[guest post by Dana]
While working on today’s post, I really had to resist writing a detailed review of the gowns that Mrs. Biden and Mrs. Macron wore to last night’s state dinner, and focus instead on more relevant (but not as pretty!) news items.
First news item
President Biden, heeding President Macron’s push for negotiations with Russia, said that he is open to talking to President Vladimir Putin with conditions:
…he would talk to President Vladimir V. Putin, but only in consultation with NATO allies and only if the Russian leader indicated he was “looking for a way to end the war.”
Mr. Biden’s public expression of conditioned willingness to reach out to Mr. Putin gratified French officials and provided unexpected support for President Emmanuel Macron’s outreach. Mr. Biden noted that Mr. Putin had shown no interest yet in ending his invasion, but said that if that changed, “I’ll be happy to sit down with Putin to see what he has in mind.”
Macron made clear that France would continue to support Ukraine, and “will never urge Ukrainians to make a compromise that will not be acceptable for them.”
Russia, however, has its own conditions they want met before entering into any discussions to end the war, and those include the four Ukrainian regions annexed by Russia:
Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters earlier that Mr Putin remained open to talks aimed “to ensure our interests”. But Moscow was certainly not ready to accept US conditions: “What did President Biden say in fact? He said that negotiations are possible only after Putin leaves Ukraine.”
It complicated the search for a mutual basis for talks, he said, that the US did not recognise “new territories” in Ukraine. At the end of September, President Putin declared four Ukrainian regions as part of Russia, but while Russian forces in eastern Ukraine occupy most of Luhansk, their invasion of Donetsk has stalled and they are on the back foot in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south.
This all reminds me of this. No off-ramps, just get out of Ukraine:
Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin was asked about a potential off-ramp for Russia to end the war in Ukraine. Her reply: pic.twitter.com/VblWxkMuFc
— Rikhard Husu (@RikhardHusu) October 7, 2022
Another item of agreement between the French leader and President Biden was to hold Russia accountable for “widely documented atrocities and war crimes” in Ukraine.
P.S. A new report claims that Putin fell down some stairs and injured his tailbone, and that he has stomach cancer: “The channel claims to have sources in Putin’s entourage and said medics ‘arrived within a few minutes, but could not immediately examine the president’. This is because he is suffering ‘cancer of the gastrointestinal tract, as a result of which he already experiences serious problems with digestion’ – and the fall caused an ‘involuntary’ reaction. ‘Before the examination, the doctors escorted the president to the bathroom and helped to clean up.’”
Second news item
Women in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan on Friday joined nationwide protests sparked by Mahsa Amini’s death, in what a rights group called a “rare” move for women in the staunchly conservative Sunni Muslim province.
Online videos showed dozens of women on the streets of the provincial capital Zahedan holding banners that declared “Woman, life, freedom” — one of the main slogans of the protest movement that erupted in mid-September.
“Whether with hijab, whether without it, onwards to revolution,” women clad in black, body-covering chadors chanted in videos posted on Twitter and verified by AFP.
Iranian protester who cheered on a U.S. victory over Iran at the World Cup in Doha, paid a high price:
A friend of Iranian midfielder Saeid Ezatolahi was shot and killed by his country’s security forces Tuesday after the team’s loss to the United States at the World Cup, a group of human rights activists told The Guardian.
Mehran Samak, 27, was reportedly shot after honking his car horn in the port city of Bandar Anzali, located in Iran’s northwestern Gilan province. The incident came amid a wave of anti-government protests across the country.
Per the Center for Human Rights in Iran via the Guardian, Samak had been celebrating the World Cup loss, which clinched the Americans’ advance into the knockout stages of the tournament and sent Iran home. Per local journalists, some Iranians have been celebrating the loss as a blow to Iran’s government, which has been attempting to suppress the protests sparked by Mahsa Amini.
Third news item
A rural Arizona county certified its midterm election results on Thursday, following the orders of a judge who ruled that Republican supervisors broke the law when they refused to sign off on the vote count by this week’s deadline.
Two Republicans on Cochise County’s three-member board of supervisors balked for weeks about certifying the election, even as the deadline passed on Monday. They did not cite any problems with the election results. Rather, they say they weren’t satisfied that the machines used to tabulate ballots were properly certified for use in elections, though state and federal election officials have said they were.
Re-upping this. https://t.co/WRHBuLl9BW
— Kari Lake (@KariLake) December 2, 2022
Fourth news item
6. Former President Trump is generally liked by Republicans with 70% viewing him favorably but this measurement has dissipated markedly from past surveys, and he is no longer seen as the head of the party by GOP voters.
• That understood, Donald Trump is viewed unfavorably by almost one in three (29%) voters who backed Republicans in the midterms, including 33% of “Reagan Republicans,” 34% of “Traditional Republicans,” 34% of Fox News viewers, and even one in five (21%) voters who backed him in 2020.
• Additionally, 66% of Independents view Trump unfavorably, including 52% who view him “very unfavorably.”
• A plurality of Republicans (40%) — including 50% of self-described “Traditional Republicans” and “Reagan Republicans” — say Donald Trump should no longer be the leader and face of the Republican Party while 37% say he should be.
• Among Fox News viewers, 45% say Trump should no longer be the leader and face of the GOP while 35% say he should be.
7. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ net favorability ratings surpass Trump among Republicans (+66 vs. +44), Fox News viewers (+58 vs. +27), and Trump’s own 2020 voters (+69 vs. +54).
• DeSantis is also well liked by a broad coalition of Republicans with a 68%/0% favorable/unfavorable rating among self-described “Trump Republicans;” 71%/9% among “Traditional Republicans;” and 82%/5% among “Reagan Republicans.”
• DeSantis has more crossover appeal than both Trump and Biden with a net -3 favorability rating among Independent voters compared to -27 for Biden and -39 for Trump.
• Among split-ticket voters, DeSantis’ net favorability rating is +7, Biden’s is -21, and Trump’s is -36.
Fifth news item
A unanimous federal appeals court on Thursday ended an independent review of documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate, removing a hurdle the Justice Department said had delayed its criminal investigation into the retention of top-secret government information.
The decision by the three-judge panel represents a significant win for federal prosecutors, clearing the way for them to use as part of their investigation the entire tranche of documents seized during an Aug. 8 FBI search of Mar-a-Lago. It also amounts to a sharp repudiation of arguments by Trump’s lawyers, who for months had said that the former president was entitled to have a so-called “special master” conduct a neutral review of the thousands of documents taken from the property.
Sixth news item
A very slight easing up of Covid restrictions in China:
Vice Premier Sun Chunlan said at a meeting Wednesday that China faces a new Covid situation “as the Omicron variant’s pathogenic nature weakens, vaccination becomes more common and [there’s] an accumulation of experience with Covid prevention and control.” That’s according to a CNBC translation of the Chinese state media report late last night.
Also on Wednesday, the Guangzhou city district hardest hit by Covid said it would allow most restaurants to resume in-store dining, and entertainment venues can gradually reopen.
“We believe Sun’s speech, in addition to the notable easing of Covid control measures in Guangzhou yesterday, sends yet another strong signal that the zero-Covid policy will end within the next few months,” Nomura’s Chief China Economist Ting Lu and a team said in a report Thursday.
But while Covid restrictions might be slightly eased, China reminds citizens of their heavy-handed oppression of the population:
Chinese authorities have initiated the highest “emergency response” level of censorship, according to leaked directives, including a crackdown on VPNs and other methods of bypassing online censorship after unprecedented protests demonstrated widespread public frustration with the zero-Covid policy.
The crackdown, including the tracking and questioning of protesters, comes alongside the easing of pandemic restrictions in an apparent carrot-and-stick approach to an outpouring of public grievances. During an extraordinary week in China, protests against zero-Covid restrictions included criticism of the authoritarian rule of Xi Jinping – which was further highlighted by the death of the former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin.
Leaked directives issued to online Chinese platforms, first published by a Twitter account devoted to sharing protest-related information, have revealed authorities’ specific concerns about the growing interest among citizens in circumventing China’s so-called “Great Firewall”. The demonstrations have been strictly censored, but protesters and other citizens have this week used VPNs to access non-Chinese news and social media apps that are banned in China.
Protesters were spurned to protest Covid restrictions after a deadly fire that took three hours to be extinguished and killed 10 people who were unable to escape the blaze due to the draconian Covid restrictions which saw the apartment building’s doors being locked from the outside.
Seventh news item
President Biden faces backlash over proposal:
President Joe Biden is recommending that South Carolina, the state that lifted him to front-runner status in the 2020 primaries, kick off Democrats’ 2024 presidential nominating contest, according to a top Democratic source familiar with the plan.
In doing so, he has set off a frenzied scramble among competing early states that are apoplectic over the proposal.
The proposed order would do away with the Iowa caucuses’ leading things off. Instead, South Carolina would go first, followed by New Hampshire and Nevada on the same day, trailed by Georgia and then Michigan, according to two senior party officials.
Driving the President’s proposal:
In a letter…to the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee, Biden, who did not specify his preferred order of states, wrote, “For decades, Black voters in particular have been the backbone of the Democratic Party but have been pushed to the back of the early primary process.”
He also said Democrats “should no longer allow caucuses as part of our nominating process,” dealing an expected blow to Iowa.
News: It's Michigan.
Mich is poised to replace Iowa as an early nominating state for Democrats in 2024, per senior officials.
Will be formally taken up by DNC this weekend, but the White House has decided.
I first reported Mich was being eyed here:https://t.co/fDPVbwoixc
— Jonathan Martin (@jmart) December 1, 2022
Eighth news item
Maine governor blasts President Biden for serving lobster at State Dinner with President Macron:
Democratic Maine congressman Jared Golden is attacking President Joe Biden for approving onerous regulations that put Maine lobstermen “out of business.”
The White House on Tuesday had 200 live lobsters shipped from Maine to Washington, D.C., for a Thursday State Dinner, prompting Golden’s ire.
“If the Biden White House can prioritize purchasing 200 Maine lobsters for a fancy dinner,” Golden tweeted from his official account, then the president “should also take the time to meet with the Maine lobstermen his administration is currently regulating out of business.”
Ninth news item
Reparations making the rounds. First up, Rhode Island:
Providence, R.I., is joining the growing ranks of cities trying to rectify their history of discrimination against Black residents through reparations programs.
Mayor Jorge Elorza (D), with Black residents by his side, recently signed a $10 million budget for the Providence Municipal Reparations program. “The radical thing that we did was we put Black voices in the center of city policymaking,” Elorza said in an interview.
While Elorza has focused on how the program would help the city’s Black and Native American residents, there’s a hitch: It’s race-neutral.
Black and Native American Providence residents qualify automatically, but the city has also established a separate, income criteria that could include about half its White residents.
That has angered critics who say it is unclear how much of the money will flow to the Black residents, who make up 12 percent of the population, and have been harmed by systemic racism.
And from California:
A California task force studying the long-term effects of slavery and systemic racism on black residents in the state has estimated a whopping $569 billion in reparations is owed to the descendants of enslaved people, according to a report.
The nine-member panel concluded that black Californians whose ancestors were in the US in the 19th century are due $223,200 each due to housing discrimination practices utilized from 1933 to 1977, the New York Times reported…
A history of housing discrimination against black Californians makes up a significant portion of the compensation the panel recommends. Several black communities were bought out or seized through eminent domain to be bulldozed for infrastructure projects, according to the panel’s findings…In addition to housing discrimination, the panel has targeted four other areas to study — mass incarceration, unjust property seizures, devaluation of black businesses and health care.
They can never be thanked enough:
You came to fight 80 years ago from the other side of the Atlantic to ensure our shared ideals and faith in democracy would triumph.
France will be eternally grateful. pic.twitter.com/ydmhl3KQzU
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) December 1, 2022
Have a great weekend!