Tag Archive for: China


Teacher shot by 6-year-old “will never forget the look on his face”.

Banks connected with Epstein face sex trafficking suits.

China’s Xi visits Putin in Moscow



Teacher shot by 6-year-old “will never forget the look on his face”

On Jan. 6 this year, a 6-year-old boy shot his 1st grade teacher, 25-year-old Abigail Zwerner, in the hand and chest with his mother’s 9mm pistol. On that day, three staff members brought concerns to administrators about the boy’s behavior and fears that he had a gun. An administrator told one of those staff members they should just “ride it out” because the school day was nearly over. The shooting took place about an hour later, around 1pm.

Zwerner, who has since been in recovery, sat down for an interview with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie. During the interview, Zwerner and her attorney, Diane Toscano, said school administrators should have done more to prevent the shooting. She described how her fear had grown throughout the day  

Zwerner still has a long road to physical recovery, but in some ways, she believes she’ll never be the same. “I just will never forget the look on his face that he gave me while he pointed the gun directly at me,” Zwerner said. “It’s changed me. It’s changed my life.”

When Guthrie asked how she could make sense of something like that, Zwerner answered “You can’t.”

Toscano intends to sue the school district and administrators for failing to take action to prevent the shooting. The child is too young to be charged, but local prosecutors haven’t ruled out criminal charges against others. This may include charges against the boy’s parents if it’s found they failed to secure the gun properly.  The parents say the boy has an “acute disability” for which he was receiving treatment. The boy remains in treatment at a hospital.

Click here for the full story and the 12-minute video of the interview (opens in new tab).

Banks connected with Epstein face suits for sex trafficking

Victims of sex trafficking by financier Jeffrey Epstein have the go-ahead to sue banks connected with his activities. Two women from the US Virgin Islands have brought against JP Morgan Chase and Deutsche Bank. The suit alleges that the banks “knowingly benefited from participating in a sex trafficking venture”. 

Epstein was a client of JPMorgan from 2000 to 2013, and of Deutsche Bank from 2013 to 2018. Both banks had asked for the women’s suits to be dismissed. JP Morgan has sued one of its own former senior executives, Jess Staley, who oversaw Epstein’s business at the bank. The bank accuses Staley of withholding potentially damaging information about his client.

Epstein is believed to have trafficked hundreds of young women and girls for sex over two decades. During that time, he hobnobbed with prominent figures including Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. His partner-in-crime Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted last year on sex trafficking charges. 

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



China’s Xi visits Putin in Moscow

Chinese President Xi Jinping is in Moscow for two days of meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, Xi’s ties with Putin have only deepened. They share a distrust of the West and many of their economic and geo-political interests overlap. Both are strongmen who exercise near-total control over industry in their countries, and each have extensive records of human rights violations that long predate the war. 

Xi has attempted to position himself as a possible peacemaker in the Ukraine conflict by finding possible points of common ground. However, both Ukraine’s leadership and its allies are skeptical and have rejected Xi’s 12-point peace plan, which rejects Western sanctions and does not require Putin to withdraw his troops from Ukraine. 

Putin and Xi appeared especially chummy during this visit. Xi even invited Putin to Beijing for a return visit. This is just days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin over a scheme to illegally deport Ukrainian children to Russia. The warrant severely restricts Putin’s travel as any nation that is a signatory to the ICC would be obliged to arrest him. Neither Russia nor China is a signatory of the ICC (nor is the US).

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Could industrial and civilian balloons account for the “objects” shot down this weekend? A quick Google search yields some intriguing, and potentially embarrassing, possibilities.




Could these be the “UFOs” shot down this weekend?

Speculation is running wild about the three high-altitude objects shot down this weekend in Alaska, Canada and over Lake Huron. An unnamed US government source also described the Alaskan object which the US Air Force shot down on Friday as “cylindrical and silverish-grey“. Canada’s Defense Minister Anita Anand described the object shot down there on Saturday as being “cylindrical“. The third object, which the F-16s needed two missiles to shoot down (the first missed and landed in Lake Huron), was described by an anonymous government source as “octagonal” in shape with strings hanging down.

A large industrial gas storage balloon made by Ballonbau Wörner.

A Google search of “cylindrical balloons” will lead you to several vendors who sell large sausage-shaped balloons used for storage of various gases. These balloons come in a variety of colors (including “silverish-grey”) and are made of a sturdy polyester fabric with a polyurethane or polyvinylchloride (PVC) coating inside and out. The website of one vendor, Ballonbau Wörner in Augsberg, Germany, describes the product:

“Gas storage balloons, also known as gas holder balloons, gas bags or gas recovery membranes, are flexible, inflatable bladders used for industrial purposes. They often serve as an intermediate storage solution for the economical collection or storage of gases such as nitrogen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, helium or other inert gases. These flexible containers (tanks) are used, for example, in breweries, technical universities and research institutes, and in special recycling processes.”

Hydrogen, nitrogen, and helium are all lighter-than-air gases, as are neon, ammonia, methane and carbon monoxide. All of these are commonly used in industrial processes.

Ballonbau Wörner’s website also says they make custom balloon shapes. This may possibly include octagons, or even hexagons which would be more space-efficient for storage. The website recommends various methods for securing the balloons:

“In order to stand securely at the installation location, the balloons are suspended in a tubular frame. The tubular frames can optionally be suspended from the ceiling using steel cables or fixed to the floor with supports. Installation is very simple and can easily be performed by any technician.”

Could the steel cables account for the “strings” hanging down from the octagonal object over Lake Huron?

Helium-floated wind turbines over Alaska

An experimental Buoyant Airborne Turbine (BAT) by Altaeros Energies.

An article from 2014 discusses a project to float a wind turbine over Fairbanks, Alaska. The Buoyant Airborne Turbine (BAT), developed by Altaeros Energies, consists of a roughly cylindrical balloon (or envelope). The interior is hollow to accommodate the turbine.

In theory, the turbine would float some 300 meters off the ground to harness the greater wind energy at higher altitudes. This would allow for easy installation in areas that have little access to other renewable energy sources and where space was at a premium. As a bonus, the balloon could also carry equipment to boost cell phone service in the area.

Most of the articles referencing this experiment technology date back to 2014 and 2015. I could find no mention of current models or production of BATs on Altaeros’ website. But the 2014 article references other companies experimenting with other types of airborne turbines. 

If these are in use somewhere in the Arctic or the Yukon, did one of them get loose?

Silence from government and loose talk

Just a quick disclaimer, this is only a theory. I’m not a physicist and have no idea if it would even be possible for one of these envelopes to float up to 40,000 feet without losing buoyancy or air pressure. These materials are sturdier than your average party balloon which suggests it might be possible, at least to a layperson like me. 

So far, there haven’t been many answers forthcoming from the White House or the Pentagon either. None of the objects have yet been recovered. Two of them are presumably lying over the frozen wastes of Alaska and the Yukon. The third (along with a missile costing God-knows-what) is at the bottom of Lake Huron.

John Kirby, the White House national security spokesperson, said yesterday that the intelligence community is considering whether the three objects could be balloons “tied to some commercial or benign purpose”. That may be all we ever hear from the White House or the Pentagon. If, as I’ve suggested here, these are just industrial balloons, the government will have to explain that they scrambled numerous fighter jets and fired at least four missiles (one of which missed!) costing in the millions of dollars to neutralize a few thousand dollars worth of industrial equipment.

Unanswered questions

This leaves us with another key question: how did these balloons get loose? Did someone screw up? Was it a prank following the furor over the Chinese spy balloon?

Maybe some bored workers at some desolate oil rig somewhere in the Arctic thought to themselves, “Hey, we’ve got balloons and we’ve got methane. Let’s have some fun!”. Did they laugh and high-five each other when a missile hit the balloon and an enormous fireball erupted across the night sky? 

Did Nena predict this exact scenario in 1983 in the anti-war anthem “99 Luftbaloons”?

These are all questions we may never know the answers to.



Please share any thoughts, comments or questions in the Comments section below!

White House: “No indication” three high-altitude “objects” recently shot down are extraterrestrial.

Georgia judge orders partial release of report on Trump election interference.

Turkey arrest building contractors after deadly quake; toll passes 36,000.



White House: “No indication” three high-altitude “objects” recently shot down are extraterrestrial

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre clarified to reporters today that there was “no indication of aliens or extraterrestrial activity” connected with three high altitude objects shot down in as many days over Canadian and US airspace.

Last Friday, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby announced a US jet had shot down an object floating at around 40,000 feet over Alaskan. Kirby said the object was about the size of a small car and had no propulsion and was floating “at the mercy of the wind”. An unidentified source also described that object as “cylindrical and silver-ish gray”.

On Saturday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed that Canadian and US pilots had shot down another object. That object was also described as “cylindrical”, this time by an official source, namely Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand.

Yesterday, the US Air Force shot down a third object over Lake Huron. Another unnamed US government source described this object as “octagonal” with strings attached but no discernible payload (that is, it didn’t appear to be carrying external equipment).

General’s comments fuel speculation

Jean-Pierre’s comments were likely in response to comments by Air Force General and NORAD commander Glen VanHerck following Sunday’s takedown. At a press conference, reporters also asked VanHerck if an extraterrestrial origin for the objects had been ruled out. “I will let the intel community and the counterintelligence community figure that out,” VanHerck answered. “I haven’t ruled anything out at this point. We continue to assess.”

When asked if the objects were balloons, VanHerck responded, “I’m not going to categorize them as balloons. We’re calling them objects for a reason”. Other comments from VanHerck served to explain why the military is detecting more of these objects than previously. Following the incursion of a Chinese spy balloon that floated across the US a couple of weeks ago, NORAD retuned its radar settings to detect smaller and slower moving objects.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).

Related: China says US balloons have breached Chinese airspace at least 10 times in the past year.


Georgia judge orders partial release of report on Trump election interference

Late last month, Georgia judge Robert McBurney heard a request from several media outlets to publish the findings of a grand jury probe into efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn Biden’s 2020 election win in Georgia. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who led the probe, argued against releasing the report. Willis said that she wanted to protect the integrity of any potential prosecutions in the case. During that hearing, Willis said decisions on indictments were “imminent”.

Today, Judge McBurney ruled that due to overwhelming legitimate public interest, three sections of the report should be made public this week, regardless of DA Willis’ timeline. Included in the release will be the report’s introduction and conclusion and a section in which the grand jury “discusses its concern that some witnesses may have lied under oath during their testimony”. McBurney ordered Willis to release those three sections this Thursday.

During months of closed door hearings, the grand jury called several prominent Trump allies to testify, including Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The grand jury also heard from Georgians involved in the plot to set up a fake slate of pro-Trump electors. Trump himself was not called to testify.

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Turkey arrest building contractors after deadly quake; toll passes 36,000

Turkish officials have issued arrest warrants for about 130 major building contractors whose buildings toppled during the 7.8 and 7.5 magnitude earthquakes last Monday. It’s not clear how many of these contractors have actually been arrested as many of them likely fled the country in the past week.

One contractor, Mehmet Yaşar Coşkun, was nabbed at one of Istanbul’s major airports as he was about to catch a flight out of the country. Coşkun’s brother and business partner, Hüseyin Yalçin Coşkun, was last known to be in Montenegro and has gone off the grid. The Coşkun brothers’ “earthquake-proof” luxury building in Antakya toppled over and entombed many of its occupants. Days after the quake, rescuers using thermal imaging could see that many of the trapped occupants were still alive, but dying of injuries, as well as cold, hunger and thirst. The building’s construction makes it all but impossible to save them since rescuers do not have the right heavy equipment. 

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has a long history of granting “amnesties” to contractors who buildings were not up to code. These amnesties were preferentially granted to contractors with ties to Erdogan’s nationalist AKP party. The arrest warrants are a bit of political sleight of hand on Erdogan’s part. Anger has been growing in Turkey over the government’s response to the quake. Opposition figures are also reminding the public of the culture of corruption, negligence and nepotism in Erdogan’s government that allowed so many shoddily built constructions. 

The death toll in Turkey and Syria is now over 36,000. However, Martin Griffiths, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, expects that the toll could eventually top 50,000.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



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US jet shoots down object floating at high altitude over Alaska.

Former acting Defense Secretary says Pentagon budget should be cut in half.

Turkey-Syria quake: Newborn, toddlers rescued four days later.



US jet shoots down object floating at high altitude over Alaska

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby announced a short while ago that a US jet had shot down an object floating at around 40,000 feet in Alaskan airspace. Kirby told reporters that the object was about the size of a car. It also seemed to have no means of propulsion and was floating “at the whim of the wind”. According to Kirby, fighter aircraft went up to get a look at the object after it was spotted on radar. The pilots believed it was not manned. However, Kirby said, “It was difficult for the pilots to glean a whole lot of information”.

President Biden gave the order to shoot the object down, not because of any surveillance risk but because its lack of maneuverability made its course unpredictable, making it a danger to air traffic. Kirby said the object was shot down over frozen territorial waters  “So, a recovery effort will be made,” Kirby said, “and we’re hopeful that it will be successful and then we can learn a little bit more about it”.

An unnamed government source told ABC’s Martha Raddatz that the object was “cylindrical and silver-ish gray”. When Raddatz asked if it was “balloon-like,” the source responded, “All I say is that it wasn’t ‘flying’ with any sort of propulsion, so if that is ‘balloon-like’ well — we just don’t have enough at this point”. The description is reminiscent of objects reported by UFO watchers for years. However, this object is most likely terrestrial in origin, though as John Kirby pointed out, we don’t know who it belongs to yet or even what it is. 

Spy balloon furor fueling speculation, tensions

The incursion of this new object comes after a flurry of headlines about the Chinese spy balloon shot down last weekend. What we know from official and cited sources at this point is that officials believe it was capable of monitoring signal intelligence, that is, communications. The White House has also disclosed that such balloons have been sighted in the airspace of 40 countries over four continents.

However, the FBI says that their analysis of the balloon and the technology it was carrying is in a very early stage. Very little of the balloon’s hardware has yet been recovered.  The actual reconnaissance platform was only located yesterday. It remains submerged off the Carolinas and searches haven’t yet attempted to retrieve it due to rough seas.


Former acting Defense Secretary says Pentagon budget should be cut in half

Christopher Miler, who served as Acting Sec. of Defense in the final days of the Trump administration, says it’s time to “dramatically” cut the Pentagon’s budget. The Pentagon’s current $816 billion budget cut be cut by as much as half, Miller says. In addition to being wasteful, Miller contends that runaway defense spending contributes to a self-perpetuating cycle that incentivizes belligerence with foreign powers to justify more funding.

“We have created an entire enterprise that focuses economically on creating crisis to justify outrageously high defense spending,” Miller said in an interview on CBS. “You have to starve the beast to make people come out of their cubby holes and start thinking creatively,” Miller said. Miller also said that certain older and costly weapons systems should be phased out in favor of newer, more efficient and less expensive technology. 

In the interview, Miller specifically cited rapidly escalating tensions with China as an example of the military-industrial complex stoking conflict to feed a vast network of defense contractors. He also said that feeding those military tensions is counterproductive and is only strengthening Chinese President Xi’s position. “I think by constantly harping on the fact that China is the new threat and we’re going to go to war with them someday actually plays right into Chairman Xi’s hands and the Chinese Communist Party,” Miller said. “They need to have an enemy that they can, you know, focus their people’s anger and attention on and I think we provide them that opportunity by constantly harking on the fact that the Chinese are the greatest threat to America and what not.” 

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



Turkey-Syria quake: Newborn rescued four days after earthquake

Rescuers examine 10-day-old Yagiz Ulaz who was rescued today, 4 days after a deadly earthquake in Turkey.

The death toll of Monday’s earthquake in southern Turkey has risen over 23,000 in Turkey and northwestern Syria. This makes it easily the deadliest earthquake in the world since the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The Haiti killed in excess of 100,000 people, though some estimates put the number as high as 316,000.

Because of the weather, bureaucratic snarls, and damage to infrastructure, aid workers and equipment have had a difficult time reaching the hardest hit parts of Turkey and Syria. However, there have been some moments that have brought some hope to an unspeakably dark situation. Today, a 10-day-old baby named Yagiz Ulas was rescued alive along with his mother in Turkey’s hard-hit Hatay province. 

At least eight other children were also rescued alive today, spurring on tired and overwhelmed rescuers. You can read more about their stories by clicking the link below.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



Please share any thoughts, comments or questions in the Comments section below!

Toxic gas concerns linger after Ohio train derailment.

Chinese spy balloon: Diplomatic and political fallout continues.

Turkey-Syria quake: Death toll tops 12,000. Anger turns towards Erdogan.



Toxic gas concerns linger after Ohio train derailment

Last Friday, a cargo train derailed in a fiery crash in East Palestine, OH, near the state border with Pennsylvania. The train was carrying a shipment of vinyl chloride, a highly toxic and unstable chemical used in making PVC pipes among other things. Fearing a potential explosion and an uncontrolled release of the toxin, authorities issued mandatory evacuation orders for a wide area around the derailed train cars.

On Monday, a crew of workers emptied five of the tankers carrying the vinyl chloride. They then released it into a ditch for a controlled burn. The burn created a dark plume of smoke visible from miles away. Even now on Wednesday, authorities haven’t allowed evacuees to return due to concerns about the immediate effects of burning off the chemicals.

Vinyl chloride has been linked with rare liver cancers in pipe workers with prolonged exposure. Burning the chemical also releases phosgene glass, a chemical once used as a weapon of war. Phosgene is a colorless but smelly gas that can cause vomiting and breathing problems. But Neil Donahue, a professor chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University, says the biggest potential long-term worry for residents could be dioxins that will be a biproduct of the burn. Dioxins are known carcinogens that can last in the ground and body for years.  

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).


Chinese spy balloon: Diplomatic and political fallout continues

Days ago, a US warplane shot down the Chinese balloon that had traversed the entire continental US in shallow water off South Carolina. A military recovery operation then got underway, collecting the debris using remote-controlled submarines in the frigid water. Military and intelligence agencies will analyze the debris in hopes of discovering the purpose and capabilities of the balloon’s apparatus. However, sources in both the military and intelligence communities have already come to the conclusion that the balloon’s purpose was espionage.

When the balloon’s presence in the US first came to national attention last week, Pentagon officials were quick to tell the public that they were certain it was Chinese in origin, and that it had been hovering over sensitive military installations. Nevertheless, officials said they believed it posed no military or intelligence threat and that there was no need to shoot it down. The balloon was taller than the Statue of Liberty and carried the size of two or three school buses. Shooting it down would have posed more of a danger than any intelligence it collected.

The reaction and the political and diplomatic consequences of the balloon were in many ways out of all proportion to any threat its presence posed to the US. We’ve since learned that similar balloons entered US airspace three times during Donald Trump’s administration and on one prior occasion during Biden’s presidency. In those instances, the balloons were too high to be seen from the ground with the naked eye or to pose any danger to aviation. The balloon’s spying capabilities were judged to pose no greater security threat than China’s sophisticated array of low-orbit spy satellites. Weighing all of these considerations, officials decided the most appropriate action was to take no action.

99 Luftballoons

This time, the reaction to a highly visible balloon apparently violating US airspace with impunity was decidedly different. Not only did it create a national uproar, with reactionary politicians of both parties calling for it be shot down (posing unknown dangers to people and structures on the ground), it also widened the rift between the US and China. Last weekend, Sec. of State Antony Blinken was due to travel to Beijing to meet with his Chinese counterpart. Once there, it was hoped we could find some common ground with the world’s other superpower and possibly find a path towards coexistence. Instead, Blinken’s trip was cancelled.

Chinese officials have also lashed out, likely out of embarrassment. Dubbing the balloon a “civilian airship”, Beijing officials slammed the US lack of “restraint” in shooting it down. They vowed to avenge the loss, saying China “retains the right to respond further”. This was a marked escalation in a years-long war of words between the two countries.

Because of this relatively minor incident, China and the US could now find themselves on the road from cold war to hot war unless cooler heads prevail. Regardless, this likely won’t be the last we hear about it, as Republican members of Congress are determined to use the incident to portray Biden as “weak” on national security, and Biden’s bellicose tone in his remarks on China during the State of the Union last night suggests he’s playing right into it.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



Turkey-Syria quake: Death toll tops 12,000. Anger turns towards Erdogan.

Rescue efforts continue in Turkey and Syria after two powerful quakes hit Monday morning. Volunteer rescue teams from 65 countries have arrived or are en route. In Turkey, the sheer scale of the disaster, with at least 6000 multi-story buildings toppled in across 10 provinces, means there simply isn’t enough personnel or equipment to attend all the scenes. In desperation, family members are digging with shovels and sometimes with bare hands to reach loved ones trapped alive in the rubble. The situation is equally grim in war-torn Syria where bureaucratic red tape and the danger of live fire make it difficult or impossible to get aid in. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is touring the disaster-hit areas in the south of his country. Amid growing anger and frustration at the government’s inability to cope with the tragedy, Erdogan made a rare admission of “shortcomings” in the initial response. He made these remarks in the particularly hard hit Hatay province. Much of its ancient city of Antioch (or Antakya) was flattened, including its state-run hospital. Hatay has long been neglected by Ankara, even before Erdogan, in part because of its largely Arab population. It remains one of the country’s poorest regions and was already suffering more than most of Turkey in the country’s recent economic downturn

Despite this, Hatay has been a political stronghold for Erdogan, who has courted Islamic fundamentalism. Southern Turkey, and particularly Hatay, is less culturally secular than the rest of Turkey. With a tough re-election fight coming in May, Erdogan visited with promises of a 10,000 lira ($532) payout to each family affected by the quake. This is about 2 months’ wages for the average worker in Antakya.

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Blinken cancels Beijing trip after Chinese spy balloon discovered over US.

Brazilian ex-Pres. Bolsonaro seeks 6-month US tourist visa, dodging mounting legal peril at home.



Blinken cancels Beijing trip after Chinese spy balloon discovered over US

Civilians in Montana have reported sightings of a massive white balloon floating over the state. The Pentagon confirmed yesterday that it is a Chinese spy balloon and that they have been tracking it since it entered US airspace a few days ago. Beijing has expressed regret about the incident and claim that the balloon was blown off course and was not meant to fly over the US. US atmospheric scientists say this is feasible, but few in the public or in Pentagon circles are likely to accept this explanation.

At the time of the balloon’s discovery, defense officials discussed shooting it down but decided against it. They determined that the massive size of the balloon and the large surveillance apparatus suspended from it would make shooting it down too hazardous. They also believe it poses minimal danger to air traffic and military security, although it has been flying over missile sights in the state. The balloon is now sailing off towards the central US.

Blinken trip called off

Sec. of State Antony Blinken was due to make a brief trip to China this weekend. This trip has now been postponed because of the balloon business. Blinken’s trip had been informally planned for months and was to be an opportunity for the two sides to find common ground over a number of issues including Taiwan, climate change and human rights. The trip could also have presented an opportunity to lower the temperature after several recent developments have ramped up tensions between the US and China. 

Yesterday, the US announced an agreement with the Philippines to access four military bases. A memo from a four-star Gen. Mike Minihan also leaked this week in which Minihan shares his “gut” feeling that China would invade Taiwan by 2025 and that the US would then be at war with China. The memo seemed calculated to pressure the Biden administration to assume an even more adversarial posture against Beijing.

Just to pour more fuel on the fire, CIA chief William Burns issued a statement saying that he “wouldn’t underestimate [Chinese] President Xi’s ambitions with regard to Taiwan”. 

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Brazilian ex-Pres. Bolsonaro seeks 6-month US tourist visa, dodging mounting legal peril at home

Brazil’s right-wing former President Jair Bolsonaro is currently ensconced in a private home in Orlando, FL, not far from Disney World. He’s been living in the home, belonging to a Brazilian mixed martial artist, since he left Brazil on Dec. 30, just two days before his rival Lula da Silva assumed the presidency.

During this stay in Florida, Bolsonaro has become something of an Orlando tourist attraction himself. Twice a day, he emerges from his home to greet a small crowd of supporters. There are usually about 30 and 40 people waiting outside to cheer him, some clad in Brazilian flags. Other than that, Bolsonaro is keeping a very low profile.

On Jan. 8, seven days after Lula took office, thousands of Bolsonaro’s supporters converged on the capital in Brasilia. They had been bussed there from around the country on over 100 chartered busses. Once there, they entered the federal government complex that houses the Congress, the Supreme Court and the presidential palace and vandalized the property. With no resistance from police, the rioters broke windows, set fires, broke pipes which flooded hallways and defecated on furniture.

The riot followed a weeks-long campaign by Bolsonaro to overturn his October election defeat. The courts rejected his lawsuit and fined him for bad-faith litigation. Nevertheless, Bolsonaro never conceded and continued implying that the election had been rigged. His supporters caused havoc all over the country, blocking highways, attacking police stations. They even camped outside military barracks demanding the army seize control and reinstate Bolsonaro.

“He could never come back”

Following the events of Jan. 8, Brazilian authorities have ordered the arrests of high-ranking figures in Bolsonaro’s administration. So far, they have not called for the US to extradite him. However, 46 Democrats in Congress have signed an open letter to President Biden demanding that Bolsonaro be sent back to Brazil. Those calls are likely to intensify as a former ally of Bolsonaro’s has revealed that Bolsonaro attended a meeting where one of his aides discussed blackmailing the country’s top judge to keep Bolsonaro in power. 

There’s been no indication yet that the State Department is planning to kick Bolsonaro out. The visa Bolsonaro used to enter the US, a visa reserved for foreign heads of state, expired at the end of January, 30 days after Bolsonaro’s term officially ended. Bolsonaro is now applying for a 6-month tourist visa “to enjoy being a tourist for a few months more”, his representative said. While the application is being processed, which could take months, Bolsonaro will likely be allowed to stay in the country.

Flávio Bolsonaro, a son of Bolsonaro who is also a sitting senator, told Brazilian reporters on Saturday that his father had no firm plans to return to Brazil. “It could be tomorrow, it could be six months from now. He could never come back,” he said. “He has no fear at all because he bears no responsibility for what happened in Brazil”.

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Another USS George Washington sailor has taken his own life, the 8th since 2019.

Biden calls GOP’s bluff on budget cuts in debt ceiling fight.

US ratchets up China tensions with loose talk, new Philippines bases.




Another USS George Washington sailor has taken his own life, the 8th since 2019

Lucian Johan Woods, a boatswain’s mate seaman aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, has died from an apparent suicide, local police say. Woods died on Jan. 23 at a private residence in Newport News where the carrier has been docked since 2017 for a major overhaul. Few other details are available about the circumstances surrounding Woods’ death.

Woods is now the eighth Washington sailor to die by suicide since 2019. During one week in April 2022, three sailors aboard the carrier took their own lives in separate incidents. There have also been an unknown number of attempted suicides. Sailors who had attempted suicide reported that the Navy had done little to address their needs after their attempts. 

Living conditions on board the carrier are a major contributing factor. Sailors work 12-hour shifts, often doing menial tasks. Afterwards, those who have onshore housing or have family nearby go home. Those who don’t have to remain on the ship, where they may be without hot water or even electricity. They’re also deprived of sleep due to construction noise. 

Click here to read more about past incidents on the Washington and what the Navy did, and didn’t do, to address the problem.

Following the cluster of suicides in April last year, the Navy at last made some attempt to address the mental health situation among the crew. After an investigation, the Navy deployed a mental health team and two resiliency counselors to serve the Washington crew, and a Military and Family Life Counselor is also available. However, it’s unclear what if anything the Navy has done to address the underlying environmental causes of the sailors’ distress. 

But the problem is not contained to the Washington’s crew. Over a period of four weeks last fall, four sailors assigned to Norfolk’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center died by apparent suicide. Together with the April cluster on the Washington, that made 7 suicides at Norfolk-based Navy installations in 2022 alone.

During a Jan. 17 visit, days before Woods’ death, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) raised concerns. “Whether it’s an overly-long shore deployment as the ship is being refurbed or whether it’s because of something beyond your control physically, or if you’re in this different capacity that wasn’t exactly what you thought you were going to be doing — how do we make sure you’re still valued? That you still understand you’ve got a really important purpose?” Kaine pondered. 

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).

Resources for service members and veterans struggling with mental health, including 24-hour crisis hotlines:

The Military Crisis Line: call 1-800-273-8255, ext. 1; or text “273Talk” to 839863

Military OneSource: 1-800-342-9647

For civilians as well as current and former service members:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 988 — call or text


Biden calls GOP’s bluff on budget cuts in debt ceiling fight

Yesterday, President Biden and new Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) held their first one-on-one meeting to address the debt ceiling crisis. The US has already reached the limit of money it can borrow to pay its bills. Congress must vote to raise the debt ceiling to allow more borrowing to avert a catastrophic default, possibly as early as June. The House GOP is attempting to use the debt ceiling in order to force spending cuts. However, what Republicans want to cut remains unclear. The one thing they’re agreed on is that they don’t want any cuts to defense spending.

Click here to read about what the debt ceiling is and how this fight could affect you.

Ahead of the meeting, Biden challenged McCarthy to offer a concrete GOP budget proposal to counter Biden’s proposed budget, which will be released in March. “Show me your budget and I’ll show you mine,” Biden said. Some in the GOP have called for cuts to Medicare and Social Security. However, some have backed away from this position because cuts to these programs would be extremely unpopular, even among the most conservative voters. Even Donald Trump weighed in on social media to warn his fellow Republicans against this plan. “Under no circumstances should Republicans vote to cut a single penny from Medicare or Social Security,” Trump said in a two-minute video.

The meeting did not result in any meaningful compromise. However, McCarthy said he would be meeting with Biden again.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



US ratchets up China tensions with loose talk, new Philippines bases

A leaked memo from four-star Gen. Mike Minihan, head of US Air Mobility Command (AMC) has drawn fire for warmongering and raised questions about how determined the US is to go to war with China, a nuclear-armed superpower. Minihan’s memo concerned the possibility that China is preparing to invade Taiwan in the near future.

Taiwan, an island south of the Chinese mainland, has long been self-governed. Nevertheless, China considers it a rogue Chinese territory, and Chinese President Xi Jinping seems determined to reclaim it by any means necessary. “I hope I am wrong,” Minihan wrote. “My gut tells me we will fight in 2025. Xi’s team, reason, and opportunity are all aligned for 2025”. Minihan’s memo then goes on to outline his nine-point plan in “preparation for the next fight”.

Many have condemned the memo and its “leak” as fearmongering propaganda designed to stoke tensions and increase pressure to pour ever more funds into Pentagon coffers in the name of “readiness”. Blake Herzinger of the American Enterprise Institute thinktank observes that Minihan’s inflammatory language in an unclassified memo was “basically guaranteeing it would leak”. 

Closing the arc

However one views Minihan’s assessment or intention, it’s only one part of a much larger and more worrisome picture. Despite distancing itself at the memo, the Pentagon seems determined to make Minihan’s prediction a self-fulfilling prophecy. The US has just announced a deal with the Philippines to access four bases in the country’s territory. With this agreement, the US military has now closed an arc that surrounds the South China Sea, extending from South Korea and Japan in the north to Australia in the south.

Taiwan is located in the South China Sea, and China has recently been aggressively laying territorial claims to the entire sea, setting it in conflict with many of its maritime neighbors. China has been busy building naval and other military assets throughout the region. 

Gregory Poling, of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, another think tank, says “There is no contingency in the South China Sea that does not require access to the Philippines”. The Philippines, and particularly it’s northern island of Luzon which is closest to Taiwan, are an essential staging ground for the US to counter any aggression from China. Between their moves and ours, a confrontation does now seem inevitable.


Please share any thoughts, comments or questions in the Comments section below!


Journalists spent the holidays combing through 6,000 pages of Trump’s 2015-2020 tax records. Here’s what they found, and why it could create more legal trouble for Trump.

Trump’s taxes may reveal criminal, Constitutional violations

For years, former President Trump refused to honor a decades-old precedent, which began with Richard Nixon, by publicly releasing his taxes as a presidential candidate. Throughout his four years in office, he continued to refuse to release his yearly taxes as the 8 Presidents before him had done. Now we may know why.

Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee, who had obtained Trump’s tax returns going back to 2015 after a protracted legal battle, released nearly 6,000 pages of documents. Since then, journalists have been sifting through the huge document dump. Some important nuggets were released just before New Year’s. But with all the hustle and bustle of the holiday, they didn’t make much of a splash. Now that the confetti has settled, here are a few aspects of Trump’s tax records that are worthy of further attention, and possibly even legal scrutiny.

Foreign accounts and holdings

Some readers may have heard a vague mention of these over the weekend. Trump held bank accounts in China between 2015 and 2017. He also had accounts in Ireland, the UK and St. Martin during his presidency.

During his candidacy and presidency, Trump’s taxes cited business income, expenses, taxes or other significant financial items from various countries and territories: Azerbaijan, Brazil, Canada, China, Dominican Republic, Georgia, Grenada, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Mexico, Panama, Philippines, Puerto Rico (US territory), Qatar, South Korea, Saint Martin, Saint Vincent, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom.

How big a deal is it really?

It depends on how you read the Foreign Emoluments Clause (Article I, Section 9, Clause 8) of the United States Constitution.

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

“Emolument” is just a fancy word for salary or compensation for an office or service. The Foreign Emoluments Clause exists to ensure that the President and other federal office holders are not financially beholden to any foreign power. When Trump took office in 2017, he again defied decades of precedent for sitting presidents. Rather than selling assets or putting them in a blind trust as previous Presidents had done, Trump left them in the control of his children, many of whom also had prominent roles in his campaign and administration. Simply put, this opened the door to corruption.

Trump and the Saudis

The foreign accounts and holdings were not Trump’s only flirtation with violating the Clause. During Trump’s presidency, Saudi Arabia spent hundreds of thousands of dollars at Trump hotels in Washington and elsewhere. And lo and behold, Trump signed a massive weapons deal with the Saudis. He also vetoed a bill passed by Congress to stop supplying weapons to the Saudis on the grounds they were being used to perpetrate war crimes in Yemen, the Kingdom’s impoverished neighbor. When US intelligence concluded that the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince likely ordered the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Trump dismissed and downplayed the allegation, and bragged about it.

Trump’s cozy financial relationship with the Saudis didn’t end after he left office. It continues even now that he’s officially announced his 2024 presidential candidacy. Early in 2021, Saudi Arabia signed a $2 billion investment deal with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. More recently, Trump’s golf course in Miami became part of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit. The amount Trump has received for this hasn’t been disclosed. Considering that LIV pays top players hundreds of millions of dollars, a fee in the tens or hundreds of millions for the use of Trump’s club doesn’t seem out of the question.

Trump’s financial relationship with the Saudis is far from the only concern. His holdings in China, revealed both in the returns and in previous reporting, have also drawn considerable scrutiny. There’s also his recent $4 billion deal to open a golf resort Oman, another wealthy kingdom on the Arabian Peninsula with an abysmal human rights record. But there’s another elephant in the room that needs addressing.

Evidence of “criminal tax evasion”

Trump’s tax records show that he paid $641,931 in taxes in 2015; $750 in both 2016 and 2017; just under $1 million in 2018; $133,445 in 2019; and in 2020, he paid nothing.

Columnist David Kay Johnston of the Daily Beast says Trump’s tax documents suggest “powerful evidence of criminal tax evasion” which merit scrutiny from investigators. Johnston firstly highlights how Trump managed to turn a $2.8 million profit off the Alternative Minimum Tax between 2015 and 2020. This is not illegal in and of itself. It’s merely an example of how lobbying by the wealthy (including Trump himself) has helped to structure our tax codes in their favor.

However, Johnston also points to a bigger, and potentially criminal, red flag. This concerns 26 sole-proprietor (Schedule C) Trump businesses “with zero revenue and hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax deductions for expenses”.

“Unless Trump can produce records showing the expenses are real and meet other standards to be deductible, that’s fraud,” Johnston says. 

These 26 deduction claims, Johnston adds, should be of particular interest to New York State Attorney General Letitia James, or Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Both James and Bragg are probing the finances of Trump and his businesses for criminal violations.

A Manhattan jury recently found the Trump Organization guilty on 17 counts of criminal tax violations. Meanwhile, AG James announced last year that she was suing Trump for flagrant tax violations and bank fraud. Johnston says a probe into the validity, or even existence, of these 26 sole proprietorships could yield a “slam-dunk prosecution”. James and Bragg so far haven’t commented on any of the recent revelations from Trump’s tax forms.

This all leads to an important question.

Why wasn’t any of this caught before?

Johnston’s article explains in depth the various incentives and disincentives for the IRS when it comes to auditing the wealthy. The IRS’ own incentive structure has created an environment that allows wealthy individuals and businesses to risk violating an already favorable tax code without fear of prosecution.

During Trump’s presidency, any of these red flags coming to light would have resulted in impeachable offenses. And, as President, Trump should have undergone mandatory IRS audits each year he was in office. So what happened there? The short answer is- practically nothing.

The IRS only undertook a very limited look at Trump’s 2016 filings- and that only happened in 2019! None of the other years received any official scrutiny at all.

There are various explanations as to why. Johnston blames the loyalists Trump appointed to key positions, namely IRS commissioner Charles Rettig, and Rettig’s boss, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. But the House Ways and Means Committee’s findings point to something less nefarious but equally troubling.

No cop on the beat

The IRS simply doesn’t have the resources to take on audits of highly-complex filings by wealthy individuals and entities. This, of course, means that the burden of tax enforcement disproportionately falls on middle- and working-class taxpayers

While Trump was in office, agents responsible for auditing him never brought in specialists to scrutinize his filings and holdings. They justified this inaction with an assumption that a private accounting firm (hired by Trump) would make sure everything was in order. In the Committee’s opinion, that “assumption” was a grievous error.

Coincidentally, House Republicans have announced it will be their first order of business to roll back one key provision of Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act – the provision that would beef up IRS funding and enforcement to crack down on wealthy tax dodgers. 


Please share any thoughts, comments or questions in the Comments section below!


Jackson mayor says latest water disruption “worst case scenario”.

Southwest Airlines: Pilot union says weather not solely to blame for mass cancellations.

US, other countries consider travel restrictions for China.



Jackson mayor says latest water disruption “worst case scenario”

Jackson, MS, has been under a boil water notice since Christmas Day after freezing weather caused a drop in water pressure. Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba declared a state of emergency yesterday and declared the situation a “worst case scenario”. Local authorities hoped that increasing output from two water treatment plants might remedy the immediate problem. But even after increasing output at the O. B. Curtis and J.H. Fewell water treatment plants, much of the city remains without adequate water pressure. An official press release on Monday said “We are producing significant amounts of water and pushing that into the system, but the pressure is not increasing — despite those efforts at the plants.”

This would seem to suggest unidentified leaks somewhere in the city’s pipe network. Residents are being asked to keep taps closed to maintain what pressure there is. Officials are also urging residents to report any leaks so that they can be repaired and hopefully restore pressure. However, there are numerous anecdotal reports on Jackson’s government Facebook page from residents who say they’ve been reporting leaks for days and that no crews have yet arrived.

Mayor Lumumba explained to residents that the boil water notice is a requirement of the EPA when water pressure falls below a certain level. He did not say whether there were any indications that any water that flows out of taps poses a danger to residents. The city is continuing to work with the recently-appointed third-party manager, Ted Henifin. 

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).


Southwest Airlines: Pilot union says weather not solely to blame for 1000s of cancellations

Over the weekend, major airlines were forced to cancel thousands of flights due to the severe weather across the country. All but one, Southwest Airlines, were largely back to normal by Tuesday. On Monday, the carrier canceled 70% of its flights and then 60% on Tuesday. In contrast, most major airlines were only canceling about 2% of their flights by Tuesday.

A Southwest spokesman solely blamed the weather for leaving them “chasing our tails, trying to catch up”. However, Casey Murray, president of Southwest’s pilots union, says weather is the least of the airline’s problems. Firstly, Murray says the company’s scheduling software dates to the 1990s – when the airline was much smaller – and is no longer up to the job. Secondly, he cited an overall failure of leadership. “Whether it was pilots, whether it was customer service agents, whether it was ramp agents – they weren’t given the tools to do their job,” Murray said. “Nor were they given the leadership to answer the questions and to be able to provide solutions.” 

The Department of Transportation has taken notice of Southwest’s disproportionately high number of cancellations and is investigating. After a disastrous summer for many air travelers, DOT at last put airlines on notice, promising fines and other consequences if airlines continued to book more flights than they could handle given industry-wide staffing shortages.

The cancellations disrupted plans for thousands of customers and left many stranded. Democratic Senators Edward Markey (MT) and Richard Blumenthal (CT) are demanding that Southwest payout “significant monetary compensation” to customers. “Southwest is planning to issue a $428 million dividend next year – the company can afford to do right by the consumers it has harmed,” the senators said on Tuesday.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



US, other countries consider travel restrictions for China

Just China’s COVID infections are taking off at an astronomical rate, the country has announced an end to three years of tight travel restrictions. Under China’s Zero COVID policy, travel between provinces and abroad were tightly controlled, with lengthy quarantine periods for returning travelers. Next month is Chinese New Year, which is one of the busiest travel periods of the year. During this time, millions of Chinese people crisscross the country visiting relatives. This has raised concerns that city dwellers will bring COVID infections to rural areas, where health systems are more limited.

Many Chinese also take advantage of the extended New Year holiday to go abroad.  Following the announcement that travel restrictions would be lifted next month, Chinese people flocked to travel websites to book trips. But some of their favorite destinations will be tightening their controls on travelers from China due to the COVID surge. Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan and India have already announced requirements for negative COVID tests or 7-day quarantines for Chinese arrivals. The US may be following suit, blaming China’s “lack of transparent data” on its COVID surge.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).


Please share any thoughts, comments or questions in the Comments section below!



Buffalo barber opens his shop for people to come in out of the cold. Border crisis: Supreme Court allows Title 42 to stay in place indefinitely. China rushes to vaccinate elderly amid COVID surge, but many are hesitant.



Buffalo barber opens his shop for people to come in out of the cold

The blistering winter weather this past week has left more than 60 dead in the US. In Buffalo, NY, alone, at least 34 have succumbed to the freezing weather. Buffalo is famous for rough winters and its hardy citizens are no novices when it comes to blizzards. But the severity of this storm seems to have caught even them off guard. Even more heart-rending are the stories of people froze to death in their cars after becoming trapped. And the city’s emergency workers expect to find more victims as the weather warms and snows covering cars melt away.

Over the Christmas weekend, Craig Elston, owner of the C&C Cutz barbershop in Buffalo, was moved to do something for his fellow Buffalonians after witnessing just this sort of tragic scene. “Once I seen the first person laid out with family and kids with them in the snow, it broke my heart,” Elston recalls. “And I’m sitting in here with heat and light, and the barbershop is warm. And it’s a big space that can heat and shelter other people. So it just naturally, you know, came upon me, like, Craig, open the barbershop up, do a live video on all platforms and let people know that they can come here and get some type of shelter”.

And that’s what he did. On Christmas Eve, Elston took to TikTok, Facebook and other social media with a simple message: “Please, man, anybody out there that’s stuck, do not stay in your car, man. The barbershop here welcomes you. Get some heat, get some electricity, charge your phone, get in contact with your family”.

An unforgettable Christmas

Craig Elston in front his Buffalo, NY, barber shop where he sheltered dozens of people.

Soon after, several people arrived to take Elston up on his offer. In all about 50 people came in and out over the weekend. At one time, about 30 people were sheltered in Elston’s shop. “People were actually sleeping here, a lot of people I’ve never even met before, a lot of people that was visiting Buffalo and they got stranded in cars, or a lot of people that was without heat and gas. I just wanted them to have somewhere where they could come charge their phone and see if they could get somebody to come help them”.

Elston and others ventured out to a nearby corner store for food and drink. Neighbors came with food as well, and some in the shop got food from the vending machine. Elston and the people in his shop enjoyed an unusual Christmas meal of “Vienna sausages, Hot Pockets, chips, peach tea”. The group also watched movies and a football game on Elston’s TV.

Sadly, Elston missed Christmas with his daughters who were snowed-in with their mothers in different parts of the city. Still, Elston says this Christmas will stay with him for a long time. “I’m never going to forget this Christmas because, in front of my eyes, I’ve seen people that was almost half – like, half to death here. If I can have an opportunity to help somebody, I think that’s what we all supposed to do”. 

Click here to listen to the full story (about 5 minutes; opens in new tab).

Click here for stunning photos of Buffalo’s blizzard (opens in new tab).


Border crisis: Supreme Court allows Title 42 to stay in place indefinitely

The Supreme Court has granted a petition from the attorneys general of several Republican-led states to allow Title 42 to remain in place. The Trump administration first established Title 42 in March 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic. The measure allows US border authorities to quickly expel migrants coming over the border, without allowing them to request asylum. The right to request asylum is guaranteed both under US law and international refugee law. The Trump administration nevertheless adopted the measure, ostensibly to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Since then, the measure has been used to expel migrants more than 2.5 million times. That doesn’t mean 2.5 million people, as many attempted to cross multiple times and then turned back.

President Biden has been trying to revoke Title 42 since he assumed office. Since Title 42 was an executive action, and the executive branch has authority to implement enforcement policy in immigration matters, Biden and the Department of Homeland Security should have the authority to end it whenever they choose. But lower federal courts have on several occasions sided with GOP-led states who don’t want the measure lifted. 

Today’s decision by the Supreme Court leaves Title 42 in place while the court considers an appeal from the GOP states. There’s no set timeline for when the court will hear the case or issue a ruling. This could potentially push any decision back until June 2023.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



China rushes to vaccinate elderly amid COVID surge, but many are hesitant

Over the last three years, China implemented a strict “Zero COVID” policy that would lock down entire cities when only a few infections emerged. This created economic chaos and immense hardship for ordinary citizens. However, the government seems to have done little to prepare for what would happen when the inevitable happened and the country re-opened. For instance, few new hospital beds or ICU units were added. China is also lagging behind on vaccinations of the elderly. Officially, 90% of Chinese have received at least one vaccine dose, but only two-thirds of those over 80.

With runaway numbers of infections and many deaths, China has ramped up efforts to vaccinate the elderly. Authorities are now going door-to-door, offering up to 500 yuan ($70) to anyone over 60 willing to take a vaccine. However, many elderly people are skeptical about the safety and efficacy of Chinese vaccines. This is in part because the Chinese government hasn’t published its findings for vaccine trials in people 60 and older. Some don’t want vaccines at all, while others would prefer to have non-Chinese vaccines like Pfizer or Moderna. Given current trends, experts predict between 1 and 2 million COVID deaths in China by the end of 2023.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



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In El Paso, migrants struggle to get in out of the cold. Key Jan. 6 witness says Trump-linked lawyer pressured her on testimony. Chinese state media downplays COVID surge, deaths.


Migrants in El Paso struggle to find shelter in below freezing temperatures

Even though the Supreme Court temporarily blocked the lifting of Title 42 this week, a steady stream of migrants continues to flow over the southern border into towns like El Paso, TX. For weeks, the city has been calling on state and federal government resources to help process, shelter and transfer the migrants out of the area. Earlier this week, El Paso’s mayor declared a state of emergency in hopes of unlocking more help. 

With most of El Paso’s existing shelters overrun, many migrants have had to make do sleeping on the street, in bus stations or the small local airport. But now in El Paso, as in much of the country, temperatures are dropping below freezing thanks to a massive Arctic wind and cold front. This has left the migrants, many of whom have young children or babies in tow, struggling to find places to get in out of the cold.

The city-run shelters still have some room, but some migrants say they have been denied access to these shelters. The federal government has kicked in some money for the municipal shelters and is requiring the city to admit only migrants with immigration paperwork. Migrants that crossed the border undetected don’t have this paperwork.  Even families with children are being turned away if they don’t have these documents. There are some local churches and charity-run shelters that are open to everyone, but they are largely full themselves.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).


Key Jan. 6 witness says Trump-linked lawyer pressured her on testimony

This summer, Cassidy Hutchinson, former assistant to Trump Chief-of-staff Mark Meadows, gave extensive testimony in a televised hearing of the Congressional Jan. 6 committee. Her testimony covered events she was privy to leading from the weeks immediately following Trump’s loss in the Nov. 2020 election up to the events of Jan. 6. Both in her televised live testimony and recorded testimony, Hutchinson shed light on the motivations and actions of major players in Trump’s orbit.

The Jan. 6 Committee has wrapped up its work, issuing an 800-page report after issuing four criminal referrals for former Pres. Trump to the Justice Department. A day before releasing its full report, the committee released the full transcripts of Hutchinson’s testimony. This release included information that had not previously been public knowledge.

One key revelation has to do with efforts by Trump world to influence testimony given before the committee. The committee members previously revealed that witnesses (including at least one whose testimony was not televised) received messages from people close to Trump seeking to influence them. We now know that Hutchinson herself was one of them. 

Unable to pay the prices of other lawyers she contacted, Hutchinson initially retained the services of Stefan Passantino to represent her in her dealings with the committee. Passantino’s fees were paid by allies of Trump. Hutchinson told the committee Passantino had advised her not to cooperate with the committee and to instead risk a contempt charge. When she decided to go to the committee anyway, Passantino allegedly told her “the less you remember, the better”.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



Chinese state media downplays COVID surge, deaths

Following months of economic turmoil and recent social unrest, China has at last rolled back its strict “Zero COVID” policies. For over two years, any city with even just a few COVID infections would immediately be locked down. This policy focused on restricting the spread of COVID, but at enormous economic and social cost. Meanwhile, the government seems to have done little to prepare for the day when the policy would end. The country’s vaccination campaign is lagging significantly behind, even among the elderly who are most at risk. There’s also been little effort to increase the number of hospital and ICU beds.

Now that the policy has ended, China is experiencing a predictable explosion of COVID infections. The infection is spreading rapidly among the population that has less immunity from exposure or immunization than other countries at this point. There’s also anecdotal evidence suggesting a massive rise in COVID-related deaths. However, China’s state media has been downplaying the number of deaths. Thousands on Chinese social media have reported the deaths of loved ones, particularly the elderly. Hospitals in major cities are turning people away for lack of beds and crematoria have at least a 10 day waiting list.

Despite this, Chinese state media reports only 8 COVID deaths this month! After receiving massive ridicule for this from average citizens, the government revealed it only counts deaths from pneumonia or respiratory failure are classified as COVID deaths. Deaths from various inflammatory syndromes caused by COVID or people with pre-existing conditions are not being counted.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



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Tornado, hail warnings in Mississippi today. Senate to hold final vote on same-sex marriage bill. China: Top security agency calls for “crackdown” on antigovernment protests.





Tornado, hail warnings in Mississippi today

Much of the state is in for a severe weather outlook starting this afternoon and continuing overnight into Wednesday morning. The Memphis office of the National Weather Service reports conditions that could create severe powerful “long-track” tornados as well as possible hail storms. 

Not only North Mississippi but the entire state is in the path of this storm system. Mississippi’s Emergency Management Agency has warned all three million residents to prepare for power outages. MEMA also advises to stay off the roads and to be prepared to take refuge in a safe place in their home in case of a tornado. Pay attention to local conditions. Make sure your phones are charged and pay attention weather alerts. Some alerts may be coming during the night.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).


Senate to hold final vote on same-sex marriage bill

Today, the Senate hopes to hold its final vote on the Respect for Marriage Act. The bill would codify into law the right to marry both for same-sex couples and interracial couples. This bill has found enough bipartisan support to meet the Senate’s 60-vote threshold to overcome a filibuster. In a previous procedural vote, 12 Republican Senators joined all Democrats in opening debate on the bill.

Some GOP Senators have objected that the bill is pointless as the Supreme Court has already affirmed the right for same-sex couples to marry nationwide. It’s important to note, many raised this objection for decades when bills arose to codify a nationwide right to abortion.

In his Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health opinion in June, Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas specifically declared that he would like to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, which made same-sex marriage rights the law of the land in 2015. Thomas wrote that both Obergefell and Roe v. Wade were decided on the basis of the 14th Amendment right to equal protection under the law, a premise Thomas considered flawed. Interestingly, Thomas, who is interracially married, made no mention of the 1967 Loving v. Virginia decision which established a right to interracial marriage and was also based on the equal protection clause. 

Assuming the Respect for Marriage Act passes the Senate today, the House should quickly ratify it and it could be on President Biden’s desk by the end of the week.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



China: Top security agency calls for “crackdown” on antigovernment protests

Large protests popped up in cities all over China this weekend in protest of President Xi Jinping’s Zero COVID policy. Last week, 10 people died in an apartment fire in Xinjiang because the entrance was barricaded. Much of Xinjiang, home to most of China’s Uighur Muslim minority, has been under continual COVID lockdown for the past two years.

But even China’s most prominent commercial cities in the east of the country have suffered periodic snap lockdowns. Earlier this year, Shanghai, a city of about 25 million people, was under strict lockdown for the better part of two months. Xi’s Zero COVID policy has created havoc in China’s economy, forcing factory districts, ports and entire cities to shut down.

Despite heavy censorship of any mention of the protests on Chinese social media, the protests have continued and spread to other cities. Police have engaged in violent showdowns in some instances. But in most cases, police have conducted a more “quiet” crackdown, filming protests and later rounding up attendees. Some protesters have reported getting phone calls and text messages from the police warning them against taking part in further demonstrations. 

Now, China’s top national security agency has called openly for a “crackdown” of what they call “hostile forces”. As in Iran, which has also experienced weeks of antigovernment protests, China is blaming the protests on international actors hostile to their government.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



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