[guest post by Dana]
Happy weekend and Happy New Year! I don’t have the wherewithal to compile a Best Of and Worst Of 2022 post. Feel free to share your take on the closing year and hopes for the new year, or anything else that interests you.
Here are a few news items. Ready or not, here we go.
First news item
Trump and his wife…paid $0 in income taxes for 2020, according to a report released late Tuesday by the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation. The nonpartisan committee’s findings also raised several red flags related to the filings, namely Trump’s carryover losses, loans to his children that may or may not also be considered taxable gifts, and deduction-related tax write-offs.
That year, as the COVID pandemic hit, the Trumps reported a loss of $4.8 million. For 2018 and 2019, the then-president’s reported income increased and they paid approximately $1.1 million in federal taxes each year.
What’s more, the Internal Revenue Service only started to audit Trump’s 2015 tax filings on April 3, 2019, more than two years into his presidency…
Second news item
China and Russia should “strengthen strategic coordination” and “inject more stability into the world,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin via video link on Friday, according to Chinese state media Xinhua.
China is “ready to work” with Russia to “stand against hegemonism and power politics” to oppose unilateralism, protectionism and “bullying,” as well as to safeguard sovereignty, security, as well as international equity and justice, Xi said, according to Chinese state media.
Third news item
Here is a list of people you should not currently want to be: a Russian sausage tycoon, a Russian gas-industry executive, the editor in chief of a Russian tabloid, a Russian shipyard director, the head of a Russian ski resort, a Russian aviation official, or a Russian rail magnate. Anyone answering to such a description probably ought not stand near open windows, in almost any country, on almost every continent.
Over the weekend, Pavel Antov, the aforementioned sausage executive, a man who had reportedly expressed a dangerous lack of enthusiasm for Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine, was found dead at a hotel in India, just two days after one of his Russian travel companions died at the same hotel. Antov was reported to have fallen to his death from a hotel window. The meat millionaire and his also-deceased friend are the most recent additions to a macabre list of people who have succumbed to Sudden Russian Death Syndrome, a phenomenon that has claimed the lives of a flabbergastingly large number of businessmen, bureaucrats, oligarchs, and journalists. The catalog of these deaths—which includes alleged defenestrations, suspected poisonings, suspicious heart attacks, and supposed suicides—is remarkable for the variety of unnatural deaths contained within as well as its Russian-novel length.
I bought a Russian advent calendar. Every time you open a window an oligarch falls out.
— Gary Delaney is on tour now (@GaryDelaney) December 28, 2022
Fourth news item
President Joe Biden on Thursday signed a $1.7 trillion federal spending bill that includes a number of administration priorities and officially avoids a government shutdown, ending what he called a “year of historic progress.”
“It’ll invest in medical research, safety, veteran health care, disaster recovery, (Violence Against Women Act) funding – and gets crucial assistance to Ukraine,” Biden wrote in a tweet.
He added: “Looking forward to more in 2023.”
The legislation includes $772.5 billion for nondefense discretionary programs and $858 billion in defense funding…package includes roughly $45 billion in emergency assistance to Ukraine and NATO allies, an overhaul of the electoral vote-counting law, protections for pregnant workers, an enhancement to retirement savings rules and a ban on TikTok on federal devices…will provide a boost in spending for disaster aid, college access, child care, mental health and food assistance, more support for the military and veterans and additional funds for the US Capitol Police…And the legislation contains several major Medicaid provisions, notably one that could disenroll up to 19 million people from the nation’s health insurance program for low-income Americans.
Fifth news item
It was an understandable impulse to wonder whether Iran’s protest movement might continue to grow until it reached a threshold that would cause the country’s security forces to back down and side with the demonstrators over the regime. Afshon Ostovar, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, explains why this expectation was always rooted in naivete. Iran’s most powerful security force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was designed precisely not to back down in such a situation.
During the Iranian Revolution of 1979, Ostovar explains, “it was the Iranian military’s decision to declare neutrality and stand down that signaled the end of the Pahlavi dynasty, setting Iran on a new course.” But by demanding an end to the Islamic system, Iran’s current “protesters challenge the IRGC’s very raison d’être. The IRGC cannot exist under a form of government that is no longer defined by the Islamic Revolution. If the current order is overturned, the IRGC will have no place in whatever comes next.” Which is why they will fight to protect it to the very end.
Sixth news item
Snowbirds are a common sight in Southern California in wintertime — except when they’re actually a bird. A snowy owl to be exact.
Crowds of bird-watchers have been showing up regularly in an Orange County neighborhood to gawk at a snowy owl, a species normally found around the Arctic, Canada and several northern U.S. states.
It’s current home is a rooftop perch in the balmy city of Cypress.
Nice photo of the visitor at the link.
Seventh news item
Weeks after winning a district that helped Republicans secure a razor-thin majority in the US House of Representatives, the congressman-elect George Santos is under investigation in New York after acknowledging lying about his heritage, education and professional pedigree as he campaigned for office.
Santos has conceded he lied about his background, but there is also growing scrutiny over his campaign spending and whether it ran afoul of campaign finance laws.
Santos spent more than $40,000 on air travel alone, a staggering amount that outpaced other congressional candidates and even leading members of Congress, the New York Times reported…Nick LaLota, another Republican congressman-elect from Long Island, spent $3,000 on airfare, according to the Times.
There are also questions about whether Santos used campaign funds to pay for personal expenses including housing, the Times reported. Dozens of items listed on his campaign disclosures are for $199.99, one cent less than the amount required to keep receipts, according to the paper.
The top House Republican, Kevin McCarthy, and his leadership team have kept silent about Santos, who remains set to take the oath of office on Tuesday even after publicly admitting to fabricating swaths of his biography…Santos has shown no signs of stepping aside, punting the decision to hold him accountable to his party and Congress, where he could face an ethics investigation.
Before Big Media reported on the questionable claism of George Santos, a small local outlet sounded the alarm about the Republican.
This is just unbelievable:
A drone has captured incredible footage of entire houses encased in ice after a bomb cyclone hit the US and parts of Canada.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) December 28, 2022
And two lovely stories about kindness and generosity:
A group of South Korean tourists whose van couldn’t make it through the wicked winter conditions in the Buffalo, New York area found shelter thanks to a helpful stranger this past weekend.
Alexander Campagna, a dentist, wrote on Facebook that he received a “frantic knock on the door” in the Village of Williamsville on Friday. Two men from a group of ten tourists were at the door to ask for shovels to dig out their vehicle stuck in front of his home…
The couple provided the ten tourists with places to sleep and – during the unexpected weekend stay – the group watched a Buffalo Bills game and also ate Korean meals together, food that the Campagnas love to consume, the newspaper reported.
“It was kind of like fate,” Choi told the Times.
“We will never forget this,” Campagna said.
And also from Buffalo, woman saves developmentally disabled man stranded in the storm:
Sha’Kyra Aughtry said she was home when she heard someone screaming on her street. When she looked out her window, she saw a man calling for help in the frigid cold.
Aughtry’s boyfriend carried the man, 64-year-old Joe White, into the house, and she used a blow dryer to melt the ice off his red and blistered hands and used a “grass cutter” to take his rings off, she said in a Facebook livestream.
White is now recovering in the ICU with fourth-degree frostbite after arriving the hospital Sunday night, his sister Yvonne White told CNN.
“I’m hoping and praying for the best,” she said.
Have a great weekend!