[guest post by Dana]
First news item
The Ukrainian civilians woke long before dawn in the bitter cold, lined up for the single toilet and were loaded at gunpoint into the livestock trailer. They spent the next 12 hours or more digging trenches on the front lines for Russian soldiers.
Many were forced to wear overlarge Russian military uniforms that could make them a target, and a former city administrator trudged around in boots five sizes too big. By the end of the day, their hands curled into icy claws.
Nearby, in the occupied region of Zaporizhzhia, other Ukrainian civilians dug mass graves into the frozen ground for fellow prisoners who had not survived. One man who refused to dig was shot on the spot — yet another body for the grave.
Thousands of Ukrainian civilians are being detained across Russia and the Ukrainian territories it occupies, in centers ranging from brand-new wings in Russian prisons to clammy basements. Most have no status under Russian law.
And Russia is planning to hold possibly thousands more. A Russian government document obtained by The Associated Press dating to January outlined plans to create 25 new prison colonies and six other detention centers in occupied Ukraine by 2026.
In addition, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree in May allowing Russia to send people from territories with martial law, which includes all of occupied Ukraine, to those without, such as Russia. This makes it easier to deport Ukrainians who resist Russian occupation deep into Russia indefinitely, which has happened in multiple cases documented by the AP.
Many civilians are picked up for alleged transgressions as minor as speaking Ukrainian or simply being a young man in an occupied region, and are often held without charge. Others are charged as terrorists, combatants, or people who “resist the special military operation.” Hundreds are used for slave labor by Russia’s military, for digging trenches and other fortifications, as well as mass graves.
As Ukraine fights for its very survival, Western support is critical to its success. While it was agreed that Ukraine should join NATO sometime in the future, no immediate invitation to join was extended at the Vilnius conference. Frustratingly, “”We will be in a position to extend an invitation to Ukraine to join the alliance when allies agree and conditions are met,” the declaration said, without specifying the conditions Ukraine needs to meet.” And still, “countries such as the United States and Germany have been more cautious, wary of any move that they fear could draw NATO into a direct conflict with Russia.”
Meanwhile, as part of an $800 million security package, Ukraine has already received cluster munitions from the US. :
“We recognize that cluster munitions create a risk of civilian harm from unexploded ordnance,” Sullivan told reporters. “This is why we’ve deferred the decision for as long as we could.”
“But there is also a massive risk of civilian harm if Russian troops and tanks roll over Ukrainian positions and take more Ukrainian territory and subjugate more Ukrainian civilians because Ukraine does not have enough artillery,” Sullivan said.
Second news item
Why President Biden is right to send cluster bombs to Ukraine:
Imagine it’s nighttime, and your home is invaded. You wake up shocked and numb but recognize the danger. Invaders have made it clear they want to kill you and your family. Determined to fight, you grab your shotgun and load it with shells.
In such circumstances, most people would agree you should use any means available to stop an attack on your family — whether via gun, knife or even baseball bat. Anything is better than watching your family suffer.
Still, some might question how you respond without truly understanding the context of what’s happening. It’s easy to criticize from the safety of locked gates and police patrols.
Ukraine faces a similar situation nearly a year and a half after Russia’s brutal invasion, with critics operating from the safety of nations not at war questioning Kyiv’s requests for more weapons. Some say military fire should only be directed in a limited and precise way. Or Ukraine should refrain from attacking military targets outside its borders. Or Ukraine doesn’t need fighter jets.
This dilemma over ammunition has come into focus especially since the Biden administration’s announcement last week that it would be sending cluster munitions to Ukraine as part of a new military package…
[T]hink back to that analogy of a home invasion. Maybe those critics would say your ammunition should be limited to one single shot from a pistol instead of a more effective spread from a shotgun? It’s inherently dangerous to fire any weapon, but a shotgun has a bigger chance of hitting more area, even if isn’t the best weapon for close quarters.
By the end of this war, millions of rounds of artillery likely will have been shot over a significant part of Ukraine. And Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said the Russians have been using cluster munitions with a dud rate as high as 40%. The rate refers to how often bomblets that are scattered across a large area fail to explode, and a higher rate indicates more bomblets have failed to explode on impact. Notably, the Pentagon has vowed to provide munitions with a significantly reduced dud rate.
Unfortunately, there may be casualties from unexploded ordnance all over Ukraine for years to come as a result of Russia’s decision to attack an innocent country.
But one nation, and one nation only, gets to determine whether to use cluster munitions on its land — Ukraine. Its interest in using these controversial weapons is to destroy the Russian invaders while minimizing the loss of its own citizens’ lives. It will likely be as judicious as possible while inflicting as much damage on the enemy as possible. And Ukraine’s defense minister has vowed not to use the munitions in Russia.
Yes, Kyiv will live with the scars of war, but ultimately, these munitions will save Ukrainian lives.
I’m curious as to whether anyone who is complaining today about President Biden’s decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine complained about Russia’s use of them over the past 500+ days, including targeting civilian areas?? What a terrifying life and death situation Ukraine has been forced into by Russia. And while cluster munitions are certainly dangerous and innocent lives could be inadvertently impacted by their use, they unfortunately are a necessary evil. Ukraine has pledged to use them in a limited capacity, avoiding civilian centers and using them “only for the reoccupation of Ukrainian territories”. In a blunt nutshell: Ukraine uses them to repel invaders on their soil. Russia uses them as a tool of conquest.
Ukraine’s victory and Russia’s defeat are in the interest of all democracies. Especially NATO states. We should be jumping at the chance to do what we can, not criticising Ukraine – they are dying for our free common future.
Third news item
The Biden administration announced Friday it would automatically forgive $39 billion in student debt for 804,000 borrowers.
The relief is a result of fixes to the student loan system’s income-driven repayment plans. Under those repayment plans, borrowers get any remaining debt canceled by the government after they have made payments for 20 years or 25 years, depending on when they borrowed, and their loan and plan type…
To bring people over the line for forgiveness, the Biden administration counted payments for borrowers who’d paused their payments in certain deferments and forbearances and those who’d made partial or late payments.
Fourth news item
The state interferes or intervenes, depending on your point of view:
Gov. Gavin Newsom is intervening in a recent decision by a Southern California school board to reject social studies curriculum over its inclusion of gay rights activist Harvey Milk, marking his latest attempt to thwart book bans in the Golden State. Newsom announced Thursday that the state would be purchasing the rebuffed textbooks and distributing them to students in the Temecula Valley Unified School District “in short order.” His office also unveiled that the governor plans to sign legislation that would prohibit the restriction of teaching materials for political reasons and levy fines against any school district that fails to provide adequate instructional materials.
Fifth news item
An attorney for Hunter Biden sent a cease-and-desist letter on Thursday to former President Donald Trump’s legal team, claiming that Trump’s rhetoric on social media and elsewhere “could lead to [Hunter Biden’s] or his family’s injury.”
“This is not a false alarm,” Lowell wrote. “We are just one such social media message away from another incident, and you should make clear to Mr. Trump — if you have not done so already — that Mr. Trump’s words have caused harm in the past and threaten to do so again if he does not stop.”
Sixth news item
House passes defense bill with amendments re abortion and transgender surgery:
The House narrowly passed an annual defense policy bill on Friday after Republicans added provisions on abortion and transgender surgeries — measures that were a nonstarter for Democrats.
The legislation, which will have to be reconciled with the Senate’s version, passed in a 219-210 vote.
The amendments…would ban the secretary of defense from paying for or reimbursing service members for abortion-related expenses and transgender surgeries and hormone treatments…
The House also narrowly adopted an amendment…that would bar military health insurance and the Department of Defense from providing or covering transgender surgeries and hormone treatments for transgender people…
The defense legislation will eventually need to be reconciled with a version of the bill under consideration in the Senate. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., is seeking a similar measure to block Pentagon payments or reimbursements for abortion services, which Senate Democrats are unlikely to back.
Seventh news item
Listen to Matt Gaetz suggest that we invite Russia to NATO instead of Ukraine. These are not serious people, yet Matt Gaetz is in better standing with the GOP than patriots like Mitt Romney and Liz Cheney. pic.twitter.com/tCUDAI37jG
— Heath Mayo (@HeathMayo) July 12, 2023
“If we had to choose between Russia or Ukraine for NATO, one could reasonably make the argument that Russia probably provides more benefit long term.”
Eighth news item
Good to see a majority of Republicans say “no” to Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz Ukraine bills:
Five House Republican-backed initiatives to curtail aid to Ukraine using the annual Pentagon policy bill were shot down Thursday afternoon in votes that saw a consensus from both sides of the aisle to keep money flowing to Kyiv.
The Ukraine-related amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would have effectively limited or rolled back U.S. involvement in Ukraine, but a majority of Republicans joined Democrats in opposition to the proposals.
Fresh data from movie theaters shows that fans are actually planning to see the highly-anticipated “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” movies on the same day — a five-hour, popcorn-fueled marathon social media has dubbed the “Barbenheimer.”
The world’s largest movie chain, AMC Entertainment, has already sold more than 20,000 double-feature tickets to its AMC Stubs members, according to Variety.
AMC Theatres’ executive VP of worldwide programming, Elizabeth Frank, told the outlet that since Friday, there’s been a 33% increase in the number of moviegoers who have made their own double-feature by purchasing tickets to see both movies on the same day.
Have a great weekend!