The Pen(itentiary) Is Mightier Than The Sword
November 11, 2021
The Good News
- 6 Automakers and 31 Countries Say They’ll Phase Out Gasoline Car Sales (NYT, $)
- Portugal law bans bosses from contact employees after work hours (USA Today)
“Valor is stability, not of legs and arms, but of courage and the soul.” — Michel de Montaigne
Red Light, Green Light
Donald Trump’s delaying tactics scarcely slow the work of the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection. Three weeks ago, the former president sued to block records requested by the committee pertaining to his actions surrounding the attack on the Capitol and his attempts to overturn the 2020 election. Trump’s attorneys argued the requests were overly broad and without legislative purpose; they also criticized President Biden for not asserting executive privilege to block the handover of those documents. “The Committee’s request amounts to nothing less than a vexatious, illegal fishing expedition openly endorsed by Biden and designed to unconstitutionally investigate President Trump and his administration,” the lawsuit reads. “Our laws do not permit such an impulsive, egregious action against a former president and his close advisors.”
U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan disagreed. Late Tuesday, she ruled that hundreds of pages of Trump White House records can be turned over to the committee beginning Friday. “The court holds that the public interest lies in permitting—not enjoining—the combined will of the legislative and executive branches to study the events that led to and occurred on January 6, and to consider legislation to prevent such events from ever occurring again.” Trump immediately appealed to D.C.’s Circuit Court of Appeals asking the National Archives be barred from releasing the documents.
Committee Vice-Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) said that the panel has already interviewed “a whole range of people” — more than 150 — in interviews and depositions. Several former Trump administration officials spoke voluntarily, and the committee has issued rounds of subpoenas to a variety of others, including some of Trump’s closest allies and individuals involved in the organization of rallies and events that preceded the riot. One of those subpoenaed, Steve Bannon, refused to cooperate on the grounds of executive privilege, even though he left the administration in 2017. In October, the House voted to refer Bannon to the Justice Department for a criminal contempt of Congress charge.
On Monday, the committee issued subpoenas for top Trump campaign associates, including Jason Miller, former senior campaign adviser; John Eastman, an attorney who helped craft Trump’s argument that the election was stolen; and Michael Flynn, also involved with helping promote the Big Lie. Then, on Tuesday, a new batch of 10 subpoenas went to former administration leaders, including Kayleigh McEnany, White House press secretary; Stephen Miller, Trump senior adviser; Nicholas Luna, Trump’s personal assistant; Christopher Liddell, deputy chief of staff; and John McEntee, White House personnel director. But bottom line: unless the Justice Department agrees to prosecute Bannon on the contempt referral, the committee’s enforcement capacity could equate to the roar of a toothless tiger. (WaPo, CNN, NPR, Axios)
The Pen(itentiary) Is Mightier Than The Sword
- Since Myanmar’s military seized power on February 1, almost 6,000 people have been detained by the junta’s security forces. Life in post-coup Myanmar is nearly impossible for media workers, with many forced into exile abroad or fleeing to rebel-controlled areas in the jungles. Those journalists still in the cities hide and swap safe houses every few days to avoid arrest, and continue exposing the junta’s crimes to the world. But not all managed to evade authorities, and dozens remain in custody.
- One of those is Detroit native Danny Fenster, 37, who worked in Yangon as managing editor of independent news outlet Frontier Myanmar. Fenster was inexplicably arrested on May 24 by security forces; he’s been held in the country’s notoriously brutal Insein Prison, denied bail and contact with his parents or officials at the U.S. embassy in Yangon. He’s now been charged with two new crimes, sedition and terrorism, and faces a possible sentence of life in prison. Despite State Department demands for his release, Fenster continues being ‘tried’ in secret by a military court. (CNN)
Game, Debt, Match
- In 2018, Mozambique’s finance minister, Manuel Chang, was detained in South Africa after being accused of playing a role in a massive debt scandal in his home country. During his 2005-2015 tenure as finance minister, Chang signed off on $2 billion in state-backed borrowing, ostensibly for projects spanning tuna fishing, shipyard development, and maritime security.
- But hundreds of millions of dollars went missing, allegedly in kickbacks, and many promised benefits never materialized. The Mozambican government didn’t disclose all of the loans to parliament or donors, including the International Monetary Fund. When the full extent of the borrowing was revealed, donors cut off support to Mozambique and its currency collapsed.
- Debate over where Chang should face charges has been ongoing ever since his arrest. In August, South Africa’s justice minister decided to send Chang to Mozambique. The decision was challenged by civil society groups who argued proper justice would only be done in the U.S. On Wednesday, a South African court overruled the justice minister and directed that Chang be extradited to the U.S. (Reuters)
Additional World News
- India’s Yamuna River coated in toxic foam as Hindu devotees gather for Chhath Puja festival (CNN)
- Sir Geoffrey Cox denies breaking rules on Commons office use (BBC)
- Russia sends bombers to fly over Belarus, blames EU for migrant catastrophe (Reuters)
- Kishida reelected Japan’s PM in parliamentary vote (AP)
- Myanmar military accused of blocking aid to displaced civilians (Al Jazeera)
- ‘No going back’: Migrants tell of being trapped on Belarus-Poland border (Reuters)
- China Evergrande Troubles Spread Through Property Sector (NYT, $)
Not Getting A Second Chansley
- Prosecutors are urging the court to sentence the “QAnon Shaman” to 51 months in prison. Jacob Chansley stormed the Senate chamber on January 6 — shirtless, wearing horns, with his face and body painted. Images of him on the Senate rostrum, where he scrawled a menacing note to Vice President Mike Pence, became iconic in the aftermath of the attack.
- Chansley is only the third felony defendant to reach the sentencing phase of his prosecution after pleading guilty to obstructing Congress’ effort to certify the 2020 election results. Paul Hodgkins is serving an eight-month prison sentence, after prosecutors recommended he be given 18 months.
- Prosecutors are also recommending a 44-month jail term for Scott Fairlamb, a former MMA fighter who pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer after leaving the building. Fairlamb will be sentenced next Wednesday. Prosecutors said Chansley deserves a stiffer sentence because of his months-long effort to sow disinformation about the integrity of the election, his refusal to obey police commands inside the Capitol, and his brandishing of a spear-tipped flagpole. (Politico)
- General Electric has been one of the biggest manufacturers of American products for nearly 130 years. A symbol of American ingenuity, the industrial powerhouse put its stamp on everything from jet engines to lightbulbs, kitchen appliances to X-ray machines.
- The conglomerate traces its lineage back to Thomas Edison and was once the pinnacle of business success, synonymous with innovation and corporate exceptionalism, renowned for steady returns and relentless pursuit of growth. In 2007, before the financial crisis, GE was the second-most valuable company in the world.
- But in recent years it’s struggled to slim its business operations and pay down massive debt; it’s fallen out of favor with investors as it struggled to evolve, and hasn’t been part of the Dow Jones index since 2018. Now, the company has concluded it can unlock the most value by breaking itself apart. GE Healthcare is slated to be spun off in early 2023, while the renewables and power units will be formed into new energy business in early 2024. The remaining business, GE, will focus on aviation. (WaPo)
Additional USA News
- Watchdog: Mike Pompeo changed State Department rules, violated Hatch Act with convention speech (NBC)
- South Dakota House votes to begin ‘unprecedented’ impeachment probe of AG (NBC)
- Supreme Court conservatives are skeptical on spiritual advisers in death chamber (NPR)
- Sununu exit underscores uncertain GOP path to gain Senate majority (The Hill)
- 51-month sentence urged for ‘QAnon Shaman’ Jacob Chansley (Politico)
- Parole again recommended for Manson follower Leslie Van Houten (CBS)
- Inflation probably sped up in October, dashing Washington’s hopes for a quick slowdown. (NYT, $)
Pro-Fit For A Queen
Once again it’s time for news from the auction front. Two diamond bracelets once owned by the last queen of France have sold at a Christie’s auction in Switzerland for more than $8 million. An anonymous telephone bidder is the lucky new owner of the bracelets, which are made up of 112 old cut diamonds. Marie Antoinette sent the jewelry away for safekeeping before she was guillotined during the French revolution. Both bracelets were smuggled out of the country, and remained within her family for more than 200 years.
The future queen was born in Austria but sent to France at age 15 to marry the future King Louis XVI. Over time, the king became increasingly unpopular among the French people, who thought his wife was wasteful and a dangerous influence. In 1793, after months of “bad press,” King Louis decided he must send his wife to the guillotine. She was just 37 years old. But while she was imprisoned, Queen Marie sent a letter stating that a wooden chest with jewels would be sent for safekeeping. Her surviving daughter Marie Therese, Madame Royale, received the jewels on her arrival in Austria.
The jewelry sold for more than twice what was expected. “These bracelets travelled through time to recount a most important era of French history, with its glamour, glory and drama,” said the European chairman for Christie’s auction house.
Equally iconic, at least to Tom Hanks fans, is the ‘Wilson’ volleyball head from the 2000 film Cast Away. The film depicts Tom Hanks as a lone survivor stuck on a deserted island. The prop, which Hank’s character names Wilson, is depicted as his only friend. During the film, Hanks talks to the Wilson ball as a way to keep his sanity while struggling to survive. Prop House has sold Wilson for an astonishing $308,000. And that’s not all. Prop House had over 1,100 pieces of other movie memorabilia to sell, including the outfit worn by Will Ferrell in Elf, a delightful 2003 Christmas film. Lots of people must still love Elf, because the suit sold for $235,000, almost 10 times the anticipated sale price. (BBC)
- X-rays reveal secrets of 14th-century tomb of England’s infamous Black Prince (Ars Technica)
- Honeybees make a chilling warning noise when attacked by hive-destroying murder hornets (CNN)
- Thousands of UK’s phone boxes to be protected from closure (AP)
- Nasa’s Moon return pushed back to 2025 (BBC)
- Man “lucky to be alive” after fending off a huge crocodile with his pocketknife (CBS)
- The young taxi bikers killed in Freetown’s fuel blast died trying to scrape a living (Guardian)
- ‘Penis Worms’ May Have Been the First Hermits (NYT, $)