Democrats have the chance to prevent an economic calamity

“The US is currently projected to hit its existing debt ceiling sometime in 2023, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center. While raising the ceiling should be relatively straightforward, it’s become a contentious process — and an opportunity for the minority party to extract policy concessions or score political points. Both parties have used debt ceiling increases to their advantage, but Republicans have done so much more frequently in recent years.
In 2011, for example, Republicans balked on suspending the debt limit and refused to move forward until President Barack Obama agreed to key spending cuts, concessions they ultimately secured. The US got so close to default that year, however, that Standard and Poor’s downgraded the country’s credit rating.

Political experts note that this disagreement marked one of the first times it seemed like lawmakers were actually willing to go over the edge, despite the economic chaos that could ensue. Were the US to actually default, that would likely downgrade the dollar and lead to a recession.

While a default has never happened, Republicans’ behavior in 2011 — and their current rhetoric — suggests that they’re more open to the possibility and taking such fights to that point.

Democrats, including in the White House, are reportedly considering preempting this worst-case scenario by tackling the debt ceiling this winter, according to Axios. The White House has denied that such conversations are happening.

There are also still questions about what a debt ceiling bill could look like. While some lawmakers including Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and a group of prominent House Democrats, have expressed support for doing away with the debt ceiling altogether, others, like Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), have opposed taking this route. That’s likely because such talks still offer an opportunity to evaluate spending, and because it could be a useful tool for Democrats should the GOP hold the White House and Congress.

In lieu of getting rid of the debt limit altogether, there’s been growing pressure on Democrats to consider increasing it to such a high value that there isn’t likely to be a standoff over the issue in the short term.”

When Russian troops arrived, their relatives disappeared

““Woman, calm down,” soldiers told Maruniak’s wife, according to Natali. “Maybe it’s the last time you see your husband.”

She saw her husband one more time, on March 24. He returned again with soldiers, though this time, they covered their faces. “Feed him, change his socks, and give him his medicine,” they ordered Maruniak’s wife. As she did, she noticed his legs were bruised blue. There was another bruise on his right temple, another on his arm. Maruniak said nothing, only that it was cold where he was being held.

That was the last Maruniak’s family saw or heard anything about him.

Maruniak is among dozens of local officials or community leaders who have been abducted or arbitrarily arrested by Russian forces as they seized territory in Ukraine, especially in the east and the south. These disappearances are both an attempt to coerce cooperation and a targeted effort to silence and intimidate Ukrainians who may oppose or organize against a Russian occupation.”

“The United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine has documented about 109 cases of suspected detention or enforced disappearances among civilians since February 24, including 48 local officials. The UN and other human rights groups have confirmed disappearances among other members of civil society: volunteers, activists, journalists, religious leaders, protesters, and former military veterans. (Vox reached out to the Russian Embassy for comment, but did not receive a response.)

Anastasiia Moskvychova, who has been tracking disappearances for ZMINA, says they have confirmed more than 100 arbitrary detentions since February 24; about 50 people are still missing.

But Oleksandra Matviichuk, a Kyiv-based activist and head of the Center for Civil Liberties, said these numbers are only the “top of the iceberg.” Her group is tracking dozens more suspected cases of enforced disappearances, but they are still trying to corroborate evidence, a task that’s all the more difficult in Russian-occupied areas. Other times, family and friends of the suspected victims fear making that information public.”

” All of this foreshadows how Russia might try to consolidate control in Ukrainian areas it captures by force.”

“Extrajudicial arrests happen within Russia, but they are documented more frequently in Russia’s other territories, including Dagestan and Chechnya, where enforced disappearances became what Human Rights Watch described as an “enduring feature” of the conflict.

In Crimea, ethnic Tatars, who tended to oppose Russia’s annexation in 2014, were targeted, including one local activist and leader who was allegedly kidnapped by men in Russian traffic police uniforms in 2016. In the Donbas, militias kidnapped, tortured, and killed a local city council member who tried to take down a flag of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic. “They hunted after the activists, after the persons who supported the Ukrainian army, Ukrainian volunteers,” said Oleksandr Pavlichenko, executive director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union.

“Now we see the same scheme,” Pavlichenko added, “and it’s only the beginning of this scheme.””

“Human rights watchers and experts say it is often difficult to say who is carrying out disappearances, or subsequent mistreatment — including in Ukraine right now. “The state actors are not interested in accountability for those kinds of abuses, so it creates this environment of impunity,” said Saskia Brechenmacher, a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who has researched Russian civil society.

That can make it hard to know exactly how organized these actions are, or whether they are directed top-down from Moscow, the work of local units or security services, or militias affiliated with Moscow.”

“Ahead of the invasion, the United States told the United Nations it had credible information that Moscow was compiling lists of Ukrainians to be “killed or sent to camps.” Advocates do not have confirmation of such lists, or who may have compiled them if they do exist, but emphasized that this campaign of disappearances is not random.

“It’s not happening as some chaotic or spontaneous thing,” Andreyuk said. “This is very targeted detentions — and it’s a very targeted policy to get more control over society.””

“Added together, these disappearances help create a “Stalin-like” police state, a rule through terror and mistrust, and where nobody knows what — or who — might make them a target of disappearance. “If you just keep silent, it is also suspicious,” Pavlichenko said.”

Iranian Operatives Plotted To Kidnap Brooklyn Journalist

“On Tuesday, an unsealed Justice Department indictment exposed a shocking international kidnapping plot. According to federal prosecutors, Iranian intelligence official Alireza Shahvaroghi Farahani and three other foreign intelligence assets conspired to kidnap Iranian American author and journalist Masih Alinejad from her home in Brooklyn.

Alinejad is a champion of women’s rights and an outspoken critic of the Islamic Republic of Iran. As host of Voice of America Persian’s show Tablet, she has reported extensively on the regime’s human rights abuses, particularly those carried out against women.”

“Although the FBI caught on before the plot could be carried out, these events nonetheless set a terrifying precedent for dissidents, journalists, and human rights advocates at home and abroad. Iran’s abduction attempt is an assault not just on Alinejad but on the very tenets of freedom. No person on American soil should live in fear of retaliation for simply speaking out to defend human rights.”