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Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Bogan High School. Worked in Alaska after the earthquake. Joined U.S. Army at 17. Sergeant, B Battery, 3rd Battalion, 84th Artillery, 7th Army. Member of 12 different unions, including 4 different locals of the I.B.E.W. Worked for fortune 50, 100 and 200 companies as an industrial electrician, electrical/electronic technician.
Russia launched ‘largest drone attack’ on Ukrainian capital before Kyiv Day; 1 killed
Susie Blann and Elise Morton – May 28, 2023
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s capital was subjected to the largest drone attack since the start of Russia’s war, local officials said, as Kyiv prepared to mark the anniversary of its founding on Sunday. At least one person was killed, but officials said scores of drones were shot down, demonstrating Ukraine’s air defense capability.
Russia launched the “most massive attack” on the city overnight Saturday with Iranian-made Shahed drones, said Serhii Popko, a senior Kyiv military official. The attack lasted more than five hours, with air defense reportedly shooting down more than 40 drones.
A 41-year-old man was killed and a 35-year-old woman was hospitalized when debris fell on a seven-story nonresidential building and started a fire, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.
Debris from a drone damaged the building of the Ukrainian Society of the Blind. On Sunday morning, organization member Volodymyr Golubenko came to pick up his things. He was helped by his son Mykola, who searched for his father’s belongings among the rubble and at the same time tried to describe to his father what his office looks like now.
“This wall on the right is destroyed and on left also,” said Mykola to his father.
Volodymyr Golubenko worked at this place for more than 40 years. He says it is a home for many blind people, because they come here to talk and support each other.
“If you don’t even have a job, it’s difficult to get a job now, because these events (war) have been going on since last year. At least people come here to chat,” said Volodymyr.
Like Golubenko, many people in his district heard the sound of Shahed drones for the first time. Among them was 36-year-old Yana, who has three boys. The family hid in a corridor all night.
“Something started to explode above us. The children ran here in fear,” said Yana.
Ukraine’s air force said that Saturday night was also record-breaking in terms of Shahed drone attacks across the country. Of the 54 drones launched, 52 were shot down by air defense systems.
Russia has repeatedly launched waves of drone attacks against Ukraine, but most are shot down. Ukraine has also claimed this month to have downed some of Russia’s hypersonic Kinzhal missiles, which Russian President Vladimir Putin has touted as providing a key competitive advantage.
In the northeastern Kharkiv province, regional Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said a 61-year-old woman and a 60-year-old man were killed in two separate shelling attacks.
Kyiv Day marks the anniversary of the city’s official founding. The day is usually celebrated with live concerts, street fairs, exhibitions and fireworks. Scaled-back festivities were planned for this year, the city’s 1,541st anniversary.
The timing of the drone attacks was likely not coincidental, Ukrainian officials said.
“The history of Ukraine is a long-standing irritant for the insecure Russians,” Ukraine’s chief presidential aide, Andriy Yermak, said on Telegram.
“Today, the enemy decided to ‘congratulate’ the people of Kyiv on Kyiv Day with the help of their deadly UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles),” Popko also wrote on the messaging app.
Local officials in Russia’s southern Krasnodar region said that air defense systems destroyed several drones as they approached the Ilsky oil refinery.
Russia’s southern Belgorod region, bordering Ukraine, also came under attack from Ukrainian forces on Saturday, local officials said. Regional Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov reported Sunday that a 15-year-old girl and a 17-year-old boy were wounded in the shelling.
Drone attacks against Russian border regions have been a regular occurrence since the start of the invasion in February 2022, with attacks increasing last month. Earlier this month, an oil refinery in Krasnodar was attacked by drones on two straight days.
Ukrainian air defenses, bolstered by sophisticated Western-supplied systems, have been adept at thwarting Russian air attacks — both drones and aircraft missiles.
Earlier in May, Ukraine prevented an intense Russian air attack on Kyiv, shooting down all missiles aimed at the capital. The bombardment, which additionally targeted locations across Ukraine, included six Russian Kinzhal aero-ballistic hypersonic missiles, repeatedly touted by Russian President Vladimir Putin as providing a key strategic competitive advantage and among the most advanced weapons in his country’s arsenal.
Sophisticated Western air defense systems, including American-made Patriot missiles, have helped spare Kyiv from the kind of destruction witnessed along the main front line in Ukraine’s east and south. While most of the ground fighting is stalemated along that front line, both sides are targeting other territory with long-range weapons.
Against the backdrop of Saturday night’s drone attacks, Russia’s ambassador to the U.K., Andrei Kelin, warned of an escalation in Ukraine. He told the BBC on Sunday his country had “enormous resources” and it was yet to “act very seriously,” cautioning that Western supplies of weapons to Ukraine risked escalating the war to a “new dimension.” The length of the conflict, he said, “depends on the efforts in escalation of war that is being undertaken by NATO countries, especially by the U.K.”
Kelin’s comments are typical of Russian officials’ rhetoric with regard to Moscow’s military might, but contradict regular reports from the battlefield of Russian troops being poorly equipped and trained.
Also on Sunday, the death toll from Friday’s missile attack on the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro, the regional capital of the Dnipropetrovsk province, rose to four. Regional. Gov. Serhii Lysak said that three people who were considered missing were confirmed dead. There were 32 people, including two children, wounded in the attack, which struck a building containing psychology and veterinary clinics.
State Farm said while it takes its responsibility to manage risk “seriously” and will continue to work with state policymakers and the California Department of Insurance to help build market capacity in California, the decision was necessary to ensure the company remains in good financial standing.
“It’s necessary to take these actions now to improve the company’s financial strength,” the statement read. “We will continue to evaluate our approach based on changing market conditions. State Farm® independent contractor agents licensed and authorized in California will continue to serve existing customers for these products and new customers for products not impacted by this decision.”
A decadeslong megadrought and climate change have been exacerbating wildfire risk in California in recent years. Severe drought during the winter is leading to matchbox conditions in the dry season, allowing intense wildfires to ignite with the slightest spark.
The warm, dry climate that serves as fuel for wildfires is typical for much of the West, but hotter overall temperatures on Earth are increasing wildfire risk in the region.
Last year, the Mosquito Fire destroyed dozens of homes in El Dorado and Placer counties. In 2021, the Dixie Fire destroyed more than 100 homes in the town of Greenville.
The Creek Fire in 2020 became the largest single fire in California history, damaging or destroying nearly 1,000 structures and burning through about 380,000 acres.
Rebuilding from wildfire destruction is expensive, expensive, experts have found.
The reconstruction costs from the 2022 Coastal Fire in Southern California were estimated to be $530 million, and only 20 homes were destroyed, according to a report by property solutions firm CoreLogic.
In addition, the nationwide impact of California’s 2018 wildfire season — which included the Camp Fire, the most destructive in California history — totaled $148.5 billion in economic damage, according to a study by the University College London.
The state’s FAIR Plan provides basic fire insurance coverage for high-risk properties when traditional insurance companies will not, but that plan is the last resort, Janet Ruiz, director of strategic communication for the Insurance Information Institute, told ABC San Francisco station KGO.
“It’s a basic policy, only covers fire – you have to get a wraparound policy too to cover theft and liability,” she said.
Mercenary Prigozhin warns Russia could face revolution unless elite gets serious about war
Guy Faulconbridge – May 24, 2023
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner mercenary group, warned that Russia could face a revolution similar to those of 1917 and lose the conflict in Ukraine unless the elite got serious about fighting the war.
Russia’s most powerful mercenary said his political outlook was dominated by love for the motherland and serving President Vladimir Putin, but cautioned that Russia was in danger of turmoil.
Prigozhin said there was a so-called optimistic view that the West would get tired of war and China would broker a peace deal, but that he did not really believe in that interpretation.
Instead, he said, Ukraine was preparing a counteroffensive aimed at pushing Russian troops back to its borders before 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea. Ukraine would try to encircle Bakhmut, the focus of intense fighting in the east, and attack Crimea, he added.
“Most likely of all, this scenario will not be good for Russia so we need to prepare for an arduous war,” he said in an interview posted on his Telegram channel.
“We are in such a condition that we could fucking lose Russia – that is the main problem … We need to impose martial law.”
Prigozhin said his nickname “Putin’s chef” was stupid as he could not cook and had never been a chef, quipping that “Putin’s butcher” might be a more apt nickname.
“They could have just given me a nickname right away — Putin’s butcher, and everything would have been fine,” he said.
If ordinary Russians continued getting their children back in zinc coffins while the children of the elite “shook their arses” in the sun, he said, Russia would face turmoil along the lines of the 1917 revolutions that ushered in a civil war.
“This divide can end as in 1917 with a revolution,” he said.
“First the soldiers will stand up, and after that – their loved ones will rise up,” he said. “There are already tens of thousands of them – relatives of those killed. And there will probably be hundreds of thousands – we cannot avoid that.”
The defence ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
Prigozhin criticised Russia’s post-Soviet policy towards Ukraine and cast the implementation of what the Kremlin calls the “special military operation” as unclear, contradictory and confused.
Russia’s military leadership, he said, had “fucked up” repeatedly during the war. The stated aim of demilitarising Ukraine, he said, had failed.
Prigozhin said Soviet leader Josef Stalin would not have accepted such failure. A cross-border attack into Russia’s Belgorod region indicated the failures of the military leadership, he said, warning that Ukraine would seek to strike deeper into Russia.
Russia needed to mobilise more men and to gear the economy exclusively to war, Prigozhin said.
Wagner, he said, had recruited around 50,000 convicts during the war, of whom about 20% had perished. Around the same amount of his contract soldiers – 10,000 – had perished, he said.
In Bakhmut, Prigozhin said, Ukraine had suffered casualties of 50,000-70,000 wounded and 50,000 dead.
Reuters is unable to verify casualty claims from either side, and neither Russia nor Ukraine release figures on their own casualties. Ukraine has said Russian losses are far higher than its losses.
Prigozhin said Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu should be replaced by Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev while Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov should be replaced by Sergei Surovikin, nicknamed “General Armageddon” by the Russian media.
Asked about his political credo: “I love my motherland, I serve Putin, Shoigu should be judged and we will fight on.”
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Alex Richardson)
Putin could have a ‘revolution’ on his hands because Russian elites refuse to send their kids to die in the Ukraine war, Wagner boss Prigozhin warns
Chris Panella – May 24, 2023
Putin could face a “revolution” because of outrage over war in Ukraine, Wagner boss Prigozhin said.
Russia’s elite not sending “fat, carefree” kids into war could spark public unrest, he added.
The Times reported that Prigozhin compared the current environment to the 1917 Russian Revolution.
Russian President Vladimir Putin could have a “revolution” on his hands over his botched war in Ukraine, Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin said.
In a profane rant during an interview with pro-Kremlin blogger Konstantin Dolgov, the head of the Wagner Group called out Russia’s elite for protecting their children from being drafted into the war, according to a translation from The Times.
“The children of the elite smear themselves with creams and show off on the internet, while ordinary people’s children come home in zinc [coffins], torn to pieces,” he said, according to The Times. “I recommend that the elite of the Russian Federation gathers up, bitch, its youth and send them to war.”
Prigozhin said their “fat, carefree” lives could spark outrage and a “revolution,” leading working-class citizens to storm the elite’s “villas” with “pitchforks.”
That revolution, he concluded, “might end as in 1917,” referencing the Russian Revolution of 1917, when citizens overthrew Tsar Nicholas II and his family.
The comments come as Russian forces, including Wagner Group members, claimed victory in Bakhmut over the weekend. Ukraine contested the victory, with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy insisting to G7 leaders in Hiroshima that Kyiv’s soldiers were still fighting for control of the region.
Prigozhin’s volatile attitude and criticisms of Putin are increasingly shocking, but the Russian president is still too reliant on Wagner’s army to punish Prigozhin.
Ukraine-Russia war: One in five Wagner convicts killed in Ukraine, says Prigozhin
Maighna Nanu – May 24, 2023
One in five Wagner convicts have been killed in Ukraine, the chief of the Russian mercenary group has claimed.
Yevgeny Prigozhin said that around 10,000 prisoners he recruited to fight in Ukraine have been killed on the battlefield.
“I took 50,000 prisoners of which around 20 per cent were killed,” Prigozhin said in a video interview published late Tuesday.
Prigozhin said a similar percentage were killed among those who had signed a contract with Wagner, but did not give a precise figure.
Last year, Prigozhin toured Russian prisons in a bid to convince inmates to fight with Wagner in Ukraine, in exchange for a promised amnesty upon their return should they survive.
Convicts are believed to have been used as cannon fodder in Ukraine, accounting for most of Wagner’s losses in the pro-Western country.
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Ukraine’s main church to switch calendar in move away from Russia
Ukraine’s main Orthodox church said it had decided to switch to a calendar in which Christmas is celebrated on Dec. 25, a move that distances it from Russia.
Ukrainian Christians, a majority of whom are Orthodox, have traditionally celebrated Christmas on Jan. 7 alongside other predominantly Orthodox Christian countries such as Russia, which invaded Ukraine last year.
“This question arose with new impetus as a result of Russian aggression,” the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) wrote in a Facebook post announcing the change away from the Julian calendar.
“Nowadays, the Julian calendar is perceived as connected with Russian church culture,” it said.
Ukraine’s main Catholic church, which considers about one in 10 Ukrainians to be worshippers, announced a similar change in February.
Ukraine in pictures:
Ukraine joining Nato in the midst of a war ‘not on the agenda’, says Stoltenberg
Ukraine will not be able to join Nato as long as the war is going on, the alliance’s chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday.
“I think that everyone realized that, to become a member in the midst of a war, is not on the agenda,” he said at an event organised by the German Marshall Fund of The United States in Brussels. “The issue is what happens when the war ends.”
Switzerland takes step towards sale of 25 Leopard 2 tanks back to Germany
The Swiss government backed the decommissioning of 25 advanced Leopard 2 battle tanks with a view to selling them back to Germany, a step that could allow Western countries to send more military aid to Ukraine.
Germany had in February asked Switzerland to sell some of the tanks back to arms maker Rheinmetall, which would allow the company to backfill gaps in the armaments of European Union and Nato members.
Germany, Poland, Portugal, Finland and Sweden are among countries sending Leopard tanks to help Ukraine defend itself against Russian attack, creating gaps in their own arsenals.
The issue is sensitive for the Swiss authorities. Under its neutrality laws and a separate arms embargo, Switzerland is prohibited from sending weapons directly to Ukraine.
The Swiss military currently has 134 Leopard 2 tanks in service and a further 96 in storage.
Russia risks revolution unless elite get serious about war, Wagner chief says
Russia could face a revolution and lose the conflict in Ukraine unless the elite get serious about fighting the war, the founder of the Wagner mercenary group has warned.
“We are in such a condition that we could f***ing lose Russia – that is the main problem … We need to impose martial law,” Yevgeny Prigozhin said on his Telegram channel.
With Russian families receiving the remains of their sons who have died in Ukraine even as the children of the country’s wealthiest oligarchs are pictured on lavish holidays, he said, Russia could face turmoil on a scale not seen since the 1917 revolution, when Russians rose up and overthrew the monarchy.
“This divide can end as in 1917 with a revolution – first the soldiers will stand up, and after that – their loved ones will rise up,” he said. “There are already tens of thousands of them – relatives of those killed – and there will probably be hundreds of thousands.”
Ukraine’s Defence Minister: ‘Glad to host Ben Wallace in Kyiv’
WHO condemns Russia’s aggression in Ukraine in vote
The World Health Organisation assembly passed a motion on Wednesday condemning Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, including attacks on healthcare facilities.
The motion passed by 80 votes to 9, with 52 abstentions.
The Western-led motion, put forward at the UN agency’s annual meeting, also called for an assessment of the impact of Russia’s aggression on the health sector.
There was no immediate reaction from Russia. Moscow has consistently denied targeting civilians during what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Russia will respond to future incursions ‘extremely harshly’, says defence minister
Moscow will respond to attacks on Russian soil “extremely harshly”, Russia’s defence minister has warned, after Russian jets and artillery fought off an armed group that crossed from Ukraine.
“We will continue to respond promptly and extremely harshly to such actions by Ukrainian militants,” Sergei Shoigu told military officials, according to comments published by the defence ministry.
Russia to give Bakhmut Soviet-era name after capturing city from Ukraine
Bakhmut will be renamed with its former Soviet name, the acting head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic has claimed.
The small eastern city is believed to have fallen to Russia in recent days after a long and bloody siege that left it almost completely destroyed.
“Bakhmut had the misfortune to be Ukrainian. Now it’s not Ukraine, it’s Russia. And it’s not Bakhmut — it’s Artemovsk,” Denis Pushilin said in a video posted on Telegram.
It comes as Oleksiy Danilov, a Ukrainian national security adviser, claimed that part of Bakhmut is still under Ukrainian control.
“If they [Russians] believe they have taken Bakhmut, I can say that this is not true. As of today, part of Bakhmut is under our control,” he told CNN. “I can’t say that all of it, but part of Bakhmut is still under our fire.”
Ukraine in pictures:
Older people account for a third of Ukraine’s war victims
Older people have suffered and died at a disproportionately high rate since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a UN report has showed, with some perishing because they were barred from fetching medicines or leaving basements.
The report compiled by UN human rights monitors showed that about a third of the civilians killed in the first year of the war, or 1,346 of 4,187 documented victims, were over 60.
The toll only includes individuals whose age is known and the real number of victims is much higher, the UN says. About a quarter of Ukraine’s population is elderly.
Pictured: Ukrainian tankers ride along the road towards their positions near Bakhmut
Finland says Russia set to terminate agreement on military visits
Russia has informed neighbouring Finland that it will terminate a bilateral agreement on mutual visits to military installations, the Finnish defence ministry said late on Tuesday.
The bilateral agreement, signed in 2000, provided for one annual Russian assessment visit to Finland and a similar visit by Finland to the Leningrad Military District in north-west Russia, the Finnish ministry said in a statement.
Finland last month joined the Nato military alliance in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, drawing a threat from Moscow of “counter-measures.”
The bilateral agreement, last applied in 2019 before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, was among several post-Cold War measures taken to improve East-West relations.
West sees Russia and China as threat to its dominance, says Lavrov
Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said that the West saw Russia and China as “adversaries” that posed what he called an existential threat to the West’s “dominance”.
“As evidenced by statements made at the recently concluded G7 summit in Japan, the West views Russia and China as strategic adversaries posing almost an existential threat to its dominance,” Mr Lavrov said
Drone attacks overnight in Russian border region, claims governor
A Russian official in the southern Belgorod region bordering Ukraine claimed that the territory was targeted by numerous drones overnight, following an armed incursion into the territory from Ukraine.
“The night was not entirely calm. There were a large number of drone attacks. Air defence systems handled most of them,” governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said in a post on social media, adding: “The most important thing is that there are no casualties.”
Moscow shares ‘staged photos’ of US vehicles allegedly used to attack Russian territory
Moscow has claimed to have captured American vehicles used by anti-Kremlin paramilitary groups during a daring cross-border raid into Russia’s Belgorod region.
Images shared via Russia’s state controlled media outlets appeared to show two damaged US-made Humvees left abandoned in a crater.
They were pictured close to the Grayvoron border control point, the initial scene of the Belgorod raid.
Pro-Kremlin channels on the Telegram messaging app claimed that two battalions of anti-regime partisans had lost as many as five American vehicles.
However, analysis of the images shared by the Russian government suggests they were staged.
Comment: Belgorod attack: Ukraine has turned Putin’s little green men against him
Yesterday’s cross-border raid from Ukraine into Russia’s Belgorod province by anti-Kremlin partisans known as the Russian Freedom Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps is the largest offensive action inside Russia’s borders since Putin’s invasion began.
The group seems to have struck the frontier post at Kozinka, apparently killing a border guard, before crossing into Russian territory around Grayvoron with armoured vehicles, mortars and artillery support.
This action is unlikely to develop into a significant assault on Russian territory because the Ukrainian army itself remains constrained to operations within its own borders by agreements with military donor nations.
Russian Prime Minister says relations with China at an unprecedented high level
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said that ties with China are at an “unprecedented” high level, characterised by mutual respect of each other’s interests and the desire to jointly respond to challenges.
“As our Chinese friends say, unity makes it possible to move mountains,” Mishustin told Chinese Premier Li Qiang during a meeting in Beijing.
Mishustin was the highest ranking Russian official to visit the Chinese capital since the war began.
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‘It’s not their money’: Older Americans worried debt default means no Social Security
Peter Charalamboust – May 23, 2023
If the United States defaults on its financial obligations, millions of Americans might not be able to pay their bills as well.
With Social Security and other government benefits at risk amid a political stalemate over the government’s debt ceiling, experts and older Americans told ABC News that the consequences of the impasse in Washington could be dire, including for older Americans who need the money to pay for basic needs such as food, housing or health care costs.
A quarter of Americans over age 65 rely on Social Security to provide at least 90% of their family income, according to the Social Security Administration.
Fred Gurner, 86, of New York, told ABC News that he uses his Social Security payment for his $800 rent. But now there is real risk that his payment might not come in time in June — when the Treasury Department says the government might not be able to send him the money he counts on.
“It’s very stressful, gives me a heart attack,” Gurner said about how the issue has become politicized.
How are Social Security payments affected by the debt ceiling?
Since 2001, the United States has spent more money than revenue it has taken in overall.
To cover the difference, the United States Treasury issues debt through securities, according to University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business professor Olivia Mitchell. Backed by the United States, those securities are happily bought by investors who see it as a safe guarantee they’ll get paid back with interest.
However, the United States and Denmark are the only two countries to limit the amount of debt the government can issue, known as a debt ceiling, Mitchell noted.
Lawmakers can pass new laws that require government spending, but the debt ceiling will remain in place until lawmakers vote to increase it. That has happened 78 separate times in the United States since 1960.
If that debt ceiling does not increase by June 1, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned House Speaker Kevin McCarthy that the country will not be able to satisfy all of its financial obligations.
Beyond not being able to pay interest and principal on government securities — which economists broadly agree would rattle the stock market and possibly damage the U.S. credit rating — the Treasury would be unable to issue new debt to cover expenses like Social Security, according to Mitchell.
The government projects to spend roughly $100 billion on Social Security in the month of June, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center.
“It’s going to be pretty tight for people for a while, unless Congress and the president can get together on this problem,” Mitchell said.
When would Social Security payments become delayed?
The Social Security Administration plans to send contributions to beneficiaries on four dates next month — June 2, 14, 21, and 28. Those checks would be the first ones at risk of being delayed, according to Max Richtman, President and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.
“Millions and millions of Social Security beneficiaries are worried about having the income to pay their basic bills,” he noted.
Lynda Fisher, 80, told ABC News that her budget relies on her monthly Social Security check and that a delay would complicate her essential spending, frustrating the 80-year-old who has spent her life contributing to the system.
“I paid into Social Security, and I paid into Medicare,” she said. “And now they’re trying to take it away. It’s not their money, it’s my money that I paid into.”
Richtman is now actively encouraging older residents to save money in anticipation of a delayed Social Security payment, fearing negotiations will not yield a compromise in time to avoid default.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Yellen indicated that certain bills might be prioritized, including interest payments, Social Security and military contractor payments. However, Richtman expressed doubt that such a prioritization would be legally possible.
What does this mean for the future of Social Security?
Some Republican lawmakers have framed the debt ceiling fight as necessary to slow government spending; however, some economists, including Mitchell, see this as a “manufactured crisis” that threatens essential services, retirement savings and the overall economy.
“Every time one of these crises occurs, it’s signaling to the rest of the world, and to American investors that U.S. Treasuries are not as safe as we thought,” Boston University economics professor Laurence Kotlikoff said.
Kotlikoff expressed further concern that the Social Security system will have over $65.9 trillion in unfunded financial obligations over the indefinite horizon, based on the entity’s own report.
However, the debate over the debt ceiling appears unlikely to produce a meaningful solution to the broader Social Security shortfall, though, according to Kotlikoff, Mitchell and Richtman.
When will retirees receive their payments?
Mitchell and Richtman remained optimistic that Social Security recipients would eventually receive their checks once a deal is made, albeit with some delay.
“I’m pretty confident that payments would be fulfilled,” Richtman said. “That’s not much comfort to those people who will not be able to pay for their groceries, their utilities or their rent while they’re waiting to receive a back payment.”
Jimmy Carter, 3 months into hospice, is aware of tributes, enjoying ice cream
Bill Barrow – May 23, 2023
NORCROSS, Ga. (AP) — Three months after entering end-of-life care at home, former President Jimmy Carter remains in good spirits as he visits with family, follows public discussion of his legacy and receives updates on The Carter Center’s humanitarian work around the world, his grandson says. He’s even enjoying regular servings of ice cream.
“They’re just meeting with family right now, but they’re doing it in the best possible way: the two of them together at home,” Jason Carter said of Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, now 98 and 95 years old.
“They’ve been together 70-plus years. They also know that they’re not in charge,” the younger Carter said Tuesday in a brief interview. “Their faith is really grounding in this moment. In that way, it’s as good as it can be.”
The longest-lived U.S. president, Jimmy Carter announced in February that after a series of brief hospital stays, he would forgo further medical intervention and spend the remainder of his life in the same modest, one-story house in Plains where they lived when he was first elected to the state Senate in 1962. No illness was disclosed.
The hospice care announcement prompted ongoing tributes and media attention on his 1977-81 presidency and the global humanitarian work the couple has done since co-founding The Carter Center in 1982.
“That’s been one of the blessings of the last couple of months,” Jason Carter said after speaking Tuesday at an event honoring his grandfather. “He is certainly getting to see the outpouring and it’s been gratifying to him for sure.”
The former president also gets updates on The Carter Center’s Guinea worm eradication program, launched in the mid-1980s when millions of people suffered from the parasite spread by unclean drinking water. Last year, there were fewer than two dozen cases worldwide.
And in less serious moments, he also continues to enjoy peanut butter ice cream, his preferred flavor, in keeping with his political brand as a peanut farmer, his grandson said.
Andrew Young, who served as Carter’s U.N. Ambassador, told the AP that he too visited the Carters “a few weeks back” and was “very pleased we could laugh and joke about old times.”
Young and Jason Carter joined other friends and admirers Tuesday at a celebration of the former president along Jimmy Carter Boulevard in suburban Norcross, just northeast of Atlanta. Young said the setting — in one of the most racially and ethnically diverse suburban swaths in America — reflected the former president’s broader legacy as someone who pursued peace, conflict resolution and racial equity.
When the almost 10-mile stretch of highway in Gwinnett County was renamed in 1976 — the year he was elected president — the small towns and bedroom communities on the edge of metropolitan Atlanta were only beginning to boom. Now, Gwinnett alone has a population of about 1 million people, and Jimmy Carter Boulevard is thriving, with many businesses owned by Black proprietors, immigrants or first-generation Americans.
Young, a top aide to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement, said Carter began as a white politician from south Georgia in the days of Jim Crow segregation, but he proved his values were different.
As governor and president, Carter believed “that the world can come to Georgia and show everybody how to live together,” Young said.
Now, Georgia “looks like the whole world,” said Young, 91.
Nicole Love Hendrickson, elected in 2020 as the first Black chair of the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners, praised Carter as “a man with an exceptional regard for the humanity of others.”
Alluding to Carter’s landslide re-election defeat, Young said he has personally relished seeing historians and others finding success stories as they reassess Carter’s presidency — ceding control of the Panama Canal, developing a national energy strategy, engaging more in Africa than any U.S. president had. Such achievements were either unpopular at the time or overshadowed by Carter’s inability to corral inflation, tame energy crises or free the American hostages in Iran before the 1980 election.
“I told him, ‘you know, it took them over 50 years to appreciate President Lincoln. It may take that long to appreciate you,’” Young said.
“Nobody was thinking about the Panama Canal. Nobody would have thought about bringing Egypt and Israel together. I mean, I was thinking about trying to do something in Africa, but nobody else in Washington was, and he did. He’s always had an idea about everything.”
Still, when Jason Carter addressed his grandparents’ admirers Tuesday, he argued against thinking about them like global celebrities.
“They’re just like all of y’all’s grandparents — I mean, to the extent y’all’s grandparents are rednecks from south Georgia,” he said to laughter. “If you go down there even today, next to their sink they have a little rack where they dry Ziplock bags.”
Most remarkable, Jason Carter said, is the fact such a gathering occurred with his grandfather still living.
“We did think that when he went into hospice it was very close to the end,” he told attendees. “Now, I’m just going to tell you, he’s going to be 99 in October.”
Biden’s shift on F-16s for Ukraine came after months of internal debate
Aamer Madhani and Lolita C. Baldor – May 22, 2023
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s decision to allow allies to train Ukrainian forces on how to operate F-16 fighter jets — and eventually to provide the aircraft themselves — seemed like an abrupt change in position but was in fact one that came after months of internal debate and quiet talks with allies.
Long shadowing the administration’s calculation were worries that such a move could escalate tensions with Russia. U.S. officials also argued that learning to fly and logistically support the advanced F-16 would be difficult and time consuming.
But over the past three months, administration officials shifted toward the view that it was time to provide Ukraine’s pilots with the training and aircraft needed for the country’s long-term security needs, according to three officials familiar with the deliberations who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
Still, the change in Biden’s position seemed rather sudden.
In February, Biden was insistent in an interview with ABC’s David Muir that Ukraine “doesn’t need F-16s now” and that “I am ruling it out for now.” And in March, a top Pentagon policy official, Colin Kahl, told U.S. lawmakers that even if the president approved F-16s for Ukraine, it could take as long as two years to get Ukrainian pilots trained and equipped.
But as the administration was publicly playing down the prospect of F-16s for Ukraine in the near term, an internal debate was heating up.
Quiet White House discussions stepped up in February, around the time that Biden visited Ukraine and Poland, according to the U.S. officials.
Following the trip, discussions that included senior White House National Security Council, Pentagon and State Department officials began on the pros and cons and the details of how such a transfer might work, officials said. Administration officials also got deeper into consultations with allies.
In April, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin heard from defense leaders from allied countries during a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group who were looking for U.S. permission to train the Ukrainians on F-16s, according to a Defense Department official who was not authorized to comment publicly. Austin raised the matter during the NSC policy discussions and there was agreement that it was time to start training.
Austin also raised the issue with Biden before the G7 summit with a recommendation “to proceed with approving allies” to train the Ukrainians and transfer the aircraft, the department official said. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also was a strong advocate for pushing forward with the plan during the U.S. policy talks and conveying to Biden increasing European urgency on the issue, officials said.
U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan traveled to London on May 8 for talks with British, French and German allies on Ukraine, and F-16s were high on the agenda. They got into the nitty gritty on how to go about provide training and which countries might be willing to transfer jets to Ukraine. It was agreed that the focus would be on training first, according to one of the officials.
Sullivan, before leaving London, spoke by phone with his counterparts from the Netherlands and Poland, both countries that have F-16s and “would be essential to any efforts to provide Ukraine jets for any future use.” Denmark also could potentially provide the jets, the official added.
Biden and Sullivan discussed how the upcoming G7 summit in Hiroshima could provide a good opportunity for him to make the case to key allies on the administration’s shifting stance on fighter jets.
They also discussed Biden backing allies providing jets to Ukraine — a line he had previously appeared not to want to cross out of concern that it could draw the West into what could be seen as direct confrontation with Moscow.
Biden, in private talks with fellow G7 leaders on Friday, confirmed that the U.S. would get behind a joint effort to train Ukrainian pilots on the F-16 and that as things went on, they would work together on who would provide them and how many would be sent.
State, Pentagon and NSC officials are now developing the training plan and “when, where and how to deliver F-16s” to Ukraine as part of the long-term security effort, the official said.
U.S. officials say it will take several months to iron out details, but the U.S. Air Force has quietly determined that the actual training could realistically be done in about four months. The Air Force based the far shorter estimate on a visit by two Ukrainian pilots to a U.S. air base in March, where they got to learn about the F-16 and fly simulators. The training, officials say, would take place in Europe.
White House officials have bristled at the notion that Biden’s decision amounted to a sea change.
The administration had been focused on providing Ukraine with weapons — including air defense systems, armored vehicles, bridging equipment and artillery — that were needed for a coming counteroffensive. There also were concerns that sending F-16s would eat up a significant portion of the money allocated for Ukraine.
What changed, the official added, is that other allies got to a point where they were willing to provide their own jets as part of a U.S.-based coalition.
The Biden administration is still examining whether it will directly provide its own F-16s to Ukraine. Regardless, it needed buy-in from other allies because the U.S. wouldn’t be able to provide the full fleet of jets Zelenskyy says is needed.
Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said the F-16 will give Ukraine a key capability for the long term but it won’t be a “game changer.”
Kendall told a gathering of reporters on Monday there has been an awareness that “we needed to go there at some point, but we didn’t have a sense of urgency about this. I think we’re at a reasonable place to make that decision now.”
Another potential wrinkle in the F-16 conversation involves Turkey.
Turkey wants to buy 40 new F-16s from the U.S., but some in Congress oppose the sale until Turkey approves NATO membership for Sweden, which applied to join the alliance in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has objected to Sweden’s perceived support of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, the leftist extremist group DHKP-C and followers of the U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara claims was behind a failed military coup attempt in 2016.
Erdogan is facing opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu in a runoff election on Sunday. If Erdogan wins, as expected, White House officials are increasingly hopeful that the Turkish leader will withdraw his opposition to Sweden’s membership, according to the U.S. official.
If Erdogan drops opposition to Sweden joining NATO, it could lead to Turkey getting its long desired F-16s and may eventually add to the number of older F-16s in circulation, which could benefit Ukraine.
Associated Press White House correspondent Zeke Miller contributed reporting.
Florida flood insurance costs are about to explode. ZIP codes closest to the coast will pay the most
Ron Hurtibise, South Florida Sun Sentinel – May 22, 2023
Events of the past year have convinced more Florida homeowners of the need to carry flood insurance.
Flooding caused by hurricanes Ian and Nicole caught hundreds, if not thousands, of homeowners across the state by surprise, and without flood insurance.
Similarly, many homeowners affected by last month’s historic rainfall in eastern Broward County had no flood insurance and learned tragically that damage caused by water rising from the ground was not covered by their normal homeowner insurance.
It’s not just flood victims who are experiencing hard lessons about flood insurance.
Just as homeowners are realizing the increased risks of going without flood coverage, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has released data showing that coverage costs are exploding for properties in coastal areas most vulnerable to flooding.
The cost hikes stem from mandates by Congress to require rates charged by the National Flood Insurance Program, which is run by FEMA, to reflect the cost of flood risk to individual covered properties, and to pay down the program’s deficit, which was $20.5 million as of last November, according to FEMA.
The result is a new risk pricing model called Risk Rating 2.0, which took effect on Oct. 1, 2021, for new NFIP policies and on April 1, 2022, for renewing policies. Rather than set rates solely based on a property’s elevation within a zone on a Flood Insurance Rate Map, the new approach considers more risk variables such as flood frequency, types of flooding, and distance to a water source, along with individual property characteristics like elevation and the cost to rebuild, FEMA’s website states.
Improved modeling, however, is of little comfort to homeowners who will have to pay more for flood insurance at the same time costs of regular multiperil property insurance are skyrocketing.
Recently, FEMA released a spreadsheet that compared average premiums currently and how high they’ll climb under the new pricing model.
For example, homeowners in Boca Raton’s 33432 ZIP code can look forward to a whopping 229% flood insurance premium increase, from an average $950 per policy to $3,128.
In Broward County, the 33305 ZIP code that includes Wilton Manors and Fort Lauderdale neighborhoods near the Middle River will pay 209% more, from $1,099 to $3,400.
In the 33315 zip code, which includes Fort Lauderdale’s Edgewood neighborhood that was among the hardest-hit by last month’s flooding, average rates will increase by 64% — from $863 currently to $1,420.
These numbers are averages. Within each ZIP code are less expensive homes with cheaper coverage costs and pricier homes that will cost even more to insure.
Unsurprisingly, homes nearest the coast, particularly in low-lying areas, cost far more to insure than homes on higher ground in western suburban cities.
For example, homeowners in Coral Springs’ 33071 ZIP code are looking at a total premium increase of just 17.6% — from $669 to $787.
FEMA says the new pricing model will also drive down the cost of flood insurance for customers with low-risk characteristics. Yet, none of South Florida’s ZIP codes will see average rates decrease, FEMA’s data shows.
Not everyone facing rate increases will have to pay the higher premiums immediately. While homeowners who previously did not carry NFIP flood insurance will have to pay the new higher prices if they want a new policy, price hikes for existing policyholders are capped at 18% a year for homesteaded properties and 25% annually for second homes or investment properties, until they reach the new rates.
If the total increase is 18% or less, affected homeowners will pay it just once — presumably until FEMA raises rates again, whenever that happens.
Few homes have flood insurance, even in Florida
Although Florida has the largest number of NFIP flood insurance policies of any U.S. state — 597,967 of 2.2 million in the U.S., FEMA data shows, the percentage of covered homes remains low.
Florida has 3.8 million detached single-family homes, according to 2020 census figures. The number of FEMA flood insurance policies are just 15.7% of that total. In South Florida’s tricounty region, the percentage is 20.8%.
The actual percentages of homes with flood insurance are likely to be a little different. The above estimates don’t take into account private flood insurance policies, which are increasing but still a fraction of the number of federally-backed policies. And the estimates exclude attached single-family homes, such as townhomes. The percentage also does not include condominiums, which are typically covered by blanket commercial policies.
Experts advise every Florida homeowner to buy flood insurance because flooding can happen throughout the state, as during last fall’s hurricanes.
But many buy flood insurance only when required, such as home loan borrowers with federally backed mortgages who live in high-risk flood zones.
Flood insurance required for some with Citizens insurance
This year, a new set of homeowners are required to buy flood insurance. Customers of state-owned Citizens Property Insurance Corp. who live in high-risk flood zones are required to also carry flood insurance.
That mandate, enacted by the state Legislature and governor last year, took effect on April 1 for new Citizens policyholders and on July 1 for renewing policyholders.
Under the new law, all Citizens policyholders will have to buy flood insurance by 2027.
According to Citizens data, 228,203 of the company’s 1.2 million customers are now required to buy flood insurance. Of them, 105,763 are in Broward, Palm Beach or Miami-Dade counties.
When enacted last year, the law also required condo owners covered by Citizens to buy flood insurance. They were exempted, however, by a new law that was passed during the just-completed spring Legislative session and now awaits the governor’s signature. The change followed complaints that flood insurance is unnecessary for residents on upper floors of multistory buildings and for those covered by commercial policies that cover all units.
Although the mandate remains in place legally, Citizens has stopped sending notices to condo owners telling them they must buy flood insurance at renewal time, Citizens spokesman Michael Peltier said. Once it is signed, condo owners who bought coverage will be able to drop it.
If they bought FEMA coverage, they can request refunds if their policies have not yet taken effect, the NFIP’s website states.
Because the flood insurance requirement for renewing Citizens customers won’t take effect until July 1, Ryan Papy, president of Palmetto Bay-based Keyes Insurance, says it’s still a bit early to gauge the impact.
“There hasn’t been that much sticker shock,” Papy said in an email. “Many (premiums) in Miami-Dade County have gone down.”
But he added, “We do see issues when some clients are purchasing new property.” The difference between a new owner’s premiums and the capped rates paid by the previous owner can sometimes “be extreme,” he said.
Save money on the private market?
Florida homeowners hit hardest by rising NFIP rate hikes might ask their agents to see if they can save money by checking out the private flood insurance market.
Neptune Flood, the nation’s largest private flood insurer with more than 150,000 clients, can save policyholders up to 25% off the cost of comparable NFIP coverage, Neptune spokeswoman Loren Pomerantz said by email.
Private flood insurance satisfies requirements of both federal mortgage guarantors and Citizens, according to Pomerantz and Peltier.
Pomerantz said Neptune’s sales in Florida have increased in recent months. Sales climbed 20% in areas hard hit by Hurricane Ian prior to the new Citizens mandate taking effect. In high-risk flood zones, sales have increased 25% since April 1 compared to the same period last year, she said.
Private flood insurance also offers coverage that far exceeds the NFIP’s $250,000 cap for structural damage and $100,000 limit for personal property damage. “We can cover homes for up to $4 million in building coverage and $500,000 of personal property,” she said. “Additional coverage options not available through the NFIP include pool repair and refill, replacement cost on contents, temporary living expenses and more. This allows a homeowner to adequately cover their property and protect their families in the event of a flood-related loss.”
The Telegram video comes as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy conceded that Bakhmut, a city in eastern Ukraine where Russian and Ukrainian forces have been waging a particularly brutal battle, had been completely destroyed.
“They’ve destroyed everything. There are no buildings. It’s a pity. It’s tragedy,” Zelenskyy said during a Sunday meeting with President Joe Biden at the G7 summit in Hiroshima.
“For today, Bakhmut is only in our hearts,” he added.
Zelenskyy’s office later made it clear that he had not meant that the city had fallen to Russian troops, the BBC reported.
Ukraine’s 3rd Separate Assault Brigade in action
Meanwhile, Ukraine said it had made advances on the flanks around Bakhmut, where Biletsky’s 3rd Separate Assault Brigade has seen action.
Insider’s Isobel Van Hagen reports the video depicts Ukrainian soldiers throwing grenades, firing their weapons, and advancing toward Russian positions.
In his video, Biletsky described battles earlier this week against Russia’s 72nd Brigade and the so-called “Storm Z. ” He called it “an analogue” of the Wagner Group units made up of released convicts, operated by the Russian Ministry of Defense.
He described hard-won victories that left “more than 50” Russians dead and the capture of “a lot of trophies: equipment, weapons, and prisoners.”
The British Ministry of Defence announced additional Russian troops had likely been deployed to Bakhmut to fight against Kyiv’s advances.
The intelligence briefing stated that Russia’s leadership will “likely continue to see capturing Bakhmut as the key immediate war aim,” which will “allow them to claim some degree of success in the conflict.”