The mortality rate among young Americans has seen a significant rise to the highest level in 15 years, driven by factors such as homicides, drug overdoses, car accidents, and suicides.
The sudden increase, mainly among ages 1 to 19, began to accelerate in 2020, with the social disruption during the Covid-19 pandemic.
For decades, advances in healthcare and safety steadily drove down death rates among American children. In an alarming reversal, rates have now risen to the highest level in nearly 15 years, particularly driven by homicides, drug overdoses, car accidents and suicides.
The uptick among younger Americans accelerated in 2020. Though Covid-19 itself wasn’t a major cause of death for young people, researchers say social disruption caused by the pandemic exacerbated public-health problems, including worsening anxiety and depression. Greater access to firearms, dangerous driving and more lethal narcotics also helped push up death rates.
Between 2019 and 2020, the overall mortality rate for ages 1 to 19 rose by 10.7%, and increased by an additional 8.3% the following year, according to an analysis of federal death statistics led by Steven Woolf, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University, published in JAMA in March. That’s the highest increase for two consecutive years in the half-century that the government has publicly tracked such figures, according to Woolf’s analysis.
Other developed countries including the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada and Norway also saw a rise in some death counts among young people during that time, though the upticks were often concentrated in narrow age groups or one gender, according to global death counts provided by Christopher J.L. Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.
The U.S. is the only place among peer nations where firearms are the No. 1 cause of death in young people.
Suicides among Americans age 10 to 19 began increasing in 2007, while homicide rates for that age group started climbing in 2013, according to the research in JAMA by Woolf and co-authors Elizabeth Wolf of Virginia Commonwealth and Frederick Rivara of the University of Washington.
The increases in suicides and homicides among young people went largely unnoticed at first because overall child and adolescent mortality rates still declined most years.
Penicillin and other antibiotics drove down deaths from bacterial infections in the years following World War II, and vaccines controlled lethal viruses such as polio and influenza. Safer automobiles, seat belts and car seats made driving less deadly. Bicycle helmets, smoke detectors and swimming lessons reduced fatal accidents and drownings. Medical advancements that save premature babies and treat leukemia and other cancers helped more children survive once-lethal diagnoses.
“All of those gains are now being offset by essentially four causes of death,” Woolf said.
When the pandemic started, deaths of young people due to suicide and homicide climbed higher. Deaths caused by drug overdoses and transportation fatalities—mainly motor-vehicle accidents—rose significantly, too.
Covid, which surged to America’s No. 3 cause of death during the pandemic, accounted for just one-tenth of the rise in mortality among young people in 2020, and one-fifth of it in 2021, according to the research led by Woolf, which uses data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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Rep. George Santos Expelled from House
The House voted on Friday to expel Republican Rep. George Santos of New York after a critical ethics report on his conduct that accused him of converting campaign donations for his own use. He was just the sixth member in the chamber’s history to be ousted by colleagues.
The vote to expel was 311-114. Expulsion requires support from two-thirds of the House, a purposefully high bar, but a blistering House Ethics Committee report that accused Santos of breaking federal law proved decisive.
As it became clear that he would be expelled, Santos placed his overcoat over his shoulders, shook hands with conservative members who voted against his expulsion and departed the House chamber.
House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., soon took the gavel, quieted the chamber and solemnly instructed the House clerk to inform the governor of New York that Santos’ former House seat was now vacant.
Santos had fought the expulsion effort, leading his own defense during House floor debate and in conducting a news conference and interviews.
“I will not stand by quietly,” Santos declared as lawmakers on Thursday evening debated his removal. “The people of the Third District of New York sent me here. If they want me out, you’re going to have to go silence those people and go take the hard vote.”
Of the previous expulsions in the House, three were for disloyalty to the Union during the Civil War. The remaining two occurred after the lawmakers were convicted of crimes in federal court. Santos made his case for remaining in office by appealing directly to lawmakers who worry they are setting a new precedent that could make expulsions more common.
Johnson was among those who voiced concerns about removing Santos, though he has told members to vote their conscience. Others in leadership agreed with his reasoning and opposed expulsion. But some Republicans, including Santos’ colleagues from New York, said voters would welcome lawmakers being held to a higher standard.
“I’m pretty confident the American people would applaud that. I’m pretty confident that the American people expect that,” Republican Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, whose district adjoins Santos’, said before the vote.
Santos warned lawmakers they would regret removing a member before they have had their day in court.
“This will haunt them in the future where mere allegations are sufficient to have members removed from office when duly elected by their people in their respective states and districts,” Santos said.
The expulsion was the final congressional chapter in what was a spectacular fall from grace for Santos. The first-term lawmaker initially was celebrated as an up-and-comer after he flipped a district from Democrats last year and helped Republicans win control of the House. But soon after, troubles began. Reports began to emerge that Santos had lied about having Jewish ancestry, a career at top Wall Street firms and a college degree. His presence in the House quickly became a distraction and an embarrassment to the party.
In early March, the House Ethics Committee announced it was launching an investigation into Santos. Then in May, the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York indicted Santos, accusing him of duping donors, stealing from his campaign and lying to Congress. Prosecutors would later add more charges in an updated 23-count indictment.
The indictment alleges he stole the identities of campaign donors and then used their credit cards to make tens of thousands of dollars in unauthorized charges. Federal prosecutors say Santos, who has pleaded not guilty, wired some of the money to his personal bank account and used the rest to pad his campaign coffers.
Meanwhile, Ethics Committee investigators spent eight months investigating Santos and interviewing witnesses. When their work was complete, the panel said it had amassed “overwhelming evidence” of lawbreaking by Santos that it sent to the Justice Department.
Among other things, the committee said Santos knowingly caused his campaign committee to file false or incomplete reports with the Federal Election Commission, used campaign funds for personal purposes and violated the Ethics in Government Act with his financial disclosure statements.
Arguing against expulsion during debate on Thursday, Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La., said that while he respected the committee, he had concerns about how the Santos case was handled. He said he was troubled that a Republican-led committee would submit a report that was so judgmental and publicized.
“The totality of circumstance appears biased,” Higgins said. “It stinks of politics and I’ll oppose this action in every way.”
While the committee does have a Republican chairman, its membership is evenly divided. Rep. Susan Wild, the top Democrat on the committee, reminded members that the decision approving the investigators’ findings was unanimous.
“As the Ethics Committee’s report lays out in thorough detail, Mr. Santos has repeatedly, egregiously and brazenly violated the public’s trust,” Wild said. “Mr. Santos is not a victim. He is a perpetrator of a massive fraud on his constituents and the American people.”
Sandra Day O’Connor, First Woman on Supreme Court, Dies at 93
Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, has died.
O’Connor was 93 years old.
She died in Phoenix, Arizona, on Friday “of complications related to advanced dementia, probably Alzheimer’s, and a respiratory illness,” the Supreme Court said in a statement.
O’Connor was appointed to the court in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan and served nearly a quarter-century, retiring in 2006.
She was replaced by Justice Samuel Alito, who in 2022 wrote the majority opinion overturning a federal right to abortion that had been protected for decades by the cases Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
O’Connor had co-authored the majority opinion in the latter case, which Alito blasted for having “enflamed debate and deepened division” in the United States.
She stepped back from public life in late 2018, after having problems with her short-term memory, her family said at the time.
Chief Justice John Roberts, in a statement released by the court, said, “A daughter of the American Southwest, Sandra Day O’Connor blazed an historic trail as our Nation’s first female Justice. She met that challenge with undaunted determination, indisputable ability, and engaging candor.”
“We at the Supreme Court mourn the loss of a beloved colleague, a fiercely independent defender of the rule of law, and an eloquent advocate for civics education,” Roberts said. “And we celebrate her enduring legacy as a true public servant and patriot.”
During her tenure, O’Connor was joined on the nine-member Supreme Court by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. Before O’Connor died, Ginsburg was the most recent justice to have died, in September 2020.
Four other women have been appointed to the court since Ginsburg was, all of whom are currently serving: Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Amy Coney Barrett and Ketanji Brown Jackson.
O’Connor was serving as a judge on the Arizona Court of Appeals when Reagan, a Republican, tapped her to become the first female on the Supreme Court in its then 191-year history.
The El Paso, Texas, native previously served as assistant attorney general of Arizona, as a member of the Arizona state Senate, where she was majority leader at one point, and as a judge of the Maricopa County Superior Court.
O’Connor’s husband, John, died in 2009, three years after she retired to care for him when he was suffering from Alzheimer’s.
She is survived by three sons, six grandchildren and her brother.
The Supreme Court’s press office said funeral arrangements for O’Connor will be released when available.
Federal Court Rules Trump Does Not Have Immunity from Jan 6 Civil Suits
Former President Donald Trump can be sued in civil lawsuits related to the January 6, 2021, US Capitol riot in a long-awaited, consequential decision from the federal appeals court in Washington, DC.
The decision will have significant implications for several cases against Trump in the Washington, DC, federal court related to the 2020 election. The decision arises out of lawsuits brought by Capitol Police officers and Democrats in Congress.
The opinion, written by Chief Judge Sri Srinivasan, states that not everything a president does or says while in office is protected from liability.
The president “does not spend every minute of every day exercising official responsibilities,” the opinion said. “And when he acts outside the functions of his office, he does not continue to enjoy immunity. … When he acts in an unofficial, private capacity, he is subject to civil suits like any private citizen.”
The decision to allow the January 6 lawsuits against Trump to proceed was unanimous among the three judges on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Greg Katsas concurred with the decision, and Judge Judith Rogers concurred in part. Trump will still be able to seek additional appeals on the issue, if he chooses.
But at this time, the decision allows three lawsuits against Trump from Capitol Police officers and members of Congress who are seeking recovery from emotional distress and physical injury from the attack to move forward, and at least a half dozen other lawsuits against Trump may be able to emerge from dormancy too. The complaints largely rely on a federal law prohibiting individuals from conspiring to prevent someone from holding federal office.
The appeals court’s decision may also shape how judges look at arguments of immunity that Trump is making in his federal criminal case around the 2020 election, though the ruling on Friday only applies to civil cases.
Two of the lawsuits were brought by Democratic House members, while a third was filed by Capitol Police officers.
The lawmakers allege that they were threatened by Trump and others as part of a conspiracy to stop the congressional session that would certify the 2020 presidential election on January 6, 2021, according to the complaints. They argue that Trump should bear responsibility for directing the assaults.
Trump moved to dismiss the lawsuits against him on several grounds, including presidential immunity, which the DC District Court rejected, saying that the former president’s actions in the lead-up to the riot at the US Capitol riot were all an effort to remain in office and not official functions of his presidency.
The district court did find that Trump was protected by presidential immunity from the claim that he failed to stop to the riot, saying that he would be acting in his official presidential powers in that instance.
The appeals court opinion on Friday distinguished between campaign speech a president seeking reelection might make and official actions of the presidency.
Trump had argued in court he was immune for anything he said while president, but the court found that is not the case – specifying that the January 6 Trump rally that preceded the riot at the Capitol is potentially part of his campaign.
Trump still will be able to contest the facts of the case as the lawsuits move forward. The appeals court said Trump also may be able to make more arguments around immunity before the January 6 lawsuits move into extensive evidence-gathering phases.
The court’s decision on Friday “is flexible enough to accommodate rare cases where even speech made during a campaign event may be official,” Katsas wrote in his concurring opinion. “And it is cautious, in leaving open both the question whether the [Trump January 6] speech at issue is entitled to immunity and, if not, whether the First Amendment nonetheless protects it.”
The opinion stated a president running for a second term was acting “as office-seeker, not office-holder” when he was campaigning, such as by attending a private political fundraiser, hiring and firing campaign staff and while speaking in political advertisements and reelection campaign rallies.
Steven Cheung, a spokesman for Trump’s reelection campaign, responded to the opinion on Friday by calling it “limited, narrow and procedural.”
“The facts fully show that on January 6 President Trump was acting on behalf of the American people, carrying out his duties as President of the United States,” Cheung said in a statement provided to CNN.
Lawyers for injured Capitol Police officers and Democratic members of Congress who are suing Trump cheered the decision on Friday, after it had the lawsuits on hold for a year.
“This is the right result and an important step forward in holding former President Trump accountable for the insurrection on January 6,” Matt Kaiser, lawyer for Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said on Friday.
“Today’s ruling makes clear that those who endanger our democracy and the lives of those sworn to defend it will be held to account,” attorney Patrick Malone said in a statement following the opinion’s release on Friday. “Our clients look forward to pursuing their claims in court.”
“We’re moving one step closer to justice, one step closer to accountability, and one step closer to healing some of the wounds suffered by [Officers] James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby,” said Kristy Parker, counsel at Protect Democracy. “As this case shows, our constitutional order does not grant former President Donald J. Trump immunity for his attempt to subvert our democracy.”
5 Top Moments from the fiery DeSantis-Newsom Debate
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) went head-to-head in a Fox News debate Thursday as the governors — one a current presidential contender and the other seen as a future White House prospect — clashed over their records and policy.
During the fiery 90-minute debate, moderated by Sean Hannity and branded as “The Great Red vs. Blue State Debate,” DeSantis and Newsom took jabs at each other over how they handled key issues including the COVID-19 pandemic, crime and abortion, at times reverting to personal attacks such as calling each other bullies.
The debate came against the backdrop of DeSantis’s presidential campaign; the Florida governor was initially seen as a threat to Donald Trump but is now lagging in polls behind not only the former president but also former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.
Meanwhile, Newsom has been widely floated as a presidential hopeful; while he has said he’s not interested in challenging President Biden next year, the Fox News debate has only helped elevate his national profile and fueled further speculation over his plans.
Here are five takeaways from the DeSantis-Newsom debate:
Newsom shows his strengths
Though Newsom often found himself on the defense in a hostile media environment, the California Democrat managed to keep his calm throughout, easily batting away attacks while also lobbing many of his own at DeSantis.
In one such instance, DeSantis went after Newsom over his COVID-19 policies, saying that in California “you had Disney closed inexplicably for over a year” and that Newsom was “a lock-down governor.”
Newsom quickly fired back.
“Let’s talk about your record on COVID,” Newsom said. “You pass an emergency declaration before the state of California did. You closed down your beaches, your bars, your restaurants. It’s a fact. You had quarantines — you had quarantines, you had checkpoints all over the state of Florida. By the way, I didn’t say that. Donald Trump laid you out on this.”
“He followed science. He followed Fauci,” Newsom added of DeSantis, to which the Florida governor said, “that’s not true.”
Throughout the debate, Newsom was confident and good-humored, rarely seeming fazed when being attacked by DeSantis or pressed by Hannity, a self-proclaimed conservative.
His debate performance will likely bolster his image as an extremely polished, media-savvy politician who nonetheless knows how to throw a punch when necessary.
DeSantis does a decent job — with help from Hannity
DeSantis went into the debate with arguably more at stake than Newsom, since he’s currently running in the GOP presidential primary.
Ultimately, the Florida governor delivered a decent performance, frequently demonstrating his research of the topics at hand and even at times displaying visual aids — including a map of what he said was human excrement in San Francisco — to knock Newsom.
He also landed a couple memorable blows, such as when he labeled Newsom a “liberal bully” or when he mocked his opponent for what he said was Newsom’s “shadow campaign” for the Democratic nomination for president in 2024.
Still, the “red state vs. blue state” debate also felt at times like a two-on-one match-up.
Hannity, during his introduction for the debate, acknowledged his well-known reputation for boosting Republican candidates for office and conservative causes, though he emphasized that he wanted to be a referee in the debate, not a participant.
Throughout the night, many of the moderator’s questions began with an infographic or chart displayed on the screen for viewers, most of which painted California in a less favorable light than Florida on issues of homelessness, the economy and migration.
Newsom on several occasions pushed back directly on Hannity’s line of questioning, DeSantis’s characterizations of the statistics and argued his state was in a stronger position than conservative critics routinely suggested.
By contrast, Hannity gave little pushback to most of DeSantis’s answers or his attacks on the California governor.
The debate was raucous
Hannity repeatedly said Thursday night that he wanted to let the event “breathe,” resulting in a free-flowing — and at times raucous — debate.
DeSantis and Newsom frequently talked over each other, to the point when they were sometimes unintelligible. They lobbed attacks at each other throughout the night and often interrupted each other.
Hannity, for his part, worked hard to interject or move on to a new topic whenever it got chaotic. At one point, he begged the two governors not to “turn me into a hall monitor.”
The lack of an in-person audience allowed the two participants to go after each other more freely, as there was no need for either governor to hold for applause or raise his voice over shouting spectators.
Before one early commercial break, Newsom finished an answer to a question on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic by looking into the camera and saying, “more to come on this,” as the outro music signified a break was imminent.
DeSantis joked that Newsom would be setting up “the next segment, I guess.”
“I’m not a potted plant,” an apparently frustrated Hannity joked later during the debate, as the two governors bickered back and forth.
Adding to the sense of chaos was a moment near the end in which it seemed like the debate was being abruptly extended. Hannity asked the two men on stage if they’d like to continue debating past the pre-planned 10:30 p.m. end time.
“I don’t know why we don’t do another half hour; I’ve got all night,” Newsom said.
“I think it’s been fun and it’s more entertaining than … I’m sorry to the guests I’ve invited,” Hannity said, before sending the broadcast to what would be its final commercial break.
Once the network returned, Hannity said both candidates “had other commitments” and welcomed in a post-debate panel to provide analysis on the debate.
Biden is GOP boogeyman
DeSantis sought to make President Biden a frequent boogeyman during the debate, tying Newsom to the president, who continues to suffer underwater approval ratings.
“I’ll give Gavin credit. He did at least admit in his first answer, he’s joined at the hip with Biden and Harris,” DeSantis said at one point. “He thinks Biden and Harris have done a great job. He thinks the economy is working because of their policies for Americans and they are not.”
“And so, what California represents is the Biden-Harris agenda on steroids. They would love nothing more than to get four more years to be able to take the California model nationally. That would be disastrous for working people in this country,” he added.
Unsurprisingly, Newsom found himself as chief defender of the Biden-Harris administration during the debate, while trying to paint a stark contrast between Democrats and the Republican Party.
“I’m here to tell the truth about the Biden-Harris record, and also compare and contrast Ron DeSantis’s record and the Republican Party’s record as a point of contrast that’s as different as daylight and darkness,” Newsom said.
It’s not the first time Newsom has positioned himself as a surrogate for the Biden campaign — he played a similar role during the second GOP debate in Simi Valley, Calif. The move strategically helped demonstrate his loyalty to the Biden campaign while also elevating his own national profile amid rumors that he might run for the White House himself.
But the frequent mention of Biden also emphasized the extent to which Republicans like DeSantis believe the president is an albatross for Democrats heading into 2024.
Needle is unlikely to move much for either man
While sparks flew during the Fox News debate, it’s unlikely to change much for either governor.
For DeSantis, he’s still struggling to catch up to Trump in the 2024 GOP primary as all signs increasingly point to the former president once again winning the nomination.
He has notched key endorsements from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) and influential Evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats, but still faces steep hurdles in polling out of the early primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina, where he’s polling behind Haley.
For Newsom, the debate has boosted his national profile, though it’s hardly the first time the California Democrat has sought to position himself front and center in the public eye. It’s also unlikely to change the minds of the many conservatives watching the debate in an already hyper-partisan political environment.
Still, both men came out of the event being praised by their respective sides — a sign that the event served some purpose for them.
Ceasefire Ends: Israel Resumes Gaza Military Operation
Israel renewed its assault on the Gaza Strip early Friday after the end of a weeklong truce with Hamas, pummeling the Palestinian enclave from the air while warning civilians to leave parts of southern Gaza in a sign that it intends to expand its ground offensive.
International mediators said they were still working to restore the cease-fire, which saw the release of more than 100 hostages held in Gaza and 240 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. The pause had raised hopes for a broader deal, but that appeared to have collapsed as the two sides traded blame while smoke rose from Gaza’s ruined skyline and sirens wailed in Israeli border communities.
The resumption of fighting will raise fears for Palestinian civilians in Gaza, as well as the remaining 140 or so hostages, as Israel grapples with the tension between its two stated war goals — destroy Hamas and free those taken captive in the Oct. 7 terror attack.
The prospect of Israel expanding its ground campaign southward will also heighten international anxiety, including in the White House, which has warned its close ally to moderate its military tactics to reduce further civilian casualties and displacement.
Talks and fighting
The pause in fighting, brokered by the United States, Qatar and Egypt, was set to expire at 7 a.m. local time (midnight ET). In the last hour of that deal, Israel said Hamas fired rockets toward its territory from Gaza, at least one of which it managed to intercept, but that “a number” of others got through.
Sirens sounded in Israeli communities near the border with the Palestinian enclave, while an NBC News team in the southern city of Sderot witnessed rockets being intercepted. Israeli officials have not said whether anyone was injured or killed by rockets from Gaza.
Hamas in turn blamed Israel, saying it had refused “throughout the night to accept all offers to release other detainees.”
Qatar, which hosts some Hamas leadership, expressed “deep regret” that fighting had resumed without an extension. The government added in a statement that negotiations were continuing.
The Israel Defense Forces said it had “resumed combat” against Palestinian militants, and that “IDF fighter jets are currently striking Hamas terror targets in the Gaza Strip.” The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas had “violated the plan” and “did not live up to its duty to release all the kidnapped women today.”
The government media office in Gaza, which is run by Hamas, a banned terror group in the U.S. and elsewhere, said that the Israeli army had begun “to continue its brutal war against our Palestinian people.”
Gazans reported seeing and hearing airstrikes across the enclave’s north and south, as well as artillery shelling along the border to the east. Hamas-affiliated media reported heavy gunfire and that clashes were occurring in the north, the focus of Israel’s campaign so far. And NBC News’ team in Gaza witnessed dead and injured people being taken to hospitals in the center and south of the strip.
“Every 10-15 minutes, there have been strikes, some of it 500 meters (550 yards) away from us,” Mohammad Ghalayini, 44, who lives in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, told NBC News in a voice note, with the distinct buzz of an Israeli drone discernible in the background.
‘Crammed’ into southern Gaza
Israel had previously told Palestinians to leave northern Gaza, the focus of its initial military campaign, fueling an exodus of displaced residents now packed into the south of the enclave. But on Friday it dropped new leaflets on Khan Younis, warning residents that it had now become a combat zone and telling them to relocate again to the southern city of Rafah, on the border with Egypt.
The IDF also published an online interactive map, dividing Gaza into hundreds of zones that it said would be used to warn residents where the fighting would be centered.
Ghalayini, who received one of the leaflets, voiced the common Palestinian belief that this was part of a broader plan to get them to leave Gaza so Israelis can settle there. Although a few Israeli politicians have voiced support for the idea, Netanyahu has said Israel is trying to remove Hamas and does not seek to govern or occupy Gaza.
“One fear is that, when crammed into a smaller area, people will break out through the border and Egypt may have no choice” but to accept them, Ghalayini said.
The renewed outbreak of fighting follows a week of respite for the 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza, who have endured almost two months of aerial and ground assault, killing more than 15,000 people, including more than 5,000 children, according to local authorities.
Israel launched the campaign after Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attack in which some 1,200 people were killed and around 240 taken captive, according to the IDF.
The recent pause allowed aid into the besieged, impoverished enclave, which has lurched further into a humanitarian crisis during the war. During that time, 105 hostages were released from Gaza, officials said, while Israel has released 240 Palestinians held in Israeli jails.
Now there are also fears of the violence spreading, after a deadly shooting at a bus stop in Jerusalem and an Israeli raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank. Palestinian health officials said two boys were killed in the Israeli raid, one of them 8 years old.
But a week ago, after a pressure campaign by the hostages’ families and a shift in public opinion, Israel agreed with Hamas to pause the fighting so some of the abductees could be liberated.
With most Israelis supportive of a war they see as essential to their own security, Netanyahu has always said that the war would restart with full force after negotiations had run their course.
The U.S. has publicly urged its ally to operate with much greater care for civilians in any renewed military campaign.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, said Thursday that he had discussed with Israeli leaders the imperative “that the massive loss of civilian life and displacement of the scale that we saw in northern Gaza not be repeated in the south.” He added: “As I told the prime minister, intent matters, but so does the result.”
Hours later, the fighting had resumed.
After a week in which diplomacy was given priority, violence was on Friday once again the dominant language of this struggle.
NYT: Israel Knew Hamas Attack Plan More Than Year Ago
Israeli officials obtained Hamas’ battle plan for the Oct. 7 terrorist attack more than a year before it happened, documents, emails and interviews show. But Israeli military and intelligence officials dismissed the plan as aspirational, considering it too difficult for Hamas to carry out.
The approximately 40-page document, which Israeli authorities code-named “Jericho Wall,” outlined, point by point, exactly the kind of devastating invasion that led to the deaths of about 1,200 people.
The translated document, which was reviewed by The New York Times, did not set a date for the attack, but described a methodical assault designed to overwhelm the fortifications around the Gaza Strip, take over Israeli cities and storm key military bases, including a division headquarters.
Hamas followed the blueprint with shocking precision. The document called for a barrage of rockets at the outset of the attack, drones to knock out the security cameras and automated machine guns along the border, and gunmen to pour into Israel en masse in paragliders, on motorcycles and on foot — all of which happened Oct. 7.
The plan also included details about the location and size of Israeli military forces, communication hubs and other sensitive information, raising questions about how Hamas gathered its intelligence and whether there were leaks inside the Israeli security establishment.
The document circulated widely among Israeli military and intelligence leaders, but experts determined that an attack of that scale and ambition was beyond Hamas’ capabilities, according to documents and officials. It is unclear whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or other top political leaders saw the document, as well.
Last year, shortly after the document was obtained, officials in the Israeli military’s Gaza division, which is responsible for defending the border with Gaza, said Hamas’ intentions were unclear.
“It is not yet possible to determine whether the plan has been fully accepted and how it will be manifested,” read a military assessment reviewed by the Times.
Then, in July, just three months before the attacks, a veteran analyst with Unit 8200, Israel’s signals intelligence agency, warned that Hamas had conducted an intense, daylong training exercise that appeared similar to what was outlined in the blueprint.
But a colonel in the Gaza division brushed off her concerns, according to encrypted emails viewed by the Times.
“I utterly refute that the scenario is imaginary,” the analyst wrote in the email exchanges. The Hamas training exercise, she said, fully matched “the content of Jericho Wall.”
“It is a plan designed to start a war,” she added. “It’s not just a raid on a village.”
Officials privately concede that, had the military taken these warnings seriously and redirected significant reinforcements to the south, where Hamas attacked, Israel could have blunted the attacks or possibly even prevented them.
Instead, the Israeli military was unprepared as terrorists streamed out of the Gaza Strip. It was the deadliest day in Israel’s history.
Israeli security officials have already acknowledged that they failed to protect the country, and the government is expected to assemble a commission to study the events leading up to the attacks. The Jericho Wall document lays bare a yearslong cascade of missteps that culminated in what officials now regard as the worst Israeli intelligence failure since the surprise attack that led to the Arab-Israeli war of 1973.
Underpinning all these failures was a single, fatally inaccurate belief that Hamas lacked the capability to attack and would not dare to do so. That belief was so ingrained in the Israeli government, officials said, that they disregarded growing evidence to the contrary.
Officials would not say how they obtained the Jericho Wall document, but it was among several versions of attack plans collected over the years. A 2016 Defense Ministry memorandum viewed by the Times, for example, says, “Hamas intends to move the next confrontation into Israeli territory.”
Such an attack would most likely involve hostage-taking and “occupying an Israeli community (and perhaps even a number of communities),” the memo reads.
The Jericho Wall document, named for the ancient fortifications in the modern-day West Bank, was even more explicit. It detailed rocket attacks to distract Israeli soldiers and send them hurrying into bunkers, and drones to disable the elaborate security measures along the border fence separating Israel and Gaza.
Hamas fighters would then break through 60 points in the wall, storming across the border into Israel. The document begins with a quote from the Quran: “Surprise them through the gate. If you do, you will certainly prevail.”
The same phrase has been widely used by Hamas in its videos and statements since Oct. 7.
One of the most important objectives outlined in the document was to overrun the Israeli military base in Re’im, which is home to the Gaza division responsible for protecting the region. Other bases that fell under the division’s command were also listed.
Hamas carried out that objective Oct. 7, rampaging through Re’im and overrunning parts of the base.
The audacity of the blueprint, officials said, made it easy to underestimate. All militaries write plans that they never use, and Israeli officials assessed that, even if Hamas invaded, it might muster a force of a few dozen, not the hundreds who ultimately attacked.
Israel had also misread Hamas’ actions. The group had negotiated for permits to allow Palestinians to work in Israel, which Israeli officials took as a sign that Hamas was not looking for a war.
But Hamas had been drafting attack plans for many years, and Israeli officials had gotten hold of previous iterations of them. What could have been an intelligence coup turned into one of the worst miscalculations in Israel’s 75-year history.
In September 2016, the defense minister’s office compiled a top-secret memorandum based on a much earlier iteration of a Hamas attack plan. The memorandum, which was signed by the defense minister at the time, Avigdor Lieberman, said that an invasion and hostage-taking would “lead to severe damage to the consciousness and morale of the citizens of Israel.”
The memo, which was viewed by the Times, said Hamas had purchased sophisticated weapons, GPS jammers and drones. It also said Hamas had increased its fighting force to 27,000 people — having added 6,000 to its ranks in a two-year period. Hamas had hoped to reach 40,000 by 2020, the memo determined.
Last year, after Israel obtained the Jericho Wall document, the military’s Gaza division drafted its own intelligence assessment of this latest invasion plan.
Hamas had “decided to plan a new raid, unprecedented in its scope,” analysts wrote in the assessment reviewed by the Times. It said that Hamas intended to carry out a deception operation followed by a “large-scale maneuver” with the aim of overwhelming the division.
But the Gaza division referred to the plan as a “compass.” In other words, the division determined that Hamas knew where it wanted to go but had not arrived there yet.
On July 6, 2023, the veteran Unit 8200 analyst wrote to a group of other intelligence experts that dozens of Hamas commandos had recently conducted training exercises, with senior Hamas commanders observing.
The training included a dry run of shooting down Israeli aircraft and taking over a kibbutz and a military training base, killing all the cadets. During the exercise, Hamas fighters used the same phrase from the Quran that appeared at the top of the Jericho Wall attack plan, she wrote in the email exchanges viewed by the Times.
The analyst warned that the drill closely followed the Jericho Wall plan, and that Hamas was building the capacity to carry it out.
The colonel in the Gaza division applauded the analysis but said the exercise was part of a “totally imaginative” scenario, not an indication of Hamas’ ability to pull it off.
“In short, let’s wait patiently,” the colonel wrote.
The back-and-forth continued, with some colleagues supporting the analyst’s original conclusion. Soon, she invoked the lessons of the 1973 war, in which Syrian and Egyptian armies overran Israeli defenses. Israeli forces regrouped and repelled the invasion, but the intelligence failure has long served as a lesson for Israeli security officials.
“We already underwent a similar experience 50 years ago on the southern front in connection with a scenario that seemed imaginary, and history may repeat itself if we are not careful,” the analyst wrote to her colleagues.
While ominous, none of the emails predicted that war was imminent. Nor did the analyst challenge the conventional wisdom among Israeli intelligence officials that Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas, was not interested in war with Israel. But she correctly assessed that Hamas’ capabilities had drastically improved. The gap between the possible and the aspirational had narrowed significantly.
The failures to connect the dots echoed another analytical failure more than two decades ago, when American authorities also had multiple indications that the terrorist group al-Qaida was preparing an assault. The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were largely a failure of analysis and imagination, a government commission concluded.
“The Israeli intelligence failure on Oct. 7 is sounding more and more like our 9/11,” said Ted Singer, a recently retired senior CIA official who worked extensively in the Middle East. “The failure will be a gap in analysis to paint a convincing picture to military and political leadership that Hamas had the intention to launch the attack when it did.”
Young Chiefs Fan Speaks Out After “Blackface” Accusations
A young Kansas City Chiefs fan reacted on Wednesday to allegations by a Deadspin writer who claimed the boy wore “blackface” when he painted half his face red and the other black for last Sunday’s game against the Las Vegas Raiders.
During 9-year-old Holden Armenta’s appearance on “Jesse Watters Prime Time,” the boy and his father, Bubba Armenta, spoke to the Fox News host about being in the spotlight following the racism allegations by sports writer Carron Phillips.
“It’s been a lot. It’s been a pretty crazy couple of days,” Bubba said. “I was mad, upset for him. I’m mad that he’s upset. He’s pretty devastated. I mean, he’s seen the videos and everything posted.”
“It was his dream to get on the jumbotron,” he added.
“And I’ve had family and friends call and [say], ‘Oh, we saw you on Sunday night football.’ So, he’s excited. But then everything else came up.”
EXCLUSIVE: The 9-year-old Chiefs fan, who was falsely smeared as a racist for supporting his team, speaks out on Primetime.
Holden Armenta says this whole thing has been scary and overwhelming. His father, Bubba, says it’s too late for an apology- the damage is already done. pic.twitter.com/8T4WsMsvm6
— Jesse Watters (@JesseBWatters) November 30, 2023
Watters then asked Holden how he was holding up.
“It’s OK because a lot of kids at school are getting excited, but it’s starting to get me a little nervous because if they go a little bit overboard, it’s a little scary,” Holden said.
The drama began after Phillips accused Holden of finding “a way to hate Black people and the Native Americans at the same time” when the boy wore an American Indian headdress and painted half his face red and the other half black to show his support for the Chiefs.
In the Deadspin article, Phillips called out the child’s “disrespect” and only focused on one side of his face. When the writer was criticized online, he just doubled down on his accusations.
The Community Notes feature on X added a disclaimer saying the writer “failed to provide full context” that the boy’s face paint was in reference to the football team.
Holden’s mom later took to Facebook and defended her son, calling out the sports blog.
“This has nothing to do with the NFL,” Shannon Armenta wrote in her post. “Also, CBS showed him multiple times and this is the photo people chose to blast to create division. He is Native American — just stop already.”
Holden is from an American Indian family, and his grandfather is on the board of the Chumash tribe in Santa Ynez, California, according to The Post Millennial.
Senate Democrats Authorize Supreme Court Ethics Subpoenas
A Democratic-led U.S. Senate panel on Thursday authorized subpoenas to two influential conservatives – Harlan Crow and Leonard Leo – as part of an ethics inquiry spurred by reports of undisclosed largesse directed to some conservative Supreme Court justices.
The Judiciary Committee voted to authorize the subpoenas for Crow, a billionaire Republican donor and benefactor of conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, and Leo, a legal activist who was instrumental in compiling Republican former President Donald Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court nominees.
Republican senators walked out of the contentious committee meeting in protest while Democrats cast votes. Some Republicans later questioned the vote’s legitimacy, accusing Democrats of violating procedural rules.
“The subpoena clearly wasn’t legal,” Republican Senator John Kennedy, a committee member, said after the vote.
Senator Dick Durbin, the panel’s chairman, said subpoenas were necessary due to the refusal by Crow and Leo for months to voluntarily comply with its previous requests for information. This included itemized lists of all gifts, transportation and lodging provided to any Supreme Court justice.
Durbin also renewed his criticism of a new code of conduct announced by the court on Nov. 13 and promised to continue to pursue the committee’s ethics investigation.
“Without an enforcement mechanism, this code of conduct, while a step in a positive direction, cannot restore the public’s faith in the court,” Durbin said.
Senator Lindsey Graham, the committee’s top Republican, told the meeting that Democrats were engaged in a “jihad” against the Supreme Court, whose 6-3 conservative majority has handed major defeats to liberals in recent years on matters including abortion, gun rights and student debt relief.
“When you say you don’t want to destroy the Roberts Court, I don’t believe you,” Graham said, referring to the court under the leadership of conservative Chief Justice John Roberts. “I don’t believe a word you’re saying.”
The committee vote authorized Durbin to issue the subpoenas, which he could do unilaterally, according to a Democratic committee staffer.
If the subpoena recipients fail to comply, Democrats would need 60 votes in the 100-seat Senate to initiate a civil enforcement action, meaning they would need the support of some Republicans. The Democrats also would have the option to make a referral to the U.S. Justice Department, which could choose to pursue criminal contempt proceedings against the subpoena recipients.
Lawyers for Leo and Crow in letters to the committee have criticized the committee’s information requests as lacking a proper legal justification. Crow’s lawyer had proposed turning over a narrower range of information but Democrats rebuffed that offer, according to the panel’s Democratic members.
The news outlet ProPublica reported this year on Thomas’s failure to disclose luxury trips and real estate transactions involving Crow, a Texas businessman.
The outlet also reported that Leo helped organize a luxury fishing trip in Alaska attended by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, who failed to disclose taking a private jet provided by billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer. Trump chose all three of his appointees to the court from lists of candidates that Leo played a key role in drawing up.
Thomas has said he believed the Crow-funded trips were “personal hospitality” and thus exempt from disclosure requirements, and that his omission of the real estate transaction was inadvertent.
Alito, regarding the flight, said that Singer had “allowed me to occupy what would have otherwise been an unoccupied seat.”
Fauci to Testify in House on Covid Pandemic’s Origins, US Response
After months of negotiations, former chief White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci has agreed to testify in Congress on the U.S. response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the virus’s origins in China.
The testimony by Fauci, who led the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases from 1984 until last year, will be his first before the Republican-controlled House.
The U.S. intelligence community remains divided over whether the virus leaked from a laboratory or arose naturally, leaving lawmakers still searching for answers on how the pandemic began and the effectiveness of the U.S. response.
The arrangements for Fauci’s testimony are extensive. They will begin with two days of transcribed interviews behind closed doors in January. A public hearing, which is expected to be contentious, will be held at a later date.
Fauci, who won praise in many quarters for his high-profile role battling the pandemic and the earlier HIV/AIDS crisis, has been criticized by some GOP lawmakers who say he played down the possibility that the virus leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the U.S. government’s links to virus research at the facility. During the pandemic, the longtime public-health official, who led the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for almost four decades, became an unlikely figure of hatred and ire on the right over his support for government health mandates and other issues. He said he received death threats and his family was harassed, and in 2021, he was given an armed security detail.
In a letter to Fauci today, Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R., Ohio), chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, said the committee and Fauci’s team had agreed Fauci would give a transcribed interview on Jan. 8 and 9 for seven hours each day.
The letter states that two government lawyers and two personal attorneys can accompany Fauci at those sessions, which won’t be public. The date for the public hearing hasn’t yet been set.
“As the former Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Chief Medical Advisor to the President of the United States, you have knowledge pertinent to both investigating and evaluating the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also preparing for future pandemics,” wrote Wenstrup.
One of Fauci’s lawyers, David Schertler, in an email cited Fauci’s “ongoing cooperation with the Subcommittee regarding the coronavirus,” but didn’t respond to additional questions about his coming testimony.
U.S. intelligence agencies are split on whether the coronavirus likely first infected humans via an animal, or via a lab-related research accident in Wuhan, China, where the pandemic began. The Energy Department earlier this year shifted its analysis to a “low confidence” assessment that it had leaked from a lab, joining the FBI, which has “moderate confidence” in that explanation.
Four other U.S. intelligence agencies assess with low confidence that the virus arose naturally, while the Central Intelligence Agency has been agnostic.
At the outset of the pandemic, Fauci said that the virus likely emerged naturally before jumping to humans. But he has also said that the origins should continue to be investigated and that it is important to keep an open mind.
Fauci, now a distinguished professor at Georgetown University, has said in interviews since he retired from government that while there is no definitive answer to the virus’s origins, the preponderance of evidence points to natural transmission. He has also warned about the need to prepare for future pandemics.
Wenstrup and other House Republicans, citing email exchanges, have charged that Fauci worked with other scientists to play down the possibility of a lab leak in a seminal March 2020 scientific article, “The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2,” in the journal Nature Medicine.
Fauci wasn’t among the article’s co-authors, who have disputed Republicans’ interpretation of their discussions about the virus’s origin.
Appeals Court Reinstates Gag Order in Trump NY Case
A New York appeals court reinstated a gag order preventing former President Donald Trump from maligning court staffers on Thursday.
New York Judge Arthur Engoron had initially issued the gag order in early October after Trump lashed out at one of his law clerks on social media.
Trump is currently fighting accusations of business fraud leveled by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
Appeals court Judge David Friedman had issued a stay on Engoron’s gag order on Nov. 16, saying it potentially infringed on Trump’s First Amendment rights.
By that time, Engoron had already fined Trump $5,000 for violating the order on social media on Oct. 20, and did so again on Oct. 25 for another $10,000 before threatening imprisonment if further violations were committed.
Trump took the stand to testify personally in early November. He repeatedly cast James’ yearslong investigation and lawsuit as a “disgrace” and an attack on his business and his family.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and insists his assets were actually undervalued. Trump has repeatedly said his financial statements had disclaimers requesting that the numbers be evaluated by the banks.
Engoron ruled in September that both Trump and his company had committed fraud by deceiving banks, insurers and others by overvaluing his assets and exaggerating his net worth on paperwork used in making deals and securing financing.
“There was no victim here — the banks were represented by the best, biggest, most prestigious law firms in the state of New York — actually in the country, some of the biggest law firms,” Trump said when the trial began.
“The banks got back their money, there was never a default, it was never a problem, everything was perfect. There was no crime.”
Trump has attacked Engoron and James — both Democrats — as politically biased “operatives.”
“They are defending the Worst and Least Respected Attorney General in the United States, Letitia James, who is a Worldwide disgrace, as is her illegal Witch Hunt against me. The Radical and Unprecedented actions of Judge Engoron will keep BUSINESSES and JOBS forever out of New York State,” Trump wrote in a recent social media post.
Rand Paul Uses Heimlich Maneuver to Save Senator Choking on Lunch
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) reportedly used the Heimlich maneuver on Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) today after she apparently began to choke on food.
“Rand Paul used the Heimlich maneuver on Joni Ernst at Senate lunch today, she was choking on some food, per attendees,” said POLITICO reporter Burgess Everett. “She’s OK, senators say.”
— Joni Ernst (@SenJoniErnst) November 30, 2023
Ernst confirmed the news on X, posting from her official government account: “Can’t help but choke on the woke policies Dems are forcing down our throats. Thanks, Dr. @RandPaul!”
“God bless Rand Paul,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). “I never thought I’d say that.”
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) said in a tweet earlier in the afternoon that food at the Senate lunch was provided by Ernst and the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association.
Federal Judge Orders FBI to Release Seth Rich’s Laptop
The murder of Seth Rich has long been one of the stones left unturned since the fall out following the 2016 presidential election. Rich, a 27-year old staffer for the Democratic National Committee was shot twice in the back on July 10th, 2016 while walking back to his home in Washington DC. He was not robbed, yet his death was ruled nothing more than a botched robbery.
Although his murder would occur months before the election of Donald Trump, Rich’s name would become inextricably tied to the build up that culminated in that populist victory.
Many suspect Rich was the source of the leaked DNC emails provided to WikiLeaks – a rumor which was fueled by the odd circumstances surrounding his death, the sudden retirement of D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier five weeks after the murder, and an email John Podesta sent to Hillary’s inner circle about ‘making an example’ of a suspected leaker, written more than a year before Rich’s death.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) October 30, 2016
Troves of emails were published by Wikileaks giving insight into the corrupt inner machination of the Democratic National Committee. While Rich was never officially revealed as the source of the leaked emails, it has been heavily suggested. Julian Assange was one key figure who made that suggestion when he highlighted Rich’s murder during a 2016 interview in which he was asked about the risks that come with operating WikiLeaks. Megavideo founder and entrepeneur Kim Dotcom said in May of 2017 that he worked with Rich to connect him with Assange.
— Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) May 20, 2017
At one point, Assange heavily implied Rich was his source for the DNC emails. Meanwhile, WikiLeaks offered a $130,000 reward for information leading to the murderer of Rich.
— TeasLindsay™ (@TexasLindsay_) November 29, 2023
Following Rich’s murder, law enforcement took possession of the deceased staffer’s personal and work laptops in addition to other possessions found on his person at the scene of the crime. However, the information in that evidence has long been kept under lock and key, furthering speculation of a cover-up of his murder as a move for power consolidation by those with vested interests in the democratic establishment. After years, it finally appears that they will not remain a secret much longer.
The emails pointed to evidence of of “Pay for Play” by Clinton Foundation donors who funded ISIS, the DNC cheating against Bernie Sanders, MSM collusion with the Clinton campaign, Hillary’s dreams of open borders, “unaware and compliant” citizens, ‘Spirit Cooking’ (email), Wet Works, and evidence of Aliens and Zero Point Energy.
The FBI Must hand it over
On Tuesday, Federal Judge Amose Mazzant of the United States District Court For The Eastern District of Texas issued a memorandum opinion and ordering the FBI to release the information contained in Rich’s laptops. The order comes from the lawsuit Huddleston v. Fed. Bureau of Investigation. Brian Huddleston, the plaintiff in the civil case, filed FOIA requests in 2017 and 2020 compelling the FBI and DOJ to release the information contained in Rich’s laptops.
BREAKING NEWS: FBI ordered to disclose information on Seth Rich’s personal laptop, Seth Rich’s work laptop, the DVD, and the tape drive within 14 days following this order by the Federal Judge in Texas!
Huge Shout Out to Ty Clevenger, One of my amazing attorneys and friends!!!… pic.twitter.com/XPAeqWjjzN
— Matt Couch (@RealMattCouch) November 29, 2023
After filing those FOIA requests, the FBI and DOJ spent years manipulating the legal system in order to avoid disclosing that evidence. It has repeatedly filed motions to stay the scheduling orders advancing Huddleston’s case in the aim of bringing the evidence to light. In 2022, the plaintiff achieved a major victory when Judge Mazzant ruled the FBI improperly withheld the evidence from Huddleston’s FOIA request. The order issued Tuesday dictates that the FBI finally must agree to a timeline for the disclosure of the information with Huddleston.
Mazzant’s order to release the information in response to Huddleston’s FOIA request may prove to be a watershed moment in the pursuit of revealing what information Rich had that could have prove to be the motive behind his murder. To this day, no arrests have ever made following his shooting. Despite police characterizing the murder as an attempted robbery, Rich’s wallet, watch, and other valuables were not taken from him after being fatally shot twice in the back.
Suspicions spawned by the nature of the supposed “robbery” have fueled speculation about the real motive behind Rich’s murder to this day. Like anything else that didn’t conform to the mainstream narrative surrounding the 2016 election, suggestions that Rich’s murder was politically motivated have since been “debunked” as conspiracy theories. However, with the forthcoming release of the information contained in Seth Rich’s laptops, it appears that a fact-checker who is actually determined to uncover the truth has finally emerged.
Florida GOP Chair Accused of Sex Battery by Alleged Menage a Trois Lover
The Sarasota Police Department is investigating a sexual battery allegation against Florida GOP Chair Christian Ziegler, a political bombshell in the home state of former President Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The USA TODAY Network – Florida requested documents from the Sarasota Police Department mentioning Ziegler, and the agency produced heavily redacted reports from an officer who responded to the initial complaint and a detective. The records note that the case is an “active criminal investigation.”
The detective’s report states that the individual reported being “sexually battered” at home in Sarasota on Oct. 2. The report again mentions a “sexual assault allegation” and “sexual assault complaint” but has no other information.
The synopsis from the responding officer also is almost entirely redacted. Only five words aren’t blacked out in the narrative. They are: “stated… raped… stated that… raped.”
Ziegler’s attorney, Derek Byrd, said he is confident his client “will be completely exonerated” and said he as been “fully cooperative with every request made by the Sarasota Police Department.”
“Unfortunately, public figures are often accused of acts that they did not commit whether it be for political purposes or financial gain,” Byrd said. “I would caution anyone to rush to judgment until the investigation is concluded. Out of respect for the investigation, this is all Mr. Ziegler or myself can say at this time.”
The Florida Center for Government Accountability first reported on the allegations against Ziegler.
Citing anonymous sources close to the investigation, the government watchdog group says police seized Ziegler’s cell phone and “investigators continue to conduct a forensic examination of the electronic device.”
Ziegler and his wife, Sarasota County School Board member and Moms for Liberty founder Bridget Ziegler, have emerged as one of the most prominent political couples in the state in recent years.
A former Sarasota County Commissioner and current GOP State Committeeman for Sarasota County, Christian Ziegler took over the Florida GOP in February after years of grassroots GOP activism.
Sources told the Florida Center for Government Accountability that the woman accusing Christian Ziegler of sexual battery “alleged that she and both Zieglers had been involved in a longstanding consensual three-way sexual relationship prior to the incident.” The incident occurred when Christian Ziegler and the woman were alone at the woman’s house, the sources told the advocacy group.
The allegations are sure to reverberate across Florida’s political landscape, throwing the Florida GOP into turmoil at a time when the party is gearing up for the 2024 election.
The Republican Party of Sarasota County, where the Zieglers have been active for years, issued a statement saying the party is “shocked and disappointed” by the reports.
“The Republican Party takes all such allegations of potential criminal conduct very seriously and will fully cooperate with investigators.”
Ziegler’s position is especially high profile because the two leading GOP figures in the country, Trump and DeSantis, are Florida men and involved in the state party.
A legal investigation into Ziegler could complicate the Florida GOP’s efforts to prepare for an election where Florida again could be a big presidential prize, and also features a competitive U.S. Senate race.
The Florida GOP has been on a hot streak after DeSantis’ dominating re-election victory last year. The party’s voter registration has far outpaced Democrats.
A sexual scandal featuring one of the party’s leading figures could be a major distraction, and tarnish its image at a time when the GOP has pushed culturally conservative policies centered on moral values.
Bridget Ziegler has led that charge through her work with Moms for Liberty, which she is no longer involved with, and in implementing DeSantis’ education agenda, which has emphasized LGBTQ and racial issues.
Bridget Zeigler was with DeSantis when he signed legislation derided by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and was appointed by the governor to serve on a board governing a special district that oversees Disney’s properties in Central Florida. Disney and DeSantis have feuded over the company’s response to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Representatives for the governor’s office and campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Moms for Liberty defended Bridget Ziegler in a statement.
“Yet another attempt today to ruin the reputation of a strong woman fighting for America,” the group posted on X.
Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried called on Christian Ziegler to resign from the Florida GOP and took aim at both husband and wife.
“As leaders in the Florida GOP and Moms for Liberty, the Zieglers have made a habit out of attacking anything they perceive as going against ‘family values’ — be it reproductive rights or the existence of LGBTQ+ Floridians,” Fried said. “The level of hypocrisy in this situation is stunning.”
The Republican Party of Florida said in a statement that the party is not commenting on the ongoing investigation.
Lee County GOP Chair Michael Thompson said he doesn’t believe the allegations against Ziegler and doesn’t believe he should resign as chair unless the allegations are proven true.
“If the allegations are true I’m pretty sure change will come at the RPOF but I don’t believe it for a minute,” Thompson said. “Christian’s the chairman. Christian’s still the chairman of the organization until something else happens. We don’t anticipate Christian leaving as the chair.”
Thompson said he spoke to two other party chairs Thursday who have the same view.
“Innocent until proven guilty,” Thompson said. “That’s what our justice system needs to get back to and that’s for everybody across the board, not just for Trump, not just for Ziegler… let’s not try to convict people in headlines. Let’s see the evidence.”
There has been speculation about whether Ed Brodsky, the Republican state attorney for the 12th Judicial Circuit covering Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties, would recuse himself if a case moved forward against Ziegler.
Brodsky said Thursday that he currently doesn’t see a conflict that would require recusal. He knows Ziegler through political circles but they are just professional acquaintances and don’t socialize “outside of our respective roles,” he said.
“I don’t see a present conflict that prevents me from doing my duty but there have been no charges officially submitted or recommended to us and we’ll certainly reevaluate to make the appropriate decision if and when they do,” Brodsky.
Dow Jumps 500 Points to New 2023 High Thursday, Capping 8% November Rally
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied Thursday to a new high for the year, as more cooling inflation data and strong Salesforce earnings capped the benchmark’s best month since October 2022.
The 30-stock Dow gained 520 points, or 1.47%, to close at 35,950.89, surpassing its previous high for the year in August. The S&P 500 added 0.4% to 4,567.80. However, the Nasdaq Composite was about 0.2% lower at 14,226.22 as investors took some profits in Big Tech stocks that have led the November comeback.
The Dow closed out November with an 8.9% gain, breaking its three-month losing streak. The S&P 500 rose 8.9% in November, while the Nasdaq advanced 10.7%. Both averages had their best monthly performance since July 2022, and were trading about 1% away from their respective 2023 highs.
“A lot of what we’ve seen in November is just a realization that the economy is still doing well, that consumers are resilient and the Fed is on hold, more than anything else,” said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer at Independent Advisor Alliance. “Assuming those conditions stay between now and the end of the year — which is our our most likely scenario — we think the market will continue to drift higher.”
“For 2022, we spent so much time thinking about what could go wrong, and we really didn’t spend any time thinking about what could go right. 2023 is a story of a lot of things going right, ” Zaccarelli added.
Leading the Dow higher on Thursday was cloud software company Salesforce, which popped 9.4% on the back of better-than-expected earnings and revenue for the fiscal third quarter. Salesforce’s cloud data business, which saw its revenue increase by 22% from the previous year, and its artificial intelligence product Einstein GPT were behind the positive report. Health-care companies UnitedHealth Group, Johnson & Johnson, Merck and Amgen also led the index higher.
Data released early Thursday showed that the personal consumption expenditures price index — the Federal Reserve’s favorite inflation gauge — rose 3.5% on a year-over-year basis, a slowing from a 3.7% annual gain in prior month.
These numbers were the latest in a string of positive inflation data seen in November that caused traders to conclude the Federal Reserve is likely done raising rates and could even begin lowering them in 2024.
“What’s driving the market, ultimately, is that shift in monetary policy,” said Sonu Varghese, global macro strategist at Carson Group. “Lower volatility could also push more money into markets as people regrow their portfolios and increase exposure to equities. We think new highs are definitely possible.”
The 10-year Treasury yield, which had spooked investors by rising above 5% last month, collapsed this month as the cooling inflation data rolled out, helping to boost sentiment for equities. The 10-year yield ticked a higher to 4.34% Thursday.
Technology shares were far and away the big winners in November, but investors took some of those bets off the table as the month came to a close. Nvidia shed 2.9% on Thursday, but still ended the month up 14.7%. Tesla shares were off by 1.7% Thursday following a 19.5% comeback in November. Alphabet and Meta lost 1.8% and 1.5% during the day, respectively.
Minnesota School Bans Cell Phones — And Students Are Happy
A Minnesota middle school banned student cellphones a year ago, and the difference it made was “night and day,” according to school officials.
“I believe (the ban) is game-changing and will have lasting impacts on our students for years to come,” Maple Grove Middle School Principal Patrick Smith told WCCO.
“There was no cross-the-table conversations, there was no interaction in the hallways,” he said. “And let’s be real, with these devices, our students – especially our teenagers – there’s a lot of drama that comes from social media, and a lot of conflict that comes from it.”
Last year, school officials banned student cell phone use for the entire school day, from 8:10 a.m. to 2:40 p.m., following a variety of issues at the school tied to the devices.
“We have a culture and climate concern. We see issues that kids are getting on their phones through interactions of bullying, of setting up fights, just the gambit of a lot of the negative things kids are going back and forth on social media,” Smith said on the Chad Hartman Show, adding that the distraction from learning was also a major concern.
The new policy encourages students to keep their phones in their lockers, and the devices are confiscated for the day if students are caught using them. School officials vetted the idea with parents ahead of implementation and the response was “super positive,” Smith said.
When they unveiled the plan, parents applauded, he said.
“Nobody has ever pushed back,” he said. “I mean, in my experience, not one parent or community member has come in and said this is bogus, you shouldn’t be doing this, our kids should be able to have their phone. It’s been very, very much supported by our community and our parents and our staff.”
After a year, the results speak for themselves.
“In the grand scheme of things, kids are happy. They’re engaging with each other,” Smith said. “The hallway behavior, it’s just night and day.”
While it remains to be seen how the change has impacted academics overall, feedback from parents who spoke with WCCO suggest it’s making a difference.
“I do notice that he is thriving and really focused and doing really well,” parent Kim Gillen said. “Participates in class discussions. I get feedback from the teachers on that.”
The positive results at Maple Grove has bolstered Republican state Rep. Kristin Robbins’ efforts to bring the change to more schools in Minnesota.
“This is an area where we can really make progress,” she told WCCO. “The research shows if the phone is nearby, it’s a mental distraction because they’re wondering, ‘what’s happening with my phone? How can I sneak it? Should I go to the bathroom and check my phone?’”
A recent study from Common Sense Media examining smartphone data of 200 students found 97% of 11- to 17-year-olds use their phones during the school day, with the amount of in-school screen time ranging from less than a minute to 6.5 hours, with a median time of 43 minutes.
The study found students picked up their phones a media of 51 times per day, though pickup amounts ranged from two to 498 times per day, K-12 Dive reports.
Data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows 91% of schools banned nonacademic use of phones during the 2009-10 school year, a figure that declined to 66% by 2015-16, before rebounding to 77% in 2019-20, according to the news site.
3 Killed, 6 Injured in Terror Shooting in Jerusalem
Three people were killed and six were wounded, two of them seriously, in a terror shooting attack at the entrance to Jerusalem on Thursday morning, police and medics said.
According to police, at around 7:40 a.m. two Palestinian gunmen got out of a vehicle on Weizman Street at the main entrance to the capital and opened fire at people at a bus stop.
Police said two off-duty soldiers and an armed civilian in the area returned fire, killing the two terrorists.
The attackers were named as brothers Murad Namr, 38, and Ibrahim Namr, 30, from East Jerusalem.
According to the Shin Bet security agency, the pair were Hamas members and previously jailed for terror activity.
Murad was jailed between 2010 and 2020 for planning terror attacks under directions of terror elements in the Gaza Strip and Ibrahim was jailed in 2014 for undisclosed terror activity, the agency said.
Surveillance camera footage shows the shooting attack at the entrance to Jerusalem this morning. Two people were killed, and at least seven others were hurt. Two off-duty soldiers and an armed civilian shot the terrorists dead. pic.twitter.com/CwucVb5IV7
— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) November 30, 2023
Footage showed that the terrorists were armed with an M-16 assault rifle and a handgun. A police search of the vehicle found large amounts of ammunition.
Police said officers were searching the area to rule out any additional attackers.
The Magen David Adom ambulance service said its medics declared the death of a 24-year-old woman at the scene, and was taking eight others to hospitals in Jerusalem.
An elderly man and a woman, who were critically wounded, were later declared dead at a hospital in Jerusalem.
None of the fatalities were immediately publicly named.
Another two victims were listed in serious condition, three in moderate condition, and one in good condition, according to MDA.
The bus stop was the scene of a deadly bomb attack almost exactly a year ago.
Thursday’s attack came as a ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip was holding for the sixth day.
Tensions in Israel and the West Bank have been high since October 7, when some 3,000 terrorists burst through the border into Israel in a Hamas-led attack, killing at least 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and seizing some 240 hostages.
Israel responded with an aerial campaign and subsequent ground operation with the goal of destroying Hamas and ending its 16-year rule over Gaza, and securing the release of the hostages.
The IDF has continued to operate throughout the West Bank and police have been on high alert in Israel, in light of concerns about a possible escalation of violence following the release of Palestinian security prisoners in the exchange for abducted Israeli hostages.
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger Dies at 100
Henry Kissinger, the German-born American diplomat, academic and presidential adviser who served as Secretary of State for two presidents and left his stamp on U.S. foreign policy for decades died Wednesday at the age of 100.
A statement released by Kissinger Associates said Kissinger died Wednesday at his home in Connecticut.
Kissinger was both revered and controversial, praised by supporters as a brilliant strategist and condemned by critics as a master manipulator.
He pioneered the policy of détente with the Soviet Union, began a rapprochement with China and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 for negotiating the Paris Peace Accords to end U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
Some of his policies remain controversial, and journalist Seymour Hersh claimed in 2002, “The dark side of Henry Kissinger is very, very dark.”
Even his appearance seemed at odds with his social life. Portly, bespectacled and heavily accented, Kissinger was far from the idea of a Hollywood Adonis. Yet at various points before his second marriage, according to his biographer, Walter Isaacson, Kissinger dated actresses Jill St. John, Shirley MacLaine, Marlo Thomas, Candice Bergen and Liv Ullman.
“Power,” he once famously said, “is the ultimate aphrodisiac.”
He was also a man used to perennially being in charge.
“There cannot be a crisis next week,” he was quoted as saying in The New York Times in 1969. “My schedule is already full.”
He maintained his global influence well after leaving public life, evidenced most recently by his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing in July. The Chinese leader greeted the former American diplomat who had celebrated his 100th birthday less than two months prior with deep respect.
“The Chinese people never forget their old friends, and Sino-U.S. relations will always be linked with the name of Henry Kissinger,” Xi said at the time.
Kissinger played a leading role in the normalization of diplomatic ties between the U.S. and China under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
By 1980, he told Time magazine, “The longer I am out of office, the more infallible I appear to myself.”
Kissinger is survived by his wife, Nancy, whom he married in 1974, and two children, David and Elizabeth, from his first marriage.
He was born Heinz Alfred Kissinger in Fürth, Bavaria, Germany, May 27, 1923, and, even as a child, was known for his intellect.
“Henry Kissinger grew up with that do mix of ego and insecurity that comes from being the smartest kid in the class,” Isaacson wrote.
“From really knowing that you’re more awesomely intelligent than anybody else but also being the guy who’d gotten beaten up because he was Jewish.”
Kissinger, his younger brother, Walter, and his parents fled the Nazis and arrived in New York in 1938 by way of London when Henry was 15.
After attending the City College of New York, he served in the U.S. military, becoming a U.S. citizen, then enrolling at Harvard, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees and a Ph.D.
Kissinger then joined the Harvard faculty, where he became an expert in the field of international relations and an adviser to government agencies under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.
In 1969, he was appointed national security adviser to Nixon.
As head of the National Security Council, Kissinger wielded unusual power for the office and had a significant hand in devising and executing U.S. foreign policy, largely circumventing then-Secretary of State William P. Rogers.
A staunch proponent of Realpolitik, Kissinger pushed for Nixon to employ a pragmatic strategy toward engagement with the Soviet Union and China.
More controversial, though, was his involvement in the Vietnam conflict, including the bombing of Cambodia and Laos.
In 1973, Kissinger began secret talks with North and South Vietnam, negotiating the Paris Peace Accords to end direct U.S. military involvement in Vietnam and an end to the war.
Although the cease-fire was not lasting, Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize that year, jointly with his North Vietnamese counterpart Le Duc Tho. Kissinger said he accepted the prize “with humility,” though the Vietnamese revolutionary declined to accept since the agreement failed to yield a lasting peace.
In his book, “The Trial of Henry Kissinger,” late author Christopher Hitchens also charged Kissinger supported the September 1973 coup to oust Chilean Marxist President Salvador Allende, paving the way for the totalitarian regime of General Augusto Pinochet.
On Sept. 22, 1973, Nixon appointed Kissinger secretary of state, a role he maintained under Ford after Nixon resigned in 1974 in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal.
When Ford failed to win re-election in 1976, Kissinger left politics to return to academia at Georgetown University’s Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.
He also founded his international consulting firm, Kissinger Associates, and served as a director on a number of boards for corporations and nonprofit organizations.
Kissinger also wrote several books on public policy and three memoirs.
In one, 1982’s “Years of Upheaval,” he described what he presumably considered his own role.
“Statesman create; ordinary leaders consume,” he said. “The ordinary leader is satisfied with ameliorating the environment, not transforming it; a statesman must be a visionary and an educator.”
McCarthy Eyes Exit: Lawmakers Expect Him to Bolt by Christmas
Multiple GOP lawmakers expect former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to step down from his seat before the end of the year, Axios reported.
The potential exit of McCarthy — who privately told donors he is looking to “get the hell out,” according to a source familiar with the conversation — could leave the House GOP with an even narrower majority.
“I have another week or so to decide because if I decide to run again, I have to know in my heart I’m giving 110%,” McCarthy said at The New York Times DealBook Summit on Wednesday, referring to California’s Dec. 8 filing deadline.
“I have to know that I want to do that. I also have to know if I’m going to walk away, that I’m going to be fine with walking away. And so I’m really taking this time now,” he said.
Speculation over McCarthy’s potential departure escalated ahead of the Thanksgiving recess, with multiple GOP sources noting he posted a photo on Instagram in which his district office appeared to be in the process of being packed.
Multiple Republicans raised concerns that California’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom could hold McCarthy’s seat open if he decides to resign in the new year.
The GOP’s razor-thin majority is already on the verge of being diminished further by the potential expulsion of Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) in a vote expected on Friday.
GOP lawmakers have noted the awkward nature of shifting from leading the conference to being a rank-and-file member. Tensions between McCarthy and his critics have continued to flare up since his historic ouster.
The former speaker refers to those who voted to strip him from his gavel as the “crazy eight.” Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) recently accused McCarthy of elbowing him in a narrow hallway of the Capitol, which McCarthy has denied.
Some rank-and-file members voiced frustrations with McCarthy attempting to “kneecap” multiple candidates that aimed to succeed him as speaker, arguing that the efforts minimized much of the sympathy he gained after the initial ouster.
“The image in the rearview mirror is getting smaller by the day,” one lawmaker said of McCarthy’s influence over the conference. “I don’t think he’s having a good time being a regular Joe.”
McCarthy allies have praised his tenure — applauding his fundraising prowess and leadership skills — but told Axios they wouldn’t blame him for leaving given the circumstances. And his critics remain vocal about their grievances, with some accusing him of being “bitter” and “petty” in his remarks about those who worked to remove him.
“I can’t really imagine that Kevin really wants to stick around. I’ll support him with whatever he wants to do,” one lawmaker told Axios, adding that he “decentralized power” and “did a lot of really good things he doesn’t get nearly enough credit for.”
“I mean, why the hell would he stay?” said another House lawmaker.
“I suspect the former speaker will return to spend more time with the people he’s always represented — on Wall Street and K Street. I don’t imagine he’ll be walking the streets of Bakersfield,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) told Axios.
“Damn shame,” one McCarthy critic quipped, predicting that the former speaker will likely use millions in PAC funds to meddle in the races of the House Republicans who voted to oust him.
McCarthy’s seat is a Republican stronghold, but his potential exit could prove to be an issue for GOP leadership until a special election is held.
MTG Reintroduces Articles of Impeachment Against Mayorkas
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) reintroduced a privileged motion to impeach Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, forcing leadership to bring the motion up for a vote sometime before the end of this week.
The effort comes just weeks after the House voted to table a similar motion to impeach the Biden administration official, which accused Mayorkas of failing to maintain “operational control” of United States borders which has led to an influx of illegal immigration and the flow of fentanyl across the southern border. That motion was shot down after eight Republicans joined all Democrats in opposing the measure, instead referring the matter to the Homeland Security Committee.
“The eight Republicans that voted with the Democrats to protect Mayorkas’s job and send the articles of impeachment back to committee, they found out from their districts that they made the wrong move,” Greene said. “The eight Republicans that voted with the Democrats claimed that they wanted it to follow proper House procedure and go through the committee. But my articles of impeachment had been sitting in committee for over six months, and they’ve been basically sitting there collecting dust not being picked up.”
Greene said she hasn’t spoken to the eight who voted against her initial resolution but said she believes, based on phone calls her office received, that the lawmakers heard from constituents while they were home from Thanksgiving expressing frustration at their opposition. The Georgia Republican also expressed frustration toward House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), noting the two have not discussed her efforts to impeach Mayorkas since he assumed the top leadership position last month.
Greene again filed the motion as a privileged resolution, forcing GOP leadership to bring it up for a vote within two legislative days. It’s unclear when House leaders will call for a vote, but rules dictate it must come to the floor before lawmakers adjourn for the weekend on Friday.
The impeachment resolution introduces one charge that alleges Mayorkas violated his constitutional duties since taking office in February 2021.
Greene cites a number of federal statutes in the resolution, such as the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which requires Mayorkas to maintain operational control of the border, and the Guarantee Clause, which requires him to “protect each of the States from invasion.” The Georgia Republican cited reports that show more than 10 million illegal immigrants have come into the country during his tenure, including the admittance of “terrorists, human traffickers, drugs, and other contraband.”
The 10 million number referenced in the resolution combines 8 million encounters at the southern border with another 1.8 million “gotaways,” or immigrants who managed to evade U.S. border officials and remain in the country to this day. The remaining number of immigrants includes individuals from Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Egypt, Turkey, and other countries.
The resolution also accuses Mayorkas of failing to stop the flow of fentanyl across the southern border, citing reports that Customs and Border Protection seized approximately 11,200 pounds of fentanyl during fiscal 2021 and another 14,700 pounds the following year.
The Department of Homeland Security has repeatedly pushed back against the resolution, arguing policy differences are not grounds for impeachment. A spokesperson for the department told the Washington Examiner earlier this month the U.S. immigration system has been broken for decades, arguing only Congress can pass legislation to fix it.
“Instead of continuing their reckless impeachment charades and attacks on law enforcement, Congress should work with us to keep our country safe, build on the progress DHS is making, and deliver desperately needed reforms for our broken immigration system that only legislation can fix,” the spokesperson said.
The latest effort comes amid a monthslong push by Greene to remove the top border official from his post over accusations Mayorkas has violated his constitutional duty to protect the U.S. borders, which has led to an influx of illegal immigration and the flow of fentanyl across the southern border.
The Georgia Republican filed articles of impeachment against the homeland security official earlier this year, but that legislation failed to garner much momentum in the lower chamber, prompting Greene to file the latest two articles as privileged.
However, Greene said on Wednesday she would continue introducing the resolution and forcing votes on his impeachment as many times as it takes.
“I’ll keep reintroducing it because he should be impeached,” she said.
After 50 Years, US Returns to Moon on January 25
The lander, named Peregrine, will have no one on board. It was developed by American company Astrobotic, whose CEO John Thornton said it will carry NASA instruments to study the lunar environment in anticipation of NASA’s Artemis manned missions.
Several years ago, NASA opted to commission US companies to send scientific experiments and technologies to the Moon — a program called CLPS.
These fixed-price contracts should make it possible to develop a lunar economy, and provide transport services at a lower cost.
“One of the big challenges of what we’re attempting here is attempting a launch and landing on the surface Moon for a fraction of what it would otherwise cost,” said Thornton Wednesday at a press briefing at his company’s base in in Pittsburgh.
“Only about half of the missions that have gone to the surface of the Moon have been successful,” he said.
“So it’s certainly a daunting challenge. I’m going to be terrified and thrilled all at once at every stage of this.”
Takeoff is scheduled for December 24 from Florida aboard the inaugural flight of the new rocket from the ULA industrial group, named Vulcan Centaur.
The probe will then take “a few days” to reach lunar orbit, but will have to wait until January 25 before attempting landing, so that light conditions at the target location are right, Thornton said.
The descent will be carried out autonomously, without human intervention, but will be monitored from the company’s control center.
In the spring, the Japanese start-up ispace had already attempted to become the first private company to land on the Moon, but the mission ended in a crash. Israel also suffered a setback in 2019. Only four countries have successfully landed on the Moon: the United States, Russia, China and, most recently, India.
In addition to Astrobotic, NASA has signed contracts with other companies, such as Firefly Aerospace, Draper and Intuitive Machines.
The latter is due to take off aboard a SpaceX rocket in January.
“NASA leadership is aware of the risks and has accepted that some of these missions might not succeed,” said Chris Culbert, the CLPS program manager.
“But even if every landing isn’t successful, CLPS already had an impact on the commercial infrastructure needed to establish a lunar economy,” he said.
With its Artemis program, NASA wants to establish a base on the surface of the Moon.
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