Cup of Joe – 3/18/22

“In 36 days of fighting on Iwo Jima during World War II, nearly 7,000 Marines were killed. Now, 20 days after President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia invaded Ukraine, his military has already lost more soldiers, according to American intelligence estimates,” the New York Times reports.

“The conservative side of the estimate, at more than 7,000 Russian troop deaths, is greater than the number of American troops killed over 20 years in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.”

“It is a staggering number amassed in just three weeks of fighting, American officials say, with implications for the combat effectiveness of Russian units, including soldiers in tank formations. Pentagon officials say a 10 percent casualty rate, including dead and wounded, for a single unit renders it unable to carry out combat-related tasks.”

David Von Drehle: “Russia’s terror bombing of Ukrainian cities may look like strength. Millions of people are refugees, and buildings have been reduced to rubble. But three weeks into Vladimir Putin’s disastrous error, the real story is Russia’s weakness.

“The lack of blitz in Putin’s blitzkrieg no longer appears to be a failure of deployment. Instead, it seems to be a deficit of military power. True, the Russian leader miscalculated in thinking that the Zelensky government in Ukraine would cut and run, allowing Kyiv to fall into his hands. But the revised tactics the Kremlin is using now are emphatically not the tactics of a 21st-century fighting force.”

“Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov, who was abducted by Russian forces last week, has been freed, Ukrainian diplomat Olexander Scherba confirmed via Twitter,” Axios reports.

From the tweet: “Ukraine conducted a ‘special operation’ and rescued Melitopol mayor Ivan Fedorov from captivity in the occupied Luhansk! Melitopol is Ukraine!”

New York Times: “Two American military officials said that many Russian generals are talking on unsecured phones and radios. In at least one instance, they said, the Ukrainians intercepted a general’s call, geolocated it, and attacked his location, killing him and his staff.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday said President Joe Biden’s characterization of Russian leader Vladimir Putin as a war criminal was “unacceptable and unforgivable rhetoric,” Reuters reports. LOL.

President Joe Biden responded on Thursday by calling Vladimir Putin a “pure thug” and “murderous dictator,” his latest pointed attack against the Russian President as the war in Ukraine rages on, CNN reports.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer confirmed Thursday he intends to swiftly move legislation ending Russia’s preferred trade status with the U.S. through his chamber, once the House passes it later today, Politico reports.

“The House voted overwhelmingly Thursday to suspend normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus, preparing for President Joe Biden to enact higher tariffs on more products and further weaken the Russian economy in response to its military assault on Ukraine,” the AP reports.

“Ukrainian authorities struggled to determine the fate of hundreds of civilians who had been sheltering in a theater smashed by a Russian airstrike in the besieged city of Mariupol as officials said Russian artillery Thursday destroyed more civilian buildings in another frontline city,” the AP reports.

“Some hope emerged, as an official said some people had managed to survive the Mariupol theater strike.”

“In recent weeks, the Biden administration and key Republican lawmakers have forged a rare consensus on the need for a tougher response to Russia’s war in Ukraine, advocating for providing deadlier weapons, imposing ruinous sanctions, and promoting vigorous efforts to address the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War II,” Foreign Policy reports.

“Yet, at the same time, Republican lawmakers, including Sens. Rick Scott of Florida and Roger Marshall of Kansas, have placed holds on the confirmation of several key Biden administration appointees with critical roles in addressing Ukraine’s crisis.”

Daily Beast contributing editor Craig Copetas told Inside Edition that he’s been told that Russian president Vladimir Putin has people tasting his food before he eats it and that last month, he replaced his entire personal staff of 1,000 people.

There has been “a quiet but steady stream” of resignations from Russia’s tightly controlled state-run TV, the BBC reports.

“Spain, which has pledged to seize the suspected superyachts of Russian oligarchs targeted for sanctions imposed following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, on Wednesday impounded the third such vessel, one of the world’s biggest superyachts, in Spanish territorial waters this week,” the New York Times reports.

“Russia’s finance ministry said on Thursday that it had made a $117 million payment on interest due on two U.S. dollar-denominated bonds. The payments are due this week to prevent Russia’s first default on foreign debt since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution,” the New York Times reports.

“The ministry said the payment had been made to a ‘foreign correspondent bank’ on Monday, but it was unclear whether the bondholders will receive the money.”

Koch Industries, the American manufacturing giant that employs 122,000 people across the world, said it would not exit its operations in Russia because doing so would put its “employees there at greater risk and do more harm than good,” the Washington Post reports.

One of Russia’s wealthiest oligarch’s told Bloomberg that sanctions will not deter Vladimir Putin from continuing with his invasion of Ukraine, warning the West that it is failing to understand how power in Moscow works.

Said Mikhail Fridman, the owner of Alpha Bank: “If the people who are in charge in the EU believe that because of sanctions, I could approach Mr. Putin and tell him to stop the war, and it will work, then I’m afraid we’re all in big trouble.”

He added: “The power distance between Mr Putin and anybody else is like the distance between the Earth and the cosmos. To say anything to Putin against the war, for anybody, would be kind of suicide.”

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi was visibly angry this morning, we hear, going off on her own members during a private Democratic whip meeting this morning for tanking the White House’s requested Covid relief money,” Politico reports.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said she’s advised the Biden administration to seek tens of billions of dollars more in emergency COVID-19 relief, suggesting it will take more than $40 billion to meet the testing, vaccine and therapeutic needs of the U.S. and the larger global community, The Hill reports.

Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL) “derided a new GOP attack on Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, centered on her handling of sex offenders,” Politico reports.

Said Durbin: “I don’t believe in it being taken seriously. I’m troubled by it because it’s so outrageous. It really tests the committee as to whether we’re going to be respectful in the way we treat this nominee.”

“Durbin’s response — plus a heated reply from the White House — comes after Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, questioned Jackson’s record on the U.S. Sentencing Commission and as a district court judge in a series of tweets Wednesday, going so far as to say ‘her record endangers children.’”

“Faced with rising gasoline prices, many Americans are now looking to switch to an electric car,” The Guardian reports.

“But the shift away from fossil fuel vehicles has been criticized by Senator Joe Manchin, who has said he is ‘very reluctant’ to see the proliferation of battery-powered cars.”

Said Manchin: “I’m old enough to remember standing in line in 1974 trying to buy gas – I remember those days. I don’t want to have to be standing in line waiting for a battery for my vehicle, because we’re now dependent on a foreign supply chain, mostly China.”

“The spending legislation President Joe Biden signed Tuesday provides about one-third of the money the White House, the House and the Senate wanted to spend on international climate programs and stripped out all congressional money for a fund for low-income nations to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change,” Roll Call reports.

The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage topped 4% for the first time since May 2019, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) bashed Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) for her “useful idiot” views on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Said Cheney: “Putin is targeting and slaughtering civilians in a brutal unprovoked war against Ukraine, a sovereign democratic nation. Only the Kremlin and their useful idiots would call that ‘a conflict in which peace agreements have been violated by both sides.’”

“In the year after he disclosed a federal investigation into his “tax affairs” in late 2020, President Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, paid off a significant tax liability, even as a grand jury continued to gather evidence in a wide-ranging examination of his international business dealings,” the New York Times reports.

“Mr. Biden’s failure to pay all his taxes has been a focus of the ongoing Justice Department investigation. While wiping out his liability does not preclude criminal charges against him, the payment could make it harder for prosecutors to win a conviction or a long sentence for tax-related offenses, according to tax law experts, since juries and judges tend to be more sympathetic to defendants who have paid their bills.”

President Biden will speak to Chinese President Xi Jinping Friday as “part of our ongoing efforts to maintain open lines of communication between the United States and the PRC,” Axios reports.

“U.S. federal prosecutors on Wednesday accused Chinese government agents of trying to spy on and intimidate dissidents living in the United States,” Reuters reports.

“In one of the cases, federal prosecutors said a Chinese government agent approached a U.S. private investigator to help manufacture a political scandal that would undermine a China-born man seeking the Democratic nomination to run for a New York seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

“Last year, President Xi Jinping seemed all but invincible. Now, his push to steer China away from capitalism and the West has thrown the Chinese economy into uncertainty and exposed faint cracks in his hold on power,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Chinese policy makers became alarmed at the end of last year by how sharply growth had slowed after Mr. Xi tightened controls on private businesses, from tech giants to property developers. Meanwhile, China’s stringent Covid lockdowns, part of Mr. Xi’s approach to handling the crisis, have ramped up again as Covid cases surge, hurting both consumer spending and factory output.”

Punchbowl News: “Now that the omnibus is out of the way, one of the congressional leadership’s top priorities is to pass legislation countering the rise of China’s high-tech research and manufacturing industries.”

“Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have been discussing the contours for a formal conference negotiation to work out a final agreement on the legislation. Several Senate aides tell us that their aim is to begin a formal conference negotiation this work period, which means by mid-April.”

Laurence Tribe and Dennis Aftergut: “A concluding point. Some observers have expressed fear that a single Trump-supporting juror could ‘hang’ the jury, suggesting that the US attorney general, Merrick Garland, might just deem that risk to be too great to be worth running. But as the BBC’s observer of Guy Reffitt’s trial noted, every juror there saw through the smoke the defendant was blowing. Jurors are instructed to use their common sense, and the jury in Reffitt did just that.”

“A DC jury would do the same in a trial of the conspiracy’s central actor. Once all the evidence is expeditiously gathered, with or without the special counsel that we recommend, the justice department must indict him.”

“As the war in Ukraine rages on, diplomats trying to salvage the languishing 2015 Iran nuclear deal have been forging ahead with negotiations despite distractions caused by the conflict. They now appear to be near the cusp of a deal that would bring the U.S. back into the accord and bring Iran back into compliance with limits on its nuclear program,” the AP reports.

“After 11 months of on-and-off talks in Vienna, U.S. officials and others say only a very small number of issues remain to be resolved. Meanwhile, Russia appears to have backed down on a threat to crater an agreement over Ukraine-related sanctions that had dampened prospects for a quick deal.”

Axios: Iran releases two British nationals detained for years.

“Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says that Moscow has received guarantees from the US on its ability to trade with Tehran as part of ongoing talks to salvage the Iran nuclear deal,” the Times of Israel reports.

“Jeffrey Zients, an entrepreneur and management consultant who steered President Biden’s coronavirus response through successive pandemic waves and the largest vaccination campaign in American history, plans to leave the White House in April to return to private life,“ the New York Times reports.

“Mr. Zients will be replaced as the White House Covid coordinator by Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health and a practicing internist who has urged an aggressive approach to the pandemic in frequent television appearances.”

“A surge in coronavirus infections in Western Europe has experts and health authorities on alert for another wave of the pandemic in the United States, even as most of the country has done away with restrictions after a sharp decline in cases,” the Washington Post reports.

New York Times: “Parts of Asia are enduring their worst outbreaks ever as the Omicron variant continues its first sweep through the continent. The situation is especially dire in China, an outlier that remains committed to stamping out the virus, as well as New Zealand and South Korea, countries that like others around Asia have moved on from what had been some of the world’s strictest Covid rules.”

“In Europe, some are bracing for what could be another Omicron wave, with cases on the rise again in France, Britain, Italy and elsewhere and again approaching record levels in Germany. And the war in Ukraine has prompted fears that another outbreak could explode there at any time.”

“The U.S. Senate voted 57 to 40 on Tuesday to overturn a 13-month-old public health order requiring masks on airplanes and other forms of public transportation, drawing a quick veto threat from President Joe Biden,” Reuters reports.  “Eight Democrats joined all but one Republican – Senator Mitt Romney – in voting to reject the rule.”

“The Biden administration will announce new building ventilation standards for schools and businesses on Thursday — a welcome step for experts who feel the U.S. has long been behind the curve on using air filtration as a valuable tool to fight Covid-19,” ABC News reports.

“Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who has previously negotiated a plan to lower prescription drug costs with Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR), admitted during a committee hearing it would likely be hard to pass if his own party regained control of Congress,” Politico reports.   He called on Democrats to pass it now.

Said Grassley: “I think you suggested the difficulty of passing something like in a Republican Congress, so you got an opportunity to do it right now, when Democrats and Republicans can work together to accomplish this. If we want to reduce drug prices, then we need to do it now.”

“The escalating crisis in Ukraine is upending policy and political thinking on both the left and the right on Capitol Hill, as an immediate threat to the global order and soaring energy prices empower the political center at the expense of the two parties’ flanks,” the New York Times reports.

“When lawmakers convene on Wednesday for a virtual speech by President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, Republicans and Democrats will be confronting a changed environment, for better and for worse.”

“That has meant a retreat by both parties from the policy proposals and political messages that most thrill their core supporters.”

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

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