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Thursday, Dec 08th

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US courts ruling in favor of justice department turns legal tide on Trump

US Courts ruling against TrumpA spate of major court rulings rejecting claims of executive privilege and other arguments by Donald Trump and his top allies are boosting investigations by the US justice department (DoJ) and a special Georgia grand jury into whether the former US president broke laws as he sought to overturn the 2020 election results.

Former prosecutors say the upshot of these court rulings is that key Trump backers and ex-administration lawyers – such as ex-chief of staff Mark Meadows and legal adviser John Eastman – can no longer stave off testifying before grand juries in DC and Georgia. They are wanted for questioning about their knowledge of – or active roles in – Trump’s crusade to stop Joe Biden from taking office by leveling false charges of fraud.

Due to a number of court decisions, Meadows, Eastman, Senator Lindsey Graham and others must testify before a special Georgia grand jury working with the Fulton county district attorney focused on the intense drive by Trump and top loyalists to pressure the Georgia secretary of state and other officials to thwart Biden’s victory there.

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Ukraine war: Nato pledges to provide more weapons and fix power grid

NATO pledges arms to Ukraine

Nato has pledged to give more weapons to Ukraine and help fix critical energy infrastructure badly damaged by massive Russian missile and drone strikes.

At a summit in Bucharest, the secretary general of the military alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, accused Moscow of "trying to use winter as a weapon of war".

The Russian strikes have left millions of Ukrainians without electricity and running water in freezing temperatures.

Ukraine has for months been asking Nato for more advanced air defence systems.

Under the Geneva conventions, attacks on civilians, or the infrastructure vital to their survival, could be interpreted as a war crime.

Mitt Romney Brutally Assesses How Low Donald Trump Will Go

Mitt Romney

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) measured the depths of Donald Trump’s audacity after the former president met with antisemitic rapper Ye and Holocaust-denying white nationalist Nick Fuentes at Mar-a-Lago.

“I think it has been clear that there’s no bottom to the degree to which President Trump will degrade himself and the nation,” Romney told reporters on Monday after calling Trump’s meeting with the two figures “disgusting.”

Trump had dinner last week at home with Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, and Fuentes, denying that he invited Fuentes or knew who he was. But the former president, who last week announced his candidacy for 2024, didn’t renounce his guests’ hateful beliefs. (Ye and other sources reported that Trump actually praised Fuentes during their conversation.)

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The Supreme Court Stonewalls In Defense Of Samuel Alito

Justice Samuel Alito

A lawyer for the Supreme Court dismissed questions about ethics issues at the court in a terse reply to a letter from two top congressional Democrats on Monday.

Supreme Court legal counsel Ethan Torrey replied to the inquiry from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), each in charge of oversight of the courts in their respective chambers.

The two congressional investigators had pressed Chief Justice John Roberts to answer questions about how the court handles ethical breaches after news reports revealed a pressure campaign by the Christian conservative group Faith & Action, at the time run by Rev. Rob Schenck, that allegedly resulted in Justice Samuel Alito revealing the outcome of his 2014 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby prior to its release.

Torrey did not answer any of Whitehouse and Johnson’s questions regarding ongoing or potential ethics inquiries into the court’s leaked draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, or into Alito’s alleged leak of the Hobby Lobby outcome. Nor did he say which justices received gifts as part of the religious right pressure campaign.

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Senate to vote on bill protecting gay marriage rights

Senate to vote on Marriage Rights

The Senate Tuesday is expected to pass a bill that would enshrine same-sex marriage rights into law, legislation viewed as a long-awaited endorsement of gay unions by the federal government.

  • The Respect for Marriage Act would guarantee federal recognition of any marriage between two people if the union was valid in the state where they married.
  • If passed by the Senate, it would move to the House, which approved a similar bill earlier this year with nearly 50 Republicans in support.
  • The bill was drafted in response to the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade this summer and Justice Clarence Thomas expressed interest in next reconsidering same-sex and interracial marriage rights.

The latest: Respect for Marriage Act: Religious protections added to bill Monday

The Senate Monday cleared the way for the bill while also providing a layer of religious freedom, setting up final passage of the Respect for Marriage on Tuesday.

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How blank sheets of paper became a protest symbol in China

China protests

Protesters in Chinese cities, angry over Beijing’s “zero covid” policy, are using blank sheets of paper to get their message across.

As demonstrations flared over the past few days, participants have raised the white pages as a symbol — and protest — of government censorship. The sheets have also signaled a measure of unity among protesters, whose demonstrations now mark one of the greatest displays of public dissent in China in decades.

Protests are not actually rare in China. But authorities, who tightly control media and the internet, regularly go to great lengths to ensure that demonstrators in different regions are unable to link up to form a broader movement, according to analysts.

Mass, anti-government protests with a unified message breaking out in different cities? That’s a “no-go zone,” said Matt Schrader, a China analyst with the Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund.

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Nearly 9 in 10 covid deaths are Covid deaths skew older, reviving questions about ‘acceptable loss’ in people 65 or older

NYC Covid march

President Biden may have declared the coronavirus pandemic “over,” but from John Felton’s view as the Yellowstone County health officer in Billings, Mont., it’s not over, just different.

Now, more than ever, it is a plague of the elderly.

In October, Felton’s team logged six deaths due to the virus, many of them among vaccinated people. Their ages: 80s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 90s. They included Betty Witzel, 88, described by her family as a tomboy who carried snakes in her pocket as a child and grew up to be a teacher, mother of four, grandmother of nine and great-grandmother of five. And there was Nadine Alice Stark, 85, a ranch owner who planted sugar beets and corn.

Yellowstone County made the decision early in the crisis to recognize each death individually, and Felton said that is as important as ever to acknowledge the unrelenting toll on a still-vulnerable older generation, while most everyone else has moved on.

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A cartel allegedly responsible for a third of Europe's cocaine has been busted

Cartel respomsible for a third of Europe's cocane bustedLaw enforcement authorities in six different countries have joined forces to take down a "super cartel" of drugs traffickers controlling about one third of the cocaine trade in Europe, the European Union crime agency said on Monday.

Europol said 49 suspects have been arrested during the investigation, with the latest series of raids across Europe and the United Arab Emirates taking place between Nov. 8-19.

The agency said police forces involved in "Operation Desert Light" targeted both the "command-and-control center and the logistical drugs trafficking infrastructure in Europe."

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San Francisco considers allowing law enforcement robots to use lethal force

San Francisco considers allowing robots to use violence

Should robots working alongside law enforcement be used to deploy deadly force?

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is weighing that question this week as they consider a policy proposal that would allow the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) to use robots as a deadly force against a suspect.

A new California law became effective this year that requires every municipality in the state to list and define the authorized uses of all military-grade equipment in their local law enforcement agencies.

The original draft of SFPD's policy was silent on the matter of robots.

Aaron Peskin, a member of the city's Board of Supervisors, added a line to SFPD's original draft policy that stated, "Robots shall not be used as a Use of Force against any person."

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