Tag Archive for: Taiwan

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

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



Blinken cancels Beijing trip after Chinese spy balloon discovered over US

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

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

Blinken trip called off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He could never come back”

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Florida judge to decide whether or not to release DOJ affidavit for Mar-a-Lago raid. US announces formal trade talks with Taiwan in latest poke at China.




Judge hears arguments for, against releasing affidavit that obtained Mar-a-Lago search warrant

Various news organizations will make their case today for the release of the affidavit used to obtain the warrant to search Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. The Justice Department will oppose the motion, arguing that the release of the affidavit could compromise their ongoing investigation. Representatives for Trump are reportedly present in the courtroom but are not submitting any filings or making arguments.

Interestingly, Bruce Reinhart, the same federal magistrate in Florida who approved the warrant last week, is hearing today’s arguments. Since Trump publicized the FBI raid on his home, Reinhart has received numerous death threats from Trump supporters.

What might be in the affidavit?

The warrant for the search as well as a list of property seized from the residence were released last week. The warrant consists mainly of a logistical roadmap for what areas of the property were to be searched and how. The property list contained an itemized list of documents seized by the FBI. Investigators seized about 20 boxes containing 11 sets of documents, many highly classified. Due to the sheer volume of documents, agents are still sorting through them and returning any that are irrelevant or subject to attorney-client privilege to Trump.

The affidavit will contain all the information submitted by DOJ to justify the search warrant. This will likely include an explanation of why DOJ thought the raid was necessary. National print and broadcast media organizations want the affidavit released due to legitimate public interest in DOJ’s justification for the raid. Trump has contended that he is the victim of a political “witch hunt”.

The affidavit will likely outline months of stonewalling by Trump after he was ordered to return the classified documents. A few months ago, Trump returned about a dozen boxes of documents to the National Archives. Trump’s lawyer claimed back in June that all classified documents from Mar-a-Lago had been returned. This obviously wasn’t true.

Following the raid, Trump first claimed that FBI agents had planted the classified documents they found in his home. Now, he is claiming that he had the right to keep the classified documents based on executive privilege.

Why might Trump want the affidavit released?

On his social media platform Truth Social, Trump has publicly demanded the release of the affidavit. Even so, having his lies and bad-faith negotiation with the DOJ spelled out in black-and-white won’t do Trump any good. This may explain why his attorneys haven’t yet made any legal filing either for or against the motion to release the affidavit.

However, Trump and his staff are no doubt curious to know the scope of the DOJ’s investigation, what information they’ve collected, and from whom. When agents entered Trump’s home last Monday, they knew exactly where to find what they were looking for. This suggests that the FBI had information from someone with intimate knowledge of Trump’s home and activities. Trump’s team are apparently pretty nervous about this. The affidavit won’t likely contain the names of witnesses and sources, but may contain enough information about them and their position in Trump’s orbit to identify them.

Why doesn’t the DOJ want the affidavit released?

The possibility that the affidavit could out key witnesses is certainly a big worry for the Justice Department. Not only might this endanger any witnesses, it could reduce their willingness or ability to aid the investigation. It might also reveal how DOJ managed to develop and contact the witness in the first place. This could compromise not only the investigation of Trump’s mishandling of classified documents, but any other investigation regarding Trump and his operatives.

In its brief to the court, the DOJ argues that the release of “the affidavit would serve as a roadmap to the government’s ongoing investigation, providing specific details about its direction and likely course”.

Furthermore, if there is any truth in recent speculation that Trump has been selling classified material to foreign countries, the DOJ’s evidence for that might be contained in the affidavit. If true, releasing this evidence could hamper any counterintelligence efforts to trace where this information might have ended up. However, while the warrant cited potential violations of the Espionage Act by Trump, the DOJ has not argued publicly that the affidavit’s release could endanger national security.

It may be worth noting that the DOJ’s brief to Reinhart’s court was signed by Jay Bratt, the DOJ’s top counterintelligence official. The filing by Bratt and US Attorney Juan Gonzalez says that if Reinhart decides to release the documents, DOJ will propose redactions “so extensive as to render the remaining unsealed text devoid of meaningful content”.

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Related: Allies urge Trump to announce 2024 run to avoid indictment (opens in new tab).



US announces formal trade talks with Taiwan in latest poke at China

The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has announced bilateral trade talks with Taiwan to begin in September. In 2020, trade between the US and Taiwan was worth nearly $106 billion. Taiwan is a key exporter of microchips and also a valued customer of the US defense industry, purchasing billions in weapons in increasing amounts over recent years.

The announcement of trade talks follows a controversial visit to the island earlier this month by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi’s visit angered China, which sees Taiwan as a breakaway territory. The US has long maintained a vague policy of recognizing China’s sovereignty over the island while supporting Taiwan’s semi-autonomous and democratic government in other ways, including providing for its defense.

Growing US-Taiwan relations in recent years have caused China to escalate its rhetoric about forcefully re-unifying Taiwan politically with Beijing. This would mean a large-scale invasion, which analysts say China could not carry out before 2027.

Nevertheless, Pelosi’s visit prompted a show of force by Beijing. The Chinese military carried out days of military exercises in the waters surrounding the island, amounting to a “naval blockade” according to Taiwan’s pro-independence government.

At the time, President Biden denied that Pelosi’s visit signaled any change in US policy towards Taiwan. However, just this week, a second delegation of US lawmakers visited the island, prompting further protests from China.

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A very bad week for Alex Jones. DOJ charges 4 Louisville police officers in Breonna Taylor’s killing. Destabilizing and dangerous fallout from Pelosi’s Taiwan visit.




Alex Jones must pay Sandy Hook victim’s parents $4m; phone to be handed to Jan. 6 committee ‘immediately’

This has not been Alex Jones’ week. The far-right conspiracy political pundit has lost a defamation case brought by the parents of Jesse Lewis, who was 6-years-old when he and 19 other children and six adults were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012. Attorneys for Jesse’s parents believe Jones made millions of dollars in ad revenue from videos portraying the shooting as a hoax. Meanwhile, Jesse’s parents have endured a decade of misery, which they say were a result of Jones’ false claims. They received death threats from Jones’ followers, who accused them of being “crisis actors” participating in the Sandy Hook hoax. At one point, someone shot up their home and vehicles.

Though Jones, at last, admitted under oath that he believed the Sandy Hook tragedy really happened, his InfoWars blog has continued to make outlandish claims slandering and mocking the judge and jury. Plus, Jones continually made an ass of himself in court. None of this impressed the jury, who yesterday ordered Jones to pay $4 million in compensatory damages to Jesse’s parents. Next, the jury will deliberate on possible further punitive damages. 

Prosecutors, Jan. 6 committee to receive copy of Jones’ phone

But there was even more bad news for Jones. On Wednesday, as Jones was testifying on the stand, an attorney for Jesse’s parents informed Jones that his lawyers had “messed up” and sent his team a copy of Jones’ phone. The data contained at least two years’ worth of text messages and emails. Those communications will be of great interest to the Department of Justice and the Jan. 6 committee, who are investigating what role Jones played in stoking the violence at the Capitol.

Jesse’s parents’ attorney says he has already received requests for the data from “several law enforcement agencies” as well as the Jan. 6 committee. The attorney says he intends to hand the data over to them “immediately”. 


DOJ charges 4 Louisville police officers in Breonna Taylor’s killing

Yesterday, the Department of Justice announced charges against two current Louisville, KY, police officers and two former police officers for the March 2020 killing of Breonna Taylor. Taylor, a black woman, was then 26 and an emergency medical technician.

The four under indictment are former Louisville officers Brett Hankinson and Joshua Jaynes and current officers Kelly Hanna Goodlett and Kyle Meany. The DOJ has charged them with violating Taylor’s civil rights through unlawful conspiracy, unconstitutional use of force and obstruction. 

It’s also come to light that Meany, Jaynes and Goodlett conspired to file a false affidavit to obtain a “no-knock” search warrant for Taylor’s home, then filed false reports to cover their tracks. While executing the warrant, Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker took the plainclothes officers for intruders and fired on them, injuring one in the leg. Officers then fired dozens of bullets, killing Ms. Taylor.

Since April 2021, the DOJ has been conducting a broader probe of the Louisville Police Department investigating misconduct.

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Destabilizing and dangerous fallout from Pelosi’s Taiwan visit

Earlier this week, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi made a controversial stop in Taiwan during her whirlwind Asian tour. The day after her departure, China began conducting large-scale military exercises around the island, including unprecedented live-missile tests. Air and sea traffic to and from the island has ceased, with Taiwan’s government complaining the Chinese drills amount to a “blockade”.

Despite this angry show of force, it’s unlikely that Beijing has immediate plans for a full-scale invasion. A major Communist Party conference soon to take place, at which President Xi Jinping will make the case for extending his tenure. Under the circumstances, a destabilizing event like an invasion would not be preferable.

Nevertheless, Beijing has made good on its promise of “severe consequences” in the event Pelosi visited Taiwan. Chinese leadership views Taiwan as a breakaway state that they hope to one day politically reunify with the Mainland. But the increasingly close ties political ties between the US and Taiwan may force their hand. A perceived threat to China’s sovereignty from the west could persuade them to proceed with a military solution to the Taiwan problem, as they’ve threatened.

Now, China has suspended all diplomatic cooperation with the US on climate change policy and military matters, a possible sign of things to come.

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Kentucky floods death toll up to 37. 2020 election deniers in GOP state primaries. Taliban under scrutiny after US kills Al-Qaeda leader in Kabul. Pelosi lands in Taiwan, increasing China tensions.




Kentucky floods: death toll up to 37; “hundreds” remain unaccounted for 5 days after storm

In eastern Kentucky, first responders, aid workers, and members of the National Guard are continuing work in the flood-stricken areas. Part of their task is to bring supplies to residents who have remained in their homes, many of whom are without power and safe drinking water.

Meanwhile, police and sheriff’s deputies are venturing into remote hollers with downed trees and flooded out roads in the mountainous area, searching for the hundreds of people who remain unaccounted for five days after the area received a foot of rain in 48 hours. Often, they find the “missing” person alive and safe, but unable to make contact with loved ones without cell phone or internet service. In other cases, they find bodies.

So far, the death toll stands at 37, including 5 children. The welfare and whereabout of hundreds of people remain unknown. Gov. Andy Beshear expects the death toll will continue to rise over the coming days.

In addition to the task of sheltering and feeding those who have lost their homes, Beshear worries about what the weather will bring in the coming days. Not only is more rain in the forecast, temperatures will rise significantly by the end of the week. Thousands of people remain without power or any means to cool their homes. The state is setting up emergency cooling centers to help people escape the heat. 

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2020 election deniers on GOP ballots in several state primaries

Since the 2022 primary season began, a group called States United has been tracking 2020 election deniers running for GOP nominations for three key state-level offices: governor, attorney general, and secretary of state. So far, election deniers have lost more GOP nomination races than they’ve won. But already in five states, Michigan, Indiana, New Mexico, Alabama, and Nevada, election deniers have managed to secure the Republican nomination for one of these key posts.

In today’s Arizona primary, there is potential for a sixth. There are four GOP candidates for secretary of state, two of which are 2020 election deniers. Shawnna Bolick, a Republican state representative, proposed legislation last year that would have allowed the state legislature to overrule the popular vote when selecting presidential electors. However, it was another GOP candidate, Oath Keeper Mark Finchem, that ultimately received Trump’s endorsement. In Arizona, as in most states, the secretary of state is the highest-ranking election official.

The number of election deniers running for high state offices has democracy experts worried. Many of those running, and who have received Trump’s endorsement, have openly advocated for disregarding the popular vote to favor the candidate of their choosing. It would only take one such fanatic to win in November to potentially throw the 2024 presidential election into turmoil.

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Taliban under scrutiny after US kills Al-Qaeda leader in Kabul

A few days ago, a drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, killed Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri. The upscale house where Zawahri had been living is in the heart of Kabul’s government district, prompting speculation that he was under the Taliban’s protection. The news has severely undermined what little credibility the Taliban had on the international stage. Since taking over the country in August last year, the Taliban have been seeking recognition and legitimacy in hopes that western countries might be more open to doing business with them.

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Pelosi lands in Taiwan, stirring up more trouble right when we don’t need it

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has landed on an Air Force aircraft in Taiwan. There had been much speculation after Pelosi announced her tour of Indo-Pacific countries. Pelosi had canceled a planned trip to the island in April after contracting COVID. 

The news has infuriated Beijing, which considers Taiwan to be a breakaway state that will be ultimately reunited with China. Pelosi is now the highest-ranking US official to visit since former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich traveled there in 1997. The significance is not lost on Beijing. The Chinese government sees increasing US support for the island and its pro-independence government as a provocation. Chinese President Xi Jinping has promised “severe consequences” should Pelosi visit. Whether or not these “consequences” take the form of military action, it will be difficult to repair already strained US-Chinese relations after this stunt.

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Northern California fire spreads to 52,000 acres. KY floods: Death toll rises to 28, more expected. Pelosi begins Asia trip, Taiwan stop uncertain.



Northern California fire spreads to 52,000 acres

The McKinney fire sprang up late last Friday in the Klamath National Forest in Siskiyou County, CA. The fire quickly overtook the Oak Fire to become the state’s worst wildfire this year. Aided by winds, lightning, drought conditions and dry foliage, the fire has so far burned 52,000 acres and remains completely uncontained. It is spread over about 80 square miles. Some 2,000 people in the remote area near the Oregon border are under evacuation orders. At the same time, firefighters are fighting three other smaller fires in Siskiyou county.

Meanwhile, the heatwave affecting much of the Pacific Northwest has been linked to 7 deaths in recent days.

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KY floods: Death toll rises to 28, more expected

Over the weekend, the death toll in the eastern Kentucky floods rose to 28. Gov. Andy Beshear believes there will be still more found over the coming days. Rescue and recovery efforts are still underway even as the area received yet more rain over the weekend. In Knott County, four children were killed, the eldest in second grade.

Fifteen shelters have opened in the area to accommodate people and families who have lost everything. FEMA is bringing in supplies of food and fresh water. The long-term recovery prospects in the flooded out areas is bleak. Since the area is not typically flood-prone, many residents do not have flood insurance. Beshear has opened a fundraiser to help support the victims.

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Pelosi begins Asia trip, Taiwan stop uncertain

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is beginning her controversial Asian tour, though her office has not confirmed a potential stop in Taiwan. Pelosi’s office said her itinerary included Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan, but made no mention of Taiwan. Last week, President Biden had a heated phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who warned of consequences should Pelosi visit Taiwan.

Biden also indicated that his military advisers thought a trip to the island by Pelosi is “not a good idea right now”. Over the weekend, China carried out military exercises off Taiwan’s coast in a show of force. Last last week, US military sources disclosed they were making plans in preparation for a potential visit by the Speaker. If Pelosi does decide to go to the island, the US military might mobilize its assets in the region, including fighter jets, ships, and other military systems, to protect Pelosi during her flight and any time on the ground there.


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16 dead in KY floods, including 2 children; toll expected to “get a lot higher”. Growing demand for sterilization since Roe overturned. Xi, Biden exchange warnings over Pelosi trip to Taiwan.




16 dead in Kentucky floods, including 2 children; toll expected to “get a lot higher”

Heavy rains have been lashing eastern Kentucky since Wednesday and are expected to continue through the weekend. The rains have led to devastating flash flooding in many areas. Numerous images online show entire communities submerged. Thousands of people have already lost their homes in the surge.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear says there is no reliable count of people who are unaccounted for. So far, 16 people, including two children, are confirmed to have died. Beshear says he expects that number to “get a lot higher”.

Nearly 300 people have had to be rescued so far. Emergency workers are having to contend with washed out roads and downed trees in many areas. The rainfall over the weekend is expected to be relatively light compared with the more than 12 inches that fell over two days. But with waterways swollen and the ground saturated, the water has nowhere to go.

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Doctors report growing demand for sterilization since Roe overturned

OBGYNS from around the country are reporting a sharp increase in demand for sterilization procedures since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Men have shown increasing interest in vasectomies, which are now reversible in most cases. Many women are also demanding procedures including tubal ligation (tubes tied), which can be reversible, and even partial hysterectomies and salpingectomies (fallopian tubes removed), which are not reversible.

There are as yet no exact numbers depicting just how much demand is increased. Concrete figures won’t be available for another year. But some clinicians say that since Roe was overturned, they’ve had to create designated staff positions just to field sterilization inquiries and provide sterilization care.

Even so, many young women who have decided on sterilization are running into obstacles. While vasectomies are relatively simple and inexpensive procedures, female sterilization isn’t. Those without insurance must choose between going into medical debt, or risk falling pregnant with a baby they can’t afford.

Additionally, many of the women seeking sterilization are under 30 and childless. Physicians are often reluctant to perform procedures on young childless women, assuming they will one day change their minds about having children. But young women seeking sterilization fear that their contraceptive options will soon be limited as well, leaving them few other options to prevent unwanted pregnancy.

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Xi, Biden exchange warnings over Taiwan, potential Pelosi trip

Tensions between the US and China are on the rise over reports that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is planning a trip to Taiwan next month. If Pelosi does indeed visit the island, she will be the highest-ranking US government official to do so since former Speaker Newt Gingrich visited in 1997.

While China does not govern the island of Taiwan, Beijing considers Taiwan to be part of China’s sovereign territory. Taiwan is self-governing, and its current leadership is pro-independence. This along with increasing US military aid to the island has put China on the offense in its rhetoric over Taiwan’s potential reunification. Chinese military jets now fly over the island in large numbers and on a regular basis.

US policy over Taiwan has long been purposefully vague. There is no permanent US diplomatic position in Taiwan and the US has historically respected Beijing’s “One China” policy. However, the US is also bound by law to help the island defend itself in the event China were to invade to force reunification. 

China has vowed “severe consequences” if Speaker Pelosi goes ahead with her trip. Yesterday, President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping had their fifth telephone conservation since Biden took office. During the call, Xi reiterated his warning about Pelosi’s visit, while Biden cautioned Xi over any rash military action.

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Jif issues recall over salmonella concerns. Judge blocks end of asylum prohibitions for migrants. Will Biden send US military to defend Taiwan from China?




Jif issues recall over salmonella concerns

Peanut butter brand Jif has issued a recall of products distributed nationwide after 14 consumers in 12 states came down with salmonella poisoning. The recall applies to 40 Jif products with lot code numbers 1274425 to 2140425. This only if the first seven numbers end in 425, which indicates it was made in Jif’s Lexington, KY, facility. You can see a full list of recalled products by clicking here.

The 12 states that have reported salmonella cases possibly linked to Jif products are: Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio, North Carolina, New York, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington. Two patients had symptoms severe enough to require hospitalization.

Salmonella can cause fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. The FDA advises any consumers who possess products subject to the recall to dispose of them immediately. Consumers should also wash and sanitize any surfaces and utensils the peanut butter may have touched. 

Through whole genome sequencing, the FDA has linked the salmonella strains present in the affected patients to a sample collected at Jif’s Lexington, KY, production facility in 2010.

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Judge blocks end of asylum prohibitions for migrants

Today was to be the end of Title 42 restrictions which have prevented migrants from seeking asylum in the US since the Trump administration. Trump enacted Title 42 as an emergency public health measure at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The order has been used to expel migrants 1.7 million times since coming into effect.

After COVID cases waned earlier this year and the CDC deemed Title 42 no longer necessary, President Biden promised to end the restrictions. However, federal judges in different districts have repeatedly blocked the order to lift restrictions. Most recently, a Louisiana judge ruled the move improper since there had been no public comment period or evaluation of the impact on the nation’s health facilities.

Many politicians, including some Democrats, have expressed doubts that the federal government is ready to receive and process the hundreds of thousands of migrants who would arrive immediately after Title 42 ends. But immigrant advocates fear that the longer Title 42 is in place, the harder it will be to lift.

Advocates have also highlighted Title 42’s unequal application to people from different countries. Since the war in Ukraine began, the restrictions were waived for Ukrainian and Russian asylum seekers. Cubans, Venezuelans and people from other countries with which the US has poor diplomatic relations have also largely been able to seek asylum in the US because of the difficulties of returning them.

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Will Biden send US military to defend Taiwan from China?

President Biden is in Tokyo for trade negotiations with several Asian nations. A reporter there asked Biden whether he was willing to involve the US militarily in defending Taiwan if China invaded. Biden answered “Yes- that’s the commitment we made”.

The answer turned heads because the Biden administrations and previous administration have always adopted “strategic ambiguity” on this point. Officially, the US has long accepted the “One China” policy, which recognizes territories such as Hong Kong and Taiwan as sovereign Chinese territories. Because of this policy, the US has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan. However, the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act requires the US to give Taiwan the means to defend itself in the event of a Chinese invasion. It does not require the US to intervene militarily.

Confusingly, Biden says his comments do not indicate a change in US policy. Despite frequent military fly-overs and bluster by Beijing, Biden says he does not expect China to try to seize Taiwan by force. However, he bases that assessment on the strength of the international community’s resolve to condemn such an action.

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Ex-cop who confused Taser and gun guilty of manslaughter. Canceled flights, extreme weather promise wild holiday weekend. U.S., Japanese militaries plan for “Taiwan emergency”.




Ex-cop who confused Taser and gun guilty of manslaughter

Kim Potter, a former Brooklyn Center, MN, police officer, has been found guilty of first- and second-degree manslaughter in the death of a black motorist Daunte Wright, 20. The incident happened earlier this year in the Minneapolis suburb, just days before ex-Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd.

Potter and an officer she was training stopped Wright for expired license plates and an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror. They then learned Wright had a warrant for failing to appear in court on a weapons charge. Wright was initially cooperating until the trainee officer attempted to cuff him, at which point he got back into his car and went to drive off. Potter then yelled, “I’ll Tase you” twice, and “Taser! Taser! Taser!”, before pulling the trigger. But instead of her Taser, Potter had pulled her 9mm pistol. She shot Wright point blank in the abdomen.

A dazed Wright then sped off before crashing into another car head on. His girlfriend, who was in the passenger seat, was injured but survived.

Mishap or menace?

Even if Potter had pulled her Taser instead of her pistol, she still would have been in violation of her own department’s regulations. Brooklyn City’s policing protocols specifically prohibit Tasing anyone who is behind the wheel of a vehicle. Prosecutors argued that Potter’s actions not only cost Wright his life, but needlessly endangered other members of the public, when Wright could easily have been apprehended later.

At no point after the shooting Wright did Potter attempt to render aid. She did bemoan her own plight, saying “I’m going to prison”.

The prosecution also contended that Potter’s failure to immediately inform her superiors about the shooting ultimately delayed other officers in helping Wright when he eventually crashed. The officers who responded to the crash had only been informed that Wright might have had a weapon (he didn’t). For that reason, they hung back for 8.5 minutes before finally approaching Wright’s vehicle and pulling out his lifeless body.

The typical sentence for 1st degree manslaughter is 7 years. But, due to these aggravating factors (known as “Blakely factors”), prosecutors are pushing for the maximum sentence for Potter’s convictions- 15 years in prison. Sentencing will take place in February.

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Canceled flights, extreme weather promise wild holiday weekend

Anyone planning to travel anywhere in the U.S. for the next few days may be in for some unwelcome surprises. Due to staffing shortages, airlines have canceled more than 2000 upcoming flights globally. These include at least 454 flights within, into or out of the U.S. While some airlines have not confirmed the reasons for the staffing shortages, some say they’ve experienced a sudden uptick in call-outs from employees sick with the COVID-19 omicron variant.

On top of that, several states are experiencing extreme or unseasonable weather. An “atmospheric river” is dumping snow in parts of the western U.S. including Oregon and Washington State. The entire region from western Washington State to Southern California are under flash flood warnings. Two have already died south of San Francisco after their car became trapped in flood waters due to heavy rains. There’s also a risk of mudslides, especially in areas that were heavily affected by wildfires over the summer.

In the central and southern states, forecasters say to expect “spring-like” temperatures in the 70s and 80s.



U.S., Japanese militaries plan for “Taiwan emergency”

A Japanese news agency says that the military leadership in the U.S. and Japan have drawn up a joint plan of action in the event of a “Taiwan emergency”. The “emergency”, presumably, would be a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

Diplomatic tensions over the self-governing island have been rising steadily in recent years. China considers Taiwan to be a renegade province. Although the U.S. provides Taiwan with the means to defend itself, diplomatic policy with regard to the dispute has long been “hands off”. That started to change during the Trump administration. Biden has largely carried this policy forward as Beijing has assumed a much more militaristic posture towards reunification.

In what was considered an unguarded moment, Biden recently said that the U.S. would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion. The agreement with Japan seems to be one leg of this “defense”. Additionally, Australia’s defense minister said last month that it was “inconceivable” that Australia would not join the U.S. in defending Taiwan militarily, should it come to that. Biden officials have been making frequent trips to various Asian countries to shore up its influence in the region, seemingly in preparation for a broader regional conflict. 

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102 Native children died at Nebraska boarding school. Arbery case: Defense beside themselves as “more black pastors” turn up. Xi warns Biden over Taiwan support.




Researchers: At least 102 Native American children died at Nebraska boarding school

Earlier this year, the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves of Native children at government-run assimilation schools in Canada sparked outrage. From the mid-1800s to mid-1900s, Native children were forced into dozens of such schools in both the U.S. and Canada. In these schools, the children were forbidden from speaking their native languages and forced to adopt western Christian ideas. The conditions in these schools were generally poor and abuse of the children was rife. As a result, hundreds of children died, largely from communicable diseases like tuberculosis, pneumonia and measles.

Following the discoveries in Canada, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, herself a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, launched an inquiry to uncover the legacy of assimilation schools in the U.S. This would include ground penetrating radar studies on the grounds of the now-defunct schools in search of unmarked graves.

The Genoa US Indian Industrial School operated in Genoa, NE, between 1884 and 1934 (click here for more background and pictures from the school). Ground penetrating radar studies at the grounds of the school have so far not yielded results. But fragmentary records assembled during the investigation revealed that at least 102 children Native American children died at the school during its 50 years in operation.

Since many of the school’s records were destroyed when the school was closed in 1934, investigators say it is likely that the true death toll was likely far higher than the 102 currently known.

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Arbery case: Defense beside themselves as “more black pastors” turn up, including Jesse Jackson

Last week, the defense attorney for one of three white men accused in the slaying of black man Ahmaud Arbery, 25, in Brunswick, GA, last year demanded that the judge not allow “any more black pastors” in the courtroom after the Rev. Al Sharpton came and sat quietly with Arbery’s family. The attorney, Kevin Gough, argued that Rev. Sharpton’s presence would unduly influence the nearly all-white jury. The judge disagreed and did not accede to Mr. Gough’s demand.

Yesterday, Rev. Jesse Jackson, another civil rights icon, decided to make an appearance, again seated quietly with Arbery’s family. This time, the attorneys for all three defendants protested. They also took issue with the fact that the victim’s mother’s weeping drew the jury’s attention to Jackson’s presence. The judge did not mince words, and said that the defense had only themselves to blame since their “reprehensible” remarks last week were likely to draw more attention.

In response, Rev. Sharpton said he would be returning to the courthouse. Activists say that another 100 black pastors will be joining him.

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China’s Xi warns Biden “playing with fire” over Taiwan

The U.S. and China recently agreed to hold virtual talks between President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping. The talks have a dual purpose. The first objective was to improve cooperation between the world’s two superpowers and highest polluters on climate change objectives. The second was to pump the brakes on escalating political, diplomatic and economic tensions that both sides fear may lead to a new Cold War.

One of the items on the agenda was Taiwan. Taiwan considers itself an independent nation and has its own democratic government. China on the other hand considers Taiwan to be a renegade province which will inevitably be reunited with the Mainland. For decades, the U.S. was largely hands-off in the conflict. Officially, the U.S. respected the One China doctrine so long as reunification was achieved peacefully, but would help Taiwan defend itself in the event of a Chinese invasion.

Aiding in Taiwan’s defense has largely meant supplying the island with defensive weapons. But last month, Biden took it a step further by suggesting that the U.S. would intervene militarily if an invasion took place. In the new talks, Xi cautioned Biden against encouraging Taiwan’s aspirations for independence, comparing it to “playing with fire”. Xi’s remarks may have also been prompted by recent statements by Australia’s defense minister, who said it was “inconceivable” that Australia would not join the U.S. in defending Taiwan militarily.

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Democrats scramble to finalize Build Back Better deal. Why is it so hard to get into nursing school? Biden: U.S. will defend Taiwan against China.




Democrats scramble to finalize Build Back Better deal

After weeks of infighting over the size and details of the once $3.5 trillion Build Back Better package, the plan’s price tag and scope have been whittled down significantly to appease a handful of Senate “moderates”.

President Biden is hopeful that a deal will be finalized by week’s end for a vote later in the fall. Biden was hoping to have the details, and particularly the climate change mitigation provisions, nailed down ahead of the COP26 global climate conference.

What’s in the bill and what’s been cut?

Social spending

The overall price tag has dropped from $3.5 trillion to $2 trillion. This means that the wide array of social spending on healthcare, childcare, housing, and education has to be scaled back. Of these priorities, some have been eliminated while others have been scaled back significantly.

  1. A provision to fund two years of free community college has been dropped entirely.
  2. Another provision to extend the new Child Tax Credit scheme for four years will now only extend the program for one year.
  3. Plans to expand Medicare coverage for dental, hearing and vision care are also unlikely to make the final cut. There is some hope that at least one of these kinds of coverage will make it through.
  4. Democrats remain hopeful of lowering the qualifying age for Medicare somewhat, but details are hazy.
  5.  A plan to guarantee 12 weeks of paid family leave now looks like it will be limited to 4 weeks.
  6. A proposal for universal pre-K proposals seems safe for now.
  7. Affordable housing provisions are still under debate.
  8. A provision that would have allowed Medicare and Medicaid to bargain with pharmaceutical companies to lower prescription drug prices is likely to be cut. This cost-saving measure was cut at the insistence of “moderate” Kyrsten Sinema, who has received at least $750,000 in campaign donations from Big Pharma and private healthcare lobbies.

Climate change

Aside from social safety net spending, the other centerpiece of Biden’s plan consisted of plans to make necessary cuts to the country’s carbon emissions. These plans have also been cut drastically, particularly as they pertained to the power generation sector.

The Build Back Better Plan originally included financial carrots and sticks to encourage utility companies to reduce their use of fossil fuels. Negotiators have cut this provision to appease West Virginia “moderate” Joe Manchin. Manchin has personal stakes totaling millions of dollars in a coal brokerage he founded. He is also the Senate’s #1 recipient of donations from energy sector lobbyists.

Corporate and wealth taxes

Manchin and Sinema have also opposed changes to the 2017 Trump tax cuts which were a key part of paying for the plan. The 2017 cuts largely benefited wealthy Americans and corporations. The Build Back Better plan  proposed raising corporate taxes from the current 21% to 25%. The veto from Manchin and Sinema has left Democrats trying to find alternative means to pay for the bill.

One alternative proposal is a tax specifically targeting capital gains income to billionaires. But it’s unclear whether this will be enough to plug the hole left in the budget by the exclusion of corporate tax increases.

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Amid nursing shortage, applicants are having trouble getting into nursing school

The U.S. nursing shortage has worsened sharply in the last year. Hospitals are now hiring nurses before they’ve even completed nursing school. That’s if an aspiring nurse can even make it that far.

Nursing schools across the country often have hundreds of applicants for every available slot in their education programs. This is part because there is a shortage of instructors for these programs. To teach nursing, an instructor must have a masters or Ph. D, which can be costly to obtain. And nursing instructors often only make half what a hospital nurse makes. 

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Biden says U.S. would defend Taiwan if China attacks

Military tensions between Taiwan and Mainland China have been steadily ratcheting up in recent months. Just recently, Chinese fighter jets conducted hundreds of flyovers of the Taiwan Strait that separates the island of Taiwan from the Mainland. The conflict is threatening to build to a proxy war between China and the West.

After the recent flyovers, President Biden told the press that he had conversed with Chinese leader Xi Jinping and conveyed that both parties had agreed to abide by the “Taiwan agreement”. This referenced a longstanding U.S. policy to respect the status quo in Taiwan, on the condition that China took no military action against the island. These policies do require the U.S. to help Taiwan defend itself. 

In an apparent departure from this policy, Biden now says that the U.S. will defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion. His statement prompted a warning from Beijing to avoid sending the “wrong signals”. Beijing has long maintained that eventual reunification of Taiwan with the Mainland non-negotiable and that any foreign interference is a violation of China’s sovereignty. 

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Disappointing Sept. jobs report worries economists. Abortion providers still wary after Texas law blocked. U.S. sub strikes ‘unknown object’ in South China Sea.



Disappointing September jobs report worries economists

Back in August, industry leaders were hopeful that the end of a $300/week federal unemployment bonus and unemployment eligibility for “gig” workers and long-term unemployed would drive people back to the workplace in droves. At the beginning of September, the weekly bonus ended and 7 million people lost unemployment coverage altogether. But that did not translate to an anticipated 500,000 new hires in the weeks that followed.

Instead, only 194,000 new jobs were added in September, down from an already disappointing 366,000 in August. Economists had expected a boost at the start of the holiday hiring season, but that has not materialized. Unemployment fell to 4.8%, but that is likely because many people have stopped looking for work altogether.

Groping for explanations for the lower-than-anticipated numbers, some blamed lingering concerns about the COVID-19 delta variant. Others have blamed recent disarray in Washington for making employers wary of new hires at this point. Various supply chain bottlenecks have also certainly contributed to the jittery job market. 

Now market watchers are pinning their hopes on rising vaccination rates and falling COVID cases to boost hiring in October.

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Abortion providers still wary after judge blocks Texas law

After a federal judge in Austin, TX, temporarily enjoined Texas’ restrictive Heartbeat Act, a few abortion providers in the state have resumed services for women whose pregnancies are beyond the 6-week mark. However, most abortion providers in the state, including Planned Parenthood, are still leery and have not expanded their services. 

The Heartbeat Act, or S.B. 8, allows random people to sue anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detectable, around 6 weeks. But the law also explicitly allows plaintiffs to sue retroactively in the event the law is temporarily enjoined and later restored. 

The state of Texas has already vowed to appeal the ruling of Judge Robert Pittman, who called S.B. 8 “blatantly unconstitutional” multiple times in his 113-page ruling. The appeal would be heard in the conservative 5th Circuit in Texas, which is likely to restore the law. Many Texas abortion providers say that only a U.S. Supreme Court decision striking the law permanently would be sufficient for them to fully restore services.

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U.S. sub strikes ‘unknown object’ in South China Sea; sailors injured

The nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Connecticut collided with an unknown submerged object while conducting routine operations in the South China Sea. Eleven crewmembers suffered mild to moderate injuries. The U.S. Navy reports the Connecticut is in ‘safe and stable’ condition despite the collision.

Officials have released few details of the incident, which happened 5 days ago. There are no hints as to what sort of object the sub collided with. It’s also not clear where in the South China Sea the incident occurred. The South China Sea borders Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. However, we do know that naval assets from the US, UK, Japan, Canada, the Netherlands and New Zealand have been conducting military exercises just north of Taiwan.

Taiwan tensions escalate

Over the weekend, about 150 Chinese military aircraft conducted numerous provocative flyovers in the Strait of Taiwan, which separates the breakaway state from Mainland China. The show of force drew condemnation from the U.S. State Department. The Wall Street Journal also reports that a small contingent of U.S. Special Forces and Marines have been in Taiwan for at least a year, conducting training exercises with Taiwanese defense forces.



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