[guest post by Dana]
First news item
Former Vice President Mike Pence has been subpoenaed by the special counsel overseeing probes into former President Donald Trump, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter…Sources told ABC News that the subpoena from special counsel Jack Smith requests documents and testimony related to the failed attempt by Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election, which culminated in the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol…It’s not immediately clear to what extent the former vice president might seek to invoke claims of executive privilege over the information sought by Smith, which could set up a potentially lengthy and contentious legal battle with no clear modern precedent.
Also, the FBI is conducting a consensual search of Pence’s Indiana home today.
About Jack Smith, Trump opined:
The Special “Prosecutor” assigned to the “get Trump case,” Jack Smith(?), is a Trump Hating THUG whose wife is a serial and open Trump Hater, whose friends & other family members are even worse, and as a prosecutor in Europe, according to Ric Grenell, put a high government official in prison because he was a Trump positive person. Smith is known as an “unfair Savage” & is best friends with the craziest Trump haters…
Second news item
Over 21,000 people have died as a result of the powerful earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria, according to the latest figures Friday. The staggering loss of life in the 7.8-magnitude quake makes the tremor the seventh-deadliest disaster of this century, ahead of the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami that claimed around 18,500 lives and approaching the horrific 31,000 toll associated with a 2003 earthquake in Iran.
In the midst of the devastation, a miracle happens:
A 10-day old baby boy and his mother were saved from the rubble of their collapsed building in Turkey four days after deadly earthquakes hit the region, rescue workers reported Friday. The woman and her child were saved after spending days trapped in freezing conditions as poor weather and aftershocks hampered crews racing to find survivors amid widespread destruction in both southeast Turkey and across the border in northern Syria.
Third news item
As expected, Russia begins major offensive:
Russia has “regained the initiative” by launching a new offensive in the Ukraine war, despite being blocked from making “significant gains,” according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
An ISW assessment published on Wednesday says that Moscow has started its “next major offensive” in Luhansk, a region of Ukraine that is already largely controlled by Russian forces. The report notes that “operations along the Svatove-Kreminna line” in western Luhansk have accelerated over the past week, leading to “marginal advances along the Kharkiv-Luhansk” border.
“The commitment of significant elements of at least three major Russian divisions to offensive operations in this sector indicates the Russian offensive has begun,” the report says. “Even if Ukrainian forces are so far preventing Russian forces from securing significant gains.”
The U.S.-based think tank said that “Russian forces are setting the terms of battle” in the war for the first time since Ukraine took the initiative in August, while cautioning that a Russian victory “is not inherent or predetermined” and could lead to a new Ukrainian counteroffensive.
[I realize that there is big news about SpaceX limiting Ukrainian troops’ use of Starlink, but because our host will likely be posting about it later this weekend, I’m not posting about it here. Sit tight. -D]
Fourth news item
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said any idea on sunsetting Social Security and Medicare belongs to Sen. Rick Scott—not the GOP.
Unfortunately, that was the Scott plan, that’s not a Republican plan,” McConnell said on a Kentucky radio program…“Speaker (Kevin) McCarthy said Social Security and Medicare are not to be touched and I’ve said the same,” McConnell told radio host Terry Meiners on Thursday.
“And I think we’re in a more authoritative position to state what the position of the party is than any single senator.”
Fifth news item
The Biden administration provided its most comprehensive description of the Chinese spy balloon that traversed the United States last week, saying on Thursday that the machine was part of a global surveillance fleet directed by China’s military and was capable of collecting electronic communications.
The conclusions were outlined in a State Department document, which said the U.S. military had dispatched Cold War-era U-2 spy planes to track and study the balloon before a fighter jet shot it down over the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday.
China’s spy balloons have flown over more than 40 countries across five continents, the Biden administration said, and appear to be made by one or more companies that officially sell products to the Chinese military. That finding underscores questions among U.S. officials over the ties between some civilian-run enterprises in China and the country’s military, in what American officials call “military-civil fusion.”
Meanwhile, we are being told that after the downing of the balloon, China declined a request for a secure call between the U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and his Chinese counterpart.
Sixth news item
A group of House Democrats on Thursday filed a resolution to expel Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) from Congress.
…It’s the latest escalation of Democrats’ efforts to punish Santos for the serial fabrications he made about his background, resume and finances on the campaign trail.
Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.), who led the resolution, told reporters that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) declining to block Santos from receiving a classified briefing, despite calls from Democrats to do so, was the “last straw.”
Goldman said Santos “should be held accountable” for any potential lawbreaking by the local, state and federal investigations into him, but “we cannot wait for him to be indicted or for an ethics investigation because those … will not address the things he has already admitted to lying about.”
Seventh news item
During her annual state of the city address Tuesday, San Francisco Mayor London Breed proclaimed that the city’s downtown, “as we know it,” is “not coming back.”
Still, Breed said the shift would not impede a broader economic recovery.
“You know what? That’s OK,” Breed said. “Empty office buildings have fueled dire predictions about economic doom and screaming headlines about the death of downtown.”
Breed recounted how even though the city has struggled to return to its pre-pandemic state, downtown San Francisco was in far worse shape after the 1906 earthquake.
“In 1907, downtown was mostly rubble and ash. That’s considerably worse than today’s shift in how people are working,” she said.
Eighth news item
I am a 42-year-old St. Louis native, a queer woman, and politically to the left of Bernie Sanders. My worldview has deeply shaped my career. I have spent my professional life providing counseling to vulnerable populations: children in foster care, sexual minorities, the poor…All that led me to a job in 2018 as a case manager at The Washington University Transgender Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital…During the four years I worked at the clinic as a case manager—I was responsible for patient intake and oversight—around a thousand distressed young people came through our doors. The majority of them received hormone prescriptions that can have life-altering consequences—including sterility…I left the clinic in November of last year because I could no longer participate in what was happening there. By the time I departed, I was certain that the way the American medical system is treating these patients is the opposite of the promise we make to “do no harm.” Instead, we are permanently harming the vulnerable patients in our care.
Ninth news item
This week, two Tennessee state legislators — Sen. London Lamar (D-Memphis) and Rep. Joe Towns Jr. (D-Memphis) — introduced language that would replace the Volunteer State’s Columbus Day holiday with a new holiday the first Monday after the Super Bowl, and would enshrine the change in state law.
The holiday proposed by Tennessee House Bill 1463 and Senate Bill 1344 would be formally named “Super Bowl Monday.”
Have a great weekend.