[guest post by Dana]
First news item
Former NBA center Enes Kanter Freedom has had a bounty put out on him by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government worth up to 10 million Turkish lira, or about $500,000, for information leading to his capture.
Freedom is on the country’s 2023 most-wanted terrorists list as he has been famously outspoken regarding Turkey’s human rights abuses through Erdogan’s government. He told the New York Post that he found out about the bounty a week ago.
“Before the bounty, Turkish intelligence were after the people on the list, but now everyone is after them because they want the money,” Freedom told the Post.
Kanter Freedom said that he is considering suing the NBA, as he believes he was blackballed for speaking out against China and the genocide of the Uyghur people.
Second news item
Shortly before the 2022 election, now-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) issued a striking warning: Were Republicans to win control of Congress, Ukraine might not be able to count on the United States’ continued financial support.
A new CBS News/YouGov poll this week – the first to test the issue since Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke before Congress in December – is the latest to illustrate that drift. And despite Zelensky’s plea for American resolve, it shows that a slight majority of Republicans want their member of Congress to oppose further Ukraine funding, by a 52 percent to 48 percent margin.
But saying we should do less isn’t the same as saying we should do nothing. And now a significant number of Republicans say that’s their position.
What the polls have also shown – and is likely related to the declining numbers – is more pessimism among Republicans about Ukraine’s ability to win the war and more desire to make concessions to Russia in the name of ending it.
Third news item
Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday appointed a special counsel to investigate the presence of classified documents found at President Joe Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware, and at an unsecured office in Washington dating from his time as vice president.
Robert Hur, a onetime U.S. attorney appointed by former President Donald Trump, will lead the investigation and plans to begin his work soon. His appointment marks the second time in a few months that Garland has appointed a special counsel, an extraordinary fact that reflects the Justice Department’s efforts to independently conduct high-profile probes in an exceedingly heated political environment.
Both of those investigations, the earlier one involving Trump and documents recovered from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, relate to the handling of classified information…
Related: Both of these can’t be true:
…President Biden’s two responses to the discovery that he had been keeping Obama-era classified documents at his personal residence have been:
I didn’t know I had them until December 20, 2022, and I still don’t know what’s in them.
Don’t worry, because the documents were safely stored in my “locked garage.”
But both of these cannot be true — at least not deliberately so. If Biden didn’t know he had classified documents in his garage, he cannot have knowingly secured them. Which means that, if his garage was, indeed, locked, it was locked for other reasons, and thus that the classified documents that it contained were secured by dumb luck…As for “locked”? Hardly. There are videos online showing Biden’s garage door being left open, and we know that people other than Biden — including his son, Hunter, the textbook definition of a security risk — had access to the house…
Fourth news item
The Trump Organization was hit with $1.6 million in fines Friday when a New York judge sentenced it for running a 15-year tax fraud scheme that prosecutors said top executives at the company orchestrated out of pure greed.
Trump Corp. and Trump Payroll Corp. — both subsidiaries of the Trump Organization — were convicted last month on 17 counts, including conspiracy, criminal tax fraud and falsifying business records.
Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass had urged acting Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan to fine each company the maximum allowed under the law.
“The sheer magnitude of the fraud calls for the maximum possible fine for falsifying business records and helping senior managers evade taxes as they defrauded the tax authorities. The crimes were deep, wide and long, lasting for decades,” Steinglass said. “The conduct can only be described as egregious.”
Fifth news item
There is much to agree and disagree with in this essay:
There’s been a viral story making the rounds over the past week about a truly egregious incident at Hamline University, a small liberal arts college in Minnesota. In a course on global art history, adjunct professor Erika López Prater showed an image of a 14th-century painting that depicted the prophet Muhammad. On the class syllabus, she noted that the course would include images of religious figures, including Buddha and Muhammad, and that students could reach out if they had concerns—none did. Before showing the image, she told students that she was going to show it, and gave them the option to opt out—none did.
And yet for showing the image, she was essentially let go.
The Hamline University story is a shocking one, and it deserves the outrage and attention it’s getting. But before we dig into what exactly happened, I’d like to note that it’s only one in a larger body of troubling moves to cater to the authoritarian impulses of religious tyrants—those who want to shut down the kind of intellectual inquiry, academic freedom, and general excellence that make universities what they are, in favor of kowtowing to religious fundamentalism.
I realize I sound like a crotchety old conservative here, but college classrooms should not be “safe spaces.” They can’t be safe spaces. They should be respectful spaces, and professors and students alike should treat each other with consideration, but “cause no emotional harm” is not, in fact, a value to which academic institutions should aspire, or an ideal they can ever realistically reach—especially when “this is harmful” has become an easy cudgel to use in order to get one’s way.
Sixth news item
Biden faces weeks, if not months, of legal probing, speculation and bad headlines over his handling of the material. Not to mention the very strong likelihood of additional House GOP probes into the matter. He also found himself deprived, for the time being, of a clean-shot talking point against his archnemesis former President Donald Trump — who is facing a separate special counsel investigation into his own handling of classified materials kept at his private club and home in Florida.
But some Democrats privately concede that their coexistence gives the president’s critics a chance to denounce him as negligent, hypocritical or careless right at a time when things were moving Biden’s way.
“I think it takes the whole Trump scandal off the table,” said one Democratic Party operative, granted anonymity to speak freely about the delicate situation unfolding around the president.
“Most polls show that voters don’t give a fuck about this stuff,” they added. “But the media momentum is real.”
Elected Democrats have largely rallied behind the president, with House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries telling reporters that he has “full faith and credit in President Biden” on the documents matter. Biden, Jeffries told reporters, “is doing everything to take appropriate steps and how to move forward in a responsible fashion.”
But Capitol Hill Democrats have called for briefings and more information surrounding the former vice president’s document storage. And some have started to privately worry that the ordeal will distract from their collective priorities and could begin to help validate GOP investigations they dismiss as politically motivated headaches.
Seventh news item
Iran’s hanging of protesters — and display of their lifeless bodies suspended from cranes — seems to have instilled enough fear to keep people off the streets after months of anti-government unrest.
The success of the crackdown on the worst political turmoil in years is likely to reinforce a view among Iran’s hardline rulers that suppression of dissent is the way to keep power.
The achievement may prove shortlived, however, according analysts and experts who spoke to Reuters. They argue the resort to deadly state violence is merely pushing dissent underground, while deepening anger felt by ordinary Iranians about the clerical establishment that has ruled them for four decades.
Executive Director at the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Hadi Ghaemi said the establishment’s main focus was to intimidate the population into submission by any means.
“Protests have taken a different shape, but not ended. People are either in prison or they have gone underground because they are determined to find a way to keep fighting,” he said.
As Iranians, no matter what our political affiliation is, we have one common enemy: the Islamist regime in Iran. We must get united and focus our attention on getting rid of this virus which has infected our culture for decades. Our revolution is here. pic.twitter.com/shsGrfA2TT
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) January 12, 2023
Eighth news item
A recently enacted income supplement for low-ranking U.S. troops, put in place primarily to alleviate food insecurity in the ranks, will help less than 1 percent of the estimated scores of thousands of hungry U.S. military families, according to Pentagon figures…Fully 24 percent of active-duty servicemembers recently experienced “low food security,” meaning they sometimes lacked quality meals, according to the latest Pentagon survey of troops in late 2020 and early 2021 — before the recent inflation surge. Of those, 10 percent periodically experienced “very low food security,” meaning they sometimes ate less at mealtime, missed meals entirely or lost weight due to inadequate food intake in the previous year.
Elected officials at work…
First: The issue in Idaho’s House was
women’s health how women are like cows:
Representative Jack Nelsen, who was elected to his first term in the state’s lower house in November 2022, told a meeting that he has “some definite opinions” about “the women’s health thing.” However, two days later, he said his comments were “inappropriate.”
In his introductory remarks, Nelsen told the first meeting of Idaho’s Agricultural Affairs Committee on January 10: “I’m a lifelong dairy farmer who retired, still own part of the dairy; grew up on the farm. I’ve milked a few cows, spent most of my time walking behind lines of cows, so if you want some ideas on repro and the women’s health thing, I have some definite opinions.”
Second: The issue in Missouri’s House was shoulders, or no shoulders:
Lawmakers in the Missouri House of Representatives this week adopted a stricter dress code for women as part of a new rules package, and now requires them to cover their shoulders by wearing a jacket like a blazer, cardigan or knit blazer…The amendment was passed in a voice vote and the rules package was later adopted by the GOP-controlled legislature in a 105-51 vote, but not without pushback and debate from House Democrats…“Do you know what it feels like to have a bunch of men in this room looking at your top trying to determine if it’s appropriate or not?” Democratic state Rep. Ashley Aune proclaimed from the House floor…Republicans altered their amendment to include cardigans after Democratic state Rep. Raychel Proudie criticized the impact requiring blazers could have on pregnant women.
Third: Punishing lawmakers who lie about their backgrounds:
A pair of Democratic lawmakers from New York introduced a bill that would punish candidates for lying about their background while running for office — legislation that targets their Republican colleague, Rep. George Santos (R-NY).
Reps. Dan Goldman (D-NY) and Ritchie Torres (D-NY) introduced the “Stopping Another Non Truthful Office Seeker” Act in the House on Thursday, targeting the Republican freshman as he faces widespread criticism and calls to resign after he fabricated several details of his resume. The bill would require candidates to submit additional biographical information when filing for office, and it would impose penalties for those who are caught lying about their background.
The SANTOS Act seeks to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1972 to include a requirement that all congressional candidates submit data about their educational, employment, and military background. Any candidate who knowingly provides false information would be subject to a $100,000 fine, one year in prison, or both.
Have a great weekend!