Kim oversees North Korean ICBM launch with daughter in tow
Claire Lee and Cat Barton – November 18, 2022
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw a test of Pyongyang’s newest intercontinental ballistic missile with his daughter in tow for the first time, state media reported Saturday.
Declaring he would meet perceived US nuclear threats with nukes of his own, Kim supervised the launch on Friday of the black-and-white missile, which the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said was the Hwasong-17 — dubbed the “monster missile” by analysts.
The launch of the “new major strategic weapon system” was successful, KCNA said.
KCNA said Kim attended the launch “together with his beloved daughter and wife”, and state media images showed a beaming Kim accompanied by a young girl in a puffer jacket and red shoes as he walked in front of the missile.
North Korean state media has never mentioned Kim’s children, and this was the first official confirmation that he had a daughter, experts said.
KCNA’s report on Saturday did not name the daughter, however.
– ‘The fourth generation’ –
The most significant takeaway from Friday’s ICBM launch is “the permanence of the Kim regime’s weapons programme, because it is so integral to Kim’s own survival and the continuity of his family’s reign,” Soo Kim, a former CIA analyst now with the RAND Corporation, told AFP.
With the state media coverage, “we have seen with our own eyes the fourth generation of the Kim family”, she said.
Kim — the grandson of North Korea’s founding leader Kim Il Sung and the third generation of the Kim family to lead the country — married his wife Ri Sol Ju, in 2009, according to South Korea’s spy agency.
She gave birth to their first child the following year, with their second and third born in 2013 and 2017, the agency has said.
The only previous confirmation of the children’s existence had come from former NBA star Dennis Rodman, who claimed he met a baby daughter of Kim’s called Ju Ae during a 2013 visit to North Korea.
The daughter revealed in the photographs is presumed to be Ju Ae, who is likely Kim’s second child, Cheong Seong-chang of the Center for North Korea Studies at the Sejong Institute in South Korea told AFP.
– Kim’s warning –
KCNA said Saturday that Kim slammed “hysteric aggression war drills”, and said that if the United States continued to make threats, Pyongyang would “resolutely react to nukes with nuclear weapons and to total confrontation with all-out confrontation”.
North Korea has conducted a record-breaking blitz of launches in recent weeks.
Pyongyang — and Moscow — have repeatedly blamed them on Washington’s moves to boost the protection it offers to allies Seoul and Tokyo.
Fears have grown that the launches are building up to a nuclear test.
KCNA said the latest missile hit a maximum altitude of 6,040.9 kilometres (3,750 miles) and flew 999.2 kilometres, matching estimates by Seoul and Tokyo on Friday.
North Korea previously claimed to have launched a Hwasong-17 — its most powerful missile to date — on March 24, releasing a slick promotional video and photos of the event.
But Seoul later cast doubt on that claim.
This time, analysts said it seemed North Korea had succeeded.
“This launch is significant because it is thought to be the first successful full flight test of the Hwasong-17 ICBM,” Joseph Dempsey, a researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), told AFP.
As with all North Korean ICBM tests, the missile was fired on a lofted trajectory — up not out, to avoid flying over Japan.
That means questions remain about its performance, “particularly in terms of surviving reentry into the atmosphere and… accuracy over greater ranges”, Dempsey said.
The “monster missile” also has disadvantages, he added.
“Its sheer size makes it less practical as a road-mobile system, and production would be likely a significantly greater strain on limited resources.”
Since Kim declared North Korea an “irreversible” nuclear state in September, the United States has ramped up regional security cooperation.
The South Korean military said it staged joint air drills with the United States on Saturday involving the US B-1B long-range heavy bomber.
This was the second B-1B deployment to the Korean peninsula this month — it also participated in “Vigilant Storm”, the largest-ever US-South Korea air exercise.
Both men offered endorsements for Mr Jeffries, with Mr Clyburn writing that his focus was “doing whatever I can to assist our new generation of Democratic Leaders, which I hope to be Hakeem Jeffries, Katherine Clark, and Pete Aguilar”.
Congresswoman Katherine Clark, 59, of Massachusetts is tipped to run for the post of whip, the number two Democratic leadership job. Pete Aguilar, 43, of California, currently vice-chairman of the caucus, is being talked about as successor to Mr Jeffries for caucus chairman.
Mr Jeffries, for his part, quickly lauded Mrs Pelosi as “the most accomplished Speaker in American history”, writing that she had been “the steady hand on the gavel during some of the most turbulent times the nation has ever confronted”.
The leadership shuffle may help quell complaints from some Democratic voters that their party’s leaders are too old.
But the trio of young up-and-comers is closely aligned with the party’s establishment wing, and Mr Jeffries in particular has been known to clash on occasion with his party’s left flank.
A lawyer who was born and raised in the Brooklyn borough of New York, he has represented the state’s eighth congressional district in the House since 2013.
He once paid tribute on the House floor to rapper The Notorious B.I.G., who was born as Christopher Wallace in Mr Jeffries’ district and gunned down in Los Angeles in 1997.
On the 20th anniversary of his death, the congressman said that the hip hop artist represented “the classic embodiment of the American Dream” and rapped some lyrics from his 1994 hit single Juicy.
In 2020, Mr Jeffries served as one of seven Democratic managers at President Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial.
With Democrats retaining power in the upper chamber of Congress, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer is likely to remain at his post. That could mean the Democratic leaders in both chambers of Congress will hail from the state of New York.
The MAGA energy that swept Kari Lake to victory in her primary has become hemlock in general elections.
Lake joins the list of hapless MAGA candidates who lost the governor’s offices in Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York and now Arizona.
Donald Trump recently boasted he created the modern Republican brand. Well, today the modern Republican brand is what, Edsel? Polaroid? Enron?
It’s Old Hat.
Many of us dismissed Katie Hobbs
The temptation will be great to say Hobbs didn’t win the governor’s seat. Kari Lake lost it. Had Lake run as a normal Republican with her polished delivery and anchorwoman looks she’d be recarpeting the hallways right now on the Ninth Floor.
But let’s give Hobbs her due. This was a candidate widely underestimated by not only the Republicans but the media and even her own party, the Democrats.
Soft-spoken and understated, she was dismissed from the beginning as a lightweight and novice filled with self-doubt and struggling to find the right words in front of TV cameras. She stuck with her much-maligned strategy (that also took criticism from this corner) to skip debates in the primary and general elections.
What we didn’t know was that Hobbs had a brought a sledgehammer of her own to this race. She used it to smash conventional wisdom.
But Democrats have real reason to celebrate
Now that Hobbs has won the all-important Arizona governor’s race, Democrats are aglow. They should be.
To call what happened in Arizona and nationally a “red ripple” suggests the Republicans eked out a victory that could have been much larger. But this was not a Republican win. It was an indisputable and historic triumph for the Democratic Party and its candidates.
In a year when inflation was pushing up the price of milk and eggs, when the Democratic president was drowning in dismal approval ratings, when border crossings were at record highs and urban crime was beginning to scare people, the liberal party defied predictions and proved it is more in tune with the American people than its rival.
Democrats retained control of the Senate, and lost the House by such a fine margin, Republicans will be dancing with the devil trying to manage it.
Beneath the angst, Katie Hobbs has steel
In Arizona, Democrats could not wait to start their well-earned gloating. Lobbyist and former state lawmaker Chris Herstam got the jump on it Sunday night by picking a Twitter fight with me:
“@boas_phil’s so-called “leftists” have done quite well in the midterm (in Arizona & DC). Arizona Democrats will do even better in ‘24 with a presidential election turnout & a reproductive freedom initiative on the ballot.”
I bring this up to illustrate just what a long haul this has been for Hobbs and to show that beneath all the surface angst and insecurity, Katie Hobbs has some steel.
Herstam’s tweet reminded me that from the very beginning Hobbs had to endure attacks from a large part of the Democratic establishment.
When she got into the race, Herstam tried to bury her campaign.
He pointed loudly to a recent jury verdict that found that Democratic legislative leadership had discriminated against Senate aide Talonya Adams when they fired her in 2015.
Hobbs faced a torrent of criticism
Hobbs was Senate Democratic leader at the time, so she faced a storm of criticism.
“I think she’s in real trouble,” Herstam told KJZZ radio. “Katie Hobbs needs to apologize profusely and compassionately, and she hasn’t really done that yet.
“Frankly, she should have apologized very directly when she announced her candidacy. … And she didn’t do so. … That was a bonehead political move by her team.”
Herstam at the time was plumping the potential candidacy of U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton, the former Phoenix mayor who had not yet decided to skip the gubernatorial race.
“The anti-Hobbs storm, it’s still to come,” said Herstam, predicting the Republicans would run ads on the discrimination verdict. “They will be a real blow to her candidacy, as well as the entire Democratic ticket.”
Republicans ran with the ‘bigot’ theme
Herstam was prescient in one sense. The Republicans did pick up the “Hobbs is a bigot” theme. They got the idea from Democrats.
No. Hobbs was never convicted. Never charged. This was a civil case, not criminal. Chainsaws are poor instruments for making such distinctions.
Still, it’s worth remembering that before Republicans got to Hobbs many Democrats were on a tear.
Even Democrats criticized her in the primary
Five high-profile leaders of the Phoenix African American community put out this statement: “We ask that all persons, especially people of color, reconsider any support for Katie Hobbs to become the next governor of Arizona.”
Understand that this was during the social upheaval sparked by the police killing of George Floyd. Feelings were raw. And a number of Democrats were working hard to destroy her campaign.
Warren Stewart, once a centrist Democrat who morphed into a sharper-edged social-justice hawk, said he was done with Hobbs.
‘Game changer’: Alzheimer’s drug lecanemab slows progression of disease in global study
Jayla Whitfield – Anderson, Nat. Reporter and Producer October 4, 2022
After losing three generations of his family to dementia, George Vradenburg co-founded UsAgainstAlzheimer’s, an organization dedicated to Alzheimer’s research.
In the past 40 years he has lost his grandmother, his mother and a sibling to the crippling disease. “And if we don’t pick up the pace on getting at this disease, it’s my kids and my grandkids that are right in the bullseye,” Vradenburg told Yahoo News. “I’m fighting for my family.”
Over 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, an incurable disease that affects the brain and causes loss of cognitive function over time. However, experts say there is hope on the horizon, after lecanemab, an experimental drug, slowed the cognitive decline of Alzheimer’s by 27% in a global clinical study.
The study was performed by two pharmaceutical research companies, Eisai and Biogen. They reported that their Clarity Ad Phase 3 clinical trial of lecanemab presented encouraging results in an 18-month trial. The clinical trial included 1,795 diverse patients with early-stage Alzheimer’s and showed “highly statistically significant reduction of clinical decline,” Eisai stated in a press release on Sept. 27.
For many, this proves that the investments into dementia research are paying off. Annually, the federal government invests $3.1 billion in dementia research.
”This is a game changer. This is a drug that demonstrates in this large, diverse, phase 3 trial that by reducing amyloid and by reducing tau, there was a clinical benefit to modify the course of this disease,” Vradenburg said.
Amyloid and tau are two proteins in the brain that control thinking and memory. “This is the first time that a clinical trial has demonstrated [that] the reduction of amyloid and tau actually produces a clinical benefit,” he added. “This is historic.”
The trial also reported that 25% of the participants enrolled were from underrepresented populations. Maria Carrillo, the Alzheimer’s Association chief science officer, says diversity is a crucial factor to consider in any research. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, over 20% of Black Americans 70 and older are living with the disease, and they are twice as likely to get dementia.
“We’re very hopeful that as we get better at enrolling the right populations, as we get better at the science, we are able to actually see treatments come to the clinic and be accessible to people who may be able to benefit from them,” Carrillo said.
While the impact of lecanemab seems positive, experts say Food and Drug Administration approval is crucial for the drug to become readily available to those who need it most.
“The company has announced that it will be filing not only with the FDA, but [also] with other countries and regulatory agencies. And we hope that soon, the FDA might have an expedited review of this drug,” Carillo explained.
In a press release, Eisai said it “aims to file for traditional approval in the U.S., and to submit marketing authorization applications in Japan and Europe by the end of Eisai FY2022, which ends on March 31, 2023.”
Biogen and Eisai have an application pending for accelerated FDA approval, and a decision is expected by early January.
Experts believe lecanemab will get FDA approval and Medicare coverage, unlike aducanumab, which is sold as Aduhelm, a prior Alzheimer’s drug from Biogen that was approved by the FDA but received limited Medicare coverage. “This drug [lecanemab] has a much larger trial, much more diverse trial, and much clearer evidence of clinical benefit,” Vradenburg explained.
But the side effects are concerning. “Lecanemab also has a similar profile of dangerous side effects related to brain swelling and brain bleeding that we see with Aduhelm, though lecanemab is probably a bit friendlier than Aduhelm on this front, in that ‘only’ 10% of patients in the high-dose groups showed these side effects [in the phase 2 trial],” Dr. Michael Greicius, a professor of neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford University in California, told Healthline.
If the drug is approved by the FDA, organizations like UsAgainstAlzheimer’s say they will push for Medicare coverage. “Medicare must cover it. Otherwise, we’re going to be waiting for another five or 10 years before a disease-modifying drug gets to work,” Vradenburg said. “This is an opportunity to change the course of our lives.”
But other experts raised concerns about the potential cost of the drug. Dr. Constantine Lyketsos, a psychiatrist who teaches at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, told CNN he would be reluctant to prescribe lecanemab to a patient. “If it was a simple pill, if it wasn’t very expensive, I might,” he said.
CNN noted that aducanumab costs about $28,000 for a year of treatment. Eisai told the news outlet that lecanemab hasn’t been priced yet.
This year, more positive results are expected from additional clinical trials. In November, at a conference in San Francisco on the 15th annual clinical trials on Alzheimer’s disease, other companies working to combat the disease will share their findings. “We also expect that gantenerumab, from a company called Roche, will report next month their top level,” Carrillo said.
Several companies are researching how to stop the progression of the disease, as the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s is projected to double, to 13 million, by 2050, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Even though this apparent breakthrough is not a cure, it could give those suffering with the life-threatening disease more time. “Slowing is really critical, especially earlier in the disease, when you can be more independent for a longer period of time,” Carrillo said.
Most importantly, “time with families, time to see a grandchild get married, have a bar mitzvah or confirmation — that time with family for an extra two to three years is priceless,” Vradenburg said.
Facing a Dire Storm Forecast in Florida, Officials Delayed Evacuation
Frances Robles – October 1, 2022
FORT MYERS, Fla. — As Hurricane Ian charged toward the western coast of Florida this week, the warnings from forecasters were growing more urgent. Life-threatening storm surge threatened to deluge the region from Tampa all the way to Fort Myers.
But while officials along much of that coastline responded with orders to evacuate Monday, emergency managers in Lee County held off, pondering during the day whether to tell people to flee, but then deciding to see how the forecast evolved overnight.
The delay, an apparent violation of the meticulous evacuation strategy the county had crafted for just such an emergency, may have contributed to catastrophic consequences that are still coming into focus as the death toll continues to climb.
Dozens have died overall in the state, officials said, as Ian, downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone, moved through North Carolina and Virginia on Saturday, at one point leaving nearly 400,000 electricity customers in those states without power.
About 35 of Florida’s storm-related deaths have been identified in Lee County, the highest toll anywhere in the state, as survivors describe the sudden surge of water — predicted as a possibility by the National Hurricane Service in the days before the storm hit — that sent some of them scrambling for safety in attics and on rooftops.
Lee County, which includes the hard-hit seaside community of Fort Myers Beach, as well as the towns of Fort Myers, Sanibel and Cape Coral, did not issue a mandatory evacuation order for the areas likely to be hardest hit until Tuesday morning, a day after several neighboring counties had ordered their most vulnerable residents to flee.
By then, some residents recalled that they had little time to evacuate. Dana Ferguson, 33, a medical assistant in Fort Myers, said she had been at work when the first text message appeared on her phone Tuesday morning. By the time she arrived home, it was too late to find anywhere to go, so she hunkered down with her husband and three children to wait as a wall of water began surging through areas of Fort Myers, including some that were well away from the coastline.
“I felt there wasn’t enough time,” she said.
Ferguson said she and her family fled to the second floor, lugging a generator and dry food, as the water rose through their living room. The 6-year-old was in tears.
Kevin Ruane, a Lee County commissioner and a former mayor of Sanibel, said the county had postponed ordering an extensive evacuation because the earlier hurricane modeling had shown the storm heading farther north.
“I think we responded as quickly as we humanly could have,” he said.
Gov. Ron DeSantis and his state emergency management director also said the earlier forecasts had predicted the brunt of the storm’s fury would strike farther north.
“There is a difference between a storm that’s going to hit north Florida that will have peripheral effects on your region, versus one that’s making a direct impact,” DeSantis said at a news conference Friday in Lee County. “And so what I saw in southwest Florida is, as the data changed, they sprung into action.”
But while the track of Hurricane Ian did shift closer to Lee County in the days before it made landfall, the surge risks the county faced — even with the more northerly track — were becoming apparent as early as Sunday night.
At that point, the National Hurricane Center produced modeling showing a chance of a storm surge covering much of Cape Coral and Fort Myers. Parts of Fort Myers Beach, even in that case, had a 40% chance of a 6-foot-high storm surge, according to the surge forecasts.
Lee County’s emergency planning documents had set out a time-is-of-the-essence strategy, noting that the region’s large population and limited road system make it difficult to evacuate the county swiftly. Over years of work, the county has created a phased approach that expands the scope of evacuations in proportion to the certainty of risk. “Severe events may require decisions with little solid information,” the documents say.
The county’s plan proposes an initial evacuation if there is even a 10% chance that a storm surge will go 6 feet above ground level; based on a sliding scale, the plan also calls for an evacuation if there is a 60% chance of a 3-foot storm surge.
Along with the forecasts Sunday night, updated forecasts Monday warned that many areas of Cape Coral and Fort Myers had between a 10% and a 40% chance of a storm surge above 6 feet, with some areas possibly seeing a surge of more than 9 feet.
Over those Monday hours, neighboring Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte counties issued evacuation orders, while Sarasota County announced that it expected evacuation orders to be in effect for the following morning. In Lee County, however, officials said they were waiting to make a more up-to-date assessment the following morning.
“Once we have a better grasp on all of that dynamic, we will have a better understanding about what areas we may call for evacuation, and, at the same time, a determination of what shelters will be open,” the Lee County manager, Roger Desjarlais, said Monday afternoon.
But forecasters with the National Hurricane Center were growing more explicit in their warnings for the region. In a 5 p.m. update Monday, they wrote that the highest risk for “life-threatening storm surge” was in the area from Fort Myers to Tampa Bay.
“Residents in these areas should listen to advice given by local officials,” the hurricane center wrote. New modeling showed that some areas along Fort Myers Beach were more likely than not to see a 6-foot surge.
Ruane, the county commissioner, said that one challenge the county faced was that the local schools had been designed to be shelters and that the school board had made the decision to keep them open Monday.
By 7 a.m. Tuesday, Desjarlais announced a partial evacuation order but emphasized that “the areas being evacuated are small” compared with a previous hurricane evacuation.
The county held off on further evacuations, despite a forecast that showed potential surge into areas not covered by the order. Officials expanded their evacuation order later in the morning.
By the middle of the afternoon, Lee County officials were more urgent in their recommendation: “The time to evacuate is now, and the window is closing,” they wrote in a message on Facebook.
Katherine Morong, 32, said she had been prepared earlier in the week to hunker down and ride out the storm based on the guidance from local officials. The sudden evacuation order Tuesday morning left her scrambling, she said, as she set out in her car in the rain.
“The county could have been more proactive and could have given us more time to evacuate,” she said. On the road toward the east side of the state, she said, she was driving through torrents of rain, with tornadoes nearby.
Joe Brosseau, 65, said he did not receive any evacuation notice. As the storm surge began pouring in Wednesday morning, he said, he considered evacuating but realized it was too late.
He climbed up a ladder with his 70-year-old wife and dog to reach a crawl space in his garage. He brought tools in case he needed to break through the roof to escape.
“It was terrifying,” Brosseau said. “It was the absolute scariest thing. Trying to get that dog and my wife up a ladder to the crawl space. And then to spend six hours there.”
Some residents said they had seen the forecasts but decided to remain at home anyway — veterans of many past storms with dire predictions that had not come to pass.
“People were made aware, they were told about the dangers and some people just made the decision that they did not want to leave,” DeSantis said Friday.
Joe Santini, a retired physician assistant, said he would not have fled his home even if there had been an evacuation order issued well before the storm. He said that he had lived in the Fort Myers area most of his life, and that he would not know where else to go.
“I’ve stuck around for every other one,” he said.
The water rushed into his home around dusk Wednesday night, and Friday, there was still a high-water mark about a foot above the floor — leaving Santini a little stunned. “I don’t think it’s ever surged as high as it did,” he said.
Lee County is now an epicenter of devastation, with mass destruction at Fort Myers Beach, the partial collapse of the Sanibel Causeway and entire neighborhoods reduced to rubble. With water mains broken, the county utilities agency has advised residents to boil their water.
President Joe Biden said Friday that the destruction from the storm was likely to be among the worst in U.S. history.
“It’s going to take months, years to rebuild,” he said.
ROME (AP) — The Brothers of Italy party, which won the most votes in Italy’s national election, has its roots in the post-World War II neo-fascist Italian Social Movement.
Keeping the movement’s most potent symbol, the tricolor flame, Giorgia Meloni has taken Brothers of Italy from a fringe far-right group to Italy’s biggest party.
A century after Benito Mussolini’s 1922 March on Rome, which brought the fascist dictator to power, Meloni is poised to lead Italy’s first far-right-led government since World War II and Italy’s first woman premier.
HOW DID POST-FASCISM BEGIN IN ITALY?
The Italian Social Movement, or MSI, was founded in 1946 by Giorgio Almirante, a chief of staff in Mussolini’s last government. It drew fascist sympathizers and officials into its ranks following Italy’s role in the war, when it was allied with the Nazis and then liberated by the Allies.
Throughout the 1950-1980s, the MSI remained a small right-wing party, polling in the single digits. But historian Paul Ginsborg has noted that its mere survival in the decades after the war “served as a constant reminder of the potent appeal that authoritarianism and nationalism could still exercise among the southern students, urban poor and lower middle classes.”
The 1990s brought about a change under Gianfranco Fini, Almirante’s protege who nevertheless projected a new moderate face of the Italian right. When Fini ran for Rome mayor in 1993, he won a surprising 46.9% of the vote — not enough to win but enough to establish him as a player. Within a year, Fini had renamed the MSI the National Alliance.
It was in those years that a young Meloni, who was raised by a single mother in a Rome working-class neighborhood, first joined the MSI’s youth branch and then went onto lead the youth branch of Fini’s National Alliance.
DOES THAT MEAN MELONI IS NEO-FASCIST?
Fini was dogged by the movement’s neo-fascist roots and his own assessment that Mussolini was the 20th century’s “greatest statesman.” He disavowed that statement, and in 2003 visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Israel. There, he described Italy’s racial laws, which restricted Jews’ rights, as part of the “absolute evil” of the war.
Meloni, too, had praised Mussolini in her youth but visited Yad Vashem in 2009 when she was a minister in Silvio Berlusconi’s last government. Writing in her 2021 memoir “I Am Giorgia,” she described the experience as evidence of how “a genocide happens step by step, a little at a time.”
During the campaign, Meloni was forced to confront the issue head-on, after the Democrats warned that she represented a danger to democracy.
“The Italian right has handed fascism over to history for decades now, unambiguously condemning the suppression of democracy and the ignominious anti-Jewish laws,” she said in a campaign video.
HOW DID BROTHERS OF ITALY EMERGE?
Meloni, who proudly touts her roots as an MSI militant, has said the first spark of creating Brothers of Italy came after Berlusconi resigned as premier in 2011, forced out by a financial crisis over Italy’s soaring debt and his own legal problems.
Meloni refused to support Mario Monti, who was tapped by Italy’s president to try to form a technocratic government to reassure international financial markets. Meloni couldn’t stand what she believed was external pressure from European capitals to dictate internal Italian politics.
Meloni co-founded the party in 2012, naming it after the first words of the Italian national anthem. “A new party for an old tradition,” Meloni wrote.
Brothers of Italy would only take in single-digit results in its first decade. The European Parliament election in 2019 brought Brothers of Italy 6.4% — a figure that Meloni says “changed everything.”
As the leader of the only party in opposition during Mario Draghi’s 2021-2022 national unity government, her popularity soared, with Sunday’s election netting it 26%.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE PARTY’S LOGO?
The party has at the center of its logo the red, white and green flame of the original MSI that remained when the movement became the National Alliance. While less obvious than the bundle of sticks, or fasces, that was the prominent symbol of Mussolini’s National Fascist Party, the tricolor flame is nevertheless a powerful image that ties the current party to its past.
“Political logos are a form of branding, no different than those aimed at consumers,” said Rutgers University professor T. Corey Brennan, who recently wrote “Fasces: A History of Rome’s Most Dangerous Political Symbol.”
He recalled that when Almirante made his final MSI campaign pitch to voters in the 1948 election at Rome’s Spanish Steps, he put the party’s flame symbol on top of the obelisk and illuminated it with floodlights.
“You can make whatever you want out of a flame, but everybody understood that Almirante was making a deeply emotional appeal to keep the spirit of fascism alive,” he said.
HOW DO ITALIANS FEEL ABOUT IT?
In general, the party’s neo-fascist roots appear to be of more concern abroad than at home. Some historians explain that by noting a certain historical amnesia here and Italians’ general comfort living with the relics of fascism as evidence that Italy never really repudiated the Fascist Party and Mussolini in the same way Germany repudiated National Socialism and Hitler.
While Germany went through a long and painful process reckoning with its past, Italians have in many ways simply turned a willful blindness to their own.
Historian David Kertzer of Brown University notes that there are 67 institutes for the study of the Resistance to Fascism in Italy, and virtually no center for the study of Italian Fascism.
In addition, Mussolini-era architecture and monuments are everywhere: from the EUR neighborhood in southern Rome to the Olympic training center on the Tiber River, with its obelisk still bearing Mussolini’s name.
The Italian Constitution bars the reconstitution of the Fascist party, but far-right groups still display the fascist salute and there continues to be an acceptance of fascist symbols, said Brennan.
“You don’t have to look very hard for signs,” Brennan said in a phone interview. “Fully a quarter of all manhole covers in Rome still have the fasces on them.”
DOES THAT MEAN ITALIANS SUPPORT FASCISM?
If history is any guide, one constant in recent political elections is that Italians vote for change, with a desire for something new seemingly overtaking traditional political ideology in big pendulum shifts, said Nathalie Tocci, director of the Rome-based Institute of International Affairs.
Tocci said the Brothers of Italy’s popularity in 2022 was evidence of this “violent” swing that is more about Italian dissatisfaction than any surge in neo-fascist or far-right sentiment.
“I would say the main reason why a big chunk of that — let’s say 25-30% — will vote for this party is simply because it’s the new kid on the block,” she said.
Meloni still speaks reverently about the MSI and Almirante, even if her rhetoric can change to suit her audience.
This summer, speaking in perfect Spanish, she thundered at a rally of Spain’s hard-right Vox party: “Yes to the natural family. No to the LGBT lobby. Yes to sexual identity. No to gender ideology.”
Back home on the campaign trail, she projected a much more moderate tone and appealed for unity in her victory speech Monday.
“Italy chose us,” she said. “We will not betray it, as we never have.”
Trump suffers setback as appeals panel rejects Cannon ruling
Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein – September 21, 2022
A three-judge appeals court panel has granted the Justice Department’s request to block aspects of U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon’s ruling that delayed a criminal investigation into highly sensitive documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
The panel ruled that Cannon, a Trump appointee, erred when she temporarily prevented federal prosecutors from using the roughly 100 documents — marked as classified – recovered from Trump’s estate as part of a criminal inquiry.
Trump “has not even attempted to show that he has a need to know the information contained in the classified documents,” the panel ruled in a 29-page decision. “Nor has he established that the current administration has waived that requirement for these documents.”
Two of the three judges on the panel, Andrew Brasher and Britt Grant, were appointed to the court by Trump. The third, Robin Rosenbaum, was appointed by President Barack Obama. In the unanimous decision, the judges declared it “self-evident” that the public interest favored allowing the Justice Department to determine whether any of the records were improperly disclosed, risking national security damage.
“For our part, we cannot discern why Plaintiff would have an individual interest in or need for any of the one-hundred documents with classification markings,” the appeals court wrote in an opinion that listed no individual judge as the author.
While Cannon speculated in her ruling that allowing investigators continued access to the documents could result in leaks of their contents, the appeals panel brushed aside that concern.
“Permitting the United States to retain the documents does not suggest that they will be released; indeed, a purpose of the United States’s efforts in investigating the recovered classified documents is to limit unauthorized disclosure of the information they contain,” the appeals judges wrote. “Not only that, but any authorized official who makes an improper disclosure risks her own criminal liability.”
The 11th Circuit’s rules appear to preclude any attempt to ask the full bench of that court to reconsider the government’s motion, but Trump could seek emergency relief from the Supreme Court.
Trump attorney Christopher Kise did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ruling.
The appeals court’s opinion was unsparing toward Cannon and replete with indications that the appeals judges took a vastly different approach to the document fight than she did.
Trump’s legal team, Cannon and even a senior judge that she appointed as a special master have generally referred to the national-security documents at issue as “marked classified,” deferring at least to a degree to Trump’s claim that he declassified all the records found at Mar-a-Lago, despite a lack of evidence buttressing his assertion. But the appeals court panel took a different approach, often referring without qualification to the records as “classified.”
They also characterized the public dispute over potential declassification of the documents as a “red herring,” contending that even if true, “that would not explain why [Trump] has a personal interest in them.”
Throughout their ruling, the three judges made clear they had little patience for Trump’s freewheeling claims about the status of the 100 documents, noting that he had presented no evidence to support those public assertions. And they noted drily that there’s a common sense reason for documents to include classified markings.
“Classified documents are marked to show they are classified, for instance, with their classification level,” the panel observed.
The timing of the appeals court’s decision, coming less than 24 hours after the parties’ completed legal briefing on the issue, also signaled that the panel viewed the question as straightforward.
New York Attorney General Files Fraud Lawsuit Against Donald Trump, His Children And Trump Organization
Ted Johnson – September 21, 2022
New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a fraud lawsuit against former President Donald Trump, three of his children and his businesses, claiming that he falsely inflated the value of his net worth to secure more favorable loan and insurance terms.
The lawsuit follows an investigation that stretched more than three years into the Trump Organization finances, as his former attorney Michael Cohen alleged that he routinely inflated the value of his assets.
“These acts of fraud and misrepresentation grossly inflated Mr. Trump’s personal net worth as reported in the Statements by billions of dollars and conveyed false and misleading impressions to financial counterparties about how the Statements were prepared,” the suit stated. “Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization used these false and misleading Statements repeatedly and persistently to induce banks to lend money to the Trump Organization on more favorable terms than would otherwise have been available to the company, to satisfy continuing loan covenants, and to induce insurers to provide insurance coverage for higher limits and at lower premiums.”
The lawsuit — read it here — was filed shortly before James announced the civil fraud allegations at a press conference, carried on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. The latter network cut away as James went into greater detail about the litigation.
James also referred potential criminal charges to federal prosecutors in Manhattan and to the Internal Revenue Service.
At the press conference, she alleged a scheme over 10 years to engage in fraudulent practices that benefited the Trumps and the company to the tune of $250 million.
The lawsuit centers on statements of financial condition for Trump from 2011 to 2021 that asserted his net worth. They were personally certified as accurate by Trump or one of his trustees.
“Mr. Trump made known through Mr. Weisselberg that he wanted his net worth on his statements to increase every year, and the statements were the vehicle by which his net worth was fraudulently inflated by billions of dollars year after year,” James said.
She said that “each statement represented that the values were prepared by Mr. Trump and others at the Trump Organization in consultation with ‘professionals,’ however, no outside professionals were retained to prepare any of the asset valuations for the statements.”
Among the examples cited was Mar-a-Lago. James claimed that the property was valued as high as $739 million, based on the premise that the property could be developed and sold for residential use. In fact, she said, “Trump himself signed deeds donating his residential development rights, sharply restricting changes to the property, and limiting the permissible use of the property to a social club.” She said that the club generated annual revenues of less than $25 million and should be valued closer $75 million.
In addition to Trump’s business and trusts, the lawsuit names Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump.
Also named in the lawsuit was Allen Weisselberg, Trump’s longtime chief financial officer. He pleaded guilty last month to 15 criminal charges related to tax fraud and evasion.
James also alleged fraud surrounding Trump’s development of the Old Post Office Building in Washington, D.C. The lawsuit claims that a $170 million loan was obtained from Deutsche Bank using inflated valuations. A recent sale of the lease netted Trump’s business a $100 million profit, James said.
She said that all told, her office’s investigation showed more than 200 instances of false and misleading valuations on his statements.
Alina Habba, an attorney representing Trump, said in a statement that the lawsuit “is neither focused on the facts nor the law — rather it is solely focused on advancing the Attorney General’s political agenda.” She accused James’ office of exceeding its authority “by prying into transactions where absolutely no wrongdoing has taken place.”
James is seeking to permanently bar Trump, Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump from serving as an officer or director in any New York corporation or similar business, and to prevent the former president and the Trump organization from entering into any real estate acquisitions in the state for five years. She also is seeking payment of the benefits the Trump family accrued from the alleged scheme.
Visa, Mastercard, AmEx to start categorizing gun shop sales
Ken Sweet- September 10, 2022
NEW YORK (AP) — Payment processor Visa Inc. said Saturday that it plans to start separately categorizing sales at gun shops, a major win for gun control advocates who say it will help better track suspicious surges of gun sales that could be a prelude to a mass shooting.
But the decision by Visa, the world’s largest payment processor, will likely provoke the ire of gun rights advocates and gun lobbyists, who have argued that categorizing gun sales would unfairly flag an industry when most sales do not lead to mass shootings. It joins Mastercard and American Express, which also said they plan to move forward with categorizing gun shop sales.
Visa said it would adopt the International Organization for Standardization’s new merchant code for gun sales, which was announced on Friday. Until Friday, gun store sales were considered “general merchandise.”
“Following ISO’s decision to establish a new merchant category code, Visa will proceed with next steps, while ensuring we protect all legal commerce on the Visa network in accordance with our long-standing rules,” the payment processor said in a statement.
Visa’s adoption is significant as the largest payment network, and with Mastercard and AmeEx, will likely put pressure on the banks as the card issuers to adopt the standard as well. Visa acts as a middleman between merchants and banks, and it will be up to banks to decide whether they will allow sales at gun stores to happen on their issued cards.
Gun control advocates had gained significant wins on this front in recent weeks. New York City officials and pension funds had pressured the ISO and banks to adopt this code.
Two of the country’s largest public pension funds, in California and New York, have been pressing the country’s largest credit card firms to establish sales codes specifically for firearm-related sales that could flag suspicious purchases or more easily trace how guns and ammunition are sold.
Merchant category codes now exist for almost every kind of purchase, including those made at supermarkets, clothing stores, coffee shops and many other retailers.
“When you buy an airline ticket or pay for your groceries, your credit card company has a special code for those retailers. It’s just common sense that we have the same policies in place for gun and ammunition stores,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a former police captain who blames the proliferation of guns for his city’s deadly violence.
The city’s comptroller, Brad Lander, said it made moral and financial sense as a tool to push back against gun violence.
“Unfortunately, the credit card companies have failed to support this simple, practical, potentially lifesaving tool. The time has come for them to do so,” Lander said recently, before Visa and others had adopted the move.
Lander is a trustee of the New York City Employees’ Retirement System, Teachers’ Retirement System and Board of Education Retirement System — which together own 667,200 shares in American Express valued at approximately $92.49 million; 1.1 million shares in MasterCard valued at approximately $347.59 million; and 1.85 million shares in Visa valued at approximately $363.86 million.
The pension funds and gun control advocates argue that creating a merchant category code for standalone firearm and ammunition stores could aid in the battle against gun violence. A week before the mass shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, where 49 people died after a shooter opened fire in 2016, the assailant used credit cards to buy more than $26,000 worth of guns and ammunition, including purchases at a stand-alone gun retailer.
Gun rights advocates argue that tracking sales at gun stores would unfairly target legal gun purchases, since merchant codes just track the type of merchant where the credit or debit card is used, not the actual items purchased. A sale of a gun safe, worth thousands of dollars and an item considered part of responsible gun ownership, could be seen as a just a large purchase at a gun shop.
“The (industry’s) decision to create a firearm specific code is nothing more than a capitulation to anti-gun politicians and activists bent on eroding the rights of law-abiding Americans one transaction at a time,” said Lars Dalseide, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association.
Over the years, public pension funds have used their extensive investment portfolios to influence public policy and the market place.
The California teacher’s fund, the second largest pension fund in the country, has long taken aim on the gun industry. It has divested its holdings from gun manufacturers and has sought to persuade some retailers from selling guns.
Four years ago, the teacher’s fund made guns a key initiative. It called for background checks and called on retailers “monitor irregularities at the point of sale, to record all firearm sales, to audit firearms inventory on a regular basis, and to proactively assist law enforcement.”
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II has died, ending a historic 70-year reign. She was 96.
The Queen died at Balmoral, her beloved palace in the Scottish Highlands, which was purchased by her great-great-grandfather Prince Albert for Queen Victoria in 1852. She was surrounded by her children and grand-children.
Prince Charles, her eldest son, succeeds her.
The Queen’s death comes just under 18 months and after that of her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who died on April 9, 2021.
Earlier this year, the Queen celebrated her Platinum Jubilee, which commemorated a record-breaking 70 years on the throne. In a rare personal statement to mark the occasion of her accession, she said: “It is a day that, even after 70 years, I still remember as much for the death of my father, King George VI, as for the start of my reign.”
Celebrations began on Feb. 6, which is the day she officially acceded to the throne, and carried on into June, when she appeared on the balcony of Buckingham Palace for the first day of a long Jubilee weekend, with the British public getting an extra public holiday to celebrate.
However, the monarch did not attend subsequent Jubilee events, including a concert in her honor featuring Adam Lambert and Queen, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Sir Elton John, after experiencing discomfort during the Trooping the Colour parade on the first day of the celebrations. She made a brief appearance on the Sunday at the conclusion of the festivities.
On 6 Sept., she officially appointed the U.K.’s latest Prime Minister, Liz Truss, in a ceremony at Balmoral. Traditionally a new Prime Minister is appointed at Buckingham Palace, in the capital, but the venue was changed due to the Queen’s “mobility problems,” the palace said in a statement. In photographs released of the event the Queen was shown using a walking stick but smiling as she shook Truss’s hand. The following day she was forced to cancel an audience with ministers after being advised to rest by her doctors.
The Queen, who acceded to the throne in 1952, was the world’s oldest reigning monarch. In 2015, she also became the longest-reigning British sovereign of all time, surpassing the previous record set by Queen Victoria.
She holds the record for the second-longest reigning monarch of all time after France’s Louis XIV, who was on the throne for 72 years.
During her reign, the Queen saw 15 British prime ministers serve under her, beginning with Winston Churchill, and met 13 of the last 14 U.S. presidents, from Harry S. Truman through to Joe Biden, as well as countless heads of state across the world. (The only U.S. president she did not meet was Lyndon Johnson.)
Princess Elizabeth was not expected to become a queen when she was born to the Duke and Duchess of York on April 21, 1926 in Mayfair, London. When her uncle, Edward VIII, abdicated in 1936 over his relationship with American divorcee Wallis Simpson, Elizabeth’s father was declared King George VI, moving the then 10-year-old princess into the direct line of succession. (Edward VIII’s abdication has been portrayed on screen in films including Oscar-winning “The King’s Speech,” starring Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter, and in Madonna’s biopic of Wallis Simpson, “W.E.”)
In 1947 Princess Elizabeth married Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, with whom she had four children: Charles, Prince of Wales and Anne, Princess Royal, were both born before she acceded to the throne, followed almost ten years later by Prince Andrew, Duke of York and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, who were born while she was queen.
On Feb. 6, 1952, King George VI died suddenly at the age of 56 from a coronary thrombosis and Princess Elizabeth, then on a tour of Kenya, acceded to the throne, becoming Queen Elizabeth II. Her coronation in Westminster Abbey the following year was the first in British history to be televised.
While she continued to undertake her royal duties until the very end of her reign, in the last few years of her life she was restrained by her health, using a walking stick and occasionally, according to local reports, a wheelchair, although she was never seen publicly with the latter.
In February 2022, a statement from Buckingham Palace to royal reporters confirmed that the Queen had contracted COVID-19. “Her Majesty is experiencing mild cold like symptoms but expects to continue light duties at Windsor over the coming week,” said a statement from the palace. “She will continue to receive medical attention and will follow all the appropriate guidelines.” However, she appeared to make a full recovery.
The Queen became a cultural staple during her long and eventful reign. She was the most photographed woman in history – gracing the cover of Time magazine at age three, the first of several such appearances – and was depicted on the big screen, the small screen, the stage, in music, and in art.
She is the main subject of the Netflix original series “The Crown,” which follows the Queen from the 1940s to modern times and examines her relationship with the various prime ministers who led Her Majesty’s Government as well as other figures, both within the Royal Family and outside it. Over the show’s six seasons, each of which covers approximately a decade in her life, she has been portrayed by three different actors: Claire Foy, who won a Golden Globe for her portrayal, and Olivia Colman, who won both a Golden Globe and an Emmy, and Imelda Staunton, who will portray the queen in her 70s and 80s during the show’s fifth and sixth (also believed to be its final) season. Season 5 will premiere on Netflix in November 2022.
Helen Mirren also memorably played the British monarch in the 2006 film “The Queen,” written by “The Crown” creator Peter Morgan and directed by Stephen Frears. The film was set in the aftermath of Princess Diana’s death, a low point for the British royal family, and won Mirren a best actress Oscar for her performance. Mirren went on to play Elizabeth again in the West End and on Broadway, in the stage hit “The Audience.”
The monarch was also depicted in “Spencer,” played by Stella Gonet – the film stars Kirsten Stewart as her daughter-in-law Princess Diana – while the Queen’s early childhood was portrayed in Oscar-winning film “The King’s Speech.” The 2015 film “A Royal Night Out” offered a fictionalized glimpse of the night Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret were allowed secretly to slip out of Buckingham Palace to join the crowds celebrating V-E Day on the streets of London in 1945.
In 2016, the Queen was a character in “The BFG,” Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the book by Roald Dahl and “The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!” also tackled the British monarch — literally. In the 1988 comedy, Leslie Nielsen’s character uses a running tackle to save the Queen from what he wrongly believes to be an assassination attempt. The actor who plays her in the film, Jeannette Charles, has made a career of royal impersonation, standing in as Elizabeth in about 20 movies and TV programs over a 40-year period.
In animated form, the Queen in her Cinderella-like royal coach survived an attempted robbery of her crown in the 2015 film “Minions” and a rear-ending by Homer Simpson in a 2003 episode of “The Simpsons” (titled “The Regina Monologues”). She wasn’t so lucky in a 2012 episode of “Family Guy,” in which a high-speed chase of her carriage ends in a royal fatality, and in 2007 an episode of “South Park” sparked outrage after it showed her dying by suicide on the throne. She also made an appearance in Gary Janetti’s short-lived animated comedy “The Prince,” which ran for one season on HBO Max.
In 2022, the Queen delighted viewers around the world by guest-starring in a video with Paddington Bear. In the skit, which was filmed at Windsor Castle and broadcast before the Platinum Jubilee concert, Paddington is invited to the Queen’s abode for tea where chaos ensues. At one point, the bear offers Her Majesty a marmalade sandwich fished out of his hat, as he tells her: “I always keep one for emergencies.” In response, the Queen replies, “So do I” and opens her handbag to pull out a marmalade sandwich of her own. The two-minute video quickly went viral, with the Queen’s great-grandchildren, Prince George and Princess Charlotte shown in the audience responding with joy to the clip.
The cameo echoed her 2012 appearance at the London Olympics when the Queen appeared in a pre-recorded video shown at the opening ceremony. In the clip, she greets Daniel Craig (in character as James Bond) at Buckingham Palace before he escorts her to a waiting helicopter. They’re shown flying over London towards the Olympic stadium before Craig and the Queen appear to jump out of the chopper with parachutes strapped to their back. As the video was being played in the stadium a real helicopter appeared in the sky and two figures – one clad in a regal peach dress – parachuted out. With perfect timing, the Queen then appeared in person at the ceremony in an identical dress before taking her seat in the stadium to the sound of wild cheers.
Despite her occasional cameos and innumerable public appearances, the Queen remained an enigma to her subjects, deliberately cultivating an air of majesty and mystery. She never gave a single interview during her lifetime and maintained an aloofness in an age of over-sharing and public emotion, even as the lives of her own children — and grandchildren — came to resemble a reality show, with lurid details of their relationships and scandalous antics regularly making headlines in the British tabloids.
All of which made her rare expressions of sentiment all the more meaningful although it also, on occasion, alienated her from the public. In 1992, during her annual televised Christmas Day speech, she memorably declared that year to be an “annus horribilis.” It had been a tumultuous 12 months during which three of her children separated from their spouses – Prince Charles from Diana, Prince Andrew from Sarah Ferguson and Princess Anne from her husband Mark Phillips – while Windsor Castle was badly damaged in a fire.
An even lower point for the monarchy came five years later, following Diana’s death in a car crash in Paris. During the outpouring of grief that followed, the Queen was accused of being cold and unfeeling and it took almost a decade for the royal family’s popularity to rebound.
But rebound it did, particularly the Queen’s, who generated an almost universal respect and gratitude around the world as she continued to fulfill her duties as head of state and national symbol into her tenth decade of life.
“When it comes to how to mark 70 years as your Queen, there is no guidebook to follow,” she said in a letter addressed to the British public in 2022. “It really is a first. But I have been humbled and deeply touched that so many people have taken to the streets to celebrate my Platinum Jubilee.”
“While I may not have attended every event in person, my heart has been with you all; and I remain committed to serving you to the best of my ability, supported by my family.”
Queen Elizabeth II is survived by her four children, eight grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren, the youngest of whom was born in 2021.