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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

First Thing: Zelenskiy says Russia will see new sanctions as ‘permission to attack’ | US news

Hello and good morning,

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said yesterday that new sanctions by the west against Russia did not go far enough and would be seen by invading forces as a “permission to attack”, as fears of an assault on the east of the country intensify.

Zelenskiy’s comments come after the US, UK and EU unveiled a raft of new sanctions targeting Russian banks and the country’s elites. The US measures include a ban on investing in Russia as well as sanctions on president Vladimir Putin’s adult daughters. The EU sanctions include a ban on coal imports and restrictions on banks.

“This package has a spectacular look. But this is not enough,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly address. “If there is no really painful package of sanctions against Russia and if there is no supply of weapons … it will be considered by Russia as a permission. A permission to attack.”

  • What sanctions does Zelenskiy want? He called for the west to reject Russian oil and completely block the country’s banks from the international finance system.

  • What’s the latest on a potential Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine? The Kremlin has said it intends to seize the entire self-proclaimed republic in Donetsk, with Putin reportedly keen to declare victory by 9 May, the annual second world war commemoration.

  • How is Ukraine responding to the fresh offensive threat? Ukraine urged civilians to leave the east of the country while they still could. Meanwhile, the Pentagon said a “small number” of Ukrainian soldiers were being trained in the US to operate Switchblade drones.

  • What is the international community doing? The UN general assembly will vote today on whether to suspend Russia from the UN premier human rights body after discoveries of potential Russian war crimes. Nato foreign ministers also meet today in Brussels for talks on providing support to bring an end to the war.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon press secretary, John Kirby, offered some optimism about the Ukraine resistance. “Of course, they can win this. And if you look at what they’ve been able to do just thus far, Mr Putin has achieved exactly zero of his strategic objectives inside Ukraine,” he said.

Trump advisers Navarro and Scavino in contempt of Congress for ignoring subpoenas, House votes

Former White House advisor Peter Navarro.
The former White House adviser Peter Navarro. Along with Dan Scavino, he is on a path towards criminal prosecution by the justice department. Photograph: Erin Scott/Reuters

The House voted yesterday to hold two of Donald Trump’s top advisers – Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino – in criminal contempt of Congress.

That’s because of their months-long refusal to comply with subpoenas issued by the House select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol attack.

The approval of the contempt resolution, by a vote of 220 to 203, sets the two Trump aides on the path toward criminal prosecution by the justice department as the panel escalates its inquiry into whether Trump oversaw a criminal conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election.

Congressman Jamie Raskin, a member of the select committee who introduced the contempt resolution to the House floor, said the select committee needed the House to advance the measure in order to reaffirm the consequences for defying the January 6 investigation.

  • What punishment could the advisers face if convicted? Up to a year in federal prison, $100,000 in fines – or both.

  • Why won’t Navarro and Scavino testify? It means the select committee can’t extract information from them about Trump’s unlawful scheme to have then vice-president Mike Pence stop the election certification.

  • What happens next? The contempt citations now head to the justice department and the US attorney for the District of Columbia, Matthew Graves, who is required by law to weigh a prosecution.

MyPillow chief sued for defamation by former Dominion Voting employee

MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell speaks to a crowd gathered to hear former president Donald Trump, on 12 March, in Florence, South Carolina.
Mike Lindell speaks to a crowd gathered to hear former president Donald Trump on 12 March, in Florence, South Carolina. Photograph: Meg Kinnard/AP

The chief executive of the bedding company MyPillow, Mike Lindell, has been sued for defamation by a former employee of Dominion Voting Systems.

Eric Coomer, the former employee of the voting machines company that became embroiled in Donald Trump’s false claims that he was denied victory at the 2020 election because of widespread voter fraud, has filed a court complaint against Lindell.

The suit alleges that Lindell, and his media platform Frankspeech, targeted Coomer as part of his “efforts to undermine faith in American democracy and enrich himself in the process”.

  • Who is the MyPillow boss? Mike Lindell is a Trump supporter, conservative activist and conspiracy theorist who supported baseless claims the 2020 election was rigged.

  • What did Lindell say about the lawsuit? “MyPillow and Frankspeech didn’t do nothing,” he said in a statement after being handed the lawsuit at a rally in Denver, Colorado. “They’re trying to cancel Frankspeech, your favorite show!”

In other news …

A state media propaganda image of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, in front of a supposed intercontinental ballistic missile last month.
A state media propaganda image of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, in front of a supposed intercontinental ballistic missile last month. Photograph: KCNA VIA KNS/AFP/Getty Images
  • North Korea could hold a nuclear weapon test next week, a senior US official warned. A potential test, on the 110th anniversary of founder Kim Il-sung’s birth, would be the country’s first in five years. The US state department’s Sung Kim urged North Korea to de-escalate.

  • YouTube has restored the account of a Chinese national in Odesa covering atrocities in Ukraine, a week after its suspension over “suspected violence”. Wang Jixian’s daily Mandarin vlogs made him an internet sensation. YouTube said “sometimes we make the wrong call”.

  • UK chancellor Rishi Sunak’s multimillionaire wife claims “non-domicile” status, allowing her to save millions of pounds in tax on dividends. The revelation comes as Sunak’s popularity with UK voters plunges over his handling of the cost of living crisis.

  • The Islamic State trial continues in Virginia as the court heard an American hostage’s harrowing story about captivity from militants who went on to kill him. A letter from the late Peter Kassig was read aloud yesterday during the terrorism trial of El Shafee Elsheikh, a 33-year-old former British citizen and alleged member of IS.

Stat of the day: Covid linked to 33-fold increase in risk of pulmonary embolism

A person being tested for Covid in Austin, Texas, in January.
A person being tested for Covid in Austin, Texas, in January. Photograph: Callaghan O’Hare/Reuters

Catching Covid is associated with a fivefold increase in the risk of deep vein thrombosis and a 33-fold increase in risk of a potentially fatal blood clot on the lung in the 30 days after becoming infected. That’s according to data published in the British Medical Journal today. The large-scale study puts the very small risk of blood clots associated with Covid vaccination into context.

Don’t miss this: Picasso portrait of lover and muse to appear at auction for first time

Pablo Picasso’s Femme nue couchee (Naked woman reclining) up for auction for the time is expected to sell for more than $60m next month, at Sotheby’s.
Pablo Picasso’s Femme nue couchee (Naked woman reclining) up for auction for the time is expected to sell for more than $60m next month, at Sotheby’s. Photograph: Julian Cassady/Sothebys

A sensuous depiction of Pablo Picasso’s muse and lover as a multi-limbed sea creature is to appear at auction for the first time, my colleague Harriet Sherwood writes. Femme nue couchée (Naked woman reclining) is expected to sell for more than $60m next month, a reflection of the desirability among collectors of Picasso’s images of Marie-Thérèse Walter.

Climate check: US most responsible for global ecological damage with 27% of total

Environmental cleanup crews after a major oil spill at Huntington Beach in California in October.
Environmental cleanup crews after a major oil spill at Huntington Beach in California in October. Photograph: Allen J Schaben/Los Angeles Times/REX/Shutterstock

The US and Europe are responsible for the majority of global ecological damage caused by the overuse of natural resources. That’s according to a study published in Lancet Planetary Health that analyses and assigns responsibility for the ecological damage caused by 160 countries over the last half-century. The US is the biggest culprit, accounting for 27% of the world’s excess material use, followed by the EU on 25%.

Last Thing: Sea lions gorge on fish after sneak into industrial salmon farm in British Columbia

A sea lion enjoys an easy meal at the industrial fish farm.
A sea lion enjoys an easy meal at the industrial fish farm. Photograph: Jeremy Mathieu/Clayoquot Action

Dozens of thieving sea lions in western Canada have spent the last few weeks gorging on fish after brazenly slipping into an industrial salmon farm – and ignoring all attempts to make them move on. The farm can hold up to 500,000 salmon. More sea lions have since joined in the heist, much to the frustration of the company.

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