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Washington’s Christmas crush & the grinches who want to steal it

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Members of Congress want to get home for Christmas, but it’s going to be a long sleigh ride

While they shocked themselves and many critics by approving two essential measures – keeping the US government funded and raising the US debt limit– there is still a huge December agenda that may yet find America’s lawmakers in session and voting on Christmas Eve – and beyond.

This is what has to get done

  • Passage of President Biden’s $2 trillion mega legislative program – known as Build Back Better – that would provide support to families across the county for children, pre-k programs, lower prescription drug costs, more access to less expensive health insurance, senior housing subsidies, financial aid for college – and the largest funding program to accelerate the move to renewable energy.

To pass this bill, the culmination Biden’s first-year agenda, all 50 Democrats in the Senate must vote for it

You have heard the name “Joe Manchin” ad nauseum in accounts of where the Senator will land and either make or break the legislation – and you will hear much more from Manchin and Biden before December is done.

What is crucial is this:  if this bill dies, if the Democrats do not unite and pass it, the president’s legislative program is effectively over in this Congress, and the tectonic plates will be aligning for Republican sweep of the House and Senate next November

So it is all on the line for President Biden, what he wants to achieve, and what his legacy will be.

Biden will insist that Congress stay in session, no matter if it is Christmas or New Year’s, to get this bill passed.

Here is what is up in the air at home

  • The House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack that is investigating the Trump mob insurrection on the Capitol in an effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

The committee is determined to find out definitively what happened that day and in the days leading up to the attack, who in the White House knew what was unfolding and how they participated in the events, and how the police and military authorities responded and what they failed to do. 

There are multiple subpoenas for key players to testify, including Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff and Jeffrey Clark, a Justice Department official involved in attempts to steer the Justice Department to support the goals of the insurrection.  

But the most important issue right now is whether the committee will have access to all the relevant White House records that document those events. 

Two courts have ruled with no equivocation that Trump does not have and cannot exercise “executive privilege” over those documents and withhold them from the committee. 

Only President Biden can do that, and he wants the materials released in the public interest. The case is headed to the Supreme Court, and how it rules will seal the fate of this unique exercise of congressional oversight. This is a moment of supreme accountability for the proper functioning of America’s democracy.

  • Abortion.  The Supreme Court last week allowed Texas’ massively restrictive abortion law to remain in effect.

This was a bitter disappointment to supporters of abortion rights. 

Yes, the Supreme Court lets the law’s opponents challenge it further in lower courts, but it did not suspend this law – which makes abortions after 6 weeks of pregnancy illegal – which is so blatantly contrary to the constitutional right to abortion services established by Roe v Wade in 1973.

Even the Chief Justice wrote that his court had now enabled a law whose “clear purpose and actual effect has been to nullify this Court’s rulings” to stay on the books!

This is a further sign that in 2022 the Supreme Court will overturn Roe and leave an issue so fundamental to the health and welfare of tens of millions of women to the 50 state legislatures across the country. 

If Roe is thrown out, two dozen states will likely move immediately outlaw abortion altogether within their boundaries.

Here is what is up in the air abroad

  • Ukraine.  Will Putin invade or not?  Will Biden’s very clear threats of massive sanctions and economic isolation of Russia, coupled with the prospects of massive weapons deliveries to Ukraine and more US troops rotating through the NATO partners in Eastern Europe, cause Putin to stand down or not?

If Russia invades, Biden will be seen to have failed to stop Russia and to have “lost” Ukraine

WOLPE ON UKRAINE

A new Cold War will sweep over Europe in 2022.  And in Beijing, President Xi and his military chiefs will be asking themselves, “Well, if Putin could take Ukraine without a war with the US, why can’t we take Taiwan at the same cheap price? And what are we waiting for?”

  • Iran.  The talks over the US and Iran reviving the agreement to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons are stalled, with no visible progress on Iran’s returning to the deal and the US lifting sanctions on the country.

If the talks fail, there will be immense pressure from Israel for a military solution – an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities – to end the nuclear threat that Iran poses.  Will – can – the US veto an Israeli strike?  And if Israel does strike, what does Iran do in response? Is there war throughout the Middle East?

There is more at stake than an Iran nuclear breakout in 2022.  In Pyongyang, President Kim Jong-un will be asking himself, “If Iran can get away with it, I can continue my program too.”

What will we get for Christmas? 

A president who is strong and successful at home, and a resolute leader who can solve crucial foreign policy issues abroad?  Or a presidency plagued by Grinches who sap his political power at home and let America’s adversaries play deadly games in Europe, the Middle East and Asia?

Oh yes:  and happy new year.

Bruce Wolpe is a Ticker News US political contributor. He’s a Senior Fellow at the US Studies Centre and has worked with Democrats in Congress during President Barack Obama's first term, and on the staff of Prime Minister Julia Gillard. He has also served as the former PM's chief of staff.

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How close to a full scale nuclear war are we really?

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Since President Vladimir Putin’s latest warning that he is ready to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia, the question of whether or not the former KGB spy is bluffing has become much more urgent.

There are several reasons why Putin’s nuclear warnings have the West worried. First, Russia has been increasingly aggressive in its actions in recent years, from annexing Crimea to intervening in Syria. This has led to a feeling that Putin is becoming more and more reckless and unpredictable.

Second, Russia has been beefing up its nuclear arsenal, with reports indicating that it now has more nuclear warheads than any other country in the world. This increase in firepower makes Putin’s threats all the more credible.

Last but not least, there is the fact that Putin is a former KGB agent. This means that he is no stranger to playing games of brinkmanship and bluffing. In the past, he has used nuclear threats as a way to get what he wants. For example, in 2008, he threatened to aim nuclear missiles at European cities unless the United States agreed to drop plans for a missile defense system in Eastern Europe.

The West is worried

Given all of this, it’s no wonder that Putin’s latest nuclear threats have the West worried. Only Putin knows if he is actually bluffing, but given his track record, it’s certainly a possibility.

If a nuclear weapon were used in Ukraine, it would cause a massive humanitarian crisis. Tens of thousands of people would be killed or wounded, and millions more would be displaced. The economic and social damage would be enormous, and Europe would be plunged into chaos.

In addition, the use of nuclear weapons would also have devastating consequences for the rest of the world. The nuclear non-proliferation regime would be dealt a serious blow, and there would be a renewed risk of nuclear war.

The world would become a much more dangerous place.

Nuclear impact

A nuclear explosion in Ukraine would have a regional impact, but it could also have global consequences. The use of nuclear weapons would violate the nuclear non-proliferation regime, and this could lead to other countries acquiring nuclear weapons. In addition, the risk of nuclear war would increase, and this would have a negative impact on the entire world.

The UN has condemned Russia’s threats of nuclear war, and it has called on all parties to refrain from any actions that could lead to the use of nuclear weapons. The UN Secretary-General has said that there can be no military solution to the crisis in Ukraine, and he has urged all sides to return to the negotiating table.

Russia has several allies in its war against Ukraine. These include Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Russia also has the support of China and Iran.

The war in Ukraine has had a significant impact on energy prices.

Due to the conflict, there has been a disruption in the supply of natural gas and oil from Ukraine. This has led to an increase in prices for these commodities.

The West can only threaten Putin further, as they’ve done all year, since President Biden warned that Russia was about to invade Ukraine.

Every step of the way, Putin has done exactly what the West has feared.

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“These are the guys?” Putin’s Dad’s army

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Vladimir Putin’s army is in a bit of a pickle. They’ve been drafting retirees, and telling conscripts to use tampons for bullet wounds.

This isn’t exactly the most impressive fighting force we’ve ever seen. In fact, they look more like dad’s army than anything else.

It’s clear that Putin is desperate to beef up his forces, but it seems like he’s just throwing bodies at the problem instead of actually preparing them for battle.

Pictures from Sevastopol in Crimea show groups of men — many well into their 50s and 60s gripping weapons and wearing uniforms.

Several appear in questionable fighting shape.

This could be a big problem for Russia if they actually get into a serious conflict. We hope for their sake that they never have to find out.

Thousands of Russian men are fleeing the country to avoid conscription. This just goes to show how unpopular Putin’s policies are, even among his own people.

The Kremlin is now trying to catch thousands of Russian men as they try and leave the country. But it’s not going to be easy.

Many of these men are willing to risk everything to avoid being drafted into Putin’s army.

It’s estimated that up to 100,000 Russian soldiers have died in Ukraine since the conflict began.

This is a huge loss of life for Russia, and it’s all thanks to Putin’s reckless policies.

Many of these soldiers were just boys, barely out of their teens. They had their whole lives ahead of them, but they’ll never get to experience it now.

It’s tragic, and it’s all thanks to Putin. He needs to be stopped.

At the same time, a video shared on social media shows a Russian officer telling new recruits what to expect.

“I say right away if you are near the fire, you are f***ed,” she says, before reeling off a list of items they will need to acquire themselves before entering the war zone.

“Take sleeping bags with you, you will sleep where you have to.”

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IRAN PROTESTS | Are countries using religion as an excuse to violate basic human rights?

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Iran protests are engulfing the country as thousands take to the streets in a revolution against oppression

IRAN PROTESTS – The story of Iran is one of a country that has been through a lot in recent history.

An uprising of both men and women has engulfed Iran, following the death of Mahsa Amini. Women are cutting their hair and burning their hijabs, demanding some form of change to the strict rules that impact their ultimate freedom.

From the Iranian Revolution in 1979 to the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, the nation’s residents have witnessed their fair share of turmoil.

Many insist that religion, like Islam, is being used as a reason to violate basic human rights in Iran.

“It’s a totalitarian regime… Islam is being used to deny freedom of speech, freedom of education, freedom of movement.”

Mariam Memarsadeghi
Cyrus Forum and Senior Fellow at Macdonald-Laurier Institute

There is a feeling of discontent among the Iranian people. The economy is struggling, and many young Iranians feel they have no future.

They are fed up with the corruption of the government and the lack of opportunity.

Mahsa Amini’s brutal death

On top of this is the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman.

Amini was arrested by the so-called morality police for “improperly” wearing her mandatory hijab.

Reports suggest she was beaten so severely that she went into a coma.

Mahsa Amini protests in Iran

Three days later, she died, and many suspect it was a direct result of this police brutality.

Amini’s death has fuelled further anger and extreme protest, with widespread condemnation from Iranians, denouncing her death and the regime that caused it.

“There were 10-11 blows to her head… She was beaten while still in the van…When her body was delivered to the family they saw bruises to her neck and head.”

Mariam Memarsadeghi
Cyrus Forum and Senior Fellow at Macdonald-Laurier Institute

The incident has brought attention to the plight of many Iranians who feel they are living under an oppressive regime.

While it is difficult to predict what will happen next in Iran, many hope the death of Amani will not be in vain.

Many pray the protests will lead to real action and a country where women are treated as equals. They want a country where there is opportunity for all.

Women in Iran and around the world are now lifting the veil on Iran’s corruption and human rights violations.

In 2022, many are angry that men are controlling what women do with their bodies and what they wear.

However, the Founder and Director of Cyrus Forum and Senior Fellow at Macdonald-Laurier Institute Mariam Memarsadeghi explained its women who are enforcing the strict rules too.

“It’s actually women also who are policing other women to wear hijab… It’s a very Handmaids Tale situation.”

Mariam Memarsadeghi
Cyrus Forum and Senior Fellow at Macdonald-Laurier Institute

Will this drive change?

In Iran, many young Iranians are showing the world they don’t want this system any more, that they want democracy.

They’re cutting their hair and burning their hijabs, they’re putting their own safety on the line to take a stand against the regime that has silenced them for so long.

This generation is very different, but it doesn’t guarantee that this uprising will fuel any real change.

However, Memarsadeghi said “there is no way back from here.”

“It’s very dangerous, there is a tremendous amount of respect for the men and women on the streets because each and every single one of them risks being beaten, killed, tortured, maybe even executed.”

Mariam Memarsadeghi
Cyrus Forum and Senior Fellow at Macdonald-Laurier Institute

How can organisations and world leaders help?

Iran is in the midst of a political upheaval and the world is watching.

Scenes of protest and violence are being shared far and wide on social media. The world has a front-row seat to the unfolding crisis.

However, the Iranian Government has responded by imposing a sweeping internet ban, cutting off the protesters from the outside world.

This only adds to the urgency of the situation, as Iran’s people are now risking their lives to speak out against their oppression.

World leaders and democracy advocacy groups are already discussing ways to help the people of Iran and hold their violations to account.

“The solidarity and attention from celebrities, athletes and world leaders has been extremely helpful… The future of freedom is what these men and women in Iran are doing.”

Mariam Memarsadeghi
Cyrus Forum and Senior Fellow at Macdonald-Laurier Institute

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