Grace and Glory 3/14/2021
- Associated Press
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has asked for a phone call with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin about the Russian troop buildup across his country's border and the escalating tensions in eastern Ukraine, but the request has been left unanswered so far, Zelenskyy's spokeswoman said Monday. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday he hasn't seen any requests from Zelenskyy “in recent days” and is not aware of any such requests having arrived. The exchange comes as tensions escalate in eastern Ukraine, where Russia-baked separatists and Ukrainian forces have been locked in a conflict since shortly after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
Myanmar's military is charging families $85 to retrieve the bodies of relatives killed by its own forces
The country has been embroiled in unrest since a February 1 coup. At least 82 people were killed in Bago, Myanmar, on Friday alone.
Britain and the European Union are slowly working to overcome differences regarding trade flows between Northern Ireland and the British mainland after a month-long legal dispute and more than a week of rioting in the province. The EU is expecting a formal reply shortly from London to explain Britain's unilateral change to trading conditions that Brussels said breaches the Brexit divorce deal. A European Commission spokesman said the two sides were holding technical discussions and there could soon be a meeting of Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic and British negotiator David Frost.
- The Telegraph
The Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral will be the first occasion that marks Prince Harry’s change of status within the Royal family. The Queen stripped the Duke and Duchess of Sussex of all official royal titles earlier this year after they confirmed they would not return to their roles as working royals. As a ceremonial event, it is believed that the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge and the Earl of Wessex will attend the funeral in military uniform. But as the Duke was stripped of his honorary military titles, including his prized role as Captain General of the Royal Marines, it is thought he will have to wear a suit, despite having served as an Army officer. Protocol dictates that retired service personnel can wear their medals – but not their uniform – at official engagements once they have left the military. Similarly, the Duke of York, who served for 22 years with the Royal Navy and who was forced to step back from public life "for the foreseeable future" in 2019 over his friendship with convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, will also be prevented from wearing military uniform.
- Business Insider
"Have you ever seen anybody that is so full of crap?" Trump asked the audience of GOP donors about Anthony Fauci
The Virginia police officer who was filmed pepper-spraying a uniformed Black Army officer after holding him at gunpoint has been fired
Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia has also ordered an independent investigation into the traffic stop involving 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario.
SYDNEY (Reuters) -Australia has abandoned a goal to vaccinate nearly all of its 26 million population by the end of 2021 following advice that people under the age of 50 take Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine rather than AstraZeneca's shot. Australia, which had banked on the AstraZeneca vaccine for the majority of its shots, had no plans to set any new targets for completing its vaccination programme, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a Facebook post on Sunday afternoon. "While we would like to see these doses completed before the end of the year, it is not possible to set such targets given the many uncertainties involved," Morrison said.
- USA TODAY Opinion
I endured Larry Nassar, John Geddert and the terrifying culture of youth gymnastics. Some days I am strong. But every day I am surviving.
WINDSOR, England (Reuters) -Prince William, second in line to the British throne, hailed his "grandpa" Prince Philip for his dutiful service to the crown, but said that the late duke would have wanted members of the royal family to get on with their jobs. Philip, husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth who had been at her side throughout her 69-year reign, died at Windsor Castle on Friday, aged 99. William, known as the Duke of Cambridge, said Philip was an extraordinary man whose life had been defined by service to his country, the queen and the Commonwealth.
- Business Insider
For Boehner, a jovial, backslapping politician who is known to publicly cry, McConnell's steely and to-the-point demeanor is quite a contrast.
- The Telegraph
No one was meant to be there. Signs around Windsor called for restraint among the public grieving for Prince Philip, asking people to “not gather at royal residences”. But by lunchtime yesterday, so many people had come to lay flowers for the Duke of Edinburgh that Castle Hill, the street leading to Windsor Castle, had to be blocked off for safety. “There were just too many vehicles and too many people”, said a staff member. “It was too dangerous – we had a few near misses this morning.” Measures are expected to stay in place for the rest of the week, with mourners instead having to take a detour along the high street then on to the Long Walk. “We didn’t expect the visitors’ entrance to be closed off”, said Catherine Crampton, 61, who came from her home in Windsor to lay flowers with her daughter and two granddaughters. “We were able to lay flowers eventually after [walking for] about 10 minutes … We wanted to be here to pay our respects.”
- Business Insider
The party of big business has taken to policing corporate America's speech now, and that's not going to change anytime soon.
- Business Insider
The shot is recommended in Italy for people over 60. Fears about the AstraZeneca vaccine are "understandable, but unjustified," one official said.
- The Telegraph
Game of Thrones stars Kit Harington and Rose Leslie have won a battle to build a new moat wall at their home, despite Historic England saying it could lead to the loss of ancient remains and artefacts. The celebrity couple feared a garden would slide into the moat at their farmhouse in Suffolk after part of the existing 6ft wall collapsed. They said the collapse was putting structural pressure on a small footbridge across the moat and other parts of the wall were suffering “significant lean”. The actors, both 34, asked for permission to carry out urgent repairs, including building a new wall with a concrete core “to ensure the long-term stability and safeguard against future problems”. However, conservation body Historic England raised concerns that the work could lead to the loss of ancient remains and artefacts. The heritage organisation cited a 2019 study that said the 15th-century house and its grounds had “a high potential for medieval and post-medieval archaeology”.
Staff at the Russian prison holding hunger-striking Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny are threatening to force feed him, his allies said on Monday, warning he had lost 15 kg since he arrived at the facility last month. Navalny, 44, a prominent opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, announced a hunger strike at the end of March in protest at what he said was the refusal of prison authorities to treat him properly for acute back and leg pain. Navalny, whom the West says has been wrongly jailed and should be freed, was moved to a prison clinic earlier this month after complaining of a high temperature and a bad cough.
- The New York Times
LAKE MARY, Fla. — Long before the FBI began to scrutinize a tax collector in Florida named Joel Greenberg — and long before his trail led them to Rep. Matt Gaetz — he amassed an outlandish record in the mundane local public office he had turned into a personal fief of power. Records and interviews detailed a litany of accusations: Greenberg strutted into work with a pistol on his hip in a state that does not allow guns to be openly carried. He spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to create no-show jobs for a relative and some of his groomsmen. He tried to talk his way out of a traffic ticket, asking a police officer for “professional courtesy.” He played police officer himself, putting a flashing light on his car to pull over a woman and accuse her of speeding. He published an anti-Muslim Facebook post. He solicited help to hack critics on the county commission. Stalking a rival candidate got him arrested. Federal agents looking into the matter found at least five fake IDs in his wallet and backpack, and kept digging. Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times Their inquiry culminated in 33 federal charges against Greenberg, 36, including sex trafficking of a minor, bribery, fraud and stalking — and led to a mushrooming political scandal that burst into national news in recent days and ensnared Gaetz, who is a close ally of former President Donald Trump, and other influential Florida Republicans, with the investigation continuing. Though the sex trafficking charge against Greenberg and the ensuing Justice Department examination into Gaetz — including whether he had sex with the same 17-year-old girl — have received the most attention, the array of schemes that Greenberg is suspected of are broader and altogether show an astonishing disregard for the law by an elected official. Interviews with people in Seminole County who dealt with Greenberg and a review of news articles and public records from his past suggest that he went from being a wealthy but troubled teenager who drifted through young adulthood before turning to local politics five years ago and embracing Trumpism. He quickly built relationships with Gaetz, 38, whom he had met in political circles that also included Chris Dorworth, 44, a real estate developer and lobbyist for Ballard Partners, a powerful firm that had close ties to the Trump administration. (Greenberg hired Ballard in 2017 to lobby for the tax collector’s office.) Dorworth announced Friday that he had resigned from the firm. Greenberg relished hobnobbing with the well-connected: He spoke at a Trump campaign rally in 2016 and was invited to the White House three years later. But he also appeared to ingratiate himself with Gaetz and others more privately as well: by soliciting women for sex on their behalf, sometimes in Ecstasy-fueled encounters, people familiar with the arrangements have said. Gaetz has broadly denied allegations against him, including paying for sex or having sex with a minor. In the end, Greenberg went from being an outsider elected on an anti-corruption platform to, prosecutors say, becoming corrupted himself. The world he built quickly fell apart when he was first indicted in June. He resigned and dropped his bid for reelection. Within days, one of the women crashed a vehicle into a tree near Greenberg’s house, suffering minor injuries, according to a police report of the crash, which has not been previously reported. And indications in court last week that he plans to plead guilty, suggesting he will cooperate with prosecutors, further prompted former friends to abandon him. “No one wants to talk to me anymore,” Greenberg told The Orlando Sentinel in the fall. Greenberg’s lawyer, Fritz Scheller, declined to make his client, who has been in jail since March for violating terms of his bail, available for a jailhouse interview. Greenberg acted unlike any other tax collector in Florida. His small-time position left him dissatisfied. His friendships gave him a taste of greater power. He tested the boundaries of what he could get away with, until it all imploded. Daniel A. Pérez, a lawyer who represented one of Greenberg’s former employees in a labor dispute, likened the disreputable saga to a Netflix series: “It’s like the Tiger King got elected tax collector.” He was not expected to win. The previous tax collector, Ray Valdes, a Republican, had been in office for 28 years. But Valdes had been accused of ethical misconduct, and Greenberg, a newcomer, saw an opening. He raised five times as much money for a primary challenge, almost all self-funded — his father founded an empire of dental offices — and ousted the incumbent. Greenberg had little record to run on. He campaigned as a small-business owner, with an advertising company named DG3 Network registered to his name. He had hosted a daily afternoon sports-talk AM radio show. He was 31 and had recently married Abby Weldgen, a real estate agent. Greenberg attended evening classes at Rollins College between 2005 and 2012 but never graduated, according to the school. His name appeared on a burglary incident report when he was 18 and on an involuntary psychiatric commitment report when he was 21, but both reports were sealed, according to records unearthed in 2016 by WFTV, a local news station. Greenberg declined to speak to the station about them. When Greenberg was 15, he and his mother, Susan Greenberg, told a sports columnist for The Sentinel that he had benefited from the mentorship of an Orlando Magic basketball player, John Amaechi, who sometimes shot hoops with “wayward” teenage boys. Susan Greenberg told The Sentinel that her son had been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder as a toddler, took medication as a child and developed Tourette syndrome. “Joel is my shining star that needs more polishing, more buffing,” she said. “He’s the one who keeps me on my knees. It was a belligerent, defiant, rebellion-type of thing at home.” Greenberg’s parents sent him to the Florida Air Academy in Melbourne for military-style discipline, but “I guess it just didn’t sink in,” young Joel told The Sentinel. Asked what he would like to be one day, he answered, “I want to be a good person.” Being elected tax collector could have offered Greenberg a stable, if low-profile, career in government. But he had run as a reformer and appeared to bask in the trappings of his new role. Two months after winning the Republican primary in August 2016 — effectively clinching the office, since no Democrat was on the ballot — he made the speaking lineup at a Trump rally in Sanford, Florida, bounding onto the airport tarmac stage in sunglasses before Trump arrived. “The media has tried to destroy a good man’s reputation,” he said of Trump, “and in destroying that, they would destroy that which he represents: the ideas that you and I hold dear in our hearts, that we know is right and true.” By June 2017, Gaetz floated the idea to a Tampa radio station that Greenberg could run for Congress. He called him a “disrupter” who had taken the tax collector’s office “by storm.” A few months into office, Greenberg was, according to an employee and others in his orbit, already bored. Four complaints about his actions as tax collector were made to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement from August 2017 to August 2018, including accusations that he had asked a contractor to hack the county’s computers, department records show. He pulled over a woman in 2017 while wearing shorts, a backward baseball cap and his tax collector’s badge around his neck. She said he had yelled at her for supposedly cutting him off and driving “like a bat out of hell,” according to a complaint she filed to the sheriff’s office. News reports alleged financial mismanagement. A county audit concluded that Greenberg had “wasted” more than $1 million in taxpayer money and used his tax collector credit card to purchase body armor, weapons and a drone. By the end of his tenure, his office — in top-shelf space he leased — was strewn with electronics, one person who saw it said. A poorly installed server to allow for cryptocurrency payments to the tax collector’s office was blamed for a fire this year. “Seminole County elected a criminal into office, unknowingly,” said J.R. Kroll, a Republican who was elected tax collector last year, after Greenberg’s resignation. State and local authorities never charged Greenberg with anything more than traffic violations. What ultimately got Greenberg into trouble — as so often happens in Florida — began with a clash over real estate. His friend Dorworth wanted to build a shopping and residential complex on rural lands in eastern Seminole County. But an opposition group defeated the project in 2018, and eventually its leader, a music teacher named Brian A. Beute, decided he wanted to go beyond activism and run for office, filing a 2020 candidacy against Greenberg. Soon after, an anonymous letter was sent to the school where Beute worked, falsely accusing him of having a sexual relationship with a student. Social media accounts popped up making other repugnant claims about him. The Seminole County Sheriff’s Office found Greenberg’s fingerprints on the letter. Deputies called in federal agents, said David Bear, Beute’s lawyer. That set off a cascade of criminal charges against Greenberg filed in four indictments, including that he used driver’s licenses surrendered to his office to create fake IDs for women with whom he “engaged in ‘sugar daddy’ relationships.” Prosecutors say he obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraudulent loans from a COVID-19 relief program and embezzled more than $400,000 from the county. Seminole is a suburban county of about half a million people northeast of Orlando. The Greenberg affair, outlandish as it was, might have never made waves outside Central Florida if not for the ties investigators found to other Republicans — “the Seminole County Republican mafia,” Bear called it — and Gaetz. Greenberg and Gaetz met through the tight-knit group of prominent Trump backers in Florida in 2017, according to a person familiar with the matter. Greenberg had no political experience before he was elected. Gaetz represents a district some 400 miles away. Yet Greenberg and Gaetz saw each other regularly in recent years. They gathered at Dorworth’s home in January 2019 to celebrate that Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican close to Gaetz, had overturned a ban on smokable medical marijuana. The three men visited Washington together that June, and Greenberg posted photographs on social media from the White House lawn, including one of his daughter with Gaetz and Trump. A few years ago — the exact date is unclear — Greenberg brought Gaetz into the tax collector’s branch office in Lake Mary over a weekend. The following Monday, an employee found the alarm deactivated and driver’s licenses strewn over a desk. She reviewed surveillance video and saw Greenberg with another man by that desk. When she asked Greenberg about it, according to text messages reviewed by The New York Times, he wrote back, “Yes I was showing congressman Gaetz what our operation looked like. Did I leave something on?” What the men were doing is unclear. In a separate episode on a Sunday in September 2018, Greenberg texted an employee about getting Gaetz an “emergency replacement” ID by Tuesday, claiming that the congressman had lost his. Gaetz told Politico that he had briefly lost his wallet but found it before needing the ID replacement. Days after Greenberg was first indicted last year, a woman crashed her car into a tree a few hundred yards from his home early one morning, according to a crash report. The woman, according to two people familiar with their relationship, had previously had sex with Greenberg and received money from him on mobile payment apps; she had been leaving his house, the people said. When a neighbor called 911, the woman was crying out incoherently in the background, according to a recording of the call. The neighbor said the woman was calling a friend. Moments later, an unidentified man could be heard on the caller’s end of the line. “She got a bump on her head,” the man said. “There’s a little cut on her head. She’s just very shaken.” The latest indictment of Greenberg was unsealed late last month. The accusations, which included defrauding the Small Business Administration out of more than $432,000 in COVID-19 relief loans, described wrongdoing that began days after Greenberg was first arrested and released on bond last summer, prosecutors said. His wife left the house for at least some time after the arrest. Sheriff’s deputies were called to the house in November after a verbal dispute between the couple, records show. In February, Greenberg drove to Jupiter, Florida, looking for his wife, a 180-mile drive that violated the curfew and travel restrictions that were conditions of his release. His mother-in-law called the police. At some point after Greenberg returned home, he burned her clothes, according to a person familiar with the episode. When sheriff’s deputies went to rearrest him at his home in Lake Mary, Greenberg claimed to have explosives and threatened to harm himself, according to a deputy’s report. He surrendered after hours of negotiation. He now sits in jail, awaiting an expected plea deal and most likely a yearslong prison sentence. — Investigation of Matt Gaetz The Justice Department is investigating whether Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., broke federal sex trafficking laws. Gaetz, 38, was elected to Congress in 2016 and became one of President Donald Trump’s most outspoken advocates. The inquiry focuses on the representative’s relationships with women recruited online for sex and whether he had sex with a 17-year-old girl. The investigation includes an examination of payments to women. Investigators believe that he paid for sex with a number of women he met through Joel Greenberg — a former Florida tax collector who was indicted last year on a federal sex trafficking charge, among other offenses — people close to the investigation told The New York Times. Greenberg is expected to plead guilty to federal charges, an indication that he could cooperate as a witness against Gaetz. The representative has repeatedly dismissed the investigation as politically motivated and unfounded, defending his past relationships with women. So far, he has not been charged and the extent of his criminal exposure remains unclear. The investigation is continuing. Gaetz has claimed that his family is being targeted by two men trying to extort $25 million in exchange for making potential legal problems “go away.” The men have denied that they were trying to extort the Gaetzes. In the final weeks of the Trump administration, Gaetz asked the White House for a blanket pardon for any criminal conduct he had ever committed, people familiar with his request have said. Trump aides vetoed that idea, and Trump has said Gaetz never asked him directly for a pardon. Gaetz told the Times that he had no plans to resign from Congress. But as the investigation continues, he could face pressure either to step down or temporarily relinquish his spot on the House committee that oversees the Justice Department. This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
- Business Insider
Boehner slams Trump's conduct during the 2020 election, says the former president 'abused' his loyalists
"He stepped all over their loyalty to him by continuing to say things that just weren't true," Boehner told USA Today about Trump and his followers.
Jeff Jansen said modern pastors were "neutered" and "effeminate," boasting that his church's ushers all toted guns and were instructed to "kill."
A former Minneapolis police officer said he quit days before the Derek Chauvin trial because he thinks protesters will 'burn the city down' no matter the case's outcome
The former sergeant told Insider that he believed there would be rioting at the close of Chauvin's murder trial and that he feared getting killed.
- Associated Press
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Sunday declared an “enduring and ironclad” American commitment to Israel, reinforcing support at a tense time in Israeli politics and amid questions about the Biden administration's efforts to revive nuclear negotiations with Israel's archenemy, Iran. Austin's first talks in Israel since he became Pentagon chief in January come as the United States seeks to leverage Middle East diplomatic progress made by the Trump administration, which brokered a deal normalizing relations between Israel and several Arab states.