented that the country may seek membership of “a larger defence alliance”. /
    By Iulian Ernst in Bucharest January 25, 2023
    Two influential Russian lawmakers warned on January 24 that Moldova considering Nato membership “may lead to its destruction”, after another Russian senator said the day before that President Maia Sandu risks repeating the “suicidal policy” of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

    The statements were prompted by Moldovan President Maia Sandu telling Politico that her country may seek membership of “a larger defence alliance” in order to consolidate its security. Moscow’s vehement objection to Ukraine joining Nato was one of the reasons for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. Like Ukraine, Moscow considers Moldova to be part of its sphere of influence.

    Sandu and other members of the pro-EU authorities have emphasised recently that Moldova’s military neutrality, enshrined in its constitution, shouldn’t impede the development of defence capacities.

    Moldova lies on Ukraine’s western border, and part of the country is occupied by Russia-backed separatists, making it highly vulnerable to spillovers from the war in the neighbouring country. Several Russian missiles have crossed or crashed onto its territory since the start of the war.

    “Usually, we react to actions. Moldova has upset us lately with a series of its decisions,” Svetlana Zhurova, a member of President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party and first vice-president of the State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, told Vedomosti.

    The MP said that she is confident that the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs “will know how to respond” to Sandu’s statements.

    Moldova’s accession to Nato could lead to the destruction of this state and will be seen by Russia as a threat to its security, said Leonid Kalashnikov, another influential member of the State Duma in Moscow, to Vedomosti.

    “If Moldova wants to destroy its own state, this is the best way … If they think that, like Finland or Sweden, secretly, quickly, taking advantage of the situation, they can join Nato and that nothing will happen to them for this in their own country, they should remember something else. The fact that Finland has two official languages and respects its people.”

    Kalashnikov went on to refer to the Russia-backed separatist republic of Transnistria within Moldova, as well as the autonomous Gagauzia.

    “And they [Moldova] have Gagauzia … and Transnistria, which has a Russian-speaking population and which expressed its will [to unite with Russia] a long time ago, in the early 1990s,” Kalashnikov added.

    Kalashnikov emphasised that Russia’s attitude towards a possible accession of Moldova to Nato will be negative because it represents a “threat to the security” of the Russian Federation.

    In the interview with Politico, Sandu said last week that after the invasion of Ukraine, there is a serious discussion in Moldova about the country’s ability to defend itself and the possibility of joining a “larger alliance”, without naming Nato as such.

    “And if we come, at some point, to the conclusion as a nation that we need to change neutrality, this should happen through a democratic process,” she said.

    Her comments sparked a backlash within Moldova too, with pro-Russian former president Igor Dodon called Sandu’s statement about the option of renouncing Moldova’s neutral status or joining a “larger alliance” “dangerous”.

  20. says

    The GOP clearly hasn’t thought through its DirecTV complaints

    Republican rhetoric about DirecTV isn’t just hysterical, it’s also increasingly weird for a party that claims to care about free-market principles.

    At face value, the dispute between DirecTV and Newsmax seems like the sort of corporate clash that occasionally arises in the telecommunications industry. The provider and the cable channel have a disagreement over funding, so the former decided this week to cut ties with the latter.

    The Daily Beast ran a report on the conflict this week, noting that, at least according to DirecTV, the provider didn’t actually want to break up with the far-right channel, but since Newsmax content is available for free in a variety of ways, the channel’s “demands for rate increases” led DirecTV to walk away.

    Newsmax — an unabashedly conservative channel that has run into some legal trouble over its promotion of election conspiracy theories — has a competing version of events […]

    For congressional Republicans, however, this is a political matter requiring governmental attention. As my MSNBC colleague Ja’han Jones explained:

    GOP lawmakers are up in arms that DirecTV might pull the plug on a major source of right-wing disinformation, and they’re trying to throw their weight around to stop it. In a letter late last week, more than 40 Republicans decried the possibility that DirecTV would no longer offer Newsmax — the archconservative, Trump-loving network known for spreading lies.

    […] Republican Rep. Mary Miller of Illinois characterized DirecTV’s decision as “an attack on members of Congress,” and she didn’t appear to be kidding. There were related complaints from Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik of New York.

    Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey went so far as to suggest such business disputes are generally only found in “authoritarian regimes,” which was every bit as odd as it seemed.

    […] A surprising number of GOP lawmakers this week have raised the prospect of congressional hearings into the matter.

    The apoplexy wasn’t limited to Capitol Hill. From his Mar-a-Lago perch, Donald Trump condemned the move as a “big blow to the Republican Party” — he apparently didn’t feel the need to maintain the pretense that Newsmax is an independent journalistic entity — “and to America itself.” [LOL]

    The former president, who added that he will boycott DirecTV and its AT&T corporate parent, went on to encourage the provider to drop news organizations he doesn’t like, including my employer [MSNBC]. Trump concluded that the “REPUBLICAN PARTY DEMANDS” Newsmax’s return to DirecTV’s lineup.

    […] We’re talking about a dispute over money between two companies. This isn’t a conspiracy; it’s capitalism.

    Since when does the Republican Party put its media interests above free enterprise? Evidently, the answer is now.

  21. says

    KG @15: “There really needs to be a special counsel appointed to carry out a full-scale investigation into the investigation into the investigation!”

    LOL. Yep. At the very least, the Department of Justice (and Merrick Garland) should be so concerned that they put their ethics watchdogs on the case. Unbelievably, John Durham still works for the DOJ. Maybe Garland is waiting for him to finish his report?

    Some additional commentary from Steve Benen:

    […] On the surface, what matters most is the conclusion: Barr told Durham to prove that the investigation into the Russia scandal was an outrageous abuse. We now know that this aspect of the endeavor was a spectacular failure: Durham apparently found no such evidence, and his prosecutorial efforts were an embarrassing debacle.

    […] But just below the surface, the details uncovered by the Times paint an even uglier portrait. Instead of allowing the U.S. attorney to conduct an independent probe, Barr effectively oversaw the details of Durham’s probe, as the two met in the attorney general’s office “for at times weekly updates and consultations about his day-to-day work.” [And they sipped some scotch.]

    […] a series of related and dramatic revelations — too many to reference here — including Durham pressuring the Justice Department’s inspector general, Barr pressuring Durham to release an anti-Clinton memo ahead of Election Day, and internal dissent among members of Durham’s team about the integrity of the investigation, including the resignation of the prosecutor’s top aide.

    […] Among the first priorities of the new House Republican majority was the creation of a special committee that would investigate the political “weaponization” of the federal government.

    The point, of course, was to create a panel to pursue assorted GOP conspiracy theories, many of which have been directed at incumbent Attorney General Merrick Garland, who has drawn Republicans’ ire for reasons that really don’t make any sense.

    But the irony matters: If the new committee is looking for a real example of partisans using the levers of federal power as “weapons” against their political foes, Chairman Jim Jordan and his cohorts should start with Durham, Barr and one of the most obvious Justice Department abuses of the post-Watergate era.

    For years, Team Trump has insisted that the Russia scandal was pointless but the Durham investigation was real. It now appears the GOP had it backward: The Russia scandal was real, and the Durham investigation was a fiasco.


  22. says

    Followup to comment 24.

    It turns out Bill Barr and John Durham were sipping scotch as they burned down Main Justice.

    Extraordinary new reporting from the New York Times peels back more layers of corruption, malfeasance, and politicization within the Barr Justice Department. In a groundbreaking story that is focused on Special Counsel John Durham but is really an indictment of Barr, the NYT unveils several previously unreported episodes:

    Durham Investigated Trump?!? The most explosive revelation in the NYT piece is that Barr allegedly directed Durham to dramatically expand his brief beyond “investigating the investigators” by opening a financial crimes investigation in the fall of 2019 of President Donald Trump based on a tantalizing tip from Italian authorities. It’s unclear how and to what extent Durham investigated the tip. No charges ever resulted. While it’s unclear what exactly Durham did with the tip, the strong impression left by the story is that the Trump investigation was buried.

    Oopsies! The New York Times and other news outlets later misleadingly reported that Durham’s review of the origins of the Trump-Russia probe had turned into a criminal investigation, suggesting that the Durham was zeroing in on the investigators of Trump. In fact, Durham’s criminal probe involved Trump himself. Barr never sought to correct the widespread public misperception.

    […] Bogus Intel. In an unbelievably ironic twist, Durham allegedly used dubious intel from the Dutch and sidestepped a federal judge’s objections to obtain emails from a U.S. citizen who worked at a pro-democracy organization founded by George Soros. Later the Trump administration would infuriate the Dutch by publicly revealing the intel.

    Election Interference. The bad-faith machinations of Barr and Durham reached their zenith in the summer of 2020, when Barr allegedly pressed Durham to draft an interim report before Election Day. The draft interim report was never released but it prompted the resignation of a longtime Durham protege. Then there’s this nugget about how Durham’s original investigation had never panned out:

    By summer 2020, it was clear that the hunt for evidence supporting Mr. Barr’s hunch about intelligence abuses had failed. But he waited until after the 2020 election to publicly concede that there had turned out to be no sign of “foreign government activity” and that the C.I.A. had “stayed in its lane” after all.

  23. says

    Followup to comments 8, 9, 24 and 25.

    Josh Marshall:

    […] the probe Bill Barr stood up to discredit the Trump/Russia probe and which long served as the shining hope of Trump partisans, the vehicle of a promised vengeance that never arrived. […]

    The picture the Times story paints is stark if unsurprising: a politicized, instinctively unethical and deeply corrupt effort which managed to embody in almost cartoonish fashion the story it sought to tell about the original Russia investigation. The one thing a criminal investigation is never supposed to be is one that starts knowing the conclusion it wants to arrive at, brings a heavy dose of political motivation and bends rules and cuts corner to get where it wants to go. That caricature describes the Durham probe to a T. The two cases Durham managed to bring to trial were mainly vehicles for airing tendentious conspiracy theories he couldn’t prove and had no real evidence for. The actual cases were laughed out of court with speedy acquittals.

    […] Probably the best way to see the cheap and hucksterish story of the Durham probe is as another way in which an entire political party and a good bit of our justice system has been wrenched over half a dozen years in an effort to protect, exonerate and coddle Donald Trump.

    […] Before the Durham Probe and before the Democratic takeover of the House in 2019, there was Rep. Devin Nunes and his rearguard effort to kneecap the Mueller investigation from Congress. What the re-empowered House GOP is now doing with its “weaponization” committee is really just the Durham Probe rebooted in the legislative branch. It’s really that simple.

    […] much of the political world we’re currently living in is driven by efforts to get Donald Trump off the hook for things which he was never even properly investigated for.

    […] Most of the investigations into 2016 and subsequent actions which lead to Trump’s first impeachment in 2019 took place during Trump’s presidency, with the inherent thumb on the evidentiary scale that goes inevitably with that.


  24. says

    Ukraine update: Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine has restarted history and revived old fears

    […] With the collapse of the Soviet Union, many otherwise reasonable people appeared to get the notion that the world would settle down into a condition in which there were minor conflicts, but the kind of multi-nation battles in which the stakes were counted in millions of lives would no longer be possible. The West had won. Democracy had won. Please step out of the car and take the nearest exit to happily ever after.

    This left a lot of military contractors scrambling for relevance and a lot of military experts desperately in search of the next threat. Mabe Japan? Sure, Japan had money, electronics, and all those funny exercises at the workplace. Let’s get scared of Japan. Oh, wait, China? The Chinese economy in 1990 was just 15% of that in the U.S., but they did have a lot of people. That could be scary.

    Then 9/11 clarified things for a generation. The military mission was no longer about fighting massive armies with comparably trained soldiers and comparably deadly weapons. It was about going after insurgents and extremists. Dealing with suicide bombers and IEDs. About getting them there before they came after us here.

    That new vision didn’t just pervade the way politicians used the military, it affected every aspect of military doctrine. It became the basis on which everything from small unit tactics to new military vehicles were designed.

    Then the invasion of Ukraine hauled out a giant AED and restarted history.

    To be fair, the United States never left behind its strategic doctrine of being able to deal with two major conflicts in different parts of the world at the same time. This is really an oversimplification of strategies and doctrines that were never 100% at one extreme or the other. However, over the post-Soviet period, it has often felt like that two-theater large conflict doctrine was more about justifying military budgets and force levels than what that military was actually designed and deployed to accomplish.

    It’s not hard to understand why. After all, anyone standing around the Pentagon in 2005 shouting about Russian tanks pouring across Eastern Europe was likely to be quietly directed down the street to stand in the Smithsonian next to the other dinosaurs. Strategic, tactical, and equipment changes were desperately needed before the military could effectively deal with the challenges that politicians kept putting in their paths. An army designed to plug the Fulda Gap was not necessarily a great fit for clearing buildings in Fallujah or clearing caves on the Pakistan border. They had to find ways to accomplish the tasks they were given, and to protect American forces while doing it.

    That need for a different kind of military reached down into how units were structured, how infantry tactics were designed, and what the military was looking for in its next generation of vehicles. It also helped create a confusing list of highly specific requirements that often fell into conflict between providing force protection and rapid deployment. So much so that the Army alone blew through $23 billion in repeated failed attempts to produce a new set of vehicles that would replace the M1 Abrams (in service since 1979), Bradley (1981), and M113 (1960), along with literally hundreds of different specialty vehicles from amphibious landing craft to bridge layers to minesweepers to the recovery vehicles that drag damaged tanks back to where they can be repaired.

    It wasn’t until around the time that Russia rolled into Ukraine for the first time in 2014 that the voices talking about the possibility of fighting a large army of “near-peer” forces started to be heard again. Those voices grew louder as Iraq and Afghanistan appeared to be winding down; scenes from Syria, Georgia, and Chechnya made it clear that artillery had not magically stopped functioning. Also, the Chinese economy that had looked so small in 1990 was still growing at a rate that seemed headed for the stratosphere. […]

    it wasn’t just the 2022 illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine that got “history” (i.e., the idea that large trained armies with masses of equipment might face off on a battlefield fighting for control of territory) rolling again. Military palms in the Pentagon and in Brussels have been getting sweaty for some time. But Ukraine definitely took those voices talking about a renewed threat of large-scale conflict and turned the dial to eleven.

    Those concerns are making it easier than ever for politicians to pitch more money at the Pentagon than it requested. They’re also generating new flexibility in the Army’s effort to secure that next generation of vehicles, including some feelings of “you know, that thing we turned down last time? Was it really so bad?” That new flexibility has helped to generate a lot of announcements in the last year, from the first look at the Abrams X tank to some quick movement on both the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMVC) and the Armored Multi-Purposed Vehicle (AMPV). All of these machines are likely headed for redeployment with considerably more alacrity […] [video of 50MM cannon]

    At the same time, the military is definitely studying what’s happening in Ukraine extremely closely, and it is already having an impact on planning and training. For one thing, the proliferation and rapid evolution of drones affects how every military views the battlefield. The way that each side can “reach out and touch” soldiers who feel themselves safely behind the lines with a $1000 bit of consumer kit and a 3D printed grenade holder hasn’t been lost on anyone. Neither has the role clouds of swirling drones played in turning clusters of “dumb” artillery into much more precise weapons.

    Some of those in Western militaries have also begun to have a big concern about air power. For decades, the doctrine has said that air power is step one in dominating the battlefield. The side that has air superiority goes where it wants and fights where it wants. […] they’re watching very closely what it means to fight an artillery-heavy army if you don’t have effective air superiority. What they see is scaring them. They’ve very worried that changes in air defenses and all those pesky drones could mean that Western forces also have to deal with a situation where simply knowing the location of the enemy doesn’t translate into incoming fire from heaven. […]

    All of this helps explain why there is sometimes an unexpected resistance to giving up hardware from militaries that might seem to have a lot of the stuff collecting a tan out in the desert or living under a half-inch of cosmoline in some forgotten warehouse. They’re looking at Ukraine, and they definitely see the need. There is not a single one of these governments that doesn’t understand how crushing Putin’s dreams of empire in Ukraine is 10,000% better than having to do it in the next place. 1,000,000% better than having to do it at home. But they’re worried. They’re worried that Ukraine isn’t the last gasp of a dying past, but the first sign of things to come. They haven’t figured out exactly what they might need if Bad Things happen.

    So they give up their gear … but their fingers open more slowly than anyone, especially Ukraine, might want.

    A whole new generation of hardware is going to come out of the current situation, and a whole new set of training and tactics, all of it designed to deal with what’s being seen now in Ukraine. The best thing we can hope is that all that new gear ends up moldering somewhere for decades, and that when Ukraine wins, we can tuck this particular branch of history back into bed. […]

    More Ukraine updates coming soon.

  25. says

    The Stupid, It Burns … Books!

    The far Right’s war on students’ right to read a goddamn book if they want to read a goddamn book — as well as grownups reading grownup books, as if that’s somehow allowed either — continues across the country, with ever-more surreal battles being pursued in the name of protecting kids from things kids want to read. Put on your helmet and body armor, because the anti-book crazies are still going ballistic.

    Kentucky: Librarian Wins Small Claims Case Over LGBTQ Book
    In a fairly open-and-shut […] case in Jefferson County District Court last week in Louisville, Kentucky, a small claims court judge tossed a case brought by a local bigot who had sued a high school librarian over her decision to include books on LGBTQ+ topics in the library. The man, Kurt Wallace, had sought “damages” of $2,300 because Waggener High School librarian Kristen Heckel had kept the award-winning memoir/essay collection “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson in the library despite Wallace’s attempts to make it and other LGBTQ books go away.

    Heckel still had to take the day off from school to attend the hearing, a situation for which Judge Jennifer Leibson was apologetic. As Louisville Public Media explains, court records showed that Johnson

    began sending letters to Heckel in the spring of 2022 objecting to the library’s purchase of “All Boys Aren’t Blue” and other titles Wallace claimed were “obscene” or “pornographic.” He also claimed the books were intended for “grooming” minors for sexual exploitation, a common unfounded and homophobic talking point among some right-wing activists.

    We have to say that LPM reporter Jess Clark appears to have relished the chance to describe the courtroom drama, such as it was, noting that Judge Leibson began by explaining the purpose of small claims court, and what kinds of cases are and aren’t allowed there.

    Then she called up Wallace. The middle-aged man in dress slacks made his way to the stand dragging a carry-on-sized suitcase behind him, presumably filled with evidence he intended to present. He also carried a large leather-bound Bible and a posterboard scrawled with red marker but illegible from a distance.

    He never had a chance to read it. Leibson dismissed the case.

    “Mr. Wallace, your case is one of those cases,” Leibson said. “You cannot recover in small claims on this kind of judgment.” She had explained earlier that small claims court is only meant to decide cases in which a plaintiff had incurred actual costs as the result of a defendant’s action.

    Wallace tried to argue with Leibson, demanding that she identify the statute that gave her the authority to dismiss his very valid claim, but she asked him to leave the courtroom […] He returned a bit later and “sat in the public viewing area with his Bible in his lap.”

    Leibson apologized to Heckel for having to put up with the nonsense, and added “I admire your courage. … I wish you had been my librarian when I was a kid.”

    Honestly, we were hoping maybe Heckel would have sued Wallace for making her miss work, but she probably got paid for being there, since school district attorneys went along to defend her if that had been needed.

    Pennsylvania: First They Came For The Inspirational Poster Featuring Elie Wiesel
    In the Central Bucks School District in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, a librarian at Central Bucks South High School says the school’s principal told him to remove posters featuring a quote by Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel, because the posters supposedly violated a new policy banning educators from “advocacy activities.”

    Librarian Matt Pecic said Wednesday he’d been told to remove the posters because they featured a quote from Wiesel’s 1986 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech:

    I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

    Well sure, we can see why speaking up for the oppressed would be a terrible thing. The truly neutral action, as mandated by district policy, would be to allow the tormentors to do as they like, because who are you to decide they’re wrong?

    Pecic told public station WHYY that if the posters weren’t removed, there would be “consequences” from the district’s Human Resources office. He said he felt “powerless” to refuse. […] “It’s a horrible feeling. And you feel like you have to do something that you don’t agree with,” Pecic added. Pecic added that his daugher, a ninth-grader in the district, had emailed him the quote.

    […] The Central Bucks District has been the center of a discrimination lawsuit brought by the ACLU, which argues rightwing members of the school board have created a “hostile environment” for LGBTQ+ students in the district. The district is currently considering whether to remove as many as five books from district libraries, four of which have LGBTQ+ themes, under a new policy that makes books easier to ban. […]

    There’s a semi-happy ending to the Wiesel quote story, at least: After the story blew up on social media, the principal reversed the decision and Pecic will be putting the posters back up. […]

  26. says


    Put aside everything you thought you knew about what Fox News halfwits believe about Hunter Biden. You know, stuff like TWITTER FILESHUNTER BIDEN LAPTOPBIGGUS DONGUSRIGGED ELECTIONPEEN HONKERBURISMA CHINAUKRAINELAPTOP TYRANNO-BONER REX AIYEEEEEEEEEEEE!

    All of that is good and normal and full of sane and quanitifiable allegations, full of verbs, about who Hunter Biden is and actions he may have taken. Obviously Joe Biden is guilty by association, because he loves his son. And we are sure the new Republican Congress and House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer will heavy-breathe all over all of it and get to the REAL truth.

    But the conspiracy theories are gettin’ kinda weird.

    Yesterday, Sean Hannity was talking about how Hunter Biden has been naked a bunch of times […] and in the process he made the strangest allegation:

    HANNITY: The amount of money, the sheer amount of money, and a number of countries and Joe’s outright lie about never having discussed this with Hunter are now coming to light. Now there’s going to be pushback because they have now hired, you know, SWAT teams and are creating a war room to slander and smear and attack every single solitary person that either reports it or is investigating it.

    Hate it when Joe Biden hires the SWAT team to come after everybody who investigates the creature who lives in Hunter Biden’s underpants. […]

    Also yesterday afternoon Jesse Watters was on his Fox News show, and we cannot emphasize enough how literally every word out of his mouth about Hunter Biden would sound like absolute nonsense to normal people. As in, you visit a mental hospital and this is what you overhear in the playroom.

    New theory just dropped: Is Hunter working for the FBI or CIA? Is that why Trump got impeached?

    [video at the the link: "FBI SAT BACK AS HUNTER SOLD HIMSELF TO CHINA"]

    Questions, assertions and wild speculations from Jesse Watters in this clip:
    Did FBI and CIA work for Joe Biden?


    Is Hunter Biden FBI asset?

    Does Hunter Biden know he is FBI asset?

    Did Hunter Biden give the CIA intel?

    Was Hunter “doggy biscuit” to “lure in the Chinese”?

    […] All this “certainly makes sense,” says Jesse!

    Trump got impeached “the second he started zeroing in on the Biden family corruption in Ukraine,” after all!

    Also makes sense the intel community covered up THE LAPTOP!

    Sweet Jesus, that’s a lot.

    It’s amazing that these people are so stupid they still think the Biden Ukraine conspiracy theories, the ones Trump tried to use to extort Ukraine into helping him steal the 2020 election, are real. Because that’s what Jesse Watters is talking about there, Trump wanting Volodymyr Zelenskyy to do him a favor though, and investigate the fever dreams he found in his shart clouds about Hunter Biden in Ukraine. Trump’s PERFECT CALL! Trump’s RELEASE THE TRANSCRIPT!

    There is not much in the world that is stupider than people who are still brainwashed by all that.

    But anyway, we guess these aren’t really new Hunter Biden conspiracy theories. They’re the same old batshit, just rearranged in new ways,.

    And again, none of this makes sense to normal people. To normal people, it sounds like somebody spiked these people’s protein shakes with paint thinner.

    And yet they wonder why the American people tell them to get fucked in just about every election these days.

    It is a mystery.


  27. whheydt says

    Re: Lynna, OM @ #28…
    When our kids were young (they’re late 40s now), my wife and I decided that we would let them read any book in the house, though some–such as “Grey’s Anatomy”–were put on particularly high shelves. If they asked about any given book, we would discuss with them about reading it and might advise against, but they wouldn’t be forbidden to do so. Our position was that, if they understood the content of a book, then they were old enough to read it. If they didn’t understand the content, then no damage would be done.

  28. says

    Followup to comment 27.

    More Ukraine updates:

    […] For the last three weeks, pro-Russian sites have been reporting a large offensive by Russia in the Zaporizhzhia area. For the most part, that offensive has been limited to arrows drawn on maps sourced from Russian Telegram accounts and the usual “oh boy, now I’m going to be proven right!” fist-pumping from tankies across social media.

    However, there is one (count ‘em) area in the south where the pace of conflict has actually accelerated, and that’s around the town of Vuhledar (also written as Vugledar or Ugledar if you’re searching for news). Over the last week, Russian sources have claimed the town was taken. It wasn’t. Then pulled back to saying that Russian forces had entered the town. They haven’t. What’s actually happening in the area is the same kind of fighting that’s been seen at other locations along the front, with Russia trying to push unsuccessfully toward Vuhledar mostly from the direction of the neighboring town, Pavlivka.

    The result of Russia’s attempted assaults on Vuhledar has been some of the most horrific (or spectacular, depending on how you look at it) losses of whole units that have been caught on video in the war to date. Outside of Vuhlendar Russia is leaving a junkyard of T-80s, BMPs, and assorted bits of armor. Also other bits. The Ukrainian military reported over 100 Russian soldiers were killed in a single assault on Vuhledar on Thursday. While the Ukrainian MOD has been known to exaggerate, it’s very easy to believe these numbers. [video at the link]

    These are some of the best units of the actual Russian military being thrown against Vuhledar and ending up in flames. However, there’s a big difference between what’s going on here and around Bakhmut, one that extends beyond the fact that these are actual soldiers being killed rather than Wagner mercenaries. [Tweet and map at the link]

    That’s right. Vuhledar has actual strategic importance. From this location, Ukraine has potential fire control over the rail lines that run through Volnovakha to the southeast. With the railroad bridge into Crimea still under repair and reportedly unable to transport materiel, placing artillery at Vuhledar allows Ukraine to disrupt the primary line of supply for everything Russia holds to the west. That’s most of Zaporizhzhia, the still occupied areas of Kherson, and all of Crimea.

    Even more than Starobilsk in the north, Volnovakha is currently a vital transport hub for Russia, and it will remain that way at least until the bridge into Crimea is back at full capacity. Russia can get around this tight spot by offloading gear onto trucks, but as kos has talked about many times, that’s exactly the kind of process at which Russia simply sucks. They want to put things on a train somewhere outside Moscow and take it straight to a big depot somewhere near Melitopol, because they’re just not equipped for a lot of rehandling and transfer.

    They want Ukraine out of Vuhledar so that Ukraine can’t easily reach that track passing through Volnovakha. Or at least can’t do it without employing systems like HIMARS.

    Considering the losses that have already been seen this week at Vuhledar, it’s unclear if Russia is willing to keep smashing its forces against this location with the disregard Wagner shows for its forces at Bakhmut. If they do, at least there’s a little bit of a reason behind the madness.

    But it’s still madness.

    Word today is that things are getting increasingly tight around Bakhmut. Russian forces to the south have pushed through the town of Klishchiivka, including that fortified hill to the west, and are driving toward Ivaniske on the T0504 highway. [map at the link]

    The threat to supply lines into Bakhmut is significant, the city is increasingly being isolated, and forces there are at increased risk of encirclement. Ukraine has staged a number of counteroffensives at Bakhmut and pulled that location out of what seemed like near defeat over and over, but the situation in the area is looking pretty dire on Friday. Something needs to change … or something is going to change in a bad way. […]

  29. says

    whheydt @30, that’s far better than banning books. Besides, if you ban a book youngsters may have more incentive to seek it out. Banning books is a self-defeating tactic.

    In other news: Kari Lake has a lucrative incentive to push conspiracy theories

    About a week after Election Day 2022, Arizona’s highly competitive gubernatorial race was called for Democrat Katie Hobbs. In the wake of her defeat, Republican conspiracy theorist Kari Lake accepted the results with grace and dignity, putting democracy’s interests above her own.

    No, I’m just kidding. What Lake actually did was file some misguided lawsuits, tell the public that she secretly won the race she lost, and declare herself the state’s “duly elected governor,” election results be damned. In fact, on several occasions, the failed GOP candidate has even suggested — in classic Trump-like fashion — that she might yet be elevated to the governor’s office once the 2022 results are reversed. (This, of course, will not happen.)

    But that’s not all Lake did in the aftermath of her loss. The former candidate also made a lot of fundraising appeals, and as The Arizona Republic’s Laurie Roberts noted this week, pointing to data compiled by The Arizona Mirror, Lake’s requests for money were a wild success.

    Ever wonder why Lake won’t concede? Or at least storm off on some new adventure, now that hardly anybody in Arizona (other than the conspiracy crowd) is paying attention? Ka-ching. Turns out election denial is a lucrative business.

    How lucrative? Between Nov. 9 — the day after the election — and Dec. 31, Lake raised $2.5 million, which was an amazing haul for a candidate who’d just lost. […]

    Roberts added, “There are big bucks to be made by undermining Arizona and its elections. Facts don’t matter. Just continue to invent new and ever more hair-raising ways in which the election was supposedly stolen [and] then stand back and watch the money roll in.”

    […] As partisans eyed assorted recount schemes, the results were awful for democracy, but great for GOP coffers: The Arizona Republic reported at the time, “The Arizona Republican Party, along with other Trump-leaning groups, has used the state Senate’s ongoing ballot review as a way to raise funds for their causes and candidates. The fundraising has helped revitalize the Arizona GOP financially.”

    Donald Trump, of course, has been a pioneer in separating those who believed his election lies from their money. In the aftermath of his 2020 defeat, [Trump] raised millions of dollars from supporters who made the mistake of trusting the former president.

    As we’ve discussed, this created a perverse set of incentives: The moment Trump stopped lying would be the moment donors stopped sending him money, which not surprisingly encouraged the Republican to keep the con going.

    It’s a lesson Lake appears to have learned quite well.

  30. whheydt says

    A general comment on the issue of accuracy of casualty numbers on behalf of an opponent…
    Many years ago, I read a book about the Battle of Britain. The author–an RAF pilot who had been in the battle–very carefully and completely accounted for each and every aircraft lost on each side. Not just combat losses, but crashes on takeoff, beach landing from being out of fuel, ground accidents, everything.
    He also did a thorough review of pilots combat victory claims. The upshot was that British pilots claimed to have shot down twice as many German aircraft than they actually did. Pretty bad, huh? The German pilots, however, claimed three times as many British kills as they actually got. No wonder that Goering kept claiming the British were down to their last 50 Spitfires.
    As noted above, the author flew (Spitfires, as it happens) in the battle. Twenty years later, while hiking in some woods in SE England, he turned a corner and happened to look up. Hung up in a tree was an intact Spitfire. When he checked the tail number, he realized it was the very one he, himself, had bailed out of because it was on fire. Apparently the air stream had blown the fire out and the plane–otherwise undamaged–had glided into the tree tops and remained there for 20 years without anyone noticing it.

  31. says

    whheydt @33, thanks for the additional information. I know to take casualty figures with several grains of salt, but we can all see the trend. The trend is that Russian forces are suffering greater casualties than Ukrainian forces, due in part to the “madness” of Russian tactics.

  32. says

    Despite recent failures, RNC’s Ronna McDaniel wins another term

    As RNC chair, Ronna McDaniel has suffered a series of electoral and legal setbacks. Party members elected her to a fourth term anyway.

    During her tenure as chair of the Republican National Committee, Ronna McDaniel has seen more setbacks than she generally like to admit. As regular readers know, after Donald Trump chose her for the RNC role, McDaniel’s first national election cycle was awful: The party lost 40 House seats and its majority in the chamber.

    Republicans’ fortunes did not soon improve. In McDaniel’s second election cycle atop the RNC, Republicans lost the White House and the U.S. Senate. And in her third election cycle at the RNC, McDaniel saw her party fall far short of expectations as Democrats defied the historical odds.

    Complicating matters, McDaniel played a role in Trump’s post-election plot to overturn the results, conceding to the Jan. 6 committee that she helped recruit partisans for the fake elector scheme.

    With a record like this, it wasn’t too surprising when Harmeet Dhillon — who, among other things, leads the Republican National Lawyers Association — announced on Fox News in early December that she’d challenge the incumbent chair. Dhillon argued that, as far as she was concerned, the party was “tired of losing.”

    As it turns out, the party didn’t quite see it that way: McDaniel won a fourth term this afternoon with relative ease.

    I wouldn’t want that job.

  33. says


    Republican Lawmakers in Arizona give themselves the right to destroy documents.

    In a new ruling, Republican lawmakers in Arizona are now legally allowed to discard documents after 90 days. The Washington Post reports that legislators from both the Senate and House can destroy any documents, including emails, texts, etc., on personal phones after three months, exempting themselves from state public records law.

    According to the White Mountain Independent, if these rules had been in place in the months after the 2020 election, the public would never have been privy to the Arizona lawmakers who attempted to trash President Joe Biden’s win.

    The rule would have shielded the public from knowledge of emails Virginia Thomas, spouse of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, sent to GOP House and Senate members urging them to forget Biden’s Electoral College delegates in exchange for a fake group of GOP delegates.


    Lawless dunderheads.

  34. says

    Followup to comment 36.

    As reported by the White Mountain Independent:

    […] The House changed its rules on Tuesday, and the Senate on Wednesday. The changes create broad exemptions for the Legislature from state Public Records Law, which requires retention of records indefinitely and release to the public on request.

    […] The House package that was adopted despite unified opposition from minority Democrats also makes major changes to many other rules of the chamber, including limiting debate on controversial legislation to just 30 minutes and requiring the Republican speaker to approve future rules changes — even if a majority of members vote to do so. And it allows Speaker Ben Toma, R-Peoria, or Senate President Petersen to sue for any perceived slight by new Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs without holding a vote.

    Looks and smells like fascism.

  35. says

    Followup to comments 8, 24 and 25.

    Yes, William Barr was such a dubious character that our allies were appalled by him way before the recent New York Times articles that detailed Barr’s and Durhams unethical shenanigans.

    Excerpts from a Daily Kos article published in 2019:

    U.K. officials report that William Barr appeared in their country with a “wish list” of items he wants to collect from agencies and individuals. Just as in Rome and Australia, Barr is continuing his world-tour “investigation” into the origins of Trump’s Russia scandal. And just as in those places, local officials are gob-smacked to see that Barr is genuinely, seriously trying to destroy U.S. intelligence agencies in the service of supporting conspiracy theories that not only declare the innocence of Donald Trump, but protect Vladimir Putin.

    […] Ever since he stepped onto the national stage by purposely distorting the results of the Mueller investigation, Trump’s new Roy Cohn has been engaged in politicizing the DOJ and turning the department into an wing of Trump’s reelection campaign. One of his first acts was drafting U.S. Attorney John “Bull” Durham to begin a round-the-world quest into claims Trump had made against Joe Biden, the pursuit of a DNC server that never existed, and undermining the actions of his own department in the Trump-Russia investigation. […]

    Yes, we should have all been outraged back in 2019.

    Excerpt from commentary by Mark Sumner:

    […] What Barr claimed were the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the actual findings of the Republican-led Senate committee were 180 degrees apart. That’s not because Mueller did a bad job. It’s because what Mueller actually reported, and what Barr put in his “summary” of those findings could not have been more different. Then Barr strung the nation along for months with promises of a peek at the real deal, holding onto Mueller’s actual findings until his false claims had become the accepted result.

    And still the Times—and other major media outlets—continued to treat Barr as a reliable source, as if his use of the Justice Department to pursue Trump’s perceived opponents and cover up Trump’s actions was legitimate.

    Even now, Barr is being given massive credit for having walked away before Jan. 6. Show after show has featured Barr talking about how there was no truth behind Trump’s claims of election fraud. Only that’s not what he said at the time. In fact, Barr was a key player in helping to create the big lie.

    CNN: “You’ve said you’re worried a foreign country could send thousands of fake ballots … what are you basing that on?”

    Barr: “Logic.”

    CNN: “But have you seen any evidence?”

    Barr: “No.”

    The fantasy that German satellites, Italian servers, or Venezuelan dictators could have somehow planted votes in an American election can be laid right at the feet of the guy who took his protege [John Durham] around the world, trying to co-opt American allies into participating in a lie.

    This isn’t some tragic tale in which Barr and Durham were pulled into Trump’s orbit and gradually became corrupted. They were bad guys all along. They eagerly and immediately jumped into the fray, using the power Trump had granted them in an effort to distort justice, protect Trump, and influence the public. The Durham non-investigation was only one aspect of the many ways in which Barr attempted to turn the Department of Justice into Trump’s litigating army in a political war. […]

    The frustration isn’t just that Trump, Barr, and Durham have all gotten away with massive abuse of power and distortion of justice for so long. It’s that this is being treated like a revelation … when almost nothing about this story is new.


  36. says

    Wonkette: “Congressional Florida Man Gives Out Dummy Grenades To Fellow Republican Dummies”

    Rep. Cory Mills (R-Florida), one of the fun new Trump-endorsed members of Congress who actually won in the midterms, did his best to make a memorable impression on his new colleagues by handing out grenades (the kind fired by a grenade launcher, not the kind you throw) to other members of Congress, along with a note saying that the grenades were products of the Sunshine and Bath Salts State. It was just his way of saying how pleased he was to be on the House Armed Services Committee, you see.

    Nothing to fear, kids; the letter noted that the grenades were inert, much like Kevin McCarthy’s future. (Haha, we added that.) You know, just in case the GOP elephant logo printed on the grenades didn’t make that clear. [Tweet and image at the link]

    The cheerful letter that accompanied the cheerful projectile read:

    Welcoming you to a mission-oriented 118th Congress. I am eager to get to work for the American people, and I look forward to working with you to deliver on this commitment. I am honored to be a part of the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees

    In that spirit, it is my pleasure to give you a 40mm grenade, made for a MK19 grenade launcher. These are manufactured in the Sunshine State and first developed in the Vietnam War.

    Let’s come together and get to work on behalf of our constituents. […]

    * These Florida manufactured grenades are inert.

    Honestly, nothing says “looking forward to working together” like simulated explosive ordnance like the kind used by Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2: Judgement Day to temporarily blow big holes in the liquid-metal T-1000 death robot.

    Mills spokesperson Juan Ayala told the Washington Post that “Per the letter,” the whimsical keepsake grenades “are inert, and were cleared through all security metrics.”

    The fussbudgets at the Post also note that after Republicans took control of the House earlier this month they removed the metal detectors that had been installed following the January 6 insurrection.

    The Post also points out the cheerful irony that Mills came to Congress by defeating January 6 Select Committee member Stephanie Murphy, and gosh how things change, don’t they?

    Mills, the story adds,

    is among several new House members who deny that President Biden legitimately won the 2020 presidential election. A veteran and defense contractor, Mills also braggedin his campaign that he “sold tear gas used on Black Lives Matter protesters.”

    Well that might have made for a fun hi-howdy-do gift for his new colleagues, too!

    No one should read anything into the fun gift, because while many Republicans love paramilitary fantasies, it would take a herculean effort to suggest that there’s anything at all worrisome about handing out pretend ammunition to other insurrection-curious Republicans in Congress, or to suggest it brings to mind Marjorie Taylor Greene’s wistful reflections that if she’d been in charge on January 6, the insurrectionists would have been armed and would have won.

    God, it’s just a little inert grenade. We should get a better sense of humor! Cory Mills knows all about humor! When Kevin McCarthy finally got enough votes to become House speaker, Mills tweeted a funny joke saying, “Finally, one less gavel in the Pelosi house for Paul to fight with in his underwear.”

    That is very amusing, because old men having their heads fractured by a hammer really is humorous if it’s not you and you consider violence against your enemies’ families very witty. (The officer bodycam footage of Pelosi being attacked right in front of them was released today; it will not make a single conspiracy theorist change their minds, but that is for a different post.) […]

  37. whheydt says

    Re: Lynna, OM @ #34…
    It’s all one with the reported Russian claims that they’ve destroyed 44 of the 18 HIMARS launch vehicles that have been provided to Ukraine.
    With any kind of luck, it’ll be Ukraine that merely doubles Russian losses while the Russians triple Ukrainian losses.

  38. says

    Albanian Firm Ties Indicted Former FBI Official To Yet Another Disgraced Former Agent

    Indicted former top FBI official Charles McGonigal is a partner in an Albanian firm along with another disgraced former FBI agent, records obtained by TPM show. [All the bad guys flocking together.]

    An Albanian corporate filing ties McGonigal to Mark Rossini, a flamboyant figure who left the FBI amid scandalous 2008 charges and who currently faces separate bribery-related charges in an August 2022 federal indictment in Puerto Rico.

    The previously unreported business connection links McGonigal to another former agent with a similar profile: a high-flier at the bureau with experience in counterterrorism and counterintelligence, and one who appears to have engaged in business with an eyebrow-raising array of foreign clients after leaving federal law enforcement.

    The nature of the Albanian company — called Lawoffice & Investigation — remains unclear. Why and how McGonigal apparently got involved with the firm, and how he may have met Rossini, are also unknown.

    Albanian journalists have published a series of articles since September 2022 highlighting McGonigal’s presence at the company, which they tie to the country’s oil industry.

    Prosecutors accused McGonigal this week in separate federal indictments in D.C. and Manhattan of concealing cash he received from a former Albanian intelligence employee totaling $225,000, and of evading sanctions for work he performed for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a paymaster of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

    But the Albanian corporate document connects McGonigal to the murky world that led Rossini to not just one, but two run-ins with federal law enforcement. Federal prosecutors charged Rossini in August 2022 over his alleged involvement in a bribery scheme involving the former governor of Puerto Rico. That came 14 years after Rossini’s first scandal, which involved actress Linda Fiorentino and notorious Hollywood fixer Anthony Pellicano, and quickly became tabloid fodder.

    […] what we’re seeing is one of the worst case examples of someone abusing their position and trying to leverage it for a different purpose.”

    Ray Batvinis, a former supervisory agent for the FBI and an ex-counterintelligence course instructor at the FBI academy, said that the bureau would now likely be investigating the extent of the damage that McGonigal had done.

    […] McGonigal’s link to the Albanian company surfaces a cast of characters who appear to be connected to the series of events that purportedly led to his indictments. The corporate filing for Lawoffice & Investigation shows four partners: McGonigal, Rossini, Agron Neza, and Shefqet Dizari.

    […] Rossini, Neza, and Dizdari are not named and have not been accused of wrongdoing in the two McGonigal indictments. […]

    Flashback to Hollywood
    The story of Rossini’s downfall from the FBI begins in the late 2000s.

    A star FBI agent who helped track Al-Qaeda before 9/11, Rossini had spent the years after playing a major role in trying to refit the agency to handle counterterrorism. Rossini, who was on detail to the CIA’s counterterrorism center at the time of the attacks, was no stranger to sensitive assignments. Then in 2006, amid an acrimonious divorce, Rossini began to date a Hollywood actress: Men in Black star Linda Fiorentino.

    […] Fiorentino was friends with an LA fixer named Anthony Pellicano, who the New York Post dubbed “Hollywood Hitman” for his uncanny abilities as a private eye.

    It all came crashing down for Pellicano in 2006, when federal prosecutors hit him with an 110-count indictment for illegally accessing police records from the LAPD and Beverly Hills Police Department, and for allegedly tapping Sylvester Stallone’s phone.

    Things got weirder.
    All of a sudden, Pellicano’s attorneys produced internal FBI records to accuse prosecutors of failing to turn over evidence to the defense. At first, it was unclear how they obtained those records.

    But the trail led back to Rossini. It turned out that Rossini had passed FBI records to Fiorentino, who in turn gave them to Pellicano’s defense.

    “When the document that he gave her was introduced at Pellicano’s trial, DOJ was like, ‘what the fuck?’” […]

    The Pellicano case brought Rossini down, forcing him to leave the FBI amid charges of illegally accessing bureau computers. Rossini was ultimately sentenced to one year probation, but that was the end of his 17-year career in federal law enforcement.

    Pellicano was ultimately found guilty at trial on more than 70 charges including racketeering, wiretapping, and wire fraud. He was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison, before being released in 2019.

    Stein told TPM that, after the scandal, Rossini needed money to keep funding his lavish lifestyle. […]

    To Puerto Rico
    Flash forward to August 2022. Federal prosecutors charged Rossini with conspiracy, federal programs bribery, and honest services fraud over his alleged involvement in a graft scheme involving Puerto Rico’s governor.

    Per the allegations, the leadership of a bank that Rossini was consulting for allegedly promised to fund the Puerto Rico governor’s 2020 re-election campaign in exchange for her allowing the bank’s leadership to name the head of the island’s bank inspection commission, which was reviewing the lender. […]

    McGonigal Indicted
    So, how did Rossini end up a partner in an Albanian company? And how did McGonigal go from being a senior FBI agent to a partner in the same firm as Rossini?

    The two indictments outline part of what prosecutors believe to be McGonigal’s journey. In August 2017, McGonigal allegedly asked a former Albanian intelligence employee referred to as “Person A” for money.

    The description offered in the indictment suggests that the person is Neza, one of the co-partners in the firm with Rossini. In September 2022, Business Insider published a subpoena issued in the McGonigal investigation which named Neza. Neza was quoted this week in Albanian media as admitting to giving the money to McGonigal, but denying any wrongdoing associated with it. […]

    [snipped some oil drilling in Albania details]

    The exact nature of the scheme that McGonigal was allegedly involved in remains unclear from the indictment. […]

    Prosecutors said that McGonigal hid the extent of his work with the Albanians until after his September 2018 retirement from the bureau. Before then, the person matching Neza’s description allegedly gave McGonigal $225,000 in cash. […]

    McGonigal is also alleged to have opened an FBI investigation into a lobbyist who had been hired by a political party other than that of Albania’s prime minister. The lobbyist, according to prosecutors, is an American citizen.

    In recent years, Rossini has also begun to speak out about Albania.
    Specifically, Rossini has taken positions about the country’s internal politics, accusing opponents of the country’s prime minister of being connected to the Russian government. He spoke out frequently against the Albanian opposition party after his February 2019 visit to the country.

    It’s not clear if it was related to his work with the Lawoffice & Investigation.

    A translation of the Albanian corporate records is available at the link, along with tweets, photos and maps.

    Unethical dealings here there and everywhere. Simple greed everywhere.

  39. says

    Oh, FFS.

    Supreme Court failed to disclose that guy who signed off on leak report is on their payroll

    […] CNN reports that the [Supreme] court has “longstanding financial ties” with former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who Chief Justice John Roberts tapped to endorse the leak investigation that found no leaker and let the justices and their spouses off the hook. Chertoff has a contract with the court for security consultations that has “reached at least $1 million.”

    Because Supreme Court contracts are as exempt from public scrutiny as everything else connected with the justices, the exact amount of money Chertoff has been receiving from the court for security services can’t be discovered. According to court sources to CNN, however, the court has been paying “The Chertoff Group for security assessments, some broadly covering justices’ safety and some specifically related to Covid-19 protocols at the court itself,” for a number of years.

    Chertoff has a long association with Roberts stretching back to their overlapping years at Harvard Law School, then as clerks at both the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, then the Supreme Court. Chertoff eventually served with Alito on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals before leaving the gate bench to serve as the first secretary of Homeland Security under George W. Bush. Chertoff and Roberts both served in the first Bush presidency (H.W.) and Chertoff served with Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch in W’s administration. It’s all been very cozy among the crew for a very long time.

    […] Now we know that the court majority turned to one of its well-paid and long-time friends to rubber-stamp the findings of this investigation that completely exonerated the justices themselves without actually investigating them. “It feels like every day being a new story about the Roberts Court’s nonexistent relationship with transparency and ethics” Lipton-Lubet said in response to the Chertoff revelations.

    […] “We identified more than a dozen questions worth asking—but then again, we don’t have secret contracts with the Court. I guess Chertoff had a least a million reasons not to ask any of those questions.”

    […] Demand Justice Executive Director Brian Fallon said: “While it’s not surprising only those on the Supreme Court’s payroll are willing to vouch for this botched investigation, the Court continues to amaze in its willingness to flout basic standards of transparency and honesty.

    “At this point, it looks like the goal of this so-called investigation was to protect the justices, who were paying everyone involved, and not get to the bottom of the leak,” Fallon continued. […]

    Actually, the justices are not really paying. We the taxpayers are paying.

  40. Reginald Selkirk says

    US to make it easier for gay men to donate blood

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced it will be changing a current three month abstinence policy for blood donations from gay men.

    Current rules only allow donations if a man has not had sex with another man for that period.

    Under new “individual risk-based” draft rules, all potential donors would be asked about new or multiple sexual partners in the past three months.

    The FDA hopes this change will encourage more blood donations…

  41. Reginald Selkirk says

    Scientology Leader David Miscavige Allegedly Dodging Lawyers … As Trafficking Lawsuit Looms

    David Miscavige, leader of the Church of Scientology, is playing a cat-and-mouse game with lawyers trying to serve him a trafficking suit — at least that’s what the lawyers think now that he’s allegedly vanished.

    Over a four month period, Miscavige has reportedly eluded process servers a whopping 27 times at Scientology offices in L.A. and Clearwater, Florida, where the group is headquartered…

  42. Reginald Selkirk says

    Marjorie Taylor Greene Mocked After Her Amendment Fails Spectacularly

    Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) offered an amendment on Thursday ― and it quickly went down in flames.

    New House rules put in place by the Republican majority allow any lawmaker to offer an amendment. The Hill reported that led to some 140 amendments being proposed for a bill regarding the use of the strategic petroleum reserve. Greene’s proposed amendment would have forbidden President Joe Biden from selling oil from the reserve.

    The conspiracy theorist ― who spoke last year at a white nationalist event ― was joined by just 13 others as the amendment failed 14-418…

  43. Reginald Selkirk says

    Rep. Matt Gaetz introduces ‘PENCIL’ resolution barring Adam Schiff from accessing classified information

    Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., introduced the “Preventing Extreme Negligence with Classified Information Licenses,” or PENCIL Resolution, on Thursday that would bar Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., from accessing any classified information.

    “The resolution expresses the sense of the U.S. House of Representatives that Congressman Adam Schiff should not have access to classified information, should be investigated by the House Ethics Committee, and should have his comments made during any proceeding of Congress regarding Russian Collusion and the Trump campaign be officially struck from the record,” Gaetz’s office said in a statement…

  44. Reginald Selkirk says

    Donald Trump argues in wild court filing that New York can’t sue the Trump Organization because it doesn’t legally exist

    Donald Trump, his real-estate company and his three eldest children have filed an extraordinary, nose-thumbing response to the $250 million fraud lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James in September, stating that “Trump Organization” is branding shorthand — not a legal entity — so it can’t be sued…

  45. raven says

    Xpost from the North Dakota thread.

    Here is another one.
    Indiana. All the right wingnut states just copy each other.
    Once again, they are prohibiting something that doesn’t even exist.

    It is all rather stupid.
    In point of fact, they can’t prohibit children from identifying as animals. All they can do is prohibit them from wearing fur suits to school. And who wants to do that anyway?

    Everything I’ve seen says it must be miserable to grow up in Red states these days.
    The right wingnuts like to attack children because they don’t have the Civil Rights protection of the law, they are smaller, and they don’t have enough money to hire lawyers.

    Indiana lawmaker targets furries in schools. Schools say there’s no problem

    Indiana lawmaker targets furries in schools. Schools say there’s no problem
    Arika Herron, Indianapolis Star
    Thu, January 26, 2023 at 3:29 PM PST·4 min read

    A bill working through the Indiana Senate would reiterate that schools are allowed to enforce dress codes and curb disruptive behavior to address concerns about students identifying as furries.

    It follows a nationwide wave of claims – none proven – that students are dressing and acting like animals in classrooms.

    Indiana Sen. Jeff Raatz, R-Richmond, authored Senate Bill 380. The “various education matters” bill makes changes to how the state calculates high school graduation rates and then also includes this line: “a school corporation may adopt a policy concerning student dress code or disruptive behavior.” When introducing the bill in the Senate’s education committee, which Raatz chairs, he said it was to address concerns about students who “may be imitating or were behaving like a furry.”

    “Essentially, what this signals to school corporations is that through the dress code you have the ability to drive how students dress,” he said.

    Parents and school employees brought the complaints to him, Raatz said, declining to name their districts or schools in an interview with IndyStar. The bill does not require schools to make changes, he said, but reinforces the idea that they can.

    School corporations already have the right to create and enforce a dress code, as many do. Raatz said this line was added to a different section of code – that governing the duty and powers of school corporations to supervise and discipline students – and the wording slightly different from the section of law that already allows schools to implement dress codes.

    Sen. Jeff Raatz leads the Senate education committee hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022, at the Statehouse in Indianapolis. The committee would hear House Bill 1041, which could ban transgender girls from playing on girls sports teams level K-12.
    Sen. Jeff Raatz leads the Senate education committee hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022, at the Statehouse in Indianapolis. The committee would hear House Bill 1041, which could ban transgender girls from playing on girls sports teams level K-12.
    Stay in the conversation on politics: Sign up for the OnPolitics newsletter

    Indiana schools say it’s not an issue
    IndyStar hasn’t been able to find evidence of an Indiana school district actually reporting that students are dressing as animals. An online search turned up no verified reports of furries in schools here, nor did requests sent to several districts. Representatives of Westfield Washington Schools and the districts in South Bend, Fort Wayne, Lawrence Township and Wayne Township said it has not been a problem in their classrooms.

    “We are not aware of any students dressing as furries or animals during the school day in the M.S.D. of Wayne Township,” said Jeff Butts, that district’s superintendent.

    Hamilton Southeastern Schools said the biggest issue they’ve dealt with around “furries” is the time it takes to combat untrue rumors.

    “We have not had disruptions that I am aware of with students acting out as ‘furries,'” said Emily Pace Abbotts, HSE spokesperson. “This overall issue, I believe stemmed from national media, which also spread that schools had litter boxes in their restrooms. This is not true for Hamilton Southeastern Schools – and is worrisome that people would believe such.”

    The district already has a dress code in its student handbooks to limit “clothing distractions.”

    Kim Patterson, a middle school teacher in rural Howard County, said there are no furries in schools there, either. Patterson is an Indiana State Teachers Association board member.

    “Only ‘furry’ kids I see are high school boys who don’t shave,” Patterson said.

    Last fall, several people came to an Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation board meeting, the Evansville Courier & Press reported, to raise concerns that the district was allowing students to dress and behave as animals, even providing litter boxes in bathrooms.

    “There are no litter boxes in our schools. Period. There never will be,” Evansville Superintendent David Smith said after that meeting.

    Ruth Baize and Theresa Finn talk to the EVSC school board about "furries," on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022. Baize said schoolchildren are being allowed to dress and behave like animals and disrupt school. EVSC officials say that is not happening.
    Ruth Baize and Theresa Finn talk to the EVSC school board about “furries,” on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022. Baize said schoolchildren are being allowed to dress and behave like animals and disrupt school. EVSC officials say that is not happening.
    What’s a furry?
    At the heart of the rumors ‒ repeated by conservative politicians and commentators nationwide ‒ is the idea that schools are letting children identify as animals as an extension of allowing them to choose their own gender identity independent of the one assigned at birth.

    According to Furscience, a team of scientists studying the furry fandom, the term furry describes a diverse community of fans, artists, writers, gamers and role players. Most furries create for themselves an anthropomorphized animal character with whom they identify. Some furries wear elaborate costumes or paraphernalia such as animal ears or tails, or represent themselves as anthropomorphic animals in online communities. While a small percentage of those surveyed think they have a deeper connection to animals, the vast majority do not identify as animal.

    Though many self-identifying furries are teenagers and young adults, according to data collected by Furscience, it doesn’t mean that all students who wear a headband with cat ears on it – a popular accessory among kids sold at major retailers – are part of the furry community.

    SB 380 is expected to receive a vote from the Senate’s education committee next week. Should it pass, as bills sponsored by powerful committee chairs usually do, it would move onto the full Senate for debate.

  46. says

    In the video of the police beating of Tyre Nichols, the officers beat him and kicked him for awhile as he was lying on the ground, then they picked him up and held him up so that they could hit him some more. The whole thing is something that I cannot understand.

  47. says

    Followup to comment 52, I meant to mention that the police officers also pepper-spray Nichols multiple times, and they deploy a stun gun.

  48. raven says

    Here is an example of modern day witch hunts.
    In this case, they are hunting for girls and women who have had abortions in Red States.
    In some cases, the police managed to get subpoenas to look at people’s emails.

    The best way to avoid the cops is at the end of the article.
    “…“if you are white, have money, and the ability to travel to a state where abortion is legal — you will have a much easier time than those from marginalized communities.”

    If you aren’t white and have money, at least be careful of your emails and internet search history.
    And if you end up in the ER for the after effects, never, ever admit you had an abortion. The ER can’t tell the difference between a miscarriage and an abortion even though they may tell you that.

    How US police use digital data to prosecute abortions

    How US police use digital data to prosecute abortions
    Runa Sandvik
    Fri, January 27, 2023 at 12:11 PM PST·9 min read
    In this article:

    In late April, police in Nebraska received a tip saying 17-year-old Celeste Burgess had given birth to a stillborn baby and buried the body. Officers soon learned that her mother, Jessica Burgess, and a friend had helped her with transportation and burial. The police issued citations for concealing the death of another person and false reporting. But in June, they also charged Jessica with providing an abortion for her teenage daughter. Police had made the discovery after obtaining a warrant that required Meta to hand over their conversations on Facebook Messenger. The messages, which were not encrypted, showed the two had discussed obtaining and using abortion pills.

    Warrants for digital data are routine in police investigations, which makes sense, given how much time we spend online. Technology giants have for years responded to valid court orders for specific information sought by law enforcement, though some companies have done more to fight for our privacy than others. Millions of people now use apps that encrypt their calls and messages, like Signal and WhatsApp, so that no one can access their messages — not even the providers themselves.

    The case in Nebraska is not the first in which police have used digital data to prosecute an abortion, and it won’t be the last. While digital data is rarely the main form of evidence, prosecutors use it to paint a picture in court; by showing messages sent to friends, internet searches or emails from an online pharmacy. As in the Burgess case, however, it’s often people around the women who first notify the authorities — a doctor or nurse, a family member or a friend of a friend.

    When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer, it ended the constitutional right to abortion. In doing so, it gave states the power to regulate abortion or ban the procedure altogether, triggering a wave of abortion bans nationwide. At least 13 states now ban abortion with few or no exceptions. Georgia recently reinstated a ban after six weeks of pregnancy. And in many states, the fight over abortion access is still taking place in courtrooms.

    A week after the ruling, Google announced it would delete location data for visits to abortion clinics and other medical facilities. The Electronic Frontier Foundation said we should review our privacy settings. The Digital Defense Fund encouraged us to use encrypted messaging apps. Some suggested that we delete our period tracking apps. It may seem odd to dedicate so much attention to digital privacy in the context of our reproductive rights. But a look at prosecutions between 2011 and 2022 illustrates why these conversations are needed.

    In May 2011, police in Idaho charged Jennie McCormack with inducing her own abortion. The 32-year-old couldn’t afford a legal procedure. Instead, she took pills purchased online. NPR reported that McCormack confided in a friend shortly after the abortion. It was this friend’s sister who told the police. When officers arrived at her home, they found the fetus wrapped up on her back porch.

    McCormack admitted to the police that she self-induced an abortion after ingesting a pack of five pills. At trial, she told the court that the medication was “FDA-approved,” “procured through the internet” and “prescribed by a physician.” Years later, an appeals court noted that “McCormack’s sister allegedly found unspecified abortion pills online, paid $200 for them and had them shipped to McCormack in Idaho.”

    At the time, McCormack faced up to five years in prison. The case was eventually dismissed.

    In March 2015, Indiana sentenced Purvi Patel to 20 years in prison for neglect of a dependent and feticide. Two years earlier, Patel had gone to the hospital with bleeding after delivering a child at home. She first told the medical staff that she had been 10 to 10 weeks pregnant. But when questioned by two doctors, she admitted to giving birth and said the baby was stillborn.

    Patel told the doctors she had put the body in a paper bag and placed it in a dumpster behind a Target store, not far from her family’s restaurant. The hospital notified the police, who searched the area and recovered the bag. A doctor who participated in the search said “the baby was cold and lifeless” but “was an otherwise normal, healthy appearing baby.”

    Court documents show that police obtained a search warrant for Patel’s phone. An officer with “training in examining electronic devices” downloaded her text messages. In reviewing the data, the police found that she had discussed her abortion with “at least one friend.” Patel had also shared that she’d obtained and taken abortion pills from Hong Kong.

    An Indiana appeals court overturned the feticide conviction in July 2016. The court noted that in searching Patel’s iPad, “police found a customer service email from” The email confirmed that Patel had ordered mifepristone and misoprostol for $72. A detective ordered the same pills, presumably to confirm that it was possible to do so. Police also found Patel had visited a website titled “Abortion after Twelve Weeks.”

    The court documents do not mention the type of phone Patel had or how police gained access to her messages. But the messages were at least three months old, suggesting that she likely did not delete the texts or the email from the online pharmacy.

    Indiana’s attorney general decided not to appeal the court’s ruling. In September 2016, Patel was resentenced to 18 months for child neglect, less time than she had already served. The judge then ordered Patel’s immediate release.

    In April 2015, police in Arkansas arrested Anne Bynum after she gave birth to a stillborn child at home. She was charged with concealing birth and abuse of a corpse. The state also charged her friend, Karen Collins, with performing an abortion.

    Bynum, who already had one child and worked a minimum-wage job, never told her parents about the pregnancy. When her pregnancy became difficult to hide, she took medications to induce labor.

    In a video interview, Bynum said she delivered the baby at home by herself, in the middle of the night. “She was just beautiful. Really beautiful. But eyes closed, mouth closed. Complete stillness.” Bynum wrapped up the remains and went to bed. The next day, she drove to the emergency room with the remains in the front passenger seat. Bynum said she “gave birth last night, but she didn’t make it.” Medical staff determined it had been a stillbirth.

    When the hospital discharged Bynum days later, she was arrested on her way home. The sheriff put her in handcuffs and placed her in the back of the police car. Bynum’s trial was brief, just two days of testimony and a few minutes of jury deliberation. The judge sentenced her to six years in prison. An appeals court reversed the conviction in December 2018.

    Exactly who notified the police remains unknown. The appeals court noted that “Bynum told friends, her attorneys, and her priest about the pregnancy and of her intent to put the child up for adoption when it was born.” On the morning after she gave birth, Bynum texted her attorney “who advised her to go see a doctor.” The attorney also called a funeral home and “was advised to have Bynum take the fetal remains to the hospital.”

    It’s unclear whether Bynum shared the texts herself, or if police recovered them another way.

    In January 2018, Mississippi charged Latice Fisher with murder for the death of her newborn the year before. The Washington Post reported that when paramedics arrived at her home, they found “a baby in the toilet, lifeless and blue, the umbilical cord still attached.” The baby was pronounced dead at the hospital. Fisher initially said she didn’t know she was pregnant, but later admitted that she had been aware of the pregnancy for at least a month. She also admitted to conducting internet searches for how to have a miscarriage.

    Fisher reportedly “voluntarily surrendered” her iPhone to police. Court records show her phone’s “memory and data were then downloaded, including but not limited to Fisher’s past internet activity.” While reviewing that data, investigators learned that Fisher had researched “buy abortion pills, mifeprisone [sic] online, misoprostol online,” and “buy Misoprostol Abortion Pill Online.” Fisher had also “apparently purchased misoprostol immediately subsequent to these searches.” Another court document suggests police also searched her husband’s phone.

    While there is no evidence that Fisher took the pills, prosecutors used her digital data to argue that she intended to abort her pregnancy. The murder charge was eventually dismissed.

    Technology companies may not have many options for handling search warrants from the police, even when the investigations relate to abortion. But companies do get to decide how much digital data they collect about people and for how long they store the information. They also get to decide whether to offer end-to-end encryption, which would give people increased privacy for all of their messages. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, Meta announced it’s making encrypted one-to-one chats in Instagram available to adults in the two countries. And while Elon Musk said Twitter should end-to-end encrypt direct messages prior to acquiring the company, it’s unclear if this will actually happen.

    Last year, reporters found that Facebook and anti-abortion clinics collect sensitive information on would-be patients. The Markup also reported that Hey Jane, an online abortion pill provider, employed a series of online trackers that follow users across the internet — until the journalists reached out about the practice. More recently, ProPublica found nine pharmacies selling abortion pills also sharing sensitive data with Google and other third-parties. All nine were recommended by Plan C, which provides information about how to get abortion pills by mail. None responded to ProPublica’s request for comment.

    In Abortion, Every Day, publisher Jessica Valenti reminds us that “if you are white, have money, and the ability to travel to a state where abortion is legal — you will have a much easier time than those from marginalized communities.” Everybody deserves access to reproductive health care. If the past decade is any indication, protecting essential abortion rights is going to require all of us, from doctors, nurses and attorneys to lawmakers, software engineers and voters.

  49. Reginald Selkirk says

    All Flybe flights canceled after UK airline ceases trading

    London (CNN) — British airline Flybe has “ceased trading” and canceled all scheduled flights, the company and the British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said on Saturday.
    “Flybe, which operated scheduled services from Belfast City, Birmingham and Heathrow to airports across the United Kingdom and to Amsterdam and Geneva, has ceased trading,” the CAA wrote in a statement.
    “We urge passengers planning to fly with this airline not to go to the airport as all Flybe flights are canceled,” consumer director for CAA Paul Smith was quoted saying.
    In a statement posted to social media Flybe warned that canceled flights “will not be rescheduled.”
    The company has been placed into administration, according to the statement.

  50. Reginald Selkirk says

    California law aiming to curb COVID misinformation blocked by judge

    (Reuters) – A U.S. judge has blocked a California law that sought to penalize doctors who spread “misinformation or disinformation” about COVID-19 while he considers a pair lawsuits challenging it on free speech grounds.

    Senior U.S. District Judge William Shubb in Sacramento ruled on Wednesday that Assembly Bill 2098, which was signed last October by California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, was too vague for doctors to know what kind of statements might put them at risk of being penalized.”COVID-19 is a quickly evolving area of science that in many aspects eludes consensus,” he wrote.

    The preliminary order means that the law cannot be enforced while Shubb hears two lawsuits brought against the law shortly after its passage last year – one by a group of five doctors, and another by a doctor and two advocacy groups including Robert F. Kennedy Jr’s Children’s Health Defense, which has long promoted false information about standard childhood vaccines.

    “This Act is a blatant attempt to silence doctors whose views, though based on thorough scientific research, deviate from the government-approved ‘party line,'” said Greg Dolin of the New Civil Liberties Alliance, a lawyer for the doctors, in a statement. “At no point has the State of California been able to articulate the line between permissible and impermissible speech.”

    Though based on scientific research” –
    ha ha ha ha ha – lie to me some more

  51. raven says

    The gene LAV-BPIFB4 gene addresses the unmet therapeutic need to delay the heart’s spontaneous aging. In mice anyway.

    It was originally discovered in aged humans over 100 years old.
    It will take years to see if gene therapy with this variant has any clinical utility in humans. Bu that time the Boomers who are left will probably be those that need it.

    “Finally, gene therapy with LAV-BPIFB4 prevented cardiac deterioration in middle-aged mice and rescued cardiac function and myocardial perfusion in older mice by improving microvasculature density and pericyte coverage.”

    The longevity-associated BPIFB4 gene supports cardiac function and vascularization in aging cardiomyopathy

    The longevity-associated BPIFB4 gene supports cardiac function and vascularization in aging cardiomyopathy
    Monica Cattaneo, PhD, Antonio P Beltrami, PhD, MD, Anita C Thomas, PhD, Gaia Spinetti, PhD, Valeria Alvino, PhD, Elisa Avolio, PhD, Claudia Veneziano, PhD, Irene Giulia Rolle, PhD, Sandro Sponga, MD, Elena Sangalli, PhD … Show moreAuthor Notes
    Cardiovascular Research, cvad008,
    Published: 13 January 2023 Article history
    The aging heart naturally incurs a progressive decline in function and perfusion that available treatments cannot halt. However, some exceptional individuals maintain good health until the very late stage of their life due to favourable gene-environment interaction. We have previously shown that carriers of a longevity-associated variant (LAV) of the BPIFB4 gene enjoy prolonged health spans and lesser cardiovascular complications. Moreover, supplementation of LAV-BPIFB4 via an adeno-associated viral vector improves cardiovascular performance in limb ischemia, atherosclerosis, and diabetes models. Here, we asked if the LAV-BPIFB4 gene could address the unmet therapeutic need to delay the heart’s spontaneous aging.

    Methods and Results
    Immunohistological studies showed a remarkable reduction in vessel coverage by pericytes in failing hearts explanted from elderly patients. This defect was attenuated in patients carrying the homozygous LAV-BPIFB4 genotype. Moreover, pericytes isolated from older hearts showed low levels of BPIFB4, depressed pro-angiogenic activity, and loss of ribosome biogenesis. LAV-BPIFB4 supplementation restored pericyte function and pericyte-endothelial cell interactions through a mechanism involving the nucleolar protein nucleolin. Conversely, BPIFB4 silencing in normal pericytes mimed the heart failure pericytes. Finally, gene therapy with LAV-BPIFB4 prevented cardiac deterioration in middle-aged mice and rescued cardiac function and myocardial perfusion in older mice by improving microvasculature density and pericyte coverage.

    We report the success of the LAV-BPIFB4 gene/protein in improving homeostatic processes in the heart’s aging. These findings open to using LAV-BPIFB4 to reverse the decline of heart performance in older people.

  52. tomh says

    Justice Department asks FEC to stand down as prosecutors probe Santos
    The request is the clearest sign to date of an active criminal investigation examining the congressman’s campaign finances
    By Isaac Stanley-Becker, Jonathan O’Connell and Emma Brown / January 27, 2023

    The Justice Department has asked the Federal Election Commission to hold off on any enforcement action against George Santos, the Republican congressman from New York who lied about key aspects of his biography, as prosecutors conduct a parallel criminal probe, according to two people familiar with the request.

    The request, which came from the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, is the clearest sign to date that federal prosecutors are examining Santos’s campaign finances.

    The request also asked that the FEC provide any relevant documents to the Justice Department, according to the knowledgeable people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.

    The FEC ordinarily complies with DOJ requests to hold off on enforcement….

    “Basically they don’t want two sets of investigators tripping over each other,” said David M. Mason, a former FEC commissioner. “And they don’t want anything that the FEC, which is a civil agency, does to potentially complicate their criminal case.”

    The request “indicates there’s an active criminal investigation” examining issues that overlap with complaints against Santos before the FEC, said Brett Kappel, a campaign finance lawyer….

    Separately, the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday interviewed two people about Santos’s role in Harbor City Capital, an investment firm that was forced to shut down in 2021 after the SEC accused it of operating a “classic Ponzi scheme.” SEC interest in those people came after they were quoted Wednesday in The Washington Post describing how Santos solicited an investment in Harbor City at an Italian restaurant in Queens in late 2020.

  53. says

    Ukraine update: Drone warfare keeps evolving, but the latest weapons are almost unbelievable

    A quick visit to Kreminna this morning. After Ukraine liberated Izyum in September, Russian forces fell back to Kreminna and Svatove. Recognizing that this area was critical to protecting supply lines running 50km further east through Starobilsk, Russia made this area one of the largest sites of deployment for freshly mobilized forces, dropping tens of thousands of poorly trained troops in Ukraine’s way. Even so, Ukraine made good progress over the next month, closing to within a few kilometers of both cities, liberating dozens of small towns and villages, and clearing out Russian ambushes to solidify control over main highways.

    But even as Ukrainian forces reached a position where an assault on either city seemed possible, weather conditions turned every field and every dirt road into the region into an impassable swamp. At Svatove, Ukraine can bring forces down the highway from Kupyansk, but those forces remain under artillery fire from Russian forces over the ridge to the east. Attempts to move toward Svatove from the west have resulting in a series of back and forth battles that have served only to level those locations while leaving neither side with a notable tactical advantage.

    And then there’s Kreminna …[map at the link]

    At Kreminna, Ukrainian forces worked for some time to secure Dibrova and Kuzmyne, but attempts to advance from Kuzmyne are reportedly hampered by a sea of mud. Tanks and other tracked vehicles can make progress, but only so slowly that they are subject to pounding by artillery and RPGs. Plus it’s difficult for infantry or wheeled vehicles to move at all.

    On the south, Ukrainian forces have been able to work their way through the more solid ground in the dense forests and even reach the outer streets of Kreminna. But the nature of this area means that it’s difficult to maintain unit cohesion, that ambushes are a constant threat, and that bringing up armor in force is nearly impossible. North of the city, Ukraine still holds the highway near Chervonopopivka, may have pushed Russia out of Holykove, and can prevent Russia from moving troops between the Svatove area and Kreminna area without a long detour. But it’s simply not enough.

    The reason for all this mess can be neatly summed up in the Kreminna forecast from [Forecast at the link showing inches of rain/snow]

    Every night, the temperature dips slightly below freezing. Every day it’s back above freezing again. It’s been this way for weeks. The mixture of snow, rain, sun and middling temperatures is a recipe for a miserable half-frozen soup that simply makes it impossible to conduct travel off paved highways.

    In a lot of ways, the extremely warm winter across Europe is a very good thing. It’s not just making it easier for most of Europe to eliminate the need for Russian natural gas and destroying Vladimir Putin’s economy, the warm weather is greatly reducing the misery caused by Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure. But right now, getting Ukrainian forces into Kreminna means either forcing them down a narrow highway from the north (not good), sending them through the woods in small numbers (not good), or making them swim for it from the west (not good). Which makes sitting still for the moment frustrating, but just about the only answer that doesn’t involve watching Ukrainian forces suffer the kind of disaster Russia just had at Vuhledar.

    Okay, these tanks are still in the United States. However, pro-Russian social media has posted hundreds of videos of tanks in Russia that are supposedly on their way to Ukraine. Consider this the feel good response. Man … that that is a lot of firepower. [video at the link]

    Of course, no matter how fast the tanks end up moving, they will never match the speed of Russian propaganda. Russian Telegram last night was extremely excited to share the first images of a M1 Abrams tank destroyed in Bakhmut.

    It’s clear that some of the pro-Russian accounts passing this around know that it’s a fake. And honestly, there were at least two “confirmed pictures” of Abrams destroyed in Ukraine before the U.S. announced that it was sending the tank, so this isn’t really first. It’s not even the only “Abrams killed at Bakhmut” picture circulated on Saturday. There’s another one going around that includes a palm tree. War is hell on imaginary M1A2s fighting in the deserts of Ukraine. [Russian propaganda is comically inept]

    If you’re wondering why the second half of the drone field guide has yet to emerge, a big part is how the use of drones, and modifications of existing drones, keeps running ahead of my ability to keep up. But even after seeing the most innocuous consumer drone armed with a bandolier of grenades, I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite as outrageous as this: [tweet and image at the link, small drones, large warheads]

    Can those tiny drones actually lift these RPG warheads? I don’t know. Maybe. I guess. The reason the drones are missing their shells is likely because this particular flying Frankenstein is so close to the limit, every gram counts. Presumably a sensitive contact switch is going to get screwed into the nose at the last moment. Even then, without the kinetic impact given by a rocket, these are likely to be ineffective against any sort of armored vehicle. One thing is certain: These are not long range weapons.

    If you’re unfamiliar with these FPV drones, watch this video on two popular models cranked out by ubiquitous drone maker DJI. [video at the link]

    When you have a handle on the basics, watch a video on some FPV racing or from professional operators using an FPV drone to shoot video. The agility and control allowed by these FPV drones greatly exceeds what can be done using most normal camera quadcopter or hexacopters, making them much better suited to slipping through trees, avoiding branches, and reaching difficult positions. It’s completely understandable why these would best serve as the base of a kamikaze drone. But still, that lash up of warhead and drone just seems outlandish.

    Any Russian operators flying such a drone have something new to worry about. Anti-drone drones. [Tweet and image at the link. “Ukraine 🇺🇦 is now using flying drone interceptors from the USA 🇺🇸 to counter the threat of #Shahed loitering munitions. Deputy PM Mykhailo Fedorov shared that #Ukraine has bought 6 of the Fortem DroneHunter F700 drones, which use their aerial agility to down threats with nets.”]

    These drones have already been utilized to capture civilian drones flying around airports and in other illegal areas, but the upgraded version is supposed to target fast, fixed-wind drones. It would be interesting to see one net a Lancet. [tweet and video at the link]

    Prepare to have your heart broken. This little girl lived in Mariupol. [video at the link]

    Unlike many Twitter videos that have a warning, this video deserves one. [video at the link, video shows able-bodied Russian soldiers leaving their wounded behind.]

  54. says

    Trigger warning for details of physical brutality in the text. Videos are available at the link.

    […] The Washington Post has reviewed the footage in detail. Here is a description of what each video shows.

    Video one: Body-cam footage shows Tyre Nichols pulled from his car. In video clip one, Nichols is pulled from his car and pushed to the ground by a group of police officers.

    “I didn’t do anything!” Nichols says as officers shout at him using expletives.

    As Nichols is moved to the ground, a voice, presumably Nichols, can be heard saying: “You don’t do that, okay?” and “All right, I’m on the ground.”

    Nichols appears calm and can be seen sitting on the ground, while officers shout commands at him: “Turn around! Right now! Get on the ground!”

    “Okay, you guys are really doing a lot right now, stop,” Nichols says as multiple officers pin him to the ground and tell him to turn around and put his hands behind his back. “I’m just trying to go home!”

    An officer warns Nichols, who is already on the ground, “Man, if you don’t lay down — ” to which Nichols responds “I am on the ground!”

    The officer wearing the body camera appears to Taser Nichols, who is struggling to get away. After several seconds, Nichols gets up from the ground and sprints down the street.

    The officer chases him, making a left turn and running about half a block before he stops, panting. He says over his radio: “Taser was deployed. Suspect is running down Ross [Road].”

    “Young male Black, slim build, blue jeans, and a hoodie,” the officer says
    The officer arrives at an intersection with several others and appears out of breath. A sheriff’s car pulls up and an officer asks which way Nichols ran and for his description, then speeds off.

    “I sprayed myself,” the officer wearing the body camera says, referring to pepper spray.

    “Yeah, you sprayed me too,” another officers responds. “But luckily it didn’t get in my eyes, just on my eyebrow.”

    The Memphis police remain in the intersection for several minutes and hear over their radio that Nichols has been found.

    “I hope they stomp his a–,” one officer says as they wait.

    “What?” another officer says.

    “I hope they stomp his a–,” the officer repeats.

    Video two: A security camera on a pole shows the beating
    This 30-minute clip, recorded by a security camera on a pole, has no sound, but shows Memphis police delivered at least two kicks and two baton strikes, and five punches to Tyre Nichols’s face.

    Two officers are seen struggling with Nichols, who is lying on the pavement, as they appear to try to handcuff him. At 8:34 p.m., a third officer can be seen exiting a police car and approaching them. After appearing to say something, he then takes a kick at Nichols, though it is unclear whether he makes contact with his head or another body part, as the officer appears to slip.

    The officer appears to say something else — then takes another kick or swipe with his right leg, appearing to aim at Nichols’s arm.

    Moments later, a fourth officer arrives, brandishes his police baton, and strikes Nichols in the back [with full force]. The officer strikes him a second time and, as Nichols struggles to his feet, [This account says Nichols struggled to his feet, but it looked to me like the officers hauled him to his feet in order to punch him in the face] perhaps to avoid more blows, the same officer who did the kicking circles around and punches him in the face. That officer then punches him four more times, as the first two officers restrain his arms.

    After hitting and kicking him for several moments, Nichols is handcuffed on his stomach. A police officer drags Nichols over to a car, where he sits him down.

    At this point, there are at least seven officers on the scene, patting each other on the back and waving flashlights. Many are clearly out of breath; one fist-bumps another.

    More than 15 minutes after the beating began, with Nichols in clear medical distress, no one is attending to his injuries. As police continue milling about, Nichols can no longer keep himself up with his back against the car and falls over to his side.

    About 26 minutes into the clip, a medic appears and begins tending to Nichols’s injuries. At this point, three officers are largely blocking his body from the camera.

    An ambulance finally comes into view of the camera 30 minutes into the video. The ambulance blocks the view of Nichols being loaded onto the stretcher, and the video ends with the ambulance’s red lights flashing in the video. A review of the timeline of events revealed that the ambulance arrived 22 minutes after officers announced Nichols was in custody.

    Video three: Body-cam footage shows Nichols pinned by officers
    Video clip three, from an officer’s body-camera video, provides audio of the assault shown in video two. The video shows an officer leaving his car and running up to Nichols, who is already pinned to the ground by two other officers.

    “You about to get sprayed again,” the officer says as he gets to the scene. [It looks and sounds to me like some of the officers are enraged because they pepper-sprayed themselves earlier.] Then he pepper-sprays Nichols in the face, and Nichols screams in pain. “Mom!” Nichols yells, shielding his face. “Give me your hands boy,” another officer says.

    After the spray, the two other officers punch Nichols in the stomach and head. “Give me your f—ing hands,” one officer says. “I’ll spray your a– again.”

    Three other officers alternate punching Nichols in the face and corralling his hands to handcuff him. One officer punches Nichols in the head from behind while he’s handcuffed. The officers then take him to the ground.

    The officer is completely out of breath and steps away from the altercation before turning back to Nichols, who is on the ground five feet away, pinned down by two officers.

    “Watch out, I’m going to baton the f— out of you,” he says as the other officers move aside. The officers continuing yelling, “give me your hands. Give me your hands, motherf—er.” Nichols is moaning in response.

    As the dust settles, and Nichols is pinned to the ground by multiple officers, other arriving officers come into view of the video, appearing to gear up to take some swings of their own.

    “That motherf—er made me spray myself,” one officer can be heard saying.

    The officer turns away. He walks away and says to another officer, “Let me get my car quick.”

    Video 4: Body-cam footage captures audio of Nichols screaming for his mother

    The fourth video briefly shows footage of the beating, with the body camera apparently knocked off moments after the confrontation began.

    It shows Nichols on the ground, yelling “No!” as multiple officers surround him.

    With the video obscured, the footage instead captures distressing audio: Nichols screaming for his mother, again and again.

    Officers are heard demanding he give them his hands, or lie on the ground. [As far as I could see, officers were holding Nichols’s hands that whole time, and they were tossing and turning him on the ground.] For a time, the audio captures only the sound of someone heavily breathing.

    When the camera is apparently picked up, it provides for the first time a clear image of the scene: At least five officers standing in the area, one of them shining a flashlight. The beam of light illuminates Nichols’s face as he sits, propped up against a car, his hands behind his back.

    Blood is visible around his mouth.

    Officers are heard comparing notes on their use of force. One officer is heard saying that officers fired pepper spray and deployed a Taser. Another says that Nichols reached for another officer’s gun.

    Officers can be heard discussing their chase of Nichols and appearing winded. At least one officer complains about his leg hurting. An officer says Nichols appears to be “on something.”

    In the background, while the officers talk, Nichols, who has been leaning against a car, is seen toppling over to the ground.

    “Hey, sit up, bro,” the officer wearing the body camera appears to say.

    The officer approaches Nichols and appears to lift him up. When he does, the light captures Nichols’s face and again shows blood around his mouth. It is unclear whether he is conscious or not.

    What the videos don’t show
    […] When the video begins, “this officer and the other officer that joined were already ramped up about Mr. Nichols in his car,” Davis said. “If something did happen we don’t know what it was. They allege that he was driving on the wrong side of the road but we have not been able to prove that.”

    Washington Post link

  55. says

    On Musk’s Twitter, this surging trend is a killer—literally

    I watched Died Suddenly, an hour-long anti-vaccination “documentary” percolating through social media since November, so you don’t have to. A cacophonous, almost gleeful montage of out-of-context, pseudo-scientific, conspiratorial hooey, […] filled with people speaking with conviction and authority who are either unidentified or labeled with uninspiring credentials (“funeral director,” “embalmer”) and replete with hackneyed film techniques […] Some sequences are so downright bizarre (people literally falling down on camera, none of whom are identified or have the cause of their sudden incapacity sourced or corroborated) you can almost hear its creators smirking.

    The central theme is that the COVID-19 vaccines caused an untoward, undisclosed large number of people to “die suddenly,” of stroke, pulmonary embolism, or something else, and you—yes you, dear viewer—can verify this by Googling the words “died suddenly,” and gaze with horror upon all the hits that appear. […]

    This is a world made up in large part by gullible, ignorant people eager for certitude in a very confusing time, and this type of conspiracy junk caked over with a thin scientific veneer is all that is necessary to confirm their preconceptions.

    It’s not just stupid, it’s appallingly stupid in a dull, malevolent way. But in social media it’s all about eyeballs, and there’s a huge market for this stuff. It would be wonderful if people had the necessary critical skills to evaluate it for what it is, but unfortunately, that’s not the society we live in.

    The consequences of abolishing any serious constraints or regulation of content on the social media platform known as Twitter were predictable when Elon Musk took over the company. Yet the remarkable speed at which deliberately harmful, disinformative, and malicious content is supplanting the platform’s legitimate uses continues to exceed the dismal expectations that proliferated when the Tesla CEO took over.

    […] As explained by Kaitlyn Tiffany, writing for The Atlantic, this is but a small preliminary taste of what is likely to ensue on broad-based social media platforms should they, like Twitter, abandon content moderation. Such content has always been available on the web, but never before has it been afforded an opportunity for mass, continuous consumption—the kind of consumption that can actually harm people for years, if not decades, through normalization.

    Died Suddenly has been viewed nearly 20 million times and cheered on by far-right personalities such as Marjorie Taylor Greene and Candace Owens. It was released by the Stew Peters Network, whose other videos on Rumble have titles like “Obama Formed Shadow Government BEFORE Plandemic” and “AIRPORTS SHUT DOWN FOR EVERYONE BUT JEWS!” And its creators are already asking for donations to fund a sequel, Died Suddenly 2, which promises to explore “deeper rabbit holes.” […]

    As a meme, “died suddenly” could last a long time—possibly indefinitely. People will always be dying suddenly, so it will always be possible to redeploy it and capture further attention. What’s more, there is a thriving alt-tech ecosystem that can circulate the meme; a whole cohort of right-wing, anti-vaccine influencers and celebrities who can amplify it; and, crucially, a basically unmoderated mainstream social-media platform that can put it in front of hundreds of millions of users—some of whom will make fun of it, but others of whom will start to see something unsettling and credible in its repetitions.

    In a November tweet directed to Musk, the film’s creators proudly note that Died Suddenly is “the first movie to premiere on Twitter since your friendly takeover.” Initially labeled as misinformation by then-existing Twitter guidelines, the film now comes with no such warning. […]

    The danger here is not simply the emergence of another crackpot conspiracy film, but the fact that it will continue to engender doubt and resistance to lifesaving vaccines in an unprecedented health emergency that shows no sign of tiring itself out in the coming years.

    […] the real “link” (if any) between COVID-19 and sudden deaths is most likely due to illness caused by the virus itself and its mutations, not by the vaccines designed to prevent or ameliorate its symptoms. […] even to the extent recipients of the mRNA vaccines might (rarely) experience cardiac inflammation, the risk of such inflammation to unvaccinated people who contract COVID-19 is far higher.

    […] the implicit sanction of such disinformation by Twitter and other platforms means that, quite literally, thousands of people may suffer and die unnecessarily simply because the Musk-led Twitter behemoth used to amplify such vaccine denialism deems it to be “free speech,” despite its patent falsity and malignancy. And that fact doesn’t even begin to implicate the consequences of other vaccine rejection fostered by this kind of pseudo-scientific garbage. […]

  56. says

    Marjorie Taylor Green claimed that President Biden abused his power by lowering gas prices. Well, at least she admitted that gas prices are lower.

    President Biden abused his power to sell our oil, reduce gas prices, so that the midterm elections would swing Democrats’ way. It’s a shame to trick the American people just to win an election. No president should be able to use their emergency powers for politics.

    Backstory and context:

    […] gas prices have fallen considerably. They now average about $3.44 per gallon nationwide, which is equal to where they were two years ago. That’s down from a high of $5.02 in June of 2022. And even though prices fell each month for the remainder of last year, the GOP furiously condemned Biden as being responsible for the high prices and criticized him for not bringing them down. […]

    Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu responded to Greene:

    I can summarize this debate of the last two days into one sentence: Joe Biden lowered your gas prices and Republicans are upset about it. That’s what this is about. Joe Biden lowered your gas prices and that makes Republicans mad. And how do we know? They said it out loud. The gentlewoman from Georgia earlier this morning just said that Joe Biden lowered your gas prices for political reasons. You know, I don’t care why a president lowers your gas prices. If any president can lower your gas prices, we should support that president’s action.

    There’s another reason this Republican bill is so stupid. Because not only did Joe Biden lower your gas prices, the United States of America made a profit on it. Buy low, sell high. It was brilliant what Joe Biden did. He released the Strategic Petroleum Reserves when gas prices were high, and that helped lower the gas prices. And then he refilled it at the lower amount. The U.S. made $4 billion dollars on Joe Biden’s actions. The Republicans always want to say ‘Let’s run government like a business.’ Joe Biden did exactly that when he lowered your gas prices, and then made a $4 billion dollar profit for the United States of America.

  57. whheydt says

    Re: Reginald Selkirk @ #57…
    Best decoy trick from WW2 that I know of was when the British disguised a large number of tanks as trucks in western Egypt to convince Rommel that that wasn’t where the planned attack was going to happen. The British, as part of that effort, also faked building a water pipeline to an area from which they weren’t going to attack. The fake pipeline construction was timed to look like it would be completed a few days after they planned to attack.

  58. whheydt says

    Re: raven @ #60…
    If I make it to just a bit past 93, I will have completed my last promise to my late wife and won’t be terribly interested in life extension treatments past that.

  59. raven says

    “Orban told a group of foreign visitors that he thinks Russia made Ukraine an “ungovernable wreck”, “it’s Afghanistan now”, “the land of nobody”, according to…”

    Hungary is going all in on the Russian side.
    Why is Hungary in the EU? Why is Hungary in NATO?
    Hey, if they want to join the outcast states of Russia, Iran, Serbia, and Syria fine.
    They shouldn’t get all the advantages of NATA and the EU while trying to undermine both.

    And BTW, the wreck right now is Russia. Sick economy and now a vicious dictatorship kept in power by propaganda and murder.

    Mayor of Dnipro Borys Filatov wrote an open letter to Orbán: “…your atrocities and constant desire to please tyrants in every World War have made you historical pariahs. “

    He has a point here. Hungary was on the German’s side in WW I.
    Hungary was on the Nazis side in WW II.
    “In June 1941, Hungary decided to join Germany in its war against the Soviet Union. Finally, in December 1941, Hungary joined the Axis Powers in declaring war against the United States, completely cutting itself off from any relationship with the West.”

    Hungary was also invaded by Russia in 1956 to keep them from revolting and throwing off the Soviet rule. Orban is licking the hand that beat them to a pulp.

    Thread Tweet
    Szabolcs Panyi @panyiszabolcs

    Orban told a group of foreign visitors that he thinks Russia made Ukraine an “ungovernable wreck”, “it’s Afghanistan now”, “the land of nobody”, according to

    These remarks have infuriated Ukraine’s government:
    (My note. No kidding, I can see why.)

    Szabolcs Panyi @panyiszabolcs
    Mayor of Dnipro Borys Filatov wrote an open letter to Orbán: “…your atrocities and constant desire to please tyrants in every World War have made you historical pariahs. You should be complete scum to forgive the Soviets and their successors for ’56.”

  60. says

    Followup to comment 63.

    More from the Ukraine update article:

    A word of advice for all those “realists” among Western elites who oppose support for #Ukraine: Finally, once and for all bury the Yalta mindset. Understand the Russia is no more entitled to a sphere of influence than a gangster is entitled to keep the spoils of a robbery.

    […] Watch how the Russians behave in #Ukraine, where premeditated destruction and murder is the rule, and ask yourself if that this someone you would like to invite to dinner, or even live next door to. Bottom line: Europe will know no peace until Russia is expelled from Europe.

    Listen to Finns, Poles, or Balts. They have lived next door to Russia for centuries and paid an awful price while the West often looked the other way. It’s time “realists” among Western policy elites grow up and end the “what-about-ism” nonsense when it comes to Russia.

    Democracies are not perfect, but we certainly are better than the Russian and Chinese alternatives. And the Ukrainians are fighting on our behalf, they want to be a part of us. They deserve our respect and all the material and political support we can muster.

    Excerpts above are from a thread posted by Andrew Michta.

  61. says

    Here we go again: Kansas Republicans pitch another anti-abortion constitutional amendment

    Anti-abortion organization Kansans for Life entered the legislative session in Topeka this year with one key agenda point: more state funding for “pregnancy crisis centers,” fake clinics designed to take advantage of people making difficult medical decisions about pregnancy by offering them little to no actual medically valid advice. Well, that isn’t enough for Republican state Rep. Randy Garber, who is pushing another constitutional amendment to ban abortion in the state of Kansas. In a letter written to the House caucus, Garber opined: “This is a simple amendment that says there is no natural right to an abortion in the constitution.”

    This is, of course, after an outright spanking in the public vote last August by a nearly 60-40 margin upholding a state Supreme Court ruling saying there is a fundamental right to reproductive care, and a Republican attempt to oust the state Supreme Court justices that failed. Even though the people have spoken, Garber felt the need to push the abortion amendment. “I think if we had made it a little more simpler, maybe we would have had a better chance of getting that passed,” he told the Sunflower State Journal.

    […] Garber’s case may end up centering around putting this back on the ballot alongside the 2024 presidential election. Republicans have made abortion the centerpiece of quite a bit of legislation to begin this session, starting with GOP state Sen. Chase Blasi’s position that city governments should be able to ban abortions, movements on pregnancy crisis centers, and now this proposed constitutional amendment.

    Garber believes that the original bill needed to be simpler and more to the point. This goes along with Republican Sen. Molly Baumgardner’s point after the amendment was defeated in August because it did not go far enough: If it were a clear outright ban, it would have passed. [Delusional!]

    […] this certainly won’t be the last of the anti-abortion radical legislation to be put forward in the next two years.

  62. says

    Ha! Some actual fact-checking took place on Fox News:

    Fox guest on Pelosi attack: Where is the evidence of a breaking and entering?

    Fox anchor: There’s video of him breaking into the house.

    G: I haven’t seen that

    A: It’s on the screen right now.

    G: Maybe that’s true, maybe I’m wrong

    A: He’s clearly using that to break in


  63. says

    Excerpt from a Wonkette article:

    […] It is worth considering what police are actually doing — aside from beating innocent people to death. The Supreme Court says that they are not legally obligated to intervene in order to prevent a crime from happening. A study published last year found that police pretty much spend zero time responding to or solving crime and most of their time on officer-initiated traffic stops like the one that resulted in the death of Tyre Nichols.

    The study, published by the advocacy group Catalyst California and the ACLU of Southern California determined that L.A. County Sheriff’s Department officers spent 88 percent of their time on officer-initiated traffic stops — and only 11 percent of the hours they spent doing that had anything to do with “reasonable suspicion of a crime.” It also found that the Sacramento sheriff’s department spent 3/4 of their time pulling people over for stops that ended in warnings.

    Studies have repeatedly shown that not only do routine traffic stops not make us safer in general, they are not even the most efficient way to deal with speeding and other actual driving-related issues. A 2022 study determined that police have killed nearly 600 people at these traffic stops since 2017.

    Ironically, they are also very dangerous for the police themselves. A logical person might consider that cutting down on these traffic stops might make us all a whole lot safer. It’s one thing when people are drunk driving and swerving all over the road, but that is not actually going to be the case in most traffic stops, and it certainly shouldn’t be the vast majority of what armed police officers are doing with their time.

    Other research has shown that police only “solve” two percent of all violent crimes, which is impressive given that we also have the largest prison population in the world. One would have to imagine that this would not be the case if they were doing such a spectacular job of keeping us safe.

    I know people don’t like to talk about alternatives to policing and want to believe that there must be some way to tweak the system in order to make it do the things we want it to do without doing the things we don’t want it to do. They want it to be individual bad apples, they want it to be individual racism and prejudice, they want it to be a lack of training or a lack of proper funding — because as big as those problems are, they feel a lot more manageable than considering that it’s the system itself that is bad. That maybe policing in the form it currently exists in is bad even for the police themselves — that perhaps it turns them into people they might not otherwise be. That in many cases the power goes to their heads and comes out in a way that hurts people and leads to situations like this one. That maybe we are creating monsters, and no amount of superficial reform is going to change that.

    It would be really great if we could just calm down and look at things logically — look at what actually works and what doesn’t, what we need the police for and what we don’t, and consider where our money would be better spent in terms of public safety. […]

  64. says

    Memphis police’s Scorpion unit is permanently deactivated after Tyre Nichols’ death

    All five former officers charged in Nichols’ death were members of the Scorpion unit.

    The Memphis Police Department said it has permanently deactivated its Scorpion unit following the death of Tyre Nichols.

    “In the process of listening intently to the family of Tyre Nichols, community leaders, and the uninvolved officers who have done quality work in their assignment, it is in the best interest of all to permanently deactivate the SCORPION Unit,” the department said in a statement Saturday.

    According to the statement, “the officers currently assigned to the unit agree unreservedly with this next step. While the heinous actions of a few casts a cloud of dishonor on the title SCORPION, it is imperative that we, the Memphis Police Department take proactive steps in the healing process for all impacted.” […]

  65. raven says

    Tanks Alone Won’t Turn the Tide of the War in Ukraine.
    “The new donations alone are unlikely to boost combat power enough to win the war for Ukraine, but officials and outside analysts say they will help substantially.”

    This article says what I thought.
    The tanks will help but they aren’t going to be the magic bullet or shell that ends this war.

    We saw this in Vietnam, where all we needed was a few 100,000 more troops and another few years and then we would win. It never happened.
    We’ve already seen it in Ukraine with the HIMARS and Bayraktar drones. They helped a huge amount no doubt but the Russians adapted and now they are just another weapons system.
    For that matter, the Russians have seen it when they tried to starve and wreck Ukraine into submission by targeting their power plants with cruise missiles and Iranian drones.

    At least the article isn’t completely negative.
    We are also giving the Ukrainians more modern US weapon systems and other help.

    I’d go all in and give the Ukrainians whatever we have and could. They are paying a very large price in blood and lives, while our aid is just money, money that is replaceable.

    Tanks Alone Won’t Turn the Tide of the War in Ukraine

    Tanks Alone Won’t Turn the Tide of the War in Ukraine
    The United States will have to step up its training program to ensure the Ukrainian military can use all the Western-provided equipment effectively.

    A tank covered with camouflage, with open hatch showing soldiers inside.
    The advanced tanks Washington has promised to Ukraine send important signals to both Kyiv and Moscow about continued American support. Credit… Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times
    Julian E. BarnesEric Schmitt
    Jan. 27, 2023
    Sign up for the Russia-Ukraine War Briefing. Every evening, we’ll send you a summary of the day’s biggest news.

    WASHINGTON — For all the fanfare about the advanced battle tanks Ukraine secured from the West this week, they won’t be the silver bullet that allows Kyiv to win the war. Instead, the United States military will, once again, attempt to remake an army in its own image to give Ukraine the best chance to break through entrenched Russian defenses.

    To do that the United States and its allies will not just have to provide the newly promised tanks, armored vehicles and advanced munitions, but also expand what has been something of an ad hoc training program to teach Ukraine’s military to use all the new equipment together. It will be a crash course in what the U.S. military calls combined arms warfare, something that takes months if not years for American units to master.

    Decisions about new military aid are a delicate balancing act for the White House and the NATO alliance: While they want to provide Kyiv with new capabilities that have the potential to break through a battlefield stalemate, they also don’t want to provoke President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia into escalating the fight into a wider war.

    As a result, providing the Western tanks produced considerable hand-wringing. But so far Moscow has been deterred from expanding the war, and creating newer and stronger Ukrainian units represents the best chance of avoiding a stalemate.

    As satellite imagery revealed Russians building primary and secondary lines of defensive trenches along the front lines, American government analysts began the year forecasting a deadly stalemate as the likely outcome for 2023. Worried that a frozen conflict favors Russia, the United States and its allies began more earnest discussions in recent weeks about how to change the battlefield dynamics in Ukraine’s favor.

    “We want to put them in the best possible position so that whether this war ends on the battlefield, whether it ends with the diplomacy or some combination, that they are sitting on a map that is far more advantageous for their long-term future and that Putin feels the strategic failure,” Victoria Nuland, a senior State Department official, told the Senate on Thursday.

    Much of the first year of the conflict has involved Russia and Ukraine pounding each other’s positions with artillery, but there have been some tank operations. Ukraine’s biggest success, its counteroffensive outside Kharkiv, used tanks, but some of the most important weaponry were the quick-moving armored fighting vehicles. There, Ukraine also faced disorganized Russian forces.

    The State of the War
    Military Aid: Germany and the United States announced they would send battle tanks to Ukraine, a decision that came after weeks of tense back-channel negotiations between Western officials. But it may be months before the tanks rumble across the battlefield.
    Russian Strikes: A day after the announcement, Russia fired dozens of missiles at Ukrainian cities, piercing snow clouds and air defenses to kill at least 12 people across the country.
    Corruption Scandal: After a number of allegations of government corruption, several top Ukrainian officials were fired, in the biggest upheaval in President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government since Russia’s invasion began 11 months ago.
    But in the next phase of the war, the Ukrainian military will target those dug-in trench lines of Russian units. Breaking through those lines is not just about driving a battalion of tanks over the trenches. It requires a coordinated attack with infantry troops marking targets, tanks firing at those positions and artillery guns providing cover and support. Such combined arms maneuvers are the backbone of U.S. military combat operations and the focus of the U.S. Army’s most intense training.

    Though tanks have been the focus of attention, military analysts say a critical part of the recent donations by the West may be the 109 Bradley Fighting Vehicles the United States is sending and the large numbers of artillery guns that European allies will send. This equipment is likely to be combined with the German Leopards to help create new Ukrainian armored units. When the full package of Western equipment arrives, Kyiv could create as many as three additional brigades.

    “The most important parts of the package are armored fighting vehicles, artillery, and precision-guided munitions,” said Michael Kofman, the Russia expert at CNA, a Washington analytic organization. “The small numbers of tanks promised are the least significant part of this.”

    To ensure Ukraine’s army can conduct such maneuvers will involve an increase in American and European training. For months, the United States avoided sending Ukraine complex new systems that require new training. That attitude has shifted — first when the United States sent American artillery, then longer-range missile systems, and most recently, the Patriot battery system, all of which required training outside Ukraine.

    The initial hesitancy was in part because of concerns about taking experienced Ukrainian soldiers off the battlefield as well as worries that having the United States train Ukrainian soldiers could be seen by the Kremlin as a provocation. But with training on Patriot missile defense systems underway in Oklahoma and instruction on intensive maneuver warfare underway at America’s training ground in Germany, the original concerns have faded, U.S. military officials have acknowledged.

    This isn’t the first time the United States has done this kind of training. The United States tried, and failed, to teach such techniques to the Iraqi army and, to a lesser degree, the Afghan military. But Ukraine has proved itself time and time again to be technically capable and resourceful — and its army has shown itself extremely motivated to learn how to employ new equipment.

    “Ukrainians have a core professional army group that has been fighting the Russians for years and years and years and received Western training until 2022,” said Stephen Biddle, a professor at Columbia University. “They are not starting from scratch.”

    Just how realistic it might be for the Pentagon to train the Ukrainians in the complexities of combined arms maneuver warfare in a short time span remains to be seen. Even in peacetime it takes a while for American units to master such operations, and that’s with the luxury of expansive training areas and deep institutional knowledge. Still, new warfare techniques can be learned under fire. After all, the American army first learned modern combined arms techniques in the midst of World War II.

    “Militaries that are properly motivated and have the right kind of command structure adapt and learn pretty quickly,” Dr. Biddle said. “There is this view out there that militaries never change. And that’s nonsense. They can change really fast when they’re motivated and they’re organized correctly.”

    Some analysts believe the single most effective weapon the United States could give Ukraine is precision-guided missiles. Ukraine’s army, by training and tradition, focuses on artillery. It is that expertise that allowed them to quickly and effectively use the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, to strike Russian ammunition depots and command posts.

    Russia has adjusted, pulling back its logistics hubs outside the range of the HIMARS. A more advanced, longer-range missile, like the ATACMS, could hit those targets. But for now, weapons that could strike deep into Russia are off the table, seen as far too likely to provoke Mr. Putin. Though the United States has steadily opened up to providing Ukraine with more powerful weaponry over the course of the conflict, it has remained resolute on this one point.

    American officials acknowledged that the true power of the 31 Abrams tanks the United States announced on Wednesday it would send Ukraine is that they will unlock more donations of German-made Leopard 2 tanks, as well as more artillery and infantry fighting vehicles.

    The U.S. provision of the tanks will “spur the Germans and inspire the Poles” while demonstrating NATO unity, said one U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive deliberations. In addition to the 112 Leopards Germany will send, Poland has pledged 14 (along with hundreds of older tanks) and Canada will send four. Norway said it will send some of the tanks and Spain is considering a donation.

    The new donations alone are unlikely to boost combat power enough to win the war for Ukraine, but officials and outside analysts say they will help substantially.

    The tanks will punch through the trench lines and open a path for infantry in Bradley Fighting Vehicles to hold the reclaimed territory.

    And the tanks send important signals to both Ukraine and Russia about continued American support. For Russia, the tanks demonstrate that the flow of arms from the West is growing, not waning. And for Ukraine it is a big morale boost, said Andrea Kendall-Taylor, a former American intelligence official now with the Center for a New American Security.

    “It’s a vote of confidence that people are still invested in Ukraine retaking its territory rather than pushing Ukraine to negotiate,” she said.

  66. whheydt says

    I keep seeing suggestions in various places that we should train for and send F-16 fighters to Ukraine. Seems to me it would make more sense to send them A-10 Warthogs.

  67. Reginald Selkirk says

    Arizona Republicans pick former Trump official to lead party

    PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Republicans on Saturday selected former state treasurer and Donald Trump aide Jeff DeWit to be the party’s next chairman, turning to a familiar face with relationships across the fractured party after its worst election in decades.

    DeWit replaces firebrand Trump ally Kelli Ward, who helped the former president in his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss and was a vocal proponent of his false claim that the election results were fraudulent. She broke with precedent in last year’s primary, openly promoting a slate of election deniers who went on to lose the general election in November…

  68. raven says

    “Drones attack military plant in Iran, Tehran says.”

    According to Iran, the attacks were mostly unsuccessful.
    Other sources claim they were.
    At this point, there is no way to know which claim is correct. Satellite photos will determine it one way or another.
    It is also not known who carried out the attack. The number of possibilities is quite large though, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, Israel, internal dissenters.

    Drones attacked a military plant in Iran’s central city of Isfahan, Tehran said on Sunday.

    Drones attack military plant in Iran, Tehran says
    By Artemis Moshtaghian and Mohammed Tawfeeq, CNN
    Updated 9:04 AM EST, Sun January 29, 2023

    Drones attacked a military plant in Iran’s central city of Isfahan, Tehran said on Sunday.

    “An explosion has occurred in one of the military centers affiliated to the Ministry of Defense,” the deputy head of security for Isfahan governorate Mohammad Reza Jan-Nesari told the semi-official Fars News Agency.

    Jan-Nesari said the explosion left some damage, “but fortunately there were no casualties.”

    The state news agency IRNA later said the explosion had been caused by “small drones.”

    “There was an unsuccessful attack by small drones against a defense ministry industrial complex and fortunately with predictions and air defense arrangements already in place, one of them (struck),” IRNA said in a post on Twitter, citing the country’s defense ministry.

    “The air defense system of the complex was able to destroy two other drones. Fortunately, this unsuccessful attack killed no one and minor damage was sustained to the roof of the complex.”

    The ministry said the attack took place at 10:30 p.m. local time.

    The plant is about 440 kilometers (270 miles) south of Tehran.

    In the past few years, several explosions and suspicious fires have occurred around Iranian military and nuclear facilities.

    In July 2020, a fire tore through the Iranian Natanz nuclear complex, a site that has been key to the country’s uranium enrichment program, in Isfahan Province, south of the capital Tehran. Iranian authorities decided not to publicly announce the findings on what caused the fire due to security concerns, according to Iran’s Supreme Nation Security Council.

    The following year, a blackout occured in Natanz on the anniversary of National Nuclear Day, with Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI) calling it a “terrorist action.” Israel’s army chief appeared to hint at possible Israeli involvement in the incident.

    In October 2019, an oil tanker belonging to the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) was hit and damaged by two missiles. A spokesperson for the National Iranian Tanker Company initially suggested it could have been fired from Saudi soil, but that was later dismissed and the Iran government did not provide an alternative conclusion.

    Earlier that year, a truck loaded with explosives detonated and struck a bus carrying members of the Iranian military’s elite Revolutionary Guard in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan, killing at least 23 and wounding 17. A separatist group called Jaish al-Adl, or Army of Justice, claimed responsibility for the suicide attack.

  69. tomh says

    Minnesota Passes Law Guaranteeing Right To Abortions
    January 29, 2023

    The Minnesota legislature yesterday gave final passage to HF1, the Protect Reproductive Options Act (full text ). It provides in part:

    Every individual who becomes pregnant has a fundamental right to continue the pregnancy and give birth, or obtain an abortion, and to make autonomous decisions about how to exercise this fundamental right.

    According to a CBS News report on the bill:

    Abortion rights in Minnesota are already protected because of Doe v. Gomez, a 1995 Minnesota Supreme Court decision. Democrats frame the bill as a “secondary” line of defense to that ruling.

    The bill now goes to Gov. Tim Walz for his signature. According to MPR News, Gov. Walz has said he will sign the bill into law.

    Religion Clause

  70. Reginald Selkirk says

    Pro-Russian Ukrainian MPs Korolevska and her husband give up their MP mandates

    Referring to its own sources, Ukrainska Pravda said journalists had established that both MPs moved to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates after the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
    According to the Ukrainian political movement Chesno, Korolevska, 47, missed all the government sessions after Feb. 24. She was an MP of the 5th, 6th (from the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc), 8th (from Opposition Bloc) and 9th (from OPZZh) convocations of parliament…

  71. raven says

    More from the BBC on the new tanks for Ukraine.

    “Ben Barry, senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (ISS), tells the BBC that Western tanks will make a difference. But the former British Army Brigadier also warns that the pledges made so far are unlikely to prove decisive.”

    Few people see these new tanks as silver bullets.
    After all, Ukraine already has close to a 1,000 tanks, Russian designed ones.
    The T series tanks may not be as good as a Leapord but they are still dangerous tanks.

    Everything helps I guess.

    FWIW, what I’ve read on Ukrainian war blogs keeps saying they are taking very high casualties just like the Russians. It is having an effect on how well their army functions.
    We saw that in the Vietnam war too.
    We lost 58,000 soldiers and it really wrecked our society.
    We are still paying for it today.

    How tanks from Germany, US and UK could change the Ukraine war

    How tanks from Germany, US and UK could change the Ukraine war

    US M1 Abrams are faster than most Russian-made tanks
    By Jonathan Beale
    Defence correspondent

    Is this the week when the war dramatically turned in Ukraine’s favour? It was certainly a decisive moment, with a coalition of Western nations confirming they were finally willing to supply modern-made main battle tanks.

    Germany said it would send Leopard 2 tanks and the US said it would send M1 Abrams tanks. Both the UK and Poland have already made concrete pledges, and other nations are expected to follow. Some commentators have described the move as a potential “gamechanger”.

    But is it really enough to win the war?

    Ben Barry, senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (ISS), tells the BBC that Western tanks will make a difference. But the former British Army Brigadier also warns that the pledges made so far are unlikely to prove decisive.

    In modern warfare, tanks have been a key element for offensive operations – to punch through enemy lines and retake territory.

    Used effectively, they provide mobile firepower, protection, shock and surprise. Concentrated in numbers, they can dislocate an enemy’s defences. But they also need the support of artillery to first weaken those defences and then the support of infantry to hold retaken ground.

    History shows tanks alone don’t win battles. The British first used hundreds of tanks at the battle of Cambrai in November 1917 – to end the deadlock of static trench warfare. Initially they made significant advances, but many tanks soon broke down and a German counter offensive turned British gains into losses.

    Tanks can also be used in defence. In 1940 they were used by the retreating British and French armies at Arras to stall the Nazi invasion, allowing the subsequent evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk.

    But Ukraine has made clear that it wants weapons not just to stall any potential Russian spring offensive, but to retake its own territory – to go on the attack.

    How Ukraine might use tanks as attack spearheads
    It would make little sense for Ukraine to disperse its additional tanks across a frontline of more than 1,000km (621 miles). To break through Russian defences, Ukraine will need to concentrate its forces – possibly over an area of between five and 20km (between three and 12 miles).

    Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former colonel in the British Army’s Royal Tank Regiment, says numbers do matter for a breakthrough. An armoured brigade for a significant offensive operation would normally include at least 70 tanks. So more than 100 Western battle tanks could make a big difference, he says.

    If Ukraine had more it could try to conduct simultaneous offensive operations in different places, as it did last year in the north and the south.

    Germany confirms it will send tanks to Ukraine
    Leopard 2 tanks: Why Germany delayed sending themg
    Then there’s the additional support required for what the military call “combined arms manoeuvre”.

    The UK is not just sending Ukraine 14 Challenger tanks, but also 30 artillery self-propelled guns and armoured vehicles to carry and protect troops.

    That new package of military support also includes mine breaching and bridge-laying vehicles. In other words, the essential elements needed for any offensive operation.

    The US is also providing Ukraine with more than 100 Bradley and Stryker armoured vehicles, and Germany 40 of its Marder infantry fighting vehicle – as well as tanks.

    Tanks are the tip of the spear, designed to move quickly over open ground. The Challenger 2, Leopard 2 and M1 Abrams are faster than most Russian-made tanks with speeds of more than 25mph (40km per hour) on rough terrain.

    To take ground quickly, with any element of surprise, they would likely avoid urban areas where they would be more vulnerable to attack. Russia showed early on in this war, in its failed attempt to surround Kyiv, that a long column of armour on a road is an easy target.

    Mr Barry, of ISS, says any spearhead attack would look for an enemy’s weak points. But he also warns that Russia has spent the last few months reinforcing defensive positions with trenches and tank traps.

    Western tanks are also about 20 tonnes heavier than their Russian counterparts. The additional armour gives better protection but it also means the tanks may be too heavy to cross some makeshift bridges. Russia and Ukraine have both blown bridges to slow down advances.

    Surprise attacks at night
    Mr de Bretton Gordon, who commanded a squadron of British Challenger tanks, says one of the big advantages of Western-made tanks is their ability to fight at night.

    Night sights and thermal imaging camera are standard. Only Russia’s more advanced tanks – like the T-90 – are fitted to fight at night. Attacks under the cover of darkness also add to the element of shock and surprise.

    The greatest challenge for Ukraine will be logistics – maintaining the flow of fuel, ammunition and spare parts. Ukraine is not just having to maintain its old Soviet-era arsenal, it is also having to worry about an increasingly complex inventory of Western supplied weapons.

    Ukraine weapons: what equipment is the world giving?
    Britain’s Challenger 2 tanks, for instance, do not use the same Nato standard ammunition as the Leopard and Abrams. The Challenger 2 is no longer in production and even the British Army has had to cannibalise some spare parts from its existing fleet.

    Mr Barry says Ukrainian engineers may be familiar with repairing diesel engines – like those in the Leopard and Challenger. But he says the US-made Abrams runs on a more complicated gas turbine engine. It also consumes about twice the amount of fuel as a German-made Leopard.

    Germany produces the vast majority of modern heavy tanks in Europe – the Leopard 2s
    If Western pledges are firmed, Ukraine’s armed forces could be boosted by more than 100 tanks. That would still fall well short of what Ukraine’s overall military commander asked for.

    Last October, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi said Ukraine needed an additional 300 tanks, 700 infantry fighting vehicles and 500 howitzers for his planned offensive this year. It might end up with just half of that.

    The training required on the weapons will take time too – weeks if not months. And it’s still not clear when all this equipment will arrive.

    The US has indicated that its 31 M1 Abrams tanks might not be ready for months. Ukraine is also waiting for the West to respond to its repeated request for modern warplanes. An army attacking on the ground will need protection from the air.

    Western officials had hoped that Ukraine may be able to mount an offensive as soon as this spring. They believe there is now a window of opportunity while Russia struggles to recruit and rebuild its battered forces, and to replenish its dwindling supplies of ammunition.

    Ukraine has managed to prove the doubters wrong in the past – but it will still need more Western support if it is to achieve its goal of expelling Russian forces.

  72. Reginald Selkirk says

    Peru’s protest ‘deactivators’ run toward tear gas to stop it

    LIMA, Peru (AP) — When police fire tear gas at protesters demanding the resignation of Peruvian President Dina Boluarte, most run away.
    A few, though, run toward the gas canisters as quickly as possible — to neutralize them.
    These are the “deactivators.” Donning gas masks, safety goggles and thick gloves, these volunteers grab the hot canisters and toss them inside large plastic bottles filled with a mixture of water, baking soda and vinegar…

  73. says

    Secret Service releases study on mass shootings: It’s economics, misogyny, and conspiracy theories

    […] the Secret Service published a 60-page report on Wednesday that details the data they have about mass attacks. The study, conducted by the U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center, examines 173 mass shooting incidents that occurred between 2016 and 2020. Each attack included in the report resulted in at least “three or more individuals injured or killed across public or semi-public spaces, including businesses, schools, and houses of worship.”

    Dr. Lina Alathari, chief of the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center, told CBS News that “there is no community that is immune from this. But we do see commonalities that will help us with prevention.” One of those commonalities: Guns. Nearly three-quarters of the attacks studied involved someone using a firearm, and it was the firearm that killed or maimed the victims of those events. Less than a quarter of those firearm attacks involved guns acquired illegally.

    The study also reports that more than one-quarter of the attackers had “beliefs (including conspiratorial, topic-specific, and hate-focused belief systems).” During a press conference, Alatheri told reporters that those “conspiracy beliefs” included “that 9/11 and the moon landing never happened, that the U.N. was sending an armed force to come take away everyone’s guns.”

    Other findings from the study:

    96% of the attackers studied were male, 3% were female, and 2% were transgender.

    57% of attackers were white.

    34% of attackers were Black.

    11% of attackers were Hispanic.

    4% of attackers were Asian.

    1% of attackers were American Indian.

    72% of attackers experienced some kind of financial stressor sometime prior to the attack.

    Just under 20% of attackers had an “unstable housing” situation at the time of the attack.

    Bystanders intervened in about 10% of the attacks. When that happened, the attacker was killed by the intervening bystander only 2% of the time. […]

    While there was a large age range, the average age of an attacker was 34 years old.

    41% of attackers had a history of “engaging in at least one incident of domestic violence.”

    And nearly a fifth of attackers exhibited “misogynistic behaviors.”

    […] Media Matters put together a breakdown of some of the reasons Donald Trump ended up having his accounts suspended—even though he was the President of the United States at the time.

    In October, Media Matters analyzed Trump’s posts on Truth Social and found at least 58 mentions of the word “rigged” in at least 55 posts, and at least 255 mentions of the word “election” in at least 195 posts.

    […] nearly half of Trump’s posts on Truth Social in the week after the 2022 midterm election pushed election misinformation, including baseless falsehoods about mail-in ballots and voting machines, or amplified QAnon-promoting accounts.

    As of January 25, Trump has amplified QAnon-promoting accounts more than 400 times, far outpacing the pace of his QAnon account amplifications when he used Twitter. […]

    There are a lot of things we need to do to fix violence gun violence in our country. [And reelecting Trump is not one of them.] The problems are economics-related, social safety net-related, and symptoms of the inequity embedded in our country’s legal system. But they are also obviously related to gun safety legislation. The data, while not perfect, has been in for a long while. Doing what we have been doing—which amounts to a big fat nothingburger—isn’t working.

  74. says

    The news from Thwaites is getting grim; the open ocean is battering the ice shelves.

    [NASA image at the link]

    Conditions at the Thwaites and Pine Island glaciers in West Antarctica appear to be rapidly deteriorating. Satellite imagery shared by Kris Can Steenbergen and Chris Cartwright on Twitter show massive cracks and iceberg calving along with the breakup of sea ice that has accelerated since Iceberg B22A lifted off its sea mount and entered the open ocean.

    The oceans are now the hottest they have ever been. Ever! [Tweet and images at the link]

    The predicted fracturing of the marine extensions of the two enormous marine-terminating ice streams reported last year that will occur in three to five years is now happening. Faster than expected.

    All pinning points are simultaneously collapsing. We are in unchartered territory.

    Antarctica is not waiting for us to get our shit together. Where is the media? [Tweets and images at the link]

    The entire 4-year-old sea ice shield in front of the Thwaites Glacier tongue is collapsing (every iceberg & every pinning point included) […]

    Stay tuned. Twenty-three more days remain until the melt season ends, though all damage occurs under the ice in the Amundsen Sea.

    A build-up of sea ice would be most welcome now. [graph at the link]

  75. Reginald Selkirk says

    Man gets prison for attacking Capitol officer who later died

    WASHINGTON (AP) — A New Jersey man who joined a mob’s attack on the U.S. Capitol was sentenced Friday to more than six years in prison for using pepper spray to assault police officers, one of whom died a day after the siege.

    Julian Khater didn’t mention the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick or address the officer’s family in a written statement he read aloud before U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan sentenced him to six years and eight months of imprisonment.

    Khater wasn’t charged in the officer’s death. A medical examiner concluded that Sicknick, 42, suffered two strokes and died of natural causes a day after he and other officers tried to hold off the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021…

  76. says

    Bad news for Trump, good news for us:

    […] on January 28, 2023, it appears the Trump fever has broken. Sadly it’s left a toxic residue that will poison our politics for years, and even this anemic turnout of Trump supporters can still be a winning force that captures thirty-percent of the vote in a multi-candidate GOP primary field. Trump’s support seems to have diminished in size, but intensified with those remaining.

    So how lame was the turnout of Trump fanatics to greet him at his very first campaign event in New Hampshire for the 2024 election?

    It was a sad bad turnout for The Donald, who once drew thousands of followers from half-way across the country. Not today, which doesn’t bode well for the fragile Trump ego who will forever remember those big crowds. (Imagine the psychological trauma Trump’s staff experiences when he’s talking about all this?)

    What was lost in crowd size was made up by the fanaticism of these dead-enders. Bringing “spirituality” to the event was a true believer who played the Trump QAnon medley Trump began reciting last summer. [Tweets, images and videos at the link. “Trumper playing Trump’s QAnon speech to get nonexistent crowd excited. #TrumpIsDone”]

    Contrast this QAnon flavored Trumpism of today with the conservative grassroots support Trump had in 2015, and you quickly realize that Trump support is spread thin, but where it exists it is dense. And dangerous.

    Which brings us to the presence of the Proud Boys—the Neo-nazi group that currently has five members of their leadership being tried for seditious conspiracy related to Jan. 6th—who are now a new norm at Trump events.

    Sure, there are some “main stream” Republicans supporting Trump. But on this day, the ”political insiders” were inside a high school building—which this Trump crowd was standing outside of—attending the NH GOP convention that Trump was addressing.

    The “vibe” outside felt as if ninety-five percent of the thousands of very conservative people who I’ve seen at Trump events, disappeared and only the most committed five percent remained and showed up today.

    Of course it’s too early, but it is another datapoint that indicates the wind is out of Donald J. Trump’s sails. […]

    Finally, even the counter protesters are getting tired of Trump’s act. Large counter protests were the norm back in the Trump heyday, but today it was just a couple of people. When I told them that Trump’s arrival was still an hour away, they—like me—left shortly afterward.


  77. says

    Republicans leaders in Utah … being clueless yet again:

    Utah Governor Spencer Cox signed a couple of terrible bills on Saturday. The first will create a massive school voucher system, and the second is so truly crappy that no one is even talking about that.

    Because the second bill Cox signed will outlaw life-saving gender-affirming care for trans youths.

    While signing the bill, Governor Cox noted that it was a “terribly divisive issue” while adding that “experts, states and countries around the world are pausing these permanent and life-altering treatments.” The latter, of course, is explicitly untrue on a number of levels. Every possible relevant medical association has issued statements supporting gender-affirming care as the standard of care for trans youths — so no, “experts” are not pausing these treatments.

    Courtesy of the Trans Health Project:

    American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
    American Academy of Dermatology
    American Academy of Family Physicians
    American Academy of Nursing
    American Academy of Pediatrics
    American Academy of Physician Assistants
    American College Health Association
    American College of Nurse-Midwives
    American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
    American College of Physicians
    American Counseling Association
    American Heart Association
    American Medical Association
    American Medical Student Association
    American Nurses Association
    American Osteopathic Association
    American Psychiatric Association
    American Psychological Association
    American Public Health Association
    American Society of Plastic Surgeons
    Endocrine Society
    GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality
    National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health
    National Association of Social Workers
    National Commission on Correctional Health Care
    Pediatric Endocrine Society
    Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine
    World Medical Association
    World Professional Association for Transgender Health

    It is worth noting that the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints is still quite active in Utah and was probably marrying some preteens off to some old men as he signed this.

    Additionally, many of the treatments are not permanent and those that are permanent are not being doled out willy nilly to anyone who asks for them. It often takes years and is approached by doctors with far more seriousness than when teenage cis girls wish to get breast implants, which this law makes clear will still be perfectly legal.

    “While we understand our words will be of little comfort to those who disagree with us,” Cox said in an entirely disingenuous statement released on Saturday, “we sincerely hope that we can treat our transgender families with more love and respect as we work to better understand the science and consequences behind these procedures.”

    This would have been entirely possible for Cox to do before signing this bill, as the science behind these procedures is well understood and has been in use for decade, and study after study has shown that denying gender-affirming care to trans youths is severely detrimental if not dangerous to their mental health. Indeed, these studies have frequently shown a connection between being denied gender-affirming care and suicidality. So as sweetly as he wants to put it, Spencer Cox is still saying that he would rather these teenagers commit suicide than get the care that actual experts believe would be most beneficial for them.

    These laws have nothing to do with what is best for trans youths and everything to do with adults who want to believe that if they just ignore them, transgender people will go away and this will all stop being a thing. Given that this did not occur over the many decades when trans people were ignored and continued to exist despite this, that seems pretty unlikely.

  78. says

    Followup to comment 92.

    Short excerpts from Trump’s campaign speeches in New Hampshire and South Carolina will tell you all you need to know:

    […] He blamed Biden for border crossings and drug deaths […]

    “They are sending people that are killers, murderers, they’re sending rapists. And they’re sending, frankly, terrorists, or terrorists are coming on their own, and we can’t allow this to happen,” Trump said. […]


  79. Pierce R. Butler says

    Lynna @ 89 quoting DailyKos piece summarizing Secret Service report: The study… examines 173 mass shooting incidents … Bystanders intervened in about 10% of the attacks. [Thus, ~17 incidents, no?] When that happened, the attacker was killed by the intervening bystander only 2% of the time. [Ergo, bystanders killed 0.34% of one attacker.]

    While I sometimes enjoy spotlighting DK boo-boos, all too often the pros screw up just as innumerately. But, still …

  80. says

    Ukraine Update: Tanks are nice, but it’s combined arms that can change the game

    [Photo of lovely cats: “Ukrainian army cats. Aside from the usual benefits of having pets, cats are incredibly important in the war, as warm winter trenches with stored food become infested with rats. Soldiers tell of waking up with rats cozied up inside their coats”]

    Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Ukrainians were estimated to have over 2,000 tanks, though half were in storage and presumably in poor shape. Visually confirmed, Ukraine has captured at least 545 Russian tanks, though we can’t assume all were fully salvaged and returned to action. […]

    Add it all up, and Ukraine had at least 2,000 tanks, and maybe more depending on the status of the stored kit (most of which was likely used for spare parts). A quarter to half of those tanks are likely destroyed or inoperable. But even if they have 1,000 tanks left, that’s still quite a bit. So, are a few dozen Western tanks that much of a game changer?

    Three weapons systems have undoubtedly changed the dynamics of the war so far. The first was the two main Western portable anti-tank missile used by Ukraine to stop Russia’s initial thrust—the British NLAW and the American Javelin. The second was M777 artillery howitzers. With over 130 delivered, they provided far more accurate fire than Soviet designs, and allowed allies to supply Ukraine with western shells at a time when it was running out of Soviet-era ammunition. The third was HIMARS, which broke Russian logistics, both by destroying massive stockpiles of artillery shells and other supplies, and by pushing back those ammo depots further behind the front lines. Russia struggles with supply lines more than 25 kilometers from a railhead.

    Still, this whole “game changing” concept is a bit of a ridiculous metric. […]

    Less than a hundred new tanks, no matter how powerfully Western they might be, aren’t going to change the trajectory of the war by themselves, not on a a front that spans thousands of kilometers. But they don’t need to be in the context of combined arms warfare. Combined arms warfare is when armor, infantry, artillery, engineering, electronic warfare, intelligence, and air power (both fixed-wing, helicopters, and as of now, drones) all combine for maximum effect.

    Armor provides punch, but has low visibility and is exposed to infantry, mines, and aircraft. Infantry has all the visibility, but is exposed to artillery, other infantry, and lacks offensive punch. Artillery has tons of punch, but is exposed to counter-artillery fire and air attack. Air power is exposed to infantry with man-portable anti-air missiles, while drones can be downed by electronic warfare. Engineering can breach defenses (like trenches and minefields), but has no combat power and is exposed. Electronic warfare can disrupt the enemy’s guided weapons systems and blind radars and drones, but requires the sort of antenna and radar arrays that are prime targets for air attack and artillery.

    Each one of these combo elements has strengths and weaknesses. Combined arms is designed to both amplify each branch’s strengths, while using complex choreography to mask each others’ weaknesses. It’s not easy to pull off and requires extensive and expensive maneuvers and drilling. Russia clearly never bothered. At the beginning of the war, they would send armor unsupported by infantry, making them easy pickings for Ukrainian forces with NLAWS and Javelins. […]

    For Russia, it’s proven effective to pick up tens of kilometers over months of attritional warfare. Ukraine has proven more adept, but less because of “combined arms,” and more because of smart battlefield decisions. Ukraine won the Battle of Kyiv by harassing Russia’s long supply lines and, simply, by resisting. Russia expected the “shock and awe” of the initial four-prong assault to destroy Ukraine’s resolve to fight. When that didn’t happen, Russia was forced to retreat from its northern axis.

    Ukraine won the Battle of Kharkiv by goading Russia into moving the bulk of its army into Kherson, thus leaving Kharkiv essentially undefended. There was no need for “combined arms” to punch their way deep into Russian territory. They just needed speed.

    Ukraine won the Battle of (north) Kherson by using HIMARS to take out the bridges supplying tens of thousands of Russian troops. While Russia attempted to supply by barge, it proved untenable, and they withdrew. That was a triumph of logistics. (And, yes, exhibit A on why HIMARS rocket artillery was literally a “game changer.”)

    Now? Now the front line has been condensed to the Donbas and Zaporizhzhia oblasts, and Russia has scarred the land with a still-growing network of defenses (click on the link for an interactive map). [link and maps embedded at the main link]

    If you zoom in at the link above, you’ll see that entire cities in southeastern Ukraine have been literally surrounded in trenches. We’ve talked before about the importance of Polohy and Tokmak and other cities in Zaporizhzhia for any drive toward Melitopol. Look at what Ukraine would need to get through to reach Melitopol, thus cutting Russia’s “land bridge” from mainland Russia to Crimea: [map at the link]

    Ukraine isn’t going to liberate any more territory through subterfuge and trickery (unless they find a way to move an entire army across the wide Dnipro river south of Kherson, and into Crimea). And they certainly aren’t going to do it with undisciplined charges. That’s what Russia is doing, and it’s costing them dearly around Bakhmut and Vuhledar.

    So back to those Western tanks—their value isn’t that “oh, Ukraine has Western tanks.” It’s this:

    The U.S. military’s new, expanded combat training of Ukrainian forces began in Germany on Sunday […]

    The so-called combined arms training is aimed at honing the skills of the Ukrainian forces so they will be better prepared to launch an offensive or counter any surge in Russian attacks. They will learn how to better move and coordinate their company- and battalion-size units in battle, using combined artillery, armor and ground forces.

    Speaking to two reporters traveling with him to Europe on Sunday, Milley said the complex training — combined with an array of new weapons, artillery, tanks and other vehicles heading to Ukraine — will be key to helping the country’s forces take back territory that has been captured by Russia in the nearly 11-month-old war.

    The United States is now teaching Ukrainian forces how to do combined arms training. While I wasn’t able to find any exact details of the training (likely for good reason), I’d wager that it’s not rank and file soldiers doing this training, but officers. It’s getting those tank, infantry, intelligence, engineering, electronic warfare, artillery, and air officers into a tent and learning complicated choreography. Here’s what it takes to breach a defensive position using combined arms: [video showing combined arms breach is available at the link]

    If you can do that, you then don’t need hundreds of tanks to punch through one of those trench lines. You need a handful, the vanguard, supported by infantry, engineering, artillery, and air. […]what was most exciting about the January 20th Ramstein contact group meeting of Ukraine’s allies was the mass of new artillery and armored infantry vehicles headed to Ukraine.

    As a reminder:

    In the first three weeks of 2023, the US announced it was sending 109 M2 Bradleys, likely the first in what should become a steady stream of these powerful IFVs, as well as 548 armored personnel carriers (APCs, lacking the bigger guns of an IFV)—100 M113s, 108 MRAPs, 90 Strykers, and 250 M1117 Guardians). The Pentagon is also sending 488 new Humvees. At over 1,000 vehicles, that’s a lot of protected mobility for Ukrainian infantry.

    In addition, the United States is sending 18 M109 self-propelled howitzers, and 36 new 105 MM towed howitzers. Unlike the bigger and heavier M777s, these smaller howitzers can be towed by humvees, and are easier to set up and break down quickly—important for an army pushing quickly into enemy territory. Finally, the U.S. keeps sending hundreds of laser-guided Excalibur artillery shells. In the video above, they stress the importance of air power to take out enemy armor. Ukraine doesn’t have that, but Excaliburs are a great replacement.

    Meanwhile, Germany and Sweden will be sending an additional 90 IFVs, the Brits are sending “hundreds” of Bulldogs APCs, and the French and Belgians are adding another 100 APCs or so. And, just as importantly, Norway, France, the UK, Germany, Estonia, and Sweden are sending over 100 new pieces of artillery. Estonia handed over everything it had. Sweden is sending the famed Archer—quite simply the most incredible artillery gun in the world—able to set up, fire three rounds, and take off before the first round has hit its target. (Watch the video, it’s quite amazing. Even the US Army is interested.) Ukraine will get 12 of Sweden’s total 48.

    So back to tanks … [snipped some details already provided by raven in comments 77 and 86] In total, that’s at least 260 incoming tanks, not too shabby when supported by over 1,300 armored infantry vehicles and literally the most advanced artillery systems in the world. (We’ll just assume the 31 M1 Abrams tanks the U.S. sending later this year will be part of some future effort, like Crimea.)

    Less sexy, but just as importantly, Germany and the U.S. have both been sending engineering equipment. Today, Germany announced a new aid package that included tractors and trailers, adding to previously sent “remote controlled vehicles for support tasks” (usually mine clearing), forklifts, and bridge layers. No one breaches Russian defenses without solid combat engineering.

    All that’s left is air power, and there’s already talk in the Pentagon about sending F-16s. If it happens, put that into the “later in the war with the M1 Abrams.” Pilot training would take months, maintenance training even longer, and while this war is extremely expensive, air power is next-level expensive. An hour of F16 flight time costs $27,000. And while F16s would help protect Ukrainian airspace against cruise missiles and Russian aircraft (if they ever venture out from safe Russian airspace), it’s hard to see Ukraine establishing the kind of air superiority needed to provide direct ground support. If there is an “air” component to combined arms operations in the short- to mid-term, it’ll have to come from drones, and I bet Ukraine could pull it off effectively.

    One final point—Mark Sumner noted yesterday that unseasonably warm temperatures have helped Ukraine and Europe weather the winter cold, but have also hampered the Ukrainian counteroffensive around Kreminna and Svatove in the northeast. That’s not likely to be alleviated anytime soon, as spring rains will keep things slushy and bogged down. But that’s okay! Because Ukraine will need 3-5 months to learn to use this gear, train those units on newfangled combined arms tactics, and set up supply lines.

    n total, that’s at least 260 incoming tanks, not too shabby when supported by over 1,300 armored infantry vehicles and literally the most advanced artillery systems in the world. (We’ll just assume the 31 M1 Abrams tanks the U.S. sending later this year will be part of some future effort, like Crimea.)

    Less sexy, but just as importantly, Germany and the U.S. have both been sending engineering equipment. Today, Germany announced a new aid package that included tractors and trailers, adding to previously sent “remote controlled vehicles for support tasks” (usually mine clearing), forklifts, and bridge layers. No one breaches Russian defenses without solid combat engineering.

    All that’s left is air power, and there’s already talk in the Pentagon about sending F-16s. If it happens, put that into the “later in the war with the M1 Abrams.” Pilot training would take months, maintenance training even longer, and while this war is extremely expensive, air power is next-level expensive. An hour of F16 flight time costs $27,000. And while F16s would help protect Ukrainian airspace against cruise missiles and Russian aircraft (if they ever venture out from safe Russian airspace), it’s hard to see Ukraine establishing the kind of air superiority needed to provide direct ground support. If there is an “air” component to combined arms operations in the short- to mid-term, it’ll have to come from drones, and I bet Ukraine could pull it off effectively.

    One final point—Mark Sumner noted yesterday that unseasonably warm temperatures have helped Ukraine and Europe weather the winter cold, but have also hampered the Ukrainian counteroffensive around Kreminna and Svatove in the northeast. That’s not likely to be alleviated anytime soon, as spring rains will keep things slushy and bogged down. But that’s okay! Because Ukraine will need 3-5 months to learn to use this gear, train those units on newfangled combined arms tactics, and set up supply lines.

    Perhaps that’s why Ukraine is happy to let Russia continue to smash its head against Bakhmut. There’s no denying that Russia continues to make incremental gains as it attempts to cut off the city’s supply lines. But in attritional terms, it works to Ukraine’s advantage. And given Bakhmut’s low strategic value, Ukraine can even afford to retreat if the situation ever warrants it.

    In the meantime, Ukraine’s next vanguard can train in the UK and Germany.

  81. raven says

    Hungary’s prime minister warned that Western allies have become “part of the war” by sending “ever more modern” weaponry to Kyiv. Poland will send 60 PT-91 Twardy main battle tanks to Ukraine in addition to 14 previously announced German-made Leopard 2 tanks and more than 200 other tanks provided in 2022.

    Captain Obvious here, Orban has noticed that the West has “become part of the war”.

    It is a bit late.
    We were part of the war long before it even started.
    We’ve been supporting Ukraine since Russia invaded it in 2014.

    That is one reason why I support going all in with Ukraine.
    We are already so far along, that it won’t even be that much of a change.

  82. whheydt says

    In light of the various posts about combined arms training, one should note that Ukraines military has been receiving training from at least the US ever since 2014. This appears to have markedly changed Ukrainian military doctrine. Specifically, getting away from the old Soviet (and current Russian) doctrine in which even tactical decisions have to come from fairly high up the chain of command to the western practice of pushing such decisions as low as possible. Thus, sergeants making tactical decisions–on the order of, “Ooo! There’s a juicy target! Fire!”–instead of waiting the word to get to some colonel and then word to filter back down…by which time the target is long gone, or has wiped out those that might have done something to/about it.
    This would make the combined arms training the next step up…strategic planning…so those lieutenants and sergeants will be in the right place with the right stuff to make and exploit tactical options as they occur.

  83. says

    Wall Street Journal reports Israel drone strike responsible for damage at Iranian munitions factory

    The Wall Street Journal is now reporting that Israel is responsible for an explosion at a munitions factory in Isfahan, Iran. The Journal cites unnamed “U.S. officials and people familiar with the operation.”

    The Journal’s reporting adds to a report by The Jerusalem Post also citing unnamed sources to assert Israel and the Mossad was behind the strike. Iran claims that three quadcopter drones attacked the facility and that one was shot down; the Journal reports that images of the strike’s aftermath show “minor” damage, primarily to the facility’s roof. The site is next to a government Space Research Center facility. Neither paper can offer more than speculation as to what the intended target of the Israeli strike was; Israel has previously struck targets inside Iran said to be associated with the nation’s nuclear research, but Iran has more recently been accused of providing Russia with drones used in Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian cities and civilians.

    The explosions led to apparent panic inside Iran, with social media claims speculating that the explosions could indicate a coup attempt against the hardline religious regime; seven different Iranian cities were said to have been attacked, and even a strong earthquake in northern Iran was speculated to be somehow involved. None of those other attacks have been verified—some or all may be hoaxes inspired by or intended to take advantage of the panic.

  84. says

    The first complete Ancient Egyptian papyrus in over a century has been discovered

    For the first time in over 100 years, a complete ancient Egyptian papyrus has been discovered. The text of the 52-foot-long scroll is a version of the Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead. It has been discovered in the Saqqara Necropolis site outside of Cairo. The document is believed to be more almost 3,000 years old and was discovered long enough ago that its announcement comes after conservation efforts were completed and it has moved into the phase of being translated into Arabic.

    The Book of the Dead is the modern name for a collection of texts that would be buried or emblazoned on the tombs of important Egyptians in ancient times. The collections that have been discovered over the centuries show a variety of hymns, spells, incantations, magic words, and prayers, which were put in the tombs as a guide for the deceased individual/s through the underworld. The mummified occupant was supposed to be able to use these texts as they passed through and towards Osiris.

    Papyrus discoveries are frequently fragmented; finding a complete scroll is as rare as it gets. Last year a 13-foot-long, very fragmented papyrus was discovered at Saqqara.

    […] the burial site that housed this version of the Book of the Dead came from the Late Perior (circa 712 B.C. to 332 B.C.E.).

    The secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities made the announcement on the discovery of the scroll Jan. 14. He said they hope to display the enormous new document as a part of the opening of a new Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) in the near future.

    From comments posted by readers:

    Recent discoveries have also revealed an utterly fascinating, comparatively well watered biome surrounding Giza at the time the three main pyramids were built — along with an ancient, long gone Nile fork their construction may have been impossible without. […]
    To give an idea of just how long ancient Egyptian civilization lasted, consider that the time span between the building of the pyramids and the reign of Cleopatra is centuries longer than the time span between Cleopatra and now.
    53 feet of text is not common. I wonder if there are any unique passages in this discovery, but it looks as if we’ll have to wait until translation and publication is complete.

  85. StevoR says

    So what are “spider stars” here? :

    Turns out they are pulsars – neutron stars – & they come in two arachnid flavours :

    A black widow system contains a pulsar and a stellar companion with less than 5% of the sun’s mass, while a redback system partners a pulsar with a larger stellar companion that has between 10% and 50% the mass of the sun. (In both species, female spiders sometimes eat their mates.)

    I’d heard of the Black Widow Pulsar – or pulsars plural before but didn’t know they’d divided them up & had Redback pulsars too now..

  86. raven says

    Did Elon Musk Warn that ‘Woke Mind Virus’ Is Destroying Civilization?

    Claim: Elon Musk warned that a “woke mind virus” was destroying civilization. Correct attribution

    Musk has said this many times.
    Guy is an idiot nutcase.

    Elon Musk @elonmusk
    Replying to @Astro_Angry

    Unless it is stopped, the woke mind virus will destroy civilization and humanity will never reached Mars
    11:30 AM · May 19, 2022

    There is no woke mind virus.

    Who is a huge danger to humanity are people like Elon Musk.
    No matter how many reasons I can find to dislike Elon Musk, he will always provide more.
    There is no limit to how low he can go or to how much I can dislike him.

  87. says

    Donald Trump insisted the United States’ armed forces are incapable of fighting or winning. It’s an odd part of a larger Republican offensive.

    Just a few days before the 2022 midterm elections, Sen. Josh Hawley tried to rally GOP voters in Arizona with a curious message. “We’ve got a military that is more interested in pronouns than winning wars,” the Missouri Republican complained.

    It echoed related rhetoric from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who last year encouraged Americans not to enlist in the U.S. military, saying it’s like “throwing your life away.” The Georgia Republican added that she believes military training is too “woke.”

    Rep. Michael Waltz of Florida, a Republican member of the House Armed Services Committee, tried to be more specific, claiming that he had received complaints about a course at West Point titled, “Understanding your whiteness and white rage.” The congressman further alleged that the class was “taught by a woman who described the Republican Party platform as a platform of white supremacy.”

    We later learned that there was no such course and the classroom instruction Waltz referenced did not exist.

    Nevertheless, after the midterms, future House Speaker Kevin McCarthy stuck to the party line, complaining, “I’ve watched what the Democrats have done in many of these, especially in the [National Defense Authorization Act] and the ‘woke-ism’ that they want to bring in there.”

    On Saturday, Donald Trump headlined an event in New Hampshire, where he took this rhetorical line a little further. Forbes magazine reported:

    He … went after Biden’s controversial withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan in 2021, arguing, “we have a woke military that can’t fight or win, as proven in Afghanistan.”

    Historians can speak to this with more authority than I can, but I’m not aware of any modern examples of a former American president — by some measures, the front-runner for the Republican Party’s 2024 nomination — publicly declaring that the United States’ armed forces are incapable of fighting or winning.

    Alas, it fits into a larger pattern in which Trump has publicly disparaged military service, mocked prisoners of war and even downplayed the importance of injured troops.

    But stepping back and taking stock of the larger context, why in the world are so many Republicans preoccupied with criticizing their own country’s military? The Washington Post’s Paul Waldman recently explained the problem well:

    So here’s the truth: The military has indeed changed, because American society has changed, and so has the nature of modern warfare. Our military needs not just guys with big muscles, but people with a wide variety of skills and knowledge. To be maximally effective, it can’t deprive itself of the talents of large swaths of the population. But conservatives — especially those whose ideas about war come mostly from the movies — don’t like many of those changes. While they sometimes claim to oppose “politicization” of the military, what they actually want is for their cultural and political agenda to prevail there.

    In other words, the increasingly common whining among Republicans about the military is less about the armed forces themselves, and more about society becoming more inclusive and progressive in ways that make the right feel uncomfortable.

    The GOP believes the military can and should be shielded from the larger societal trends, and when it’s not — when the troops celebrate Pride Month; when the Pentagon lifts a ban on transgender Americans serving; when abortion services are made available to those in uniform; when the Defense Department considers environmental impacts; etc. — Republicans stomp their feet as they feel another culture war slipping away.

    “We need to refocus our military on what it’s supposed to do, which is blow things up and kill people,” Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas recently declared.

    Except, that’s wrong. It’s not what Americans should expect from the planet’s strongest fighting force, and it doesn’t serve our interests to limit the military’s role to death and destruction.

    This won’t stop Trump from slamming his own country’s military, and it won’t stop GOP lawmakers from complaining about “wokeism,” but it should.

    Ukraine’s military forces are “woke” by this description, and they are successfully fighting a war.

  88. says

    More nonsense from Republicans in the House of Congress:

    The World Health Organization announced Monday that COVID-19 remains a global health emergency, but that it could be nearing an “inflexion point” where higher levels of immunity as a result of both vaccination and infection will lower the death rate. But the world isn’t there yet, and at least 170,000 COVID-19 deaths were recorded globally in the last two months.

    Never mind the realities of science. Barely Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s House GOP is going to spend the better part of the week declaring the pandemic over—literally they will vote on a bill called the “Pandemic is Over Act”—and punishing and endangering the health care and federal workforces. The four bills related to the pandemic they’ve got scheduled would end the original national COVID emergency from 2020, end the public health emergency declared in 2020, eliminate the COVID–19 vaccine mandate on health care providers, and require federal agencies to return to pre-pandemic telework policies

    The U.S. is officially averaging 521 COVID-related deaths a day, “a troublingly high figure that is about double the number of daily deaths typically seen in a bad flu season,” and 46,021 newly reported cases. Every day. The Department of Health and Human Services renewed the public health emergency for the pandemic a few weeks ago. This is the 12th renewal of the emergency since the first declaration in January 2020. The renewals extend for 90 days. The Senate is unlikely to take up this push, which is a nice reminder that the House GOP isn’t in control of anything.

    […] Additionally, the House will vote on the ever-critical denunciation of the horrors of socialism. For real. The gotcha bill H. Con. Res 9 declares that “Congress denounces socialism in all its forms, and opposes the implementation of socialist policies in the United States of America.”

    Now do fascism, Republicans. I dare you.

    […] It’s also going to be “oversight” time in the House, which will basically mean a lot of screeching from Reps. Jim Jordan and James Comer. Jordan’s Judiciary Committee will have a hearing on “The Biden Border Crisis.” The Oversight Committee, packed with election deniers, QAnon adherents, and conspiracy theorists, will have one titled “Federal Pandemic Spending: A Prescription for Waste, Fraud, and Abuse.”

    The Senate still hasn’t voted on an organizing resolution […] You might remember last session, when the Senate was tied 50-50 and McConnell dragged the organizing resolution out for nearly a month to prevent the Democrats from getting a jump start on legislating. There really aren’t big things at stake this time around since with a GOP House, legislating is definitely back-burnered, but McConnell’s default mode is obstruction. […]


  89. says

    We Tried to Call the Top Donors to George Santos’ 2020 Campaign. Many Don’t Seem to Exist.

    In September 2020, George Santos’ congressional campaign reported that Victoria and Jonathan Regor had each contributed $2,800—the maximum amount—to his first bid for a House seat. Their listed address was 45 New Mexico Street in Jackson Township, New Jersey.

    A search of various databases reveals no one in the United States named Victoria or Jonathan Regor. Moreover, there is nobody by any name living at 45 New Mexico Street in Jackson. That address doesn’t exist. There is a New Mexico Street in Jackson, but the numbers end in the 20s, according to Google Maps and a resident of the street.

    Santos’ 2020 campaign finance reports also list a donor named Stephen Berger as a $2,500 donor and said he was a retiree who lived on Brandt Road in Brawley, California. But a spokesperson for William Brandt, a prominent rancher and Republican donor, tells Mother Jones that Brandt has lived at that address for at least 20 years and “neither he or his wife (the only other occupant [at the Brandt Road home]) have made any donations to George Santos. He does not know Stephen Berger nor has Stephen Berger ever lived at…Brandt Road.”

    The Regor and Berger contributions are among more than a dozen major donations to the 2020 Santos campaign for which the name or the address of the donor cannot be confirmed, a Mother Jones investigation found. A separate $2,800 donation was attributed in Santos’ reports filed with the Federal Election Commission to a friend of Santos who says he did not give the money.

    Under federal campaign finance law, it is illegal to donate money using a false name or the name of someone else. “It’s called a contribution in the name of another,” says Saurav Ghosh, the director for federal campaign finance reform at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan watchdog group. “It’s something that is explicitly prohibited under federal law.” […]

    Two other donors who contributed $1,500 and $2,000, respectively, were listed in Santos’ FEC filings as retirees residing at addresses that do not exist. One was named Rafael Da Silva—which happens to be the name of a Brazilian soccer player.

    More at the link.

    Even when real donors did actually contribute to the Santos campaign, Santos treated them badly:

    The Santos fundraiser later arranged for this donor to have breakfast with Santos at a restaurant about an hour’s drive from the donor’s home. The donor arrived for the meeting, but Santos stood him up and, afterward, ignored his calls, according to the donor. Santos later phoned this donor to ask for more money. He did not give again.

  90. says

    “For years, congressional Republicans have advocated for slashing earned benefits using Washington code words like ‘strengthen,’ when their policies would privatize Medicare and Social Security, raise the retirement age, or cut benefits,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said in an emailed statement. “House Republicans refuse to raise revenue from the wealthy, but insist they will ‘strengthen’ earned benefits programs.”



  91. says

    New Mexico Bill Would End Life Without Parole For Children, Which Is Somehow A Thing

    Democratic New Mexico legislators are looking to pass a bill that would bar sentencing children to life without parole and which would allow offenders under the age of 18, in most cases, to be eligible for parole after 15 years.

    A similar bill was introduced last year and then dropped for a variety of reasons, including opposition from prosecutors, Republican legislators, Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and “some victims of violent crimes who raised concerns that the people who harmed them would be prematurely released.” It was pulled from consideration four days after being introduced, when a Republican proposed an amendment that would have allowed for life without parole to still be achieved by way of “stacked” sentences. Such an amendment, the bill’s sponsors concluded, would have obviously undermined the entire purpose of the legislation.

    New Mexico currently has one of the highest rates of juvenile incarceration in the nation, with 227 per 100,000 children in prison at any given time. For comparison, the United States as a whole had a juvenile incarceration rate of 114 per 100,000 children in 2019, and that is the highest youth incarceration rate of any country in the entire world. Throughout the US, 1,465 people are currently serving life without parole for juvenile offenses, which is actually a 44 percent drop since 2012.

    […] Senate Bill 64, known as the Second Chance Bill, is the result of a compromise reached between Democratic state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez and the bill’s other sponsors, as well as the District Attorney’s Association. Since last year, it has been amended in a way that has appeased some of the groups who initially opposed it. While most children given life sentences would be made eligible for parole after 15 years, those convicted of “willful, deliberate first-degree murder” would have to wait 20 years to see a parole board, and those convicted of the first degree murder of multiple people would have to wait 25 years. […]

    The bill has attracted the support of anti-death penalty advocate Sister Helen Prejean, who wrote an op-ed praising the measure in the Santa Fe New Mexican:

    Life without parole is, as Pope Francis recently called it, a “hidden death penalty.” By allowing New Mexico’s children to be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole and equivalent sentences, we are literally condemning them to die in prison. We ignore the potential for growth and change that every young person possesses. We say to our children: “It does not matter the ways in which you commit yourself to rehabilitation, healing and accounting for the harm that you caused. Nothing you do matters. You will never be welcomed back. There is no mercy and no hope for you.” […]

    When a child causes harm, we must join with our communities in mourning alongside those harmed. But we must not forget that within a hurt child is an invitation for redemption. The ultimate practice of justice is to heal those who cause harm, not to harm them further.

    Boy, that sure would be nice.

    If this legislation passes, New Mexico will become the 26th state (plus the District of Columbia) to ban life without parole sentences for children.

  92. says

    Followup to comment 105.

    […] Trump gave a campaign speech this weekend, his first of the 2024 campaign. It sounds like it was a real snoozer. It was in a high school auditorium, for the state GOP convention. Only Newsmax, OAN, and Real America’s Voice played it live. And bless his heart, but it sounds like he thinks windmills are making all the airplanes crash now.

    That’s right, they don’t just create bird graveyards now. They “kill all the birds, destroy all the planes, and our beautiful oceans and seas and everything else.” The wind turbines are apparently escalating their murderous behavior.

    […] Trump apparently thinks if he had been president for just three (3) more weeks, the wall would have been built?

    Maybe if one of those weeks had been Infrastructure Week.

    Trump said “so many people” ask him for help becoming a US citizen, and he tells them “go to the southern border, just walk across the line.” He said a rich guy he knows can’t become a citizen, even though he’s studied so hard, and Trump just told him to go to Mexico and walk across the border. All of this is real and it happened.

    […] Maybe he was never that special to begin with. He was just different in 2016, and that, combined with all those factors that helped him cheat his way into a “victory,” was enough to creep him across the finish line. Didn’t work in 2020.

    Will the tired loser even make it out of the primaries this time? You know, assuming he isn’t in prison?

    Lots of video snippets are available at the link. We owe Aaron Rupar many thanks for live-tweeting the whole thing.

  93. says

    Tyre Nichols’s savage killing is the predictable outcome of modern law enforcement. So, naturally, most Americans struggle to find an alternate explanation that blames anything but the system itself. Friday, on his HBO vent fest, Bill Maher suggested we’re focused too much on race, which conveniently aligns with his own personal obsessions.

    “And I just thought it was very interesting that this week, Asians were killed by Asians [in Half Moon Bay and Monterey Park, California],” he said. “Two Asian men who were, you know, 66 and 72. And then this week, we just got this video of the Memphis Five. A Black man is brutally beaten in Memphis by five cops. They’re all Black. I guess what I’m asking is America’s culture of violence — it does go deeper than race. Right?”

    […] We’ve already discussed how Black people, especially if they’re cops, can still actively enable a racist system. Some of the “overseers” on antebellum plantations were also enslaved Black men known as “drivers.” They weren’t able to give their people an easy day in the fields with more coffee breaks.

    Maher claimed that “this mono-focus we have on race is short-circuiting us trying to fix some of the realer problems.” […]

    Former Democratic House Rep. Tim Ryan seemingly agreed with Maher and said there are “definitely deeper concerns here. And this is an opportunity for us to have that conversation. The conversation about mental health, the conversation about guns, the conversation about … ”

    Oh, we’re going to discuss how policing in America steadily escalated into a militaristic, occupying force that regardless of an individual officer’s race overtly treats Americans of color and their communities differently than white Americans? And how politicians, including Democrats, promote “tough on crime, let’s all fund tanks for the cops” policies that don’t actually make anyone safer but inevitably lead to the latest trending hashtag for a dead Black person?

    No, instead, Ryan suggested the problem lies with “the cops and the stress, and the stress the cops are under.”

    “And I’m not defending these guys, of course,” he said while defending cops. “This is a tragedy.”

    It’s not a tragedy. It’s a homicide. It’s not even tragic in the Greek drama sense. No one who dared watched the snuff film footage of Nichols’s beating experienced any accompanying catharsis, a “pain [that] awakens pleasure.” (At least I hope not.)

    Ryan continued, “They should be prosecuted, full extent of the law, the whole nine yards. But if we don’t at some level realize that it’s not a white cop or a Black cop, it’s a cop who’s under stress, who’s underpaid. I had cops in my congressional district, Bill. They were getting paid $14 an hour.” [Bullshit]

    Ohio’s minimum wage is $10.10. It gets pretty stressful during the lunch rush at a Cincinnati Buffalo Wild Wings, but the waitresses don’t beat people to death. The cops in Columbus enjoy a generous benefits package that includes affordable health care. Life is a lot less stressful when you can afford to take your kids to the doctor.

    Ryan’s former congressional district includes Youngstown and despite the cries of poverty, about one-third of Youngstown police made more than $70,000 in 2020 when overtime and bonus payments are included.

    The most senior patrol officers make $58,320 annually, about $28.03 per hour, in base pay.

    In 2020, 30 of the union’s 95 members made more than $70,000, including 11 who received more than $80,000, according to data provided by the city finance department at the request of The Vindicator.

    The additional pay is for overtime as well as hazardous duty pay, bonus payments for working a certain number of years (called longevity pay), a uniform allowance and extra money for things such as having a college degree, working a late shift or out of rank.

    Teachers are legitimatelyunderpaid. With a master’s degree and 10 years of service, a teacher still makes less than $70,000. Given the number of school shootings and the risk of a gun-toting student popping a cap in them, they should probably also qualify for “hazardous duty” pay. Republicans never make excuses for teachers and suggest they’re so overworked, they can’t help but poison young minds with CRT. I appreciate that Ryan is more empathetic, but there’s a limit. Let’s focus more on the actual victims here rather than the supposedly horrific working conditions of the people brutalizing them. We’ve tried offering back rubs and medals to cops if they can avoid killing Black people for at least a full year … or even a whole month, and it’s just not working out.

    I watched those cops beat the life out of Tyre Nichols, and they don’t look very stressed. They were angry and belligerent, like grizzly bears without compassion. Before he opened his mouth, Ryan should’ve watched the entire video himself […] Every politician should, and then we can start those long overdue “conversations.”


  94. says

    By the numbers:

    […] Two: The percent of violent crimes police actually solve

    Four: The percent of police time that is actually devoted to dealing with violent crimes in any capacity

    4.4: The percent of calls dispatched to police that have anything to do with violent crimes

    Five: The percent of the time that police respond to a 911 call in time to either prevent violence from going down or catch a perpetrator

    70,000 to 80,000: The approximate number of people arrested for prostitution every year

    $200 million: The cost to taxpayers of arresting people for prostitution every year

    170,856: The number of arrests for marijuana possession in 2021

    88.8: The percent of time officers in the LA County Sheriff’s Department spent on officer-initiated traffic stops

    20 million: The estimated number of traffic stops per year

    600: The estimated number of people killed at traffic stops since 2017

    86: The number of officer involved-killings that started with a traffic violation in 2020

    Zero: The effect police density has been found to have on traffic fatalities

    1,176: The number of people who were shot and killed by police in 2022

    64: The number of police officers fatally shot while on the job in 2022

    379: The number officer-involved killings that actually involved a violent crime of some kind

    596: The number of officer-involved killings in 2022 that started out as a suspected non-violent crime or a case in which no crime was reported at all

    109: People killed by police responding to a mental health call in 2022

    54: The percent of officer-involved killings that “were traffic stops, police responses to mental health crises, or situations where the person was not reportedly threatening anyone with a gun” in 2022

    Nine: The total number of days without an officer-involved fatality in 2022

    Nine: The number of officers who killed people and were charged with a crime in 2022

    2.9: The number of times Black people are more likely to be killed by police than white people

    2 million: The number of people in US prisons

    39: The percent of people in those prisons who are no threat to public safety at all

    60,000: The number of juveniles incarcerated in the US at any given time

    400,000: The number of people in jail who have not yet been convicted of a crime

    $215 billion: The amount the US spends on law enforcement and corrections in 2022

    $129 billion: The amount spent on policing alone

    83: The percent of US counties that increased funding for police departments in 2022

    69: The percent of US Americans who “trust local police and law enforcement to promote justice and equal treatment for people of all races.” […]

  95. says


    Republicans didn’t get the big red wave they expected in November’s elections, thanks to voter anger over harsh abortion bans. So how are Republicans going to do better in 2024? By embracing harsh abortion bans, if the Republican National Committee has anything to say about it. That’s the party’s official position as laid out at length in a resolution passed by the RNC on Monday.

    See, the problem is that Republicans didn’t talk about abortion enough in 2022. “Instead of fighting back and exposing Democratic extremism on abortion, many Republican candidates failed to remind Americans of our proud heritage of challenging slavery, segregation, and the forces eroding the family and the sanctity of human life, thereby allowing Democrats to define our longtime position,” in the resolution’s words.

    […] The resolution for action moving forward is twofold. First, there’s a plan to “go on offense,” aka lie. “The Republican National Committee urges all Republican pro-life candidates, consultants, and other national Republican Political Action Committees to remember this proud heritage, go on offense in the 2024 election cycle, and expose the Democrats’ extreme position of supporting abortion on-demand up until the moment of birth, paid for by the taxpayers, even supporting discriminatory abortions such as gender selection or when the child has been diagnosed with Down syndrome.”

    That is simply not the position of the Democratic Party.

    […] The second part of the action plan is to pass more anti-abortion laws, specifically ones based on disinformation. Yep, voters dealt you a historic rebuke in 2022 over the anti-abortion laws you had already passed, but this time is going to be different. “The Republican National Committee urges Republican lawmakers in state legislatures and in Congress to pass the strongest pro-life legislation possible – such as laws that acknowledge the beating hearts and experiences of pain in the unborn – underscoring the new relics of barbarism the Democratic Party represents as we approach the 2024 cycle.”

    […] Abortion, and the long-term consequences of banning it, isn’t going anywhere as a political issue because it isn’t going anywhere in people’s lives. If Republicans want to keep being loud and proud about which side they’re on, that’s helpful in ensuring that voters know what their votes mean when Election Day rolls around.


  96. raven says

    “Coal in the US is now being economically outmatched by renewables to such an extent that it’s more expensive for 99% of the country’s coal-fired power plants to keep running than it is to build an entirely new solar or wind energy operation nearby, a new analysis has found.”

    Says it all.
    One of the main drivers these days is Russia.
    Everyone found out the hard way that Russian gas and oil weren’t really cheap. You had to give up your national security and national sovereignty as well. It wasn’t worth it.

    US renewable energy farms outstrip 99% of coal plants economically – study

    US renewable energy farms outstrip 99% of coal plants economically – study
    Oliver Milman
    Mon, January 30, 2023 at 3:00 AM PST·5 min read

    Coal in the US is now being economically outmatched by renewables to such an extent that it’s more expensive for 99% of the country’s coal-fired power plants to keep running than it is to build an entirely new solar or wind energy operation nearby, a new analysis has found.

    The plummeting cost of renewable energy, which has been supercharged by last year’s Inflation Reduction Act, means that it is cheaper to build an array of solar panels or a cluster of new wind turbines and connect them to the grid than it is to keep operating all of the 210 coal plants in the contiguous US, bar one, according to the study.

    “Coal is unequivocally more expensive than wind and solar resources, it’s just no longer cost competitive with renewables,” said Michelle Solomon, a policy analyst at Energy Innovation, which undertook the analysis. “This report certainly challenges the narrative that coal is here to stay.”

    The new analysis, conducted in the wake of the $370bn in tax credits and other support for clean energy passed by Democrats in last summer’s Inflation Reduction Act, compared the fuel, running and maintenance cost of America’s coal fleet with the building of new solar or wind from scratch in the same utility region.

    On average, the marginal cost for the coal plants is $36 each megawatt hour, while new solar is about $24 each megawatt hour, or about a third cheaper. Only one coal plant – Dry Fork in Wyoming – is cost competitive with the new renewables. “It was a bit surprising to find this,” said Solomon. “It shows that not only have renewables dropped in cost, the Inflation Reduction Act is accelerating this trend.”

    Coal, which is a heavily carbon-intensive fuel and responsible for 60% of planet-heating emissions from electricity generation, once formed the backbone of the American grid, generating enough power to light up 186m homes at its peak in 2007. However, by 2021 this output had dropped by 55%, while jobs in the coal mining sector have more than halved over the past decade, to less than 40,000.

    We need to accelerate the buildout of wind and solar so that when the time comes we can wean ourselves off coal

    Most of the US’s coal plants are aging and increasingly expensive to maintain, while their fuel source has been widely displaced by cheap sources of gas. Environmental regulations, which Donald Trump vowed to roll back in an unfulfilled mission to revive the coal industry when president, have also imposed costs on the sector by enforcing cuts to toxic emissions such as mercury and sulphur dioxide.

    Coal production hit a 55-year low in 2020 but the industry saw subsequent signs of an uptick in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which pushed up the price of energy worldwide and saw pressure on countries to find an alternative fuel source to Russian gas.

    Supporters of coal contend it is a reliable fuel source at a time of instability and have attacked Joe Biden for attempting to shift the US away from fossil fuels. “Forcing essential coal capacity off the grid – without reliable alternatives and the infrastructure to support them – will only deepen reliability and economic challenges,” said Rich Nolan, president of the National Mining Association, in November.

    “Look to our friends in Europe, who blindly rushed to close coal plants at a rapid pace and are now working from Germany to Denmark to bring those same plants back online. The global energy crisis is real and imposing costly burdens on people around the world and here at home; taking deliberate steps to intensify that crisis is reckless and unthinkable.”

    While coal is in long-term decline it is unlikely to disappear in the immediate future – many utilities are still deeply invested in the fuel source and the scale of renewable infrastructure, including energy projects, new transmission lines and battery and other storage to cope with intermittent delivery, isn’t yet vast enough to trigger a mass shutdown of coal. But analysts say the broader trends, bolstered by last year’s climate spending, look set to call time on the era of coal.

    “We can’t just snap our fingers and retire all coal plants but we need to accelerate the buildout of wind and solar so that when the time comes we can wean ourselves off coal,” said Solomon.

    “There’s a huge opportunity here to invest in coal communities, build local economic resilience and save money in the process.”

    James Stock, an economist at Harvard University who was not involved in the Energy Innovation report, said the analysis “rings true” and that coal is no longer economically competitive.

    “We can’t shutter all these plants tomorrow, we need to do it in an orderly fashion to support grid reliability but we should be able to do it in fairly fast order,” he said. “Coal has been on a natural decline due to economics and those economics are going to continue, this is a transition that’s just going to happen.

    “We built a lot of coal plants in the US around 50 years ago because we were worried about energy security in the world. That made sense at the time and they made an important contribution. But we know a lot more now about climate change, so now we need to make different decisions.”

  97. says

    Grand jury to reportedly hear evidence in Trump hush money case

    It’s long been an open question as to why Donald Trump wasn’t charged in his hush money scandal. It appears the door is now open to a possible indictment.

    When the words “grand jury” appear in the same sentence as “Donald Trump,” it’s surprisingly challenging to know which of the Republican’s many scandals the sentence might refer to. After all, a special grand jury heard evidence in the criminal investigation into election interference in Georgia. Evidence of the former president’s alleged Jan. 6 misconduct also went to a grand jury. The same is true in the criminal investigation into his mishandling of classified documents.

    A grand jury was even empaneled to consider evidence in the investigation surrounding Trump’s special purpose acquisition company (SPAC).

    But it appears there may be yet another grand jury for the former president to worry about. The New York Times reported today:

    The Manhattan district attorney’s office on Monday will begin presenting evidence to a grand jury about Donald J. Trump’s role in paying hush money to a porn star during his 2016 presidential campaign, laying the groundwork for potential criminal charges against the former president in the coming months, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The grand jury was recently impaneled, and witness testimony will soon begin, a clear signal that the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, is nearing a decision about whether to charge Mr. Trump.

    […] prosecutors have already sought interviews with witnesses. In fact, one witness was seen today entering the New York building where the grand jury is sitting: David Pecker, the former publisher of The National Enquirer, the tabloid that helped broker the deal with Stormy Daniels.

    In case anyone needs a refresher let’s revisit our earlier coverage and review how we arrived at this point.

    In a normal political environment, it would’ve been a career-ending scandal. Then-candidate Trump, in the run-up to Election Day 2016, allegedly paid illegal hush money to Daniels, a prominent a porn actress, in the hopes of keeping secret an alleged extramarital affair. The Republican’s fixer, Michael Cohen, took the lead in orchestrating the illegal payment.

    Cohen was ultimately charged, prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced to prison, even as his former client was rewarded with the presidency.

    The closer one looks at the relevant details, the worse the controversy appears. Not only did Cohen directly implicate Trump in the scandal, telling a court he arranged the illegal hush money payments at the instruction of his client, but the former president, while in office, was also caught lying about what transpired.

    It’s long been an open question as to why Trump wasn’t also charged in the case. If the Times’ reporting is correct, the door is now open to a possible indictment. […]

  98. says

    House GOP sets out to prove just how useless it will be for the next two years

    The House GOP as extremist performance art is starting in earnest this week. From now on, it will be a downward spiral into time-wasting, MAGA performative bullshit. All on the public dime.

    It is what we were promised, after all.

    On the very first day of the new Republican-led Congress, we will read every single word of the Constitution aloud from the floor of the House—something that hasn’t been done in years.

    Except, of course, that promise was broken. Note the date stamp on that, Nov. 25, 2022. That was before the knock-down, drag-out fight he had to become Barely Speaker. After four-plus days and 15 rounds of balloting, McCarthy just didn’t have time or energy for . . . the Constitution. Go figure. It still hasn’t happened.

    They’ve moved on to other things, which are also nonsense. Like voting to denounce the horrors of socialism, one of the gotcha votes they’ll be bringing to the House floor this week. When it was introduced last session by Rep. Maria Salazar (R-FL), it was adopted as the “bill of the month” by FreedomWorks, the Freedom Caucus-affiliated dark money launderer.

    They applauded the resolution for outlining “the history of socialism as a failed ideology that has resulted in the deaths of over 100 million people worldwide.” That’s in the text of the bill, too: “Whereas socialism has repeatedly led to famine and mass murders, and the killing of over 100,000,000 people worldwide.”

    Ironically enough, this is also the week that the House is going to be declaring the COVID-19 pandemic over, saying that healthcare workers shouldn’t be subject to the vaccine mandate, and that protections that allow federal employees to work remotely should end. In three years, more than 1.1 million people in the U.S. alone have been killed by COVID-19. Worldwide, that’s 6,759,755, according to Worldometer. Russia, China, and India are vastly underreporting deaths, so that’s a significant undercount. Additionally, a new report published in JAMA finds that COVID-19 is the eighth most common cause of death in children in the U.S.

    So, you know, perspective is sometimes helpful, even though it is never welcomed by the GOP.

    Another fun fact from this bill, they have a quote attributed to Thomas Jefferson: “To take from one, because it is thought that his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry, and the fruits acquired by it.”

    It’s not Jefferson. It’s Antoine Destutt de Tracy, a French economist and philosopher Jefferson was translating. Granted, Jefferson wrote that sentence out in his 1816 translation of “Treatise on Political Economy,” but he didn’t originate it.

    The other thing that’s just a bit telling about this resolution is that it includes Donald Trump’s BFF, Kim Jong Un, in the list of baddies, along with a number of other world leaders Trump at some time or another has emulated.

    Seems like a resolution denouncing authoritarianism and fascism would be a lot more appropriate for 2023.

    Meanwhile, they are still demanding debt ceiling negotiations with the White House, but have come up with absolutely nothing to bring to the table. Expect this to be the norm for the whole of the session.

  99. Reginald Selkirk says

    Manhattan Prosecutors Will Begin Presenting Trump Case to Grand Jury

    The Manhattan district attorney’s office on Monday will begin presenting evidence to a grand jury about Donald Trump’s role in paying hush money to a porn star during his 2016 presidential campaign, laying the groundwork for potential criminal charges against the former president in the coming months, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

    The grand jury was recently impaneled, and witness testimony will soon begin, a clear signal that the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, is nearing a decision about whether to charge Trump.

    On Monday, one of the witnesses was seen with his lawyer entering the building in lower Manhattan, New York, where the grand jury is sitting. The witness, David Pecker, is the former publisher of The National Enquirer, the tabloid that helped broker the deal with the porn star, Stormy Daniels…

  100. says

    BREAKING: Kari Lake Still Not Governor

    It is almost February of 2023, and yet the 2022 gubernatorial election rages on in Arizona. This weekend, Republican Kari Lake hosted a rally for the faithful at which she took a call from Donald Trump on stage. That should help boost her profile, not to mention her fundraising for an endless stream of legal challenges after a narrow loss to now-Governor Katie Hobbs.

    The failed candidate’s imaginary government in exile is being propped up by Steve Bannon, who knows a good grift when he sees one. Lake and Pillow Puffer Mike Lindell recently visited the putrefying podcaster to complain that Republican National Committee Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel won’t meet with her.

    […] Just look at these bloody idiots marching for their has-been never-was hero. [video at the link]

    Buoyed by the Bannon toxic filth firehose, Lake has filed one garbage lawsuit after another in her search for “one judge that loves the Constitution and loves this country.” She even managed to get her lawyers, including Alan Dershowitz, sanctioned by a federal judge for spamming the court with a sack of crap that “no reasonable attorney” would have filed. And she’s not done yet, because, by God, this woman is going to get to the statehouse if she has to burn down the entirety of Arizona’s body politic to do it!

    And she’s attracting help — errrr, make that “help” — from some unlikely quarters. Meet Ryan Heath, an anti-vax activist who likens his anti-mask protests to Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott. Now don’t get too attached because (Spoiler Alert!) we ain’t keeping this mangy puppy longer than it takes to point and laugh in this blog post.

    Our Ryan graduated from law school in 2020, so he knew he was just the guy to bring it home for “Governor” Lake. So on January 12, Heath marched into Arizona’s Supreme Court and filed a petition for writ of mandamus on his own behalf against the Honorable Peter A. Thompson. That’s right — he sued the trial judge.

    […] Heath wasn’t a party to Lake’s case, in which she sued then-Secretary of State Katie Hobbs demanding that the judge toss out Maricopa County’s vote results and decertify the November 2022 election. Lake actually got her day in court, during a two-day trial, after which her claims were dismissed. She appealed, but the appeal has not been fast tracked so the case should be decided sometime in the middle of Gov. Hobbs’s first term. Nevertheless, Heath is sure that the loss was only because Lake’s lawyers failed to “live up to the ethical duties of care to research the law and disclose to the tribunal controlling authority.” He’s certain that this case he dug up from 1997 means that the trial court just had to order a new election, and he’s threatening to get the Maricopa County defendants’ lawyers disbarred for saying, “Uh, no, kid, that’s not how any of this goes.”

    He’s also written this, the greatest footnote of all time, to explain why it isn’t his fault that he didn’t sue two years ago when the exact same election procedures were used in the 2020 election:

    Petitioner is uniquely situated to bring this action — given that Petitioner graduated from law school in 2020 and was not licensed to practice law until November of 2020. Thus, even though Maricopa County apparently employed the same illegal process as described herein during the 2020 election cycle, this election cycle is the first opportunity Petitioner has ever had to challenge this process and, therefore, laches should not bar this Special Action.

    […] Not for nothing, but the only other election suit this numpty filed got dismissed because he couldn’t figure out how to serve Hobbs. And this case also flamed out on Friday when the Supreme Court dismissed it without a hearing, although they did offer the young whippersnapper a participation trophy of sorts, allowing him to file an amicus brief in Lake’s appeal. The appellate panel consisted of four Republican appointees, including three installed on the bench by Hobbs’s Republican predecessor Doug Ducey — which just goes to show you the depths these Deep State RINOs will go to keep a truth teller like Kari Lake down.

    In summary and in conclusion, Arizona, why are you like this? Vote Gallego!

  101. says

    Megyn Kelly:

    Announcers for this Eagles-49ers game just spotted the First Lady in a box and of course call her “Dr. Jill Biden.” Wonder if she realizes what a wannabe she looks like insisting on this fake title. Get a real MD or just work on your self-esteem.

    Commentary from Wonkette:

    Insecure white conservatives like to whine that the first lady, Dr. Jill Biden, has a doctorate degree and is therefore allowed to be referred to as “doctor.” We don’t know why, but it upsets them. […]

    Megyn Kelly’s own father had a Ph.D. and was addressed as Dr. Kelly.” Kelly also is fine with referring to “Dr. Phil.”

  102. Reginald Selkirk says

    Catholic civil rights group asks for House GOP probe into pro-abortion extremist group Jane’s Revenge

    The president of the nation’s largest Catholic civil rights organization sent a letter to the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Monday “requesting an investigation of those responsible for attacks on churches, pro-life activists and crisis pregnancy centers, with a focus on Jane’s Revenge.”
    According to a copy of the letter obtained by Fox News Digital, Catholic League president Bill Donohue asked Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, “to convene an investigation into the reluctance of the Department of Justice and the FBI to pursue those who have engaged in violence against churches, pro-life activists and crisis pregnancy centers.” …

    It is hilarious/stupid the way this FauxNews article poses Donohue as anyone who matters.

  103. Reginald Selkirk says

    Bolsonaro, Brazil’s former president, has applied for U.S. tourist visa

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro has applied for a six-month tourist visa to remain in the United States, his lawyer said on Monday, despite calls for any U.S. visas held by Bolsonaro to be revoked following violent protests in Brasilia.

    The United States received his application on Friday, his lawyer, Felipe Alexandre, said, adding that Bolsonaro will remain in the United States while his application is pending…

  104. says

    Terrorist attack in Pakistan, as reported by NBC News:

    A suicide bomber struck a crowded mosque inside a police compound in Pakistan on Monday, causing the roof to collapse and killing at least 59 people and wounding more than 150 others, officials said.

  105. says

    Associated Press:

    Greeted by the cheerful blare of a train horn, President Joe Biden stood Monday before a decrepit rail tunnel that he estimated he’s been through 1,000 times — fearing for decades it might collapse.

    “For years, people talked about fixing this tunnel,” Biden told a crowd in Baltimore. “Back in the early ’80′s, I actually walked into the tunnel with some of the construction workers. … This is a 150-year-old tunnel. You wonder how in the hell it’s still standing.”

    “With the bipartisan infrastructure law, though, we’re finally getting it done.”

    The president came to familiar terrain to promote his 2021 infrastructure law, a bipartisan win that is just now ramping up the spending on major projects.

    Biden said replacing the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel could slash what’s now a 60-minute Baltimore-to-Washington commute in half, giving daily riders extra time with family and friends.

    […] The tunnel, first opened in 1873 when Ulysses S. Grant was president, connected Philadelphia and Washington by rail for the first time. But over time, it became more of a chokepoint than a lifeline. There’s only one tube, and trains need to slow to just 30 mph (48 kilometers per hour) to navigate a tight turn on the southern end. […]

    ‘Amtrak Joe’ Biden hails plans for big East Coast tunnel fix

  106. says

    Associated Press:

    Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has filed a request for a six-month visitor visa to stay in the U.S., indicating he may have no immediate intention of returning home, where legal issues await.

  107. says

    Satire from Andy Borowitz:

    As Ron DeSantis reportedly prepares a White House bid, Donald J. Trump accused the Florida Governor of lacking the classified documents necessary to be President of the United States.

    “A President needs nuclear codes, weapons designs, top-secret stuff like you wouldn’t believe,” Trump said. “How are you gonna get all that without classified documents? The answer is, Ron DeSantis should not be allowed to run.”

    Trump predicted that “if the F.B.I. raided Ron’s house today, they wouldn’t find a goddam document. Not a goddam document. This is what makes Ron DeSantis so dangerous, quite frankly.”

    In perhaps his most damning accusation, Trump alleged that DeSantis “never even tried to buy classified documents from me.”

    “I had all these beautiful, gleaming documents for sale, and Ron never picked up the phone and said, ‘Sir, I’d like to buy some documents,’ ” he said. “Ron DeSantis is a disgrace.”

    New Yorker link

  108. says

    Hi! I’m finally back. Thought I’d have more time to read and post while I was away (incidentally, my views were repeatedly blighted by that clown’s stupid plane and we were delayed briefly once due to Secret Service guys outside Mar-a-Lago – if I lived near there I would want to smash things), but that didn’t happen; thanks Lynna and everyone for providing all the news so I can catch up!

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

    Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s most senior adviser, Andriy Yermak, has suggested Poland is willing to supply Ukraine with F-16 fighters. Yermak said Ukraine had had “positive signals” from Warsaw in a Telegram posting, although Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, was careful to stress his own country would only act in consultation with Nato allies, as Ukraine’s lobbying for the combat jets steps up only a few days after Germany and the US agreed to send over their tanks.

    President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has called for western weapons to be supplied more quickly. Speaking in his nightly address, the Ukrainian president said Russia was hoping to drag out the war, and exhaust his country’s ability to resist the invaders. “So we have to make time our weapon. We must speed up the events, speed up the supply and opening of new necessary weaponry options for Ukraine,” Zelenskiy said.

    The Kremlin warned the west’s supplying of further weapons to Ukraine would only lead to “significant escalation” of the conflict. Kyiv “demands more and more weapons” while Nato countries were “more and more becoming directly involved in the conflict”, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said, after Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, Andriy Melnyk, called on Germany to send his country a submarine. [Oh, STFU.]

    Russian forces continued attacks on positions across the frontline near the eastern cities of Bakhmut and Donetsk. Moscow’s troops have been pounding Bakhmut in the Donbas for several months, but in recent days the invaders appeared to have opened up a new effort to gain ground around the village of Vuhledar, 30 miles south-west of Donetsk city.

    The situation in Bakhmut and Vuhledar was “very tough” with both and “other areas in the Donetsk region are under constant Russian attacks”, President Zelenskiy said. Vuhledar is close to the junction with the southern Zaporizhzhia front and considered a hinge point for both sides, but remains held by the Ukrainians despite a claim by the leader self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic to the contrary.

    Ukraine’s military and Russia’s Wagner private military group are both claiming to have control in the area of Blahodatne, eastern Donetsk region….

    The UK’s defence minister, Ben Wallace, has said that the tanks donated to Ukraine will arrive on the frontline “this side of the summer”.

    The president of Croatia, Zoran Milanović, has criticised western countries for supplying Ukraine with heavy tanks and other weapons. Speaking to reporters in Zagreb, Milanović said he was “against sending any lethal arms” to Kyiv, arguing that supplying Ukraine with weapons only “prolongs the war” and that Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula seized and annexed by Russia in 2014, will “never again be part of Ukraine”. [You STFU, too.]

    Delays in the provision to Ukraine of western long-range fires systems, advanced air defence systems, and tanks have limited Ukraine’s ability to seize opportunities for larger counter-offensive operations presented by Russian military failures, according to a Washington-based thinktank. Western delays in providing necessary military aid exacerbated “stalemate” conditions and the ability to regain significant portions of territory, the Institute for the Study of War said.

    President Tayyip Erdoğan signalled that Turkey may agree to Finland joining Nato without Sweden, amid growing tensions with Stockholm.

    The new US ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy, was heckled by a crowd of people chanting anti-US slogans as she entered the Russian foreign ministry in Moscow to present her diplomatic credentials. Protests in Russia – particularly on issues related to the war – are effectively banned unless they have the backing of the authorities.

  109. Reginald Selkirk says

    Slovenia Arrests Two Suspected Russian Spies

    The Slovenian Intelligence and Security Agency, SOVA, together with the National Investigation Agency, NPU, has arrested two foreign citizens accused of spying for Russia, the daily newspaper Delo and Siol website reported. The unofficial information was also confirmed by the District Prosecutor’s Office in Ljubljana.

    According to media outlet, the alleged Russian spies were two Argentine nationals, named Mario Roso Mayer Munos and Ludwiga Gischa, who operated through an art gallery, Art Gallery 5’14, and an information technology company DSM & IT.

    They had rented a small office in a building In the Ljubljana district of Bezigrad, where they were arrested. They allegedly deal in real estate and antiques as a cover-up…

  110. Reginald Selkirk says

    “The War on Christmas” gets an early start this year – according to FauxNews:
    Christmas, Easter removed from London School of Economics academic calendar: ‘Church of woke’ has taken over

    LSE is stripping Michaelmas, Christmas, Lent and Easter as the names for its terms and breaks, which are being renamed next year as “autumn term,” “winter break,” “winter term” and “spring break,” respectively, according to The Telegraph.

    Wait, so they are still getting those days off, the breaks are just being renamed? And no mention of Boxing Day or New Years Day? Their outrage seems selective.

  111. Tethys says

    I’m wondering why a London Economics School would still be using such archaic religious terminology to name its terms? Michaelmas? As an non-religious American, I am proudly ignorant as to what date that might be, but it’s far past time to update it.

    All hail the church of woke!

  112. StevoR says

    FWIW, It has taken me a while to get around to reading and responding as requested to do so but on this thread here :

    Is my response to this blog post here :

    Which, yeah, I strongly disagree with.

    A very old thread now hence my posting this here for KG and others who might be intrested to read my deconstruction of it starting here ..

    taking my time because I wanted to do it & my reply justice – & because, whew, is it ever easy to get side-tracked and distracted and have life in general get in the way.. An issue I feel really strongly about as y’all can probly tell!

  113. Reginald Selkirk says

    Secretive Saudi executions leave families in the dark

    Executions of prisoners have been carried out in Saudi Arabia with no advance warning to their families, relatives have told the BBC. The country’s execution rate has almost doubled since 2015 – according to a new human rights report – the year when King Salman and his son Mohammed bin Salman took charge. ..

  114. raven says

    “Why is the Ukrainian population in Russia declining under Putin?

    This is what ethnic cleansing and genocide look like.
    The number of Ukrainians in Russia were once in the millions. Their numbers have been dropping sharply lately.
    Supposedly. Most of this drop is an illusion and due to Russian persecution.

    Most Ukrainians probably didn’t answer on their last census. The Russians don’t care. All their statistics are whatever they want them to be.
    And it isn’t safe to claim to be an ethnic Ukrainian.
    “The results of the 2021 All-Russian Population Census are doubtful, as it was held with many violations, demographers warn.”

    It is also due to forced assimilation. The Russians persecute Ukrainians any way they can think of. The ones still in Russia hide their origins as best they can and keep their heads down.
    The Russians don’t care if you claim to be a Russian. They encourage it.
    They’ve been forceably assimilating minorities for centuries and have the procedure down well.

    After this war is over with, assuming Ukraine still exists, I’m sure a huge number of Russian Ukrainians will leave any way they can to wherever they can, including back to Ukraine.
    There used to be a lot of Germans in Russia (and Ukraine for that matter) due to centuries of immigration started under Catherine the empress who was a German. After the USSR fell, several million of them left mostly for Germany.

    Why is the Ukrainian population in Russia declining under Putin?

    Why is the Ukrainian population declining under Putin?
    The cleansing of everything Ukrainian in Russia began long before the full-scale war
    DATE OF JAN 24 2023
    Why is the Ukrainian population declining under Putin?

    The 2021 All-Russian Population Census showed a record reduction in the number of Ukrainians in Russia: it has halved in ten years. And although experts question the results of the census, the same trend is recorded by data from other studies, demographers, and representatives of the Ukrainian diaspora themselves. “Important Stories” tells how the Russian authorities eradicated Ukrainian identity from their own citizens long before the full-scale invasion of Ukraine – from the very beginning of Vladimir Putin’s presidency.

    Record reduction
    Historically, Ukrainians have been one of the most widely represented nationalities in Russia: ten years ago they were in third place after Russians and Tatars in terms of the share of the Russian population, according to census data . In 2021, they left the top three for the first time and moved to eighth place. If ten years ago almost two million Ukrainians lived in Russia, then before the start of the war with Ukraine there were 884 thousand of them.

    And although the number of the Ukrainian population has been gradually declining throughout the history of modern Russia, it has been over the past ten years that it has more than halved by a record high. In previous decades, the number of Ukrainians decreased by 30% every ten years.

    The same trend is recorded by alternative data: if in the 2000s Ukrainians made up almost 2% of the population of Russia, then by 2021 they no longer make up even 1%, follows from the results of the Russian Monitoring of the Economic Situation and Health of the Population of the National Research University Higher School of Economics.

    What could this mean
    How could less than a million Ukrainians remain in Russia in 2021? Even before the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, more than a million refugees arrived in Russia: with the outbreak of hostilities in eastern Ukraine in 2014, in the first two years alone, 1.2 million people who previously lived in southeastern Ukraine entered Russia and did not leave back , follows from the FMS data. More Ukrainian refugees crossed the border in 2022: according to the UN as of January 2023, more than 2.8 million refugees from Ukraine have crossed the border with Russia since the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, but it is not known how many of them remained in the country, and in they could not participate in the 2021 census.

    The results of the 2021 All-Russian Population Census are doubtful, as it was held with many violations, demographers warn. According to Aleksey Raksha, about 50 million people did not take part in the census. This year, about 16 million participants in the census did not indicate their nationality – in the previous census there were only 5 million. According to Yulia Florinskaya, Senior Researcher at the HSE Center for Demographic Research, this figure suggests that, in general, the census cannot be trusted. “Most likely, these are [16 million without nationality] rewritten not personally, but administratively ( those who are rewritten according to administrative sources, for example, according to house books. – Approx. ed. )”.

    However, the same trend with a decrease in the number of Ukrainians in Russia is also shown by the data of the Russian Monitoring of the Economic Situation and Health of the Population of the National Research University Higher School of Economics, an annual survey of the population, which also asks the question “What do you consider yourself by nationality?”. The sample of this survey is much smaller, but with these data it is possible to draw conclusions about the largest nationalities scattered across Russia: Ukrainians can be considered such due to their relatively even distribution throughout the country, says independent demographer Oleksiy Raksha. If in the census data on nationality was missing for 11% of the respondents, then in the data of the National Research University Higher School of Economics, 4%. For comparison: in the HSE Survey in 2010, they were absent only in 0.5% of respondents.

    It is important to bear in mind that the census does not take into account the number of individual peoples, but the answers of citizens to questions about nationality: when answering the question about nationality, everyone chooses who to call himself. Therefore, demographers believe that the drop in the share of Ukrainians, which we see in the census data, can be explained by the fact that fewer of them call themselves Ukrainians when answering the question about nationality. “Some part probably preferred to be called Russians rather than Ukrainians, in 2021 the level of negativity [in relation to Ukraine] in society was already very strong,” says Yulia Florinskaya.

    Aleksey Raksha calls the main reason for this reduction the accelerated assimilation of the Eastern Slavs (they cease to identify themselves as Ukrainians and begin to identify themselves as Russians – faster than representatives of other nationalities), mainly at the expense of young people. Ukrainians may also emigrate from Russia more than come here, the expert suggests, but there are no exact figures on this: migration in Russia is poorly accounted for.

    Representatives of the Ukrainian diaspora themselves believe that the Russian authorities have been reducing the Ukrainian population of the country for years, erasing their identity and destroying organizations that would represent the interests of Ukrainians in Russia: the official state policy aimed at clearing the entire Ukrainian field in Russia influenced the population decline.

    “Now it’s not safe to admit that you are Ukrainian”
    “Being an ethnic Ukrainian in Russia has become uncomfortable,” Viktor Girzhov, former deputy chairman of the Association of Ukrainians in Russia, explains the results of the census. He lived in Russia for over 20 years, but in 2015 the FSB banned him from entering the country for five years. Formally, for violating the procedure for entering and leaving the country, but Girzhov himself believes that he was expelled for telling the truth about what is happening in Ukraine on Russian central television channels.

    Viktor Girzhov considers the official state policy aimed at clearing the entire Ukrainian field in Russia one of the main reasons why there are fewer Ukrainians. According to him, this began after 2004, when the “orange revolution” took place in Ukraine, and some Ukrainian organizations in Russia supported it. “After the collapse of the Union, Ukrainian organizations began to appear in Russia like mushrooms after the rain. There was such euphoria, such a mood that under Gorbachev, under Yeltsin there would be some kind of freedom … – says Girzhov. “And then something clicked, and it all started to fall apart — it happened under Putin.”

    Girzhov tells how in 2010 and 2012 two federal organizations of the Ukrainian diaspora were liquidated: “Association of Ukrainians in Russia” and “Federal National Cultural Autonomy of Ukrainians in Russia”, which were engaged in the preservation of Ukrainian identity and the development and dissemination of Ukrainian culture. In 2018, the only world-famous library of Ukrainian literature in Moscow was liquidated. “Allegedly, there were some violations of the documentation in the statutory activities of [organizations]. But this is all sucked from the finger: if there were any small flaws, all this is corrected in a second. The director of the library was tried for allegedly possessing nationalist literature, although [the library] employees said that the security forces themselves planted these materials,” says Girzhov.

    By the mid-2000s, Russia no longer had the opportunity to study the Ukrainian language, says Girzhov: “In Ukraine [then] there were a lot of schools teaching Russian. And in Russia, for the entire two-million diaspora, there was not a single school, not even a class with Ukrainian. In Russia, there is no way to communicate in Ukrainian: there are no schools, no libraries [with Ukrainian literature].” Together with other representatives of the Ukrainian diaspora, he tried to open the only Ukrainian school in Moscow, but the relevant departments “all the time put forward unrealistic demands, and everything died out.” Now, according to the 2021 All-Russian Population Census, only 33% of Ukrainians living in Russia speak Ukrainian.

    There are almost no associations of Ukrainians left in Russia, says Girzhov. “Formally, such organizations exist, but they live on the money of the [Russian] government and presidential grants, and the authorities arrange what I call “sharovarshchina”: these organizations participate in city holidays and festivals, dance and sing, but no politics, no social activity, no rights for Ukrainians,” says Girzhov. – These are the sharovar Ukrainians that suit the Russian authorities. And as soon as you start supporting Ukraine, not even the Maidan, but just independence, culture, language – that’s all.”

    “Religious freedom of conscience, language proficiency, culture – this is what lives in people. Ethnos is what distinguishes one from the other, that it has some of its own cultural and national characteristics. There is an Armenian diaspora, there is a Georgian one. They are pleased to get together, sing songs, speak their own language. This is what a multinational Russia is – all peoples must mutually exist and mutually enrich themselves. Girzhov continues. – And this cultural environment was constantly cleaned up and banned in Russia: people are drawn to their national roots, and they are constantly chopped off. This gives rise to conflicts between nations.”

    According to Girzhov, the decrease in the number of Ukrainians in the census can also be explained by the fact that not all ethnic Ukrainians in Russia identify themselves as such when answering the question about nationality. “People are afraid because now it is not safe to admit that you are Ukrainian,” says Girzhov. – For example, the FSB called people from the register of readers of the Library of Ukrainian Literature for interviews. Older people have children and grandchildren, they are worried. Younger people are afraid of losing their jobs. Whoever could, left before the war,” says Girzhov. “Now it’s difficult, so until the end of the war, the rest try not to emphasize their “Ukrainianness” – this is fraught.”

    “Ukrainians were invited: ‘You sing in Russian’”
    Valery Semenenko moved to Moscow from Ukraine in 1978 to enroll in graduate school and stayed. He is one of the founders of the “Association of Ukrainians in Russia” and from 2005 to 2012 was a co-chairman of the organization until it was closed by the Russian authorities. “At first, in the late 2000s and in the 2010s, we wrote letters, appeals addressed to Putin: we called for mutual understanding [between Russia and Ukraine], for taking into account interests. This is wrong: we live here, we should be friends. We were closed for this: after the “orange revolution” in Russia, the authorities started up. And two months after the closure, they created a puppet federal organization of Ukrainians, whose representatives now say on television that we are all Russians,” says Semenenko. “Now they periodically hold demonstrative [government] meetings on interethnic politics. Ukrainians used to sit at the head there: what, the greatest friend is the people! And now they are invited, then they call back: “You do not come to the meeting.”

    Now Semenenko heads a public association of Ukrainians in Russia, which operates without legal registration. “Now the Ukrainians of Russia are sitting underground. In fact, there is no public activity — it’s dangerous… We know Russian law: we can only write about the pain and suffering of Ukrainians, but of course, we can’t talk about military operations, let alone discuss the [Russian] army. And we can help: people are fleeing from shells, from bombs, we help them get from the border. But even this help is not welcomed in Russia,” says Semenenko. You can’t even sing. In the fall of 2022, there was an annual concert in St. Petersburg: there, each society – Kalmyks, Chuvashs – is given one number, they perform. Ukrainians were also invited. Then they realized: “Come on, sing in Russian.” They rested: “Either we sing in Ukrainian, or we don’t sing.”

    “This is a general trend towards the denial of Ukrainian identity,” he continues. “Now they [authorities and propagandists] are already openly saying that there are no Ukrainians and there never was, and there was no Ukrainian language, and all this is a fantasy.” Semenenko does not believe the results of the census, but also notices that the number of Ukrainians in Russia is declining: “I know how these censuses are conducted. Everyone shouted: “Census, census, census!” But no one came to us. And I personally went to the council, I said: “How did they register us? Nobody asked me. I want us all to be registered as Ukrainians: me and my children.” They never showed me those papers. But the trend is indeed such that the number of ethnic Ukrainians is sharply declining.”

    “If Russia [after the war] remains in the form of an undisintegrated state, and all these trends continue, there will be zero Ukrainians here,” Semenenko said. He admits that he always wants to leave Russia: “But I am connected here: my house, my family, and my wife are a native Muscovite, well, where will she go? Should have left earlier. Now let my children go.”

    “Mom, I won’t go to fascist Russia”
    Anna (name changed at the request of the heroine) from Chernigov has been living in Russia for more than 20 years and heads one of the associations of Ukrainian women in Russia. Every time an air raid alert sounds in Chernigov, she “hears” it at her home in the Moscow region: Anna follows the notifications, because her adult daughter remains in Chernigov. When the war began, Anna invited her daughter to evacuate to Russia: “I tell her:“ Come here. And she replies: “No, mother, I will not go to fascist Russia.”

    As Anna says, she does not trust the results of the census, but she also feels that there are fewer Ukrainians in Russia: “The census was carried out like this: we have an entire street of Ukrainians living – no one even showed us his nose and did not ask who we are, what we are. But now there are much fewer Ukrainians coming here. I have been here since 2000: so many Ukrainians went to work… My friend opened a construction company, there were 300 Ukrainians in the team. And now nobody, the company has closed.

    “When I first arrived, in the early 2000s, everything was developing so rapidly: we [representatives of the Ukrainian diaspora] met with the authorities, talked about opening a Ukrainian school…” continues Anna. – And it seemed to us that Russia is so big, so much work, so much could be done, communicate with countries, exchange students, exchange artists. We thought it would be like this, but it’s completely different. The Ukrainian diaspora is now in a very deplorable state. If you say what the local authorities say, then, of course, the authorities will support you. But I don’t know how you can say something that doesn’t exist.”

    Anna says that some acquaintances from Ukraine have stopped communicating with her only because she now lives in Russia. “But what can I do here alone? Anna asks. – Recently, people who care, took flowers to the monument to Lesya Ukrainka, so they were all arrested. Now the police will probably be on duty near all Ukrainian monuments.”

    Now Anna “withdrew from all affairs” in the organization so as not to “harm the family”: “We used to be engaged in cultural and educational activities, and we saw many Russians who helped us, were with us on our [Ukrainian] public holidays. Now we can’t do anything: we just worry, we help our refugees. But you know how the authorities treat you, even if you help, you have to be careful.”

    Now it is hard for her to live among the Russians, 90% of whom, as Anna read in the news, support the war. “When you start telling everything that happens [in Ukraine], you see aggression, people’s eyes are filled with blood, ready to eat,” she says. “But there is a part [of Russians] that just sympathizes, they come to me: ‘Tell us the truth, because apart from TV, we don’t see anything, we don’t know anything.’”

    Anna does not believe that Ukrainians, when answering a question from the census about nationality, can hide their Ukrainian origin: “Everyone says:“ We are from Ukraine. We do not consider ourselves Russian. And we speak Ukrainian in the family. And there are many such: at home in Ukrainian, at work in Russian. Everyone who is from Ukraine, they all miss it, even if they live here for 50 years, everyone wants to go home. They are all crying for Ukraine, and everyone is worried now.”

    Anna thinks that after the end of the war, there will be no Ukrainians left in Russia. “I know very many who are waiting for the end of the war to leave here, because it is impossible to live here after what has been done there [in Ukraine]. I have a daughter in Chernigov, how can I live here in peace? Anna asks. “I lived there for 40 years, worked at a school, my students, classmates, relatives are there, my parents’ graves are there. The liberators came and destroyed everything: in Chernihiv, 70% of the city is gone. How can I look at it? I just can’t mentally live here. While morally, and then, maybe, the turn will come to physical reprisals [against Ukrainians], I do not exclude this.”

    Editor: Alesya Marokhovskaya

  115. says

    Ukraine update: Another pointless line is being drawn, and it will cost Ukrainian lives

    Over the last four days, Russia’s progress around the city of Bakhmut can be summed up this way: There isn’t any. Claims that they had surged past the town of Klishchiivka and were about to overrun Ivaniske on the south appear to have fizzled out along the line of a drainage canal that has proved to be an effective obstacle. The previous push on the north that saw Wagner Group forces move into Soledar appears to have not advanced in the last two weeks, and very well may have lost ground in the area east of Krasna Hora. [map at the link]

    This isn’t to say that Russia did not gain ground over the last month in the Bahkmut area. That little town of Bakhmutske northeast of the city, now some 4km behind the line, was on the line back in November. However, the impetus that seemed to be carrying Russian forces to incremental advances on both side of Bakhmut appears to have stalled out, returning to the days of small forces being sent forward to their annihilation, followed by more of the same.

    Already, there are hints that Russia is about to face another round of mobilization, so they can scrape together another mass of “mobliks” to grind down Ukrainian defenders at Bakhmut and other locations along the line. But Wagner Group appears to have another idea. Why not recruit Americans to do the job?

    There’s a tagline for the original Night of the Living Dead movie that goes like this: “When there’s no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth.” The Wagner Group version of this saying appears to be, “When there’s are no more desperate men to be dragged out of Russian prisons to throw at Bakhmut … recruit some Americans.” [video allegedly recruiting US army vets into Wagner group]

    The video may or may not be an actual production of the Wagner Group. To quote pro-Russian bloggers when they’re pretending that Ukraine hasn’t just liberated Kyiv, Kharkiv, or Kherson … time will tell. But whoever put together this “true patriot” video did an admirable job of touching Americans right in the Q-center. From the footage of Jan. 6 “patriots” to the final scenes that crib part of the atomic blast from Terminator 2, it’s a love letter to anyone who ever thought it would be great to scream “Wolverines!” only while working for the Russia,s

    Will this video actually send some Americans looking for the nearest Wagner recruiting station? Unknown. But it’s tempting to wish them success in this venture. Sending Americans to Ukraine who believe in Wagner’s idea of “the patriot” might be the best thing for both nations.

    In another example of just how sympatico Russia and certain American factions are, this past week, Fox News was once again running a series on how American cities had been utterly destroyed by the violent hordes of antifa. This time, it was Atlanta that was burned to the ground in a “night of rage.” And no, they weren’t talking about Sherman. But it’s just one of many cities that have been converted into a “Mad Max Hellscape.” [video of Tucker Carlson bloviating]

    From the Russian publication, It’s My City comes the story of 63-year-old Galina Antonova from the village of Tavatuy. Her apartment has no gas, and no heat. In fact, it’s so cold in her home that the contents of her refrigerator froze. There should be running water, but the cesspool filled up some time in the 1990s, and no one has ever come to pump it out.

    Her building is collapsing, with cracks that run through the walls, and a roof that sags down to allow patches of the sky to peek through. What heat the whole building occasionally gets comes from an aging coal stove that belches black smoke and fumes, and that’s on the rare occasions they manage to get coal. She can’t get anything repaired, because she’s told everyone who can fix things has been called up by the mobilization. In fact, her son and grandson are both being recruited by Wagner, even as the dead are being shipped back to the village from the Ukrainian frontlines. Galina is okay with this.

    There’s no school in the village, no internet, and only spotty cell phone service. But they do have electricity and Galina does have a television set. A television set on which she watches Russian state media, and that has given her a firm idea of

    ”It’s good that Putin still started the military action in Ukraine,” she said. “Otherwise, we would now be running and hiding. Of course, there are also many dead among our people, but what to do … As they said in the movies: ‘There is such a profession – to defend the Motherland.’”

    [video at the link]

    Her neighbor, a 62-year-old retired railroad worker, agrees. He spends his time watching the programs “Who is against” and “Time will tell” on Russia Channel One—programs dedicated to showing how Russia will ultimately be the only power remaining when Western nations fail. And he agrees with them. About everything. “Well, why, everyone is right,” he says.

    There’s been a tendency to flip between the idea that the illegal, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is Vladimir Putin’s crime, and the idea that this is a war in which all of Russia is to blame. Both things can be true at once. Putin’s hand is on the tiller, but don’t expect anyone to complain about the direction of the ship.

    Another day, another confusing and almost certainly temporary line when it comes to what weapons the West is willing to provide to Ukraine.

    Now that the barrier on Western-made tanks has been broken, Ukraine has made no secret of what else it wants to win the fight against Russia: Aircraft and longer-range missiles. A squadron of modern multipurpose fighter jets would help Ukraine add a taste of air superiority into its combat along the front, as well as act as a platform to strike down Russian aircraft and launch missiles into Russian-occupied areas. Surveying the available craft, there seems to be a general agreement that the American F-16, introduced to service in 1978 but vastly upgraded over the years, would be the best fit for Ukraine’s needs.

    As with the German Leopard 2 tanks, there seem to be several nations indicating that they would be happy to lend Ukraine some of their F-16s. There have also been reports that analysts at the Pentagon believe sending F-16 jets to Ukraine would be a good move, and there have been reports about the U.S. training Ukrainian pilots to operate the “Fighting Falcon.”

    So it had to be extremely frustrating for Ukraine when President Joe Biden told a reporter at a news conference on Monday evening that the U.S. would not be sending F-16 fighters to Ukraine. Biden’s answer on whether the U.S. intended to send the planes was simple: “No.”

    Also on Monday, the U.K. stated that it would not be sending any planes, with the Ministry of Defense falling back on the idea that Western jets are “very sophisticated” and require “months of training.” To which Ukrainian pilots would likely reply … nothing that can be accurately translated.

    Now even some of the nations that appeared to be on the edge of handing over the keys on their F-16s seem to be making “not right now noises.” Meaning that, once again, Ukraine is stuck behind one of those artificial lines separating them from the weapons necessary to efficiently end this war.

    But don’t worry. Biden and other Western leaders will probably change their minds and the jets will eventually go to Ukraine … after the next huge Russian war crime leaves enough broken bodies on the ground to make them realize just how ridiculous this particular line in the metaphorical sand happens to be. Then they’ll draw another one.

    These guns are impressive both in the speed with which they can set up, their accuracy of fire, and the way the loading system lets them pop off six rounds in under two minutes. This could be a very handy weapon in counterbattery fire, where Ukraine can bring them in, get off enough fire to suppress Russian artillery, and get out of there before drones or fire control computers are able to locate the Caesars. [video at the link]

    When it comes to Russian artillery, for weeks the number of areas targeted and the number of shells being used was dropping day over day. Many reports associated this with a series of Ukrainian strikes against ammunition depots in Russian-occupied areas and increased difficulty for Russia in bringing in new materiel.

    However, around the first of the year, things started to ramp back up again. Not only did Russia fire profligate numbers of shells both in the area around Bakhmut and to the south at Vuhledar, the number of reported sites struck overnight ticked up to 111 towns and villages—the highest number since before Russia was forced to surrender Kherson. However, in the last week, the number has dropped steeply again, with 80 settlements struck on Monday.

    On a trendline, the total number of artillery strikes from Russia continues to decline. Does this mean that Russia is running short of shells, or that it has decided that expending these shells in areas where it has no hope of advancing is pointless? Either way, the decline has to be welcomed by both Ukrainian forces and the civilians still living in these settlements.

    It’s been a while since we’ve had one of these. Crank up the beat! [video of Ukrainian military dance]

  116. raven says

    Olga Lautman 🇺🇦 @OlgaNYC1211

    Kadyrov’s nephew and his guards beat up a Russian cameraman and raped a Russian NTV propagandist in Russian temporarily occupied Melitopol. Now they are trying to cover up the incident. These genocidal thugs are turning on their own.

    This sounds like something straight out of Kafka or made up Ukrainian propaganda.

    I tried to check it out and it is apparently real.
    Things are not OK in Russia but it has been this way for decades, so nothing new there.

  117. tomh says

    Hide your books to avoid felony charges, Fla. schools tell teachers
    Unsure what titles violate new state rules, two school districts tell educators to conceal every book for now
    By Hannah Natanson / January 31, 2023

    Students arrived in some Florida public school classrooms this month to find their teachers’ bookshelves wrapped in paper — or entirely barren of books — after district officials launched a review of the texts’ appropriateness under a new state law.

    School officials in at least two counties, Manatee and Duval, have directed teachers this month to remove or wrap up their classroom libraries, according to records obtained by The Washington Post. The removals come in response to fresh guidance issued by the Florida Department of Education in mid-January, after the State Board of Education ruled that a law restricting the books a district may possess applies not only to schoolwide libraries but to teachers’ classroom collections, too.

    House Bill 1467 (full text), which took effect as law in July, mandates that schools’ books be age-appropriate, free from pornography and “suited to student needs.” Books must be approved by a qualified school media specialist, who must undergo a state retraining on book collection. The Education Department did not publish that training until January, leaving school librarians across Florida unable to order books for more than a year.

    Breaking the law is a third-degree felony, meaning that a teacher could face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine for displaying or giving students a disallowed book.

    The new law covers more than books. For instance: “Each district school board must establish a process by which the parent of a public school student or a resident of the county may contest the district school board’s adoption of a specific instructional material.”

  118. says

    A bit of Santos news, as summarized by Steve Benen:

    In New York, a new Newsday/Siena College poll found Republican Rep. George Santos with a 7% favorability rating in his own congressional district. The same survey found 78% of voters in the district want the prolific liar to resign — a figure that includes 71% of local Republicans.

    Eyebrow-raising. Also kind of funny.

  119. says

    Trump is still on Putin’s side:

    Donald Trump’s presidency was filled with low points, but his 2018 summit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin in Helsinki stood out as especially indefensible. After a private meeting with the autocratic leader, in which the American president took interpreters’ notes for reasons that were never explained, the Republican held a disastrous press conference in which Trump defended an American adversary, took cheap shots at his own country, and sided with Putin over the judgment of American intelligence professionals.

    Soon after, The New York Times reported that U.S. intelligence officials “were unanimous in saying that they and their colleagues were aghast at how Mr. Trump had handled himself with Mr. Putin.” One official summarized a consensus view, concluding that it was clear whose side Trump was on, and “it isn’t ours.”

    As regular readers might recall, in the aftermath of the event, Axios spoke to one of Trump’s own former National Security Council officials who described the situation as “a total [effing] disgrace,” adding, “The president has lost his mind.”

    In June 2021, three years after the Helsinki meeting, the former president wanted Americans to know that he had no regrets — and he stood by his decision to side with the Russian leader over U.S. intelligence officials. Yesterday, as my MSNBC colleague Ja’han Jones noted, Trump thought it’d be a good idea to once again publicly side with Putin, publishing this missive to his social media platform:

    Remember in Helsinki when a 3rd rate reporter asked me, essentially, who I trusted more, President Putin of Russia, or our “Intelligence” lowlifes. My instinct at the time was that we had really bad people in the form of James Comey, McCabe (whose wife was being helped out by Crooked Hillary while Crooked was under investigation!), Brennan, Peter Strzok (whose wife is at the SEC) & his lover, Lisa Page. Now add McGonigal & other slime to the list. Who would you choose, Putin or these Misfits?

    It’s obviously a problem that Trump sided with the Russian authoritarian over his own country’s intelligence agencies and law enforcement officials. But the fact that Trump keeps doing this, for no apparent reason and to no apparent benefit, makes matters vastly worse.

    What’s more, there’s a larger context to the Republican’s rhetoric, which he’s no doubt aware of. Indeed, Trump has occasionally been sensitive to the fact that his public praise for his political benefactor in Moscow has raised difficult questions about his loyalties. While in office, his own director of national intelligence feared that Putin “had something” on Trump that the Kremlin could use as leverage, and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy famously joked that Trump was secretly on the Russian leader’s payroll.

    With this in mind, it stands to reason that the former president, who went to almost comical lengths to make Putin happy while in office, would go out of his way not to appear beholden to the Russian, especially in the midst of atrocities in Ukraine.

    And yet, as we were reminded yesterday, Trump can’t seem to help himself. I wonder why that is.


  120. Reginald Selkirk says

    N.Y. AG’s office: Trump and kids ‘falsely deny facts they have admitted’

    Both the former president his children “falsely deny facts they have admitted in other proceedings,” deny knowing things “ that are plainly within their knowledge,” and use defenses “repeatedly rejected by this Court as frivolous and without merit,” Kevin Wallace, senior enforcement counsel in the Attorney General’s office, said in a letter to New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron.

    James’ office is seeking a pre-trial conference to work out fact from fiction and to “sanction Defendants and their counsel,” for the false claims, according to the letter…

  121. says

    Followup to comment 144.

    Commentary from Wonkette:

    […] even now Trump is such anti-American scum that he thinks it’s a good idea to remind us of that day in Helsinki, when he publicly sided with Putin over American intelligence. Putin, a man anyone could see was playing his obvious weaknesses like a fiddle, and grinning while he did it. […] Trump also took the interpreter’s notes that day, and the general feeling afterward in the intelligence community was that Trump was not on America’s side.

    […] If you scroll up and down Trump’s social media feed, you see that he’s bragging quite a lot about comments he recently made that if Joe Biden would just ask him, he could end the Russia/Ukraine war in 24 hours, and he’s posting links to slobbering news coverage of those remarks from his favorite rightwing propaganda sources. One article quotes Kremlin spox Dmitry Peskov being very outraged that the United States is sending Ukraine the tanks it needs, and Charlie Kirk being very outraged that the United States is sending Ukraine the tanks it needs. The tanks are a huge deal, definitely, and they pave the way for Germany and others in Europe to also send Ukraine tanks and other arms it needs.

    “FIRST COME THE TANKS, THEN COME THE NUKES,” Trump screamed last week on Truth Social.

    Oh, how they panic whenever there is a development that looks good for Ukraine and bad for Russia. (Reminder: Russia attacked Ukraine unprovoked because Putin has delusions in his brain that Ukraine does not exist, and because Putin is consumed with shame over the rotting husk of nothingness Russia has become in the last several decades and dreams of lording over a “Russian world” that does not exist. […])

    Trump also posted a link to an op-ed from the same rightwing rag, referring to Trump’s demands to end the war as an “executive call” and approvingly quoting The Art of the Deal. […]

    Obviously Trump isn’t going to just give Joe Biden the keys to his Art of the Deal that would end the war in 24 hours. […]

    But thanks to Donald Dumbfuck Junior, we know what the plan is. Surprise, it is to “peace deal” Ukraine by cutting off all funding and forcing Ukraine to come to the negotiating table with Russia. […]

    You should watch this clip, and then watch it again on silent just to watch Junior talk with his hands, it is funny as shit: [video at the link]

    In the clip, Junior is furious that the media never reports about any of Russia’s “strategic victories” and only focuses on Ukraine’s. He is furious Ukraine keeps asking for weapons. “Where does the blank check stop!” He quotes his father saying the war is never going to end, saying that’s just another thing “Trump’s been right about.” (Yes, he refers to his father as “Trump” instead of as “dad” […])

    And then he says:

    JUNIOR: Until we say “enough is enough,” no one’s coming to the table! Until we say we’re not funding this crap anymore, no one has an incentive to negotiate!

    “This crap.” (Reminder: “This crap” is that Russia attacked Ukraine unprovoked because Vladimir Putin has delusions in his brain that Ukraine does not exist, and because Putin is consumed with shame over the rotting husk of nothingness Russia has become in the last several decades and dreams of lording over a “Russian world” that does not exist. Much of this is due to his shitty leadership.)

    In summary and in conclusion, the Trump plan is for America to fuck Ukraine over and “force” it to come to Russia (the country that attacked it) and beg it to stop, giving away whatever sovereign Ukrainian territory or treasure Russia wants in the process.

    In other words, everything Putin wanted when he invaded Ukraine unprovoked and started bombing babies.

    In related news, here’s Russian TV star Tucker Carlson shitting bricks last week because people are now talking about Ukraine taking Crimea back, after Russia stole it in 2014. “Russian Crimea,” he repeats over and over again, like that makes it more real. [video at the link]

  122. says

    Wonkette comments on police officers beating unarmed people … and on the Republican politicians responding as addled doofuses:

    […] “We’re not getting enough good people applying because of the disparagement on police officers,” Jordan [Rep. Jim Jordan] claimed. “They don’t get enough people applying, taking the test to enter the academy to be an officer, because there’s been this defund the police concept out there.”

    Although activists have advocated for defunding and even outright abolishing police departments as far back as the 1960s, the “defund the police concept” […] didn’t become common until after George Floyd’s murder. It’s not as if all bad cops were hired after 2020, although that’s emerged as the developing Republican narrative.

    […] You could pass laws requiring that cops are trained not to beat up people they’ve handcuffed, but Jordan seemed to think that the only effective reform is if the public stopped giving cops such a hard time.

    We’re literally just asking cops not to murder people. They’re sort of telling on themselves if that bare minimum standard somehow lowers their morale. You’ll notice that Republicans don’t seem to think baselessly smearing educators as leftist hacks at best and pedophile groomers at worst has had a negative impact on teacher recruitment and retention (although it has).

    Jordan added, “There’s been this attack on law enforcement, and you’re not getting the best of the best.”

    Let’s make one thing clear: Tyre Nichols was attacked. George Floyd was attacked. Elijah McClain, Eric Garner, and so many others were attacked. The police, however, were not in any way “attacked” when people rightly demanded this violence stop. But Jordan’s blather is not unique. It’s common for cops to make the latest incident of police brutality all about them.

    After cops almost beat Rodney King to death in 1991, a 20-year-veteran of the LA police department told the LA Times, “I really feel like I got raped … The department got raped and the community we’re sworn to protect got raped.” The officer admitted the cops who beat King “stepped over the line” but the “frustrating part” for him was the perceived hit to the police’s public image.

    But it’s not just that Jordan has thrown up his hands over police violence. He blames us for feeling outraged and not embracing the fiction that these incidents are mere outliers.

    “These five individuals did not have any respect for life,” he went on. “And again, I don’t think these five guys represent the vast, vast majority of law enforcement. But I don’t know if there’s anything you can do to stop the kind of evil we saw in that video.”

    Presumably, if Jordan saw video of teachers torturing children, he wouldn’t shrug his shoulders and say there’s nothing he could do. He’d demand sweeping policy changes.

    Wonkette’s Michael Mora compared Jordan’s remarks to the “West Wing” scene where George W. Bush stand-in Gov. Robert Ritchie responds to the news that a good man was shot and killed with a blasé, “Crime? Boy, I don’t know.” President Jed Bartlet declared that this was the moment “when I decided to kick your ass.”

    If you weren’t already fully resolved to remove Jordan from any important position of power, his intentionally feckless response to Tyre Nichols’s brutal killing should’ve done the trick.


  123. Tethys says

    Further to Chigau’s 136, which is about Michaelmas and calendars.
    I’m still finding it very weird that anyone is using medieval St. day calendars in 2023, most particularly an Economics school. I suppose it fits with the long outmoded nonsense of having hereditary royalty, which is equally archaic and useless.

    I’m sure the paying of debts on particular days far predates Xtianity, but that doesn’t make it ‘pagan’. Accurate calendars are based on solar and lunar cycles, the oldest one discovered in Europe is Gaulish and dates to the 2nd century BCE.

  124. says

    Here’s a link to today’s Guardian Ukraine liveblog, which has already closed for the day.

    Also from the Guardian:

    “Iranian couple filmed dancing in Tehran are jailed for 10 years”: “Couple convicted of ‘encouraging corruption and public prostitution’ after video of dance at landmark tower went viral…”

    “Strike action over Macron’s pensions plan brings major disruption to France”: “Over 1.27 million workers across transport, school and energy sectors rally against government plan to raise retirement age to 64…”

    “Losing their religion: why US churches are on the decline”: “As the US adjusts to an increasingly non-religious population, thousands of churches are closing each year – probably accelerated by Covid…”

    “‘Less clumpy’ universe may suggest existence of mysterious forces”: “Survey could mean there is a crucial component missing from so-called standard model of physics…”

  125. says

    France 24 – “A forgotten crime: Remembering the 1943 Marseille roundup”:

    In this edition on Holocaust Memorial Day, we discover a little-known chapter of French history. In 1943, the Germans had occupied the southern French port city of Marseille. With its working class, immigrant and Jewish neighbourhoods around the Old Port, the city had come to represent everything that Hitler and the Nazis hated. The Germans, who saw the Old Port neighbourhoods as a hotbed of the French Resistance, decided to make an example of Marseille.

    They rounded up thousands of people, including hundreds of Jews who were later sent to a concentration camp, and destroyed an entire district.

    Between January 22 and 24, 1943, some 6,000 Marseille residents were arrested. More than 1,500 were later deported, including almost 800 Jews who were sent to the Sobibor extermination camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

    From February 1, 1943, a whole neighbourhood near the Old Port was razed to the ground. Hundreds of homes were destroyed and 50 streets wiped from the map.

    FRANCE 24’s Florence Gaillard and Georges Yazbek met with survivors and descendants of victims of the Marseille roundup, who shared their harrowing accounts.

    Among them is Pascal Luongo, a lawyer who filed a criminal complaint in 2019 for crimes against humanity.

    Video at the link.

    (Speaking of southern France, was blf around at all while I was away?)

  126. says

    Some podcast episodes:

    Citations Needed – “Ep 174: How Your Favorite 1990’s ‘Very Special’ Anti-Drug Episode Was Probably Funded by the US Government”:

    On a Very Special Episode of “Home Improvement,” Tim and Jill lecture their son about the dangers of marijuana after he’s caught smoking a joint. On a powerful episode of ABC’s “Sports Night,” written by Aaron Sorkin, sportscaster Dan Rydell delivers a four-minute monologue on how dope killed his younger brother. On a devastating episode of CBS’s “Chicago Hope,” a dozen teenagers are rushed to the emergency room after taking a new psychedelic drug at a rave.

    We’ve all seen these “Very Special” drug episodes throughout our childhoods and adolescence. For some reason, our favorite shows, seemingly out of nowhere, decided to dedicate an entire episode to the perils of teenage drug use.

    These episodes, mostly from the 1980s and ’90s, have become a cultural punchline, something amusing and mocked but ultimately, one would think, harmless. But what most viewers don’t know is that many of these episodes were not just part of a teen-oriented convention turned TV trope; a number of them were actually funded by the federal government to the tune of hundreds of thousands––sometimes millions–– of dollars to promote so-called “drug awareness.”

    The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in the late 1990s made a deal with multiple TV networks to include anti-drug messaging in show plots. In 1997, Congress approved a plan to buy $1 billion of anti-drug advertising over five years for its National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign.

    From at least 1997 to 2000, the Feds paid TV networks to air what was ostensibly drug awareness public health information but was, in many key ways, propaganda to sustain and build support for the war on drugs. The White House drug office paid networks large sums of money to weave so-called “anti-drug” stories in their narratives, undisclosed to the viewer, often revising and approving scripts without the show writers knowledge.

    Rather than being harmless––if corny––anti-drug messages we can all now laugh at, these narratives were also part of a broader scare strategy to frighten, misinform, and prop up the federal government’s war on drugs both at home and abroad.

    On this episode, we will review some of the major TV shows that ran these episodes, how much money they took in from the U.S. government, and how these tropes shaped and directly impacted public policy that promoted racism, imperial meddling in Latin America, and mass incarceration.

    Our guest is Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

    The War on Cars – “99. Car Brain with Dr. Ian Walker”:

    Is it acceptable to harm another person? To steal someone’s private property? To bend health and safety rules just to save a few minutes or make more money? According to a new study, it might depend on whether or not a car is involved. Dr. Ian Walker, a professor of environmental psychology at Swansea University in Wales, joins us for a fascinating discussion about the unconscious biases we all share in favor of cars, how those assumptions shape our streets, and how they prevent the kind of change needed to make them safer. It’s a phenomenon he and his co-authors call “motonormativity.”

    If Books Could Kill – “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus”:

    In 1992 a yoga instructor with a distance-learning PhD had the courage to ask: “Are women not getting help around the house because they’re using the wrong modal verb?”

  127. says

    Allan Smith, NBC:

    Turning Point is hosting an event with Jair Bolsonaro near Miami next week that it’s billing as his first public appearance since he fled Brazil following the presidential election

    It’s being hosted at Trump’s Doral golf club

    Flyer at the (Twitter) link.

    Laura Rozen:

    Outrageous if the US extends Bolsonaro’s visa to be doing his political campaigning from the United States after an attempted coup by his supporters

    Brazil President Lula supposed to meet Biden at WH next month, NSC’s John Kirby today did not confirm what date the visit expected

    Bolsonaro reportedly applied for a six month tourist visa. This looks like political campaigning, not tourism.

  128. says

    CNN – “Covid-19 is a leading cause of death for children in the US, despite relatively low mortality rate”:

    Covid-19 has become the eighth most common cause of death among children in the United States, according to a study published Monday.

    Children are significantly less likely to die from Covid-19 than any other age group – less than 1% of all deaths since the start of the pandemic have been among those younger than 18, according to federal data. Covid-19 has been the third leading cause of death in the broader population.

    But it’s rare for children to die for any reason, the researchers wrote, so the burden of Covid-19 is best understood in the context of other pediatric deaths.

    “Pediatric deaths are rare by any measure. It’s something that that we don’t expect to happen and it’s a tragedy in a unique way. It’s a really profound event,” said Dr. Sean O’Leary, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Infectious Diseases.

    “Everyone knows that Covid is the most severe in the elderly and immunocompromised and that it’s less severe in children, but that does not mean it’s a benign disease in children. Just because the numbers are so much lower in children doesn’t mean that they’re not impactful.”

    In 2019, the last year before the pandemic, the leading causes of death among children and young adults ages 0 to 19 included perinatal conditions, unintentional injuries, congenital malformations or deformations, assault, suicide, malignant neoplasms, diseases of the heart and influenza and pneumonia.

    The researchers’ analysis of data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that there were 821 Covid-19 deaths in this age group during a 12-month period from August 2021 to July 2022. That death rate – about 1 for every 100,000 children ages 0 to 19 – ranks eighth compared with the 2019 data. It ranks fifth among adolescents ages 15 to 19.

    Covid-19 deaths displace influenza and pneumonia, becoming the top cause of death caused by any infectious or respiratory disease. It caused “substantially” more deaths than any vaccine-preventable disease historically, the researchers wrote.

    According to CDC data, children are less vaccinated against Covid-19 than any other age group in the US. Less than 10% of eligible children have gotten their updated booster shot, and more than 90% of children under 5 are completely unvaccinated.

    “If we looked at all those other leading causes of death – whether you’re talking about motor vehicle accidents or childhood cancer – and we said, ‘Gosh, if we had some simple, safe thing we could do to get rid of one of those, wouldn’t we just jump at it?” And we have that with Covid with vaccines,” said O’Leary, who is also a professor of pediatric infectious disease at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado.

    A CDC survey of blood samples suggest that more than 90% of children have already had Covid-19 at least once.

    There is uncertainty about exactly how much risk the virus will continue to pose, O’Leary said, but the potential benefits of vaccination clearly outweigh any potential risks.

    The findings of the new study, published in JAMA Network Open, may underestimate the mortality burden of Covid-19 because the analysis focuses on deaths where Covid-19 was an underlying cause of death but not those where it may have been a contributing factor, the researchers wrote. Also, other analyses of excess deaths suggest that Covid-19 deaths have been underreported….

  129. says

    Respectful Insolence – “Economist Mark Skidmore publishes antivax propaganda disguised as a survey.”

    Finally, how did this study manage to get approval from MSU’s IRB, anyway? My guess is that the survey looked looked like a straightforward assessment of factors that affected people’s decision to be vaccinated against COVID-19, without any obvious indication how the authors would use the results to deceptively claim that close to 300,000 people had been killed by COVID-19 vaccines and then bolster a conspiracy that the government was somehow hiding this carnage. Again, the whole study strikes me as a bait-and-switch to get antivaccine disinformation published in a peer reviewed journal. It might be worth asking the chair of the IRB.

    It certainly might. WTF? I went on VAERS a while back, and IIRC before even getting into the system I had to agree to a statement that I understood how it works and wouldn’t use it improperly. This is blatant and harmful misuse.

    A total of 2840 participants completed the survey between December 18 and 23, 2021. 51% (1383 of 2840) of the participants were female and the mean age was 47 (95% CI 46.36–47.64) years.

    Made me laugh.

  130. Pierce R. Butler says

    SC… @ # 161, quoting Orac quoting Skidmore: … 51% (1383 of 2840) …

    Odd, I get a bit under 49% from those numbers. Made me laugh. indeed.

    Most economists are bullshitters, but I (used to) expect a professor to get the basic arithmetic closer than that.

  131. raven says

    US says Russia is violating key nuclear arms control agreement

    This is the last nuclear weapons treaty we have with the Russians.
    It is almost certainly now dead.

    “Asked if Moscow could envisage there being no nuclear arms control agreement between the two nations when the extension of the 2011 New START Treaty comes to an end after 2026, Ryabkov told the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti on Monday: “This is a very possible scenario.”

    I can’t remember why the Russians even bothered to negotiate a treaty like that with us.
    At one time, the USA had something like 31,000 nuclear weapons, mostly tac nukes. We discovered that this was way more than we needed, the tac nukes weren’t all that useful, and these weapons needed very expensive maintenance to work.

    CBO: Changes in Estimated Costs. The estimate of $634 billion in total costs for nuclear forces over the 2021–2030 period…
    Even today we spend 63 billion USD a year on our nuclear weapons.

    US says Russia is violating key nuclear arms control agreement | CNN Politics

    The RT-2PM2, Topol-M, is one of the most recent intercontinental ballistic missiles to be deployed by Russia. Russian international military expo Army Expo 2022 at Patriot park in Kubinka, Moscow, Russia, on August 20, 2022.
    The Washington Post/Getty Images

    Russia is violating a key nuclear arms control agreement with the United States and continuing to refuse to allow inspections of its nuclear facilities, a State Department spokesperson said Tuesday.

    “Russia is not complying with its obligation under the New START Treaty to facilitate inspection activities on its territory. Russia’s refusal to facilitate inspection activities prevents the United States from exercising important rights under the treaty and threatens the viability of U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control,” the spokesperson said in statement.

    “Russia has also failed to comply with the New START Treaty obligation to convene a session of the Bilateral Consultative Commission in accordance with the treaty-mandated timeline,” the spokesperson added.

    The US announcement is likely to increase tensions with relations between the two countries in the doldrums as Moscow continues its war on Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear saber rattling during the war has alarmed the US and its allies.

    In December, Putin warned of the “increasing” threat of nuclear war, and this month, Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, threatened that Russia losing the war could “provoke the outbreak of a nuclear war.”

    “Nuclear powers do not lose major conflicts on which their fate depends,” Medvedev wrote in a Telegram post. “This should be obvious to anyone. Even to a Western politician who has retained at least some trace of intelligence.”

    And though a US intelligence assessment in November suggested that Russian military officials discussed under what circumstances Russia would use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine, the US has not seen any evidence that Putin has decided to take the drastic step of using one, officials told CNN.

    Under the New START treaty – the only agreement left regulating the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals – Washington and Moscow are permitted to conduct inspections of each other’s weapons sites, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, inspections have been halted since 2020.

    A session of the Bilateral Consultative Commission on the treaty was slated to meet in Egypt in late November but was abruptly called off. The US has blamed Russia for this postponement, with a State Department spokesperson saying the decision was made “unilaterally” by Russia.

    The treaty puts limits on the number of deployed intercontinental-range nuclear weapons that both the US and Russia can have. It was last extended in early 2021 for five years, meaning the two sides will soon need to begin negotiating on another arms control agreement.

    John Erath, senior policy director at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, emphasized to CNN on Tuesday that Russia’s noncompliance “doesn’t mean that they are building vast numbers of nuclear weapons secretly.”

    “That’s not the part that they’re being found not in compliance with,” he said. “It’s the verification provisions.”

    But he added that Russia is likely using its noncompliance as leverage to attempt to end the war on their terms.

    “They have fixed on New START as a piece of leverage they have,” Erath said. “They know that we would like to see it continue, and we would like to see it implemented because everybody feels better when there’s a functioning arms control agreement.”

    Russia, he continued, is “using their noncompliance as a way to gain a little bit more leverage so that we will say, ‘Oh, this war is threatening arms control, that’s important to us. Hey Ukrainian friends, don’t you think you’ve done enough? How about stopping?’”

    Lawmakers responded by warning that any future arms control arms control agreement with Russia could be in jeopardy if the situation is not salvaged.

    “We have long supported strategic arms control with Russia, voting for New START in 2010 and advocating for the Treaty’s extension during both the Trump and Biden administrations. But to be very clear, compliance with New START treaty obligations will be critical to Senate consideration of any future strategic arms control treaty with Moscow,” wrote Democratic senators Bob Menendez, Jack Reed, Mark Warner in a joint statement.

    The State Department says Russia can return to full compliance, if they “allow inspection activities on its territory, just as it did for years under the New START Treaty” and also scheduling a session of the commission.

    “Russia has a clear path for returning to full compliance. All Russia needs to do is allow inspection activities on its territory, just as it did for years under the New START Treaty, and meet in a session of the Bilateral Consultative Commission,” the spokesperson said. “There is nothing preventing Russian inspectors from traveling to the United States and conducting inspections.”

    According to the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, Russia has roughly 5,977 nuclear warheads, 1,588 of which are deployed. The US has 5,550 nuclear warheads, according to the Center, including 3,800 active warheads.

    Administration officials have said that the willingness to discuss the arms control agreement, even as Russia carries out its war in Ukraine, demonstrates the US commitment to diplomacy and mitigating the risk of nuclear catastrophe.

    But Russia has indicated in recent days that the US support for Ukraine is preventing the treaty from being renewed.

    On Monday, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the last remaining element of the bilateral nuclear arms control treaty with the United States could expire in three years without a replacement.

    Asked if Moscow could envisage there being no nuclear arms control agreement between the two nations when the extension of the 2011 New START Treaty comes to an end after 2026, Ryabkov told the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti on Monday: “This is a very possible scenario.”

    CNN’s Jonny Hallam contributed reporting.

  132. StevoR says

    The Catholic church has – or at least had people taking down ribbons put up to honour child sex abuse victims and survivors as the rotting corpse of Pell is lauded before his funeral tomorrow. See among other places :

    & here :

    & here :

    Among other places.

    That last source fails to mention that Pell was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt by a jury that heard the victim directly as well as all the evidence. It also omits the certainty that Pell was guiltyof other child rapes and molestations that never got heard in court.

  133. says

    Here’s a link to today’s Guardian Ukraine liveblog. Their latest summary:

    Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in remarks on Tuesday night that his administration was planning to introduce changes as part of attempts to proceed with unusually rapid and complex negotiations to secure European Union membership, Reuters reports. Ukraine is holding “summit” talks with EU officials on Friday.

    “What is very important is that we are preparing new reforms in Ukraine,” Zelenskiy said. “These are reforms which in many aspects will change the social, legal and political realities by making them more humane, more transparent and more effective.”

    The media has been reporting in Ukraine that two high profile anti-corruption raids have been carried out on Wednesday morning, targeting oligarch Igor Kolomoisky and former interior minister Arsen Avakov.

    El País is reporting that Spain will initially send between four and six Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. The FT is today reporting that Italy is to join forces with France in supplying air defences to Ukraine.

    The US is readying more than $2bn worth of military aid for Ukraine that is expected to include longer-range rockets for the first time as well as other munitions and weapons, two US officials briefed on the matter told Reuters.

    The Kremlin said on Wednesday that longer-range rockets reportedly included in an upcoming package of military aid from the US to Ukraine would escalate the conflict but not change its course. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also told reporters that there were no plans for Russian President Vladimir Putin to hold talks with US President Joe Biden.

    Senior adviser to Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Mykhailo Podolyak, said on Wednesday talks were already under way on securing longer-range missiles and attack aircraft from foreign partners to help repel Russian forces.

    Germany’s vice-chancellor Robert Habeck has spoken out against his country delivering fighter jets to Ukraine, saying such a move would “probably” be a step too far for western allies weighing up support for Kyiv’s cause against fears of being drawn into an outright war.

    Pro-Russian forces have claimed in Russian media that Bakhmut is nearly encircled. Tass quoted Col Vitaly Kiselev on behalf of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic saying “Bakhmut has practically been ‘embraced’ from three sides, an intensive knocking out of the enemy is underway. They are trying, and I am sure that they will succeed … to go to the Chasiv Yar area, from where intensive shelling is going on back to Soledar, Bakhmut.”

    Ukraine’s state broadcaster Suspilne is reporting that the Kinburn Peninsula, a strip of land that protrudes from the southern side of Kherson oblast on the left bank of the Dnieper River, is in the “grey zone”, with neither Ukrainian or Russian military fully in control of the territory.

    The British Ministry of Defence’s latest intelligence update says that recent days have seen “some of the most intense shelling of the conflict” along the Dniepr River. “This has included continued shelling of Kherson city,” the ministry notes – adding that, outside the Donbas, Kherson is the city most consistently shelled in the conflict. “Russia’s precise rationale for expending its strained ammunition stocks here is unclear. However, commanders are likely partially aiming to degrade civilian morale and to deter any Ukrainian counterattacks across the river,” the ministry adds.

    Austria’s President Alexander Van der Bellen and the Green party’s vice president of the German Bundestag, Katrin Göring-Eckardt, visited Kyiv on Wednesday. Van der Bellen travelled to Bucha to pay respects at the mass grave discovered there after Russian forces retreated from occupying the city in the Kyiv region in the early stages of the war.

    Ukraine should be able to join Nato as soon as the war is over, new Czech president-elect Petr Pavel said on Wednesday.

    Ukraine’s grain harvest may decrease again in 2023 to 49.5m tonnes from around 51m tonnes expected in 2022, deputy economy minister Denys Kudyn said Wednesday.

    (I had basically blown off some Germans’ hesitation about supplying Leopards and such due to Germany’s history, but I recently read David de Jong’s Nazi Billionaires: The Dark History of Germany’s Wealthiest Dynasties and the involvement of some of those families in their development, and more generally the continuity of rich and powerful people enmeshed with the German military, is quite shocking. Of course I don’t think it should dissuade them from supplying Ukraine with what they need – that would be a perverse outcome, in fact – but the history should be more broadly acknowledged and I understand better why it makes some Germans uneasy.)

  134. raven says

    What Is COVID Actually Doing to Our Immune Systems?
    Good question. A lot.

    .1. For most people it just looks like a viral infection.
    . But really, “it looks as we would largely expect for a respiratory viral infection.” Antibodies recognize and subdue the virus, while immune memory cells linger about, ready to gear up for the next infection. A similar response is seen after vaccination.

    .2. This isn’t true for everyone.
    Some people have serious Covid-19 virus infections that are hard to treat and ultimately kill them. Frequently they die of pneumonia or sepsis from secondary bacterial invaders.
    Scientists know that during severe cases of COVID, things go immunologically haywire. A study from the pandemic’s early days, in January of 2020, profiled 41 hospitalized COVID patients in China and found that 63 percent of them had low numbers of lymphocytes, a critical type of disease-fighting white blood cell.

    .3. The long term effects of Covid-19 virus on the immune system are still not clear but for most people probably not too significant. There might be subtle changes but your immune system still works well.
    We’re not seeing evidence that this one virus has changed our immune system’s ability to keep us healthy on a large scale. There are 7 billion people on the planet who are doing fairly well. And we’re not seeing opportunistic infections, we’re not seeing huge increases in cancers that need immune surveillance, we’re just not seeing the kinds of things that we saw in other settings where the immune system was compromised, or dysregulated,…

    I edited this for length since it is not very concise.

    What Is COVID Actually Doing to Our Immune Systems?

    What Is COVID Actually Doing to Our Immune Systems?
    The research sounds scary. It’s not bunk—but it’s important to understand its purpose.
    JAN 31, 20235:45 AM edited for length

    When the immune system goes awry, it’s bad news. A wonky immune system might mean that you’re more likely to catch colds and flus, or be infected by other pathogens—and less likely to shake them off. It might mean that your body fails to detect and destroy growing tumors. It might even mean that the body turns against itself, leading to chronic autoimmune conditions like arthritis or Crohn’s disease.

    The fallout of immune system dysfunction on the human body is widespread and unpredictable—which is why it was so concerning in 2020 when evidence began to amass that COVID-19 seemed to be disrupting human immunology. So much so, in fact, that John Wherry, director of the Penn Medicine Immune Health Institute, summed it up this way to Kaiser Health News: “COVID is deranging the immune system.”

    Most of the early immunological evidence—the evidence that Wherry was referring to—came from patients who died or suffered severe COVID. Now, three years of infections and immunizations later, severe COVID is getting mercifully less common; a brush with the virus may well feel unremarkable. And a new idea about how COVID can affect immunity has emerged: that even mild infections routinely cause consequential damage to our bodies’ defenses. This quiet degradation was memorably termed “immunity theft” by one evolutionary biologist speculating on why this fall’s respiratory virus season seemed more severe than usual.

    There are a few ways scientists can probe COVID’s impact on immune systems. One is to investigate how well the immune system can rally against a second go-round with SARS-CoV-2. At the start of the pandemic, Shane Crotty, of the La Jolla Institute of Immunology, published some of the first papers looking at the immune response to COVID. “There was a lot of concern about how strange it might look,” he said. But really, “it looks as we would largely expect for a respiratory viral infection.” Antibodies recognize and subdue the virus, while immune memory cells linger about, ready to gear up for the next infection. A similar response is seen after vaccination. Because of this robust immune response, SARS-CoV-2 infections are now, on average, shorter and milder. So far this year, COVID hospitalizations have not surged, despite high rates of infection. Some of this attenuation may be due to a meeker (arguably) omicron variant, but it’s more likely because, with respect to fending off COVID at least, our immune systems are working just as they’re supposed to.

    But there’s another way to think about COVID’s immunological impact. What if SARS-CoV-2 infection fortifies our immune systems in very specific ways such that we can stave off severe COVID, but precipitates subtler, long-term immunological changes that leave us more vulnerable to other infections or even chronic disease? The data here is murkier.

    Scientists know that during severe cases of COVID, things go immunologically haywire. A study from the pandemic’s early days, in January of 2020, profiled 41 hospitalized COVID patients in China and found that 63 percent of them had low numbers of lymphocytes, a critical type of disease-fighting white blood cell. A postmortem study found that patients who had died of COVID lacked germinal centers, which teach immune cells to mount a long-lasting response to infection. A few studies—which looked at hospitalized patients, and cells in petri dishes—have claimed that SARS-CoV-2 can directly infect immune cells, and others have found that the virus can stir up “autoantibodies,” or immunological turncoats that blitz the patient’s own proteins and cells. Wherry is a co-author on one such study; this is the kind of “deranging” he was talking about. Immune system derangement appears to be what can make some severe cases of COVID so horrible.

    Since then, many other studies have unearthed immunological oddities with worrisome names like “T cell exhaustion” and “dendritic cell deficiencies”; sometimes the oddities are seen in patients with just mild COVID infections. These studies can fuel scary-sounding headlines (“Is COVID prematurely aging our immune systems?”). Their top-line results are often circulated as validation of widespread and ongoing immune dysregulation. But that’s not really true.

    Few, if any, studies have information on the state of patients’ own immune systems before they were infected with COVID, making an apples-to-apples comparison of what COVID does to a particular person’s immune system impossible. Robust longitudinal data starting prior to the pandemic would show “whether we’ve seen large-scale changes in immune fitness,” Wherry told me—and we just don’t have it. In its absence, “the evidence of a long-term impact on the immune system in fully recovered COVID patients, whether mild or severe, is really pretty thin.”

    “There are some diseases where there is a clear immune signature that would make me worried,” Crotty, the immunologist at the La Jolla Institute, said. “For example, if you catch measles, you end up more susceptible to other infections for several months. But I haven’t seen anything in our data or other studies that makes me worried about long-term impacts on immunity to other infections.”

    The latest is a large observational study posted on a preprint server just last week by German researchers. At first glance, the findings are scary—they found a whopping 43 percent increase in the onset of autoimmune disease in COVID patients compared with noninfected controls. But it’s important to put that number in context. First, the infections were in 2020, before vaccines. Second, that 43 percent is relative risk. In absolute terms, the study found that 1.1 percent of people developed autoimmune disease after catching COVID; 0.8 percent of controls developed autoimmune disease during the same period. That’s a 0.3 percentage point difference.

    Less rare is long COVID, and it’s possible immune dysfunction could be linked to this worrisome condition. Scientists who have looked for obvious signs of how immunological dysfunction produces long COVID symptoms haven’t found it. “If there’s chronic immune activation that’s damaging tissue to produce the symptoms, then we should be able to detect that tissue damage.

    “I think all of the studies, including ours, are just giving hints to what’s going on,” Lynn said. “I don’t think we have a smoking gun at the moment.”

    At this point, the best we can say is that sensitive scientific tests can detect differences in the immune systems of people infected with SARS-CoV-2 compared with the ever-dwindling cohort of those who have never been infected at all. Whether these differences—which vary from study to study—add up to a molecular “immune signature” of COVID remains to be seen. Any clues may be particularly valuable in untangling why a subset of patients have symptoms that last a few months or longer. But to conclude that these detectable differences translate to real-world consequences is overreach. Further, to claim that COVID is destroying all of our immune systems, or is inflicting the direct and intense immune damage of an HIV infection, is absurd.

    Wherry, the Penn Medicine immunologist, told me this—I think it’s worth laying out the quote in full:

    We’re not seeing evidence that this one virus has changed our immune system’s ability to keep us healthy on a large scale. There are 7 billion people on the planet who are doing fairly well. And we’re not seeing opportunistic infections, we’re not seeing huge increases in cancers that need immune surveillance, we’re just not seeing the kinds of things that we saw in other settings where the immune system was compromised, or dysregulated, because of an infectious disease, or because of toxins, or because of radiation, that we’ve seen in a variety of human events over the past 100 years.

    To claim that COVID could potentially discombobulate immune systems isn’t to peddle pseudoscience. People respond to infections very differently, and it’s worth continuing research into what COVID might be doing to some people’s ability to fight future infections, or how it might trigger chronic autoimmune disease. Even if long-lasting immune dysfunction develops in only a very small percentage of people, that still means a lot of individual suffering and a major toll on families and communities. In addition, noted Lynn, from a public health perspective, “that is a large additional burden on health-care systems around the world.” Further, the intense focus on the post-viral immunological effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection may shed light on what can happen after other infections—the possibility of long-lasting immunological changes in response to pathogens may be more common than previously thought. But researchers emphasize that even if COVID routinely tinkers with the immune system, our body’s defenses are stubbornly resilient. “Think of the immune system like a Boeing aircraft,” said Lynn. “For it to crash, you need multiple things to go wrong. Just one, or even a few things, is unlikely to be sufficient to bring the immune system down.”

  135. says

    In today’s Guardian:

    “Revealed: how world’s biggest fossil fuel firms ‘profited in Myanmar after coup’”: “Leaked tax records suggest subsidiaries of international gas field contractors continued to make millions after the coup…”

    “Exiled Bolsonaro lives it up in Florida as legal woes grow back home”: “Ex-Brazilian president faces criminal inquiries, including an investigation into his alleged role in the Brasília uprising…”

    George Monbiot – “‘Let them eat lentils’ won’t save us from animal farming – we must embrace meat substitutes”: “Our insatiable appetite for meat is laying waste to the planet. But the alternative is looking (and tasting) better by the day…” (I have several issues with this piece but it’s worthwhile.)

  136. says

    Some links:

    The Daily Show – “Jordan Klepper vs. Trump Supporters Who Think He’s Still President”:

    Jordan Klepper crashes Trump’s “intimate event” (that is definitely NOT a rally) in South Carolina and speaks with MAGA fans who think Trump is still president in the latest episode of Jordan Klepper Fingers the Pulse.

    All In with Chris Hayes – “EX-GOP congressman: Party is just ‘waiting around for Trump to die’”:

    “That is quite morbid. But it’s also yet another example of the problem—Republicans continue to hope for someone or something else to deliver the solution. And the solution never comes,” says Chris Hayes on McKay Coppins’ reporting that some Republicans are waiting for Trump to pass away.

    “Big Kanye Payoffs feat Nicky Woolf”:

    Journalist Nicky Woolf has spent months looking into the bona fide mystery of what exactly is happening with all of those U.S. diplomats and intelligence operatives reporting brain injuries thanks to some unnamed, futuristic weapon—and come away with the impression that this story, however far-fetched it may seem, may actually be true.

    Rick Wilson’s The Enemies List – “The Legal Lifestyles Of The Rich And Powerful”:

    The legal proceedings in Washington have reached epic proportions. Former Federal Prosecutor now and legal analyst, professor and author, Elie Honig, speaks with Rick about the case against the present and former President. They also discuss Honig’s new book where he details many cases where people with wealth and power seem to skirt the legal outcomes most would face otherwise. And Rick has choice words for this episode’s entry on The Enemies List….

    Rick Wilson’s The Enemies List – “The Russian Media Propaganda Machine”:

    There is no such thing as fair and balanced when it comes to Russian Media. Julia Davis created and operates the Russian Media Monitor. She is also a columnist for The Daily Beast. Rick and Julia discuss Russian media’s handling of the war in Ukraine. They also touch on Russian meddling in the US Elections. And, Rick has a very heartfelt message for this episode’s entry on The Enemies List.

  137. raven says

    Illia Ponomarenko 🇺🇦 @IAPonomarenko

    I love the fact that Ukraine getting weapons that repel, localize, and derail hostile offensive actions in its territory is always an ESCALATION!!!!, and at the same time Russia’s overt campaign to bomb Ukraine into the stone age in the middle of winter is totally fine 👍
    3:27 PM · Jan 31, 2023

    Good point by this Ukrainian journalist.

    It was a major escalation when the Russians invaded to genocide the Ukrainians and steal their land and stuff.
    They have a right to self defense like anyone else in this world.

  138. raven says

    Representatives of five regions of Russia announced that they would hold referendums on independence from the Russian Federation

    I’m sure this is propaganda but it is a nice thought nonetheless.
    It isn’t happening in Russia because all these “Representatives” would be on the next train to the Gulags. None of these “Representatives” are named, because they don’t want to drink Polonium tea.

    It underlines the fact that the Russian Federation is an empire made up mostly of captive nations that the Russians have been Russifying for centuries.
    And right now, most of their money and economic output is being directed to the elites of Moscow and St. Petersberg.

    There are separatist movements in Russia but the last main one, Chechnya, was crushed in two bloody wars.

    Representatives of five regions of Russia announced that they would hold referendums on independence from the Russian Federation

    Representatives of five regions of Russia announced that they would hold referendums on independence from the Russian Federation
    Tatyana Schmidt

    The initiators of separation from Moscow gave examples of the economic advantages of each region in the case of territorial and political separation from the Russian Federation

    Members of initiative groups representing five Russian regions – Königsberg, Ingria, Urals, Siberia and Kuban – announced the holding of online referendums for independence from the Russian Federation.

    “We announce the beginning of the process of secession from Moscow and the first referendums of free people who inhabit Konigsberg, Ingria, Siberia, the Urals and the Kuban, on the sovereignty of our states,” members of the initiative groups said during the “Post-Russia Forum” at the European Parliament in Brussels in the evening of January 30.

    “The time has come for real changes. We appeal to our compatriots to take part in referendums and say a firm “yes” to independent Konigsberg, Ingria, Urals, Siberia and Kuban,” they urge.

    Also, the initiators gave examples of the economic advantages of each region in case of territorial and political separation from the Russian Federation.

    The main slogans of the referendums were: “Enough to feed Moscow!”, “Enough to die for the Kremlin!”, “Vote for the Independence of your republic!” Choose a happy future for yourself and your children!”.

    The start of the online referendum is scheduled for February 16. The organizers promise to announce the name of the platform on which it will be held in advance.

  139. says

    The opposite of integrity:

    […] the Republican National Committee’s National Election Integrity Team has prepared a report endorsing the creation of “a permanent infrastructure in every state to ramp up ‘election integrity’ activities in response to perceptions within GOP ranks of widespread fraud and abuse in the way the country selects its leaders.” Or put another way, the party isn’t giving up on the Big Lie or the thinking surrounding it.


  140. says

    In the GOP’s crisis, Rick Scott tries to pass the buck to Biden

    To hear Rick Scott tell it, Joe Biden is “the one who wants to raise the debt ceiling.” In reality, it’s a national priority, not a presidential wish.

    NBC News reported:

    Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., said it should be up to [President Joe] Biden to propose a debt ceiling bill that can pass Congress. “I don’t know why he doesn’t want to do that. I mean, he’s the one who wants to raise the debt ceiling,” Scott said. “He ought to be doing it. He’s the president.”

    Right off the bat, it’s worth emphasizing that Biden already has proposed a debt ceiling solution that can pass Congress: Lawmakers can prevent a default and simply extend the nation’s borrowing authority in a clean, simple bill without games, conditions or unnecessary drama.

    Can such a measure pass both chambers? Of course it can: This is the exact same approach lawmakers embraced three times during Donald Trump’s presidency, and these votes came and went without notice. For that matter, it’s also the same solution that members of both parties have embraced for the past century, and there’s no reason this year needs to be any different.

    It was also odd to see the far-right Floridian suggest it’s up to the White House to fill out the Republicans’ hostage note for them. GOP leaders are threatening to create a deliberate economic catastrophe unless their demands are met, while simultaneously insisting that they have no specific demands. It’s against this backdrop that Scott said he doesn’t know why the president doesn’t just start making concessions, effectively guessing what might make Republicans happy.

    The answer is, because that isn’t how hostage crises work. The hostage takers aren’t supposed to ask the ransom payers, “What would you say the hostage is worth?”

    But most problematic of all was the senator’s contention that Biden is “the one who wants to raise the debt ceiling.” That’s dangerously wrong: To raise the debt ceiling is to pay the nation’s bills and meet the nation’s fiscal obligations. It’s not something that one party’s president “wants,” it’s something both parties need to recognize as an American priority. Indeed, the senator and his colleagues should “want” this every bit as much as the president does.

    The fact that Scott apparently finds this confusing, despite having served on the Senate Budget Committee, is emblematic of his party failing to approach its own crisis in a serious way.

  141. Reginald Selkirk says

    Ukraine hails French gift of radar as ‘cherry on the cake’

    LIMOURS, France (AP) — Ukraine’s defense minister said Wednesday that Ukrainian lives will be saved by a sophisticated air-defense radar that France is supplying and which is powerful enough to spot incoming missiles and exploding drones in the skies over all of Ukraine’s capital and its surrounding region…
    Ground Master 200 radar

  142. says

    Donald Trump’s supposed “policy” videos:

    […] Trump has used his social media platform to release short videos “about his policy positions.” [New York Times:] “The videos, in which the former president speaks directly to the camera, are aimed at reassuring supporters that he’s focused on topics other than his 2020 defeat, an issue that flopped with midterm voters.”

    To be sure, these aren’t real policy proposals, at least in any meaningful sense. It’s not as if the former president sat down with a bunch of wonks, explored the granular minutiae of governing solutions, and formulated a set of white papers. These videos have all the sophistication of bumper stickers written in crayon.

    But the 2024 hopeful keeps releasing them anyway, hoping to prove that there’s more to his vision than the “big lie.” As NBC News reported, Trump’s latest video focused on part of his vision for a culture war.

    Former President Donald Trump vowed in a video released Tuesday that, if he is re-elected, he will punish doctors who provide gender-affirming care to minors and push schools to “promote positive education about the nuclear family” and “the roles of mothers and fathers” as part of a wide-ranging set of policies to use federal power to target transgender people. In a straight-to-camera video posted on his Truth Social platform, Trump said he would task several federal agencies to police and ultimately “stop” gender-affirming care for minors, which he equated to “child abuse” and “child sexual mutilation.”

    [Trump,] as part of the same video, told the public, “I will sign a new executive order instructing every federal agency to cease all programs that promote the concept of sex and gender transition at any age. I will then ask Congress to permanently stop federal taxpayer dollars from being used to promote or pay for these procedures and pass a law prohibiting child sexual mutilation in all 50 states.”

    After threatening to defund public schools if a teacher says something about gender identity that he disagrees with, [Trump] added, “I will declare that any hospital or health care provider that participates in the chemical or physical mutilation of minor youth will no longer meet federal health and safety standards for Medicaid and Medicare and will be terminated from the program immediately.”

    Obviously, such an anti-trans agenda is offensive and discriminatory. Trump is engaging in reactionary chest-thumping, vowing to address a problem that doesn’t exist through punitive measures against Americans who’ve done nothing wrong, and don’t deserve governmental scorn or punishment.

    But watching his harangue yesterday, I couldn’t help but think about just how much worse the Republican has become on the issue.

    It might seem like ancient history, but in 2016, Trump had no real interest in targeting the LGBTQ community. As he wrapped up his party’s presidential nomination, the New York Times ran an article with a headline that read, “Donald Trump’s More Accepting Views on Gay Issues Set Him Apart in G.O.P.”

    [Trump] said he would be a “better friend” of the “LBGT” [sic] community than Hillary Clinton. Just two days after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Trump added, “Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you.”

    Seven years later, “I will fight for you” has gradually turned into “I will fight you.”

    […] [Trump], in other words, released this ugly video for the most obvious of reasons: He thinks it’ll get him some votes.

    But it also serves as a reminder of an underappreciated dynamic: Trump sees himself as the leader of a legion of far-right supporters. Occasionally, though, it’s the supporters who lead him.

  143. whheydt says

    Re: raven @ #175…
    I’m rather suspicious about that report. What has senses tingling is the references to “Koenigsberg” (translates to “King’s City). That is/was a city in East Prussia, the remnant of which is now the Russian territory of Kaliningrad (it’s wedged between Poland and Lithuania). Unless they want to revert to being part of Germany, the name they’re using doesn’t make a lot of sense. Hence my doubts…

  144. raven says

    Russia’s war forced millions of Ukrainians to flee abroad. How many will return?

    Good question.
    The number of Ukrainians who have fled is 8 million out of a population of 44 million.
    “International experience in migration movements prompted by military actions suggests that, on average, only about a third of those who flee will return. “

    We are seeing that here on the West Coast.
    The Ukrainian refugees get up in the morning. The electricity is on. There are no air raids with cruise missiles flying over head. The news doesn’t list the daily body count of dead soldiers. Some of them have already said they don’t want to go back.

    “They already had a demographic problem like most European countries.”
    Ukraine is on trend to go from 44 million to 35 million people by 2030, 7 years from now.

    It isn’t quite that bad though.
    Russia has the same problem. It also has millions of Ukrainians living there, many of which will want to get out of Russia assuming the war ever ends. After the USSR fell, 6 million Russia citizens, most of them ethnic Germans, moved to Germany.

    Russia’s war forced millions of Ukrainians to flee abroad. How many will return?

    Russia’s war forced millions of Ukrainians to flee abroad. How many will return?
    by Thaisa Semenova
    February 1, 2023 1:00 am
    Russia’s war forced millions of Ukrainians to flee abroad. How many will return?

    Viktoria Vozna, 25, had always enjoyed her quiet life in native Brovary, a city just east of Kyiv, and dreamed of raising her own children there one day.
    She never wanted to live abroad, but Russia’s brutal war forced her out of the country.
    After saving up enough money for relocation by October, she traveled 4,000 kilometers away from home to Lisbon, Portugal.

    “I have never dreamed of living abroad,” she told the Kyiv Independent. “When fleeing, I planned to go back home once the war was over.”
    But with each violent missile strike on civilians, Vozna’s hopes for returning to normal life in post-war Ukraine grow fainter.

    The Russian full-scale invasion, which has recently marked its 11th month, has brought massive destruction to Ukraine, ruining schools, hospitals, and homes, and contaminating land and coastal waters.

    Moscow’s repeated large-scale attacks on Ukraine targeting critical infrastructure, which have caused dozens of casualties and severely damaged the energy system since October, have made life in the country all the grimmer, even in the areas far from the front line.

    As the reality of a long, difficult, and costly recovery sets in, Vozna’s doubts over returning home after the war continue to grow.

    This sentiment is likely shared by some of the over 4.9 million Ukrainians who have been granted temporary protection or equivalent status in Europe since the beginning of Russia’s all-out war on Feb. 24. According to the United Nations refugee agency, in total, more than 7.9 million Ukrainians have fled their country since then.

    As of late August, the majority of Ukrainian refugees said they were planning to return after hostilities end, according to a poll by the Razumkov Center.

    But experts say that as time goes by and refugees build new lives abroad, Ukraine may not be able to expect most of them back home.

    Millions may not return
    Europe has not seen a mass displacement as big as the Ukrainian one since World War II. The closest conflict by size and scope of damage that could be compared to the war in Ukraine is the 1990s Balkan Wars. According to the International Center for Transitional Justice, the conflict killed 140,000 people.

    By the time the hostilities were over in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Kosovo, some 4 million people had fled their homes, according to the center.

    The history lesson learned from it could serve as a sobering reminder that repatriation in the aftermath of war and ethnic cleansing is rarely a swift and voluntary process.

    According to a report published by the Crisis Group non-profit, only 20% of refugees returned to Bosnia within 16 months of the signing of the Dayton peace agreement, which brought the three-and-a-half-year Bosnian War, part of the Balkan Wars, to a close.

    International experience in migration movements prompted by military actions suggests that, on average, only about a third of those who flee will return.

    Iryna Eihelson, a researcher specializing in identity-based conflicts who holds a PhD in psychology, explains that the trauma of ethnic cleansing and loss of sense of security makes it difficult for many to envision a future in their home countries.

    According to the United Nations, Russia’s war has killed more than 7,000 civilians and injured over 11,500 since February. The UN notes that the actual number of casualties may be “considerably higher” as data is currently unavailable from occupied territories and areas with heavy hostilities.

    Other factors, such as building new relationships or finding a job abroad, may also impact a person’s decision on whether to stay.

    “A person could initially be planning to spend just a few months abroad and return. But then, for instance, they find a partner and decide to stay to pursue the relationship,” Eihelson told the Kyiv Independent.

    “Or a child goes to school, adapts and makes new friends there, so then a mother delays returning home until the end of the school year, and so on,” Eihelson continued.

    Some of those who were ready to return home after the war as of August may now have a different perspective, as they get used to new countries and see a future for themselves there, the researcher explained.

    A Ukrainian woman makes a phone call to her relatives while sitting inside the Migration and Refugee Center in Kosice, Slovakia, on Dec. 17, 2022. (via Getty Images)

    Europe expects to brace itself for 2.5 to 3 million Ukrainians staying, regardless of the war’s evolution, Margaritis Schinas, the European Commission’s Vice President, said in an interview with the Washington Post.

    He attributed this partly to a “very generous offer” of a temporary protection directive, under which Ukrainians got streamlined access to housing, healthcare, and the labor market, without having to deal with typical European bureaucracy red tape.

    However, Schinas sees the prospect of several million Ukrainians staying in the EU as a “rather positive development.” The official described many refugees as “highly educated and skilled people” who can “immediately be incorporated into our system.”

    The contribution of Ukrainians may be especially timely as Europe faces a demographic decline and a notable skills gap in specific critical sectors.

    Making the most out of the crisis
    Europe will likely be challenged with the integration of millions of Ukrainian refugees, while for Ukraine, the post-war recovery may become even more complicated.

    However, instead of viewing the displacement solely in terms of whether refugees will stay or return, Hanne Beirens, the head of the Migration Policy Institute Europe, suggests both parties can benefit if they “dare to take a kind of intermediary approach” to the issue.

    Beirens meant a “back-and-forth relationship” or “circular movement,” similar to the one many Ukrainians had with countries like Poland and Germany prior to the full-scale invasion.

    Before 2022, millions of Ukrainians worked in the EU countries, often taking seasonal jobs in construction, agriculture, and manufacturing.

    Ukrainians were seeking higher wages than at home, while countries like Poland found in them a solution to the pervasive and persistent labor shortages caused by the migration of their own citizens within the EU or the UK.

    In July 2021, Andrii Deshchytsia, then Ukrainian ambassador to Poland, said that as many as 1.5 million Ukrainians worked in the country at the time, and there was a tendency for an increase in labor migration.
    For Ukraine, labor migrants have been a significant source of currency inflows, transferring as much as $15 billion to Ukraine in 2021. Labor migrants often send such payments to their relatives.
    “Past experience may be a precursor or a good basis for the future,” Beirens told Kyiv Independent.
    “It may be easier if families return to this kind of relationship,” she said.

    Demographic ‘catastrophe’
    Though it might somewhat benefit from having citizens abroad, Ukraine still needs as many of its people back home as possible due to the “catastrophic” impact of Russia’s invasion on the country’s demography.

    Even before 2022, Ukraine’s population was among the fastest-shrinking in the world.
    Fighting and missile strikes contribute to the population’s decrease through excess mortality. Not only has the war directly caused casualties, but it has also increased the number of people dying from stress, poor nutrition, and insufficient medical care.
    In December, Ella Libanova, director of the Ptoukha Institute for Demography and Social Studies, warned about Ukraine’s population’s dramatic decrease.
    “I dream that by 2030 there will be (at least) 35 million of us,” she said, talking about a country that had more than 43 million people in 2021, as estimated by the World Bank.
    “Unfortunately, even this may not be the case,” Libanova said.

    Ukraine needs its people to want to go home
    Some refugees will go back to Ukraine after the war’s end for patriotic reasons or because their families are there. But for others, the decision to return may be more complicated, with concerns about the challenges of the post-war recovery lingering in their minds.

    First and foremost, to achieve Ukraine’s goal of getting millions of its people back, refugees must have somewhere to come back to. Many have lost their homes due to Russia’s ongoing attacks and will need new ones upon return.

    The Infrastructure Ministry reported on Jan. 25 that as of the fall of 2022, more than 2.4 million Ukrainians had their homes damaged or destroyed. A total of over 170,000 residential buildings have been damaged or destroyed, according to the ministry.
    “Such scale (of destruction) requires systemic solutions to provide victims with housing,” the ministry said.
    The efficiency of the rebuilding and governmental policies on providing refugees with housing may influence their choice in favor of return.
    Utility worker stands near the truck crane which lifts an old pipe on Sept. 9, 2022, in Kharkiv. The city authorities organized the replacement of heating pipes to reduce heat losses in the Saltivka district, despite daily shelling by Russian troops. (via Getty Images)

    “Among other efforts, which could include tax-free livelihood for a while, specific subsidies towards repopulating devastated areas, or launching exciting reconstruction projects like the creation of “smart cities,” Irina Tsukerman, a New York-based geopolitical analyst told the Kyiv Independent via email.

    Tsukerman suggests that “meaningful economic incentives and opportunities” may encourage those refugees to doubt whether to return or stay.

    The decision will also be strongly influenced by the media, according to researcher and PhD in psychology Eihelson.
    As Ukrainian refugees spend more time away from their home country, their perception of what life in Ukraine is like is shaped increasingly by what they see on the news. But the researcher says this picture may not be the most accurate one.
    “I can imagine life in Ukraine seeming much worse than it actually is, with endless reports of cities reduced to rubble, shattered glass and debris in Mariupol, Volnovakha, and other devastated areas,” she said.
    The researcher warns that if Ukrainian refugees are exposed to mostly reports of destruction and human suffering, they may perceive the country as a place of pain and suffering, and be less likely to return.

    But there is another side to the story.
    Eihelson believes that if refugees see more reports of progress and renewal in Ukraine, they may be more inclined to come back.
    This includes democratic reforms, economic development, and an improvement of social programs and policies. These are the same reasons why many people left Ukraine long before 2022.
    “Will they (refugees) see it (Ukraine) as a land of pain and suffering, grappling with the aftermath of war, or as a country on the rise, with a resurgence of prosperity and opportunities?” Eihelson asks.
    For many Ukrainian refugees, the answer to this single question may determine their future: home or abroad.

  145. raven says

    @ 180 whheydt

    What has senses tingling is the references to “Koenigsberg” (translates to “King’s City). That is/was a city in East Prussia, the remnant of which is now the Russian territory of Kaliningrad (it’s wedged between Poland and Lithuania).

    Yeah, I know.

    I said as much when I posted it.
    This is all happening from Brussels, Belgium, out of reach of the Russians.

    Most likely, the reference to Koenigsberg is deliberate though. The Russian occupation of Koenigsberg was and is of dubious legality. It was German territory they seized after the war and they otherwise have no right to it under international law. It’s not even connected to Russia. The only reason the Russians are still there is no one wanted it because it was populated by…Russians.

    I know a lot about Koenigsberg, now Kaliningrad, because an old friend of mine was born there.
    He was German and his family was moved to Poland after the war. One day Russian soldiers came, took his father away, and they never saw him again. He was 8 years old at the time.
    Then they moved them from Poland to West Germany and as a teenager he ended up moving to the USA.
    He was a rock and roll musician who played in some famous groups and did a lot of studio work.
    I just found out last week that he died around the year end holidays at age 84. Sad, but none of us live forever.

  146. KG says

    It underlines the fact that the Russian Federation is an empire made up mostly of captive nations that the Russians have been Russifying for centuries. – raven@175

    This is true of course, but we shouldn’t forget that the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand/Aotearoa grew in much the same way – but have been more successful and in some cases arguably even more ruthless in suppressing and assimilating the captive nations concerned. For that matter, something similar is true of China, which roughly doubled in size under the Ching dynasty (1644-1911), conquering Tibet, Outer Mongolia, Tsinghai and Eastern Turkestan (“Xinjiang”), while France, Britain, Japan, Spain and Netherlands all continue to hold lands seized from their previous inhabitants during the 15th-19th centuries. Historically, imperialism is the rule, not the exception.

  147. says

    Ukraine update: Russia is about to mount another big offensive somewhere, sometime, says someone

    Over the last two weeks, Russian military bloggers have insisted that Russia was launching a huge new offensive west of Donetsk that had broken Ukrainian lines and was about to plow to the west. And a new offensive in Zaporizhzhia Oblast had broken through Ukrainian lines at eight places and was about to roll to the north. And, of course, a new offensive, both south and north of Bakhmut, was about to finally push Ukrainian troops out of that pesky city so they could roll … just anywhere.

    But wait! That’s not all! According to news accounts, both the U.S. and U.K. have warned Ukrainian officials that this time—unlike the fifteen previous times that Belarus was just about to get into the fight—Belarus is serious about joining the fight. Also, there are reports that Russia has massed VDV (Vozdushno-desantnye voyska, Russia’s supposedly elite airborne forces) forces near Kreminna in preparation for a counter-counteroffensive designed to recapture Izyum. Whether that comes before or after Russia’s new plan to occupy the city of Kharkiv is not clear.

    It’s like the military equivalent of everything, everywhere, all at once … only with slightly fewer googly eyes and hotdog fingers. Probably.

    But is there really anything to all of these warnings of new Russian offensives? No. Maybe. And also, yes.

    I’m including this tweet not because I have evidence that it’s accurate, but because it’s typical of what’s been coming out over the last few days. Of all the places where Russia is said to be massing forces at the moment, the Donetsk area may top the charts for pro-Russian accounts, but it’s Kreminna where Ukrainian sources keep pointing a worried finger. [Tweet and maps at the link]

    There could be good cause for this. After two months of fighting to get beyond those last few kilometers, Ukraine is literally on Kreminna’s doorstep. They currently hold positions in the forest south of the town that, at times, have included some of the city’s outer streets. Ukraine has also taken both the small villages immediately west of Kreminna and has moved toward both Pryvillya and Shypylivka to the east. But they may not be positioned well to receive a counterattack from the Russian side.

    One thing that’s likely to blunt the impact of any Russian attempt to follow those arrows on the map above: The area east of Kuzmyne has been described as a sea of mud. That’s why both Kuzmyne and Dibrova are more accurately described as a “gray zone” than fully under anyone’s control. It’s nearly impossible to move armor through that area right now without their progress being slowed to the point where they’re extremely vulnerable to artillery, drones, and hand-carried weapons.

    There’s also something else interesting about those Kreminna rumors, something that is shared with the news of those attacks down at Vuhledar in the south and with the latest assaults in the area south of Bakhmut: This isn’t Wagner. None of these attacks are apparently being lead by Yevgeny Prigozhin’s mercenary forces. Instead, they’re being attributed to the VDV in the north, and to the equally vaunted Guards Naval Infantry Brigade down at Vuhledar.

    Anders Östlund: Russia’s elite forces are bleeding out in Kreminna, Bakhmut and Vuhledar.

    Does this mean that Wagner has run out of prisoners to feed the grinder? Has Moscow lost patience with Prigozhin and decided to reduce his power and influence on events in Ukraine? There’s been a huge level of infighting between Prigozhin and more traditional elements of the Russian military, so anything is possible. Wagner might actually have finally culminated in the people-bit stew down along Patrisa Lumumby Street (Hey folks, yesterday Russia was almost at the winery … again.) There are even reports that Wagner is being completely moved out of the Bakhmut area, with regular troops taking over the task of dying somewhere between the hardware store and the scrapyard.

    In any case, those elite Russian units have, so far, been repeating the level of success that the VDV demonstrated back at the beginning of the invasion, when they were slaughtered in an attempt to take and hold Gostomel Airport just north of Kyiv. Those naval forces at Vuhledar in particular have come in for losses that would make you feel sorry for them … if you didn’t take one second to think about what they’re doing, or what Russia has done so far in this war. [video at the link]

    However, on Wednesday, Russia is once again attacking at Vuhledar. Actual fighting is also reported near Kreminna, though it’s unclear if Russia is seriously trying to drive through Ukrainian positions, as earlier posts have indicated.

    So … here’s that No. Maybe. And Yes.

    No, Belarus is not about to join the war. It’s been extremely unlikely from the outset, and it still is. Belarus will not join unless Vladimir Putin literally has a gun to Alexander Lukashenko’s head. Lukashenko understands that if they do join, he’s as good as dead anyway. Plus Lukashenko is 68. Putin is 70. Neither one of these men is healthy. If Belarus delays long enough, one of these jackasses will no longer have to worry about it. Lukashenko may feel that time is on his side. Stalling is his major skill.

    Maybe Russia is serious about pushing out of Kreminna and Vuhledar. There are strategic reasons why they want to secure the area about both these locations. Russia’s logististics are poor in the worst of times, and without these locations their options get worse. Kreminna and the highway to the north is essential for holding on to other locations — including Lysychansk and Severodonetsk — as well as making it a good deal easier to move supplies to the south. Russia would like to push Ukraine back so that it doesn’t have fire control over this area.

    Vuhledar provides Ukraine with a location from which it can shell rail lines in Russian-occupied territory that have become especially vital since the railroad bridge into Crimea was taken out. Russia is likely feeling the pinch, and if it can push Ukraine back a few miles, they may be able to move materiel with a lot more freedom.

    And here’s the yes. Yes, Russia still wants it all.

    Russia has not surrendered its ambitions to capture and occupy all of Ukraine—it’s just lost the fight on the battlefield. Going from all of Ukraine; to just Kharkiv, Kherson, Crimea, and the Donbas; to just Crimea and part of the Donbas, wasn’t by choice. It was forced on them by Ukrainian troops acting in a coordinated counterattack that defeated Russia repeatedly and soundly on both a tactical and strategic level.

    If support for Ukraine falters, Russia will advance, and despite losing over 125,000 people so far, Putin isn’t backing off. If anything, he realizes that he’s in a win-or-die situation. If advancing in Ukraine requires him to pull down the Russian military along every other mile of border and fly in every plane that’s supposed to be watching China, he’ll probably do it. Russia is still counting on simply crushing Ukraine with the strategy that has worked for them forever—crush an opponent not just under sheer numbers of troops, but with an unending willingness to accept massive losses.

    To overcome that, Ukraine doesn’t just need to maintain its existing force, it needs to upgrade its capabilities technically and tactically. The first M113 troop carriers arrived in Ukraine last July. The Ukraine counteroffensive in Kharkiv began in September. This is not a coincidence. The M113 helped provide Ukraine the ability for troops to better keep up with armor and position themselves to exploit breakthroughs. It was one of several tools that allowed Ukraine to step up its game.

    Now Russia is occupying a smaller area with more forces. The quality of those forces may be declining every time Russia tries to employ its VDV or naval forces, but quantity … etc. etc. Ukraine needs to step it up again. The incoming wave of new Western hardware should help give them the necessary edge against Russia.

    But don’t think that Putin has surrendered the rest of Ukraine. He doesn’t think this is over. Not by a long shot.

    And now, enjoy another video of the Belarus military doing its Belarus military thing. [video of Belarusian chaos at the link]

    Here are a couple of excellent visuals to help explain both where things are on a big scale, and what we’re seeing on a small scale. [Chart at the link]

    On the grandest level, Russia never came close to holding all of Ukraine. However, it’s not necessary to occupy every square foot, […] In a lot of ways, that decline from March to April last year is still the important one, because that’s where Russia was forced to retreat from the area around Kyiv after seriously overtaxing its ability to sustain a large force at a distance.

    By comparison, the Kharkiv counteroffensive in September was relatively small, even if it did cover 12,000 square kilometers. Russia’s exit from Kherson in November barely leaves a blip.

    Now, here’s that promised look at action on a smaller scale, and why there are still plenty of reasons for concern. (Sorry for the requisite click-through of non-sensitive “sensitive” content.) [video at the link]

    […] Yes, every one of those lines on this map represents thousands of Russian forces lost. However, Russia has been able to keep those lines moving. The Wagner attacks directly on Bakhmut, which get most of the attention, have been the least successful action in this area. They’ve genuinely been fighting over that same street for six months. It’s north and south of the city where the line has been grinding forward.

    This is a pretty clear signal that, despite all those checklists of things sent from the West, Ukraine lacks the counterbattery firepower necessary to halt Russia’s strategy of Zerg attacks moving under massed artillery strikes. Which says a lot about why Ukraine wants aircraft, as well as why they have an unending thirst for more artillery, more precise artillery, and longer-range artillery. They want to quiet those guns.

    Oryx has documented 1663 Russian tanks lost in this invasion. However, only 327 self-propelled artillery, 170 MLRS, and 161 towed artillery are on that list of documented losses. Considering how Russia is executing this war, those are probably the more important numbers. That artillery is what’s doing the real damage to both Ukrainian cities and Ukrainian forces.

    Tomorrow: Assuming some major new conflagration doesn’t dominate the day, I’m going to be looking at France’s AMX-10rc along with the highs, lows, and booms of the Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB).

    Sometimes I’m tempted to include the videos of some Russians being captured—like the guys taken this week because they had stolen Ukrainian uniforms and were trying to infiltrate, but were still wearing Russian discount store rubber galoshes instead of proper boots. Not going to do it, but I’ll say … those videos are out there.

    Yesterday, Twitter was hit with thousands of posts from some of the most followed of the MAGA crowd, all saying the same thing: “Why is there absolutely Zero footage of the war in Ukraine?”

    That’s right. No one has seen any video from Ukraine … on Newsmax, which apparently only mentions Ukraine when discussing how Trump could fix it with a phone call. If that’s not enough to make your skull hurt, watch the last few minutes of this video. Not only is there no war, Ukrainian refugees are crisis actors. Millions of crisis actors.[video at the link]


  148. Reginald Selkirk says

    Case of Mad Cow Disease Reported in the Netherlands

    A case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy—more colorfully known as mad cow disease—has been detected on a farm in the Netherlands. It’s the first time that an infected cow has been reported in the country in over a decade. Authorities say the cow should not pose a threat to human health, but they’re looking for other animals that may have been infected by the cow or from the same source.

  149. Rob Grigjanis says

    raven @182:

    The only reason the Russians are still there [Koenigsberg} is no one wanted it because it was populated by…Russians.

    It also has Russia’s only remaining ice-free port on the Baltic Sea.

    Worth noting that the area had been occupied by Baltic-speaking people until the Teutonic Knights popped in and Germanised them.

    I know a bit about the place; my dad’s family (father, mother, sister) ended up there after WWII when the Russians caught up with them on their way from Latvia to the west. We visited them in the early nineties.

  150. Pierce R. Butler says

    Fla Gov Ron DeathSentence, who just recently rammed through a bill requiring all state university professors to face tenure review every five years, has already escalated his power grab, now demanding that

    … the state Legislature … cut all funding for programs he believes are “ideological.”

    Referring to diversity, equity, and inclusion programs—which aim to promote fair treatment and full participation—and critial race theory, a graduate-level framework dealing with systemic racism, DeSantis said that “we’re also going to eliminate all DEI and CRT bureaucracies in the state of Florida. No funding, and that will wither on the vine.”

    … DeSantis also called for legislation that would subject such [tenured] educators to reviews at any time, at risk of their jobs.

    … “What I find most troubling is that DeSantis is putting out a blueprint for other governors and state legislatures,” Kristen A. Renn—a professor at Michigan State University who researches LGBTQ+ college issues—told The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    … Mia Brett, legal historian at The Editorial Board, last week compared Republicans’ attacks on education across the country to similar moves by the leaders of Nazi Germany during the early months of their regime.

    The Florida Phoenix has more details:

    … DeSantis said that “unproductive” tenured professors are the “most significant deadweight costs” at Florida universities.

    … “So we’re going to give the boards of trustees and the presidents of the universities the power to call a post-tenure review at any time. …” … a statement from community college presidents in Florida saying that they support DeSantis’ views against critical race theory and other related academic topics … “We also want to empower university presidents to make hiring decisions for their university by reestablishing their authority over the hiring process,” DeSantis said. “A lot of this is done by faculty committees and, you know, they have a certain worldview that they want to promote. …”

    … A follow-up press release added that the legislation would prohibit “higher education institutions from using any funding, regardless of source, to support DEI, CRT, and other discriminatory initiatives.”

    Our Florida-fuhrer has also appointed a political hack (no background in education until selected as state Education Commissioner, as which he pushed a hardcore Republican anti-education agenda) as interim president of New College.

  151. says

    Pew Research:

    The share of Americans who say the U.S. is providing too much support to Ukraine has grown. This shift in opinion is mostly attributable to the growing share of Republicans who hold this view.

    Graph at the (Twitter) link.

  152. says

    Trump lumps himself in with Al Capone (yes, again)

    It’s one thing when Donald Trump’s critics equate his alleged misconduct with infamous criminals; it’s something else when he does this to himself.

    Donald Trump is well aware of the fact that he’s facing serious legal troubles, including possible indictments. Not surprisingly, this has led the former president to hire a small army of defense attorneys.

    This week, the Republican used his social media platform to complain about all of this in a curious way.

    “Because of the Weaponization, Targeting, and Unprecedented Harassment, I believe that I have more lawyers working for me on this Corrupt Law Enforcement induced Bull…. than any human being in the history of our Country, including even the late great gangster, Alphonse Capone! This is all being done for POLITICAL REASONS in that I am leading everybody, Republicans & Democrats, by big numbers in the Polls. The Disinformation Specialists are at it again, full time. The Fake News is their TOOL!”

    [LOL, the comedy stylings of Hair Furor]

    Obviously, much of this is nonsense, and there’s no reason to believe the criminal investigations Trump is facing are the result of a corrupted process. But what stood out for me was the fact that the former president lumped himself in with Al Capone.

    What’s more, this wasn’t the first time. […]

  153. says

    Trump, in decline, still has the juice to cripple Republicans in ’24 with third-party run

    The conservative outlet The Bulwark published a poll Tuesday with findings that suggest Republicans’ worst 2024 nightmare could indeed become a reality.

    The poll, conducted by North Star Opinion Research, showed that 28% of GOP primary voters said they would support Donald Trump even if he decided to run as an independent in the general election.

    It’s a number that surely has GOP donors, operatives, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell drenched in night sweats. One way or the other, Trump will undoubtedly be making Republicans’ life a living hell for yet another cycle.

    Trump’s candidacy isn’t exactly popular, nor is he poised to run away with the nomination.

    The Bulwark notes that recent polling, including their own, finds Trump’s ’24 candidacy retains the support of approximately 28% – 38% of Republican primary voters, meaning a solid majority of GOP voters are ready to give Trump the heave-ho.

    Trump, however, still has a plausible path to winning the nomination, though nothing is assured.

    In 2016, for instance, Trump won a 35% plurality of New Hampshire Republican voters and a 33% plurality of South Carolina voters, taking all the delegates from both states and putting him on the path to eventually clinch the nomination.

    […] DeSantis being the frontrunner at this point isn’t exactly a lock either. […]

    Trump’s star is falling. […] In Civiqs tracking, Trump’s favorables are now at their lowest point since he clinched the nomination in 2016—34% favorable, 59% unfavorable […]

    Maybe Trump needs to “decline” some more. Even if Trump disappeared, I don’t see the Republican Part’s problems going away though.

  154. says


    Yesterday, after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced his plans to take a Stalinist level of control over higher education in Florida, the New York Times ran a story that practically beamed with admiration at what a bold move DeSantis had taken, gushing in a headline,”DeSantis Takes On the Education Establishment, and Builds His Brand,” as if what mattered here were the savvy way DeSantis is marketing his war on public and higher education, not the damage it will do to Florida schools and students.

    The lead paragraph is all about what a savvy culture warrior DeSantis is, with his vows to “take on liberal orthodoxy and its champions,” and then moves on to his various made up battles against all the woke — again, framing all this as if it were merely the stuff of ordinary politics:

    But his crusade has perhaps played out most dramatically in classrooms and on university campuses. He has banned instruction about gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade, limited what schools and employers can teach about racism and other aspects of history and rejected math textbooks en masse for what the state called “indoctrination.” Most recently, he banned the College Board’s Advanced Placement courses in African American studies for high school students.

    On Tuesday, Governor DeSantis, a Republican, took his most aggressive swing yet at the education establishment, announcing a proposed overhaul of the state’s higher education system that would eliminate what he called “ideological conformity.” If enacted, courses in Western civilization would be mandated, diversity and equity programs would be eliminated, and the protections of tenure would be reduced.

    Well that certainly is “aggressive,” all right. It’s also just about the only detail we get on a pretty radical assault on academic freedom. The story continues in that vein, noting that his “pugilistic approach was rewarded by voters who re-elected him by a 19 percentage-point margin in November,” which must mean he’s doing something right. Or far-right. Or nigh-totalitarian.

    After all that DeSantis-fluffing in the introductory passages, the story ultimately turned to reportage of the changes DeSantis wants to make, nearly all of it framed in terms of Mr. DeSantis’s goals […] We’re told that DeSantis

    vowed to turn the page on agendas that he said were “hostile to academic freedom” in Florida’s higher education system. The programs “impose ideological conformity to try to provoke political activism,” Mr. DeSantis said. “That’s not what we believe is appropriate for the state of Florida.”

    […] It’s what DeSantis says, and the Times is only here to transcribe. Does the Times even wryly note that DeSantis himself is trying to impose “ideological conformity”? Not even drily.

    We get a brief overview of how DeSantis seeks to completely remake the New College of Florida, which the Times describes as ” a small liberal arts school in Sarasota that has struggled with enrollment, but calls itself a place for ‘freethinkers,'” an odd juxtaposition. […]

    THIS MORNING! Ron DeSantis Gets To Work Dismantling ‘College’

    At least we finally get a brief opposing view in this part of the piece, noting that the new trustees voted “in a raucous meeting” to fire New College President Patricia Okker, and giving her an entire paragraph of her own before shifting the POV immediately to DeSantis again.

    While expressing her love for both the college and its students, Dr. Okker called the move a hostile takeover. “I do not believe that students are being indoctrinated here at New College,” she said. “They are taught, they read Marx and they argue with Marx. They take world religions, they do not become Buddhists in February and turn into Christians in March.”

    Governor DeSantis also announced on Tuesday that he had asked the Legislature to immediately free up $15 million to recruit new faculty and provide scholarships for New College.

    As the story progresses, we finally hear from some of the faculty and students who oppose DeSantis’s moves, although even here, the story downplays scathing criticism, framing it almost as if it were an acknowledgement that DeSantis is playin’ hardball.

    Andrew Gothard, president of New College’s faculty union, decries how DeSantis and the state Lege act as if they “have the right to tell Florida students what classes they can take and what degree programs. […] He says out of one side of his mouth that he believes in freedom and then he passes and proposes legislation and policies that are the exact opposite.”

    The Times introduces that by saying Gothard “said the governor’s statements on the state’s system of higher education were perhaps his most aggressive yet.”

    Gothard: DeSantis is a borderline fascist and a two-faced hypocrite when he talks about academic freedom.

    The Times:Dr. Gothard finds DeSantis quite the challenging foe!

    Thankfully, no such softpedalling happens to a quote from the parent of a transgender student; she’s at least allowed to be astonished that DeSantis would try to take away the one place in academia where her daughter and other students have found a refuge.

    Then we’re back to 30,000 feet with a very “objective” discussion of how Republicans are making political hay out of stirring up anxieties about education — with hardly a hint of how most of it is paranoid bullshit and bigotry — although again, there’s at least token acknowledgement that some people disagree.

    The piece does at least stop just short of praising DeSantis’s brilliance as a field marshal in the Culture Wars, so it’s a fine example of balanced coverage. Barf.

    We guess the only consolation here is that it was written before the College Board announced its revised framework for its Advanced Placement African American studies course, which has largely removed elements that DeSantis had criticized when he rejected the curriculum. Wow, he really IS building his brand! And even putting his brand on education!


  155. larpar says

    Lynna, OM @ 190
    I don’t know how many lawyers Capone had, but I bet they were better quality than Trump’s. : )

  156. says

    Well, it looks like Barely Speaker Kevin got his Republican caucus in line to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee for nothing but racist and retaliatory reasons.

    He removed Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from the House Intelligence Committee to punish them for investigating and impeaching the Republican Party’s favorite traitor. But he can’t just flip his hair and do that to Omar, because the House Foreign Affairs Committee isn’t a select committee. Therefore it goes to a vote of the House, and for a minute there, it looked like he didn’t have the votes.

    But aw shucks, there’s really no such thing as a white supremacist party game Republican congressmen don’t like playing, so it looks like McCarthy’s got it sorted. Even though their majority is only three right now, because Florida GOP Rep. Greg Steube is still off recovering from fall down go boom.

    Some behind the scenes, skip it if you don’t care how Republicans got from “didn’t have the votes” to “fuck youuuuuu, Ilhan Omar.”

    [T]he inclusion of a provision in the four-page resolution, that Republicans argue provides due process to Omar, seems to have appeased at least one crucial voter, as Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) announced Tuesdaythat she would now support the measure. Reps. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) and Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) have publicly suggested that they would vote against it before the resolution’s text was released Tuesday, while Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has said he remained undecided. Republican leadership aides, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to outline private whip counts, said they have the votes to pass the measure whenever Democrats formally appoint Omar to her committee.

    Kevin McCarthy has been saying Omar has made “repeated antisemitic and anti-American remarks,” but that’s a lie just like his lies about Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell.

    Because let’s be clear. This is definitely not about antisemitic remarks, all of which Omar has apologized for profusely. Greg Sargent notes that Matt Gaetz is actually being entirely honest about what’s going on:

    Republicans want to punish Omar “because they don’t like what she has to say,” Gaetz said Monday. Though he remains undecided on whether to remove her, he correctly questioned the validity of doing this because “I don’t like your viewpoint.”

    Again, that’s Matt Gaetz, who doesn’t know whether he’s going to vote for Omar, but is the only one telling the truth about what’s happening here.

    Sargent tears apart Republicans’ flimsy stated reasons for opposing Omar.

    Yes, some of these were seriously problematic, such as her tweet that Israel’s U.S. allies are driven by money. But Omar has apologized for her genuinely offensive remarks, and retracted other ones that faced criticism.

    And yet:

    Other comments cited in the resolution, such as her remarks about Sept. 11, are ripped out of context in keeping with trickery that Republicans have employed about her comments for years.

    Y’all remember that one? Republicans have been lying through their forked tongues about it forever, claiming that about 9/11 Omar said merely that “some people did something” — like it was no big deal — when the truth is that it was four words taken wildly out of context.

    Since that’s in the Republicans’ resolution against her, it’s worth putting this fact-checking video in here so we can all watch it: [video at the link]

    Sargent also notes that Rep. Omar — as a Muslim woman from Somalia who wears a headscarf — probably faces more bigotry and discrimination than any person in Congress. He points to Marjorie Taylor Greene calling her “bloodthirsty” and “basically an apologist for Islamic terrorists” and Lauren Boebert saying she’s on the “jihad squad.” And all the death threats. And Donald Trump’s constant nativist, white supremacist attacks on Omar.

    This seems to be the real crux of Republicans’ objections, writes Sargent. This is what they mean when they say “anti-American”:

    The constant depiction of Omar as a foreign interloper advances a deeper objection: It’s to this Muslim American being repeatedly chosen by hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens to represent them in Congress. Omar has urged Muslim Americans to be maximally active in the political process to counter efforts to stigmatize them — that is, to fully avail themselves of their rights and privileges as citizens.

    Sargent, quoting Peter Beinart, writes that Omar has a “unique insistence on describing U.S. foreign policy through the eyes of the rest of the world.” The mere fact of having a Somali-born progressive Muslim woman in Congress means there is somebody in the room who’s going to say things American members of Congress aren’t used to hearing. She has a perspective that American members of Congress quite frankly aren’t used to respecting.

    So yeah, we weren’t being flippant. This is nothing more than a white supremacist toga party, and sounds like pretty much the entire Republican caucus can’t wait to go.

    So what’s fucking new about that?

  157. says

    larpar @193, good point. :-)
    I like the way Trump describes Capone as “the late great gangster, Alphonse Capone!” Trump’s admiration is so obvious.

    In other news, this is an excerpt from the Washington Post’s coverage of the funeral of Tyre Nichols:

    Before the Rev. Al Sharpton was about to speak at Tyre Nichols’s funeral Wednesday, he invited Vice President Harris to give an impromptu address to those gathered at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church.

    In brief, emotional comments, Harris denounced the actions of the Memphis police officers who brutally beat the 29-year-old Nichols on Jan. 7, leading to his death three days later.

    “When we look at this situation, this is a family that lost their son and their brother through an act of violence at the hands and the feet of the people who had been charged with keeping them safe,” Harris said.

  158. says

    An alleged $500 million Ponzi scheme preyed on Mormons. It ended with FBI gunfire.

    Washington Post link

    The FBI arrived at the only house on this stretch of Ruffian Road at 1:25 p.m., parking out front of the $1.6 million property, hedged by empty lots of scrub and dust.

    The three agents approached the camera-equipped doorbell at the home’s perimeter, pressing it once. Then they pushed past an unlocked gate, cut through the courtyard and rapped against the glass French doors of Matthew Beasley’s home.

    The Las Vegas attorney, then 49, had been anticipating this visit for months, he would tell an FBI hostage negotiator. He’d already drafted letters to his wife and four children, explaining what he could and describing how much he loved them.

    On this Thursday in March, Beasley knew his time was up. He placed the letters — along with a note addressed to the FBI and a zip drive of computer files — upstairs on the desk in his office. Then, alone in the house, he went to the front door. He paused, the left side of his body obscured by the door frame.

    One of the agents — identified only as “J.M.” in a detailed criminal complaint filed March 4 in the U.S. District Court of Nevada — opened his suit jacket and flashed his badge.

    Beasley stepped fully into the doorway. He held a loaded pistol against his head.

    “Easy, easy,” yelled J.M.

    “Drop the gun,” shouted a second agent.

    Authorities had long suspected Beasley of running a massive Ponzi scheme with his business partner, Jeffrey Judd, that mainly targeted Mormons, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are often called. The investment was pitched as a nearly risk-free opportunity to earn annual returns of 50 percent by lending money to slip-and-fall victims awaiting checks after the settlement of their lawsuits.

    There was just one problem, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged in a civil complaint. None of it was real.

    For five years, the SEC said, Beasley and Judd paid existing investors with money from new clients — a classic Ponzi scheme. […]It came to be known as the “Mormon Ponzi scheme.”

    More than 900 people invested their savings — an estimated $500 million — between 2017 and 2022. They included surgeons, real estate developers, Mormon bishops, retirees and stay-at-home mothers. […]

    […] Before the FBI arrived at Beasley’s door that day, they’d raided Judd’s $6.6 million mountainside mansion, which overlooked the Las Vegas Strip. There, according to a new court filing, agents confiscated Judd’s cellphones and computers, more than a half-dozen high-end watches, thousands of silver and gold coins, and nearly $400,000 in cash, just a day before the nuptials of his 21-year-old daughter.

    […] As the FBI agents shouted at him, Beasley said later in an interview with The Post, he pointed the pistol toward the ground.

    He was doing what the three agents had asked of him, Beasley said, adding that “I never pointed my gun anywhere except for my head.” The FBI maintains in its criminal complaint, though, that he aimed the weapon at the agents. At least one opened fire, striking Beasley in the chest and shoulder.

    He retreated into his home, refusing to come out as the FBI assembled a SWAT team and began recording its calls with him. The hostage negotiator tried to persuade him to seek medical care, but Beasley repeatedly threatened to kill himself, saying that he didn’t want to go to prison.

    […] Soon after, the line went quiet. Crouched on the floor with the pistol resting on his chest, Beasley had dropped his cellphone, slick with his own blood.

    […] “We were a little nervous, but we trusted him,” Mabeus said. “Because we were friends and belonged to the same church, the red flags were heart-shaped. I was like, ‘Wow. We are really lucky to be involved in this investment.’”

    The next month, she and her husband wired over $140,000. Ninety days later, the first interest payment of $18,000 arrived, right on time. The couple continued adding money, until they reached a total of $680,000, she said.

    “There was never a hiccup,” Mabeus said. “My bishop was involved and invested, and so were my closest friends. A lot of people were told to keep it quiet.” [Yep, that sounds like a classic Mormon scheme.]

    […] The investment had no website. Spread via word of mouth, it was reliant on the trust that came from a shared religious affiliation, known as an affinity scam. […]

    Much more at the link, including details that demonstrate how much the families of conmen suffer, especially their Mormon wives and children in this case.

  159. lumipuna says

    Re: 175, 180

    What has senses tingling is the references to “Koenigsberg” (translates to “King’s City). That is/was a city in East Prussia, the remnant of which is now the Russian territory of Kaliningrad (it’s wedged between Poland and Lithuania).

    Also, Ingria doesn’t have officials because it isn’t an administrative region of Russia. It’s an obscure historical region that covers St. Petersburg and some of the surrounding Leningrad Oblast. Ethnic Ingrians are a Finnic group who have been heavily assimilated and scattered across Russia and Estonia and Finland, to the point that Ingrian cultural activism is nearly dead and not much connected to their traditional homeland anyway.

  160. lumipuna says

    In some good news,

    After years of preparation and months of asinine arguments, Finnish parliament has just passed a gender recognition reform largely similar to the ones that have been recently under process in Scotland and Germany. This will remove almost all gatekeeping for official gender reassignment of adults.

    The asinine arguments have been largely the same as elsewhere, mainly handwringing about the possibility of some cis people (read: cis men) exploiting the lack of scrutiny for nefarious purposes. A lot of it involves public bathrooms – or in special Finnish flavor, our highly popular public pools with their gender-segregated locker/washing/sauna spaces.

    Another Finnish specialty has been the hypothetical of cis men changing their gender on paper to avoid conscript military service. For this purpose, you’d have to stay legally female from age 18 to age 30 while being socially male, which apparently would be super easy according to many cis people.

    (I could digress at length into the issues concerning conscript service, gender equality and national defense, but it’s too late and I need to sleep. Suffice to say, when I did community service as a substitute for military 20 years ago, I thought conscription might be abolished in Finland within a few decades. Now we’re living in a security environment where that definitely isn’t happening.)

  161. whheydt says

    Re: lumipuna @ #198…
    The alternative would be to draft women as well as men. Granted, the US dropped conscription (aka the draft) as a general rule decades ago, but a lot of that was in reaction the mess that was Viet Nam.

  162. Reginald Selkirk says

    Hunter Biden calls for criminal probes into effort to ‘weaponize’ laptop contents

    Attorneys for Hunter Biden on Wednesday asked state and federal agencies to investigate a computer repair shop owner, Rudy Giuliani and number of right-wing political figures involved in disseminating contents of his laptop, alleging that they committed computer and other criminal violations in their effort to “weaponize” the laptop contents against his father.

  163. Reginald Selkirk says

    GOP Rep. Andy Biggs announces articles of impeachment against DHS Secretary Mayorkas

    WASHINGTON — Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., said Wednesday that he’s filing articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who has faced demands from top Republicans to resign over his handling of the southern border.

    Biggs announced the move at a news conference flanked by several Republicans, including Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. He said Mayorkas has violated his oath of office.

    “The founders said that you have impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors — that’s constitutional,” Biggs said. “They didn’t say you have to be convicted of a felony. What they said is you have a public official who has violated public trust, and there is nobody who typifies that more in my opinion than Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.”

    He just read the phrase ; “high crimes and misdemeanors.” There was no mention of public trust.

  164. says

    GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Perv) offered an amendment to the rules of the Judiciary Committee – now chaired by pro-insurrectionist Republican Jim Jordan – to mandate the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance before every Committee hearing. This is a puerile proposal that treats adult members of Congress like 2nd graders. It is hardly a demonstration of patriotism, particularly when Republicans and Donald Trump have so severely distorted the meaning of the word.

    […] GOP patriotism is just a facade, and even that is a moving target. Which was evident in Gaetz’s proposal to force members to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. What Gaetz may not have anticipated is that Democrats would see though his charade and take the opportunity to expose it as the mockery of patriotism that it is. Rep. David Cicilline sought to both clarify Gaetz’s proposal and ridicule Gaetz…

    Cicilline: I’d like to offer an amendment to the amendment adding … “Provided, however, the Pledge shall not be led by an individual who has supported an insurrection against the government of the United States in any way.” Because I think if we adopt this amendment then we will be truthful in representing that stating this pledge is an affirmation of your defense of democracy and the Constitution. […]

    You want to give someone the right to stand in front of the House Judiciary Committee and lead the Pledge of Allegiance, at a bare minimum, let’s guarantee that person has not participated, supported, or in anyway, helped an overthrow of the government of the United States.

    […] Needless to say, Gaetz did not welcome this amendment. And the resulting debate wasted nearly an hour on this blatantly performative nonsense. Republicans then flagrantly lied, saying the Democrats refuse to pledge allegiance to the country. They said that Democrats hate the pledge and, therefore, America. That is, of course, utter, unadulterated bullpucky. […]


  165. Reginald Selkirk says

    The Satanic Temple opens clinic to provide ‘religious abortion’ care named for Justice Samuel Alito’s mother

    The Satanic Temple is opening a health clinic in New Mexico to provide “free religious medication abortion” and will name the facility “The Samuel Alito’s Mom’s Satanic Abortion Clinic” in mockery of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who authored the opinion overturning Roe v. Wade.

    TST Health, the new medical services arm of the nontheistic religious organization, will provide telehealth screenings and appointments to provide abortion pills to patients. These services will be provided free of charge as part of The Satanic Temple’s “abortion ritual,” though patients must still pay for the medications from a pharmacy, which typically cost around $90, according to the TST Health website…

  166. Reginald Selkirk says

    ‘Anti-religious bigotry’: Nebraska Dem’s amdt. would ban kids from vacation Bible schools, church youth groups

    A Democratic lawmaker in Nebraska is being accused of “anti-religious bigotry” by Republicans after she proposed to ban children from attending church youth groups or vacation Bible schools.

    State Sen. Megan Hunt says her amendment, which would ban children under 19 years of age from attending a “religious indoctrination camp,” is intended to kill the underlying bill, LB 371, a measure put forward by Republicans to ban minors from attending drag performances…

  167. whheydt says

    Re: Lynna, OM @ #202…
    I don’t much like the Pledge of Allegiance…in its present form. Let’s see how the Republicans would like it if it reverted to what Bellamy actually wrote, and then see how they feel about the “Bellamy Salute” that goes with it.

  168. johnson catman says

    re whheydt @205: I don’t really think that republicans would have an issue with the “Bellamy Salute”. I am sure a lot of their supporters already use it for certain circumstances.

  169. whheydt says

    Re: johnson catman @ #206…
    The salute that the Republican fellow travelers use is palm down. The Bellamy salute is palm up.

  170. Reginald Selkirk says

    Australia is removing British monarchy from its bank notes

    The nation’s central bank said Thursday its new $5 bill would feature an Indigenous design rather than an image of King Charles III. But the king is still expected to appear on coins that currently bear the image of the late Queen Elizabeth II.
    The $5 bill was Australia’s only remaining bank note to still feature an image of the monarch.

  171. Reginald Selkirk says

    US and French forces seized Iranian-supplied weapons and ammunition bound for Yemen

    The US Navy assisted the French military in seizing thousands of assault rifles and half a million rounds of ammunition that were heading to Yemen from Iran in January, the US military confirmed on Wednesday.

    The seizure in the Gulf of Oman occurred on January 15, according to 5th Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Tim Hawkins.

    “US 5th Fleet assets assisted partner maritime forces in the interdiction by sharing information and helping coordinate the overall effort,” Hawkins said. “We also ultimately took custody of the confiscated weapons through a ship-to-ship transfer with partner forces.”

    A US official confirmed to CNN that the French military was the partner force in question.

  172. Reginald Selkirk says

    Ukraine’s new weapon will force a Russian shift

    The new weapon, the Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB), will allow Ukraine’s military to hit targets at twice the distance reachable by the rockets it now fires from the U.S.-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). If included as expected in an upcoming weapons-aid package first reported by Reuters, the 151 km (94 mile) GLSDB will put all of Russia’s supply lines in the east of the country within reach, as well as part of Russian-occupied Crimea…

    GLSDB is GPS-guided glide bomb that can manoeuvre to hit hard-to-reach targets such as command centres. Made jointly by SAAB AB and Boeing Co, it combines the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) with the M26 rocket motor, both of which are common in U.S. inventories.

    It is not yet compatible with HIMARS, but the United States will provide Ukraine new launchers for the rockets, said sources. GLSDB could be delivered as early as spring 2023, according to a document reviewed by Reuters…

  173. says

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

    [Dan Sabbagh:] A fresh Russian assault around the southern Donbas town of Vuhledar, which began towards the end of January, demonstrates that Moscow’s forces are becoming more capable before a critical – and increasingly uncertain – spring period.

    Russian forces have not yet made significant gains across the open fields of the region, where the Ukrainians have been dug in for months. But in parallel with the seemingly never-ending Wagner Group-led assault on Bakhmut, 70 miles to the north-east, it shows the invaders trying to push forward at a second point.

    Until now the conventional view has been that Ukraine holds the initiative in the near-year-long war, after Russia’s hasty and chaotic retreat from Izium in September and the better-organised withdrawal from Kherson two months after. But some experts argue that is no longer the case, and the situation is more finely balanced.

    The Institute for the Study of War this week said the conflict had settled into “positional warfare” that had given the Russians “the opportunity to regain the initiative if they choose and to raise the bar for future Ukrainian counteroffensives even if they do not”.

    Overnight Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said there had been an increase in Russian operational tempo on the frontline. Although western officials do not yet believe the effort around Vuhledar represents the start of a spring offensive in “big strategic terms”, the speculation is that one could be around the corner.

    Significantly it has come at a point when Russian air attacks on Ukraine’s electricity grid have slowed, which may suggest Gen Valery Gerasimov’s command has brought about a change of tack to focus on a more conventional military approach rather than to try (and fail) to terrorise civilians from the skies. It is too early to be certain, but it looks increasingly likely the power network will not collapse this winter.

    EU says international centre for prosecution of crimes in Ukraine will be set up in The Hague

    The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has announced that an international centre for the prosecution of crimes in Ukraine will be set up in The Hague.

    Von der Leyen is in Kyiv, where she and other EU officials are visiting to show their support and pledge military, financial and political aid for Ukraine ahead of the one-year anniversary of the war.

    The European Commission chief said:

    It will coordinate the collection of evidence, it will be embedded in the joint investigation team which is supported by our agency Eurojust.

    The European Parliament has voted in support of a roadmap for Ukraine’s accession to the EU.

    Reuters has some analysis on Ukraine’s pathway to EU membership, noting that the country should expect any hopes to quickly join the 27-nation bloc quickly to be dashed….

    Finland and Sweden remain committed to joining Nato at the same time despite Turkey’s opposition to the Swedish candidacy, the two countries’ prime ministers have said.

    Turkey has said it would approve Finland’s application ahead of Sweden’s, but the Finnish president and foreign minister both rejected this idea, arguing that the security of the two Nordic countries is mutually dependent.

    Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin told a joint news conference in Stockholm on Thursday:

    I don’t like this atmosphere, position where Sweden is presented as a sort of trouble child in the classroom. I don’t think this is the case.

    Sweden also ticks all the boxes that are needed to become a member of Nato.

    Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said his country continued to abide by a trilateral agreement on NATO accession signed last year between Sweden, Finland and Turkey.

    Kristersson said:

    We embarked on this journey together and we do the journey towards membership together.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has compared today’s fight against Ukraine and its Western allies to Russia’s victory against Nazi Germany in World War Two, in a speech marking 80 years since the decisive battle of Stalingrad….

    Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania want Russian and Belarusian athletes banned from the Paris 2024 games.

    The IOC is considering allowing Russian and Belarusian participation at Olympics as neutrals, as Russians have done for the past three Olympics.

  174. says

    Guardian – “Wagner mercenaries sustain losses in fight for Central African Republic gold”:

    Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group have sustained heavy casualties in a new surge of fighting between government troops and rebels over the control of lucrative goldmines in Central African Republic (CAR).

    The clashes come amid increasing instability in the anarchic [gah], resource-rich country, which in recent years has become one of Russia’s main hubs of influence in sub-Saharan Africa.

    The government offensive is led by some of the estimated 1,000 Wagner fighters stationed in CAR since 2018.

    In CAR, Wagner fighters have defended the regime of Faustin-Archange Touadéra against successive rebel attacks on the capital, Bangui, and have been accused of human rights abuses.

    “We have lost two [killed] and many injured, but we defeated them and confiscated many military trucks … We staged an ambush and they fell into the trap,” said Ahmadou Ali, a senior leader in the rebel Coalition of Patriots for Change, in a phone interview.

    Experts say reliable figures are difficult to establish, but that it is clear Wagner sustained relatively heavy casualties.

    Ali said CAR’s forces had not joined the fighting. “It was a battle between us and the Russians. They only used the government troops to legitimise things. The Russians have taken all over the country. They are everywhere: they guard the borders and you see them everywhere there are [valuable] resources. They stole all our resources,” he said.

    Last year there was another round of clashes after Wagner fighters attacked artisanal goldmines along the CAR border with Sudan. Dozens of miners were killed in at least three attacks and witnesses interviewed by the Guardian described “massacres” by fighters they identified as being from Wagner, who swept through encampments full of migrant miners and mine workings during a six-week period.

    Since Wagner arrived in CAR, it has tried to establish control over the flow of gold and diamonds as part of a broader push to secure resources. Analysts believe the group was initially promised gold and other mining concessions for its services in place of cash payments.

    Such concessions have gained in importance as the Russian rouble has come under pressure since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Precious metals, especially gold, could help Vladimir Putin’s regime survive the economic impact of sanctions….

  175. says

    HuffPo – “Maxine Waters Hilariously Shuts Down GOP Rep. By Focusing On Trump’s Love Of Dictators”:

    A GOP congressman’s effort to get Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) to condemn socialism failed spectacularly on Wednesday when she gave the same response, over and over again, to his questions about communist dictators: Donald Trump loves these guys.

    Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.) went after Waters during a House Rules Committee hearing on a resolution that “denounces socialism in all its forms, and opposes the implementation of socialist policies in the United States of America.” It’s a nonbinding measure, but Republicans decided it is a priority to send the message that dictators like Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong and Kim Jong II were bad.

    The problem for the GOP is that Trump, who remains their party’s presidential front-runner despite inciting an insurrection after he lost the 2020 election, openly admires dictators like Kim Jong Un, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. Republicans know this, but they weren’t ready for Waters to relentlessly call them out on it in Wednesday’s hearing.

    “The American public is going to wonder why Republicans are wasting our time today with this divisive resolution instead of focusing on the real threats to our economy and democracy,” Waters told the panel, speaking in her role as the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee. “What is this all about? Is it about saying you want to cut Social Security? You want to cut Medicare? You don’t care about the debt ceiling? Please.”

    “You can’t condemn socialism?” Reschenthaler said. “In your opening remarks, you were talking about Putin, Kim Jong Un and Xi. You know what they all have in common, right?”

    “Trump,” Waters said flatly to a few laughs in the room.

    “Trump?” Reschenthaler said. “North Korea, China and Russia?”

    “He loves Kim Jong Un,” Waters said, “who is condemned in the resolution. Regarding North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Trump said Kim ‘wrote me beautiful letters, and they’re great letters and we fell in love.’ You sure you want to hear the rest of this?”

    Reschenthaler tried to pivot by suddenly talking about former Chinese communist revolutionary Mao Zedong being responsible for tens of millions of people starving to death. “Do you denounce that?” he asked Waters.

    “But Trump loves him,” she replied. “That’s your leader.”

    “Do you denounce the genocide and starvation in communist China?” he shot back.

    “Trump is your leader,” Waters continued. “He speaks for you. He says he loves him.”

    It went on like this for a while to the point of becoming comical, with the Pennsylvania Republican trying ― and failing ― to pivot away from Trump.

    Eventually, the California congresswoman elaborated on why the resolution was as much a waste of time as GOP efforts to appear to care about defending democracy after the role they played in fueling lies about fraud in the 2020 presidential election ― the same lies that motivated a pro-Trump mob to attack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

    Reschenthaler himself was one of the 147 Republicans who voted to throw out the results of the election based on a lie about widespread voter fraud.

    “Your Republican leader, Donald Trump, is friends with, supports Putin. Kim Jong Un, he loves him. And he led this country in being basically undermined by Jan. 6, including … telling his supporters to go after our own police officers here and use the American flag,” Waters said. “I haven’t heard one denouncement on the Republican side. Nobody has denounced that.”

    The room was silent as she continued.

    “Are you afraid of Trump? Do you agree with Trump?” Waters asked Republicans in the room. “Ask him the questions, don’t ask me.”

    Unbelievably, Reschenthaler tried to pivot again, this time to the former Cambodian communist dictator Pol Pot.

    “Do you denounce the killing fields of Cambodia or not?” he asked.

    “Don’t ask me silly questions,” Waters fired back. “I told you, I’m a capitalist. I’m not like Donald Trump. I’m not like Republicans who claim to support this democracy but at the same time refuse to condemn those who attempted to destroy this democracy. You need to talk to your leader, Donald Trump, about what he’s doing, about why he loves Putin so much, why he loves Kim Jong Un so much.”

    “You ask him the questions,” she added.

    Somehow, Reschenthaler still could not help himself as Waters kept pointing out his inability to say anything about Trump and his base of racist, radical conspiracy theory supporters.

    “For the record, you’ve refused to denounce Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Hugo Chavez,” he finally said. “That’s amazing.”

    “For the record, you refuse to denounce Donald Trump. You refuse to denounce the insurrection that tried to destroy our democracy. You refuse to denounce the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, QAnon, the KKK,” Waters shot back. “You refuse all of that.”

    “When you do all of that,” she added, “then we can talk.”…

  176. whheydt says

    Re: Reginald Selkirk @ #211…
    Let me try that again… Someone might ask Ukraine if they want the seized rifles and ammunition.

  177. raven says

    Russia just said what I’ve said many times.
    After Ukraine, Moldova is next.
    Moldova doesn’t have much of an army, in fact it barely exists.
    They wouldn’t last a week.

    After Moldova, Georgia is next.
    The Russians really don’t like Georgia so there is no reason for them not to invade.

    The big prize is Kazakhstan. A huge country with lots of oil, gas, and the largest uranium producer in the world. With a population of 10 million.
    They’ve been beat up as much as Ukraine by the Russians over the centuries, including being part of the Holodomor mass famine of the 1930s. They will probably fight back but also probably lose.

    Predicting the future is hard but I’m as confident the Russians will go after these 3 countries after Ukraine as is possible. War is all that the Russians are good at and all that they can succeed at. It is a country run by organized criminals.

    Faytuks News Δ @Faytuks

    Russia’s foreign minister says that Moldova could be the new “anti-russian project” after Ukraine – Reuters

    Faytuks News Δ @Faytuks

    Russia’s foreign minister Lavrov also says that there is “no doubt that the west also wants to turn Georgia into the next Russian foe”
    12:36 AM · Feb 2, 2023


  178. says

    Guardian – “Atlanta shooting part of alarming US crackdown on environmental defenders”:

    The shooting of Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, believed to be the first environmental defender killed in the US, is the culmination of a dangerous escalation in the criminalization and repression of those who seek to protect natural resources in America, campaigners have warned.

    The death of the 26-year-old, who was also known as “Tortuguita” or “Little Turtle,” in a forest on the fringes of Atlanta was the sort of deadly act “people who have been paying attention to this issue assumed would happen soon, with no sense of joy”, according to Marla Marcum, founder of the Climate Disobedience Center, which supports climate protesters.

    “The police and the state have a callousness towards the lives of those on the frontline of environmental causes and I hope this is a wake-up call to those who didn’t know that,” she said. “I hope people take the time to notice what’s going on, because if this trajectory of criminalization continues, no one is going to be safe.”

    Terán was shot and killed by police as officers from an assortment of forces swept through the small camp of a loose-knit activist group defending the urban forest on 18 January. Police say Terán shot and injured a Georgia state trooper with a handgun first, but the Georgia bureau of investigation has said the shooting was not recorded on body cameras, prompting calls for an independent investigation.

    State and local authorities have reacted aggressively to protesters trying to stop 85 acres of the forest being torn down to build a sprawling, state-of-the-art, $90m police training complex – dubbed “Cop City” by opponents as it will feature a mock city for “tactical” exercises. [WTAF]

    Nineteen forest defenders have been charged with felonies under Georgia’s domestic terrorism laws since December. Authorities have detailed the alleged acts of so-called terror by nine of those facing charges, which include trespassing, constructing a campsite and sitting in the trees of the woodland, a 300-acre wedge of land that once contained a prison farm but is now one of the largest urban forests in the US.

    Brian Kemp, the Georgia governor who declared a state of emergency and mobilized 1,000 members of the national guard over the protests, has blamed “out-of-state rioters” and a “network of militant activists who have committed similar acts of domestic terrorism across the country” for the troubles.

    Georgia’s response to the protests follows an alarming pattern of environmental and land rights defenders across the US being threatened, arrested and charged with increasingly drastic crimes, including terrorism, for opposing oil and gas pipelines or the destruction of forests or waterways, advocates claim.

    “This was meant as a chilling deterrent, to show that the state can kill and jail environmental defenders with impunity. It reflects a trend towards escalation and violence to distract from the real issue of advancing corporate interests over lands,” said Nick Estes, author of Our History Is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance.

    The current crackdown on environmental and land rights defenders can be traced back to the aftermath of 9/11 and the expansion of the definition of terrorism which sparked a wave of arrests known as the “green scare” targeting so-called eco- terrorists.

    This then spurred the subsequent proliferation of state legislation criminalizing – or at least attempting to criminalize – all kinds of civil disobedience including Black Lives Matter protests and opposition to fossil fuel projects like gas pipelines, defined as critical infrastructure, essentially to protect business interests over environmental and Indigenous sovereignty concerns.

    “The criminalization of land and water protectors and Indigenous nations using critical infrastructure security laws can be traced back to the Patriot Act. This has contributed to the current escalation as it allows the definition of terrorism to be more vague and expansive, which is intended to have a chilling effect on peaceful protesters,” said Kai Bosworth, author of Pipeline Populism and assistant professor of geography at Virginia Commonwealth University.

    The 2016-17 uprising against the Dakota Access oil pipeline (DAPL), which cut through the Standing Rock reservation in North and South Dakota and threatened tribal lands, burial sites and water sources, sparked a brutal response by authorities that can be seen as a before and after in how environmental defenders are policed.

    Since then, a total of 20 states have enacted laws that impose harsh penalties for impeding “critical infrastructure”, such as making trespass a felony offense, or have brought in vaguely defined domestic terrorism laws that have been used to target environmentalists and Indigenous communities. Overall, 45 states have considered legislation restricting peaceful protests, and seven currently have laws pending.

    These laws have “been successful in really tamping down dissent and sowing fear among people”, said Marcum. Much of this fear has been fueled by the labeling of protestors as “terrorists” by senior elected figures such as Kemp, according to Elly Page, senior legal advisor at the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, which has tracked the anti-protest bills.

    Many of the states’ legislation shares language drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), a rightwing group backed by fossil fuel companies.

    “Many of the laws have language so broad it makes constitutionally-protected speech illegal,” [Page] said. “It gives authorities discretion to apply the law to an activity they don’t like … We know fossil fuel interests are promoting these sorts of laws.”

    As the criminalization of peaceful protesters has spread, so has the rollout of new fossil fuel projects projects under both Democrat and Republican administrations – despite the escalation of costly and destructive extreme weather events caused by the climate breakdown.

    “There have been no effective federal efforts to help protesters or defend against criminalization,” said Charmaine Chua, assistant professor of global studies at the University of California….

    To critics of the fossil fuel industry, the Line 3 protests are a prime example of its ability to shape the law enforcement that is increasingly cracking down on its opponents. In 2021 it emerged that Enbridge, the Canadian company behind the pipeline, reimbursed US police $2.4m for arresting and surveilling hundreds of Line 3 demonstrators. The payments covered officer training, police surveillance, wages, overtime, meals, hotels and equipment.

    Steven Donziger, an attorney who was embroiled in a long-running legal battle with Chevron on behalf of Indigenous people in Ecuador, said the payments are part of a “dangerous trend” of fossil fuel influence over the functions of government and the law….

  179. raven says

    This is quote from #218 SC from the Guardian.

    [Dan Sabbagh:] A fresh Russian assault around the southern Donbas town of Vuhledar, which began towards the end of January, demonstrates that Moscow’s forces are becoming more capable before a critical – and increasingly uncertain – spring period.

    It sums up something I’ve been seeing in the last month.

    The Russians have gotten it together, meaning their military is becoming a lot more competent.
    They’ve made the war a stalemate and are now making gains here and there.
    They are taking heavy casualties but so are the Ukrainians.

    This means Ukraine is getting into trouble here and they are well aware of it.
    It is a horrible truth but it is reality and we might as well face it.

    I don’t have a solution here either except more weapons and more money to Ukraine.
    I’ve been questioning the ethics of fighting to the last Ukrainian for months.
    I do have a solution but no one wants to think about it right now. Oh well, maybe the Russians will attack NATO and NATO can retaliate.

  180. says

    Kyiv Post – “Bellingcat Investigator Forced to Leave Vienna Following Security Threats”:

    Bulgarian investigative journalist and director of the Bellingcat investigative group Christo Grozev is being forced to relocate from Austria, where he’s been living for nearly 20 years, the Austrian outlet Falter reported on Feb. 2, citing its own sources.

    Grozev has reportedly been warned by his contacts in the intelligence world that he could be in danger from Russian special services if he returns, Therefore, the journalist is understood to have decided to stay in the U.S. and cancel his flight back to Austria.

    “I suspect that there are more Russian agents, informants, and henchmen in the city than policemen,” Falter quotes Grozev as saying….

  181. says

    BBC – “Kyle Rittenhouse lawsuit brought by father of man killed can proceed”:

    A federal judge says a wrongful death lawsuit from the father of a man who was shot and killed by Kyle Rittenhouse can move forward.

    Anthony Huber was killed in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during unrest sparked when police shot a black man in the back.

    The lawsuit claims Rittenhouse, 17 at the time, conspired with officers to cause harm to protesters.

    Mr Rittenhouse was acquitted in November 2021 claiming self-defence.

    On Wednesday, US District Judge Lynn Adelman dismissed motions filed by Mr Rittenhouse and the government defendants who were seeking to block Mr Huber’s legal action.

    The civil rights lawsuit also alleges that officers allowed a dangerous situation to occur which violated Mr Huber’s son’s rights and killed him.

    In order to serve the lawsuit, John Huber had to have private investigators track down Mr Rittenhouse’s residence – searching addresses in seven states.

    Eventually they found his mother and sister’s address in Florida [naturally]. His sister was actually served and claimed he was not home.

    Judge Adelman says that is sufficient evidence of being served.

    Mr Rittenhouse argued that the case should be dismissed as he wasn’t properly served, but the judge denied that claim saying he is purposefully concealing his residence to evade the law.

    The lawsuit is seeking an unspecified amount in damages from Mr Rittenhouse, city officials and law enforcement….

  182. says

    Forgot to correct this from #224:

    As the criminalization of peaceful protesters has spread, so has the rollout of new fossil fuel projects projects under both Democrat[ic!] and Republican administrations – despite the escalation of costly and destructive extreme weather events caused by the climate breakdown.

  183. whheydt says

    Re: raven @ #223…
    One could easily argue that the Russians aren’t good at war.
    As for Moldava, there is already a Russian-proxy region there in Transnistria. It’s right along the border by Ukraine, very close to Odessa. At the moment, it’s hard to see how the Russians are doing any supply to Transnistria. If they take all of Ukraine (as Putin intends) then it would be Donetz and Luhansk all over again. If Ukraine wins, Moldava might well enlist Ukrainian and Western help to shut down the efforts to create a mini-state there. And it might even work.

  184. says

    BBC – “Mikheil Saakashvili: The former Georgian president’s condition has sparked concern”:

    World leaders have called for the release of jailed former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili after he appeared emaciated at a court hearing.

    Mr Saakashvili – who appeared via video at Wednesday’s hearing – has been in a Georgian prison since October 2021.

    He was convicted of committing abuses of power while in office. He says the charges were politically motivated.

    Since his imprisonment, his health has deteriorated significantly and he has alleged he was poisoned by authorities.

    Mr Saakashvili was arrested in 2021 after making a surprise return to Georgia by smuggling himself into the country on a ferry from Ukraine. He called for mass anti-government demonstrations, but was quickly arrested by Georgian authorities.

    He was convicted in absentia of abuses of power while in office.

    The Georgian Justice Minister Rati Bregadze said he was self-harming and his condition was a result of his refusal to eat.

    Mr Saakashvili’s medical team said his weight had dropped from 115kg (254 pounds) to 68kg (150 pounds) since his imprisonment.

    Among the world leaders calling for his release were Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who said authorities were “torturing and killing” him.

    During a press conference, Mr Zelensky said he believed the current Georgian government was trying “to kill” Mr Saakashvili.

    Mr Saakashvili was granted Ukrainian citizenship in 2015, and spoke only in Ukrainian at his court appearance, wearing a t-shirt with “I am Ukrainian” printed on it. He also served as the governor of the western province of Odesa between 2015 and 2016.

    The Moldovan President Maia Sandu also called for Mr Saakashvili’s immediate release;

    “Torturing an opposition leader to death is unacceptable for a country that wants to join the European Union,” she wrote in a tweet.

    Empathy, an organisation supporting victims of torture in Georgia, alleged on 1 December that Mr Saakashvili had been diagnosed with illnesses “incompatible with imprisonment” and that Georgian and foreign medical experts had found evidence of heavy-metal poisoning.

    On Thursday, the European Parliament debated Mr Saakashvili’s health, where the European Commissioner for Budget and Administration, Johannes Hahn, said the Georgian government was obliged to provide him appropriate healthcare….

  185. says

    Ukraine update: Bakhmut holds amid confusing reports of fighting on all sides of the city

    Overnight, there were repeated reports on Telegram channels, from both Russian and Ukrainian sources, that Russian forces had made significant advances south of Bakhmut, that supply lines into the city were in danger, and that Ukrainian forces had begun falling back to defensive positions west of the the city. However, as of this morning, Bakhmut holds, Ukrainian forces still seem to be in similar positions to those held for weeks, and there are other reports of fighting in Soledar. That would be the same Soledar Russia reportedly captured back in mid-January. There are videos showing what are reportedly large numbers of Russian prisoners and horrific losses in what is reported to be the Soledar area. But wait! There are videos that claim to show a Ukrainian counterattack into Soledar being crushed.

    All of this is to say that the fog of war lies especially heavy over the Bakhmut area this morning. Let’s pull up the Tuesday map for reference … [map at the link]

    It’s a pretty fair bet that, when all the bulls**t settles on Thursday, this is still not a bad representation of where things stand.

    Russian sources are claiming that they’ve not only moved through the area west of Ivanivske on the south of the city, but that they are approaching Chasiv Yar. However, there has been no confirmation of any of this. On the north, they [Russians] also claim to control Paraskoviivka and Krasna Hora. That claim seems to be an outright lie.

    In this Russian view, Bakhmut is “nearly encircled,” cut off to both north and south, and Ukrainian forces have no choice but to leave. And that’s setting aside the Russian sources claiming that Bakhmut has completely fallen, and that an improbably large number of Ukrainian troops in the city (50,000! 100,000! 130,000!) have either surrendered or been slaughtered.

    On the other hand, Ukrainian sources are saying little about any Russian movement south of the city and talking about continued fighting at Soledar. That includes images of reportedly large numbers of prisoners taken (not going to show) and body-strewn fields (not going to show) and still more of those videos in which a well-placed drone grenade hits a whole squad of Russian troops (nope, not going to show). Ukraine also reports having repelled a Russian attack on Paraskoviivka. Both Ivanivske and Paraskoviivka are among the locations reported shelled on Thursday morning, which is a good indicator that they are still under Ukrainian control.

    At this point, it seems clear that heavy combat is going on both north and south of Bakhmut. In addition, Russian forces (reportedly still Wagner Group at this location) continue in the attempt to push into the city from the east. There are some indications that Russia has made it into the first few streets along the T1302 highway south of Pidhorodne. Otherwise, reports are still talking about the same winery, meatpacking plant, and other industrial sites that have been the area of fighting for months.

    The best sign that things in Bakhmut really aren’t that different than they have been for weeks may be also one of the most horrible: images of Russian artillery strikes in civilian areas, and of Ukrainian forces still working to evacuate injured and isolated civilians who have been reluctant to leave even after months of destruction. Both soldiers and emergency workers continue in the effort to get people out of Bakhmut, sometimes at very high personal cost. [video at the link]

    Christopher Parry may have been lost doing this brave and necessary work, but there are others who continue that work today.

    There’s fighting north of Bakhmut in the area around Soledar. There’s fighting south of Bakhmut in the area around Klishchiivka. However, for the moment just about the only sure thing is that Bakhmut holds. When some of the fog lifts, we’ll let you know. [Tweet and images at the link]

    To help with that aviation, how about some air defense?

    In Ukraine, a British Starstreak air defense system was filmed near Bakhmut, mounted on a Stormer tracked chassis. [video at the link]

    On Wednesday, Reuters reported that the United States is preparing a new $2 billion assistance package for Ukraine. Included in that package is expected to be, at last, the Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB), a weapon that has been talked about almost since the invasion began. The GLSDB is a small missile system jointly developed by Boeing and Saab, marrying Boeing’s 110-kilogram GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb to a new rocket motor. The result is a weapon with a range of up to 150 kilometers. [video at the link]

    It’s not the ATACMS that Ukraine wanted, which would provide a range just under 300 km, but it’s a significant upgrade from the range of the HIMARS rockets that have been Ukraine’s biggest precision-guided weapon so far. There are concerns that the relatively slow velocity of the GLSDB could make it more vulnerable to air defense, and it’s only about half the range of the ATACMS, but … it’s a compromise. Ukraine needs a weapon that can outrange Russian artillery as well as hit Russian supply depots and muster points located outside HIMARS range. Here it is.

    GLSDB would bring targets such as Russia’s relocated HQ for the Zaporizhzhia area back into range, as well as making all of the rail access points in the east of the country vulnerable to strikes. And there’s a reason that the range increase offered by GLSDB is bigger than it seems: The brains of this system are essentially all in the rocket. [map at the link]

    The official range of HIMARS rockets is closer to 70 km than 92 km, but there’s a reason why they seldom punch even that deep into Russian-occupied territory. With HIMARS, the launcher itself is a large, expensive, and vital part of the system. That means that with rare exceptions, Ukraine is reluctant to bring HIMARS close to the actual front lines. Losing a HIMARS system to a lucky shot of generic artillery from the Russian side would be a tragedy not easily undone, so HIMARS starts out “standing in a hole” 20 km or more back from the front lines.

    GLSDB is a different beast. The key words from that video up above are “launcher-independent.” While the GLSDB can be fired from a MLRS launcher, it can also be fired from … pretty much anything. That includes a truck with a bunch of pipe sections mounted on the back. Sure, sure, there are official “pods” of six rockets that fit standard systems, but if you can provide a way to keep the rocket pointed up in its first second of flight, that’s just about all it takes to send GLSDB on its way. Once launched, the rocket burns out in seconds, after which a pair of wings deploy as the bomb glides down to its target.

    The brains are in the bomb. It’s GPS-guided, but designed to defeat GPS scramblers. It can adjust its glide to avoid hills, trees, power lines, and other obstacles. It can carry a variety of warheads, including “bunker busters” designed to take out fortified positions. And it’s supposed to be accurate to within a single meter after traveling 150 km. That’s pretty damn precise. [That’s interesting.]

    But again, that “launcher-independent” criterion may be the most important item on the checklist. That means you can put a bunch of these things on the back of a plain old truck, drive them right to the front line, and fire them in a hurry. The launcher doesn’t need to be precise because the missile does the aiming. […]

    Since the start of the invasion, the real strategic goal west of Bakhmut has been Kramatorsk. That’s the city that Russia needs to take if it wants to make some real claim to Donetsk Oblast. However, when Ukraine liberated Izyum and Lyman, Russia lost what had been its best opportunity to press into the Kramatorsk area from the west and north. Since then, there has only been the months of endless grinding at Bakhmut. Russia now seems to be venting its frustration toward Kramatorsk with repeated missile attacks on—you guessed it—civilian homes. [Tweet from Zelenskyy, and images, at the link]

    Something to remember amid all the sudden right-wing claims that Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine can be handled simply: “The aggressor is always peace-loving … he would prefer to take over our country unopposed.” Carl van Clausewitz

    [Tweet and images of a rescued recon dog: “Vasya was a recon dog, but got stuck near a russian position. The guys couldnt get to him and had to pull out under heavy fire. He chewed his paw off and went back to them. Vasya got medivacced and now he has a new paw. 🥲] The dog was missing for two days, but limped back toward Ukrainian lines on the third day.

  186. raven says

    Here is something different.

    It appears to be a Russian dissident source explaining the reasoning behind Russian human wave tactics.
    They know what they are doing. Human lives are cheap and meaningless in Russia.
    These tactics even sort of work.

    “but try to look differently: even 4 waves of 8 people each – in the worst case, 32 people died. Throw at least a regiment there – they will lose much more, and even they will not cope with the task. In percentage terms, they will lose less, but in absolute terms, more. Therefore, losses over 50% per attack are not bad if there is a result.”

    They expect to lose 50% per attack.
    BTW, in Wagner, there are two classes of soldiers. Mercenaries and mobiks. The mobiks are pure cannon fodder while the mercenaries are way back, shooting retreaters and operating the artillery.

    This translation isn’t very good.
    They use attack aircraft to mean mobiks and so on. You can puzzle it out though.
    I think “musicians” is meant to be mercenaries.

    How Wagner uses human wave tactics to take objectives


    The cost of storming Soledar and other Ukrainian settlements can be understood from the story of the source of the telegram channel of the Cheka-OGPU.

    According to him, now PMC Wagner urgently needs replenishment in the region of 25-30 thousand people (primarily attack aircraft) only to make up for the general losses. “If 50-60 thousand people are added, then Bakhmut can be gnawed on with the same tactics (with the condition of bringing ammunition), – the source notes – In Wagner, in general, it is not customary to discuss losses.

    Now, after Soledar, the issue of large negotiations between Prigozhin and the Ministry of Defense is inevitable. Prigozhin needed Soledar only to replay the old deal in these relations, he put everything on the line.

    From a purely military point of view, taking Soledar at a cost in human losses is completely unprofitable.

    Soledar is such an absolute point of concentration of dead per square meter.

    However, Soledar is a military prologue for negotiations between Prigozhin and the Ministry of Defense. The main trump card of the Musicians. Considering that Lapin was returned to the military, one can expect a direct confrontation between the Musicians and the Ministry of Defense if the negotiations fail. Prigogine shows that he is ready to do “if not in a good way, then as expected.”

    The source of described in detail how the “bloody” assault on Soledar takes place.

    “The most seasoned group of attack aircraft comes first, with excellent equipment, prepared. Its composition is 8 people, each of which is with a Bumblebee. Whatever happens, the group must reach the firefight. “Whatever happens” is not a turn of phrase, but a task, the failure to complete which will end in execution, regardless of any factors.

    As soon as fire contact began, the group digs into positions. Digging is taught no less meticulously than warfare, so by military standards, digging in is almost instantaneous and very effective.

    The area where the group has reached is marked (a rag on a tree or something similar). Even if the group is demolished to zero, the next one already understands where the previous one has reached. The main task is to make fire contact, dig in and transfer position data to the artillery.

    Arta can beat from an hour to several hours. And here is the first reason for the conflict with the army: if there are not enough shells, then instead of a successful tactic, hopeless meat is obtained from attack aircraft.

    Next, the first group is followed by the second, also 8 people, but equipped much lighter. Their task is to jump into positions immediately after the end of work. Sometimes there is an order not to wait for the end of the shelling – the Musicians have such discipline that they will climb anyway, because this way there is at least some chance to survive.

    Now there are few shells, because of this, the first groups almost do not survive – they are the main blow, there already and the preparation does not solve all the problems. There before, losses in the first group were inevitable, but now the survival rate of the groups as a whole has fallen to critical values. And to replace them with just anyone is to increase costs even more, and the influx of people has now collapsed.

    Groups of 8 people go in waves – usually 4 waves are prepared for the attack. But in Soledar there were cases when 14 waves were required to take one section. There, of course, someone who survived remained, but the losses were from a hundred or more.

    The groups have drone operators to lead the entire group into position to clear the area. At the same time, the lightly wounded do not slouch and do not lie down – for this they can shoot you in the legs when you leave and leave.

    This tactic is generally the only one possible to achieve results in promotion in such conditions. In Soledar, the line of defense was cleverly built over the years, the army command has neither the ability nor the desire to advance there. In general, this is why the task was handed over to Wagner.

    From the outside, it may seem that it is inexpedient – to deliberately go for such a high percentage of losses, but try to look differently: even 4 waves of 8 people each – in the worst case, 32 people died. Throw at least a regiment there – they will lose much more, and even they will not cope with the task. In percentage terms, they will lose less, but in absolute terms, more. Therefore, losses over 50% per attack are not bad if there is a result.

    There are much fewer people for assault groups now, shells are also in short supply. And if the artillery is covered, then no one will call the attack aircraft back anyway, they just have to clean it up without cover. If there are more groups in reserve – you can give 5, and 6, and 7 waves – just to finish the result. This is not an army, here it is better to have more initiative than to underdo it.

    Musicians have their own training – crazy intensity, if you are without experience – they teach a very narrow range of tasks. And the newcomers from the zones were very disciplined: first, they are shown executions on video, then very soon they are faced with the first real examples, and then they get used to such discipline completely.

    Another plus from this is that Wagner does not practice the transfer of the same gunners to attack aircraft, unless as a punishment. Good gunners are also worth their weight in gold.

    Army Wagner will not be able to change in hot directions, this is not even considered. In modern warfare, the number of soldiers is not an indicator at all. But, again, the question remains open – what to do with the shortage of shells (120 and 80 mm)? There is a concept of “efficiency in relation to the situation”, and so this efficiency can be high, but if the situation is deadlocked, then the main issue is still not resolved.

    The exchange of people for territory is beneficial when the territory is small, and people are in abundance in reserve. If you have to cut for every meter, and people have become in short supply, then problems begin. As a result, losses increase, and progress slows down. The set of inmates at first gave a full-flowing river of people, now they are gone. At the beginning of the war, they talked about Syrian mercenaries, some even came. But they are not suitable for this war.

    Among the Musicians they say aloud that “we are about to squeeze it and take everything here.” But among themselves, everyone expects that we will be removed from the assault on a number of directions. And even if a large mobilization starts right tomorrow, it will not be possible to immediately recruit refuseniks in the required quantities, but they still need to be run in, brought to the desired condition, because otherwise it will not even be possible to spend them effectively. It takes time, it takes a lot of shells. And there is neither one nor the other.”

    To be continued
    Arseny Dronov

  187. says

    House Republicans vote to remove Omar from Foreign Affairs panel

    House Republicans voted on Thursday to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from the Foreign Affairs Committee, notching a win for Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who has long vowed to oust the Minnesota Democrat from the panel.

    The chamber approved the resolution in a party-line 218-211-1 vote. Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio) voted present.

    […] “Well, I am Muslim. I am an immigrant, and interestingly, from Africa. Is anyone surprised that I’m being targeted? Is anyone surprised that I am somehow deemed unworthy to speak about American foreign policy?” she added.

    The resolution hit the floor on Thursday after more than a week of closed-door haggling during which McCarthy faced steep odds in his quest to oust Omar from the committee.

    […] The remarks by Omar listed in the resolution span from 2019 through 2021. Her most prominent comment that drew criticism came in February 2019, when the congresswoman on Twitter suggested that AIPAC, a pro-Israeli lobbying group, was paying American politicians to support Israel.

    […] “There has been accountability; Ilhan Omar has apologized; she has indicated that she’ll learn from her mistakes. So this is not about accountability, it’s about political revenge,” House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.) said during a press conference ahead of the vote. […]

  188. says

    Wonkette: ‘The Dr. Phil Show’ Ends Two-Decade Long Reign Of Daytime TV Terror

    The last time I saw an episode of “The Dr. Phil Show,” I was […] watching transphobic Matt Walsh whine about how he doesn’t like the way people who are not him define the word woman. Before the show broke to commercial, a disembodied Phil McGraw asked “Do you think cancel culture has gone too far? You could be a guest on one of our next shows!”

    I spent the rest of the time imagining what I would say were I to call in and explain to the producers how the show they were airing at this very time was proof that it had clearly not gone far enough.

    Twenty-one years after it first premiered, “The Dr. Phil Show” is going off the air, and I can’t say I’m mad about it. Not because Dr. Phil is not a licensed doctor, not because it was a trashy talk show — I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for trashy talk shows, particularly when they include incredibly bad “makeovers” — but because within the last few years it has become a platform for rightwing nonsense, frequently of the “Wokeness has Gone Too Far!!!!” variety. Just last week an episode aired called “The Demise of Guys” featuring Rollo Tomassi, a weird misogynist who calls himself the “Godfather of the Manosphere,” and some other guy I’ve never even heard of who called himself a “sexual energy coach.” [Aiyiyiyiyi, such toxic stuff]

    […] Other titles from this season’s shows have included:

    S21 E75 · Defunding the Police: A Failure or a Fallacy?

    S21 E70 · Was the Pandemic Mismanaged? What You Desperately Need to Know

    S21 E69 · School’s Out! From “Saints” to Sex Workers

    S21 E59 · Polarized America

    S21 E40 · America Divided

    S21 E35 · Slut Shaming or Asking for Modesty?

    S21 E28 · Parents Battle over “Woke” School Curriculum

    S21 E22 · You Said It … Now You’re Canceled!

    S21 E20 · Transgender Athletes

    S21 E18 · Has the Body Positivity Movement Gone Too Far?

    There was also the time when Dr. Phil exploited actress Shelley Duvall’s psychological issues for ratings. […] And the time he publicly whined about people taking COVID seriously when people die of other things all the time. And the time he claimed that the lockdowns were more harmful than the virus itself.

    My personal favorite, however, was not a political episode, but one of the increasingly rare human interest story episodes — one in 2020 in which a mother claimed her missing daughter was tortured and killed by “gang members” who wanted to get high off of her adrenochrome. [video at the link]

    As you hopefully know by now, adrenochrome is not a thing you can get high off, but rather oxidized adrenaline of the same variety you might find in an expired EpiPen.

    While there was certainly some pushback on the mother’s claims, clips of the show were hailed by QAnon weirdos who were thrilled to see their nonsense validated.

    The disappointing thing is that, looking at the various topics discussed on the Dr. Phil show, a few of them really are interesting topics and issues that are worthy of public discussion. Just, you know, not with Dr. Phil.

    McGraw, who has a doctoral degree in clinical psychology but has not had a license to actually practice since he started appearing on “Oprah” in the 1990s, says the reason he is quitting daytime is because he’s got his eye on primetime. He says he has “grave concerns for the American family” and that he is “determined to help restore a clarity of purpose as well as our core values” — but it seems pretty unlikely that anyone actually wants or needs that.

    “The Dr. Phil Show” ending is the end of an era, not just of his show, but of the daytime talk show centered more around interpersonal and social issues than celebrity interviews and news. It would be nice if there were a less toxic way to do that kind of show, in order to show healthy ways of resolving dilemmas or to talk about issues people are facing that are not otherwise getting enough attention, but sadly we haven’t really seen it yet.

  189. says

    Wonkette: Kevin McCarthy Went To A Gay-Hatin’ Trans-Hatin’ Christian Fascist Hootenanny Yesterday!

    This morning in Washington DC, both President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris participated in the National Prayer Breakfast, a weird annual ritual that until approximately five minutes ago was put on by a severely creepy and secretive rightwing Christian organization called The Family, but is now officially run by Congress. (The break might not be as complete as they’d like you to believe.) Author and researcher Jeff Sharlet exposed the group in the seminal work on the subject, The Family, which subsequently became a Netflix series.

    Regardless of who officially runs it, we long to live in a world where respectable Democratic politicians don’t feel the need to participate in that garbage. [Agreed!]

    But yesterday, there was a whole different rightwing Jesus prayer hootenanny in DC at the Bible Museum, and Republican congressmen were ALL over it. Right Wing Watch explains that it was the National Gathering for Prayer and Repentance, and it was sponsored by all the hottest hate groups in America. The American Family Association, Alliance Defending Freedom, Family Research Council, just everybody who wants to eradicate LGBTQ+ people and women’s rights […]

    Oh boy, it was a thing! Kevin McCarthy went there and begged Jesus to vote for him 14 times and Jesus was like “LOL” and then Kevin McCarthy promised Jesus a place on the Intel Committee and Jesus caved on the 15th vote.

    Nah, just kidding, but if you want to see Kevin McCarthy pandering to God for two minutes, you got it: [video at the link]

    So what else happened in this specifically rightwing Christian event to which McCarthy specifically lent his imprimatur?

    Well there was this fuckin’ idiot GOP Rep. Randy Weber, who boo-hooed to Jesus about how gays are gross and abortion is bad. Literally he cried his way through this prayer. Sobbed. Watch it, you will laugh. [video at the link]

    Thanks to JoeMyGod, we have transcript:

    “Father, we think we’re so smart. We’ve kick you out of schools. We’ve kicked prayer out, we’ve kicked the Ten Commandments. And we’ve replaced them with drug-sniffing dogs and armed police officers and metal detectors.

    “Lord, forgive us. Father, we’ve trampled on holy matrimony. Lord God, we’ve killed so many babies and we call them a choice.

    “I remember Deuteronomy 30:19, Moses called Israel to choose life so that we and all our descendants could live. Lord, our descendants aren’t living.

    “We’re killing them in the womb.”

    And then he cried about the national debt, to Jesus.

    “Father, you also say in your word that the borrower is a slave to the lender. We have totally forgotten your word and your precepts and we are $33 trillion in debt.

    “Father we think we’re so smart, but please lord, forgive us.”

    […] Republican Rep. Mary Miller also prayed. She’s the one who quoted Hitler’s fine understanding of the importance of the youth vote, and whose husband parked his penis-substitute three-percenter truck at the Capitol riots on January 6. Her prayer wasn’t very good, skip it.

    Republican Rep. Diana Harshbarger’s prayer was pretty weird. She cried like a common Randy Weber, as she explained to God that God was a God “who will not tolerate unholiness!” She instructed God to “Remove those people who are ungodly from places of authority, Lord. Put them OUUUUTT to pasture!” [video at the link]

    So that was neat. Right Wing Watch reports that other members of Congress who talked at the event included Reps. Steve Scalise, Rick Allen, Brian Babin, Michael Cloud, Robert Aderholt, Tracey Mann, Burgess Owens, Gary Palmer, Michelle Steel, Warren Davidson, Brandon Williams, Dan Bishop, Nathaniel Moran, and Mike Johnson.

    (If you have free time and want to cross-reference how many of these godly crying messes are also January 6 seditionists, here’s a reference link.)

    There were other guests, of course. Remember that American pastor Donald Trump sometimes pretended he cared about getting Turkey to release, the one Rudy Giuliani lobbied to have prisoner-swapped? He finally was released in 2018, and Trump acted like he Art of the Dealed it.

    You’ll be really glad that guy [Pastor Andrew Brunson] is back when you hear his talk about how America is the “primary corrupter of the world” and “our government and corporations increasingly march under the rainbow flag” and “we bully weaker and poorer countries to come under that flag.” You betcha. It was all about how America should repent for telling the world LGBTQ+ people are OK. [video at the link]

    There were these so-called “ex-gay” activists, who cried and boo-hooed to Jesus to apologize for the American government’s gayness and transgenderism. The man “ex-gay” asked Jesus to heal America from the “homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality and sex confusion.” The woman “ex-gay” apologized for her own personal “sin of female homosexuality and all aspects of my lesbian thinking and behavior.” She renounced her “rejection of and disdain for God-given feminine gender and attributes,” and also her “disdain for men and their God-given gender attributes.”

    So that was interesting. [video at the link]

    Right Wing Watch says Kevin McCarthy did his little song and dance right after that.

    The Christian fascists are feeling emboldened, y’all. And the speaker of the House takes their phone calls.

    Protect everyone you love.

  190. says

    [Fox Faux News host Tucker Carlson] was seething that his fellow white man wasn’t adequately learning the real lessons of the Tyre Nichols murder, which is that Black cops make us less safe. And seething that people cared about Tyre Nichols but not about the police shooting of white domestic-terrorist-in-progress Ashli Babbitt.

    […] And now we have this. Tucker Carlson claims NBC News is “openly advocating” for the genocide of white people [video at both links]

    TUCKER CARLSON: Now no one ever says it out loud, which is kind of weird because it’s impossible not to notice that a lot of major news organizations, NBC News, all of a sudden sound like Hutu radio, openly advocating race hate.

    Is that who’s doing that, though?

    It’s particularly true on MSNBC, as we’ve noted, and we’re going to do it again now, watch.

    Tucker played a clip of Black people on MSNBC openly suggesting that white people should be subject to criticism. They said things like how white people actually should take responsibility for things like institutional racism. Joy Reid said Joy Reid words!

    This, by the way, is not the first time Tucker has started screaming and accusing Black MSNBC hosts of doing the Rwandan genocide to white people, by subjecting white people to mild criticism.

    Then he came back:

    So, bottom line — and we used to know this — you can’t attack people, whole groups of people on the basis of their race and ethnicity. Not in the media, especially, because of its reach. That’s completely irresponsible and immoral and ultimately can have very bad effects.

    [warning for irony meter breakage]

    Just like this one time in history that Tucker definitely knows a lot about, which he will now teach to his viewers:

    In July of 1993, radio broadcast in Kigali, Rwanda, openly attacked and demonized a tribe called the Tutsis on ethnic grounds, just like MSNBC.

    Just like MSNBC, attacking Tucker’s “tribe.”

    Less than a year later, Tutsis were dragged from their homes and hacked to death with machetes. It was the most horrifying genocide of our age.

    Tucker saw the movie.

    What do we even say about this crap anymore? We could have a historical discussion about the Rwandan genocide, Hutus, and the Tutsis, but we feel like that would be entirely missing the point, because we’re pretty sure Tucker knows he’s full of shit. His white-hot white supremacist feelings might be genuine, but we think this is just part of his propaganda strategy to brainwash his viewers, the same way he teaches them how to look at the world like a Russian. […]

    Is there any correlation between MSNBC hosts talking about institutional racism in America and the factors that led to the Rwandan genocide? Of course not, but Tucker’s viewers don’t know much about history lessons […]

    Last night, Tucker also claimed that Canada is a dictatorship, and asked if we should liberate it. He was trying to be clever and funny, but it was full of his usual seething resentments. For instance, he dripped with rage, asking that if we’re so-called liberating Ukraine from big bad Russia, shouldn’t we be liberating the people who live under the dictatorship next door? And he couldn’t resist letting his simpering Little Man Syndrome take over, making jokes that we guess made him feel better, about how Canada is so weak that we wouldn’t even need the armed forces to liberate Canada. […]

    You can watch it if you want, it’s dumb. [video at the link]

    By any stretch of the imagination, is Canada a dictatorship? Of course not. But again, his viewers don’t know that. These people are cultural shut-ins. […]

    We think part of how Tucker’s propaganda works is that he fills his lonely viewers with such bizarre moron beliefs that when they state them out loud, it just serves to isolate them more and more from all the normal people they know, probably including their own families and kids. It could make them bizarrely double down on trusting him.

    The other 80 percent of society probably looks at them REAL funny when they try to contribute to the conversation by saying “Canada is a dictatorship!” and “That Joy Reid on MSNBC is just like what they did to the Tutsis!” But they saw it on Tucker, and Tucker is a nice smart white boy and would not lie to them. That’s why they tune in each and every night to learn new things. […] He grooms them in this way, so their minds are wide open when it’s time for him to look at the camera and say shit like this:

    “Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him? Has he shipped every middle-class job in my town to Russia? Did he manufacture a worldwide pandemic that wrecked my business and kept me indoors for two years? Is he teaching my children to embrace racial discrimination? Is he making fentanyl? Is he trying to snuff out Christianity? Does he eat dogs?”

    Somebody who studies propaganda and active measures should do a deep dive into how Tucker does this with his viewers. […]

    Toxic Tucker.

  191. says

    But yesterday, there was a whole different rightwing Jesus prayer hootenanny in DC at the Bible Museum, and Republican congressmen were ALL over it. Right Wing Watch explains that it was the National Gathering for Prayer and Repentance…

    They seem slightly unclear on the concept of repentance.

  192. says

    And “lie” means “not having sufficient evidence for conviction”? If not, what does it mean? Does the accused rapist have to win a civil suit? How is any of this supposed to work?

    Oh right. It’s not. That was never the point.

  193. cicely says

    And “lie” means “not having sufficient evidence for conviction”? If not, what does it mean? Does the accused rapist have to win a civil suit? How is any of this supposed to work?

    Oh right. It’s not. That was never the point.

    And at the speed with which the mill-wheels of “Justice” grind, that child will be about, oh, 5 years old, before the case comes to trial, and a decision comes down as to whether she “lied”/there was enough evidence to convict.

    Which is, again, (part of) the point.

    Because after all, if there isn’t a conviction, then obviously she was lying, and just wanted to “murder her baby”.

  194. says

    Why On Earth Are Some MAGA Republicans Wearing AR-15 Pins?

    [photos at the link]

    Over the past couple of days, some MAGA Republicans were spotted on Capitol Hill going about their business wearing AR-15 pins on their lapels, in the spot where members of Congress traditionally wear the American flag or congressional seal pins.

    Yes, you read that right. AR-15 pins.

    As tone deaf as that sounds, freshman Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL) and scandal-plagued Rep. George Santos (R-NY) were both photographed wearing these pins on their lapels this week.

    Naturally, just like me and the rest of Twitter, you might have some questions about what’s up with these rifle pins. So did some members of Congress.

    “Where are these assault weapon pins coming from? Who is passing these out?” Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) asked on Wednesday.

    […] “The pin is about sponsoring a gun bill and has nothing to do with whatever blueanon conspiracy theories are being floated on Capitol Hill,” Rep.Anna Paulina Luna told TPM through her spokesperson Edie Heipel.

    Per a quick Google search, apparently “blueanon,” which is a play on the name QAnon, is a term coined by MAGA Republicans to go after people they think are pushing “left-wing conspiracy theories.”

    Now that that’s cleared. What gun bill is Luna talking about?

    Her spokesperson Heipel did not respond to a follow up question asking for more information on the gun bill and the conspiracy theories she mentioned in her statement. It’s unclear what gun bill Luna is referring to — neither Luna nor Santos has introduced legislation along those lines — but Senate Democrats have introduced at least two gun bills to crack down on assault weapons and to secure firearm storage. […]

  195. says

    UPDATE: Thursday, Feb 2, 2023 · 3:25:48 PM Mountain Standard Time · Mark Sumner
    To the south, Russia has called off more assaults on Vuhledar because of … bad weather. That’s the actual report. Probably nothing to do with Russian forces there suffering two enormous defeats in the space of three days.

  196. Reginald Selkirk says

    @242: “Blueanon” – somehow this is the first time I have heard this, although apparently it has been around about 2 years. Very projectional.

  197. says

    Satire from Andy Borowitz:

    Kari Lake said that she is “absolutely furious and outraged” that no one has performed a search of her home for stolen documents.

    “The F.B.I. has been raiding the house of every Tom, Dick, and Harry, but somehow doesn’t think mine is worthy of their attention,” she said. “This doesn’t pass the smell test.”

    The former anchorwoman claimed that she has been calling for the F.B.I. to raid her home for weeks, but to no avail.

    “Clearly, the whole process of who gets raided and who doesn’t is rigged,” she alleged. “This is America? Wake up, people.”

    In an apparent threat, Lake hinted that she may take legal action to force the F.B.I. to raid her home.

    “The F.B.I. can make this whole thing go away simply by showing up at my house and rifling through my possessions,” she said. “But, if they refuse to do that, I’m warning them: I will be their worst nightmare.”

    New Yorker link

  198. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 242 & 244

    The only place I ever heard term “blueanon” are among leftists (those Chapo Trap House creeps mainly) who claim that the Muller Probe and the allegations that Trump colluded with the Russians is a “conspiracy theory” designed to excuse HRCs defeat. Evidently, the fascists use it too.

  199. Reginald Selkirk says

    Police ban planned Quran burning protest in Norway

    Police in Norway have banned a planned protest including the burning of a copy of the Islamic holy book, the Quran, hours after the Turkish foreign ministry summoned the Norwegian ambassador to complain.

    A group of protesters planned to burn a copy of the Quran outside the Turkish embassy in Oslo on Friday, police said…

  200. Pierce R. Butler says

    raven @ # 233: I think “musicians” is meant to be mercenaries.

    “Musicians” is a nickname Wagner personnel use for themselves.

  201. raven says

    This is the Chinese spy balloon story from #248.
    At least it is something different from the usual dismal news we get every day.

    The Pentagon has decided not to shoot it down.
    Because they don’t know where it will land and consider the balloon probably harmless.
    They could just follow its path, see where it goes down, and then pick it up for examination.

    I suspect the Chinese launched it just to give us a hard time.

    Pentagon tracking suspected Chinese spy balloon over the US
    By Oren Liebermann, Haley Britzky and Michael Conte, CNN
    Updated 7:18 PM EST, Thu February 2, 2023

    The US is tracking a suspected Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon over the continental United States, a senior defense official said on Thursday.

    The Pentagon has been tracking the balloon for several days as it made its way over the northern United States, Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said.

    “We are confident that this high-altitude surveillance balloon belongs to the [People’s Republic of China],” the senior defense official said. “Instances of this activity have been observed over the past several years, including prior to this administration.”

    “The balloon is currently traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground,” Ryder said, adding that the US military decided against shooting the balloon down.

    While the balloon’s current flight path carries it over “a number of sensitive sites,” the official said it does not present a significant intelligence gathering risk. The balloon is assessed to have “limited additive value” from an intelligence collection perspective, the official added.

    The US believes Chinese spy satellites in low Earth orbit are capable of offering similar or better intelligence, limiting the value of whatever Beijing can glean from the high-altitude balloon, which is the size of three buses, according to another defense official.

    Blinken under pressure to push China on role in lethal fentanyl trade when he visits Beijing
    “It does not create significant value added over and above what the PRC is likely able to collect through things like satellites in low Earth orbit,” the senior defense official said.

    The US government has engaged with the Chinese government both through the Chinese embassy in Washington and the US diplomatic mission in China, according to the official.

    It was the “strong recommendation” of senior military leaders, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, “not to take kinetic action due to the risk to safety and security of people on the ground from the possible debris field,” the official said.

    US national security officials have constantly warned about Chinese espionage efforts and the balloon’s presence in the US comes at a sensitive moment with Secretary of State Antony Blinken expected to travel to Beijing in the coming days, a significant trip meant to follow up on President Joe Biden’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping last year.

    Biden has declared China “America’s most consequential geopolitical challenge” and competition between the two major global military powers is intense.

    Biden was briefed and took advice not to shoot balloon down
    The president has been briefed on the balloon’s movements and requested military options on how to deal with it, according to a senior administration official.

    Biden took Milley’s advice not to order the balloon shot down and the official stressed that it does not pose a military threat emphasizing that the administration acted “immediately” to protect against the collection of sensitive information.

    The senior defense official mentioned reports from Wednesday about a “ground stop” at Billings Airport in Montana, and the “mobilization of assets, including F-22s.”

    “The context for that was, it would put some things on station in the event that a decision was made to bring this down while it was over Montana,” the official said. “So we wanted to make sure we were coordinating with civil authorities to empty out the airspace around that potential area.”

    However, it was ultimately the “strong recommendation” of senior military leaders, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, not to shoot it down due to the risk to safety of people on the ground.

    “Why not shoot it down? We have to do the risk-reward here,” the official said. “So the first question is, does it pose a threat, a physical kinetic threat, to individuals in the United States in the US homeland? Our assessment is it does not. Does it pose a threat to civilian aviation? Our assessment is it does not. Does it pose a significantly enhanced threat on the intelligence side? Our best assessment right now is that it does not. So given that profile, we assess the risk of downing it, even if the probability is low in a sparsely populated area of the debris falling and hurting someone or damaging property, that it wasn’t worth it.”

    Montana is home to fields of underground Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile silos, one potential target for Chinese espionage.

    The senior defense official said on Thursday that if the risk level changes, the US “will have options to deal with this balloon.”

    We have communicated to [Chinese officials] the seriousness with which we take this issue. … But we have made clear we will do whatever is necessary to protect our people and our homeland.”
    This story is been updated with additional developments.

  202. says

    The Kremlin Has Entered the Chat

    WIRED link

    Russian antiwar activists placed their faith in Telegram, a supposedly secure messaging app. How does Putin’s regime seem to know their every move?

    ON THE CHILLY, clear afternoon of February 24, 2022—the day Vladimir Putin’s forces launched their full-scale invasion of Ukraine—a handful of Russian opposition politicians gathered in front of Saint Petersburg’s palatial Law, Order, and Security building. They had come to officially request permission to hold a rally opposing the war, which they knew would be denied. Among the group was Marina Matsapulina, the 30-year-old vice chair of Russia’s Libertarian Party. Matsapulina understood that the gathering was a symbolic gesture—and that it posed serious risks.

    Nine days later, Matsapulina was awoken around 7 am by someone banging at her apartment door. She crept up to the entrance but was too frightened to look through the peephole, and she retreated back to her bedroom. The pounding continued for two hours, as Matsapulina kept seven friends from her party apprised in a private Telegram group chat. “They’re unlikely to bust it down,” she wrote, wishfully.

    But at 9:22 am, she heard a much louder noise. She had just enough time to lock her phone before the door caved in. Eight people surrounded Matsapulina’s bed. They included, she recalls, two city police officers, a two-person SWAT team wielding guns and shining flashlights in her face, and two agents from either the Center for Combating Extremism or the Federal Security Service or the FSB—the successor to the KGB. The officers told her to lie on the floor facedown.

    They told Matsapulina she was suspected of emailing a police station with a false bomb threat. But when she was taken into the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ investigation department, she says, a police officer asked whether she knew the real reason she’d been arrested. She guessed that it was for her “political activities.” He nodded and asked, “Do you know how we knew you were home?”


    She says the officer told her that investigators had been following along with her private Telegram chats as she wrote them. “There you were, sitting there, writing to your friends in the chat room,” she recalls him saying. He proceeded to dispassionately quote word for word several Telegram messages she had written from her bed. “‘They’re unlikely to bust it down,’” he recited.

    “And so,” he said, “we knew that you were there.”

    Matsapulina was speechless. She tried to hide her shock, hoping to learn more about how they’d accessed her messages. But the officer didn’t elaborate.

    When she was released two days later, Matsapulina learned from her lawyer that on the morning she was arrested, police had searched the houses of some 80 other people with opposition ties and had arrested 20, charging each with terrorism related to the alleged bomb threat. A few days later, Matsapulina gathered her belongings and boarded a flight to Istanbul.

    In April, after having made it safely to Armenia, Matsapulina recounted the episode in a Twitter thread. She ruled out the chance that anyone in her close-knit group had been cooperating with security forces (they’d all also left Russia by then), which left two conceivable explanations for how the officers had read her private Telegram messages. One was that they had installed some kind of malware, like the NSO Group’s infamous Pegasus tool, on her phone. Based on what she’d gathered, the expensive software was reserved for high-level targets and was not likely to have been turned on a mid-level figure in an unregistered party with about 1,000 members nationwide.

    The other “unpleasant” explanation, she wrote, “is, I think, obvious to everyone.” Russians needed to consider the possibility that Telegram, the supposedly antiauthoritarian app cofounded by the mercurial Saint Petersburg native Pavel Durov, was now complying with the Kremlin’s legal requests.

    […] Hundreds have had their Telegram activity wielded against them in criminal cases. […] whether Telegram really is cooperating with Moscow; or whether it’s such an inherently unsafe platform that the latter is merely what appears to be going on.

    […] it is in Russia itself that Telegram has become nearly indispensable over the past year, thanks to the Putin regime’s wartime clampdown against Western tech. […] Russia blocked Meta’s Facebook (which had some 70 million users in the country) and Instagram (80 million). Telegram’s Russian user base has soared from 30 million in 2020 to nearly 50 million today, surpassing WhatsApp as Russia’s most used messaging platform. […]

    [snipped detailed explanations regarding Telegram’s API, application programming interface]

    As for the access its API offers to public channels, “Telegram gives you pretty much anything,” says Jordan Wildon, an investigator at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a think tank that tracks disinformation and extremism. The API has been invaluable to Wildon’s research, he says, but “there are obvious risks with it. It can be abused.” At the start of the war, for instance, he and another researcher found that it was possible to spoof Telegram’s locations API to pinpoint any user within a 2-mile radius if they had recently turned on their location. Countless users were “accidentally setting [themselves] as a homing beacon,” Wildon says. He was able to locate four people near Chernobyl with an accuracy of 1 yard just as Russian forces were trying to seize the area. Telegram disputes this level of accuracy, but shortly after Wildon’s research partner went public with their methods, Telegram quietly altered its code. But Wildon has found it’s still possible to locate other users with an accuracy of around 600 yards. Although it would make his research more difficult, Wildon believes accessing data about Telegram’s users should be as “hard as possible.” Currently, he says, “with enough willpower, decent servers, and enough API keys, you could archive nearly the lot of Telegram”—every one of the hundreds of billions of texts, audio files, and images shared publicly on the platform.

    Indeed, some private companies have archived significant swaths of Telegram. TGStat, for instance, is a Russian firm that provides metrics about Telegram channel and user growth in different countries. In its privacy policy, TGStat states clearly that it is obliged by law to hand over data to the “state authorities of the Russian Federation.”

    […] A burgeoning pro-war open source intelligence community has also built an army of bots on Telegram to search for users via username and see which public groups they’re in and which channels they follow, making them easier to identify. […] people who know how to navigate the system can get a fairly detailed portrait of a user’s public activities just by entering their Telegram ID […]

    According to a report in Reuters, one member of that open source intel community is a pro-Putin NGO called the Center for the Study and Network Monitoring of the Youth Environment, which has developed an AI tool to scan social media for what it describes as socially dangerous content. The system, founder Denis Zavarzin has said, is “constantly monitoring” about 1.5 million accounts.

    But those tools, however powerful, can peer only into Telegram’s public chats and channels. To access private chats like Marina Matsapulina’s exchange with her friends the day the SWAT team banged down her door—let alone end-to-end encrypted “secret chats”—Telegram’s API is not enough. To reach into those chats, the Kremlin seems to have found other methods and, perhaps, other accomplices. […]

    More at the link.

  203. Reginald Selkirk says

    @balloon: I am wondering if it might be some high school student’s science fair project.

  204. Reginald Selkirk says

    The Internet never forgets

    Ms Greene said: “There’s people that think that I said a phrase called ‘Jewish space lasers’ – a phrase that I never said.”

    “As a matter of fact, it was created and invented in a story that a bunch of people read in the news … I don’t hold any beliefs like that at all,” she added.

  205. Reginald Selkirk says

    Alleged spy balloon over US is weather device – China

    An alleged Chinese spy balloon spotted over the US is a “civilian airship” which had deviated from its planned route, China says.
    US defence officials said they believe the balloon, seen above sensitive areas in recent days, was in fact a “high-altitude surveillance” device.
    But in a statement, China’s foreign ministry said it was used for “mainly meteorological” purposes.
    China “regrets the unintended entry” of the balloon into US airspace, it added.
    The object flew over Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and through Canada before appearing over the city of Billings in Montana on Wednesday, US officials said…

  206. raven says

    “Sanctions aren’t keeping name brands out of Russia. Why not?”
    Good question.

    The sanctions aren’t doing a whole lot to Russia.
    Mostly because they are easy to evade.
    They mostly just increase the cost of everything by a little.

    AFAICT, the one thing that is going to have a real effect is boycotting their energy exports, oil and gas. They need money to import all those Western movies and goods and that was coming from petroleum exports.

    FWIW, the old USSR economy wasn’t really State owned or commie either. There was a whole parallel economy based on markets and capitalism that kept the system from just falling apart. That is one reason why corruption is deeply embedded in Russian culture.

    We see that with Iran as well.
    75% of their Shahadi killer drones are US parts, many of them from Texas Instruments. The cameras are Israeli and Japanese. The engine is a well made Austrian 4 cylinder aircraft engine.

    Sanctions aren’t keeping name brands out of Russia. Why not?

    Sanctions aren’t keeping name brands out of Russia. Why not?
    Economy / By Mario / February 3, 2023 / 6 minutes of reading

    It was intended that the sanctions put in place after Russia invaded Ukraine would stop it. But like most recent Hollywood productions, “Avatar: The Way of Water,” a new blockbuster by James Cameron, has been well received by Russian audiences.

    It’s the kind of thing that wasn’t supposed to be possible following the West’s breakup with Russia on the economic front. Large Western film studios withdrew from the Russian market, and regional distributors lost their rights to screen nearly all Western films.

    Even though the mechanics have changed, the outcome remains the same. Another company, which frequently presents itself as a “film club,” rents large movie theaters. The more than three-hour-long “Avatar” movie is then shown “for free” after the company has sold tickets for a brief Russian movie. The showings are heavily promoted, and experts praise the quality as being of the highest caliber.

    Welcome to the Russian consumer economy a year into the war.

    As a response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. and Europe are trying to hurt Russia’s economy with sanctions. However, it looks like Russia can handle this. And the most obvious sign of its strength is that the Russian consumer market still has plenty of Coca-Cola, iPhones, Western car parts, computers, appliances, designer clothes, and more. Via what are known as “parallel imports,” Russian businesses have been able to use legal and semilegal channels to bring name-brand goods into the country despite Western attempts to deny Russia access to them.

    While parallel imports do come with their own set of problems and don’t stave off the potential long-term damage that sanctions could still cause, they have shown the limits of Western sanctions as a blunt instrument against Russia.

    “Parallel imports are not an ideal solution, even if they seem to solve the problem,” says Ivan Timofeev, an expert with the Russian International Affairs Council, which is affiliated with the Foreign Ministry. “The goods don’t come with the servicing, the warranties that they used to. They were more expensive. But, at the same time, a lot of unofficial services have appeared to fill those gaps. So, you wouldn’t think you could get your German or Japanese car fixed anymore. But all sorts of businesses have sprung up where they have the parts – obtained through parallel imports – and expertise to do it. That’s why, when you look at any Moscow street, it’s still crowded with those cars running along as usual.”

    The Samsung outlet at the Europark shopping mall still has its brand-name goods on sale in Moscow on Jan. 27, 2023.

    “Everything can be done”
    The Russian economy looks much the same as it did a year ago, with well-stocked supermarkets, bustling e-commerce, crowded shopping malls, and a lively cafe, and restaurant, –, in which state support and some degree of market innovation enable Russian businesses to generate local replacements, which may prove acceptable even if they are somewhat inferior to the sanctioned goods.

    But it is parallel imports where the big Western brands get through sanctions. Last year Russia’s Ministry of Trade approved the import of over 100 categories of goods with no need for permission from the companies that produce them.

    Russian distributors order goods from companies located in countries that don’t participate in the sanctions regime, such as Turkey, Kazakhstan, or Armenia, which buy the goods and send them on to Russian customers. Circumventing the old supply chains has become a huge business, estimated to be worth around $20 billion in the second half of last year, which somehow retains a semblance of legality.

    Sometimes that legality can be stretched thin, as in the case of “Avatar: The Way of Water” playing in “film clubs,” about which big film distributors expressed shock and denied involvement. “This is a violation of the law of the Russian Federation and all international copyright conventions,” Olga Zinyakova, president of Karo, Russia’s leading chain of cinema houses, told journalists. No one has publicly explained how the quality prints of the film arrived in Russia.

    But many parallel imports are more transparent. Stanislav Mareshkin is the sales director of the Magna Group, a St. Petersburg-based logistics company that has pioneered the rerouting of supply chains from Europe to friendly countries in Russia’s immediate neighborhood. He says business has tripled since last February when the war started.

    “Many companies that used to work directly with suppliers in Europe and America are now unable to interact with them at all,” he says. “Everything is broken and blocked. So, people are looking for new ways. We were able to find alternative routes rather quickly, through Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, Armenia, and other countries. We now offer our customers fast delivery, including customs clearance, legal advice, insurance, and certification. When trucks with Russian and Belarusian license plates were banned in Europe, we figured out how to switch to alternative means of transport. Everything can be done.”

    “A much more dynamic system”
    Dr. Timofeev argues that it’s a mistake to look for Soviet-style dysfunctions in Russia’s economy, like empty shop shelves and long line-ups, as some Western observers tend to do.

    “Russia today has a market economy, and even state companies have to play by market rules,” he says. “If you perceive the Russian economy as something rigid and static like the Soviet economy was, then you might expect that it would start to collapse as vital imports are denied. But it’s a much more dynamic system. People have incentives to find solutions or workarounds, and they often do.”

    It also seems likely that the much-advertised withdrawal of Western companies from the Russian market may not have been as total as often assumed. The speaker of Russia’s State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, said recently that 75% of foreign companies never really left, but rather found creative ways to disguise their continued participation in the Russian market. That appears to be borne out by foreign studies.

    In some cases, Russian businesses have simply taken over a Western one, and run it pretty much as before. That’s what happened to McDonald’s, whose 847 outlets and vast infrastructure in Russia were taken over by a Siberian entrepreneur and have returned to the market under a new name, Vkusno I Tochka, offering almost the same services at similar prices. Similarly, Starbucks is now Stars Coffee, Baskin-Robbins is now BR and Ice, while KFC is, well, KFC.

    In some cases, Western companies have paid a high price for leaving. The Canadian mining company Kinross, for example, was forced by Russia’s regulatory agency to sell its lucrative Far Eastern gold mine to a Russian buyer for half the agreed price.

    Experts say the damage inflicted by sanctions will show up over time, resulting in de modernization, slowdowns, and loss of productivity.

    For example, Russia is mostly self-sufficient in food production, which explains why grocery stores are full of produce. “In the late 1990s, we imported about 40% of our food. Now it’s 10%,” says Pyotr Shelishch, chairman of Russia’s independent Consumer Union. “But Russian agriculture faces serious challenges in obtaining seeds, equipment, and spare parts to keep it going. It will be some time before we see if these problems can be overcome.”

    Despite present appearances, and the relative success of some stopgap measures, Russia’s effective decoupling from the main engines of the world economy is likely to have lasting negative consequences, says Yevgeny Gontmakher, an economist and former Russian government official.

    “The Russian economy, which benefited so much from cooperation with Western companies over the past years, is now going to be on its own,” he says. “They will now have to accept goods at a higher cost and lesser quality and revert to less modern technologies. Overall, we’re looking at a primitivization of the Russian economy.”

  207. raven says

    The Lookout @The_Lookout_N
    The Norwegian Chief of Defence, General Eirik Kristoffersen, gave these casualty estimates on TV2 today, though with caveats:

    Russian mil: 180 000 KIA/WIA
    Ukrainian mil: 100 000 KIA/WIA
    Ukrainian civilian: 30 000 killed

    Other important quotes follow

    The Lookout @The_Lookout_N
    ·Jan 22

    “[Despite heavy losses] Russia has the ability to manufacture more [equipment], withdraw equipment from from storage and mobilize more [manpower], he points out.”

    “Russia is capable of continuing this [the war] for a very long time, says Eirik Kristoffersen.”
    The Lookout
    “What is most worrying is whether Ukraine will be able to keep the Russian Air Force out of the war.
    We haven’t seen a large effort from the Russian Air Force due to Ukrainian air-defences, says Kristoffersen to TV 2.”
    The Lookout
    “He [Norwegian Chief of Defence] says Ukraine also needs tanks [MBTs] to go on the offensive and take back occupied territory.”

    “If they are to go on the offensive this winter, they need them quickly.”
    Translation by myself.

    Neither the Russians or the Ukrainians publicly announce their losses

    The Norwegian Chief of Defence has Russia at 180,000 KIA/WIA
    Ukraine at 100,000 KIA/WIA.

    The Ukrainian losses seem high but they are not unrealistic.
    That many KIA/WIA is going to put huge strains on both societies.
    The Russian government doesn’t care but the Russian families that lost sons are going to care a lot. The Russians are mostly sweeping up their poor, minorities, and prisoners.

    Reports are that Ukraine is already feeling the stresses.
    They are losing their young people and their best and brightest.

    The Ukrainian civilians killed number is anyone’s guess.
    It is likely closer to 100,000 dead by now. In Mariupol alone, 300,000 are dead or missing.

    The USA lost 58,000 KIA in Vietnam with a larger population at the time and it nearly wrecked our society.

  208. says

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

    The EU will launch a humanitarian de-mining programme in Ukraine worth €25m, the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, has confirmed.

    De-mining is “crucial to save the lives of civilian population”, Borrell wrote on social media.

    Ukraine’s prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, announced the programme after meeting with Borrell in Kyiv yesterday, posting to Telegram that it was an “important component of our recovery, which will allow us to return normal life”.

    President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said that Ukraine will continue to fight for Bakhmut as long as it can, vowing that “nobody will give away” the eastern “fortress” city.

    Speaking at a news conference with top European Union officials, Zelenskiy said:

    Nobody will give away Bakhmut. We will fight for as long as we can. We consider Bakhmut our fortress.

    Ukraine would be able to hold Bakhmut and liberate occupied Donbas “if it received long-range weapons”, Zelenskiy added.

    The president of the European Council, Charles Michel, has tweeted a clip of his recent joint press conference with Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

    The Ukrainian people have made “a clear choice for freedom, democracy, and rule of law”, Michel said.

    He continues:

    We in the EU have also made a clear decision. Your future is with us in our common European Union. Your destiny is our destiny.

    Volodymyr Zelenskiy has appealed to the European Union to impose sanctions on Russia’s state-run nuclear monopoly Rosatom and its top managers….

  209. says

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

    Trump 2020 campaign head in key state sought to fan flame of election denial

    A senior member of Trump’s re-election campaign said that campaigners were going to “fan the flame” and spread the false claim that Democrats were “trying to steal this election” in a leaked November 2020 audio clip, the Associated Press first reported.

    In the obtained audio recording, Andrew Iverson discussed the communications strategy for Trump’s reelection in Wisconsin, as Democrats outflanked Republicans in the region.

    At the time, Iverson led reelection efforts in Wisconsin, a key battleground state which Biden eventually won by over 20,000 votes in 2020.

    “Here’s the deal: comms is going to continue to fan the flame and get the word out about Democrats trying to steal this election. We’ll do whatever they need. Just be on standby if there’s any stunts we need to pull,” said Iverson.

    The audio was given to the Associated Press by a former Trump operative, who withheld their name fearing political and personal retaliation. The unnamed operative was motivated as Trump prepares for a third reelection campaign for the US presidency.

    Iverson, who is now the midwest regional director for the Republican National Committee (RNC), has deferred questions from the Associated Press to RNC spokesperson Keith Schipper.

    Schipper declined to comment, saying that he has not heard the audio.

    Blinken delays trip to Beijing amid spy balloon puzzle

    Secretary of State Antony Blinken will postpone a scheduled trip to China after yesterday’s discovery of a Chinese spy balloon over the US.

  210. raven says

    “Ukraines troops in the east are quietly confident.”

    That is good I guess. I’m not at all confident right now.

    “…but the general says that since Ukrainian forces pushed the Russians out of almost all of the Kharkiv region in September, and Ukrainian forces recaptured Kherson in November, psychologically everything has changed for his men.
    “We lost our fear of them. We understood that we can fight back and beat them.”

    The Russian army isn’t very good, but even they are learning as they go along.
    They make up in numbers what they lack in weapons and skill.
    And they use terror to motivate their conscript troops.
    It is clear that the Russians really do shoot soldiers who retreat and quite often. A Russian soldier might survive an advance but they probably won’t survive a retreat.
    (The solution to this is obvious. They have a rifle in their hand. If you retreat, shoot the blocking soldiers first. You will still die but knowing you took one of them with you.)


    Russia is pounding away harder than ever in Donbas. But Ukraine’s soldiers seem curiously unfazed

    COLONEL “MAESTRO” is a commander in the Kupiansk sector in eastern Ukraine. He has been fighting the Russians since they first invaded, in 2014. His car has a dish for Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite-internet service, now ubiquitous along the front lines, attached to its roof. Thanks to his drone intelligence teams, he can watch what the enemy is doing on the other side of the line in real time, “24/7”. One night this week he monitored 30 Russian men being sent forward. Two of them were killed. When that happened the rest marched on regardless and did not bolt for cover. In the end nine of them died. “They either had no regard for their own lives,” he says, “or they were on drugs.”

    On January 30th Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary-general, said “we see that they [the Russians] are preparing for more war, that they are mobilising more soldiers, more than 200,000, and potentially even more than that.” Mr Stoltenberg is not the only one to warn that a new offensive is in the offing. Ukrainian leaders, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, have said the same, and Russian artillery strikes have sharply stepped up in recent days. But most Ukrainian soldiers at the eastern front seem curiously unfazed.

    Colonel Maestro’s point is that the reinforcements will not be highly trained professionals. Far from it. Many are convicts who have joined the mercenary Wagner Group deployed in the fighting around the city of Bakhmut, because to do so is a way to get out of jail. Their motivation is low, unlike that of the men they are fighting.

    If yet more Russian recruits are to be thrown at them, says Oleksandr, a sniper serving under the colonel, that means that the smell of the decomposing bodies abandoned by their comrades will be “unbearable”. Meanwhile, Brigadier-General Sergiy Melnyk, who oversees a large part of the Kharkiv region, including its border with Russia, says drones and satellite imagery have not indicated any new build-up of troops there. In fact, he says, the Russians are digging trenches and building defensive positions as if it is they who are expecting an attack.

    Ukrainian commanders say that they believe the main Russian aim in trying to take Bakhmut is to present a success to the public at home, particularly for the Wagner Group. “It is in a valley,” says General Melnyk, so it will be hard, though not impossible, for the Russians to advance from there and to threaten the much bigger cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, which would then become vulnerable to artillery. It is also possible that Ukrainian-held areas in the region could be encircled. From the Ukrainian perspective, General Melnyk says that the point of continuing to fight to retain the city, even at a high cost, is also symbolic. But beyond that, it plays an important role in tying down a large number of Russian troops. General Melnyk thinks that even if it is lost it could be recaptured later. But not all commanders think defending Bakhmut is worth it in terms of the heavy casualties. “If it was up to me I would pull out,” says another of them.

    The general hastens to add that there is no room for complacency. He is preparing in case the Russians do launch a fresh push, he says, just as his own forces are getting ready for their own counter-offensive to drive the Russians out of the Ukrainian territory they occupy. It is almost a year since the Russians began their full-scale invasion of the country, but the general says that since Ukrainian forces pushed the Russians out of almost all of the Kharkiv region in September, and Ukrainian forces recaptured Kherson in November, psychologically everything has changed for his men. “We lost our fear of them. We understood that we can fight back and beat them.”

    The roads leading to the eastern front are full of military traffic. Driving through the ruins of small towns, and past the incinerated remains of tanks and armoured cars, there is a stream of lorries transporting ammunition, cars packed with soldiers and transporters moving armoured vehicles. So much different equipment has arrived in the past few months that soldiers have a problem identifying what is what. As a large Turkish Kipir armoured car drives past, a couple of soldiers reach for their phones to identify it.

    Morale remains high, and Ukraine’s soldiers are learning from experience. Sergeant Vasyl Dubovyi’s team have parked and concealed their car in a small wood giving onto frozen fields within earshot of the Bakhmut front. Before the invasion he was a business analyst. In the distance there is the sound of rocket and artillery fire. Until yesterday a German-made howitzer supplied by the Dutch stood here. Left behind are stacked casings from American-made shells. The team’s car has an Irish numberplate. It was bought for them by a Ukrainian volunteer group.

    Sergeant Dubovyi takes out a gadget. While his colleagues are assembling their drone, he uses his device to scan the airwaves to determine whether there is a Russian drone in the area, or electronic interference that could end in their drone being downed. Two laptops sit on the open tailgate of the car, next to flasks of coffee and pastries. Once the drone is airborne it begins transmitting video to the computers. The gear has become invaluable, says Colonel Maestro, and the software is infinitely superior to anything the Russians have. The nine soldiers his men killed a few hours earlier were spotted by one type of drone and picked off by another, which was directed from his command centre.

    The Ukrainians’ drone equipment is a combination of local and Western kit. Everyone here agrees that Ukrainian forces have only been able to hold their own due to their determination and Western arms. There may still be setbacks, such as the loss of the little town of Soledar last month, for which the Russians paid a high price in terms of soldiers killed. But for now Ukrainian commanders do not think the Russians have the capacity to launch a successful all-out offensive.

    Yet the Ukrainians say that although they have the weapons and the manpower to hold the Russians at bay, they don’t have enough of the former to launch their own full-scale counter-offensive. That will depend on the alignment of three factors. The weather, troops being ready (including those now abroad learning how to use new Western kit) and finally the delivery of tanks and other equipment promised by Western allies. “But”, asks Sergeant Dubovyi, “when will it arrive?”

  211. says

    Guardian – “Italian mob suspect Edgardo Greco found working as pizza chef after 16 years on run”:

    A convicted killer believed to belong to one of Italy’s most powerful mafia organisations has been discovered working as a pizza chef and arrested after nearly 17 years on the run.

    Edgardo Greco, 63, is suspected of belonging to the notorious ’Ndrangheta, a mafia organisation in Calabria, southern Italy. Interpol said he was arrested on Thursday in the French city of Saint-Etienne, where he had at one point run an Italian restaurant under an alias, according to French prosecutors.

    Described as a “dangerous fugitive”, Greco was wanted in Italy to serve a life sentence for the murders of Stefano and Giuseppe Bartolomeo, Interpol said on Thursday.

    He was also accused there of the attempted murder of Emiliano Mosciaro “as part of a mafia war between the Pino Sena and Perna Pranno gangs that marked the early 1990s”.

    The Bartolomeo brothers were beaten to death with iron bars in a fish warehouse in January 1991, Italian police said. Their bodies were never found and are believed to have been dissolved in acid. Rival clans had ordered their killing because, according to gang leaders, the brothers were trying to expand their businesses by interfering with those of other crime families.

    In Saint-Etienne in June 2021, Greco became the owner of an Italian restaurant called Caffe Rossini Ristorante, running it until November 2021, French prosecutors said. According to documents seen by Agence France-Presse, he used the name Paolo Dimitrio and also worked in other Italian restaurants in the city.

    A Facebook account for the Caffe Rossini Ristorante, which appears to have been closed down, showed local press covered its opening in 2021. “Paolo Dimitrio opens the restaurant of his dreams,” said the headline of the article in the local newspaper Le Progres. Greco also worked evenings in a pizza restaurant under his assumed name, according to Italian media.

    The Cooperation Against ’Ndrangheta project run by Interpol, which facilitates police cooperation between its 195 member states, aided in Greco’s arrest.

    The murder of the Bartolomeo brothers marked a turning point for the ’Ndrangheta. Many Calabrian mafia bosses turned informers and helped authorities arrest dozens of their confederates. ’Ndrangheta clans are characterised by deep blood relations, a trait that once made this organisation virtually impenetrable. But now many of these brothers, nephews and even children of the bosses have decided to appear as witnesses against their own relatives.

    The ’Ndrangheta is considered Italy’s most extensive and powerful mafia group, Interpol said, operating worldwide and with strong ties to the trade in cocaine bound for Europe from South America.

    Greco’s arrest came a week after Italian police said it had dismantled an ’Ndrangheta mafia ring dominating a large area of southern Calabria and seized assets exceeding €250m ($270m). Fifty-six people, many already in prison, were put under criminal investigation for a series of crimes including mafia-related conspiracy, extortion, kidnapping, bribery and possession of weapons, police and prosecutors said.

    Last month, Italian police arrested Matteo Messina Denaro, one of the most notorious bosses of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra mafia, who had been on the run for 30 years. The 60-year-old was arrested after visiting a health clinic in the Sicilian capital, Palermo, where he was being treated.

  212. whheydt says

    Re: raven @ #263…
    The situation reminds me of one fight that took place in the Falklands. An Argentine unit got caught is a cross-fire between Scots Guards and Gurkhas. Their officers told them that if they ran, they–the officers–would shoot them. When the unit broke, the troops ran in the least dangerous direction: toward their own officers.

  213. raven says

    Putin is building a new empire, but it is not going well. People are fleeing it in droves.

    Anger at Putin and with the war is far broader. Many who remain in Russia are afraid to speak out; many have fled the country, voting with their feet against Putin.

    By that point, whatever Putin was perpetrating still had the general support of 71 percent of respondents, but the portion of the population who “definitely supported” it had dropped from 52 percent in March to just 41 percent in December.

    I doubt that the Russian people are all that supportive of the war.
    They’ve had several centuries of learning how to smile and nod and agree with whatever the state is doing.

    Early in the war, one young woman in Moscow said it all.
    There is no reason to protest since it won’t change anything.
    Except you will be arrested and sent to the Gulag as a slave laborer.

    I’m also sure they won’t do anything to change anything.
    Russia is turning into Stalin’s version of the USSR and we know how that goes.

    How Russians Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the War
    The Pliant Majority Sustaining Putin’s Rule
    By Andrei Kolesnikov February 1, 2023

    In the late Soviet era, only twice did Moscow’s military interrupt the daily lives of ordinary citizens. The first occasion was the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, which went largely unnoticed by many Russians because few knew what was going on. The second was the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, which had far greater consequences. For many people, the sight of zinc coffins being flown back from a distant southern country, even as Marxism-Leninism was losing currency at home, shattered the moral foundations of the Soviet project.

    In 2022, Moscow’s military once again interrupted the lives of ordinary citizens with an invasion, and the result has been even worse than either of those previous events: Russia has just lived through the most terrifying year in post-Soviet history. Yet despite growing loss of life and stark moral defeats, there has been no shattering of national foundations. Sure, Russians are becoming divided, and their opinions polarized, as people grow tired of war. But far from weakening Putin’s hold on power, the “special military operation” has only strengthened it.

    Those who fear Putin have either fled the country or are silent. The regime has a formidable arsenal of instruments to deploy against anyone who speaks out or otherwise expresses opposition. It has used the legal system to crush any dissent, handing down Stalinist prison terms to antiwar activists. It has invented its own equivalent of yellow stars to harass, threaten, and intimidate those deemed “foreign agents.” (I had the honor of receiving such a designation in late December.) It has closed down or blocked access to virtually all independent media. And it has pinned the unofficial label of “national traitor” on anyone who does not express delight at the state’s ramping up of repression, the war, and the increasingly personal military-police-state regime that is driving it.

    And so, instead of protesting, most Russians have made clear that they prefer to adapt. Even fleeing the country is not necessarily a form of protest: for many, it is simply a pragmatic answer to the problem of how to avoid being killed or becoming a killer. It is true that the population is more anxious than ever. According to opinion surveys, anxiety among Russians reached new heights in 2022, although it returned to more or less tolerable levels when the threat of mobilization temporarily receded. But adaptation has become the overriding Russian trait. Where will it end? For the moment, it seems that there is no limit.

    Putin is building a new empire, but it is not going well. People are fleeing it in droves. One of the mainstays of the Soviet empire was grandiloquent Communist building projects. But today’s emperor has set about restoring Moscow’s empire by destroying those same Communist projects with Russian missiles: a significant part of the Ukrainian infrastructure that Putin has been attacking was built by his own twentieth-century predecessors. Consider the TEC-5 power plant in Kharkiv. Built by the Soviets in the 1970s, it provided electricity to millions of people and became Ukraine’s second-largest thermal power plant. In September 2022, it was hit by a Russian strike, leaving a fire that raged for weeks and cutting off power to a large swath of the country. It is hard not to see the difference: the previous empire launched the first manmade satellite, Sputnik, and the first human, Yuri Gagarin, into space; Putin launches deadly missiles into a neighboring country. This is the difference between soft power, which at a certain stage was characteristic even of the Soviet Union, and Putin’s power, which is not at all soft.

    Still, 2022—a year of war, a year of permanent shock—has done little to change popular acquiescence for the regime. This is not just a defense reflex on the part of ordinary Russians—“My country, right or wrong” or “Our leaders know best, since they have more information than we do.” Instead, it is a double-edged response that seeks to keep reality at bay. On the one hand, it is expressed in desire for vengeance against the enemy, who are no longer even seen as human beings. On the other hand, it is grounded in the fantasy that normal times can continue in a country in which committing violence against outsiders and sacrificing oneself in a heroic death on the battlefield are becoming socially accepted norms.

    This form of emotional protection explains why most Russians see 2022 as a very difficult year—but less difficult than the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic or the chaos of the early 1990s. According to polls by the independent Levada Center, by the end of 2022, fears of mass repression, arbitrary rule, and a government crackdown had actually receded from a few months earlier. All those tools of tyranny were used with increasing force during the year, and yet people said that they were less concerned about them than before. That declining concern is not only an effect of the pressure to sustain wartime unity; it is a conscious unwillingness to acknowledge that anything has changed—a desire for self-deception. Incidentally, according to polling data, the only major fear that people express at the same high level as previously is the prospect of another world war. That seems to be the only thing average Russians are not deceiving themselves about.

    The previous empire launched Sputnik. Putin launches deadly missiles.
    A significant part of the population has all but overlooked Putin’s violation of the very social contract that he laid down years before the “special operation” began. From the beginning, officials asserted that they were just military professionals doing their job and promised Russians that, as long as they supported the regime, basic needs would be met and normal life would continue. Now, of course, that promise can no longer hold. Putin requires the nation to share in what he has embarked on, and it turns out he needs the bodies of Russians themselves to offer up in sacrifice. This shift has been justified by the promise that death in this manner will eclipse all their earthly sins, as the patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, once said. Sometimes the more terrible the lie and the more outlandish the justification of horrors, the more easily the majority choose to believe it.

    It helps that many Russians are utterly beholden to the state. According to official statistics, the proportion of social payments in the real incomes of the population is greater now than it was in Soviet times. Despite the emergence of a market economy and a significant class of self-sufficient people, Putin has done everything he can to ensure that the economic role of the state remains as large as possible. And he has used the influx of petrodollars to further that goal.

    People who depend on the state are obedient, above all politically, and the direction of the Russian economy in recent years has reinforced that reality. Only a small percentage of the population gets its income from business activity, whereas salaries from the public sector and social payments command a large portion of people’s income. According to data from the 2021 census, one out of three Russians—33 percent—depend on social payments as a source of income. In addition, a quarter of all Russians are materially dependent on someone else. Even taking into account that the quality of the 2021 census data is the worst in the country’s post-Soviet history, these figures are shocking.

    For the time being, Putin is making his new demands for cannon fodder against a relatively calm socioeconomic backdrop. But this could change as the economy plummets. Given the inevitable drop in federal budget revenues because of restrictions on oil and gas exports, fading economic activity, and significant spending on defense and security, the state will have fewer opportunities to buy the loyalty of the population in the coming months. Still, it is likely that Putin will pull it off. For one thing, security and law-enforcement agencies, from the army and police to the special services, will continue to be well funded, and it is they who will enforce loyalty. No one has canceled the carrot-and-stick method, but the value of the stick is increasing.

    Russian prosecution data gives some indication of both the extent of overt opposition to Putin and the official response to it. In 2022, 20,467 people were detained on political grounds, mainly for expressing antiwar sentiment in public; and 378 people were criminally prosecuted for “discrediting or spreading fake news about the Russian army”—in other words, for taking an antiwar position. Of those 378, fifty-one have already been sentenced. Attracting the most attention have been the cases against Moscow municipal deputy Alexei Gorinov and liberal politician Ilya Yashin. In July, Gorinov was given nearly seven years in jail for spreading “knowingly false information” about the army. In December, Yashin was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison on similar grounds, in particular for mentioning the Bucha massacre. Also in 2022, 176 individuals and organizations were declared “foreign agents,” and the Russian parliament passed 22 new laws aimed at enhancing the state’s repressive powers. Among these were a new law targeting LGBT “propaganda” and one giving the state drastically expanded powers over so-called foreign agents.

    Equally striking has been the growing use of censorship. In 2022, the authorities blocked more than 210,000 websites and Putin’s machine effectively silenced any remotely independent media left in Russia. Yet many of the media outlets that have been blocked or shut down are managing to do their job efficiently from outside the country (and sometimes even from within the country: Novaya Gazeta, for example, is trying to promote new projects, and the former Echo of Moscow radio broadcasts on YouTube partly from Moscow). Russians who want to watch, listen to, or read alternative information and opinions can use a virtual private network (VPN) to do so. Many exiled independent media also broadcast on YouTube, which the Russian government is reluctant to block for fear of invoking the wrath of the platform’s huge numbers of depoliticized users.

    In fact, as high as these numbers are, the tally of political prosecutions and blocked websites reveals only what is on the surface. Anger at Putin and with the war is far broader. Many who remain in Russia are afraid to speak out; many have fled the country, voting with their feet against Putin. And still others have returned to the late Soviet–era practice of “kitchen democracy,” discussing and condemning Putin’s war at home or quietly in cafés. Notably popular in Russia right now are classic works of literature that contain subtle antiwar messages. The most read book at the beginning of last year was George Orwell’s 1984. Other books selling well include those about everyday life in 1930s Germany, in which people recognize themselves and their fears. Intellectual publishing houses are also reissuing antiwar books that are difficult for the authorities to object to, such as the 1945 lectures of the German-Swiss philosopher Karl Jaspers on the collective guilt and responsibility of the Germans and Leo Tolstoy’s blistering articles against war. These writers, too, are expressing sentiments that many Russians today can identify with.

    Given the scale of the repression, it is unrealistic to expect a mass uprising against Putin, especially since most ordinary Russians prefer to bury their heads in the sand and find some bizarre rationality and truth in the regime’s logic. People do not want to be on the side of evil, so they designate evil as good, thereby forcing themselves to believe that Putin is bringing peace. As one Kremlin spin doctor put it, the president is launching “missiles of righteousness.” Otherwise, Russians tell themselves, NATO would crush them and dismember their country—even if there was not a shred of evidence of that happening before February 2022. Putin knows best.

    Putin and his Kremlin ideologues love to talk about the West’s desire to wipe Russia off the map. For their part, they would like to see Russia take up a much bigger place on the map by building an enormous empire. They want a return to the distant past. The irony is that, as Russia has—at least in the Kremlin’s own imagined geography—expanded its physical extent in its brutal war against Ukraine, it has effectively disappeared from the political map.

    The West once saw Russia as a country on the path to democracy. Now it regards it as an international pariah and a failed state. Russia’s former Soviet neighbors—members of the Commonwealth of Independent States—are frightened and have politely distanced themselves from Moscow; some of them are successfully exploiting the labor force that has fled Putin. (In 2022, 2.9 million Russians went to Kazakhstan alone, and nearly 150,000 obtained identification papers needed to work there.) China and India, while remaining on friendly terms with Russia at the rhetorical and economic level, have watched in disbelief as Putin descends into a vortex of irrational self-destruction, taking his nation’s economy, workforce, dignity, and soft power with him.

    Russians’ acceptance of collective responsibility will have to come later.
    In March 2022, 80 percent of Russians “definitely supported” or “mostly supported” Russia’s war, according to a Levada Center poll. To be precise, they supported “the actions of the Russian armed forces in Ukraine.” Back then, public opinion was not ready to consider it a “war,” and not only because people could be prosecuted for calling it that: they assumed that it would be a short military campaign. By December, the terms had changed. There was no longer any doubt that Russia was fighting a war, to the point that top officials, seeking to justify the army’s serial failures, were calling it a “war with NATO.” (They were not, of course, calling it a war with brotherly Ukraine, which was apparently being used by the West to destroy Russia.) By that point, whatever Putin was perpetrating still had the general support of 71 percent of respondents, but the portion of the population who “definitely supported” it had dropped from 52 percent in March to just 41 percent in December. Among those who are most dismayed by Putin’s bloodbath are younger Russians and people who get their information from the Internet rather than Russian television. In December, 50 percent of respondents favored peace talks, against just 40 percent who thought it was better to keep fighting. (Russian support for peace talks peaked, unsurprisingly, during Putin’s partial mobilization in September and October, when it reached 57 percent.) Society is divided.

    But what about taking responsibility for Putin’s meat grinder? Around May 2022, when it became clear that the war would not be over as quickly as planned—and Russians themselves were not yet directly ensnared in the fighting—the number of respondents who expressed a sense of moral responsibility for the deaths of people in Ukraine briefly increased. After that, however, it stabilized as a marginal phenomenon: currently, only about one in four Russians expresses some degree of responsibility for the war, and just one in ten Russians consider themselves “definitely” responsible. By contrast, about six out of ten absolve themselves of any responsibility whatsoever for the deaths of people from a fraternal nation in which many of them have relatives and acquaintances.

    When people are being killed and cities and essential civilian infrastructure are being razed, disavowing responsibility is both infantile and amoral. But Russians’ acceptance of collective responsibility, not to mention guilt, will have to come later—if at all. For the foreseeable future, the brutal authoritarian regime under which they live imposes certain norms of behavior and has no intention of disappearing, toning down its repression and propaganda, or bringing an end to the war. Of course the obedient, if weary, population will accept with gratitude whatever the autocrat gives—even peace.

    Sometimes it seems as though Russia really has disappeared from the map or has been illegally annexed by its own government. In less than a year, Putin and his team have managed to discredit everything Russian, even Russian culture. Russia’s image has not taken such a battering since the days of Stalin. The Soviet Union in its later years had a lot more global respect than Russia does now.

    In one sense, everything that happened since Russia invaded Ukraine is captured in the vicious circle of the country’s political history. My grandfather was arrested on political grounds in 1938, the year of the Great Terror, which meant that at the age of nine, my mother became the daughter of an “enemy of the people.” She died over 20 years ago, confident that her country was at last on the path to normal democratic development. She did not live to see her son labeled a “foreign agent,” for such was the state’s gift to me on December 24, 2022. Out of three generations, therefore, two found themselves enemies of autocratic regimes. Separating an “enemy of the people” grandfather and his “foreign agent” grandson were more than eight decades of difficult Soviet and Russian history, including three in which the country was liberalizing: under Khrushchev, Gorbachev, and Yeltsin. Indeed, according to one version of the political proverb attributed to Pyotr Stolypin, the pre-revolutionary prime minister of the Russian Empire, in a year, everything in the country changes; in a century, nothing changes.

  214. tomh says

    20 State AG’s Warn Pharmacies Against Mailing Abortion Pills
    February 03, 2023

    Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey announced
    on Tuesday that 20 state attorneys general have sent letters to Walgreen’s and CVS pharmacies warning that their plan to distribute the abortion pills mifepristone and misoprostol using the mails violates both state and federal law. (Full text of letters to Walgreen’s and CVS). The letters contend that distribution of the pills by mail violates 18 USC §1461 and reject an Opinion of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (full text) to the contrary.

    Religion Clause

  215. tomh says

    Fifth Circuit overturns law keeping guns from subjects of domestic violence restraining orders
    February 2, 2023

    NEW ORLEANS — The Fifth Circuit overturned the conviction of a man for firearm possession while under a domestic violence restraining order. Though he has been involved in five prior shootings, including when he shot into the air after his friend’s credit card was declined at a Whataburger, last year’s Supreme Court Bruen ruling requires the court to look for historic precedent to such suspensions of Second Amendment rights, and the Fifth Circuit finds the government’s offered evidence lacking.
    Read the ruling here.

    Courthouse News Service

  216. KG says

    The USA lost 58,000 KIA in Vietnam with a larger population at the time and it nearly wrecked our society. – raven@260

    True, but that was for a war huge numbers of people came to see as at best pointless, and many could see was an act of unjustified aggression by the USA, while the Ukrainians overwhelmingly and rightly consider themselves fighting in a righteous and absolutely necessary defence of their land, people and culture. The UK (and colonies, chiefly meaning India) lost somewhere near 380,000 military and 65,000 civilian dead in WW2 (from a UK population similar to Ukraine’s today), and it came nowhere near wrecking its society – although it did hasten the crumbling of the Empire. Mind you, I agree with your broader concerns – there has been far too much over-confidence about how Russia is militarily hopeless and incapable of learning (and incidentally, much absurd and racist denigration of Russian culture as never producing anything worthwhile).

  217. says

    As 2023 got underway, job growth soared, jobless rate improved

    The last time the unemployment rate was this low, we hadn’t yet landed on the moon and Woodstock was still a few months away.

    Expectations heading into this morning showed projections of around 187,000 new jobs having been added in the United States in January. As it turns out, according to the new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the preliminary tally suggests the domestic job market did far better than that. CNBC reported this morning:

    The employment picture started off 2023 on a stunningly strong note, with nonfarm payrolls posting their strongest gain since July 2022. Nonfarm payrolls increased by 517,000 for January, above the Dow Jones estimate of 187,000. The unemployment rate fell to 3.4% vs. the estimate for 3.6%.

    If that monthly total sounds extraordinary, it is: 517,000 jobs not only far exceeded expectations, it’s also the highest total since last summer.

    What’s more, while the unemployment rate isn’t my favorite metric, it’s worth noting for context that in January 2021, when President Joe Biden was inaugurated, the unemployment rate was 6.4%. Now, it’s 3.4% — a level the United States did not reach at any point throughout the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s. The last time the jobless rate was this low was May 1969. (We hadn’t yet landed on the moon and Woodstock was still a few months away.)

    And while we’re at it, let’s also note that the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ new data revises the totals from all of 2022: We originally thought the U.S. economy created 4.5 million jobs last year. The new, revised total shows an even higher number: 4.81 million jobs. By any fair measure, that’s an extraordinary total.

    I’m mindful of the chatter about whether the economy is in a recession, but by any sane measure, these are not recession-like conditions.

    […] Over the course of the first three years of Donald Trump’s presidency — when the Republican said the United States’ economy was the greatest in the history of the planet — the economy created roughly 6.4 million jobs, spanning all of 2017, 2018 and 2019.

    According to the latest tally, the U.S. economy has created over 12 million jobs since January 2021 — nearly double the combined total of Trump’s first three years.

    In recent months, Republicans have responded to developments like these by pretending not to notice them. I have a hunch GOP officials will keep the trend going today. […]

    More statistics at the link.

  218. says

    Why Tom Fitton’s misguided advice to Trump matters

    The informal adviser to Donald Trump was seen entering a federal courthouse this week where special counsel Jack Smith’s grand juries meet.

    On Thursday, Tom Fitton, the president of conservative activist group Judicial Watch and an informal adviser to former President Donald Trump, was seen by NBC News entering a federal courthouse in Washington, D.C.

    That courthouse is where the grand juries under special counsel Jack Smith’s purview meet — and at least one prosecutor from his team was also seen headed into the grand jury area, according to NBC News.

    […] days before the 2020 election, Fitton prepared a statement for Trump, as shared with Trump aides Molly Michael and Dan Scavino, declaring Trump’s victory on the basis of ballots counted “before the Election Day deadline.” [there is no “election day deadline”]

    […] But I’ve been focused on Fitton’s role in advising Trump in another capacity and one that relates to the other investigation under Smith’s purview: how Trump should handle records from his presidency. Throughout litigation that followed the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago last August, Trump argued that search was ill-conceived (and potentially unlawful) because, among other reasons, all of the documents seized actually were his personal property. (Unsurprisingly, the Justice Department took issue with that position.)

    And when Trump’s team briefed his case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, they argued under the Presidential Records Act that the president alone “determines whether a document constitutes a Presidential record or a personal record.” They also asserted that he was still president “when the documents at issue were packed, transported and delivered to” Mar-a-Lago, and therefore, “his decision to retain certain records as personal is entitled to deference, and the records in question are thus presumptively personal.” In other words, as Politico’s Kyle Cheney tweeted, Trump argued that “the mere fact he transported sensitive records to Mar-a-Lago while he was president means he automatically designated them as ‘personal’ while still in office, a designation he says can’t be challenged in court.”

    […] The documents seized at Mar-a-Lago last August infamously include those found in Trump’s desk drawer, far from the storage room where any and all presidential records were supposedly kept by lock and key. […]

    personal records are those “of a purely private or nonpublic character which do not relate to or have an effect upon” the execution of the president’s duties.

    […] Fitton then used that case [Judicial Watch, Inc. v. National Archives and Records Administration, is quite literally about Clinton’s sock drawer, where, for years, he kept audio recordings of conversations he had with historian Taylor Branch during his presidency]— which his organization [Judicial watch] lost — to convince Trump that any and all White House materials Trump retained, whether or not they bore classification markings and whether or not they were used in the official business of his presidency, could be designated as personal. But after reading the case, exactly how he convinced himself or Trump of that is lost on this ex-lawyer. […]

  219. says

    Meet the Contract Killer who Now Represents George Santos in Brazil

    I’m not sure the George Santos stories keep getting worse. But they do get weirder, more bizarre.

    As we learned way back at the beginning of the Santos saga, he remains a wanted man in Brazil for check fraud he committed back in 2008. After he became an international celebrity in December, Brazilian authorities decided to reinitiate the case which had stalled when they couldn’t locate him. After the case was reopened, Santos hired a Brazilian lawyer to represent him in the revived case. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, since it’s George Santos, that he managed to find a lawyer who’s a convicted murderer. In fact, he’s a convicted contract killer.

    This account is based on an article published yesterday in the Brazilian daily Folha and some limited additional reporting of my own.

    In 2004 Jonymar Vasconcelos, then a low-ranking sailor in the Brazilian navy, was part of what the Folha termed a “death squad” behind a mob execution. This was more organized crime than anything backed by the state per se, involving criminal gangs run by rogue elements in the military police. Vasconcelos was sentenced to 18 years in prison but ended up serving only five. He was released to house arrest and supervised release in 2009. Two years later the judge who sentenced him, Patrícia Acioli, was herself murdered. [snipped details]

    […] The timeline goes like this: Vasconcelos was arrested shortly after the murder in December 2004 and incarcerated while awaiting trial. He was convicted in 2007 and sentenced to 18 years in prison but was then released into a halfway house and supervised release in 2009. He was then able to enroll in law school during his supervised release. I spoke to a knowledgable observer of the Brazilian legal system who told me it was very hard to explain Vasconcelos’ quick release from custody and entry into law school without some corrupt machinations in the background.

    The most interesting part of the story is how Santos managed to end up with this lawyer. There’s no clear or good explanation. The Folha reporter couldn’t find any record of Vasconcelos being connected with any law firm or listed anywhere as a lawyer. He’s not findable. So how did Santos find him? Santos has been busy for the last month and he hasn’t been able to travel to Brazil to retain counsel. So, again, how did he manage to come up with Vasconcelos? According to Vasoncelos, it was because of his outstanding trial record and a personal recommendation.

    Small world.

    When Santos was asked for comment about Vasconcelos and how he came to retain him, Santos first said he didn’t speak Portuguese and then never replied when the questions were restated in English.

  220. says

    Ukraine update: Bakhmut is a ‘hellscape of destruction,’ but the last few residents refuse to leave

    [photo at the link}

    Around Bakhmut the scale of battles is hard to describe.

    The full force of conventional warfare in the modern era is truly something deadly and terrifying.

    On Friday, with Russian forces reportedly making advances to both north and south, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declared once again that the city of Bakhmut would never be surrendered. Ukraine will “fight as much as we can.”

    Meanwhile, inside Bakhmut the pounding of Russian artillery has increased. Every area of the city is now targeted by a near-constant artillery barrage that makes no distinctions between civilian and military buildings. Bakhmut is being slowly reduced while fighting continues on the north, east, and south sides of the city. Things there are … not good. However, on this morning as on every morning for the last eight months, Bakhmut holds.

    This morning, the U.S. has made the latest $2 billion package of military assistance to Ukraine official. The list of gear includes more HIMARS ammo, more Javelins, and a pair of HAWK air defense systems. However, the closest that the announcement comes to talking about the 150-kilometer range Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB) is the line “precision-guided rockets.” So figuring out how many GLSDB are on their way has been left as a challenge to the reader.

    Too bad they couldn’t be at Bakhmut today.

    Some days, I get a good reminder of why it’s better to be the kind of journalist who compiles and analyzes information in a moderately clean and well-lighted space, and not actually a war correspondent whose reporting of events involves having to move because of artillery shells.

    THREAD: I spent last week in #Bakhmut, reporting for @unherd. This video was shot in the centre of the city, 200m from the Russian🇷🇺 positions. Listen with sound UP.

    I was fortunate to embed with Ukrainian🇺🇦 special forces, here are my thoughts (& photos) from the front here. [video at the link]

    In this thread, Patrikarakos brings back a number of observations from the city he describes as a “hellscape of destruction.” One is just how deserted Bakhmut seems to be at this point. Where earlier videos of the city showed people stubbornly trying to hold onto some sliver of normality, and even operate small businesses in the parts of the city farthest from the fighting, that no longer seems to be the case. Every video of Bakhmut in the last week shows mostly empty streets running between what appears to be nearly universal destruction, with no building untouched by the months of bombardment.

    In that first video from Patrikarakos, you can hear him say that the streets are deserted except for “the odd elderly person.” That ties to this even more incredible thread from reporter Arman Soldin. In the center of Bakhmut, Soldin finds that some of the city’s oldest residents are not just refusing to leave, they are daring regular trips through some of the most hazardous regions to obtain small rations of firewood, food, and clean water.

    The river that splits Bakhmut in two has become a key dividing line in the fighting. People living on the eastern bank, risk their life every day to get water, woods or reach one of the humanitarian centers for a hot meal, or some precious internet [video at the link]

    Watching these people struggle across a fallen bridge to return to their damaged, unheated homes in the midst of a destroyed city as artillery shakes the ground and rifle fire crackles in the background is horrifying. It’s surreal. It’s heartbreaking in the extreme. How can anyone withstand this? What kind of monsters would subject other human beings to such conditions?

    It’s impossible to wonder why they don’t leave. At the same time, it’s absolutely understandable why they refuse.

    Some of these people have lived their whole lives in Bakhmut. They were children there. They went to school, and on family picnics, and watched parades there. They fell in love there. They had their own children there. Their parents and grandparents are buried there. This is their home. This has always been their home. And now it is dying around them. Day by day, the landscape of their lives is being erased.

    How could they possibly leave? Where else would they go?

    Just watching them brings on such a powerful feeling of anger, sorrow, and frustration. And that can only be a candle flame next to the sun of what they are feeling.

    The bullet point list of equipment doesn’t get explicit, but what’s clear from this list is that there are few “big-ticket items,” such as dozens of tanks, but there is quite a hefty price tag. [List at the link]

    That creates the impression that the number that should be attached to a lot of the items with unspecified quantities comes down to “a lot.” As in a lot of HIMARS ammo. A lot of anti-aircraft guns. And hopefully a lot of precision-guided missiles, in the form of GLSDB.

    On Thursday, the Associated Press discussed the sending of GLSDB and made it clear that both U.S. and Ukrainian officials were holding back on giving details like numbers and arrival dates. Operational security has been one of the hallmarks of Ukraine’s operations during the invasion. The first time Russia learns of the presence of GLSDB in Ukraine is likely to be when their new HQ at Henivhesk just north of Crimea, or the train junction at Starobilsk comes under fire.

    Here. Have another promo video. [video at the link]

    The good news is that a spokesperson at the Pentagon has confirmed that the “precision-guided” line refers to GLSDB. The bad news is that the spokesperson indicated that getting these weapons into Ukraine would take … nine months. Please let this be disinformation.

    Considering the reported cost of GLSDB puts each missile between $30,000 and $40,000, this package could easily contain thousands of such missiles […] Fingers crossed that this is exactly the case.

    I started promising that I would dig into the French AMX-10rc several days ago, with intentions of talking about how this not-a-tank is used very much as a tank by the French to spearhead operations in Africa, but is unlikely to play the same role in Ukraine. But while I was getting delayed by other news, the Task & Purpose guys made a video that hits most of the topics I meant to cover. So watch the video. [video at the link]

    Is it really air defense if a drone can hover overhead for an extended period and direct artillery to a precision strike?

    📽️Russian Tor-M2DT air defense system destroyed by Ukrainian precision strike in #Kherson Oblast. [video at the link]

    Watching these Russian kids wiggle across the snow as “military training” may seem ridiculous. However, a) it’s more extensive training than some of the Russians mobilized now in Ukraine received and b) considering the rumors of another massive call-up, these kids could be in the next wave.

    Military training for schoolchildren in Nizhniy Novgorod, organized by an Orthodox club.

    The club says they start each of these military trainings with a prayer. [video at the link]

    I particularly like the “spin around until you’re dizzy and then fire a gun” drill. If this is a regular part of Russian military training, it would help explain some of their assaults.

  221. says

    I can absolutely guarantee that the balloon is doing less damage to the United States than House Republicans.

    House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer to Fox News: “My concern is that the federal government doesn’t know what’s in that balloon. Is that bioweapons in that balloon? Did that balloon take off from Wuhan?” [video at the link]


  222. says

    Followup to comment 274 (same source, same link0

    China does not need to send weather balloons openly drifting across the United States in the hopes that one of them might accidentally wander across something worthy of a snapshot. It has very good spy satellites orbiting over us right now. Many of them. Those satellites are thought to be on par with the instruments used by the United States. So if China wants to note the license plate on your car, or sneak a peek while you’re tanning on the deck, they don’t need no stinkin’ balloon to do so.

    What almost certainly happened in this case is something that regularly happens: Someone underfilled the balloon back in China. So instead of rising to something like 100,000 feet and popping, allowing the instrument package to parachute down and be collected, the balloon rose to something around 70,000 feet to 80,000 feet, where it has been bobbing along for days, probably collecting nothing at all because the instruments were never designed to operate for this long. Not only is China not getting any intelligence from this balloon, it’s highly likely they didn’t even know where it was until someone trained binoculars on it in Billings. It’s long since stopped phoning home.

    Underinflation is a genuine PITA for those launching balloons because it means you rarely get your instruments back. It’s the last thing you want to happen.

    The whole idea that China would be collecting significant intelligence by balloon in 2023 is an insult to everyone involved. The idea that such a balloon can be steered, or even aimed, to pass over a particular site is an utter impossibility. The fact that these things are both being not just stated by supposed experts on national media, but being touted as a possible national security concern is … typical.

    And if we end up launching a $10 million missile to take down a $300 lost balloon doing nothing, no one should be surprised.

  223. raven says

    Are HIllary Clinton and George Soros on that balloon? How about the Rothschilds?

    The idea that such a balloon can be steered, or even aimed, to pass over a particular site is an utter impossibility.

    The Pentagon is claiming exactly this right now.
    I’ve seen photos of the balloon. There weren’t any engines or propellers visible.

    Still, the Chinese spy balloon has taken a flight path that would carry it over a number of sensitive sites, officials say.

    There aren’t many places in the USA that do not contain sensitive sites.

    UPDATE 2-Chinese spy balloon changes course, floating over central United States-Pentagon
    Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali
    Fri, February 3, 2023 at 10:41 AM PST

    WASHINGTON, Feb 3 (Reuters) – A Chinese spy balloon has changed course and is now floating eastward at about 60,000 feet (18,300 meters) over the central United States, demonstrating a capability to maneuver, the U.S. military said on Friday, in the latest twist to a spying saga that led U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone a visit to China.

    The disclosure about the spy balloon’s maneuverability directly challenges China’s assertion that the balloon was merely a civilian airship that had strayed into U.S. territory after being blown off course.

    “We know this is a Chinese (surveillance) balloon and that it has the ability to maneuver,” Air Force Brigadier General Patrick Ryder told a news briefing at the Pentagon, declining to say precisely how it was powered or who in China was controlling its flight path.

    U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday decided against shooting down the balloon as it floated over Montana due to U.S. military concerns about the likely dispersal of debris, American officials say.

    The Pentagon expects the balloon to continue traveling over U.S. airspace for a few more days, Ryder said, declining to speculate on what options the U.S. military might develop in that time as speculation swirled about whether Biden could still order the balloon be destroyed or perhaps captured.

    Ryder said the U.S. military would not specify where precisely the balloon was positioned over the central United States, saying he didn’t want to get into an “hour-by-hour” cycle of updates. He said people in any given U.S. state could look up into the sky if they wanted.

    “The public certainly has the ability to look up in the sky and see where the balloon is,” Ryder said.

    Senator Roger Marshall from Kansas said the spy balloon was over the northeastern part of his state and his staff was is in contact with law enforcement officials.

    “I condemn any attempts the Chinese make to spy on Americans. President Biden must protect the sovereignty of the U.S.,” Marshall posted on Twitter.

    Ryder added the balloon posed no risk to people on the ground.

    He spoke amid growing political fallout over the Chinese balloon’s presence over the United States.

    Postponement of Blinken’s trip, which had been arranged in November by Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, is a blow to those on both sides who saw it as an overdue opportunity to stabilize an increasingly fractious relationship. The last visit by a U.S. secretary of state was in 2017.

    Biden ignored questions about the balloon when giving remarks on the economy Friday morning.

    Chinese spy satellites carry similar sensors to what U.S. officials believe is on the spy balloon, raising questions about why Beijing would risk such a brazen act on the eve of a major diplomatic event.

    Still, the Chinese spy balloon has taken a flight path that would carry it over a number of sensitive sites, officials say. One such site could be military bases, including in Montana, which is home to intercontinental ballistic missile silos.

    The Billings, Montana, airport on Wednesday issued a ground stop as the military mobilized assets including F-22 fighter jets in case Biden ordered that the balloon be shot down. (Reporting by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

  224. says

    Guardian US liveblog:

    Texts sent by Alex Jones show the rightwing media figure repeatedly texted with members of the Proud Boys in 2020.

    Jones conversed with Gavin McInnes, the founder of Proud Boys, and Jason Biggs, who is on trial for seditious conspiracy in connection with the Capitol attack of 6 January 2021, an attempt to keep Donald Trump in office despite his election loss to Joe Biden.

    Some 22,000 of Jones’ texts, spanning August 2019 to 15 May 2020, were reviewed by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch reporting team.

    Jones also frequently texted with Roger Stone, the rightwing political fixer sentenced to 40 months in prison in 2020 over his attempts to sabotage a congressional investigation that posed a political threat to Trump. Jones was pardoned by Trump in December 2020.

    Hatewatch found that despite Jones using his Infowars broadcasts to rail against pornography as a plot to “end the family”, he repeatedly texted links to pornographic videos.

    The messages also offer a glimpse into Jones’ state of mind as he was being sued by multiple parents of victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting, after he repeatedly said the shooting was a hoax.

    In one message, Jones told his wife “I am in hell”. A message to his father described his situation as like “a black hole”.

    Hatewatch obtained the messages from Mark Bankston, an attorney who represented Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, the parents of Jesse Lewis, who was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012. Heslin and Lewis sued Jones for defamation, and were awarded $49m.

    Bankston received the messages from Jones’ lawyers, after they mistakenly sent their legal opponent 22,000 of Jones’ texts.

    The Indiana Republican Victoria Spartz said today she will not run for an open Senate seat in 2024 and will also retire from her seat in the US House.

    The decision ends speculation which mounted when the 44-year-old refused to back Kevin McCarthy during last month’s 15-vote marathon for House speaker, voting “present” instead of backing any of the rightwing figures put up against McCarthy by a group of far-right rebels.

    She told reporters: “My concern is that … we didn’t come together yet. So, we have to go back … as a group of people, and figure it out.”

    Some observers, however, suggested that Spartz might be hedging her bets ahead of a Senate run.

    Seems not. In a statement on Friday, the Ukraine-born Spartz said: “It’s been my honor representing Hoosiers in the Indiana state senate and US Congress and I appreciate the strong support on the ground. 2024 will mark seven years of holding elected office and over a decade in Republican politics.

    “I won a lot of tough battles for the people and will work hard to win a few more in the next two years. However, being a working mom is tough and I need to spend more time with my two high-school girls back home, so I will not run for any office in 2024.”

    Jim Banks, a prominent hardliner in the US House, is the favourite to win the Republican primary to replace the retiring Mike Braun in the US Senate. Donald Trump has endorsed Banks.

    Our columnist Moustafa Bayoumi has filed on the Republican move to expel Ilhan Omar from the foreign affairs committee, ostensibly over her allegedly antisemitic remarks about Israel, and what it says about the GOP’s own problems with antisemitism…

    Who remembers how, in 2018 and just days before the deadliest attack on Jewish people in US history, a prominent US politician tweeted: “We cannot allow Soros, Steyer, and Bloomberg to BUY this election!”?

    The tweet was widely – and correctly – understood as dangerously antisemitic, particularly heinous in a period of rising anti-Jewish hatred. And whose tweet was this? If you thought the answer was Minnesota’s Democratic representative Ilhan Omar then, well, you’d be wrong. The author was none other than the House majority leader at the time, Republican Kevin McCarthy.

    And who can forget when Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has tweeted that “Joe Biden is Hitler”, speculated that the wildfires in California were caused by a beam from “space solar generators” linked to “Rothschild, Inc.”, a clear wink to bizarre antisemitic conspiracy theories. Incidentally, Greene, who has a long record of antisemitic and anti-Muslim statements, has been recently appointed, by the same Kevin McCarthy, now speaker of the House, to the homeland security committee.

    Then there’s former president Donald Trump, who dines with Holocaust deniers like Nick Fuentes and antisemites like Ye. In stereotypically anti-Jewish moves, Trump has repeatedly called the loyalty of Jewish Americans into question. Just this past October, he wrote that “US Jews have to get their act together and appreciate what they have in Israel – Before it is too late!”

    In case it’s not obvious, let me state it plainly. Today’s Republican party has a serious antisemitism problem. The easy acceptance and amplification of all sorts of anti-Jewish hate that party leaders engage in emboldens all the worst bigots, raving racists, and far-right extremists across the globe, all the while threatening Jewish people here and everywhere.

    So it is more than a little rich that House Republicans voted on Thursday to remove Omar from the foreign affairs committee, where she’s served since 2019, because, they say, of her antisemitic views.

    A former Manhattan prosecutor wrote in a new book that he almost pursued a racketeering charge against Donald Trump, reports the New York Times.

    Mark F Pomerantz resigned in protest from the Manhattan district attorney’s office last year after the office’s newly elected DA, Alvin Bragg, declined to pursue an indictment against Trump.

    In a forthcoming book entitled “People vs. Donald Trump”, Pomerantz says that the Manhattan district attorney’s office mapped out charges to bring against Trump under the state’s racketeering law.

    More from the Times:

    Mr. Pomerantz and his colleagues cast a wide net, examining a host of Trump enterprises — including Trump University, his for-profit real estate education venture, and his family charitable foundation.

    “He demanded absolute loyalty and would go after anyone who crossed him. He seemed always to stay one step ahead of the law,” Mr. Pomerantz, a prominent litigator who has prosecuted and defended organized crime cases, writes of Mr. Trump. “In my career as a lawyer, I had encountered only one other person who touched all of these bases: John Gotti, the head of the Gambino organized crime family.”

    A lawyer for Mr. Trump recently sent Mr. Pomerantz a letter threatening that, “If you publish such a book and continue making defamatory statements against my clients, my office will aggressively pursue all legal remedies.”

    Just three days after disgraced New York representative George Santos withdrew from all House committee assignments, House Republicans have encouraged Twitter users to follow him on social media.

    The House Republican tagged George Santos’ official account with the hashtag “FollowFriday”, encouraging users to follow the congressman’s account….

    [VP Kamala] Harris is currently speaking in Philadelphia in joint remarks with Joe Biden about infrastructure investment that will upgrade clean water systems.

    Harris is speaking about the importance of clean drinking water, as Harris and Biden announce $500m that Philadelphia will use to address lead pipes throughout the city.

    “No child in America should ever have to endure that kind of experience. No parent in America should ever have that experience,” said Harris, recalling a 2 year-old child who was hospitalized for lead poisoning after drinking water out of the tap.

  225. Reginald Selkirk says

    Former Trump official led feds to Telegram group livestreaming child abuse

    At least 17 charged after authorities gained access to encrypted messages.

    New details have been revealed through recently unsealed Cook County court documents, showing how federal investigators in 2020 gained access to encrypted Telegram messages to uncover “a cross-country network of people sexually exploiting children.”…

    Telegram became a preferred tool for defendants in this investigation, many of whom believed that police could never access their encrypted messages. At least one federal prosecutor told a judge that authorities never would have gained access; however, one of the defendants, Adam Hageman, “fully cooperated” with investigators and granted access through his account to offending Telegram groups.

    Hageman is one of two defendants with ties to the Republican Party, the Sun-Times and other outlets have reported, while other defendants include a youth soccer coach, a grocery store employee, an amusement park employee, and a police officer’s son.

    Hageman was a former Turning Point USA employee, appointed by the Trump administration to work for the US Department of Commerce. In 2020, he was arrested and pled guilty to receiving CSAM (child sexual abuse materials). After his arrest, Hageman agreed to grant federal investigators access to his group chats on Telegram, leading to charges filed against 12 others…

  226. says


    […]The climate crisis is all about water. Climate change alters global atmospheric circulation. The difference in circulation alters precipitation and evaporation in large parts of the world and, consequently, the amount of river water used locally. A new study from the Vienna University of Technology has found that the water crisis has been underestimated and is more severe than we thought.

    Atmospheric disruption changes the winds that disperse rainfall and heat from anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. The result is a crisis of flooding, drought, deglaciation, changes in snow and rainfall patterns even in the Arctic and Antarctica, and wildfires. Only one percent of all the water on earth is available for terrestrial life; the rest is locked in glacial ice or the oceans. A new study has found that there is even less water than we thought available. […]

    […] new data analyses conducted under the leadership of Prof. Günter Blöschl (TU Wien, Vienna) indicate that previous models systematically underestimate how sensitively water availability reacts to certain changing climate parameters. An analysis of measurement data from over 9,500 hydrological catchments from all over the world shows that climate change can lead to local water crises to an even greater extent than previously expected.

    […] Locally, it is often possible to explain very well how water availability is related to external parameters such as precipitation or temperature […]

    But global conclusions cannot be drawn from such individual observations: “How the water balance depends on external parameters varies from place to place; local vegetation also plays a very important role here,” says Günter Blöschl. It is difficult to develop a simple physical model that can be used to calculate these interrelationships at all places in the world with precision.

    […] Unrelated to the study, CNN identified the twelve cities most at risk of running out of water in the near term are Sao Paulo, Bangalore, Beijing, Cairo, Jakarta, Moscow, Istanbul, Mexico City, London, Tokyo, and Miami. Not all of these cities’ water crises are due to changes in the atmosphere. In Moscow, the culprit is pollution contamination. In Miami, saltwater intrusion. Tokyo relies on the rain that falls primarily in only four months out of the year. […]

    In 2016, Reveal wrote about secret cables released by Wikileaks that prove without a doubt governments know that we are running out of water. Regarding climate hydrological impacts, the secrecy of the looming apocalypse is the norm. […]


    Much more at the link

  227. says

    NBC News:

    “We delivered a peaceful transition on January 6, 2021, exactly as our Constitution requires,” Pompeo, a potential 2024 presidential candidate, told Sky News. Pompeo was responding to questions about why his new book — “Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love” — does not focus more on the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, because it reflects on his four years working in the Trump administration.

    Commentary from Steve Benen:

    […] In the same interview, Pompeo added yesterday, in reference to Jan. 6, “There was a bad day at the Capitol. The security team there failed to prevent these guys from rioting there.”

    Common sense suggests he might have some criticisms for the lying politician who inspired “these guys” to launch the attack, as opposed to criticizing law enforcement, but Pompeo apparently has a GOP base to impress.

  228. says

    Yeah, Kevin McCarthy is not making sense … again.

    […] Yesterday, the speaker added some related thoughts on the burgeoning debt ceiling crisis that seemed a little worse:

    “I want to be very responsible with how we deal with it [the debt ceiling]. I was very clear with the president: We should not wait five months. Let’s not put America through turmoil, right? I mean, I looked at the latest polling; the greatest fear people have is government. They want their government to actually work.”

    Let’s take those sentences one at a time.“I want to be very responsible with how we deal with it.” Well, McCarthy and fellow House Republicans are currently threatening to impose an economic catastrophe on Americans — on purpose — unless their unstated demands are met. The dangers are enormous and potentially catastrophic. To see such tactics as “very responsible” is bonkers.

    “I was very clear with the president: We should not wait five months.” It’s still four months, and no one is asking McCarthy to wait. He could raise the debt ceiling at any time. It’d take about 10 minutes. What’s more, it might the move the process along if the speaker and the House GOP conference could figure out exactly what is they want and fill in the blanks on their ransom note.

    “Let’s not put America through turmoil, right?” So, to recap, the House speaker who’s choosing to impose a dangerous debt ceiling crisis on the country has declared, “Let’s not put America through turmoil”? Seriously? It’s McCarthy and his members who are creating the turmoil. […]

    “I mean, I looked at the latest polling; the greatest fear people have is government.” If McCarthy thinks the public shares his priorities, I have some bad news for him. The latest New York Times/Siena poll asked 1,641 randomly chosen respondents an open-ended question on what they consider the most important problem facing the country. One pointed to the debt, deficit, and/or federal spending — and I don’t mean 1% of respondents, I mean literally one individual person. The idea that the American mainstream supports the imposition of a debt ceiling crisis to address a problem the public doesn’t care about is ridiculous.

    “They want their government to actually work.” Maybe so, but if McCarthy thinks this increasingly absurd standoff, in which he can’t even make credible demands, offers a case study in the government actually working, he’s in the wrong job.


  229. says

    Foxx’s bid to take over Idaho Young Republicans club reflects white nationalists’ long-range plans

    White nationalists—particularly Nick Fuentes and his Groyper army—have never made any bones about their intention to take over the Republican Party. So now we are able to observe them attempting to do so in real time, working to take control of the GOP apparatus on the state and local levels around the nation.

    In Michigan, a Groyper named Alex Roncelli recently secured a seat as a GOP precinct delegate for St. Clair County, despite the full awareness of his white nationalist beliefs by local Republicans. But the scene in Idaho—where a far-right faction has already taken control of the state Republican Party apparatus—features a notorious and unapologetic white nationalist named Vincent James Foxx, who has a history of associating with neo-Nazis, as he recently led an attempt at a factional takeover of the Idaho Young Republicans (IYR) club. [video at the link]

    Foxx, who is the national treasurer for Fuentes’ “America First” organization, made a classic far-right pitch to the club members on Saturday in Boise during the IYR’s annual convention, saying that current Republican leadership “is nothing but liberalism going the speed limit,” later declaring: “Instead of arguing for limited government, I say we take control of government for the bottom up.”

    […] he had recruited about 70 Groypers from Idaho into his white nationalist Telegram channel to sign up to participate in the biannual IYR leadership vote. Foxx had lined up a slate of candidates (“all Groypers, by the way”) to run for the various positions.

    […]. “So, uh, imagine me, like, sitting next to [Gov.] Brad Little,” he giggled.

    […] Jason Wilson of Hatewatch describes Foxx’s speech as focused on white nationalist “replacement theory” ideas, claiming unspecified conspirators had “intentionally and deliberately and consistently changed the demographics of this country … because they know that certain groups vote a certain way, and they know they can use that, that’s a benefit to them.”

    Foxx also launched into a diatribe defending the Jan. 6 insurrectionists.[…] “I think all of us in this room know what really happened on Jan. 6,” he continued. “It went exactly the way the FBI wanted it to go.” [video at the link]

    James has also been active in the organizing and discourse around the recent far-right takeover of the board of trustees for North Idaho College (NIC), which may result in the longtime Coeur d’Alene institution losing its accreditation. Last month, he joined the public comment portion of the trustees meeting, saying he found descriptions of the board’s agenda commendable.

    “[…] people come here because it’s conservative. They wanna get away from liberals. So liberals, just take the L and go home.”

    Foxx has become closely aligned—like the NIC board—with the cabal of far-right ideologues who surround Kootenai County Republicans Chair Brent Regan, who has played a central role in the demographic takeover of Idaho’s politics by extremist ideologues who are moving to the state. Indeed, Foxx—who moved to Idaho in late 2021—has been one of the more outspoken and unabashed heralds of the takeover. [video at the link]

    “We are going to take over this state,” Foxx declared in a February 2022 video. “We have a great large group of people, and that group is growing. A true, actual right-wing takeover is happening right now in the state of Idaho. And there’s nothing that these people can do about it. So if you’re a legislator here, either get in line or get out of the way.”

    Regan also oversees the hyper-influential Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF). Both the IFF and Kootenai County Republican Central Committee (KCRCC) under Regan encourage right-wing extremism in Idaho not simply through far-right legislation, but by embracing the white nationalists and other bigoted activists who move to Idaho, drawn by the “white homeland” siren song. […]

    B>All of these activists were notorious before moving to Idaho, particularly “Red Ice”—the husband-and-wife team of Henrik Palmgren and Lana Lokteff. Originally based in Gothenberg, Sweden, their YouTube channel—which originally specialized in UFO-style conspiracy theories—swelled to 335,000 subscribers by promoting white nationalist ideology, including Holocaust denial and the myth of white genocide before it was removed from the platform in October 2019 for hate speech. […]

    […] Palmgren was among the far-right figures mingling in the crowd on June 11 at Coeur d’Alene’s Pride in the Park event before a phalanx of neofascist Patriot Front marchers were arrested for attempting to cause a riot there.

    Foxx moved to the Post Falls area in late 2021. Prior to that, he had built a large national audience on YouTube and other social media platforms—most of which he is now banned from—for his neofascist “Red Elephants” propaganda operation. He first received attention in 2017 for being closely associated with the neofascist street-brawling group Rise Above Movement in California; in one video, he can be seen with the neo-Nazi “14 Words” slogan with members of the gang.

    Another major player in the newly hatched Post Falls white nationalist scene is Dave Reilly, a Pennsylvanian who had been present supporting the alt-right at the violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017. He had moved to Post Falls in 2020 […]

    The scenario playing out in Idaho appears to many longtime observers of the radical right in Idaho to be the realization of the vision that Richard Butler, founder of the Kootenai County-based Aryan Nations, had for the state in the 1970s—namely, to gradually transform it into a white nationalist “homeland” designed for right-wing white people only. […]

    Boise resident Cherie Buckner-Webb—an African American, as well as a fourth-generation Idahoan—observed to The Idaho Statesman: “There’s a critical mass that is no longer doing this in the shadows. Crosses used to get burned in your yard in the dark of night, or you covered your face. These people are bold. They’re emboldened.”

  230. says

    Biden admin’s task force has reunited more than 100 additional children since October

    The Biden administration’s task force has since last October reunited more than 100 additional children with their parents, U.S. officials tasked with putting back together families cruelly ripped apart by the Trump administration said Thursday.

    The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) announcement coincided with the two-year anniversary of the administration’s creation of the Family Reunification Task Force. Since the task force’s creation, more than 600 children have been reunited with their families, while another 148 are currently in the process of being reunited, officials said. […]

  231. says

    Jim Jordan amplified accusation that Iranian migrant was on terror watch list. Except he wasn’t [!!]

    The Fox propaganda network seemed weirdly super amped about the prospect of a potential terrorist crossing into the U.S. through our southern border. The outlet had earlier this week published a piece citing a supposed tip that Texas authorities had caught an “Iranian illegal immigrant on the terror watch list.”

    That seems like a big deal that was not confirmed by any reputable sources. Hmm, that seems like a clue. Still, legislative shitheads like Jim Jordan ran with it, tweeting that an “illegal alien from IRAN that was flagged on the TERROR WATCH LIST was arrested,” all caps his own. Jordan’s terrible—and now in an incredibly powerful and influential position as the House Judiciary chair. But that doesn’t mean he’s any closer to exercising caution or restraint. “Who aren’t they catching?” he then wondered aloud. But “they” didn’t even catch who they thought they were catching.

    Fox subsequently edited its post to note that, oops!, the guy wasn’t a terrorist after all, according to the Department of Homeland Security. But not before the outlet was “splashing this poor guy’s photo across the world,” one observer noted. Nor did Fox issue a correction to its lie.

    “This entire story turned out to be a case of mistaken identity,” tweeted American Immigration Council Policy Director Aaron Reichlin-Melnick. “But Fox News ran with it anyway, splashing this poor guy’s photo across the world and smearing him as a terrorist. When the truth came out, they stealth-edited the story online, without ANY notice of the correction.” […]

    This guy could be fleeing the horrific political situation in Iran and intending to seek asylum. Now the entire world knows his name—including the Government of Iran back home!

    Worse, Fox News even showed his damn PASSPORT on screen, fully unredacted. I had to crop this myself! [image at the link]

    […] Nor has Jordan corrected his Feb. 1 tweet. But it’s not like Jordan is interested in fact-checking or anything like that—the Twitter account for the Judiciary Committee earlier this week pitched a fit when a reporter did his job by fact-checking Republican’ lies trying to tie the fentanyl crisis to immigration. The Judiciary Committee account accused The Washington Post of working for Democratic lawmakers. During that same hearing, Republican Dan Bishop apparently tried to get a witness from El Paso to say that cartel control of the United States was imminent.

    That witness, El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego, refused to play along, and instead pushed back against GOP fearmongering, saying the city “is one of the safest communities” in the nation. Is it just me or does it feel like Republicans often root against America? […]

  232. says

    “I want to wish everyone a happy Black History Month. For Americans it’s a time to celebrate the Black experience and Black contributions to our society. Unfortunately fourteen states have a weird way of celebrating it, with new rules that limit how teachers can teach about Black History Month. Or as teachers will now be forced to call it: Month.”
    —Stephen Colbert

    “How about police form an elite unit that’s specifically trained to not kill Black people?”
    —The Daily Show’s Roy Wood, Jr. on the now-disbanded “Scorpion” unit whose members killed Tyre Nichols

    “Letting Trump back on Facebook is crazy. You’re just asking for trouble. It’s like letting Hannibal Lecter babysit your most delicious child.”
    —The Daily Show guest host Wanda Sykes

    “In Congress, the case of Curious George Santos gets curiouser every day. Over the weekend we learned that over a dozen of his top donors to his campaign don’t exist. And even more shocking, some of his donors do exist.”
    —Jimmy Kimmel

  233. StevoR says

    @ ^ Reginald Selkirk : It keeps switching between those two huge gas balls – but do we count each ring particle individually?

    Good Rebecca Watson clip on some seemingly innocent but actually pretty creepy and dubious ads for the Superbowl – which seems you can’t say on youtube (?) – and more here :

    Whilst Astrophysicist and science communicator Dr Becky has this great clip on the new space telescope observing the rings of Centaur type body Chariklo which is pretty good – even if we already knew about its rings before. (17 minutes long.)

    Plus one for the ‘No shit Sherlock!” files here :

    But intresting to note who is saying it in the wake of the Pellophiles passing.

  234. tomh says

    WaPo Opinion:
    In America, you have to opt out of religion in public life. That’s backward.
    By Kate Cohen / February 3, 2023

    If you are a defendant in the state of New York and a judge requires you to attend an addiction recovery program, you have the right to request a secular program — one that does not center on God. Many recovery programs do have religious underpinnings; six of Alcoholics Anonymous’s 12 steps to sobriety refer to a higher “Power” or “God.” But the state must provide a nonreligious option if you ask for one.

    If you’re a defendant in New York, however, you might not know that. You might think that your only option, if you don’t believe in God, is to pretend you do.

    That’s because, despite the promise of our Constitution, we don’t really live in a secular nation. In a secular nation, nonreligious recovery would be the default option, and a citizen who felt the need to seek God’s help would have the right to ask for AA instead.

    But in our country, religion is the default, and the burden of opting out — even the burden of knowing you have the right to — falls on the nonbeliever.

    The New York state legislature tried to shift the burden a little last year by passing the Nonreligious Recovery Options bill, which required judges to inform defendants of their right to secular treatment. “It should be a priority of the court,” the legislature said, “to ensure that a defendant’s treatment matches their preferences so they can actually benefit from the treatment.”

    Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul demurred, claiming the law set an “uncomfortable precedent ”in which judges might have to inform litigants of “their rights to opt out of other mandates.” And so, her veto saved New Yorkers from a dystopian future in which citizens are, willy nilly, informed of all their rights. And it left nonbelievers, once again, with the burden of opting out.

    I’m so tired of this.

    The first time I remember opting out was in elementary school in rural Virginia, when my classmates went to learn about Jesus every week in a trailer off school grounds. I got to stay behind in an empty classroom because I was Jewish.

    Now, I’m an atheist and I live in New York state, which requires public