Russia poses direct threat to alliance security: NATO chief

NATO leaders on Wednesday are set to label Russia a menace to their security as they overhaul the alliance’s defenses in response to the ongoing war in Ukraine, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on the second day of a NATO summit in Madrid.

“We’ll state clearly that Russia poses a direct threat to our security,” Stoltenberg said ahead of the unveiling of NATO’s new strategic blueprint.

The military alliance faces its biggest challenge since World War II amid the war in Ukraine, he said.

Stoltenberg also said NATO allies meet “in the midst of the most serious security crisis we have faced,” as he arrived at the alliance’s summit in Madrid. “This will be a historic and transformative summit.”

“We will make a decision at the summit to invite Sweden and Finland to become members, that’s unprecedented quick,” he told reporters. Both countries applied for membership of the alliance in mid-May.

“After invitation, we need a ratification process in 30 parliaments,” he added. “That always takes some time but I expect also that to go rather quickly because allies are ready to try to make that ratification process happen as quickly as possible.”

He added the alliance is going to agree on deterrence to be able to deploy more combat formations and get more pre-positioned equipment by next year in Eastern Europe.

Meanwhile, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, the host of this week’s NATO summit, told Cadena Ser radio that Russia will be identified as NATO’s “main threat” in its new strategic concept, as opposed to a strategic partner previously.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to make a speech via videoconference at the summit later in the day.

NATO is due to launch the largest revamp of its defense and deterrence capabilities since the end of the Cold War by strengthening the forces on its eastern flank and massively ramping up the number of troops it has at high readiness.

It is also set for the first time to turn its attention to the challenge posed by the rising might of China in an update to its guiding “strategic concept.”

“China’s not an adversary,” Stoltenberg said. “But of course, we need to take into account the consequences to our security when we see China investing heavily in new modern military capabilities, long range missiles or nuclear weapons and also trying to control critical infrastructure for instance, 5G.”

In a sign of this shift the leaders of partners South Korea and Japan will attend a NATO summit for the first time.

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Rappler: Philippine SEC orders news site to shut down, founder Maria Ressa says

Ressa, CEO and founder of Rappler, released a statement during the East-West Center’s International Media Conference in Honolulu saying the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission (PSEC) had upheld its earlier ruling to revoke the news site’s operating license.

A former CNN bureau chief and TIME Person of the Year, Ressa said the team will appeal this decision, “especially since the proceedings were highly irregular.”

“What does this mean? We have existing legal remedies all the way up to the highest court of the land. It is business as usual for us since in our view, this is not immediately executory without court approval,” Ressa wrote in an internal announcement to Rappler staff.

Ressa has been engulfed in legal battles in recent years and has said she has been targeted because of her news site’s critical reports on outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.
In January 2018, the Philippine SEC revoked the registration of Rappler over alleged violation of foreign ownership rules. The newsroom continued to operate despite the revocation.

The SEC alleged that Rappler’s parent company “intentionally created an elaborate scheme” to cover an investment from a foreign source, and that the organization is a “mass media entity that sold control to foreigners.”

Constitutionally, mass media companies in the Philippines are blocked from foreign ownership.

The investment in question came from the Omidyar Network, a investment vehicle created by eBay founder and entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar, Rappler said at the time.

Nobel winner Maria Ressa vows to fight for facts and the rule of law

Rappler denied foreign ownership, and said the Philippine Depositary Receipt (PDR), a financial instrument that governs the Omidyar investment, did not give the network any control over the company. It said the arrangement was accepted by the SEC in 2015.

CNN has reached out to the Philippine SEC and the Philippine Embassy in the United States but has not yet heard back.

In an order released on Wednesday, the Philippine SEC “affirmed and reiterated its earlier finding” from 2018 that Rappler is a “mass media entity” and it had granted control to a foreign entity “through the Philippine Depositary Receipt issued to Omidyar Network.”

“Rappler and RHC willfully violated the constitution … when they granted Omidyar control,” the order said. “Considering the seriousness and gravity of the infraction, and that it was no less the constitution that was violated, this commission finds and so holds that the penalty of revocation … should be affirmed and sustained.”

The ruling comes a day before Duterte leaves office and incoming President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. assumes the Philippine presidency on June 30. Media groups have urged Marcos, the son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., to protect media freedom in the country but some observers have expressed concern about his relationship with the press.

In a news conference on Wednesday, Ressa said Rappler had been repeatedly harassed over the past six years and “our goal is to continue holding the line.”

“This is intimidation. These are political tactics. We refuse to succumb to them,” she said. “We’re not going to voluntarily give up our rights. And we really shouldn’t. I continue to appeal for that because when you give up your rights, you’re never going to get them back.”

Francis Lim, Rappler’s legal counsel, told reporters “we strongly disagree with the decision” and there are “legal remedies available to question the decision before courts of law.”

Rappler and the Philippines

Ressa won the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, along with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov, for her efforts to safeguard freedom of expression in the Philippines. She founded Rappler in 2012 and it gained prominence for its unflinching coverage of Duterte and his brutal “war on drugs.”
Press freedom in the Philippines deteriorated rapidly under Duterte, and the country now ranks 147th out of 180 countries on the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) press freedom index.
Opinion: Maria Ressa's Nobel is for all of us
In 2020, one of the Philippines’ largest and most influential broadcasting networks, ABS-CBN, was forced off the air and ordered to cease operations after it was denied a new broadcast license.
Ressa has often spoken out about the challenges she and Rappler have faced covering news in the Philippines. She has been hit with a host of legal challenges that are widely considered to be politically motivated, including a cyber libel conviction that could see her jailed for six years and alleged tax offenses.
“Journalists have been targeted in ways that we’ve never gone through since the days of (Marcos Sr.). In less than two years I’ve had 10 arrest warrants against me and I haven’t done anything different from what I’ve been doing (before),” she told CNN in 2021.


FCC commissioner tells Apple, Google to remove TikTok from app stores

A leader of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission said he has asked Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores over data security concerns. Pictured here is the TikTok download page on an Apple iPhone on August 7, 2020.

Drew Angerer | Getty Images News | Getty Images

BEIJING — A leader of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission said he has asked Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores over China-related data security concerns.

The wildly popular short video app is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, which faced U.S. scrutiny under President Donald Trump.

Brendan Carr, one of the FCC’s commissioners, shared via Twitter a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai. The letter pointed to reports and other developments that made TikTok non-compliant with the two companies’ app store policies.

“TikTok is not what it appears to be on the surface. It is not just an app for sharing funny videos or meme. That’s the sheep’s clothing,” he said in the letter. “At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data.”

Alphabet, Apple and TikTok did not immediately respond to CNBC requests for comment.

Carr’s letter, dated June 24 on FCC letterhead, said if the Apple and Alphabet do not remove TikTok from their app stores, they should provide statements to him by July 8.

The statements should explain “the basis for your company’s conclusion that the surreptitious access of private and sensitive U.S. user data by persons located in Beijing, coupled with TikTok’s pattern of misleading representations and conduct, does not run afoul of any of your app store policies,” he said.

Trump nominated Carr in 2018 to a five-year term with the FCC. The Senate confirmed in December that the commission’s chair, Jessica Rosenworcel, would stay on for another five-year term.

Carr’s letter cited a BuzzFeed News report from earlier in the month that said recordings of TikTok employee statements indicated engineers in China had access to U.S. data between September 2021 and January 2022.

The BuzzFeed report included a statement from a TikTok spokesperson.

It said: “We know we’re among the most scrutinized platforms from a security standpoint, and we aim to remove any doubt about the security of US user data. That’s why we hire experts in their fields, continually work to validate our security standards, and bring in reputable, independent third parties to test our defenses.”

On June 17, the same day as the BuzzFeed report, TikTok announced it was routing all of U.S. user traffic to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, and was moving U.S. users’ private data from its own data centers in the U.S. and Singapore to Oracle cloud servers in the U.S.


Carbon monoxide poisoning to blame for deaths of 3 American tourists in Bahamas, police say

Carbon monoxide poisoning killed three U.S. tourists found dead at a resort in the Bahamas in May, police announced Tuesday.

Authorities did not provide further details, saying the deaths were still under investigation.

The victims had been identified as Michael Phillips, 68, and Robbie Phillips, 65, from Tennessee; and Vincent Chiarella, 64, from Florida.

Chiarella’s wife, Donnis Chiarella, 65, was found alive and airlifted to New Providence for medical treatment, then transferred to a hospital in Florida.

The couples were staying next to each other in separate villas in the same building at the Sandals Emerald Bay resort on the island of Exuma. It was not clear if the villas had carbon monoxide detectors, and if they did, whether they were working.

Police have said that all four tourists went to a doctor the night before their bodies were discovered and had complained of feeling ill.

It was not clear what was the source of carbon monoxide that killed them. A Sandals spokeswoman referred all questions to police, while Bahamian police spokesman Audley Peters said he was not able to provide the information “at this time” and did not respond to further questions.

Samples taken from the three victims had been sent to a lab in Philadelphia for toxicology reports.   

Last month, in response to the three deaths, Sandals said it had installed carbon monoxide detectors in all Emerald Bay guest rooms, with plans to install detectors in every guest room in all its resorts.

In a statement to CBS News Tuesday evening which echoed a similar one it released about a month ago, Sandals said that authorities determined the deaths were caused by an “isolated incident in one standalone structure that housed two individual guest rooms.”

In its previous statement, Sandals said the deaths were “in no way linked to the resort’s air conditioning system, food and beverage service, landscaping services or foul play.”

The deaths come seven years after a Delaware family became seriously ill at a resort in the U.S. Virgin Islands. U.S. authorities determined that methyl bromide, a highly toxic pesticide banned for indoor residential use in 1984, was to blame and had been used at that resort several times.


EU approves end of combustion engine sales by 2035


Europe’s automotive industry, which is already investing heavily in the move to electric vehicles, fears the social impact of a too-rapid transition.

“The overwhelming majority of car manufacturers have chosen electric cars,” said Frans Timmermans, the EU Commission Vice President in charge of the European Green Deal, at a press conference.

He affirmed the EU body’s willingness to be open-minded to other technologies – like synthetic fuels, which are also referred to as e-fuels.

“We are technology neutral. What we want are zero-emission cars,” he explained.

“At the moment, e-fuels do not seem a realistic solution, but if manufacturers can prove otherwise in the future, we will be open.”

The technology of synthetic fuels, currently under study, consists of producing fuel from CO2 from industrial activities using low-carbon electricity, in a circular economy approach.

Like the oil industry, the automotive sector has high hopes for these new fuels, which would extend the use of internal combustion engines now threatened by the emergence of completely electric vehicles.

But environmental organisations object to the use of this technology in cars, as it is considered both expensive and energy-consuming.

The synthetic-fuelled engines also emit as much nitrogen oxide (NOx) as their fossil fuel equivalents, they say.

Cars are the main mode of transport for Europeans and account for just under 15 percent of total CO2 emissions in the EU. It is also one of the main gases responsible for global warming.

In response to manufacturers’ concerns about insufficient consumer demand for 100 percent electric cars, the Commission has recommended a major expansion of charging stations.

“Along the main roads in Europe, there must be charging points every 60km,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen last year.

Manufacturers regularly complain about the lack of such infrastructure, especially in southern and eastern European countries.


Rappler: Philippines orders shutdown of Maria Ressa's critical news site

The decision to strip Rappler of its licence comes in the last days of Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency.

German court gives 101-year-old ex Nazi guard five years in jail

KREMENCHUK: France’s president denounced Russia’s fiery airstrike on a crowded shopping mall in Ukraine as a “new war crime” Tuesday and vowed the West’s support for Kyiv would not waver, saying Moscow “cannot and should not win” the war.
The strike, which killed at least 18 people in the central city of Kremenchuk, came as leaders from the Group of Seven nations met in Europe. It was part of unusually intense barrage of Russian fire across Ukraine, including in the capital of Kyiv, that renewed international attention as the war drags on.
Speaking at the end of the G-7 summit in Germany, French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to address that concern, vowing that the seven leading industrialized democracies would support Ukraine and maintain sanctions against Russia “as long as necessary, and with the necessary intensity.”
“Russia cannot and should not win,” he said. He called Monday’s attack on the mall “a new war crime.”
As they have in other attacks, Russian authorities claimed that the shopping center was not the target.
How to counter Russia and back Ukraine will also be the focus of a summit this week of the western NATO alliance, whose support has been critical to Kyiv’s ability to fend off Moscow’s larger and better equipped forces. Ukrainian leaders, however, say they need more and better weapons if they are to hold off and even drive back Russia, which is pressing an all-out assault in Ukraine’s eastern region of the Donbas.
As Macron spoke, rescuers combed through the charred rubble of the shopping mall that authorities said was struck when more than 1,000 afternoon shoppers and workers were inside.
Kateryna Romashyna, a local resident, told The Associated Press that she had just arrived at the mall when an explosion knocked her down. When another blast came about 10 minutes later, she realized she needed to get away.
“I ran away from the epicenter with all of my strength,” she said. Fighting back tears, she added: “You have to be a real monster” to strike a shopping mall.
Many of those inside quickly fled the building when an air raid siren sounded and took shelter across the street, Ukrainian Interior Minister Denis Monastyrsky said. Several of the bodies of those who didn’t make it out in time are burned beyond recognition, he said.
In addition to the 18 killed, authorities said 59 were wounded. Another 21 people are still missing, Monastyrsky said.
The attack recalled strikes earlier in the war that hit a theater, a train station, and a hospital. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called it “one of the most daring terrorist attacks in European history.”
Rocket attacks continued elsewhere in Ukraine, with authorities in the city of Dnipro reporting that workers at a diesel car repair shop were trapped in rubble after a strike from a cruise missile fired from the Black Sea, Ukrainian news agencies reported. The Ukrainian military managed to intercept and destroy other missiles fired at the city, the agencies said.
At Ukraine’s request, the U.N. Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting in New York on Tuesday to discuss the Kremenchuk attack.
As condemnation came in from many quarters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov struck a defiant note, saying Russia would press its offensive until it fulfills its goals. He said the hostilities could stop “before the end of the day” if Ukraine were to surrender and meet Russia’s demands, including recognizing its control over territory it has taken by force.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Igor Konashenkov claimed that warplanes fired precision-guided missiles at a depot that contained Western weapons and ammunition, which detonated and set the mall on fire. Ukrainian authorities said that in addition to the direct hit on the mall, a factory was struck, but denied it housed weapons.
Konashenkov also alleged that the mall was not in use, a false claim that witnesses contradicted.
One survivor, Oleksandr, a mall employee, told the AP from a hospital bed that the shopping center was packed with customers. He recalled stepping outside with a colleague for a cigarette when the air raid siren went off.
“There was a black tunnel, smoke, fire,” he said. “I started to crawl. I saw the sun up there, and my brain was telling me I need to save myself.”
Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova, said the missile attack was one of Russia’s “crimes against humanity.” She emphasized the need for all Ukrainians to remain alert and expect a similar strike “every minute.”
On Tuesday, Russian forces struck the Black Sea city of Ochakiv, damaging apartment buildings and killing two, including a 6-year-old child. A further six people, four of them children, were wounded. One of them, a 3-month-old baby, is in a coma, according to officials.
The unusually intense spate of fire came as the G-7 leaders pledged continued support for Ukraine and prepared new sanctions against Russia, including a price cap on oil and higher tariffs on goods.
Zelenskyy has called for more air defense systems from his Western allies to help his forces fight back. NATO’s support for Ukraine will be a major focus of a summit starting this week in Madrid, and an early signal of unity came Tuesday when Turkey agreed to lift its opposition to Sweden and Finland joining NATO.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted the Nordic pair to abandon their long-held nonaligned status and apply to join NATO. But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had blocked the move, insisting the Nordic pair change their stance on Kurdish rebel groups that Turkey considers terrorists.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned the West that “the more weapons are pumped into Ukraine, the longer the conflict will continue and the longer the agony of the Nazi regime backed by Western capitals will last.”
Russia has falsely called the war a campaign to “de-Nazify” Ukraine — a country with a democratically elected Jewish president who wants closer ties with the West.
In a sinister message to NATO leaders, Russia’s state space corporation Roscosmos published satellite images and the precise coordinates of the conference hall where their summit will be held.
It also posted images and the coordinates of the White House, the Pentagon and the government headquarters in London, Paris and Berlin — referring to them as “decision-making centers supporting the Ukrainian nationalists” in a message on the Telegram app. That wording echoes Russian President Vladimir Putin’s warnings that he could target such centers in response to what he has called Western aggression.
In other developments, the two fighting countries continued a sporadic series of prisoner exchanges. Ukraine exchanged 15 Russian prisoners-of-war for 16 Ukrainian soldiers and one civilian, the Ukrainian Pravda news outlet reported Tuesday.
Ukrainian Pravda also reported that in the Russian-occupied city of Kherson, the mayor was detained Tuesday and occupying authorities seized his computer hard drive and documents after he had refused to cooperate with Russian-appointed local officials. Russia’s Tass news agency confirmed the detention.
Meanwhile, Bulgaria said Tuesday it was expelling 70 Russian diplomats designated “a threat to national security,” ordering them to leave within 5 days.
A Bulgarian foreign ministry statement said this would reduce Russia’s Sofia embassy staff “to up to 23 diplomatic and 25 administrative and technical staff.”


Bolsonaro Intensifies Push For Military Support As He Plots To Undermine Brazil’s Election

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro indicated this week that he would soon name former Defense Minister Walter Braga Netto, a retired general, as his running mate in October’s elections.

Bolsonaro has already made it clear that he does not plan to accept defeat in the Oct. 2 contest. His choice of Braga Netto intensifies concerns about the role military leaders and the armed forces could play in Bolsonaro’s efforts to undermine a race he seems likely to lose.

For 18 months, Bolsonaro has stoked conspiracies about voter fraud, questioned Brazil’s electronic voting system and targeted the country’s democratic institutions with a barrage of threats and false claims similar to those Donald Trump leveled in the United States. (Bolsonaro still questions the legitimacy of Trump’s 2020 defeat.)

With his presidency on the ropes, Bolsonaro is clearly escalating his efforts to court Brazilian military leaders who could help his attempt to remain in power succeed where Trump’s failed. Braga Netto is a comfortable choice for Bolsonaro ― who similarly chose a general as his running mate four years ago and has stacked his government with veteran military leaders — and was also an early adopter of Bolsonaro’s election conspiracy theories.

“Bolsonaro thinks he needs the military’s support to survive, and possibly even to stay in office beyond January,” said Brian Winter, editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly and the vice president for policy at the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. “So he is offering them positions across the government, but especially the second-highest elected office in the land.”

The selection of another military official likely won’t do much to help boost Bolsonaro’s electoral chances. Some of Bolsonaro’s backers pushed him to pick Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Dias because they believed she could help attract new support to his limping campaign.

That he chose to turn his back on a potentially wider path to victory will, however, further rattle a country that was ruled by a military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985 and now finds itself increasingly vulnerable to an attempt to undermine democracy — especially as more generals back Bolsonaro’s claims.

“I don’t know how he plans to win an election like this,” said Carlos Gustavo Poggio, a professor at the Armando Alvares Penteado Foundation, a São Paulo-based university. “Choosing a general as his vice president indicates that it’s more important to Bolsonaro to have the loyalty of the Army than to have the votes. So that’s something that indicates, a little bit, what kind of path he’s taking.”

Retired Gen. Walter Braga Netto (left) has served as Brazil's defense minister and Bolsonaro's chief of staff. He reportedly threatened congressional leaders that "there would be no elections in 2022" if they didn't alter election rules to meet Bolsonaro's demands.
Retired Gen. Walter Braga Netto (left) has served as Brazil’s defense minister and Bolsonaro’s chief of staff. He reportedly threatened congressional leaders that “there would be no elections in 2022” if they didn’t alter election rules to meet Bolsonaro’s demands.

(AP Photo/Bruna Prado, File)

An actual coup attempt still remains improbable and would be unlikely to succeed if it did take place, many Brazilian political experts argue. Some advisers to leftist former President Lula da Silva, who led Bolsonaro by 19 points in the most recent poll, share that view. They also worry that too much focus on the military — or on how da Silva should counter Bolsonaro’s appeals to military leaders — may inadvertently create the perception that the armed forces are the ultimate arbiters of electoral legitimacy, an authority they do not have under the Brazilian constitution.

“I don’t think you have to appeal to them,” said Celso Amorim, who served as Brazil’s foreign minister under da Silva and its defense minister under former President Dilma Rousseff, da Silva’s successor. “That would be to admit that they will rule the country. We want them to express the confidence that they will act legally.”

Bolsonaro’s attempts to cast doubt on the election may ultimately prove the last whimpers of a desperate president. Some generals have insisted that the military will act within the bounds of its constitutional authority, and there may not be enough support for Bolsonaro within the top ranks to provide the support he seeks.

But the far-right president has argued that he is the one defending Brazil’s constitution. And if Brazil’s military leaders continue to support Bolsonaro’s preemptive claims of election fraud, it is at least plausible that they could twist themselves into believing that they are defending rather than actively destroying democracy by backing him to the hilt.

“They won’t think that they’re ‘doing a coup,’ they’ll think they’re saving democracy,” Winter said. “And some of them might even believe it.”

“Choosing a general as his vice president indicates that it’s more important to Bolsonaro to have the loyalty of the Army than to have the votes.”

– Carlos Gustavo Poggio, professor at the Armando Alvares Penteado Foundation

Bolsonaro said he would soon make Braga Netto’s selection official in the Sunday evening interview with “Programa 4 por 4.” He also lobbed fresh threats at Brazil’s electoral system and renewed his criticism of Supreme Court justices who have demanded that he produce evidence to support his claims, a request he has been unable to meet.

“Someday a tragedy will happen that we don’t want,” Bolsonaro, who has long expressed affinity for the country’s former military dictatorship, said on the program.

Signs that the president intends to provoke that tragedy continue to pile up. Bolsonaro recently threatened to hire an outside auditor to scrutinize the results of the election, a move that could help him cast doubt on the official count. He has called on supporters to rally in Brasília, the capital city, just weeks before the vote.

It’s therefore possible that a Jan. 6-type episode could explode in Brazil before the election takes place, and it’s not just Bolsonaro’s opponents and neutral observers who think so. Even his own advisers now take it as a given that Bolsonaro will take drastic action in the coming months, the newspaper O Globo reported this month.

Bolsonaro has privately warned his advisers that he may try to cancel elections if his defeat looks likely, telling his “closest allies” that it is “a real possibility,” O Globo columnist Bela Megale reported.

“In private conversations, the president uses the same false argument that has reverberated publicly on other occasions, saying that ‘If you are not sure that the elections will be clean, they will not happen.’”

He also believes he has the support of the Brazilian military, Megale reported, citing anonymous sources within the government.

Former Brazil President Lula da Silva, a leftist, currently holds a 19-point lead in election polls. A resounding victory could help thwart Bolsonaro's attempts to stage a Brazilian version of the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection and cool military support for the current president.
Former Brazil President Lula da Silva, a leftist, currently holds a 19-point lead in election polls. A resounding victory could help thwart Bolsonaro’s attempts to stage a Brazilian version of the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection and cool military support for the current president.

Bolsonaro has sought to link his presidency to the military since the beginning. His 2018 victory made retired Gen. Antônio Hamilton Mourão the first former general to serve as Brazil’s vice president since the country’s return to democracy.

Mourão’s presence on the presidential ticket was even more alarming because he had talked of the potential need for a military coup in the years before the election. During the contest, he told HuffPost that he could foresee a scenario in which a return to military rule would be necessary. But he ultimately lost influence within the administration, in part because he became an unlikely moderating force against Bolsonaro’s most anti-democratic whims.

Braga Netto, one of nearly a dozen military officials Bolsonaro appointed to Cabinet-level positions, has been more pliant. Last year, Bolsonaro sought to pressure Congress into adding a printed ballot to Brazil’s electronic voting system, a change that alongside other preferred reforms would have made the country’s elections even more susceptible to fraud, top elections officials argued. But Braga Netto went along with the claims, warning congressional leaders that “there would be no elections in 2022” unless they met Bolsonaro’s demands, the newspaper Estado de São Paulo reported.

Braga Netto denied those reports at the time. But since then, other high-ranking military officials have similarly backed the president’s claims.

In May, Navy Commander Almir Garnier Santos supported Bolsonaro’s calls for additional election audits despite the lack of evidence that they are necessary. Bolsonaro, who has baselessly asserted that scores of dead voters have cast ballots in recent elections, “has the right to say whatever he wants,” Santos said, adding that he wants Brazilians “to be sure that their vote will count.”

Defense Minister Paulo Sérgio Nogueira, an Army general, sent a memo this month to election officials detailing military concerns about fraud and security vulnerabilities in the country’s electronic voting system and alleged that the military’s worries had not been properly acknowledged after a government commission rejected its suggestions for electoral changes.

“It’s not that a coup has never happened in Brazil. But it has never happened in a circumstance in which it doesn’t have the support of the economic elite, the big media, and the United States. And I think those three things are lacking now.”

– Former Defense Minister Celso Amorim, on why a coup attempt is for now unlikely

A defeat as resounding as polls currently suggest Bolsonaro will suffer could cool military support for the president, convincing military leaders that any involvement in overturning the result would unnecessarily risk international relationships and a domestic reputation it has worked hard to repair since Brazil’s return to democracy.

There are other indications that suggest the military is unlikely to intercede. The sort of military overthrows that were once commonplace in Latin America are now rare, and the factors that have paved the way for past coups in Brazil are not currently aligned in Bolsonaro’s favor.

“It’s not that a coup has never happened in Brazil,” Amorim, the former defense minister, said in a recent interview. “But it has never happened in a circumstance in which it doesn’t have the support of the economic elite, the big media, and the United States. And I think those three things are lacking now.”

Bolsonaro enjoys the support of Brazil’s elite, according to pre-election surveys. But polls have suggested that few of his supporters would back an actual coup attempt.

The press has broadly signaled its opposition to the president’s most anti-democratic actions, often describing them frankly as “coup threats.”

The Biden administration, meanwhile, has warned Bolsonaro and his military advisers to stop threatening the country’s democracy. That could signal that the United States would not look the other way if Bolsonaro and the armed forces attempt to undermine the election, although it’s not clear whether the U.S. “would be interested in doing anything more than just words of disapproval,” Poggio said.

There are also lingering questions about what the military might do if Bolsonaro seeks to cancel the election, or if his supporters attempt to disrupt it with a Jan. 6-style event ahead of the vote.

Chief among them is whether the military would intervene to protect the country’s institutions if they come under pressure during protests or an insurrection-like event, or if it would remain on the sidelines in a way that is ostensibly neutral but nevertheless aids Bolsonaro’s efforts.

Jair Bolsonaro called his supporters to protest against Congress and the Supreme Court last Sept. 7, Brazil's independence day. The demonstrations did not provoke the crisis many observers feared it might, but Bolsonaro has already urged his supporters to hold larger protests this year, just weeks before the presidential election.
Jair Bolsonaro called his supporters to protest against Congress and the Supreme Court last Sept. 7, Brazil’s independence day. The demonstrations did not provoke the crisis many observers feared it might, but Bolsonaro has already urged his supporters to hold larger protests this year, just weeks before the presidential election.

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The police pose another potential threat, and surveys show that election skepticism runs deep among rank-and-file officers across the country. Brazil’s militias — rogue paramilitary outfits that Bolsonaro has routinely supported and that reign violently over parts of the country — are often made up of police officers, and they could also wreak havoc around the contest.

Other influential entities, including congressional leadership, major business organizations and parties that make up Bolsonaro’s governing coalition in Congress, have meanwhile remained largely silent about his ongoing attempts to erode confidence in the election, the newspaper Folha de S.Paulo reported in May.

Bolsonaro attempted a dry run against Brazil’s institutions last Sept. 7, the country’s independence day. After Congress and the Supreme Court refused to overhaul election rules to accommodate his fraud conspiracies, he argued for the need for a “countercoup” against judges, lawmakers and democratic institutions and urged his supporters to stage massive protests in Brasília.

The demonstrations fizzled without posing a major threat, embarrassing a president in search of a definitive show of strength. But Bolsonaro has redoubled his efforts, and this month, he called on supporters to return to the capital this Sept. 7 for another round of protests just three weeks before the election.

There’s still a chance Bolsonaro, whose chances for reelection cratered thanks to his poor handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, a sluggish economy and his scandal-prone approach to governance, could rebound and win a second term, especially if inflation rates peak and the economy begins to bounce back.

But Bolsonaro prefers the muddy waters of political chaos. Whether the military joins him or not, he clearly has no intention of going quietly, especially if he faces certain defeat. He seems guaranteed to test Brazil’s democratic institutions in unprecedented ways, even if there’s little chance he succeeds.

“There’s no mystery or intrigue about what’s going on because Bolsonaro says what he’s thinking out loud,” Winter said. “He’s like Trump in that regard. He’s telling us what he plans to do, if necessary.”


California budget won’t cover travel expenses for out-of-state abortion seekers – National

While Gov. Gavin Newsom has pledged to make California a sanctuary for women seeking abortions, his administration won’t spend public money to help people from other states travel to California for the procedure.

Newsom’s decision, included in a budget agreement reached over the weekend, surprised abortion advocates who have been working with the governor for nearly a year to prepare for a potential surge of patients from other states coming to California for abortions now that the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade.

California’s operating budget, which is scheduled for a vote in the state Legislature on Wednesday, includes $20 million for an “Abortion Practical Support Fund” to pay for things like airfare, lodging, gas and meals for people seeking abortions in California. But the money can only be used to help people who already live in California, not people traveling from other states. The fund will accept private donations, but it’s unclear if that money can cover out-of-state travel expenses.

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Roe v. Wade: Biden admin vows action on states risking women’s lives by denying abortion

A spokesperson from Newsom’s office said the governor chose to focus on strengthening and expanding California’s existing abortion services. During a news conference on Friday, Newsom noted the budget contains tens of millions of dollars to support the state’s abortion clinics _ funding he said could free up their budgets so they could use their own money to help women travel to California.

“We’re being realistic. You’re going to ask, `Are we going to pay for everyone’s travel and accommodations for 33 million people, of which 10% may seek care in California?’ Come on. We have to be realistic about what we can absorb,” Newsom said. “It’s not just the government providing and supporting. It’s all of us. It’s you, it’s me, it’s everyone contributing.”

California’s budget includes $40 million to cover abortions for women who can’t afford them, including women from other states who travel to California. But Jessica Pinckney, executive director of Access Reproductive Justice, a California nonprofit that helps women pay for the logistics of an abortion, said travel is often one of the biggest barriers women face in seeking reproductive care.

“Including out-of-state travel is absolutely necessary to reduce the barriers and burdens to those who are coming from hostile states,” she said.

Click to play video: '‘It’s going to get worse really fast’: Abortion about to be banned in Tennessee'

‘It’s going to get worse really fast’: Abortion about to be banned in Tennessee

‘It’s going to get worse really fast’: Abortion about to be banned in Tennessee

Travel within California is important too, she said, because 40% of the state’s 58 counties don’t have abortion clinics, accounting for 3% of California’s female population. Many of them are low-income.

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“There certainly is a benefit to having in-state travel financial support for Californians,” she said. “But the out-of-state piece really gets at the folks who are being impacted by the fall of Roe.”

While the state Legislature will likely approve the state budget on Wednesday, lawmakers can still make changes to it later. The current budget proposal allows the Abortion Practical Support Fund to also accept private donations. Democratic state Sen. Nancy Skinner’s office said they would try to clarify that at least the private money could be used to cover out-of-state travel expenses.

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Safe haven states: Where is abortion still legal now that Roe v. Wade is overturned?

But Pinckney said she and other advocates will ask lawmakers for an amendment to let the public money also cover out-of-state travel expenses.

Pinckney’s nonprofit, Access Reproductive Justice, normally raises between $3,000 and $8,000 per month. Pinckney said they’ve raised about $100,000 in the five days since the Supreme Court ruling.

Still, they helped about 500 people last year. So far this year, their numbers have doubled each month compared to last year. Pinckney said she wouldn’t be surprised if they end up helping 2,000 people or more.

“We need public funding in order to encourage private funders to contribute,” she said.

© 2022 The Canadian Press


Trump tried to grab steering wheel to join supporters at the Capitol on Jan. 6, witness

Donald Trump tried to grab the steering wheel of his presidential limousine on Jan. 6, 2021, when his security detail declined to take him to the U.S. Capitol where his supporters were rioting, a former aide testified on Tuesday.

The then-president dismissed concerns that some supporters gathered for his fiery speech outside the White House that day carried AR-15-style rifles, instead asking security to stop screening attendees with magnetometers so the crowd would look larger, the aide testified.

“Take the effing mags away; they’re not here to hurt me,” Cassidy Hutchinson, a top aide to Trump‘s then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, quoted Trump as saying that morning.

Trump struggled with Secret Service agents who insisted he return to the White House rather than join supporters storming the Capitol where Congress was meeting to certify his rival

Democratic President Joe Biden’s victory, Hutchinson testified.

“‘I’m the effing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,'” Hutchinson quoted an enraged Trump as saying. She said Trump tried from the back seat to grab the steering wheel of the heavily armored presidential vehicle and lunged in anger at a Secret Service official.

Hutchinson testified at the sixth day of House hearings into the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol assault by Trump’s followers, roused by his false claims his 2020 election defeat was the result of fraud.

On social media Trump denied having grabbed the wheel.

“Her Fake story that I tried to grab the steering wheel of the White House Limousine in order to steer it to the Capitol Building is ‘sick’ and fraudulent,” Trump wrote on Truth Social, his social media app.

Dozens of courts, election officials and reviews by Trump’s own administration rejected his fraud claims, including outlandish stories about an Italian security firm and the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez tampering with U.S. ballots.

Four people died the day of the attack, one fatally shot by police and the others of natural causes. More than 100 police officers were injured, and one died the next day. Four officers later died by suicide.

Witness tampering?

At the end of about two hours of testimony, Representative Liz Cheney, one of two Republicans on the nine-member House panel, presented possible evidence of witness tampering and obstruction of justice.

She showed messages to unidentified witnesses advising them that an unidentified person would be watching their testimony closely and expecting loyalty.

Republican Mick Mulvaney, who served as Trump’s chief of staff before Meadows, tweeted: “There is an old maxim: it’s never the crime, it’s always the cover-up. Things went very badly for the former President today. My guess is that it will get worse from here.”

Hutchinson told the committee that Meadows and Trump’s former attorney Rudy Giuliani had sought pardons from Trump.

Giuliani told WSYR radio in Syracuse, New York, on Tuesday that he had not sought a pardon: “The only time a pardon came up between the president and me, there were two witnesses present including the president, and I told them I did not want a pardon because I didn’t need one.”

The hastily called hearing marked the first time this month, during six hearings, that a former White House official appeared for live testimony.

Speaking in soft but assured tones, Hutchinson, 26, painted a picture of panicked White House officials bristling at the possibility of Trump joining what was to become a violent mob pushing its way into the Capitol, hunting for then-Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers who were then certifying the victory of Biden over the Republican Trump.

‘Every crime imaginable’

Their worries focused on the potential criminal charges Trump and others could face.

“We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable,” Hutchinson said White House counselor Pat Cipollone told her if Trump were to go to the Capitol on Jan. 6.

“‘We need to make sure that this doesn’t happen, this would be a really terrible idea for us. We have serious legal concerns if we go up to the Capitol that day,'” Cipollone said, Hutchinson testified.

Hutchinson, who sat doors away from Trump’s Oval Office, testified that days before the attack on the U.S. Capitol, Meadows knew of the looming violence that could unfold.

“‘Things might get real, real bad on Jan. 6,'” she quoted him as saying inside the White House on Jan. 2 with her boss. She testified that Giuliani had said of Jan. 6: “‘We’re going to the Capitol, it’s going to be great. The president’s going to be there; he’s going to look powerful.'”

At that point, she told the House committee of seven Democrats and two Republicans: “It was the first moment that I remembered feeling scared and nervous of what could happen on Jan. 6.”

This month’s hearings featured videotaped testimony from figures including Trump’s oldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, and his former attorney general, Bill Barr. They and other witnesses testified that they did not believe Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud and tried to dissuade him of them.

Before resigning, Barr told the Associated Press in an interview there was no evidence of fraud. That angered Trump so much that he threw his lunch at a White House wall, breaking a porcelain dish and leaving ketchup dripping down the wall, according to video testimony by the committee from Kayleigh McEnany, Trump’s White House press secretary at the time.

Hutchinson told the committee that it was not unusual for Trump to throw food when he was angry: “There were several times throughout my tenure with the chief of staff that I was aware of him either throwing dishes or flipping the tablecloth to let all the contents of the table go onto the floor and likely break or go everywhere.”