Cup of Joe – February 14, 2023

The US military shot down another high-altitude object over Lake Huron on Sunday afternoon, CNN reports. It’s the fourth in less than two weeks to be downed over North American airspace. Here are the details of the three objects shot down over the lost weekend where we Eagles fans were distracted by a horrific catastrophic loss:

Fri, Feb. 10, ALASKA: Unidentified object shot down over ice-covered waters off Alaska. According to the National Security Counsel’s John Kirby, it was:

  • “about the size of a small car”
  • “did not appear to be self-maneuvering”
  • “not similar in size or shape” to the Chinese balloon shot down off South Carolina on Feb. 4
  • was flying at 40,000 feet
  • “most likely not a balloon”

Sat, Feb 11, CANADA: Unidentified object shot down over central Yukon about 100 miles from the Alaskan border by the U.S. with the cooperation and urging of Canadian officials, who described it as:

Sun, Feb. 12: MICHIGAN: Unidentified object shot down by the U.S. over Lake Huron and described as:

  • “an octagonal structure with strings hanging off”
  • “no discernible payload”
  • flying at 20,000 feet
  • unlikely to be a balloon

The US military has heightened its vigilance since the initial balloon incursion, so they may be seeing more radar blips than they noticed before – or these incursions could represent a new initiative by China or others.

“The United States believes the unidentified objects shot down by American fighter jets over Canada and Alaska were balloons, though smaller than the China balloon downed over the Atlantic Ocean last weekend, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday,” the AP reports.

Politico: “Defense officials on Sunday night declined to identify what the three objects shot down over the weekend might be, raising questions over the threat the objects could have represented to civilians across North America, what the purpose of the objects was, and why there has been a rash of detections and responses with fighter planes and guided missiles.”

New York Times: “There were multiple theories in Washington as to the provenance of the objects, but several Biden administration officials cautioned that much remained unknown about the last two objects shot down. The United States has long monitored U.F.O.s that enter American airspace, and officials believe that surveillance operations by foreign powers, weather balloons or other airborne clutter may explain the most recent incidents of unidentified aerial phenomena — government-speak for U.F.O.s — as well as many episodes in past years.”

“However, nearly all of the incidents remain officially unexplained, according to a report that was made public in 2021.”

Washington Post: “The incursions in the past week have changed how analysts receive and interpret information from radars and sensors, a U.S. official said Saturday, partly addressing a key question of why so many objects have recently surfaced.”

New York Times: “The most alarming theory under consideration by some U.S. officials is that the objects are sent by China or another power in an attempt to learn more about American radar or early warning systems.”

“A senior administration official said one theory — and the person stressed that it is just a theory — is that China or Russia sent the objects to test American intelligence-gathering capabilities. They could be sent to learn both how quickly the United States becomes aware of an intrusion and how quickly the military can respond to such an incursion, the official said.”

Wall Street Journal: “In the wake of the objects shot down Friday and Saturday, U.S. officials have reached out to research agencies to determine whether the high-altitude craft might be related to their work, U.S. officials said. But the U.S. hasn’t ruled out that they might be of foreign origin.”

China for the first time claimed that U.S. balloons illegally flew over China more than 10 times since the beginning of 2022, Bloomberg reports.

The federal investigation into Donald Trump’s actions around the January 6 insurrection and classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago has apparently expanded.

This nugget was buried towards the end of a New York Times report about Special Counsel Jack Smith: 

“More recently his team has been asking witnesses about research the Trump campaign commissioned by an outside vendor shortly after the election that was intended to come up with evidence of election fraud. The existence of that research was reported earlier by The Washington Post.  The apparently related investigation into the activities of Mr. Trump’s main fund-raising arm, the Save America PAC in Florida, was emerging even before Mr. Smith arrived in Washington around Christmas from The Hague. A vast array of Trump vendors have been subpoenaed. Investigators have been posing questions related to how money was paid to other vendors, indicating that they are interested in whether some entities were used to mask who was being paid or if the payments were for genuine services rendered.”

That means the investigation appears to now be looking at whether Trump stole campaign contributions.

FiveThirtyEight: “Being a member of the presidential Cabinet can be a high-stress job, no matter who is sitting in the Oval Office. So it makes sense that just over two years into President Biden’s administration, some of his initial appointees are heading for the exits. Last Tuesday, it was reported that Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh would resign to become executive director of the NHL players’ union. And Wednesday was Ron Klain’s last day as White House chief of staff.”

“But compared with other modern presidents (especially his immediate predecessor), Biden’s Cabinet has had unusually low turnover. Biden is tied with former Presidents Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush for the fewest Cabinet resignations in the first two years of their presidencies.”

“Moldova’s President outlined Monday what she described as a plot by Moscow to use external saboteurs to overthrow her country’s government, put the nation ‘at the disposal of Russia’ and derail its aspirations to one day join the European Union,” the AP reports.

“The government of Moldova collapsed Friday, with the pro-western prime minister resigning a day after President Zelensky warned of President Putin’s plans to destroy democracy in the country that borders Ukraine,” the Times of London reports.

“The U.S. on Monday issued a top-level advisory telling American citizens to leave Russia immediately and cease travel to the country as Russia’s war against neighboring Ukraine continues, citing risks of harassment and wrongful detention for Americans specifically,” The Hill reports.

“The warning marks the highest level, Level 4, of alerts issued by the State Department, which ranges from exercising precaution to ceasing all travel.”

Washington Post: “The day after leaving the White House, Kushner created a company that he transformed months later into a private equity firm with $2 billion from a sovereign wealth fund chaired by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Kushner’s firm structured those funds in such a way that it did not have to disclose the source, according to previously unreported details of Securities and Exchange Commission forms reviewed by The Washington Post.”

“His business used a commonly employed strategy that allows many equity firms to avoid transparency about funding sources.”

Donald Trump and Jared Kushner cultivated close ties with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman while Trump was in office. They helped his standing by scheduling Trump’s first foreign visit to Saudi Arabia and by meeting with him repeatedly. They backed him in several international crises during Trump’s term.

And they both profited handsomely from the relationship once leaving office.

From the Washington Post over the weekend:  “The day after leaving the White House, created a company that he transformed months later into a private equity firm with $2 billion from a sovereign wealth fund chaired by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Kushner’s firm structured those funds in such a way that it did not have to disclose the source…  A year after his presidency, Trump’s golf courses began hosting tournaments for the Saudi fund-backed LIV Golf. Separately, the former president’s family company, the Trump Organization, secured an agreement with a Saudi real estate company that plans to build a Trump hotel as part of a $4 billion golf resort in Oman.”

As Anne Applebaum notes, it’s impossible to think of another recent example of such blatant corruption.

And, as far as we can tell, there’s been no investigation into it.

“After President Joe Biden pummeled Republicans on Social Security and Medicare during his State of the Union address, drawing shouts of outrage from the party, Republican leaders urged him to stop telling Americans that the GOP wants to slash those retirement programs,” NBC News reports.

“Then Biden paid a visit to Florida and did it again, exasperating the party and escalating a fight that is poised to play out on Capitol Hill and in the 2024 presidential election.”

Playbook: “Folks in the White House are still giddy after an underwhelming week for their main sparring partners, House Republicans — between Biden landing punches on potential entitlement cuts during the State of the Union and GOP largely whiffing in their first oversight hearings.”

“Be on the lookout this week for Biden and aides to keep hammering Republicans over their past remarks about cutting or modifying Medicare and Social Security. Biden is heading to Maryland on Wednesday for an economic speech where he’s sure to replay the hits from last week.”

Dan Pfeiffer says President Biden was right not to do the Fox News Super Bowl interview: “The upside of these interviews is that they offer a massive audience. The Super Bowl is usually the most-watched event of the year. Last year, 99 million people tuned into the Super Bowl. To put that number in perspective, 27 million people watched the State of the Union last week.”

“The downside? The interviews are a weird mix of news and sports. Some tough questions about the issues of the day. Some serious questions about the sport of football, like the dangers of concussions or underrepresentation of Black coaches. And then some lighter questions about who the President thinks will win the game or their favorite Super Bowl snacks.”

“While the audience is large, they aren’t necessarily interested in news, and they mill about at Super Bowl parties eating wings and portions of seven-foot sub sandwiches.”

In an interview with USA Today, former White House chief of staff Ron Klain discusses some of the critical moments during his time working for President Biden.

Associated Press: “Biden hosted the dinner for members of the National Governors Association at the White House for the first time in his administration. It’s usually a tradition, but the dinner was held last year at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s Virginia estate, and virtually in 2021 because of COVID-19.”

“The dinner came as federal leaders seemed as divided as ever with the new Republican majority in the House courting a risky debt ceiling showdown.”

“On Saturday at the White House, though, the message was togetherness — and not just because the room was tightly packed with governors, spouses and Cabinet members. Biden and both associations’ leaders, Republican Gov. Spencer Cox of Utah and Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey, spoke about the need to put aside the increasingly rancorous political differences in order to work together to better the nation.”

Dan Balz: Democratic governors, seeing rising threats, look beyond their borders.

“For several high-profile House committees, their first hearings were dominated by partisan food fights over the Pledge of Allegiance, guns in meetings and a celebrity’s expletive-filled tweet about Donald Trump,” NBC News reports.

“That’s unlikely to be the case with the new select committee on China. Republicans and Democrats on the panel say it could be the one bright spot of bipartisan cooperation in a Congress brimming with partisan bickering.”

“The China committee’s two leaders — Chair Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., and ranking member Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill. — are setting the tone early, identifying areas where they say they expect to find bipartisan agreement on policy and legislation.”

Jonathan Bernstein: “In almost four hours of testimony Thursday by witnesses and questioning from committee members, Republicans on the newly formed panel offered practically nothing designed to appeal to a broader spectrum of voters. Indeed, a good deal of what was discussed would be difficult to understand for those who don’t regularly watch Fox News’s Tucker Carlson or listen to radio host Mark Levin’s talk show.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that Congress should consider a national ban on the popular video-sharing app TikTok, Politico reports.  Said Schumer: “It’s something that should be looked at. We do know there’s Chinese ownership of the company that owns TikTok. And there are some people in the Commerce Committee that are looking into that right now. We’ll see where they come out.”

Rep. George Santos (R-NY) “has spent his campaign money in plenty of conspicuous ways, from lavish hotel stays in Las Vegas and Palm Beach, Fla., to an unusual slew of payments for exactly $199.99 — two cents below the threshold where receipts would be required,” the New York Times reports.

“But deep within Mr. Santos’s campaign filings, The New York Times found another eye-catching number: $365,399.08 in unexplained spending, with no record of where it went or for what purpose.”

“The mysterious expenditures, which list no recipient and offer no receipts, account for nearly 12 percent of the Santos campaign’s total reported expenses — many times exceeding what is typical for congressional candidates.”

“The death toll from the earthquakes that hit Turkey and Syria passed 35,000 Monday as only a handful of survivors were pulled from the rubble more than a week after the disasters that devastated swaths of both countries,” NBC News reports.

“A powerful earthquake struck northwestern Turkey in 1999, killing more than 17,000 people, exposing government incompetence and fueling an economic crisis. Amid the turmoil, a young, charismatic politician rode a wave of public anger to become prime minister in 2003,” the New York Times reports.

“That politician was Recep Tayyip Erdogan.”

“Now, as president, Mr. Erdogan faces challenges similar to those that brought down his predecessors — posing what is perhaps the greatest threat of his two decades in power to his political future.”

Politico: “Opposition politicians are openly blaming Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the fact the country was ill-prepared for the catastrophe, as well as for the slow relief effort which they say has been worsened by the state’s failure to cooperate and coordinate with local authorities and relief agencies.”

Washington Post: “Nearly 1 in 3 high school girls reported in 2021 that they seriously considered suicide — up nearly 60 percent from a decade ago — according to new findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Almost 15 percent of teen girls said they were forced to have sex, an increase of 27 percent over two years and the first increase since the CDC began tracking it.”

“Almost 3 in 5 teenage girls reported feeling so persistently sad or hopeless almost every day for at least two weeks in a row during the previous year that they stopped regular activities — a figure that was double the share of boys and the highest in a decade.”

“Girls fared worse on other measures, too, with higher rates of alcohol and drug use than boys and higher levels of being electronically bullied, according to the 89-page report. Thirteen percent had attempted suicide during the past year, compared to 7 percent of boys.”

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

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