A Beast Of Birdin’
July 20, 2022
Some Good News
- White House unveils new executive order on US hostages and wrongful detainees (CNN)
- Blue Angels Name First Female Jet Pilot to Squadron (WSJ, $)
“I prefer peace. But if trouble must come, let it come in my time, so that my children can live in peace.” – Thomas Paine
The Lay Of The Land
The world has watched in horror for five months as Russia continues waging a cataclysmic assault on the independent nation of Ukraine, indiscriminately killing civilians and bombing whole cities into oblivion. It seemed clear from the get-go that President Putin’s intention was to capture all 233,000 square miles of Ukrainian territory and absorb it into Russia. That hasn’t happened, but Moscow does control the nearly 50,000 square miles of the southeastern Donbas region, including Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, all of Donetsk, and Luhansk. John Kirby, coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council, announced Tuesday the U.S. has intelligence that Russia is “laying the groundwork” to annex Ukrainian territory that it controls “in direct violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.” Indeed, the Kremlin is already installing illegitimate proxy officials to run these controlled regions and doing things like forcing residents to apply for Russian citizenship, issuing Russian passports, and taking control of telecommunications infrastructure.
Violating another nation’s sovereignty certainly didn’t stop Putin from annexing Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014, nor did anything the U.S. chose to do. “Russia is beginning to rollout a version of what you could call an annexation playbook, very similar to the one we saw in 2014…And we know their next moves,” Kirby said. “First, these proxy officials will arrange sham referenda on joining Russia. Then…use those sham referenda as a basis to try to claim annexation of sovereign Ukrainian territory.” He continued: “Russia’s been attempting to set the conditions on the ground by seeking to establish branches of Russian banks, to establish the rubble as the default currency in these areas, and to sabotage civilian internet access. Russia’s security services continue to target Ukrainians that they believe to be associated with resistance activities.”
Kirby said annexation by force “would be a gross violation of the U.N. Charter, and we will not allow it to go unchallenged or unpunished.” But with the next breath, he insisted there is no change to America’s policy and dedication to helping Ukraine defend herself. Given the administration’s determination to avoid U.S. military intervention, the reality is that it’s questionable what else the U.S. could do to challenge or punish Russia, or if the outcome would be any different than in 2014. (CBS News, NPR, Vox)
A Ballot Cleanser
- If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Brazil’s far-right president could not be praising Donald Trump more. Jair Bolsonaro is facing poor polling numbers ahead of October’s election, so he’s slamming the country’s electronic voting system that has been used without controversy since 1996.
- Electoral officials and senior politicians were dumbfounded after Bolsonaro called foreign diplomats to the presidential palace and made baseless allegations about the upcoming elections’ integrity, saying the voting machines were vulnerable. The unfounded claims were immediately refuted by Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Court (TSE), the body that oversees elections.
- The TSE issued a list of 20 rebuttals to Bolsonaro’s statements, and Edson Fachin, the Court’s president, called them “unacceptable electoral denialism.” “It’s time to say enough of this disinformation,” Fachin said. “It’s also time to say no to authoritarian populism.” The president of Brazil’s senate also rejected Bolsonaro’s allegations, saying there was “no just cause or reason” to question the efficacy of the electoral process. (Guardian)
Down (In The Dumps) Under
- Australia’s conservative government received a five-year State of the Environment report last December, but chose not to release it until after elections in May. The center-left Labor Party won on pledges that included taking greater action on climate change.
- The report found that Australia’s environment continues to deteriorate due to climate change, resource extraction, and other causes. Furthermore, the number of Australian species listed as threatened had increased 8% since the 2016 report, and is predicted to increase substantially after wildfires in 2019 and 2020 destroyed vast tracts of southeast Australian forests.
- On Tuesday, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said her party planned to keep its promise to reduce 2005 emission levels by 43% by the end of the decade and to enshrine that target into law when Parliament sits on July 26. She also promised to introduce new environmental protection laws to Parliament next year and said the government would create an agency to enforce them. The government will also set a target of having 30% of Australia’s land and surrounding sea declared protected areas. (NBC News)
Additional World News
- Help! Spaniards spooked when their train stops in wildfire (AP)
- Ukraine farmers’ crops go up in flames after Russian missile attacks (WaPo, $)
- China threatens ‘strong measures’ if Pelosi visits Taiwan (AP)
- Tens of thousands of Afghans applying for US visas still face major delays (CNN)
- Olena Zelenska, Ukraine first lady, on high-profile US trip (AP)
- France signs energy deal with the UAE to wean off Russian imports (Al Jazeera)
We’ve Doug Ourselves A Hole
- A questionable tactic Democrats gambled on in the Pennsylvania governor’s race could wind up biting them in the booty. Back in May, Dems put their thumb on the scale for Doug Mastriano, a longshot in the Republican primary. Mastriano is the MAGA state senator and 2020 election denier with far-right views on hot-button issues who regularly antagonizes members of his own party.
- Dems figured their nominee, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, would easily beat Mastriano in the pivotal swing state come November. Then, inflation soared, Biden’s poll numbers sank even lower, and now Mastriano’s got a real shot at winning. “The higher the gas prices go, the more electable Mastriano is,” said one GOP county chairman.
- What could happen if Mastriano won? He believes in no exceptions for an abortion ban. He said the state legislature has the power to appoint presidential electors, and as governor, he would have the power to “decertify” election machines. Not to mention he chartered buses to the U.S. Capitol on January 6, where he appears to be part of a crowd that crossed barricades. So, probably nothing good. (Politico)
Not In The Clear
- The Dallas Independent School District is the second largest in Texas. Following the massacre in Uvalde, Dallas administrators decided all students from grades 6 to 12 will have to wear see-through backpacks beginning this school year to “ensure that prohibited items are not included among the students’ belongings.”
- Monday’s announcement noted that clear backpacks would speed up the process of students entering school in the morning because staff won’t have to open and inspect every backpack (although they have discretion to do so). Bags must be completely clear with no color tint.
- Middle schoolers’ bags cannot exceed 12” wide by 16.5” tall and 5” deep; high schoolers’ bags are roomier by an inch each way. Students can carry a small opaque pouch in their backpacks for personal things like money, cellphones, and hygiene items. The district will provide a clear backpack to students before the year begins. Anyone who arrives at school with an old backpack will be given a clear one; the old backpack will be stored in the office until a parent or guardian can retrieve it. (NPR)
Additional USA News
- Greenwood Park Mall shooting: Police identify victims, gunman and armed bystander (CNN)
- ‘It goes up like tinder’: unprecedented blazes envelop Alaska (Guardian)
- Lawyer misconduct complaint filed against Indiana AG Todd Rokita (WaPo, $)
- Former Trump national security official to testify in-person at Jan. 6 hearing (Axios)
- West Virginia judge blocks enforcement of 150-year-old abortion ban (Guardian)
- Two people charged with scheme to sell foreign nationals access to US politicians, including Trump (CNN)
- House to vote on same-sex marriage, push back against court (AP)
A Beast Of Birdin’
- OK, this is adorable. Maybe not if you hate animal videos on social media, but come on – how is that even possible? Let’s just start with the name of the farm in south Florida: Knuckle Bump. You know pretty much right away that these people have a sense of humor. Taylor Blake’s grandparents own the farm, and in growing up around there she developed a deep love for animals. Blake, now 29, has been creating social media content professionally since 2013. After a brief stint in Los Angeles, she and her girlfriend moved back to Knuckle Bump Farm to help her aging grandparents care for their animals full time.
- Blake became a bit of a social media personality for her frequent posts detailing her everyday farm life. Besides her Instagram account, @threeroaddogs, where she shares photos of her dogs, Blake began posting videos on Twitter and TikTok in 2018 showing herself with all the animals around the farm – cows, donkeys, ducks, deer, emus, etc. Her rationale: “The world is dark, and animals bring everyone joy. They’re funny, they’re entertaining.” Blake describes her videos as “fun, lighthearted content, where you’re not having to worry about politics, you’re not having to worry about all the terrible things that are going on in the world right now.”
- As often happens in such a sitcom, one animal in particular – Emmanuel the Emu – has developed celebrity status, so much so that the Washington Post wanted an interview. Emmanuel, you see, is an obstreperous camera hog who goes around interrupting Blake every time she tries videoing herself talking about life on the farm. When Emmanuel first interrupted Blake she was irritated and didn’t post the video. About a month later, she rewatched it on her phone and decided it was funny. “I just posted it, not thinking anything of it,” she said. It “completely spiraled from there.” Blake says Emmanuel’s interruptions aren’t staged. He has a genuine “obsession with the camera” – and “obsession with me … No matter where I am … he always has to be right next to me.” (WaPo, $)
- Malaysia seizes $18 million worth of elephant tusks, tiger bones and other trafficked animal parts (CNN)
- Dormant black hole discovered outside our galaxy for first time (CNN)
- 100 million-year-old dinosaur footprints found at restaurant in China (CNN)
- The 10-year-old checkers champion winning hearts and money for Ukraine’s army (CNN)
- Officials: Cows block Florida’s Turnpike after truck fire (AP)
- How one institution keeps claiming math’s highest award (Ars Technica)
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