Editor’s Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative news and views in January 2023.
Note: Excerpts are from the authors’ words except for subheads and occasional “Editor’s notes” such as this.
- New York Times, Lula Becomes Brazil’s President, With Bolsonaro in Florida
- New York Times, U.S. Pours Money Into Chips, but Even Soaring Spending Has Limits
- New York Times, Benedict XVI, First Modern Pope to Resign, Dies at 95
- Washington Post, Analysis: How Benedict’s death could reshape the Catholic Church
- New York Times, Through his nightly addresses, Volodymyr Zelensky has shaped the narrative of the war in Ukraine and rallied its allies
- Washington Post, A gruesome murder case in India pits traditional values against modern love
U.S. Politics, Elections, Economy, Governance
- New York Times, The ‘Red Wave’ Washout: How Skewed Polls Fed a False Election Narrative, Jim Rutenberg, Ken Bensinger and Steve Eder
- New York Times, The Invention of Elise Stefanik
- Washington Post, The talented Mr. Santos: A congressman-elect’s unraveling web of deception
- Washington Post, The Past, Rediscovered: When the House needed two months and 133 votes to elect a speaker
- World Crisis Radio, Commentary and Advocacy: McCarthy still lacks the votes to be elected Speaker, so Democrats must pre-empt MAGA chaos and subversion with a Coalition Speaker! Webster G. Tarpley
U.S. Courts, Crime, Regulation
- New York Times, Investigation: A Charity Tied to the Supreme Court Offers Donors Access to the Justices, Jo Becker and Julie Tate
- Washington Post, Chief justice ignores one of the most controversial Supreme Court terms in his annual report, Robert Barnes
- Washington Post, Suspect in killings of Idaho students expects to be ‘exonerated,’ lawyer says
- Washington Post, ‘You’re a slave’: Inside Louisiana’s forced prison labor and a failed overhaul attempt
More On Pope’s Passing and Potential Church Transitions
- New York Times, Pope Benedict XVI Dies, Live Updates: Benedict Will Be Buried at St. Peter’s Basilica
- Washington Post, Opinion: Benedict was America’s pope, David Von Drehle
- Washington Post, Which papal funeral traditions apply to a former pope?
- New York Times, In Bucha, a Final Rampage Served as a Coda to a Month of Atrocities
- New York Times, Russian Airstrikes Leave Ukrainians Few Options but to Endure
- New York Times, Explosions Shake Kyiv as Ukrainians Prepare for the New Year
- New York Times, Clergymen or Spies? Churches Become Tools of War in Ukraine, Andrew E. Kramer
Global News, Migration, Human Rights Issues
- Washington Post, Security on high alert for Lula’s inauguration in tense Brazil
- Washington Post, Teary Bolsonaro calls loss unfair, condemns violence, flies to Florida
More On Trump, Finances, Insurrectionists, Allies, Disputes
- New York Times, These are the key numbers from Donald Trump’s tax returns
More On Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy
Energy, Climate, Weather, Disasters
- New York Times, A Stinky Stew on Cape Cod: Human Waste and Warming Water
- Washington Post, EPA broadens protections for waterways, reversing Trump
- New York Times, Special Report: The U.S. Will Need Thousands of Wind Farms. Will Small Towns Go Along? David Gelles
U.S. Media, Religion, High Tech, Education
- New York Times, Barbara Walters, a First Among TV Newswomen, Is Dead at 93
- New York Times, Fellow journalists, celebrity interview subjects and others offered tributes to the renowned newswoman
New York Times, Lula Becomes Brazil’s President, With Bolsonaro in Florida, Jack Nicas and André Spigariol, Jan. 1, 2023. Brazil inaugurated its new president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. But one key person was missing: the departing far-right leader, Jair Bolsonaro. Facing various investigations from his time in office, Mr. Bolsonaro, who was supposed to pass the presidential sash, has taken refuge in Orlando.
President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, right, took the reins of the Brazilian government on Sunday in an elaborate inauguration, complete with a motorcade, music festival and hundreds of thousands of supporters filling the central esplanade of Brasília, the nation’s capital.
Mr. Bolsonaro was supposed to pass Mr. Lula the presidential sash on Sunday, an important symbol of the peaceful transition of power in a nation where many people still recall the 21-year military dictatorship that ended in 1985.
Instead, Mr. Bolsonaro woke up Sunday 6,000 miles away, in a rented house owned by a professional mixed-martial-arts fighter a few miles from Disney World. Facing various investigations from his time in his office, Mr. Bolsonaro flew to Orlando on Friday night and plans to stay in Florida for at least a month.
Mr. Bolsonaro had questioned the reliability of Brazil’s election systems for months, without evidence, and when he lost in October, he refused to concede unequivocally. In a sort of farewell address on Friday, breaking weeks of near silence, he said that he tried to block Mr. Lula from taking office but failed.
“Within the laws, respecting the Constitution, I searched for a way out of this,” he said. He then appeared to encourage his supporters to move on. “We live in a democracy or we don’t,” he said. “No one wants an adventure.”
ImageA crowd of well-wishers greeted the motorcade of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil and his wife, Rosangela da Silva, after his swearing-in in Brasília on Sunday.
On Sunday, Mr. Lula ascended the ramp to the presidential offices with a diverse group of Brazilians, including a Black woman, a disabled man, a 10-year-old boy, an Indigenous man and a factory worker. A voice then announced that Mr. Lula would accept the green-and-yellow sash from “the Brazilian people,” and Aline Sousa, a 33-year-old garbage collector, played the role of Mr. Bolsonaro and placed the sash on the new president.
In an address to Congress on Sunday, Mr. Lula said that he would fight hunger and deforestation, lift the economy and try to unite the country. But he also took aim at his predecessor, saying that Mr. Bolsonaro had threatened Brazil’s democracy.
“Under the winds of redemocratization, we used to say, ‘Dictatorship never again,’” he said. “Today, after the terrible challenge we’ve overcome, we must say, ‘Democracy forever.’”
New York Times, U.S. Pours Money Into Chips, but Even Soaring Spending Has Limits, Don Clark and Ana Swanson, Jan. 1, 2023. An enormous ramp-up in U.S.-based chip-making has been likened to Cold War-era investments in the space race. The efforts may help — but only up to a point.
In September, the chip giant Intel gathered officials at a patch of land near Columbus, Ohio, where it pledged to invest at least $20 billion in two new factories to make semiconductors.
A month later, Micron Technology celebrated a new manufacturing site near Syracuse, N.Y., where the chip company expected to spend $20 billion by the end of the decade and eventually perhaps five times that.
And in December, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company hosted a shindig in Phoenix, where it plans to triple its investment to $40 billion and build a second new factory to create advanced chips.
The pledges are part of an enormous ramp-up in U.S. chip-making plans over the past 18 months, the scale of which has been likened to Cold War-era investments in the space race. The boom has implications for global technological leadership and geopolitics, with the United States aiming to prevent China from becoming an advanced power in chips, the slices of silicon that have driven the creation of innovative computing devices like smartphones and virtual-reality goggles.
New York Times, Benedict XVI, First Modern Pope to Resign, Dies at 95, Ian Fisher and Rachel Donadio, Jan. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Long before he was pope, the man who became Benedict was a central figure in the Roman Catholic Church. He defined a conservative course for the Roman Catholic Church, but his papacy was noted for his struggle with the clergy sexual abuse scandal and for his unexpected resignation.
Benedict XVI, the pope emeritus, right, a quiet scholar of diamond-hard intellect who spent much of his life enforcing church doctrine and defending tradition before shocking the Roman Catholic world by becoming the first pope in six centuries to resign, died on Saturday. He was 95.
Benedict’s death was announced by the Vatican. No cause was given. This past week, the Vatican said that Benedict’s health had taken a turn for the worse “due to advancing age.”
On Wednesday, Pope Francis asked those present at his weekly audience at the Vatican to pray for Benedict, who he said was “very ill.” He later visited him at the monastery on the Vatican City grounds where Benedict had lived since announcing his resignation in February 2013.
In that announcement, citing a loss of stamina and his “advanced age” at 85, Benedict said he was stepping down freely and “for the good of the church.” The decision, surprising the faithful and the world at large, capped a papacy of almost eight years in which his efforts to re-energize the Roman Catholic Church were often overshadowed by the unresolved sexual abuse scandal in the clergy.
Washington Post, Analysis: How Benedict’s death could reshape the Catholic Church, Chico Harlan, Stefano Pitrelli and Marisa Iati, Jan. 1, 2023 (print ed.). 2. The traditionalist movement — which embraced Benedict while at times vocally opposing Pope Francis — does not have another figure with comparable clout.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s death Saturday is an epochal loss for a church that was defined first by his resolute conservatism and later by his radical decision to abdicate power.
The Vatican said that Benedict died at 9:34 a.m. local time and that his body would be placed in St. Peter’s Basilica starting Jan. 2 for a salute “from the faithful.” Pope Francis, right, will preside over his funeral, which will take place Thursday, the Vatican said. Afterward, Benedict’s body will be interred in the grottoes of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Benedict’s decline, after a decade of retirement, had been relatively swift. Francis had put the Catholic world on alert Wednesday, saying his predecessor was “very sick,” and asked for prayers.
New York Times, Through his nightly addresses, Volodymyr Zelensky has shaped the narrative of the war in Ukraine and rallied its allies, Andrew E. Kramer, , Jan. 1, 2023 (print ed.). The history of most wars is written by the victor after the fact. But Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has created his own sequencing: a story line of the war against Russia in real time that is intended to rally his people, and the Western world.
Mr. Zelensky has maintained a running narrative throughout the 10-month conflict — telling Ukrainians in nightly video addresses how they should view the battles, justify their hardships and believe in the country’s ultimate success.
He is scheduled to address the nation again on Saturday night in a traditional New Year’s Eve speech, when Mr. Zelensky sums up the year and offers predictions for what lies ahead. It is another opportunity for him to depict the war in a way that rallies his fellow countrymen behind the army.
Mr. Zelensky has also drawn praise for conveying Ukraine’s positions, often in passionate language, in speeches by video link to foreign audiences, as he pleads for sustained military and financial support. Most recently, he made his first trip out of Ukraine since the war started to meet with President Biden and deliver a prime-time address to the U.S. Congress.
His arguments emphasize recurring themes: The Russian government, he says, is a terrorist state and will repeatedly attack Europe if not stopped now. Military support for Ukraine is the only solution, and Ukrainians are filled with pride and patriotism.
Washington Post, A gruesome murder case in India pits traditional values against modern love, Anant Gupta and Gerry Shih, Jan. 1, 2023. On a Thursday afternoon several weeks ago, India’s most sensational murder case in years kicked off in a South Delhi court.
Aaftab Poonawala, a 28-year-old chef and food blogger, was being tried for allegedly killing his 27-year-old girlfriend, Shraddha Walkar — the IT saleswoman whom he had met on the dating app Bumble in 2019 — and sawing her body into 35 pieces.
News channels reenacted the grisly details using animated graphics; newspapers furrowed into the couple’s stormy relationship. Even professional lawyers expressed outrage and gathered by the hundreds outside the judge’s chambers to demand that Poonawala be summarily hanged.
But in India, Poonawala isn’t all that is on trial.
Instead of viewing the brutal killing as a one-off, Indian society has been litigating a host of related questions. On social media, on cable news and within family WhatsApp group chats, the story of Walkar, a Hindu woman who defied her parents’ wishes and moved in with Poonawala, a Muslim man she met online, has been the vehicle for intense, often intergenerational debates over women’s independence, family, religion, domestic violence — and, above all, love in the age of apps.
U.S. Politics, Elections, Economy, Governance
New York Times, The ‘Red Wave’ Washout: How Skewed Polls Fed a False Election Narrative, Jim Rutenberg, Ken Bensinger and Steve Eder, Jan. 1, 2023 (print ed.). The errant surveys spooked some candidates into spending more money than necessary, and diverted help from others who otherwise had a chance of winning.
Senator Patty Murray, right, a Democrat, had consistently won re-election by healthy margins in her three decades representing Washington State. This year seemed no different: By midsummer, polls showed her cruising to victory over a Republican newcomer, Tiffany Smiley, by as much as 20 percentage points.
So when a survey in late September by the Republican-leaning Trafalgar Group showed Ms. Murray clinging to a lead of just two points, it seemed like an aberration. But in October, two more Republican-leaning polls put Ms. Murray barely ahead, and a third said the race was a dead heat.
As the red and blue trend lines of the closely watched RealClearPolitics average for the contest drew closer together, news organizations reported that Ms. Murray was suddenly in a fight for her political survival. Warning lights flashed in Democratic war rooms. If Ms. Murray was in trouble, no Democrat was safe.
Ms. Murray’s own polling showed her with a comfortable lead, and a nonprofit regional news site, using an established local pollster, had her up by 13. Unwilling to take chances, however, she went on the defensive, scuttling her practice of lavishing some of her war chest — she amassed $20 million — on more vulnerable Democratic candidates elsewhere. Instead, she reaped financial help from the party’s national Senate committee and supportive super PACs — resources that would, as a result, be unavailable to other Democrats.
A similar sequence of events played out in battlegrounds nationwide. Surveys showing strength for Republicans, often from the same partisan pollsters, set Democratic klaxons blaring in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Colorado. Coupled with the political factors already favoring Republicans — including inflation and President Biden’s unpopularity — the skewed polls helped feed what quickly became an inescapable political narrative: A Republican wave election was about to hit the country with hurricane force.
Democrats in each of those states went on to win their Senate races. Ms. Murray clobbered Ms. Smiley by nearly 15 points.
Not for the first time, a warped understanding of the contours of a national election had come to dominate the views of political operatives, donors, journalists and, in some cases, the candidates themselves.
The misleading polls of 2022 did not just needlessly spook some worried candidates into spending more money than they may have needed to on their own races. They also led some candidates — in both parties — who had a fighting chance of winning to lose out on money that could have made it possible for them to do so, as those controlling the purse strings believed polls that inaccurately indicated they had no chance at all.
New York Times, The Invention of Elise Stefanik, Nicholas Confessore, Jan. 1, 2023 (print ed.). To rise through the Trump-era G.O.P., a young congresswoman, shown above, gave up her friends, her mentors and her ideals. Will it be enough?
Elise Stefanik had had enough.
In the wake of the 2018 midterms, the young congresswoman was sick of commuting to Washington from upstate New York and weary of dialing for campaign dollars. She was demoralized that Republican primary voters had spurned so many of the women she had helped persuade to run for Congress. She was annoyed that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the democratic socialist who had displaced her that fall as the youngest woman ever elected to the House, had not shown her the respect she felt was her due.
But it was bigger than that.
For years, Ms. Stefanik had crafted her brand as a model moderate millennial — “the future of hopeful, aspirational politics in America,” as her mentor, Paul Ryan, would describe her in Time magazine. But as her third term unfolded, according to current or former friends and advisers, it was becoming painfully clear that she was the future of a Republican Party that no longer existed. The party was now firmly controlled by Donald J. Trump, a populist president she didn’t like or respect — a “whack job,” as she once described him in a message obtained by The New York Times. Fox hosts attacked her for not supporting Mr. Trump enough. Her friends criticized her for not opposing him more forcefully. You don’t understand, she would tell them. You don’t get how hard this is. Democrats were back in charge in the House. Mr. Ryan was gone, driven into early retirement. She told friends she was thinking of joining him.
Instead she embarked on one of the most brazen political transformations of the Trump era. With breathtaking speed and alacrity, Ms. Stefanik remade herself into a fervent Trump apologist, adopted his over-torqued style on Twitter and embraced the conspiracy theories that animate his base, amplifying debunked allegations of dead voters casting ballots in Atlanta and unspecified “irregularities” involving voting-machine software in 2020 swing states.
The future of hopeful, aspirational politics in America now assails Democrats as “the party of Socialists, illegals, criminals, Communist Truth Ministers & media stenographers.” In the process, she has rocketed from the backbench to the party’s No. 3 House leadership job, presiding over the conference’s overall messaging.
Ms. Stefanik’s reinvention has made her a case study in the collapse of the old Republican establishment and its willing absorption into the new, Trump-dominated one.
But as Republicans prepare to take control of the House in the coming days, her climb to MAGA stardom may also be a cautionary tale. Mr. Trump’s obsession with litigating his own defeat has left him at once the party’s most potent force and its greatest liability, blamed by many Republicans for their failure to win the Senate in November and for a House majority that, some fear, may be too narrow to govern effectively.
Republican politicians and voters are now agonizing anew over the price of their alliance with Mr. Trump. “It’s crystal, crystal, crystal clear,” Mr. Ryan told SiriusXM. “We lose with Trump if we stick with Trump. If we dump Trump, we start winning.”
George Santos (AFP photo by Wade Vandervort via Getty Images).
Washington Post, The talented Mr. Santos: A congressman-elect’s unraveling web of deception, Azi Paybarah and Camila DeChalus, Jan. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Even by the low standards for truth-telling in politics, the scope of the falsehoods from the newly elected House Republican has been startling.
The Republican who won a congressional seat on Long Island before his claims of being a wealthy, biracial, Ukrainian descendant of Holocaust survivors were debunked had, for a while, been generally consistent about two details in his improbable life: He has long said his first name is George and his last name is Santos.
But not always.
Before George Santos, 34, made a name for himself in politics, he had insisted on being called Anthony — one of his middle names — and often used his mother’s maiden name, Devolder, eventually incorporating a company in Florida with that name.
“He hated that we called him George,” a former friend and onetime co-worker said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid being associated with him publicly. “His whole family called him Anthony. He wanted to be called Anthony. He would use the name Anthony Devolder.”
With echoes of the fabulist protagonist at the heart of “The Talented Mr. Ripley” book and movie, Santos has spun an elaborate web of lies and deceptions about his identity and his past, according to acquaintances, public records, media reports and, in some cases, by his own admission. He also claims to have suddenly come into millions of dollars in wealth over the past 18 months, even as the financial data company Dun & Bradstreet estimated in July that his private family firm, the Devolder Organization, only had $43,688 in revenue.
Washington Post, The Past, Rediscovered: When the House needed two months and 133 votes to elect a speaker, Ronald G. Shafer, Dec. 30, 2022. Kevin McCarthy’s struggling bid to win the speakership has nothing on the epic 1856 contest that pitted abolitionists against proslavery members of Congress.
For the first time in exactly 100 years, the U.S. House of Representatives may need more than one round of voting to elect a speaker when the new Congress convenes on Tuesday.
But a few extra rounds of balloting would be a far cry from the nearly two months and 133 votes the House took to choose its leader in 1856 — the longest and most contentious speaker election in its history.
The race pitted antislavery Rep. Nathaniel “Bobbin Boy” Banks, a member of the nativist American Party from Massachusetts, against candidates who were open to expanding slavery to new states and territories. The debate raged on amid mounting violence between proslavery and antislavery settlers in “Bleeding Kansas.”
Today, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), right, is struggling to win enough votes to be elected speaker when Republicans take narrow control of the House, as he faces opposition from some right-wing members of his party. As a result, it may take more than one ballot for anyone to gain the 218 votes, or the majority of votes cast for candidates, needed to win the speakership. McCarthy has warned fellow Republicans against a floor fight, saying, “If we play games on the floor, Democrats could end up picking who the speaker is.”
World Crisis Radio, Commentary and Advocacy: McCarthy still lacks the votes to be elected Speaker, so Democrats must pre-empt MAGA chaos and subversion with a Coalition Speaker! Webster G. Tarpley, right, Dec. 31, 2022. (135:48 min. video). In the light of the January 6 committee findings, Garland and Jack Smith have a couple of months to indict Trump & Co. or preside over the end of the rule of law in US! DoJ obeyed Sessions and Barr, but now the survival of the Republic is the supreme law!
World situation is marked by the coalescence of a new edition of the Rome-Berlin-Moscow-Tokyo axis, this time as the Moscow-Beijing-Pyongyang-Tehran axis; US must lead opposition of free world to this New Axis;
Moments of decision loom for Ukraine: after so many atrocities, a negotiated peace with Putin is unthinkable; as with Hitler, appeasement spells wider war; Putin may escalate, but his military situation is unlikely to improve; CFR now regards anti-Putin coup as most likely outcome; As Gen. Ivashov foresaw, Putin’s aggression may mark the end of the current Russian state; His clones Patrushev, Prigozhin, Kadyrov contend for power; Over two dozen top Russian oligarchs eliminated by poison and open windows this year, the Kremlin equivalent of a faction fight!
Renaissance of Science under Biden: Artemis-Orion and Mars lander revive space program; Lawrence Livermore surpasses break even point for thermonuclear fusion reaction, a first for the world; NASA inaugurates planetary defense by deflecting an asteroid for the first time; Covid vaccines are landmark achievements; Cancer Moonshot advances; Chips and Science Act and other new laws repatriate offshored technology; NOAA upgrades oceanography and marine biology; Federal science workforce is expanding; lasers needed to defend against hypersonic weapons;
French scholar of eastern Europe sees roots of Ukrainian spirit of independence in the Zaporizhia Cossacks of the 1600s
Recent Relevant Headlines
- Washington Post, The talented Mr. Santos: A congressman-elect’s unraveling web of deception
- Politico, McCarthy struggles to appease conservative demands as speakership battle nears
- World Crisis Radio, Commentary and Advocacy: McCarthy still lacks the votes to be elected Speaker, so Democrats must pre-empt MAGA chaos and subversion with a Coalition Speaker! Webster G. Tarpley
- Politico, North Carolina AG won’t press charges against Meadows over voter registration
- New York Times, Biden Signs $1.7 Trillion Government Funding Bill, Preventing Shutdown
- New York Times, In Record Numbers, an Unexpected Migrant Group Is Fleeing to the U.S.
- Washington Post,Texas National Guard blocks migrant flow across border in El Paso
U.S. Courts, Crime, Regulation
Washington Post, Chief justice ignores one of the most controversial Supreme Court terms in his annual report, Robert Barnes, Jan. 1, 2023 (print ed.). It was one of the most controversial terms in Supreme Court history, with the shocking leak of a draft opinion that eventually overturned a half century of abortion rights, public polls that showed record disapproval of the court’s work and biting dissension among the justices themselves about the court’s legitimacy.
But Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., right, chose not to address those or any other controversies in his annual “Year-end Report on the Federal Judiciary,” issued Saturday. Instead, he focused on a high mark of the judiciary’s past — a federal district judge’s efforts to implement school desegregation at Little Rock’s Central High School after the Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education.
“The law requires every judge to swear an oath to perform his or her work without fear or favor, but we must support judges by ensuring their safety,” Roberts wrote in his nine-page report. “A judicial system cannot and should not live in fear. The events of Little Rock teach about the importance of rule by law instead of by mob.”
Roberts thanked Congress for recently passing the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act, named for the son of New Jersey District Judge Esther Salas. Anderl was murdered in 2020 when he answered the door to their home in what was meant to be an attack on the judge.
The legislation allows judges to shield on the internet certain personal information about themselves and their families, such as home addresses, some financial information and employment details of their spouses. It has an exception for media reporting, but some transparency groups have worried that broad interpretation of the law could inhibit watchdog efforts.
Roberts also commended “the U.S. Marshals, Court Security Officers, Federal Protective Service Officers, Supreme Court Police Officers, and their partners” for “working to ensure that judges can sit in courtrooms to serve the public throughout the coming year and beyond.”
That’s about as close as Roberts came in his 18th report to commenting on the present day. The chief justice and other conservative members of the court have seen protesters outside their homes since the May leak of a draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in which a majority of the court overturned Roe v. Wade’s federal guarantee of abortion rights.
A California man is facing attempted assassination charges after being arrested outside the suburban Maryland home of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh with weapons and a plan to break into the justice’s house.
Roberts announced an investigation of the leak of the draft Dobbs opinion in the spring, just days after it was published in Politico, calling it a “singular and egregious breach of … trust that is an affront to the court and the community of public servants who work here.”
He directed Supreme Court Marshal Gail A. Curley to investigate the leak, saying that “to the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the Court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed.”
Man accused of threatening to kill Kavanaugh is indicted
But Roberts has not publicly mentioned the investigation since then. Last summer, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch said the justices were expecting reports from Roberts about the work, but nothing has been exposed beyond leaked accounts of disagreements among justices and their clerks about attempts to examine cellphone records.
It is only one controversy to engulf the court. Several media outlets reported on what a former antiabortion evangelical leader said were efforts to encourage conservative justices to be bold in decisions regarding the procedure. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. denied a specific allegation from Rev. Rob Schenck to the New York Times that the justice or his wife disclosed to conservative donors the outcome of a pending 2014 case regarding contraceptives and religious rights.
New York Times, Investigation: A Charity Tied to the Supreme Court Offers Donors Access to the Justices, Jo Becker and Julie Tate, Dec. 31, 2022 (print ed.). The Supreme Court Historical Society has raised more than $23 million in the last two decades, much of it from lawyers, corporations and special interests.
While ostensibly independent, the society has become a vehicle for those seeking access to nine of the most reclusive and powerful people in the nation. A Charity Tied to the Supreme Court Offers Donors Access to the Justices
People in formal attire sit on and stand amid the audience benches that face the bench where the justices sit in the Supreme Court chamber. Behind the justices’ bench are red curtains and four white marble columns.
In some years, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., right, does the honors. In others, it might be Justice Sonia Sotomayor or Justice Clarence Thomas presenting the squared-off hunks of marble affixed with the Supreme Court’s gilded seal.
Hewed from slabs left over from the 1930s construction of the nation’s high court and handed out in its magnificent Great Hall, they are a unique status symbol in a town that craves them. And while the ideological bents of the justices bestowing them might vary, there is one constant: All the recipients have given at least $5,000 to a charity favored by the justices, and, more often than not, the donors have a significant stake in the way the court decides cases.
The charity, the Supreme Court Historical Society, is ostensibly independent of the judicial branch of government, but in reality the two are inextricably intertwined. The charity’s stated mission is straightforward: to preserve the court’s history and educate the public about the court’s importance in American life. But over the years the society has also become a vehicle for those seeking access to nine of the most reclusive and powerful people in the nation. The justices attend the society’s annual black-tie dinner soirees, where they mingle with donors and thank them for their generosity, and serve as M.C.s to more regular society-sponsored lectures or re-enactments of famous cases.
The society has raised more than $23 million over the last two decades. Because of its nonprofit status, it does not have to publicly disclose its donors — and declined when asked to do so. But The New York Times was able to identify the sources behind more than $10.7 million raised since 2003, the first year for which relevant records were available.
At least $6.4 million — or 60 percent — came from corporations, special interest groups, or lawyers and firms that argued cases before the court, according to an analysis of archived historical society newsletters and publicly available records that detail grants given to the society by foundations. Of that, at least $4.7 million came from individuals or entities in years when they had a pending interest in a federal court case on appeal or at the high court, records show.
The donors include corporations like Chevron, which gave while embroiled in a 2021 Supreme Court case involving efforts by cities to hold the oil company accountable for its role in global warming. Veteran Supreme Court litigators gave while representing clients before the court that included Tyson Foods and the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China.
Among the ideologically driven activists from both sides of the political aisle who donated to the society were the benefactors of an anti-abortion group whose leader instructed them to use the society’s annual dinners to meet and befriend conservative justices.
Virtually no one interviewed by The Times, including critics of the society’s fund-raising practices, said they believed that donations to the society had any bearing on cases before the justices. For one thing, many of the donors are already part of the Supreme Court’s insular and clubby world, where former clerks frequently socialize with and argue cases before their former bosses, and where the justices steadfastly refuse to televise their arguments and specifically reserve only a fraction of the court’s 439 seats for members of the public.
Carter G. Phillips, a Supreme Court litigator at Sidley Austin and the society’s treasurer, said it never occurred to him that anyone would use the society as a way to buy face time or favor with the justices, in part because the society’s events generally afford only fleeting contact with them.
“It’s disgusting,” he said. “Many of the people who contribute have the same reasons I do. You go to a cocktail party and support a good cause. But it turns out that for some people it’s not that innocent. And I think the justices are a victim of that.”
But David T. Pride, the executive director of the society from 1979 until he retired last year, defended the society’s practice of seeking donations from those with interests before the court, saying he “was pretty unabashed about it.”
“Who wouldn’t expect that to be our constituency?” he said. “I don’t think I would have taken money from the Communist or Nazi Parties, but within reason the society was open to all.”
The society was founded in 1974 by Chief Justice Warren E. Burger to make the court more welcoming to visitors and to restore dusty old portraits of justices of yore. Every chief justice since has served as its honorary chairman.
It publishes bound journals of Supreme Court history; restores, maintains and displays historically significant artifacts such as the robes of Justice Louis D. Brandeis; hosts lectures; and brings schoolteachers from around the country to Washington for an annual summer institute, where they learn about the court. Trustees of the nonprofit are expected to give at least $5,000 a year, “patrons” give between $12,500 and $25,000, and “benefactors” give more than $25,000.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the historical society’s most significant source of identifiable funds — more than 34 percent — is the lawyers and law firms that practice before the Supreme Court, according to the Times analysis.
The chairman of the society’s board of trustees, Gregory P. Joseph, is a corporate litigator who served as the president of the American College of Trial Lawyers. Over the years, he and his firm have given at least $187,500 to the society, including in 2019, when he filed a submission with the court on behalf of the Sackler family, the longtime owners of Purdue Pharma, in a case involving accusations that they had siphoned billions of dollars out of the company in an attempt to deplete its coffers and limit the exposure the drugmaker faced over its deceptive marketing of OxyContin.
A number of other trustees who give regularly, such as Beth Brinkmann of Covington & Burling, served as Supreme Court clerks. Ms. Brinkmann joined the society’s board in 2006, and she was featured in the society’s newsletter in 2021 for giving at the patron level. Also in 2021, she represented power companies in the Supreme Court case West Virginia v. E.P.A., which limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate power plant emissions.
In 2013, the general counsels of Facebook and Time Warner were invited to attend the gala at the Plaza Hotel in New York. There, under a projected image of the Constitution, they were given the society’s first “Amicus Curiae Awards,” according to a society newsletter. That year, Facebook and Time Warner, through its various entities, donated at least a combined $50,000. This year, Kathryn Ruemmler, the general counsel of Goldman Sachs, received the award (as shown below in a promo for the event); Goldman Sachs, which had recently secured a Supreme Court victory making it harder for shareholders to mount class-action suits alleging securities fraud, donated $25,000.
Victims in Idaho college murders. The Victims: Ethan Chapin, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle and Kaylee Goncalves were found dead on Nov. 13, 2022.
Washington Post, Suspect in killings of Idaho students expects to be ‘exonerated,’ lawyer says, Justine McDaniel, Jan. 1, 2023. The man charged with killing four University of Idaho students plans to allow himself to be extradited to Idaho from Pennsylvania to face the accusations, the public defender representing him said Saturday.
After being arrested in Pennsylvania, Bryan Kohberger, 28, right, plans to waive his right to an extradition hearing in court on Tuesday, public defender Jason LaBar of Monroe County, Pa., told The Washington Post. If he follows through, it will speed up his removal to Idaho and accelerate the release of information that police say implicates him in the case.
“He’s willing to waive because he’s looking forward to being exonerated. Those were his words,” LaBar said by phone Saturday, about an hour after speaking to Kohberger. “Whether that means he’s innocent or not, it’s implicit in saying he wants to be exonerated that he’s innocent. He didn’t use the word ‘innocent.’”
The arrest of Kohberger, a Washington State University doctoral student, was announced Friday. He is being held in jail in northeastern Pennsylvania, where he is from.
In a case marked by weeks of uncertainty, Kohberger’s location outside Idaho prolongs the public’s wait for information. Though he has been arrested, no details of authorities’ case against him have been made public because Idaho state law prevents the release of the affidavit of probable cause until Kohberger has appeared in court there, local authorities have said.
Washington Post, ‘You’re a slave’: Inside Louisiana’s forced prison labor and a failed overhaul attempt, Cara McGoogan, Jan. 1, 2023. In recent years there has been a growing movement to prevent forced labor in prisons for little or no pay. But in a state that has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, the debate is unsettled.
Breakfast at Louisiana’s state Capitol includes fresh coffee, cookies and egg sandwiches — made and served in part by incarcerated people working for no pay.
“They force us to work,” said Jonathan Archille, 29, who is among more than a dozen current and formerly incarcerated people in Louisiana who told The Washington Post they have felt like enslaved people in the state’s prison system.
Archille said prison staff had even used that term against him. “You’re a slave — that’s what they tell us,” he said. A spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Public Safety & Corrections, Ken Pastorick, said it “does not tolerate” such language and is looking into the allegation.
In the 2022 midterm elections, voters in four states approved changes to their constitutions to remove language enabling involuntary servitude as a punishment for crime — part of a larger push for change that many say is long overdue. But in Louisiana, a ballot measure that was conceived with the same goal in mind was rejected by a nearly 22-point margin.
Some observers and proponents of the Louisiana amendment attributed the result to the convoluted wording of the ballot question, which was changed to appease Republican lawmakers. Others said the measure wouldn’t have passed in its original form because the state was not ready to upend labor practices in its prisons.
“The drafting of our language didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to,” said state Rep. Edmond Jordan, a Democrat who sponsored the bill to change Louisiana’s constitution before later urging people to vote against the ballot measure that would have ratified it.
The amendments that passed in other states aren’t expected to lead to immediate, dramatic changes, which would require further legislation or legal challenges, and it’s unclear what would have happened had the more muddled Louisiana measure won approval. But the result is an unsettled debate in a state that has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country — and one that encapsulates broader themes such as race, criminal justice and the history of a country where slavery was once legal, all of which are at the center of the endeavor to revise other laws and regulations across the country.
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New York Times, In Bucha, a Final Rampage Served as a Coda to a Month of Atrocities, Carlotta Gall and Oleksandr Chubko, Dec. 31, 2022. Hours before Russian troops began withdrawing from the suburban Ukrainian town, a Russian soldier left a trail of blood in a last paroxysm of violence.
On one of the last nights of the Russian occupation of Bucha, a lone Russian soldier, drunk or high, went out looking for wine. He forced a 75-year-old resident at gunpoint along the street and made him bang on the doors of private homes.
What unfolded thereafter was a night of horror for two families that stands as a coda to a month of senseless killings by Russian troops in Bucha, a suburb of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv. The Russian soldier left a trail of blood and devastated lives in a last paroxysm of violence only hours before Russian troops began withdrawing. His own unit fetched him in the morning, disposed of the bodies, and within hours, it was gone.
Nine months after those events, the dead have mostly been recovered and laid to rest, and people have picked up their lives and returned to work. But the grief of family members remains raw, and the pain inflicted on this small section of one neighborhood by this Russian soldier and his comrades still ripples through the Bucha community.
The soldier’s rampage was not an isolated event. Nine soldiers from a unit based in the same wooded neighborhood have been charged in one of the first war crimes cases to reach court in Ukraine. The case centers on their cruel treatment of a civilian, an electrical engineer who was repeatedly detained and beaten in the last days of March.
The engineer, Serhiy Kybka, is losing his sight from injuries suffered in another severe beating he received later, by a Russian soldier who encountered him on the street after his release.
More than 450 people died in Bucha in one month, which was roughly 10 percent of the remaining population, a level that war crimes investigators say could amount to the crime of genocide.
Fifteen of those people died in an area of only a few blocks around Antoniya Mykhailovskoho Street, where the intoxicated soldier went on his rampage. They included six members of a seniors’ home who died from cold and lack of medicines, and an 81-year-old woman found hanging in her garden.
Like their neighbors, the two men — who, according to the mayor of Bucha, neighbors and family members, died at the hands of the lone soldier — were victims of an undisciplined and brutal occupying army.
New York Times, Russian Airstrikes Leave Ukrainians Few Options but to Endure, Andrew E. Kramer, Jan. 1, 2023. Ten months into the war, Ukraine has turned the tide in ground combat, but its cities are still facing relentless bombing.
Fed up with huddling for safety in their corridors and bathrooms during Russia’s aerial attacks, residents of one neighborhood in Kyiv took a different approach in the first moments of New Year’s Day.
Despite the risks, dozens of people in a district of high-rise apartment blocks went out onto their balconies and sang the Ukrainian national anthem just after midnight.
A bit off-key and raucous, with some voices sounding drunken, they recorded themselves in videos as a swarm of exploding drones buzzed over the capital in an attack that followed a missile barrage earlier on New Year’s Eve, killing at least one person and injuring more than 20. Others posted memes and exchanged jokes.
Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, labeled Russia a terrorist state. Air defenses fired through the night. A new system of searchlights, intended to spot nocturnal drones, swept Kyiv’s sky. Air-raid alerts sounded and booms echoed through the city’s streets. Still, in one central area of the capital, some New Year’s parties could be heard continuing even after the blasts.
New York Times, Explosions Shake Kyiv as Ukrainians Prepare for the New Year, Andrew E. Kramer, Jan. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine had warned that Russia might launch another wave of attacks before the end of the year. Russia rained missiles and exploding drones on Ukraine’s capital and other cities on Saturday in a deadly New Year’s Eve assault, punctuating President Vladimir V. Putin’s stated resolve in a speech to continue a war he called a “sacred duty to our ancestors and descendants.”
The aerial bombardments killed at least one person and partly destroyed a hotel in the capital, Kyiv, inflicted damage elsewhere and forced Ukraine’s war-ravaged electric utilities to pre-emptively shut off power.
“There are explosions in Kyiv!” Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, wrote on the Telegram messaging app. “Stay in shelters!”
Air defense shot down 12 of at least 20 cruise missiles launched by Russia on Saturday afternoon, the top Ukrainian military commander, Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, said on Telegram. The missiles had been launched from Russian strategic bombers over the Caspian Sea and from land-based launchers, he said.
For three months, Russia has launched volleys of cruise missiles and drones at Ukraine’s energy grid, in what military analysts say is a strategy of plunging the country into cold and darkness to lower morale.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine had warned on Thursday that the Russian military might launch another wave of missile attacks before the year-end celebrations. Moscow fired a large volley this past week disrupting electrical power in Kyiv and in other cities.
In a videotaped message on Saturday, Mr. Zelensky called the Russian strikes on New Year’s Eve “inhuman.”
“A terrorist state will not be forgiven,” Mr. Zelensky said. “And those who give orders for such strikes, and those who carry them out, will not receive a pardon. To put it mildly.”
Here’s what we know:
- The aerial bombardments killed at least one person and partly destroyed a hotel in the capital, Kyiv. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia vowed to continue the war, calling it a “sacred duty.”
- At least one person is dead in Kyiv, with damage reported in other cities.
- After repeated setbacks, Putin uses a speech to try to rally his countrymen.
- Zelensky, a passionate speaker, will address the country in a New Year’s Eve speech.
- Zelensky’s New Year’s Eve addresses have a strong following among Ukrainians.
- Germany’s chancellor says 2022 was a year of war, but also one of unity.
- Ukraine at war: 2022 in photos.
- In a battered Ukrainian city, workers are battling winter, not the Russians.
- Critics say a new media law signed by Zelensky could restrict press freedom in Ukraine.
New York Times, Clergymen or Spies? Churches Become Tools of War in Ukraine, Andrew E. Kramer, Jan. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Ukrainian officials are cracking down on a branch of the Russian Orthodox Church that they describe as a subversive force doing the Kremlin’s bidding.
Andriy Pavlenko, an Orthodox church abbot in eastern Ukraine, seemed to be on a selfless spiritual mission. When war came, he remained with his flock and even visited a hospital to pray with wounded soldiers.
But in fact, according to court records, Mr. Pavlenko was working actively to kill Ukrainian soldiers and Ukrainian activists, including a priest from a rival Orthodox church in his city, Sievierodonetsk.
“In the north, there are about 500 of them, with a mortar platoon, five armored personnel carriers and three tanks,” Mr. Pavlenko wrote to a Russian officer in March, as the Russian Army was hammering Sievierodonetsk and areas around it with artillery.
“He needs to be killed,” he wrote of the rival priest, according to evidence introduced at his trial in a Ukrainian court, showing he had sent lists to the Russian Army of people to round up once the city was occupied. Mr. Pavlenko was convicted as a spy this month and then traded with Russia in a prisoner exchange.
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Global News, Human Rights, Disasters
Washington Post, Security on high alert for Lula’s inauguration in tense Brazil, Gabriela Sá Pessoa and Samantha Schmidt, Jan. 1, 2023. Hundreds of thousands are expected to descend on Brazil’s capital Sunday to celebrate the inauguration of President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the stalwart of the Latin American left returning to the office he held more than a decade ago.
But the carnival-like party on New Year’s Day comes against a tense backdrop, as supporters of outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro remain camped outside army barracks here and across the country, calling for a military overthrow of the incoming government to keep their candidate in office.
The threat of potential violence not far from the Planalto Palace, where Lula will be sworn in for a third term as president of Latin America’s most populous country, is a stark reminder of the division in the country he is now tasked with governing.
Lula, 77, won the presidency in October in the closest presidential election in Brazilian history, three years after being freed from prison on corruption charges that were later dropped. After a bitterly fought race marred by misinformation and disinformation, he will now be expected to unite the nation while keeping campaign promises to rebuild the economy, tackle police brutality and protect the Amazon. Brazil’s fiscal holes will limit his ability to address poverty and hunger.
Lula won Brazil’s closest-ever election. That was the easy part.
As he takes office Sunday, one key person is expected to be missing. Bolsonaro flew to Florida on Friday with apparent plans to skip the traditional handover of the presidential sash to his successor, a symbolic reaffirmation of Brazil’s young democracy.
Washington Post, Teary Bolsonaro calls loss unfair, condemns violence, flies to Florida, Gabriela Sá Pessoa, Dec. 31, 2022 (print ed.). Two days before leaving office, ending a tumultuous four years as the race-baiting, Amazon-developing, coronavirus-downplaying, vaccine-skeptical leader of Latin America’s largest country, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, right, remained defiant in a teary farewell address on Friday, defending his record and saying the election that led to his ouster was not impartial, but condemning violence against the result.
Then he flew to Florida, Brazilian media reported, where in the past he has met with former president Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago. He apparently planned to skip the inauguration of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Sunday, when the outgoing leader traditionally presents the presidential sash to his successor, a ceremony intended to reaffirm the country’s young democracy.
Bolsonaro’s remarks, live-streamed for nearly an hour Friday morning, were his most extensive since he lost the election in October. He still has not conceded the race, but acknowledged that a new administration would take over on Sunday.
“Nothing is lost,” he told supporters. “Brazil is a fantastic country, and Brazil doesn’t end on January first.”
Lula won Brazil’s closest-ever election. That was the easy part.
On Saturday, police said they defused a bomb planted by a Bolsonaro supporter in a tanker truck full of gas near the international airport in Brasília. They said the suspect told investigators his plan was to provoke chaos to draw military intervention.
Bolsonaro asked supporters last month not to block highways, but said the gatherings outside army installations were legitimate protests. On Friday, he condemned violent demonstrations — and lamented that the Brazilian media had connected the bomb suspect to him.
“Nothing justifies this attempted terrorist act here in Brasília airport,” Bolsonaro said. “[Have] Intelligence. Let’s show we are different from the other side, that we respect the norms and the Constitution.”
His actions might sound familiar to Americans. Trump, a Bolsonaro ally, blamed his 2020 reelection loss on unfounded claims of fraud, declined to concede, urged his supporters to protest the result and skipped the inauguration of President Biden.
Bolsonaro said it had been difficult to stay mostly silent for two months, but refrained from speaking because anything he said “could make things more tumultuous.”
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More On Pope’s Passing and Potential Church Transitions
The ailing retired Pope Benedict, left, is greeted by Pope Francis in 2020 (Photo by Vatican Media via Vatican Media, via Agence France-Presse and Getty Images).
Associated Press via Politico, Benedict XVI, first pope to resign in 600 years, dies at 95, Staff Report, Dec. 31, 2022. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the shy German theologian who tried to reawaken Christianity in a secularized Europe but will forever be remembered as the first pontiff in 600 years to resign from the job, died Saturday. He was 95.
Pope Francis will celebrate his funeral Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Thursday, an unprecedented event in which a current pope will celebrate the funeral of a former one.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, right, the shy German theologian who tried to reawaken Christianity in a secularized Europe but will forever be remembered as the first pontiff in 600 years to resign from the job, died Saturday. He was 95.
Pope Francis will celebrate his funeral Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Thursday, an unprecedented event in which a current pope will celebrate the funeral of a former one.
Benedict stunned the world on Feb. 11, 2013, when he announced, in his typical, soft-spoken Latin, that he no longer had the strength to run the 1.2 billion-strong Catholic Church that he had steered for eight years through scandal and indifference.
His dramatic decision paved the way for the conclave that elected Francis as his successor. The two popes then lived side-by-side in the Vatican gardens, an unprecedented arrangement that set the stage for future “popes emeritus” to do the same.
A statement from Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni on Saturday morning said that: “With sorrow I inform you that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI died today at 9:34 in the Mater Ecclesia Monastery in the Vatican. Further information will be released as soon as possible.”
The Vatican said Benedict’s remains would be on public display in St. Peter’s Basilica starting Monday for the faithful to pay their final respects. Benedict’s request was that his funeral would be celebrated solemnly but with “simplicity,” Bruni told reporters.
Washington Post, Opinion: Benedict was America’s pope, David Von Drehle, right, Jan. 1, 2023. For more than a century, from the time when Ireland’s potato crop failed and starvation sped a great migration of Irish to the United States, nativists feared the influence of Roman Catholicism over American life.
Pope John XXIII’s historic decision to call the Second Vatican Council to begin gathering in 1962 was, in many senses, a recognition that the Catholic Church must engage with the free and individualistic world that the postwar United States was making.
Two priests who served as theological experts at Vatican II would go on to alter that dynamic and to bring Roman Catholicism to a place of prominence in American life unmatched throughout our history. One, from Poland, was Karol Wojtyla, then an auxiliary bishop of Krakow, now Pope Saint John Paul II. The other, a brilliant young professor from the University of Bonn, was Joseph Ratzinger, who would serve John Paul II as chief keeper of the faith and succeed him as Pope Benedict XVI.
With Benedict’s death at 95 on Saturday in Rome, the shared work of these two men can be read in American Catholicism’s dramatic shift toward the cultural right. From John Paul’s election to the papacy in 1978 to Benedict’s unusual resignation from office in 2013, every bishop consecrated in the United States (and worldwide) was approved by one of these two, and every professor licensed to teach Catholic theology according to church doctrine was subject to their potential review.
Their view of Vatican II was not the one that prevailed in the United States immediately after the council adjourned in 1965. Most observers expected that engagement with the modern world would liberalize Catholicism and lead quickly to new policies on birth control, abortion, marriage for priests and so on.
John Paul’s strong anti-communist activism in Poland, along with his movie-star looks and approachable smile, led many Americans to mistakenly believe he would align the church with modern Western culture. But they had not read his theological work, especially the series of meditations that elevated him to eminence in Rome and were published as “A Sign of Contradiction.”
Written for a 1976 retreat called by Pope Paul VI for the Roman Curia, these essays explained John Paul’s view that post-Vatican II engagement with modernity was not meant to change the church so much as it was meant to change the modern world. Catholicism would stand in contradiction to liberal trends in society, offering its unchanging doctrines as an alternative to a world evolving for the worse.
John Paul took his smile on the road, traveling the globe as no pontiff had ever done before. He appointed Ratzinger, then an archbishop and cardinal, prefect of the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — the old Inquisition — and there he served as the hammer within the velvet glove, purging liberal theologians, clipping the wings of left-leaning bishops and elevating cultural conservatives to positions of power.
Their work continued after John Paul’s death in 2005 as Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI and kept up the countercultural momentum. Storms of scandal over priestly sex abuse prompted some thinkers to ask if the ideal of celibate male leaders in the church had fostered a culture of lies. But for Benedict and his like-minded churchmen, modern promiscuity was to blame. Their solution: tighter screening of seminarians for mental health and orthodox commitment.
The defining engagement in American politics has been over the issue of abortion. As John Paul’s hammer, Ratzinger taught that “not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion.” Under his influence, opposition to abortion became a defining aspect of Catholic identity here: Catholic schools bus students to protest rallies. Catholic hospitals refuse to offer certain medical procedures. Catholic churches raise money to fund antiabortion campaigns.
On June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court contradicted nearly 50 years of its own jurisprudence by holding that the Constitution does not protect a woman’s right to choose an abortion. Five of the six justices who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade are conservative Roman Catholics. (The sixth was a graduate student under a leading expert in Catholic legal philosophy.)
Catholic leaders hailed the decision — which might never have happened without the ministry of Pope Benedict XVI.
New York Times, Pope Benedict XVI Dies, Live Updates: Benedict Will Be Buried at St. Peter’s Basilica, Jason Horowitz and Elisabetta Povoledo, Jan. 1, 2023. Pope Benedict XVI, the eminent German theologian and conservative enforcer of Roman Catholic Church doctrine who broke with almost 600 years of tradition by resigning and then living for nearly a decade behind Vatican walls as a retired pope, died on Saturday at age 95, the Vatican said.
A pope’s death customarily sets in motion a conclave to choose a new leader of the church. But Benedict’s successor, Pope Francis, was named when Benedict stepped down in 2013.
Now, a sitting pope is expected to preside over the funeral of his predecessor — an extraordinary spectacle in the history of the church. The Vatican said on Saturday that Benedict’s funeral would be held on Thursday in St. Peter’s Square, with Francis presiding.
As is traditional, Benedict’s body will be laid in St. Peter’s Basilica on Monday so that the faithful can file by to pay their respects.
He was a pope who always drew ardent loyalists, as well as strong detractors.
Even before his election as pope on April 19, 2005, church conservatives saw him as their intellectual and spiritual north star, a leader who, as a powerful Vatican official, upheld church doctrine in the face of growing secularism and pressure to change to get more people into the pews.
Benedict’s critics are more likely to remember him as a crusher of dissent who did far too little to address sexual abuse in the church, stumbled in some of his public declarations and lacked the charisma of his predecessor, John Paul II.
Francis fired or demoted many of Benedict’s appointees, redirected the church’s priorities and adjusted its emphasis from setting and keeping boundaries to pastoral inclusivity.
Still, in some regards, Francis has built on Benedict’s legacy, especially in addressing the child sexual abuse crisis. Benedict was the first pope to meet with victims, and he apologized for the abuse that was allowed to fester under John Paul II. He excoriated the “filth” in the church and excommunicated some offending priests.
But abuse survivors and their advocates accused Benedict of not going far enough in punishing several priests as a bishop in Germany, and in his handling of accusations against some priests as head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office. He was also criticized as doing little to hold the hierarchy accountable for shielding — and so facilitating — child sexual abuse.
Washington Post, Which papal funeral traditions apply to a former pope? Stefano Pitrelli, Kelsey Ables and Sammy Westfall, Jan. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Benedict XVI broke with tradition when he became the first pope in six centuries to abdicate. His death at 95, announced by the Vatican on Saturday, has raised questions about which papal funeral traditions may apply to an ex-pope.
Already, one difference emerged, in that the bells at St. Peter were not specifically tolled for Benedict’s death, something that would only happen for the death of a siting pope, a Vatican spokesman said.
For sure some other customs aren’t relevant. There’s no need to destroy the Fisherman’s Ring that doubles as a papal seal — his customized ring was already slashed to make it unusable when he stepped down in 2013. And the mourning period won’t be followed by the drama of a conclave to select his successor. That’s already happened, too.
More On Trump, Insurrectionists, Allies
Politico, Trump taxes show foreign income from more than a dozen countries, Bernie Becker and Benjamin Guggenheim, Dec. 30, 2022. While Trump surrendered day-to-day control of his business empire, he kept ownership.
Donald Trump’s tax returns show the former president received income from more than a dozen countries during his time in office, highlighting a string of potential conflicts of interest.
Trump’s returns, which were made public by House Democrats on Friday after a lengthy legal fight, disclosed income from 2015 to 2020 from a wide range of foreign countries, including Canada, Panama, the Caribbean island of Saint Martin, the Philippines, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom, among others.
While the documents did not provide details on the money flows, Trump owns golf courses in Scotland and Ireland, and his name has adorned luxury hotels from Panama to Canada.
The former president was known for fusing his business interests with America’s highest public office, drawing allegations of using his role to promote his private resorts, direct federal money to his hotels and encourage foreign governments to spend money that would directly benefit the Trump family interests.
His far-flung concerns, foreign and domestic, are nested in more than 400 separate business entities. A 2019 report by the watchdog group OpenSecrets said he had more than $130 million in assets in more than 30 countries.
The six years of tax returns disclosed Friday show that Trump received extensive income from Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom — including gross business income of at least $35.3 million from Canada in 2017, the year he entered office.
That year, Trump also brought in $6.5 million from China, $5.8 million from Indonesia and $5.7 million from India.
By 2020, his last full year in office, Trump reported $8.8 million in income from the U.K. and another $3.9 million in Ireland.
It’s not a surprise that Trump continued to receive money from foreign interests while he was president, since he kept ownership of the company.
New York Times, These are the key numbers from Donald Trump’s tax returns, Charlie Smart, Dec. 21, 2022. New figures in a report by the House Ways and Means Committee showed that Donald J. Trump paid $1.1 million in federal income taxes in his first three years as president, and that he paid no taxes in 2020 as his income began to dwindle.
Mr. Trump’s fortunes changed during his presidency, according to the figures in the report, which include details on the former president’s tax returns from 2015 to 2020. In the two years before he became president, Mr. Trump suffered heavy business losses, the records showed. In his first three years as president, he had an adjusted gross income of $15.8 million.
Mr. Trump’s tax bills, after deductions, were based on his income when it was above zero, as well as the alternative minimum tax in four of the six years. The A.M.T. limits deductions that would have otherwise helped to erase his tax burden. He reduced his resulting tax bills with a mix of tax credits that included incentives and givebacks to business owners.
New York Times, Investigation: From 2020: We obtained years of Donald Trump’s tax information. It showed tax avoidance and chronic losses, Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig and Mike McIntire, Sept. 27, 2020. The Times obtained Donald Trump’s tax information extending over more than two decades, revealing struggling properties, vast write-offs, an audit battle and hundreds of millions in debt coming due.
Donald J. Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency. In his first year in the White House, he paid another $750.
He had paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years — largely because he reported losing much more money than he made.
As the president wages a re-election campaign that polls say he is in danger of losing, his finances are under stress, beset by losses and hundreds of millions of dollars in debt coming due that he has personally guaranteed. Also hanging over him is a decade-long audit battle with the Internal Revenue Service over the legitimacy of a $72.9 million tax refund that he claimed, and received, after declaring huge losses. An adverse ruling could cost him more than $100 million.
The tax returns that Mr. Trump has long fought to keep private tell a story fundamentally different from the one he has sold to the American public. His reports to the I.R.S. portray a businessman who takes in hundreds of millions of dollars a year yet racks up chronic losses that he aggressively employs to avoid paying taxes. Now, with his financial challenges mounting, the records show that he depends more and more on making money from businesses that put him in potential and often direct conflict of interest with his job as president.
The New York Times has obtained tax-return data extending over more than two decades for Mr. Trump and the hundreds of companies that make up his business organization, including detailed information from his first two years in office. It does not include his personal returns for 2018 or 2019. This article offers an overview of The Times’s findings; additional articles will be published in the coming weeks.
The returns are some of the most sought-after, and speculated-about, records in recent memory. In Mr. Trump’s nearly four years in office — and across his endlessly hyped decades in the public eye — journalists, prosecutors, opposition politicians and conspiracists have, with limited success, sought to excavate the enigmas of his finances. By their very nature, the filings will leave many questions unanswered, many questioners unfulfilled. They comprise information that Mr. Trump has disclosed to the I.R.S., not the findings of an independent financial examination. They report that Mr. Trump owns hundreds of millions of dollars in valuable assets, but they do not reveal his true wealth. Nor do they reveal any previously unreported connections to Russia.
Recent Revelant Headlines
- New York Times, Investigation: From 2020: We obtained years of Donald Trump’s tax information. It showed tax avoidance and chronic losses, Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig and Mike McIntire
- New York Times, Jan. 6 Transcripts Detail Failures in Surveillance and Response
- Washington Post, House panel releases Trump tax returns in another setback for former president
- New York Times, Analysis: Trump’s Tax Returns Were Released to the Public. Here’s What They Reveal, Jim Tankersley, Susanne Craig and Russ Buettner
- Washington Post, D.C. mayor: Feds failed on Jan. 6 by thinking far-right was ‘friendly,’ Rachel Weiner and Peter Hermann
- New York Times, Republicans Step Up Attacks on F.B.I. as It Investigates Trump
- Meidas Touch Network, Federal Judge Slams Trump’s Unlawful Commands in New Order, Ben Meiselas
- Washington Post, GOP language seeks to obscure role of far right in domestic terrorism
- Just Security, January 6 Clearinghouse Congressional Hearings, Government Documents, Court Cases, Academic Research, Ryan Goodman and Justin Hendrix
- Washington Post, Architect of Mich. governor kidnap plot sentenced to more than 19 years in prison
- Associated Press via Politico, Co-leader of Whitmer kidnapping plot gets 16 years in prison
Public Health, Pandemics, Abortion
New York Times, Their Mothers Were Teenagers. They Didn’t Want That for Themselves, Jason DeParle, Jan. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Teen pregnancies have plummeted, as has child poverty. The result is a profound change in the forces that bring opportunity between generations.
Brittnee Marsaw was born to a 15-year-old mother in St. Louis and raised by a grandmother who had given birth even younger. Half grown by the time her mother could support her, Ms. Marsaw joined her three states away but never found the bond she sought and calls the teen births of preceding generations “the family curse.”
Ana Alvarez was born in Guatemala to a teenage mother so poor and besieged that she gave her young daughter to a stranger, only to snatch her back. Soon her mother left to seek work in the United States, and after years of futilely awaiting her return Ms. Alvarez made the same risky trip, becoming an undocumented teenager in Washington, D.C., to reunite with the mother she scarcely knew.
While their experiences diverge, Ms. Marsaw and Ms. Alvarez share a telling trait. Stung by the struggles of their teenage mothers, both made unusually self-conscious vows not to become teen mothers themselves. And both say that delaying motherhood gave them — and now their children — a greater chance of success.
New York Times, Congressional Inquiry Into Alzheimer’s Drug Faults Its Maker and F.D.A., Pam Belluck, Dec. 30, 2022 (print ed.). The Food and Drug Administration’s process for approving the Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm, despite great uncertainty about whether it worked, was “rife with irregularities,” according to a congressional investigation released on Thursday. The agency’s actions “raise serious concerns about F.D.A.’s lapses in protocol,” the report concluded.
The 18-month investigation, initiated by two congressional committees after the F.D.A. approved the drug, also strongly criticized Biogen, Aduhelm’s manufacturer. Internal documents showed the company set “an unjustifiably high price” of $56,000 a year for Aduhelm because it wanted a history-making “blockbuster” to “establish Aduhelm as one of the top pharmaceutical launches of all time,” even though it knew the high price would burden Medicare and patients, the report found.
The investigation said Biogen was prepared to spend up to several billion dollars — more than two-and-a-half times what it spent developing the drug — on aggressive marketing to counter expected “pushback” over whether Aduhelm was worth its price. The report said the campaign planned to target doctors, patients, advocacy groups, insurers, policymakers and communities of color, who were drastically underrepresented in its clinical trials of the drug.
The F.D.A. is now evaluating two other Alzheimer’s drugs for possible approval early next year, including one that Biogen helped develop. The congressional report said the agency “must take swift action to ensure that its processes for reviewing future Alzheimer’s disease treatments do not lead to the same doubts about the integrity of F.D.A.’s review.”
The report said the F.D.A.’s approval process for Aduhelm was “rife with irregularities” and criticized Biogen for setting an “unjustifiably high price.”
New York Times, As Covid-19 Continues to Spread, So Does Misinformation About It, Tiffany Hsu, Dec. 29, 2022 (print ed.). Doctors are exasperated by the persistence of false and misleading claims about the virus.
Nearly three years into the pandemic, Covid-19 remains stubbornly persistent. So, too, does misinformation about the virus.
As Covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths rise in parts of the country, myths and misleading narratives continue to evolve and spread, exasperating overburdened doctors and evading content moderators.
What began in 2020 as rumors that cast doubt on the existence or seriousness of Covid quickly evolved into often outlandish claims about dangerous technology lurking in masks and the supposed miracle cures from unproven drugs, like ivermectin. Last year’s vaccine rollout fueled another wave of unfounded alarm. Now, in addition to all the claims still being bandied about, there are conspiracy theories about the long-term effects of the treatments, researchers say.
The ideas still thrive on social media platforms, and the constant barrage, now a yearslong accumulation, has made it increasingly difficult for accurate advice to break through, misinformation researchers say. That leaves people already suffering from pandemic fatigue to become further inured to Covid’s continuing dangers and susceptible to other harmful medical content.
“It’s easy to forget that health misinformation, including about Covid, can still contribute to people not getting vaccinated or creating stigmas,” said Megan Marrelli, the editorial director of Meedan, a nonprofit focused on digital literacy and information access. “We know for a fact that health misinformation contributes to the spread of real-world disease.”
Twitter is of particular concern for researchers. The company recently gutted the teams responsible for keeping dangerous or inaccurate material in check on the platform, stopped enforcing its Covid misinformation policy and began basing some content moderation decisions on public polls posted by its new owner and chief executive, the billionaire Elon Musk.
From Nov. 1 to Dec. 5, Australian researchers collected more than half a million conspiratorial and misleading English-language tweets about Covid, using terms such as “deep state,” “hoax” and “bioweapon.” The tweets drew more than 1.6 million likes and 580,000 retweets.
The researchers said the volume of toxic material surged late last month with the release of a film that included baseless claims that Covid vaccines set off “the greatest orchestrated die-off in the history of the world.”
Naomi Smith, a sociologist at Federation University Australia who helped conduct the research with Timothy Graham, a digital media expert at Queensland University of Technology, said Twitter’s misinformation policies helped tamp down anti-vaccination content that had been common on the platform in 2015 and 2016. From January 2020 to September 2022, Twitter suspended more than 11,000 accounts over violations of its Covid misinformation policy.
Now, Dr. Smith said, the protective barriers are “falling over in real time, which is both interesting as an academic and absolutely terrifying.”
Several prominent Twitter accounts that had been suspended for spreading unfounded claims about Covid have were reinstated in recent weeks, including those of Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican, and Robert Malone, a vaccine skeptic.
Mr. Musk himself has used Twitter to weigh in on the pandemic, predicting in March 2020 that the United States was likely to have “close to zero new cases” by the end of that April. (More than 100,000 positive tests were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the last week of the month.) This month, he took aim at Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, who will soon step down as President Biden’s top medical adviser and the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Mr. Musk said Dr. Fauci should be prosecuted.
Twitter did not respond to a request for comment. Other major social platforms, including TikTok and YouTube, said last week that they remained committed to combating Covid misinformation.
YouTube prohibits content — including videos, comments and links — about vaccines and Covid-19 that contradicts recommendations from the local health authorities or the World Health Organization. Facebook’s policy on Covid-19 content is more than 4,500 words long. TikTok said it had removed more than 250,000 videos for Covid misinformation and worked with part
Recent Relevant Headlines
- New York Times, ‘Tragic Battle’: On the Front Lines of China’s Covid Crisis
- New York Times, China will soon no longer require incoming travelers to quarantine, a significant step toward reopening
- New York Times, Americans Still Masking Against Covid Find Themselves Isolated
- New York Times, The F.D.A. Now Says It Plainly: Morning-After Pills Are Not Abortion Pills
- New York Times, Covid Is Spreading Rapidly in China, New Signs Suggest
- New York Times, ‘Tripledemic’ Rages On: Fever-Filled Weeks Lie Ahead
- New York Times, Opinion: China’s Future Isn’t What It Used to Be, Paul Krugman
Weather, Climate, Disasters, Energy
New York Times, A Stinky Stew on Cape Cod: Human Waste and Warming Water, Christopher Flavelle, Photographs by Sophie Park, Jan. 1, 2023. Climate change is contributing to electric-green algae blooms. A cleanup of the antiquated septic systems feeding the mess could cost billions.
The algal explosion is fueled by warming waters, combined with rising levels of nitrogen that come from the antiquated septic systems that most of the Cape still uses. A population boom over the past half-century has meant more human waste flushed into toilets, which finds its way into waterways.
More waste also means more phosphorus entering the Cape’s freshwater ponds, where it feeds cyanobacteria, a type of algae that can cause vomiting, diarrhea and liver damage, among other health effects. It can also kill pets.
The result: Expanding aquatic dead zones and shrinking shellfish harvests. The collapse of vegetation like eelgrass, a buffer against worsening storms. In the ponds, water too dangerous to touch. And a smell that Ms. Fisher characterizes, charitably, as “earthy.”
Together, the changes threaten the natural features that define Cape Cod and have made it a cherished destination for generations.
Washington Post, EPA broadens protections for waterways, reversing Trump, Scott Dance, Jan. 1, 2023 (print ed.). The decision — a setback for various industries — broadens which wetlands, streams and rivers can be regulated under the Clean Water Act but stops short of a controversial Obama-era rule.
The Biden administration on Friday imposed a rule expanding the definition of waterways that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has authority to regulate, a move that reverses a Trump-era change and seeks to overcome nearly a decade of challenges to EPA powers, including a pending Supreme Court case.
The EPA said its rule strikes a balance it hoped would protect waterways as well as commerce, returning its Waters of the United States regulatory framework to something resembling its state before it became a focus of political debate in 2015. That year, the Obama administration significantly and controversially widened the scope of the Clean Water Act to cover even ephemeral streams and ponds; Trump dramatically weakened EPA’s water pollution authority with a 2019 rule of his own.
In broadening EPA’s powers once again, Administrator Michael Regan said the agency aimed “to deliver a durable definition of WOTUS that safeguards our nation’s waters, strengthens economic opportunity, and protects people’s health while providing greater certainty for farmers, ranchers, and landowners.”
New York Times, Special Report: The U.S. Will Need Thousands of Wind Farms. Will Small Towns Go Along? David Gelles, Jan. 1, 2022 (print ed.). In the fight against climate change, national goals are facing local resistance. One county scheduled 19 nights of meetings to debate one wind farm.
Depressed property values. Flickering shadows. Falling ice. One by one, a real estate appraiser rattled off what he said were the deleterious effects of wind farms as a crowd in an agricultural community in central Illinois hung on his every word.
It was the tenth night of hearings by the Piatt County zoning board, as a tiny town debated the merits of a proposed industrial wind farm that would see dozens of enormous turbines rise from the nearby soybean and corn fields. There were nine more hearings scheduled.
“It’s painful,” said Kayla Gallagher, a cattle farmer who lives nearby and is opposed to the project. “Nobody wants to be here.”
In the fight against global warming, the federal government is pumping a record $370 billion into clean energy, President Biden wants the nation’s electricity to be 100 percent carbon-free by 2035, and many states and utilities plan to ramp up wind and solar power.
But while policymakers may set lofty goals, the future of the American power grid is in fact being determined in town halls, county courthouses and community buildings across the country.
The only way Mr. Biden’s ambitious goals will be met is if rural communities, which have large tracts of land necessary for commercial wind and solar farms, can be persuaded to embrace renewable energy projects. Lots of them.
According to an analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the United States would need to construct more than 6,000 projects like the Monticello one in order to run the economy on solar, wind, nuclear or other forms of nonpolluting energy.
In Piatt County, population 16,000, the project at issue is Goose Creek Wind, which has been proposed by Apex Clean Energy, a developer of wind and solar farms based in Virginia. Apex spent years negotiating leases with 151 local landowners and trying to win over the community, donating to the 4-H Club and a mental health center.
Now, it was making its case to the zoning board, which will send a recommendation to the county board that will make a final call on whether Apex can proceed. If completed, the turbines, each of them 610 feet tall, would march across 34,000 acres of farmland.
Recent Relevant Headlines
- New York Times, In a Bad Year for Stocks, Tesla Plunged 65 Percent
- Washington Post, Hundreds of freezing bats fell to the ground. She took them home to warm them
- New York Times, Opinion: Learning From the Southwest Airlines Fiasco, Paul Krugman
- Washington Post, Buffalo blizzard fuels racial and class divides in polarized city
- Washington Post, Bad timing, a lack of planning led to devastating fallout in Buffalo storm
- Legal Schnauzer, Matrix LLC paid ABC News “producer” to pepper pro-environment political candidates with deceptive questions in an effort to boost its clients who pollute (Part 1), Roger Shuler
- Legal Schnauzer, Journalistic chicanery, sexual entanglements, and curious cash flow form a strange brew for big-polluting clients represented by Alabama-based Matrix LLC (Part 2), Roger Shuler
- Washington Post, As climate change threats grow, textbooks aren’t keeping up, study says
- Washington Post, Postal Service will electrify truck fleet by 2026 in climate win for Biden
U.S. High Tech, Education, Media, Culture
New York Times, Barbara Walters, a First Among TV Newswomen, Is Dead at 93, Alessandra Stanley, Dec. 31, 2022 (print ed.). Barbara Walters (shown above and below right), who broke barriers for women as the first female co-host of the “Today” show and the first female anchor of a network evening news program, and who as an interviewer of celebrities became one herself, helping to blur the line between news and entertainment, died on Friday. She was 93.
Her death was reported by ABC News, where she was a longtime anchor and a creator of the talk show “The View.” It did not give a cause or say where she died.
Ms. Walters spent more than 50 years in front of the camera and, until she was 84, continued to appear on “The View.” In one-on-one interviews, she was best known for delving, with genteel insistence, into the private lives and emotional states of movie stars, heads of state and other high-profile subjects.
Ms. Walters first made her mark on the “Today” show on NBC, where she began appearing regularly on camera in 1964; she was officially named co-host a decade later. Her success kicked open the door for future network anchors like Jane Pauley, Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer.
She broke barriers as a co-host of the “Today” show, a network evening news anchor and a creator of “The View,” all while gaining her own kind of celebrity.
New York Times, Fellow journalists, celebrity interview subjects and others offered tributes to the renowned newswoman, McKenna Oxenden, Eduardo Medina and John Yoon, Jan. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Barbara Walters, who died Friday at 93, was remembered for her tenacious journalism that blazed a trail for women in the industry.
As word of her death spread, memories of, and tributes to, Ms. Walters flooded social media. Robert A. Iger, the chief executive of the Walt Disney Company, which owns ABC News, said on Twitter that Ms. Walters “was a true legend, a pioneer not just for women in journalism but for journalism itself.”
Journalists across the country recalled on Friday night the effect that Ms. Walters had on their careers, directly and indirectly. Many said her interviews were models for good journalistic practices. Others marveled at the bravery she displayed when sitting across from some of the world’s most powerful people. And numerous others described Ms. Walters as a “trailblazer” who helped carve a path for women in the news industry.
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