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Bits n’ pieces from east, west and beyond

by Compiled by Lorraine H. Marie
| February 23, 2024 7:00 AM

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. A recent sampling:

Why is Congress funding Israel’s genocide in Palestine? Rep. Rashida Tlaib offers an answer: between 2019 and 2021, 97 members of Congress, or their family members, invested in weapons contractor stocks; 25 of them sat on committees responsible for shaping national security while also trading and profiting off defense stocks.

Tlaib has introduced the Stop Politicians Profiting from War Act. If enacted it would ban Congress and family members from having any financial interests in corporations doing business with the Defense Dept., and ban them from trading defense stocks.

A new twist on money in politics: Talk show host John Oliver, who earns $8 million annually, offered USSC Justice Clarence Thomas $1 million a year to resign. Thomas makes $298,500 a year, The Guardian says.

The offer follows media investigations showing Thomas received numerous high-value “gifts,” (which may have compromised his court decisions), exposure of his wife’s role in the Jan. 6 insurrection (he has not recused himself from Jan. 6 cases), and his anti-abortion support.

In Florida Moms for Liberty has supported banning over 1,600 books about racism’s history and LGBTQ characters, according to the National Campaign for Justice. A new state bill would authorize school districts to have a $100 processing fee after the first five ban requests -- if the requestor is not a resident or parent in the school district. The bill passed two state subcommittees, 17-1 and 16-0.

North Carolina has become the fourth state to require home sellers to disclose the flooding history of their homes, as well as the flood risk, The Washington Post reported.

A month out from Russia’s presidential election, it was announced that Vladimir Putin opposition leader Alexei Navalny died in prison, despite appearing healthy just days before, various media reported. After recovering from nerve agent poisoning he blamed on the Kremlin, Navalny returned to Russia, was arrested and received three prison terms in 2021; he said the terms were politically motivated. 

In a 2022 documentary Navalny said if he were killed his message would be “you’re not allowed to give up. If they decide to kill me, it means that we are incredibly strong.” 

Russia told Fox News “Sudden Death Syndrome” killed Navalny. Hundreds gathered at Navalny memorial sites and hundreds were arrested. An Atlantic columnist said the warning to Russians is that opposing Putin is pointless.

A New York State judge has ruled Donald Trump must pay over $334 million for lying about his property values when applying for banks loans, BBC reported. The “massively inflated” property values enabled borrowing at more favorable interest rates. The case’s prosecutor had asked for a $370 penalty. Per the decision Trump is banned from being company director and from taking bank loans in the state for three years. His business license was not revoked. 

The judge said the frauds “leap off the page and shock the conscience,” and the “complete lack of contrition and remorse borders on pathological.”

Another court ruled that Trump owes a writer $83.3 million for defamation. Between the two cases, (the latter involved what the judge said was rape by Trump), expect Trump to “obfuscate” his trial so voters “lose sight of the big picture,” political commentator Robert Reich said. Opinion research indicates voters will not elect a “serial fraudster” who also was found guilty of sexual assault.

Will his court fines pose a financial setback for Trump? Reich noted that Trump said he got his start in 1976 with $200 million, a significant amount of it from his father. In 2016 Trump claimed he was worth $8 billion. 

But, had he been the financial wizard he professed to be, Reich said if Trump had put his initial funds into an index fund and reinvested the dividends, he’d now be worth $12 billion.

New EPA methane regulations will reduce emissions from oil and gas producers by 80% over two decades, The Lever wrote. Methane is a significant contributor to climate change.

Correction: Last week it was noted that Trump said Russia should do “whatever the hell they want to NATO countries.” That should have included Trump saying NATO members not contributing 2% of their GDP to enhance their militaries. According to BBC, of 31 members Poland pays in 3.9%; the U.S., 3.5%; 11 members pay in over 2%; average members in Europe, and Canada, pay in 1.74% of their GDP.

Former FBI informant Alexander Smirnoff has been arrested following a 37-page indictment for obstruction and making felony false statements, ABC and BBC reported. Smirnoff’s 2020 information was about Hunter Biden and his father. Republicans in Congress pinned their impeachment inquiry on President Biden on the alleged fabrications. Smirnoff faces a maximum 25-year sentence.

Last week the Senate passed a security bill in a bi-partisan vote that would have given aid to Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and Gaza. But the House Speaker refused to allow a vote, which the far-right said would have passed, CNN said. Instead the House Speaker suspended the House until Feb. 28. 

NBC: A bi-partisan House group has crafted a Ukrainian-assistance-only proposal they think they can pass.

Blast from the past: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., 1929-1968.