Cup of Joe – 2/16/22

“The tone of the crisis over Ukraine shifted Monday as Russia’s top diplomat endorsed more talks to resolve its standoff with the West, and Ukrainian officials hinted at offering concessions to avert war — even as Russian warships massed off Ukraine’s Black Sea coast and Russian ground troops appeared poised to strike,” the New York Times reports.  “In stage-managed, televised meetings, the Kremlin sent its strongest signals yet that it would seek further negotiations with the West rather than launch immediate military action.”

“Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that some troops deployed from military districts bordering Ukraine were being loaded onto trains and trucks and sent back to their garrisons, a tentative sign that Russia could be stepping away from the threat of an invasion,” the New York Times reports.

“The Defense Ministry’s announcement was the strongest signal yet that Russia might be trying to de-escalate the military standoff near the Ukrainian border, but it was far from clear that the threat of war had passed.”

“President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Russia had decided ‘to partially pull back troops’ as the Defense Ministry announced that some forces from military districts bordering Ukraine were being sent back to their garrisons, a tentative sign that Russia could be stepping away from the threat of an invasion,” the New York Times reports. “The announcement was the strongest signal yet that Russia might be trying to de-escalate the military standoff near the Ukrainian border, but it was far from clear that the threat of war had passed.”

Washington Post: “A Western official from a NATO country expressed skepticism of Russia’s claims that some troops were returning to base.”

Washington Post: “Questions remain about Moscow’s intentions, with Kremlin officials, diplomats and military officials sending contradictory messages and keeping Western leaders off balance in trying to gauge whether Putin will give the order to invade Ukraine and when it might happen.”

“Russian mercenaries with ties to Moscow’s spies have increased their presence in Ukraine in recent weeks, stoking fears among some NATO members that Russia could try to engineer a pretext for an invasion,” Reuters reports.  “Russia could also use the mercenaries to sow discord and paralyse Ukraine through targeted assassinations and the use of specialized weaponry.”

“The Ukraine crisis is forcing Washington to grapple with Russia’s increasingly close relationship with China,” Axios reports.  “Russia and China aren’t full-fledged allies, experts say, but they have been coordinating their economic and security interests with greater clarity over the past several years.”

“The two countries have smoothly navigated their competing interests in their shared backyard of Central Asia — and the Chinese government has aligned itself with Russia on Ukraine.”

Washington Post: “The White House team has staged two multihour tabletop exercises — including one with Cabinet officials — to bring the scenarios to life and assembled a playbook that outlines an array of swift potential responses, starting with Day One and extending through the first two weeks of an envisioned Russian invasion.”

“The effort, senior administration officials said, has not only helped them anticipate possible complications, but has also prompted them to take actions ahead of time, such as exposing Russian information warfare before it’s carried out to blunt its propaganda power.”

“U.S. intelligence officials on Tuesday accused a conservative financial news website with a significant American readership of amplifying Kremlin propaganda and alleged five media outlets targeting Ukrainians have taken direction from Russian spies,” the AP reports.

“The officials said Zero Hedge, which has 1.2 million Twitter followers, published articles created by Moscow-controlled media that were then shared by outlets and people unaware of their nexus to Russian intelligence.”

“President Biden’s plans to remake the Federal Reserve by nominating five of its seven governors hit a roadblock on Tuesday as Republicans on the Senate committee that sits at the center of the confirmation process moved to delay a vote on the picks,” the New York Times reports.

“All five potential officials were scheduled to face a vote before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday afternoon, which would have put them on track for a confirmation vote before the full Senate if they passed.”

“But Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-PA) said on Tuesday that he and other Republicans would block the process. Mr. Toomey’s office said in a statement that he and his colleagues had decided not to show up to the vote, which cannot proceed without a majority of lawmakers present.”

Jonathan Bernstein: “Partisanship isn’t entirely absent from Fed picks. Although President Joe Biden has renominated the (Republican) chair originally selected by former President Donald Trump, the rest of his current picks would all be unlikely choices for any Republican president. Still, there’s nothing like the current fighting over court confirmations. Nor, as political scientist Jonathan Ladd notes, do presidents try to maximize their influence over time by choosing nominees who will serve full 14-year terms.”

“I have two answers. One is that neither party has seen the need for a non-mainstream agenda for the Federal Reserve similar to the way that Democrats in the 1930s and Republicans since the 1960s have seen the need for a non-mainstream agenda for the courts… The second answer is based on the presidency. Presidents don’t have much immediate self-interest in who sits on the courts. They may care about certain policy outcomes, but the main way that judicial nominations affect their terms in office is through satisfying their party coalition.”

“A lawsuit accusing Britain’s Prince Andrew of sexually assaulting an underage girl while she was under the control of sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein and his procurer Ghislaine Maxwell has been settled out of court,” CNBC reports.  “The sum of the money that Andrew has agreed to pay his accuser Virginia Giuffre was not disclosed in the filing.”

“The families of some of the adults and children killed in the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School reached a settlement Tuesday with Remington, the manufacturer of the AR-15 rifle used in the massacre,” CNBC reports.

New York Times: “Remington, which made the weapon, had proposed settling with the families for $33 million as a trial date loomed. Court documents filed on Tuesday morning did not specify the amount of the settlement, but a lawyer for the families said in a statement that the settlement was for $73 million.”

For the first time ever, a gun maker in the U.S. has been held liable for a mass shooting.

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot issued subpoenas Tuesday to Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward and five others over their alleged efforts to interfere with the certification of the 2020 election results, CNBC reports.

Associated Press: “The individuals subpoenaed include Michael Roman and Gary Michael Brown, who served as directors for Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign. The committee believes the two men reportedly promoted allegations of election fraud as well as encouraged state legislators to appoint false slates of electors.”

The Ottawa police chief resigned from his position amid intense criticism from politicians and residents on how his service has responded to the truck convoy protest in Canada’s capital city, the Globe and Mail reports.

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) attempted to recruit Canadian truckers to the U.S. saying they are “being fired and now targeted as ‘terrorists’ by your woke government.”  He added: “The USA has a trucker shortage AND a work visa program.”

Trevor Mallard, the speaker of New Zealand’s parliament, “ordered his staff to turn on the lawn’s sprinklers to douse” the protesters, the AP reports.  He also ordered them to play old Barry Manilow songs and the 1990s hit “Macarena” on a repeat loop over loudspeakers to annoy them.

“Robert Califf, a cardiologist who led the Food and Drug Administration briefly in 2016, was confirmed Tuesday by a razor-thin 50 to 46 vote for a second stint as commissioner, giving the embattled agency its first permanent head in more than a year,” the Washington Post reports.

“Corn-based ethanol, which for years has been mixed in huge quantities into gasoline sold at U.S. pumps, is likely a much bigger contributor to global warming than straight gasoline,” Reuters reports.

Former President Donald Trump gave French presidential hopeful Eric Zemmour advice on how to win an election during a 40-minute phone call on Monday, Politico reports.

“A group of Republican senators is pushing back against efforts to create a federal ‘no-fly’ list for unruly passengers, arguing that doing so would essentially draw an equivalence between terrorists and opponents of mask mandates,” the Washington Post reports.

“A jury returned a verdict against Sarah Palin in her libel suit against The New York Times on Tuesday, finding that there was insufficient evidence to prove the newspaper had defamed her in a 2017 editorial that erroneously linked her political rhetoric to a mass shooting,” the New York Times reports.

“The decision was the second time this week that Ms. Palin’s case was dealt a significant setback. On Monday, the presiding judge in federal court in Lower Manhattan, Jed Rakoff, said that he would dismiss the case if the jury found in her favor.”

Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) improperly disclosed corporate stock trades in violation of a federal conflicts-of-interest law, Insider reports.  At least 56 members of Congress have violated the law with late or missing disclosures.

“This is worse for him than getting impeached twice.”  — George Conway, on Twitter, reacting to news that Donald Trump’s longtime accounting firm won’t vouch for the Trump Organization’s financial statements.

CNBC: “The producer price index, which measures final-demand goods and services, increased 1% for the month, against the Dow Jones estimate for 0.5%. Over the past 12 months the gauge rose an unadjusted 9.7%, close to a record in data going back to 2010.”

David Axelrod: “Even if we are, objectively, in a stronger position than we were a year ago — closer to the end of this ordeal than the beginning — Americans are not celebrating. Millions have lost loved ones; many continue to struggle with the effects of the virus. Kids lost valuable time in the classroom, and parents have struggled to cope. Health care workers are in crisis. And we all have felt the profound cost of our relative isolation, away from family and friends, offices and colleagues.”

“Unsurprisingly, incidents of suicide, drug overdose deaths and violence in our homes and on the streets have grown dramatically. Frustrations with masks, mandates and shifting rules have deepened our political divides. Jobs have come roaring back, raising wages. But those wage increases have been eaten up by inflation, the likes of which we have not seen in four decades. And all the while, the rich have gotten richer.”

“A federal judge has denied a defense motion seeking to move Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s (R-NE) case from California to Nebraska,” the Lincoln Journal Star reports.  “His trial now is set to start March 15.”

Ross Douthat: “I’m not sure where we are with gambling’s cultural trajectory. But every time this playoff season served up another ad for Caesars Sportsbook, it felt like a sign that we’ve accelerated downward, with a long way yet to fall.”

The Kentucky House is preparing to hear a bill that would exempt personal aircraft from state and local property taxes, the Lexington Herald Leader reports.  The proposal is creating unease among some lawmakers since it comes just days after the House voted to cut unemployment insurance payments for Kentuckians who have lost their jobs.

Novak Djokovic told the BBC he would “rather miss out on future tennis trophies than be forced to get a Covid vaccine.”

Said Djokovic: “Yes, that is the price that I’m willing to pay.”

New York City officials say 1,430 unvaccinated employees were terminated, as the city instituted its first round of eliminations of municipal workers who defied the vaccine mandate, WABC reports.

Virtually all of the employees dismissed had been on unpaid leave for more than three months, so residents should not see a disruption in city services.

“The White House and top Democratic lawmakers are beginning to weigh a new push for a federal gas tax holiday, potentially pausing fees at the pump as part of a broader campaign to combat rising prices,” the Washington Post reports.  “The early deliberations come days after a group of vulnerable Senate Democrats introduced a bill that would suspend the gas tax of roughly 18 cents per gallon for the rest of the year, which party lawmakers are expected to discuss at a lunch Tuesday.”

The Los Angeles Times notes gas prices are approaching $5 a gallon in parts of California.

“Special counsel John Durham accused a lawyer for the Democrats of sharing with the CIA in 2017 internet data purported to show Russian-made phones being used in the vicinity of the White House complex, as part of a broader effort to raise the intelligence community’s suspicions of Donald Trump’s ties to Russia shortly after he took office,” CNN reports.

New York Times: “But the entire narrative appeared to be mostly wrong or old news — the latest example of the challenge created by a barrage of similar conspiracy theories from Mr. Trump and his allies.”

“Upon close inspection, these narratives are often based on a misleading presentation of the facts or outright misinformation. They also tend to involve dense and obscure issues, so dissecting them requires asking readers to expend significant mental energy and time — raising the question of whether news outlets should even cover such claims. Yet Trump allies portray the news media as engaged in a cover-up if they don’t.”

Philip Bump: Why Trump is once again claiming that he was spied upon in 2016.

“Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central, will be the featured entertainer when the White House Correspondents’ Association hosts its first annual dinner since 2019 on April 30,” the Washington Post reports.  “For the past century, the annual dinner has brought together journalists and government officials — along with an array of celebrities — to celebrate press freedom and poke fun at one another.”

“President Donald Trump snubbed the gathering, traditionally attended by presidents and first ladies, during the first three years of his tenure, and the last two gatherings were canceled amid the pandemic.”

Craig Greenberg, a Democrat running for Louisville mayor, was shot at in his campaign headquarters on Monday in what law enforcement described as an “assassination attempt.”

Neither Greenberg nor his staff were hit by the bullets and no one was injured, though the candidate’s shirt was grazed.

The suspect is in custody. Quintez Brown, 21, a civil rights activist who was also an editorial columnist for the Louisville Courier Journal, has been charged with attempted murder and four counts of wanton endangerment.

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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