Tag Archive for: NATO


Over half of Mississippians struggling to pay household bills, the most in the nation.

FAA seeks to address string of near-collisions at US airports.

Poland, Slovakia to send Soviet-era jets to Ukraine.



Over half of Mississippians struggling to pay household bills, the most in the nation

A recent Household Pulse Survey by the Census Bureau found that more than half of Mississippians (52.9%) are struggling to pay typical household bills. This is the highest percentage in the nation and the only one over 50%. Mississippi narrowly edges out neighboring Alabama which came in second at 49.7% and far exceeds the national average of 39.7%. 

Over that same period (the week of Feb. 4-13), Mississippi was 5th in the nation at 48.6% among states whose residents fear eviction or foreclosure in the next two months. Mississippians also led in the category of householders that were unable to pay an energy bill in full in the last 12 months with 30.5%.

Median household income is the lowest in the nation at $46,637, far below the national average of $70,784. Recent data shows that Mississippi has the highest poverty rate in the nation with 19.07%.

State Republicans suddenly remember this is an election year

During the pandemic, states received millions in federal dollars to help people get through the economic downturn. Despite the great need, average Mississippians received far less help than people in other states. Instead, the state government decided to use this windfall to push for income tax cuts.

While income tax reduction is popular in the state (62%), the suspension of the state’s 7% grocery tax is far more popular (74%). Mississippi is one of the few states to tax groceries and has the highest rate of any of them. Grocery taxes disproportionately burden the poor while income tax cuts disproportionately benefit the wealthy. But the state’s Republican leadership hasn’t considered using the state’s surplus to cut grocery taxes, despite rising food costs. 

State legislators recently narrowly rejected proposals that would have eliminated income taxes in the state. This means the stalled bills likely won’t move forward in this year’s legislative session. However, House Ways and Means Chairman Trey Lamar said the bills’ failure was “more of a timing issue with some of these representatives as opposed to any real opposition to income tax elimination. Coming off the heels of last year’s income tax bill, and this being an election year, there are a few that would just prefer to wait a little longer before making further cuts”.

Reeves believes life begins at conception, but when does it end?

In a rare win for public welfare in the state, Gov. Reeves has just signed a bill to extend Medicaid coverage to new mothers and babies from 60 days after birth to 12 months.

Mississippi has some of the worst rates of infant mortality and maternal mortality in the country. Until Reeves signed this latest bill, Mississippi was the only state in the nation that had neither extended Medicaid coverage for new mothers nor expanded Medicaid eligibility overall. 

Reeves touted expanding Medicaid coverage for new moms and babies to 12 months as being in line with the state’s pro-life stance. However, Reeves was quick to remind us he still opposes expanding eligibility for Medicaid for low-income families under Obamacare. Maybe Reeves thinks life ends at 12 months?


FAA seeks to address string of near-collisions at US airports

So far in 2023, there have been at least nine near-collisions of commercial airplanes at eight US airports. That number may seems small in light of the fact that there are about 45,000 flights taking off each day. But when you consider the hundreds of lives put at risk each time, even one near-miss is unacceptable.

The circumstances vary in each case, but in some instances, the near-miss was the result of air traffic control clearing two planes to use the same runway. This was the case in the most dramatic near-collision in Austin, TX, in which a FedEx cargo plane came within 100 feet of a Southwest Airlines passenger plane. Controllers had cleared the FedEx plane to land on the same runway where the Southwest Airlines flight was taking off. In this case, it was the quick thinking of the FedEx pilot that averted disaster, rather than any action by air traffic control.  

On Wednesday, FAA held an emergency summit this week, its first in 14 years, to discuss the issue. The panel of aviation experts cited low staffing numbers at the FAA and a lack of experience among new hires as a major factor. The staffing issues come at the same time that US demand for air travel is surging, making accidents and near-accidents more likely.

It may also be significant that 8 of the 9 incidents took place after an outage of the FAA’s automated NOTAM (Notice to Air Missions) system which notifies pilots of potential hazards they may encounter during their flights. The NOTAM system went dark late in the night of Jan. 10 and grounded all flights in the US for two hours the following morning. An investigation found that the outage was the result of FAA contractors deleting files.

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



Poland, Slovakia send Soviet-era jets to Ukraine

After nearly a year of requests from Kiev, Poland yesterday agreed to send about a dozen Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine. Today, Slovakia followed suit, promising 13 MiG-29s. At the time of Russia’s invasion last year, Ukraine had several dozen MiG-29s that it had retained following the collapse of the Soviet Union. It’s not clear how many of these remain in service over a year later.

According to Slovakia’s Defense Minister, the European Union is offering Slovakia 200 million euros ($213 million) in compensation for giving the jets to Ukraine. Slovakia will also receive $745 million in unspecified arms from the US, the minister said. There’s no reporting on whether Poland is receiving similar compensation for its pledge. However, Poland’s Defense Minister did mention that they would be replacing their MiGs with South Korean and American-made fighter jets.

The White House says it was informed of Poland’s decision before it was announced. Biden has long been under pressure to give Ukraine F-16s, a request the US has so far steadfastly refused. National Security advisor John Kirby neither endorsed nor condemned Poland and Slovakia’s decision, but said it would have no bearing on the US position on sending F-16s. 

Unlike F-16s, Ukraine’s fighter pilots require no additional training to fly MiG-29s. But maintaining them may pose a problem. Slovakia had previously grounded its MiG-29 fleet due to difficulties obtaining spare parts and the departure of Russian maintenance workers.

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



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


Groups seek to bar Trump’s 2024 candidacy using post-Civil War law. Same-sex marriage bill clears key Senate hurdle. World War III averted, for now.




Groups to file insurrection disqualification challenges to Trump’s 2024 candidacy 

The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has vowed to file legal action to disqualify Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential candidacy under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. Section 3 bars the candidacy of any official who violates their oath of office by engaging in “insurrection or rebellion” against the government or giving “aid or comfort to the enemies thereof”. The post-Civil War measure was passed to prevent former Confederates from running for office.

“The evidence that Trump engaged in insurrection is overwhelming,” CREW president Noah Bookbinder said last week. “We are ready, willing and able to take action to make sure the Constitution is upheld and Trump is prevented from holding office.”

CREW previously filed a successful action in New Mexico to have Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin removed from office due to Couy’s participation in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Other groups are also seeking to bar Trump from appearing on state ballots due to his role in stoking the attack.

Trump facing other hurdles

Following the defeat of many of Trump’s handpicked candidates in the midterms, Republican office holders have been eager to distance themselves from him. Some have publicly expressed worries that Trump’s announcement will hurt Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker in his Dec. 6 run-off against Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock. Herschel managed to clinch the nomination with Trump’s backing. 

Conservative news mogul Rupert Murdoch has also told Trump he will not be backing his candidacy. Popular commentators at Murdoch-owned NewsCorp outlets like Fox News were generally enthusiastic supporters of Trump during the 2016 and 2020 election cycles, and some still are. But this time around, it looks like Murdoch will be throwing his weight behind Trump’s chief GOP rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Even so, if Trump does win the GOP nomination, which he very well might, it’s likely that the Republican political and media machine will fall in line behind him for the general election.

However, Trump’s own daughter Ivanka Trump has also said she will not be part of her father’s 2024 campaign. Ivanka skipped Trump’s announcement at Mar-a-Lago last night, although her husband, Jared Kushner, was present. Since Trump left office, there has been ample speculation that Ivanka and Kushner were breaking away from the Trump camp. Ivanka and Jared both testified before the Jan. 6 committee. Both voiced their disagreement with Trump advisors who were pushing the 2020 election fraud narrative. In a statement, Ivanka says, “While I will always love and support my father, going forward I will do so outside the political arena”. Instead, she says she will be focusing on her young children.


Same-sex marriage bill clears key Senate hurdle

Since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, Democrats have been pushing to codify other rights which might be under threat. The majority decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health suggested that same-sex marriage rights could be undermined by the Court’s reading of the 14th Amendment equal protection clause.

Today, the Senate took an important step towards enshrining the right to same-sex marriage in law, and with significant bipartisan support. Fourteen Republican Senators voted alongside all Senate Democrats to open debate on the Respect for Marriage Act. Today’s procedural vote means that the bill could get a final vote and make its way to Biden’s desk as early as this week. The Respect for Marriage Act would repeal the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. The Act would require that all states to recognize all marriages that were legal where they were performed. It would also protect interracial marriage, which could also be threatened under the Supreme Court majority’s interpretation of the 14th Amendment.

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



World War III averted, for now

Yesterday, Russia launched nearly 100 missiles targeting several cities in Ukraine, including Kyiv and Lviv, near the Polish border. The attack dealt widespread damage to power infrastructure, but most who lost power now have it back. Tensions rose after a missile struck a farm on the Polish side of the border, killing two people and destroying a tractor. The missile debris suggested it might have been a Russian-made S-300 type rocket. Russia uses these and other types of rockets in their attacks, but Ukraine also uses them as part of their missile defense system.

Poland’s Prime Minister called an emergency security meeting and ordered an investigation to determine where the rocket came from and whether it was accident or an intentional attack. Conveniently, President Biden is in Indonesia at a G20 meeting. There he convened an emergency meeting of the G7 countries to discuss how to respond. Since Poland is a NATO member, the strike could have triggered NATO’s Article 5 mutual defense clause, launching us into World War III.

Fortunately, cooler heads seem to have prevailed. Both Russia and Ukraine deny the rocket is theirs. Nevertheless, the consensus now seems to be that the missile strike was a tragic accident.

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


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



Reports: Russian missiles strike NATO ally Poland. Jan. 6 panel weighs contempt charge for Trump. DOT fines airlines over cancelations, delays. FBI to probe killing of American journalist in Israel.





Jan. 6 committee weighs contempt charge after Trump skips deposition

Mississippi Congressman and Jan. 6 committee chair Bennie Thompson says that contempt of Congress charges against former President Trump “could be an option” after Trump failed to show up for a deposition with the committee that was scheduled yesterday. A few weeks before the mid-terms, the committee issued a subpoena compelling Trump to testify about his role in stoking the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol in 2021. On Friday, Trump filed a lawsuit to try to block the subpoena. Thompson says Trump’s lawsuit, “parades out many of the same arguments that courts have rejected repeatedly over the last year”.

The committee will disband at the end of the year. With the House likely to come under Republican control, Trump is likely hoping to run out the clock on the subpoena. Unless the committee and the DOJ act quickly, he will probably succeed.

Why is Trump planning to announce his 2024 candidacy now?

Today, Trump is expected to formally announce his candidacy for President in 2024. Republican strategists have begged Trump to hold off on any announcement until after the Dec. 6 runoff in the Senate race between Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker. GOP operatives believe that Trump’s candidacy will actually hurt Walker’s chances. 

Trump himself has little to gain and a lot to lose from announcing his candidacy this early. His reputation as a GOP kingmaker just took a big hit in the mid-terms. Many of his handpicked candidates lost, while his chief GOP rival Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis did very well. 

Trump also stands to lose financially from announcing this early. Once his candidacy his official, his finances and fundraising are subject to greater scrutiny. Moreover, the Republican National Committee has said publicly they will stop paying Trump’s attorney fees in his various legal fights if he announces a 2024 run.

Former US Attorney Dennis Aftergut believes there is only one reason for Trump to announce his candidacy at this time. Trump hopes his candidacy for President will head off criminal indictments in at least two cases. A Georgia District Attorney is currently probing efforts by Trump and his circle to overturn his 2020 loss to Biden in the state. Fani Willis, the Fulton County DA, hopes to bring indictments in that case as soon as December. The Justice Department may also be preparing to indict Trump for his mishandling of classified documents.

Unfortunately for Trump, the law doesn’t shield Presidential candidates from investigation or prosecution. Aftergut says Trump wants to exploit his candidacy and accuse prosecutors of politically-motivated attacks. However, given his waning influence, Aftergut thinks that strategy may blow up in Trump’s face. 


DOT orders 6 air carriers to repay $600 million in refunds for cancelations, delays

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced that 6 air carriers have been ordered to pay a total of $7.5 million in fines and refund $600 million to customers whose flights were either cancelled or unreasonably delayed. In one of the early COVID stimulus packages in 2020, US airlines received over $50 billion to keep its workforce whole and prepared for when normal travel would resume. Instead, the airlines furloughed thousands of employees and pushed many experienced pilots into early retirement. Airline CEOs used the billions it received from US taxpayers for stock buybacks.

As a result, airlines were not prepared when Americans took to the skies again. Throughout the summer of 2022, airlines canceled thousands of flights within hours of their scheduled take-off. Others were delayed to the extent that it violated consumer protection laws. Under these circumstances, US law requires the airlines to refund passengers’ money. But most airlines will only offer vouchers in these cases, which often expire quickly. There have been thousands of complaints to the DOT for airlines’ refusal to refund customers’ money. All the while, Buttigieg and the DOT did little other than publicly wag their fingers at the airline CEOs.

While they welcomed the announcement of fines and refunds, consumer advocate groups say it is “too little, too late”.  Consumer advocates are particularly unhappy that Frontier was the only US carrier to be punished, the rest were foreign. There have been complaints against all the major airlines, including Delta and United.  

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



Reports: Russian missiles strike NATO ally Poland

Since its forces withdrew from the southern Ukrainian province of Kherson last week, Russia has escalated missile strike across Ukraine. For the first time in weeks, missiles have struck the capital Kyiv and the major city of Lviv in the west of the country. Russian forces have targeted energy infrastructure, leaving much of the country without power. 

Lviv is quite close to Ukraine’s Polish border. There are unconfirmed reports that Russian missiles struck on the Polish side of the border, killing two people. According to reports, the missiles struck near a facility for drying grain. This is the first time since the war began that Russian missiles have struck on NATO soil. 

A Pentagon spokesman says the US is still evaluating the situation and seeking to confirm the reports. Russia has denied its missiles struck Polish soil and called the reports a “deliberate provocation. Some analysts have said the missiles could have come from Ukraine’s air defense system. 

Poland’s PM Mateusz Morawiecki has called an emergency national security meeting and placed his country’s military in heightened readiness. Poland is also weighing a call for an emergency NATO meeting.

What it means

It’s difficult to overstate the gravity of the situation. A strike on a NATO ally could trigger Article 5 and force other NATO countries, including the US, to take a more active military role in the war.

While an unintentional strike is unlikely to trigger Article 5, Poland’s government has pushed for more active involvement in the conflict since the beginning. Back in March, Poland attempted to transfer some of its warplanes to Ukraine via US military bases in Germany. The Pentagon says Poland didn’t consult with them about this plan. Poland apparently hoped to circumvent US objections by presenting it as a fait accompli. The US Department of Defense nevertheless shot this plan down immediately, calling it untenable.

If a Russian strike is confirmed on their territory, Poland may use it as a pretext to escalate their involvement in the war.

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


Israel angry after FBI announces probe of Palestinian-American journalist’s killing

In May this year, Israeli military snipers opened fire on a group of journalists covering Israeli raids against Palestinian militants. Shireen Abu Aqla, a Palestinian-American reporter working for Al-Jazeera, was killed. An internal probe by the Israeli military ruled the death accidental. But Abu Aqla’s family and colleagues believe that she was targeted for assassination. Abu Aqla and the other journalists present wore brightly colored vests and helmets identifying them as press. Journalism advocates, Abu Aqla’s family, and even members of Congress have called for the US to investigate.

Today, the finally got their wish. The US Department of Justice and the FBI have informed the Israeli government that they will be investigating Abu Aqla’s death. Abu Aqla’s family welcomed the news, but Israel’s government has responded angrily. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz called the FBI’s decision “a mistake” and vowed not to cooperate with the US investigation.

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


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


Ian: 41 confirmed dead in FL, hundreds unaccounted for; hurricane headed to Charleston, SC. Congress approves stopgap funding bill. Ukraine applies to NATO after Putin annexes territories.

**Updated 10/1/2022 to reflect new information on deaths in Lee Co. Florida**



Ian: 41 confirmed dead in FL, hundreds unaccounted for; hurricane headed to Charleston, SC

Since Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida on Wednesday, authorities have so far confirmed 41 deaths. Lee County, which took the brunt of the storm, accounts for 21 deaths alone. That number is expected to rise over the coming days. Reports on the ground suggest hundreds of people in Lee County from the barrier islands of Sanibel, Pine Island and Ft. Myers Beach remain unaccounted for. However, communication in the area is limited as cell service and power are down. Some of the missing may yet check in.

Images from Ft. Myers Beach and Pine Island show that the overwhelming storm surge left few if any of the older, single-story buildings standing. In their place, only bare foundations are visible. Larger and newer structures seem to have fared somewhat better.

As of this morning, 1.9 million people in southwest Florida were still without power. On Wednesday, more than 2.7 million had lost power.

Ian heads for Charleston as resurgent hurricane

Having renewed its strength over warm Atlantic waters, Ian is now bearing down on Charleston, SC, as a Category 1 hurricane. The eye of the hurricane is not due to land for hours. But the outer bands of the storm are already pouring torrential rain over the city. Sea surges are also pushing inland, bolstered by the midday high tide. Local authorities expect at least 7 ft. of storm surge. 

Downtown Charleston is particularly vulnerable to flooding. A 2020 report found that 90% of residential properties in the city were vulnerable to storm surge flooding. The city has opened two shelters and has a third on standby. However authorities warn it is now too late for people to leave their homes. Officials urge residents to shelter in place and stay off the roads.

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

How to help victims of Hurricane Ian (opens in new tab).


House sends stopgap funding bill to Biden’s desk

Yesterday, the Senate approved a stopgap bill to fund the federal government until December 16. The bill also includes $20 million in emergency funds to address the water crisis in Jackson, MS, as well as $12.3 billion in aid for Ukraine. Earlier this week, there was concern the bill wouldn’t pass in time to avoid a partial shutdown of the federal government at midnight tonight. Several progressive lawmakers, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), had promised to vote against the bill if it included a provision from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to speed-up permits for US oil and gas projects.

Surprisingly, Republican senators, led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) also opposed that deal. This was in retaliation for what McConnell called a “betrayal” by Manchin when the latter backed a recent climate and tax reform bill. Manchin finally asked Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to withdraw the permitting language from the funding bill, avoiding the impasse.

Today, the House has approved the bill and sent it to President Biden’s desk for his signature.

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



Ukraine applies to NATO after Putin annexes territory

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy announced today that his country has officially applying to join NATO. The announcement came hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin officially annexed four Ukrainian territories following sham referenda. 

It is unlikely that NATO would seriously consider Ukraine’s application to join the alliance while they are at war with their nuclear-armed neighbor. By admitting Ukraine, NATO would be compelled to offer military assistance in the form of equipment and boots on the ground. So far, NATO countries have offered every conceivable form of military assistance that would not constitute direct involvement in the conflict. In addition to billions in funds and weapons, the US and other NATO countries are sharing intelligence with Ukraine and even training Ukrainian commandos outside the country.

At the onset of the Russian invasion, Zelenskiy admitted that Ukraine’s ambition to join NATO was “a dream”. Zelenskiy surely knows that the annexation of territory has not improved the odds of acceptance. However, Zelenskiy has proven a shrewd political operator. His application is a way of shaming NATO members into offering every assistance short of admission to the alliance.

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



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


1955 warrant for wife in Till murder found; family demands arrest. Nearly half say Trump should face charges for Jan. 6. Finland and Sweden on way to joining NATO.



1955 warrant for wife in Till murder found; family demands arrest

In Leflore County, MS, a team of searchers have found the original unserved 1955 warrant for Carolyn Bryant’s arrest for the kidnapping of Emmett Till. The team located the document after a laborious search among a trove of boxes sorted only by decade in the basement of the county courthouse. Carolyn Bryant was the wife of Roy Bryant, who was tried and acquitted by an all-white jury in the brutal murder of 14-year-old Till. Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam later confessed to the crime in a magazine article.

Carolyn Bryant accused Till of making improper advances toward her outside the store she ran with her husband in Money, MS. Two nights later, Roy Bryant and Milam showed up in a pick-up truck in front of the house of Till’s uncle. The uncle said he heard a voice “lighter than a man’s” identify Till to the two men who took Till away. Till’s broken body was found in a river some days later.

Carolyn Bryant, now Carolyn Donham, is still alive and in her 80s. At last account, she was living North Carolina. Two living family members of Till’s are calling for Donham’s arrest nearly 70 years after Till’s murder. It was known at the time of the murder that a warrant had been issued for the then-Mrs. Bryant. However, the Leflore County Sheriff told reporters at the time that he didn’t want to “bother” Mrs. Bryant as she had two young boys to raise.

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


Nearly half say Trump should face charges for Jan. 6

A recent poll shows that 48% of Americans think that former President Donald Trump should face criminal charges for his involvement in the Jan. 6, 2020, Capitol riot. Less than a third (31%) do not support charges and 20% answered that they didn’t know enough to form an opinion. Along party lines, 86% of Democrats and only 10% of Republicans think Trump should face charges. Most Republicans (68%) say Trump should not be charged and 21% say they don’t know. A majority of all American adults (58%) believes that Trump bears a great deal or quite a bit of responsibility for that day’s events.

This poll was conducted after the first five Jan. 6 hearings had aired. However, this was before Tuesday’s hearing, which featured some of the most incriminating testimony yet. 

Jan. 6 committee subpoenas former White House counsel

The select committee investigating the riot has issued a subpoena for Pat Cipollone, a Trump White House attorney. Various witnesses have testified that Cipollone consistently resisted Trump & Co.’s schemes to overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential election. On Tuesday, Cassidy Hutchinson, former aid to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, told the committee that Cipollone had urged Trump not to go through with his plan to march to the Capitol with the rioters. Cipollone purportedly told Hutchinson that Trump risked charges for “every crime imaginable” if he lead the armed protesters to the Capitol.

The Jan. 6 committee have asked Cipollone to testify on multiple occasions, but Cipollone has only given an informal statement. The committee believes that Cipollone could provide invaluable information about the Trump camp’s plans to overturn the election.



Finland and Sweden on way to joining NATO after Turkey withdraws objection

Last month, Finland and Sweden abandoned decades of military neutrality by applying to join NATO. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, both countries have been increasingly fearful of potential invasion threats from Russia. Finland and Sweden each have a long history of land, sea and air incursions from Russian military. Until recently, both largely ignored these encroachments, preferring to maintain cordial or at least neutral relations with their powerful neighbor.

When the Nordic countries first announced their wish to join NATO, the Kremlin strongly condemned their decision. Russia has justified its invasion of Ukraine citing decades of eastward NATO expansion. However, if Putin hoped to discourage further NATO expansion towards his border, his aggressive action towards Ukraine has had the opposite effect.

Admission to NATO requires approval from all 30 current member nations. Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan initially announced his opposition to Finland and Sweden joining the alliance, accusing them of harboring Kurdish terrorists. Turkey has been fighting its militant ethnic Kurdish minority for decades. Now, Turkey has withdrawn its objection following the announcement that Sweden and Finland would extradite 33 Kurdish terrorism suspects back to Turkey. President Biden also assured Erdogan that he would back Turkey’s potential purchase of 40 Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets.

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


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

Abbott: 2 months for more baby formula to hit shelves. Jan. 6 panel subpoenas McCarthy, other GOP House members. Finland to join NATO; Russia vows “retaliation”.



Manufacturer: 2 months for more baby formula to hit shelves.

Abbott Laboratories, makers of the baby formula brands Elecare, Similac, Alimentum, say it will take six to eight weeks to fully restock shelves with its formulas. Back in February, Abbott issued a voluntary recall of many of its products following the deaths of two infants. Those two infant and two others who survived were exposed to a deadly bacteria that can cause meningitis.

An investigation of Abbott’s manufacturing facility in Sturgis, MI, is ongoing. The company hopes to have that factory up and running in two weeks, but it will take time to get production back up. A statement from the company says, “We would begin production of EleCare, Alimentum and metabolic formulas first and then begin production of Similac and other formulas”.

Abbot insists that its products were not responsible for the infant sicknesses and deaths, but the FDA and CDC have yet to publish their findings.

The American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to contact a pediatrician if they can’t find their baby’s formula.

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


Jan. 6 committee subpoenas McCarthy, other GOP House members

The Congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol has subpoenaed House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, as well as other Trump-supporting members of the House. The decision for a House committee to subpoena sitting members of its own chamber is likely unprecedented. All five of the subpoenaed members have previously refused requests to give a statement to the committee voluntarily.

McCarthy is known to have had contact with former President Trump on the day in question. Recently, audio surfaced of a conversation between McCarthy and Rep. Liz Cheney (a committee member) in the days following the attack. In the recording, McCarthy deliberated about asking Trump to resign.

“You f*cking did this!”

Aside from McCarthy, the other representatives called to testify are Jim Jordan of Ohio, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Mo Brooks of Alabama and Andy Biggs of Arizona. Liz Cheney has said that she considers Jim Jordan in particular a “material witness” to that day’s events. As rioters stormed the Capitol, Jordan attempted to escort Cheney from the chamber. Cheney recoiled, saying “Don’t touch me. You f*cking did this!”.

Jordan has known ties to some of the extremist groups that entered the Capitol that day. He was also in contact with them in the days prior to the attack.

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



Finland decides to join NATO; Russia vows “retaliation”

Finland’s leaders announced today that the country will apply to join NATO “without delay”. Sweden, with whom Finland shares a close political relationship, is also mulling the possibility of joining the military alliance. They will announce their decision on Sunday, May 15. Both Finland and Sweden are Western oriented and had a fraught history with the Soviet Union. However, they have long resisted joining NATO for fear of antagonizing Russia.

Finland and Russia share an 800-mile border. Russia routinely conducts military maneuvers with submarines and other naval assets in both countries’ waters. Given Russia’s recent unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the Finns and Swedes are questioning the merits of appeasing the Kremlin.

Following Finland’s announcement, Russia threatened retaliation with unspecified “military-technical” measures.

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


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



Idaho passes Texas-style abortion ban. US will accept 100,000 Ukrainian refugees. NATO to send 40,000 more troops to eastern border.



Idaho passes Texas-style abortion ban

Idaho has become the second state in the nation to pass an anti-abortion bill modeled on Texas’ “Heartbeat Act”. Like the Texas law, the enforcement of the law relies on private citizens to bring lawsuits against anyone who provides a woman with an abortion after 6 weeks. However, the parties with standing to bring suit are considerably more narrow. Only the family of the woman, the man who impregnated her or his family can sue. Any such individual can sue abortion providers for at least $20,000. 

Idaho Gov. Brad Little expressed misgivings about the law, even though he signed it. Little said that the enforcement mechanism that deputizes private citizens may prove to be “unconstitutional and unwise”. Little also had concerns about the potential impact of the law on victims of rape or incest. Unlike the Texas law, a rapist cannot sue anyone who provides an abortion to his victim; but his immediate family can.

Other states across the country are eyeing similarly restrictive abortion laws. The Oklahoma House of Representatives has passed a Texas-style bill that would ban abortions altogether. If it becomes law, it could have a major impact on women seeking abortions in Texas as well, since many have obtained procedures in Oklahoma. South Dakota has also recently passed a bill severely restricting access to abortion pills.

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


US announces it will accept 100,000 Ukrainian refugees

The White House has announced that as many as 100,000 Ukrainian refugees will be admitted to the US. Priority will be given to especially vulnerable individuals who might be targeted by Russian invaders like journalists, activists and LGBT individuals. 

The Biden administration has also announced a change to regulations governing the asylum application process. The officials hope that the changes will both streamline the process of applying for asylum for those fleeing oppression and discourage economic migration. The new regulations will make it easier to admit deserving asylum seeker and to deport those who do not qualify more quickly. These changes will start taking effect in the late spring.

Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security has launched an operation to deport several hundred Columbians under Title 42. Title 42 is a COVID-related public health measure that allows the US to quickly expel migrants from its borders, whether they qualify for asylum or not. 

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



NATO to send 40,000 more troops to eastern border

Today, President Biden met with the leaders of other NATO countries in Brussels. Among other things, members of the bloc agreed to send more weapons into Ukraine. However, they have ruled out the idea of establishing even a limited no-fly zone in Ukraine. In response to concerns about Russia’s front in Ukraine moving westward, NATO will be sending 40,000 more troops to its eastern border in Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania.

The US has also announced that it will levy additional sanctions against Russian oligarchs and members of the Duma, Russia’s parliament. Defense companies and other Russian entities will also be subject to further restrictions.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claims that thousands of residents from the besieged city of Mariupol have been forcibly deported to Russian controlled territory. The ministry says that Russian forces have sent over 6000 people to Donetsk and Luhansk as hostages.

NATO estimates that as many as 40,000 Russian soldiers have been killed, wounded or captured in Ukraine since the invasion. Earlier this week, a pro-Kremlin tabloid in Russia briefly published figures purportedly from Russia’s own Ministry of Defense, indicating that 9,600 Russian soldiers had died in Ukraine. 

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


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



Inflation driving more people to food banks. Georgia DA seeks FBI protection after Trump comments. UK’s Johnson scrambles to keep seat amid “Party-gate”.




Inflation driving more people to food banks

Early on in the pandemic, business closures and layoffs drove millions of previously solvent American families to seek help from local charities. Food banks in particular saw increasingly high demand. Then in 2021, as the economy re-opened, wages steadily rose and millions of low-income families benefitted from the short-lived monthly child tax credit, lines at food banks diminished somewhat. But now, the rise in wages has failed to keep up with rampant inflation, and as of January, millions of families are having to do without the monthly child tax credit. And food banks have seen their lines of needy folks steadily increase once again.

Families with low and fixed incomes have generally been able to keep up with fixed costs like mortgages and rent. But many are now finding they have little or nothing to spare to buy commodities with more volatile pricing like gas and groceries. On average, groceries now cost 6.3% more than they did a year ago. 

The Federal Reserve is now eyeing tactics to slow inflation. The Fed has telegraphed that they will most likely raise interest rates on borrowing steadily, with 3 or 4 incremental increases over the coming year. Experts are still debating whether the Fed was waited too long or whether their proposals will be sufficient to cool the rate of inflation.

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


Georgia DA seeks FBI protection after Trump comments

A Georgia District Attorney investigating former President Trump and his political organization has asked for increased protection from the FBI. Fulton County DA Fani Willis made the request after inflammatory comments by Trump at a weekend rally. Last week, Willis announced that she would seat a special grand jury to investigate Trump & Co. for attempts to obstruct Georgia’s election process. That body will convene on May 2.

Days before the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, Trump phoned Georgia’s Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger. During the call, Trump demanded that Raffensperger “find” the 11,000-odd votes it would take for Trump to win the state. Trump also implied there would be consequences for Raffensperger should he refuse.

Over the weekend, Trump held a rally in which he lashed out at the “vicious, horrible people” looking to hold him accountable for this act of extortion. Willis says Trump’s statements “escalated” security concerns for herself and her staff. 

Willis may have good reason to worry. Recent polls, including this one by the COVID States Project, suggest that a growing number of Americans believe it is justifiable and even necessary to use violence to advance political goals.

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



UK’s Johnson scrambles to keep seat amid “Party-gate”

The office of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has published a heavily redacted report of the investigation of “party-gate”. During the UK’s harsh lockdowns that shuttered shops and pubs, Johnson and his staff held numerous boozy office parties at his government seat at 10 Downing Street. The scathing report by civil servant Sue Gray cited “serious failures of leadership and judgement” that allowed the parties to go ahead.

While the parties all took place well over a year ago, the controversy is coming to a head now because of other perceived political failures by Johnson’s Conservative Party. The scandal is such that many speculate it could potentially bring down Johnson’s government.

This scandal at home may have more far reaching consequences. In an attempt to stay politically relevant, Johnson has committed significant military resources in Eastern Europe amid rising Russia-Ukraine tensions.

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



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



New York apartment fire kills 19, including 9 children. Fears of extremism in U.S. military on the rise. No breakthroughs expected in U.S.-Russia talks on Ukraine.




New York apartment fire kills 19, including 9 children

A fire in a 19-story apartment building in the Bronx has claimed the lives of 19 people so far, among them 9 children. At least 13 others remain in critical condition. Officials say this is one of the worst apartment fires in the city’s history. NY Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro identified the cause as a faulty space heater. Over 200 city fire fighters responded to the scene.

The affordable housing block for low to middle income residents is one of many 70’s era residential buildings in the borough that had no sprinkler system. Sprinkler systems were not a requirement when the building went up. The building also has no fire escape. Reports from the scene suggest that people who stayed within their apartments were largely safe. Many of those who perished had attempted to flee through smoke-filled hallways and stairwells, unwittingly putting themselves in greater danger.

The building had a history of violations including for rats and other sanitary issues. Residents said fire alarms frequently went off when no fire was present, and were largely ignored. There will be a full investigation to see if there were any fire code violations.

Last week in Philadelphia, another apartment fire killed 12 people, 8 of them children.

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


Fears of extremism in U.S. military on the rise

Since the Jan. 6 Capitol riot last year, the Pentagon has increased its vigilance in monitoring extremist views among its ranks. Militant extremist groups like Proud Boys and Oath Keepers have a long history of aggressively recruiting veterans and active duty military personnel as well as members of law enforcement.

Of the 700 individuals facing charges for the Jan. 6 uprising, more than 80 have ties to the military. This includes Ashli Babbit, who was shot dead by a Capitol Police officer as she attempted to enter a sealed corridor. Babbit was a 14-year veteran of the Air Force and had numerous deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Details of her life after leaving the service paint a picture of a woman prone to erratic and sometimes threatening behavior. When she eventually got caught up in various pro-Trump conspiracy theories, she began posting angry rants on social media. Her fervor ultimately led to her playing an active role in an attempt to violently overturn the 2020 election.

Stories of veterans like Babbit are all too common. But politicians and military officials are increasingly worried about such ideologies taking root among active duty personnel. There are fears of an internal military insurrection after the 2024 election which could threaten American democracy.

While analysts are glad the Pentagon is finally taking the problem seriously, they say that efforts to root out seditious views among troops do not go far enough.

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



No breakthroughs expected in U.S.-Russia talks on Ukraine

This week, U.S., Russian, and European diplomats are meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, in hopes of allaying military tensions over Ukraine. In recent months, Russia has stationed some 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin has slated a list of demands with regard to Western involvement in Ukraine, which he described as “red lines”. Among other things, Putin wants to prevent Ukraine from becoming a member of NATO.

It’s difficult to gauge whether the amassing of Russian troops is a genuine prelude to an invasion or merely a pressure tactic to win concessions. President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have warned Russia would suffer severe economic consequences in the event of a Ukrainian incursion. Putin has countered that fresh sanctions would be a mistake and would lead to a final rupture in Russia’s relations with the West.

Ahead of this week’s talks, neither Russian nor U.S. negotiators seemed to hold out much hope of productive negotiations. As Sec. Blinken put it, it’s difficult to envisage a diplomatic resolution while Putin has “a gun to the head of Ukraine”.

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



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



Epstein girlfriend guilty of sex trafficking. JetBlue cancels 1280 flights as travel chaos continues. Putin makes surprise call to Biden over Ukraine.




Epstein girlfriend guilty of trafficking underage girls

Ghislaine Maxwell, a former girlfriend of deceased pedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein, has been found guilty of trafficking underage girls for sex. During her long association with Epstein, Maxwell helped procure potentially hundreds of teenage girls for sex with Epstein and some of his high profile friends. Four survivors of their abuse testified that Maxwell approached, befriended and groomed the girls, and sometimes even participated in the abuse herself. Maxwell, 60, could be spending the rest of her life in prison.

The deliberations took surprisingly long, with the jury mulling the verdict for 5 days. This prompted the judge to ask the jury to work overtime and through the coming weekend if necessary. The judge said that rising COVID numbers in New York threatened to derail the trial, potentially forcing a mistrial.

Maxwell’s lawyers have said they will appeal the verdict.

Celebrity pals

During the 90s and early 2000s, Epstein and Maxwell rubbed shoulders with the world’s elite. Both Bill Clinton and Donald Trump were known to keep company with Epstein. Trump even once called Epstein “a terrific guy”. Clinton flew multiple times on Epstein’s jet, dubbed the “Lolita Express”, and spent time on Epstein’s private island. To date, none of Epstein’s victims have accused Clinton or Trump of improper conduct.

The same cannot be said for Prince Andrew of Great Britain. The prince was forced to step away from public life after photos surfaced of his with his arm around Virginia Giuffre, then 17. Giuffre claims to have been coerced into having sex with Andrew multiple times while she was underage. She’s filed a lawsuit against the prince, but he is not facing criminal charges.

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


JetBlue cancels 1280 flights as travel chaos continues

Discount domestic carrier JetBlue has canceled 1280 flights between now and mid-January. These are the latest in a wave of cancellations by numerous airlines, starting the Wednesday before Christmas. Airlines say that the cancellations have to do with staff shortages due to an uptick in COVID infections. Severe weather conditions across the U.S. have also contributed.

Flight attendants unhappy with new COVID guidance

Earlier this week, the CDC issued new guidance that shortened isolation times for COVID-19 infections. Under the new guidelines, COVID-positive people who are asymptomatic can isolate for 5 days instead of 10. The leader of the flight attendants union claims that the new CDC guidance bowed to pressure from the airlines. Airlines have lobbied for the shorter isolation times to alleviate their personnel shortages. 

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, stated, “If any business pressures a worker to return to work before they feel better we will make clear it is an unsafe work environment, which will cause a much greater disruption than any ‘staffing shortages'”.

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



Putin makes surprise call to Biden over Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin has requested a call with President Biden, which will take place today. This will be the second direct talks between Putin and Biden this month. Putin hopes to address a number of security issues regarding Ukraine and other countries that border Russia.

In recent months, upwards of 100,000 Russian troops have amassed at the Ukrainian border. Putin claims he has no plans to invade, but it appears he is using the soft threat of an invasion as a bargaining chip in talks about wider regional security. 

Since the Berlin Wall fell, NATO has positioned ever increasing assets in former Soviet countries on Russia’s border. Putin wants the NATO presence on his doorstep dialed back. He also wants to prevent former Soviet nations like Ukraine and Georgia from obtaining NATO membership. 

Today’s call is a preamble for formal talks that will take place next month.

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


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



Supreme Court to rule on vaccine requirements. FDA approves two new anti-COVID pills. Ukraine-Russia hostilities on hold, for now.




Supreme Court to hear challenges to vaccine requirements

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear legal challenges to federal vaccine requirements for large employers. Last month, OSHA issued new regulations for private employers with more than 100 employees. These companies must require either vaccines or masks and weekly testing for unvaccinated workers. The requirements are set to take effect early next year.

The court will also consider challenges a second federal requirement for healthcare facilities treating Medicare and Medicaid patients to mandate vaccines for its workers. This regulation offers no testing option. As of now, the requirement is already in effect in 26 states, but federal rulings have blocked its enforcement in 24 states. 

Business groups and attorneys general in several states have challenged the mandates. The Supreme Court will hear arguments on January 7.

It’s difficult to predict which way the court will rule. While the sitting court has not been shy about tacitly supporting conservative and religious positions on issues such as abortion, the Justices have so far largely backed various vaccine mandates. The court recently rejected requests for religious exemptions to vaccine mandates for nurses in Maine and New York.

Omicron reaches all 50 states in less than a month

The arguments come at a pivotal moment as the U.S. faces yet another wave of COVID infections from the omicron variant. The variant’s rapid spread has health officials worried. Two studies from the UK have concluded that the likelihood of hospitalization with the omicron variant is either 20% or 30% less than with the delta variant. Another study from South Africa, where omicron was first identified, pointed to a 70% reduction.

But the infectiousness of the omicron variant may end up canceling out any upside from its milder symptoms. Hospitals across the country are already struggling with staffing and space shortages due to omicron outbreaks.

There is some good news! 

The FDA has issued emergency use authorizations for two oral antiviral pills that have proven effective in reducing symptoms and hospitalizations for COVID patients. The first is Pfizer’s Paxlovid, which studies show is about 90% effective in reducing symptoms and preventing hospitalization when taken within the first five days of symptoms appearing. The second is Merck’s Molnupiravir. Monupiravir is not as effective as Paxlovid (only about 30%) but clinicians may prescribe it if Paxlovid isn’t available.



Ukraine-Russia hostilities on hold, for now

Ukrainian and Russian officials have agreed to revive a 2020 ceasefire agreement in Eastern Ukraine in time for the holidays. In recent weeks, there have been scattered skirmishes between Ukrainian military and Russian separatists in those regions. Last week, a Ukrainian soldier was killed when Russian separatists fired mortars and other ordinance at a military position.

In a lengthy end-of-year press conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed the West, and in particular the U.S. and NATO for the escalating tensions. Last week, the Kremlin issued a number of demands for de-escalation, including the halt of NATO’s spread into Eastern Europe and a legally-binding moratorium on installing certain types of offensive weapons in countries bordering Russia. Putin said that if the West wants peace, “the ball is in their court”.

Recently, President Biden has held remote talks with Putin. Putin has proposed dates for yet more talks after the first of the year. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said the U.S. remains open to diplomatic solutions. But the White House opposes the types of guarantees Putin is asking for.

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




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



Michigan school shooter, 15, charged as adult; charges possible for parents. Four states give unemployment benefits to vaccine holdouts. Blinken tries to head off Russia-Ukraine hostilities.




Michigan school shooter, 15, charged as adult

On Tuesday afternoon, investigators say Oxford High School student Ethan Crumbley, 15, loaded his semi-automatic 9mm Sig Sauer handgun in a school bathroom before embarking on a shooting rampage. Crumbley fired more than 30 rounds, eventually killing four fellow students and seriously injuring 7 others.

Sheriff’s deputies in Oakland County, MI, say Crumbley made no statement after being taken into custody. He invoked his 5th Amendment rights at the instruction of his parents. Nevertheless, Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald has charged Crumbley as an adult with four counts of first-degree murder, which requires premeditation. McDonald has a mountain of evidence demonstrating that Crumbley’s had planned his crimes. This includes a video of Crumbley from the night before the shooting and a journal recovered from his backpack, both of which discussed a desire to kill fellow students. McDonald says that premeditation “isn’t even a close call”.

McDonald also hinted at another piece of evidence that had apparently come to light before the shooting. She did not say specifically what it was but said “I can assure you it was troubling. It was disturbing and unfortunately he was allowed to go back to class”.

Charges for teen’s parents?

McDonald also implied that her office will be “swiftly” deciding whether to bring charges against Crumbley’s parents as well. Crumbley’s father James purchased the weapon on Friday, just 4 days before the shooting. Teachers had called James and Crumbley’s mother, Jennifer, to the school on Tuesday morning to discuss their son’s disturbing behavior. This was mere hours before the shooting spree.

McDonald did not hint at what charges they were considering for Crumbley’s parents. But Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel says the state currently has no laws that specifically penalize parents in such cases. However, Nessel says she believes it would be appropriate to punish parents who allow a mentally-disturbed child unfettered access to a weapon. “Theoretically, she says, “I don’t think it would be a huge stretch to charge the parents with involuntary manslaughter under those circumstances”.

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


Four states guaranteeing unemployment benefits for vaccine holdouts

In most states, employees who lose jobs for refusing to abide by their employer’s vaccine policy are not eligible for unemployment benefits without a health or religious exemption. Unemployment benefits do not generally apply to employees who quit or were “fired for cause”. Anne Paxton of the Unemployment Law Project in Washington state explains that these benefits are intended “for people who are unemployed through no fault of their own”.

But Iowa, Tennessee, Florida, and Kansas are changing their rules on “cause” to carve out a specific exemption for those who have been fired or left their jobs due to vaccine requirements. Ironically, of these four states, only Kansas did not end federal unemployment benefits early before the federal expiration in September. Given this, Paxton says, “It’s very hard to regard this particular move as being based on anything much more than political reasons”.

Dorit Reiss of UC Hastings College of Law, says these states are essentially “offering a financial benefit for not vaccinating”. These states could more broadly guarantee unemployment benefits for anyone who falls afoul of company policies. Instead, Reiss says states are creating a specific clause to benefit vaccine holdouts. By doing this, Reiss says they are “sending a message that vaccines are not important. And that’s a bad message”.

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



Blinken tries to head off Russia-Ukraine hostilities

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Stockholm, Sweden, today. The talks centered on a build-up of Russian military assets on the Ukrainian border. For several weeks, U.S. intelligence has been monitoring about 100,000 Russian troops within striking distance of Ukraine.

Russia does not dispute the intelligence accounts but says that it is not the aggressor. Instead, they claim to see a threat in Ukraine’s accumulation of forces on its border with Russia. The tensions are part of a broader power struggle between Russia and NATO. Ukraine is a NATO partner but not a full member. That means there are limits to the military support NATO is likely to offer in the event of a Russian invasion.

Blinken warned that Russia would pay a price in the form of steep economic sanctions for any aggression against Ukraine. Blinken also warned Ukraine to exercise restraint and that Russia would likely attempt goad Ukraine into a military confrontation.

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


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