…I know I say this kind of a lot…but, well, if you’re partial to the whole day of rest bit then you might prefer to avail yourself of the skip-to-the-comments option…because
Welcome to World War Wired — the first war in a totally interconnected world. This will be the Cossacks meet the World Wide Web. Like I said, you haven’t been here before.
“It’s been less than 24 hours since Russia invaded Ukraine, yet we already have more information about what’s going on there than we would have in a week during the Iraq war,” wrote Daniel Johnson, who served as an infantry officer and journalist with the U.S. Army in Iraq, in Slate on Thursday afternoon. “What is coming out of Ukraine is simply impossible to produce on such a scale without citizens and soldiers throughout the country having easy access to cellphones, the internet and, by extension, social media apps. A large-scale modern war will be livestreamed, minute by minute, battle by battle, death by death, to the world. What is occurring is already horrific, based on the information released just on the first day.”
We know that Putin has vastly improved Russia’s armed forces, adding everything from hypersonic missile capabilities to advanced cyberwarfare tools. He has the firepower to bring Ukraine to heel. But in this modern era we have never seen an unfree country, Russia, try to rewrite the rules of the international system and take over a free country that is as big as Ukraine — especially when the unfree country, Russia, has an economy that is smaller than that of Texas.
Then think about this: Thanks to rapid globalization, the E.U. is already Ukraine’s biggest trading partner — not Russia. In 2012, Russia was the destination for 25.7 percent of Ukrainian exports, compared with 24.9 percent going to the E.U. Just six years later, after Russia’s brutal seizure of Crimea and support of separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine and Ukraine’s forging of closer ties with the E.U. economically and politically, “Russia’s share of Ukrainian exports had fallen to only 7.7 percent, while the E.U.’s share shot up to 42.6 percent,” according to a recent analysis published by Bruegel.org.
I have little doubt that in his heart China’s president, Xi Jinping, is hoping that Putin gets away with abducting Ukraine and humiliating the U.S. — all the better to soften up the world for his desire to seize Taiwan and fuse it back to the Chinese motherland.
But Xi is nobody’s fool. Here are a couple of other interesting facts from the wired world: First, China’s economy is more dependent on Ukraine than Russia’s. According to Reuters, “China leapfrogged Russia to become Ukraine’s biggest single trading partner in 2019, with overall trade totaling $18.98 billion last year, a nearly 80 percent jump from 2013. … China became the largest importer of Ukrainian barley in the 2020-21 marketing year,” and about 30 percent of all of China’s corn imports last year came from farms in Ukraine.
Second, China overtook the United States as the European Union’s biggest trading partner in 2020, and Beijing cannot afford for the E.U. to be embroiled in conflict with an increasingly aggressive Russia and unstable Putin. China’s stability depends — and the legitimacy of the ruling Communist Party rests — on Xi’s ability to sustain and grow his already massive middle class. And that depends on a stable and growing world economy.
I don’t expect China to impose sanctions on Russia, let alone arm the Ukrainians, like the U.S. and the E.U. All that Beijing has done so far is mumble that Putin’s invasion was “not what we would hope to see” — while quickly implying that Washington was a “culprit” for “fanning up flames” with NATO expansion and its recent warnings of an imminent Russian invasion.
So China is obviously torn, but of the three key superpowers with nuclear weapons — the U.S., China and Russia — China, by what it says or doesn’t say, holds a very big swing vote on whether Putin gets away with his rampage of Ukraine or not.https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/25/opinion/putin-russia-ukraine.html
…things are moving…well…swiftly
When Western governments announced on Friday their intention to freeze assets belonging to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia as punishment for invading Ukraine, there was no indication they knew of significant holdings that could be tied to him.
In fact, very little is known about what Mr. Putin owns and where it could be. Despite years of speculation and rumor, the extent of his wealth remains maddeningly opaque, even as billions of dollars have sluiced through the accounts of his close friends and luxury properties have been connected to family members.
But Russia’s elites, who have lived under Western sanctions for most of the last decade, have long favored complex mazes of corporate ownership to avoid scrutiny. Oftentimes, their wheeling and dealing only surfaces publicly with the leak of files from offshore law firms or secretive banks that cater to those wanting to hide their wealth.
Estimates of what Mr. Putin may secretly be worth vary widely. One of the most sensational claims came from Bill Browder, an American-born financier who was banned from Russia in 2005 after clashing with oligarchs there. He testified before Congress in 2017 that he believed Mr. Putin’s wealth could total $200 billion, an extraordinary sum that would have made him the richest man in the world at the time.
Anders Aslund, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and the author of the 2019 book “Russia’s Crony Capitalism,” pegged the Russian president’s wealth at about $125 billion. He argued that much of it could be hidden in a web of offshore havens held by Mr. Putin’s allies, friends and relatives.
On rare occasions, people near Mr. Putin’s inner circle have spoken publicly about his wealth. In 2010, Sergei Kolesnikov, who said he was a business associate of a Putin ally, wrote an open letter to Russia’s then president, Dmitri Medvedev, asserting that Mr. Putin was building an enormous estate on the Black Sea coast that would come to be known as Putin’s Palace. It had cost more than $1 billion gathered through “corruption, bribery and theft,” Mr. Kolesnikov wrote in his letter, which he sent after leaving Russia.https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/26/world/europe/putin-sanctions-money-assets.html
But ultimately, said Nate Sibley, a researcher at the Hudson Institute’s Kleptocracy Initiative, Mr. Putin does not need to own a vast fortune because he is an autocrat who “controls everything.”
…& all in all it’s kind of a lot to keep track of
The news came as a surprise to many in Beijing. Barely 24 hours ago, Chinese pundits predicted that a war in Ukraine was not inevitable. In New York, as Russia geared up for a full-on assault on its neighbour, China’s UN envoy, Zhang Jun, urged in a security council meeting that “the door to a peaceful solution to the Ukraine issue is not fully shut, nor should it be shut”.
But when people in Kyiv woke up to sound of bombs in what the Nato chief called a “deliberate, cold-blooded” invasion, the door had clearly been closed. China’s state media, however, insisted it was a “special military action” by Russia. Quoting Vladimir Putin, China’s central television tweeted: “Russia was left with no other choice.”
The reality on the ground contrasted with the official Chinese media narrative, yet it also offered a glimpse into the tightrope Beijing is walking. On Thursday, as she refused to use the word “invasion” to describe Russia’s action, the foreign ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying, also indicated that China would not provide arms to Russia. “I believe that as a strong country, Russia doesn’t need China or other countries to provide weapons to it,” she said.
In public, Beijing advocates the position that sovereignty is sacrosanct. This is a discourse it often deploys when it talks about Taiwan, which it regards as a breakaway province.
On the other hand, the Ukraine crisis offers Beijing the opportunity to express grievances against its common adversaries with Russia: the US and Nato. So far, the latter appears to be weighing heavier in Beijing’s messaging.
In unveiling the latest round of sanctions on Thursday, Joe Biden took a swipe at Beijing, saying any country that backed Russia’s onslaught in Ukraine would be “stained by association”. “Putin will be a pariah on the international stage,” he declared.
For now, Beijing’s mixed tactics appear to have already exposed the limit of its initial approach. On Thursday, China announced it was fully open to Russian wheat imports. But 24 hours later, reports showed that at least two of China’s biggest state-owned banks were restricting financing for purchases of Russian commodities.
Leoni said that if military tensions were to escalate across Europe – where China has major economic interests – Beijing’s attitude might still change. “We have seen recently how both Nato’s and Russia’s naval assets have been positioning or involved in trainings in the Mediterranean Sea: Beijing might change its calculus about Russia should military hostilities extend, even mildly, to this region where the bulk of China’s trade with Europe travels through.”
Western leaders are alarmed by Beijing’s response as they see the implications for the US-led postwar world order being fundamentally reshaped as a result of Russia’s action. “What we need to make sure in our response today is that we don’t just have a tactical response … But we have a long-term response to the threat to the democratic order,” Jeremy Hunt, a former British foreign secretary, told BBC Radio 4.
“There are now two very big powers, Russia and China, that are absolutely committed to upending that order. And that is why we have to think long and hard and smart about what to do next.”
“We don’t want to face such a difficult choice, either,” [a government researcher] added, admitting Beijing’s dilemma but insisting its policy had to be pragmatic. “After all, China and Russia share a 4,000km-long border. In the long run, China has to be on good terms with Russia.”
To realist Chinese foreign policy thinkers, geography and history continue to be relevant in their reasoning of the new world order. The deadly Soviet-China border conflict in 1969 still casts a shadow for Beijing particularly as Biden frames America’s China challenge as “democracy v autocracy”.
“We are in the middle of massive changes [in geopolitics] and if you look around, many countries have been adventurous in recent years. For China, it is an opportunity as well as a challenge,” the Beijing- based government researcher said. “Adding the pandemic factor, it’s going to be very chaotic in the years to come.”https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/25/china-ponders-how-russia-actions-ukraine-reshape-world-order
…& with the news cycling as fast as it can peddle…it’s no accident that you can’t keep up with it all
In line with a difficult balancing act, the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, had publicly stated that all countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity should be protected, including Ukraine’s; and Russia and Ukraine should return to the negotiating table. That is widely regarded as the most clearcut position China has delivered on the current situation and was echoed by a phone call between Xi and Putin today.
China’s stance crystallises two elements: first, it does not support the Kremlin’s move against Ukraine, and views Moscow’s actions as a violation of national sovereignty and the UN charter – one of the cardinal principles of Beijing’s foreign policies since 1949. Second, and most important, China strongly implies there is no comparison between Ukraine and Taiwan – the former is a sovereign state and the latter is not a full UN member but a unique polity, seen as a renegade province by Beijing. But China will carefully watch the west’s willingness and resolve to respond to the situation in Ukraine, which may well serve as a reference to Taiwan later.
The Kremlin’s military adventurism will also damage China economically to some extent. As Russia’s biggest trade partner, China has significant investments and financial ties with Russia that will be exposed to the west’s sanctions. Such sanctions most certainly come with an acute pain for many fossil fuel-focused state-owned enterprises. Equally, Beijing is Kyiv’s top trade partner, and has enjoyed friendly ties with Ukraine, which is a source of grain and military equipment.https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/feb/25/war-in-ukraine-china-russia-beijing-alliance-moscow-invasion
A virus and a population interact in a dizzyingly dynamic system, with mutations and layering immunity forming different profiles of population-wide risk at different times. Policy does and should recognize when these factors have changed enough to justify new approaches.https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/25/opinion/cdc-covid-guidelines.html
For nearly two years, basing national Covid-19 guidance on new case counts made sense. Health experts knew that a reliable proportion of those cases would result in hospitalizations, and a proportion of those hospitalizations would lead to deaths. There was a tight link between cases and severe disease for most of the pandemic: as cases spiked, hospitals would reliably fill up and deaths would soon follow. This link among cases, hospitalizations and deaths was the bedrock of guidance to minimize infections through public health measures like mask wearing, crowd avoidance and widespread testing.
Today, because there is a high degree of population immunity, the ability of the virus to cause severe disease and death is far more variable. Someone vaccinated a month ago is not as vulnerable to severe disease as someone who recovered from an infection 18 months ago. If there are 1,000 infections in Massachusetts today, the number of those that will develop into severe illness depends on whether the individuals are vaccinated, boosted, previously infected or immunologically naïve (that is, neither previously infected nor vaccinated). The mix of those four categories varies dramatically across the nation. That’s why relying entirely on cases to dictate risk no longer makes sense, and shifting to measures of severe disease levels, like hospitalizations, is much more appropriate.
…life goes on
Fourteen people were shot before dawn on Saturday at a hookah lounge in Las Vegas. Police said one man died and two people suffered critical injuries.
The shooting happened at about 3.15am and preliminary information indicated there was a party during which two people got into an altercation and exchanged gunfire, striking multiple people, said police captain Dori Koren.
Koren told reporters no arrests had been made and no suspect descriptions were immediately available but added that authorities did not believe there was any danger to the general public.https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/feb/26/las-vegas-shooting-hookah-parlor-police
A Florida jury has acquitted a retired police Swat commander who was charged with murder after shooting a fellow moviegoer during an argument over cellphone use.
In closing arguments, defense attorney Richard Escobar said Oulson, 43, made Reeves, then 71, reasonably believe his life was in danger by turning, yelling and reaching toward him. He said Reeves made the decision to shoot based on nearly 30 years in law enforcement and hours of training on the justifiable use of deadly force.
Reeves didn’t have to wait until he was hit before defending himself, Escobar said.
Reeves “had more knowledge, more experience, more study in that area than anyone in this courtroom”, Escobar said. “It’s a dangerous world.”
Prosecutor Scott Rosenwasser countered that Reeves killed Oulson because Oulson threw popcorn in his face, angering him because it violated his self-image as an “alpha male”.
Reeves testified on Thursday that in his entire law enforcement career he had never encountered someone so out of control and he feared he was about to be killed. Given his age, arthritis and other physical ailments, Reeves contended he could not have defended himself except by shooting.
Escobar said it took less than three-quarters of a second between the popcorn toss and the shot. That is too fast for it to be the reason Reeves fired, he said.
“Impossible,” Escobar said.
But Rosenwasser contended Reeves’ story was a lie. Security video does not show Oulson throwing his cellphone, the prosecutor said, and Reeves had no injury on his face where he says it hit him. But the video does show Oulson grabbing Reeves’ popcorn bag, tossing it at him and Reeves firing.
Witnesses testified they heard Reeves then mutter: “Throw popcorn at me.”
[Rosenwasser] said Reeves never fired his gun as he moved through the robbery/homicide bureau, fugitive apprehension and SWAT, yet somehow this movie theater argument over a cellphone escalated to the point Reeves faced the most out-of-control, scariest person he ever faced and had to shoot.
“In his entire career that is the most he has ever been scared? Absolutely unreal.”https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/feb/26/florida-jury-acquits-ex-police-officer-cinema-phone-popcorn-murder
Stand-your-ground laws have now spread to most states in the United States, propelled by gun groups such as the National Rifle Association and lawmakers of both parties who say people under attack should not have to worry about a legal “duty to retreat.” For some, the policy is also a response to public anxieties during a pandemic marked by rising violent crime, anti-Asian attacks and civil unrest.
Allison Anderman, senior counsel at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said stand-your-ground laws have not only spread around the country, but also have grown “more extreme.” States such as Florida — which kicked off a wave of stand-your-ground laws in 2005 — have augmented their policies by putting the onus on prosecutors to prove that the stand-your-ground law does not apply before going to trial.
Anderman says a new crop of state-level bills is especially worrying. One would allow defendants to sue prosecutors if they successfully prove self-defense. Another would allow someone to shoot a person defacing their property if they have a “dangerous instrument,” regardless of whether they fear physical harm.
“I think the next iteration of these laws is the expansion of the right to use deadly force, even when your life is not threatened or your personal safety is not threatened,” Anderman said.
“Depending on how long those laws are in place, they might have a permanent change on how people choose to conduct themselves,” said David Humphreys, an associate professor at the University of Oxford. He and his colleagues just published a study that linked stand-your-ground laws to 700 additional killings each year in the United States and an 11 percent increase in the nation’s firearm homicides.
The findings echoed other studies: In 2017, Humphreys and his colleagues found that Florida reported an “abrupt and sustained” nearly 32 percent spike in firearm homicide after passing its pioneering stand-your-ground law. They also found that most of those added homicides were unlawful rather than justifiable uses of force.
“We thought when we published the previous paper in Florida … that this would have to be taken seriously,” Humphreys said.
“I was a bit naive,” he concluded.https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2022/02/25/stand-your-ground-trayvon-martin/
…every so often I’m reminded that one way to feel less bad about the stuff in the news is to consume less news…but I guess my problem’s always been that I know there’s a not-enough line out there somewhere & I’ve seen the sort of shit that lies the other side of it
The poll, by the Harvard Center for American Political Studies (Caps)-Harris, found that 62% of those surveyed believed Putin would not have sent troops into Ukraine with Trump in the White House.
Republicans in Congress have attacked Biden for perceived weakness in the face of autocratic leaders abroad. Party figures have been less keen to discuss Trump’s expressions of admiration for Putin during the Ukraine crisis.
The Harvard study’s findings broadly buttressed a Fox News poll, carried out before Russia invaded, that found more Republicans had a negative view of Biden than of Putin and more Democrats had a negative view of Trump than of the Russian leader.
That study said 92% of Republicans had a negative view of Biden while 81% had a negative view of Putin. Among Democrats, 87% had a negative view of Trump and 85% a negative view of Putin.https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/feb/26/poll-trump-russia-ukraine-white-house
Many Americans across the political spectrum would agree that something has gone terribly wrong over the past decade. Liberals might point to deepening inequality, a rise of white nationalism and an existential threat to democracy from the authoritarian right.
But DeSantis and fellow travellers at this week’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, see themselves not as dismantlers of democracy but its saviours. In their worldview, the true danger comes not from former president Donald Trump’s “big lie” of a stolen election but a radical left minority imposing socialism, cancel culture and “woke” ideology on the majority.https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/feb/26/cpac-republicans-democrats-america-trump-biden
…& when there’s folks who’d prefer to restrict their information diet to this kind of shit
The nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson is an attempt to “defile” the supreme court and “humiliate and degrade” the US, the Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson claimed on Friday night.
“Now maybe she’s great,” he said, “that’s not the point. The point is she was picked because of how she looks, so what does that tell you not about the nominee but about Joe Biden?
“It tells you that he is absolutely happy to defile a system built by other people over hundreds of years, this is the best system in the history of the world, and he is happy to destroy it. Doesn’t care at all.”
Carlson also claimed Jackson wasn’t “much of a jurist … not simply ignorant of the law” but also “a political activist”.
Pointing to a forthcoming case concerning affirmative action in college admissions, Carlson said most Americans “think you should be elevated … based on what you do … not on how you were born, not on your DNA, because that’s Rwanda.”
Jennifer Rubin, a conservative Washington Post columnist, called Carlson’s comments “the perfect distillation of white supremacy”.
“Let’s say you really didn’t care about the country you lead,” he said. “Let’s say you wanted to humiliate and degrade it and undermine its ancient institutions. What would you do?
“Well, you might take the single most important appointed position in the entire government and announce in public that you are filling that position on the basis of appearance. Not on the basis of skill or wisdom or fealty to the founding documents of the United States, but on the basis of the way the person looks.
“… That would send a very clear message that you don’t like the country you run and you don’t care about the institutions that its ancestors built.”https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/feb/26/rwanda-tucker-carlson-ketanji-brown-jackson-supreme-court-biden-fox-news
…& that coming from a man who isn’t hurting for a few bucks…who contrary to any moral or ethical principle I can bring to mind is quite literally paid to feed that kind of crap to an avidly receptive audience
As Russian missiles bombarded the European country, Republican senators, a former Trump adviser and a sitting governor all opined on major social media companies — which they say are politically censoring them — and celebrated the prospect of what some called a “parallel economy” that’s beginning to take shape in the form of new social media platforms, such as former President Donald Trump’s Truth Social.
Former Trump adviser Kimberly Guilfoyle, who is also Donald Trump Jr.’s partner, compared social media moderation to Chinese censorship.
“What’s the difference between being punished in China for having the wrong opinions and Big Tech companies silencing you for daring to have conservative beliefs?” she said.https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/conservatives-slam-big-tech-cpac-touting-parallel-economy
…is it really any surprise that it takes a whole lot less than six degrees of separation to get places like this
The event in Orlando, Florida, on Friday night was organised by the far-right extremist Nick Fuentes, who told attendees: “Now they’re going on about Russia and Vladimir Putin is Hitler – they say that’s not a good thing.”
He burst into laughter as he added: “I shouldn’t have said that!”
Fuentes, recently subpoenaed for his involvement in the January 6 insurrection, proudly introduced Taylor Greene at the third annual America First Political Action Conference, or AFPAC.
Liz Cheney, a member of the House select committee investigating the January 6 riot, tweeted: “As Rep[resentative] Marjorie Taylor Greene and Rep[resentative] Paul Gosar speak at this white supremacist, antisemitic, pro-Putin event, silence by Republican party leaders is deafening and enabling.
“All Americans should renounce this garbage and reject the Putin wing of the GOP now.”
Asked if she endorses Fuentes’s views, Taylor Greene claimed: “I don’t know what his views are.”
Greene has a history of antisemitic and incendiary comments that include blaming California wildfires on “Jewish space lasers”, suggesting Muslims do not belong in government and warning that “gazpacho police” – presumably she meant Gestapo – patrol the US Capitol.
But the timing of her AFPAC speech could hardly have been more provocative.https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/feb/26/republican-congresswoman-marjorie-taylor-greene-cpac
…just who exactly do these people think they’re talking to?
For decades, the Republican Party’s stance on Russia’s dictators and expansionist tactics was rock-solid: From Dwight D. Eisenhower to Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan, Russia — then the Soviet Union — was America’s chief enemy, untrustworthy, anti-freedom. It was, in Reagan’s famous formulation, the “evil empire.”
This week, while many Republicans blasted Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s all-out assault on Ukraine, former president Donald Trump and some of his allies urged the United States to stay out of the conflict and praised Putin, even presenting him as a “peacekeeper,” as Trump put it.
“Don’t look for consistency in Republican policy,” said Craig Shirley, a Reagan biographer and longtime Republican political consultant. “The Republican Party right now is a little schizophrenic. Anti-communism and love of freedom used to be the glue that held the party together, but now the attitudes toward Russia have gotten all mixed up with domestic politics.”
The party’s division was evident as Russian missiles landed in several Ukrainian cities and Trump defended the Russian leader. “I don’t believe he wanted to do this initially,” Trump said of Putin on Fox News. A day earlier, on a conservative podcast, Trump called Putin a “genius” for declaring two regions of Ukraine to be independent countries and said “he’s going to go in and be a peacekeeper.”
Trump defended casting Putin as “smart” during a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando on Saturday night. The former president condemned the attack on Ukraine, calling it “an atrocity that should never have been allowed to occur,” but he did not directly criticize the Russian president.
“The problem is not that Putin is smart — which, of course he’s smart — but the real problem is that our leaders are dumb,” Trump said to applause. “Dumb. So dumb.”
Trump’s aversion to portraying Russia and Putin as America’s enemies was evident from the start of his late-life political career. During the 2016 campaign, he moved to erase from the Republican platform any mention of protecting Ukraine from Putin’s designs. And he repeatedly praised Putin throughout his presidency.
The evolution of attitudes toward Russia in the Republican base has been driven not only by Trump’s popularity and the struggles of the U.S. economy, but also by a years-long effort by Russia to influence how Americans of all political stripes view the world, according to disinformation researchers who have traced Russia’s hacks, deceptive Internet posts and fake accounts on social media.
From the civil war in Syria to the separatist battles in eastern Ukraine, Russia’s intelligence services have sought to shape American views of Putin and his government. In 2016, Russia interfered in the U.S. election by hacking and disseminating sensitive Democratic Party emails, and the Internet Research Agency, run privately by a Putin ally, flooded Facebook, Twitter and other platforms with faked social media posts that helped drive Americans to polarized political positions while also supporting Trump’s presidential bid.
Russia has sought to shape American attitudes toward political issues “through a subtle, sophisticated, very long game of influence,” said Camille François, a disinformation researcher at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. “It’s a full-spectrum campaign with covert and overt elements.”
Other experts on disinformation, in contrast, argue that the impact of Russia’s efforts to alter Americans’ political perspectives is not so clear. Thomas Rid, a professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies and author of “Active Measures,” a history of disinformation, said the role of Russian meddling may not be as powerful as some other domestic forces that have pushed Americans toward views so polarized that members of one party almost automatically take a position opposed to the other party’s.
“Your hatred of your own political opponent is so deep that you side with Vladimir Putin as he attacks major population centers in Ukraine, which is extraordinary,” Rid said.https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2022/02/25/how-republicans-moved-reagans-evil-empire-trumps-praise-putin/
…& what exactly are they trying to convince them of?
Putin’s bellicose threats towards Ukraine and assembling of up to 190,000 troops on the country’s border, was, Carlson said, a mere “border dispute”. Carlson, who played into Kremlin talking points by declaring that Ukraine was “not a democracy”, launched an apparent attempt to humanize Putin.
“Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him? Has he shipped every middle-class job in my town to Russia?” Carlson said as he then recited a rightwing tip sheet of pet causes.
“Did he manufacture a worldwide pandemic that wrecked my business and kept me indoors for two years? Is he teaching my children to embrace racial discrimination? Is he making fentanyl? Is he trying to snuff out Christianity?”
Carlson was roundly condemned, but he wasn’t alone. Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s sometime adviser turned podcast host, has praised Putin for being “anti-woke”, for not flying pride flags, and for his hostility to trans people.
By the end of the week Carlson’s colorful defense of Putin was being played on Russia 1 and the Kremlin-backed RT television network.
“As Russia prepared to invade Ukraine, the biggest star on Fox News was busy doing what he does best: being thoroughly and appallingly wrong,” Margaret Sullivan, a media columnist for the Washington Post, wrote.
“Rather than blame the actual aggressor for attacking his weaker neighbor, right-wing media pinned the blame on Biden for supposedly projecting weakness and vulnerability to Putin,” Media Matters, a non-profit which monitors conservative media, wrote.
“In the right-wing media echo chamber […] the fault for this invasion lies with a mind-boggling variety of scapegoats, including Joe Biden, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, American environmentalists, the LGBTQ community, and even the team here at Media Matters for America – anybody, that is, other than Putin.”https://www.theguardian.com/media/2022/feb/25/tucker-carlson-fox-news-russia-putin
…the parallels are to say the least not flattering
…& speaking of stories…it’d be nice to think some of the ones going around might have happier endings than you might first assume
Ukrainian soldiers believed to have died while defending an island after telling a Russian warship to “go fuck yourself”, may still be alive, according to Ukraine’s State Border Guard.https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/27/ukraine-island-defenders-who-told-russian-officer-go-fuck-yourself-may-still-be-alive
…but it’s hard to be sure of much these days
When a holiday toy catalog from Amazon arrived in the mail in late October, Krista Hoffmann noticed something amiss.
“At first, I thought I wasn’t looking close enough, so I flipped through a few more pages,” said Ms. Hoffmann, a stay-at-home mother of three children in Colorado Springs. “Then I realized, ‘Oh, this is intentional.’ Why would you not put the prices there?”
The absence of prices was not an oversight; it was the natural evolution of two decades of online shopping.
In the early days of the internet, there was breathless excitement that e-commerce would lead to greater price transparency, allowing shoppers to know exactly where to find the best deals. This was supposed to be good for consumers and bad for retailers forced to compete with one another in a profitability-killing race to the lowest prices.
Instead another reality has emerged: Shoppers are losing sight of what things cost.
Beyond that, it’s not an easy time to be a consumer. The pandemic has transformed shopping habits. Shortages of everyday items like toilet paper and disinfectant spray were a painful reminder of the fragility of supply chains — an issue that consumers are still grappling with as they face delays for everything from furniture to cars. It has contributed to price volatility, exacerbated by inflation at its highest levels in four decades — driving up the costs of energy, food and housing.
All of this is happening on top of a system, pioneered by Amazon, that keeps prices in algorithm-fueled motion.
When Amazon raises and lowers product prices millions of times a day using a complex algorithm based on competitors’ prices, supply and demand, and shopping habits, its rivals often follow suit. And because prices swing so frequently, Amazon’s catalog can’t promise a specific price and consumers have to track the swings if they want the best deals.
Glenn Ellison and Sara Fisher Ellison, economics professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, published a 2018 paper that said while technology had made searching for products easier, retailers had pushed back by obfuscating prices — often a precursor to higher ones.
“To the extent that there is more obfuscation going on, consumers pay more for everything,” said Glenn Ellison, adding that consumers also waste time hunting for deals or select an alternative that isn’t quite what they wanted. “For consumers, it is almost exclusively negative.”https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/26/technology/amazon-price-swings-shopping.html
…so…things being what they are
Anyone with a phone and an Internet connection is able to watch the war in Ukraine unfold live online, or at least some version of it. Across social media, posts are flying up faster than most fact-checkers and moderators can handle, and they’re an unpredictable mix of true, fake, out of context and outright propaganda messages.
If the account posting is not the source of the words or images, investigate where it came from by digging back to find the original Facebook, YouTube or Twitter account that first shared it. If you can’t determine the origin of something, that’s a red flag. Be wary of things such as memes of screenshots, which can be even harder to pin down, or anything that elicits an especially strong emotional reaction. Disinformation can prey on that type of response to spread.
When screening individual accounts, look at the date it was created, which should be listed in the profile. Be wary of anything extremely new (say, it started in the past few months) or with very few followers. For a website, you can see what year it was started on Google. Search for the name of the site, then click on the three vertical dots next to the URL in the results to see what date it was first indexed by the search engine. Again, avoid anything too new. And don’t skip the basics: Do a Google search for the person or organization’s name.
There are thousands of legitimate posts coming out of Ukraine, including real videos of troops and first-person narratives from locals. Even if you see only real posts, it can still be confusing or misleading. Try to augment all these one-off clips or stories with broader context about what is happening. They may be the most compelling pieces of a puzzle, but they are not the whole picture. Mix in information from established experts on foreign policy, cyberwarfare, history and politics, or turn to online or television outlets that do this for most stories.
If you’re interested in doing deeper dives into things you see, start with this extensive guide on how to screen videos. Look for multiple edits and odd cuts, listen closely to the audio and run it through a third-party tool such as InVid, which helps check the authenticity of videos. This can be harder on live-streamed videos, like what’s on Twitch or any other live social media option.
To check images, put them into Google’s image search by grabbing a screenshot and dragging it to the search field. If it’s an old image that’s circulated before, you may see telling results.https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/02/24/tips-avoid-misinformation-ukraine/
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has already fueled some nascent misinformation tactics, including the spread of realistic video game footage and the use of TikTok to create fake war zone livestreams.
Scenes from video games presented as real are a relatively new and increasingly popular form of misinformation on TikTok and Twitter, one that has gained steam as games become more realistic.
Footage from the flight simulator “Digital Combat Simulator World” was shared by Ukraine’s official Ministry of Defense on Twitter, and received over 600,000 views. The footage was previously uploaded as part of a highlight compilation on YouTube. Users on Facebook, Twitter and TikTok have repeatedly shared footage of the video game “Arma 3” as war footage from the Ukrainian invasion.
The ease of use for this feature, which was initially used to lip sync to music and was pivotal to the growth of TikTok, is now being used to add more realistic sounds of war to computer-generated or otherwise banal videos.
“I think that their infrastructure — the literal design of the platform — is part of the problem. It is amplifying fear and misinformation,” Richards said. “TikTok’s infrastructure is structurally incompatible with the moment.”
Still other videos are far more common forms of misinformation. On Thursday, shortly after Russia began its attack on Ukraine, a TikTok user posted a video of a soldier parachuting out of an airplane. The video was first posted in 2016 by an Instagram account with the same username.https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/war-ukraine-sparks-new-wave-misinformation
…all the same…it’s hard not to speculate about some of what’s being floated out there
…anyway…I won’t dive down the speculation rabbit hole…or fly off on a tangent about the degree of tory hypocrisy that’s statistically guaranteed when they feel the need to wheel out priti patel to make out people are being mean to/about them…as they did in the last couple of days to deny that despite all the rhetoric it’s currently just about impossible to access the UK as a refugee from the conflict in ukraine…which they might actually be more acutely embarrassed about than the increasing side-eye being given to what some refer to as “londongrad”
…but if the timing isn’t doing biden any favors…it sure is sucking up a useful amount of oxygen for someone else
It was just weeks since the Tory party had been consumed by talk of Johnson being subjected to a vote of confidence over the “partygate” affair as opposition MPs and leaders accused him of being a serial rule-breaker and liar unfit to occupy Downing Street.
Every appearance by the prime minister in the Commons for weeks before had turned the chamber into a bear pit. To underline the descent of British politics, a week ago No 10 confirmed the prime minister had completed and returned a questionnaire he had been sent by Scotland Yard about gatherings in Downing Street that appeared to have taken place in breach of lockdown rules.
Despite it all, Johnson had been determined to soldier on and turn things round on the domestic front. On Monday, he announced the end of all remaining Covid-19 restrictions in England, saying it was time to take the country “back towards normality”.
When the Labour leader responded to Johnson’s speech announcing new sanctions, he avoided any hint of criticism. Instead he sought joint occupation of the high ground alongside the prime minister, declaring that “all of us who believe in democracy over dictatorship, in the rule of law over the reign of terror and in freedom over the jackboot of tyranny must unite and take a stand”. For Starmer, there was nothing to be gained from scoring political points against Johnson.
Unity prevailed across the chamber. Starmer said that if the prime minister legislated with the intention of “cracking open the shell companies” in which “Putin and his fellow bandits” had hidden money stolen from the Russian people, then Labour would support him. As he did so, Johnson looked up and nodded his agreement.
In Downing Street, insiders say the mood is transformed from three weeks ago. Then there was a sense of chaos and decay as advisers quit and Tory MPs threatened to topple Johnson. Now, with a new team in place and a new enemy, at least there is a clear focus and an emerging strategy.
Just as Margaret Thatcher revived her flagging fortunes in 1982 by going to war with Argentina in the Falklands, boosting her poll ratings by 10 points as a result, Johnson and his allies can see opportunities to recharge and rescue his leadership from what appeared to be impending disaster, off the back of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In the same breath, Johnson’s aides point out that he wants to use the crisis to demonstrate that the UK can exert more influence – not less – in foreign affairs now it is outside the EU, a view not widely shared in the Foreign Office.
The latest Opinium poll for the Observer shows Johnson remains deeply unpopular and widely distrusted. Asked whether, in the light of events in Ukraine, they thought he could be “trusted to take big decisions” just 25% said he could be, while 56% said he could not. Just 24% thought he was a strong leader, while 53% did not; and 30% believed he could stand up for Britain abroad, while 47% did not.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought about a sudden transformation – a ceasefire – in British politics and eased the immediate domestic crisis for Johnson, at least for now.
But it has also created a more dangerous world, one in which global economic problems will worsen and prices will rise faster and further, only adding to the problems and risks for democratically elected leaders everywhere, particularly ones who already lack much public support – such as the current occupant of No 10.https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/26/partygate-putin-war-boris-johnson-ukraine-crisis-prime-minister
…& I don’t want to claim any credit on the basis of a throwaway remark a while back about the possible popularity boost to be gained from nationalizing abramovich’s football club…but…they do say to be careful what you wish for
Roman Abramovich has passed the stewardship of Chelsea to the trustees of the club’s charitable foundation. The Russian, who bought the club in 2003, remains the owner but has relinquished the running of Chelsea after a call in parliament for him to be sanctioned following the invasion of Ukraine.https://www.theguardian.com/football/2022/feb/26/abramovich-hands-stewardship-and-care-of-chelsea-to-charitable-foundation
…so…I guess try not to start feeling too fatalistic?
One of the biggest obstacles to avoiding global climate breakdown is that so many people think there’s nothing we can do about it.
But climate science actually doesn’t say this. To the contrary, the best climate science you’ve probably never heard of suggests that humanity can still limit the damage to a fraction of the worst projections if — and, we admit, this is a big if — governments, businesses and all of us take strong action starting now.
For many years, the scientific rule of thumb was that a sizable amount of temperature rise was locked into the Earth’s climate system. Scientists believed — and told policymakers and journalists, who in turn told the public — that even if humanity hypothetically halted all heat-trapping emissions overnight, carbon dioxide’s long lifetime in the atmosphere, combined with the sluggish thermal properties of the oceans, would nevertheless keep global temperatures rising for 30 to 40 more years. Since shifting to a zero-carbon global economy would take at least a decade or two, temperatures were bound to keep rising for at least another half-century.
But guided by subsequent research, scientists dramatically revised that lag time estimate down to as little as three to five years. That is an enormous difference that carries paradigm-shifting and broadly hopeful implications for how people, especially young people, think and feel about the climate emergency and how societies can respond to it.
This revised science means that if humanity slashes emissions to zero, global temperatures will stop rising almost immediately. To be clear, this is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. Global temperatures also will not fall if emissions go to zero, so the planet’s ice will keep melting and sea levels will keep rising. But global temperatures will stop their relentless climb, buying humanity time to devise ways to deal with such unavoidable impacts. In short, we are not irrevocably doomed — or at least we don’t have to be, if we take bold, rapid action.
The science we’re referencing was included — but inadvertently buried — in the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent report, issued in August. Indeed, it was first featured in the IPCC’s landmark 2018 report, “Global warming of 1.5 C.” That report’s key finding — that global emissions must fall by 45 percent by 2030 to avoid catastrophic climate disruption — generated headlines declaring that we had “12 years to save the planet.” That 12-year timeline, and the related concept of a “carbon budget” — the amount of carbon that can be burned while still limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels — were both rooted in this revised science. Meanwhile, the public and policy worlds have largely neglected the revised science that enabled these very estimates.https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2022/02/23/warming-timeline-carbon-budget-climate-science/
The IPCC’s next report, due for release Feb. 28, will address how societies can adapt to the temperature rise now underway and the fires, storms and rising seas it unleashes. If we want a livable future for today’s young people, temperature rise must be kept as close as possible to 1.5 C. The best climate science most people have never heard of says that goal remains within reach. The question is whether enough of us will act on that knowledge in time.
With Congress doing little on climate change, President Biden must use his executive authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions across the U.S. economy.
The Supreme Court appears determined to thwart him.https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/26/opinion/climate-change-supreme-court.html
Just by accepting the case, the court has suggested where it is headed — which is toward curbing the E.P.A’.s flexibility. The court’s conservative majority has been deeply skeptical of federal regulatory authority unless Congress has been extremely explicit in its instructions on what agencies can do. But Congress cannot anticipate every possible situation and for good reasons often delegates broad authority to agencies, letting them make expert judgments in technical domains.
…I guess it’s worth remembering that it isn’t paranoia if they really are out to get you?
The US oil and gas industry is using Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to pressure the Biden administration to throw open more land and ocean for domestic drilling and to loosen regulations for large companies attempting to ramp up their fossil fuel extraction.
Just hours before Russian troops began their unprovoked assault on Ukraine, the American Petroleum Institute (API) posted a string of tweets calling for the White House to “ensure energy security at home and abroad” by allowing more oil and gas drilling on public lands, extend drilling in US waters and slash regulations faced by fossil fuel firms.https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/26/us-fossil-fuel-industry-russia-ukraine-drilling
Environmental groups were quick to criticize the renewed push for more drilling, accusing proponents of cynically using the deadly Ukrainian crisis to benefit large corporations and worsen the climate crisis.
A group of 10 congressional Democrats wrote to Biden on Thursday to urge the president to release more oil from the US’s strategic petroleum reserve in order to lower fuel costs for consumers in the short term. “We know that in the long-term, eliminating US dependence on oil will provide the stability we need to keep energy costs low for American households,” the lawmakers acknowledged.
The fossil fuel industry’s attempt to exploit this particular crisis is all the more galling because of their central role in causing it. Putin’s ability to wage war in Ukraine and threaten the stability of Europe comes exclusively from his control over Russian oil and gas production. Forty per cent of Russia’s federal budget comes from oil and gas, which make up 60% of the country’s exports. This October, Russia was making more than $500m a day from fossil fuels, money that goes directly into funding Putin’s war machine.
Russia never could have become such an oil and gas superpower without the help of western oil companies like ExxonMobil and BP, which owns a 20% share of Rosneft, Russia’s state owned oil company. Back in 2014, when Rosneft’s oil and gas production was largely flat, ExxonMobil partnered with Rosneft to help them modernize operations and expand production in the Arctic. The partnership went so well that Putin awarded former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson the Order of Friendship, one of the highest honors Russia bestows on foreigners.
Exxon has returned the favor, joining with other US oil giants and their trade association, the American Petroleum Institute, to repeatedly lobby against Russian sanctions, including in 2018 when Congress tried to prevent future Russian meddling in US elections, and today, as Congress attempts to impose stricter sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Sanctions should be as targeted as possible to limit potential harm to the competitiveness of US companies,” an American Petroleum Institute spokesperson said recently. The companies he’s talking about aren’t your Main Street mom-and-pop’s: they’re the richest oil corporations on the planet.
As big oil tries to defend their investments in Russia, they’re simultaneously making the case that greater production at home will help combat Putin’s influence on the global stage. It’s like a drug dealer trying to convince authorities that the best way to take out a rival isn’t to crack down on drugs, but allow him to increase production. The net effect will be the same: more addicts, in this case to climate destroying fossil fuels.https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/feb/26/big-oil-ukraine-russia-putin