A New Russian Commander & A Long-Awaited FDA Change
January 12, 2023
The Russian Military Leadership Carousel Spins On
Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to play musical chairs with the leadership of Russia’s Ukrainian invasion force. Sergei Surovikin, the Russian general who has helmed his country’s invasion of Ukraine over the past three months, has been given the boot to make space for Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov.
General Surovikin, who earned the nickname “General Armageddon” for his brutality in previous wars, will now serve as Gerasimov’s deputy, a move he’s surely happy about. Under Surovikin, the Russian forces began their plan to attack Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, cutting water and power to millions of Ukrainians in the dead of winter.
General Gerasimov, the invasion force’s new head honcho, has been the longest-serving Russian chief of general staff since the fall of the Soviet Union, having been in his post since 2012. Russia’s defense ministry said that the change in leadership was made with the aim of establishing “closer contact between different branches of the armed forces and improving the quality and effectiveness of the management of Russian forces.”
Some analysts think that Surovikin’s replacement was due to “General Armageddon” gaining too much power. “As the unified commander in Ukraine, Surovikin was becoming very powerful, and was likely bypassing [Russian Defence Minister Sergei] Shoigu and Gerasimov when talking to Putin,” military analyst Rob Lee theorized on Twitter.
Zooming out from the drama of Russian military leadership, Russian forces claim that they’ve captured the Ukrainian town of Soledar, a key piece of territory for Russia’s campaign. The fall of Soledar to Russian forces would provide the invaders a strategic position to take Bakhmut, allowing them to set up artillery within range of the city. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy countered those claims in a Wednesday address, declaring that “The terrorist state and its propagandists are trying to pretend” to have won Soledar, “but the fighting continues.” (BBC)
- A stranger gave a boy with autism a $15,000 piano after hearing him play (CBS)
- Volodymyr Zelenskyy tells Golden Globes attendees Ukraine will win its war with Russia (CNN)
They’re Tate-ing Away My Cars!
- The internet’s premier misogynist, Andrew Tate, is still under investigation in Romania on charges of being part of an organized crime group and human trafficking. Two Romanian courts rejected his appeals against asset seizures by prosecutors on Wednesday, the second day of bad news in a row for Tate – on Tuesday, a court upheld a December 30 move extending Tate’s (and his associates’) arrest from 24 hours to 30 days.
- Tate was arrested on December 29 of last year, alongside his brother and two Romanian women. Prosecutors across two separate investigations have seized a total of 15 luxury cars and multiple properties as part of their inquiries into Tate’s alleged human trafficking operation. One of the appeal hearings on Wednesday, held at the Bucharest Tribunal, “decided that the seizures are legal and (that) the goods remain at our disposal,” said a spokesperson for Romanian anti-organized crime agency DIICOT.
- According to DIICOT, investigators have uncovered six victims of “acts of physical violence and mental coercion” related to Tate’s alleged human trafficking business. The agency says that the victims were lured into the operation by the pretense of romance before being used by higher-ups to make pornography for their own profit. Tate is currently banned across basically all major social media platforms, but has kept up his outsized influence despite that fact. Maybe that shine will start to wear off now that his Bugattis are government property. (AP, BBC)
Easing Up In Ethiopia
- Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict looks to be coming to an end after two years. Tigrayan forces located in northern Ethiopia have begun the process of turning in their heavy weapons, taking steps toward an end to the conflict that has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
- The African Union (AU) called the move “a step in the right direction.” The civil war broke out in 2020 when political tensions between the regional Tigray government and Ethiopia’s federal government spilled over into open military conflict. In 2021, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) advanced toward the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa but forces were eventually pushed back.
- Late last year, both TPLF and Ethiopian federal forces agreed to AU monitoring with the goal of ending the conflict. The transfer of tanks, rockets, and mortars was part of that deal – in return, services like electricity and banking are returning to the region of Tigray. (BBC)
Additional World News
- The mystery buses behind Brazil Congress attack (BBC)
- Demolition of cracked hotels in Himalayan town set to resume (Reuters)
- Cardinal Pell’s death brings few tears in Australia (BBC)
- US and Japan to strengthen military relationship with upgraded Marine unit in attempt to deter China (CNN)
- Constantine, the last king of Greece, dies at 82 (Politico)
- Political vacuum in Haiti deepens as senators’ terms expire (AP)
- Zhao Lijian: China reassigns combative ‘Wolf Warrior’ diplomat (BBC)
“Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
Santos’ Spiderweb Of Shams
- The web of lies continues to get tangled for George Santos. On Wednesday, chairman of the Nassau County Republican Party Joseph G. Cairo said at a news conference on Long Island that he and other leaders of the group are calling for Santos to resign. Santos represents New York’s 3rd Congressional District, but since he won his campaign, revelations about his personal and professional life have made it clear that most of his tales about his background were a lie.
- Cairo said the congressman’s campaign was made up “of deceit, lies, and fabrication.” “He deceived voters,” Cairo said. “His lies were not mere fibs. He disgraced the House of Representatives.” Santos was in D.C. during Cairo’s conference, but when reporters asked if he’ll concede to Cairo’s demands and resign, Santos said, “I will not.”
- Meanwhile, Republican leaders in Washington haven’t addressed the calls for resignation, though sources say they aren’t being influenced by Cairo’s pressure. Santos’ seat is in a district that typically leans Democrat, so Republicans are likely reluctant to spark a special election and open the seat to flip back to blue. (CNN)
9 Down, 41 To Go
- Now we’re getting somewhere. Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the “Protect Illinois Communities Act” into law during a ceremony at the State Capitol in Springfield this week, making Illinois the latest state to ban the sale or possession of assault weapons. Nine states, plus Washington, D.C., now prohibit the sale or possession of military-style weapons.
- Many states have signed their respective gun control bills in the wake of mass shootings – for Chicago, it was a 4th of July parade in the suburb of Highland Park. Pritzker, who campaigned on a promise of gun control and won reelection in November, said, “this legislation will stop the spread of assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and switches and make our state a safer place for all.” (ABC)
Additional USA News
- Uvalde school police chief Pete Arredondo told investigators why he didn’t try to stop gunman (CBS)
- Why Left-Leaning Democrats May Torpedo Hochul’s Choice of Top Judge (NYT, $)
- Sarah Huckabee Sanders focuses inaugural address on education reform as she’s sworn in as Arkansas governor (CNN)
- Storm-pummeled California rushes to clean up and start repairs ahead of expected rain resumption (CBS)
- Schools are swamped by unpaid lunch debt, nutrition group says (WaPo, $)
- Far-right influencer known as ‘Baked Alaska’ sentenced over Capitol attack (Guardian)
- Capitol riot trial starts for man with feet on Pelosi desk (AP)
It’s Looking Up For Lab Rats
- The U.S. pharmaceutical industry now has the option of going vegetarian – or at least, the industry will no longer rely entirely upon animal testing for new experimental drugs. Late last year, the Biden administration signed into law the FDA Modernization Act 2.0, a piece of legislation that ends a federal mandate requiring experimental drugs be tested on animals before moving on to human trials.
- The new law still allows animal testing, but also provides other options for pre-human trials. Drugmakers can now use lab-made tissues which model parts of human organs to test experimental drugs before moving on to human trials, much to the relief of rodents across the nation. According to many studies, animal testing is not even the best method of predicting a drug’s impacts on humans, even if you don’t consider the ethical concerns of pumping dogs, rats, and mice full of experimental chemicals.
- New testing technologies now allowed on the path to FDA approval include microfluidic organs-on-chips and organoids. The chip option involves a polymer chip with human cells integrated into it, which can mimic blood flow through the cells of different organs, allowing researchers to simulate body parts from the lungs to the skin in a body-like environment. Organoids are blobs (that’s the scientific term, of course) of tissue grown from stem cells to mimic different organs and cells. Kind of gross, but far better than inducing cancer in a mouse before subjecting it to chemotherapy. (Wired, $)
- Mega Millions jackpot soars to $1.35 billion — 2nd largest in history — after no winner claimed Tuesday’s prize (CNN)
- EXPLAINER: How much will the rain help California’s drought? (AP)
- Oceans were the hottest ever recorded in 2022, analysis shows (Guardian)
- Golden Globes fashion: Stars return for soggy carpet (AP)
- Meta’s main content moderation partner in Africa shuts down operations (TechCrunch)
- Ranked: The World’s Most (And Least) Powerful Passports In 2023 (Forbes)
- Stephanie McMahon resigns as WWE co-CEO; Vince McMahon returns as executive chairman (NBC)
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