More to ignore, Book 64........

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Ukraine update: What's going on in Severodonetsk defies description as both sides pound the city
Mark Sumner

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Smoke and dirt rise from shelling in the city of Severodonetsk. June 7, 2022.

At this point, trying to say anything about Severondonetsk beyond “fighting continues” is pointless. We know this much about the sequence of events: Ukraine quickly fell back as Russian forces first entered the city, allowing them to capture as much as 80-90% of the area; Ukrainian forces then surged forward, in concert with artillery firing from across the river in Lysychansk, and quickly retook about half the city; by Sunday, it was Russia that was down to less than a third of the city, but Russia responded by pushing more troops into the city and more artillery into the outskirts; since then the battle has surged back and forth through the city streets, with neither side able to fully gain the upper hand. Russia doesn’t control as much as it did at it’s peak. Neither does Ukraine. The losses for both sides are both sickening and mind-boggling. On Saturday, Russia may have suffered its highest level of losses for any single day of the invasion, but it’s possible that the same could be said about Ukraine.

Based on the most reliable reports available on Tuesday morning, Ukraine has suffered a serious setback in its efforts to recapture and hold the city. Ukrainian troops still control the western industrial areas of the city and are fighting in the east. Russia essentially holds the north and parts of the city center,
except that Russian attempts to advance are still being obliterated by the artillery on the opposing bluff. The most accurate thing to say at the moment is that no one controls Severodonetsk.

Over the last 24 hours, President Volodomyr Zelenskyy has made statements suggesting that Ukraine may soon withdraw from the city. Whether these are preparing the Ukrainian public for losing the city, goading NATO countries into hurrying up with new hardware, or luring Russia in for another round of pulverizing … it’s impossible to tell. Possibly it’s all three.


Again, Ukraine set up a situation where Russian forces in the Donbass suffered horrific losses. And Russia is still coming. Because until those losses reach a level of making Russian forces ineffective, they simply don’t care.

Any map pretending to have street by street level mapping of the current situation in Severodonetsk is just that, a pretense. It’s possible the next hours will decide the fate of the city. It’s more likely that the next time we update, the phase “fighting continues” will still be all we know. One quick warning when looking for information on this battle: pro-Russian trolls and bots are out in extreme numbers, proclaiming that Severodonetsk is already taken, that there never was any counteroffensive in the city, and that the “foreign mercenaries” were all easily wiped out. Just take the fact that Russia is throwing up such a high level of smoke as good evidence that the fire is still burning.
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ZAPORIZHZHIA AREA​


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Reports of Russian checkpoints “abandoned” in the south

Meanwhile, something distinctly odd is going on in southern Ukraine. At point after point, from Vasylivka down to Melitopol and beyond, observers are noting that Russian checkpoints have been “abandoned.” There are even reports that Russian troops have been withdrawn from much of the area, with some sources—including Russian Telegram accounts—saying that troops have been shifted into the Kherson area.


This could be something as simple as a “rotation” of new troops to the front lines. Russia very clearly hasn’t left behind this whole area. Fighting continues between Hulyaipole and Polohy, as well as south of Orikhiv. This whole area represents that “land bridge” between the Donbass and the Crimea. It’s not something Russia would walk away from, even if it was desperately trying to throw more troops into the battle elsewhere.

Based on claims that Russia was massing a convoy along the road south of Vasyivka for an attack on on Zaporizhzhia, this could be a general reorganization of forces in that area. Maybe platoon-level forces holding checkpoints within Russian-occupied territory are being rolled into more makeshift BTGs for the attempted advance.

That reorganization may create some possibilities for Ukraine, but if a large attack force moves on Zaporizhzhia, even if it is, as rumors suggest, using old T-62 tanks and scraped together forces, stopping that attack is going to become the major focus in the area.
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KHARKIV AREA​


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Odd locations of artillery fire in the area north of Staryi Saltiv

We’ve been noting for some time that there were odd patterns of artillery fire in the area of Staryi Saltiv. When Ukraine first rolled into the area in May, there was a clear pattern: with each step up the map, Ukraine bombarded the area across the river in effort to clear a potential bridgehead. Though, since those bridges were out, any crossing would require repairs or a pontoon bridge.

Over the last week, that pattern has been playing out again. The red spots on this map represent one week’s worth of artillery activity in the area around Staryi Saltiv. The small amount of activity north of Buhaivka is a good indicator that Ukrainian troops are still present on that side of the river, though not in enough force to make a serious advance on Vovchansk. But the heavy concentrations of fire at the area across the bridge from Rubizhne and even up the river at Starytysa are a genuine mystery.

Unfortunately, clouds in the area mean that the last good satellite data for the Rubizhne area is from all the way back on May 23.


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May 23 images north of Rubizhne show the damaged bridge

In this image, it’s easy to see the gap in the middle of the Rubizhne bridge, which was blown open by Russian forces as Ukrainian troops moved toward the area at the start of May. Unlike Staryi Saltiv, which is located on a reservoir above a dam, making the Siverskyi Donets over a kilometer wide, the river above the Rubizhne bridge is less than 100m wide. In fact, in the area where a lot of that artillery has been falling, the river is divided by an island resulting in channels that max out at about 60m. It’s certainly an area that would be easier to cross with a pontoon bridge.

Is Russian firing artillery at a Ukrainian crossing attempt? Probably not, since the morning report from the Ukrainian MOD complained about Russian mines on the road south of Rubizhne. Russia has held most of the town for the last two weeks, with an ongoing skirmish around the south side. That would seem to make it more likely that Ukraine is pounding these positions—possibly to prevent the movement of Russian artillery into the area. Possibly to clear an area for their next step.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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More than 500 days removed from the violent attack on the US Capitol, the committee investigating it is ready to show its work. The House select committee will hold its first public hearing this week, on June 9 at 8 p.m. ET. Sources told CNN this hearing will be a broad overview of the panel's 10-month investigation and set the stage for subsequent hearings, which are expected to cover certain topics or themes. While the setup of the hearings has been a work in progress and evolving, sources note, the presentations will likely feature video clips from January 6, as well as some of the roughly 1,000 interviews the committee has conducted behind closed doors......
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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The BIG Guide: Who's who in the Jan. 6 committee's investigation
Brandi Buchman

The Jan. 6 committee has obtained huge amounts of information from sources high and low to piece together a clearer understanding of what happened when the U.S. Capitol came under siege by a mob of former President Donald Trump’s supporters and members of neofascist extremist groups.

This week when the committee resumes its public hearings—the debut hearing was held in July 2021—investigators are expected to unveil their findings and argue that the evidence obtained through more than 1,000 interviews and sourced from more than 125,000 pages of records, indicates that the twice-impeached former president possibly broke the law when he deployed a scheme aimed at overturning the results of the 2020 election.

During the 11-month investigation, subpoenas from the probe have flowed steadily. The public hearings will lay out the story and the key individuals at focus. The committee will issue its final report in September. In the meantime, to guide those following the probe, the following is a comprehensive guide to who’s who at the center of the Jan. 6 investigation.

The following guide includes a variety of Trump White House and administration officials, strategists, advisers and lawyers and others, including those in Vice President Mike Pence’s office. They orbited Trump or figured prominently in the select committe’s investigation. Each section provides some context behind subpoenas and requests. Links embedded throughout will take you to related reporting here at Daily Kos and elsewhere......
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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DHS outlines 'heightened threat' due to Republican lies about election fraud and racist conspiracies
Mark Sumner

With public hearings about to resume from the House Jan. 6 committee, and midterm elections coming up in November, the Department of Homeland Security is warning that there is an increased threat of violence from those who believe Republican lies about the 2020 election.

On Tuesday, the National Terrorism Advisory System put out a bulletin warning of a “heightened threat environment” with possible targets, warning that “[t]hese targets could include public gatherings, faith-based institutions, schools, racial and religious minorities, government facilities and personnel, U.S. critical infrastructure, the media, and perceived ideological opponents.”

In other words—the threat is everywhere. Apparently, a whole lot of America needs to be hardened and a whole lot of doors need to be locked over the coming months
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The upcoming midterms are the first nationwide elections to take place in the wake of January 6. While most Republicans had an immediate reaction of both condemning the events of that day, and blaming those who supported lies about the election, it took only days for Republicans to swing back into the orbit of Donald Trump. Only two months after the attack on the Capitol, a Monmouth poll showed that 65% of Republicans believed that President Joe Biden had only been elected because of “voter fraud.” In spite of all evidence—including Republican-led “audits” in states like Arizona—which found no evidence of such fraud, by November the number of Republicans saying that Biden had not been legitimately elected had grown to 73% of all Republicans.

A May NPR article showed that many workers who should be preparing for the upcoming midterms, are still spending a lot of their time facing hostile calls about the 2020 results, demands for more audits, and personal threats. Across the country, Republicans have put in place officials and boards who campaigned on the theme that the 2020 election was illegitimate.

With nearly three-quarters of Republicans buying into the right-wing claims that the election was fraudulent, it’s not hard to believe that some fraction of that group would believe that any action is justified to remove what they see as an illegitimate government. These extremists are building a tower of grievances, pushing the idea that violence is the
only answer.

Individuals in online forums that routinely promulgate domestic violent extremist and conspiracy theory-related content have praised the May 2022 mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas and encouraged copycat attacks. Others have seized on the event to attempt to spread disinformation and incite grievances, including claims it was a government-staged event meant to advance gun control measures.

In particular, claims about the election are being welded to the anti-immigrant, anti-Black “great replacement” conspiracy theory that has been pushed not just in the torch-bearing ranks of white nationalists, and not just in 4Chan-inspired online sewers, but by commentators like Fox News’ Tucker Carlson.

The shooter in Buffalo New York was motivated by these claims. So was a man who shot six members of a Taiwanese church in California last month. Like the false narrative about the election, the great replacement conspiracy has become standard fare in the Republican Party. When tens of millions of people buy into a theory that claims there is a plot to strip them of their livelihoods, or even lives, some of them will react violently. Fox and others are doing everything they can to make sure that tens of millions believe.

We assess that there is increased risk of domestic violent extremists using changes in border security-related policies and/or enforcement mechanisms to justify violence against individuals, such as minorities and law enforcement officials involved in the enforcement of border security.

In fact, almost every false claim being pushed by the right—ideas that Democrats have ‘thrown open the borders,’ lies about critical race theory in schools, fear-mongering about gay and trans people, a demonization of Democratic officials, and government in general—are likely to find traction among people with access to an AR-15. Which is, of course, anyone who wants one.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Live updates: Senate Judiciary hearing on White Supremacy and Domestic Terrorism Threats
Aysha Qamar

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The U.S. has seen more than 240 mass shootings this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Of these shootings reported, 33 have taken place since the horrific attack at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 students and two adults. This weekend alone, at least seven mass shootings resulted in 11 deaths and injuries to at least 54 others.

This trend in mass shootings across the country has brought to light the debate on gun control and how the U.S. will handle gun violence. As the Department of Justice investigates a shooting at a Buffalo, New York supermarket as a hate crime, the Senate Judiciary Committee convened a hearing to examine violent extremist threats, including the Buffalo incident that killed at least 10 people.

The hearing titled "Examining the 'Metastasizing' Domestic Terrorism Threat After the Buffalo Attack" is currently in session. According to a committee release, it will examine "the continued threat posed by violent white supremacists and other extremists, including those who have embraced the so-called 'Great Replacement' conspiracy theory, as well as the federal government's response to this threat.”
.......
The hearing began with opening remarks by Chair Dick Durbin, who called the Buffalo mass shooting "one of the worst domestic terrorist attacks in recent memory.” He also read the victims' names.

"Every one of these victims left behind loved ones who are grieving that loss—and several of those loved ones are in the room with us today. I think there are no words that fill the empty chairs at your dinner table or the empty spaces in your heart," Durbin said. "But your willingness to sit in this room to honor the memory of those lost is a lesson in courage and love."


He added: "Please know that you are not alone. We offer our deepest condolences, and most importantly, our commitment to do something."



To end his opening statement, Durbin played a video clip of conservative news hosts, including those from Fox, to depict "the role of the media and the role that they played in dragging hateful rhetoric into mainstream America, and sadly, how it's inspiring acts of racist violence."

"More than 400 episodes of Tucker Carlson's show have amplified the so-called great replacement conspiracy theory, the guiding principle of modern white supremacist movement," Durbin said. "As lawmakers, we must speak in one voice and repeat repudiating this incendiary rhetoric, along with any individual or extremist group that resorts to violence."

The son of the oldest victim in the Buffalo supermarket shooting also appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee. He called on lawmakers to "yield your positions" if they're unwilling to meet "the urgency of the moment.”



”You expect us to continue to just forgive and forget over and over again. And what are you doing?" Garnell Whitfield Jr., the oldest son of Ruth Whitfield, a victim of the Buffalo shooting, asked the Senate panel. "You're elected to protect us, to protect our way of life."

He continued: ”I ask every one of you to imagine the faces of your mothers as you look at mine, and ask yourself, 'Is there nothing that we can do?’ Is there nothing that you personally are willing to do to stop the cancer of white supremacy and the domestic terrorism that inspires? Because if there is nothing, then respectfully, Senators, you should yield your positions of authority and influence the others that are willing to lead on this issue. The urgency of the moment demands, no less."

According to ABC News, other witnesses on the panel include Michael German, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent and fellow at the Brennan Center For Justice; Robert Pape, professor and director of The Chicago Project on Security and Threats at The University of Chicago; Justin Herdman, a former U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Ohio, and legal scholar Jonathan Turley, a professor at the George Washington University Law School.


On Tuesday morning, the Department of Homeland Security also warned of a "heightened" threat environment for "domestic violent extremists” in a bulletin.



"Individuals in online forums that routinely promulgate domestic violent extremist and conspiracy theory-related content have praised the May 2022 mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and encouraged copycat attacks.” This latest National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin is the sixth bulletin of this nature the department has posted since Biden took office.

Watch the hearing live here
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Email obtained by prosecutors shows Trump’s campaign asked fake GOP electors for ‘complete secrecy’
Rebekah Sager

An email obtained by federal prosecutors shows a Donald Trump campaign staffer requesting that bogus Georgia Republican electors meet in “complete secrecy,” The Washington Post reports.

Just one day before 16 fake alternate Republican electors met at the Georgia Capitol to falsely certify that Trump won the 2020 presidential election, Robert Sinners, the Trump campaign’s operations director for Georgia elections, sent out an email asking them for their “complete discretion in this process,” adding, “Your duties are imperative to ensure the end result—a win in Georgia for President Trump—but will be hampered unless we have complete secrecy and discretion.”

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, which begins public hearings Thursday, has copies of the email, as does the office of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who is currently investigating Trump’s endeavors to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in the state, the Post reports.

The Dec. 13 email additionally instructs Trump’s electors to intentionally mislead security guards at the Georgia Capitol by telling them they have appointments with Republican state Sen. Brandon Beach and Sen. Burt Jones.
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“Please, at no point should you mention anything to do with Presidential Electors or speak to media,” Sinners wrote in bold letters, the Post reports.

Georgia law requires that electors carry out all their duties at the state Capitol.

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack will likely use the email and Trump’s fake electors ruse to probe its significance into the more prominent conspiracy to reverse Joe Biden’s presidential win.

“If there was nothing wrong with it, why go through such extraordinary lengths to hide what you’re doing,” Norm Eisen, a senior fellow at Brookings Institution, posited in an email sent to the Post. Eisen implies that those involved likely knew that what they were asking was going to be an issue.

According to CNN, Sinners said that he was operating under the command of Trump campaign attorneys and Georgia Republican Party chairman David Shafer, who was an elector.

“I was advised by attorneys that this was necessary in order to preserve the pending legal challenge’s longevity. … Following the former President’s refusal to accept the results of the election and allow a peaceful transition of power, my views on this matter have changed significantly from where they were on December 13,” Sinners said.

Today, Sinners works in the office of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger—who refused to succumb to Trump’s demands to “find 11,780 votes” to fraudulently dispute Biden’s win in the state.

Shafer’s attorney, Robert Driscoll, told CNN that his client never attempted to keep anything a secret.

“None of these communications, nor his testimony, suggest that Mr. Shafer requested or wished for confidentiality surrounding the provisional electors. … Quite to the contrary, Chairman Shafer invited TV news cameras into the proceedings, and both issued a statement and gave a televised news interview immediately afterward,” Driscoll told CNN.

As the Gwinnett Daily Post reported, Georgia’s 16 Democratic electors met on Dec. 14, 2020, to formally elect President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Former House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams oversaw the vote.

The Republican electors also cast Electoral College votes in the Capitol that day—and not secretly.

“Because the president’s lawsuit contesting the Georgia election has not been decided, or even heard … we held this meeting to preserve his rights. Had we not held the meeting, then his lawsuit would effectively be mooted,” Shafer said at the time.

Georgia Public Broadcasting reported in January 2022 that along with Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin all submitted documents to Congress falsely certifying Trump’s majority “win,” along with the Electoral College votes.


Clark Pettig, spokesperson for American Oversight, said: “Looking at the certificates, there were striking similarities in the language and the formatting between many of them that … points to this not being an original idea. … These certificates matter because they show in black and white just how far allies of the former president were prepared to go to subvert our democracy. It’s shocking to see it there on the page.”
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Ukraine update: Russia attempting to take remaining villages north of Siverskyi Donets River
Mark Sumner

On Tuesday, the situation in Severodonetsk continues to be volatile, but the latest reports have the city more or less split down the center. Ukrainian forces control the industrial area on the west, as well as outlying villages and the southern edge of the city near the bridge to Lysychansk. Russia is positioned in the northern area and fighting with Ukrainian forces in the east. Both sides continue to go at it hammer and tongs on a street by street level and neither is holding back the artillery. A report in The Guardian indicates that Russian efforts were “redoubled” following the Ukrainian counterattack. It’s ugly.

The neighboring city of Lysychansk, a few kilometers south of Severodonetsk, was being “totally destroyed”, he added. “Russian shelling has intensified significantly over the past 24 hours. They are using scorched earth tactics,” he said, adding that a school and market had been hit, and a college building flattened.

Ukraine can keep fighting in Severdonetsk so long as those guns in Lysychansk can keep supporting their positions. So there’s little doubt Russian artillery is focused on taking down those guns.

Meanwhile, just a few miles to the west, Russian forces are reportedly gathering for what’s expected to be a big push on the city of Slovyansk.

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Russia is trying to secure the final Ukrainian-held villages and towns on the north bank. River highlighted.

Preparatory to making another attempt to cross the Silverkyi Donets, following the earlier disaster near Bilohorivka, Russia is attempting to capture the final Ukrainian-held positions on the north bank of the river. For months, Ukraine was able to hold a significant position on the northern side of the river, but the fall of Oskil two weeks ago removed a critical lynchpin. Since then, Russia has closed up the “pocket” of Ukrainian control that remained east of Izyum, a campaign that concluded in the last two days with the capture of Studenok. Together with the capture of the large town of Lyman, this freed Russian forces to go after the remaining riverside villages and towns.


As of Tuesday, fighting was still reported in Svyatohirske and at long dug-in Ozerne. There are no confirmations, but Russia has likely occupied Yarova, where Ukrainian forces reportedly withdrew. Some reports also suggest that Russia has taken the village of Shchurove, across the river from Raihorodok.

This drone footage, from a Russian source, not only shows the beautiful old monastery at Svyatohirske, but gives a good idea of the terrain around the river. The bridge in this video doesn’t seem to have been intentionally dropped, but is damaged by artillery. It may still have been passable at the time of the video.



A Russian pontoon bridging team was reportedly moving west from Rubizhne on Monday, searching for a new crossing location. When they do, don’t be surprised if it turns out to be within spitting distance of the place where Russia already failed to cross three times. That’s because at many locations in this area, the south side of the river is overlooked by an area of steep hills or bluffs. That would make any bridging operation an easy target for Ukrainian artillery, and subject any units that did cross to withering fire as they attempted to expand the bridgehead.
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At Kherson, reports have been all over the place. In the last 12 hours, there have been Russian reports that all Ukrainian forces east of the Inhulets River had been eliminated, and that Russia had made its own cross to the other side; and reports that Ukraine is knocking on the door of the city was forces heading in from multiple directions. Neither of these is likely to be true.

From the Ukrainian side in particular there have been a lot of reports of significant progress, with forces said to be “driving for Nova Kakhovka,” which is across the bridge north of Kherson. However, that bridge is a good 40km from the last known position of Ukrainian forces and there are a good dozen towns and villages in between, none of which has turned up in these reports as changing hands in the last few hours. This makes it seem like all these reports are more aspirational — “we’re ready to go for Nova Kakhova!” rather than a literal “We’re on our way to Nova Kakhova!”

Mostly the news out of Kherson can be described with the word “frustrating.” Official sources are being even more quiet about action on this front than they were about movements around Kharkiv a month ago. As always, they are under absolutely zero obligation to divulge any action to the public, especially when it might place soldiers or civilians at risk. It’s just … it would be nice to know.

One thing we do know is that the Ukrainian Air Force has engaged in air strikes in the Kherson area over the last day. That’s good news in the sense that Russia doesn’t have anything like air superiority in the region. According to the Ukrainian MOD general staff:


"Ukrainian helicopters have attacked groupings of enemy forces in Kherson Oblast. … Planes have conducted an airstrike on ammunition depots in Mykolaiv Oblast. The enemy has lost over 20 personnel and 10 pieces of military equipment.” One of those depots being taken out was featured in the last update.

As soon as I get more information, or confirmation, about what’s happening in Kherson, I am more than ready to put down a lot of new blue markers.

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Tractors may be able to tow away Russian tanks, but they are, unfortunately, not mine proof. Farming is already one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet (even in the U.S.). This is a hazard they definitely do not need.


 

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