Monday, January 29, 2024

Chinese Communist Party ‘greatest existential threat’ to the US: Report

 Chinese Communist Party ‘greatest existential threat’ to the US: Report 

Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping has amassed many enemies within China due to his continued efforts to consolidate personal power, according to a new report.

The success of Xi’s “dictatorial” concentration of authority has likewise relied on his ability to remove his opposition from power, according to the China Transparency Report, published by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

“There is no disputing the fact that [Xi] is a master in factional intrigue, building up cliques and elbowing aside, if not taking out, enemies from other factions,” the report says

To prevent that war from turning hot, the report said, legislators will need to acknowledge how bad things have become and act accordingly.

“American citizens and policymakers need to acknowledge reality: The United States and China are in a New Cold War,” the report said.

“The American people take the threat from China deadly seriously; it’s time for our leadership to do the same.”

To that end, the report said that the CCP is “the greatest existential threat” to the United States.

Heritage Foundation president Kevin Roberts underscored that threat, but said that it was not too late for U.S. leadership to aggressively respond and fix the situation.

“In some circles, it’s not politically correct to speak so plainly about the Chinese Communist Party being an adversary,” Mr. Roberts said.

“The bad news is we have a lot to fix. The good news is this is America and we’re going to fix it.

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Arizona GOP Selects New Chair After Attempted Kari Lake Bribery Scandal

 Arizona GOP Selects New Chair After Attempted Kari Lake Bribery Scandal 

The Arizona Republican Party selected a new Trump-endorsed chair on Jan. 27 after the former party leader resigned following a bribery controversy.

“We proudly present our new Chairwoman [Gina Swoboda], alongside the dynamic new AZGOP Board!” the party said in a Jan. 28 post on social media platform X. “With a laser focus on the 2024 elections, our mission is clear: to win additional seats in the state legislature, reclaim our Senate and Congressional seats, take control of school boards, and win back the White House. We are ready for victory!”

Ms. Swoboda was elected at the annual GOP meeting held at Dream City Church in north Phoenix on Jan. 27, which was attended by more than 1,000 people. Previously, only elections for the party’s lower-level positions were scheduled for the day.

However, the sudden resignation of former state GOP chair Jeff DeWit due to bribery allegations triggered an urgent election to select a successor. Mr. DeWit was only one year into his scheduled two-year term. His departure triggered a rush of candidates who aimed to secure the position.

Three candidates were initially nominated: Ms. Swoboda, Arizona Corporation Commissioner Jim O'Connor, and Mesa resident Verl Farnsworth, who ran for the office of president of the United States in 2012.

According to Republican state Sen. Wendy Rogers, Ms. Swoboda secured 67 percent of the votes.
In a Jan. 28 X post, Ms. Swoboda voiced her support for former President Donald Trump, who backed her in the race.

“Arizona is the key to the presidency,“ she wrote. ”I was proud to have the support of President Trump in this victory to lead the AZGOP into the most important election of our lifetime. Now it’s time to turn out every last vote for the 47th President, DONALD J TRUMP!”

On Jan. 27, President Trump said in a Truth Social post that Ms. Swoboda had his “complete and total endorsement to be chairwoman of the Republican Party of Arizona.”

“She is an outstanding person with incredible passion for our Party,” he wrote.

Kari Lake, a candidate for the U.S. Senate who allegedly was offered bribes by Mr. DeWit, called Ms. Swoboda’s win a “massive victory.”

“Gina is a National Leader in election law. She is a grassroots hero and is loved by Republicans of ALL stripes. Gina is battle-tested and a woman of great integrity—she understands that the White House and Senate Majority—and frankly, the survival of our Republic—runs right through State 48,” Ms. Lake wrote in a Jan. 28 X post.

“President Trump and I were VERY proud to endorse Gina. We look forward to restoring Arizona’s faith in elections and winning BIG in 2024.”

Ms. Swoboda works as a senior adviser on elections for the Arizona Senate. She is the executive director of the Voter Reference Foundation, which describes itself as “dedicated to ensuring transparent, accurate, and fair elections” in the country.

The Controversy

The bribery scandal that led to Mr. DeWit’s resignation came to light after The Daily Mail published a recording from March 2023 featuring a conversation between him and Ms. Lake.

In the recording, Mr. DeWit says that “very powerful people” want to keep Ms. Lake out of the Senate race for two years.

“They’re willing to put their money where their mouth is in a big way. So this conversation never happened,” he said.

“This is crazy though. They should want me. I’m a great candidate. People love me. These people are corrupt,” Ms. Lake responded. “This is about defeating Trump, and I think that’s a bad, bad thing for our country ... This is about the final death blow to Trump, and I don’t think that’s good for our country.”

Mr. DeWit agreed: “It’s not ... but at the same time I’m not even sure Trump can win again.”

“Just say, is there a number at which—” Mr. DeWit says before being cut off by Ms. Lake.

“I can be bought? That’s what it’s about,” she says.

Mr. DeWit suggests that he might be killed if the powerful figures behind him offering the bribe were to be exposed.

“Don’t tell anybody we had this conversation,” he warns Ms. Lake.

After the recording was published, Ms. Lake said in an interview with NBC that Mr. DeWit has “got to resign.”

On the same day, Mr. Dewit said he resigned from the post of Arizona GOP chair. In a statement, he accused Ms. Lake’s team of secretly recording their controversial conversation and leaking it to the media.

“I said things I regret, but I realize when hearing Lake’s recording that I was set up,” he said. “I believe she orchestrated this entire situation to have control over the state party.”

During the Jan. 27 election, when Ms. Lake took to the stage to nominate Ms. Swoboda, some audience members booed in an apparent rebuff to her involvement in the bribing scandal.

In an interview with AZCentral, Arizona Speaker of the House Ben Toma said that the recent turmoil was “unfortunate” for the party.

“I hope we can find a way to get united as a party very soon because I think that matters a lot,“ he said. ”It'll make a big difference by the time we get to the general election.”

J.D. Watson, a state committee member from Scottsdale, said he was concerned about the corruption exposed by the scandal.

“I believe that [DeWit] did something wrong. ... He needs to own up to it and stop being the victim.”

Mr. Watson also said he appreciated that Ms. Lake turned down the bribe and potentially leaked her conversation with Mr. DeWit.

“We’re talking six figures, possibly, and she could not be bought.”

Biden Administration Forces American Museum of Natural History to Shut Down Native American Exhibits 

The American Museum of Natural History in New York City is closing two major exhibits of Native American artifacts in response to new federal regulations released by the White House that require consent from tribes in order to display cultural items.

The New York Times on Friday first reported the dramatic decision by the 154-year-old museum , among the most vaunted in the U.S. for its encyclopedic collection of some 35 million artifacts.

Approximately 10,000 square feet of exhibition space are being indefinitely made off-limits to visitors, including the Hall of the Great Plains , which includes jewelry, tools, weapons, and other sacred items from the Cree, Cheyenne, Assiniboine, and Crow tribes.

"The halls we are closing are artifacts of an era when museums such as ours did not respect the values, perspectives and indeed shared humanity of Indigenous peoples," Sean Decatur, the museum 's president, wrote in a letter to staff on Friday obtained by The Messenger.

"Actions that may feel sudden to some may seem long overdue to others."

The museum is also closing the Eastern Woodlands exhibit , which features items from the Iroquois, Mohegans, Ojibwas, and Crees.

Several of the Native cultural items that have been on display at the museum for years were, in many cases, donated by people who'd stolen them after digging up sacred burial grounds.

Other display cases throughout the museum boasting Native American cultural items will be covered.

The scramble over the exhibits is not unique to the Manhattan institution. Other museums in Chicago, Cleveland, and Cambridge, Mass., have also been working to remove items from display or cover exhibitions completely, in order to comply with the new federal rules that went into effect this month.

Those rules , part of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act that was passed more than 30 years ago, are an attempt by the Biden administration to speed up the return of tribal remains and other items such as burial belongings and sacred objects.

The effect of the closures in New York will have an immediate effect on the five million or so people who visit every year.

Student field trips will be rerouted now that they won't have access to certain galleries, and certain well-known large items in the museum's collection — such as the birch canoe in the Hall of the Eastern Woodlands — will no longer be accessible, at least for some undetermined period.

Energy Transition: Officials: China's New Energy Storage Sector Developing Rapidly, Installed Capacity Exceeds 30 Million Kilowatts 

China’s renewable energy storage sector is developing rapidly, with installed capacity in operation exceeding 30 million kilowatts of power by the end of 2023. That’s the key message from the National Energy Administration in Beijing on Thursday. Officials said the newly added installed capacity topped 22 million kilowatts in 2023, up more than 260 percent compared to the end of 2022.

The government says the addition of new energy storage installed capacity has promoted investments worth more than 100 billion yuan, or 14 billion U.S. dollars, since the 14th Five-Year Plan. Officials also introduced the International Day of Clean Energy, which falls on January 26. It was declared by the UN General Assembly to raise awareness and mobilize action for a just and inclusive transition to clean energy for the benefit of people and the planet.

PAN HUIMIN Deputy Director General, Dept. of International Cooperation National Energy Administration “According to the latest data, the world’s newly installed renewable energy capacity hit 510 million kilowatts in 2023 and China has contributed more than 50 percent. Overseas clean energy investments by Chinese firms are spread across major countries and regions, covering major fields such as wind power, photovoltaic power generation, and hydropower.”

Adnoc Adds $8 Billion to Net Zero Budget 

State-run Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) will commit an additional $8 billion to its unfolding decarbonisation projects, technologies and lower-carbon solutions, with the total planned long-term spending target upped to $23 billion.

The company said in a statement that the decision has been approved at a recent meeting of the Adnoc board of directors, led by chairman Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Al Nahyan noted the progress of the company in tripling its renewable energy capacity through its shareholding in renewable energy player Masdar and delivering towards Adnoc’s interim targets of reducing its greenhouse gas intensity by 25% and achieving near-zero methane emissions by 2030, the statement said.

An Adnoc spokesperson told Upstream: “The increased allocation will include investments to grow our domestic and international carbon management platforms.”

The company has a target to reach net zero emisions by 2045, according to the most recent statement.

On short-term targets, the company said that it is working to achieve a 25% reduction in carbon intensity by 2030, and is pursuing a $3.8 billion decarbonization project to employ “clean energy” at its offshore operations by connecting them to the onshore electricity grid.

Upon completion, this project can reduce the company’s offshore carbon footprint by up to 50%, Adnoc said.

The company has also reiterated its ambition to double its carbon capture and storage capacity target to 10 million tonnes per annum by 2030, which is the equivalent of removing over 2 million gasoline-powered cars from the road.

Through its 24% shareholding in Masdar, Adnoc is supporting Masdar’s target to reach 100 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity by 2030, the company said.

Adnoc managing director and group chief executive Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber said: “As a leading global energy provider, we are committed to enabling a lower-carbon future and a just, orderly and equitable energy transition,” echoing the global climate goals approved at COP28 climate talks in Dubai in December.

Friday, January 26, 2024


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Red Sea diversions add nearly $1 million per voyage to shipping costs while doubling transit time 

Average monthly Suez transits down by a third as diversions around South Africa increase

LONDON, 25 January 2023: The incremental costs of diverting a tanker from Asia to NW Europe via the Cape of Good Hope is accounting for an extra $932,905 USD per voyage while increasing transit time from 16 days to 32 days according to a report by LSEG Shipping Research.

These additional costs mostly accounts for extra fuel and increases costs for an Aframax tanker by 110%, while for a large container vessel it increases by 35% for a voyage between Asia to NW Europe.

Transits through Suez have been hugely affected following the Red Sea attacks. Average monthly transits through the Suez from June to November 2023 was seen at 1914. This dropped to 1672 in December, a 12.6% drop in transits and January month-to-date transits are assessed at 947 as of 22nd Jan, which translates to a 32.6% decline.

Daily container vessel traffic within the Red Sea have dropped by almost 60% since mid-December, with the larger container ships being the most responsive to avoid the region as their transits have declined by over 80%.

For those that elect to transit via the Red Sea, ships are also using AIS to broadcast deterrence messages in addition to standard security protocols.

Fabrice Maille, Global Head of Shipping at LSEG, comments: “As we saw with the grounding of the Ever Given in 2021, the importance of the Suez Canal and the Red Sea to global trade cannot be understated.

“The impact of this conflict is therefore considerable leading to very difficult decisions to be made regarding financial costs and security risks. 

“Our customers are bringing together a vast array of data points from insurance premiums, average speed, and even AIS messages aimed at threats, in real-time, to mitigate these risks effectively. Their feedback is also helping us develop tools and solutions to help respond to future crises.”

Oil demand in Asia, Africa boosted by cheap Russian crude

A crude oil tanker and a bulk carrier sail in Nakhodka Bay 

LITTLETON, Colorado, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Asia and Africa have replaced Europe as the top destinations for Russian crude oil exports since Moscow was slapped with European sanctions on sales of energy products following its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Prior to the sanctions in mid-2022, Europe accounted for more than 60% of Russia's oil exports and provided Moscow with a lucrative income stream for oil that was supplied cheaply to major European consumption hubs by pipeline.
To make up for the lost European volumes, Russian exporters were forced to slash oil prices since 2022 to grow business in far-flung markets, and divert record volumes of crude previously transported by pipeline onto tanker vessels.
Russia exports of oil + condensate to Europe vs Asia & Africa
Russia exports of oil + condensate to Europe vs Asia & Africa
The main Russian crude oil grade, Urals, has traded at a discount of more than $20 a barrel to Dated Brent crude - Europe's main cash oil benchmark - since mid-2022, versus an average discount of less than $2 a barrel in 2021, LSEG data shows.
That aggressive discounting in turn resulted in steep jumps in Russian oil purchases by Asia and Africa, and record high overall crude imports by both continents in 2023, ship tracking data from Kpler shows.
Continued aggressive oil pricing by Russia is likely to spur additional increases in oil buying across both Asia and Africa in coming years, despite efforts everywhere to cut reliance on fossil fuels in energy systems.


Total Russian seaborne shipments of crude oil and condensate hit new highs of 2.75 billion barrels in 2023, ship-tracking data from Kpler shows, up 4.4% from 2022, and came despite a drop of nearly 46% in shipments to Europe.
Russia oil + condensate exports by region
Russia oil + condensate exports by region
Offsetting the collapse in sales into Europe was a jump of 56% in shipments to Asia, which is now the top overall market for Russian oil, and an increase of 144% in Russian oil sales to Africa.
For both Asia and Africa, the annual increase in oil purchases from Russia in 2023 was the largest ever, helping to push total oil and condensate imports to record highs in both regions.
The higher shipments to Asia and Africa also increased the share of Russia's non-European exports to a record 73% from less than 40% in 2019, ensuring that Moscow has started 2024 far less dependent on Western oil markets than ever before.


The chief driver of Russia's penetration into Asian and African oil import markets was the steep price discounts offered on crude since Europe's sanctions kicked in.
Key Russian crude oil grades have traded at steep discounts to Brent prices since 2022
Key Russian crude oil grades have traded at steep discounts to Brent prices since 2022
In addition to discounting Urals crude shipped out of northern Russia, exporters also cut the price of Sokol oil, shipped mainly out of the Russian far east, to record discounts of more than $13 a barrel against dated Brent crude cash prices.
Such steep price cuts compared to Europe's main oil benchmark provoked strong buying interest from several cost-conscious buyers, notably in China and India, which together accounted for 48% of all Russian oil flows in 2023, Kpler data shows.
Russia boosted its export market share of both crude oil & fuels into Asia + Africa in 2023
Russia boosted its export market share of both crude oil & fuels into Asia + Africa in 2023
That combined share of Russian oil purchases by China and India compares to about 30% in 2022 and less than 15% in 2021.
However, while in volume terms China and India were Russia's main customers in 2023, several nations across Africa posted far steeper annual growth in Russian oil imports.


Ghana, Libya, Tunisia and Togo all posted more than 100% annual growth in Russian oil imports in 2023, while Morocco, Senegal and even Nigeria - an oil producer and exporter - also showed steep jumps in Russian oil imports last year.
Some of the import volumes shattered previous records, with flows into Ghana alone topping 16 million barrels in 2023, against 600,000 barrels a year on average from 2017 through 2022, according to Kpler.
With Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia bringing in an additional 109 million barrels last year, it is clear that Africa as a whole has quickly emerged as a key market for Russian oil sellers.
And thanks to strong economic momentum and favourable demographic trends across several African nations, the continent is expected to remain a key driver of global energy demand growth over the coming decades.
Between 2010 and 2022, Africa's oil consumption expanded by 21%, according to the Energy Institute Statistical Review of World Energy.
Asia + Africa account for 78% of global oil demand growth since 2010
Asia + Africa account for 78% of global oil demand growth since 2010
That growth lags the 28% expansion recorded by Asia-Pacific over the same period, but is expected to accelerate over the coming decades as the continent's massive population and growing businesses dial up consumption of all types of energy.
Much of Africa's additional energy consumption needs may be met by new and planned increases in renewable energy supplies, especially in households and offices linked to electric grids.
But strong growth in the region's car numbers, along with rapid expansion of fuel station networks, looks set to bring steady increases in overall oil and fuel demand and so ensure a reliable and rising market for oil exporters such as Russia.
<The opinions expressed here are those of the author, a columnist for Reuters.>

Reporting by Gavin Maguire; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

Chinese Music Student Convicted of Stalking, Threatening Pro-Democracy Activist in Boston

 Chinese Music Student Convicted of Stalking, Threatening Pro-Democracy Activist in Boston 

A federal jury has convicted a Chinese student at Boston’s Berklee College of Music for stalking and threatening a fellow student who posted flyers in support of democracy in China.

Wu Xiaolei, 25, a Chinese citizen and Berklee College of Music student, was indicted last January on counts of cyberstalking and interstate transmissions of threatening communication. On Jan. 25, he was found guilty on both counts.

Judge Denise J. Casper scheduled the sentencing hearing for April 24.

The student activist who was the subject of Mr. Wu’s harassment campaign was referred to only as Zooey in court, for fear of reprisal. She is also from China and has permanent resident status in the United States.

Last April, Zooey’s friends started a petition calling on Berklee to issue a public statement to condemn the harassment and improve its process for responding to similar incidents. To date, the petition has gathered more than 1,000 signatures.

The college, which has about 6,000 students, hasn’t issued any public statements regarding Wu Xiaolei’s case yet and hasn’t yet responded to a request for comment by The Epoch Times.

Wu Xiaolei (R) leaves the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts with his attorneys in Boston on Jan. 25, 2024. (Learner Liu/The Epoch Times)
Wu Xiaolei (R) leaves the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts with his attorneys in Boston on Jan. 25, 2024. (Learner Liu/The Epoch Times)

Cyberstalking and Threatening

Mr. Wu’s harassment campaign started after he saw a piece of paper posted on a window near the Boston campus that read, “Stand with Chinese People,” “We Want Freedom,” and “We Want Democracy,” on Oct. 22, 2022, according to the charging documents.

Consequently, he threatened Zooey on social media app WeChat and through Instagram and email.

“I already called the tipoff line in the country; the public security agency will go greet your family,” he said in a WeChat group with more than 300 members, according to the complaint. “Post more, I will chop your [expletive] hands off,” he added.

Prosecutors said Mr. Wu posted her email and home addresses online.

At a hearing on Jan. 23, the victim said she thought Mr. Wu made her information public to encourage others to beat her up.

“I remain terrified until this day,” she said.

With Mr. Wu’s conviction, the Department of Justice reiterated its commitment to “ensuring all U.S. residents are able to freely exercise their fundamental rights,” according to Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s national security division.

“No one in this country should ever be subjected to threats of violence or a cyberstalking harassment campaign for expressing their political views,” Joshua S. Levy, acting U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts, said in a press release.

“Mr. Wu now stands as a convicted felon for his illegal efforts to suppress speech by a fellow Berklee School of Music student who was critical of the government of China. This type of conduct will never be tolerated.”

Special Agent in Charge Jodi Cohen, of the FBI’s Boston division, echoed Mr. Levy’s comments: “What Xiaolei Wu did in attempting to silence and intimidate an activist who expressed dissension with the ruling Communist Party of China is not only criminal, but completely against our country’s democratic values.”

“Today’s conviction upholds one of our most fundamental rights—freedom of speech—and the FBI will ensure that anyone who tries to infringe on this right using threats or harassment will face the same fate as Mr. Wu,” Ms. Cohen said.

Transnational Repression

Mr. Wu’s conviction comes amid growing concerns about the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) influence operations in the United States and its attempts to silence Chinese dissidents.
Over the past year, the Department of Justice has charged more than a dozen Chinese intelligence agents, officials, or their American accomplices over a range of campaigns allegedly aimed at harassing and spying on Chinese rights advocates in the United States and, in some cases, attempting to coerce their return to China.
The Chinese regime also operates more than 100 “police service stations” around the world, including two in New York City and one in Los Angeles, according to Spanish nonprofit Safeguard Defenders.

Most recently, Zooey’s experience was mentioned at a transnational repression hearing hosted by the House Select Committee on the CCP in December 2023.

Zhang Jinrui, a Georgetown law school student who experienced harassment on campus in late 2022, while distributing flyers against China’s zero-COVID policy, told lawmakers he considered such harassment—“carried out organically by CCP supporters who are emboldened by the CCP”—to be informal transnational repression.

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), chair of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, elaborated on the term “transnational repression”: “The CCP actually seeks to surveil, influence, punish, and coerce people all over the world. They want to silence their critics, control politics, and police thought far beyond China’s borders.”

The FBI has run online and billboard campaigns in cities such as Philadelphia and Las Vegas to encourage victims of transnational repression to report their cases since the agency created a website dedicated to the subject in March 2022.
Learner Liu and Dorothy Li contributed to this article.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

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Exxon Mobil files lawsuit against investors’ climate proposal

 Main Image 

Exxon Mobil Corp

XOM-N +1.06%increase
on Sunday filed a complaint in a Texas court seeking to prevent a climate proposal by activist investors from going to a vote during the company’s shareholder meeting in May.

This is the first time Exxon is seeking to exclude a shareholder proposal by filing a complaint in court. The case was assigned to a judge with a track record of ruling in favour of conservative causes.

Exxon says the investors are “driven by an extreme agenda” and that their repeated proposals do not serve investors’ interests or promote long-term shareholder value.

Investors led by U.S. activist investment firm Arjuna Capital and shareholder activist group Follow This are asking Exxon and other oil majors to adopt tighter climate targets.

They want Exxon to set so-called Scope 3 targets to reduce emissions produced by users of its products. Exxon is the only of the five Western oil majors which does not have such targets.

Follow This in the past two years made similar proposals in shareholder meetings of different oil majors. It received a 28% approval from Exxon’s shareholders in a 2022 voting, and 10% last year.

Exxon shareholders have already rejected scope 3 targets so it wants to exclude the proposal from its proxy statement. The activists pursued a strategy to “become shareholders solely to campaign” for changes “calculated to diminish the company’s existing business,” it said.

Follow This said shareholders should have a right to vote on whether Exxon should align emissions reductions targets with the Paris Climate Agreement, with any strategy of its choosing.

Such goals would create long-term value for shareholders by preventing risks of losing access to capital markets, of facing policy interventions, and incurring losses associated with stranded assets, Follow This founder Mark Van Baal said.

“The resolution leaves the strategy how to achieve emissions reductions entirely up to the board,” he said.

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Arjuna has a fundamental right to voice concern over climate risk and its impacts on the global economy and shareholder value, Chief Investment Officer Natasha Lamb said.

Exxon is asking a U.S. District court in Fort Worth to exclude the proposal from its proxy statement.

The case on Monday was assigned to U.S. Judge Mark Pittman, an appointee of former President Donald Trump. Pittman’s notable rulings include 2022 decisions declaring President Joe Biden’s student debt relief plan to be unlawful and that Texas’ ban on 18- to 20-year olds from carrying handguns was unconstitutional.

The case had been first assigned to U.S. Judge Reed O’Connor, an appointee of Republican former President George W. Bush with a track record of ruling in favour of conservative litigants challenging laws and regulations governing guns, LGBTQ rights and health care.

O’Connor recused himself from the case on Monday. He did not provide a reason, but his most recent publicly available financial disclosure report showed he held Exxon stock and his spouse had non-investment income from the company.

Exxon challenged U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission guidance on application of the rule that outlines the conditions under which shareholders can have proposals accepted. The guidance “can be at odds with the rule itself,” it wrote.

Exxon is seeking a ruling by March 19. Its proxy statement needs to be filed by April 11, in time for its annual shareholder meeting in May.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Supreme Court Allows Federal Government to Remove Texas Border Wire

 Supreme Court Allows Federal Government to Remove Texas Border Wire 

The Supreme Court voted 5–4 to allow U.S. Border Patrol agents to remove razor wire that was set up along the U.S.–Mexico border by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, while a legal challenge plays out.

In a brief order, the high court vacated a ruling issued in mid-December 2023 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh voted to deny the application to vacate that lower court injunction, which would have prevented Border Patrol agents from removing the barrier.

Chief Justice John Roberts, along with Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Ketanji Brown Jackson, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor, sided with the Biden administration. No one provided an explanation for their vote.

In the application, she also rejected the idea that federal agents have done anything illegal or improper.

“Border Patrol agents’ exercise of discretion regarding the means of enabling the apprehension, inspection and processing of noncitizens in no way suggests that they cut wire for impermissible purposes,” the solicitor general wrote.

In court papers, the administration also asserts that, in any case, federal immigration law trumps Texas’s efforts to stem the flow of migrants into the country.

The application was submitted after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit sided with Texas several weeks ago, saying that “the public interest supports clear protections for property rights from government intrusion and control.”

Earlier this year, Mr. Paxton filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration and multiple federal agencies and officials for destroying the razor wire. He and other state officials have argued that federal agents cut the wire to help groups crossing illegally through the river before taking them in for processing.

Illegal immigrants walk toward a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint after crossing the U.S.–Mexico border in Eagle Pass, Texas, on Sept. 28, 2023. (John Moore/Getty Images)
Illegal immigrants walk toward a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint after crossing the U.S.–Mexico border in Eagle Pass, Texas, on Sept. 28, 2023. (John Moore/Getty Images)

“Federal agents have developed and implemented a practice of destroying Texas’s concertina wire to encourage, induce, and assist thousands of aliens to illegally cross the Rio Grande and enter Texas,” Mr. Paxton said in a statement in October 2023. “Federal agents in some cases attempted to ease aliens’ ability to illegally climb up the riverbank into Texas by attaching ropes or cables to the back of pickup trucks. Federal agents regularly cut new openings in the wire fence, sometimes immediately after Texas officers have placed new wire to plug gaps in fencing barriers.”

Mr. Abbott has also authorized installing floating barriers in the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass, Texas, and allowed troopers to arrest and jail thousands of migrants on trespassing charges. The Biden administration is also challenging those actions in federal court. A federal appeals court last month forced federal agents to stop cutting the concertina wire. Large numbers of migrants have crossed at Eagle Pass in recent months.

In a separate case, the U.S. 5th Court of Appeals in December 2023 ordered Texas to do away with a 1,000-foot-long buoy barrier in the Rio Grande, also designed to block illegal immigration. The court sided with the Biden administration, which argued that the barrier makes the Rio Grande difficult to navigate.

This month, Texas denied entry to Border Patrol agents around Shelby Park in Eagle Pass after Mr. Abbott said the state won’t allow agents “on that property anymore,” widening a dispute with the Biden administration.

“We said, ‘We’ve had it. We’re not going to let this happen anymore,’” the governor said earlier this month, referring to the dispute.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
This report was updated with Mr. Paxton’s statement.

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Massive data breach includes 26 billion records and 12TB of data

 Internet Security And Data Prevention security Padlock Lock Icon On Dark Blue Background technology 

Data breaches are happening with alarming frequency lately, which means it’s increasingly likely your data is out in the wild somewhere. If there’s one place that user data is likely to exist, it’s in a massive data breach pool that was recently discovered by CyberNews and This data pool looks to be a compilation of many major breaches and includes over 26 billion data breach records. That amounts to over 12TB of data, and it includes more than just passwords.

The exact nature of the records is unknown, but there are a few possibilities. The most likely records to be found in this data breach are usernames and passwords. However, it’s possible that other types of information, like credit card information or addresses are included as well. The good news is, the researchers do not suspect that new data is included in the pool. Rather, it’s a major sourcing of pre-existing data breaches. According to the researchers, this suggests that the owner has a “vested interest in storing large amounts of data.”

What’s included in the data breach’s 26 billion records

The research into this data breach was led by Bob Dyachenko, a cybersecurity expert and the owner of Although the team says that no new data leaks are known to be included, that doesn’t mean end users shouldn’t be concerned. “The dataset is extremely dangerous as threat actors could leverage the aggregated data for a wide range of attacks,” the researchers told CyberNews. “Including identity theft, sophisticated phishing schemes, targeted cyberattacks, and unauthorized access to personal and sensitive accounts.”

The data breach’s 26 billion records also include information that users probably won’t want getting out. The company or brand with the most leaked records in the data pool was Tencent, a Chinese tech giant, who had 1.5 billion records leaked. Tencent, among other things, operates the Tencent QQ messaging app. Other sites with millions of leaked records include LinkedIn, Deezer, Adobe, and Canva. Some adult sites were also included in the data pool such as 220 million records from AdultFriendFinder.

Besides companies and brands, some data is also stolen from governments, such as the U.S., Brazil, Germany, Philippines, Turkey, and more. But the real concern is that malicious actors could use the stolen data for more widespread identity theft. For example, if you use the same password for LinkedIn as your banking app, you might be in trouble. A potentially-compromised social media site could spiral into a financial disaster quickly.

How to check if your data is in the breach

There’s no clear cut way to know if your data has been breached with absolute certainty. However, there are a few things you can do. There’s a search bar at the bottom of CyberNews’ article that lets you search through every site that was compromised. If you use a site that has been breached, you should change your password just to be safe. You can also visit and enter your email to see if it has appeared in a data breach. Otherwise, a good rule of thumb is to use strong passwords, different passwords, and change them if you think they’ve been compromised.

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Thursday, January 11, 2024

Congress Takes Step to Hold Hunter Biden in Contempt

 Congress Takes Step to Hold Hunter Biden in Contempt 

Members of Congress on Jan. 10 approved reports and resolutions that recommend holding President Joe Biden’s son in contempt.

Two U.S. House of Representatives panels voted to approve the reports and resolutions, which state that Hunter Biden, 53, violated federal law by refusing to appear for a deposition behind closed doors.

The votes were along party lines, with all Republicans either voting yes or not voting and all Democrats voting no. Republicans currently control the lower chamber, giving them more members on each panel.

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The votes mean the full House is set to take up the matter at some point in the future.

Mr. Biden declined to sit for a transcribed interview in December 2023, insisting that he would only answer questions in public.

Federal law states that when people who are subpoenaed by Congress refuse to testify or provide requested documents, Congress shall refer the matter to U.S. prosecutors. The people who defy congressional subpoenas can land a prison term of up to 12 months and a fine of $1,000.

Two former advisers to former President Donald Trump have been convicted by juries of violating the law for refusing to comply with subpoenas.

The House Oversight Committee and House Judiciary Committee voted on Wednesday after marking up the report, or discussing it, proposing amendments, and voting on the amendments.

Mr. Biden “blatantly defied two lawful subpoenas,” Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said ahead of the votes.

“What we’re doing here today is showing the country that Hunter will not receive special treatment due to his last name. It’s very, very simple. And he will be held to the same standard that every other American citizen would be expected to do,” Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.) added.

Democrats spent much of the hearings talking about President Trump. Some said they supported Mr. Biden refusing to testify in private, pointing to comments that Mr. Comer made that invited witnesses to choose whether to testify in public or private.

Mr. Comer said the votes were about the subpoena and that Mr. Biden could speak in a public hearing after testifying behind closed doors.

Mr. Biden made a surprise appearance during one of the hearings, sitting briefly with his lawyers before departing.

Republicans are seeking to speak to Mr. Biden regarding his business dealings and his father’s involvement with them. They’ve obtained evidence showing bank transfers between one of Mr. Biden’s companies and the president, among other records.

“Our investigation has produced significant evidence suggesting President Biden knew of, participated in, and benefited from his family’s cashing in on the Biden name,” Mr. Comer said.

Mr. Biden told reporters in late 2023 that “my father was not financially involved in my business.” He sat in on part of one of the hearings on Jan. 10 but didn’t attempt to speak.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said this week that Mr. Biden makes his own choices.

“We don’t have anything else to share beyond that,” she said. “He’s a private citizen, and he makes his own decisions.”

She declined to say whether President Biden spoke with his son before or after his appearance in Congress.

Mr. Biden’s appearance sparked anger.

“You are the epitome of white privilege, coming into the Oversight Committee, spitting in our face, ignoring a congressional subpoena to be deposed,” Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) told Mr. Biden. “What are you afraid of?”

Abbe Lowell, an attorney for Mr. Biden, told reporters outside the room that Republicans are the ones who are afraid.

“The Republican chairs today then are commandeering an unprecedented resolution to hold someone in contempt who has offered to publicly answer all their proper questions,” Mr. Lowell said. “The question there is what are they afraid of?”

Hunter Biden, son of U.S. President Joe Biden, flanked by Kevin Morris, left, and Abbe Lowell, right, departs a House Oversight Committee meeting in Washington on Jan. 10, 2024. (Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
Hunter Biden, son of U.S. President Joe Biden, flanked by Kevin Morris, left, and Abbe Lowell, right, departs a House Oversight Committee meeting in Washington on Jan. 10, 2024. (Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)

Mr. Biden’s lawyers said public testimony is desired because of “selective leaks” from members after closed-door interviews with other witnesses.

Republicans say private sessions are better to dig into the investigation.

Mr. Biden only spoke in response to a question about why he, according to a former business partner, took calls from his father while in business meetings and put his father on speakerphone.

“Do you have a dad?” Mr. Biden asked the reporter who asked the question. “Does he call you? Do you answer the phone?”

The reporter said, “Yes.”

Mr. Biden said, “OK.”

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) told a briefing that Mr. Biden defied a lawful subpoena and that he supported efforts to hold him in contempt.

“We have to do this. This is our role. It’s our responsibility. We’re not taking any pleasure in this. This is not political. We’ve been charged with it. Our committees are doing their job,” Mr. Johnson said.

“I don’t know why Hunter is here. He wants another photo op.”

Mr. Biden is also scheduled this week to be arraigned in California on federal tax charges. He faces separate charges for gun crimes in Delaware.

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Monday, January 8, 2024

Government Raid of Amish Farm an Attempt to ‘Criminalize Independence’: Independent Farmer

Government Raid of Amish Farm an Attempt to ‘Criminalize Independence’: Independent Farmer 

The raid of a popular Amish farm on suspicion of selling “illegal milk,” among other products, has inspired widespread outrage over what critics call an egregious example of government overreach.

On Jan. 4, the Pennsylvania State Police, along with officials from the Department of Agriculture, served the Miller’s Organic Farm in Lancaster a warrant after claiming the public had been exposed to a dangerous foodborne pathogen.

The warrant served on farm owner Amos Miller, which came in connection to two alleged cases of food-borne illness, “sought, among other things, illegal raw milk and raw milk products, including eggnog.” The warrant added that “Miller has never licensed his retail operation,” according to Lancaster Online.
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Attorney Robert Barnes, who represents Mr. Miller, issued a statement claiming the raid was a violation of his client’s constitutional rights.

“The Department of Agriculture of the State of Pennsylvania suddenly came, without notice, raided Amos’ farm, and detained everything Amos had in the farm’s freezer. They did so in a lawless manner, without appropriate authority, in violation of their own rules and regulations,” Mr. Barnes said.

The oversight role of the government on the farming community has become a hot-button issue for growing segments of rural America who view many of the state and federal regulations as not only oppressive but also tilting the scale in favor of large industrial farms at the expense of the smaller, independent farmer.

North Dakotan farmer Peter Bartlett, whose family owns Bartlett Farms, which sells raw dairy products, told The Epoch Times that it seems the government’s actions aren’t driven by health concerns but rather control over the nation’s food supply.

“Regulators will tell you this is for the safety of the American public. But if that were true, then why don’t they go after every Mexican or Chinese restaurant after people eat their food and get sick,” Mr. Bartlett said.

“The truth is they feel threatened by anyone acting independently from the system and that is why the government has decided to target this particular farm—to make an example of him, to scare people.”

“If they can make an example out of this small Amish farm, then they can send a powerful message of compliance throughout the rest of the independent farming community,” he added.

(Courtesy of Peter Bartlett)
(Courtesy of Peter Bartlett)

Politicians and several high-profile conservatives were also quick to condemn the raid of Mr. Miller’s farm.

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Congressman Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) said it is time for authorities to rethink their priorities.

“With all of the problems in society today, this is what the government wants to focus on?” Mr. Massie wrote in a Jan. 4 post on X. “A man growing food for informed customers, without participating in the industrial meat/milk complex? It’s shameful that it’s come to this.”

Donald Trump Jr. added on the social media platform that news of the raid made him feel “sick.”

“Imagine what law enforcement could accomplish if they went after, oh, I don’t know, say members of elite pedophile rings rather than farmers selling to their neighbors???” Mr. Trump wrote in a Jan. 5 post on X. “Can I be the only person sick of this [expletive]?”

For decades, a community of dairy farmers and nutrition advocates have campaigned for the right of individuals to produce, sell, and consume fresh, unprocessed milk. Advocates claim the consumption of raw milk can lead to numerous health benefits, including improving the immune and digestive systems, as well as being a cure for eczema and irritable-bowel syndrome. The pasteurization process not only destroys dangerous pathogens like E. coli, salmonella, and campylobacter but also destroys its healthy nutrients, according to raw milk enthusiasts.

However, government agencies insist the potential downside of drinking raw milk far outweighs any perceived benefits.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other agencies advise against it, claiming that raw milk “can carry harmful germs, such as campylobacter, cryptosporidium, E. coli, listeria, brucella, and salmonella” that “can pose serious health risks to you and your family.” The CDC claims that raw milk-related outbreaks led to 2,645 illnesses and 228 hospitalizations between 1998 and 2018.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also warns against its consumption.

“Decades ago, pasteurization of milk was adopted as a basic public health measure to kill dangerous bacteria,” a statement read. “This measure largely eliminated the risk of getting sick from one of the most important staples of the American diet.”

However, the money flowing from industry to government agencies has created conflicts of interest in how the safety rules are implemented, according to Mr. Bartlett.  Both the USDA and the FDA, who are charged with setting regulatory policy, have received funding from corporate sponsors in the form of “partnerships,” including from several large agro-industrial farming interests.

“The USDA and FDA have been lobbied over the years by the industrial food system while small and independent farmers are not well represented,” Mr. Bartlett said. “What we are now seeing come to fruition through a regulatory process that tilts the scales to criminalize independence.”

The Amish farm is the epitome of independence from a system that has been corrupted by the financial influence of big business, according to Mr. Bartlett. He added that a solution will be found only after consumers shift their support from the mass produced industrial foods sold at most supermarkets to smaller, local farms.

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“The biggest thing a consumer can do is to act independently from the system,” he said. “If a consumer wants to challenge that food system then voting with their dollar and supporting your local farmer is the best way to fight this government overreach.”

“The incentive isn’t complicated: whoever controls the food controls the people,” he added.