All That Twitters Is Not Gold
April 5, 2022
Some Good News
- These second-graders helped shelter pups find their fur-ever homes (NPR)
- Liberia taxi driver: How returning $50,000 changed Emmanuel Tuloe’s life (BBC)
“Childhood sometimes does pay a second visit to man, youth never.” – Anna Jameson
A Load Of Ronsense
Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis has honed his image as an aggressive cultural conservative since taking office in 2019. With fevered attacks against the left, he’s consistently plotted a hard-right course, opposing everything from sensible gun control, criminal justice reform, immigration, and pandemic public health measures, to protections for voting, women’s health, and LGBTQ rights. Along the way, he’s made sure to take advantage of any opportunity to out-Trump Trump.
DeSantis’ extreme COVID-19 policies received such pushback from large corporations in Florida that he began criticizing what he called “the rise of corporate wokeness.” His rhetoric increased as he seeks reelection in 2022, and eyes a run for president in 2024. But DeSantis didn’t have a clear corporate enemy until the “Don’t Say Gay” bill passed March 9, and Disney denounced the law that prohibits “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity” in public elementary schools. The Walt Disney Company, Florida’s largest employer and a vestige of the old business-aligned GOP, provided DeSantis a perfect foil to highlight the revolution in Republican politics: de-emphasizing talk about free markets in favor of culture war attacks on “wokeness.”
DeSantis has parlayed Disney’s opposition to the Parental Rights in Education law into fundraising pitches, casting himself as a family-values David fighting what he calls a “radical” corporate Goliath. He’s played the “hypocrisy” card: criticizing Disney for doing business in China, yet remaining silent about Uyghur genocide, and for sending Disney cruises to the Caribbean island of Dominica, where homosexuality is criminalized. He’s publicly questioned whether legislators should cancel Disney’s special status under a 55-year-old Florida law that effectively makes the company its own government in a part of the Orlando area that includes Disney World.
DeSantis’ feud with Disney is a continuation of his fight-all-comers political style that turned him into a national GOP figure during the pandemic. He’s built a strong base of small-dollar donors who potentially insulate him from any fears of losing corporate contributions, which nevertheless continue filling his substantial war chest. Last week, Equality Florida sued the state over the law Disney denounced. Executive director Nadine Smith said: “DeSantis’ national small-dollar donors [are] the QAnon extreme-right crowd…he plays to. It’s not Floridians.” (NYT ($), flsenate.gov, NBC, Deadline)
Yacht All It’s Cracked Up To Be
- Spain’s Civil Guard and U.S. federal agents seized the Tango, a 254-foot yacht owned by Viktor Vekselberg, on Monday. The yacht was docked at the Marina Real in the port of Palma de Mallorca, the capital of Spain’s Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. Superyachtfan.com, a specialized website that tracks…well, yachts, values the 78-meter vessel at $120 million.
- The U.S. Justice Department alleged that the yacht should be forfeited after violating bank fraud, money laundering, and sanctions statutes from the U.S. Vekselberg is a close ally of Putin’s, and also the head of Renova Group, a Moscow-based conglomerate that deals with metals, mining, tech, and more.
- Vekselberg built his fortune by investing in the aluminum and oil industries in the post-Soviet era, but now all his assets in America are frozen and companies are barred from doing business with him. This is the first U.S. seizure of an oligarch’s yacht since Merrick Garland and Janet Yellen assembled a task force in an effort to enforce sanctions after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February. (AP)
Serb Your Enthusiasm
- Serbia’s populist pro-Kremlin president, Aleksandar Vučić, won the general election held in the country on Sunday by a landslide. Vučić is a populist pro-Kremlin leader and a former minister for information in Slobodan Milošević’s Yugoslav government. The state election commission said that, after counting over 96% of the vote, Vučić had 58.% of the vote.
- In the parliament election, his Serbian Progressive party (SNS) fell short of a majority, garnering just 43% of the vote. Both the opposition and outside observers mentioned irregularities and some violence, but the SNS denied pressuring voters or any other untoward behavior. (Guardian)
Additional World News
- China defends policy of separating COVID-positive kids from parents in locked-down Shanghai (CBS)
- Jordan’s Prince Hamzah bin Hussein renounces his title (Al Jazeera)
- Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says she won’t seek second term (NPR)
- IPCC climate report talks go into overtime as governments oppose firm language on fossil fuels (CNN)
- Sri Lanka cabinet resigns as angry public defies curfew amid economic crisis (NPR)
- Slovak minister says paying in roubles an option, country needs gas (Reuters)
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All That Twitters Is Not Gold
- A Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Monday revealed that Elon Musk purchased a 9.2% stake in Twitter, making him the social media company’s largest shareholder. The SEC filings didn’t disclose how much Musk paid for his 73.5 million shares, but news of the purchase sent Twitter shares soaring over 25% in Monday morning trading.
- At the close of trading on Friday, Musk’s shares were worth $2.9 billion; after the spike early Monday, his shares were worth $3.5 billion. Musk has been a critic of Twitter’s policies in the past, and expressed an interest in starting a rival social-media company of his own.
- Now that he’s the largest shareholder, some people are raising questions about the future ability to communicate freely on the platform. Musk is the world’s richest person, with a fortune of more than $287 billion according to Forbes. (myjournalcourier.com)
A Bitter Pill-ow To Swallow
- Mike Lindell – CEO of MyPillow and one of America’s most prominent election deniers – is headlining an “Election Truth Rally” Tuesday in Denver, Colorado. The rally features Tina Peters, the Mesa County election clerk indicted on 10 counts of tampering with the 2020 election, and state representative Ron Hanks, a U.S. Senate candidate who attended the deadly January 6 riot in Washington, D.C.
- The event is being promoted by FEC United, a right-wing conspiracy group affiliated with a local militia, and is expected to draw dozens of former President Trump’s supporters to the Capitol steps. Lindell is currently being sued in a $1.5 billion defamation case filed by Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems, which makes voting machines for Colorado and other states. (fecunited.com, Axios, 9news.com)
Additional USA News
- Trump endorses Sarah Palin for Congress (CNN)
- Jan. 6 panel wonders: Is Trump criminal referral necessary? (Politico)
- A jury will decide if the Parkland gunman gets the death penalty (NPR)
- The Supreme Court Has Never Been Apolitical (Politico)
- Biden finds Murdoch ‘most dangerous man in the world’, new book says (Guardian)
- Senate committee to vote on Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination (CNN)
- Obama to return to White House to celebrate health care reform (NBC)
This Doesn’t Boat Well
- Now that Spain has seized a superyacht of its own, France would like a word about what comes next – the “keeping” part. Two days after the E.U. added Igor Sechin, head of Russian state oil company Rosneft, to its sanctions list for the war in Ukraine, French customs agents seized the Amore Vero, a 282-ft superyacht France says belongs to a company controlled by Sechin. The Amore Vero had been moored for servicing at La Ciotat Shipyards on the French Riviera. Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said France officially seized the vessel as its crew prepared to sail out of the harbor on the night of March 2. The state has custody over the yacht, but the owner is still responsible for its associated costs, like mooring fees.
- Sechin, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s oldest allies, denies that his company owns the Amore Vero. Authorities haven’t notified third parties of the vessel’s status, leaving it unclear who’s responsible for its upkeep. But the bills are piling up, and an executive at the Shipyards said the company would like to eventually be paid. “We’re continuing to invoice,” said the company’s communications officer. Asked who would foot the bill, she said: “We don’t know.”
- The owner of Marine Risk Management, which recovers maritime assets on behalf of insurers and banks, said Mediterranean governments had little experience in the legal intricacies of seizing superyachts. The questions hanging over the Amore Vero are exposing the complexities authorities face as they target the assets of Putin’s allies, and the disruption being brought to some businesses. So far, European states have frozen or seized physical assets belonging to sanctioned oligarchs, including properties and at least 11 superyachts. Basically, it’s not the seizing part that’s all that hard – it’s what comes after. (Reuters)
- Covid: Nine new symptoms added to official list (BBC)
- ‘Impossible’ chemistry may reveal origins of life on Earth (NatGeo)
- NASA Stops Launch Rehearsal for Its Giant Moon Rocket (NYT, $)
- President Volodymyr Zelensky makes appearance at the Grammys (CNN)
- Hubble discovers a Jupiter-like planet forming in a very strange way (Salon)
- Baby seal rescued after it was found wandering the streets of Long Island (CNN)
- Mormon leader reaffirms faith’s stance on same-sex marriage (ABC)
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