Tag Archive for: War


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.

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


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.

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



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.


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



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

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


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.

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



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



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.

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




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.

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


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


**BREAKING** Jury finds Trump Org guilty on all tax fraud counts

A jury in New York has found that Trump’s company committed tax fraud by providing untaxed benefits to employees in lieu of pay. The convictions against the firm include scheming to defraud, conspiracy, criminal tax fraud and falsifying business records.

The company may face fines of up to $1.7 million. The organization will also likely have difficulty securing financing and doing business with other firms whose policies prohibit working with companies with fraud convictions.

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



Thousands freeze in North Carolina after gunfire attacks on power substations. Jan. 6 Cmte. chair Bennie Thompson says criminal referrals on the way. Is Ukraine carrying out drone attacks in Russia?




Thousands of North Carolinians freezing after gunfire attacks on power substations

Saturday night, saboteurs opened fire on two different power substations serving Moore County, NC. Police have said that this attack was not “random” and that it was “targeted”. The attacks critically damaged the two substations, initially leaving about 45,000 people in the county without power. Three days later, some 30,000 still don’t have service and temperatures have been falling below freezing at night.

Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields says the perpetrators “knew exactly what they were doing”. The saboteurs broke into at least one of the substations in order to access the equipment they were targeting. The two facilities are located about five miles apart.

While police have not firmly identified a motive, some speculate that the attack was connected to protests over a drag show that was to take place in the city of Southern Pines in Moore County. The drag show was to start at 7pm, which is about the same time the attacks happened. Local authorities have called in the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to help in the investigation.

Duke Energy, the private utility company that operates the two substations, warned residents that repairs could take days. Meanwhile, many have been gathering for warmth in shelters at night. Some people who use heart and lung machines at home have had to go to these shelters to charge batteries for their life-saving equipment. Sheriff Fields says murder charges are possible if anyone dies as a result of the blackout.

Such attacks could be easily prevented

Jon Wellinghoff, the former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, says that attacks like these can be easily prevented with some fairly inexpensive modifications and safeguards in place. Wellinghoff investigated a similar attack at a substation in San Jose, CA. The perpetrators were never caught.

Because of that incident and other similar incidents, FERC later issued physical security standards to protect these critical pieces of infrastructure from these sorts of attacks. This includes relatively simple and cheap protective solutions. Following the San Jose attack, California’s private utility PG&E put up a cement wall around the structure. Wellinghoff mentions that even sandbags piled up around the equipment can effectively protect it from gunfire.

Despite these recommendations and growing recognition of the vulnerability of power grid infrastructure, such measures haven’t been widely implemented. Wellinghoff attributes to a failure by states to require the private companies that hold monopolies in providing critical services to adopt these simple safeguards.

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


Jan. 6 Committee chair Bennie Thompson says criminal referrals on the way

Today, Congress is honoring the Capitol Police officers who endured the Jan. 6, 2021, siege at the Capitol by awarding them Congressional Gold medals. On his way into the ceremony, Jan. 6 Committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) was beset by reporters asking about the committee’s deliberations ahead of the release of its final report. Thompson told the reporters that the committee had decided to make at least one criminal referral. This would mean the committee wants the Justice Department to pursue charges against someone in connection with Jan. 6.

The committee is still discussing the details and hasn’t formally finalized any decisions. Thompson would not say how many referrals the committee would make, what the charges would be, or who they were targeting. Possibilities could include former President Trump himself or any number of his close advisors.

As for what the charges might be, the committee has delved into a wide range of actions by Trump and his advisors both on and before Jan. 6. It’s possible charges could focus narrowly on the events of the day itself, or the fomenting of violence leading up to it. More broadly, the committee could recommend charges related to state-level efforts by Trump and his advisors to obstruct the electoral process in the weeks before Jan. 6.

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



Is Ukraine carrying out drone attacks in Russia?

Yesterday, explosions occurred at two airbases deep within Russia, far from the Ukrainian frontlines. At one, the Russian defense ministry confirmed that two of its long-range bombers were damaged. This was at the Engels-2 airbase in Russia’s Saratov region. Another explosion took place at the Dyagilevo airbase, less than 150 miles from Moscow. Here, a fuel truck exploded, killing three people and wounding five.

At first the cause of the explosions was unclear. Now it appears that both were the result of long range drone attacks by Ukraine. According to an anonymous Ukrainian official, these were apparently pre-emptive strikes by Kyiv targeting the long-range bombers that Russia has been using to cripple Ukraine’s power infrastructure. However, Kyiv has not officially confirmed they were behind any of these attacks.

Today, another Ukrainian drone strike struck another airbase in Russia’s Kursk region, which borders Ukraine. Here the drone attack blew up an oil storage tank.

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



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



15 million may lose Medicaid in April. EpiPen maker settles suit over price-gouging scandal. Missile strikes in Ukraine; Russia under economic siege.




At least 15 million may be kicked off Medicaid in April

As of July 2021, Medicaid enrollment was at an all-time high of 76.7 million people. That’s a 19% increase over 2019. Pre-pandemic, Medicaid enrollment had been slowly dropping. But that changed as millions of Americans lost their jobs and insurance coverage due to the pandemic. In response, Congress enacted the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Among other things, FFCRA increased Medicaid funding to states in exchange for continuous enrollment during the public health emergency. This meant that for the duration of the pandemic, Medicaid recipients could not have their coverage revoked even if their economic circumstances changed.

But that protection may come to an end as early as April. This means that many states are going to have to re-evaluate the eligibility of a huge number of recipients in a very short space of time. Potentially, even people who are eligible for the coverage may find themselves unenrolled. To avoid this, eligible recipients must provide up-to-date income verification to continue their enrolment. This can be a very time-consuming process for recipients, as many states already have huge backlogs and have cut their Medicaid administration staff.

How to apply for Medicaid in Mississippi (opens in new tab).

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


EpiPen maker to settle lawsuit over price-gouging scandal

In 2016, EpiPen manufacturer Mylan increased the price of a pair of EpiPens by 500%, from $100 a pair to $600. EpiPens are an emergency life-saving treatment for sufferers of life threatening allergic reactions. The price hike sparked outrage and a still ongoing public conversation about the power of Big Pharma companies to fix prices.

Mylan, which has since changed its name to Viatris, agreed to settle a federal lawsuit stemming from this controversy for $264 million. The settlement will head off a trial that was to begin this month. Had the plaintiffs prevailed at trial, Mylan/Viatrix might have had to pay upwards of $1 billion in damages. Some states’ antitrust laws might have forced them to pay multiples of that.

Mylan/Viatris admits no wrongdoing in the settlement. This lawsuit did not pertain to the price hike itself, because a federal judge threw out that part of the case last year. The still-intact portion of the case accused Mylan/Viatris’ of conspiring with generic brand Teva Pharmaceuticals to delay the release of Teva’s generic version of EpiPen. This agreement ensured Mylan/Viatris could maximize its profit from the price hike.

Meanwhile, Mylan/Viatris as has sold its biosimilars business (which makes products like EpiPens) to an Indian pharmaceutical company for $3.34 billion.

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

What role did Sen. Joe Manchin’s daughter play in the price-gouging scandal? (opens in new tab).



Missile strikes in Ukraine; Russia under economic siege

Shelling by Russian forces continued and intensified in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkhiv today. This morning, missiles struck Independence Square, the second largest city square in Europe. A government building and the city’s iconic opera house were destroyed. At least 10 civilian fatalities have been confirmed, and at least 70 Ukrainian soldiers were killed in the shelling. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky proclaimed the missile strikes an act of state terrorism by Russia.

Meanwhile, an ever-growing convoy of Russian military vehicles continues its advance towards the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. Resistance by Ukrainian forces as well as sabotage of roads and bridges have slowed the convoy’s advance somewhat. Breakdowns of some of the vehicles have delayed the convoy further. Analysts say that while the convoy includes some artillery platforms and tanks, most are logistical support vehicles. This implies that the convoy’s mission is to either occupy or lay siege to Kiev.

Talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations on the Belarussian border yesterday ended with no conclusive agreement. However, the two sides agreed at least to keep talking, saying they would reconvene in the next few days.

Economic pain in Russia

Ordinary Russians are feeling the bite of Western sanctions on Russian banks and some business entities. Many ATMs have run out of currency (both rubles and dollars), though analysts say this is likely just a tactic to prevent people from withdrawing their savings. The value of the ruble vs. the dollar fell by 40% yesterday. The Russian central bank responded by more than doubling interest rates from 9.5% to 20% in an effort to stabilize the currency. Any Russian citizens who are paying mortgages or other loans will soon be faced with skyrocketing fees.

The sanctions have also disrupted mundane everyday activities for Russians. Because of sanctions on the bank that coordinates Mastercard and Visa payments, Russians are now unable to use credit cards and apps like Apple Pay. Many have reported being unable to by food in grocery stores or tickets in metro stations as a result.

It’s debatable who average Russian blames for their predicament. Most Russians consume only Russian state media and are likely to view the sanctions as an act of Western hostility towards the Russian people themselves. A minority of Russians who have access to Western news sources may see the sanctions as a rebuke of the aggression of their leader, Vladimir Putin. But even in those cases, they are likely to see the sanctions as punishing ordinary Russians rather than those in power.

Click here for live updates (opens in new tab).




Lake Tahoe police “inundated” with calls to save 500-pound bear, Hank the Tank. Fewest Americans on unemployment aid since 1970. Putin invades Ukraine; French question his sanity.




Lake Tahoe police “inundated” with calls to save 500-pound bear, Hank the Tank

Lake Tahoe, CA, residents are accustomed to seeing wildlife roaming their streets and backyards. In recent years, residential encroachment and wildfires have shrunk local wildlife habitat. This has forced many animals to resort to looking for food from poorly-secured dumpsters in residential areas.

Black bears have become an increasingly common sight. The bears will open car doors and sometimes venture into homes in search of food. Residents have even witnessed mama black bears teaching their cubs how to open flimsy patio doors. But recently, the local bear control controversy has zeroed in on a single culprit – “Hank the Tank”.

Hank weighs in at around 500 lbs (though some believe that figure to be a lowball) thanks to his exclusive human food diet. And he’s not shy about using his bulk to muscle his way into homes through windows and doors. As a result, Hank is now “wanted” by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Locals have debated what to do about Hank. Some think euthanizing Hank is the only safe course. Relocating Hank to a wilderness area is not an option because he shows no fear of humans and could pose a danger to people wherever he was.

But many locals, including members of the Bear League, see Hank as a mascot and want to transport him to a bear refuge instead. Hank’s story went viral, and people from across the country have “inundated” the South Lake Tahoe Police with calls to save Hank. The SLTPD has asked that people stop calling to weigh in about Hank, as it is disrupting their emergency response system.

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


Fewest Americans on unemployment aid since 1970

Here’s some good news at least on the economic home front. Weekly indicators from the Department of Labor shows that last week’s new unemployment claims fell by 17,000, from 249,000 to 232,000. This marks the third straight week of declines in employment claims. This seems to show a sharp recovery in the job market, following a 5-week period of rising unemployment claims at the height of the omicron wave. As of Feb. 5, 1,476,000 Americans were collecting jobless aid. That’s 112,000 fewer than the previous week and the lowest level since March 14, 1970.

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



Putin invades Ukraine. How far will he go, and is he sane?

Ukrainians in several key cities across the country woke up to the sound of gunfire and shelling from the air. Putin has now dropped any pretense and has committed to all-out war, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in Europe for decades. The 200,000 Russian troops that had been poised on the border have now crossed it and are currently storming their way inward from multiple directions. Ukrainian troops are engaging them in deadly combat on the ground, but Russia has brought reinforcements from the air.

Russian troops have now captured the former nuclear facility at Chernobyl after pitched fighting in the 1000-mile nuclear exclusion zone. This in particular has a lot of people worried, both in Ukraine and further afield. There are tons of nuclear waste buried in the area, and an unlucky missile strike could spread contamination into the air and water, potentially endangering millions in Ukraine, Russia, and deep into Europe.

Human panic and economic chaos

Thousands of Ukrainians, who have so far taken the threats in stride, are fleeing the country. Nearby EU countries, including Poland, say they are ready to receive large numbers of Ukrainian refugees. Many Ukrainians who have not left entirely are sheltering in metro stations, some of the deepest in the world. Others have fled from the south and east to western parts of the country, where they hope they will be relatively safe.

Global stocks have fallen across the board and oil has spiked to $105 per barrel. This is in part down to fear of the conflict itself and the anticipation of sanctions on Russia and likely disruption of the global oil supply.

What’s next?

President Biden is announcing more severe sanctions on Russia, as have numerous Western allies. So far, the threat and imposition of these sanctions have not dulled Putin’s aggression. Fear is rising in the former-Soviet Baltic states that Putin’s ambitions stretch beyond Ukraine. Recent statements by Putin indicate that he may in fact aspire to reconstituting the former Soviet Union by force. 

If Putin does indeed enter these countries, which are NATO members, he will force the West, including the U.S., to respond militarily. 

Biden says that the goal now is to dissuade Putin from taking that further step, and, hopefully, cease hostilities in Ukraine. Part of the Western response will involve sanctions. But White House sources have said that U.S. cyber attacks on Russian military assets may be an option. But it remains to be seen if any of that will be enough.

Has Putin gone mad?

Recently, some sources close to French President Emmanuelle Macron have conveyed their impression that Putin may be mentally unstable. Macron, who recently spent 5 hours face-to-face with Putin, has himself stated that Putin was not the same man he met in 2019. Putin’s already insular character seems to have intensified since the start of the pandemic.

According to Macron, the Putin he recently met over a comically-large negotiating table was “more rigid, more isolated” and had entered an “ideological and security drift”. Another high-ranking French official described Putin’s recent remarks as “paranoid”. Bernard Guetta, a French member of the European parliament, said today in a radio interview: “I think this man is losing his sense of reality, to say it politely”. When the interviewer asked if he meant Putin had gone mad, Guetta said “yes”.

If that’s true, we can only guess how much misery Putin is willing to inflict on his own people and the rest of Europe in his quest to turn the clock back 40 years.

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


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


Two decades of war cost taxpayers $5.8 trillion, so far. Texas’ abortion strategy could be used to curtail any constitutional right. UN: Number of weather disasters soar, deaths fall.


America’s two decades of war cost taxpayers $5.8 trillion, so far

A new report from the Costs of War Project at Brown University tallies that the total cost for the U.S. “War on Terror” will reach an astounding $5.8 trillion by the end of 2022. And that’s not all. Health care for veterans will likely top $2.2 trillion through 2050, bringing the total to more than $8 trillion. 

This figure includes funding for the Department of Homeland Security and increases to the Pentagon’s “base” budget.

Not included in this estimate is the interest for the money we borrowed for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. By 2050, the interest alone may reach more than $6.5 trillion!

The human cost

The Costs of War report estimates that as many as 929,000 people have died as a direct result of the war on terror. That includes combatants and civilians, but civilians make up the vast majority. About 3000 people died on 9/11. So 929,000 is about 309 9/11s, or 15 9/11s every year for twenty years.

But the human cost also includes lost opportunities to invest in making people’s lives better by investing things like infrastructure, climate-change readiness, education and healthcare. Lindsay Koshgarian of the Institute for Policy Studies says, “We’re not dealing with all of those problems because of how much we’ve had tunnel vision and invested in this one vision of security — that really isn’t meeting our needs”.

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


Texas’ abortion strategy could be used to curtail any constitutional right

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a legal challenge to a Texas abortion law, which restricts abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detectable, around 6 weeks. This is before most women even know they are pregnant. The law effectively bans most otherwise constitutional abortions, even in cases of rape or incest.

Spy on thy neighbor?

Whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice, anyone with strong views on any social issue should have concerns about the way Texas’ new law is enforced. Rather than imposing criminal penalties, the law essentially encourages private citizens to spy on one another and report any suspicion they have.

The law does not target the women getting the abortion. Instead, it allows any private citizen to sue any person who aids and abets a woman in obtaining an abortion beyond the 6-week threshold for at least $10,000. That means any random person could sue you if you give a woman a ride to an abortion clinic. If you give a pregnant woman information about obtaining an abortion, you can be sued. Some interpretations of the law suggest that someone could sue you just for donating to a service like Planned Parenthood. You can even be sued for condsidering doing any of these things. Essentially, a thought crime.

That enforcement strategy could apply to any social issue

Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas in Austin, says the law is “a cynical attempt to make it harder to challenge the underlying ban” in court. The fact that private citizens, and not the state, are enforcing this law makes it very difficult to challenge in court since there’s no single public official challengers could sue to block the law on the grounds that it’s unconstitutional. 

But Vladeck also says states could use this strategy to craft hard-to-challenge legislation to curtail a host of constitutional rights. Vladeck uses the example of 2nd Amendment gun rights. For example, “What if California turns around and passes gun restrictions that have a similar procedural trap?”. In such a case, the state wouldn’t be enforcing the law, but “private citizens who believe that someone’s keeping a gun in their home in violation of the relevant state laws”.

Beyond that, what if a random person could sue you for lending money to someone to buy a gun? Or driving them to the gun store? Or donating to the NRA? Or thinking about it?

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



UN: Number of weather disasters soar, deaths fall

The World Meteorological Organization, part of of the UN, says that weather disasters are occurring worldwide four to five times more often and causing seven times more damage compared with the 1970s. In the 1970s, the world saw about 711 weather disasters a year. Throughout the 2010s, the average was 3,536 per year, or nearly 10 a day.

If there’s any good news here, it’s that far fewer people are dying, on average, as a result of these catastrophes. In the ’70s and ’80s, about 170 people died per day as a result of weather disasters worldwide. By the 2010s, that number had dropped to around 40 a day.

The WMO’s secretary-general Petteri Taalas says that, “we have been able to minimize the amount of casualties” despite the increasing frequency of heatwaves, flooding events, drought, and tropical storms.”  

“But the bad news,” says Taalas, “is that the economic losses have been growing very rapidly”. For comparison, weather disasters cost about $175 billion globally in the 1970s, when adjusted to 2019 dollars. For the period from 2010 to 2019, global weather damage amounted to about $1.38 trillion. As climate change worsens and exacerbates further weather events, Taalas says the growth of these costs will only accelerate over the next century.

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



The US media never exacts a price for starting a war or even committing war crimes. But they will exact a price for ending a war, as Pres. Biden has learned.



Anyone who’s read my past writings on President Biden will know I’m not his biggest fan. I questioned his fitness for office before he became the nominee. Since he became president, I’ve covered numerous actions he’s taken that I think deserved criticism, and some I think deserved credit. I may not like a lot of his politics, but when he’s right, he’s right. And pulling out of Afghanistan NOW -not a few months from now, or a few years or decades from now- is right. A majority of Americans (63%!) also believe it is right.

So the first thing I wanna do here is to congratulate President Biden for doubling and tripling down on his decision to end this nightmare once and for all. He stood firm on this, even though he stood alone, abandoned by the media and even his own party. That takes courage, and conviction, and for that he deserves massive credit.

And that is not a sentiment you’ll have seen expressed anywhere in television news in recent weeks.

From any major media outlet you can name, be it Fox, CNN, MSNBC, NPR or the Big Three, the message is clear. The US media establishment is out in force to punish Biden for ending a war we should never have been in.

That’s because the mainstream mass media has become nothing but the propaganda arm of the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about way back in 1961.

Price to pay

Let’s step back in time just for a moment to the early days of Trump’s presidency. Do you remember the first time he got a pat on the back from the “left-wing” press? That would be the night he bombed Syria. On April 7, 2018, Fareed Zakaria of CNN said with a straight face, “Donald Trump became President of the United States tonight”.

That was also the night Donald Trump learned that, as far as the media is concerned, there’s never a price to pay for starting a war, perpetuating a war, or even committing war crimes. But there is a price to pay for ending a war, as President Biden is learning now.

By Monday morning after the fall of Kabul, the media were full of comparisons to the fall of Saigon. As if the lesson of Saigon and Kabul was not “we should have never been there”, but rather “we should have stayed longer”.

As we wrapped up our mission in Afghanistan, our airwaves were full of ex-Bush officials, ex-generals, and ex-Defense Department ghouls telling us what a terrible thing Biden was doing. With no shame, “serious journalists” brought on the very people who got us into this mess in the first place. Not to hold them to account, but to give them a platform to wag their fingers at the only person with the balls to pull us out of it!

This finger-wagging is especially galling, given the media’s apathy to the many outrages that took place in Afghanistan when the war was still in full swing. 

Remember when Afghanistan was “The Forgotten War”?

The recent scenes in Kabul have been described as “gut-wrenching”, “heartbreaking”, and “devastating”. And yes, they are all of those things. They have also been ubiquitous on our screens to a degree absolutely unprecedented in the television media coverage throughout this war. In the 20 years we were in Afghanistan, not one of the atrocities that occurred there has garnered this degree of indignant, wall-to-wall, 24/7 coverage for days on end. 

Fun Fact: between 2015 and 2020, the Big Three Networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) devoted a combined total of only 362 minutes to covering Afghanistan. That’s an average of only 24 minutes per network per year. In 2020, the combined Afghanistan coverage for the three networks amounted to a grand total of 5 minutes.

Just to name a few things that happened during that time:

US forces and NATO allies bombed Afghan schools, hospitals and wedding parties (all war crimes, by the way).

Afghan captives (Taliban, ISIS or perfectly innocent, who knows?) were viciously and casually executed.

We learned that some of our allies against the Taliban were Afghan warlords who kept child sex slaves

The Afghanistan Papers revealed in 2019 in excruciating detail how the war in Afghanistan had become the unholy mother of all boondoggles.

Not one, not a single one, of these inarguably newsworthy events received the coverage and condemnation from the mainstream media that they deserved. Most received no, or nearly no, coverage at all. If they did, the universal reaction from pundits, talking heads, retired-generals-turned-defense-lobbyists was a collective shrug and a sigh of “Well, what are you gonna do? War is messy sometimes”.

Because of these failures by the media, Afghanistan became known as the “Forgotten War”. But once Biden decided to pull the plug on this horror show, suddenly the media remembered.

And they were mad as hell.

But not because we were there so long, spent so much, harmed so many and accomplished so little. No, they were mad that it was over!

The more honest conservative hawks came right out and said, “we should never have left”. King Hawk Lindsey Graham wants to impeach Biden- for ENDING the war. Even Biden’s fellow Democrats want an investigation! And the ever-obliging media is happy to parrot these talking points.

Did anyone ever discuss impeaching any of the three previous presidents for their decisions in this war? Nope. Not for all the war crimes; the endless waste and graft; constantly moving the goalposts; or deceiving the American people into believing this war was “winnable”.

Some pundits staked out a more “reasonable” position that “we should have stayed there just a little longer”. So, maybe if we’d just stayed a little longer, trained 300,000 MORE Afghan troops, spent just a few more $trillions propping up our jaw-droppingly corrupt puppet government there, MAYBE the Taliban wouldn’t have swept the country in a matter of weeks after we left? BULLSHIT!

Now, were mistakes made? Yes. The biggest is that we should have gotten our Afghan allies out ages ago. Is that all on Biden? No. But he’s president now and, as he says himself, the buck stops with him.

But, in what scenario would there not have been a mad dash to the airport by Afghans terrified of the Taliban? In what scenario would the chaotic scenes plastered all over our screens not have played out?

Were we holding out for some scenario where we created a stable democracy in a made-up country? Were we expecting to leave behind a country full of grateful, smiling Afghans bidding tearful goodbyes to the American saviors who’d made the bad old Taliban a thing of the past?

Get real; this isn’t an Audie Murphy movie.

So what’s behind this cheerleading for endless war?

Have you ever seen one of those minute-long commercials for Raytheon or Boeing on the cable news networks? Were you in the market for a new fighter jet or some stinger missiles at the time? No? Then you must have wondered what in the hell they were selling and to whom.

That’s because YOU are not part of the intended audience for those commercials. Those commercials are reminders to the news networks’ producers and anchors of who pays their salaries and keeps the lights on in their fancy studios.

Those reminders ensure an endless stream of retired generals (who now work as lobbyists for Raytheon, etc.) on our screens to tell us that we have to have “endless war for endless peace” to paraphrase Orwell.

Obviously, it’s not only the media. Plenty of serving politicians (Democrats and Republicans) are in the pay of the defense contractors. And they always get a warm welcome on the mainstream news.

And boy have Northrup Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and General Dynamics gotten a return on those investments! Just those five companies raked in $2 trillion from the US government between 2001 and August 2021. Is it any wonder they don’t want us to leave Afghanistan?

Kicking and screaming

In the final days of the drawdown, after we’d evacuated over 100,000 people, 13 of our troops and probably close to 200 Afghan civilians perished in an attack by a new terrorist organization, ISIS-K. In retaliation, we launched a drone strike, supposedly targeting members of ISIS-K. The result? Dead civilians, including young children.

And even until the last minute, the maniacs in the press, Capitol Hill and the defense lobbies tried to use these hideous events as a reason for us to stay! Maybe we should have kept just a few troops there. Or maybe we should have stayed just long enough to evacuate some more people.

These arguments are perverse. Why do you think these attacks happened as we were leaving? Simple – ISIS didn’t want us to go. They would have loved nothing more than if we had recommitted, put more of our troops in their crosshairs, and killed more Afghan children! We are their best recruiting tool!

If anything, these events confirm that Biden’s instinct is correct- get out, get all the way out, and get out now! No extensions; no excuses. Our continued presence in Afghanistan would have made NO ONE safer. Not our troops, nor Americans at home, nor the Afghans themselves.

And you can extend that argument to Iraq, Syria or any of our other endless, aimless wars. But whenever the military-industrial complex sees another dollar to be made, we can count on the mass media to continue beating the war drum. Just as long as their checks clear.

— Liz Shiverdecker

Col. Smitty Harris

Col. Carlyle “Smitty” Harris (Ret.) was the fifth longest-held American prisoner during the Viet Nam war but still was able to find positives in the experience.

Smitty has told his story in the book “Tap Code,” referring to the means prisoners were able to use to communicate.

He was a guest at the Union County Heritage Museum Wednesday to talk about his experiences before an over-flow crowd.

“He has a perspective on life few of us have,” friend Jim Henson said in introducing Harris.

Harris was shot down April 4, 1965 and not released until Feb. 12, 1973. That’s 2,871 days, often filled with brutal interrogation, torture and other hardship.

He ran into trouble leading a group in to bomb a large bridge, flying an F-105. Harris described it as a very capable plane, but at the time it was carrying eight 750-pound bombs and two extra 450-gallon fuel tanks, somewhat limiting the aircraft’s response.

“I was barely above the horizon when some lucky gunner hit the engine area,” he said. “With only one engine, you’re in trouble. Also, the aircraft was on fire.”

Harris ejected successfully, but broke his shoulder and damaged a knee in the process. However, he found himself directly above a Vietnamese village.

Harris signing books

Harris and his wife autograph copies of his books for some of those at the program

He landed, but before he could use his personal radio to let others know he was alive, he was captured and stripped to his shorts by a group of young men he described as “very, very irate.”

As a result, none of his comrades knew he was still alive, having only seen the crash, although he said his wife never abandoned belief that he was alive.

There appeared to be some talk in the village of executing him but older men intervened. It turns out that the people are well-disciplined and had been told to capture prisoners alive because of their potential value for propaganda or exchange.

Harris tried to stand as straight and formal as he could under the circumstances. “I was still an Air Force officer,” he said he wanted to demonstrate.

Harris was blindfolded and moved a couple of times and interrogated some by local personnel. Two male and one female Vietnamese soldiers came to see him, apparently out of curiosity, and he was told it was the female who shot him down. Whether it was serious, he did not know but he said he was essentially propositioned about having a child with the female.

At one point he was brought out on display before an angry crowd being worked up by loudspeakers. “They said I was an American criminal trying to kill or eradicate North Vietnam,” Harris said.

Eight guards were with him at one time but some “chickened out” and abandoned him as the crowd hit and threw things at him.

As he continued to refuse to provide any military information an officer said, “Things are going to get very bad for you,” and Harris added, “They did.”

He continued to be questioned and again displayed, with 10 to 15 guards to keep the angry people away.

Eventually he ended up in Hanoi, having been blindfolded much of the time, receiving no medical treatment or water. “I had sweated a lot and suffering from thirst I could not even image,” he said.

He was placed in an old French-built prison dating from the 1800s.

Interrogation resumed immediately with Harris being struck repeatedly for not cooperating but that type of questioning was eventually abandoned when it was found to be ineffective.

“Then things changed,” Harris said. “They told me about Vietnamese history and the glories of communism. They were trying to convert me.”

Gradually life settled into a sort of routine and Harris learned there were three, and later four, other American prisoners in the small eight-cell block. They were allowed to intermingle.

“The next two weeks were good,” he said. “We talked, planned about evading interrogation and supported each other.”

how the tap code looks

A tap code table

It was then that Harris recalled something called the tap code, which had been used in World War II. It involves putting letters of the alphabet in a Bingo-like block of five rows and five columns. The letter “k” is omitted, or sometimes paired with “c.”

To send a letter, tap the number of the row first, and column second.

“It’s very easy to learn,” Harris said.

And in a few days they were all back in solitary confinement instead of being able to meet. “We were able to tap lightly,” he said, with the invitation to communicate using the old “shave and a haircut” knock.

The tap code allowed the prisoners to determine the senior officer at any given time and that officer determined the action everyone would take in response to interrogation or other circumstances. This also gave a feeling of community and helped morale, he said. “We exchanged names and were able to learn about families some from later captures.”

“What’s more, it gave us pride that we were doing our best to evade interrogation,” he said. “We were winning.”

His captors then resorted to “the worst kind of torture,” Harris said. A specialty was the “rope trick,” which was tying prisoners in various ways that strained parts of the body and causing incredible pain, sometimes leading to bones coming out of joint.

“There was eventually such pain that we had to do something,” he said.

And that “something” was to write propaganda statements. “They wanted us to write statements that our treatment was good – which was far from the truth,” he said.

But the effect was not what the Vietnamese intended.

“We wrote in slang, double meaning and sometimes used words we shouldn’t,” he said. “They didn’t understand how rich our language is.”

Of course the Americans immediately realized the irony and duress hidden in the statements and, eventually, the Vietnamese found out as well. “So they didn’t try to use it again,” he said.

Although the enemy did try to use one letter to present for a war crimes tribunal. A Navy pilot supposedly wrote that two comrades were anti-war and refusing to obey orders. He even named then: Dick Tracy and Clark Kent. This eventually came back to the pilot who suffered for it, Harris said.

For most of his captivity Harris was moved a lot and put in solitary confinement a lot. “The food was awful,” he said. “They fed us two times a day, usually a small bowl of rice and a bowl of soup that was really just hot water with some vegetables or leaves in it.”

“Most men lost 20 percent of their body weight,” he said. “I went from 160 to 115 and I was in pretty good shape so there was not a lot of fat on me.”

Finally, the food began to get better and prisoners learned of the Paris peace talks going on.

What made the difference was in 1972 when President Nixon finally allowed the military to go all out and hit major target around Hanoi and other cities.

“So in 12 days they suddenly wanted to negotiate peace,” Harris said. “That could have happened eight years earlier.”

So in January 1972 he was released and able to talk by phone with his wife from the Philippines. Alone with three children including a son Harris has never seen, she have moved to Tupelo where her sister lived and made it on her own, eventually confirming though a letter that her husband was a prisoner and alive.

“The essence of this whole experience, when the worst thing happens in your life, is it usually ends up a positive in your life,” he said.”

“We were much better Christians than when we went in,” he said. “We turned to the one person who could help us. We prayed.”

“We didn’t get the personal miracles but we gained strength,” he continued. “And all those personal miracles occurred on His schedule, not ours.”