Weekend Open Thread
[guest post by Dana]
First news item
Tuesday was International Women’s Day. While previous posts written about the day have usually been a tad snarky or straight-up sarcastic, this year I am pleased to simply share about two uniquely brave women who are working tirelessly toward the goal of enabling women and girls to live their lives free of fear and abuse while providing them with hope and opportunity.
Activist Masih Alinejad fueled the Women, Life, Liberty movement after the suspicious death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in Iran, who had been detained by authorities for not wearing her hijab correctly. Alinejad regularly meets with journalists, reporters, and fellow activists. She also meets with government representatives and even presidents in order to bring greater attention to the revolution happening in her home country and to urge/challenge world leaders to lend their support to the Iranian people in their push for freedom and regime change. Another goal is for the legal definition of apartheid expanded to include gender apartheid.
It’s been 13 years since Masih Alinejad hugged her mother. That realization hits her during a TIME interview in early February, followed by another one: “Oh my God, I forgot my mom’s face,” she says, wide-eyed and shaking her head in disbelief. She stops and composes herself. “Look, I don’t want to cry on camera.”
Alinejad, 46, understands the power of her platform. Exiled from Iran since 2009, the journalist and activist has long spoken out against Iran’s restrictions on women, calling the compulsory hijab “the Berlin Wall” of the regime. Her campaign alarmed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who not only rails against her in speeches but even sent his minions to kidnap her in July 2021. One year later, a similar plot was to end in assassination, according to a U.S. Justice Department indictment. “Women of Iran are his biggest enemy,” Alinejad says. “He’s scared of us more than anything.”
In Kenya, Dr. Kakenya Ntaiya has made it her mission to protect girls from child marriage, abuse, and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) by providing them with an education as a way to avoid the too-frequent fate of many girls in the region. Her story is devastatingly compelling and I simply can’t imagine overcoming the devastating events in her early years to be able to do what she does:
When she was just 5 years old, she was engaged to be married…she desperately sought a way out and knew that education was her best solution. So she made an impossible decision. At 12 years old, she agreed to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) if her father allowed her to complete her education. He agreed.
As such, many years later when little Miriam pleaded for help from Dr. Ntaiya, she couldn’t refuse:
It was the middle of the night in Kenya, and 11-year-old Miriam was hiding outside a stranger’s house, waiting to talk to the woman who lived inside. Miriam hadn’t met her before, but she knew her name: Dr. Kakenya Ntaiya, who ran a school for girls at risk of child marriage.
When Dr. Ntaiya emerged, Miriam told her everything—how she’d just finished fourth grade, how her father had died in an accident, how her family was running low on money, and how, to help pay the bills, they were planning to marry her off for a dowry. Miriam had already seen her friends marry and quit school. She was desperate to avoid that—and Dr. Ntaiya was her only hope.
…When she met a panicked Miriam outside her house, it was an easy decision for her—yes, of course Miriam had a place at Kakenya’s Dream. Yes, of course she could get her education.
Second news item
Per JVW: The degree to which this poor man is being used by political operatives at a cost to his physical and emotional health is absolutely sickening:
When Mr. Fetterman checked himself into the hospital on Feb. 15, the lead doctor told him that his case was treatable and guaranteed he would get back to his old self. Post-stroke depression, doctors said, affects one in three people and can be very serious, but is also highly treatable.
What? Tell us the name of the doctor.
What kind of doctor would issue a guarantee that his patient, after admission into the mental hospital, will “get back to his old self”?
Let me remind you of what the New York Times reported last month, just days before Fetterman checked himself in:
It has been less than a year since the stroke transformed him from someone with a large stature that suggested machismo — a central part of his political identity — into a physically altered version of himself, and he is frustrated at times that he is not yet back to the man he once was. He has had to come to terms with the fact that he may have set himself back permanently by not taking the recommended amount of rest during the campaign.
That is — in February — readers were being prepared for the idea that Fetterman’s lack of proper rest after his stroke had permanently impaired his recovery. But, now, a doctor is confident enough to guarantee the opposite? We do not know if Fetterman’s stroke will leave him permanently afflicted, or how he will cope with the sudden midlife loss of some of his abilities. We don’t know how he will cope with the suspicion that he could have recovered more of his faculties had he suspended his campaign.
Third news item
New York Grand Jury wants to hear from Donald Trump:
Former President Donald Trump has been invited to testify before a New York grand jury that has been investigating hush money payments made on his behalf during his 2016 presidential campaign, according to one of his lawyers.
Trump attorney Joseph Tacopina confirmed Thursday that the Manhattan district attorney’s office has invited the former president to testify next week as prosecutors near a decision on whether to proceed with what could be the first criminal case ever brought against a former U.S. president.
“To me, it’s much ado about nothing,” Tacopina told the Associated Press, adding he didn’t think prosecutors had committed “one way or another” on a decision on whether to charge Trump. He said there was no legal basis for a case.
“It’s just another example of them weaponizing the justice system against him. And it’s sort of unfair,” he said.
The office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, declined to comment. Such an invitation to testify before a grand jury often indicates a decision on indictments is near.
Fourth news item
Russia launches a barrages of missiles at Ukraine:
Russia launched a total of 95 missiles of various types over the past day – and 34 of them were intercepted, the Ukrainian military said on Friday.
“The enemy also carried out 31 air strikes, in particular, using eight Shahed-136 UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles or drones), half of which were shot down,” the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a morning update.
It added that Russia had “fired 65 times from multiple launch rocket systems.”
A change in Kremlin strategy?:
When Russia launched a total of 95 missiles…it included six Kinzhal ballistic missiles that eluded Kyiv’s air defenses, the Ukrainian military said.
“The attack is really large-scale and for the first time using such different types of missiles. We see that this time as many as six Kinzhal were used. This is an attack like I don’t remember seeing before,” Yurii Ihnat, spokesperson for the Air Force Command of Ukraine, said on Ukrainian television Thursday.
“So far, we have no capabilities to counter these weapons,” he added, referring to the Kinzhals, plus six X-22 air-launched cruise missiles that were also launched by Russian forces.
From the report: Hypersonic missiles travel 5x times the speed of sound. They are hard to detect when launched from MiG-31 fighter jets, “giving it a longer range and the ability to attack from multiple directions.” While the U.S. has not yet confirmed the use of hypersonic missiles, if they their use is confirmed, NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby stated that it could indicate that Russia is running low on other munitions and is having to dip into its inventory, or possibly that they were sending a strong message to the West by reminding them of their capabilities. Also, as Putin continues to target Ukrainian civilian infrastructure throughout the country, this latest attack reached Lviv, which is a mere 40 miles from the Polish border.
Fifth news item
Xi Jinping officially clinched his third term as Chinese president on Friday, following a largely ceremonial vote by the country’s rubber-stamp legislature.
The nearly 3,000-member National People’s Congress voted unanimously for Xi, the only candidate, to serve another five-year term as president, according to Xinhua, China’s state news agency. Xi’s unprecedented third term comes after the Chinese legislature voted to abolish a two-term limit on the presidency in 2018.
In October, Xi secured another term as general secretary of the Chinese Community Party. The general secretary holds the most power in Chinese politics, with the presidency tacked on as a primarily ceremonial post.
Sixth news item
Biden administration given seven days to file appeal before judge’s decision on “catch and release” goes into effect:
A federal judge in Florida…agreed with the state’s Republican attorney general that the policy of President Joe Biden’s administration to release many people who illegally cross the U.S.-Mexican border rather than detaining them violates U.S. immigration law.
U.S. District Judge T. Kent Wetherell in Pensacola blocked the administration from continuing to implement a 2021 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memo that had authorized “alternatives to detention” to ease overcrowding in detention facilities. These alternatives included ankle bracelets, phone monitoring or check-ins by immigration officers. Republican critics have called the policy “catch and release.”…
“Defendants have effectively turned the Southwest Border into a meaningless line in the sand and little more than a speedbump for aliens flooding into the country,” Wetherell wrote, referring to non-U.S. citizens who cross the border illegally.
Seventh news item
A Norfolk Southern train derailed Thursday in Calhoun County, Alabama, hours before company CEO Alan Shaw faced lawmakers to answer questions about a Feb. 3 derailment that led to a toxic chemical spill in East Palestine, Ohio.
The train..derailed at around 6:45 a.m. in the Quad Cities area of White Plains, officials said.
There were no reports of injuries and no reports of a hazardous leak after approximately 30 cars derailed, the Calhoun County Emergency Management Agency said in a news release.
This is the third derailment of the company’s trains since last month. When asked about the frequency of the accidents, Spielmaker told reporters that Norfolk Southern is looking into what happened and is “figuring out how we can become even safer.”
“Derailments are a very loose term,” he said. “Derailment could mean as little as one wheel off the track. So as far as an increase, decrease, I can’t really get into that.”
Eighth news item
Yes, of course stabilizing the debt should be a top priority for President Biden and Congress:
An unfortunate mind-set has grown among our nation’s leaders. It is that the United States can overspend by more than $1 trillion a year indefinitely. Lawmakers assured the country that spending increases — for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and then for economic support during the Great Recession and the pandemic — would be temporary. But, with few exceptions, the fatter budget items stuck around. President Biden released his budget proposal Thursday with a nearly $2 trillion deficit for 2024.
This willful blindness to reality on the part of policymakers has allowed the national debt to rise to more than $31 trillion. The nation has reached a hazardous moment where what it owes, as a percentage of the total size of the economy, is the highest since World War II. If nothing changes, the United States will soon be in an uncharted scenario that weakens its national security, imperils its ability to invest in the future, unfairly burdens generations to come, and will require cuts to critical programs such as Social Security and Medicare. It is not a future anyone wants.
Ninth news item
The Stop Trump campaign among Republican elites is off to a quick start. Most every weekend since the start of this year there’s been some sort of gathering of donors, strategists and lawmakers in a warm weather state. And while the hotel ballrooms, lobby bars and presidential libraries may change, the overarching goal is consistent: how not to be saddled with perhaps the one candidate who may lose to Bide
Tenth news item
Looks like Gov. Ron DeSantis will be running:
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has privately confirmed that he intends to run for president in 2024, according to a report from the Washington Post.
…DeSantis allies said they expect the governor will announce his intentions to run after the Florida Legislative Session concludes in May… Trump administration official Ken Cuccinelli launched a political committee called “Never Back Down,” asking DeSantis to join the 2024 race… Gov. DeSantis will appear at an event in Iowa on Friday, further fueling speculation of a presidential run.
P.S. Gov. DeSantis is in Iowa today meeting with Gov.Reynolds at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, where he will be promoting his new book…
P.P.S. Donald Trump will be visiting Iowa next week…
This real-life moment remains an absolute delight to watch:
Happy 6th anniversary to the greatest moment in the history of the internet pic.twitter.com/QYAunxfrUR
— Declan Cashin (@Tweet_Dec) March 10, 2023
Have a great weekend!