Tag Archive for: Ukraine


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

Banks connected with Epstein face sex trafficking suits.

China’s Xi visits Putin in Moscow



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Banks connected with Epstein face suits for sex trafficking

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

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

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

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



China’s Xi visits Putin in Moscow

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

State Republicans suddenly remember this is an election year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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



Poland, Slovakia send Soviet-era jets to Ukraine

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

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

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

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

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Texas judge hears case that could ban abortion pills nationwide.

Ohio sues Norfolk Southern over toxic derailment.

Russian warplane forces down US surveillance drone over Black Sea.



Texas judge hears case that could ban abortion pills nationwide

A federal judge in Amarillo, TX, heard arguments today in a case brought by anti-abortion groups seeking to ban the sale of the abortion medication mifepristone nationwide. Attorneys for the Texas-based organization Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine contends that the FDA used improperly approved the drug in 2000. The group argues that the FDA and did not adequately assess its use by girls under age 18 to terminate a pregnancy.

Mifepristone is part of a two-drug regimen used to abort a pregnancy, usually before 10 weeks gestation. More than half of all abortions in the US are managed with medication. Mifepristone also has several other approved uses that have nothing to do with abortion. These include treating uterine fibroids and managing symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome.

Department of Justice attorneys defending the FDA said that mifepristone has a proven track record of being safe and effective. The DOJ also argued that the challenge comes much too late as the drug was approved 23 years ago.  The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also filed an amicus brief in support of the FDA, saying mifepristone “has been thoroughly studied and is conclusively safe”.

Women’s health advocates say taking mifepristone off the market would force more women to undergo unnecessary surgical procedures. It would further overwhelm abortion clinics that are already struggling to meet the needs of women who often have to travel several states away.

Trump-appointed judge tried to keep hearing quiet

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, who presided over the case, asked the attorneys involved early last week not to publicize when and where the hearing would be held. Kacsmaryk hoped to minimize press coverage and protests at the courthouse in this momentous case that could impact over 60 million women of child-bearing age in the US. The judge’s attempt to keep proceedings quiet backfired with women’s rights groups descending on Amarillo. One dressed as a kangaroo with a gavel, implying the hearing was a “kangaroo court”.

Kacsmaryk is a former Christian activist appointed to the federal bench by former Pres. Donald Trump. His court has become a venue of choice for lawsuits from numerous conservative groups. The Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine incorporated in Amarillo just three months before filing suit, which many consider a case of “court shopping”.

Kacsmaryk did not issue a ruling today after four hours of arguments. The groups bringing the suit also asked Kacsmaryk for a preliminary order halting sales of the drug while their lawsuit proceeds. Kacsmaryk ended by saying he would “issue an order and opinion as soon as possible,” possibly suggesting he’s already made up his mind about the preliminary order. In anticipation of mifepristone becoming unavailable, healthcare providers are busy lining up viable alternatives.

The next stop for the losers in Kacsmaryk’s court would be the conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. It’s possible the case could wind up before the Supreme Court. Even if the FDA ultimately prevails, an order from Kacsmaryk halting sales of mifepristone could complicate the lives of millions of women for months (not to mention people who use mifepristone to manage other medical conditions). 

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


Ohio sues Norfolk Southern over toxic derailment

The state of Ohio has filed a civil suit against the rail company Norfolk Southern over the derailment in East Palestine last month that was responsible for releasing more than a million gallons of toxic chemicals. The state is hoping to recoup the cost of the state’s costs from the disaster. The suit wants to hold the rail company financially responsible for damage to the state’s natural resources, the cost of state emergency response and economic harm to residents.

The suit refers to the East Palestine disaster as just one of a “long string” of derailments and hazardous material incidents for which Norfolk Southern is responsible. Norfolk Southern has been responsible for at least 20 derailments since 2015 involving the release of toxic chemicals, according to the filing. The state accuses Norfolk Southern of “recklessly endangering” residents and the environment, alleging multiple violations of state and federal laws regarding hazardous waste, water pollution, air pollution and common law negligence.

Communities in western Pennsylvania were also affected by the disaster which took place less than a mile the other side of their border with Ohio. Last month, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro issued a criminal referral to his state attorney general regarding the disaster. The attorney general’s office is still investigating whether there was any criminal conduct on the part of Norfolk Southern, but no charges have been filed.

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Russian warplane forces down US surveillance drone over Black Sea

Yesterday, an American MQ-9 Reaper drone crashed into the Black Sea near the Crimean Peninsula, a Ukrainian territory Russia has occupied since 2014. US officials say that the crash was the result of an encounter with two Russian fighter jets. The drone became “unflyable” when one of the jets clipped its propeller. Prior to this, the jets had been dumping fuel over the drone to try to force it down. The Kremlin denies this version of events.

The US says the drone was in international airspace when the Russian jets attacked it, but Russia insists the the drone violated their (or Ukraine’s) air space. Russia claims that the presence of the drone is further evidence of direct involvement in the Ukraine war by the US military.

Both Russia and the US have announced that they’ll attempt to recover the drone. There’s a worrisome possibility of confrontation as the two sides try to get to the drone first. Joint Chiefs chair Gen. Mark Milley says he’s not sure if the drone is recoverable, claiming it sank under 4000-5000 feet of water. Milley also stressed the US has taken “mitigating measures” that would thwart Russia’s attempts to recover useful intelligence from the drone should they recover it. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confirmed he has communicated with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu regarding the incident.

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Supreme Court weighs lifting liability protections for social media platforms in terrorism case.

Judge rules 9/11 families cannot claim Afghan funds as compensation.

Putin suspends Russia’s participation in last remaining nuclear treaty.


Supreme Court weighs lifting liability protections for social media platforms in terrorism case

Since the 1990s, Internet-based forums have enjoyed protection from civil liability for content posted to their platforms by users. This liability protection under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 came into being long before the proliferation of social media sites like Facebook and YouTube. Some experts and policymakers believe that Section 230 needs a rethink to account for the business models of some social media companies.

In 2015, American college student Nohemi Gonzalez was among the 129 people killed in Paris in coordinated attacks by ISIS-linked terrorists. Gonzalez family is suing Google, the parent company of video-sharing platform YouTube. The family alleges that YouTube helped ISIS recruit followers by directing users to content posted by ISIS sympathizers.

YouTube, like many social media companies, uses an algorithm to direct users to content they think they will like based on users’ other activity, including searches. These algorithms are designed to boost user engagement, which in turn boosts YouTube’s ad-based revenue.

Attorneys for Google say that the company has taken steps to try to limit content that promotes terrorism and other inflammatory subjects. Google also says that if 230 needs to be revisited, that decision should come from Congress rather than the courts. 

Justices seem skeptical

During arguments, the Justices seemed more sympathetic to Google’s arguments. Justice Elena Kagan acknowledged that 230 might be ripe for revision given the emergence of algorithms designed to maximize engagement and revenue.

“[Section 230] was a pre-algorithm statute,” Justice Kagan said. “And, you know, everybody is trying their best to figure out how this statute applies, [how] the statute which was a pre-algorithm statute applies in a post-algorithm world”.

However, Kagan didn’t seem to think the Court was the best venue to argue those revisions. “These are not the nine greatest experts on the Internet,” Kagan said, spurring laughter.

Justices Samuel Alito and Ketanji Brown Jackson expressed confusion at the arguments presented by the Gonzalez family attorney, Eric Schnapper. Schnapper argued Google had aided and abetted ISIS in violation of a federal anti-terrorism statute by recommending the ISIS videos to users.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh also referred to warnings from Google’s supporters that a decision by the Court limiting Section 230 could have serious consequences not only for platforms but also for creators who earn money from posting content 

“Those are serious concerns, and concerns that Congress, if it were to take a look at this and try to fashion something along the lines of what you’re saying, could account for,” Justice Kavanaugh said. “We are not equipped to account for that”.

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


NY Judge says 9/11 families cannot claim Afghan funds as compensation

Judge George B. Daniels of the Southern District of New York has ruled against a group representing families who lost loved ones in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks who sought to claim $3.5 billion in frozen assets from the Afghan central bank.

When the US withdrew from Afghanistan in 2021, the New York Federal Reserve bank was holding about $7 billion in assets belonging to the Afghan central bank. Following the US withdrawal, President Biden decided to put half of it towards easing the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, and to set the other half aside for victims of Islamic terrorism.

Years ago, a coalition of 9/11 families won default judgments against the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and other organizations believed to have supported the attacks. Attorneys for the families argued that this $3.5 billion should go to service that judgement. However, in August of 2022, Federal Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn recommended against awarding the funds to the families.

Netburn’s reasoning was that the funds belong to the people of Afghanistan, not the Taliban. To award the funds to the plaintiffs, the court would essentially be recognizing the Taliban as the legitimate leadership of Afghanistan. That is something only the US State Department can do as it’s a matter of US foreign policy. 

Today’s ruling from Judge Daniels upholds Judge Netburn’s recommendation on those grounds. Judge Daniels also ruled that federal courts lacked jurisdiction over the funds for similar reasons. Nevertheless, the families intend to appeal the decision. The case could eventually find its way to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals and potentially the Supreme Court, assuming those courts agree to hear it.

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Putin suspends Russia’s participation in last remaining nuclear treaty

Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a speech today ahead of the one-year anniversary of his invasion of Ukraine. Putin said Russian troops would stay in Ukraine until their “objectives” had been accomplished, without clarifying what those objectives were. He also ridiculed “disloyal” oligarchs who had resisted the war or fled the country, fearing sanctions. 

Putin also said he was suspending Russia’s participation in the New START anti-nuclear proliferation treaty. This is the last nuclear monitoring treaty between the US and Russia that remains in force. The treaty allows each country to inspect each other’s nuclear sites. US sources say that Russia hasn’t been complying with the terms of the treaty for some time.

On several occasions since the war began, Putin and other Russian officials have raised the possibility of using nuclear weapons in the conflict. US intelligence says Russian military officials discussed in November how and under what circumstances they might deploy nukes. However, the US has seen no sign yet that Russia is mobilizing its nuclear arsenal.

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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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Fears Medicaid might be cut in debt ceiling fight.

Missouri votes against banning children from carrying guns in public unsupervised.

Space-X to block Ukraine using its satellites to pilot attack drones.



Fears Medicaid might be cut in debt ceiling fight

During a testy exchange during the State of the Union, President Biden alluded to a plan published by Florida Republican Senator Rick Scott last year which, among other things, would have required reauthorization of Medicare and Social Security every five years. At the time Scott published this plan, Republican leadership largely rejected it. But as the debt ceiling debate heated up in recent weeks, other Republicans have called for plans to cut the programs as part of an agreement to raise the debt ceiling. The ideas were voiced loudly enough that Donald Trump publicly warned Republicans against it. Since then, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy has said that such cuts were off the table.

When Biden mentioned Scott’s plan, Republicans loudly heckled him. Biden called them on it, saying “As we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare is off the books now, right? They’re not to be touched? All right”. However, this has left people wondering what Republicans do want to cut. Republicans have already said that cuts to the Pentagon’s budget are off the table, so that doesn’t leave much.

One possibility is that they intend to cut Medicaid instead. As it stands now, more than 1 in 4 Americans, 91 million people depend on Medicaid, which is 26 million more than Medicare. When the COVID emergency provisions end in April, millions of people will already be losing Medicaid coverage. Most of those losing their Medicaid coverage will be in states like Mississippi which chose not to expand Medicaid coverage under Obamacare. Coverage shortfalls in these states have already led to budget crunches in hospitals and forced many to close. If the federal government were to stop matching funds in states that did sign on to the expansion, that could cause hospitals in those states to experience budget shortfalls as well.

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Missouri votes against banning children from carrying guns in public unsupervised

Missouri’s Republican-dominated legislature has struck down a bill that would have prohibited minors from openly carrying firearms on public land without adult supervision. Democratic legislator Donna Baringer said police in her district asked for the change to stop “14-year-olds walking down the middle of the street in the city of St Louis carrying AR-15s. Now they have been emboldened, and they are walking around with them,” Baringer said. “Until they actually brandish them, and brandish them with intent, our police officers’ hands are handcuffed.”

The provision to ban children from carrying weapons unsupervised was initially part of a broader crime bill. That provision was stripped from the larger bill to secure Republican votes. Only one Republican in the body voted in favor of banning children from carrying guns with no adult supervision. 

Republicans characterized the ban as an unnecessary infringement on gun rights. Republican legislator Tony Lovato, who hails from a St. Louis suburb, said that “While it may be intuitive that a 14-year-old has no legitimate purpose, it doesn’t actually mean that they’re going to harm someone. We don’t know that yet”. 

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Space-X will no longer allow Ukraine to use its satellites to pilot attack drones

Gwynne Shotwell, the president of Elon Musk’s company Space-X, says the company will no longer allow Ukraine’s military to use its Starlink service in drone attacks against Russian invaders. Starlink is an internet service that runs on low-orbit satellites. Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 last year, they set about sabotaging Ukrainian communications, including the internet. Musk stepped in to offer several thousand Starlink terminals for free so that Ukrainians could continue using the internet. Space-X and others have since donated a total of 24,000 terminals. 

Shotwell’s statement indicated that while Space-X agreed that Ukraine’s military could use Starlink for comms, the use of the service for attack drones had weaponized the service in a way that violated the agreement. She went on to say that Space-X had put measures in place to limit how the service could be used.

The announcement drew ire and some confusion from Ukrainian officials. Starlink has been crucial to Ukraine’s success in identifying and locating Russian targets and targeting long-range artillery. There’s currently no viable alternative to ensuring the accuracy of these strikes. I

t’s a bit unclear where exactly Space-X is drawing the line as far as Ukraine’s military use of Starlink. It’s possible that Space-X doesn’t object to Ukraine locating the enemy with Starlink but does object to them using the service to actually pilot the drones. As of yet, Ukrainian forces haven’t reported any interruptions in Starlink service or function.

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Georgia DA: “Decisions imminent” on possible prosecution of Trump, allies for election meddling.

Classified documents found at Indiana home of former VP Mike Pence.

Doomsday Clock at 90 seconds to midnight.



Georgia DA: “Decisions imminent” on possible prosecution of Trump, allies for election meddling

In a hearing yesterday, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis hinted at the possibility that former President Trump or his allies will face charges for interfering in the 2020 election. The hearing before judge Robert McBurney was to determine whether a special grand jury report should be made public. For months, the grand jury subpoenaed and interviewed prominent figures in Trump’s orbit. These included Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The grand jury did not call Trump himself to testify. 

The probe focused on efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn Biden’s 2020 win in Georgia. Among other things, the panel examined the plan to appoint 16 “fake electors” to declare before Congress that Trump had won Georgia. The panel also called Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to testify. On Jan. 2, 2021, just days before the Capitol riot, Trump called Raffensperger and demanded that he “find” the roughly 11,000 votes Trump needed to overturn Biden’s election win.

The grand jury finalized its report earlier this month. Several news outlets argued before Judge McBurney that the report should be made public. Willis argued against publishing the report as it might make it difficult to give potential defendants a fair trial. “We have to be mindful of protecting future defendants’ rights,” Willis said. “We want to make sure that everyone is treated fairly, and we say [that] for future defendants to be treated fairly, it’s not appropriate at this time to have this report released”. Willis then added that “decisions are imminent” on potential criminal prosecutions.

McBurney adjourned the hearing yesterday without issuing a decision on the release, saying he needed more time to consider it.

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Classified documents found at Indiana home of former VP Mike Pence

A lawyer for Donald Trump’s former VP Mike Pence announced that boxes containing classified material were found in Pence’s Indiana home. Pence’s lawyer Greg Jacob wrote a letter to the National Archives (NARA) saying the records “appear to be a small number of documents bearing classified markings that were inadvertently boxed and transported to the personal home of the former vice president at the end of the last administration”. Like President Biden, who’s recently had his own travails with classified documents gone astray, Pence’s attorneys immediately notified the National Archives and the Justice Department of the discovery. The FBI has taken custody of the documents.

Both the Biden and Pence cases contrast sharply with Trump’s handling of classified documents. When Trump left office, his aides carried off at least 300 documents. After months of bad faith negotiations, during which Trump returned some documents and withheld others, the FBI finally raided his home in August last year. That search turned up over 100 more classified documents Trump had lied about having. Since then, Trump’s attorneys have argued (unsuccessfully) in court that the classified documents were Trump’s personal property and demanded their return.

Once news broke about the documents in Biden’s home and private office, Trump’s reaction on social media was gleeful. However, Trump has been quick to defend his former VP. “Mike Pence is an innocent man” Trump wrote. “He never did anything knowingly dishonest in his life. Leave him alone!!!”.

Given Pence and Trump’s falling out over the events of Jan. 6, and the fact that Pence is plotting to challenge Trump for the 2024 Republican Presidential nomination, Trump’s defense of Pence is surprising and, in an odd way, rather touching.

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Doomsday Clock at 90 seconds to midnight

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has moved the Doomsday Clock 10 seconds forward, meaning the world is closer than it has ever been to “global catastrophe”.

“We are living in a time of unprecedented danger, and the Doomsday Clock time reflects that reality,” Bulletin president and CEO Rachel Bronson said. “Ninety seconds to midnight is the closest the clock has ever been set to midnight, and it’s a decision our experts do not take lightly.” 

The experts at BAS periodically assess global risk and adjust the Doomsday Clock accordingly. For the last 3 years, it has been at 100 seconds to midnight. A number of global issues factored into the decision to bring it 10 seconds forward, including the failure of world leaders to act decisively to head off the worst effects of climate change. But the most important factor is the war in Ukraine, which is closing in on a year. The conflict has created food and gas shortages, and repeatedly put nuclear energy sites in peril. The conflict has also deepened ideological divides between the world’s superpowers and created ramped up militarism. The war has raised “profound questions about how states interact, eroding norms of international conduct that underpin successful responses to a variety of global risks”.

“And worst of all,” the announcements says, “Russia’s thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons remind the world that escalation of the conflict—by accident, intention, or miscalculation—is a terrible risk. The possibility that the conflict could spin out of anyone’s control remains high.” 

US, Germany agree to send tanks to Ukraine

It may or may not be a coincidence that the BAS announced this change on the same day that reports emerged indicating that the US and Germany would be sending their most advanced battle tanks to Ukraine. Germany has long resisted calls by Ukraine and its allies to supply its state-of-the-art Leopard tanks, just as the US has demurred on sending Abrams tanks.

Although Germany is one of the world’s leading weapons manufacturers, a post-Cold War ethos against militarization has made Germany reluctant to export their most advanced weaponry to active conflict zones. They do happily sell the tanks to other countries for defense. However, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has vowed to spend about $100 billion to expand the country’s military, a growth in militarism not seen in the country since WWII. Despite this, Scholz fears furnishing Russia with a justification to act more aggressively against Germany. He so far hasn’t sent Leopard tanks to Ukraine or to allowed other countries to send Leopard tanks purchased from Germany. 

At the recent Davos summit, German officials hinted that they’d be willing to give Ukraine Leopards if the US would also send some of its Abrams tanks. Within minutes of the reports that Germany would send Leopard tanks to Ukraine, reports emerged that the US would be sending Abrams tanks as well.


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With egg prices soaring, more try to smuggle them from Mexico.

Rep. “George Santos” denies performing drag, stealing money for disabled veteran’s dog.

US, Germany in standoff over tanks for Ukraine



With egg prices soaring, more try to smuggle them from Mexico

The recent outbreak of avian flu has necessitated the culling of over 43 million egg-laying hens in the US. This has created a shortfall in egg production, just as demand spiked over the holidays. Most shoppers will have noticed a steep climb in egg prices at the grocery store. A carton of a dozen eggs now averages $4.25 in the US, up from $1.79 a year ago. In some urban markets, a dozen eggs can be more than $10. Some businesses, such as bakeries, have had to raise prices on baked good to offset the cost. Others are actually losing money on products they sell, keeping prices low to maintain their customers and hoping that prices will come down soon.

Customs officials have also seen more Americans attempting to smuggle in cheaper eggs from Mexico. Bringing certain agricultural products, including eggs and live poultry, over the border is strictly prohibited as these imports can spread disease and pests. The fine for being caught smuggling these items is $10,000. If you declare the items, border agents will seize and destroy them, but spare you the fine.

Despite the risks, Americans continue taking the chance. In Ciudad Juarez, a busy border crossing near El Paso, TX, a 30-count carton eggs is about $3.40, while a 12-count carton at a local Walmart in El Paso is $5.44

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Rep. “George Santos” denies performing drag, stealing money for disabled veteran’s dog 

“Kitara Ravache”, aka George Santos, aka Anthony Devolder, aka George Devolder, aka Anthony Zabrovsky.

We already knew of at least three aliases used by new Rep. George Santos: Anthony Zabrovsky, George Devolder, and Anthony Devolder. This week, we learned of a fourth – Kitara Ravache. This, according to people who knew Santos in Brazil, was Santos’ stage name when he performed in a drag competition for Miss Gay Rio de Janeiro

Although he was married to a woman until a few weeks before he declared his candidacy the first time he ran in 2020, Santos now says he is openly gay. Nevertheless, he has joined in with fellow Republicans taking a hard line against transgender identity and supported Florida’s “Don’t say gay” law which bans discussion of LGBT issues in classrooms. 

Despite numerous independent sources confirming Santos’ drag-performing past, and photographic evidence, Santos has denied ever performing drag. According to the Brazilian sources, Santos wasn’t much of a performer anyway. He participated in the Miss Gay Rio competition twice and didn’t make it past the qualifying round either time.

“Anthony Devolder” stole $3000 donated to save a disabled veteran’s dog 

George Santos, under the name “Anthony Devolder”, once ran a charity called Friends of Pets United. In 2016, disabled homeless veteran Richard Osthoff of New Jersey reached out to “Devolder” to help raise money for a life-saving operation for Sapphire, Osthoff’s pit mix.

The campaign met its $3000 goal and Osthoff thought Sapphire was as good as saved. But that’s when Santos started giving him the run-around. First, Santos told Osthoff to take Sapphire to a vet in Queens, NY, that Santos claimed to have “credit” with. That vet told Osthoff that Sapphire’s growth was inoperable. This contradicted what Osthoff’s New Jersey vet had told him.

A link shared by Osthoff to the GoFundMe set up for Sapphire by George Santos (“Anthony Devolder”).

When Osthoff asked Santos to pay the money to his own vet so Sapphire could get her operation, Santos refused. Santos said that since Osthoff “didn’t do things my way,” Santos put the GoFundMe money from Sapphire’s fundraiser into the charity to use “for other dogs.” 

Michael Boll, a fellow vet and former police sergeant, attempted to intervene and contacted Santos on Osthoff’s behalf. Boll found Santos similarly uncooperative. Santos soon broke off contact altogether and Osthoff never saw a penny of the money donated by his family and friends. Sapphire sadly died in 2017.

Santos, predictably, denies any involvement and even denies knowing Boll or Osthoff. This is despite ample screenshots of Osthoff’s text exchanges and other communications with “Anthony Devolder”, which you can see here.

When told of Santos’ denial, Osthoff said Santos should “go to hell”. Osthoff said that if he spoke to Santos now, he would ask: “Do you have a heart? Do you have a soul?”. He then added, “He’d probably lie about that.”



US, Germany hesitant to send tanks to Ukraine

The war in Ukraine has been a hot topic at this year’s Davos conference of world leaders. The representatives of multiple countries in attendance have increased their pledges of military and other supplies in Ukraine. Fighting has recently intensified in Eastern Ukraine, raising fears that Russia may be redoubling its war efforts. Reports suggest that Russia is planning to call up a new wave of 500,000 conscripts, having already called up 300,000. The Kremlin is also moving more advanced weapons systems and other military assets to its border with Ukraine. 

The US has so far given more than any other country to help the Ukrainians fend off the Russian advance. US military personnel are now training Ukrainian soldiers to used advanced weapons systems in Germany and Oklahoma

Although Germany has sent humanitarian aid and safety equipment, Europe’s only superpower has been more hesitant to send heavy military equipment to the Ukrainians. Not only this, Germany has not granted export licenses to other countries who would like to send Ukraine German-made equipment.

Earlier this week, Germany’s defense minister resigned, apparently due to rampant criticism of the standoffish approach. But German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has been equally reluctant to make any firm commitments. Now, the US and Ukraine’s other allies are piling pressure on Schulz to authorize the transfer of German-made Leopard tanks to the Ukrainians. Leopard tanks are considered state-of-the-art, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been asking for them since the war began. 

However, Scholz appears reluctant to authorize the transfer of the tanks, but has hinted he might be willing if the US sent Ukraine its own tanks, the Abrams. So far, the Biden administration hasn’t agreed to send any Abrams tanks, claiming they would be too difficult for the Ukrainians to maintain.

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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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Waves of Cuban, Haitian migrants encountered in Florida Keys since Dec. 30. Ukraine finds Iranian attack drone containing parts from 13 US companies.



Waves of Cuban, Haitian migrants encountered in Florida Keys since Dec. 30

Yesterday, the Homeland Security Task Force-Southeast tweeted that it had either interdicted (turned back) or encountered 1,300 Cuban and Haitian migrants between Friday, Dec. 30, and Monday, Jan. 2. Some had landed and were transferred to Customs and Border Protection for processing, while others were turned back at sea. Reporting isn’t clear as to how many migrants HSTF-SE transferred to CBP and how many they blocked from arriving.

One of the boats used to make the dangerous 100-mile crossing.

Over the weekend, about 500 mostly Cuban migrants arrived in the Florida Keys. Over 300 came ashore at the Dry Tortugas National Park, forcing the closure of the park. However, the recent wave of sea arrivals did not stop on Monday. On Tuesday, 140 Haitian migrants landed on Key Largo. The same day, an additional 20 Cuban migrants arrived in Key West and 27 Cubans in Islamorada. Two cruise ships rescued an additional 50 migrants and surrendered to authorities on Tuesday. These are just the reports I could find, there are likely many more.

Arrivals continued on Wednesday when Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay joined Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) for a news conference to discuss the issue. Monroe County contains all the Florida Keys and parts of two national parks on the southern tip of Florida. Sheriff Ramsay has called the wave of sea arrivals a “crisis” for his department and has criticized the federal response. On Wednesday, Ramsay said his county had seen an average of 10 boats arriving every day.

A chaotic and dangerous situation

Another tweet from HSTF-SE confirmed that since August 2022, Task Force interdicted 7,784 refugees at sea and encountered 4,401 that had landed. HSTF-SE also confirmed 65 migrants drowned in fiscal year 2022. The Chief of the Miami Border Patrol sector also said that since Oct. 1, 2022, the sector has experienced a 400% increase in migrant encounters.

Another boat migrants used to cross from Cuba.

Many of these migrants attempt the dangerous 100-mile crossing from Cuba in overloaded and unseaworthy vessels, sometimes cobbled together from improvised materials. Once they arrive, there’s no guarantee as to whether they will be able to stay or whether they’ll be sent back. Many migrants say that if they’re sent back, they’ll simply attempt the crossing again. It’s no wonder given the horrendous situations in both Cuba and Haiti.

Immigrant and human rights advocates have described our asylum system as arbitrary and cruel, and it often is. Our immigration laws haven’t had a serious overhaul in over 40 years. Enforcement is often left up to the whims of successive administrations and is never applied equitably. Even migrants who do manage claim asylum have to wait months or years for hearings in our overburdened immigration courts.


Mixed signals

Today, Biden announced a program to allow 30,000 migrants a month to arrive in the US from Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti and Venezuela. This program will be open to people who apply from outside the US and can prove they have a US sponsor.

However, Biden also announced that his administration will extend Title 42, the Trump-era order that prevents migrants from seeking asylum, to arrivals from Cuba and Haiti. Currently, Title 42 only applies to migrants from Mexico, Venezuela and some Central American countries. This announcement comes even as Biden’s Department of Justice is preparing to defend the administration’s decision to end Title 42 before the Supreme Court. To say the administration is sending mixed signals on immigration would be an understatement.



Iranian attack drone used in Ukraine contained parts from 13 US companies

In recent months, Russian forces have been deploying loud, slow-moving Iranian-made attack drones to target buildings in Ukraine. Iran has denied supplying these drones to Russia, but US intelligence has confirmed that they are, in fact, Iranian. A Ukrainian team recently dissected a drone that was shot down and found that it contained parts made by 13 different US companies. The drone also contained parts from Canada, Switzerland, Taiwan, China and Japan. 

The report does not name the US companies or specifically say whether they are weapons manufacturers or other tech companies. The parts somehow found their way to Iran despite strict export controls the US has imposed on its companies to prevent such materials from falling into the wrong hands. The US is now looking at ways to beef up enforcement of those sanctions, but there aren’t many options. Apart from pushing companies to better monitor their supply chains, US intelligence must identify third-party sellers.

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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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Defense contractors biggest winners of new Pentagon budget. Putin suggests possibility of settlement to end war in Ukraine.



House overwhelmingly passes record $858 billion defense budget

In a 350-80 vote, the House of Representatives far exceeded the necessary two-thirds majority to pass the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, which sets out defense spending for the next year. The 2023 NDAA foresees $858 billion in defense spending. This is the largest ever yearly Pentagon budget and exceeds the amount President Biden requested by $45 billion. It’s not unusual for Congress to exceed the White House’s request when it comes to military budgets.

This amount also far exceeds the 2022 NDAA’s eye-popping $777.7 billion budget. Even accounting for inflation, it exceeds the $533 billion budget in 2005 by nearly $100 billion ($533 billion in 2005 is about $765 billion in 2022 terms). In 2005, we were fully engaged in Afghanistan and also fighting the so-called “insurgency” in Iraq. 

The current 2023 NDAA legislation gives a 4.6% pay increase for the troops. It also includes about $800 million more aid for Ukraine on top of the more than $60 billion already approved. The bill also pledges $10 billion to Taiwan from 2023-2027 as the island faces increasing aggression from China. 

Defense contractor “bonanza”

By far the biggest winners are defense contractors Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman. All of them will be receiving no-bid multi-year multi-billion dollar contracts in weapons purchases and funding to develop new ones.

To highlight just one of these programs, Northrup Grumman has rolled out its new B-21 Raider. The sleek craft is capable of manned and unmanned flight and carrying both nuclear and conventional weapon payloads. The Air Force says it “will form the backbone of the future Air Force bomber force.” The planes are about $700 million each (though some sources price it at nearly $1 billion. The Pentagon hopes to build about 100 of these planes at an estimated cost of $32 billion, including research and development, through 2027.

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Putin suggests possibility of settlement to end Ukraine war

Speaking in Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek, Russian President Vladimir Putin raised the possibility of a “settlement” that could end hostilities in Ukraine. However, his other comments suggest that he’s not yet ready to negotiate on certain demands of his considered out-of-bounds by Ukraine and most of its Western allies.

“The settlement process as a whole, yes, it will probably be difficult and will take some time,” Putin said. “But one way or another, all participants in this process will have to agree with the realities that are taking shape on the ground”.  It’s not very hopeful but still one of the few times Putin has admitted that an unqualified victory might not be on the cards for him in Ukraine. At the moment, the realities taking shape on the ground are decidedly not in Putin’s favor. 

During his remarks in Bishkek, Putin repeated his belief that the war was going to plan. “Everything is stable,” Putin said “There are no questions or problems there”. This is despite the fact that Russian forces are in retreat, poorly-equipped and under-supplied all across the Ukrainian field. Yesterday, Putin voiced a rare acknowledgment of these unforeseen “setbacks”. He warned that the war was likely to be “a long-term process”.

Putin has recently reiterated that he considers Russian possession of Ukrainian territories non-negotiable. This includes Crimea as well as four other Ukrainian regions where Russia recently conducted referendums, universally rejected as “shams” by the West. The Kremlin recently stated that Russian possession of these provinces must be unconditionally agreed to by the West before they even sit down at the negotiation table.

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