Posts tagged with "The New York Times"

January 6 panel presses GOP lawmaker about Capitol tour

May 23, 2022

On May 19, the leaders of the House special committee investigating the January. 6 attack on the Capitol asked a Republican congressman to submit to questioning about a tour of the complex that he allegedly gave one day before the riot—saying they were looking into whether rioters had conducted reconnaissance of the building before the rampage, reports The New York Times.

In a Thursday letter to Representative Barry Loudermilk (R-Georgia), the top two members of the panel said investigators had obtained evidence that the Georgia Republican had led a tour through parts of the Capitol complex on January 5, 2021, when it was closed to visitors because of pandemic restrictions. Loudermilk has denied having led any “reconnaissance” tour.

“Public reporting and witness accounts indicate some individuals and groups engaged in efforts to gather information about the layout of the U.S. Capitol, as well as the House and Senate office buildings, in advance of January 6, 2021,” said a letter to Loudermilk from Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and the chairman of the panel, and Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming and the vice chairwoman.

They did not directly allege that any person escorted by Loudermilk later attacked the Capitol. But they suggested that they had obtained evidence that he had led visitors around the complex, writing that their review of evidence “directly contradicts” Republicans’ denials that closed-circuit security camera footage showed no such tours had taken place.

In a statement, Loudermilk conceded that he had brought constituents into parts of the Capitol complex the day before the riot, but he said the visit had been innocuous.

“A constituent family with young children meeting with their Member of Congress in the House office buildings is not a suspicious group or ‘reconnaissance tour.’ The family never entered the Capitol building,” Loudermilk wrote in a joint statement with Representative Rodney Davis of Illinois, the top Republican on the House Administration Committee, adding: “No place that the family went on the 5th was breached on the 6th, the family did not enter the Capitol grounds on the 6th, and no one in that family has been investigated or charged in connection to January 6th.”

The statement did not say whether Loudermilk would agree to meet with the panel to discuss the matter.

Research contact: @nytimes

Putin ominously warns Sweden of Russian ‘response’ if it joins NATO alongside Finland

May 17, 2022

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said on Monday, May 16, that her nation will formally apply to join NATO; in unity with Finland, which had stated its intentions the day before.

Her announcement came shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that there will be consequences that “could be nuclear” if both countries join forces with the North Atlantic alliance, reports Forbes.

Andersson confirmed Sweden’s NATO bid a day after Finnish President Sauli Niinisto  announced  his country’s intention to join the alliance.

Speaking at a meeting in Moscow earlier Monday with several Kremlin-aligned leaders, Putin said Sweden and Finland joining NATO would “certainly provoke our response” according to Reuters’ translation  of his comments.

According to Forbes, Finland and Sweden’s NATO bids break a long history of neutrality for the Nordic countries in a move that would add a significant land border between Russia and the military alliance—and represent a major fallout from Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, which Putin said was due to NATO’s increasing eastern presence.

Putin did not specify on Monday what Russia may do, should its Nordic neighbors join NATO, saying Russia “will see what threats are created for us,” according to Reuters.

Although Putin didn’t say Monday, the Kremlin has previously suggested it may respond to Finland and Sweden’s NATO potential accession with nuclear weapons.

Last month, Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s former president and the deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said Russia may deploy nuclear weapons in the Baltic Sea, should Finland and Sweden join NATO—and a presenter on the state-run Russia-1 television station said on May 15 that Russia will have “no choice” but to deploy nuclear weapons to “neutralize” the threat, according to the BBC’s translation.

Putin said Monday he has “no problem” with Finland and Sweden and that the two joining NATO doesn’t pose a “direct threat” to Russia, The New York Times reported.

Putin’s statement strays from the Kremlin’s prior comments about the countries’ NATO bids, as the Russian Foreign Ministry said last week that the move would threaten to upend the “stability and security” of Northern Europe, indicating the Russian government is on its back foot following the historic applications from Finland and Sweden.

Research contact: @Forbes

Dinosaur skeleton sells for $12.4 million at Christie’s

May 16, 2022

The remains of a Deinonychus antirrhopus—the prehistoric beast that inspired the velociraptor in Jurassic Park—are believed to be the first of their kind sold at a public auction.It may not be a Matisse or a Warhol, but this multimillion-dollar sale at Christie’s comes from the hand of a different kind of artist: Mother Nature.

Indeed, The New York Times reports that, late on Thursday, May 12, Christie’s sold the skeleton of a Deinonychus antirrhopus for $12.4 million, with fees, to an undisclosed buyer. The auction continues the trend of high-priced fossil sales—a pattern that has irked some paleontologists, who fear that specimens could become lost to science if they are bought by private individuals rather than public institutions.

The auction house said the fossil, nicknamed Hector, was the first public sale of a Deinonychus, an agile, bipedal dinosaur known for the menacing claws on its feet. The sale price was more than double the auction house’s estimated high of $6 million.

The species most likely would not be getting so much attention if not for Jurassic Park. In the novel and 1993 movie, the beasts called velociraptors are actually more like a Deinonychus (the novel’s author, Michael Crichton, once admitted that “velociraptor” just sounded more dramatic).

This skeletal specimen contains 126 real bones, but the rest are reconstructed, including most of the skull, the auction house said. Dating back roughly 110 million years, to the Early Cretaceous period, the specimen was excavated from private land in Montana about a decade ago by Jack and Roberta Owen, self-taught paleontologists, according to Jared Hudson, a commercial paleontologist who bought and prepared the specimen. It was later purchased by the most recent owner, who remains anonymous.

“I had no idea it would end up at Christie’s,” Jack Owen, 69, said in an interview this week. He said he was trained in archaeology and had worked as a ranch manager and fencing contractor.

Owen had struck a deal with the landowner on the ranch where he worked, allowing him to dig for fossils and split the profits, he said. He first spotted some of the bone fragments in an area where he had already found two other animals. Using a scalpel and a toothbrush, among other tools, he and Roberta, his wife, carefully collected the specimen, with some help.

To see it go for millions of dollars is stunning, he said — the profit he received wasn’t anywhere close. But Owen said his fossil hunting wasn’t driven by money.

“It’s about the hunt; it’s about the find,” he said. “You’re the only human being in the world who has touched that animal, and that’s priceless.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Senate Democrats warn of G.O.P. effort to restrict abortion nationwide

May 10, 2022

Democrats rang alarm bells on Sunday, May 8, about the likelihood that Republicans would try to restrict abortion nationwide, two days after an interview was published in which Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said a ban was “possible” if his party gained control in Washington, D.C., reports The New York Times.

On the Sunday talk shows and in other public statements, Democratic senators said Republicans would not stop at letting the states decide the issue, but would most likely push for federal restrictions. That made it paramount, they said, that the Democratic Party maintain control of the Senate as it tries to codify abortion rights into federal law.

“We need to make sure that every single voter understands that the Republican Party and Mitch McConnell does not believe that their daughters, that their mothers, that their sisters have rights to make fundamental life and death decisions,” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We are half-citizens under this ruling. And if this is put into law, it changes the foundation of America.”

After a leaked draft decision indicated that the Supreme Court was poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that established a constitutional right to abortion, McConnell said in an interview with USA Today that a national abortion ban was “possible” if that draft document became an official opinion of the court.

“If the leaked opinion became the final opinion, legislative bodies—not only at the state level but at the federal level—certainly could legislate in that area,” McConnell said when asked if a national abortion ban was “worthy of debate.”

McConnell argued that the discussion about a federal ban was premature, but that it was clear that the Republican Party has long been opposed to abortion.

Discussions already are underway among some Republican senators about pushing to ban abortion after a certain number of weeks, ranging from six to 20, depending on the proposal.

“If and when the court makes a final decision, I expect everybody will be more definitive,” McConnell said. “But I don’t think it’s much secret where Senate Republicans stand on that issue.”

Indeed, the Times reports, a document circulated by the National Republican Senatorial Committee and obtained by Axios urged candidates to be low key about abortion, casting themselves as “compassionate consensus builders” with a post-Roe America looming as early as next month.

“States should have the flexibility to implement reasonable restrictions,” the document states.

Research contact: @nytimes

U.S. Intelligence helped Ukraine strike Russian flagship, officials say

May 9, 2022

The United States provided intelligence that helped Ukrainian forces to locate and strike the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet last month—another sign that the Administration is easing its self-imposed limitations on how far it will go in helping Ukraine fight Russia, U.S. officials told The New York Times.

The targeting help, which contributed to the eventual sinking of the flagship, the Moskva, is part of a continuing classified effort by the Biden Administration to provide real-time battlefield intelligence to Ukraine, the Times said.

That intelligence also includes sharing anticipated Russian troop movements, gleaned from a recent American assessment of Moscow’s battle plan for the fighting in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, the officials said.

The Administration has sought to keep much of the battlefield and maritime intelligence it is sharing with the Ukrainians secret out of fear it will be seen as an escalation and provoke President Vladimir Putin of Russia into a wider war. But in recent weeks, the United States has sped heavier weapons to Ukraine;  and  requested an extraordinary $33 billion in additional military, economic, and humanitarian aid from Congress, demonstrating how quickly American restraints on support for Ukraine are shifting.

Two senior American officials said that Ukraine already had obtained the Moskva’s targeting data on its own, and that the United States provided only confirmation. But other officials said the American intelligence was crucial to Ukraine’s sinking of the ship.

The U.S. intelligence help in striking the Moskva was reported earlier by NBC News.

On April 13, Ukrainian forces on the ground fired two Neptune missiles, striking the Moskva and igniting a fire that eventually led to the sinking of the warship.

Attention also has focused on whether the aging ship’s radar systems were working properly. Ukrainian and U.S. officials said the Moskva was possibly distracted by Ukraine’s deploying of a Turkish-made Bayraktar unmanned drone nearby.

Immediately after the strike, Biden Administration officials were scrupulously silent, declining to confirm even that the Moskva had been struck. But in recent days, American officials confirmed that targeting data from American intelligence sources was provided to Ukraine in the hours before the Neptune missiles were launched.

Russia has denied Ukrainian missiles played any role in the Moskva’s demise, claiming instead that an onboard fire caused a munitions explosion that doomed the ship. Independent Russian news outlets based outside the country have reported that about 40 men died and an additional 100 were injured when the warship was damaged and sank.

Research contact: @nytimes

What lies beneath: Long nails may not be as hygienic as you hope

May 4, 2022

Long nails are a major trend these days—seen on the hands of superstars like Cardi B and Billie Eilish. But a biologist warns this new trend may come with health hazards, considering what may be growing underneath.

Jeffrey Kaplan, a biology professor at American University, recently told USA Today that the area under the fingernail in the crevice is where most of the bacteria live.

“The longer the nail, the more surface area there is for microorganisms to adhere,” he said. “Studies have found 32 different bacteria and 28 different fungi underneath fingernails.”

Kaplan said it doesn’t matter if you have long artificial nails, long natural nails, gel nails, acrylic nails, or nail polish, because there is an increased probability of carrying microorganisms which makes it more difficult to decontaminate with handwashing or scrubbing.

One study found MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant bacteria that causes serious infections in hospitalized patients, underneath half of the fingernail samples collected, according to Kaplan.

Also, some of the bacteria under nails can be found on the skin, like staphylococcus, which can lead to an infection.

“You can transmit fingernail bacteria to your system by scratching, nail-biting, nose-picking, and finger-sucking,” Kaplan said. 

He said the worst thing that could happen from the bacteria and fungi is a nail infection, which would not be life-threatening, but could leave your fingernails disfigured.

That is why most, if not all healthcare workers, are required to wear short nails due to being at risk for transmitting disease, according to Kaplan.

Two nurses at an Oklahoma City hospital may have contributed to the deaths of 16 babies in 1997 and 1998 because of bacteria found underneath their long nails, The New York Times reported.

Epidemiologists found a link between the deaths of the infants in the neonatal unit and the bacteria under the nails but did not prove it was the definite cause.

“When surgeons scrub for surgery and then they test their hands, there’s always bacteria under the fingernail and you can’t get rid of it,” Kaplan said. 

Kayla Newman, a nail tech based in North Carolina, told USA Today that none of her clientele has had infections or “nasty nails” in her eight years of service. “Generally people who have long nails know how to maneuver with them and keep them clean,” she said. “If you’re spending upwards of $60 to get your nails done and you don’t keep them clean, that doesn’t make sense.”

Newman has seen the trend for long nails grow over the last couple of years and social media platforms, like Instagram and TikTok, showcase artistic designs on nails that can be over two inches long.

Research contact: @USATODAY

They flooded their own village and kept the Russians at bay

April 28, 2022

They pull up soggy linoleum from their floors, and fish potatoes and jars of pickles from submerged cellars. They hang out waterlogged rugs to dry in the pale spring sunshine. All around Demydiv—a village north of Ukriane’s capital, Kyiv,—residents have been grappling with the aftermath of a severe flood, which under ordinary circumstances would have been yet another misfortune for a people under attack. This time, it was quite the opposite, reports The New York Times.

In fact, it was a tactical victory in the war against Russia. The Ukrainians flooded the village intentionally, along with a vast expanse of fields and bogs around it, creating a quagmire that thwarted a Russian tank assault on Kyiv and bought the army precious time to prepare defenses.

The residents of Demydiv paid the price in the rivers of dank green floodwater that engulfed many of their homes. And they couldn’t be more pleased.

“Everybody understands and nobody regrets it for a moment,” said Antonina Kostuchenko, a retiree, whose living room is now a musty space with waterlines a foot or so up the walls. “We saved Kyiv!” she said with pride.

What happened in Demydiv was not an outlier. Since the war’s early days, Ukraine has been swift and effective in wreaking havoc on its own territory, often by destroying infrastructure, as a way to foil a Russian army with superior numbers and weaponry.

Demydiv was flooded when troops opened a nearby dam and sent water surging into the countryside. Elsewhere in Ukraine, the military has, without hesitation, blown up bridges, bombed roads, and disabled rail lines and airports. The goal has been to slow Russian advances, channel enemy troops into traps, and force tank columns onto less favorable terrain.

So far, more than 300 bridges have been destroyed across Ukraine, the country’s Minister of Infrastructure Oleksandr Kubrakov, said. When the Russians tried to take a key airport outside Kyiv on the first day of the invasion, Ukrainian forces shelled the runway, leaving them pockmarked with craters and unable to receive planeloads of Russian special forces.

The scorched-earth policy has played an important role in Ukraine’s success in holding off Russian forces in the north and preventing them from capturing Kyiv, the capital, military experts said.

Research contact: @nytimes

Emmanuel Macron is re-elected French president, defeating Marine Le Pen

April 25, 2022

Emmanuel Macron  has won a second term as president of France—triumphing on Sunday, April 24, over Marine Le Pen, his far-right challenger—after a campaign during which his promise of stability prevailed over the strong temptation of an extremist lurch, reports The New York Times.

Le Pen conceded to Macron not long after the polls closed. Macron, 44, won 58.8% of the vote in the second round of the presidential election, against 41.2% for Marine Le Pen, 53, according to estimates from Ipsos.

The French do not generally love their presidents, and none had succeeded in being re-elected since 2002. Macron’s unusual achievement in securing five more years in power reflects his effective stewardship over the COVID-19 crisis, his rekindling of the economy, and his political agility in occupying the entire center of the political spectrum, the Times notes.

Le Pen—who softened her image, if not her anti-immigrant nationalist program—rode a wave of alienation and disenchantment to bring the extreme right closer to power than at any time since 1944. Her National Rally party has joined the mainstream, ending the taboo that held that defense of the Republic meant keeping the far right at the margins.

Indeed, the Times asserts, Macron’s victory over Le Pen—a longtime sympathizer with President Vladimir Putin of Russia and the leader of a party hostile to NATO—will come as a relief to the United States and France’s European allies at a time when there is a war raging in Ukraine.

Le Pen, to judge by her program and past actions, would have pursued policies that weakened the united allied front to save Ukraine from Russia’s assault, offered Putin a breach to exploit in Europe, and undermined the European Union, whose engine has always been a joint Franco-German commitment to it.

In summing up the situation, the Times notes that, if Brexit was a blow to unity; a French nationalist quasi exit, as set out in Le Pen’s proposals, would have left the European Union on life support. That, in turn, would have crippled an essential guarantor of peace on the continent in a volatile moment.

During his first term, Macron succeeded in spurring growth, slashing unemployment, and instilling a start-up tech culture—but was unable to address growing inequality, or simmering anger among the alienated and the struggling in areas of urban blight and rural remoteness. Societal divisions sharpened as incomes stagnated, prices rose, and automation killed factory jobs.

As a result, Macron’s political capital is more limited, even if his clear victory has saved France from a dangerous tilt toward xenophobic nationalism.

Research contact: @nytimes

Effort to remove Marjorie Taylor Greene from Georgia ballot can proceed, judge says

April 20, 2022

A federal judge cleared the way on Monday. April 18, for a group of Georgia voters to move forward with legal efforts seeking to disqualify Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene from running for re-election to Congress, citing her role in the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, reports The New York Times.

The disqualification effort is based on a constitutional provision adopted after the Civil War that barred members of the Confederacy from holding office. It mirrors several other cases involving Republican members of Congress, whose roles leading up to and during the deadly riot have drawn intense criticism.

The judge, Amy Totenberg, who was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia by President Barack Obama, denied Greene’s request for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order in the high-profile legal feud.

Greene, 47—who is known for her unflinching loyalty to former President Donald Trump and for her clashes with Democrats—has steadfastly denied that she aided and engaged in the attack on the Capitol.

In the 73-page ruling, Judge Totenberg wrote that Greene had failed to meet the “burden of persuasion” in her request for injunctive relief, which she called an extraordinary and drastic remedy.

“This case involves a whirlpool of colliding constitutional interests of public import,” Judge Totenberg wrote. “The novelty of the factual and historical posture of this case—especially when assessed in the context of a preliminary injunction motion reviewed on a fast track—has made resolution of the complex legal issues at stake here particularly demanding.”

James Bopp Jr., a lawyer for Greene, said on Monday night that the ruling was flawed and minimized the adverse effect that the disqualification effort was having on Greene’s right to run for office.

“This is fundamentally antidemocratic,” Bopp said, maintaining that Greene had “publicly and vigorously condemned the attack on the Capitol.” He called the effort to remove her from the ballot part of a well-funded nationwide effort to strip voters of their right to vote for candidates of their choice, with elections determined by “bureaucrats, judges, lawyers and clever legal arguments.”

In her request for an injunction, Greene argued that it would be impossible to fully resolve the case before Georgia holds its primary elections on May 24. Absentee ballots will start to be mailed on April 25, Greene’s motion said.

In the ruling, Judge Totenberg determined that Greene had failed to prove that there was a strong likelihood that she would prevail on the merits of her legal claims. A state administrative judge is scheduled to hear the case on Friday.

The decision by Judge Totenberg stood in stark contrast with a recent ruling in a similar case involving Representative Madison Cawthorn in North Carolina. In blocking that disqualification effort, U.S. District Judge Richard E. Myers II, a Trump appointee, ruled that the 14th Amendment of the Constitution narrowly applied to members of the Confederacy after the Civil War.

Greene’s critics have said that she frequently referred to efforts to challenge the 2020 presidential election results as “our 1776 moment” in public comments that led up to the riot at the Capitol. They contend that the phrase was a code used to incite violence, and point to the third section of the 14th Amendment in their argument to drop her from the ballot.

That section says that “no person shall” be a member of Congress or hold civil office if they had engaged in insurrection or rebellion after “having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State.”

The constitutional challenge to Greene’s candidacy, filed last month with Georgia’s secretary of state, argued that Greene had helped to plan the attack on the Capitol or knew that a demonstration organized by Mr. Trump and his supporters on the National Mall would escalate into violence.

The group pursuing the case is represented by Free Speech for People, a nonpartisan, nonprofit legal advocacy organization with constitutional law expertise, which was also involved in the case involving Cawthorn.

Ron Fein, the legal director for Free Speech for People, heralded the ruling on Monday night in an email to The New York Times.

“Judge Totenberg’s well-reasoned opinion explains why the Georgia voters who filed this challenge against Greene have the right to have their challenge heard, and why none of Greene’s objections to the Georgia state challenge have any merit,” Fein said. “At the hearing on Friday, we look forward to questioning Greene under oath about her involvement in the events of January 6, and to demonstrating how her facilitation of the insurrection disqualifies her from public office under the United States Constitution.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Yelp will pay for employees to travel for abortion access

April 13, 2022

Yelp, an Internet platform that posts crowd-sourced reviews on businesses and their products, is expected to announce on Tuesday, April 12, that it will cover expenses for its employees and their spouses who must travel out-of-state for abortion care—becoming the latest company to respond to a Texas law that bans the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy, reports The New York Times.

Although the company—founded in 2004 and based in San Francisco—has more than 4,000 workers, it employs just over 200 in Texas. However, the new benefit extends to employees in other states who might be affected by “current or future action that restricts access to covered reproductive health care,” a company representative said.

Last month, Citigroup became the first major bank to disclose that it will pay travel costs for employees affected by the law in Texas, where it has over 8,000 workers. Other companies that have announced policies aimed at mitigating the impact of the law include Uber and Lyft, which offered to pay legal fees for Texas drivers who could be sued for taking someone to an abortion clinic.

A Texas legislator warned Citigroup that he would introduce a bill to prevent the bank from underwriting municipal bonds in the state unless it rescinded its expense policy.

While “backlash gets a lot more attention,” Yelp is not concerned about how its program, which starts next month, will be received, Miriam Warren, the company’s chief diversity officer, told the Times. She and other executives have received many personal notes thanking Yelp for taking a stand on abortion, she said.

The move, which comes as companies vie for talent in a tight labor pool, will help Yelp to maintain a more diverse and inclusive work force, Warren said. “We want to be able to recruit and retain employees wherever they might be living,” she said.

“The ability to control your reproductive health, and whether or when you want to extend your family, is absolutely fundamental to being able to be successful in the workplace,” she added.

Questions about abortion access or vaccine mandates once would have been considered outside the realm of a corporate leader. But executives increasingly find they have to take a stand on such divisive issues because they are often of great importance to their workers and customers.

“I think the question for these companies is really going to be: Where do you want to locate?” said Caitlin Myers, an economist at Middlebury College in Vermont who has been tracking the economic effects of reproductive health policies. “Do you locate in a place where women have extraordinarily limited reproductive rights? Are you going to be able to recruit women to come there?”

Yelp’s travel benefit is part of its longer-term efforts on abortion access. In 2018, the company said it would do more to make sure Yelp users clearly understood the difference between abortion clinics and “crisis pregnancy centers,” which aim to steer people away from terminating a pregnancy.

“Our User Operations team manually reviewed more than 2,000 businesses and clinics to ensure accurate categorization,” Yelp said in a statement.

Last year, when Texas passed its abortion law, the company also pledged to double-match employee donations to organizations that were fighting the legislation.

Under the new policy, Yelp employees will be able to submit receipts for travel expenses directly to their health insurance company, Warren said. “So no one else at Yelp is ever going to know who is accessing this, or how or when, and it will be a reimbursement that comes through the insurance provider directly,” she said.

Research contact: @nytimes