Putin invades Ukraine; French question his sanity – National & International News – THU 24Feb2022

As Putin rains bullets and bombs across Ukraine, French President Emmanuel Macron and others are questioning his sanity. Read more in International News.



Lake Tahoe police “inundated” with calls to save 500-pound bear, Hank the Tank. Fewest Americans on unemployment aid since 1970. Putin invades Ukraine; French question his sanity.




Lake Tahoe police “inundated” with calls to save 500-pound bear, Hank the Tank

Lake Tahoe, CA, residents are accustomed to seeing wildlife roaming their streets and backyards. In recent years, residential encroachment and wildfires have shrunk local wildlife habitat. This has forced many animals to resort to looking for food from poorly-secured dumpsters in residential areas.

Black bears have become an increasingly common sight. The bears will open car doors and sometimes venture into homes in search of food. Residents have even witnessed mama black bears teaching their cubs how to open flimsy patio doors. But recently, the local bear control controversy has zeroed in on a single culprit – “Hank the Tank”.

Hank weighs in at around 500 lbs (though some believe that figure to be a lowball) thanks to his exclusive human food diet. And he’s not shy about using his bulk to muscle his way into homes through windows and doors. As a result, Hank is now “wanted” by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Locals have debated what to do about Hank. Some think euthanizing Hank is the only safe course. Relocating Hank to a wilderness area is not an option because he shows no fear of humans and could pose a danger to people wherever he was.

But many locals, including members of the Bear League, see Hank as a mascot and want to transport him to a bear refuge instead. Hank’s story went viral, and people from across the country have “inundated” the South Lake Tahoe Police with calls to save Hank. The SLTPD has asked that people stop calling to weigh in about Hank, as it is disrupting their emergency response system.

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Fewest Americans on unemployment aid since 1970

Here’s some good news at least on the economic home front. Weekly indicators from the Department of Labor shows that last week’s new unemployment claims fell by 17,000, from 249,000 to 232,000. This marks the third straight week of declines in employment claims. This seems to show a sharp recovery in the job market, following a 5-week period of rising unemployment claims at the height of the omicron wave. As of Feb. 5, 1,476,000 Americans were collecting jobless aid. That’s 112,000 fewer than the previous week and the lowest level since March 14, 1970.

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Putin invades Ukraine. How far will he go, and is he sane?

Ukrainians in several key cities across the country woke up to the sound of gunfire and shelling from the air. Putin has now dropped any pretense and has committed to all-out war, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in Europe for decades. The 200,000 Russian troops that had been poised on the border have now crossed it and are currently storming their way inward from multiple directions. Ukrainian troops are engaging them in deadly combat on the ground, but Russia has brought reinforcements from the air.

Russian troops have now captured the former nuclear facility at Chernobyl after pitched fighting in the 1000-mile nuclear exclusion zone. This in particular has a lot of people worried, both in Ukraine and further afield. There are tons of nuclear waste buried in the area, and an unlucky missile strike could spread contamination into the air and water, potentially endangering millions in Ukraine, Russia, and deep into Europe.

Human panic and economic chaos

Thousands of Ukrainians, who have so far taken the threats in stride, are fleeing the country. Nearby EU countries, including Poland, say they are ready to receive large numbers of Ukrainian refugees. Many Ukrainians who have not left entirely are sheltering in metro stations, some of the deepest in the world. Others have fled from the south and east to western parts of the country, where they hope they will be relatively safe.

Global stocks have fallen across the board and oil has spiked to $105 per barrel. This is in part down to fear of the conflict itself and the anticipation of sanctions on Russia and likely disruption of the global oil supply.

What’s next?

President Biden is announcing more severe sanctions on Russia, as have numerous Western allies. So far, the threat and imposition of these sanctions have not dulled Putin’s aggression. Fear is rising in the former-Soviet Baltic states that Putin’s ambitions stretch beyond Ukraine. Recent statements by Putin indicate that he may in fact aspire to reconstituting the former Soviet Union by force. 

If Putin does indeed enter these countries, which are NATO members, he will force the West, including the U.S., to respond militarily. 

Biden says that the goal now is to dissuade Putin from taking that further step, and, hopefully, cease hostilities in Ukraine. Part of the Western response will involve sanctions. But White House sources have said that U.S. cyber attacks on Russian military assets may be an option. But it remains to be seen if any of that will be enough.

Has Putin gone mad?

Recently, some sources close to French President Emmanuelle Macron have conveyed their impression that Putin may be mentally unstable. Macron, who recently spent 5 hours face-to-face with Putin, has himself stated that Putin was not the same man he met in 2019. Putin’s already insular character seems to have intensified since the start of the pandemic.

According to Macron, the Putin he recently met over a comically-large negotiating table was “more rigid, more isolated” and had entered an “ideological and security drift”. Another high-ranking French official described Putin’s recent remarks as “paranoid”. Bernard Guetta, a French member of the European parliament, said today in a radio interview: “I think this man is losing his sense of reality, to say it politely”. When the interviewer asked if he meant Putin had gone mad, Guetta said “yes”.

If that’s true, we can only guess how much misery Putin is willing to inflict on his own people and the rest of Europe in his quest to turn the clock back 40 years.

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