“Traitors get shot”: Son testifies against father in first Jan. 6 trial. Symbolic boycotts on ‘Russian’ companies counterproductive. Pentagon sets up hotline with Russia to avoid ‘miscalculation’ amid nuke tensions. Millions at brink of famine in Madagascar.
“Traitors get shot”: Son testifies against father in first Jan. 6-related trial
Yesterday, 19-year-old Jackson Reffitt took the stand in a federal district court in Washington, D.C., to testify against his father Guy Wesley Reffitt, 41. Guy Reffitt is the first of over 700 defendants who will face trial for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
Jackson Reffitt first reached out to the FBI in December, 2020, with concerns about alarming statements by his father. The younger Reffitt said his father had become involved with the Three Percenters, a militant group. Throughout 2020, the elder Reffitt had been discussing his aspirations to do “something big”. This escalated after the November election. On Christmas Eve that year, the elder Reffitt bragged to his family about his plans to take part in some action on Jan. 6, that would “shock the world”. Jackson, then 18, contacted the FBI that very evening. But at that time, the FBI took no interest.
Following the events of Jan. 6, Guy Reffitt returned home to Texas and bragged to his family about his exploits at the Capitol. Reffitt claimed that he and others had been carrying guns when they entered the Capitol, although they didn’t use them.
When Jackson pointed out that what he’d done was illegal and that the FBI might be looking for him, Guy was at first dismissive. But gradually, Guy became increasingly paranoid about the possibility and threatened his family against turning him in. “He said, ‘If you turn me in, you’re a traitor,’” Jackson told the jury. “‘And traitors get shot’”.
Jackson has been estranged from his family since turning his father in. He did wave to his mother as he left the court.
Symbolic US boycotts on ‘Russian’ companies counterproductive
In the days since Russia launched the Ukrainian invasion, the U.S. and its partners abroad have adopted crushing sanctions. These sanctions were carefully chosen to afflict maximum economic grief on Russia while minimizing the impact on their own countries. That is how one prevails in a war of economic attrition.
But over the last week, several states have adopted largely symbolic, and some would say ‘misguided’, boycotts on businesses perceived as Russian. While these are attention-grabbing gestures of solidarity with Ukraine, some of these boycotts may be hurting Americans more than they help Ukraine.
For instance, several states have blocked liquor stores from purchasing ‘Russian’-branded alcohol. One of the beverages they’ve targeted, Smirnoff Vodka, is actually under British ownership. And all Smirnoff consumed in the U.S. is distilled in Illinois.
In another example, in Newark, NJ, the City Council voted unanimously on Wednesday to suspend the operating licenses of two Lukoil-brand service stations. Lukoil is Russia’s second-largest oil producer and has recently released a statement calling for an end to the war in Ukraine. It is the first major Russian company to do so. But even if that were not the case, the two Newark gas stations have virtually nothing to do with Moscow-based Lukoil beyond a branding agreement. The two franchises are owned by Americans, not Russians, and the gas sold there comes from a local Phillips 66 refinery.
Pentagon sets up hotline with Russia to avoid ‘miscalculation’ amid nuke tension
Pentagon sources say they have set up a hotline with Russia’s Ministry of Defense to avert “miscalculation, military incidents and escalation” over the Ukraine conflict. There is a history of the U.S. setting up back channel communication with their Russian counterparts during times of increased tension. The purpose is to encourage communication to head off nuclear catastrophe in the event of a misunderstanding by either side.
The U.S. hopes the hotline will help cool tensions as Russian President Vladimir Putin has made repeated allusions to a nuclear conflict.
Yesterday, Russian troops seized control of one of Ukraine’s largest nuclear reactors at Zaporizhzhia. Fires were reported in the vicinity following the Russian strike, but those have now been extinguished. The reactor remains under the control of its Ukrainian handlers. Analysts say the likelihood of a disaster unfolding at the facility is low. But disruptions of water flow to the site from Russian attacks targeting local infrastructure could pose a danger.
Millions at brink of famine in Madagascar
A series of powerful storms have lashed the Indian Ocean island nation of Madagascar in recent weeks. The combination of harsh weather and the country’s worst drought in 40 years has pushed millions of Malagasies to the brink of famine. At least 2 million people are already enduring a lasting food crisis. USAid’s Famine Early Warning Network has warning that only large-scale humanitarian support will avert mass starvation. According to Unicef, half a million Malagasy children under the age of five will be acutely malnourished this year.
The drought is partly the result of massive deforestation. Nearly 80% of the country’s rainforests have been cut down in recent decades to make way for agriculture and property developments. Much of the island’s best farmland is given over to cash crops for export like coffee, cotton and tobacco. While the exports have been a short-term boon to the island’s economy, the local population has had to clear more and more land to meet its own food needs. The result is widespread soil degradation.
In addition to urgent food aid, the island needs help to preserve and improve its long-term sustainability as the impacts of climate change intensify. Some such initiatives have already improved the picture in parts of the country. These include securing water supplies by digging deep wells and planting drought-resistant and soil restoring crops .
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