Tag Archive for: President Joe Biden

Supreme Court hears challenge to Biden student debt relief plan.

Judge allows Sandy Hook families to probe Alex Jones’ finances.

Anger in Israel after settlers get slap on wrist for deadly rampage.


Supreme Court hears challenge to Biden student loan relief plan

The Supreme Court heard arguments today in legal challenges from several conservatives states who want to block Biden’s student debt relief program. The plan would eliminate up to $20,000 in student debt for low-income borrowers and up to $10,000 for individual borrowers earning less than $125,000 per year. The Congressional Budget Office says the plan would cost about $430 billion over 30 years.

The problem of “standing”

Attorneys Generals in six states are suing to block the program, but legal experts say their standing to bring the challenges is questionable. A person or entity demonstrates standing in a case by demonstrating they will be harmed if an action is carried out, financially or otherwise. Since the loans are federal loans, forgiveness wouldn’t cost individual states anything.

Instead, the attorneys general are arguing that private loan servicing companies based in their states would lose money (and therefore the state would lose tax money) because they would receive less in interest, servicing fees and penalty fees from borrowers. None of the loan servicing entities themselves have sued.

Two borrowers who do not qualify for forgiveness under the plan’s framework are also suing. Their standing is also shaky as they would gain nothing if they win.

Executive overreach?

Even though the standing of the parties bringing the suit is uncertain, the Justices could choose to strike down the plan on the merits of the law. The Department of Education is arguing that the 2003 HEROES Act gives the department the authority to erase or decrease student debt.

Legal experts say that this justification is broad but not necessarily applicable. The HEROES Act allows the department to modify the parameters of student loan repayments. However, critics of the plan say the Act doesn’t give the department the authority to do away with debt altogether.

During arguments today, the conservative Justices seemed most interested in tackling the problem from that perspective. Several of them seemed to doubt that the HEROES Act gave the administration the authority to do away with $430 billion in debt.

Student debt relief advocates have long said that the strongest justification for relief comes from the 1965 Higher Education Act. They argue that this law gives the Department of Education unambiguous and unlimited authority over matters of federal student loans. Both the Biden administration and previous administrations have used the 1965 law to forgive debt for certain borrowers.

A ruling in the case is due by the end of June this year.

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Judge allows Sandy Hook families to probe Alex Jones’ finances

Last year, two groups of family members of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting won settlements totalling $1.5 billion against conservative conspiracy pundit Alex Jones. Jones repeatedly made false statements about the shooting being a hoax. As a result, the surviving family members suffered years of threats and harassment from people who bought into Jones’ narrative.

Now, a judge has ruled that the families can retain a forensic financial investigator to dig into Jones’ finances so they can collect their settlement. Jones has declared bankruptcy in an attempt to avoid paying. However, Jones’ filings in a Texas bankruptcy court show that Jones spends nearly $100,000 a month

The ruling will allow the families to track down money Jones has hidden in trusts and various shell companies. Jones may also face a third Sandy Hook-related defamation trial this year.

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Anger in Israel after settlers get slap on wrist for deadly rampage

Tensions have flared between West Bank Palestinians and Jewish Israelis living in illegal settlements following an Israeli military raid in Nablus last week which killed 11 Palestinians. On Sunday, a suspected Palestinian gunman killed two Jewish settlers in a village near Nablus. Shortly thereafter, about 400 settlers, many of them armed and under the protection of the Israeli military, carried out violent raids on several villages in the area. At least one Palestinian was killed, a medic whose brother said he’d recently returned from volunteering in quake-hit regions of Turkey. 

During the rampage, which went on for several hours, at least 30 Palestinian homes and over 100 cars were set ablaze. At least 390 Palestinians suffered injuries, many from inhaling smoke and tear gas. Despite the massive riot and the presence of security personnel, only eight settlers were arrested. Six of those were released almost immediately without charge and two were placed under house arrest.

As shocking as this is, it’s typical according to the Israeli rights group Yesh Din. Only 3% investigations into attacks against Palestinians by settlers result in a conviction, the group says. About 93% of investigations end without an indictment.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently retook power in Israel with the help of a far-right nationalist coalition. Some members of this coalition praised the rioters. They also forced Netanyahu to renege on a promise to halt new settlements in the West Bank. Netanyahu agreed to the pause at a peace summit with Palestinian and US leaders this weekend in Jordan.

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Nearly 1 million without power as winter storms wallop 25 states.

Biden proposal to restrict asylum at border criticized.

Gaza and Israel exchange rocket fire for second time this year.



Nearly 1 million without power as winter storms wallop 25 states

Western and northern states are experiencing severe storms with heavy snowfall which will continue for the next few days. At the moment, nearly 1 million people across the affected states are without power. Over 800,000 of those are in Michigan. Since yesterday, more than 2500 flights have been canceled and over 5000 have been delayed.

Road travel is also very hazardous. In the most hard hit states, authorities have warned residents to stay indoors and stay off the roads. This includes states where residents are accustomed to icy conditions and snow. But areas that rarely see heavy snow are also getting it now, including Las Vegas, Nevada, and Los Angeles County in California. Even after the blizzards subside, dangerously low temperatures will move in, keeping conditions icy for days.

There is some hope that the snow might help to somewhat alleviate drought conditions in California and the Midwest. Last year, a shortfall of precipitation in the Midwest lowered water levels in the Mississippi River to the point that barges had difficulty moving freight.

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Biden proposal to restrict asylum at border criticized

Earlier this year, the Biden administration expanded Title 42 restrictions to immigrants from Nicaragua, Venezuela, Cuba and Haiti. Title 42 allows border authorities to immediately expel arrivals at the border without allowing them to seek asylum. At the same time, the administration created a new pathway to allow people from these countries to apply for temporary visas from their home countries. However, many immigrant advocates say that the requirements for these visas are too restrictive and deny access to the most vulnerable people.

This week, the administration announced a proposal to further restrict who can apply for asylum in the US. This program would declare anyone ineligible to apply for asylum if they passed through a third country without seeking protection in that third country. Advocates for immigration rights say this program will cause “unnecessary suffering” for the most vulnerable asylum seekers. The move has also been criticized as a carbon-copy of Trump-era policies that Biden promised to abolish. The administration denies this, saying it makes exceptions in certain cases where Trump’s policy didn’t.

Biden seems to have introduced these policies as a way to appease Republican critics, most of whom still say they are too permissive. 

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Gaza and Israel exchange rocket fire again after deadly West Bank raids

For the second time this year, Gaza and Israel have exchanged rocket fire. Six rockets were fired into southern Israel from Gaza at dawn this morning, five of which were intercepted by Iron Dome. Israel then carried out airstrikes on what it claims were two militant sites in Gaza. So far there are no reports of deaths or injuries. 

As in the previous instance in January, the rocket attacks from Gaza came after a deadly Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank. On Wednesday, troops entered the West Bank city of Nablus, with the stated goal of capturing some militants who were planning attacks on Jewish Israelis. In the densely occupied area, 11 Palestinians were killed, including three elderly men and a 16-year-old boy. Over 100 more were injured. 

Since last year, Israeli security forces have been carrying out violent raids in the West Bank in response to terrorist attacks. Palestinian authorities say that most of the people killed in these raids are unarmed civilians. In the Nablus raid, witnesses described soldiers firing at people indiscriminately, including into crowds and at passers-by.

Last year, the Israeli army killed 171 Palestinians, 30 of them children, in the West Bank, making it the West Bank’s deadliest year since 2006. So far in 2023, Israeli security forces have killed 62 Palestinians, including 13 children, in the occupied territories.

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Buttigieg sends “sharply worded letter” to train company 16 days after Ohio derailment.

Biden makes surprise visit to Ukrainian capital ahead of Russian war anniversary.

Breaking: Another massive quake strikes Turkey.

Breaking: Another massive quake strikes Turkey 

Just over an hour ago, a 6.4 magnitude struck the southern Turkish province of Hatay. This is now two weeks after two earthquakes measuring 7.8 and 7.5 struck further east. In those quakes, Hatay was one of Turkey’s worst affected provinces. This quake seems to have been centered on Antakya (ancient Antioch). There, many people have been sleeping in tents since the initial earthquakes hit, afraid to return to their homes with over 100 aftershocks a day still threatening to topple already damaged buildings.

Early reports indicate that more buildings did come down in this quake. It’s too early to say at this moment whether this quake will add significantly to the already astronomically high death toll. Rescue crews are already there on the ground assisting in recovery from the previous quakes. However, the region is likely to experience more strong aftershocks from this quake in the coming hours and days. 

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Buttigieg sends “sharply worded letter” to train company 16 days after Ohio derailment

Yesterday – just over two weeks after the Feb. 3 derailment of a train carrying toxic chemicals in East Palestine, OH – Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg wrote what ABC News calls a “sharply worded letter” to the CEO of the Norfolk Southern rail company. Worth noting, Buttigieg didn’t address the incident at all for 10 days, despite being head of the relevant department. 

The derailment and the release and controlled burn of vinyl chloride at the site has raised health fears among East Palestine’s 5000 residents. Local authorities ordered an evacuation of the area shortly after the derailment, fearing a catastrophic explosion from the vinyl chloride. Residents were allowed back six days after. Many say they have regretted returning. Locals say that they can still smell strong fumes in the area and have reported various troubling symptoms including burning eyes and throat, loose stools, headaches and rashes.

State authorities have been insistent that the chemical spill has not affected local drinking water supplies. However, residents are not convinced, after a massive die off of fish in local waterways.

Norfolk Southern initially offered to pay the town $25,000, or about $5 per resident. It’s now upped its offer of an “inconvenience fee” to $1000 per household. The company is worth about $55 billion and reported record profits last year

Residents aren’t having it and have launched several lawsuits against the rail company, demanding among other things that the company pay for special medical screenings for anyone exposed to the spill and its aftermath.

What did Buttigieg’s “sharply worded letter” say?

Essentially, Buttigieg calls on Norfolk Southern to pay for the clean-up, “make residents whole”, and accept safety reforms. The letter points out that Norfolk Southern and the entire rail industry has actively lobbied against safety rules changes that would likely have prevented the Feb. 3 incident, or at least limited the scale of the catastrophe.

Specifically, he cited the industry’s efforts to fight tighter rules around high-hazard flammable trains (HHFT). These rules govern the speed at which these trains can travel through populated areas as well was what equipment and personnel have to be on the train. Thanks to lobbying pressure from the rail industry during the Obama administration, the rules for labeling these trains is very lax. As a result, the East Palestine train was not labeled as a high-hazard flammable train, despite carrying at least 5 cars containing highly-flammable and toxic chemicals.

The rail industry lobby was also successful in repealing a rule requiring installation of Electronically Controlled Pneumatic (ECP) braking technology during the Trump administration. As a result, the East Palestine train was using the Civil War-era braking technology used on most US rail freight.

NTSB is still investigating the cause of the accident, but it seems clear that poor regulation was at the root of it.

Buttigieg’s poor track record

Buttigieg’s letter concludes, “I expect that Norfolk Southern and other railroads will take action now, not later, to address public safety concerns and better prevent future disasters”. Unfortunately, Buttigieg does not have a good track record of holding companies accountable when it comes to repeated systemic failures.

For example, he failed to meaningfully tackle or address thousands of flight cancellations last summer. It wasn’t until the summer travel season was nearly over that Buttigieg threatened to take any action against airlines that did not offer inconvenienced travelers a full refund. Both Republican and Democratic Senators also blasted Buttigieg for his handling of the Southwest Airlines meltdown in December, and for his absence from a Senate hearing on the subject.

Before joining Biden’s Cabinet, Buttigieg was Mayor of South Bend, IN, from 2012 to 2020, earning him the moniker “Mayor Pete”. His greatest transportation-related accomplishment as Mayor of South Bend was putting some decorative lights on a bridge.

In his two years leading the Department of Transportation, Buttigieg has had ample opportunity to raise concerns about woefully inadequate safety regulations on the railroads. He did not. Admittedly, these failures to legislate and regulate predate his tenure. Still, two years is a long time for the Secretary of Transportation to say nothing about this immense problem. So is 16 days.

You can read the full contents of Buttigieg’s “sharply worded letter” by clicking here and scrolling down the page (opens in new tab).



Biden makes surprise visit to Ukrainian capital ahead of Russian war anniversary

This Friday, Feb. 24, will mark the one year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Ahead of this sad occasion, President Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, where he met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Biden reiterated US and Western support for Ukraine’s fight and pledged a further $500 million in US financial aid. He also commended the Ukrainians for holding out for a year against all odds. This time a year ago, most thought the war would be over in two weeks.

In addition to the anniversary, the timing of Biden’s visit coincides with a moment of increasing division among Ukraine’s allies. Zelenskyy has been aggressively campaigning for his allies to send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine ahead of a renewed Russian offensive. He’s been asking for them since March last year, though with little hope of receiving them. After Germany and the US recently agreed to send battle tanks, a move they’d long resisted, Zelenskyy doubled and tripled down on his requests for F-16s.

Some of the allies, like Ukraine’s neighbor Poland, are all too eager to send them, but are waiting for some sign of support from the US, France, the UK or Germany. Over the weekend, US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield may have signaled increased willingness by the US to supply the jets. Thomas-Greenfield says the US is “still having discussions” with Ukrainians on the subject.

One very good argument against supplying the jets to Ukraine is that it might just be the final push needed for China to begin supplying weapons to Russia.

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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.  

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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.

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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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 Tyre Nichols: 7 Memphis PD officers probed; More concerning revelations about MPD Chief Davis.

Biden to deliver State of the Union tonight with lackluster poll numbers.

Turkey-Syria earthquake: Death toll nears 8,000; conditions hamper rescue efforts.



Tyre Nichols: 7 Memphis PD officers probed; More concerning revelations about MPD Chief Davis

Memphis city attorney Jennifer Sink announced at a city council meeting that 7 MPD officers are currently under investigation in the death of Tyre Nichols last month. That brings the total number of officers fired or disciplined by the department to 13. Five officers have already been fired and charged with second-degree murder. A sixth officer, Preston Hemphill, was also recently fired. Hemphill’s violations related to his personal conduct, his truthfulness and his non-regulation use of his Taser. In the police bodycam footage of Nichols’ initial stop, Hemphill could be heard saying “I hope they stomp his ass”. The department also revealed that a 7th unnamed officer had been placed on administrative leave.

The investigation of the 7 police officers Ms. Sink referred to is apparently an internal MPD investigation to determine whether they violated department protocols. There’s no indication yet that any of them are facing a possibility of criminal charges.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice has opened an investigation of the MPD. Specifically, the DOJ is reviewing the department’s use of force policies and its use of special enforcement units. All five officers indicted in Nichols’ death were members of the now disbanded SCORPION unit.

More concerning revelations about MPD Chief Davis

There have already been concerns about MPD Chief Cerelyn Davis’ initial reluctance to disband SCORPION despite many violations, and her time leading a similarly infamous and brutal squad in Atlanta. Davis was fired from the Atlanta PD in 2008 for attempting to halt an underage sex crimes investigation into the husband of one of her colleagues. But Davis appealed her dismissal and the Atlanta PD rehired her three months later.

It now comes to light that after rejoining the APD, Davis helped establish an exchange program with the Israel National Police. When she later became police chief in Durham, NC, Davis’ prior involvement with this program alarmed local activists who successfully lobbied the city council to ban such exchanges for Durham officers.

Advocates for police reform say that these exchanges contribute to the over-militarization of US policing. Eran Efrati of the group Jewish Voice for Peace says that “what takes place during US-Israel police exchanges does nothing to keep our communities safe”. Instead, Efrati says, “participants witness real-life examples of repressive violence” against Palestinians by Israeli security officers.

Police reform advocate Alex Vitale says the training US police receive in Israel “encourages a warrior mindset” and “exposes them to practices that would be unconstitutional in the US”.

Since Davis became Memphis Police Chief in 2021, and particularly since the death of Tyre Nichols, community leaders have expressed skepticism about Davis’ commitment to police reform. Earle Fisher, a Memphis pastor and campaigner against police brutality, said of Davis, “She’s presented herself as very polished and diplomatic in her presentation; but that doesn’t change the substance of the philosophy that she uses”. 

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Biden to deliver State of the Union tonight with lackluster poll numbers

President Biden will deliver his State of the Union address tonight at 9pm ET/8pm CT. Many expect that he will use this opportunity to make the case for his ambition to serve a second term. Biden hasn’t officially announced whether he will seek a second term, but most believe such an announcement is inevitable. Going into the speech, Biden has been buoyed by some encouraging economic news. Unemployment remains very low and inflation, while still high, is showing signs of slowing. However, Biden is not exactly riding high in the most recent polls.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll has Biden’s approval at just 41%. This is not the lowest of his presidency; the same poll had him at just 36% approval in May and June of 2022. An ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that 4 in 10 Americans say they are worse off financially than when Biden took office. This is likely tied to inflation and may improve over the next two years. But perhaps most discouraging for Biden’s 2024 prospects is an AP-Norc poll that found just 37% of Democrats want Biden to seek a second term. Unlike the other polls, this figure is heading in the wrong direction for Biden. Before the midterms, 52% of Democrats wanted him to run again.

Names and faces to put to Biden’s policies

Tonight is Biden’s big chance to make his case for the American people. Several people have been invited tonight to help Biden make his points about what he hopes to accomplish. RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, the mother and stepfather of Tyre Nichols, will lend support to Biden’s police reform agenda. Brandon Tsay, who disarmed the Monterey Park mass shooter last month, will be the guest of First Lady Jill Biden. Tsay’s presence is likely to bolster Biden’s case for gun reform. 

Others who will be in attendance have a stake in some of Biden’s key policies on infrastructure, immigration, abortion, cancer and other medical research, climate change, technological advancement and manufacturing. Also in attendance will be the Ukrainian Ambassador to the US.

Biden is also expected to offer an olive branch to skeptical Republicans while also advocating for a more equitable tax system.



Turkey-Syria earthquake: Death toll nears 8,000; conditions hamper rescue efforts

We’re learning more today about the sheer scale of death and destruction from the earthquake in Turkey yesterday morning. Tonight, the death toll in in Turkey stands at 5,894 people with around 32,000 injured. Across the border in Syria, the death toll is at 1,932. The World Health Organization has estimated that the death toll may rise to around 20,000. There also remain thousands of people still alive trapped under rubble, some contacting loved ones with their cell phones.

Despite the tireless efforts of local professional and volunteer rescuers, as well as teams arriving from dozens of countries, work is progressing slowly. Rescue efforts are being hampered by bitterly cold and inclement weather, a lack of equipment, shortages of supplies including food and fuel, and strong incessant aftershocks. About every 20 minutes on average, strong aftershocks are occurring somewhere within the area. This makes debris unstable and rescue efforts more perilous.

Additionally, the strong earthquakes yesterday damaged critical infrastructure like roads and airport runways. This has made it more difficult to bring in people and equipment. In Syria, the ongoing civil war has also made it more difficult for rescuers and equipment to enter rebel-held areas. Workers in the rebel-held areas say the Assad government is blocking supplies from entering. 

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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.

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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.


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Los Angeles: Gunman found dead after killing 10 at Chinese New Year celebration. What we know about the case so far.

DOJ finds 6 more classified documents at Biden home.

Canada: $2.9 billion settlement with First Nations over boarding school harm




Los Angeles: At least 10 dead after mass shooting at Chinese Lunar New Year celebration

On Saturday night, a group in the predominately Asian city of Monterey Park, near Los Angeles, had gathered at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio to celebrate Lunar New Year. A gunman entered and opened fire, sending the celebrants running. At least 10 people so far have died following the shooting, five men and five women, in their 50s and 60s or above. Ten others remain in the hospital. The FBI and ATF are assisting local authorities in the investigation. 

Police released these images of the suspect captured on surveillance.

After the Monterrey Park shooting, the gunman got in a white cargo van and drove to another dance hall in nearby Alhambra. There patrons managed to disarm the gunman and he again fled in the van. The gun was not an assault rifle but a pistol with an extended magazine, which is banned in California.

Midday on Sunday, about 12 hours after the shooting, police cornered the van in a shopping center parking lot in Torrance, CA, about 20 miles away from the Star Ballroom. As officers approached, they heard a single gunshot from inside the van. Police then called for tactical teams. When they made contact with the driver, he was dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Authorities have confirmed that the driver was the shooter. Police aren’t looking for any other suspects. 

Gunman identified; motive remains unclear

This event is now the most deadly mass shooting in the US since the school shooting in Uvalde, TX, last year.

Before the suspect was found, police released a surveillance image of the man they believed to be the shooter. Initial reports suggested it was an Asian male between 30 and 50 years old. He was in fact 72 years old, and his name was Huu Can Tran.

At present, there’s no clear motive for the shooting. Police say it is too early to determine whether or not it was a hate crime. California and Los Angeles in particular have been plagued by numerous anti-Asian hate crimes in the last two years. Tran being Asian himself  wouldn’t necessarily preclude it from being a hate crime. Monterrey Park was the first city in the mainland US to have a majority population of Asian ancestry. The area is home to people claiming ancestry from China, Taiwan, Vietnam and Japan.

Tran’s friend, ex-wife say he frequented the Star Ballroom

Tran’s ex-wife provided CNN with a copy of their marriage certificate which indicates that Tran was an immigrant from China. The ex-wife told CNN that she first met Tran at the Star Ballroom, where he was a regular patron, about two decades ago. Tran saw her dancing and offered her free lessons. They were married not long after, but the marriage didn’t last long. The ex-wife says she filed for divorce in 2005. She said Tran wasn’t violent towards her, but was quick to anger. He would berate her if she missed a step while dancing, saying it made him look bad.

A long-time friend of Tran’s said Tran was a frequent presence at the Star Ballroom from the early 2000s to the 2010s. It’s unclear whether or not he had continued visiting in recent years. The friend said that Tran accused other dance instructors at the hall saying “evil things about him” and that Tran was “hostile to a lot of people there.”

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DOJ finds 6 more documents at Biden home

News broke over the weekend that the Justice Department had conducted another search of President Biden’s private home in Wilmington, DE. The search yielded six more previously undiscovered documents within the home. President and First Lady Biden were not present in the home when the search took place. Biden has been cooperating with the DOJ since before the midterms. This search was arranged with his cooperation and consent.

Authorities haven’t said where in the home these documents were found. Previously, documents had been found in the home’s garage.

This is now the second weekend in a row that discoveries have been announced at the home. We don’t yet have an exact total of classified documents from Biden’s Wilmington home and his private office at a think tank in D.C. Before this weekend’s discovery, the total was only given as “roughly 20” which means we now stand at “roughly 26”.

There’s also been no official confirmation of what level of classification the documents have. At the time of the first finds in D.C., an anonymous source reported that some from that cache were TS/SCI documents. These documents are never meant to be removed from secure areas, known as SCIFs.

So far, authorities have said most of the documents date from the Obama administration, but others reportedly go back to Biden’s time as a US Senator. Biden represented Delaware in the Senate from 1973 to 2009, when he became Obama’s Vice President.

Any “high ground” left?

Republicans have roundly criticized Biden and the DOJ for a lack of transparency with regard to the investigation. The first cache of documents was found days before the midterms but did not become public knowledge until after the first of the year. Since then, there has been a gradual drip-drip of new discoveries. Twice now, these finds were conveniently announced over the weekend. This is a common tactic used when one wants to minimize press coverage. 

Even Democratic Sen. Dick Durban says there’s no question that Biden has lost the “high ground” when it comes to former Pres. Trump’s mishandling of documents. However, there are still some key differences between the Biden and Trump cases.

Trump had over 100 classified documents when his home was raided. Of course, there’s no way of knowing how many documents will be found in Biden’s various homes and offices when all is said and done.

At this point, the main difference between Biden and Trump is that Biden appears to be fully cooperating fully with the Justice Department. By contrast, Trump obstructed the efforts of the National Archives to retrieve the documents in his possession, even convincing his own lawyers to perjure themselves so Trump could keep “his” classified documents.

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Canada: $2.9 billion settlement with First Nations over boarding schools

From the 19th century up to the 1970s, the Canadian government funded 130 compulsory boarding schools for indigenous Native children throughout the country. Native children were taken from their families and sent to these schools to force their cultural, religious and linguistic assimilation.

Over the years these schools operated, some 150,000 Native children were sent to these schools. While there, they were forbidden to speak their Native languages and were beaten if they did. They suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse. The children were housed in poor conditions that made them vulnerable to disease and the cold. By the most conservative estimate, 3,200 children died while in the care of these schools.

Recent discoveries of unmarked graves of children at these now abandoned schools have reignited discussions over the harm done to generations of Native children by these schools. In 2012, 325 First Nations people, survivors of the schools, brought a class action lawsuit against the government of Canada. The survivors were demanding acknowledgement and compensation for the loss of language and cultural identity that resulted from their time in the schools. 

The Canadian government has now agreed to pay $2.9 billion to settle this case and to “address the collective harm caused by Canada’s past”.

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House Republicans ready to hold US economy hostage to cut domestic spending. Find out what the GOP wants (and doesn’t want) to cut, and how the debt ceiling fight could affect you.


House Republicans ready to hold US economy hostage to cut domestic spending

There are any number of sideshows featuring in the political circus of the House of Representatives right now. These include the GOP’s hypocritical sleight of hand over Biden and Trump’s classified documents; Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s political tightrope; and now, the two committee appointments for the “man of many faces” George Santos (known aliases: George Devolder, Anthony Devolder, Anthony Zabrovsky).

But there’s only one issue that should be of concern to most voters: the upcoming debt-ceiling fight.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that the US will meet its debt servicing limit of $31.4 trillion as soon as this week. Beyond that point, the Treasury can undertake “extraordinary measures” to temporarily stave off a disastrous debt default and a government shutdown, perhaps until June. Some believe these measures could carry us up to August. However, allowing the debt limit wrangling to drag out across the summer would be disastrous for the markets and possibly even tip the US into a full-blown recession.

Congress must raise the debt ceiling, as they’ve done 78 times since 1960. Back in 2011, Republicans forced a drawn out showdown over the debt ceiling by demanding huge cuts in domestic spending. That delay in raising the debt ceiling resulted in the US credit rating being briefly downgraded, which increased the interest payments on government loans.

The effects of an actual default on the public debt are difficult to predict since such a thing has never happened before. Even conservative estimates predict it would kill millions of jobs, increase the cost of borrowing for average consumers (including loans, mortgages and credit cards), and increase the national debt. In the current economic climate, a default would bring about a recession, if not a depression. The Republicans are threatening no less than economic catastrophe in order to get their way.

McCarthy (now) says he’s not interested in cutting wasteful defense spending

Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has stated that his goal is to trim $130 billion from the FY 2023 budget passed by the Democrat-controlled Congress in December, without cutting a penny from defense spending. This is a reversal from McCarthy’s proposal earlier in the month (during his Speakership fight) to cut Pentagon spending by $75 billion.

The FY 2023 budget, negotiated by Republicans and Democrats, already apportions over $100 billion more in defense spending than domestic spending. This is despite the fact that the Pentagon recently failed its fifth audit in a row, and miserably so.

Social Security on the chopping block

Instead of targeting Pentagon waste, McCarthy and the Republicans want to cut domestic spending even further. In recent remarks, McCarthy indicated he wanted to negotiate on “entitlements” like Social Security, describing them as “going bankrupt”. Republicans often describe Social Security as insolvent, which simply isn’t true.

Social Security is facing a demographic crunch as more baby boomers retire, but Democrats have proposed ways to remedy this. In 2022, a payroll tax of 6.2% only applied to individual earnings up to $147,000. This means that while a worker earning $147,000 pays 6.2% of their income in Social Security payroll taxes, a worker earning $1.47 million pays just 0.6% of their income. “That may make sense to somebody,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), “It doesn’t make sense to me.”

Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have proposed increasing that cap to $250,000, and applying payroll taxes to earnings beyond that number. By doing that, the government could fully fund Social Security beyond 2096 and even increase monthly benefits. 

McCarthy hasn’t stated what his plans for Social Security are, but they aren’t likely to be along these lines. Republicans usually argue for either privatizing Medicare and Social Security or cutting benefits. It’s likely McCarthy’s proposal will be along these lines. Privatizing Medicare and Social Security or cutting payments would be disastrous for beneficiaries and both ideas are enormously unpopular.

Forced shutdown of federal agencies and regulatory bodies

Other frequent targets for GOP deficit hawks include crucial regulatory agencies like the EPA, OSHA, and the FDA. These agencies are already struggling to function due to prior cuts. Further cuts could seriously jeopardize things like food safety, workplace safety and enforcement of environmental regulations against pollutants. A putative “spending prioritization” plan by Republicans (in the event they fail to raise the debt ceiling) reveals they would be willing to cut funding for these agencies, as well as the FAA and border security. 

Some Republicans have even floated a bill which would essentially abolish the IRS. Others have demanded that Congress reverse a provision of Biden’s infrastructure bill that would increase IRS enforcement and audits for individuals earning more than $400,000.

Showdown with Biden, Senate

The White House has already condemned the GOP prioritization proposal as a recipe for economic catastrophe. Even moderate Republicans have said that McCarthy and their other hardline colleagues are being unrealistic. 

It’s not even clear how committed McCarthy is to dying on this hill. McCarthy has already revealed he’s willing to promise anything to anyone to keep his seat. However, the concessions that GOP hardliners extracted from McCarthy during his Speakership fight may force him, and the rest of the country, to join hands and jump off this economic cliff along with them. 



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Second set of classified docs found in Biden’s Delaware home.

December inflation was 6.5%, first time under 7% in a year.

Brazil orders arrest of former top Bolsonaro official after riot.


Second set of classified docs found in Biden’s Delaware home

Three days ago, we learned that a cache of about 10 classified documents had been found in a private Washington office used by President Biden when he was Vice President. Last night, news broke that a second set of classified documents had been found elsewhere. The White House revealed today that this second location was Biden’s home in Wilmington, DE. Biden says the documents were found in a locked garage at the home by his aides.

After the news of the discovery earlier this week, former President Trump took to TruthSocial, demanding to know if all of Biden’s other homes were going to be searched. Biden’s team has apparently been doing just that. A search at another home of Biden’s at Rehoboth Beach turned up no further documents.

The Washington cache was found just days before the midterms. Biden’s team immediately notified the National Archives, who collected them the next day. The documents from both Washington and Wilmington date from his time as Vice President.

There’s not yet been any clarification on when the Wilmington batch was found, whether it was around the time the Washington documents were discovered or more recently. Biden’s White House special counsel Richard Sauber says Biden’s attorneys completed their search of his properties on Wednesday night. Sauber also said that Biden is cooperating fully with an investigation by the Justice Department.

Probes, special counsels, and unanswered questions

There hasn’t yet been much explanation of how the documents found their way to Biden’s properties in the first place. It has been suggested by Sauber and others that after Biden’s time as Vice President, the boxes may have been carelessly packed up and shipped off to his various offices for storage. Whatever the circumstances, the matter is of grave concern to the intelligence community. According to anonymous reports, at least some of the documents from Washington bore TS/SCI classification. These documents are never meant to be removed from a secure room, known as a SCIF. There hasn’t yet been any reporting as to the classification levels of the Wilmington documents.

 Two different Congressional committees charged with intelligence matters have sought briefings on the discoveries. Attorney General Merrick Garland has assigned the case of the Washington documents to a DOJ attorney in Chicago, one of the few Trump appointees still leading regional offices in the US. In light of the newly announced discovery, Garland has appointed a special counsel, Robert Hur, to investigate Biden’s handling of classified documents. Last year, Garland appointed Jack Smith as special counsel to oversee the various investigations into Trump, including his mishandling and concealing of classified documents.

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December inflation was 6.5%, first time under 7% in a year

There was some encouraging economic news today. December’s year-on-year inflation rate dropped to 6.5%, down from 7.1% in November. This is the first time since Nov. 2021 that inflation has been below 7%. Inflation appears to have peaked over the summer at about 9%.

This would seem to indicate that the Federal Reserve’s program of interest rate hikes over 2022 have had the desired effect. Even better, unemployment numbers haven’t risen drastically, as many feared. If this trend continues, the Fed may be able to ease off on its rate hikes for now. For the first time in months, there’s a general feeling of optimism among economists that the US may be able to get inflation under control without sliding into a recession.

While this is very good news, prices on consumer goods including groceries remain too high for many. However, there’s reason to hope that price trends are at least heading in the right direction, which should mean fewer steep price hikes like those we saw in 2022.

With certain commodities, supply chain issues remain a problem. For example, the price of eggs has risen sharply in many parts of the country due to avian flu, which has necessitated the culling of millions of birds.

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Brazil probes involvement of top officials Bolsonaro riot

Videos of thousands of rioters ransacking Brazil’s capital complex in Brasilia on Sunday evoked memories for many of Jan. 6, 2021. There are many points of comparison. The rioters were supporters of outside right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro who had bought into messaging from Bolsonaro’s camp implying that the elections were stolen. The rioters were organized openly on social media, answering calls for a “party” in Brasilia. Group messages have surfaced promising “all expenses paid” trips to Brasilia for anyone willing to attend.

They arrived on more than 100 buses from all over the country. No one is sure yet who paid for the buses. Coincidentally, Trump cronies Steve Bannon and Jason Miller met with Jair Bolsonaro’s son shortly after Bolsonaro lost, apparently to advise them on the next steps. As the riot was in progress, Bannon was on social media cheering them on.

The Jan. 8 riot, as it’s becoming known, did differ from Jan. 6 in some ways though. There were few images showing any clashes with police; quite the opposite in fact. The police in the capital not only allowed the mob to enter the capitol complex unchallenged, the police were also actively encouraging the rioters.

When the military arrived to take charge of the situation, the mob cheered, apparently believing the soldiers had arrived to join their cause. Instead, the soldiers quickly rounded up and arrested everyone they could, over 1,500 in all.

Bolsonaro and his former justice minister were both in Orlando

Because of the security failings, Brazil’s top court has ordered the arrest of Anderson Torres. Torres was formerly Bolsonaro’s justice minister. Since Bolsonaro’s election loss, Torres took a new post as Brasilia’s public security chief. Torres was head of the police in the capitol district in Brasilia, the ones who allowed the rioters in. Conveniently, Torres was in Orlando, FL, at the time of the riots. US at the time of the riots and has yet to return to Brazil to face the charges.

By an incredible coincidence, former President Bolsonaro is also in Orlando. He left Brazil shortly before the Jan. 1 inauguration of his leftist-rival Lula’s and hasn’t returned. No warrant has yet been issued for Bolsonaro’s arrest in connection with Jan. 8. However, there are accusations of corruption and embezzlement against Bolsonaro, for which he couldn’t be prosecuted while he was still President. His son has already been charged (not the same one who met with Bannon).


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Classified documents found in old Biden office.

California storms: At least 16 dead, nearly 200,000 without power.

Kremlin probes Russian war critics; others turn up dead.




Classified documents found in old Biden office

Days before the midterm elections, workers cleaning out an office once used by President Biden found about 10 classified documents in a locked closet. The office was at the Penn Biden think tank in Washington, D.C., and was used by Biden during his time as Obama’s Vice President. As soon as the documents were found, attorneys for Biden reached out to the National Archives, who took possession of them the following day. The Department of Justice is apparently reviewing the incident to determine if any further action is warranted. 

As soon as the news broke, former President Trump, who is in legal hot water over some classified documents himself, immediately posted on TruthSocial, “When is the FBI going to raid the many homes of Joe Biden, perhaps even the White House? These documents were definitely not declassified”. Trump was alluding to the FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago home, where over 100 classified documents were found in an unsecured area. 

What we know and don’t know so far

A source has revealed that, like many of the Mar-a-Lago documents, some found in the Biden office bore the TS/SCI classification, reserved for especially sensitive documents. It was due to the sensitive nature of these documents that the National Archives made a referral to the DOJ. Other reports claim that some of the documents pertained to classified briefings on the UK, Iran and Ukraine.

Sources say that none of the documents from the Biden office contained any nuclear secrets, as one of the Mar-a-Lago documents did. Unlike in Trump’s case, the National Archives had apparently made no prior request for the return of the documents in Biden’s office.

There are some serious questions that remain unanswered. Was Biden permitted to have these in his private office? Why were they there? Why is this news only coming out months after the discovery?

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California storms: At least 16 dead, nearly 200,000 without power

California is experiencing its fifth major storm since Christmas and a sixth is on its way. The state has been beset by “atmospheric rivers” which carry an unusual amount of moisture and has caused torrential rains and floods over much of the state. So far, at least 16 people have died in the recent storms. A five-year-old boy was swept away by floods yesterday and is still missing. As of this writing, nearly 200,000 customers in the state are without power. Earlier in the day, there were 224,000.

While the northern part of the state has suffered most, every part of the state has been affected. Storms and flooding have forced evacuations of entire communities in low-lying areas, displacing thousands.

Despite the widespread misery, grief and devastation, some are looking for a silver lining. Some officials and scientists are hopeful that the downpours and snowpack from recent storms may bring some relief to California’s year’s long drought. However, it will be weeks before the full impact of these storms on California’s water supply will be known.

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Kremlin probes war critics; others turn up dead

Russia’s Investigative Committee has announced probes of a prominent Russian actor and a philanthropist. The actor, Artur Smolyaninov, left Russia days after the Ukraine invasion and has repeatedly spoken out against the war. The Investigative Committee said Smolyaninov had “made a series of statements directed against Russia in an interview to a Western media outlet”. However, it wasn’t clear what crime he was being charged with.

Russia’s Interior Ministry has also placed businessman and philanthropist Boris Zimin on its international most wanted list. Zimin apparently left Russia in 2015 and has funded independent Russian media outlets. He also has some connections to imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Like Navalny, Russian authorities have brought fraud charges against Zimin.

Conspiracy theories swirl after 3 Russians die mysteriously in India

In the Indian state of Odisha, three Russian men turned up dead under suspicious circumstances within days of one another. In December, Russian lawmaker and multi-millionaire sausage magnate Pavel Antov fell to his death from a third-story window of his hotel. Local police said Antov was vacationing there, but Odisha isn’t normally a popular tourist spot. Just two days earlier, businessman Vladimir Bidenov, a close friend of Antov’s, died at the same hotel of an apparent heart attack. Both men were quickly cremated so that no further examination of their remains was possible. 

Earlier in 2022, Antov had shared a post on social media critical of the war in Ukraine. However, Antov later retracted this post and claimed he’d been hacked. 

Then, just over a week after Antov’s death, a 51-year-old engineer, identified as Sergey Milyakov, was found dead in his compartment on a ship where he worked. The ship was then anchored at Paradip Port in Odisha. It’s not clear if Milyakov had any connection with the two other unlucky Russians who predeceased him in Odisha.

In all, over two dozen prominent Russian businessmen died unexpectedly in and mysteriously in 2022.


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Critics unimpressed by Biden’s first trip to border.

Virginia: Authorities unsure what to do after 6-year-old shoots teacher.

Brazil: Bolsonaro supporters storm Congress.



Biden makes first trip to border amid crisis

Today, President Biden is in Mexico City meeting with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Immigration is likely to be high on their agenda. Yesterday, Biden made his first trip to the US-Mexico border, the epicenter of one of the most pressing political and humanitarian crises of his presidency. Biden visited El Paso, TX, which has recently borne the brunt of dealing with a wave of arrivals. There he met with local and state officials, local law enforcement and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents. He also visited a border crossing, part of the border wall and a migrant welcome center, where somehow there were no migrants in sight.

Amazingly, in Biden’s four-hour visit to El Paso, he managed not to encounter a single migrant. This is quite a feat in a city where thousands of migrants have been sleeping on the streets for weeks in freezing temperatures. The closest Biden came to a migrant was when his motorcade passed by the border where a dozen migrants were visible on the Mexican side. Biden didn’t visit any Border Patrol stations, where CBP processes migrants. He also delivered no public remarks and the press was kept at a distance. At no point was Biden up close and personal with the human faces of the humanitarian crisis.

This carefully-maintained distance confirmed the worst criticisms leveled at Biden by advocates for migrants since his announcement last Thursday of the expansion of harsh, restrictive and punitive border policies for Haitians, Cubans and Nicaraguans.

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Authorities unsure what to do after 6-year-old shoots teacher

Last Friday, a 6-year-old boy in Newport News, VA, shot this first grade teacher, causing her life-threatening injuries. The local school district has identified the teacher as Abby Zwerner, 25. Officials have so far not named the boy or his parents. Zwerner remains in hospital in stable but serious condition.

Police have said that the shooting was the result of an “altercation” and that it was “not accidental”. This incident has raised a number of questions for the public, such as where the boy obtained the gun and how he got it into the school (which is equipped with metal detectors). Police have so far not offered any specifics on the circumstances of the altercation or other details.

Officials are grappling with questions of their own, the most pressing of which is what to do next. Even though investigators believe the boy’s actions were intentional, he is too young to be tried as an adult in Virginia. He’s even too young to enter Virginia’s juvenile justice system. However, a juvenile judge could revoke the parents’ custody and place the boy in the care of the state.

Under Virginia law, if the boy’s parents allowed him access to a loaded gun, they could potentially be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison.

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Brazil: Bolsonaro supporters storm Congress

Trouble has been brewing in Brazil ever since the country’s far-right former President Jair Bolsonaro narrowly lost his re-election bid to leftist rival Lula da Silva in October. Immediately following the election, Bolsonaro supporters set up roadblocks throughout the country. Bolsonaro himself eventually appealed for calm, but did not concede the election. Even after Bolsonaro’s staff promised an orderly transition of power, Bolsonaro and his party sued to have some of the results thrown out. Brazil’s Supreme Court not only rejected this lawsuit, they fined Bolsonaro and his party for bringing the litigation in bad faith.

Despite these setbacks, Bolsonaro’s hardcore supporters remained undeterred. Many camped outside of military barracks for weeks, demanding that the military intervene to halt Lula’s inauguration. Even after Lula’s inauguration on Jan. 1, Bolsonaro’s supporters have continued protesting.

Yesterday, about 40 busloads of them assembled in the capital, Brasilia. They breached a military barricade with minimal opposition as federal police forces stood by. The few police officers who did stand and fight were mobbed and beaten. The marchers then stormed the federal complex that houses the Congress, the Supreme Court, and the presidential palace. There they smashed windows, set fires and used furniture to form barricades against military reinforcements who eventually arrived. The Congress was not in session and other offices were closed on Sunday.

Brazil’s new President Lula da Silva promised to bring everyone involved in the riot to justice. He also placed the blame squarely on his predecessor. Bolsonaro has denied any involvement and was in Orlando, FL, at the time.

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NEMiss.News Kevin McCarthy



House GOP wants to take away Biden’s key tool for lowering gas prices, tackling inflation.

At least 500 migrants land on Florida islands in rickety boats.

Ukraine claims to have killed hundreds of Russians in missile attack




House GOP wants to take away Biden’s key tool for controlling gas prices, inflation

Tomorrow will see the swearing in of the 118th Congress when Republicans will take control of the House. There’s still some uncertainty about who will be the new Speaker of the House, but Rep. Kevin McCarthy remains the most likely choice. Today, House GOP leadership has released their proposal for new rules for the upcoming legislative session. The proposals offer a preview of Republicans’ legislative priorities for this year. After Republicans ran on a platform of fighting inflation, their rules show little sign of this being a major priority. In fact, they are looking to revoke a key power that President Biden has successfully used to keep costs down.

The House GOP wants to consider preventing “non-emergency” drawdowns from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Biden has released millions of barrels of oil from this reserve over the past year in order to increase supply and keep gas prices down. When gas prices rise, not only do Americans pay more at the pump, manufacturing and transportation of goods becomes more expensive too. While prices for gas and other goods remain high, they would unquestionably be higher if not for these releases. 

So why would the Republicans in Congress, who have sought to blame Democrats for inflation, want to make it harder to control? The answer is pretty simple. Big Oil was a major source of campaign funding for Republicans in their efforts to take over Congress last year. Republicans have repeatedly accused Biden of waging a “war on American energy”, and of using withdrawals from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as one of his key weapons against the oil industry. Despite this war, major US oil companies posted record profits last year.


At least 500 migrants land on Florida islands in rickety boats

Over this weekend, about 300 migrants landed at Dry Tortugas National Park, about 70 miles west of Key West, Florida. Another 160 migrants arrived in other parts of the Florida Keys over the same period. Just today, 30 more landed in the Middle Keys. Officials haven’t stated where all the migrants come from but US Customs and Border Protection have confirmed that at least 88 are from Cuba.

Local authorities have attempted to close off access to some of these islands. Officials say this is necessary to allow much needed aid to reach the migrants and arrange for transport. Afterward, it will be decided whether they remain in the US or are deported. 

One of the boats migrants used to cross the 100 or so miles from Cuba to the Florida keys.

Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay has called the mass migration event a “crisis” for emergency responders. Ramsay also criticized the response from the federal government. A press release from the Sheriff’s department claims that the US Border Patrol response won’t arrive for another day.

A dangerous journey

Cuba is only about 100 miles from Key West. But the waters are treacherous and the boats these migrants came in hardly look fit to cross a mill pond. This is not unusual as refugees from Cuba and Haiti are taking ever more dangerous routes to reach the US. Hundreds of people sometimes arrive on craft rated to carry a maximum of 30.

Over the last year, political and economic turmoil has created increasingly desperate situations in both Cuba and Haiti. In Haiti, the government has teetered on the verge of collapse for the past year. Gangs have seized control of the streets and are terrorizing the population, while also blockading necessary shipments of fuel. While things are more orderly in Cuba, rampant inflation, fuel and food shortages have created misery on the island. That misery was compounded by Hurricane Ian, which ravaged the island as a Category 3 for 6 hours this past summer.

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Ukraine claims to have killed hundreds of Russians in missile attack

A few minutes after midnight on New Year’s Day, Ukraine launched six US-made HIMARS missiles into a Russian military training center in Makiivka, a city in the pro-Russian Ukrainian province of Donetsk. Four of the six missiles hit their target, a barracks where soldiers were sleeping. Russian authorities claim to have shot down the other two.

The same building housing the barracks was also being used to store munitions, making the blast even more devastating. Ukrainian officials claimed that “hundreds” of Russians had died in the attack. The Kremlin claimed this is was an exaggeration and claimed only 63 had died. 

However, even prominent Russian nationalist bloggers are criticizing the Kremlin over the loss. The bloggers claim that at least 70 soldiers died and hundreds were seriously wounded. The commentators put the blame squarely on the Russian commanders for housing soldiers in the same building as a weapons store. Local pro-Russian officials in Donetsk also took commanders to task for housing so many soldiers in a single building. This was especially foolhardy since the commanders knew the camp was within the range of Ukrainian missiles.

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