Losing what was Mariupol Monday: Headlines from Russian-created Hell Realms

Maria Prymachenko – A Dove Has Spread Her Wings And Asks for Peace, 1982. This work of art was lost when Russians bombed The Ivankiv Historical and Local History Museum to the ground on February 25th

It’s Monday Sky Dancers!

And Putin’s incompetent army from hell continues to focus on missile launches aimed at killing and terrorizing Ukrainians.  Here are just a few of the headlines via Twitter.  It’s time for NATO to do more.

Sadly, NBC News reports that “Mariupol on the brink as surrender deadline passes. There were no immediate reports of activity from Ukrainian forces in Mariupol, which has been the scene of the war’s heaviest fighting.”

Russia offered to spare the lives of Ukrainian soldiers fighting in Mariupol if they laid down their arms Sunday as the weekslong resistance in the besieged port city appeared to finally be coming to an end.

The offer, made “out of purely humane principles,” gave Ukrainian forces still fighting in the city until 6 a.m. Moscow time (11 p.m. ET) to surrender, the Russian military said in a statement reported by the news agency Tass.

There were no immediate reports of activity from Ukrainian forces in Mariupol. If it falls, it would be the first major city to be taken by Russian forces since the Feb. 24 invasion.

There was also no immediate response from Kyiv.

Russian missiles struck Lviv on Monday, killing at least seven people in the first reported deaths of the war in the western city, where hundreds of thousands of displaced people have fled to escape the fierce fighting in other parts of Ukraine.

The head of Lviv’s military administration, Maksym Koztyskyy, said three missiles hit empty military warehouses while a fourth hit a garage, killing and injuring civilians. He did not say whether all the casualties were from the garage strike, which hit a few hundred feet from a set of railway tracks.

“If the garage was the ultimate target, maybe they were aiming at the railway station,” he said. “There are no longer any safe or unsafe locations.”

The head of Ukraine’s railway service, Oleksandr Pertsovskyi, said he had no proof that the attack was aimed at the railway, which has some facilities near military sites.

NAMES, BIRTHDAYS, PASSPORT numbers, job titles—the personal information goes on for pages and looks like any typical data breach. But this data set is very different. It allegedly contains the personal information of 1,600 Russian troops who served in Bucha, a Ukrainian city devastated during Russia’s war and the scene of multiple potential war crimes.

The data set is not the only one. Another allegedly contains the names and contact details of 620 Russian spies who are registered to work at the Moscow office of the FSB, the country’s main security agency. Neither set of information was published by hackers. Instead they were put online by Ukraine’s intelligence services, with all the names and details freely available to anyone online. “Every European should know their names,” Ukrainian officials wrote in a Facebook post as they published the data.

Since Russian troops crossed Ukraine’s borders at the end of February, colossal amounts of information about the Russian state and its activities have been made public. The data offers unparalleled glimpses into closed-off private institutions, and it may be a gold mine for investigators, from journalists to those tasked with investigating war crimes. Broadly, the data comes in two flavors: information published proactively by Ukranian authorities or their allies, and information obtained by hacktivists. Hundreds of gigabytes of files and millions of emails have been made public.

Aid organizations say they’re seeing signs that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is driving up global food prices and pushing millions of people into hunger.

food price index tracked by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization shows that prices spiked 12% between February and March to its highest point since the index started in 1990.

Ukraine and Russia provide an outsized share of the world’s supply of key foods including wheat, corn, barley and more.

The impact on people who were already struggling to afford food has been severe, aid groups say. In Afghanistan a month ago, 55% of people were at crisis levels of food insecurity. Now the number has risen to 65%.

In some West African countries, including Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and Mali, 27 million people are currently going hungry.

Aid groups are calling on wealthy countries to immediately step up assistance.

Kateryna Lysovenko draws on Delacroix’s ‘Liberty Leading the People’ © Kateryna Lysovenko

Don’t like high food prices?  Blame Putin and Texas Governor Gregg Abbot.  This is from Salon: ‘”Political theater”: Abbott’s border stunt could raise food prices after causing $240M in damages. “This is not just a localized issue. It’s going to hit you in St. Louis or up in Seattle,” advocate warns.’

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott — who is running for reelection in the 2022 midterms — made it much more difficult for goods and produce to enter the United States from Mexico when he ordered “enhanced safety inspections” of commercial vehicles at the Texas/Mexico border. Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee running against Abbott, has slammed the Republican governor’s political stunt as bad for business. And journalists Alicia Wallace and Vanessa Yurkevich, reporting for CNN in an article published on April 16, describe some of the difficulties that Abbott has inflicted on the supply chain.

“A week-long protest by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott against President Biden’s recent immigration policy reached a resolution on Friday, (April 15), but the gridlock it created has resulted in hundreds of millions of lost dollars and delays in shipments of everything from avocados to automobile parts that will have a longer-term impact,” Wallace and Yurkevich explain. “On Friday, Abbott reversed course on an order he put in place last week that required lengthier ‘enhanced safety inspections’ of commercial vehicles entering Texas. The efforts, he said, were to help stop the flow of illegal contraband and human trafficking.”

The CNN reporters add, “Abbott’s move, which Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller criticized as ‘political theater,’ ultimately created a logjam of trucks between the U.S. and its largest goods trading partner. Vegetable producers say their produce is spoiling in idling trucks and they are losing hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Woman with Dove, Angel of Peace, Olesya Hudyma

Since we’re on the topic of pathological despots here’s one from The Atlantic on the Cult of Orange Caligula. It’s written by Sarah Longwell. “Trump Supporters Explain Why They Believe the Big Lie. For many of Trump’s voters, the belief that the election was stolen is not a fully formed thought. It’s more of an attitude or a tribal pose.”    Mmmmm, or it’s about White Christianist Male Hegemony.

Some 35 percent of Americans—including 68 percent of Republicans—believe the Big Lie, pushed relentlessly by former President Donald Trump and amplified by conservative media, that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. They think that Trump was the true victor and that he should still be in the White House today.

I regularly host focus groups to better understand how voters are thinking about key political topics. Recently, I decided to find out why Trump 2020 voters hold so strongly to the Big Lie.

For many of Trump’s voters, the belief that the election was stolen is not a fully formed thought. It’s more of an attitude, or a tribal pose. They know something nefarious occurred but can’t easily explain how or why. What’s more, they’re mystified and sometimes angry that other people don’t feel the same.

As a woman from Wisconsin told me, “I can’t really put my finger on it, but something just doesn’t feel right.” A man from Pennsylvania said, “Something about it just didn’t seem right.” A man from Arizona said, “It didn’t smell right.”

The exact details of the story vary—was it Hugo Chávez who stole the election? Or the CIA? Or Italian defense contractors? Outlandish claims like these seem to have made this conspiracy theory more durable, not less. Regardless of plausibility, the more questions that are raised, the more mistrustful Trump voters are of the official results.

Perhaps that’s because the Big Lie has been part of their background noise for years.

Remember that Trump began spreading the notion that America’s elections were “rigged” in 2016—when he thought he would lose. Many Republicans firmly believed that the Democrats would steal an election if given the chance. When the 2020 election came and Trump did lose, his voters were ready to doubt the outcome.

Or it’s about White Christianist Male Hegemony and they really don’t want to proudly state they are racist, homophobic, and misogynistic out loud in less technical–more graphic–words. By now, we all know where this big dose of white male grievance and whining comes.

Here is the doyenne of that.  Lady Tuckums Carlson. He’s managed to produce the most homoerotic film in ages while remaining safely closeted at Faux News.

The promo for the new season of Tucker Carlson Originals incurred a veritable tsunami of mockery online for its montage of mostly shirtless men firing guns, wrestling, doing push-ups, swinging axes — and one stark naked fellow who was standing in front of some sort of machine that projected a red light onto his crotch.

Mediaite can now confirm that, yes, Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson’s new special, “The End of Men,” does in fact promote “testicle tanning” as a way that men can raise testosterone levels.

Here’s my personal tribute to shrinking Tucker Carlson’s testosterone level some more!

All of this is encouraging me to write a book called “WTF is the matter with White Men?”  My guess–but I would like to check with an expert–is not low testosterone.

Anyway, this is more than I can take and I have case studies to grade. Some of these folks really need to spend more time reading The Beatitudes and less time on Porn Hub and watching Fox news.

Anyway, I hope you have a good week. I seriously can’t watch the news anymore on TV so I’m glad we can get some glimpses of what we’re capable of and should be incapable of in the modern age.

Give yourself all hugs for me.  And I need them all back at me too!!

Here are two bits of hope to end on!

This is a double rescue from Russian attacks and gives us a bit of a happy ending.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Peace out!

Lazy Caturday Reads: A Little Good News And More Bad News

Okazaki Cat Demon, by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, 1850

Good Morning!!

Yesterday, Dakinikat wrote about the Trump death cult. In the past couple of days we’ve been seeing ominous signs that Trump and his zombie followers are going to make the coronavirus epidemic in the U.S. even worse than it already is by fomenting unrest over restrictions governors and mayors have imposed in order to slow the spread of infections. But before I get to that, I want to highlight something positive that is happening here in Massachusetts.

The New York Times: An Army of Tracers Takes Shape in Massachusetts.

Alexandra Cross, a newly minted state public health worker, dialed a stranger’s telephone number on Monday, her heart racing.

It was Ms. Cross’s first day as part of Massachusetts’s fleet of contact tracers, responsible for tracking down people who have been exposed to the coronavirus, as soon as possible, and warning them. On her screen was the name of a woman from Lowell.

“One person who has recently been diagnosed has been in contact with you,” the script told her to say. “Do you have a few minutes to discuss what that exposure might mean for you?” Forty-five minutes later, Ms. Cross hung up the phone. They had giggled and commiserated. Her file was crammed with information.

She was taking her first steps up a Mount Everest of cases.

Dancing Cats by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Massachusetts is the first state to invest in an ambitious contact-tracing program, budgeting $44 million to hire 1,000 people like Ms. Cross. The program represents a bet on the part of Gov. Charlie Baker that the state will be able to identify pockets of infection as they emerge, and prevent infected people from spreading the virus further.

This could help Massachusetts in the coming weeks and months, as it seeks to relax strict social-distancing measures and reopen its economy.

Contact tracing has helped Asian countries like South Korea and Singapore contain the spread of the virus, but their systems rely on digital surveillance, using patients’ digital footprints to alert potential contacts, an intrusion that many Americans would not accept.

Massachusetts is building its response around an old-school, labor-intensive method: people. Lots of them.

Read the rest at the NYT.

So that’s the good news. The bad news is that Trump himself is egging on public protests by his craziest supporters that could lead to more infections and quite possibly violence.

Axios: Trump accelerates the unrest.

What he’s saying: “LIBERATE MICHIGAN! … LIBERATE MINNESOTA! … LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”

Why it matters: Governors have in place strong public health restrictions and are likely to want to continue to hold the line for some time to come. This was a position Trump publicly supported as recently as Thursday.

  • Michigan in particular has a bad coronavirus outbreak, with a lockdown from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that’s among the most severe nationwide.

Japanese Cat by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

The ingredients for mayhem, via Axios’ Jonathan Swan:

  • Deepening economic desperation: 22 million have filed for jobless benefits, with a second wave of layoffs already underway. More help appears to be coming for small businesses, but Congress is still haggling.
  • Conservative TV and talk radio influencers encouraging protests: “People instinctively know now that however bad this is, it isn’t as bad as they all told us,” Rush Limbaugh told listeners on Thursday.
  • Early signs of big conservative donor money getting behind the protests: In Michigan, one protest was planned by the political adviser to the family of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, WashPost reports.
  • Police departments are stressed: Hundreds of police officers have been quarantined for coronavirus exposure, with some dying. Multiple departments nationwide have reported issues getting PPE.

Between the lines: As we reported in yesterday’s PM, public support is strongly on the side of social distancing.

  • 66% of Americans are concerned state governments will lift restrictions too quickly.
  • 73% say the worst is yet to come from the outbreak.

The bottom line: It surely can’t be helping individuals and businesses to have the yo-yo effect created by federal and state officials openly arguing about timelines that involve life and death.

NBC News: In Trump’s ‘LIBERATE’ tweets, extremists see a call to arms.

When President Donald Trump tweeted “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” on Friday morning, some of his most fervent supporters in far-right communities — including those who have agitated for violent insurrection — heard a call to arms.

Cats Practicing Their Music, Utagawa Kuniyoshi

The tweet was one of three sent from the president’s account, along with “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” and “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”

Trump’s tweets came after small protests by Trump supporters broke out in a handful of states, many of which were fueled by anti-vaccination and anti-government groups. Anti-government sentiment has percolated among far-right extremists in recent weeks over the stay-at-home orders governors have issued to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Trump’s tweets, however, pushed many online extremist communities to speculate whether the president was advocating for armed conflict, an event they’ve termed “the boogaloo,” for which many far-right activists have been gearing up and advocating since last year.

There were sharp increases on Twitter in terms associated with conspiracies such as QAnon and the “boogaloo” term immediately following the president’s tweets, according to the Network Contagion Research Institute, an independent nonprofit group of scientists and engineers that tracks and reports on misinformation and hate speech across social media.

Posts about the “boogaloo” on Twitter skyrocketed in the hours after the president’s tweets, with more than 1,000 tweets featuring the term, some of which received hundreds of retweets.

“We the people should open up America with civil disobedience and lots of BOOGALOO. Who’s with me?” one QAnon conspiracy theorist on Twitter with over 50,000 followers asked.

“Boogaloo” is a term used by extremists to refer to armed insurrection, a shortened version of “Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo,” which was coined on the extremist message board 4chan.

Falling Cat, Utakawa Kuniyoshi

Washington Governor Jay Inslee released a statement in response to Trump’s twitter taunts.

“The president’s statements this morning encourage illegal and dangerous acts. He is putting millions of people in danger of contracting COVID-19. His unhinged rantings and calls for people to “liberate” states could also lead to violence. We’ve seen it before.

“The president is fomenting domestic rebellion and spreading lies even while his own administration says the virus is real and is deadly, and that we have a long way to go before restrictions can be lifted.

“Just yesterday, the president stood alongside White House officials and public health experts and said science would guide his plan for easing restrictions. The White House released a sensible plan laying out many of the guidelines that I agree are essential to follow, as we work to resume economic activity. Trump slowly read his script and said the plan was based on ‘hard, verifiable data’ and was done ‘in consultation with scientists, experts and medical professionals across government.’

“Less than 24 hours later, the president is off the rails. He’s not quoting scientists and doctors but spewing dangerous, anti-democratic rhetoric.

“We appreciate our continued communication with the vice president, Dr. Birx, Admiral Polowczyk, Admiral Giroir and others in the federal government, but their work is undermined by the president’s irresponsible statements.

“I hope someday we can look at today’s meltdown as something to be pitied, rather than condemned. But we don’t have that luxury today. There is too much at stake.

Three cats at an indoor party by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

“The president’s call to action today threatens to undermine his own goal of recovery by further delaying the ability of states to amend current interventions in a safe, evidence-based way. His words are likely to cause COVID-19 infections to spike in places where social distancing is working — and if infections are increasing in those places, that will further postpone the 14 days of decline that his own guidance says is necessary before modifying any interventions.

“I hope political leaders of all sorts will speak out firmly against the president’s calls for rebellion. Americans need to work together to protect each other. It’s the only way to slow the spread of this deadly virus and get us on the road to recovery.”

But some Republicans are singing a different tune. The Washington Post: GOP’s growing ‘open it up’ caucus urges fewer virus restrictions amid warnings from fellow Republicans.

A growing number of Republican lawmakers across the country are pushing for a more rapid reboot of the American economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, arguing that the risk of spreading more sickness — and even death — is outweighed by the broader economic damage that widespread stay-at-home orders have wrought.

They are taking cues from and breathing energy into a grass-roots conservative movement of resistance against government-ordered quarantine measures — one that President Trump appeared to back in several tweets Friday — but are facing defiance within their own party from Republican congressional leaders, governors and fellow lawmakers who warn that a rash reopening could reinvigorate the virus’s spread.

The emerging “open it up” caucus has spoken out on key conservative media platforms, including some of Trump’s favorite programs. In a prime-time Fox News Channel appearance Wednesday, for instance, Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) said that balancing the health of Americans with a functioning economy amid the pandemic was “like choosing between cancer and a heart attack.”

Read more at the WaPo.

By Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Politico: Trump allies press administration to unleash lawsuits against lockdowns.

As President Donald Trump uses the bully pulpit to press state and local governments to ease their virus-related lockdowns, conservative activists and religious leaders are urging his administration to go further by unleashing a wave of lawsuits arguing that the measures are intruding on Americans’ legally protected rights to worship, protest and buy guns.

In a letter sent to Attorney General Bill Barr on Friday, the Conservative Action Project, a group of conservative leaders including Matt Schlapp of the American Conservative Union, Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch and Jenny Beth Martin of Tea Party Patriots, called governors and local leaders “petty, would-be dictators” who had committed “rampant abuses of constitutional rights and civil liberties” as part of their response to the coronavirus.

Among the examples they include are “arresting pro-life counselors for peacefully standing outside an abortion clinic while maintaining social distance,” “arresting a man for surfing,” ticketing people attending drive-in church services, and “prohibitions on citizens’ rights to purchase firearms.”

The letter comes as Trump put pressure on Michigan, Minnesota, and Virginia to ease up on social distancing measures a day after the White House released federal guidelines to reopen the economy. Protests, many led by Trump supporters, have cropped up across the country demanding state leaders reel in restrictions designed to stop the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, Trump’s so-called “plan” to reopen the economy is complete bullshit. The Guardian: Operation reopen America: are we about to witness a second historic failure of leadership from Trump?

Unveiling new guidelines for the loosening of the lockdown, [Trump] committed his administration to a “science-based reopening”. “We are starting our life again, we are starting rejuvenation of our economy again, in a safe and structured and very responsible fashion.”

Woman with a cat, by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Beyond the cloistered confines of the White House an alternative interpretation of events was gathering force. On a day in which the US suffered its highest death toll from Covid-19, with a total of more than 680,000 confirmed cases and 34,000 deaths, public health experts were scrutinising the president’s new guidelines and coming to rather different conclusions.

“This isn’t a plan, it’s barely a powerpoint,” spluttered Ron Klain on Twitter. Klain, the US government’s Ebola tsar during the last health crisis to test the White House, in 2014, said the proposals contained “no provision to ramp up testing, no standard on levels of disease before opening, no protections for workers or customers”.

On 28 March the Guardian exposed the missing six weeks lost as a result of Trump’s dithering and downplaying of the crisis when the virus first struck. Jeremy Konyndyk, another central figure in the US battle against Ebola, told the Guardian that the Trump administration’s initial response was “one of the greatest failures of basic governance and leadership in modern times”.

Now that the US is contemplating a shift into the second phase of the crisis – tentative reopening of the economy – scientists and public health officials are agreed that three pillars need to be put into place to manage the transition safely. They are: mass testing to identify those who are infected, contact tracing to isolate other people who may have caught Covid-19 from them, and personal protective equipment (PPE) to shield frontline healthcare workers from any flare-up.

A chorus of expert voices has also begun to be heard warning that those three essential pillars remain in critically short supply throughout the US. Less than a month after the Guardian’s exploration of the missing six weeks, the chilling recognition is dawning that the country is heading for a second massive failure of governance under Trump, this time on an even bigger scale.

Unless testing capability is dramatically ramped up and a giant army of health workers assembled to trace the contacts of those infected – right now – the consequences could be devastating.

We are in big trouble. That last thing we need is another tea party-style uprising in the midst of a deadly global pandemic. Somehow, some way, Trump has to go.

What stories are you following today?