April 2022 News, Views

 

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Editor’s Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative news and view in March, 2022

 

 

April 2

Top Headlines

 

A Ukrainian civilian and a dog stood amid the remnants of nine destroyed Russian military vehicles on a road in Dmytrivka, Ukraine, on Saturday, April 2, 2022 (Photo by Ivor Prickett for The New York Times).

 
U.S. Governance, Economy

 

Health, Climate, Environment

 

More On Ukraine War Horrors, Hardships, Prospects

 

U.S. Elections, Voter Suppression, Gerrymanders

 

World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters

 

U.S. Washington Politics

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Trump Jan. 6 Insurrection Probes

 

Law, Courts, Crime, Race 

 

Media, Religious, Entertainment News

 

Top Stories

 

A Ukrainian civilian and a dog stood amid the remnants of nine destroyed Russian military vehicles on a road in Dmytrivka, Ukraine, on Saturday, April 2, 2022 (Photo by Ivor Prickett for The New York Times).A Ukrainian civilian and a dog stood amid the remnants of nine destroyed Russian military vehicles on a road in Dmytrivka, Ukraine, on Saturday, April 2, 2022 (Photo by Ivor Prickett for The New York Times).

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Russian Troops Pull Back From Around Kyiv as Focus Shifts to East, Megan Specia and Victoria Kim, April 2, 2022. Military analysts say Russia is pulling away from areas around Kyiv, the capital, though the Pentagon has cautioned that it could be regrouping. The Red Cross is trying again to reach the besieged city of Mariupol.

Russian troops are in retreat from areas surrounding Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, military analysts say and on-the-ground reporting shows, a potentially stunning reversal in what could signal a broader shift in Russia’s assault in the sixth week of war.

It is unclear whether the Russian troops are gone for good there or further north or are trying to regroup after weeks of intense Ukrainian resistance and crippling logistical failures. But they appear, at least for now, to be following through on Russia’s stated intentions to focus more on the east, where they have a strong foothold and where analysts said they were already scaling up their attacks.

Meanwhile, Russian forces cracked down on protesters on Saturday in Energodar, a southeastern Ukrainian city that is home to the country’s largest nuclear power plant, according to the company that runs the plant. The company, the state-run Energoatom, said in a statement on its Telegram channel that explosions could be heard as Russian forces moved to disperse the protests and that four people were injured.

 

A photograph by Agence France-Presse showed three bodies on the side of a road, one with hands apparently tied behind the back in Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, on Saturday.Credit...Ronaldo Schemidt/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images A photograph by Agence France-Presse showed three bodies on the side of a road, one with hands apparently tied behind the back in Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, on Saturday, April 2, 2022 (Photo by Ronaldo Schemidt Agence France-Presse via Getty Images).

A photograph by Agence France-Presse showed three bodies on the side of a road, one with hands apparently tied behind the back in Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, on Saturday, April 2, 2022 (Photo by Ronaldo Schemidt Agence France-Presse via Getty Images). 

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine accuses Russian forces of executing civilians in the town of Bucha, Cassandra Vinograd and Andrew E. Kramer, April 2, 2022. Ukraine’s Defense Ministry posted a video early Sunday and accused Russian forces of executing civilians in a suburb of the capital, where bodies in civilian clothes dotted the streets in the wake of the Russian withdrawal.

In the footage, three bodies in civilian clothing are seen clustered on the side of the road in the suburb, Bucha. A white cloth binds the hands of one body behind its back, and a dried pool of blood spreads out from the head.

“Local civilians were being executed arbitrarily, some with hands tied behind their backs,” the ministry wrote in a tweet accompanying the video. The statement added that the scenes were a “New Srebrenica,” a reference to a 1995 massacre during the Bosnian war.

Russian officials did not immediately respond to the allegations. The New York Times was unable to independently verify the assertions by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry and other officials.

The video opened with images of trucks swerving past bodies in the road. It then showed a scene that also had been photographed by Agence France-Presse and was shared in a separate post from a senior adviser to Ukraine’s president.

“These people were not in the military,” the adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, said on Twitter. “They had no weapons. They posed no threat.”

Members of Ukraine’s parliament had earlier posted similar footage and images. “I am shaking,” wrote one lawmaker.

Other images circulating on social media — and reposted by a unit within Ukraine’s ministry of public information — purported to show other groups of dead civilians in Bucha, including at least one whose arms were visibly bound behind him. The Times was not able to independently verify the photo.

Britain’s foreign secretary called the reports “abhorrent” and said her government was helping to collect evidence to support an investigation into war crimes. Executing civilians would violate the Geneva Conventions, a series of treaties governing the wartime treatment of civilians, prisoners of war and others.

“Appalled by atrocities in Bucha and other towns in Ukraine,” Liz Truss, the British foreign secretary, wrote on Twitter. “Those responsible will be held to account.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia in Broad Retreat From Kyiv, Seeking to Regroup From Battering, Andrew E. Kramer and Neil MacFarquhar, April 2, 2022. The Russian forces that were intent on overwhelming Kyiv at the war’s start with tanks and artillery retreated under fire across a broad front on Saturday, leaving behind them dead soldiers and burned vehicles, according to witnesses, Ukrainian officials, satellite images and military analysts.

The withdrawal suggested the possibility of a major turn in the six-week war — the collapse, at least for now, of Russia’s initial attempt to seize Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, and the end of its hopes for the quick subjugation of the nation.

Moscow has described the withdrawal as a tactical move to regroup and reposition its forces for a major push in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. While there are early indications that the military is following through on that plan, analysts say it cannot obscure the magnitude of the defeat.

“The initial Russian operation was a failure and one of its central goals — the capture of Kyiv — proved unobtainable for Russian forces,” Michael Kofman, the director of Russian studies at C.N.A., a research institute in Arlington, Va., said in a telephone interview Saturday.

Elsewhere in Ukraine, Russian attacks continued unabated, and the Pentagon has cautioned that the formations near Kyiv could be repositioning for renewed assaults.

In the south, an aid convoy organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross that had stalled on its way to bring some relief to the besieged city of Mariupol was on the move again. The hope, repeatedly frustrated by Russian shelling, was to bring emergency supplies to trapped residents and to evacuate hundreds of those who have endured weeks of bombardment that has left shortages of food and water.

After their initial assault on the capital failed, the Russian army had dug into defensive positions outside of Kyiv, suggesting an intention to hold a front line near the city. In an artillery war, trenches afford soldiers the best chance of survival.

Those were abandoned in and around Bucha on Saturday.

 

merrick garland new

ny times logoNew York Times, Garland Faces Growing Pressure as Jan. 6 Investigation Widens, Katie Benner, Katie Rogers and Michael S. Schmidt, April 2, 2022.
The inquiry is a test for President Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland, who have promised to restore the Justice Department’s independence.

Immediately after Merrick B. Garland was sworn in as attorney general in March of last year, he summoned top Justice Department officials and the F.B.I. director to his office. He wanted a detailed briefing on the case that will, in all likelihood, come to define his legacy: the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.

Even though hundreds of people had already been charged, Mr. Garland asked to go over the indictments in detail, according to two people familiar with the meeting. What were the charges? What evidence did they have? How had they built such a sprawling investigation, involving all 50 states, so fast? What was the plan now?

Justice Department log circularThe attorney general’s deliberative approach has come to frustrate Democratic allies of the White House and, at times, President Biden himself. As recently as late last year, Mr. Biden confided to his inner circle that he believed former President Donald J. Trump was a threat to democracy and should be prosecuted, according to two people familiar with his comments. And while the president has never communicated his frustrations directly to Mr. Garland, he has said privately that he wanted Mr. Garland to act less like a ponderous judge and more like a prosecutor who is willing to take decisive action over the events of Jan. 6.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Mr. Garland said that he and the career prosecutors working on the case felt only the pressure “to do the right thing,” which meant that they “follow the facts and the law wherever they may lead.”

Still, Democrats’ increasingly urgent calls for the Justice Department to take more aggressive action highlight the tension between the frenetic demands of politics and the methodical pace of one of the biggest prosecutions in the department’s history.

“The Department of Justice must move swiftly,” Representative Elaine Luria, Democrat of Virginia and a member of the House committee investigating the riot, said this past week. She and others on the panel want the department to charge Trump allies with contempt for refusing to comply with the committee’s subpoenas.

“Attorney General Garland,” Ms. Luria said during a committee hearing, “do your job so that we can do ours.”

This article is based on interviews with more than a dozen people, including officials in the Biden administration and people with knowledge of the president’s thinking, all of whom asked for anonymity to discuss private conversations.

In a statement, Andrew Bates, a White House spokesman, said the president believed that Mr. Garland had “decisively restored” the independence of the Justice Department.

 

Clockwise from top left, Michigan defendants Brandon Caserta, Barry Croft, Daniel Harris and Adam Fox (Photos from Kent County Sheriff Delaware Department of Justice via Associated Press).

Clockwise from top left, Michigan defendants Brandon Caserta, Barry Croft, Daniel Harris and Adam Fox (Photos from Kent County Sheriff Delaware Department of Justice via Associated Press).

ny times logoNew York Times, Trial in Alleged Plot to Kidnap Michigan’s Governor Nears End, Mitch Smith, April 2, 2022 (print ed.). Closing arguments are expected Friday in the federal case against four men with militia ties who are accused of conspiring to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The government’s accusations were jarring: Several men with militia ties had schemed to abduct Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, right, at her vacation gretchen whitmer o smile Customhome. The group, prosecutors and witnesses said, had held a series of “field training exercises” and discussed killing or stranding her in a boat in the middle of Lake Michigan.

As the trial of four men unfolded over the last month, federal prosecutors presented a barrage of alarming messages and surreptitious recordings that they said revealed the group’s plan to storm Ms. Whitmer’s home, eliminate her security detail and detonate a bridge to slow any police response to the kidnapping. Another man, a former co-defendant who pleaded guilty before the trial, testified that he hoped the kidnapping would touch off a civil war and prevent Joseph R. Biden Jr. from becoming president.

Testimony during the trial, one of the highest-profile domestic terrorism prosecutions in recent memory, has provided a glimpse into increasingly brazen and violent discourse among some on the far right. But the case has also raised questions about when hateful political speech and gun possession cross a line from constitutionally protected acts to crimes.

michigan mapThe men on trial at the federal courthouse in Grand Rapids were among 14 arrested in October of 2020, before there was any attempt to carry out a plan.

When closing arguments begin Friday morning, defense lawyers are expected to assert that there never was any firm plot to abduct Ms. Whitmer, a Democrat, and that their clients, who could face life in prison if convicted, were lured into the discussions by a network of F.B.I. informants and undercover agents. Prosecutors are expected to describe the defendants — Brandon Caserta, Barry Croft, Adam Fox and Daniel Harris — as threats to America’s democratic order who spoke openly about political violence as their frustration with Covid-19 restrictions mounted before the 2020 election. Ms. Whitmer, a first-term governor with a national profile, took a more restrictive approach to the pandemic in 2020 than some other Midwestern governors, keeping many rules in place even when case numbers dropped.

“Which Governor is going to end up dragged off and hung for treason first?” Mr. Croft posted on Facebook in May 2020, according to an F.B.I. agent who examined his account.

 

U.S. Governance, Economy

washington post logoWashington Post, Job creation, openings at near-record levels as jobless claims approach historic lows, Abha Bhattarai, April 2, 2022 (print ed.). The unemployment rate fell to a new pandemic low of 3.6 percent, as strong hiring continues.

The national unemployment rate fell to a pandemic low of 3.6 percent in March, as employers added 431,000 jobs, further bolstering the most rapid labor market rebound on record.

joe biden twitterAverage hourly wages for private-sector workers, rose by 13 cents to $31.73 in March, the Labor Department said Friday.

The labor market is pretty close to healing from the shock of the covid pandemic two years ago, having recovered 93 percent of the 22 million jobs lost early in the pandemic.

Both the unemployment rate and the number of people without jobs are almost down to pre-pandemic levels, but other parts of the labor market have yet to recover. The percentage of American workers who have a job or actively looking for work is still lower than it was before the crisis. And while wages have risen 5.6 percent in the last year, they have not kept up with inflation of 7.9 percent.

This is the 11th consecutive month that employers have added more than 400,000 jobs, which is considered a particularly strong pace of job growth.

“It’s been a remarkable recovery — we’ve never seen anything like this,” said Jane Oates, president of the employment-focused nonprofit WorkingNation and a former Labor Department official. “Two years ago, every sector was at least disrupted if not completely shut down. But we’ve had such a quick recovery that things are almost back to normal.”

4.4 million in U.S. quit or changed jobs in February as turnover remained high

Industries like hospitality, retail and construction — which were among the most affected early in the pandemic when shutdowns forced millions of layoffs — have been rapidly rehiring in recent months. That trend continued into March, with restaurants, hotels and stores picking up a combined 161,000 jobs.

Employers have added a record 7 million jobs in the past year, as hiring roars back to life. This momentum, however, has been accompanied by a surge in inflation to 40-year highs, near 8 percent, presenting a major headache for Federal Reserve officials and for a White House struggling with war abroad and low ratings at home. Some economists say a combination of higher interest rates, soaring energy costs and conflict in Ukraine are likely to slow job growth in coming months.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘I’m in Hot Demand, Baby’: Nebraska Thrives (and Copes) With Low Unemployment, Talmon Joseph Smith, April 2, 2022 (print ed.). The state’s jobless rate in February was one of the lowest ever, at 2.1 percent. Employers are having to adjust to the power of workers.

The unemployment rate in Nebraska was 2.1 percent in February, tied with Utah for the lowest in the nation and near the lowest on record for any state. In several counties, unemployment is below 1 percent. Even taking into account adults who have left the work force, the share of the population 16 and older employed in Nebraska is around 68 percent, the nation’s highest figure.

ny times logoNew York Times, House Passes Bill to Limit Cost of Insulin to $35 a Month, Margot Sanger-Katz, April 2, 2022 (print ed.). The bill stands to benefit millions of Americans with diabetes, but to become law, it will need to attract at least 10 Republican votes in the Senate.

The bill attracted unanimous support from Democrats who voted, as well as from 12 Republicans, making it a rare piece of bipartisan policy legislation.

To become law, the bill will need to attract at least 10 Republican votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster. Some lawmakers involved in the effort have expressed optimism that such a coalition might be possible, but few Republican senators have publicly endorsed the bill yet. Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, has been working with Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, on a broader bill related to insulin prices.

U.S. House logoThe bill would have substantial benefits for many of the nearly 30 million Americans who live with diabetes. Insulin, a lifesaving drug that is typically taken daily, has grown increasingly expensive in recent years, and many diabetes patients ration their medicines or discontinue them because of the cost. About one in five Americans who take insulin would save money under the proposal, according to a recent analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But the insulin bill represents a substantial scaling back of Democratic ambitions to tackle high drug prices for all Americans. A broader prescription drug package, written as part of the $2.2 trillion social spending and climate bill that has stalled in the Senate, would limit price increases on all prescription drugs, improve the generosity of Medicare’s drug coverage, and allow the government to negotiate directly on the price of some drugs used by Medicare patients, while also limiting insulin co-payments.

Other parts of the broader bill would expand health insurance coverage, extending insulin coverage to diabetes patients who are uninsured. The bill that passed the House on Thursday would not improve the affordability of insulin for people who lack health insurance.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Earmarks Return to Congress, Lawmakers Rush to Steer Money Home, Luke Broadwater, Emily Cochrane and Alicia Parlapiano, April 2, 2022 (print ed.). Democrats and Republicans alike stuffed nearly 5,000 earmarks totaling $9 billion into the $1.5 trillion spending bill signed by President Biden.

One hundred million dollars for an airport in Mobile, Ala. Tens of thousands for upgrades to a police station in the tiny town of Milton, W.Va. Hundreds of thousands of dollars sent to Arkansas to deal with feral swine.

Stuffed inside the sprawling $1.5 trillion government spending bill enacted in March was the first batch of earmarks in more than a decade, after Congress resurrected the practice of allowing lawmakers to direct federal funds for specific projects to their states and districts. Republicans and Democrats alike relished the opportunity to get in on the action after years in which they were barred from doing so, packing 4,962 earmarks totaling just over $9 billion in the legislation that President Biden signed into law.

“It’s my last couple of years, so I decided to make the most of it,” said Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri and a member of the Appropriations Committee, who is retiring after more than two decades in Congress. He steered $313 million back to his home state — the fourth-highest total of any lawmaker.

Often derided as pork and regarded as an unseemly and even corrupt practice on Capitol Hill, earmarks are also a tool of consensus-building in Congress, giving lawmakers across the political spectrum a personal interest in cutting deals to fund the government. Their absence, many lawmakers argued, only made that process more difficult, and their return this year appears to have helped grease the skids once again.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Biden Pleads for More Covid Aid, States Are Awash in Federal Dollars, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, April 2, 2022 (print ed.). States challenged a plan to take back some of their stimulus money to fund President Biden’s request. Congress is now seeking other ways to offset the cost.

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats Worry That What Happens in Nevada Won’t Stay in Nevada, Jennifer Medina and Reid J. Epstein, April 2, 2022 (print ed.).  Democrats have long held up Nevada as a symbol of their future. But as the state’s economy struggles, it has become the epitome of their midterm woes.

Scars from the coronavirus pandemic are still visible here. Housing prices skyrocketed, with rents rising faster than almost anywhere else in the country. Roughly 10,000 casino workers remain out of work. Gas prices, now more than $5 a gallon, are higher than in every other state except California.

Amid a flagging economy, the state Democrats held up as a national model for more than a decade — registering and turning out first-time voters — has become the epitome of the party’s difficulties going into the 2022 midterm elections.

Democrats have long relied on working-class and Latino voters to win Nevada, but the loyalty of both groups is now in question. Young voters who fueled Senator Bernie Sanders’ biggest victory in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary remain skeptical about President Biden. And Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, a Nevada Democrat and the country’s first Latina senator, is one of the party’s most endangered incumbents.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Reports, Senators Near Deal to Cut Stalled Pandemic Aid Package to $10 Billion, Staff reports, April 2, 2022 (print ed.). Lawmakers said they were likely to cut $5 billion from the measure by dropping money for global vaccination efforts. Follow updates on Covid.

ny times logoNew York Times, House Passes Bill to Limit Cost of Insulin to $35 a Month, Margot Sanger-Katz, April 2, 2022 (print ed.). The bill stands to benefit millions of Americans with diabetes, but to become law, it will need to attract at least 10 Republican votes in the Senate.

The bill attracted unanimous support from Democrats who voted, as well as from 12 Republicans, making it a rare piece of bipartisan policy legislation.

To become law, the bill will need to attract at least 10 Republican votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster. Some lawmakers involved in the effort have expressed optimism that such a coalition might be possible, but few Republican senators have publicly endorsed the bill yet. Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, has been working with Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, on a broader bill related to insulin prices.

The bill would have substantial benefits for many of the nearly 30 million Americans who live with diabetes. Insulin, a lifesaving drug that is typically taken daily, has grown increasingly expensive in recent years, and many diabetes patients ration their medicines or discontinue them because of the cost. About one in five Americans who take insulin would save money under the proposal, according to a recent analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But the insulin bill represents a substantial scaling back of Democratic ambitions to tackle high drug prices for all Americans. A broader prescription drug package, written as part of the $2.2 trillion social spending and climate bill that has stalled in the Senate, would limit price increases on all prescription drugs, improve the generosity of Medicare’s drug coverage, and allow the government to negotiate directly on the price of some drugs used by Medicare patients, while also limiting insulin co-payments.

Other parts of the broader bill would expand health insurance coverage, extending insulin coverage to diabetes patients who are uninsured. The bill that passed the House on Thursday would not improve the affordability of insulin for people who lack health insurance.

Recent Headlines

 

Health, Climate, Environment

washington post logoWashington Post, Health: Sorry, wine lovers. No amount of alcohol is good for you, study says, Lindsey Bever, April 2, 2022 (print ed.). For decades, scientists have been studying how alcohol affects our bodies. Some studies have suggested modest amounts, such as a glass or two of red wine per day, are associated with decreased inflammation, improved blood pressure and a lower risk of death from coronary artery disease.

Research has also linked it to an increased risk of various cancers and reduced brain volume over time.

So which is it — is moderate drinking good or bad?

A team of researchers recently analyzed the connection between genes linked to alcohol consumption and cardiovascular conditions and found that drinking — any amount — was associated with an increased risk of disease.

U.S. alcohol-related deaths hit highest rate in decades during coronavirus pandemic, study shows

The study, which was published last week in JAMA Network Open, examined genetic and medical data of nearly 400,000 people through the U.K. Biobank, a large research database in Britain containing genetic, lifestyle and health information available for public health research. The findings showed that even low alcohol intake was associated with a small increased risk of cardiovascular issues, such as hypertension and coronary artery disease, but that risk ramped up exponentially with heavier consumption.

It also suggested that the previously held theory that modest drinking, namely of red wine, may help decrease the risk of heart disease is probably not the case. Individuals more likely to drink low to moderate amounts of alcohol also appeared to be more health-minded than those who abstained from it — for example, smoking less, exercising more and eating healthier — all factors that contribute to better heart health, said Krishna Aragam, senior author of the study and a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital.

washington post logoWashington Post, New cars and light trucks to be required to average 49 MPG, Michael Laris, April 2, 2022 (print ed.). The new standards, which largely reverse a Trump-era rollback, may help cut greenhouse gas emissions and save consumers money.

The Department of Transportation released tailpipe pollution standards Friday that would require average fuel efficiency of new cars and light trucks to reach 49 miles per gallon in less than four years. Biden administration officials said the new standards, which largely reverse a Trump-era rollback, would help cut greenhouse gas emissions and save consumers money at the pump.
10 steps you can take to lower your carbon footprint

The regulation finalizes the Biden administration’s rejection of the approach taken under the Trump administration, which in 2020 weakened standards set during the Obama presidency. The new rule requires the nation’s automakers to increase fuel efficiency fleetwide by 8 percent starting late next year, another 8 percent the year after and 10 percent for model year 2026.

The eventual standard of 49 miles per gallon, issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is based on lab testing. NHTSA estimates real-world fuel economy will be roughly 25 percent below the formal standard, which would be about 37 miles per gallon.

washington post logoWashington Post, California snowpack vastly depleted after record dry start to year, Diana Leonard, April 2, 2022 (print ed.). Snow could be gone by late April, straining water resources, worsening drought and increasing fire risk into the summer.

ny times logoNew York Times, President Biden’s climate goals have stalled amid high gas prices, the Ukraine war and an emboldened fossil fuel industry, Coral Davenport, April 2, 2022 (print ed.).  Rising costs at the pump, war in Ukraine, an emboldened fossil fuel industry and stalled legislation have imperiled President Biden’s climate agenda.

A year after he entered the White House with a vow that fighting global warming would be a driving priority for his administration, President Biden’s climate agenda is mired in delay and facing legal, legislative and political headwinds that could diminish or dismantle it entirely.

His two main avenues for significant climate action are legislation and regulation. But even Mr. Biden’s top aides and closest allies now concede that the legislative centerpiece of his climate plan is unlikely to become law in the face of steadfast Republican opposition. And regulations that are now under development — strict limits on the pollution from cars and power plants that is dangerously heating the planet — could be curtailed or blocked by the conservative majority on the Supreme Court.

With gasoline prices surging after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and images receding of last summer’s climate disasters — wildfires that raged through seven states, heat waves and floods — Republicans and oil companies are newly emboldened in calling for more drilling and less emphasis on climate change.

Recent Headlines

 

Ukraine War Horrors, Hardships, Prospects

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. to send drones, machine guns, other military aid to Ukraine, Andrew Jeong, April 2, 2022. The Pentagon will provide up to $300 million in military supplies to Ukraine, including drones, armored vehicles and machine guns, as part of a broader effort to boost Ukrainian forces fighting Russia’s invasion.

The aid will be sent under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, a program that lets the United States procure arms directly from manufacturers instead of delivering weapons from its own stockpiles to Ukraine, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Friday.

The latest package shows that the assistance for Ukraine is evolving after weeks of fighting, as the United States and its partners learn more about Moscow’s assault tactics and Kyiv’s capabilities. The Pentagon said it has committed more than $1.6 billion in security assistance since Russia’s invasion.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine: Red Cross heads toward Mariupol, Peace talks have resumed online as 100,000 remain trapped in port city, Adela Suliman, Andrew Jeong, Ellen Francis and Miriam Berger, April 2, 2022 (print ed.).  Some civilians escaped from Mariupol, but a Red Cross team facilitating a larger evacuation turned back after “conditions made it impossible to proceed.” Another round of peace talks began via video link. The first E.U.-China summit in two years was overshadowed by the war. Here’s the latest.

The International Committee of the Red Cross is sending a team toward Mariupol to assist with a “safe passage operation,” a day after the Kremlin declared a humanitarian cease-fire in the besieged city. It was not clear if the ICRC would be able to enter Mariupol.

An adviser to its mayor’s office warned residents that “the city remains closed to entry and very dangerous to leave,” while an ICRC spokesman cautioned that “it’s not yet clear” whether evacuations would “happen today.” Ukrainian officials estimate that more than 100,000 people are still trapped in the devastated port city.

A fuel depot was ablaze early Friday in the southern Russian city of Belgorod, whose governor charged that two Ukrainian helicopters attacked the site. The claim could not be verified, and Ukraine’s foreign minster said he could “neither confirm nor reject” the allegation because he did not “possess all the military information.” Ukraine has not previously attacked targets in Russian territory. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said President Vladimir Putin has been informed and that the event could jeopardize peace talks. The latest round of negotiations took place online Friday, officials from both sides said.

On the battlefield, the Kremlin appeared to be pulling forces out of the Chernobyl nuclear plant site and moving some units away from the Kyiv area. But Western officials remain skeptical of Russia’s pledge to scale down military operations. “We can only judge Russia on its actions,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Here’s what to know

  • Zelensky said late Thursday that he has ousted two generals from Ukraine’s top law enforcement and intelligence agency, accusing them of being traitors to their country.
  • European Union leaders called on China to help end Russia’s war in Ukraine during a virtual summit Friday that was meant to focus on E.U-China relations.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian troop movements reflect the success of his country’s military. But conditions in southern Ukraine and in the eastern region of Donbas — which Russia seems determined to control — remain “extremely difficult,” he added.
  • European leaders rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s demand that “unfriendly countries” pay for natural gas in rubles in Moscow’s apparent bid to help stabilize the Russian currency amid sanctions.
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel for updates.

ny times logoNew York Times, Shaken at First, Many Russians Now Rally Behind Putin’s Invasion, Anton Troianovski, Ivan Nechepurenko and Valeriya Safronova
April 2, 2022 (print ed.). Polls and interviews show many Russians now accept the Kremlin’s assertion that their country is under siege from the West. Opponents are leaving the country or keeping quiet.

The stream of antiwar letters to a St. Petersburg lawmaker has dried up. Some Russians who had criticized the Kremlin have turned into cheerleaders for the war. Those who publicly oppose it have found the word “traitor” scrawled on their apartment door.

Five weeks into President Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, there are signs that the Russian public’s initial shock has given way to a mix of support for their troops and anger at the West. On television, entertainment shows have been replaced by extra helpings of propaganda, resulting in an around-the-clock barrage of falsehoods about the “Nazis” who run Ukraine and American-funded Ukrainian bioweapons laboratories.

Polls and interviews show that many Russians now accept Mr. Putin’s contention that their country is under siege from the West and had no choice but to attack. The war’s opponents are leaving the country or keeping quiet.

“We are in a time machine, hurtling into the glorious past,” an opposition politician in the western Russian region of Kaliningrad, Solomon I. Ginzburg, said in a telephone interview. He portrayed it as a political and economic regression into Soviet times. “I would call it a devolution, or an involution.”

The public’s endorsement of the war lacks the patriotic groundswell that greeted the annexation of Crimea in 2014. But polls released this week by Russia’s most respected independent pollster, Levada, showed Mr. Putin’s approval rating hitting 83 percent, up from 69 percent in January. Eighty-one percent said they supported the war, describing the need to protect Russian speakers as its primary justification.

Analysts cautioned that as the economic pain wrought by sanctions deepens in the coming months, the public mood could shift yet again. Some also argued that polls in wartime have limited significance, with many Russians fearful of voicing dissent, or even their true opinion, to a stranger at a time when new censorship laws are punishing any deviation from the Kremlin narrative with as much as 15 years in prison.

But even accounting for that effect, Denis Volkov, Levada’s director, said his group’s surveys showed that many Russians had adopted the belief that a besieged Russia had to rally around its leader.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russian businesses struggle to operate without Western products, Robyn Dixon, April 2, 2022. Sanctions and the withdrawal of foreign firms are hitting small businesses especially hard.

It did not take long for Russian businessman Kirill Kukkoyev to feel like he had been taken hostage by the events unfolding in neighboring Ukraine. That moment came eight days after Russia’s invasion when Swedish furniture giant Ikea announced it would halt trading in Russia the next day.
Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for the latest updates on Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Kukkoyev had built an entire business renovating high-end end apartments in St. Petersburg with Ikea fittings. He spent that final day sweating and trying to get in all his orders, hitting the payment button for the last time at two minutes to midnight, he recalled.

Then he applied to register the trademark Idea, copying Ikea’s trademark logo.

Kukkoyev’s struggles are one man’s woes in a sea of troubles as Russia faces not just international sanctions but the impact of Western businesses shunning the country. Thousands of small and medium businesses — including restaurants, bars, beauty salons, consultancies, transportation, logistics companies and others — face similar problems.

washington post logoWashington Post, Some young Russian men fear ending up in battle as military launches conscription push, Mary Ilyushina, April 2, 2022 (print ed.). The Russian military is looking to sign up more than 130,000 troops during its spring recruitment drive.

The Russian military began its spring draft Friday, aiming to sign up 134,500 conscripts and stoking fears among young men that they may end up on the front lines of the invasion of Ukraine.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has vowed that none of them will be used to reinforce Russian troops now fighting in Ukraine. “Please note that conscripts will not be deployed to any hot spots,” he said in televised remarks Tuesday, adding that those who were drafted last spring will be discharged and sent home at the end of their one-year service.

But amid the significant losses suffered by Russian forces in their Ukrainian campaign, which appears to have lasted longer than the Kremlin anticipated, Shoigu’s assurances have not put all prospective conscripts and their families at ease.

All Russian men between 18 and 27 must serve one year in the military, and recruitment campaigns are usually held each spring and fall. Dodging the draft is punishable by heavy fines and sentences of up to two years in prison.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Painful choices lie in the path to peace in Ukraine, David Ignatius, right, April 1, 2022. In the agonizing final years of the Vietnam david ignatiusWar, a strategist named Fred Iklé wrote a treatise titled “Every War Must End.” His basic theme was that “wars are easier to start than to stop” — a message that applies powerfully now to the conflict in Ukraine.

Russia and Ukraine have been meeting for preliminary peace talks in Turkey this week, which has raised hopes for a settlement. Both sides have described the same basic terms for resolving the conflict: In exchange for a halt in the fighting, Ukraine would agree to a neutral military status that wouldn’t threaten Russia.

But this formula masks painful choices: Such a pact would grant Russian President Vladimir Putin at least partial victory. For many in Ukraine and the West, that is unacceptable. Putin launched an unprovoked, illegal invasion. His army committed atrocities against civilians. He shouldn’t be rewarded for such behavior.

The Biden administration’s view is that it’s up to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to decide whether to settle for neutrality or keep fighting for a better deal. “The Ukrainians will have to decide when the situation on the ground is ripe for a settlement,” argues Stephen Hadley, a former national security adviser to President George W. Bush who keeps close contact with the Biden team.

After fighting so valiantly, Ukrainians won’t want a settlement that leaves the country disarmed and vulnerable to a future attack. “This is viable to me in only one way — the kind of neutrality that Switzerland has — fully armed, with a citizen army,” Konstantin Gryshchenko, an influential former foreign minister of Ukraine, told me in an interview.

The Russian military has performed poorly so far, and some Ukrainians think more fighting will bring victory. But U.S. officials specializing in Russia are skeptical. Russia is a large country with the ability to resupply and reposition its forces; Ukraine is a relatively small one that’s short on the essentials for survival. The war is 40 days old; who can say what the battlefield situation might be in six months or a year?

washington post logoWashington Post, A race to get children with cancer out of Ukraine, Steve Hendrix, April 2, 2022. Even brief disruptions in finely calibrated treatments can be disastrous, oncologists say. On the day the first shells fell, Oksana Besidovska was at home in eastern Ukraine, waiting for biopsy results and a treatment plan that could save her daughter’s life.

Nine-year-old Yevheniia’s brain tumor had returned, and the specialist who had sent the cancer into remission five years earlier was helping again. But the doctor was Russian, based at a hospital in Moscow, and Russia had just invaded their country.

washington post logoWashington Post, Putin’s Ukraine quagmire carries echoes of Soviet failure in Afghanistan, Griff Witte, April 2, 2022. The Kremlin had banked on a quick, trouble-free decapitation to solve the problem of a neighbor appearing to stray too far from Moscow’s orbit. But after its vaunted army thundered across the border, very little went according to plan.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Elections, Voter Suppression, Gerrymanders

ny times logoNew York Times, As Both Parties Gerrymander Furiously, State Courts Block the Way, Nick Corasaniti and Reid J. Epstein, April 2, 2022. State judges have been throwing out congressional maps they call partisan gerrymanders, revealing the effects of a 2019 Supreme Court ruling.

State courts in both Democratic and Republican states have been aggressively striking down gerrymandered political maps, as this year’s redistricting fights drag on and begin to create chaos in upcoming primary elections.

In Maryland, a state judge last week threw out a congressional map drawn by Democrats, citing an “extreme gerrymander.” In North Carolina, the State Supreme Court in February struck down maps drawn by Republicans. And in New York, a state judge ruled on Thursday that a map drawn by Democrats had been “unconstitutionally drawn with political bias.”

The flood of rulings reflects an emerging reality: that state courts, rather than federal ones, have become a primary firewall against gerrymandering as both Democrats and Republicans try to carve out maximum advantages in the maps they control. The parties have been emboldened to do so by a 2019 Supreme Court decision that federal courts cannot hear challenges to partisan gerrymandering, though they can still hear challenges to racial gerrymandering.

At the same time, however, state judges in at least five states — many, though not all, from the opposing party of the one that drew the districts — have slapped down contorted maps as illegal partisan gerrymanders.

 herschel walker hill tv

CNN, Investigation: GOP Senate candidate Herschel Walker has been overstating his academic achievements for years, Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck,  April 1, 2022. For years, Herschel Walker, shown above in a screenshot from HillTV.com, has told the same inspiring story: that he graduated in the top 1% of his class at the University of Georgia. He’s told the story, according to a review of his speeches by CNN’s KFile, during motivational speeches over the years and as recently as 2017. The only problem: it’s not true.

CNNWalker, who is a candidate in the Republican primary race for US Senate in Georgia, acknowledged in December that he did not graduate from Georgia after the Atlanta-Journal Constitution first reported that the false claim was listed on his campaign website.

But a CNN KFile review found that Walker himself has been repeating the claim for years. Walker’s comments in 2017, and others made over the years, show the former football star repeatedly misrepresented his academic credentials.

“And all of sudden I started going to the library, getting books, standing in front of a mirror reading to myself,” Walker said in a 2017 motivational speech. “So that Herschel that all the kids said was retarded become valedictorian of his class. Graduated University of Georgia in the top 1% of his class.”

Walker also made the claim in another interview in 2017.

“I also was in the top 1% of my graduating class of college,” Walker told Sirius XM radio.

Walker did not graduate from Georgia, where he was a star running back after entering as a prized high school recruit. A profile of Walker from 1982 in the Christian-Science Monitor and an article in The New York Times said he maintained a B average at the school. Walker himself told The Chicago Tribune in 1985 he maintained a 3.0 before his grades dropped. He left to play professional football before graduating and, though having repeatedly said he was returning to obtain his degree, he never received a diploma.

The Walker campaign did not provide proof of Walker’s claims when asked by CNN, but they defended his record as a professional athlete. Walker is endorsed by former President Donald Trump and is expected to be the Republican nominee to run against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in November.

The claim was removed from his website between December and January, according to screenshots from the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

That was not the only claim about Walker’s education that was adjusted on his website at the time. After a review of the revised site, CNN’s KFile found another little-noticed claim was removed that said Walker graduated valedictorian of his high school. The website now says that Walker graduated “top of his class.” The claim still remains on the Heisman Winners page for Walker.

While Walker was a top student at his high school and the president of the Beta Club — he maintained an “A” average to be in the school’s Beta Club — CNN’s KFile found no evidence he was the class valedictorian.

Walker has mentioned in numerous speeches over the years, including in the 2017 speech where he claimed to have graduated in the top 1% of his college class, and in his 2008 autobiography that he was class valedictorian at Johnson County High School. The street where Johnson County High School resides was officially renamed “Herschel Walker Drive” in 2017 in honor of Walker’s football achievements.

Press Run, Commentary: CNN gives Herschel Walker a pass, Eric Boehlert, right, April 2, 2022. One of the disturbing consequences of the press spending so eric.boehlertmany years refusing to call Trump a liar is that the tepid media trend now extends to the rest of the GOP at a time when key players have learned that they can make anything up and the press won’t say so.

CNN on Friday posted a revealing story (above) about how Herschel Walker, Trump’s pick to be Georgia’s next U.S. Senator, spent years telling crowds that he graduated in the top 1% of his class from the University of Georgia, where he was a star running back in the 1980’s.In truth, Walker never graduated from college. The ridiculous part: CNN gently claimed Walker was guilty of “overstating his academic achievements.”

Question: If a high-profile Democratic candidate fabricated his/her bio this aggressively, do you the think the press would treat it so politely?

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary, World War III is already here, Wayne Madsen, left, April 1-2, 2022. Putin has been targeting other countries in a wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallsocietal subversion war since 1999.

Intended to bring about the collapse of Western democracies, including those of post-colonial nations like India, Kenya, Nigeria, the Philippines, and Malaysia, the KGB’s Societal Subversion Program (SSP) consisted of four main elements.

The first element is the demoralization of a targeted society. This is the slowest of all the elements, since it takes an entire generation before it reaps any benefits. For the United States, bringing about a lack of trust in government, elections, political candidates and parties, the media, and other factors that wayne madesen report logoare integral in a democratic society is necessary before moving on to the second phase: destabilization.

By the time Putin became Russia’s prime minister in 1999, the United States had entered the demoralization phase. The impeachment of President Bill Clinton because of a sex scandal set in motion a series of events that would demoralize the nation: the Supreme Court’s selection of George W. Bush as president’ the 9/11 terrorist attacks; the subsequent war in Iraq based on bogus reasons; the Wall Street collapse; the election of the first African-American president, which unleashed rampant white racism on a level not seen since the Jim Crow era; and, lastly, the election of a one-time KGB asset, Donald Trump, as president of the United States.

Trump’s election would not have been possible had it not been for the application of societal subversion techniques on a massive scale thanks to something that did not exist when the KGB first formulated its tactics: the Internet and social media.

ny times logoNew York Times, Arizona Passes Proof-of-Citizenship Law for Voting in Presidential Elections, Nick Corasaniti, April 2, 2022 (print ed.). Voting rights groups said the legislation signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, could prevent tens of thousands of people from voting for president.

Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona has signed legislation requiring voters to prove their citizenship in order to vote in a presidential election, swiftly drawing a legal challenge from voting rights activists who argued that it could keep tens of thousands of voters from casting a ballot.

The Arizona measure, passed into law on Wednesday, also requires newly registered voters to provide a proof of address, which could have a disproportionate impact on students, older voters who no longer drive, low-income voters and Native Americans.

Legal experts said the new rules might run afoul of both federal law and recent Supreme Court decisions. On Wednesday, Mi Familia Vota, a voting rights group, filed a federal lawsuit challenging the law.

The law is one of several new voting restrictions that the Republican-led Legislature in Arizona is working to pass this year, despite multiple investigations and a partisan election review that found no evidence of widespread fraud in the state in the 2020 election.

Recent Headlines

 

World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters

ny times logoNew York Times, Pakistan’s Imran Khan Says He Won’t Accept Result of No-Confidence Vote, Christina Goldbaum and Salman Masood, April 2, 2022.  The prime minister, whose coalition has lost support, claimed the coming vote was a conspiracy between opposition lawmakers and the United States.

imran khan pakistan pmLess than a day from a no-confidence vote that will almost certainly remove him from office, Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan said that he would not accept the result of the vote, dismissing it as part of an American conspiracy against him and setting the stage for the country’s political crisis to drag on far beyond Sunday, as Mr. Khan, right, fights to remain in politics.

In an interview with journalists from The New York Times and three other international media outlets, Mr. Khan claimed that the vote was part of a plot by the United States to orchestrate a “regime change” in Pakistan — doubling down on an allegation he has pushed in recent days as his political support has slipped away.

“How can I respect the result when the whole process is discredited?” Mr. Khan said, describing the proceedings as “completely marred.”

So far, Mr. Khan has not offered Parliament or the news media evidence to support his claims of a conspiracy, and American officials have denied the allegations. Under his tenure, Pakistan has drifted further from the United States and forged closer ties with Russia and China.

ny times logoNew York Times, He Was Demoted for Harassing Women. Now He’s the Front-Runner for President, David Bolaños and Anatoly Kurmanaev, April 2, 2022 (print ed.). Voters in Costa Rica will decide between a candidate found to have sexually harassed junior employees and a former president once accused of corruption.

He was demoted from a senior position at the World Bank because of sexual harassment. Now, the economist Rodrigo Chaves — who has campaigned as a populist outsider in an election marked by anger at traditional politicians — leads the polls to become Costa Rica’s next president on Sunday.

It’s an unexpected rise to prominence in a country that has taken a lead role in the advancement of progressive policies in Central America, underlining how the desire to punish political elites for economic stagnation is overshadowing most other issues.

In 2019, Mr. Chaves was reprimanded by the World Bank for what was shown to be a pattern of sexual misconduct against junior employees, though the details of his behavior were made public by a Costa Rica newspaper only in August — details the presidential candidate has repeatedly rebutted.

Mr. Chaves’s denial and downplaying of a documented history of sexual harassment come two years after another Costa Rican politician, the former president and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Óscar Arias Sánchez, narrowly avoided prosecution for sexual abuse, in a scandal that shook the country.

 

sufyian barhoumi

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Sends Algerian Man Home From Guantánamo Bay After 5-Year Delay, Carol Rosenberg, April 2, 2022. The U.S. military on Saturday delivered to Algeria a prisoner whose repatriation from Guantánamo Bay was arranged during the Obama administration but then delayed for five years.

The prisoner, Sufyian Barhoumi, 48, above, was captured in Pakistan in March 2002 and soon taken to Guantánamo Bay, where he never faced trial. He was notified in August 2016 that he was eligible for release, but his case was sidelined by a Trump administration policy that generally halted transfers.

The transfer was the second this year and the third since President Biden took office with the goal of closing Guantánamo. Now, 37 detainees remain, including 18 who are approved for release to the custody of another country if U.S. diplomats can arrange secure deals for them to go.

“The United States appreciates the willingness of Algeria and other partners to support ongoing U.S. efforts toward a deliberate and thorough process focused on responsibly reducing the detainee population and ultimately closing of the Guantánamo Bay facility,” the Pentagon said in a statement on Saturday.

Mr. Barhoumi’s lawyer, Shayana Kadidal of the Center for Constitutional Rights, described the prisoner as one of Guantánamo’s most cooperative captives, a man who helped calm tensions between unruly or frustrated prisoners and Army guards who would typically serve nine-month tours of duty.

For a time, military prosecutors considered Mr. Barhoumi a candidate for trial as a bomb-making instructor at a safe house in the Punjab region of Pakistan. They abandoned that case, however, after a civilian court ruled that the Pentagon had no authority to charge the civilian offense of “providing material support to terrorism” as a war crime. Mr. Kadidal said that, in time, the government realized it had no evidence to support the case.

ny times logoNew York Times, Yemen’s Warring Parties Begin First Cease-Fire in 6 Years, Ben Hubbard, April 2, 2022. The two-month truce, brokered by the United Nations, offers hope for a reduction of violence in a war that has rattled the Arabian Peninsula and caused a humanitarian crisis.

A two-month truce between the warring parties in Yemen went into effect on Saturday, providing some hope for a reduction of violence in a war that has roiled the Arabian Peninsula and caused a crushing humanitarian crisis.

The truce, the first coordinated cease-fire in years, which was brokered by the United Nations, includes a stop to all attacks inside Yemen and outside its borders; the entry of fuel ships to a rebel-controlled port; and the resumption of some commercial flights at the international airport in Yemen’s capital, Sana.

“The aim of this truce is to give Yemenis a necessary break from violence, relief from the humanitarian suffering and, most importantly, hope that an end to this conflict is possible,” Hans Grundberg, the United Nations special envoy for Yemen, said in a statement announcing the agreement on Friday.

President Biden welcomed the truce.

“The cease-fire must be adhered to, and as I have said before, it is imperative that we end this war,” he said in a statement. “After seven years of conflict, negotiators must undertake the hard and necessary work to reach political compromises that can bring about an enduring future of peace for all the people of Yemen.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Israeli Troops Kill 3 Palestinian Militants After Rise in Attacks, Patrick Kingsley, April 2, 2022. The Israeli authorities said the men were killed in a shootout. The security forces have ramped up their operations after a wave of violence.

ny times logoNew York Times, Madrid Rivals Miami as a Haven for Latin Americans and Their Money, Raphael Minder, April 2, 2022. Turmoil and political swings to the left have brought an influx of prominent and affluent exiles to the Spanish capital in recent years.

 

huawei meng wanzhou

washington post logoWashington Post, Huawei’s CFO promoted to a top post months after U.S. extradition deal, Eva Dou, April 2, 2022. Meng, above, daughter of Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei, is now one of three rotating chairs who helm the tech giant for six-month intervals.

Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies has promoted chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou to a key role just half a year after the end of her U.S. extradition fight, setting up a potential family succession at one of China’s most important companies.

The promotion makes 50-year-old Meng, daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, one of three rotating chairs who helm Huawei for six-month intervals. Ren, 77, remains chief executive.

Ren had long said his children would not succeed him at Huawei. Meng, who spent most of her Huawei career in the finance department, was widely seen as lacking the engineering expertise that would allow Huawei’s employees to accept her as their leader. But her lengthy house arrest in Canada has raised her popularity within the company and across China.

Meng entered the international spotlight in December 2018, when she was detained in Canada at the request of U.S. authorities. Her detention sparked a global standoff after China jailed two Canadian nationals on vague charges, in what Western officials said was an example of “hostage diplomacy.” Meng remained in house arrest in Vancouver for almost three years battling extradition to the United States.

She returned to China in September after cutting a deal with the U.S. Justice Department in which she acknowledged helping to conceal the company’s direct dealings in Iran, which violated U.S. sanctions. While Meng admitted illegal conduct, she did not have to plead guilty as part of a deferred prosecution agreement.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘I Feel Shame and Pain’: Pope Apologizes to Indigenous People of Canada, Elisabetta Povoledo and Ian Austen, April 1, 2022. Pope Francis promised to visit Canada as part of a process of healing over the church’s role in schools that abused Indigenous children for 100 years.

pope francis uncropped 3 13Pope Francis, right, apologized on Friday for the Roman Catholic Church’s involvement in a system of Canadian boarding schools that abused Indigenous children for 100 years, an announcement that comes after the discovery last year of signs of unmarked graves with the remains of hundreds of people, many of them children.

“I feel shame — sorrow and shame — for the role” that Catholics played “in the abuses you suffered and in the lack of respect shown for your identity, your culture and even your spiritual values,” Francis said.

Francis also promised he would travel to Canada, where he would be better able to “express to you my closeness” as part of a process of healing and reconciliation.

Francis spoke during an audience at the Apostolic Palace with 62 delegates from Canada’s three largest Indigenous groups, who had traveled to the Vatican in the hope that he would apologize to survivors in Canada. This was the first apology to the Indigenous people of Canada from a pope and was a reversal of Francis’s earlier position.

 Recent Global Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Outbreak at Shanghai Hospital Exposes Covid’s Risks to China’s Seniors, John Liu, Amy Chang Chien and Paul Mozur, April 2, 2022 (print ed.). Coronavirus infections have spread at an elder care facility in Shanghai. Workers said deaths were increasing and resources were dwindling.

A coronavirus outbreak is ravaging a hospital in Shanghai for older adults, underscoring the difficulties officials have had in containing infections even as the city imposed a 10-day staggered lockdown.

Two orderlies at the Shanghai Donghai Elderly Care Hospital said in interviews that the coronavirus was spreading widely among the mostly older patients in the facility, and that people had died on each of the past three days. The two, who declined to be named for fear of losing their jobs, said that on a recent night they had been asked to carry a body into a room where other bodies were being stored.

The two said they did not know how the people had died, but said that many had been infected with Covid, and that there was a shortage of tests and other resources. The New York Times also spoke with a Shanghai resident, Chen Jielei, who said her 81-year-old mother tested positive for Covid-19 in the hospital.

The situation points to an unfolding health care crisis in China’s largest city, and exposes a vulnerable group in the country’s otherwise highly effective Covid-19 strategy: the elderly.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Mandates are ending in the U.S., but protests outside government officials’ homes have continued, April 2, 2022. Many pandemic restrictions in the United States and Canada have been relaxed, but that has not stopped protesters from gathering outside some government officials’ homes and badgering them.

Though vaccination and masking rules have generally eased in the last few months, protests have continued outside officials’ residences in Massachusetts and other places in the United States, and in Nova Scotia and Alberta in Canada. Demonstrators have disrupted traffic, disturbed neighbors and, in some cases, addressed officials with racist and sexist language.

Protesters have targeted the mayor of Boston, Michelle Wu, since she took office in November. Many of them oppose her vaccination requirements for city workers and some people in indoor settings, although one of the mandates has been held up by a court ruling. They have pestered her for weeks outside her home, calling her “Hitler” and shouting at her children that she was going to prison, she said on Twitter in January.

Ms. Wu lifted the city’s universal indoor mask requirement earlier this month, but the protests have not stopped. In other news:

  • Britain cuts its Covid surveillance, and the world loses a major bellwether for variants.
  • Test positivity reaches record levels in England and Wales.
  • North Korea is linked to a cyberattack disguised as a Covid vaccine registration site.
  • As countries across Asia reopen borders, Japan remains closed to most travelers.
  • Two years into the pandemic, ‘little treats’ are helping people cope with big existential problems.

ny times logoNew York Times, A new wave of Covid-19 cases is coming. Here are seven steps you can take to minimize your risk, Tara Parker-Pope and Knvul Sheikh, Updated April 1, 2022. Taking these seven steps now can lower your risk and minimize the disruption to your family’s life.

The culprit this time is BA.2, a subvariant of the highly infectious Omicron variant. Nobody knows for sure how much havoc it will cause, but BA.2 has already led to a surge of cases in Europe and is now the dominant version of the coronavirus in the United States and around the world.

Researchers are tracking an uptick in cases in the United States, and they’ve detected a rise in the viral particles recovered from nearly 150 wastewater-surveillance sites. Because people can shed the coronavirus even if they never develop symptoms, pieces of the virus collected in wastewater can serve as advance warning several days before official case counts rise, said Bronwyn MacInnis, who directs pathogen genomic surveillance at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass. Over the past two weeks, Dr. MacInnis’s group has seen a rapid increase in levels of the BA.2 subvariant in the Northeast.

“I don’t think we’re looking at a crazy lockdown scenario in this part of the world with BA.2,” Dr. MacInnis said. “But we can’t be sure that we won’t have another curveball from this virus in the future.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Study: Pregnant people at much higher risk of breakthrough covid, Amy Goldstein and Dan Keating, April 1, 2022 (print ed.). Pregnant people who are vaccinated against the coronavirus are nearly twice as likely to get covid-19 as those who are not pregnant, according to a new study that offers the broadest evidence to date of the odds of infections among vaccinated patients with different medical circumstances.

The analysis, based on medical records of nearly 14 million U.S. patients since coronavirus immunization became available, found that pregnant people who are vaccinated have the greatest risk of developing covid among a dozen medical states, including being an organ transplant recipient and having cancer.

The findings come on top of research showing that people who are pregnant or gave birth recently and became infected are especially prone to getting seriously ill from covid-19. And covid has been found to increase the risk of pregnancy complications, such as premature births.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated April 2, 2022), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 490,288,124, Deaths: 6,172,436
U.S. Cases:     81,813,515, Deaths: 1,007,989
Indian Cases:   43,027,035, Deaths:    521,293
Brazil Cases:   29,975,165, Deaths:    660,065

Related Recent Headlines:

 

Trump Jan. 6 Insurrection Probes

lonnie coffman marching

washington post logoWashington Post, Alabama man with molotov cocktails, guns on Jan. 6 gets 46-month sentence, Tom Jackman, April 2, 2022. Lonnie Coffman, shown circled above right, declined to explain why he brought to D.C. a small arsenal that he never tried to use.

An Alabama man who drove to Capitol Hill on Jan. 6, 2021 in a pickup truck loaded with a small arsenal of molotov cocktails, guns, ammunition and other weapons — then wandered away from the truck and never used any of them before they were discovered — was sentenced Friday to 46 months in prison.

Neither Lonnie Leroy Coffman, 72, nor his lawyer offered any explanation of why he brought the Mason jars filled with gasoline and Styrofoam — which explosives experts said would have had an effect similar to napalm if ignited — to the District.

He is thought to be the most heavily armed defendant yet identified among the defendants in cases related to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, and has been in jail since that day. His sentence is one of the longest yet imposed in the Capitol attack investigation.

colleen kollar kotelly“I don’t think I’ve seen in all my years as a judge, quite such a collection of weapons,” U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, right, said. She began serving as a superior court judge in D.C. in 1984, and was elevated to the federal bench in Washington in 1997.

In addition to the gas-filled Mason jars, with holes poked in the lids, and rags and lighters nearby, investigators found a 9mm handgun, a rifle, a shotgun, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, large-capacity ammunition feeding devices, a crossbow with bolts, machetes and camouflage smoke devices. Coffman was also carrying two handguns when he was arrested. All the guns were loaded.

Coffman pleaded guilty in November to possession of unregistered weapons, namely the molotov cocktails, in both D.C. and Alabama, where investigators found another 12 Mason jars filled with gas and Styrofoam. Coffman said at his plea hearing that he thought the gas was too old to be explosive.

Coffman had previously been linked with a Texas-based militia that staged an “armed citizen camp” aimed at enforcing immigration laws, prosecutors said. And he traveled to Washington on Dec. 11, 2020, court records show, where he approached the Washington home and office of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) weeks earlier to discuss “election fraud.” He had notes in his truck with phone numbers of the Texas militia members, and supposed contact information for Cruz and conservative commentators Sean Hannity and Mark Levin.

“I wish that I had stayed home,” Coffman tearfully told the judge Friday in a remote video hookup from jail. He said he had contracted the coronavirus during his stay in jail and needed shoulder replacement surgery. In a handwritten letter to the judge, he said he traveled to the Capitol “to try and discover just how true and secure was the election on November 3rd, 2020.” Coffman wrote that when he realized it was unrealistic to expect any answers that day: “I walked around the outskirts of the event briefly, then left and started back to where my vehicle was parked.”

But after hearing from Coffman and his lawyer, Kollar-Kotelly said, “The key unanswered question for me, which probably won’t be able to be answered, is what was the purpose of driving all the way from Alabama to D.C. with these destructive items in his possession?” No one replied.

Investigators only discovered the weapons in Coffman’s red GMC Sierra 1500 truck because he had parked it in the 400 block of First Street SW, in an area which had been roped off after pipe bombs were found on the morning of Jan. 6 outside the headquarters of both the Democratic and Republican parties. While U.S. Capitol Police officers were sweeping the area, they spotted a handgun on the passenger seat of the Sierra, prosecutors said. A subsequent search uncovered the rest of the weapons and the molotov cocktails.

 

stewart rhodes

washington post logoWashington Post, Stewart Rhodes added to Jan. 6 lawsuit against Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Spencer S. Hsu, April 2, 2022. D.C. government lawsuit seeking damages for Capitol attack adds the Oath Keepers leader and five other defendants. A lawsuit by D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) seeking to bankrupt groups and individuals it asserts are responsible for the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on Congress added more defendants Friday, following criminal charges filed against leaders of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers.

The original lawsuit filed Dec. 14 in federal court in Washington named the two groups as defendants and sought damages under the modern version of an 1871 law known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, which was enacted after the Civil War to safeguard government officials carrying out their duties and protect civil rights.

Similar suits related to the breach of the Capitol have been brought by Democratic House lawmakers and police officers injured in the rioting by angry supporters of then-President Donald Trump. The riot forced the evacuation and delay of a joint session of Congress meeting to confirm President Biden’s 2020 election victory and led to what authorities said was more than 100 assaults on police and $1 million in damage

  • Washington Post, Sarah Palin running for Alaska congressional seat, Hannah Knowles and David Weigel, April 2, 2022.

ny times logoNew York Times, Arizona Passes Proof-of-Citizenship Law for Voting in Presidential Elections, Nick Corasaniti, April 1, 2022. Voting rights groups said the legislation signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, could prevent tens of thousands of people from voting for president.

Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona has signed legislation requiring voters to prove their citizenship in order to vote in a presidential election, swiftly drawing a legal challenge from voting rights activists who argued that it could keep tens of thousands of voters from casting a ballot.

The Arizona measure, passed into law on Wednesday, also requires newly registered voters to provide a proof of address, which could have a disproportionate impact on students, older voters who no longer drive, low-income voters and Native Americans.

Legal experts said the new rules might run afoul of both federal law and recent Supreme Court decisions. On Wednesday, Mi Familia Vota, a voting rights group, filed a federal lawsuit challenging the law.

The law is one of several new voting restrictions that the Republican-led Legislature in Arizona is working to pass this year, despite multiple investigations and a partisan election review that found no evidence of widespread fraud in the state in the 2020 election.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The DOJ’s secret grand jury targeting Trump world is also targeting people who work in Congress, Bill Palmer, April 1, 2022. Last night the Washington Post reported that Merrick Garland’s Department of Justice has secretly had a federal grand jury probing Trump world about its involvement in January 6th for at least two months. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone, given the numerous signs that had been emerging of late which suggested that the DOJ was indeed probing Trump world. Now new details are emerging.

On Thursday the New York Times reported that the DOJ grand jury in question has been probing “members of the executive and legislative branches who had been involved in the ‘planning or execution of any rally or any attempt to obstruct, influence, impede or delay’ the certification of the 2020 election.”

Why is this a big deal? We already knew from the WaPo report that this grand jury has been targeting unnamed members of the Trump administration – so the fact that it’s probing members of the executive branch isn’t news. But the New York Times is now saying that the grand jury is also probing members of the legislative branch. That means Congress.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the grand jury is probing members of Congress. It could instead merely be referring to people who work for Congress, such as staffers for members of Congress. But either way, this is still a major breakthrough. We now know that this secret grand jury hasn’t just been targeting Trump world people, it’s begun targeting people who work in Congress as well.

Here is the timeline of the DOJ probe as we now understand it. Once the DOJ finished building criminal cases against the Oath Keepers leadership, it arrested them all on January 13th, 2022. Almost immediately after this, the DOJ had a grand jury begin targeting members of Trump world, and members of the legislative branch, for their involvement in January 6th.

From the timeline, it’s fairly clear that the DOJ felt compelled to complete the criminal cases against the leaders of the Capitol attack who physically participated in it, before moving on to targeting the ringleaders of the Capitol attack who didn’t physically participate in it. This suggests that the arrests of the Oath Keepers resulted in sufficient cooperation to allow the DOJ to begin targeting Trump world. One of the Oath Keepers leaders, Roger Stone’s driver, is known to have cut a cooperating plea deal for seditious conspiracy. This means he’s already given the DOJ everything he knows about Stone and everyone else he dealt with in Trump world.

Recent Headlines

 

Law, Courts, Crime, Race 

 

Supreme Court Justice nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Supreme Court Justice nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Americans disapprove of GOP pushback on Ketanji Brown Jackson, poll says, Aaron Blake, April 2, 2022 (print ed.). Republicans pledged to treat Jackson better than Democrats treated Kavanaugh. Americans didn’t see it that way.

At the start of Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court hearings last week, Republicans made a solemn promise: They would not treat her as badly as Democrats had treated Brett M. Kavanaugh during his 2018 confirmation hearings — a set of circumstances Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) called “one of the lowest moments in the history of this [Senate Judiciary] committee.”

The reviews are in. And not only do Americans support Jackson’s confirmation significantly more than they supported other recent nominees — they also view Republicans’ handling of it about as poorly as they view Democrats’ handling of Kavanaugh, if not worse.

A Quinnipiac University poll this week was the latest to show relatively strong support for Jackson’s confirmation: 51 percent supported it, while 30 percent opposed it. Support for her is higher than it was for the confirmations of Trump’s last two nominees, including Kavanaugh, whose confirmation Americans opposed. A CNN poll showed Americans opposed it by as much as double digits.

 

ICE logo

ny times logoNew York Times, C.D.C. Confirms It Will Lift Public Health Order Restricting Immigration, Eileen Sullivan, April 2, 2022 (print ed).. The agency cited “current public health conditions and an increased availability of tools to fight Covid-19” as grounds for returning in late May to prepandemic policies for admitting migrants. he Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Friday that it would lift an emergency public health order that had restricted immigration at U.S. land borders since the beginning of the pandemic, citing “current public health conditions and an increased availability of tools to fight Covid-19.”

Federal officials expect the policy change, which will go into effect on May 23, to draw thousands more migrants to the southwest border every day, in addition to the already high number of people who have been arriving over the past year from Latin America and across the globe. Republicans, who have described the border situation as out of control under President Biden, immediately condemned the C.D.C.’s decision. The order has been used to expel migrants about 1.7 million times over the past two years.

“These measures, along with the current public health landscape where 97.1 percent of the U.S. population lives in a county identified as having ‘low’ Covid-19 community level, will sufficiently mitigate the Covid-19 risk for U.S. communities,” the C.D.C. said in a statement. The C.D.C. also said it has the right to issue the order again if necessary.

The order, known as Title 42, gives officials the authority to turn away migrants at the border, including those seeking asylum. The process takes about 15 minutes, a factor that has helped the Border Patrol manage the sometimes overwhelming number of undocumented migrants gathering at the border. Without the order in place, stations will be more overcrowded and backed up while officials go through the typical screening process, which can take more than an hour per person.

 

 

ghislaine maxwell jeffrey epstein porch

Sex trafficking defendant Ghislaine Maxwell, right, in an undated photo with her onetime lover and boss Jeffrey Epstein (Photo submitted to jury by U.S. Department of Justice).

washington post logoWashington Post, Ghislaine Maxwell denied new trial despite juror with childhood history of sexual abuse, Shayna Jacobs, April 2, 2022 (print ed.). Ghislaine Maxwell will not get a new trial after it was revealed that a juror in the sex trafficking case involving minor victims had a childhood history of sexual abuse that he did not disclose during jury selection, a federal judge in Manhattan ruled on Friday.

U.S. District Court Judge Alison Nathan held a hearing March 8 at which Juror No. 50 was questioned about the content of news interviews he did after the verdict in which he detailed a history of sexual abuse, information he did not disclose when he was explicitly asked about it in a 30-page questionnaire all juror prospects completed.

In denying Maxwell a new trial, Nathan said that the juror, a 35-year-old who works in the finance industry, was truthful when he took the witness stand and admitted he was distracted and rushed through the written survey, which was issued to juror candidates under oath.

Maxwell juror omitted history of sexual abuse during trial screen

“He appeared to testify frankly and honestly, even when the answers he gave were the cause of personal embarrassment and regret,” Nathan wrote in her 40-page decision. “His incentive at the hearing was to testify truthfully or face criminal perjury charges.”

Nathan also noted the juror would not have been automatically eliminated from the pool for cause based on his history. He testified under an immunity agreement for the incorrect responses on the jury form but was open to liability for perjury if he lied at the proceeding.

The judge noted that in past trials, rape victims have served on sexual assault cases and family members of murder victims have been empaneled for homicide trials.

Lawyers for Maxwell argued that Juror No. 50′s place on the panel poisoned its integrity and deprived her of a fair trial. Dozens of jurors were dismissed outright without further questioning based on answers they gave on the same questionnaire. Attorneys for Maxwell and the juror did not respond to requests for comment. An attorney for the juror did not respond to a request for comment.

Jeffrey Pagliuca, one of Maxwell’s attorneys, said in a statement: “Ms. Maxwell’s lawyers were not allowed to examine Juror No. 50 and many critical questions remain unanswered. The quality, bias, and reliability of any examination dictates the quality, bias and reliability of any result.”

Juror No. 50, speaking in front of a courtroom packed with journalists last month, called his carelessness in the process “one of the biggest mistakes of my life.” Despite his history, which involved being sexually abused by a relative as a boy, he said it did not affect his judgment. He testified that he was not aiming to get picked on the case by tailoring his responses.

 steven ray hessler

ny times logoNew York Times, Man Sentenced to 650 Years in Prison in Brutal 1980s Sex Crimes, Michael Levenson, April 2, 2022. DNA on an envelope helped to seal the fate of Steven Ray Hessler, above, who prosecutors said violently assaulted seven women, a 16-year-old girl and two men in Shelby County, Ind., from 1982 to 1985.

For decades, the police in Shelby County, Ind., could not identify the man who broke into houses at night, armed with a knife or a gun, woke his victims, and then bound and sexually tortured them. He often disguised himself in a bulky coat and covered his face with a ski mask or leggings.

Then, in 2020, 35 years after his last known assault in the county, investigators were finally able to identify the attacker as Steven Ray Hessler, and arrest him. The breakthrough came, prosecutors said, when DNA extracted from the envelope of a water bill that Mr. Hessler had licked matched DNA that had been left at the scene of his last known crime in the county, on Aug. 17, 1985.

On Friday, Mr. Hessler, 59, was sentenced to 650 years in prison. The sentence came a month after a jury convicted Mr. Hessler of two counts of rape, six counts of unlawful deviate conduct, seven counts of burglary resulting in bodily injury, three counts of criminal deviate conduct and one count of robbery.

James B. Landwerlen, the prosecutor in Shelby County, southeast of Indianapolis, said that from Aug. 14, 1982, to Aug. 17, 1985, Mr. Hessler brutally assaulted 10 victims: seven women, a 16-year-old girl, and two men, including a former Marine whom he had handcuffed, hogtied and beat with a gun, leaving him in a coma for months.

“Steven Ray Hessler is one of the most evil, dangerous, sadistic predators that I’ve had the pleasure of prosecuting” in a career of more than 30 years, Mr. Landwerlen said in a statement.

Mr. Landwerlen credited the victims for testifying to some of the torment they had endured at the hands of Mr. Hessler. “These attacks have had profound impacts on their lives,” he said, describing Mr. Hessler’s victims as “living in a recurring state of fear.”

Associated Press via Courthouse News Service, Migrants march from south Mexico as US lifts Covid ban, April 1, 2022. The march came as the Biden ap logoadministration announced it would end a policy that allows turning back asylum seekers on grounds of protecting the country against Covid-19.

Some 500 migrants from Central America, Venezuela and elsewhere fought with Mexican police, National Guard and immigration officers in southern Mexico Friday in one of the first such marches this year.

The migrants described the march as a traditional annual protest related to Holy Week, and those at the front carried a white cross, as others have done in previous years.

However, this year the protest came two weeks early and some participants said they would go far beyond the usual short march and try to reach the U.S. border.

In a clash with National Guard officers and immigration agents, the migrants used the cross they were carrying as a battering ram to break through the Guard lines, shattering the wooden cross.

The officers, who had riot shields, batons and what appeared to be an irritant spray, detained some marchers. The two sides exchanged blows and many migrants left behind knapsacks in the melee.

Prison for Army vet who brought guns, Molotov cocktails to DC on Jan. 6

Some managed to break through and disappear down dirt roads and paths, but many of the rest of the marchers took refuge in a church just a few miles outside of Tapachula.

The migrants set out from the southern Mexico city of Tapachula, near the border with Guatemala, early Friday. Migrants have complained they have been essentially confined to Tapachula by the slow processing of their asylum cases and that they are unable to find work in the border state of Chiapas that would allow them to support their families.

‘Humanitarian parole’ for Ukrainians highlights racial bias in US immigration policy

“They are practically holding us prisoners; they do not allow us to leave this state because we are not regularized here,” said Venezuelan migrant Noreydi Chávez. “They require us to get a visa, but we never get any answers. We fill out paperwork, but they never process it.”

Reynaldo Bello, a migrant from Peru, joined the march with his wife and baby because the family had been living in a park and going hungry while waiting for their immigration paperwork to be processed.

Ukraine hits fuel depot in Russia, retakes areas near Kyiv

The march came as the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden announced it would end a policy that allows turning back asylum seekers on grounds of protecting the country against the coronavirus pandemic.

Migrants have been expelled more than 1.7 million times from the U.S. under the policy, known as Title 42 for a public health law, which was invoked in March 2020.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control said Friday it would end the authority effective May 23.

Near the height of the omicron variant in late January, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had extended the order to this week.

Luis García Villagrán, an immigration activist with the Center for Human Dignification, said Mexican immigration authorities had largely shut off most visa processes in Tapachula and told migrants the only path to regularize their stay in Mexico was through the much lengthier procedure of applying for asylum or refugee status.

ny times logoNew York Times, House Votes to Decriminalize Cannabis, Jonathan Weisman, April 1, 2022. Democrats, with some Republican support, voted 220-204 to remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances, moving to catch up to the states. The House passed legislation on Friday to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, as Democrats and three Republicans banded together to capitalize on the political resonance of legalized cannabis as an issue of economic growth, racial justice and states’ rights.

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, which passed 220-204, is unlikely to secure 60 votes to pass the Senate, despite the backing of the majority leader, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. But supporters of marijuana decriminalization — even some Republicans who voted against the Democratic legislation — said on Friday that the vote was a necessary step toward building consensus on something that can become law.

The Democrats’ bill would remove marijuana from the federal government’s list of controlled substances, impose an 8 percent tax on cannabis products, allow some convictions on cannabis charges to be expunged and press for sentencing reviews at the federal and state levels. It would also make Small Business Administration loans and services available to cannabis businesses while setting standards for them.

“I’m respecting the process that the Democrats want to go through,” said Representative Nancy Mace of South Carolina, a Republican who has made marijuana decriminalization a central issue but voted against the Democratic bill. She added: “You can save the federal government $600 million over five years, and it saves lives. It’s an important issue. People care about it; the vast majority of Americans care about it.”

By lowering law enforcement and incarceration costs and imposing new taxation, the bill would save the government hundreds of millions of dollars. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the act would reduce the federal deficit by nearly $3 billion over the next decade.

Similar legislation passed in 2020 but went nowhere in the Republican-controlled Senate. The vote on Friday was the first since Mr. Schumer elevated the issue in that chamber.

Ms. Mace, backed by four other Republicans, has her own bill, with a lower tax rate to discourage an illicit cannabis trade and other measures to discourage youth consumption. And the Democratic senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Ron Wyden of Oregon have written a marijuana decriminalization measure with Mr. Schumer.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The DOJ’s secret grand jury targeting Trump world is also targeting people who work in Congress, Bill Palmer, April 1, 2022. Last night the Washington Post reported that Merrick Garland’s Department of Justice has secretly had a federal grand jury probing Trump world about its involvement in January 6th for at least two months. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone, given the numerous signs that had been emerging of late which suggested that the DOJ was indeed probing Trump world. Now new details are emerging.

On Thursday the New York Times reported that the DOJ grand jury in question has been probing “members of the executive and legislative branches who had been involved in the ‘planning or execution of any rally or any attempt to obstruct, influence, impede or delay’ the certification of the 2020 election.”

Why is this a big deal? We already knew from the WaPo report that this grand jury has been targeting unnamed members of the Trump administration – so the fact that it’s probing members of the executive branch isn’t news. But the New York Times is now saying that the grand jury is also probing members of the legislative branch. That means Congress.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the grand jury is probing members of Congress. It could instead merely be referring to people who work for Congress, such as staffers for members of Congress. But either way, this is still a major breakthrough. We now know that this secret grand jury hasn’t just been targeting Trump world people, it’s begun targeting people who work in Congress as well.

Here is the timeline of the DOJ probe as we now understand it. Once the DOJ finished building criminal cases against the Oath Keepers leadership, it arrested them all on January 13th, 2022. Almost immediately after this, the DOJ had a grand jury begin targeting members of Trump world, and members of the legislative branch, for their involvement in January 6th.

From the timeline, it’s fairly clear that the DOJ felt compelled to complete the criminal cases against the leaders of the Capitol attack who physically participated in it, before moving on to targeting the ringleaders of the Capitol attack who didn’t physically participate in it. This suggests that the arrests of the Oath Keepers resulted in sufficient cooperation to allow the DOJ to begin targeting Trump world. One of the Oath Keepers leaders, Roger Stone’s driver, is known to have cut a cooperating plea deal for seditious conspiracy. This means he’s already given the DOJ everything he knows about Stone and everyone else he dealt with in Trump world.

washington post logoWashington Post, Unaccountable: Police strategy abandoned after Breonna Taylor death spreads to other cities, Amy Brittain, March 31, 2022 (print ed.). At least nine jurisdictions either plan to or have adopted the crime-reduction strategy known as ‘place network investigations’ — a model that examines geographic connections that allow crime to flourish.

A crime-reduction strategy abandoned by Louisville police after the March 2020 fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor has since spread to other major U.S. cities, gaining favor with police chiefs for its potential to reduce violent crime despite its ties to the case that sparked widespread calls for police reform.

In the months preceding the shooting, Louisville officers had studied a model known as “place network investigations.” The then-novel approach pioneered by an academic posited that crime could be curbed if police and other community partners focused on geographic connections in areas plagued by violent crime. It is the latest in a long line of U.S. policing philosophies that have used data to target crime concentrated in small areas known as hot spots.

washington post logoWashington Post, 5 fetuses found in D.C. home after indictment in abortion clinic blockade, Jaclyn Peiser, April 1, 2022 (print ed.). The fetuses were aborted “in accordance with D.C. law,” and “there doesn’t seem to be anything criminal in nature…except for how they got into this house,” police said.

Five fetuses were removed from a Southeast Washington home Wednesday, the same day a federal indictment was announced against nine people in the 2020 blockade of an abortion clinic with chain and rope.

The residence was where Lauren Handy, one of the people indicted, was arrested and had lived or stayed, according to two law enforcement officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely discuss the case.

Handy and eight others were indicted on federal civil rights counts, with prosecutors alleging that she and others violated the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.

Authorities have not said how the fetuses were obtained and how they came to be in the home.

The discovery came the same day authorities announced the indictment of the nine people who prosecutors say had gathered near the doors of a D.C. reproductive health clinic in October 2020.

They were waiting for the facility to open and charged in after a medical specialist unlocked the doors, an indictment says.

They then began barricading the entrances with chairs from the waiting room, according to prosecutors.

“We have people intervening physically with their bodies to prevent women from entering the clinic to murder their children,” Jonathan Darnel, reportedly one of the intruders, said in a Facebook Live broadcast documenting the event, according to court documents.

The nine have been charged with conspiracy and violating the FACE Act, “which prohibits threats of force, obstruction and property damage intended to interfere with reproductive health care services,” according to the Justice Department. Prosecutors did not provide the name of the clinic in the indictment.

The indictment comes as more states pass legislation restricting abortion access. In the six months after Texas passed a ban on abortions past the six-week mark, lawmakers in more than a dozen states have proposed similar bills. On March 23, Gov. Brad Little (R) of Idaho signed a bill into law modeled after the one in Texas.

 Recent Law-Related Headlines

 
Inside U.S. Washington Politics

 

madison cawthorn resized hunting amazon

ny times logoNew York Times, House Republicans Tire of Madison Cawthorn’s Antics. His District Has, Too, Trip Gabriel, March 31, 2022 (print ed.). For Mr. Cawthorn, above, a pro-Trump North Carolina congressman, the youthful brashness that helped him win his seat now strikes some voters as recklessness.

In the era of Donald Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party — when making falsehoods about an election isn’t disqualifying, when heckling a president at the State of the Union is no big deal, when attending an event tied to white supremacists doesn’t lead to exile — it may still be possible for a hard-right member of Congress to go too far.

That is the object lesson of Representative Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, the House’s youngest member, whose bid for a second term is in jeopardy after a series of incendiary statements and personal foibles have soured many former supporters.

“I voted for Madison, but I think I’ll pass now because of integrity issues,’’ said John Harper, a retired furniture finisher in Franklin, N.C., at a Republican event in Mr. Cawthorn’s district last week. “I was fooled last time. I won’t be fooled again.”

Mr. Cawthorn, 26, called President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine “a thug” and his country “incredibly evil” as Russian tanks rolled in. The congressman has made headlines for bringing a knife to a school board meeting and bringing a gun through airport security. Mr. Cawthorn, who has used a wheelchair since being injured in an automobile accident when he was 18, was charged this month with driving with a revoked license. He has a May court date on the misdemeanor count that carries jail time.

washington post logoWashington Post, McCarthy: Cawthorn ‘did not tell the truth’ about orgy, drug claims, Felicia Sonmez, March 31, 2022 (print ed.). House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Wednesday after meeting with Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) that the freshman lawmaker was not telling the truth when he made claims about an “orgy” invitation and alleged drug use among unnamed members of Congress.

Cawthorn’s comments, which he made during a podcast interview last week, had outraged some of his fellow congressional Republicans, leading to Wednesday’s meeting at the Capitol with McCarthy and other House GOP leaders.

kevin mccarthy“This is unacceptable,” McCarthy, right, told reporters Wednesday after meeting with Cawthorn, Axios reported. “There’s no evidence to this.”

madison cawthorn oMcCarthy added that Cawthorn, left, “changes what he tells” and “did not tell the truth,” describing his actions as “not becoming of a congressman.”

Cawthorn was seen leaving McCarthy’s office Wednesday morning after a meeting that lasted about half an hour. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) also attended the meeting, according to Politico.

washington post logoWashington Post, Crypto industry dives into midterms, raising millions to court Democrats, Tory Newmyer, March 31, 2022 (print ed.). The crypto industry is rolling out a multimillion-dollar campaign to elect friendly candidates in the midterm elections as regulators zero in on the sector.

Crypto executives and investors flush with digital wealth are assembling a big-money effort to elect a slate of crypto enthusiasts to Congress in this year’s midterm elections, the industry’s first significant foray into American politics.

Crypto interests are raising money for a super PAC that aims to spend $20 million promoting candidates friendly toward the sector. Coinbase, the largest U.S.-based crypto exchange, hosted a previously unreported fundraiser for Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) over a Zoom call last week. Executives are organizing events for insiders to contribute to candidates in cryptocurrency. And they are backing some upstart pols, including elementary school teacher Aarika Rhodes, who has launched a primary challenge to Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), one of the industry’s most outspoken critics.

The push comes at a high-stakes moment. The sector has leaped more than tenfold in total market value since this point in the last election cycle two years ago, topping $2.1 trillion as of Wednesday. That growth has put the industry in the crosshairs of policymakers, now considering rules for digital assets that will determine how the industry evolves both in the United States and abroad. Crypto interests are racing to build influence in Washington in a bid to shape the process as it unfolds.

washington post logoWashington Post, Facing new political reality, Murkowski considers a vote for Jackson, Mike DeBonis, April 1, 2022 (print ed.). The senator from Alaska is among a handful of Republicans thinking of supporting Biden’s Supreme Court nominee.

lisa murkowski oThe last time a Democratic president sent Supreme Court nominees to the Senate, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, right, was a member of the Senate Republican leadership bracing for a tough Alaska primary against a more conservative GOP challenger.

She was accordingly tough on President Barack Obama’s picks: Sonia Sotomayor, she said in 2009, had given “brief and superficial treatment … to important constitutional questions,” and a year later, she said Elena Kagan would be “one of the least experienced Supreme Court justices in our nation’s history.” She voted against both nominees.

More than a decade later, Murkowski has undergone a political transformation — thanks in part to a political near-death experience, where she lost that 2010 primary only to resurrect herself in a subsequent write-in campaign with the help of centrist voters. She is now among a handful of Republicans who are seriously entertaining a vote for President Biden’s pending Supreme Court nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

 

Media, Entertainment, Religion News

hunter biden

Press Run, Commentary: The media’s Hunter Biden debacle, Whitewater II, Eric Boehlert, right, April 1, 2022. Eagerly deploying newsroom resources to the eric.boehlertperpetually overblown Hunter Biden story — just as Trump and Fox News kick off a new smear campaign — CNN, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post gladly did the GOP’s bidding this week. Signing off on the idea that the Hunter Biden story remains a scandal simply because Republicans say so, the press has adopted a Whitewater-like obsession with the perpetual dead-end story.

One White House reporter on Thursday, doing his best Fox News impression, asked if President Joe Biden would take the extraordinary step of pardoning Hunter (shown above) — who is not accused of any crime.

Producing remarkably similar articles that were published nearly simultaneously this week, the CNN.com, Journal, and Post efforts all swung and missed. On paper, there’s no reason why they would pick the exact same moment to churn out nearly 7,000 words of Biden reporting. Especially since none of the investigations dug up any startling revelations about his business dealings from the previous decade.

The copycat nature of the reports raises questions about who the unnamed sources for these stories were, and if there was a coordinated effort by Republican operatives to push simultaneous Hunter updates.

It’s also telling that the hand-delivered leaks arrived the same time we’re learning even more about the Trump White House’s criminality. Specifically, the administration’s clear lawbreaking surrounding the January 6th coup attempt.

This was the big ah-ha moment from the Post piece: “The new documents illustrate the ways in which his family profited from relationships built over Joe Biden’s decades in public service.”

And?

The press can’t provide an answer to the “and” — they can’t find anything illegal or shocking — so they pretend that the business deals themselves are newsworthy and that Hunter’s career requires years of media digging. Meanwhile, the recent revelation about a Supreme Court Justice’s wife strategizing with the Trump White House to overturn an election has evaporated from most newsrooms in less than one week.

After years of media focus there’s nothing to suggest Joe Biden was involved in his son’s business dealings or profited from them in any way, or that the senior Biden ever did anything remotely unethical in connection with Hunter’s career.

The son has never run for office, never served in the government, never lobbied to change U.S. policy, and never acted as an advisor to his father in any way.

The fact is, he remains under investigation for matters related to tax payments and his foreign work, and there is a chance he could be indicted. Although, as the New York Times recently reported, Biden recently paid off “a significant tax liability,” which “could make it harder for prosecutors to win a conviction or a long sentence for tax-related offenses.”

It’s a relatively small stakes tax case that has produced a ridiculous amount of breathless Beltway coverage, much to the delight of the GOP. Context: 11 Trump associates who worked directly with the president have been indicted on criminal charges.

The press relentlessly pursues the Hunter story because they insist there’s the appearance of conflict of interest given the family connections. But Hunter began making overseas energy deals just as his father was leaving office in 2016 after eight years serving with President Barack Obama. If Hunter wanted to cash in on his father’s vice presidency, why did he wait until the end of his father’s vice presidency?

Still, the media fixation continues.

“I’m so glad our colleagues are still doing strong reporting on this story,” New York Times columnist Gail Collins cheered last week. “Hunter Biden’s scummy business dealings shouldn’t be swept under the rug any more than anyone else’s.”

Swept under the rug? Good grief. Since 2017, “Hunter Biden” has appeared in more than 800 articles and columns published by the Times, according to Nexis.

 

Trump Administration White House Photographer Shealah Craighead (Photo by Doug Mills of the New York Times).

Trump Administration White House Photographer Shealah Craighead (Photo by Doug Mills of the New York Times).

ny times logoNew York Times, She Took the White House Photos. Trump Moved to Take the Profit, Eric Lipton and Maggie Haberman, Updated April 1, 2022. The former chief White House photographer made plans to publish a book of Trump photos. The former president had other plans.

As President Donald J. Trump’s tenure came to an end, the chief White House photographer, who had traveled the world with him and spent countless hours inside the White House snapping pictures, notified Mr. Trump’s aides that she intended to publish a book collecting some of her most memorable images.

This was hardly a radical idea: Official photographers from every White House since President Ronald Reagan’s have published their own books. Barack Obama and George W. Bush were so supportive that they wrote forewords for them.

But like so much else involving Mr. Trump, the plan by his chief photographer, Shealah Craighead, did not follow this bipartisan norm.

First, aides to Mr. Trump asked her for a cut of her book advance payment, in exchange for his writing a foreword and helping promote the book, according to former associates of Mr. Trump.

Then Mr. Trump’s team asked Ms. Craighead to hold off on her book project to allow the former president to take Ms. Craighead’s photos and those of other White House staff photographers and publish his own book, which is now selling for as much as $230 a copy.

That the profits from Ms. Craighead’s labor are now going into Mr. Trump’s pocket has left several of Mr. Trump’s former aides upset — but not exactly surprised.

“Shea’s a very talented photographer and this was really all of her hard work,” said Stephanie Grisham, who served as the White House press secretary for Mr. Trump and wrote her own book, referring to Ms. Craighead by her nickname. “I just keep thinking: What a shame that he is actually now profiting off of it. But then again, this is the guy who is hawking caps and all kinds of stuff right now to raise money for himself.”

Eric Draper, who was the chief White House photographer during Mr. Bush’s tenure, said the move was disrespectful to Ms. Craighead.

“It’s a slap in the face,” Mr. Draper said, adding that he had spoken with Ms. Craighead last year about her plan to do her own book. “I would be disappointed if I were in her shoes.”

The 317-page book Mr. Trump published in December, titled Our Journey Together, includes no photo credits. It does not mention any of the photographers who took the images until the last page, where he briefly offered a “grateful acknowledgment” to “all the phenomenal White House photographers,” listing them by name, including Ms. Craighead, whose pictures make up much of the book.

There is no legal prohibition on Mr. Trump assembling and publishing photographs that a White House staff member took during his tenure; under federal law, those photographs are considered in the public domain and not subject to copyright. There is a public Flickr account, now managed by the National Archives, that has 14,995 photos from the Trump White House, a third of them listing Ms. Craighead as the photographer.

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Clockwise from top left, Michigan defendants Brandon Caserta, Barry Croft, Daniel Harris and Adam Fox (Photos from Kent County Sheriff Delaware Department of Justice via Associated Press).

Clockwise from top left, Michigan defendants Brandon Caserta, Barry Croft, Daniel Harris and Adam Fox (Photos from Kent County Sheriff Delaware Department of Justice via Associated Press).

ny times logoNew York Times, Trial in Alleged Plot to Kidnap Michigan’s Governor Nears End, Mitch Smith, April 1, 2022. Closing arguments are expected Friday in the federal case against four men with militia ties who are accused of conspiring to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The government’s accusations were jarring: Several men with militia ties had schemed to abduct Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, right, at her vacation gretchen whitmer o smile Customhome. The group, prosecutors and witnesses said, had held a series of “field training exercises” and discussed killing or stranding her in a boat in the middle of Lake Michigan.

As the trial of four men unfolded over the last month, federal prosecutors presented a barrage of alarming messages and surreptitious recordings that they said revealed the group’s plan to storm Ms. Whitmer’s home, eliminate her security detail and detonate a bridge to slow any police response to the kidnapping. Another man, a former co-defendant who pleaded guilty before the trial, testified that he hoped the kidnapping would touch off a civil war and prevent Joseph R. Biden Jr. from becoming president.

Testimony during the trial, one of the highest-profile domestic terrorism prosecutions in recent memory, has provided a glimpse into increasingly brazen and violent discourse among some on the far right. But the case has also raised questions about when hateful political speech and gun possession cross a line from constitutionally protected acts to crimes.

michigan mapThe men on trial at the federal courthouse in Grand Rapids were among 14 arrested in October of 2020, before there was any attempt to carry out a plan.

When closing arguments begin Friday morning, defense lawyers are expected to assert that there never was any firm plot to abduct Ms. Whitmer, a Democrat, and that their clients, who could face life in prison if convicted, were lured into the discussions by a network of F.B.I. informants and undercover agents. Prosecutors are expected to describe the defendants — Brandon Caserta, Barry Croft, Adam Fox and Daniel Harris — as threats to America’s democratic order who spoke openly about political violence as their frustration with Covid-19 restrictions mounted before the 2020 election. Ms. Whitmer, a first-term governor with a national profile, took a more restrictive approach to the pandemic in 2020 than some other Midwestern governors, keeping many rules in place even when case numbers dropped.

“Which Governor is going to end up dragged off and hung for treason first?” Mr. Croft posted on Facebook in May 2020, according to an F.B.I. agent who examined his account.

washington post logoWashington Post, Job creation, openings at near-record levels as jobless claims approach historic lows, Abha Bhattarai, April 1, 2022. The unemployment rate fell to a new pandemic low of 3.6 percent, as strong hiring continues.

The national unemployment rate fell to a pandemic low of 3.6 percent in March, as employers added 431,000 jobs, further bolstering the most rapid labor market rebound on record.

joe biden twitterAverage hourly wages for private-sector workers, rose by 13 cents to $31.73 in March, the Labor Department said Friday.

The labor market is pretty close to healing from the shock of the covid pandemic two years ago, having recovered 93 percent of the 22 million jobs lost early in the pandemic.

Both the unemployment rate and the number of people without jobs are almost down to pre-pandemic levels, but other parts of the labor market have yet to recover. The percentage of American workers who have a job or actively looking for work is still lower than it was before the crisis. And while wages have risen 5.6 percent in the last year, they have not kept up with inflation of 7.9 percent.

This is the 11th consecutive month that employers have added more than 400,000 jobs, which is considered a particularly strong pace of job growth.

“It’s been a remarkable recovery — we’ve never seen anything like this,” said Jane Oates, president of the employment-focused nonprofit WorkingNation and a former Labor Department official. “Two years ago, every sector was at least disrupted if not completely shut down. But we’ve had such a quick recovery that things are almost back to normal.”

4.4 million in U.S. quit or changed jobs in February as turnover remained high

Industries like hospitality, retail and construction — which were among the most affected early in the pandemic when shutdowns forced millions of layoffs — have been rapidly rehiring in recent months. That trend continued into March, with restaurants, hotels and stores picking up a combined 161,000 jobs.

Employers have added a record 7 million jobs in the past year, as hiring roars back to life. This momentum, however, has been accompanied by a surge in inflation to 40-year highs, near 8 percent, presenting a major headache for Federal Reserve officials and for a White House struggling with war abroad and low ratings at home. Some economists say a combination of higher interest rates, soaring energy costs and conflict in Ukraine are likely to slow job growth in coming months.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘I’m in Hot Demand, Baby’: Nebraska Thrives (and Copes) With Low Unemployment, Talmon Joseph Smith. April 1, 2022. The state’s jobless rate in February was one of the lowest ever, at 2.1 percent. Employers are having to adjust to the power of workers.

The unemployment rate in Nebraska was 2.1 percent in February, tied with Utah for the lowest in the nation and near the lowest on record for any state. In several counties, unemployment is below 1 percent. Even taking into account adults who have left the work force, the share of the population 16 and older employed in Nebraska is around 68 percent, the nation’s highest figure.

 

A Russian tank burning next to an unidentified soldier’s body during a fight with the Ukrainian armed forces in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Sunday (Photo by Sergey Bobok/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images).

A Russian tank burning next to an unidentified soldier’s body during a fight with the Ukrainian armed forces in Kharkiv, Ukraine (File photo by Sergey Bobok / Agence France-Presse via Getty Images).

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Red Cross heads toward Mariupol, Peace talks have resumed online as 100,000 remain trapped in port city, Adela Suliman, Andrew Jeong, Ellen Francis and Miriam Berger, April 1, 2022. Some civilians escaped from Mariupol, but a Red Cross team facilitating a larger evacuation turned back after “conditions made it impossible to proceed.” Another round of peace talks began via video link. The first E.U.-China summit in two years was overshadowed by the war. Here’s the latest.

The International Committee of the Red Cross is sending a team toward Mariupol to assist with a “safe passage operation,” a day after the Kremlin declared a humanitarian cease-fire in the besieged city. It was not clear if the ICRC would be able to enter Mariupol.

An adviser to its mayor’s office warned residents that “the city remains closed to entry and very dangerous to leave,” while an ICRC spokesman cautioned that “it’s not yet clear” whether evacuations would “happen today.” Ukrainian officials estimate that more than 100,000 people are still trapped in the devastated port city.

A fuel depot was ablaze early Friday in the southern Russian city of Belgorod, whose governor charged that two Ukrainian helicopters attacked the site. The claim could not be verified, and Ukraine’s foreign minster said he could “neither confirm nor reject” the allegation because he did not “possess all the military information.” Ukraine has not previously attacked targets in Russian territory. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said President Vladimir Putin has been informed and that the event could jeopardize peace talks. The latest round of negotiations took place online Friday, officials from both sides said.

On the battlefield, the Kremlin appeared to be pulling forces out of the Chernobyl nuclear plant site and moving some units away from the Kyiv area. But Western officials remain skeptical of Russia’s pledge to scale down military operations. “We can only judge Russia on its actions,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Here’s what to know

  • Zelensky said late Thursday that he has ousted two generals from Ukraine’s top law enforcement and intelligence agency, accusing them of being traitors to their country.
  • European Union leaders called on China to help end Russia’s war in Ukraine during a virtual summit Friday that was meant to focus on E.U-China relations.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian troop movements reflect the success of his country’s military. But conditions in southern Ukraine and in the eastern region of Donbas — which Russia seems determined to control — remain “extremely difficult,” he added.
  • European leaders rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s demand that “unfriendly countries” pay for natural gas in rubles in Moscow’s apparent bid to help stabilize the Russian currency amid sanctions.
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel for updates.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. leery of Russia’s shift from Kyiv, Adela Suliman, Amy Cheng, Andrew Jeong, Ellen Francis and Jennifer Hassan, April 1, 2022 (print ed.). Temporary Mariupol cease-fire agreed to ahead of Red Cross evacuation, Russian officials say; Kremlin says U.S. officials do not understand Putin or the Kremlin; NATO’s Stoltenberg: Russia is repositioning, not withdrawing; Despite Western sanctions, Russian ruble and banks are recovering.

Officials from Russia and Ukraine said Thursday they have agreed on a temporary cease-fire in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol to allow civilians to evacuate and humanitarian aid to enter. Neither side specified when the cease-fire and humanitarian corridor would end, but Ukraine said its soldiers would “guarantee a full cease-fire regime” and that it was sending 45 buses into Mariupol to evacuate residents.

ukraine flagA spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross called the cease-fire “desperately important” and told The Washington Post that ICRC teams were traveling with relief items and medical supplies “to facilitate the safe passage of civilians out of Mariupol” on Friday. The city, which has so far borne the brunt of Russia’s invasion, was once home to 450,000 people, and 100,000 or so may still be trapped.

On Wednesday, the Pentagon said some Russian forces were being moved again from the capital, Kyiv. It warned that this should not be seen as a de-escalation but more likely points to an intention to refit and resupply troops, and possibly
deploy them elsewhere in Ukraine. In a video address late Wednesday, President Volodymyr Zelensky said the war was nearing “a turning point,” as his country braces for fresh assaults in the eastern Donbas region.

ny times logoNew York Times, Shaken at First, Many Russians Now Rally Behind Putin’s Invasion, Anton Troianovski, Ivan Nechepurenko and Valeriya Safronova
April 1, 2022. Polls and interviews show many Russians now accept the Kremlin’s assertion that their country is under siege from the West. Opponents are leaving the country or keeping quiet.

The stream of antiwar letters to a St. Petersburg lawmaker has dried up. Some Russians who had criticized the Kremlin have turned into cheerleaders for the war. Those who publicly oppose it have found the word “traitor” scrawled on their apartment door.

Five weeks into President Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, there are signs that the Russian public’s initial shock has given way to a mix of support for their troops and anger at the West. On television, entertainment shows have been replaced by extra helpings of propaganda, resulting in an around-the-clock barrage of falsehoods about the “Nazis” who run Ukraine and American-funded Ukrainian bioweapons laboratories.

Polls and interviews show that many Russians now accept Mr. Putin’s contention that their country is under siege from the West and had no choice but to attack. The war’s opponents are leaving the country or keeping quiet.

“We are in a time machine, hurtling into the glorious past,” an opposition politician in the western Russian region of Kaliningrad, Solomon I. Ginzburg, said in a telephone interview. He portrayed it as a political and economic regression into Soviet times. “I would call it a devolution, or an involution.”

The public’s endorsement of the war lacks the patriotic groundswell that greeted the annexation of Crimea in 2014. But polls released this week by Russia’s most respected independent pollster, Levada, showed Mr. Putin’s approval rating hitting 83 percent, up from 69 percent in January. Eighty-one percent said they supported the war, describing the need to protect Russian speakers as its primary justification.

Analysts cautioned that as the economic pain wrought by sanctions deepens in the coming months, the public mood could shift yet again. Some also argued that polls in wartime have limited significance, with many Russians fearful of voicing dissent, or even their true opinion, to a stranger at a time when new censorship laws are punishing any deviation from the Kremlin narrative with as much as 15 years in prison.

But even accounting for that effect, Denis Volkov, Levada’s director, said his group’s surveys showed that many Russians had adopted the belief that a besieged Russia had to rally around its leader.

ny times logoNew York Times, Syrian Mercenaries Deploy to Russia en Route to Ukrainian Battlefields, Ben Hubbard, Hwaida Saad and Asmaa al-Omar, April 1, 2022 (print ed.). Hundreds of Syrian fighters are en route to join Russian forces in Ukraine, effectively returning the favor to Moscow for helping President Bashar al-Assad crush rebels in an 11-year civil war, according to two people monitoring the flow of mercenaries.

A first contingent of soldiers has already arrived in Russia for military training before heading to Ukraine, according to a Western diplomat and a Damascus-based ally of the Syrian government. It includes at least 300 soldiers from a Syrian army division that has worked closely with Russian officers who went to Syria to support Mr. al-Assad during the war.

And many more could be on the way: Recruiters across Syria have been drawing up lists of thousands of interested candidates to be vetted by the Syrian security services and then passed to the Russians.

Syria has grown in recent years into an exporter of mercenaries, a grim aftereffect of years of war that gave many men combat experience but so damaged the country’s economy that people now struggle to find work. So they have deployed as guns-for-hire to wars in Libya, Azerbaijan, the Central African Republic — and now Ukraine.

“In general, money is the motivation,” said Bassam Alahmad, the head of Syrians for Truth and Justice, an advocacy group that has researched the Syrian mercenary trade. Some Syrians feel loyalty to Russia because of its support for Mr. al-Assad, he said, while others sign up to fight because they simply need the money and believe recruiters’ promises that they will have noncombat jobs, such as guarding bases or oil facilities.
Defused Russian mines in a village near the city of Idlib in northwestern Syria, in 2020.
I“Some people don’t mind fighting, but there are groups that are definitely taking advantage of people’s needs,” Mr. Alahmad said. “The result is the same: People are paying this price. People are participating in wars that aren’t theirs.”

On Wednesday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that about 1,000 mercenaries from the Wagner Group, a Russian military contractor, were already in the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine, where Russia has installed two separatist enclaves, and that they included Syrians.

Syria’s long-running war drew in foreign powers such as Iran, Turkey, Russia and the United States, all of which worked with Syrian military groups on the ground to advance their interests.

 

nancy pelosi gavel safe oenwashington post logoWashington Post, Pelosi says Ginni Thomas texts show need for Supreme Court ethics code, Felicia Sonmez and Amy B Wang, April 1, 2022 (print ed.). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday renewed her call for the Supreme Court to institute a code of ethics, citing the recent revelations that Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, pressed the Trump White House to try to overturn President Biden’s 2020 victory.

Following reports about the actions of Virginia Thomas, who goes by Ginni, several Democrats have called on Clarence Thomas to recuse himself from certain Supreme Court cases related to the 2020 election.

U.S. House logoPelosi, shown above in a file photo, on Thursday declined to say whether Thomas should recuse himself or resign from the court, telling reporters, “I don’t think he should have ever been appointed, so, we could take it back to there.”

But she did say that the court’s lack of a code of ethics presents a serious problem.

“They have no code of ethics,” Pelosi said at her weekly news conference at the Capitol. “And it’s — really? The Supreme Court of the United States? They’re making judgments about the air we breathe and everything else, and we don’t even know what their ethical standard is? … Why should they have lower standards than members of Congress in terms of reporting and all the rest?”

Pelosi noted that H.R. 1, the For the People Act, includes language calling for the establishment of a judicial code of ethics. The measure passed the House this month in a largely party-line vote, but its chances are dim in the Senate.

The speaker suggested that a House committee may have a hearing on the code of conduct issue soon, although she did not elaborate.

United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (l) with his wife of thirty-five years, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas (r). (Safe Image)On Thomas, in particular, Pelosi said little about the Supreme Court justice (shown in a file photo with his wife) but did make a pointed remark about his wife’s text messages urging the Trump White House to work to overturn Biden’s win.

“I’ve heard people say from time to time, ‘Well, it’s a personal decision of a judge as to whether he should recuse himself,’ ” Pelosi said. “Well, if your wife is an admitted and proud contributor to a coup of our country, maybe you should weigh that in your ethical standards.”

 ny times logoNew York Times, House Passes Bill to Limit Cost of Insulin to $35 a Month, Margot Sanger-Katz, April 1, 2022. The bill stands to benefit millions of Americans with diabetes, but to become law, it will need to attract at least 10 Republican votes in the Senate.

The bill attracted unanimous support from Democrats who voted, as well as from 12 Republicans, making it a rare piece of bipartisan policy legislation.

To become law, the bill will need to attract at least 10 Republican votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster. Some lawmakers involved in the effort have expressed optimism that such a coalition might be possible, but few Republican senators have publicly endorsed the bill yet. Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, has been working with Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, on a broader bill related to insulin prices.

U.S. House logoThe bill would have substantial benefits for many of the nearly 30 million Americans who live with diabetes. Insulin, a lifesaving drug that is typically taken daily, has grown increasingly expensive in recent years, and many diabetes patients ration their medicines or discontinue them because of the cost. About one in five Americans who take insulin would save money under the proposal, according to a recent analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But the insulin bill represents a substantial scaling back of Democratic ambitions to tackle high drug prices for all Americans. A broader prescription drug package, written as part of the $2.2 trillion social spending and climate bill that has stalled in the Senate, would limit price increases on all prescription drugs, improve the generosity of Medicare’s drug coverage, and allow the government to negotiate directly on the price of some drugs used by Medicare patients, while also limiting insulin co-payments.

Other parts of the broader bill would expand health insurance coverage, extending insulin coverage to diabetes patients who are uninsured. The bill that passed the House on Thursday would not improve the affordability of insulin for people who lack health insurance.

 

U.S. Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden unveils plan to release a million barrels of oil per day, Tyler Pager and Jeff Stein, April 1, 2022 (print ed.). The measure is meant to help -consumers amid a Russia-related shock to prices. President Biden on Thursday will announce a massive release of the nation’s strategic oil reserves as the White House tries to combat high prices at the pump.

The White House said it will release one million additional barrels of oil per day from the national Strategic Petroleum Reserve for the next six months — an measure the administration says will help buffer domestic consumers amid a Russia-related shock to prices. The White House also announced it will encourage oil companies to ramp up domestic production, which will have a more lasting impact on moderating prices.

“The scale of this release is unprecedented: the world has never had a release of oil reserves at this 1 million per day rate for this length of time,” the White House said in a statement. “This record release will provide a historic amount of supply to serve as bridge until the end of the year when domestic production ramps up.”

ny times logoNew York Times, As Earmarks Return to Congress, Lawmakers Rush to Steer Money Home, Luke Broadwater, Emily Cochrane and Alicia Parlapiano, April 1, 2022. Democrats and Republicans alike stuffed nearly 5,000 earmarks totaling $9 billion into the $1.5 trillion spending bill signed by President Biden.

One hundred million dollars for an airport in Mobile, Ala. Tens of thousands for upgrades to a police station in the tiny town of Milton, W.Va. Hundreds of thousands of dollars sent to Arkansas to deal with feral swine.

Stuffed inside the sprawling $1.5 trillion government spending bill enacted in March was the first batch of earmarks in more than a decade, after Congress resurrected the practice of allowing lawmakers to direct federal funds for specific projects to their states and districts. Republicans and Democrats alike relished the opportunity to get in on the action after years in which they were barred from doing so, packing 4,962 earmarks totaling just over $9 billion in the legislation that President Biden signed into law.

“It’s my last couple of years, so I decided to make the most of it,” said Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri and a member of the Appropriations Committee, who is retiring after more than two decades in Congress. He steered $313 million back to his home state — the fourth-highest total of any lawmaker.

Often derided as pork and regarded as an unseemly and even corrupt practice on Capitol Hill, earmarks are also a tool of consensus-building in Congress, giving lawmakers across the political spectrum a personal interest in cutting deals to fund the government. Their absence, many lawmakers argued, only made that process more difficult, and their return this year appears to have helped grease the skids once again.

ny times logoNew York Times, President Biden’s climate goals have stalled amid high gas prices, the Ukraine war and an emboldened fossil fuel industry, Coral Davenport, April 1, 2022. Rising costs at the pump, war in Ukraine, an emboldened fossil fuel industry and stalled legislation have imperiled President Biden’s climate agenda.

A year after he entered the White House with a vow that fighting global warming would be a driving priority for his administration, President Biden’s climate agenda is mired in delay and facing legal, legislative and political headwinds that could diminish or dismantle it entirely.

His two main avenues for significant climate action are legislation and regulation. But even Mr. Biden’s top aides and closest allies now concede that the legislative centerpiece of his climate plan is unlikely to become law in the face of steadfast Republican opposition. And regulations that are now under development — strict limits on the pollution from cars and power plants that is dangerously heating the planet — could be curtailed or blocked by the conservative majority on the Supreme Court.

With gasoline prices surging after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and images receding of last summer’s climate disasters — wildfires that raged through seven states, heat waves and floods — Republicans and oil companies are newly emboldened in calling for more drilling and less emphasis on climate change.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Biden Pleads for More Covid Aid, States Are Awash in Federal Dollars, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, April 1, 2022. States challenged a plan to take back some of their stimulus money to fund President Biden’s request. Congress is now seeking other ways to offset the cost.

ny times logoNew York Times, Income taxes for all? The Republican senator Rick Scott has a plan that is dividing his party, Jonathan Weisman, April 1, 2022 (print ed.).  The “Plan to Rescue America” is dividing the party and cheering Democrats, and its author, Senate Republicans’ top campaign official, won’t stop talking about it.

Senator Rick Scott of Florida, the somewhat embattled head of the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, said one utterly indisputable thing on Thursday when he stood before a packed auditorium of supporters at the conservative Heritage Foundation: His plan for a G.O.P. majority would make everyone angry at him, Republicans included.

It was an odd admission for the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. His leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has repeatedly told Mr. Scott to pipe down about his “11-Point Plan to Rescue America,” with its call to impose income taxes on more than half of Americans who pay none now, and to sunset all legislation after five years, presumably including Social Security and Medicare.Senator Rick Scott of Florida, the somewhat embattled head of the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, said one utterly indisputable thing on Thursday when he stood before a packed auditorium of supporters at the conservative Heritage Foundation: His plan for a G.O.P. majority would make everyone angry at him, Republicans included.

It was an odd admission for the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. His leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has repeatedly told Mr. Scott to pipe down about his “11-Point Plan to Rescue America,” with its call to impose income taxes on more than half of Americans who pay none now, and to sunset all legislation after five years, presumably including Social Security and Medicare.

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats Worry That What Happens in Nevada Won’t Stay in Nevada, Jennifer Medina and Reid J. Epstein, April 1, 2022.  Democrats have long held up Nevada as a symbol of their future. But as the state’s economy struggles, it has become the epitome of their midterm woes.

Scars from the coronavirus pandemic are still visible here. Housing prices skyrocketed, with rents rising faster than almost anywhere else in the country. Roughly 10,000 casino workers remain out of work. Gas prices, now more than $5 a gallon, are higher than in every other state except California.

Amid a flagging economy, the state Democrats held up as a national model for more than a decade — registering and turning out first-time voters — has become the epitome of the party’s difficulties going into the 2022 midterm elections.

Democrats have long relied on working-class and Latino voters to win Nevada, but the loyalty of both groups is now in question. Young voters who fueled Senator Bernie Sanders’ biggest victory in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary remain skeptical about President Biden. And Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, a Nevada Democrat and the country’s first Latina senator, is one of the party’s most endangered incumbents.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Reports, Senators Near Deal to Cut Stalled Pandemic Aid Package to $10 Billion, Staff reports, April 1, 2022. Lawmakers said they were likely to cut $5 billion from the measure by dropping money for global vaccination efforts. Follow updates on Covid.

ny times logoNew York Times, House Passes Bill to Limit Cost of Insulin to $35 a Month, Margot Sanger-Katz, April 1, 2022. The bill stands to benefit millions of Americans with diabetes, but to become law, it will need to attract at least 10 Republican votes in the Senate.

The bill attracted unanimous support from Democrats who voted, as well as from 12 Republicans, making it a rare piece of bipartisan policy legislation.

To become law, the bill will need to attract at least 10 Republican votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster. Some lawmakers involved in the effort have expressed optimism that such a coalition might be possible, but few Republican senators have publicly endorsed the bill yet. Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, has been working with Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, on a broader bill related to insulin prices.

The bill would have substantial benefits for many of the nearly 30 million Americans who live with diabetes. Insulin, a lifesaving drug that is typically taken daily, has grown increasingly expensive in recent years, and many diabetes patients ration their medicines or discontinue them because of the cost. About one in five Americans who take insulin would save money under the proposal, according to a recent analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But the insulin bill represents a substantial scaling back of Democratic ambitions to tackle high drug prices for all Americans. A broader prescription drug package, written as part of the $2.2 trillion social spending and climate bill that has stalled in the Senate, would limit price increases on all prescription drugs, improve the generosity of Medicare’s drug coverage, and allow the government to negotiate directly on the price of some drugs used by Medicare patients, while also limiting insulin co-payments.

Other parts of the broader bill would expand health insurance coverage, extending insulin coverage to diabetes patients who are uninsured. The bill that passed the House on Thursday would not improve the affordability of insulin for people who lack health insurance.

 

U.S. Elections, Voter Suppression, Gerrymanders

NBC News, Former GOP lawmaker pardoned by Trump hit with campaign finance fines, Zoë Richards, April 1, 2022. The Federal Election Commission fined Duncan Hunter over misuse of campaign funds. Trump pardoned him after he was sentenced to prison for campaign finance violations.

Former Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who was pardoned by former President Donald Trump in 2020, has agreed to pay a Federal Election Commission fine over misuse of campaign funds.

Hunter and his wife Margaret Hunter, his former campaign manager, said they would pay $12,000 “solely for the purpose of settling this matter only and without admitting liability,” according to an FEC document made public this week.

Hunter’s campaign committee agreed to pay a separate $4,000 fine.

The FEC said that due to his campaign’s “lack of financial resources,” the agency sought a smaller than usual fine, noting it would typically seek a “substantially higher civil penalty” of $133,000 based on the violations.

A quarterly report from October 2021 revealed that Hunter’s campaign had $14,000 cash on hand and roughly $40,000 in outstanding debts, the FEC said, and the campaign appeared unable to raise additional funds.

In 2019, federal prosecutors said Hunter and his wife “converted and stole” more than $250,000 by using campaign cash used for purchases such as family trips to Hawaii and Italy, plane rides for relatives and their pet rabbit, and even $1,500 for video games. Hunter also used campaign cash to pay for romantic flings with lobbyists and congressional aides, prosecutors said.

The couple claimed that many of the alleged violations were “attributable to the nature of a tight-knit, family-run campaign,” and that many of the personal disbursements were repaid, according to an agreement signed with the FEC.

 herschel walker hill tv

CNN, Investigation: GOP Senate candidate Herschel Walker has been overstating his academic achievements for years, Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck,  April 1, 2022. For years, Herschel Walker, shown above in a screenshot from HillTV.com, has told the same inspiring story: that he graduated in the top 1% of his class at the University of Georgia. He’s told the story, according to a review of his speeches by CNN’s KFile, during motivational speeches over the years and as recently as 2017. The only problem: it’s not true.

CNNWalker, who is a candidate in the Republican primary race for US Senate in Georgia, acknowledged in December that he did not graduate from Georgia after the Atlanta-Journal Constitution first reported that the false claim was listed on his campaign website.

But a CNN KFile review found that Walker himself has been repeating the claim for years. Walker’s comments in 2017, and others made over the years, show the former football star repeatedly misrepresented his academic credentials.

“And all of sudden I started going to the library, getting books, standing in front of a mirror reading to myself,” Walker said in a 2017 motivational speech. “So that Herschel that all the kids said was retarded become valedictorian of his class. Graduated University of Georgia in the top 1% of his class.”

Walker also made the claim in another interview in 2017.

“I also was in the top 1% of my graduating class of college,” Walker told Sirius XM radio.
Walker did not graduate from Georgia, where he was a star running back after entering as a prized high school recruit. A profile of Walker from 1982 in the Christian-Science Monitor and an article in The New York Times said he maintained a B average at the school. Walker himself told The Chicago Tribune in 1985 he maintained a 3.0 before his grades dropped. He left to play professional football before graduating and, though having repeatedly said he was returning to obtain his degree, he never received a diploma.

The Walker campaign did not provide proof of Walker’s claims when asked by CNN, but they defended his record as a professional athlete.
Walker is endorsed by former President Donald Trump and is expected to be the Republican nominee to run against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in November.
The claim was removed from his website between December and January, according to screenshots from the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.
That was not the only claim about Walker’s education that was adjusted on his website at the time. After a review of the revised site, CNN’s KFile found another little-noticed claim was removed that said Walker graduated valedictorian of his high school. The website now says that Walker graduated “top of his class.” The claim still remains on the Heisman Winners page for Walker.
While Walker was a top student at his high school and the president of the Beta Club — he maintained an “A” average to be in the school’s Beta Club — CNN’s KFile found no evidence he was the class valedictorian.
Walker has mentioned in numerous speeches over the years, including in the 2017 speech where he claimed to have graduated in the top 1% of his college class, and in his 2008 autobiography that he was class valedictorian at Johnson County High School. The street where Johnson County High School resides was officially renamed “Herschel Walker Drive” in 2017 in honor of Walker’s football achievements.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary, World War III is already here, Wayne Madsen, left, April 1, 2022. Putin has been targeting other countries in a wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallsocietal subversion war since 1999.

Intended to bring about the collapse of Western democracies, including those of post-colonial nations like India, Kenya, Nigeria, the Philippines, and Malaysia, the KGB’s Societal Subversion Program (SSP) consisted of four main elements.

The first element is the demoralization of a targeted society. This is the slowest of all the elements, since it takes an entire generation before it reaps any benefits. For the United States, bringing about a lack of trust in government, elections, political candidates and parties, the media, and other factors that wayne madesen report logoare integral in a democratic society is necessary before moving on to the second phase: destabilization.

By the time Putin became Russia’s prime minister in 1999, the United States had entered the demoralization phase. The impeachment of President Bill Clinton because of a sex scandal set in motion a series of events that would demoralize the nation: the Supreme Court’s selection of George W. Bush as president’ the 9/11 terrorist attacks; the subsequent war in Iraq based on bogus reasons; the Wall Street collapse; the election of the first African-American president, which unleashed rampant white racism on a level not seen since the Jim Crow era; and, lastly, the election of a one-time KGB asset, Donald Trump, as president of the United States.

Trump’s election would not have been possible had it not been for the application of societal subversion techniques on a massive scale thanks to something that did not exist when the KGB first formulated its tactics: the Internet and social media.

ny times logoNew York Times, Arizona Passes Proof-of-Citizenship Law for Voting in Presidential Elections, Nick Corasaniti, April 1, 2022. Voting rights groups said the legislation signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, could prevent tens of thousands of people from voting for president.

Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona has signed legislation requiring voters to prove their citizenship in order to vote in a presidential election, swiftly drawing a legal challenge from voting rights activists who argued that it could keep tens of thousands of voters from casting a ballot.

The Arizona measure, passed into law on Wednesday, also requires newly registered voters to provide a proof of address, which could have a disproportionate impact on students, older voters who no longer drive, low-income voters and Native Americans.

Legal experts said the new rules might run afoul of both federal law and recent Supreme Court decisions. On Wednesday, Mi Familia Vota, a voting rights group, filed a federal lawsuit challenging the law.

The law is one of several new voting restrictions that the Republican-led Legislature in Arizona is working to pass this year, despite multiple investigations and a partisan election review that found no evidence of widespread fraud in the state in the 2020 election.

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Tosses N.Y. District Lines, Citing Democrats’ ‘Bias,’ Nicholas Fandos, April 1, 2022 (print ed.). The ruling by a Republican judge would send New York back to the drawing board if upheld and could delay its primaries. Democrats vowed to appeal it. A New York State judge ruled on Thursday that Democrats had unconstitutionally drawn new congressional districts for partisan advantage, and he blocked their use in this year’s election, potentially throwing the midterm contests into turmoil.

In a sweeping ruling, Justice Patrick F. McAllister of State Supreme Court concluded that Democrats who control Albany had drawn the congressional lines for partisan advantage, violating a new constitutional prohibition on partisan gerrymandering adopted by New York voters.

Justice McAllister, a Republican in rural Steuben County, accused Democrats of embracing tactics they have denounced Republicans for using in order to create a map that gave them an advantage in 22 of 26 New York seats. He called such gerrymandering a “scourge” on democracy.

“The court finds by clear evidence and beyond a reasonable doubt that the congressional map was unconstitutionally drawn with political bias,” he wrote in the opinion.

The judge also tossed out fresh State Senate and Assembly districts that he said were the product of an irrevocably tainted mapmaking process. He ordered Democrats to come up with new “bipartisanly supported maps” by April 11.

If they fail, Justice McAllister said he would appoint an independent special master to draw them, raising the possibility that candidates already campaigning could be left in limbo for weeks, and that primaries scheduled for June could be delayed.

The ruling, which Democrats predicted would be overturned on appeal, was the latest setback for their party in what has become a high-stakes national redistricting battle that may help determine which party controls the House of Representatives next year.

Raw Story, Judge blocks all new Florida voter suppression laws — then knocks the Supreme Court for putting voting rights ‘under siege,’ Sarah K. Burris, March 31, 2022. In a 288-page document, District Court Judge Mark Walker blocked the Florida voter suppression bill and specifically called out judges and the Supreme Court for undercutting the Voting Rights Act. Mark Joseph Stern, Slate’s court and law writer, cited several excerpts in the judge’s decision that make the decision groundbreaking. Until the case goes to the Supreme Court, Florida’s suppression laws will be stopped.

Republicans around the country have been pushing voter suppression laws after former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election after a record-setting voter turnout. In Texas, for example, Republicans confessed that the law they passed putting additional barriers on vote by mail wasn’t due to an outbreak of voter fraud. Instead, it was to make people feel better.

 

More On Ukraine Battlefield, Global Reactions

The New Republic, Interview: “Putin’s Regime Is Going to End Very Soon”: The Oligarch Jailed by Putin Speaks, Jo-Ann Mort, March 31, 2022. Mikhail Khodorkovsky was once the most powerful businessperson in Russia. Then Putin imprisoned him. Now he watches from London in rage and shame at what Putin is doing.

There’s no name on the front of the nondescript building in Central London’s Marylebone neighborhood, known for its preponderance of medical and dental offices. There’s also no visible security at the entrance. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once the richest man in Russia, has his philanthropy offices there. Spread over several floors in a townhouse, they are furnished in hues of subdued brown, a sort of casual work vibe, with comfortable couches and sitting areas, and ample supplies of sparkling water and espresso.

Trained as a chemical engineer, Khodorkovsky was a founder in 1989—while the Soviet Union still existed—of one of the first commercial banks in Russia. He was once considered Russia’s wealthiest businessperson. In the early part of this century, Khodorkovsky led Yukos, Russia’s largest oil company. This once-state-owned entity achieved a market capitalization of $21 billion when it produced nearly 20 percent of Russia’s oil.

But Khodorkovsky’s interests went beyond making money. In 2001, he founded the Open Russia Foundation to strengthen civil society in Russia, including funding human rights organizations. As he became more and more vocal in pushing for democracy in Russia and openly challenging Vladimir Putin’s leadership, Russia’s president began to fight back. Khodorkovsky once openly challenged Putin about business corruption on national television.

In 2003, Khodorkovsky was imprisoned on trumped-up charges of tax evasion and more, after a dramatic predawn raid on his company jet. Conveniently, this ensured that Khodorkovsky would be in prison when election season rolled around in 2004. In a series of show trials (his lawyers were not allowed in the courtroom, as an example), Khodorkovsky ended up spending a total of 10 years in a Siberian prison, housed with violent criminals. He’s well versed in the lack of tolerance that Putin has for any independence in business and has written that today’s oligarchs who are so much in the news are merely “alternate” bankers for Putin.

Khodorkovsky was freed in 2013, ostensibly because Putin took pity on him to allow him to see his ailing mother, but more likely it was due to global pressure regarding the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics. Khodorkovsky had to promise to leave Russia, which he did, with his family, first settling in Switzerland and later in London, where he lives today. These days, Khodorkovsky says there’s nothing more that Putin can do to him. He walks around London without bodyguards, even descending into the Tube unprotected.

When I met him at his offices on March 28, he was wearing his signature jeans and leather jacket. He was busy preparing for a trip to the United States. He’ll be in Washington the first week of April for meetings at the White House, the State Department, and with members of Congress.

I wondered what his message would be for Washington’s decision-makers.

“I have two messages. First, we need to really help the Ukrainians, and we need to be brave. Because if we can’t be brave, Putin will decide to take the next step, which will be invading Poland or the Baltic countries.

“Second, we must see two different types of Russians. It’s a big mistake to see all Russians as if they are supporting Putin.”

Without prompting, he immediately moved on to discuss the controversial remarks that President Biden delivered a few days earlier in Warsaw, Poland, stating that Putin “cannot remain in power.”

“Biden was right in his last speech about Putin, and I was very upset that the White House bureaucrats said it was a mistake.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia’s War Lacks a Battlefield Commander, U.S. Officials Say, Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, April 1, 2022 (print ed.). Poor logistics and flagging morale have plagued a disjointed military campaign in Ukraine, according to American officials and independent analysts.

Russia is running its military campaign against Ukraine out of Moscow, with no central war commander on the ground to call the shots, according to American officials who have studied the five-week-old war.

That approach may go a long way to explain why the Russian war effort has struggled in the face of stiffer-than-expected Ukrainian resistance, the officials said.

The lack of a unifying military leader in Ukraine has meant that Russian air, ground and sea units are not in sync. Their disjointed battlefield campaigns have been plagued by poor logistics, flagging morale and between 7,000 and 15,000 military deaths, senior U.S. officials and independent analysts say.

It has also contributed to the deaths of at least seven Russian generals as high-ranking officers are pushed to the front lines to untangle tactical problems that Western militaries would leave to more junior officers or senior enlisted personnel.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukrainian helicopters fired on an oil depot in Belgorod, Russia, an official there said, Anton Troianovski and Haley Willis, April 1, 2022. Two low-flying Ukrainian helicopters crossed into Russian territory early Friday and fired on an oil depot in the city of Belgorod, a regional governor said — the first time Russia has reported a Ukrainian airstrike on its territory since the war began.

The strike appeared to be an embarrassment to Russia’s military, which said last week that Ukraine’s air force had been “practically destroyed.” Ukraine’s military had previously only managed to hit Russian territory with ground-launched missiles.

Belgorod, which has a population of about 400,000, sits less than 20 miles from the Ukrainian border. The region has been a staging ground in recent weeks for Russian troops entering eastern Ukraine.

Video posted to VKontakte and verified by The New York Times shows two helicopters firing at the oil depot on the eastern edge of the city. Although it was not possible to determine whether the helicopters were Ukrainian, the footage confirmed that an airstrike caused a fire at the site. Other video of the aftermath shows the facility continuing to burn into the daylight.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Will Putin Kill the Global Economy? Paul Krugman, right, April 1, 2022 (print ed.). Why is world trade taking a hit? Vladimir Putin’s paul krugmanbotched war of conquest has, of course, meant an end to wheat exports from Ukraine, and it probably cut off much of Russia’s sales, too. It’s not entirely clear how sharply Russia’s exports of oil and natural gas have already been reduced — Europe has been reluctant to impose sanctions on imports of products on which, fecklessly, it allowed itself to become dependent; but the European Union is moving to end that dependence.

Wait, there’s more. You mightn’t have expected Putin’s war to have much of an effect on auto production. But modern cars include a lot of wiring, including a specialized part called a wire harness — and many of Europe’s wire harnesses, it turns out, are made in Ukraine. (In case you’re wondering, most U.S. wire harnesses are made in Mexico.)

Beyond that, what Putin has taught us is that countries run by strongmen who surround themselves with yes-men aren’t reliable business partners. A Chinese confrontation with the West, economic or military, would be wildly irrational — but so was Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Tellingly, the Ukraine war appears to have led to large-scale capital flight from … China.

So if you’re a business leader right now, surely you’re wondering whether it’s smart to stake your company’s future on the assumption that you’ll keep being able to buy what you need from authoritarian regimes. Bringing production back to nations that believe in the rule of law may raise your costs by a few percent, but the price may be worth it for the stability it buys.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Plays Down Talks and Keeps Up Attack in North, Megan Specia, Anton Troianovski and Shashank Bengali, March 31, 2022 (print ed.). Strikes Reported Where Moscow Had Vowed to Ease Combat,

Local officials reported new attacks near Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv, two areas where Russia had pledged to sharply reduce combat operations. The Kremlin said that negotiations with Ukraine had not produced anything “very promising,” and that reaching a deal would take more work. Here’s the latest.

Optimism that peace talks could ease Russia’s punishing assault on Ukraine was dampened on Wednesday when local officials reported new attacks on the outskirts of Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv, two areas where Russia had vowed to sharply reduce combat operations.

The continuing attacks added to growing skepticism that the talks had made substantive progress and suggested that Moscow is in no hurry to end its war, now five weeks old, despite claiming that it would de-escalate after peace talks on Tuesday with Ukrainian representatives in Istanbul.

Mindful of the angry and still-unhealed wounds left by NATO’s bombing of Serbia more than 20 years ago, Ukraine’s ambassador appeared on Serbian television after Russia invaded and bombed his country in the hope of rousing sympathy.

Instead of getting time to explain Ukraine’s misery, however, the ambassador, Oleksandr Aleksandrovych, had to sit through rants by pro-Russian Serbian commentators, and long videos of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, denouncing Ukraine as a nest of Nazis. The show, broadcast by the pro-government Happy TV, lasted three hours, more than half of which featured Mr. Putin.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: The non-Russians in Russia begin to count their war dead, Wayne Madsen, left, March 31-April 1, 2022. In wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallthe predominantly Muslim autonomous Republic of Bashkortostan, the next of kin of Russian soldiers, including conscripts, are beginning to count the losses from Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s ill-planned invasion of Ukraine.

The pro-Putin puppet government in Bashkortostan, which lies within the Muslim belt of the Volga basin adjacent to the Ural mountain range and is the largest republic in the Russian Federation, is feeling the heat from ethnic Bashkirs who believe their sons have been used as cannon fodder in Ukraine. There are reports that as many as 1,000 Bashkirs serving in the Russian armed forces have been killed in Ukraine.  Tensions are running so high that some Bashkirs have dumped the flag of their autonomous republic as a symbol of the puppet regime in Ufa, the republic’s capital, headed by Radiy Khabirov.

Although Putin has imposed strict censorship on the Russian media, his government has found it impossible to hide the number of war dead from Russian and non-Russian people alike throughout the federation.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.K. spy chief: Russian soldiers in Ukraine sabotaged own equipment, Meryl Kornfield and Amy Cheng, April 1, 2022 (print ed.).  Russian soldiers short on morale and weapons have refused orders, sabotaged their own equipment and shot down one of their own aircraft, Britain’s spy chief said Thursday, painting a picture of chaos on Russia’s front lines as the war in Ukraine drags into its second month.
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The efforts are evidence of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s miscalculation when he decided to invade Ukraine, Jeremy Fleming, head of Britain’s signals intelligence agency, said in a speech Thursday at Australian National University. U.S. and British officials have said Putin, more isolated than ever, was misinformed by his aides, further stoking tensions.

“It’s clear he misjudged the resistance of the Ukrainian people,” Fleming said. “He underestimated the strength of the coalition his actions would galvanize. He underplayed the economic consequences of the sanctions regime. He overestimated the abilities of his military to secure a rapid victory.”

Putin’s “strategic miscalculation” has cost innocent Ukrainian lives — and now is being felt by “ordinary Russians, too,” Fleming said.

Putin has attempted to stop news of the setbacks from reaching Russians, but Fleming said his efforts have failed to quell the growing global support for Ukraine, whose president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has operated an “extremely effective” information campaign.

In the months leading up to Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, U.S. and European officials repeatedly cited intelligence reports to warn of Putin’s plans to launch an assault against Kyiv.

The West’s success in anticipating Russia’s strategy so far has buoyed the credibility of its intelligence, said Australian National University’s John Blaxland, who specializes in international security and intelligence. He added that he finds the “startling” details in Fleming’s speech “reliable.”

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World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters

washington post logoWashington Post, Turkish prosecutor asks to move Khashoggi murder trial to Saudi Arabia, Kareem Fahim, April 1, 2022 (print ed.). The request to move the trial comes as Ankara seeks to mend relations with Saudi Arabia.

In a dramatic about-face, a Turkish prosecutor requested Thursday to move the trial of suspects linked to the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal jamal kahshoggiKhashoggi to Saudi Arabia, right, which sent the operatives who carried out the deadly assault, according to local media and a person who attended the hearing.

The prosecutor said the request to halt the Turkish trial followed a Saudi transfer request earlier in March, according to Erol Onderoglu, the Turkey representative for Reporters Without Borders, who attended the hearing in a criminal court in Istanbul. Flag of TurkeyThe court referred the matter to Turkey’s Ministry of Justice, he said.

Facing economic woes, including a weak currency and soaring cost of living, Turkey has sought to improve relations with Saudi Arabia in recent months.

If the ministry approves, “it will have terrible consequences for the idea of justice,” Onderoglu said. All the defendants are being tried in absentia and are believed to be in Saudi Arabia.

Mohammed Bin Salman Al-SaudThe prosecutor’s action represents a significant turnabout by the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In the days and months after the murder, Erdogan, who counted Khashoggi as a friend, played a leading role in implicating Saudi Arabia and its Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, in the killing.

Turkey released recordings, surveillance footage and other material that revealed a team of Saudi operatives had traveled to Istanbul, waited for Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate and then killed and dismembered him. His remains were never found.

vladimir putin hand up palmer

washington post logoWashington Post, Despite Western sanctions, Russian ruble and banks are recovering, Jeanne Whalen, April 1, 2022 (print ed.). Lucrative oil and gas exports, and strict currency controls, are behind the stabilization.

Russia’s ruble and banking system are showing continued signs of recovery from the initial punch of sanctions, as Moscow relies on energy exports and currency controls to partly protect the nation’s economy.

After initially plummeting, the ruble has rebounded and is edging closer to the value it held before the war began, according to the official exchange rate. And the banking system is gradually stabilizing as panicked customer withdrawals subside, economists say.

Some of the recovery is artificial, made possible by strict limits that the central bank, the Bank of Russia, has placed on currency exchange, withdrawals and hard-currency transfers overseas. But it is also due to a very real factor still working in Russia’s favor: strong oil and gas exports that bring a flood of hard currency into the country.

“I think the key signal is that, for now, it appears the Bank of Russia managed to avoid a deep financial crisis,” said Elina Ribakova, deputy chief economist at the Institute of International Finance, an association of banks and finance companies. “We were concerned that bank runs as a result of sanctions could bring down some of the more systemic [state-owned] banks. It appears that it has not happened.”

The loophole that’s keeping Russia’s economy alive

In the days after Russia’s invasion began on Feb. 24, the ruble fell from about 80 to the dollar to a low of 120 to the dollar. It has now climbed back to 84, according to the central bank’s official rate.

Russia’s economy is still experiencing a lot of pain that is likely to intensify, economists say. They forecast that inflation could reach at least 20 percent this year, and that gross domestic product will shrink by 15 percent, wiping away years of economic growth.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘I Feel Shame and Pain’: Pope Apologizes to Indigenous People of Canada, Elisabetta Povoledo and Ian Austen, April 1, 2022. Pope Francis promised to visit Canada as part of a process of healing over the church’s role in schools that abused Indigenous children for 100 years.

Pope Francis apologized on Friday for the Roman Catholic Church’s involvement in a system of Canadian boarding schools that abused Indigenous children for 100 years, an announcement that comes after the discovery last year of signs of unmarked graves with the remains of hundreds of people, many of them children.

“I feel shame — sorrow and shame — for the role” that Catholics played “in the abuses you suffered and in the lack of respect shown for your identity, your culture and even your spiritual values,” Francis said.

Francis also promised he would travel to Canada, where he would be better able to “express to you my closeness” as part of a process of healing and reconciliation.

Francis spoke during an audience at the Apostolic Palace with 62 delegates from Canada’s three largest Indigenous groups, who had traveled to the Vatican in the hope that he would apologize to survivors in Canada. This was the first apology to the Indigenous people of Canada from a pope and was a reversal of Francis’s earlier position.

 Recent Global Headlines

 

More On Ukraine, Russia

 Recent Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Study: Pregnant people at much higher risk of breakthrough covid, Amy Goldstein and Dan Keating, April 1, 2022 (print ed.). Pregnant people who are vaccinated against the coronavirus are nearly twice as likely to get covid-19 as those who are not pregnant, according to a new study that offers the broadest evidence to date of the odds of infections among vaccinated patients with different medical circumstances.

The analysis, based on medical records of nearly 14 million U.S. patients since coronavirus immunization became available, found that pregnant people who are vaccinated have the greatest risk of developing covid among a dozen medical states, including being an organ transplant recipient and having cancer.

The findings come on top of research showing that people who are pregnant or gave birth recently and became infected are especially prone to getting seriously ill from covid-19. And covid has been found to increase the risk of pregnancy complications, such as premature births.

washington post logoWashington Post, Truck convoy leaves D.C. area after weeks of traffic-snarling protests, heads to California, Ellie Silverman, April 1, 2022 (print ed.). The trucker group calling itself the “People’s Convoy,” which protested vaccine mandates and aired other right-wing grievances by driving around the D.C. region for more than three weeks, left its temporary base in Western Maryland on Thursday morning to head across the country to challenge proposed coronavirus vaccine and health-related bills in California.

The protest failed to accomplish any of its stated demands and recently saw a dwindling number of participants, fractures among supporters, pushback from local residents and activists and road blockages by D.C. police.

“What do you all think about heading to California?” co-organizer Mike Landis asked the crowd at the Hagerstown Speedway on Sunday. “We’re not done here. But we’ll go to California and raise awareness on this along the way and hopefully gain more people like we did on our way here — and then once we stop this, we will come back to finish this job.” He did not elaborate on what finishing the protest meant.

Although about 100 vehicles with the People’s Convoy departed from the speedway, a racetrack about 80 miles northwest of D.C. where they have been based since arriving from Southern California on March 4, researchers cautioned that some participants may remain in the region while others will return home to their local communities armed with more misinformation.

Landis said the group hopes to inspire more people to join the protest of certain proposed bills in California, and Brian Brase, the convoy’s de facto leader, who is from northwest Ohio, has mused about running for a school board seat.

Although inspired by Canadian demonstrators who occupied downtown Ottawa to protest public health measures including a rule barring unvaccinated truckers from crossing the border, the tactics employed by the People’s Convoy were different: Rather than occupying the city, they embarked on hours-long demonstrations that amounted to sitting in traffic on the Capital Beltway and later driving in the District. The protest kicked off in Adelanto, Calif., on Feb. 23 despite many pandemic-related restrictions at the federal and local levels already being blocked or rescinded.

Landis said the convoy is headed to Los Angeles to attend an April 10 anti-vaccine-mandate protest organized by Defeat the Mandates — the same group that rallied on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in January, attracting thousands of people from across the country including anti-vaccine crusaders such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Robert Malone.

Anti-vaccination leaders have seized on the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic to propel their once-fringe movement into the homes of millions of Americans, dissuading families from receiving the coronavirus vaccines — some of the most effective medicines in human history — during a pandemic that has killed more than 978,000 people in the United States. Brase said in a Facebook Live talk that he will be a guest speaker at the Los Angeles rally.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Will Ask Congress to Pass Key Covid Aid, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, March 31, 2022 (print ed.). President Biden’s remarks come as a highly transmissible Omicron subvariant known as BA.2 has become the dominant version of the coronavirus among new U.S. cases, according to C.D.C. estimates. In Asia, Hong Kong is running out of coffins as it faces a surge in deaths.

President Biden will step up the pressure on Congress to approve billions of dollars in emergency coronavirus relief aid, using a speech at the White House on Wednesday to deliver what an official described as an urgent and direct message that will warn that U.S. progress against Covid-19 would be at severe risk if Congress fails to act.

Mr. Biden will also spotlight a new one-stop-shopping coronavirus website, covid.gov, aimed at helping Americans navigate access to testing, treatment, vaccines and masks, and to assess the risk of Covid-19 in their neighborhoods, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to preview the president’s remarks. The site went live Wednesday morning; Mr. Biden’s remarks were scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Eastern time.

The website, and Mr. Biden’s speech, are part of a broader effort to ease the nation out of pandemic crisis mode and usher in what experts are calling the “next normal” — a phase in which Americans will learn to live with the risk of Covid-19 and to adjust behavior like mask wearing based on whether cases and hospitalizations are rising or falling.

That strategy depends on the availability of vaccines and therapeutics, though, and the administration says it is out of money for both. The White House has been pleading with Republicans in Congress to approve $22.5 billion in emergency aid to purchase new vaccines and therapeutics, and to reimburse doctors who care for uninsured Covid-19 patients.

The federal government said recently that a fund established to reimburse doctors was no longer accepting those claims for testing and treatment “due to lack of sufficient funds.”

While new coronavirus case reports have been falling in the United States, a highly transmissible Omicron subvariant known as BA.2 has driven a surge in cases in Europe, and many experts expect that the United States may soon see the same. Should that occur, it will be the first major test of the country’s new strategy of living with the virus while limiting its impact.

Around the country, state and local governments have relaxed restrictions like mask and vaccine mandates. White House and federal health officials have been making the case for weeks that Americans now have the tools — testing infrastructure, masks and other mitigation strategies, and drugs and vaccines — to live with the threat of the virus.

On Tuesday, federal health officials cleared second booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna coronavirus vaccines for everyone 50 or older and for many people with certain immune deficiencies, at least four months after their first booster. They described the move as an effort to bolster waning immunity against severe disease before another surge can take hold.

The White House said that following remarks on Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Biden would receive a second booster himself.

In his State of the Union address, Mr. Biden announced a new “test to treat” initiative — a network of pharmacies and other sites where people can be tested for the coronavirus and then receive antiviral drugs if they test positive. More than 2,000 sites are participating, the White House said. The covid.gov website features a “test-to-treat” locator tool to help people find participating locations.

Under a banner saying “Find Covid-19 guidance for your community,” the website asks users to enter the name of the county in which they live. It then identifies whether the risk of Covid-19 in that county is low, medium or high, depending on factors including the number of hospitalizations and available hospital beds.

The site also links to other government websites, including vaccines.gov and covidtests.gov, that help users access vaccines and find nearby testing sites.

  • U.S. states are closing their mass testing and vaccination sites.
  • The BA.2 subvariant of Omicron accounts for over half of new U.S. coronavirus cases, the C.D.C. says.
  • Hong Kong is running low on coffins amid its deadliest Covid wave, and other global virus news.
  • In an industrial Chinese province, some workers say they’ve been quarantined in the hospitals they were building.
  • Americans are taking fewer precautions two years into the pandemic, poll says.
  • Pfizer and Moderna boosters help protect Americans who received J.&J. shots, the C.D.C. reports.
  • Twenty-one states file a lawsuit to block the mask mandate on public transportation.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated April 1, 2022), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 488,811,337, Deaths: 6,168,174
U.S. Cases:     81,780,503, Deaths: 1,007,320
Indian Cases:   43,025,775, Deaths:    521,211
Brazil Cases:   29,947,895, Deaths:    659,860

Related Recent Headlines:

 

Trump Jan. 6 Insurrection Probes

Axios, Man sentenced for bringing molotov cocktails and guns near Capitol on Jan. 6, Erin Doherty, A federal judge on Friday sentenced Lonnie Coffman to 46 months in prison for bringing Molotov cocktails and large-capacity ammunition feeding devices near the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

axios logoDriving the news: U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said she hadn’t heard an explanation for why Coffman had “almost a small armory in his truck, ready to do battle,” AP reports.

Coffman, of Alabama, pleaded guilty in November to bringing several loaded firearms, 11 Molotov cocktails and hundreds of rounds of ammunition in his truck to Capitol Hill, according to court filings.

Coffman said he drove to Washington “to try to discover just how true and secure was the [2020 presidential] election,” per AP.

“If I had any idea that things would turn out like they did, I would have stayed home,” he wrote in a letter to the judge.

Coffman, who exited his pickup truck at around 9:20am on the morning of Jan. 6, carried two loaded firearms as he walked throughout the day, per court filings.

The big picture: More than 770 people have been charged in connection with the Capitol riot and more than 130 people have been sentenced, per AP.

Coffman is one of nine defendants whose prison sentence is greater than one year.

ny times logoNew York Times, Arizona Passes Proof-of-Citizenship Law for Voting in Presidential Elections, Nick Corasaniti, April 1, 2022. Voting rights groups said the legislation signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, could prevent tens of thousands of people from voting for president.

Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona has signed legislation requiring voters to prove their citizenship in order to vote in a presidential election, swiftly drawing a legal challenge from voting rights activists who argued that it could keep tens of thousands of voters from casting a ballot.

The Arizona measure, passed into law on Wednesday, also requires newly registered voters to provide a proof of address, which could have a disproportionate impact on students, older voters who no longer drive, low-income voters and Native Americans.

Legal experts said the new rules might run afoul of both federal law and recent Supreme Court decisions. On Wednesday, Mi Familia Vota, a voting rights group, filed a federal lawsuit challenging the law.

The law is one of several new voting restrictions that the Republican-led Legislature in Arizona is working to pass this year, despite multiple investigations and a partisan election review that found no evidence of widespread fraud in the state in the 2020 election.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The DOJ’s secret grand jury targeting Trump world is also targeting people who work in Congress, Bill Palmer, April 1, 2022. Last night the Washington Post reported that Merrick Garland’s Department of Justice has secretly had a federal grand jury probing Trump world about its involvement in January 6th for at least two months. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone, given the numerous signs that had been emerging of late which suggested that the DOJ was indeed probing Trump world. Now new details are emerging.

On Thursday the New York Times reported that the DOJ grand jury in question has been probing “members of the executive and legislative branches who had been involved in the ‘planning or execution of any rally or any attempt to obstruct, influence, impede or delay’ the certification of the 2020 election.”

Why is this a big deal? We already knew from the WaPo report that this grand jury has been targeting unnamed members of the Trump administration – so the fact that it’s probing members of the executive branch isn’t news. But the New York Times is now saying that the grand jury is also probing members of the legislative branch. That means Congress.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the grand jury is probing members of Congress. It could instead merely be referring to people who work for Congress, such as staffers for members of Congress. But either way, this is still a major breakthrough. We now know that this secret grand jury hasn’t just been targeting Trump world people, it’s begun targeting people who work in Congress as well.

Here is the timeline of the DOJ probe as we now understand it. Once the DOJ finished building criminal cases against the Oath Keepers leadership, it arrested them all on January 13th, 2022. Almost immediately after this, the DOJ had a grand jury begin targeting members of Trump world, and members of the legislative branch, for their involvement in January 6th.

From the timeline, it’s fairly clear that the DOJ felt compelled to complete the criminal cases against the leaders of the Capitol attack who physically participated in it, before moving on to targeting the ringleaders of the Capitol attack who didn’t physically participate in it. This suggests that the arrests of the Oath Keepers resulted in sufficient cooperation to allow the DOJ to begin targeting Trump world. One of the Oath Keepers leaders, Roger Stone’s driver, is known to have cut a cooperating plea deal for seditious conspiracy. This means he’s already given the DOJ everything he knows about Stone and everyone else he dealt with in Trump world.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. expands Jan. 6 probe to look at rally prep, financing, Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey, Jacqueline Alemany and Spencer S. Hsu, March 31, 2022 (print ed.). Grand jury subpoenas show how the criminal probe has expanded beyond the riot itself.

The criminal investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol has expanded to examine the preparations for the rally that preceded the riot, as the Justice Department aims to determine the full extent of any conspiracy to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election victory, according to people familiar with the matter.

Justice Department log circularIn the past two months, a federal grand jury in Washington has issued subpoena requests to some officials in former president Donald Trump’s orbit who assisted in planning, funding and executing the Jan. 6 rally, said the people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

The development shows the degree to which the Justice Department investigation — which already involves more defendants than any other criminal prosecution in the nation’s history — has moved further beyond the storming of the Capitol to examine events preceding the attack.

The events of Jan. 6, 2021, are a legally fraught puzzle for federal investigators. Prosecutors and FBI agents must distinguish between constitutionally protected First Amendment activity, such as speech and assembly, and the alleged conspiracy to obstruct Congress or other potential crimes connected to fundraising and organizing leading up to Jan. 6.

The task is also complicated by the proximity of those two very different types of activities — speech and violence — that occurred within hours of each other and less than a mile apart.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington declined to comment.

All the ways Trump tried to overturn the election — and how it could happen again

On the morning of Jan. 6, thousands of people from all over the country gathered at the Ellipse, near the White House, to rally behind the false premise that Trump had won the 2020 presidential election. The outgoing president began speaking to the crowd around noon and called on attendees to march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol. By 12:30, hundreds of people began to gather near Congress. At approximately 1 p.m., the barricaded security perimeter of the Capitol complex was breached, and people flooded toward the building.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: A judge said Trump probably committed a crime. The DOJ can’t ignore that, George T. Conway III, right, March 31, 2022 george conway post(print ed.). “A coup in search of a legal theory.”

That was the sober, and apt, assessment made this week of former president Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election — not by a partisan or pundit, but in an opinion by a federal judge. And although that ruling, by U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, did not decide a criminal case, it ought to presage one.

We don’t know whether the Justice Department has been considering criminal charges against Trump, or whether it will. We do know that Attorney General Merrick Garland, in a speech commemorating the one-year anniversary of the Capitol insurrection, vowed that the Justice Department was “committed to holding all Jan. 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law — whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy.”

Carter’s conclusion makes clear that, for the attorney general’s commitment to be met, the Justice Department’s criminal investigation of Jan. 6 must focus closely on Trump.

The court’s ruling came in a lawsuit that one of Trump’s lawyers, John Eastman, brought against the select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. Eastman served as the legal architect of Trump’s effort to pressure then-Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to count numerous states’ electoral votes on Jan. 6. Eastman asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination 146 times at his deposition before the select committee. His lawsuit argued that some of his emails should be kept from the committee because they were shielded by either attorney-client privilege or “work product” privilege, which protects confidential documents prepared for litigation.

The opinion by Carter, a former prosecutor nominated to the bench by President Bill Clinton, makes clear Eastman has good reason to worry about criminal consequences. The attorney-client and work-product privileges must give way if they involve communications that further the commission of a fraud or crime. And Carter found that at least one of the emails did just that.

  djt lavrov kysliak

President Trump hosted a top-level delegation at the White House in 2017, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, left, and Russia’s Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kysliak. No American media were permitted to cover the meeting, with photos (including that above) taken, selected and released by visiting Russian media.

Proof, Investigative Commentary: The Truth About Trump and Ukraine Inside Trump’s vicious, illegal, years-long war on Ukraine—a clandestine effort seth abramson graphicthat has dovetailed with the political, economic, and military aggression against Ukraine authored by Vladimir Putin, Seth Abramson, March 30-31, 2022.

Preface: Bringing “Proof of Corruption” to Substack. Condensing a 576-page national bestseller with 44 chapters and 4,750+ major-media citations into a single Substack article is, of course, impossible.

seth abramson proof logoWhat this Proof essay aims to do, instead, is focus on just one of the narrative threads in Proof of Corruption: Donald Trump’s thirty-year relationship with Ukraine (Macmillan, 2020), which bears no similarity whatsoever to the former president’s anodyne description of it.

Even in focusing on just one narrative, this essay must elide over 75% of the full story, which has twists and turns in it (as well as many suddenly appearing and disappearing characters) to such a degree that it can’t be reduced to a single article. This is why I wrote a book on the subject, and the reason even that nearly 600-page work benefited from the fact that much of its foundation had already been laid in two earlier tomes, Proof of Collusion (Simon & Schuster, 2018) and Proof of Conspiracy (Macmillan, 2019).

I mention this only to underscore that if you have no familiarity with the truth about Donald Trump and Ukraine, what you are about to read will at once be shocking and the barest tip of a towering iceberg. And it matters—because the story of Trump and Ukraine, both the abridged and unabridged versions, are significant now not as dry history but because they may well determine the fate of America. The implications of what you will read below are that dire. Please note that what follows is more akin to a novella-length nonfiction narrative than a mere essay. It may take you several sittings to read and digest the text in full.

Introduction: The True Story of Trump and Ukraine. A little over a week ago, former Trump National Security Advisor John Bolton made a startling statement revealing that when Donald Trump was president, the longtime New York City real estate developer could barely locate Ukraine on a map.

As with all else we’ve heard from Bolton over the last two years, the statement was a combination of a minute but accurate observation laced with some very subjective personal venom. Trump may or may not be able to locate Ukraine on a map—neither possibility would be surprising—but if Bolton intended to leave the impression that Trump is broadly unfamiliar with Ukraine, that implication would not only be inaccurate but a deeply troubling cover-up of the true story of Trump and the largest nation wholly in Europe.

As with nearly everything we’ve ever heard from the ex-president, his own narrative isn’t so much a nub of truth packed in layer upon layer of deceit, but an intentional, almost brutalizing mass of prevarication that aims to manipulate voters at every point, in every contour, and without exception.

To hear Donald Trump tell the tale, he has long been a champion of Ukraine, and has admired Vladimir Putin’s handling of Russia’s western neighbor only as an academic might—acknowledging the purported tactical genius of Russia’s strongman without approving of his methods.

In this fantasy world of Trump’s own creation (which is, unfortunately, now relevant to all of us because it reflects the belief of nearly 40% of Americans), in the same way that Russia has never had a more dangerous adversary than Donald Trump, Ukraine has never had a better friend than the former POTUS. I’ve often written on social media, and on occasion here at Proof, that the best way to parse any statement made by Mr. Trump is to start with the assumption that the exact opposite of anything he’s said is true.

While it’s an imperfect method of interlocution—sometimes when you take the opposite of everything Trump says, only 97% of it is true—it serves as a far better starting point then taking seriously or at face value anything declaimed by the former president. In the matter of Trump and Ukraine, however, the conventional reading of Trump long advised by Proof and its attendant Twitter feed is wholly sufficient: Russia has never had a better friend among American politicians than Donald Trump, and Ukraine no greater enemy.

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump’s International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s plea to Russia reminds us why he’s unfit and Congress is delinquent, Jennifer Rubin, right, March 30, 2022). jennifer rubin new headshotContrary to the infamous prediction from Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) that President Donald Trump “learned” his lesson after she voted to acquit him in his impeachment trial over his efforts to extort Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump has never stopped soliciting help from foreign powers to aid his political prospects.

In an interview published on Tuesday, the disgraced former president issued a new plea to Russia — even as it wages a vicious war against our ally and perpetrates war crimes — to release information concerning Hunter Biden’s laptop. This echoes his request to Russia in 2016 to reveal Hillary Clinton’s stolen emails, and his “perfect” phone call with Zelensky in which he tried to coerce the Ukrainian leader to do him a “favor” by announcing a phony investigation into Joe Biden. So no, Trump has not learned any lessons.

Once more, Republicans remain mute in the face of their party leader’s grossly improper conduct — attempted “collusion,” if you like. Don’t bother waiting for Republicans to repudiate him. If they did not do so when he extorted Zelensky or when he praised war criminal Vladimir Putin after the invasion of Ukraine, they are not going to now. Make no mistake: The Republican Party remains in the grip of a man with no appreciation for the danger in soliciting help from dictators.

The latest incident also serves as a reminder that Congress has been utterly delinquent in addressing a raft of reforms that could prevent politicians from soliciting dirt on their opponents from foreign powers. Aside from minor provisions to enhance transparency when the executive branch delays or disrupts funding for other countries (as occurred in Trump’s decision to hold back military aid to Ukraine), Congress has failed to enact any of the many reforms set out in the Protecting Our Democracy Act.

Recent Headlines

 

Law, Courts, Crime, Race 

ny times logoNew York Times, C.D.C. Confirms It Will Lift Public Health Order Restricting Immigration, Eileen Sullivan, April 1, 2022. The agency cited “current public health conditions and an increased availability of tools to fight Covid-19” as grounds for returning in late May to prepandemic policies for admitting migrants. he Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Friday that it would lift an emergency public health order that had restricted immigration at U.S. land borders since the beginning of the pandemic, citing “current public health conditions and an increased availability of tools to fight Covid-19.”

Federal officials expect the policy change, which will go into effect on May 23, to draw thousands more migrants to the southwest border every day, in addition to the already high number of people who have been arriving over the past year from Latin America and across the globe. Republicans, who have described the border situation as out of control under President Biden, immediately condemned the C.D.C.’s decision. The order has been used to expel migrants about 1.7 million times over the past two years.

“These measures, along with the current public health landscape where 97.1 percent of the U.S. population lives in a county identified as having ‘low’ Covid-19 community level, will sufficiently mitigate the Covid-19 risk for U.S. communities,” the C.D.C. said in a statement. The C.D.C. also said it has the right to issue the order again if necessary.

The order, known as Title 42, gives officials the authority to turn away migrants at the border, including those seeking asylum. The process takes about 15 minutes, a factor that has helped the Border Patrol manage the sometimes overwhelming number of undocumented migrants gathering at the border. Without the order in place, stations will be more overcrowded and backed up while officials go through the typical screening process, which can take more than an hour per person.

Associated Press via Courthouse News Service, Migrants march from south Mexico as US lifts Covid ban, April 1, 2022. The march came as the Biden ap logoadministration announced it would end a policy that allows turning back asylum seekers on grounds of protecting the country against Covid-19.

Some 500 migrants from Central America, Venezuela and elsewhere fought with Mexican police, National Guard and immigration officers in southern Mexico Friday in one of the first such marches this year.

The migrants described the march as a traditional annual protest related to Holy Week, and those at the front carried a white cross, as others have done in previous years.

However, this year the protest came two weeks early and some participants said they would go far beyond the usual short march and try to reach the U.S. border.

In a clash with National Guard officers and immigration agents, the migrants used the cross they were carrying as a battering ram to break through the Guard lines, shattering the wooden cross.

The officers, who had riot shields, batons and what appeared to be an irritant spray, detained some marchers. The two sides exchanged blows and many migrants left behind knapsacks in the melee.

Prison for Army vet who brought guns, Molotov cocktails to DC on Jan. 6

Some managed to break through and disappear down dirt roads and paths, but many of the rest of the marchers took refuge in a church just a few miles outside of Tapachula.

The migrants set out from the southern Mexico city of Tapachula, near the border with Guatemala, early Friday. Migrants have complained they have been essentially confined to Tapachula by the slow processing of their asylum cases and that they are unable to find work in the border state of Chiapas that would allow them to support their families.

‘Humanitarian parole’ for Ukrainians highlights racial bias in US immigration policy

“They are practically holding us prisoners; they do not allow us to leave this state because we are not regularized here,” said Venezuelan migrant Noreydi Chávez. “They require us to get a visa, but we never get any answers. We fill out paperwork, but they never process it.”

Reynaldo Bello, a migrant from Peru, joined the march with his wife and baby because the family had been living in a park and going hungry while waiting for their immigration paperwork to be processed.

Ukraine hits fuel depot in Russia, retakes areas near Kyiv

The march came as the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden announced it would end a policy that allows turning back asylum seekers on grounds of protecting the country against the coronavirus pandemic.

Migrants have been expelled more than 1.7 million times from the U.S. under the policy, known as Title 42 for a public health law, which was invoked in March 2020.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control said Friday it would end the authority effective May 23.

Near the height of the omicron variant in late January, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had extended the order to this week.

Luis García Villagrán, an immigration activist with the Center for Human Dignification, said Mexican immigration authorities had largely shut off most visa processes in Tapachula and told migrants the only path to regularize their stay in Mexico was through the much lengthier procedure of applying for asylum or refugee status.

ny times logoNew York Times, House Votes to Decriminalize Cannabis, Jonathan Weisman, April 1, 2022. Democrats, with some Republican support, voted 220-204 to remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances, moving to catch up to the states. The House passed legislation on Friday to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, as Democrats and three Republicans banded together to capitalize on the political resonance of legalized cannabis as an issue of economic growth, racial justice and states’ rights.

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, which passed 220-204, is unlikely to secure 60 votes to pass the Senate, despite the backing of the majority leader, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. But supporters of marijuana decriminalization — even some Republicans who voted against the Democratic legislation — said on Friday that the vote was a necessary step toward building consensus on something that can become law.

The Democrats’ bill would remove marijuana from the federal government’s list of controlled substances, impose an 8 percent tax on cannabis products, allow some convictions on cannabis charges to be expunged and press for sentencing reviews at the federal and state levels. It would also make Small Business Administration loans and services available to cannabis businesses while setting standards for them.

“I’m respecting the process that the Democrats want to go through,” said Representative Nancy Mace of South Carolina, a Republican who has made marijuana decriminalization a central issue but voted against the Democratic bill. She added: “You can save the federal government $600 million over five years, and it saves lives. It’s an important issue. People care about it; the vast majority of Americans care about it.”

By lowering law enforcement and incarceration costs and imposing new taxation, the bill would save the government hundreds of millions of dollars. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the act would reduce the federal deficit by nearly $3 billion over the next decade.

Similar legislation passed in 2020 but went nowhere in the Republican-controlled Senate. The vote on Friday was the first since Mr. Schumer elevated the issue in that chamber.

Ms. Mace, backed by four other Republicans, has her own bill, with a lower tax rate to discourage an illicit cannabis trade and other measures to discourage youth consumption. And the Democratic senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Ron Wyden of Oregon have written a marijuana decriminalization measure with Mr. Schumer.

 

 

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson tears up briefly and for the only time during her three days of confirmation testimony as U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) consoles her for the vicious slurs and innuendoes that Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee launched at her. Shown below are her parents as they observed the highs and lows (Photo via the Associated Press).

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson tears up briefly and for the only time during her three days of confirmation testimony as U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) consoles her for the vicious slurs laced with sexual and racial innuendoes that Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee launched at her, most notably by Ted Cruz (TX), Josh Hawley (MO), Marsha Blackburn (TN)  and Tom Cotton (Photo via the Associated Press). Shown below are her parents as they observed the highs and lows.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Low Will Senate Republicans Go on Ketanji Brown Jackson? Linda Greenhouse (shown at right on the cover of her memoir, “Just a linda greenhouse cover just a journalistJournalist”), April 1, 2022. When Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination reaches the Senate floor soon, every Republican who votes against her confirmation will be complicit in the abuse that the Republican members of the Judiciary Committee heaped on her.

Every mischaracterization of Judge Jackson’s record on the bench. Every racist dog whistle about crime. Every QAnon shout-out about rampant child pornography. Every innuendo that a lawyer who represents suspected terrorists supports terrorism.

So far, only one Republican senator, Susan Collins of Maine, has said she will vote to confirm Judge Jackson. The Republican senators who don’t disavow their colleagues’ behavior during last week’s confimation hearing will own it. All of it.

Every Republican voting no will be Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, asking, “On a scale of one to 10, how faithful would you say you are in terms of religion?” Each one will be Ted Cruz of Texas, distorting the argument in a law review note by the nominee to suggest slyly that beginning as a student she harbored an agenda of going easy on sex criminals.

Each Republican will even sink so low as to be Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, moving her pen across the page as she read the right-wing talking points and demanding that the nominee define the word “woman.” The definition that came to mind, although not to Judge Jackson’s lips, was “a mature female who can maintain her composure while being badgered on national television by posturing politicians.”

I have observed, and written about for this newspaper, every Supreme Court confirmation hearing since Sandra Day O’Connor’s in 1981, the first to be televised live. There have been good times and bad, obviously. The O’Connor hearing was one of the good ones. There were a few testy moments, thanks not to Democrats but to a few of the nominee’s fellow Republicans who thought her insufficiently dedicated to the anti-abortion cause. But the mood was decidedly one of bipartisan celebration for the barrier about to be broken by confirming the first woman to become a Supreme Court justice, and the vote on the Senate floor was 99-0.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, tried in her opening statement last week to summon such a sense of unity. “This entire hearing is about opening things up,” she said, noting that as the 116th justice, Judge Jackson would be the first Black woman. Senator Klobuchar continued, “We are a nation that must re-embrace the simple principle that unites us as Americans, and that is that our country is so much bigger in what unites us than what divides us.”

It was not only sad but also shameful that the Judiciary Committee’s Republicans couldn’t rise to the occasion. Granted, the goal of their leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has always famously been known to withhold as many votes as possible from a Democratic president’s Supreme Court nominee. (In 2016, of course, he deprived President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, of any vote whatsoever.)

 

Palmer Report, Opinion: The DOJ’s secret grand jury targeting Trump world is also targeting people who work in Congress, Bill Palmer, April 1, 2022. Last night the Washington Post reported that Merrick Garland’s Department of Justice has secretly had a federal grand jury probing Trump world about its involvement in January 6th for at least two months. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone, given the numerous signs that had been emerging of late which suggested that the DOJ was indeed probing Trump world. Now new details are emerging.

On Thursday the New York Times reported that the DOJ grand jury in question has been probing “members of the executive and legislative branches who had been involved in the ‘planning or execution of any rally or any attempt to obstruct, influence, impede or delay’ the certification of the 2020 election.”

Why is this a big deal? We already knew from the WaPo report that this grand jury has been targeting unnamed members of the Trump administration – so the fact that it’s probing members of the executive branch isn’t news. But the New York Times is now saying that the grand jury is also probing members of the legislative branch. That means Congress.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the grand jury is probing members of Congress. It could instead merely be referring to people who work for Congress, such as staffers for members of Congress. But either way, this is still a major breakthrough. We now know that this secret grand jury hasn’t just been targeting Trump world people, it’s begun targeting people who work in Congress as well.

Here is the timeline of the DOJ probe as we now understand it. Once the DOJ finished building criminal cases against the Oath Keepers leadership, it arrested them all on January 13th, 2022. Almost immediately after this, the DOJ had a grand jury begin targeting members of Trump world, and members of the legislative branch, for their involvement in January 6th.

From the timeline, it’s fairly clear that the DOJ felt compelled to complete the criminal cases against the leaders of the Capitol attack who physically participated in it, before moving on to targeting the ringleaders of the Capitol attack who didn’t physically participate in it. This suggests that the arrests of the Oath Keepers resulted in sufficient cooperation to allow the DOJ to begin targeting Trump world. One of the Oath Keepers leaders, Roger Stone’s driver, is known to have cut a cooperating plea deal for seditious conspiracy. This means he’s already given the DOJ everything he knows about Stone and everyone else he dealt with in Trump world.

washington post logoWashington Post, Unaccountable: Police strategy abandoned after Breonna Taylor death spreads to other cities, Amy Brittain, March 31, 2022 (print ed.). At least nine jurisdictions either plan to or have adopted the crime-reduction strategy known as ‘place network investigations’ — a model that examines geographic connections that allow crime to flourish.

A crime-reduction strategy abandoned by Louisville police after the March 2020 fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor has since spread to other major U.S. cities, gaining favor with police chiefs for its potential to reduce violent crime despite its ties to the case that sparked widespread calls for police reform.

In the months preceding the shooting, Louisville officers had studied a model known as “place network investigations.” The then-novel approach pioneered by an academic posited that crime could be curbed if police and other community partners focused on geographic connections in areas plagued by violent crime. It is the latest in a long line of U.S. policing philosophies that have used data to target crime concentrated in small areas known as hot spots.

washington post logoWashington Post, 5 fetuses found in D.C. home after indictment in abortion clinic blockade, Jaclyn Peiser, April 1, 2022 (print ed.). The fetuses were aborted “in accordance with D.C. law,” and “there doesn’t seem to be anything criminal in nature…except for how they got into this house,” police said.

Five fetuses were removed from a Southeast Washington home Wednesday, the same day a federal indictment was announced against nine people in the 2020 blockade of an abortion clinic with chain and rope.

The residence was where Lauren Handy, one of the people indicted, was arrested and had lived or stayed, according to two law enforcement officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely discuss the case.

Handy and eight others were indicted on federal civil rights counts, with prosecutors alleging that she and others violated the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.

Authorities have not said how the fetuses were obtained and how they came to be in the home.

The discovery came the same day authorities announced the indictment of the nine people who prosecutors say had gathered near the doors of a D.C. reproductive health clinic in October 2020.

They were waiting for the facility to open and charged in after a medical specialist unlocked the doors, an indictment says.

They then began barricading the entrances with chairs from the waiting room, according to prosecutors.

“We have people intervening physically with their bodies to prevent women from entering the clinic to murder their children,” Jonathan Darnel, reportedly one of the intruders, said in a Facebook Live broadcast documenting the event, according to court documents.

The nine have been charged with conspiracy and violating the FACE Act, “which prohibits threats of force, obstruction and property damage intended to interfere with reproductive health care services,” according to the Justice Department. Prosecutors did not provide the name of the clinic in the indictment.

The indictment comes as more states pass legislation restricting abortion access. In the six months after Texas passed a ban on abortions past the six-week mark, lawmakers in more than a dozen states have proposed similar bills. On March 23, Gov. Brad Little (R) of Idaho signed a bill into law modeled after the one in Texas.

 Recent Law-Related Headlines

 
Inside U.S. Washington Politics

 

madison cawthorn resized hunting amazon

ny times logoNew York Times, House Republicans Tire of Madison Cawthorn’s Antics. His District Has, Too, Trip Gabriel, March 31, 2022 (print ed.). For Mr. Cawthorn, above, a pro-Trump North Carolina congressman, the youthful brashness that helped him win his seat now strikes some voters as recklessness.

In the era of Donald Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party — when making falsehoods about an election isn’t disqualifying, when heckling a president at the State of the Union is no big deal, when attending an event tied to white supremacists doesn’t lead to exile — it may still be possible for a hard-right member of Congress to go too far.

That is the object lesson of Representative Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, the House’s youngest member, whose bid for a second term is in jeopardy after a series of incendiary statements and personal foibles have soured many former supporters.

“I voted for Madison, but I think I’ll pass now because of integrity issues,’’ said John Harper, a retired furniture finisher in Franklin, N.C., at a Republican event in Mr. Cawthorn’s district last week. “I was fooled last time. I won’t be fooled again.”

Mr. Cawthorn, 26, called President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine “a thug” and his country “incredibly evil” as Russian tanks rolled in. The congressman has made headlines for bringing a knife to a school board meeting and bringing a gun through airport security. Mr. Cawthorn, who has used a wheelchair since being injured in an automobile accident when he was 18, was charged this month with driving with a revoked license. He has a May court date on the misdemeanor count that carries jail time.

washington post logoWashington Post, McCarthy: Cawthorn ‘did not tell the truth’ about orgy, drug claims, Felicia Sonmez, March 31, 2022 (print ed.). House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Wednesday after meeting with Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) that the freshman lawmaker was not telling the truth when he made claims about an “orgy” invitation and alleged drug use among unnamed members of Congress.

Cawthorn’s comments, which he made during a podcast interview last week, had outraged some of his fellow congressional Republicans, leading to Wednesday’s meeting at the Capitol with McCarthy and other House GOP leaders.

kevin mccarthy“This is unacceptable,” McCarthy, right, told reporters Wednesday after meeting with Cawthorn, Axios reported. “There’s no evidence to this.”

madison cawthorn oMcCarthy added that Cawthorn, left, “changes what he tells” and “did not tell the truth,” describing his actions as “not becoming of a congressman.”

Cawthorn was seen leaving McCarthy’s office Wednesday morning after a meeting that lasted about half an hour. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) also attended the meeting, according to Politico.

washington post logoWashington Post, Crypto industry dives into midterms, raising millions to court Democrats, Tory Newmyer, March 31, 2022 (print ed.). The crypto industry is rolling out a multimillion-dollar campaign to elect friendly candidates in the midterm elections as regulators zero in on the sector.

Crypto executives and investors flush with digital wealth are assembling a big-money effort to elect a slate of crypto enthusiasts to Congress in this year’s midterm elections, the industry’s first significant foray into American politics.

Crypto interests are raising money for a super PAC that aims to spend $20 million promoting candidates friendly toward the sector. Coinbase, the largest U.S.-based crypto exchange, hosted a previously unreported fundraiser for Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) over a Zoom call last week. Executives are organizing events for insiders to contribute to candidates in cryptocurrency. And they are backing some upstart pols, including elementary school teacher Aarika Rhodes, who has launched a primary challenge to Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), one of the industry’s most outspoken critics.

The push comes at a high-stakes moment. The sector has leaped more than tenfold in total market value since this point in the last election cycle two years ago, topping $2.1 trillion as of Wednesday. That growth has put the industry in the crosshairs of policymakers, now considering rules for digital assets that will determine how the industry evolves both in the United States and abroad. Crypto interests are racing to build influence in Washington in a bid to shape the process as it unfolds.

washington post logoWashington Post, Facing new political reality, Murkowski considers a vote for Jackson, Mike DeBonis, April 1, 2022 (print ed.). The senator from Alaska is among a handful of Republicans thinking of supporting Biden’s Supreme Court nominee.

lisa murkowski oThe last time a Democratic president sent Supreme Court nominees to the Senate, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, right, was a member of the Senate Republican leadership bracing for a tough Alaska primary against a more conservative GOP challenger.

She was accordingly tough on President Barack Obama’s picks: Sonia Sotomayor, she said in 2009, had given “brief and superficial treatment … to important constitutional questions,” and a year later, she said Elena Kagan would be “one of the least experienced Supreme Court justices in our nation’s history.” She voted against both nominees.

More than a decade later, Murkowski has undergone a political transformation — thanks in part to a political near-death experience, where she lost that 2010 primary only to resurrect herself in a subsequent write-in campaign with the help of centrist voters. She is now among a handful of Republicans who are seriously entertaining a vote for President Biden’s pending Supreme Court nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

 

Media, Entertainment, Religion News

hunter biden

Press Run, Commentary: The media’s Hunter Biden debacle, Whitewater II, Eric Boehlert, right, April 1, 2022. Eagerly deploying newsroom resources to the eric.boehlertperpetually overblown Hunter Biden story — just as Trump and Fox News kick off a new smear campaign — CNN, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post gladly did the GOP’s bidding this week. Signing off on the idea that the Hunter Biden story remains a scandal simply because Republicans say so, the press has adopted a Whitewater-like obsession with the perpetual dead-end story.

One White House reporter on Thursday, doing his best Fox News impression, asked if President Joe Biden would take the extraordinary step of pardoning Hunter (shown above) — who is not accused of any crime.

Producing remarkably similar articles that were published nearly simultaneously this week, the CNN.com, Journal, and Post efforts all swung and missed. On paper, there’s no reason why they would pick the exact same moment to churn out nearly 7,000 words of Biden reporting. Especially since none of the investigations dug up any startling revelations about his business dealings from the previous decade.

The copycat nature of the reports raises questions about who the unnamed sources for these stories were, and if there was a coordinated effort by Republican operatives to push simultaneous Hunter updates.

It’s also telling that the hand-delivered leaks arrived the same time we’re learning even more about the Trump White House’s criminality. Specifically, the administration’s clear lawbreaking surrounding the January 6th coup attempt.

This was the big ah-ha moment from the Post piece: “The new documents illustrate the ways in which his family profited from relationships built over Joe Biden’s decades in public service.”

And?

The press can’t provide an answer to the “and” — they can’t find anything illegal or shocking — so they pretend that the business deals themselves are newsworthy and that Hunter’s career requires years of media digging. Meanwhile, the recent revelation about a Supreme Court Justice’s wife strategizing with the Trump White House to overturn an election has evaporated from most newsrooms in less than one week.

After years of media focus there’s nothing to suggest Joe Biden was involved in his son’s business dealings or profited from them in any way, or that the senior Biden ever did anything remotely unethical in connection with Hunter’s career.

The son has never run for office, never served in the government, never lobbied to change U.S. policy, and never acted as an advisor to his father in any way.

The fact is, he remains under investigation for matters related to tax payments and his foreign work, and there is a chance he could be indicted. Although, as the New York Times recently reported, Biden recently paid off “a significant tax liability,” which “could make it harder for prosecutors to win a conviction or a long sentence for tax-related offenses.”

It’s a relatively small stakes tax case that has produced a ridiculous amount of breathless Beltway coverage, much to the delight of the GOP. Context: 11 Trump associates who worked directly with the president have been indicted on criminal charges.

The press relentlessly pursues the Hunter story because they insist there’s the appearance of conflict of interest given the family connections. But Hunter began making overseas energy deals just as his father was leaving office in 2016 after eight years serving with President Barack Obama. If Hunter wanted to cash in on his father’s vice presidency, why did he wait until the end of his father’s vice presidency?

Still, the media fixation continues.

“I’m so glad our colleagues are still doing strong reporting on this story,” New York Times columnist Gail Collins cheered last week. “Hunter Biden’s scummy business dealings shouldn’t be swept under the rug any more than anyone else’s.”

Swept under the rug? Good grief. Since 2017, “Hunter Biden” has appeared in more than 800 articles and columns published by the Times, according to Nexis.

 

census bureau logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Seven Decades Later, the 1950 Census Bares Its Secrets, Michael Wines, Updated April 1, 2022. Federal law kept the answers on the census forms secret for 72 years. The forms went online Friday, a bonanza for historians and the merely curious.

At 12:01 a.m. on Friday, precisely 72 years after enumerators began knocking on the doors of some 46 million American houses and apartments, the federal government made public what they learned: the ages, incomes, addresses, ancestry and a trove of other facts about the 150.7 million people who were counted in the 1950 census.

Those millions of census forms, painstakingly filled out by hand in ink, were posted online by the National Archives and Records Administration, which by law has kept them private until now. The records, searchable by name and address, offer an intimate look at a nation on the cusp of the modern era — for the merely curious, a glimpse of the life parents or grandparents led, but for historians and genealogists, a once-in-a-decade bonanza of secrets unveiled.

“This is the Super Bowl and the Olympics combined, and it’s only every 10 years — it’s awesome stuff,” Matt Menashes, the executive director of the National Genealogical Society, said in an interview. “What’s so great about these points of data is that it helps you paint a picture — not just relationships, but what society was like.”

The last release of similar data was in 2012, when the National Archives made details of the 1940 census public. The government has imposed a 72-year ban on the release of census records since 1952, when the Census Bureau turned over to the National Archives all the data it had collected since the first census in 1790.

Trump Administration White House Photographer Shealah Craighead (Photo by Doug Mills of the New York Times).

Trump Administration White House Photographer Shealah Craighead (Photo by Doug Mills of the New York Times).

ny times logoNew York Times, She Took the White House Photos. Trump Moved to Take the Profit, Eric Lipton and Maggie Haberman, Updated April 1, 2022. The former chief White House photographer made plans to publish a book of Trump photos. The former president had other plans.

As President Donald J. Trump’s tenure came to an end, the chief White House photographer, who had traveled the world with him and spent countless hours inside the White House snapping pictures, notified Mr. Trump’s aides that she intended to publish a book collecting some of her most memorable images.

This was hardly a radical idea: Official photographers from every White House since President Ronald Reagan’s have published their own books. Barack Obama and George W. Bush were so supportive that they wrote forewords for them.

But like so much else involving Mr. Trump, the plan by his chief photographer, Shealah Craighead, did not follow this bipartisan norm.

First, aides to Mr. Trump asked her for a cut of her book advance payment, in exchange for his writing a foreword and helping promote the book, according to former associates of Mr. Trump.

Then Mr. Trump’s team asked Ms. Craighead to hold off on her book project to allow the former president to take Ms. Craighead’s photos and those of other White House staff photographers and publish his own book, which is now selling for as much as $230 a copy.

That the profits from Ms. Craighead’s labor are now going into Mr. Trump’s pocket has left several of Mr. Trump’s former aides upset — but not exactly surprised.

“Shea’s a very talented photographer and this was really all of her hard work,” said Stephanie Grisham, who served as the White House press secretary for Mr. Trump and wrote her own book, referring to Ms. Craighead by her nickname. “I just keep thinking: What a shame that he is actually now profiting off of it. But then again, this is the guy who is hawking caps and all kinds of stuff right now to raise money for himself.”

Eric Draper, who was the chief White House photographer during Mr. Bush’s tenure, said the move was disrespectful to Ms. Craighead.

“It’s a slap in the face,” Mr. Draper said, adding that he had spoken with Ms. Craighead last year about her plan to do her own book. “I would be disappointed if I were in her shoes.”

The 317-page book Mr. Trump published in December, titled Our Journey Together, includes no photo credits. It does not mention any of the photographers who took the images until the last page, where he briefly offered a “grateful acknowledgment” to “all the phenomenal White House photographers,” listing them by name, including Ms. Craighead, whose pictures make up much of the book.

There is no legal prohibition on Mr. Trump assembling and publishing photographs that a White House staff member took during his tenure; under federal law, those photographs are considered in the public domain and not subject to copyright. There is a public Flickr account, now managed by the National Archives, that has 14,995 photos from the Trump White House, a third of them listing Ms. Craighead as the photographer.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jen Psaki is said to be in talks to join MSNBC, John Koblin, April 1, 2022. Ms. Psaki joined President Biden’s administration as his first press secretary. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, is in advanced talks with MSNBC to join the network after she leaves the Biden administration, according to two people familiar with the negotiations.

Ms. Psaki could leave the White House as soon as next month, one of the people said.

While the details of her role are still being discussed, the negotiations have centered on an arrangement in which she could host shows both for MSNBC and for Peacock, the streaming platform of MSNBC’s parent, NBCUniversal. Ms. Psaki could also make regular appearances on other MSNBC shows as well as on NBC News, the people said.

Though a deal is not yet finalized and could still fall apart, Ms. Psaki is now only talking with NBCUniversal officials, the two people said. CNN had also been pursuing bringing Ms. Psaki aboard, one of them said.

washington post logoWashington Post, A Jan. 6 pastor divides his Tennessee community with extremist views, Annie Gowen, April 1, 2022 (print ed.). The pastor promised his followers that this church service would be like no other, and the event on a cold Sunday in March did not disappoint.

“Devil, your foot soldiers are coming out tonight, they’re coming all the way out. We will expel them,” Pastor Greg Locke howled from the stage in a crowded white tent. “You gotta leave, Devil,” he shouted, “you gotta get out!”

Wielding a microphone as he paced the stage, his wife Tai at his side, Locke called out “spirits” of anger, rage, bitterness, lust and envy.

“Spirit of molestation, spirit of abuse, get out right now!” Locke commanded.

“Every spirit of homosexuality, lesbianism, come out, come out,” his wife ordered. “Transgenderism, gender dysphoria, come out.”

“We rebuke it, we rebuke it!” Locke yelled.

The tent slowly took on a spirit of its own. Worshipers began writhing as if in pain, others waved their hands in the air in benediction. “Amens” began to mix with the guttural sound of growling, moaning and praying in tongues.

“If you’ve had the covid-19 shot, I’m telling you you’ve got poison in your veins,” Locke thundered. “We call out the covid-19 vaccine out right now. Keep that demonic spirit out of you right now in the name of Jesus!”

Some fell to the ground, pawing at cedar chips, or wretched into silver vomit buckets that had been set at the end of each row of white folding chairs.

To those unfamiliar with charismatic worship style, the scene might be easily dismissed or mocked. Yet Locke, 45, head of the Global Vision Bible Church, boasts millions of followers, many of them online, gaining national attention during the coronavirus crisis when he kept his church open and defied the mask mandates of the “fake pandemic.”

But to his critics, he is spreading a dangerous message of hate that is taking root in some conservative churches. His rising prominence also comes as many mainstream faith leaders and experts on extremism grow increasingly concerned about the spread of White Christian nationalism, the belief that patriotism and love of America are explicitly intertwined with White evangelical Christianity.

Locke is an “ambassador” of a movement where he and other pastors around the country appear at rallies and tent revivals preaching Donald Trump’s fraudulent claims that the election was stolen as a new holy war, according to Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, an organization dedicated to religious freedom.

“If someone is convinced that God has preordained an election result for a messiah-like candidate and is told over and over that the election was stolen, that erodes trust in elections and democracy,” Tyler said.

Locke, in an interview, was defiant that he is not a Christian nationalist, but he makes no apologies for bringing politics into the pulpit. He was on the steps of the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection and has continued to preach the falsehood that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

Locke and his ministry have divided this quiet town on the outskirts of Nashville with many residents distressed at the thousands who flock here to hear him and the attention he attracts, most recently with a book burning where he and followers threw copies of the “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” series and Disney villain merchandise into a giant bonfire. He has declared he now wants to “deliver” people from demonic influences and witchcraft.

washington post logoWashington Post, Turmoil at CBS News over Trump aide Mick Mulvaney’s punditry gig, Jeremy Barr, April 1, 2022 (print ed.). Mulvaney’s punditry gig
A network executive said they want to hire more Republicans to gain ‘access’ ahead of a ‘likely’ Democratic midterm wipeout.

CBS News’s decision to hire former Trump administration official Mick Mulvaney as a paid on-air contributor is drawing backlash within the company because of his history of bashing the press and promoting the former president’s fact-free claims.

CBS News logoBut a top network executive seemed to lay the groundwork for the decision in a staff meeting earlier this month, when he said the network needed to hire more Republicans to prepare for a “likely” Democratic midterm wipeout.

“If you look at some of the people that we’ve been hiring on a contributor basis, being able to make sure that we are getting access to both sides of the aisle is a priority because we know the Republicans are going to take over, most likely, in the midterms,” CBS News’s co-president Neeraj Khemlani told the staff of the network’s morning show, according to a recording of his comments obtained by The Washington Post. “A lot of the people that we’re bringing in are helping us in terms of access to that side of the equation.”

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