Sunday, April 21, 2024

On Our "Virtual Route 66" : On the Week That Was


We've achieved a milestone in our service journey:  this is our 1900th Article!!!  It has been quite a journey as we have continued to persist despite the odds!!! 

Our team joined Earth Day celebrations in our hometown of Laguna Niguel this week    We hereby present our curation of our "Virtual Route 66" this week in our World with thoughts courtesy Crooked Media, Time of Israel, the Economist on London, Al-Monitor, Heather Cox Richardson and Zeteo as the US House approved an Aid Package for Ukraine and others and as the war raged on in Gaza and Ukraine.    This is  as the US election season is in full swing.

The flailing House Republican effort to find a reason—any reason!—to impeach President Joe Biden burst into absurdist verbal fireworks in a hearing Wednesday. House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), another member of the committee, sparred as Comer seemed to fray at the seams after spending months on this doomed fishing expedition. During the committee’s hearing on China, Raskin took issue with Republicans continuing to accuse President Biden of accepting bribes (allegations that have been repeatedly proven unfounded). Comer interrupted Raskin during his allotted time when Raskin began quoting disgraced former president Donald Trump’s repeated praise for Chinese President Xi Jinping. Raskin then unleashed a number of verbal bangers, like: “I agree you have been talking about bank statements for more than a year, but they don’t show anything other than there was no crime.” He continued: “Somebody needs therapy here, but it’s nobody on our side of the aisle.” Lol. Comer says impeachment is “still on the table” and criminal referrals coming from his sham investigation could come “within weeks.” Oh Jim, you sweet summer child. 

GOP House Speaker Mike Johnson told his caucus on Wednesday that he is moving ahead with a foreign aid package for Israel and Ukraine, and set a Saturday vote, teeing up what could be his own ouster by Freedom Caucus nutjobs who oppose giving more aid to Ukraine. 

Arizona MAGA psycho and Senate candidate Kari Lake downplayed the severity of the recent state supreme court decision to reinstate an 1864 near-total ban on abortion, saying Arizonans can simply travel “three hours” for the procedure to a neighboring state. Thanks for the super helpful tip!

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg confirmed on Wednesday that his department’s watchdog group is looking into the FAA’s oversight of Boeing’s manufacturing of 737 and 787 airplanes, which have been at the center of numerous high-profile (and extremely scary!) malfunctioning incidents. 

A new study from Dublin City University’s Anti-Bullying Centre found that social media algorithms are rapidly amplifying and spreading misogynistic “men’s rights” content to young men and boys. 

Trump’s former Attorney General Bill Barr made his post-cabinet career all about criticizing his former boss, but like all Republican ghouls, said he will support the GOP ticket (aka Trump) this November. What a shock.

President Biden on Wednesday called for notably higher tariffs on Chinese steel and other metals while speaking to steelworkers in Pittsburgh, PA. 

More than 8 million people have been displaced in Sudan in the year since a powerful paramilitary group began fighting the Sudanese army, according to the United Nations. 

Tesla asked its shareholders on Wednesday to reaffirm the company’s approval of CEO Elon Musk’s $56 billion annual salary, a figure that was set in 2018 but later rejected by a Delaware judge who called the compensation “an unfathomable sum” and unfair to shareholders. $56 billion for being a dumbass: anything is possible in America!

Former professional football player and anti-vaxx goon Aaron Rogers (who was rumored to be high on RFK Jr.’s VP short-list) suggested on a podcast last month that HIV/AIDS was engineered by Anthony Fauci with help from the U.S. government. He said: “I’m not an immunologist, whatever the fuck, I can read, though.” We’re not so sure!

Israel used radar-evading missile to hit S-300 defenses near Natanz nuke site – report
NYT says attack was ‘calibrated’ to show Israel’s capability to dodge Iran’s air defenses, make Tehran ‘think twice’ before another assault; Iran’s FM claims it merely faced ‘toys’
In ‘message,’ IDF said to fire missiles at radar defense for secret Iran nuclear site
LIVE: PA’s Abbas threatens to reconsider ties with US after veto of UN membership bid
NYT report says damage to S-300 battery near nuclear site ‘calibrated to make Tehran think twice’ about attacking Israel again * Blast at Iraqi base used by pro-Iranian militias
‘As though we’re in Gaza’: Hostage families to rally ahead of Passover for their freedom
Highlighting loss of liberty, organizer’s adapt holiday’s theme: ‘In every generation, a person must see themselves as though they’re in Gaza’; anti-gov’t demos set for 55 locations
Hostage families block Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway; CIA chief blames Hamas for deadlock
Project Mobility: Healing Israel’s Wounded Warriors
Project Mobility aims to help wounded IDF soldiers recover with proven VR physiotherapy game-play technology. They need your support to bring this equipment to Israel.
‘I’m ready to leave this campus’: Jewish students at Columbia on discomfort, isolation
Students say they feel unheard amid pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel protests that have rocked school since Oct. 7, which escalated Thursday with tumult that included mass arrests
USC cancels filmmaker’s keynote after dropping pro-Palestinian valedictorian speech
Passover celebrants urged to set a seat for a hostage, use a Haggadah of hope
A variety of projects have been created to help people mark this festival of freedom despite war, hostages and bereavement
A few new plagues for Passover
Some kosher for Pesach products should be purchased exactly zero times a year (and can a cat really eat a whole goat?)
Colombia’s President Petro sides with evil
The moral cowardice of Gustavo Petro’s anti-Israel obsession legitimizes Hamas and imperil’s citizens of the South American republic
London cops apologize for implying Jewish man’s kippa ‘provoked’ anti-Israel crowd
Filmed incident of officer stopping man in yarmulke from approaching pro-Palestinian march, while ‘openly Jewish’ remark escalates into media blunder for police
Demonstrator unfurls Palestinian flag on stage at Warsaw Ghetto Uprising commemoration
Sole demonstrator places flowers then joins dignitaries at ceremony, unfurls flag and stands with his head down; police escort him away
Journalist who labels dead Palestinian terrorists ‘martyrs’ gets top Dutch award
Hit by terror in 2023, Tunisian Jewish pilgrimage scaled back amid Gaza security fears
Hamas leaders said looking at leaving Qatar amid growing pressure in hostage talks
WSJ says terror group contacted Oman and another regional state about leaders moving there; report comes after Qatari PM said Doha reconsidering its hostage talks mediator role
IDF kills 10 Palestinian gunmen, arrests 8 in two-day West Bank raid
9 Israeli troops also hurt in clashes in Nur Shams refugee camp, adjacent to Tulkarem
After his friend was killed on Oct. 7, a 25-year-old raised millions for the war effort
Gidon Hazony started Soldiers Save Lives the day after David Newman was murdered in the Supernova massacre. It continues to help soldiers and civilians in the tragedy’s wake
Those We Have Lost

Those We Have Lost

Civilians and soldiers who have fallen since Oct. 7

Blast rocks base used by Iraqi coalition of Iran-allied militias; US denies involvement
Iraq says one killed, no jets or drones in area at time of explosion; military official says blast was in ‘warehouses storing equipment’; Israeli official: Nothing to do with us
Macron meets with Lebanese leaders to discuss effort to quell Hezbollah, Israel clashes
US military strategy in Mideast tested as Iran-Israel warfare comes out of shadows
Experts say DC may need to revisit regional deployment levels as reliance on surge troops may not be sufficient; say US intel was key to success in downing Iran’s missiles, drones
US House gears up to pass Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan aid in unlikely bipartisan vote
South Africa Jewish leader: President used meet with us on antisemitism to attack Israel
SA Jewish Board of Deputies requested talks with Ramaphosa to discuss rising Jew hatred, but Wendy Kahn says he instead went on about ‘the genocide that Israel is committing’
Those We Are Missing

The hostages and victims whose fate is still unknown

To punish Israel for Gaza war, Turkey’s citizens will gladly suffer the economic cost
Political pressure forced Turkey’s hardline leader Erdogan to reluctantly halt the export of 54 products to the Jewish state – but much of the public still thinks that’s not enough
‘We’re not like the Nazis’: Netanyahu said to chide German FM on Gaza ‘famine’ remark
Top Ben Gvir ally, former MK aide among targets of latest US and EU settler sanctions
French police detain man claiming to wear explosive vest at Iran consulate in Paris
Poll: Months into Gaza war, most US Jews feel close to Israel — not its government
Man self immolates outside NYC court where Trump trial held, later dies
Rabbi who arranged wife’s murder to pursue affair dies in New Jersey prison at 82

Cheering broke out in the gallery and among Democrats on the floor of the House of Representatives this afternoon when the House passed the $60.8 billion aid bill for Ukraine. The vote was 311–112, with all Democrats and 101 Republicans voting in favor and 112 Republicans voting against. One Republican voted present. 

The House also voted on the three other bills that will be packaged with the Ukraine bill as a single measure to go in front of the Senate. The House voted in favor of providing $8.1 billion in support for Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific by a vote of 385–34. It approved more than $26 billion for Israel, including $9.2 billion in humanitarian aid not specifically for Gaza but for populations in crisis, by a vote of 366–58. And it voted 360–58 to place additional sanctions on Iran, seize Russian assets, and require the Chinese owners of TikTok to sell the company within nine months if they want it to continue to be available on U.S. app stores.  

The total price tag of the measures is about $95.3 billion. About $50 billion of it will be used here in the U.S. to replenish the supplies that will go abroad. 

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says the Senate will take up the measure on Tuesday. Senators had gone home for recess but will come back to vote. The Department of Defense says it is ready to rush crucial supplies as soon as it gets the go-ahead. "We have a very robust logistics network that enables us to move material very quickly; as we've done in the past, we can move within days," Pentagon press secretary Air Force Major General Pat Ryder said Thursday.  

Aid to Ukraine has been stalled since Biden first asked for it in October 2023. First, MAGA Republicans said they would never pass such a national security supplemental bill until the U.S. addressed the need for better security at the country’s southern border. Senators, including Republican James Lankford (R-OK) took them at their word and hammered out a strong border security measure, only to have Republicans reject it when Trump demanded they preserve border security as a campaign issue. The Senate then passed the national security supplemental bill without a border measure, but that was back in February. Although it was clear the measure would pass the House, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) has steadfastly refused to take it up. 

Meanwhile, countries around the globe have been stepping into the breach, providing funds and weapons for Ukraine as Ukraine’s war effort has faltered without U.S. war matériel.

Suddenly, the dam has broken. 

The MAGA extremists who oppose aid to Ukraine expressed anger over the measure’s passage, but outside of that group, there was bipartisan relief and mutual congratulations. The chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX), who has been vocal in his belief that Republicans have fallen prey to Russian propaganda, compared today’s vote to the period before World War II, when British prime minister Neville Chamberlain tried to appease dictator Adolf Hitler in 1938 by agreeing to Germany’s annexation of the Sudetenland. To Chamberlain’s successor, Winston Churchill, fell the task of fighting World War II. 

“Our adversaries are watching us here today, and history will judge us on our actions here today,” McCaul said. “So as we deliberate on this vote, you have to ask yourself: Am I Chamberlain or am I Churchill?”

House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) said: “For months, the national security priorities of the American people have been obstructed by pro-Putin extremists determined to let Russia win. A bipartisan coalition of Democrats and Republicans has risen up to work together and ensure that we are getting the national security legislation important to the American people over the finish line.”

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin also released a statement welcoming the passage of the measure. “This bipartisan legislation will allow the Department to surge lifesaving security assistance to help Ukraine defend itself from Russia’s aggression, support Israel’s defense from Iran and its proxies, and increase the flow of urgently needed humanitarian aid to suffering Palestinians in Gaza.” It is also, he wrote, “an important investment in America's future.”  

President Joe Biden said that “members of both parties in the House voted to advance our national security interests and send a clear message about the power of American leadership on the world stage. At this critical inflection point, they came together to answer history’s call, passing urgently-needed national security legislation that I have fought for months to secure.” 

The reiteration of the bipartisan nature of the vote suggests support for the idea that the breaking dam refers not just to the national security supplemental bill but also to the power of MAGA Republicans more generally. Representative Tom Cole (R-OK) suggested this interpretation in an interview today with Ryan Lizza of Politico

MAGAs are Trump loyalists, counting on his return to power, and Trump is visibly diminished. For the last week, he has been sitting in a courtroom with no choice but to do as he is told by the judge while potential jurors have expressed their dislike of him to his face. This is novel for him, and it is clearly taking a toll. 

Trump’s financial troubles have not gone away, either. Yesterday, New York attorney general Letitia James asked a judge to void the $175 million appeals bond Trump posted to secure the $454 million judgment against him in the business fraud case. She says that the defendants have failed to show that there is enough collateral behind the bond to secure it. She has asked for a replacement bond within a week. Without a bond, James can begin to seize Trump’s property. 

Since Republicans took control of the House, Republican leaders have had to turn to Democrats to find the votes to pass crucial legislation like the national security supplemental bill, preventing a U.S. default, and funding the government. Republicans interested in governing and eager to protect the institutions of democracy appear to be getting fed up with the attention-seeking and bomb-throwing MAGA faction that refuses to do the work of governing. 

That frustration might have been on display when the House also voted on a fifth measure: a border bill the extremist Republicans demanded. Because it was considered under a suspension of the rules, it needed a two-thirds majority to pass. The measure failed with a vote of 215–211. Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, a lawyer with the American Immigration Council advocacy group, noted that the last time the House voted on a similar measure, it got 219 votes. This time it got fewer votes, even with an added $9.5 billion for Texas, Florida, and other states that are restricting immigrants’ rights. 

In The Atlantic today, David Frum noted the changing U.S. political dynamic and, referring  to the Ukraine vote, wrote: “On something that mattered intensely to [Trump]—that had become a badge of pro-Trump identity—Trump’s own party worked with Democrats in the House and Senate to hand him a stinging defeat. This example could become contagious.” In other words, he said: “Ukraine won. Trump lost.”

For his part, leading Russian politician Dmitry Medvedev had his own reaction to the House’s passage of the national security supplemental bill with aid for Ukraine. He vowed that Russia would win the war anyway and added: “[C]onsidering the russophobic decision that took place I can't help but wish the USA with all sincerity to dive into a new civil war themselves as quickly as possible. Which, I hope, will be very different from the war between North and South in the 19th century and will be waged using aircraft, tanks, artillery, MLRS, all types of missiles and other weapons. And which will finally lead to the inglorious collapse of the vile evil empire of the 21st century—the United States of America.”


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From Israel: Iran gains slight deterrent edge?

  • Ben Caspit writes that Israel’s response today to the Iranian drone attack is at best a draw for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “In the face of Israel's intelligence failures, the Iranians actually made the right call: They carried out a massive attack and gambled on a minimal response. In other words, the balance of mutual deterrence between Iran and Israel is currently tilted in Iran's favor. Iran attacked forcefully, while Israel, if indeed behind Friday's strike, attacked carefully and sparingly. Israel has proven to be more protected than Iran, but apparently also more deterred.” 
  • While the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza war has strained Israeli-Egyptian relations, Israeli natural gas exports to Egypt continue to grow, writes David Rosenberg. “Egypt needs the gas to ensure domestic supplies and to earn hard currency from re-exports to Europe, while both countries have an interest in continuing the development of an Eastern Mediterranean gas hub. Exports are set to keep growing as energy companies in Israel expand production and transmission capacity."

From Iran: New wave of crackdown on dissent

  • Our correspondent in Tehran writes that despite the bravado from Iranian official media, Iranians were on edge on the eve of the Israeli strike. “Many are stocking up on food,” our correspondent writes, adding that “the country's already troubled national currency, the rial, began a new nosedive and plummeted to record lows hours after Tehran fired the hundreds of drones and missiles at Israel.” Meanwhile, a new crackdown on dissent is emerging: “After a few months of relative tolerance, Iranian security forces are back, renewing their clampdown on women deemed in violation of the country's hijab laws. … To many activists the latest street deployment speaks beyond hijab implementation and has been interpreted as a preemptive measure to counter possible protests in the event of further escalation between Iran and Israel.”
  • “When it comes to the military calculus, the Iranians feel loneliness,” Hassan Ahmadian, professor at Tehran University, tells Amberin Zaman on this week’s “On the Middle East” podcast. “That’s why they bank on internal defense programs, and they see them as essential to their national security.”

From Washington: Iraqi PM Al-Sudani says, “Iran does not want war”

  • In an exclusive interview with Al-Monitor, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani said that “Iraq exerted strong efforts to prevent a response from Iran,” adding that, in his estimation, “Iran does not want war.” Speaking to Tyler Huffman and me in Washington after his meeting with US President Joe Biden on April 15, Sudani said, “We are doing our duty to enforce the law inside Iraq,” adding that he has taken “practical measures” to prevent Iran-aligned armed groups from attacking US positions in Iraq. 

From Ramallah: West Bank on high boil on eve of Israel-Iran escalation

  • Ahmed Melhem reports from Ramallah that “the security situation in the West Bank is escalating at alarming levels as Israeli army raids continue on a daily basis, often resulting in deadly clashes with the local population, in parallel with increased settler attacks.” Melhem adds that since Oct. 7, at least 460 Palestinians in the West Bank have been killed in Israeli fire, 14 by settlers. Hundreds of properties and homes have been demolished during army raids, and 8,165 Palestinians have been arrested in the West Bank, according to the Palestinian Commission of Detainees’ Affairs. 

From Syria: Kurds face continued threat from ISIS, Turkish airstrikes

  • Turkish military strikes have left hundreds of thousands without water and electricity, Amberin Zaman reports from northeast Syria, as well as undermining security at prisons and detention centers, where tens of thousands of Islamic State fighters and their families are being held. “Things are so bad that journalists are no longer permitted even outside the camp’s main gate where they used to interview ISIS women, and local security units rarely dare venture outside their armored vehicles during patrols,” writes Zaman. “In a series of recent sweeps conducted with the US-led coalition, authorities found hand grenades, Kalashnikov rifles, suicide vests, homemade explosives and dozens of mobile phones stashed away in the 'foreign section' that separates the Syrians and Iraqis from the rest. The biggest number of 'foreign' brides and children are Russians (1,433), followed by Uyghurs (1,290) and Turks (1,024).”

Exclusive: AOC on Gaza, Iran and the media

Mehdi Hasan interviewed AOC at Zeteo’s launch event.

At the Zeteo launch event at the SPY Museum in Washington D.C. on Monday night, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) sat down with Mehdi Hasan to discuss the escalating tensions between Iran and Israel, the ongoing genocide in Gaza, Trump vs Biden, and U.S. arms sales to the Israeli government.

They also discussed both sides-ism in the media: News coverage "leans racist by default," Ocasio-Cortez said. "The use of passive voice when a Palestinian is killed, the use of passive voice when a Black person is killed by the police—passive voice is reserved for the marginalized, and these practices are normalized." And with regards to conditions on arms sales, Ocasio-Cortez sees change: “The mere notion or suggestion of conditioning U.S. military aid to Israel was unthinkable seven months ago," Ocasio-Cortez told Mehdi. "This is a generational change." You can watch the video below:

The launch event included the legendary tech journalist Kara Swisher interviewing Mehdi Hasan on stage and a clip of this will be available later this week. It was a special evening and an opportunity to meet some of Zeteo’s paid subscribers who were also able to ask questions of both AOC and Mehdi. Having the possibility of attending special events, as well as being able to comment on posts or join live town halls are some of the perks of paid membership. If you are not already a paid member, have you considered becoming one?