Supreme Court nixes Trump bid to keep Capitol attack records secret

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected former President Donald Trump’s request to block the release of White House records sought by the Democratic-led congressional panel investigating last year’s deadly attack on the Capitol by a mob of his supporters. The decision means the documents, held by a federal agency that stores government and historical records, can be disclosed even as litigation over the matter continues in lower courts. (Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

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New York probe finds ‘signicant evidence’ of Trump Org. fraud

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New York (AFP) – New York’s top justice official said her investigation into Donald Trump’s family business had uncovered “significant evidence” of fraudulent or misleading practices, intensifying pressure on the former president as he tries to shut down the probe. In a court filing late Tuesday, state Attorney General Letitia James wrote that the ongoing civil inquiry had found that the Trump Organization fraudulently overvalued multiple assets to secure loans and then undervalued them to minimize taxes. She asked a judge to compel Trump and his two eldest children — Donald Trump Jr. and Iva…

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What causes a tsunami? An ocean scientist explains the physics of these destructive waves

On Jan. 15, 2022, coastal areas across California were placed under a tsunami warning.
Gado via Getty Images

Sally Warner, Brandeis University

On Jan. 15, 2022, the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano in Tonga erupted, sending a tsunami racing across the Pacific Ocean in all directions.

As word of the eruption spread, government agencies on surrounding islands and in places as far away as New Zealand, Japan and even the U.S. West Coast issued tsunami warnings. Only about 12 hours after the initial eruption, tsunami waves a few feet tall hit California shorelines – more than 5,000 miles away from the eruption.

I’m a physical oceanographer who studies waves and turbulent mixing in the ocean. Tsunamis are one of my favorite topics to teach my students because the physics of how they move through oceans is so simple and elegant.

Waves that are a few feet tall hitting a beach in California might not sound like the destructive waves the term calls to mind, nor what you see in footage of tragic tsunamis from the past. But tsunamis are not normal waves, no matter the size. So how are tsunamis different from other ocean waves? What generates them? How do they travel so fast? And why are they so destructive?

A satellite view a large ash cloud and shockwave.
When the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted, it launched ash into the atmosphere, created a powerful shock wave and displaced a huge amount of water, generating a tsunami that raced across the ocean.
Japan Meteorological Agency via WikimediaCommons, CC BY

Deep displacement

Most waves are generated by wind as it blows over the ocean’s surface, transferring energy to and displacing the water. This process creates the waves you see at the beach every day.

Tsunamis are created by an entirely different mechanism. When an underwater earthquake, volcanic eruption or landslide displaces a large amount of water, that energy has to go somewhere – so it generates a series of waves. Unlike wind-driven waves where the energy is confined to the upper layer of the ocean, the energy in a series of tsunami waves extends throughout the entire depth of the ocean. Additionally, a lot more water is displaced than in a wind-driven wave.

Imagine the difference in the waves that are created if you were to blow on the surface of a swimming pool compared to the waves that are created when someone jumps in with a big cannonball dive. The cannonball dive displaces a lot more water than blowing on the surface, so it creates a much bigger set of waves.

Earthquakes can easily move huge amounts of water and cause dangerous tsunamis. Same with large undersea landslides. In the case of the Tonga tsunami, the massive explosion of the volcano displaced the water. Some scientists are speculating that the eruption also caused an undersea landslide that contributed to the large amount of displaced water. Future research will help confirm whether this is true or not.

This simulation from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows how tsunami waves propagated away from an earthquake that occurred about 600 miles from Tonga in 2021.

Tsunami waves travel fast

No matter the cause of a tsunami, after the water is displaced, waves propagate outward in all directions – similarly to when a stone is thrown into a serene pond.

Because the energy in tsunami waves reaches all the way to the bottom of the ocean, the depth of the sea floor is the primary factor that determines how fast they move. Calculating the speed of a tsunami is actually quite simple. You just multiply the depth of the ocean – 13,000 feet (4,000 meters) on average – by gravity and take the square root. Doing this, you get an average speed of about 440 miles per hour (700 kilometers per hour). This is much faster than the speed of typical waves, which can range from about 10 to 30 mph (15 to 50 kph).

This equation is what oceanographers use to estimate when a tsunami will reach faraway shores. The tsunami on Jan. 15 hit Santa Cruz, California, 12 hours and 12 minutes after the initial eruption in Tonga. Santa Cruz is 5,280 miles (8,528 kilometers) from Tonga, which means that the tsunami traveled at 433 mph (697 kph) – nearly identical to the speed estimate calculated using the ocean’s average depth.

A flooded airport runway covered in debris.
Many tsunamis, including the 2011 Tsunami in Japan, move inland and can flood areas far from the coast.
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse via WikimediaCommons

Destruction on land

Tsunamis are rare compared to ubiquitous wind-driven waves, but they are often much more destructive. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami killed 225,000 people. More than 20,000 lost their lives in the 2011 Japan tsunami.

What makes tsunamis so much more destructive than normal waves?

An animation showing waves approaching a shoreline.
As waves approach shore, they get pushed upward by the rising seafloor.
Régis Lachaume via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

In the open ocean, tsunami waves can be small and may even be undetectable by a boat at the surface. But as the tsunami approaches land, the ocean gets progressively shallower and all the wave energy that extended thousands of feet to the bottom of the deep ocean gets compressed. The displaced water needs to go somewhere. The only place to go is up, so the waves get taller and taller as they approach shore.

When tsunamis get to shore, they often do not crest and break like a typical ocean wave. Instead, they are more like a large wall of water that can inundate land near the coast. It is as if sea level were to suddenly rise by a few feet or more. This can cause flooding and very strong currents that can easily sweep people, cars and buildings away.

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Luckily, tsunamis are rare and not nearly as much of a surprise as they once were. There is now an extensive array of bottom pressure sensors, called DART buoys, that can sense a tsunami wave and allow government agencies to send warnings prior to the arrival of the tsunami.

If you live near a coast – especially on the Pacific Ocean where the vast majority of tsunamis occur – be sure to know your tsunami escape route for getting to higher ground, and listen to tsunami warnings if you receive one.

The eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano severed the main communication cable that connects the people of Tonga to the rest of the world. While the science of tsunamis can be fascinating, these are serious natural disasters. Only a few deaths have been reported so far from Tonga, but many people are missing and the true extent of the damage from the tsunami is still unknown.The Conversation

Sally Warner, Assistant Professor of Climate Science, Brandeis University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Thich Nhat Hanh, who worked for decades to teach mindfulness, approached death in that same spirit

Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh praying during a three-day requiem for the souls of Vietnam War victims in 2007.
Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP via Getty Images

Brooke Schedneck, Rhodes College

Thich Nhat Hanh, the monk who popularized mindfulness in the West, died in the Tu Hieu Temple in Hue, Vietnam, on Jan. 21, 2022. He was 95.

In 2014, Thich Nhat Hanh suffered a stroke. Since then he was unable to speak or continue his teaching. In October 2018 he expressed his wish, using gestures, to return to the temple in Vietnam where he had been ordained as a young monk. Devotees from many parts of the world had continued to visit him at the temple.

Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh on a wheelchair wearing a purple robe and surrounded by monks in similar robes.
Thich Nhat Hanh in a wheelchair at the Tu Hieu pagoda in Hue, Vietnam, in 2018.
Manan Vatsyayana/AFP via Getty Images

As a scholar of the contemporary practices of Buddhist meditation, I have studied his simple yet profound teachings, which combine mindfulness along with social change, and which I believe will continue to have an impact around the world.

Peace activist

In the 1960s, Thich Nhat Hanh played an active role promoting peace during the years of war in Vietnam. He was in his mid-20s when he became active in efforts to revitalize Vietnamese Buddhism for peace efforts.

Over the next few years, Thich Nhat Hanh set up a number of organizations based on Buddhist principles of nonviolence and compassion. His School of Youth and Social Service, a grassroots relief organization, consisted of 10,000 volunteers and social workers offering aid to war-torn villages, rebuilding schools and establishing medical centers.

He also established the Order of Interbeing, a community of monastics and lay Buddhists who made a commitment to compassionate action and supported war victims. In addition, he founded a Buddhist university, a publishing house and a peace activist magazine as ways to spread the message of compassion.

In 1966, Thich Nhat Hanh traveled to the United States and Europe to appeal for peace in Vietnam.

In lectures delivered across many cities, he compellingly described the war’s devastation, spoke of the Vietnamese people’s wish for peace and appealed to the U.S. to cease its air offensive against Vietnam.

During his years in the U.S. he met Martin Luther King Jr., who nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967.

However, because of his peace work and refusal to choose sides in his country’s civil war, both the communist and noncommunist governments banned him, forcing Thich Nhat Hanh to live in exile for over 40 years.

During these years, the emphasis of his message shifted from the immediacy of the Vietnam War to being present in the moment – an idea that has come to be called “mindfulness.”

Being aware of the present moment

Thich Nhat Hanh first started teaching mindfulness in the mid-1970s. The main vehicle for his early teachings was his books. In “The Miracle of Mindfulness,” for example, Thich Nhat Hanh gave simple instructions on how to apply mindfulness to daily life.

In his book
You Are Here,” he urged people to pay attention to what they were experiencing in their body and mind at any given moment, and not dwell in the past or think of the future. His emphasis was on the awareness of the breath. He taught his readers to say internally, “I’m breathing in; this is an in-breath. I’m breathing out; this is an out-breath.”

Thich Nhat Hanh emphasized that mindfulness could be practiced anywhere.
Antonio Guillem/

People interested in practicing meditation didn’t need to spend days at a meditation retreat or find a teacher. His teachings emphasized that mindfulness could be practiced anytime, even when doing routine chores.

Even doing the dishes, people could simply focus on the activity and be fully present. Peace, happiness, joy and true love, he said, could be found only in the present moment.

Mindfulness in America

Hanh’s mindfulness practices don’t advocate disengagement with the world. Rather, in his view, the practice of mindfulness could lead one toward “compassionate action,” like practicing openness to others’ viewpoints and sharing material resources with those in need.

Jeff Wilson, a scholar of American Buddhism, argues in his book “Mindful America” that it was Hanh’s combination of daily mindfulness practices with action in the world that contributed to the earliest strands of the mindfulness movement. This movement eventually became what Time magazine in 2014 called the “mindful revolution.” The article argues that the power of mindfulness lies in its universality, as the practice has entered into corporate headquarters, political offices, parenting guides and diet plans.

For Thich Nhat Hanh, however, mindfulness was not a means to a more productive day but a way of understanding “interbeing,” the connection and codependence of everyone and everything. In a documentary “Walk With Me,” he illustrated interbeing in the following way:

A young girl asks him how to deal with the grief of her recently deceased dog. He instructs her to look into the sky and watch a cloud disappear. The cloud has not died but has become the rain and the tea in the teacup. Just as the cloud is alive in a new form, so is the dog. Being aware and mindful of the tea offers a reflection on the nature of reality. He believed this understanding could lead to more peace in the world.

Thich Nhat Hanh’s lasting impact

Thich Nhat Hanh will have a lasting impact through the legacy of his teachings in over 100 books, 11 global practice centers, over 1,000 global lay communities and dozens of online community groups. The disciples closest to him – the 600 monks and nuns ordained in his Plum Village tradition, along with lay teachers – have been planning to continue their teacher’s legacy for some time.

They have been writing books, offering teachings and leading retreats for several decades now. In March 2020, the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation, along with Lion’s Roar, hosted an online summit called “In the Footsteps of Thich Nhat Hanh” to make people aware of his teachings through the disciples he trained.

Although Thich Naht Hanh’s death will change the community, his practices for being aware in the present moment and creating peace will live on.

This is an updated version of a piece first published on March 18, 2019.The Conversation

Brooke Schedneck, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Rhodes College

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Bob Saget and the Erasing of the Jew

By Sam Litvin

It is very easy to make Jews evil when Jews who are loved by all, have their Jewishness erased.

When I have a feeling that someone is Jewish, I often go to Wikipedia. The bios in “Early Life” portion always mention ethnicity of a person, be they Persion or English or Jewish and on which side. It is basic and obvious thing to do to give credit to the person’s culture, especially if they identified with it.

I recently wrote an article where I used data to analyze how Hollywood white-washes Jews by having Jews perform in Jew face, but it wasn’t until I read the Emily Yahr Washington Post article about the sad passing of Bob Saget that I realized that the Jewish erasure is not restricted to movies and Hollywood, but to American wider culture as well.

Here is a man, who has gone on record many times talking about his Jewishness. Talking how he used to be attacked for being Jewish, a Jewish positive role model who is another Jewish icon of American comedy, has his 3000 years of history erased with one line “hails from Philadelphia.” Yahr posted quotes from several celebrities but had no interest in researching the man, or even tweeting the article to her followers.

Jewish people often ask why 80 years after the Holocaust, the lies that created the Holocaust still persist, why over 40% of Americans feel that Jews are too powerful, that Jews control banks and Hollywood. Well here is the reason, in one article. Because if Jewishness is only mentioned when the person is Epstein, or Weinstein or Madoff, when the only time people see a Jew if it is Chuck Schumer or Adam Schiff, then of course the stereotypes will persist. When Jewish culture is reduced to a single holiday around Christmas and awkward boys on bar mitzvah and every time you see Jews on TV it is because of a terrorist attack or a war in Israel, then of course people will have a view of Jews that fits the stereotype, because that’s the reality that they are presented, that’s the reality that is easy to present in a country where less than 1% of population are Jews.

This country has a problem with education, we know that. The fact that we know so little about our original inhabitants and how they were cleared, about slavery, about Latinos and Mexicans, about European immigration, means that of course we will also lack education about Jews, a small but visible minority about whom there are so many opinions.

Two years after I arrived in America I had one and only lesson about Jews in my Social Studies class. It was less than five minutes of a class, where it was mentioned that Jews are “Chosen People” without being given context for what that means, that they believe in one god and that 6 million were killed by Germans. When Holocaust is described, the education focuses on what Hitler did and the lies he spread, not on who who the Jewish people are. There is no information on ancient Israel or Judea, on the Torah or Roman conquest, on the world diaspora and Jewish contributions over the 3000 years.

When there is a vacuum of information about a people, something will fill it, and it won’t be good. The fact that even a paper like The Washington Post, would not bother mentioning that Bob Saget is Jewish, let alone offer context in any of the pieces that deal with Jewish topics or Israel, is the reason why attacks on Jewish people constitute majority of religious based hate crime. It is why Israel is the largest focus of media attention when that conflict pales in comparison with most other conflicts in the world. It is why Israel is a flashpoint for antisemitism in America. Because when we ignore the good news, the bad news simply reinforces the stereotypes and the lies. And as long as that is the case, hate and antisemitism are here to stay.

So it’s not the David Dukes or the Louis Farrakhans that we should worry about. It’s the millions of Emily Yahrs and her editors who ignore us and erase us at our best and highlight us when we are at our worst.

Sam Litvin, a Ukrainian immigrant to San Diego, is a world traveler, finding Jewish stories wherever he goes. This article is republished from San Diego Jewish World which, along with The Moderate Voice, is a member of the San Diego Online News Association.

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Blinken says Russian attack on Ukraine could come at very short notice

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By Simon Lewis KYIV (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that Russia could launch a new attack on Ukraine at “very short notice” as he met the country’s president on the first leg of a new diplomatic push to avert war. Russia said tension around Ukraine was increasing and it was still waiting for a written U.S. response to its sweeping demands for security guarantees from the West. The pessimistic statements highlighted the gulf between Washington …

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Understanding Putin and Russia

When the Soviet Union and Communism dissolved in 1989-90, Russian citizens were shell shocked. They had no concept of how democracy and capitalism actually worked when it appeared that these were Russia’s next steps. The Russians had been fed a steady diet of propaganda for over 70 years, demonizing liberal capitalist democracy, lauding Marxist economics, the Soviet empire and praising Russian exceptionalism and greatness. When parliamentary elections took place in December 1993, the populist and ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky and his party were the winners with 22 percent of the vote. Russia’s Choice Party, whose goals were democratic and western oriented, avoiding populist promises that could not be fulfilled, received only 15 percent of the vote.

Without a background or education in democratic principles, Russians were politically illiterate and unprepared for the advent of democracy. Having also been inculcated with the idea that they were one of the world’s great powers and rulers of the Soviet Empire, Russians were unaccepting of a lesser role. President George H.W. Bush’s comment that America had won the Cold War also stuck in the craw of many Russian citizens to whom Russian power was important. It was as if America and the west had stolen their dignity and dishonored them.

In 1996, Boris Yeltsin was elected president of Russian against a communist opponent, Gennady Zyuganov, in a campaign controlled and directed by Russian oligarchs and media tycoons. Yeltsin was perceived as a weak leader whom the oligarchs could manipulate and exploit. And they were largely right. It was not a victory for liberal democracy or the Russian people, allowing the oligarchs to acquire previously state owned resources and properties at cut-rate prices, then using capitalist techniques to grow their wealth. Youthful reformers in the government who favored liberal democracy and western ideals were forced out of their jobs, tarnished by the media, money and prostitutes. And some like Boris Nemtsov, who was fighting for a liberal democracy, were assassinated by those afraid of his ideas and charisma.

The liberal media was also destroyed by the oligarchs, with western values derided and a nostalgia for Soviet times and a leading place in the world. The siege of Sarajevo in the Bosnian-Serbian war and the bombing of Serbia, a long-time ally of Russia sharing the Orthodox religion, also soured the Russian public on NATO, America and the west. Nationalist sentiment greatly increased just as Putin’s star began to rise. While Yeltsin was still president, he and the oligarchs supported Putin, a former KGB agent. TV and the media fawned over Putin, a young, sharp and dynamic man, energetic and healthy. In August of 1999, Yeltsin appointed Putin as prime minister and backed Putin to succeed him as president when he resigned on New Year’s Eve 1999.

Subsequently, Putin consolidated his power while keeping the outer vestiges of democracy intact. With the price of oil rising, the Russian economy thrived and Putin was able to increase consumer goods, build up the military and satisfy most of the Russian population. He limited his presidency to two terms initially, making Dimitri Medvedev president while Putin became prime minister. But there was no question of who really held the reins of power. After Medvedev served four years, Putin was re-elect president again. In a referendum in 2020, Putin was elected as president until 2036 when he will be 83 years old. Thus he is essentially president for life.

There has been some opposition to Putin from a small coterie of liberals who do not want Russia run by a dictator for life. Recently, the opposition has been led by Alex Navalny, who was poisoned in Siberia, most likely by the FSB, and almost died. He is now back in Russia and was sent to prison. All the media outlets that criticize Putin have been shut down, and liberals and human rights supporters have been labeled as enemy agents, many of them also thrown in prison. Thus, Russia isn’t even a pseudo-democratic state at this point.

Under Putin’s guidance, Russia has been involved in multiple military ventures, to assuage the nationalists and restore the nation’s great power status, at least in Putin’s mind. There was the second Chechen war, the war with Georgia, Russian intervention in Syria, the annexation of the Crimea from Ukraine, the intervention in Khazachstan, and now the threat to invade Ukraine. Putin wants Russia to be recognized again as a great power and himself as a great leader. He wants to restore some of the dignity and honor that Russia lost when the Soviet Union imploded. Putin feels that he and Russia are disrespected by the west and wants to display his nation’s power, which will help him at home as well as abroad. He is the longest serving Russian leader since Stalin.

Photo 4211329 / Vladimir Putin © Vasily Smirnov | Buy The Uninformed Voter on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

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A year after Navalny’s return, Putin remains atop a changed Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin stands alone.
Alexey Druzhinin/AFP via Getty Images

Regina Smyth, Indiana University

In early 2021, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny flew back to Moscow after recovering in Germany from an assassination attempt carried out by Russian security services. His return prompted an authoritarian turn that transformed Russia – again.

I have studied the emergence of Navalny’s strategy and organization from the mid-2000s, documenting his threat to the regime led by Vladimir Putin.

Given the loyalty that Putin commands among military and security officials, governmental leaders and economic elites, I was not surprised when security authorities diverted Navalny’s plane to avoid the supporters gathered in Moscow to welcome him back. Nor was I shocked when border patrol forces arrested him before he passed through passport control. The charge: failing to meet parole requirements while recovering in Germany.

Navalny’s arrest in 2021 prompted some of the largest protests since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Street actions extended across the nation’s 11 time zones. The Kremlin responded with police violence and arrests by the specialized anti-protest force, Rosgvardia. The level of coercion was unprecedented in post-Soviet Russia.

After popular backlash against the violence, the state used facial recognition software to track down participants beyond Navalny’s core team of opposition activists. Public-sector workers were fired for participation and support. Security services made nighttime visits to protesters in their homes. Journalists were arrested. The regime used new laws to punish TikTok, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram users who supported the protests.

New tools of state surveillance continue to erase the barriers between public and private lives and violate social and political rights. Navalny remains in prison but has continued to speak out. In January 2022, one year after his return and the massive protests that followed, 53% of Russians say that they fear the authorities’ abuse of power.

Just the beginning

By February 2021, these tactics ended the protests. Yet repression intensified.

In June 2021, a Moscow city court designated Navalny’s organization, the Anti-Corruption Foundation, known by its Russian initials as the FBK, as an “extremist” group, using a recently revised law. The designation lumped the FBK together with terrorist groups such as al-Qaida. Officials from the Ministry of Justice also used the law to dismantle the national network Navalny had organized to support opposition candidates running for regional and city councils.

In late December 2021, more regional leaders and activists were arrested, some charged with treason. These new-generation leaders face long sentences in Russia’s notorious penal colonies.

If threats against the activists fail to intimidate them, then the government jails family members, as it did with Navalny’s brother, Oleg, and the 67-year-old father of FBK Director Igor Zhdanov.

A man stands behind bars.
Alexei Navalny speaks from prison to a court hearing in Russia.
AP Photo/Denis Kaminev

A focus on the media

The protests highlighted vibrant patches in Russia’s government-controlled media landscape, placing these outlets under state scrutiny. Relying on new amendments to the 2012 foreign agent law, the state extended its scope to cover politically active news outlets working inside and outside of Russia, nongovernmental organizations and individuals. All organizations and individuals declared foreign agents must label every story and event with a warning. The tactic scares investors and subscribers, and subjects organizations to audits that impede daily operation. By the end of 2021, 111 news organizations and journalists were placed on the list, and prominent news outlets were driven out of business.

The government also used newly revised laws and technology to control new media platforms that facilitate collective action. For instance, when Navalny’s team endorsed viable opposition candidates in 2021 elections with an app called Smart Vote, the Russian government blocked the effort by shutting down Russia-based websites. Under pressure from Russia’s internet regulator, Roskomnadzor, Western social media giants Facebook, TikTok and Instagram also blocked the Smart Vote app.

Toward coercion, control and apathy

Protest quickly gave way to election victories for the Putin regime. Candidates from Putin’s party, United Russia, dominated highly manipulated parliamentary elections in September 2021, winning 70% of seats in the national legislature. Putin’s personal popularity appears strong but remains below all-time highs.

Polls show little support for Navalny and his organization. Popular expectations of protest potential fell by mid-2021 from an all time high in January of that year.

The prospect of protest

The high percentage of support for the regime obscures the threat from Putin’s substantial opposition. In his 20 years in power, Putin brought domestic and international influence but failed to address economic modernization and inequality. Economic stagnation, hardship in everyday life, inflation and time have increased popular frustrations.

Evidence from the protests shows that the 2021 protests were about Putin, not Navalny. Popular opposition to Putin is concentrated in younger, urban populations fed by the repressed alternative media. They support calls for decreased corruption and more government responsiveness to citizens’ demands.

It is difficult to anticipate the spark that can launch protest. As unexpected citizen protests in Russia’s neighbors Armenia, Belarus and Kazakhstan demonstrate, frustration with longtime dictators can spill over into the streets even when those dictators maintain significant support.

Even in Russia the possibility of renewed mass protest remains. Some scholars argue that Putin may be falling into a self-reinforcing repression trap. The idea is that repression replaces positive policies to win support, increasing the need to repress or to link domestic challenges to real and imagined external threats.

Remixing strategies

While popular enthusiasm over Russian annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014 has waned, Putin’s popularity remains tied to his success in foreign policy.

To shore up support, Putin increasingly peddles anti-Western conspiracy theories. These repeat charges that the West is poised to undermine Russia’s sovereignty — by supporting protest, brainwashing young people and threatening national security.

In addition to threats against alleged foreign agents and extremists at home, Putin deployed his military in neighboring countries, blaming Western aggression. He has amassed troops on the Ukrainian border and led Collective Security Treaty Organization troops in a mission to Kazakhstan to fight alleged foreign meddling.

These military actions hark back to Soviet-era claims to a buffer zone around Russia’s border. In contemporary terms, military threats by Russia reveal conflicts and weaknesses within NATO and hinder opportunities for democratic reform in Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and other post-Soviet states.

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At home, the Kremlin’s decision to increase confrontation and repression illustrates the consolidation of Russia’s authoritarian system.

Navalny, who was harassed for more than a decade before being jailed, will not be surprised by these changes. It remains unclear how ordinary Russians will respond as repression and international conflict limit internet communication, travel, trade, educational opportunities and daily freedoms.The Conversation

Regina Smyth, Professor of Political Science, Indiana University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Sure sounds like a coup attempt: draft Trump executive order called for seizing voting machines after 2020 election

If it walks like a coup attempt, smells like a coup attempt, and considered seizing voting machines after an election that didn’t turn out the way powerful bigwigs hoped it did, it sure sounds like a coup attempt. Especially if there was a drafted Trump executive order to seize voting machines after he lost the 2020 Presidential election.

As the drip-drip-drip details about Donald Trump and his political associates’ efforts to overturn the 2020 election seem poised to become a tsunami, Politico reports details on a Trump-era draft agreement that would have had the Secretary of State seize voting machines and appoint a special prosecutor:

Among the records that Donald Trump’s lawyers tried to shield from Jan. 6 investigators are a draft executive order that would have directed the defense secretary to seize voting machines and a document titled “Remarks on National Healing.”

POLITICO has reviewed both documents. The text of the draft executive order is published here for the first time.

The executive order — which also would have appointed a special counsel to probe the 2020 election — was never issued, and the remarks were never delivered. Together, the two documents point to the wildly divergent perspectives of White House advisers and allies during Trump’s frenetic final weeks in office.

It’s not clear who wrote either document. But the draft executive order is dated Dec. 16, 2020, and is consistent with proposals that lawyer Sidney Powell made to the then-president. On Dec. 18, 2020, Powell, former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, former Trump administration lawyer Emily Newman, and former CEO Patrick Byrne met with Trump in the Oval Office.

In that meeting, Powell urged Trump to seize voting machines and to appointher as a special counsel to investigate the election, according to Axios.

A spokesperson for the House’s Jan. 6 select committee confirmed earlier Friday that the panel had received the last of the documents that Trump’s lawyers tried to keep under wraps and later declined to comment for this story on these two documents.

The draft executive order shows that the weeks between Election Day and the Capitol attack could have been even more chaotic than they were. It credulously cites conspiracy theories about election fraud in Georgia and Michigan, as well as debunked notions about Dominion voting machines.

The order empowers the defense secretary to “seize, collect, retain and analyze all machines, equipment, electronically stored information, and material records required for retention under” a U.S. law that relates to preservation of election records. It also cites a lawsuit filed in 2017 against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Additionally, the draft order would have given the defense secretary 60 days to write an assessment of the 2020 election. That suggests it could have been a gambit to keep Trump in power until at least mid-February of 2021.

Read the article in full here. It contains the full text of the never-issued executive order.

Expect more revelations now that the House January 6 committee has received documents from the National Archieves that Trump tried to prevent it from getting. The Washington Post has “Democracy dies in darkness” at the top of its website. Democracy can also die in broad daylight.


Photo 161577859 / Coup © Casimirokt |

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