Weekend Open Thread
[guest post by Dana]
First news item
How bad is the drought? History exposed in the Danube:
Europe’s worst drought in years has pushed the mighty river Danube to one of its lowest levels in almost a century, exposing the hulks of dozens of explosives-laden German warships sunk during World War Two near Serbia’s river port town of Prahovo…The vessels were among hundreds scuttled along the Danube by Nazi Germany’s Black Sea fleet in 1944 as they retreated from advancing Soviet forces, and still hamper river traffic during low water levels…Strewn across the riverbed, some of the ships still boast turrets, command bridges, broken masts and twisted hulls, while others lie mostly submerged under sand banks.
And in the Western United States, a fifth body is exposed in Lake Mead:
Another set of human remains were found in Lake Mead near Las Vegas, the second time this month that remains have been found in the country’s largest reservoir, officials said Wednesday…This is the fifth time since May and the second time this month that human remains have been found in Lake Mead, where water levels are receding at a historic rate…On May 7, human skeletal remains were found near the lake’s Callville Bay, according to NPS. The discovery came a week after the decayed body of a man was found stuffed in a steel barrel near the reservoir’s Hemenway Fishing Pier, over 20 miles from Callville Bay, according to Las Vegas police…On July 25 and Aug. 6, human remains were also discovered at Swim Beach.
Also, villages and bridges exposed in England:
Ancient bridges, lost villages and secret gardens that have been hidden from view for decades have been revealed once again as the country sees it driest summer in half a century…Among these are ancient bridges that have spent decades hidden from view and lost villages that were flooded to as the reservoirs they now call home were made…The effects have also been seen on land, with parched lawns at stately homes across the country uncovering old gardens that had been paved and planted over in the course of the last three centuries…These include Longleat in Wiltshire, which has seen the outlines of long-lost walls, pathways, fountains and parterres dating back to the 1600s become visible in the extreme heat…In Derbyshire water levels in Ladybower Reservoir have fallen so low that people can see ruins from the old villages of Ashopton and Derwent, both of which were flooded when the reservoir was filled in 1946.
(Amazing photos at the link.)
Second news item
About Trump’s “standing order” to declassify:
In the days since the FBI seized classified and top secret documents from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, the former President and his allies have claimed that Trump had a “standing order” to declassify documents he took from the Oval Office to the White House residence.
But 18 former top Trump administration officials tell CNN they never heard any such order issued during their time working for Trump, and that they believe the claim to be patently false.
Several officials laughed at the notion. One senior administration official called it “bullsh*t.” Two of Trump’s former chiefs of staff went on the record to knock down the claim.
“Nothing approaching an order that foolish was ever given,” said John Kelly, who served as Trump’s chief of staff for 17 months from 2017 to 2019. “And I can’t imagine anyone that worked at the White House after me that would have simply shrugged their shoulders and allowed that order to go forward without dying in the ditch trying to stop it.”
In addition, CNN spoke with former national security and intelligence officials as well as White House lawyers and Justice Department officials. Taken together, their tenure covers all four years of the Trump administration, and many served in positions where they would either be included in the declassification process, or at the very least, be aware of such orders.
Third news item
Will she or won’t she, should she or shouldn’t she:
Asked if she plans to run for president, she first deflected and argued that the GOP needs to be taken in a different direction. “We’ve now got one major political party, my party, which has really become a cult of personality, and we’ve got to get this party back to a place where we’re embracing the values and the principles on which it was founded,” she said.
Pressed again about whether she’s contemplating running for president, Cheney said, “That’s a decision that I’m going to make in the coming months, and I’m not going to make any announcements here this morning — but it is something that I am thinking about.”
Fourth news item
McConnell concerned about quality of candidates:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday downplayed expectations of Republicans capturing control of the Senate in the fall elections, describing “candidate quality” as an important factor.
“I think there’s probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate. Senate races are just different — they’re statewide, candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome,” he said…
“Right now, we have a 50-50 Senate and a 50-50 country, but I think when all is said and done this fall, we’re likely to have an extremely close Senate, either our side up slightly or their side up slightly.”
I get why McConnell is concerned:
Two of the other candidates vying to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan this fall — failed 2020 Senate hopeful Don Bolduc and first-time candidate and crypto currency advocate Bruce Fenton — leaned into the outrage Donald Trump has been stoking online ever since federal agents retrieved highly sensitive documents from his Florida home.
“It’s time to abolish the FBI and replace it with nothing,” Felton told the crowd.
“You shouldn’t be able to raid a former president’s house at any time,” Bolduc offered in his defense of the embattled former president.
And then there’s Hershel Walker, Dr. Oz, etc…
Fifth news item
China’s President Xi Jinping and Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin plan to attend the G20 summit in Bali later this year, according to Indonesian officials.
…President Biden is expected to attend November’s forum, setting the stage for the first summit involving the leaders of the U.S., China and Russia since Putin’s forces invaded Ukraine and tensions between Washington and Beijing became further heightened after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been invited to the summit, which would mark Xi’s first visit to another country since January 2020, before the pandemic took hold across the world…
Indonesia’s government has faced pressure from Western leaders, including Biden, ahead of its chairing of the Group of 20 meeting of major economies to exclude Putin from the summit due to his forces invading Ukraine.
Yes, but: Indonesia’s government has sought to place itself as a mediator on matters concerning both Russia and China.
Sixth news item
The suspect in the stabbing of renowned British-American novelist Salman Rushdie in New York state last week pleaded not guilty Thursday to second-degree attempted murder and second-degree assault…Hadi Matar, the man accused of ambushing Rushdie as he was about to deliver remarks at the Chautauqua Institution, made the plea during his arraignment in a Mayville, N.Y., courtroom after a grand jury indicted him on those charges. He is to be held without bail, the judge ordered. If convicted of attempted murder, Matar could face a sentence of up to 25 years in prison. An assault conviction could mean up to seven years in prison, a prosecutor told CNN…Jason Schmidt, the Chautauqua prosecutor on the case, said the county’s district attorney’s office is considering whether the suspect’s charges could be upgraded to a hate-crime charge but won’t be pursued as such for the time being. FBI Director of Public Information Beau Duffy also said it could potentially probe the incident as a hate crime, “but no hate crime charges have been filed at this time,” the agency told Fox News.
Seventh news item
Reported events tonight:
• Explosions at munitions depot, Timonovo, Belgorod
• Fire/explosions at Stary Oskol Airfield, Belgorod
• Explosions in Nova Kakhovka, Kherson
• Explosions/UAV shot down near Belbek airport, Crimea
• Air defence activity near Kerch strait, Crimea
— Jimmy (@JimmySecUK) August 18, 2022
How are they doing it? And why are they doing it?
The “why” part is easy. Ukraine’s government continues to insist that a counteroffensive in Kherson to liberate the southern part of the country is coming but that it lacks the weapons at the moment to make a meaningful push. While they wait for those, they’re going to focus on cutting Russian supply lines and spooking the hell out of Putin and his henchmen with these Doolittle-esque strikes in territory that was thought safe from attack. “We’re using a strategy to ruin their stocks, to ruin their depots, to ruin their headquarters, commander quarters. It’s our answer to their meat-grinder tactics,” Ukraine’s defense minister said this week. The more they deplete Russian ammunition and complicate the logistics of defending Kherson, the more pressure Russia will feel to retreat rather than commit to a potentially disastrous defense.
Zelensky warns Russian actions could result in catastrophe:
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Monday that Russia’s actions could “cause a catastrophe” should Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine not be defended properly.
“If Russia’s actions cause a catastrophe, the consequences may also hit those who remain silent so far,” Zelensky warned.
He continued, “Any radiation incident at the Zaporizhzhia NPP can affect the countries of the European Union, Turkey, Georgia and countries from more distant regions.”
Zelensky elaborated on the effects of Russia’s presence near the power plant on the international community, saying that Russia is ignoring and rejecting other countries’ demands.
“If a terrorist state allows itself to completely ignore the demands of the international community, especially in such a sensitive topic, this clearly indicates the need for immediate action,” he said, adding that Russia is “rejecting the security demands” of 42 countries that have asked the country to withdraw its forces from the plant.
Eighth news item
A male “period dignity officer” who’s not even a medical doctor:
Local authorities in Scotland have come in for criticism after they appointed a man to the role of period dignity officer, responsible for coordinating the region’s response to a new law that makes menstrual products free to access in the country.
A group of colleges and local councils in Tay region in eastern Scotland announced the appointment of Jason Grant, who previously worked as a student wellbeing officer at a local college, to the role on Thursday.
However, critics argue that a woman would have been better suited to the job.
“He will coordinate and streamline the approach to ‘Period Dignity’ across the area by working directly with the colleges and local authorities,” Grainger PR said in a press release announcing the appointment…”Jason will lead a regional campaign across schools, colleges and wider communities, raising awareness and understanding of the new Act and ensuring that the Scottish Government funding is allocated appropriately,” it said.
Grant called the legislation “transformational and long-overdue” in the press release announcing his appointment…
“I think being a man will help me to break down barriers, reduce stigma and encourage more open discussions. Although affecting women directly, periods are an issue for everyone,” he said, adding that he will also work to raise awareness of the menopause.
“It’s time to normalise these topics and get real around the subject,” he added. “I believe I can make progress by proving this isn’t just a female topic, encouraging conversations across all genders and educating and engaging new audiences.”
Good luck to this young man instructing a roomful of cranky, hot-flashing menopausal women to get real about their transition and just chill the heck out…
P.S. Scotland has just become the first country to offer women free tampons and sanitary pads.
Ninth news item
Gov. DeSantis and the First Amendment:
A federal judge on Thursday blocked portions of a Florida law restricting how workplaces and schools can discuss race during required training or instruction championed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida Chief Judge Mark Walker issued a preliminary injunction blocking the private employer provisions in the law, known as the “Stop WOKE Act,” saying it violates free speech protections under the First Amendment and that it violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause for being impermissibly vague.
“Recently, Florida has seemed like a First Amendment upside down,” Walker wrote in the ruling, comparing the law to the fictional “upside down” in the Netflix series “Stranger Things.”
“Normally, the First Amendment bars the state from burdening speech, while private actors may burden speech freely,” the Obama-appointed judge continued. “But in Florida, the First Amendment apparently bars private actors from burdening speech, while the state may burden speech freely.”
The DeSantis attack on the First Amendment illustrates how the word "conservative" lost meaning.
For 20+ years conservatives attacked campus speech codes, upholding free speech as a core value.
Now DeSantis passes his own speech codes, and it's "conservative" to support them?
— David French (@DavidAFrench) August 19, 2022
Have a great weekend!