[guest post by Dana]
[Reminder: Below the Weekend Open Thread, JVW has provided an open thread focused solely on today’s Supreme Court decisions.]
First news item
When you willfully refuse to provide help to a victim in their fight against a genocidal maniac, you are not being neutral. Try complicit, indifferent, moral cowardice. You choose. And if you babble about how warfare is not part of the Swiss DNA, you will be treated with scorn you richly deserve:
Switzerland has vetoed a plan to export nearly 100 mothballed Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine, citing neutrality laws for a decision made just as Kyiv’s counteroffensive enters a decisive phase.
Bern’s veto is likely to spark anger among Switzerland’s European allies, who for months have been pressing the government to relax its restrictive interpretation of a long-cherished neutrality policy.
The tanks have never been in service in Switzerland, were never intended for use by the Swiss military and are not based in the country. All 96 are stored in Italy, having been acquired in 2016 from the Italian military in a private transaction by the Swiss arms manufacturer Ruag…
The decision deepens the wealthy alpine country’s diplomatic isolation in Europe, as it tries to steer a path that protects one of its most venerated national political principles, while also seeking to maintain economic ties with the west and cast itself as a moral critic of Russian aggression.
[T]e 96 tanks in question have never even been on Swiss soil, and were acquired from Italy’s military seven years ago as part of a commercial enterprise by Ruag. The company planned to sell them on to third countries anyway, after it had refurbished them.
Related…sort of: Ukrainian soldiers grateful to U.S. for sending Bradley Fighting Vehicles:
As Ukrainian forces continue their counteroffensive against Russia, some soldiers say an American-supplied vehicle is making a key difference in their advances, and more importantly, saving lives…
Two Ukrainian soldiers from the 47th brigade, Serhiy and Andriy, told ABC News that they and their crew wouldn’t be alive today if Bradley didn’t protect them from a battle early on in the counteroffensive where they were struck by mines, high caliber guns and attack drones.
“We were hit multiple times,” Andriy, who drove one Bradley, said. “Thanks to it, I am standing here now. If we were using some Soviet armored personnel carrier we would all probably be dead after the first hit. It’s a perfect vehicle.”
Second news item
As the war intensifies, U.S. considers sending cluster munitions to Ukraine:
The Biden administration is actively considering sending cluster munitions to Ukraine to help Kyiv’s counteroffensive punch through Russia’s defenses, two U.S. officials and a person familiar with the debate said.
The discussion to send dual-purpose improved conventional munitions has intensified in recent days as Ukraine’s effort to break through Russia’s frontline has stalled. The belief among some senior U.S. officials is that the munitions could be one of many tools that makes Ukraine’s campaign more successful.
Republican lawmakers are in favor of the move, and committee Chair Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said last week that cluster munitions “would be incredibly effective against the heavily fortified Russian defensive positions the Ukrainians must now breach.”
Congressional Democrats, however, aren’t in favor. This week, in a letter…14 Senate Democrats wrote to…Jake Sullivan that “the humanitarian costs and damage to coalition unity of providing U.S. cluster munitions would outweigh the tactical benefits, and urge the president not to approve such a transfer.”
Third news item
Bipartisan legislation to offer incentives on sanction evaders in the works:
U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and James Risch (R-ID) and Representatives Joe Wilson (R-SC) and Dean Phillips (D-MN) today introduced the Sanctions Evasion Whistleblower Rewards Act, bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would protect national security by offering rewards for information leading to the arrest or conviction of sanctions evaders.
“Our bipartisan bill will incentivize the sharing of information to help apprehend dangerous Russian oligarchs,” said Whitehouse. “Providing rewards to informants can pay dividends in protecting our national security.”
“As we continue to ratchet up sanctions and pressure on malign actors, those actors are finding new ways to evade sanctions around the world,” said Risch. “This legislation will leverage the success of the State Department’s existing Rewards for Justice Program by expanding the program to include rewards for credible information on U.S. and UN sanctions evasion.”
Fourth news item
JVW writes: It’s as if they are actively trying to troll everyone who is not completely in thrall to the trans agenda. Do these people realize that this just brings more derision (and justifiably so) on their allies?:
A U.K. cervical-cancer fund, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, has recommended “bonus hole” as a more inclusive term for “vagina.” A quick Google search defines “bonus hole” as “the vagina of a trans man.” Another alternative the group accepts is “front hole.” We’re to ask transgender men (a.k.a., females) which term they prefer.
Women keep taking the hit in these ongoing efforts at “inclusivity,” and it’s making me cranky.
Fifth news item
Well, if he means it won’t be a cringe-inducing circus without him, he’s right:
Former U.S. President Donald Trump said he might not participate in the Republican Party’s first 2024 election primary debate in August and may hold an alternative event, citing his lead in opinion polls and what he claims is the hosting network’s bias against him…called Fox News, which he has criticized for not covering his campaign events, a “hostile network” and said he saw little merit in debating candidates like former New Jersey governor Chris Christie who are far behind him in polling.
“We’ve had a lot of offers, whether it’s a rally or whether it’s an interview by somebody else,” he said. “Not to be braggadocious but the debate will not be a very exciting one if I’m not there.”
Sixth news item
Final report and recommendations from California’s Reparations Task Force on way to Gov. Newsom:
The task force has spent the last two years hearing testimony from academics, economists and other experts to gather evidence of the effects of slavery and to prove the ways in which government sanctioned policies continued to discriminate against Black people long after slavery was abolished…
The task force voted to recommend “only those individuals who are able to demonstrate that they are the descendant of either an enslaved African American in the United States, or a free African American living in the United States prior to 1900, be eligible for monetary reparations.”
The amounts each individual receives would be determined by the number of years they have resided in California for a minimum of six months of each year during a defined period of harm based on the laws and policies enacted at the time. The money would be given to every eligible recipient and no one would need to provide proof that they suffered direct harms. The task force also suggested the Legislature adopt an individual claims process to provide reparations for those who can prove particular harms.
The pay models suggest:
Compensation for health disparities: $13,619 for each year of residency from 1850 to 2020. This figure was derived by comparing life expectancy between Black non-Hispanic and white non-Hispanic Californians.
Also included: [C]ompensation for mass incarceration and over-policing of African Americans, housing discrimination, changing existing law and adopting new polices to provide reparatory justice and ensure that the state does not repeat harms.
More details at the link.
Seventh news item
The administration of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) steered $92 million last year in leftover federal coronavirus stimulus money to a controversial highway interchange project that directly benefits a top political donor, according to state records.
The decision by the Florida Transportation Department to use money from the 2021 American Rescue Plan for the I-95 interchange at Pioneer Trail Road near Daytona Beach fulfilled a years-long effort by Mori Hosseini, a politically connected housing developer who owns two large tracts of largely forested land abutting the planned interchange. The funding through the DeSantis administration, approved shortly after the governor’s reelection, expedited the project by more than a decade, according to state documents.
Hosseini plans to develop the land — which includes a sensitive watershed once targeted for conservation by the state — into approximately 1,300 dwelling units and 650,000 square feet of nonresidential use, including an outdoor village shopping district. He has called the Woodhaven development, which has already begun construction, his “best project yet” and promised to pull out all the stops for its success.
Government documents obtained by The Washington Post through open-records requests show a steady relationship between DeSantis and Hosseini in recent years. The governor’s office occasionally received requests for DeSantis to attend events or support proposals from Hosseini, and DeSantis extended invitations to Hosseini for events in Tallahassee.
Hosseini helped DeSantis arrange a round of golf at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia in 2018, according to the Tampa Bay Times. A year later, Hosseini donated a golf simulator that retails for at least $27,500 to the governor’s mansion, according to records previously obtained by The Post. In the 2022 campaign cycle, companies controlled by Hosseini gave at least $361,000 to political groups that benefited the DeSantis reelection campaign, according to state campaign finance records. Hosseini’s plane has been repeatedly used by DeSantis, according to a Post analysis.
Eighth news item
As swatting incidents around the country increase, the FBI has created a national database to track them, according to new information from the law enforcement agency.
“In response to the national call on swatting, the FBI initiated the Virtual Command Center (VCC) known as the National Common Operation Picture (NCOP),” the FBI said in a statement to ABC News. The new database is a “collaborative effort between the FBI and law enforcement partners to track and create a real-time picture of swatting incidents,” the FBI says…
Since its inception in May 2023, the database has already tracked 129 swatting incidents around the country.
Have a great weekend! It’s going to be a hundred and hell degrees across the nation, so stay cool.