June 2022 News, Views

 

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

 

 

June 1

Top Headlines

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More On School Shootings

 

More On Ukraine War

 

More On Special Counsel’s Courtroom Defeat

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Security

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

Virus Victims, Public Health

 

World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters

 

Climate, Environment, Disasters

Media, Religion, Culture, Sports

 

Top Stories

 

On Saturday in Moscow, President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, left, and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia oversaw a test launch of nuclear-capable hypersonic missiles.

In February in Moscow, President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, left, and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia oversaw a test launch of nuclear-capable hypersonic missiles.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Putin’s Threats Highlight the Dangers of a New, Riskier Nuclear Era, David E. Sanger and William J. Broad, June 1, 2022. President Vladimir Putin’s reminders of Russia’s nuclear might, even if largely bluster, were the latest evidence of how the threat has resurfaced. Such shifts extend well beyond Russia and include moves by China, North Korea and Iran, as the old nuclear order gives way to a looming era of disorder.

The old nuclear order, rooted in the Cold War’s unthinkable outcomes, was fraying before Russia invaded Ukraine. Now, it is giving way to a looming era of disorder unlike any since the beginning of the atomic age.

Russian FlagRussia’s regular reminders over the past three months of its nuclear might, even if largely bluster, were the latest evidence of how the potential threat has resurfaced in more overt and dangerous ways. They were enough to draw a pointed warning to Moscow on Tuesday from President Biden in what amounted to a tacit acknowledgment that the world had entered a period of heightened nuclear risks.

“We currently see no indication that Russia has intent to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, though Russia’s occasional rhetoric to rattle the nuclear saber is itself dangerous and extremely irresponsible,” Mr. Biden wrote in a guest opinion essay in The New York Times. “Let me be clear: Any use of nuclear weapons in this conflict on any scale would be completely unacceptable to us as well as the rest of the world and would entail severe consequences.”

joe biden flag profile uncredited palmer

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: President Biden: What America Will and Will Not Do in Ukraine, President Joe Biden, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). The invasion Vladimir Putin thought would last days is now in its fourth month. The Ukrainian people surprised Russia and inspired the world with their sacrifice, grit and battlefield success. The free world and many other nations, led by the United States, rallied to Ukraine’s side with unprecedented military, humanitarian and financial support.

As the war goes on, I want to be clear about the aims of the United States in these efforts.

America’s goal is straightforward: We want to see a democratic, independent, sovereign and prosperous Ukraine with the means to deter and defend itself against further aggression.

As President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has said, ultimately this war “will only definitively end through diplomacy.” Every negotiation reflects the facts on the ground. We have moved quickly to send Ukraine a significant amount of weaponry and ammunition so it can fight on the battlefield and be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table.

That’s why I’ve decided that we will provide the Ukrainians with more advanced rocket systems and munitions that will enable them to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine.

We will continue cooperating with our allies and partners on Russian sanctions, the toughest ever imposed on a major economy. We will continue providing Ukraine with advanced weaponry, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, Stinger antiaircraft missiles, powerful artillery and precision rocket systems, radars, unmanned aerial vehicles, Mi-17 helicopters and ammunition. We will also send billions more in financial assistance, as authorized by Congress. We will work with our allies and partners to address the global food crisis that Russia’s aggression is worsening. And we will help our European allies and others reduce their dependence on Russian fossil fuels, and speed our transition to a clean energy future.

We will also continue reinforcing NATO’s eastern flank with forces and capabilities from the United States and other allies. And just recently, I welcomed Finland’s and Sweden’s applications to join NATO, a move that will strengthen overall U.S. and trans-Atlantic security by adding two democratic and highly capable military partners.

We do not seek a war between NATO and Russia. As much as I disagree with Mr. Putin, and find his actions an outrage, the United States will not try to bring about his ouster in Moscow. So long as the United States or our allies are not attacked, we will not be directly engaged in this conflict, either by sending American troops to fight in Ukraine or by attacking Russian forces. We are not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders. We do not want to prolong the war just to inflict pain on Russia.

My principle throughout this crisis has been “Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.” I will not pressure the Ukrainian government — in private or public — to make any territorial concessions. It would be wrong and contrary to well-settled principles to do so.

 

U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel John Durham, left, and defendant Michael Sussmann, a cyberlaw attorney and former federal prosecutor. split

U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel John Durham, left, and defendant Michael Sussmann, a cyberlaw attorney and former federal prosecutor whose trial began with jury selection on May 16 on a false statement charge in Washington, DC’s federal court.

ny times logoNew York Times, Michael Sussmann Is Acquitted in Case Brought by Trump-Era Prosecutor, Charlie Savage, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). The Democratic-linked lawyer was accused of lying about his clients to the F.B.I. when he passed on a tip about possible connections between Donald J. Trump and Russia.

Michael Sussmann, a prominent cybersecurity lawyer with ties to Democrats, was acquitted on Tuesday of a felony charge that he lied to the F.B.I. about having no client in 2016 when he shared a tip about possible connections between Donald J. Trump and Russia.

The verdict was a blow to the special counsel, John H. Durham, who was appointed by the Trump administration three years ago to scour the Trump-Russia investigation for any wrongdoing.

The case centered on odd internet data that cybersecurity researchers discovered in 2016 after it became public that Russia had hacked Democrats and Mr. Trump had encouraged the country to target Hillary Clinton’s emails.

The researchers said the data might reflect a covert communications channel using servers for the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank, a Kremlin-linked bank. The F.B.I. briefly looked at the suspicions and dismissed them.

On Sept. 19, 2016, Mr. Sussmann brought those suspicions to a senior F.B.I. official. Prosecutors accused him of falsely telling the official that he was not there on behalf of any client, concealing that he was in fact working for both Mrs. Clinton’s campaign and a technology executive who had brought him the tip.

Mr. Durham and his trial team used court filings and trial testimony to detail how Mr. Sussmann, while working for a Democratic-linked law firm and logging his time to the Clinton campaign, had been trying to get reporters to write about the Alfa Bank suspicions.

But trying to persuade reporters to write about such suspicions is not a crime. Mr. Sussmann’s guilt or innocence turned on a narrow issue: whether he made a false statement to a senior F.B.I. official at the 2016 meeting, by saying he was sharing those suspicions on behalf of no one but himself.

Mr. Durham used the case to put forward a larger conspiracy: that there was a joint enterprise to essentially frame Mr. Trump for collusion with Russia by getting the F.B.I. to investigate the suspicions so reporters would write about it — a scheme involving the Clinton campaign; its opposition research firm, Fusion GPS; Mr. Sussmann; and a cybersecurity expert who brought the odd data and analysis to him.

That insinuation thrilled supporters of Mr. Trump who share his view that the Russia investigation was a “hoax,” and have sought to conflate the actual inquiry with sometimes thin or dubious allegations. In reality, the Alfa Bank matter was a sideshow: The F.B.I. had already opened its inquiry on other grounds before Mr. Sussmann passed on the tip, and the final report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, made no mention of the Alfa Bank suspicions.

But the case Mr. Durham and his team used to float their broad insinuations was thin — one count of making a false statement in a meeting with no other witnesses or contemporaneous notes. The evidence and arguments the lead prosecutor, Andrew DeFilippis, and his colleagues marshaled fell flat with the 12 jurors, who voted unanimously to find Mr. Sussmann not guilty.

Some supporters of Mr. Trump had been bracing for that outcome, pointing to the District of Columbia’s reputation as a heavily Democratic area and putting forward the prospect that a jury might be politically biased against a Trump-era prosecutor trying to convict a defendant who was working for the Clinton campaign.

Mr. Durham expressed disappointment about the verdict but said he respected the decision by the jury, which deliberated for about six hours.

“I also want to recognize and thank the investigators and the prosecution team for their dedicated efforts in seeking truth and justice in this case,” he said in a statement.

Shortly after the verdict, Mr. Sussmann read a brief statement to reporters outside the courthouse, expressing gratitude to the jury, his defense team and those who supported him and his family during what had been a difficult year. He did not take any questions.

“I told the truth to the F.B.I., and the jury clearly recognized that with their unanimous verdict today,” he said, adding: “Despite being falsely accused, I am relieved that justice ultimately prevailed in this case.”

The defense, which portrayed prosecutors’ insinuations as “political conspiracy theories,” had argued that Mr. Sussmann only brought the matter to the F.B.I. when he thought The New York Times was already on the cusp of writing an article about the matter, to give the bureau a heads-up so it would not be caught flat-footed.

Clinton campaign officials testified during the trial they had not told or authorized him to go to the F.B.I. — and that doing so was against their interests sean berkowitz michael bosworth jip IMG 8260because they did not trust the bureau and it could slow down the publication of any article.

In a statement, Sean Berkowitz and Michael Bosworth, two of Mr. Sussmann’s defense lawyers [shown in a Justice Integrity Project photo leaving the courthouse, with Berkowitz in the foreground), criticized Mr. Durham for bringing the indictment.

“Michael Sussmann should never have been charged in the first place,” they said. “This is a case of extraordinary prosecutorial overreach. And we believe that today’s verdict sends an unmistakable message to anyone who cares to listen: Politics is no substitute for evidence, and politics has no place in our system of justice.”

Mother Jones, How John Durham’s Probe Has Exposed Trump’s Russia Con, David Corn, June 1, 2022. His three-year investigation has so far shown the only hoax was orchestrated by the former president.

Donald Trump has bad timing. On Friday, he sent a letter to the Pulitzer Prize Board reiterating his demand that it rescind the awards given to the New York Times and the Washington Post in 2018 for their coverage of the Trump-Russia scandal. (That’s not what he called it.) He based this request on the prosecution of Democratic lawyer Michael Sussmann, who was indicted by special counsel John Durham for allegedly lying to the FBI during a September 2016 meeting when he shared with the bureau computer data research that suggested there might be a connection between a Trump-related business and Alfa Bank, a large Russian financial entity. Trump claimed the Sussmann case showed the “Russia hoax was a dirty campaign trick promulgated by Crooked Hillary Clinton and her associates.” Five days later, the jury, after only several hours of deliberation, acquitted Sussmann. Oops.

The quick not-guilty verdict was a sharp slap at Durham’s three-year-long investigation, which was launched by William Barr, when he was Trump’s loyalist attorney general, and which has come across as a political crusade mounted to undermine the various Trump-Russia investigations. Durham was tasked by Barr to investigate the origins of the FBI’s probe of the Russian attack on the 2016 election (which, according to multiple investigations, was waged to help Trump win) and the interactions between Trump associates and Russian operatives.

Put simply, Durham’s job was to find that Trump had been set up by the bureau. When the Justice Department in late 2019 issued a report concluding the FBI had legitimate cause to investigate the Russian assault and the Trump campaign, Durham, in an unusual move, released a statement declaring, “we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened.” A-ha, Trumpists exclaimed. Durham was on track to reveal that the FBI investigation was bogus from the get-go and Trump was right: It was all a hoax and a witch hunt.

Yet after years of toil, Durham has produced nothing to suggest the Russia investigation was a Deep State hit-job against Trump. He has brought three cases that have nothing to do with the origins of the investigation. One involved an FBI lawyer who altered an email used to obtain a search warrant after the investigation was started. (The attorney pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year of probation.)

washington post logoWashington Post, President’s complaints spur White House scramble on inflation, Tyler Pager and Jeff Stein, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). The president’s team is launching a flurry of events after Biden fumed privately that his administration isn’t doing enough to show concern about high prices.

The White House launched a new push Tuesday to contain the political damage caused by inflation after President Biden complained for weeks to aides that his administration was not doing enough to publicly explain the fastest price increases in roughly four decades.

Aiming to demonstrate to the public that it is responding to its concerns, Biden met with Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell in the Oval Office, wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about inflation and sent top aides across major networks to push the administration’s economic message.

The flurry of activity comes after Biden has privately grumbled to top White House officials over the administration’s handling of inflation, expressing frustration over the past several months that aides were not doing enough to confront the problem directly, two people familiar with the president’s comments said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.

ny times logoNew York Times, Racist and Violent Ideas Jump From Web’s Fringes to Mainstream Sites, Steven Lee Myers and Stuart A. Thompson, June 1, 2022. Despite some efforts by tech companies to limit the spread of the disturbing content that fuels mass shootings, it often remains only a click or two away. On March 30, the young man accused of the mass shooting at a Tops grocery store in Buffalo surfed through a smorgasbord of racist and antisemitic websites online. On BitChute, a video sharing site known for hosting right-wing extremism, he listened to a lecture on the decline of the American middle class by a Finnish extremist. On YouTube he found a lurid video of a car driving through Black neighborhoods in Detroit.

Over the course of the week that followed, his online writing shows, he lingered in furtive chat rooms on Reddit and 4chan but also read articles on race in HuffPost and Medium. He watched local television news reports of gruesome crimes. He toggled between “documentaries” on extremist websites and gun tutorials on YouTube.

The young man, who was indicted by a grand jury last week, has been portrayed by the authorities and some media outlets as a troubled outcast who acted alone when he killed 10 Black people in the grocery store and wounded three more. In fact, he dwelled in numerous online communities where he and others consumed and shared racist and violent content.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Russia slams Biden’s pledge of advanced weapons; Severodonetsk on the brink, Rachel Pannett, Bryan Pietsch, Adela Suliman and Annabelle Timsit, June 1, 2022. Russia fired back Wednesday after President Biden announced he was sending advanced rocket systems to Ukraine in response to a request from Ukrainian officials.

dmitry peskovKremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, right, accused the United States of “pouring fuel on the fire,” and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned on state television that deliveries of sophisticated multiple launch rocket systems to Ukraine are viewed “extremely negatively” by Moscow and could be “dangerous.”

Russia appears close to claiming full control of Severodonetsk, a city that is key to Moscow’s strategy in eastern Ukraine. Most of the embattled city is now controlled by Russian forces, the head of the region’s military administration said Tuesday. The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said Ukrainian troops appear to be withdrawing from the city to focus on battles elsewhere, rather than fighting to the end.

ukraine flagRussia’s Defense Ministry said Wednesday that its strategic missile forces were conducting exercises northeast of Moscow. They reportedly involve mobile launchers of the Yars, an intercontinental ballistic missile, and about 1,000 military service members. President Biden offered assurances to Russia in an essay Tuesday that the United States does not seek to provoke a wider conflict. However, the Kremlin has warned that any country providing advanced weaponry to Ukraine will face unspecified harsh repercussions.

Here’s what else to know

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky dodged a question from conservative TV channel Newsmax about whether Donald Trump would have prevented Russia from invading Ukraine if he were still president. Zelensky said “assistance from the people of the United States” was the key issue.
  • Danes will vote Wednesday on whether their country should join the European Union’s Common Security and Defense Policy to allow Denmark to participate in E.U. military exercises, as security fears mount.
  • A Ukrainian court found two Russian soldiers guilty of shelling civilian sites in Kharkiv, the second verdict handed down in a war crimes trial in Ukraine since the conflict began.

Press Progress, Top Doug Ford Adviser Sent Premier’s Office Backchannel Message About Meeting With Russian Government, Stephen Magusiak and Luke LeBrun, June 1, 2022. Leaked emails show Russian officials sought help of Ontario PC insiders in an effort to flow Russian money into Ontario amid US sanctions

canadian flagA trusted adviser to Ontario Premier Doug Ford admits relaying a message to the Premier’s Office about attempts to arrange a meeting between representatives of the Government of Ontario and the Russian Federation.

The backchannel communications involved Russian government officials, expelled diplomats, Russian corporate entities sanctioned by the United States, as well as Ontario PC insiders linked to wealthy Ontario developers.

One of those insiders is Frank Klees, a former Ontario PC cabinet minister under Mike Harris who served as a top adviser and campaign surrogate during Ford’s 2018 leadership bid. Ford has personally described Klees as a “legendary PC Party stalwart and a good friend.”

In an interview with PressProgress, Klees confirmed he received a request to set-up a meeting between Ford and Russian officials. Klees said he relayed that message directly to Dean French, Ford’s Chief-of-Staff at the time.

“I referred that letter to Mr. Dean (French),” Klees said, recalling an email he received from a backroom conservative operative named David Wallace advising him that he was “in a position to arrange an appointment for Doug Ford with Mr. Putin.”

Wallace, who has ties with top figures in Canadian conservative politics, describes himself as a former political fixer turned “whistleblower” – last week, PressProgress reported a senior official in the Premier’s Office admitted requesting a meeting with Wallace to obtain surveillance information about one of their own cabinet ministers.

In a statement to PressProgress, Doug Ford’s campaign spokesperson, Ivana Yelich, claimed Wallace has “ties to the Russian government” and supplied photos of Wallace at a meeting with Russian officials and Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown.

 

amber heard johnny depp

ny times logoNew York Times, Jury Finds Both Depp and Heard Were Defamed, but Awards More Money to Him, Julia Jacobs and Adam Bednar, June 1, 2022. A jury found that Johnny Depp was defamed by his ex-wife Amber Heard (shown above together in a file photo during their marriage), and that she was defamed by one of his lawyers. Follow updates.

A jury in Virginia on Wednesday found that the actor Johnny Depp had been defamed by his ex-wife Amber Heard in a 2018 op-ed, a verdict that handed the actor a victory in his long, messy battle over domestic abuse allegations.

But the jury’s decision was split, also finding that one of the three statements at the center of Ms. Heard’s lawsuit, by one of Mr. Depp’s lawyers at the time, had been defamatory.

The jury awarded Mr. Depp $15 million in compensatory and punitive damages, but the judge capped the punitive damages total in accordance with legal limits, resulting in a total of $10.35 million. The jury awarded Ms. Heard $2 million in damages.

Axios Sneak Peek, Scoop: Blockbuster witness for Jan. 6 hearings, Sophia Cai, June 1, 2022. J. Michael Luttig, a former federal judge and lawyer who advised former Vice President Mike Pence, is expected to testify in the Jan. 6 select committee’s public hearings this month, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The committee, which has until now been interviewing witnesses behind closed doors, has revealed little about its plans for the public hearings set to begin next week.

The desire to showcase Luttig — a judge lionized within the conservative legal movement — matches what sources have described as the committee’s strategy to reach as broad an audience as possible, including conservatives.

The big picture: Luttig, who served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, was a key behind-the-scenes figure in the lead up to Jan. 6. He furnished Pence with the legal argument the vice president used to publicly reject Trump’s unconstitutional order to overturn President Biden’s victory.

What we’re watching: Axios understands the committee has been discussing formally inviting Luttig to testify, but official invitations have not been sent.

Luttig is expected to describe his view of the stakes of Jan. 6 and his argument that American democracy is at a crossroads. He’ll then answer questions, many of which are likely to be centered on the technicalities of the Constitution and the Electoral Count Act of 1887 — the statute that Trump hoped Pence would violate to reverse his 2020 election loss.

The upcoming public hearings, spread across two weeks, will mark the first time the committee has had an opportunity to reveal the complete findings of its months-long investigation into the breach of the Capitol.

Committee sources told Axios they want to tell a story of Jan. 6 in such a way that the American people understand the gravity of what happened — and the role former President Trump and his associates played in ginning up the mob that tried to interrupt the peaceful transfer of power.
The committee has not announced the roster of witnesses for the hearings.

 

More On School Shootings

 

uvalde victims

washington post logoWashington Post, Texas officials: Teacher didn’t leave door propped open before massacre, Mark Berman, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). Authorities said last week that the gunman entered Robb Elementary School through a door that a teacher left open.

Four days after saying that the gunman who massacred children in a Uvalde, Tex., elementary school had gotten inside through a door “propped open by a teacher,” the state agency investigating the massacre now says the educator had closed the door.

The teacher shut the door behind her, but it “did not lock as it should,” Travis Considine, chief of communications with the Texas Department of Public Safety, said in a brief telephone interview Tuesday. “And now investigators are looking into why that was.”

This latest account came Tuesday, a week after a gunman slaughtered 19 children and two teachers inside Robb Elementary School in the country’s deadliest school massacre in nearly a decade. Authorities in Texas are facing criticism both for their response to the shooting and their public accounts of what happened, which have included statements, details and narratives that officials later amended, revised or withdrew entirely.

The status of the door is particularly notable, because it addresses how the gunman made it inside the school despite security measures.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: The X factor in the Uvalde massacre, Wayne Madsen, May 31-June 1, 2022. Although the massacre of 19 elementary school students and two of their wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallteachers by a crazed 18-year old “incel” in Uvalde, Texas has justifiably reignited debate on banning the deadly AR-15 assault rifle used in the mass murder, there is another factor at play in the border region of south Texas.

The fact that Uvalde, a town that is over 80 percent Hispanic with a third of its children living in poverty, has a right-wing four-term Republican mayor, a police force that failed to intervene to save the lives of the mostly Hispanic children at school, and a member of the U.S. House who is a Donald Trump supporter is emblematic of a larger issue currently plaguing south Texas and other regions of the country with large Hispanic populations.

wayne madesen report logoMany of Uvalde’s Hispanics are direct descendants of the original Texans, or “Texicans,” who were present in the region before Texas became an independent republic and a state. A large number of the Texicans share with their white Republican friends a disdain for the more recent arrivals from Mexico and they have formed an unlikely political coalition that has helped turn Texas into a solidly Republican state. This new political configuration was witnessed in the 2020 election, which saw an increase in Hispanic support for Trump in the borderlands of south Texas.’

washington post logoWashington Post, Bouquets and tiny caskets: Town starts to bury its dead, Annie Gowen and Teo Armus, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). In Uvalde, Tex., the first days of anger and grief over the massacre, made worse by catastrophic mistakes by police, gave way to a cycle of visitations, rosaries and funerals that began Monday and will stretch until June 16.

washington post logoWashington Post, Elected officials vow to examine flawed police response in Uvalde, push for changes to gun laws, Ellen Nakashima and Paulina Villegas, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). Fourth-grader recounts asking president to ‘make our schools safer and send more police.’

As mourners in Uvalde, Tex., prepared to bury 19 children and two teachers, elected officials vowed Monday to examine last week’s elementary school massacre and the flawed police response, and drive changes to gun laws.

President Biden, who spent nearly four hours Sunday visiting with the families of Uvalde victims, told reporters he would not give up on efforts to achieve “common-sense” gun legislation.

“The folks who were victimized, their families, they spent three hours and 40 minutes with me. They waited all that time. Some came two hours early,” Biden told reporters at the White House. “The pain is palpable. I think a lot of it is unnecessary. I’m going to continue to push.”

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More on Ukraine War

More on War

ukraine olena kurilo 52 teacher Russian missile Chuhuiv amazon

52-year-old Ukrainian teacher Olena Kurilo following a Russian missile strike in Chuhuiv, Ukraine in April.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: I Thought Putin Invaded Only Ukraine. I Was Wrong, Thomas L. Friedman, right, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). I’ve tom friedman twitterbeen writing nonstop about the Ukraine war ever since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, but I confess that it took coming to Europe and meeting with politicians, diplomats and entrepreneurs here for me to fully grasp what happened. You see, I thought Vladimir Putin had invaded Ukraine. I was wrong. Putin had invaded Europe.

He shouldn’t have done that. This could be the biggest act of folly in a European war since Hitler invaded Russia in 1941.

I only fully understood this when I got to this side of the Atlantic. It was easy from afar to assume — and probably easy for Putin to assume — that eventually Europe would reconcile itself to the full-scale invasion Putin launched against Ukraine on Feb. 24, the way european union logo rectangleEurope reconciled with his 2014 devouring of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, a remote slice of land where he met little resistance and set off limited shock waves.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

This invasion — with Russian soldiers indiscriminately shelling Ukrainian apartment buildings and hospitals, killing civilians, looting homes, raping women and creating the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II — is increasingly seen as a 21st-century rerun of Hitler’s onslaught against the rest of Europe, which started in September 1939 with the German attack on Poland. Add on top of that Putin’s seeming threat to use nuclear weapons, warning that any country that interfered with his unprovoked war would face “consequences you have never seen,” and it explains everything.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russian soldiers get prison terms in second Ukraine war crimes trial, Claire Parker, Ellen Francis and Annabelle Chapman, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). A Ukrainian court found two Russian soldiers guilty of “violating the laws and customs of war” on Tuesday and sentenced them to 11½ years in prison — the second verdict handed down in a Ukrainian war crimes trial held during the conflict.

The sentencing came as Ukraine’s chief prosecutor announced that Estonia, Latvia and Slovakia would become the newest members of a multinational investigation team, gathering and exchanging evidence in an effort to hold Russia accountable.

washington post logoWashington Post, As Luhansk falls to the Russians, civilians are desperate to evacuate, Sudarsan Raghavan, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). As Russian forces push deeper into Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, hundreds are fleeing towns and villages every day, including areas once viewed as safe. Russian missiles and rockets are expanding their reach, striking civilian areas as far as 200 miles from the front lines. Severodonetsk and the communities that surround it are growing more desolate by the day.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden confirms U.S. is sending advanced rocket systems to Ukraine, Rachel Pannett and John Hudson, May 31, 2022. President Biden on Tuesday confirmed that his administration is sending medium-range advanced rocket systems to Ukraine, responding to a top request from Ukrainian officials who say the weapons are necessary to curb the advance of Russian forces in the east.

Biden said the more advanced rocket systems and munitions, which can pinpoint an enemy target nearly 50 miles away, will enable Ukraine “to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield.” Ukrainian officials provided assurances they would not use the weapons to strike targets inside Russia, a senior U.S. official said. Such a move could risk an escalation in the conflict, potentially provoking Russian retaliation against U.S. forces or allies.

Washington Post, Zelensky dodges Newsmax question on whether Trump would have averted war, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). Russia holding drills involving launchers of nuclear-capable missiles.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia holds most of Severodonetsk, center of Donbas fight, official says, Reis Thebault and Bryan Pietsch, June 1, 2022.  Russian forces have gained control of most of Severodonetsk, an eastern Ukrainian city that is key to Moscow’s strategy in the region, a local leader said Tuesday evening.

Severodonetsk, in the Luhansk region, is one of the area’s last large cities still under partial Ukrainian control. Russian troops made quick progress toward the city center after days of shelling and ground assaults, and had consolidated their forces there by Wednesday morning, according to Ukrainian officials.

ny times logoeuropean union logo rectangleNew York Times, Ukraine Updates: Europe Seeks New Ways to Aid Ukraine as Fight Rages in East, Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Marc Santora, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). European Union leaders continued a two-day summit aimed at raising the invasion’s cost to Russia and bolstering the battered Ukrainian economy. The two armies traded barrages of artillery fire and fought battles in the last Ukrainian-controlled city in the Luhansk region. Here’s the latest.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Updates: Russia seizes half of key city Severodonetsk, Adela Suliman, Amy Cheng, Andrew Jeong and Ellen Francis, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). McDonald’s to get new name in Russia as part of sale; Russian forces said to hold ‘around half’ of Severodonetsk.

Russian forces now control “around half” of Severodonetsk, one of the last major Ukrainian-held areas of the country’s eastern Luhansk region, local officials said. Capturing the whole city would be a major symbolic victory for Russia. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Moscow’s combat power is at “maximum” strength in its push to capture the wider Donbas region, which includes Luhansk and Donetsk.

A Ukrainian court found two Russian soldiers guilty of shelling civilian sites during fighting in Kharkiv and sentenced them Tuesday to 11 ½ years in prison. It was the second verdict handed down in a war crimes trial in Ukraine since the conflict began. Ukrainian prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova announced at a news conference Tuesday that Estonia, Latvia and Slovakia will join a joint effort by several eastern European countries and the International Criminal Court to investigate alleged war crimes in Ukraine.

The European Union announced late Monday its long-awaited deal to curtail use of Russian oil, a move it said would cut some 90 percent of oil imports from Russia by the end of this year. The agreement is softened by an exemption for pipeline oil, a concession to landlocked E.U. members, notably Hungary.

Here’s what else to know

  • Zelensky sent his condolences to the family of French journalist Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff, who was killed in eastern Ukraine when a Russian strike hit an armored evacuation truck he was traveling in.
  • Zelensky has denounced Russia’s blockade on Ukrainian ports for halting the export of 22 million tons of grain. He accused the Kremlin of using African and Asian countries as “bargaining chips.” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stressed the need to establish a safe passage for sea exports of grain.

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U.S. Law, Courts, Security

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court justice Alito delays counting of undated ballots in Pa., Robert Barnes and Colby Itkowitz, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. on Tuesday put a hold on counting some challenged ballots in Pennsylvania while the Supreme Court continues to review a lower court’s decision that they be tallied.

The administrative stay Alito issued involves a unanimous decision of a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. It said that mail-in ballots that were received on time but lacked a required date on the outer envelope should be counted. Alito is the justice who receives emergency applications from the 3rd Circuit.

pennsylvania map major citiesThe panel’s decision involved a local judge’s race in Lehigh County. But it is significant because of the too-close-to-call primary for the Republican Senate nomination involving Mehmet Oz and David McCormick. McCormick, who trails Oz by fewer than 1,000 votes, has filed a lawsuit in state court to require that such “undated ballots” be counted.

The state’s requirement is that mail-ballot voters “fill out, date and sign” a form declaration on the outer envelope used to return ballots. But the federal judges said not counting the votes of those who did not provide a date violated federal civil rights law because the requirement was immaterial to the voters’ qualifications. There are no indications of fraud, the ballots were received by the state’s deadline and election officials noted they would have counted ballots with the wrong date but not those with no dates at all, the judges said.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Irreplaceable’ $2 million gold tabernacle stolen from Brooklyn church, Bryan Pietsch, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). A tabernacle worth $2 million was stolen from a Catholic church in Brooklyn, New York City police said Monday, in what church officials described as a “brazen crime of disrespect and hate.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: We Clerked for Justices Scalia and Stevens. America Is Getting Heller Wrong, Kate Shaw and John Bash, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). In the summer of 2008, the Supreme Court decided District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the court held for the first time that the Second Amendment protected an individual right to gun ownership. We were law clerks to Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the majority opinion, and Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote the lead dissent.

Justices Scalia and Stevens clashed over the meaning of the Second Amendment. Justice Scalia’s majority opinion held that the Second Amendment protected an individual right to keep a usable handgun at home, which meant the District of Columbia law prohibiting such possession was unconstitutional. Justice Stevens argued that the protections of the Second Amendment extended only to firearm ownership in conjunction with service in a “well-regulated militia,” in the words of the Second Amendment.

We each assisted a boss we revered in drafting his opinion, and we’re able to acknowledge that work without breaching any confidences.

We continue to hold very different views about both gun regulation and how the Constitution should be interpreted.

But despite our fundamental disagreements, we are both concerned that Heller has been misused in important policy debates about our nation’s gun laws. In the 14 years since the Heller decision, Congress has not enacted significant new laws regulating firearms, despite progressives’ calls for such measures in the wake of mass shootings. Many cite Heller as the reason. But they are wrong.

Heller does not totally disable government from passing laws that seek to prevent the kind of atrocities we saw in Uvalde, Texas. And we believe that politicians on both sides of the aisle have (intentionally or not) misconstrued Heller. Some progressives, for example, have blamed the Second Amendment, Heller or the Supreme Court for atrocities like Uvalde. And some conservatives have justified contested policy positions merely by pointing to Heller, as if the opinion resolved the issues.

Neither is fair. Rather, we think it’s clear that every member of the court on which we clerked joined an opinion — either majority or dissent — that agreed that the Constitution leaves elected officials an array of policy options when it comes to gun regulation.

 Other Recent Legal Headlines

 

More On Special Counsel’s Court Defeat

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: A clever effort to try to de-Putinize Trump, David E. Kendall, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). David E. Kendall, a lawyer at Williams & Connolly, represents 2016 Democratic david kendallpresidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Well, that was a quick acquittal! The Michael Sussmann prosecution brought by Trump administration special counsel John Durham tried to generate a Clinton-conspiracy bang but ended with a not-guilty-verdict whimper.

The actual case against Sussmann was both narrow and paper-thin from the start. He was charged with lying to the FBI’s general counsel in a one-on-one, unrecorded meeting on Sept. 19, 2016, about whom he was speaking for — not on the report he presented about mysterious communications between the Trump Organization and a Vladimir Putin crony’s Russian bank (which the FBI later declared unsubstantiated).

hillary clinton buttonWhile the alleged lie was simple, straightforward and could have been explained in two pages, it was encased in 27 pages of dark and inchoate allegations of wrongdoing by a number of Clintonites.

What was the lie? Not that Sussmann provided false evidence of Donald Trump’s alleged collusion with the Russians — that was neither alleged nor proven.

Not that there was a vast conspiracy to falsely besmirch Trump as seeking Russian assistance — that was neither alleged nor proven. Not that there was a successful deception of the FBI — many witnesses testified they were well aware of Sussmann’s many Democratic connections and clients.

The Durham indictment charged only that Sussmann had failed to tell the FBI general counsel why he was meeting with him. The jury saw through the fog of misdirection and innuendo in the indictment’s overstuffed allegations and quickly returned a not-guilty verdict.

Emptywheel, Analysis: Jury aquits Michael Sussmann; Sussman lawyer calls prosecution “Extraordinary prosecutorial overreach,” emptywheel marcy wheeler(Dr.  Marcy Wheeler, Ph.D., right, independent national security analyst), May 31, 2022. The Michael Sussmann jury just announced its verdict. Michael Sussmann was acquitted of lying to the FBI.

The jury deliberated for six hours. This morning, they asked for exhibits that include the taxi receipts showing that Sussmann did not bill the Hillary campaign for the meeting with the FBI. They also asked whether they all had to agree on the elements of the offense, suggesting some people believed Durham had not proven some aspects (such that Sussmann had lied or that he did so intentionally) whereas others believed Durham had not proven other parts (such as that it was material — remember that FBI largely proceeded as if this were a tip from the Hillary campaign).

Durham released a statement:

While we are disappointed in the outcome, we respect the jury’s decision and thank them for their service. I also want to recognize and thank the investigators and the prosecution team for their dedicated efforts in seeking truth and justice in this case.

Sussmann read a statement:

I have a few thoughts to share, now that trial has ended.

First, I told the truth to the FBI, and the jury clearly recognized that with their unanimous verdict today.

I am grateful to the members of the jury for their careful and thoughtful service. Despite being falsely accused, I am relieved that justice ultimately prevailed in this case.

As you can imagine, this has been a difficult year for my family and me. But right now, we are grateful for the love and support of so many during this ordeal, and I’m looking forward to getting back to the work that I love.

Finally, I want to thank my legal team at Latham & Watkins—Sean Berkowitz, Michael Bosworth, Natalie Rao, & Catherine Yao. They are the finest lawyers, and they worked tirelessly on my case.

Thank you.

The statement from his attorney, Sean Berkowitz, is more interesting.

We have always known that Michael Sussmann is innocent and we are grateful that the members of the jury have now come to the same conclusion.

But Michael Sussmann should never have been charged in the first place. This is a case of extraordinary prosecutorial overreach. And we believe that today’s verdict sends an unmistakable message to anyone who cares to listen: politics is no substitute for evidence, and politics has no place in our system of justice.

Wall Street Journal, Opinion: Durham Jury Convicts the FBI, Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., June 1, 2022 (print ed.). In the Russiagate case, it seems the agency wanted to be lied to. If special counsel John Durham didnt get the verdict he wanted in the Michael Sussmann case, its because he did a better job of convicting the victim than he did the culpritthe victim being the FBI, the agency to which the Democratic lawyer allegedly lied when claiming he wasnt acting for the Clinton campaign while peddling slime about Donald Trump in the run-up to the 2016 election.

In the indictment filed eight months ago, Mr. Durham went out of his way to show why the FBI would not have been fooled by Mr. Sussmann, who was acquitted by a jury Tuesday. The trial itself piled on the evidence that the FBI leadership was both embarrassed to be seen carrying water for the Clinton campaign and willing to carry it. By the end, Mr. Sussmanns alleged lie seemed more aimed at obliging the agency than deceiving it.

Media Matters via Twitter, Fox last hour before Sussman was found not guilty, Lis Power, May 31, 2022. 

  • Fox last hour before Sussman was found not guilty: An acquittal in the Sussman trial “could raise doubts about the legal merits of Durham’s entire investigation.”
  • Fox this hour after Sussman was found not guilty: THE JURY WAS RIGGED, ANOTHER BLACK EYE FOR OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: What if, bear with me, John Durham doesn’t have the goods? Philip Bump, May 31, 2022. Since Donald Trump first sought to undermine the investigation into whether any members of his 2016 campaign had knowledge of or worked with Russia’s effort to aid his candidacy, the goal posts have been in motion.

Over and over, he and his allies presented some alternate explanation for the investigation that shifted all of the questions about legality and ethics onto his real and perceived opponents.

Nowhere was more institutional energy invested than in the formal investigation into the Russia investigation authorized by Barr more than three years ago. U.S. Attorney John Durham, later elevated to special counsel, was given a mandate to figure out where the Russia investigation came from and, as needed, to upend the conventional wisdom about its origins.

And no one would argue that he’s shirked from that task, as he has regularly provided conservative media with new places to locate their shuffling goal posts.

For months, Durham’s seemingly been building toward an argument that Clinton’s campaign bears central responsibility for the emergence of the Russia investigation. After indicting an attorney who worked for a firm hired by Clinton on charges that he lied to the FBI, Durham released little tidbits about what he and his team had learned, tidbits that could be interpreted to suggest that he was building a case not against the Russia probe but instead against Clinton.

Durham’s probe has become everything that Trump and his allies accused special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation of being: a fishing expedition that’s gone on for an extended period of time without actually surfacing anything that significantly aids the central case.

washington post logoWashington Post, Michael Sussmann, who offered allegations about Trump in 2016, acquitted of lying to FBI, Devlin Barrett, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). A jury cleared Sussmann, a lawyer for Democrats, of lying to the FBI at the height of the 2016 campaign — a defeat for Special Counsel John Durham; The verdict is a defeat for Special Counsel John Durham, appointed three years ago by then-Attorney General William Barr.

A federal jury found Michael Sussmann, an attorney for Democrats including the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, not guilty of lying to the FBI when he brought them allegations against Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential race.

Tuesday’s verdict was a major setback for Special Counsel John Durham, who was appointed during the Trump administration and has spent three years probing whether the federal agents who investigated the 2016 Trump campaign committed wrongdoing.

Sussmann was the first person charged by Durham to go to trial. Another person charged in the investigation is due to face a jury later this year.

The Sussmann jury began deliberating Friday, weighing the testimony of current and former FBI officials, former Clinton campaign advisers, and technology experts. In closing arguments, prosecutors told the jury that Sussmann thought he had “a license to lie” to the FBI at the height of the 2016 presidential campaign. Sussmann’s attorneys countered that the case against their client was built on a “political conspiracy theory.”

 Recent Trial Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: There’s no reasoning with a GOP hijacked by disinformation, Dana Milbank, right, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). Once dana milbank newestyou’ve taken leave from the reality-based community, every day is fantastic!

It has been particularly so over the past week. As the rest of the country mourned the latest young victims of gun violence, the QAnon crowd and their enablers in the Republican Party have constructed a walled fortress of alternative facts.
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Beginning in the hours after the elementary school massacre in Uvalde, Tex., right-wing social media churned out every manner of conspiracy theory: The shooter was an illegal immigrant! No, he was transgender! Or maybe the massacre was a false-flag operation perpetrated by the anti-gun left! And the grieving families are paid crisis actors!

paul gosarThe disinformation then followed the usual paths, finding its way to Alex Jones’s Infowars (the shooting had “very suspicious timing,” coming days before the National Rifle Association’s convention) and right into the claims of Republican members of Congress.

Rep. Paul Gosar (Ariz.), left, who has repeatedly tied himself to white nationalists, tweeted that the gunman was “a transsexual leftist illegal alien” — and let that multi-headed falsehood stand for two hours before deleting it.

ny times logoNew York Times, They Got the Debt, but Not the Degree, Tara Siegel Bernard, June 1, 2022. Millions of Americans took out student loans for programs they did not complete. For some, debt cancellation would be life-changing. For others, it would hardly make a dent.

Now, with President Biden considering a forgiveness program to lighten the load on some — or all — of the nation’s 45 million federal student loan borrowers, debate has focused on whether it is appropriate to grant relief to those who borrowed money to increase their earning power. But the many borrowers who didn’t get the professional benefits of a degree would be perhaps the biggest beneficiaries.

Exactly how many borrowers fit that description is unclear, but it appears to happen frequently. Nearly 40 percent of full-time undergraduates who enrolled in the 2011-12 academic year accumulated some debt but did not have a degree after six years, said Mark Huelsman, the director of policy and advocacy at the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice at Temple University.

About 37 percent of borrowers enrolling in four-year institutions in 2013 didn’t graduate within six years, either, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The rate was even higher — 75 percent didn’t earn a credential — at private, for-profit institutions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Biden can still avoid wasteful student debt forgiveness, Editorial Board, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). With sagging poll numbers and midterm elections a little over five months away, senior Democrats have pressed President Biden to wipe away huge amounts of student debt — in the neighborhood of $50,000 per person — which, they argue, the law allows the president to do with a wave of his hand.

Mr. Biden has properly resisted such a giveaway, which would lavish federal aid on many wealthy college graduates who do not need the help.

Until, perhaps, now. After months of uncertainty, The Post’s Tyler Pager, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel and Jeff Stein reported that Mr. Biden is poised to announce a student debt plan that is not as spectacularly bad as the ideas some other Democrats have pushed. But that is not much of a distinction; the president’s apparent plan would still be an expensive and inequitable election-year stunt.

Mr. Biden’s reported policy, which he had hoped to announce last week, would forgive $10,000 in student debt per person. Erasing $10,000 rather than $50,000 per borrower would be a nod toward those who point out that eliminating large amounts of student debt would cost the government huge sums of money — money that would be spent in ways that Congress did not intend when lawmakers created the federal student loan program. Mr. Biden’s plan would also limit debt forgiveness to individuals earning less than $150,000 per year or couples earning less than $300,000, heading off criticism that government money would be delivered to rich, well-educated people.

washington post logogeorgia mapWashington Post, Cybersecurity Analysis: There’s no evidence of Georgia election hacks but still plenty to worry about, Analysis by Joseph Marks and research by Aaron Schaffer, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). Georgia’s voting machines recorded votes properly – but they have hacking vulnerabilities that went undiscovered for years.

Georgia’s voting machines recorded votes properly – but they have hacking vulnerabilities that went undiscovered for years.

The findings are from a recent review of the voting machines and represent a mixed bag for people concerned about foreign and domestic interference in U.S. elections.
Former Trump aide Navarro says he has received a grand jury subpoena related to Jan. 6

First, the good news: There’s no evidence any of the vulnerabilities have been used to alter votes in any elections, as my colleagues Ellen Nakashima and Amy Gardner report. Most of the vulnerabilities are also quite difficult to exploit, requiring hands-on access to the voting machines. And they’re likely to be caught by standard security protocols in election offices.

But: The vulnerabilities in the Dominion Voting Systems-brand machines remained undetected for years. They might not have been discovered now if not for a long-running lawsuit over the security of Georgia’s machines during which University of Michigan computer scientist J. Alex Halderman was given a chance to examine the machines on behalf of the plaintiffs in the case.

Such independent reviews are still relatively rare — and election security advocates warn vulnerabilities in other voting systems could still be waiting out there undiscovered.

ny times logoNew York Times, They Insisted the 2020 Election Was Tainted. Their 2022 Primary Wins? Not So Much, Reid J. Epstein and Nick Corasaniti, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). Republicans are accepting their primary victories with little concern about the voter fraud they once falsely claimed caused Donald Trump’s loss.

djt maga hatRepublicans’ easy acceptance of a voting system they once slammed as broken exposes a fundamental contradiction in their complaints about the 2020 election. Claims about fraud and stolen elections are often situational — used in some races (against Democrats) but not others (against other Republicans), and to challenge some outcomes (losing) but not others (winning).

washington post logoWashington Post, James Biden — presidential brother, family helper, political wild card, Matt Viser, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). President Biden’s brother James is known in the family as the one who’s always ready to help. But he also has a history of business dealings that resulted in recriminations and lawsuits.

James Biden has in many ways always been the protector in the Biden family, the one who made sure the machinery ran while his brother soared; President Biden as recently as late last year referred to him as “my brother Jimmy, who fixes everything.” He has been there for the bad times, comforting family members in distress, visiting the bedside of loved ones, getting them into rehab when needed. He was by his brother’s side at his first wedding, was at the hospital when Beau died, found a neurosurgeon when Joe had a brain aneurysm.

He even helped paint Hunter’s law school apartment. When Joe Biden became president, his brother was tasked with redecorating the Oval Office.

Yet from the start of Joe Biden’s political career, James, who is seven years younger, has also walked up to ethical lines his brother has avoided, leaving a complicated trail of business dealings and angry lawsuits.

In a rare phone interview, James Biden said he tries to keep a low profile, and he used more than a few expletives to describe unwelcome attention from Republicans and the media. “I’m the guy who assists in everything. When it comes to my family I try to be as supportive as I can,” he said. “But this notion of ‘the fixer,’ or any reference that has a negative connotation, is offensive.”

He added, “The notion I am some underworld figure and I am a fixer or the cleaner or I’m this or that — I’m a very concerned family member who tries to protect my family in every way I can, in what is a very ethical way.”

ny times logoNew York Times, In Alaska, the Race to Succeed Don Young Is Raucous and Crowded, Emily Cochrane, June 1, 2022. Four dozen candidates, including Sarah Palin and a man legally named Santa Claus, are running to succeed the man who represented Alaska for 49 years.

Recent Headlines

 

World News, Global Human Rights, Disasters

ny times logoNew York Times, Israel Signs Trade Deal With U.A.E., Patrick Kingsley, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). Government ministers from Israel and the United Arab Emirates signed a free-trade agreement on Tuesday that, once ratified, would be the widest-ranging deal of its kind between Israel and an Arab country and the latest example of deepening ties between the Jewish state and some Arab governments.

The text of the deal has yet to be published and is still subject to review by the Israeli Parliament and formal ratification by the Israeli government, a process that will take at least two weeks. But officials said that once confirmed, the agreement would loosen restrictions on almost all trade between the two countries and could increase its annual value 10-fold within five years.

The speed at which the deal took shape — it was sealed less than two years since the establishment of formal ties between Israel and the Emirates — highlights the readiness with which Israel is now being accepted by some Arab leaders after years of diplomatic isolation.

For decades, Israel was ostracized by all but two Arab countries, with the others mostly avoiding formal diplomatic relations with it because of the lack of resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: MBS stands on the verge of getting what he wants, David Ignatius, right, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). Saudi Crown Prince david ignatiusMohammed bin Salman during a meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House in 2018. (Kevin Dietsch/Bloomberg News)

The dictionary defines “realpolitik” as “policy based on power rather than ideals or principles.” We are about to see a version of this in action when President Biden visits Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia.

jamal kahshoggiBiden plans to visit Riyadh in late June, after a stop in Israel to meet with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. While in Saudi Arabia, this year’s host of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the president is likely to see leaders of other friendly Arab countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar. But the emotional centerpiece will be Biden’s handshake with MBS, as the Saudi crown prince is known.

Mohammed Bin Salman Al-SaudCritics of the kingdom have been dreading that moment. They believe — and to be clear, I also believe — that MBS, right, has blood on his hands, because of what the CIA described as his authorization of the Saudi operation that murdered Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi, left, in Istanbul in October 2018.

This embrace of the Saudi leader has been coming toward us for many months. The reasons include the pragmatic concerns you would expect: MBS will probably rule Saudi Arabia for decades; the United States has security and financial interests in maintaining its long partnership with the kingdom; Saudi Arabia is an ally in a common effort to contain Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region.

  • The Post’s View: Saudi Arabia’s murderous ruler must not be appeased

Two new factors proved decisive for the Biden White House: The first was the war in Ukraine, and Biden’s need for Saudi help in buffering the oil market; the second was Israel’s strong desire that Biden normalize relations with MBS and the kingdom as part of a broad realignment whose shorthand is the Abraham Accords.

washington post logoWashington Post, China fails on Pacific pact, but still seeks to boost regional influence, Christian Shepherd, June 1, 2022. The Pacific Island nations didn’t sign on to China’s new agreement but Wang Yi’s trip definitely deepened relations in the South Pacific region.

China FlagChinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s eight-country, 10-day tour of the South Pacific failed to deliver Beijing’s desired multilateral pact on security and development. But there are few signs the setback has damped China’s determination to expand its influence in the strategically important region.

Analysts view the intensifying engagement from China — and the response from the traditional powers — as shaping up to be a drawn-out tussle for diplomatic influence, in which the Pacific Island states may gain from greater economic engagement but could also suffer from the instability of military posturing.

washington post logotaiwan flagWashington Post, Taiwan offered hope after they fled Hong Kong. Now they’re leaving again, Lily Kuo and Alicia Che, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). People from Hong Kong are finding their long-term residency applications in Taiwan rejected because of their ties to China.

washington post logoWashington Post, Platinum Jubilee is a last bash for Queen Elizabeth II and the party Brits need, William Booth and Karla Adam, June 1, 2022. She might not use this exact term, but Queen Elizabeth II is about to get a ginormous victory lap — a huzzah of applause, featuring a miles-long horse parade, 3,200 bonfires and a serenade at Buckingham Palace by Sir Rod Stewart.

United Kingdom flagFor her subjects, what’s not to like? Her majesty is giving Britain a four-day weekend to celebrate her 70 years on the throne, her Platinum Jubilee.

What is Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee? Here’s your royal guide.

Thousands and thousands of street parties, garden lunches and park picnics are planned for Sunday. The amount of jubilee pudding and coronation chicken, fizzy Prosecco and stout ale to be consumed? Almost incalculable.

Britain is most decidedly in the mood for a bash, not only to honor the queen’s record-breaking reign, but as a release after two grim pandemic winters, three full national lockdowns and about 180,000 covid deaths, many of them lonely.

washington post logoWashington Post, Canada vows to ‘freeze’ handgun sales, buy back assault-style weapons, Amanda Coletta, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). Canada on Monday introduced new gun-control legislation that, if passed, would implement a “national freeze” on buying, importing, transferring and selling handguns, effectively capping the number of such weapons already in the country.

canadian flagThe bill, which officials here cast as “the most significant action on gun violence in a generation,” also includes “red flag” laws that would allow judges to temporarily remove firearms from people deemed to be a danger to themselves or others and stiffer penalties for gun smuggling and trafficking.

“We recognize that the vast majority of gun owners in this country are responsible and follow all necessary laws,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa. “We are, however, facing a level of gun violence in our communities that is unacceptable.”as institutions from a different era.”

 Recent Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Public Health

ny times logoNew York Times, Shanghai Is Poised to Ease Restrictions as Infections Fall, Chris Buckley, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). After a punishing and lengthy lockdown, China’s biggest city is poised to return to something closer to normal starting Wednesday. Follow updates.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Two months after Shanghai began to fall under a Covid-19 lockdown that froze life there and rippled across the national economy, China’s biggest city is poised to return to something closer to normal starting Wednesday.

Shanghai has released plans in recent days to reopen shops and malls, revive buses and ferries, and open parks and other public venues to 25 million residents who have spent much of the past eight weeks confined to their homes.

washington post logoWashington Post, A doctor claimed he had a ‘miracle cure’ for covid. He’s going to prison, Jaclyn Peiser, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). In March and April of 2020, as the coronavirus spread and people isolated in their homes, a doctor in San Diego boasted that he had his hands on a “miracle cure,” according to prosecutors — hydroxychloroquine.

In mass-marketing emails from his business, Skinny Beach Med Spa, Jennings Ryan Staley said the drug was included in his coronavirus “treatment kits,” despite the medication becoming increasingly scarce. But Staley had a way of getting it, he later told an undercover federal agent. He planned to smuggle in a barrel of hydroxychloroquine powder with the help of a Chinese supplier, prosecutors said.

Staley was sentenced last week to 30 days in prison and a year of home confinement for the scheme. He pleaded guilty last year.

“At the height of the pandemic, before vaccines were available, this doctor sought to profit from patients’ fears,” U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said in a news release. “He abused his position of trust and undermined the integrity of the entire medical profession.”

Related Recent Headlines:

 

Climate, Environment

ny times logoNew York Times, A ‘Perfect Recipe’ for Wildfire: New Mexico’s Record-Breaking, Early Fire Season, Tim Wallace and Nadja Popovich, June 1, 2022. The explosive start reflects the convergence of winds and long-term trends like drought and extreme heat — an ominous sign for the rest of the American West.

Fueled by abnormally dry, warm conditions and spread by strong winds, wildfires have burned more than 600,000 acres across New Mexico this spring — making it one of the worst fire years in the state’s recorded history. And there’s at least another month of peak fire risk ahead.

The explosive, early start to this year’s Southwestern fire season reflects the convergence of long-term trends — a forest landscape overgrown after decades of aggressive fire suppression and parched by drought; springtime temperatures warmed by human-caused climate change — and more immediate dangers, like the relentless winds that have fanned the flames.

It’s an ominous sign for the rest of the American West, where the fire season tends to start later, but where conditions are similarly primed to burn.

washington post logoWashington Post, In worsening drought, Southern California water restrictions take effect, Joshua Partlow, June 1, 2022. Outdoor water use limited to one day per week in parts of Los Angeles area.

The forecast for Southern California grass is yellow and brown from here on out.

On Wednesday, new restrictions on outdoor water use go into effect for more than 6 million residents in the Los Angeles area. The rules, set by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, limit outdoor watering to one day per week in many jurisdictions — while others opted to stay below a volume limit — as authorities try to dramatically reduce urban water use amid the record-breaking drought fueled by the warming climate.

The goal is to cut water use by 35 percent as California is in its third consecutive year of severe drought, there is measly snowpack in the mountains and reservoirs have dwindled to record lows. Water authorities have described the situation as an emergency requiring more severe restrictions than in the past — but they also warn they might be just a prelude to further cuts. If conditions don’t improve by September, Metropolitan Water District officials have warned they might ban outdoor water use entirely.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden wants to rebuild the EPA. He doesn’t have the money to do it, Dino Grandoni, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). ‘Our budget situation is such that we’re at real risk of years-long delays,’ one official warns.

After years of neglect, President Biden promised to reinvigorate the EPA as part of his push to tackle climate change and ease the pollution burden placed on poor and minority communities. But the agency’s budgetary woes are preventing the nation’s top pollution regulator from doing its job, in ways large and small.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Policies Sent U.S. Tumbling in a Climate Ranking, Maggie Astor, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). A report found that only Denmark and Britain were on track for net-zero emissions by 2050, while U.S. efforts floundered under former President Trump. The Environmental Performance Index, published every two years by researchers at Yale and Columbia, found only Denmark and Britain on sustainable paths to net-zero emissions by 2050.

For four years under President Donald J. Trump, the United States all but stopped trying to combat climate change at the federal level. Mr. Trump is no longer in office, but his presidency left the country far behind in a race that was already difficult to win.

A new report from researchers at Yale and Columbia Universities shows that the United States’ environmental performance has tumbled in relation to other countries — a reflection of the fact that, while the United States squandered nearly half a decade, many of its peers moved deliberately.

But, underscoring the profound obstacles to cutting greenhouse gas emissions rapidly enough to prevent the worst effects of climate change, even that movement was insufficient. The report’s sobering bottom line is that, while almost every country has pledged by 2050 to reach net-zero emissions (the point where their activities no longer add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere), almost none are on track to do it.

The report, called the Environmental Performance Index, or E.P.I., found that, based on their trajectories from 2010 through 2019, only Denmark and Britain were on a sustainable path to eliminate emissions by midcentury.

Recent Climate Headlines

 

Media, Religion, Culture, Sports

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court puts on hold Texas law that limits social media companies’ moderation efforts, Robert Barnes and Cat Zakrzewski, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). The law would bar social media companies from removing posts based on a user’s political ideology.

twitter bird CustomThe Supreme Court on Tuesday stopped a Texas law that would regulate how social media companies police content on their sites, while a legal battle continues over whether such measures violate the First Amendment.

facebook logoThe vote was 5 to 4. The five in the majority — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — did not provide reasoning for their action, which is common in emergency requests.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch, said he had not made up his mind about the constitutionality of the law, but would have allowed it to go into effect while review continues. Justice Elena Kagan also would have let stand for now a lower court’s decision allowing the law to take effect, but she did not join Alito’s dissent or provide her own reasons.

washington post logoWashington Post, A ‘Dynamite’ guest at the White House: K-pop group BTS meets with Biden on anti-Asian discrimination, Seung Min Kim, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). A horde of eager journalists began to crowd the aisles of the White House briefing room Tuesday long before the daily parrying session with reporters would begin — and they weren’t there for Brian Deese.

South Korea FlagFor one afternoon, the White House became an exclusive stage for global K-pop phenomenon BTS, with each of the 49 briefing room seats becoming the most coveted tickets in town. The group had been invited by the administration to raise awareness of the prevalence of anti-Asian discrimination.

“We are BTS,” said RM, whose formal name is Kim Nam-Joon and is considered the megagroup’s de facto leader, as he stepped up to the briefing room lectern. “It is a great honor to be invited to the White House today to discuss the important issues of anti-Asian hate crimes, Asian inclusion and diversity.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who opened up for the group, noted that while “many of you many know BTS as Grammy-nominated international icons, they also play an important role as youth ambassadors, promoting a message of respect and positivity.”

The other group members then took turns delivering their own messages in Korean. Later, an interpreter summed up their various messages, such as: “equality begins when we open up and embrace all of our differences” and “we hope today is one step forward to respecting and understanding each and every one as a valuable person.”

Then RM returned to the lectern.

“Lastly, we thank President Biden and the White House for giving this important opportunity to speak about the important causes,” he said. “Remind ourselves of what we can do as artists.”

washington post logoWashington Post, 4 homes tied to Mass. reporter hit with bricks, graffitied with spray paint, Jonathan Edwards, June 1, 2022. The vandal warned it was ‘JUST THE BEGINNING!’ in latest incident.

Journalist Lauren Chooljian came home last month to discover that a brick had been thrown through the front window of her home in Melrose, Mass. On the white siding just below the shattered glass, the vandal had spray-painted an ominous warning in big, red letters.

“JUST THE BEGINNING!”

In fact, the beginning had started nearly a month earlier. Since late April, there had been four other attacks on homes tied to Chooljian, all hit with the same two weapons: a brick and red spray paint. Targets included her former address, her boss’s place and her parents’ home, which was hit twice.

Police in four towns are investigating the five incidents. On Thursday, Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan in Massachusetts released video footage of a vandal hurling a brick into Chooljian’s home and asked anyone with information about his identity to contact police. Ryan said investigators are considering the possibility that the attacks are linked to Chooljian’s work as a senior reporter and producer for New Hampshire Public Radio. The possible motive: revenge for stories she’s published in the past, intimidation to silence her in the future, or both.

washington post logoWashington Post, Virginia lawmakers to delay vote on NFL stadium for Commanders, signaling trouble for the plan, Laura Vozzella, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). The General Assembly will delay voting on legislation meant to lure the Washington Commanders football team to Virginia, a key senator said Tuesday, signaling trouble for a plan that began the year with broad bipartisan buy-in.

With legislators returning to the Capitol on Wednesday to vote on the state budget and other measures kicked into a special session early this year, Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said a pair of stadium bills will not come to the floor as planned.

The delay will not be the last word on the stadium effort generally or even the current legislation, which Saslaw said will stay alive because the General Assembly will not take the usual vote to conclude the special session Wednesday. That move will extend the session for an unspecified period.

But the delay suggests that the proposed taxpayer-subsidized stadium has become a tougher sell in Richmond than in January, when a pair of bills emerged with powerful bipartisan support, and newly inaugurated Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) endorsed the idea in his first speech to the legislature.

While negotiators have worked since then to slash the size of the state’s contribution — from an initial estimate of $1 billion to less than $300 million — controversies have grown around team owner Daniel Snyder. Snyder has been accused of sexual misconduct and financial improprieties — allegations he denies.

The Commanders and Snyder have been embroiled in scandal for much of the past two years amid allegations of sexual misconduct and financial impropriety, which have prompted investigations by the NFL and Congress, as well as possibly the Federal Trade Commission. Last month, Attorneys General Karl A. Racine (D) of D.C. and Jason S. Miyares (R) of Virginia launched their own probes of the team.

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